Sunday, July 27, 2008

Farm Factor

Hereford Cathedral

Hereford Cathedral

Canon Frome was very interesting – still processing some of what was going on there. It basically created an atmosphere that connected all of the residents to farming. The effect was very exciting. Fresh, un-pasteurized milk, Goat yogurt and cheese, fresh eggs, veggies, berries, fruits, all from the fields and by the hands of the community. Inspiring. The community wasn’t fully off-grid, or completely sustainable, but they were quite far along in being able to manage without infrastructure.

This is sort of a theme that’s been on my mind – with climate and other environmental crises increasing, and the issues involved in peak oil, etc. There may be more and more of a need to revive self-sufficiency. Our modern world being about specialization, and segmentation, very few people know how to manage beyond their particular area of focus. If the energy sources become less available, few people would know how to make use of local resources to keep themselves fed and warm, etc. Not to mention not having access to resources in large cities and so forth.

In any case, I think there’s a lot to be said for community settlement as a way to increase the ability to do many things – to create more rounded and able folks. And I’m not referring to all the fresh cream and butter. 

They were very hospitable at Canon Frome – I had set up my stay there through the WWOOF program, and was there with one other volunteer. They treated us both very well. Each night a different family fed us and provided a varied perspective on what was happening in the community.

Spent a fair amount of time pulling weeds and managing raspberries, but also got to help put together a Wendy House (AKA –play house) for the kids. Had some chances to milk goats, which just increases my conviction that some day, I must tend goats. Also got to take in the hay, which was a nice community event, and got me sweatin.

The surrounding farmlands are very beautiful. Rolling and pastoral. Went to the movies in Hereford one night which was interesting, as I hadn’t gone to a movie in ages. It was kind of fun to be entertained for the night.

Leaving Herefordshire, I have the feeling that the life at Canon Frome has many benefits and that it is a decent community – some good pearls of wisdom to pull from my time there. Excited to move along to the Chicken Shack where I’ll be helping them to design a permaculture center. It will be nice to shift over to some mental/creative work after my time working with plants and animals.

View of Canon Frome pasture

Wendy House

Sunday, July 20, 2008


06/25/08 –  Canon Frome Court 

After a bit of a breather from writing and planning at Monkton Wylde, I’ve made my way up to Canon Frome, in Herefordshire. Monkton was very beautiful – idyllic really, with the old stone building and gardens. The community was a bit shaky from recent transitions, but the people were very decent and largely friendly. Had some interesting conversations and made a couple of new friends.

Delving into the issues of communal living, much has been coming up around whether or not it really works, and if it does, the degree to which it is permanent or temporary. Monkton seemed to be a place where people would stay for short periods (1-5 years) then move on. Although it is also a place where people stay without any sort of ownership, and I imagine this lends itself to a feeling of impermanence – with the inability to be in control of your position / stability.

Some conversations site the inherent conflicts that occur in such close quarters. I’m trying to learn more about what that’s like - how intense the frictions can become, and how they build up. Also, how they’re managed. Seems like a community is a micro model of society in general. All the social issues are compounded and amplified. Same issues of government apply. So it’s a tricky bit figuring out how much to structure the social rules – finding that balance of restricting undesirable behavior and allowing personal freedom seems to be at the core of human beings.

Am very excited about Canon Frome – fully functioning complete farm including livestock. Members have private ownership of their housing units, structured in coordination with a share in the housing committee, as well as the farm lands and produce. Will write more about my impressions shortly. Off today to Hereford to see a cathedral and get a better sense of the surrounding context.

view from Monkton Wylde

Lyme Regis

sea wall at Lyme Regis

Aquarium buildng at Lyme Regis

Old guild hall at Lyme Regis - had fish and chips around the corner

Hit the road

06/14/08 – London, England

Made it in to London with no problems – interesting to think about how traveling this time around feels different from my previous European tour. I feel more confident in my ability to handle a wide range of scenarios. Exploring cities and places to stay feels much simpler regarding my own internal barriers. Feeling open to experience and ready to try new things.

Although I’m also feeling slightly internal, just reflecting on my life in Boston and what It’s been like for me during the past 8 years. Lots has happened – and this trip feels in some way like closing a chapter, and starting a new one, or a bridge in a song maybe. Anyway, feels mighty cusp-y.

view from hostel

Stayed at a hostel near St. Pauls cathedral – apparently it used to be housing for the boys choir. Chatted with a fellow from Vancouver (named Frank, like my grandfather) and a fellow from South of England who was here showing his photography as an end of school show. Walked around, had fish and chips, drank a beer in a literally crooked pub called Cheshire Cheese. Looked at some buildings. Enjoyed the intricacy of the streets. A beautiful city for all it’s complexity and compounded clustering of building on top of building – Lots of variety in building style, packed closely together. Also lots of people in suits and ties.

Staying tonight and possibly tomorrow with my new friend Sue. Gonna head out to Monkton Wylde in Dorset (South England) either tomorrow night or Monday morning. After all the various transportation investigation, seems busses are the cheapest around England. Although I’m gonna keep my eyes peeled for a nicely priced motorcycle.

inside tate

new housing

spike collective

Preparations for Leaving Boston

In the whirlwind of preparations, there's little time to reflect on the nuances of my upcoming travel. Its a bit like that 50 feet or so before the cliff ends and you gotta just jump off the edge into the water. Nonetheless, I'm formulating ideas to refine my exploration and set up enough structure to gain the most out of these upcoming months. Aspects of the research I'm working on at the moment:

1. Considering a dual approach to each community. One focused on meeting the needs of the community with little to no personal / aesthetic dictation. Another focused on consideration of what the community could need, based on my own knowledge. Perhaps a dual presentation of the two - two separate designs or recommendations, followed by a conglomerate scheme depending on reception

2. Thinking about funding sources and potentials for presenting the research later. Have a few resources in mind but will continue to fish.

3. Working on identifying people and types of people that I would like to foster connections with during my journey. Hoping to make some good connections and friendships along the way.

4. Finalizing my itenerary, trying to make good decisions about a broad range of community types, as well as lengths of stay that are useful to the community and to my research, but also give enough time for "chasing butterflies."

So, checking things off of my list and pulling together last bits and pieces, and of course trying to see my friends and associates before leaving. Had a great Gumbo going away party. Even wore Grandpa George's coat and shoes.