Spring has sprung (in the northern hemisphere). Even though you
can’t quite tell when the equinox occurs, the calendar reminds us of
the solar cycle – equinox and solstice alternating about the 21st of
every third month – March, June, September, December. The spring
equinox passed last weekend marking the beginning of Spring in
some places, like America, though most of us have been coming out of
winter for a month or more already. The first buds of spring show
up in January and shepherds in this climate zone start lambing in
“Hey dude! What’s for lunch?“
A hungry stag and his troupe visited for tea one day.
The first three months of this year have been marked by weird weather
all over the world – unusually warm, or cold or wet or windy in various
places. It is not easy to recognise big picture patterns since it
is so hard to remember what it was really like when you were younger,
but it seems that the biosphere has a fever. And people who grow
food have to be increasingly adaptable to the unexpected. It
used to be that food producers could ride out fluctuations but nowadays
with very intensive methods based on high capital, high fossil fuel
requirements and low margins at the producer end, small producers
continue to be squeezed. Despite that, we have decided to get even
more involved in the land.
Some people observe that farming is difficult and offers low
returns. That seems to be supported by the data. The Irish
government report of farming indicates the the average farm income
(including the very rich farm-owners) is only €25,000 which not much for
people responsible for what we eat and, by some measures, is below the relative poverty line. Nevertheless, we’ve decided to plough and sow a field this year for the first time in over a decade.
We asked for some advice: “How to make it pay without spray, meat or
government?” The response was “Mmmm, that’s not easy…”
First on government subsidies – paperwork is the number one cause of
suicide among farmers. That’s sad. As for animals and
spraying, the situations is ruled by the equation that what comes out of
the soil must be put back, which is done either by resting the soil and
allowing natural regeneration every three years or so (traditional
rotation explained in primary school) or by adding fossil fuel based
soil enrichment (fertiliser). If you don’t spray chemicals you
have to rest the soil which cuts your revenue capacity by a third.
Anyhow, we’re sowing a mixed meadow in the next week or so and are
really looking forward to seeing how the grass grows. If nothing
else we’ll have hay for the horses.
We haven’t done much in the garden yet and, as usual, are behind
schedule. No seeds have been germinated and plot preparation is
being held back by the need to “trim the beech hedge”. We started
that a week ago but a branch fell on me and the saw broke and is now
being repaired. Otherwise, in the garden, we’re lucky to be
harvesting beetroot and the last cabbages from last year. There
are potatoes still in store and the birds are laying like mad – Easter
must be around the corner. Get in touch if you’d like beetroot
(really yummy when shredded and fried – thanks for the tip Joe) or eggs,
especially duck eggs (great for sponge baking) or goose eggs (huge!).
The wind and rain has influenced progress in getting things done
around the garden, field and woods. A lot of timber has been flying
about. Walking through the woods, where ever you look trees are
down. Some lovely ones have been lost, like a huge ash which had a
cherry growing out of its side and a rhododendron at the “Asian water
garden”. But it’s a chance to clean up and tidy up. On the
subject of the woods, apologies to those of you who missed the walk
because we didn’t send an email (only text). It was a great walk
and hopefully we’ll be organised to do another around Easter holidays
(we’ll let you know). Some photos are on Flickr – check them out!
Beyond BT, Pam’s yoga remains popular and she has invested a lot of
time over the past months in developing a deeper understanding of it –
she is researching an MBA thesis on yoga in Ireland. It looks like
a lot of hard work, including late nights on the computer, but sounds
very interesting and worthwhile. At the same time she
continues to train with international teachers which makes her teaching
fresh and relevant. Although I’ve never been much of a yoga guy,
the technology behind the asanas seems to be gaining increasing
empirical support and can really make a difference to people’s
lives. Even the simple exercise of meditating or visualisation can
improve memory and decision making success. Even if you don’t do
yoga, try sitting still for ten minutes to reflect on challenges – that,
in a strangely magical way, could help. As well as her yoga Facebook page, she is updating web pages on our other site here.
We finally finished a first edition of our book about “the search for truth, the meaning of life and the answer to everything”: Whoops! A big picture story. We’ve put a nominal price on the pdf download, but you can read the important chapters on-line for free.
Having finished that unexpectedly challenging project, we’re trying to
reboot initiatives in business and education. In parallel with
coaching individuals and mentoring entrepreneurs, we’re researching the
process of learning which seems to be the keystone to civilisation –
when people and societies expand their intellectual and emotional
capacities, they become enlightened and enriched. If those ideas are interesting to you check out astraea.net and sign-up for the blog.
If you like our perspective, you might enjoy the blog. The
subjects include business but here are some posts from the past few
months related to nature.
Linking weird weather to rapid warming of the Arctic
Farming in the city.
It’s easy to ignore what you put in your mouth.
We hope you are all springing in to Spring in this the Chinese Year of the horse. Best wishes from us all,