Archive for the ‘Deep Time’ Category

Dark Kitchen: Making Friends with Microbes

(Originally published by , 12th February 2018)

This week we continue our Dark Kitchen exploration of food and eating in times of collapse. For our second course in the series Mark Watson interviews Norwegian artist Eva Bakkeslett about the ancient and modern language of fermentation.

Eva with rommekolle

‘It’s the next big thing,’ said Alexis, and handed me a jar of home-made kimchi.

‘Is it safe to eat?’ I asked, nervously peering into the pungent and compelling Korean ferment.

It was a very modern reaction: industrially processed, refrigerated, microbe-free and squeaky clean (dead) is good. Everything else is dangerous.

For thousands of years the arts of fermentation have transformed and preserved raw food in cultures across the world. Yet even though some of our strongest and most loved flavours – coffee, chocolate, cheese, salami, olives, as well as soy, miso and tempeh, wine and beer – are still alchemised via the life-death-life process of bacteria and yeasts, live, fizzing vegetables can be a challenge.

It was reading Sandor Katz’s encyclopaedic The Art of Fermentation that turned things around and got me hooked, with its hands-on approach to reviving the practice of fermenting just about everything. The house started filling up with bubbling Kilner jars of fruit and flowers and vegetables –mead elixirs in the summer, kimchi in the winter – as my distrust gave way to bold, and delicious, experimentation.

Eva Bakkeslett is an artist, teacher and microbial cultural revivalist from Northern Norway. I came across her work with sourdough cultures and kefir in Lucy Neal’s Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered. Later we met and she gave me some Ivan Chai (an intense black tea of fermented rosebay willowherb leaves) made by wildcrafting colleagues  in Russia.

I wanted to ask Eva about how she got into fermentation and microbes, and how they relate to current planetary, ecological and social conditions.

***

MW: What’s going down in your ‘dark kitchen’ right now, Eva?

EB: Well, I’m tending to about six different ferments, so loads of little creatures are living on my kitchen bench: very old Scandinavian rømmekolle ferments, various kombuchas, Bulgarian yoghurts, kefir from the Caucasus, and an amazing sourdough from Russia. I’ve also started fermenting earth, using a Japanese composting method called bokashi, where you add microbes to your food waste. It speeds up the process and you get great compost for growing vegetables.

I started with bread. I always say the bread was talking to me. Fermenting bread has a very quiet language of its own. Put your ear against the rising dough and you hear these clicks and bubbles. I really wanted to learn about this extraordinary language. I wanted to befriend these guys. So it all started through language.

When I was growing up we fermented milk and bread, so when I started discovering the bacterial processes behind it I didn’t really have to overcome any distrust. I just remember being delighted at discovering this community of microbes I could make friends with. I started making kombuchas and vegetable ferments, then explored the rather funky outer edges, like fermented shark in Iceland or kimchi with fish. That really tests the friendship – can I really be friends with somebody, you know, that funky?

MW: In Playing For Time you discuss rootlessness, and the relationship between place, belonging and fermentation. How can remembering the stories behind fermentation reconnect us?

EB: For some years now I’ve been exploring this yoghurt-like Norwegian milk ferment called rømmekolle. In my childhood everybody fermented it – in certain areas people wouldn’t have survived without it. And the culture that develops between the place where the bacteria come from, and the material you ferment, in this case milk, and the humans that then share the culture, makes you very rooted to a particular place.

We now know from neuroscience research that there’s a huge connection between the bacterial flora in our guts and the way we think… so if everybody in a particular village is eating the same rømmekolle, you’re sharing that microbial community within your bodies; people would somehow be bonded through bacterial flora within a community, and to the place. And this was happening all over the world.

Also, people would closely guard their ferments and bring them wherever they went. A family from Finland emigrating to America, say, would dry their milk cultures on handkerchiefs, put them in their pockets and set off. When they settled, they’d put their handkerchiefs in milk and revive the bacterial culture.

Nowadays, with everyone constantly moving around and not connecting to places, we often feel fragmented. One way of rooting yourself is to befriend the local bacteria by growing vegetables and connecting with the soil. Ferment those vegetables and you’ll definitely communicate with the microorganisms in that particular place!

Pumpkins_kefir_and_kombucha lowres And the further you go into it the more you get excited about the taste, texture, colour – all the aesthetic elements of food and place. It’s a very rooting experience, as well as an antidote to industrialised food with its processed salts, fats and sugars: you start reconnecting and engaging with your food, the seasons – and time.

Fermentation has its own world and timeframe, and it can really help move you out of the hyped-up, driven pace of the modern world. You don’t even have to think about it. The relationship with the microbes just has that effect on you.

When people say they don’t have time for sourdough bread-making, I tell them it’s about working with time, replacing one way of thinking about time with another.

I see three elements to fermentation – time, conditions and ingredients – and the balance between those three. A vegetable ferment going for six months can be super-strong, a six-day one will be very mild. Time sits in the taste. It’s implied and embodied in the ferment and your experience of it.

Like growing vegetables, where you can’t rush your carrots, you can’t work against the fermentation process, you have to work with it. You heighten your awareness of what’s happening and your relationship with time changes. It roots you in the fabric of life.

MW: How can we learn from microorganisms?

EB: Bacteria communicate with each other with an incredible alertness, and they’re like magicians of adaptation. The hundreds of thousands of members in a culture communicate through this language called quorum sensing. And if something’s not working they’ll suddenly take a different course.

At an earlier time on the planet, bacteria eliminated all their food resources. They had to invent a way of processing the sun and transforming it into a new life substance through photosynthesis. I feel we can learn a lot from them, because we’re very set in our ways. It takes humans a long time to change.

MW: Right now we seem to need more time to get back on track with the planet, but don’t seem to have that much time. Can humans both bring time into the way we go about things and change swiftly enough? Also, so many of our collective stories seem outdated and resistant to change. Does fermentation have a story to counterbalance that?

EB: Well, we’re generally so removed from natural processes and going so fast, it seems almost impossible to slow down to a pace where we can have a natural relationship with time.

But I think through a close relationship to bacteria and to our earth, without us thinking that we have to change, it will happen naturally, through gentle action and collective absorption. If you create those relationships.

I’m fascinated by the sharing aspect of fermentation, when people give cultures to each other – especially through milk ferments and sourdough. There’s the sharing of the physical substance with the bacteria, which keeps it going, along with the sharing of cherished knowledge. With that goes the sharing of stories, which accumulate within the bacterial cultures as people form their own relationship to them. Somebody gives you some, and it already has a story; it enriches your life, and another layer of story is added to it. These stories create a different bond between people, the bacteria, and the Earth itself.

Fermentation is a beautiful way of transforming the way we live and communicate with each other. It’s an incredible thing that happens when your kefir is thriving, producing more and more grains, and you’re thriving from it, and so you go and meet your neighbour and tell them about kefir. Or like me you incorporate it into art events and share it publicly with people.

My favourite Christmas card this year was from a lady who came to an event I held in England in 2012. I gave her some of an old Romanian yoghurt culture that had travelled to a little Jewish café in New York. She’s been cultivating it ever since, and there it was in the photo, sitting amongst her Christmas decorations!

MW: What kind of art do you do with fermentation?

EB: A recent exhibition I gave in  Bodø in Norway was with rømmekolle. It had disappeared, but I managed to find some eventually and I’m cultivating and sharing it now in all my events. I gathered archive photographs of people’s relationship to their milk animals. Milk can have a bad reputation nowadays, but many people have traditionally had a close relationship not only with their cows, but also reindeer, buffalo, goats and sheep. The modern milk industry is another chapter entirely.

Sunday Best Rommekolle

The rømmekolle culture was very sociable. On Sundays people would share a huge pot up in the mountains dressed in their finery. I interviewed old people about their relationship to this ferment for a radio programme and video. So I’m bringing rømmekolle into the public sphere through these stories.

This exhibition included a bucket of worms with scrap food and a video camera and microphone attached. You could hear the worms talking – they have an amazing language, and when they’re happy they talk a lot. So I’m sharing the wonderful world of fermentation in a bucket, in the production of earth through worms.

I often do talks about bacterial connections, starting with when the Earth was formed, and about bacterial language – these always include some physical fermentation of milk or vegetables. I’ve also held a festival of different bread traditions. It takes different forms.

MW: It’s a lot about what’s worth keeping, isn’t it, particularly now when so many things are disappearing? A kind of cultural preservation.

EB: When you pay attention to these bacterial processes, you see we have to get to the roots in order to go forward.  It’s like etymology. Often a word will go astray and start taking on a totally different meaning. But once you start looking at the roots of the word you realise there’s something fundamental in here that’s been lost. The bacterial world teaches me a lot about the way forward, because it has so much to do with the essence of life. So that’s the preservation part for me, more to do with not losing contact with the processes of life than preservation.

People often go ‘Eeeugh!’ when they see a bucket of compost, or smell one of my stronger ferments. Many people live in a very clean bubble where life processes can’t come in. I think it’s really important to stick our fingers in the earth, and for our kids to as well.

I bought a piss bucket recently and shocked my family: ‘You’re not going to make us piss in that are you?’ they cried. ‘Well, yeah,’ I said, ‘because piss is an amazing fertiliser, and nowadays we just think it’s something horrible and smelly. But it’s a life-giving property, right here in our system, and we just waste it.’ I want to bring back into the life-cycle all those vital things we just keep getting rid of.

I like this idea of the uncivilised. Many young people who come to my events are fed up with modern lifestyles. They’re get really excited about hands-on life processes like fermenting. When I get overwhelmed by the horrors of our fragmented world, I remember so many people have a real need for uncivilising, for seeing a different way. Things have been sterile for too long – we need to get grimy again.

MW: What about the future? Given our bodies are host to so many microbes, might we be our own microbial revolutions?

EB: Well, the current misuse of Earth and its resources is leading us to disaster. But many small groups of people are experimenting in living and doing things differently. They don’t believe in the predominant systems and want to uncivilise themselves. So from that disaster a lot of social fermentation is happening, bubbling in the corners, creating another type of atmosphere, temperature and timeframe for other things to blossom and thrive.

And I think learning about fermentation and bacterial communication, and exploring the way bacteria have adapted and survived, is a huge beginning.

The word culture comes from the Latin cultivare: to prepare the ground for something to grow. The word is used for everything now, including TV shows. But its original meaning implies a sense of mutual nurturing: we prepare the ground and the ground gives to us. And of course bacteria is alive, and makes up the earth, and us.

***

A Red Cabbage Kimchi ‘Slaw’

Kimchi-Squash fermenting

INGREDIENTS (Organic, local and home-grown vegetables if available)

1 small red cabbage or ½ large one
1 large carrot
Japanese or daikon radish (mooli), equivalent size to carrot (optional)
Handful chives or small bunch spring onions
½ cup sea salt (not table salt)
5 cups filtered water (ratio = 1 part salt to 10 parts water)

1 small or ½ large pear, peeled, seeded, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled,  roughly chopped
1 thumb ginger, peeled, cut into small chunks
1 or 2 fresh red chillies, deseeded if too hot
1 tablespoon raw organic cane sugar OR 1 tablespoon RAW honey
½ – 1 small cup stock: liquid from 5-6 shitake mushrooms soaked in warm water plus 1 level teaspoon kelp powder (optional)
1 dessert spoon Korean red pepper flakes/chilli flakes OR level teaspoon smoked paprika powder

Note: for some ferments I omit the red pepper/chilli flakes/paprika, and use one or two homegrown ‘Ring of Fire’ chillies in the sauce This gives just the right heat, definitely hot without going into overburn!

METHOD
Chop/shred red cabbage. Remove hard centre and keep intact for use as plug in the jar.

Place shredded cabbage in a bowl with water and sea salt. Stir and put plate on top of the bowl so all cabbage is submerged. Weight plate down with something heavy. Soak for 2 hours (at least), stirring and turning the cabbage thoroughly a few times.

Meanwhile soak five or six shitake mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes.

Julienne carrot and daikon/mooli. (I often soak the carrots with the cabbage in the salt water.)

Rinse cabbage a few times and let drain in a colander.

In a liquidiser/food processor place pear, roughly chopped garlic, sugar/raw honey, chives/onion, ginger and mushroom and kelp stock (without the mushrooms). Blend to smooth sauce.

Place prepared vegetables in a bowl, pour the sauce on top and add red pepper flakes/smoked paprika. Gently and thoroughly mix in all the ingredients.

Place ‘kimchi slaw’ in a clean jar (mason jars are great) and push down firmly. Fold a few outer leaves of the cabbage and cover the slaw. At this point you can put the cabbage heart on top to hold the vegetables down further. The vegetables should be submerged under the liquid. Close the jar, or cover with a cloth.

IMPORTANT: Keep in a cool visible place. If you’ve put the top on, you must burp the jar frequently to prevent it exploding — seriously! You can start to eat this delicious ‘slaw’ after three days. Mine rarely last longer than a week before they are eaten up!

Next course:

The Dark Kitchen series will run throughout February, but will continue as an occasional series when the new-look Dark Mountain website is launched in April. If you would like to contribute in the future, do get in touch with a short description of your piece to series editor Charlotte Du Cann (charlotte@dark-mountain.net) Thanks all and bon appetit!

Images: Eva giving a workshop on the art and culture of viili, Finish live yoghurt, at Halikonlahti Green Arts in Salo, Finland  (photo: Tuula Nikulainen); pumpkins, kefir and kombucha in Eva’s kitchen (photo: Eva Bakkeslett); sharing rømmekolle in the snow, northern Norway, 1940s (archive photograph); fermenting pumpkin and red cabbage kimchi (photo: Mark Watson); Mark shaking it up at a raw food demo, Bungay Suffolk (photo: Josiah Meldrum)

Eva Bakkeslett is an artist, filmmaker, curator and cultural activist exploring the potential for social change through gut feelings and gentle actions. She creates spaces and participatory experiences that challenge our thinking and unravels new narratives that connect us to the earth as a living organism. Eva lives in North Norway and shows, lectures and performs her work worldwide. evabakkeslett.com

Oct2015MeadMark Watson connects people, plants and places through walks, talks, teas, meads and other ferments. He has led medicine plant walks at Dark Mountain gatherings, and demonstrated how to make mead in five minutes at the launch of Dark Mountain: Issue 8. As well as proofreading and downshifting, he is also part of the Dark Mountain production team and writes this occasional blog.

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St Johns Wort at Lowestoft Station Summer 2010 (poem)

St Johns Wort at Lowestoft Station, Summer 2010

You were gold against the old concrete of the old platform
You stood up and out against the grey
Against emptiness
Against nothingness
Against nothing

You were there and it was good.
You sprang up and out from where no one walked
From where no one had walked in a long time

Walking amongst you then
Your thousand lights
Your thousand suns

It was as if you had been there forever
Would be there forever

As you stretched out into the advancing afternoon…

IMG_2029 640x480

Poem and Photo By Mark Watson. All Rights Reserved.

Trees in Transition

IMG_7423 OakThere is an oak I go to visit. Sometimes I just go there and sit under its huge spreading crown, and look over the fields and we keep each other company. Sometimes I visit when I feel fractious or discombobulated, or when a certain restlessness happens. I always greet the tree. Then I sit down and wait. At some point even on still days a breeze will rustle through the branches and echo in the nearby poplars. Within ten or fifteen minutes, I feel grounded and calm. Sometimes a conundrum or question I have is resolved. This is the effect of the tree.

I think a radical overhaul in our relationship with and approach to ‘nature’ is long overdue. All culture and civilisation is built on and over the earth’s living systems and not the other way around. The earth is primary and we are secondary, as Thomas Berry put it.

In our present civilisation trees, like everything and everyone else, are primarily considered in terms of resources, how useful or profitable they might be. Or as property to be managed, cut down or controlled. Or we might see them in ecological terms, how they store carbon and provide oxygen. Our relationship with them is often abstract.

But what about approaching trees in their own right, seeing them as a part of the biosphere along with ourselves and other forms of life? Connecting and communicating with them?

AZ 1996 Cottonwood 6-240x370Trees are always at home, wherever they are. Even though often we are not. Wherever I’ve spent time trees have shaped and informed my experience, whether growing up amongst beechwoods in Buckinghamshire, spending a season in an old miner’s cottage under a huge cottonwood in the high desert of Arizona or the decade I’ve now lived in Suffolk. Much of this is due to the quality of being-at-homeness that trees possess.

In the face of all our human restlessness and running around, trees seem to be saying, hold on, slow down, wait (at least) a minute, stay awhile, take root, connect with where you are, with the planet, with life. Come home.

And Transition challenges us to get local, to start coming home.

(ii) Trees in Transition

I’d never really considered consciously until this week just how much trees inform transition. All the abundance projects, mapping neighbourhood fruit trees and planting walnuts, foraging and gleaning apples, plums, berries. Learning how to plant and prune.

In the thousand plus posts since 2009 on the Transition Norwich blog, This Low Carbon Life, the most popular label is Reconnection with Nature. We have hosted tree weeks with posts on The Gift of a Tree,Fruitful Trees and A Swinger of Birches and we’ve run a week on Deep Nature. In Sustainable Bungay’s Introduction to Permaculture course in January 2010, which kickstarted the building of the Library Community Garden, I met Paul Jackson, a tree surgeon and nature lover, who helped save some threatened poplar trees** in the village where I live. Paul also fashioned oak planks into seating for the central plant bed and planted fruit trees in the garden.

Orchard SJ-280x200At a recent Green Drinks, Rob Parfitt, from the village of St. James, spoke about the orchard planted over the past few years by a group of villagers. Along with the varieties of apples and pears there are also quince, medlar and cobnut trees.

In the following conversation a feeling arose that what was now being done for pleasure by people in their spare time might well be a vital part of the resilience of the village in coming times. It was a kind of skilling up, learning to work together on the land and with the trees.

My own relationship with trees has expanded since becoming involved with transition. Previously I ordered wood for the stove from a nearby woodsman, stacked it in the woodpile and when it ran out, gave him another call. Later I would forage for wood around the neighbourhood lanes. Earlier this year I felled a dead elm at the bottom of the garden. There were three trunks, each between twenty five and thirty feet high. The first two I sawed myself with a bowsaw by hand (and if anyone copies the way I did it I accept absolutely no responsibility for any of the consequences). As I sawed through the wood my body entered a kind of merging with the action and the tree. It was total attention of the kind Kerry mentioned in her post on Wednesday. I had never felled a tree before but the two trunks came down in exactly the right place. I was sweating and exhilirated.

IMG_7984-240x180When it came to the third and biggest trunk the next day, it wasn’t happening. I approached the tree three times and each time I became suddenly exhausted and could hardly lift the saw. I looked at the trunk. It was not that much thicker than the others. But my body was telling me something. I rang Nick from Sustainable Bungay and asked if he’d give me a hand. We finished the job together a couple of weeks later with a two handed saw.

So we had firewood from the  bottom of the garden which was great. And there was beauty too in felling the tree by hand, a tree we had lived with, walked past and seen from the window for years until elm disease took it, where the birds had perched and sung and rested. We could honour its presence and passing. And it was joyful too, working with Nick.

**

(iii) Taking Notice

This post would not be complete without mentioning the current plight of another of the hallmark trees of Britain and Northern Europe, the Ash, in the form of dieback disease. Government failure in the last two administrations to ban imports of live ash seedlings into the UK despite warnings that our ash populations could be seriously threatened, led to an article by George Monbiot in the Guardian calling the relevant environment secretaries to account. My hope now is that no rash eradication programmes are set in place before the trees have a chance to build resistance to the disease over time.

Ash disease, like those of elm and horse chestnut, calls all of us to account. We need to start looking at trees and the earth’s other living beings in a different light and stop treating them and the land as simply property, resource or something that makes a nice view or blocks it. Or that we can cut down, uproot or trash as we see fit, without regard or negotiation.

These are the beings that provide us with timber for our dwellings and furniture, heat for our fires, shelter, shade, food and medicine. They are the books and the newspapers we hold in our hands. They are home to any number of birds, mammals, insects. Some of them give us grounding and answers in a restless, stressful time. They give so much to us and life. It’s time to take notice of them.

004 IMG_8442-220x165

Photos: Under the Oak, Winter Solstice 2011*; In the desert shade of the Cottonwood, Arizona 1996*; St James Village Orchard map by Rob Parfitt*; Felling the Elm with Nick, 2012*; Teaching Medicine Plants under the Silver Birch with Transition Belsize, May 2012** by *Mark Watson and Charlotte Du Cann, **Sarah Nicholl

Originally published on Transition Network Social Reporting project 15 November 2012

Being Here Now in Earth Time with Plants

This post appeared first earlier today on the Transition Network Social Reporting project as part of a week on Deep Time

Day of the Dead, Autumn 2012

Yesterday afternoon as I was gathering sweet chestnuts from a nearby wood I remembered an early post on the Transition Norwich blog by Jon Curran, Help from an Unexpected Quarter.

000 Chestnuts (JC)-140x105Written in autumn 2009, three years ago almost to the day, the post describes Jon’s discovery not only of sweet chestnuts in the wood beyond the garden, but of his wife’s experience of foraging with her grandfather as a child. It was the first time the subject had come up in the twenty years since they’d known each other.

004 IMG_8442-220x165Connecting with plants, whether a huge old oak, wild nettles, curly kale or a sunflower, helps us to be rooted and in touch with the time and place we’re in. It takes us out of the senseless, amnesic repetition of mechanical clock time and into the time of the planet, of seasons and weather. A bigger now. In that rooted earth time, you stop running around, you get your bearings, you start to remember.

002 Image1697-165x220Looking over these past years at the Transition projects and events I’ve been involved with, I’m struck how infomed by the seasons and natural cycles most of them are: The Low Carbon Cookbook’s monthly gathering and cook-up of the current leaves, fruits and vegetables growing wild or in our gardens; Happy Mondays at Sustainable Bungay’s Community Kitchen catering for 50 people as seasonally and locally as possible, whilst providing incredible, low cost meals using recipes from all over the world; this year’s Plants for Life series of workshops and events on plant medicine.

And everywhere at all times the plants informing, teaching, being.

Reconnection with Nature has consistently been the most popular label on The Transition Norwich blog, This Low Carbon Life, now in its fourth year, with over a thousand posts published since Jon’s Sweet Chestnut piece. The bloggers have celebrated all the seasons with several photoblog weeks. Here’s a piece by John Heaser on High Summer from 2011.

Dimensional Shift During the Transition Conference

Flint - Image1582-240x180During this year’s Transition Network conference I went on the Transition Town Tooting Well-Being Walk. We stopped to visit a community garden, and Charles Whitehead showed us a neolithic flint tool found whilst the group was preparing the vegetable patch. The effect was extraordinary. As I placed my thumb into place where others’ thumbs had been thousands of years ago, right there, in the middle of a city garden, I felt a shift of dimension, as if I had expanded downwards, upwards and around and everything was held, now, in a vast moment of planetary time.

Earth time is not history, those endlessly repeating cycles W.G. Sebald writes about so clearly in The Rings of Saturn. Sometimes it feels like we are meeting up (again), to get something twisted straight. Last year, Occupy Norwich and several local Transitioners organised a memorial march up to the Castle to commemorate Robert Kett and the Norfolk uprising that took place in 1549, known as Ketts Rebellion:

Ian lit several flambards as we stood at the spot where [Robert] Kett was killed, and listened to Andy Wood, professor of social history at the UEA, talk about the commonwealth and the people’s struggle for fairness and liberty in the face of a “hard-hearted” elite. (from Walking the Time-Line – A Torch Song by Charlotte Du Cann)  

1549, 2011, 2012…

Even on this march I found myself in a conversation about plants. A herbalist called Kit said she thought the plant for the Occupy movement should be rosemary. For strength. For keeping the heart and spirits in good cheer. For remembrance.

003 Memory Marigold and Sunflower Seeds 2-400x137

Since September 2010, the Low Carbon Cookbook has been a work-in-progress, examining the provenance of our food from the garden to the smallholding to the industrial food system. At the May Meeting this year, we played a game where each of us asked the person on our right hand side to tell us the months a particular fruit or vegetable was in season.

000 Summer Fruit Gary-240x180None of us fared too badly but none of us got 10 out of 10. We were eating seasonally, just not always remembering when things were in season or when they weren’t!

This week, as if out of nowhere, cabbage has suddenly reentered my awareness and my kitchen. I don’t seem to be able to get enough of it at this time of year, especially the red kind grated in salads or cooked with juniper berries in the oven. Tomatoes on the other hand are not quite so present as they were a month ago.

Plants for Life

000 image2298-lowres2-240x180The end of another year approaches. The Plants for Life talks, walks and workshops I have organised in Bungay are also coming to an end. In January we began by connecting with our roots, and moved through the seasons. We had sessions on biodynamic growing at the end of winter, and walked with weeds and learned about hedgerow medicine in spring. We made plant oils at midsummer, and hawthorn berry tonics and wine ‘for medicinal purposes’ in autumn. The sessions have formed the basis of a new arts, culture and well-being group to begin in the new year.

If I had just one thing to say about connecting with plants as living systems of the earth it would be this: the plants keep us in time; they rise, they scatter seed, they fall. They are where they are. They are in the bigger now. That’s what they connect us with. They bring us home.

Photos: Sweet Chestnuts* (Jon Curran, October 2009); Teaching a Medicine Herb workshop, May 2012* (Sarah Nicholl); Corn, Chillies, Fruit at Happy Mondays Mexican Fiesta September 2012; Neolithic Flint in Hand Tooting Well-being walk, September 2012; Memory of Sunflower and Marigold seeds, September 2009; Summer fruits brought by Gary Alexander to Stranger’s Circle, outside Norwich, 2009; Raising a medicinal glass of homemade fruit wine, Sustainable Bungay, October 2012 All photos except* by Mark Watson