Simply live

While I waited today for the windshield to be replaced in my new and very first vehicle – a 2003 Dodge Dakota quad cab 4×4 – I flipped through the pages of The Philadelphia Trumpet, a magazine about current events that are written with a biblical perspective.  I was intrigued by an article about the rising unemployment rates in Europe, particularly Greece and Spain.  It said that approximately 27% of people are willing and capable but unable to work in both countries.  The article compared our time to the early 1930’s and described how similar patterns are forming.  Back then, mass unemployment led to idle minds, which led to disparity, then to civil unrest, which led to extreme political groups forming, which eventually led to ‘Hitler’s ugly ambitions and exploitation of economic failure.’  It went on to quote some statistics about the current rise in popularity of radical politics in the most affected European countries and hence fear that war is on the way.  I admit I stopped reading the article once it got to the part about where and how the Church will save us but nevertheless it got me thinking about how so many aspects of our lives are connected.

 

One line in that article struck me in particular, although it’s certainly not the first time I’ve heard it.  It went something like, ‘you need to have a job to earn money so you can put food on the table, a roof over your  head, clothes on your back etc.’  Indeed, money is a tool (or material) we all require in order to obtain certain commodities that help perpetuate our existence.  However, it seems the need for this ‘tool’ has spun wildly out of control and further our understanding of what this tool can provide us has also skewed over time.  Money does not feed us.  Try chewing on a twenty dollar bill and you will agree.

 

I’ve been ‘unemployed’ for the past fifteen months but my mind has been far from idle.  This is because over recent years I’ve come to learn that much of what I believed to be true is not so.  I went to business school to gain a degree that would assure me financial security to the end of my days, so that I would never have to struggle like I saw my parents struggle.  After graduating I moved to London, England mostly for fun and because I love Europe.  There I met my current husband, the love of my life, my best friend, and my sidekick in solution searching.  We search solutions together because we have discovered so many problems with how we as society live today that it’s virtually incomprehensible to see how we got to this point.  However one thing that seems to make sense is that it all seemed to go tits up when we humans decided to base our entire livelihoods on the dependance of oil.  So this is what has kept my mind so occupied over these ‘unemployed’ days – how my husband and I can live a comfortable, enjoyable, and nourishing life without such a reliance on this precious resource.

We bought a piece of land last week where we are planning to build our home, grow our garden and provide as many commodities for ourselves as we can with as minimal impact on this dear planet of ours as possible.  Yes, this is challenging.  That is because our current infrastructure is not built to support such endeavours.  We are an oil economy.  Not a clean soil, water, air and happy people economy.  If you think I’m being silly then go on and nibble on those bank notes.  In the meantime I hope for those struggling in Greece and Spain and anywhere else in the world that their desperation leads them to shake up the status quo in an evolutionary way which may appear backwards to most but in time we will find that it will move us forward again and this time in a thriving, abundant way.  My husband and I were lucky enough to have the choice to quit our jobs and join the evolutionary movement.  We know we still need to make money – land is not cheap and neither are all the little bureaucratic charges that rack up when you’re trying to simply live or even live simply like this.  That is why our plan is to think creatively, entrepreneurially (that business degree may come in handy here) and ecologically, so we can enjoy this life and so will our children.

We’re alive!

Hello people.  Much time has passed since the last post, mainly due to the fact that Andres and I were hibernating here in Canada over the winter but summer is here and a few things have developed more recently for us.  The biggest and most exciting bit of news is that we are now official owners of little piece of land in north Hastings County, Ontario.  No buildings there, no hydro, and no running water – we are literally building the entire infrastructure from the ground up so we have a hell of a job ahead of us.  But we fell in love with this land the moment we set foot on it.  Mixed woods, valleys, tall grass, pine plantation, swimming pond potential, good vibrations in general.  It’s in cottage country so there is much natural beauty around regardless and plenty of lakes.  Our land does not have waterfront, because first that’s not necessary for what we want to do and second it would’ve bumped up the price exponentially.  Nevertheless, we are excited and geared up to get going on the development and ticking along with the extra purchases necessary to move forward with our plan.  We bought a truck this week and are looking for a camper trailer for a temporary home that we will live in whilst building our low-impact, eco friendly, self-sustaining happy home.  We will post more information and details as we move along but in the meantime I share another post which was written late the other night cause the thoughts kept me awake.  Hope everyone is well and warm.

love,

Soph

Special feature – Felin Uchaf in West Wales

Andrés and I visited this place in the last week of August, where we met up with two of our already very good friends and then met about twenty more during our week-long stay at the magical Felin Uchaf in northwest Wales.  Out of all the places we visited this one had the most impact on me, in many ways.  It was a great inspiration to both Andrés and myself, the loving people that run the center are incredibly organised, knowledgable and motivated and above all, they are getting things done.  But as Dafydd Davies-Hughes, Project Manager at Felin, would selflessly admit – as he had done to us – ‘it’s all possible because of the work of the volunteers.’  And I saw this with my own eyes, in fact I felt it with my own hands as I assisted in the creation of a dry stone wall which will wrap around the new community center due to be finished in the next couple of years.  I’ll never look at stone walls in the same way again.  Here’s me in action:

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So whilst I was heaving 20 kilo stones from pile to wall, Andrés was tossing bundles of straw around.  Well it was about six meters off the ground and it was for the purpose of thatching a newly built, traditionally designed great Welsh Cruck-oak barn.  Here he is in his glory, sunshine and harness.

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Apart from the practical work, we cooked and cleaned with the other volunteers, cycled to the beach, read in the garden, Andrés learned how to surf, I turned into a sponge and studied Dafydd’s business plan to learn how to duplicate the idealistic -yet very real idea of Felin Uchaf.  We enjoyed freshly baked pizzas from the wood-burning cob oven in the ancient style Celtic roundhouse, where we were also blessed with the opportunity to experience a story-telling evening with the theme that particular night being ‘Journeys’ – of course.  Here’s Mr. Davies-Hughes in action in the wonderfully warm and romantic earthen building:

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Needless to say, it was difficult to leave.  I have never felt such peace deep inside me like I did there on that Welsh peninsula.  On those 23 acres of breathtaking countryside, I was happy.  And my mission now is to make this happiness, this peacefulness, contagious.  But as I can assert without a doubt – these feelings of serenity do not come for free and they certainly didn’t for me either.  It was a bitch of climb to get there on our bikes, a steady incline for about 5 miles and I’m sure we circled around the place a couple times before we actually got there.  It rained.  I wanted to cry.  Andrés joked a bit and carried on, then I got upset.  Then we arrived.  I know you may not choose to cycle there but I’m sure you’ll pay in some other symbolic way.  This is one thing that seems to occupy your mind on a journey like this – your attention to the ups and downs of life.  That’s okay though, who wants a flat line anyway.

Enough of my philosophical rant.  I’ll leave off with a quote from Felin Uchaf’s Ethos:

“The center’s role is that of a bridge that enables what has come to us from the past and what streams towards us from the future to meet and fructify the present and to open the way for an inspired and innovative approach to learning that fosters the qualities of enthusiasm, flexibility and reverance.”

Amen!  Now have a look at their website, scroll down the bottom of the home page and see if you can spot the sexy cyclists 😉

http://www.felinuchaf.org/

 

Back in London

Andrés and I snuck back into London last Friday at 1am.  We arrived by train at Kings Cross then cycled nearly 9 miles to Streatham where we’re currently crashing – thank you Sikiu and family! 

So here we are….. after 6 solid months in the great British outdoors – from the English south west tip to the most northerly Scottish isles, we had the opportunity to truly live on the land and what can I say?  Well, if you look on the page titled ‘the reason.el motivo’ you will see what our initial purpose was for this whole excursion.  We wrote that we wanted ‘to see if it is possible to live a life where our work does not damage the land live on and yet the work itself does not drain us both mentally and physically thereby allowing time for more enjoyment and development as citizens of this planet’  All I can say is that we are truly grateful for the opportunities we had at the homes we stayed at – we got a real glimpse of a broad spectrum of different ways of living on the land – from quite contemporary to truly off-grid.  So we can say that people are doing it and Andrés and I are gonna give it a shot. 

Looks like our journey continues which means it’s likely we’ll continue posting on the blog.  In the meantime, thanks to those who posted comments, generously hosted us and encouraged us along the way in the UK.  Hope our paths cross again soon!

Shetland – it’s very……. windy!

Here we are at our second last stop before the end of our journey.  Up in the very north of Scotland we have had the greatest luck to be hosted by another wonderful family here at Transition Turriefield. Nice and cosy in their lovely home which is 150 years old and protected by the fierce winds outdoors we’re relaxing with a cup of hot chocolate whilst the boys wait for me to watch another episode of Horrible Histories.  I just wanted to send a quick hello to whoever may be reading this and to say that Andrés and I are definitely feeling like everything is winding down with our trip.  We’re starting to think about London and Christmas in Canada and the future in general but no – we still don’t have an answer as to where we’ll settle down yet! 

Honestly, I don’t know where to begin to describe how I feel at the moment.  It’s a bit overwhelming this whole experience, especially right now…. feeling the season change into autumn, you can’t help but reflect on everything that’s happened over the past months.  It’s been incredible.  It’s been bloody tough too I have to say.  Sometimes I wanted to stop.  Sometimes my knees told me I had to stop.  And now it’s almost over.  So to sum up for now….. here are some highlights since the last entry.  No photos this time – iphone is currently damaged, fingers-crossed it’ll come back to life!!

– Inspiring visit to Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales (www.cat.org.uk)

– Camping and hiking in Snowdonia National Park

– One week with our cupid and dear friend on the Llyn Peninsula at Felin Uchaf (www.felinuchaf.org) – this place made such an impression on me I would wholeheartedly insist that a place like this should be as common as McDonald’s

 – Quick stop by and check in with our previous host – Sara and Rosa in Glocester! 

– Two weeks in Ragman’s Lane, north of the Forest of Dean for our Permaculture Design Course with the one and only……Patrick Whitefield!!! woooo!!!

– Three incredibly lucky days with the Everetts at Middlewood Trust surrounded by the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland.  Thank you Rod and Jane!!!!!

– Cheat train ride to Inverness, then cycle to Findhorn Foundation (www.findhorn.org)

– My birthday and Equinox harvest festival at Findhorn!!! 

– Cycle through the Cairngorms National Park

– Choppy ferry ride to the Shetland Islands where I discovered for the first time that Andrés is not a sea man!  poor fella….

That’s it for now…… hope all is well with everyone! 

Wales – also very hilly

Enjoying our refuge here in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, I thought I’d just put up a little note to say Andres and I are alive and well and heading north towards Snowdonia National Park tonight.  Due to various circumstances we’ve changed a bit of our route and will not be heading to Tan y Foel as our ‘route’ page states.  Instead we extended our stay at Lamma’s, took a break from volunteering and relaxed at the Green Gathering Festival in Chepstow where Paul and Dawid came and joined us to celebrate Andres’ 31st birthday!!  We then carried on to Dyfed Permaculture Trust for a week where we learned scything – a very interesting and nourishing experience.  We’re now on our way to our next volunteering stop, an eco-building project at Feline Uchaf located on the Lleyn Peninsula.  We’ll be stopping at CAT (Centre for Alternative Technology) along the way.  Looking forward to it all – except for the hills of course.

68 days in pictures

Well, it’s our final day here at 4 Cross Hands Cottage in Gloucestershire and it seems like a fine time for some reflection and sharing….. You’ll see Andres already added some photos in his last post so I won’t duplicate.

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2nd May – Taking a rest at the end of our first full day of cycling – you’ll see the sign in the back says 10 miles from Penzance – well done Mamas!!

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4th May – Andres and I sent Mums off on train and we take on the open roads – less than an hour in and his chain breaks.  Here’s his pop-up repair stand…. after about an hour we’re off again

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4th May – chain breaks again!  more time lost and we’re under pressure to meet our Mums in Gunnislake still another 20 or so hilly miles away…

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5th May – arrival at Coope Farm in Devon and here is the view from our caravan.  Here Patrizia and Andres are becoming acquainted with Jasper, Marmite and Alfie

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Mama Lisa wwoofing

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Sophia wwoofing

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19 May – on the road again… our camping set-up

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22 May – Dorset coastline and one of the most challenging days of cycling so far

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Weeding!

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Building!

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Baby Swans!  Lucky for us it was hatching time at the Swannery in Abbotsbury, Dorset

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30th May – on the road again in the magical Cotswolds…. one of my favourite days of cycling so far

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2nd June – A Banksy in Bristol and a city break thanks to Jo and Bailey and Luca!!

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4th June – Bollinger in Berkeley!!  God Save the Queen!

Okay, I have to explain a bit here…… I admit, it did cross my mind a couple times whilst we were cycling and prior to the Queen’s Jubilee weekend that it would be funny if Andres and I happen to stumble upon a village celebration and have the opportunity to ‘gate crash’ in a sense…. and then we arrived in Berkeley this sunny afternoon.  Tables were laid out in the town square, dainty sandwiches, jugs of Pimms and glorious fruit cake – just like in the movies!  I asked Andres if he could stay with the bikes for a moment while I have a little stroll around the celebrations and see if I could find us a pint or cake or anything interesting… I come back a few moments later with a glass of Bollinger and an invitation to stay at Peter and Wendy’s place!  Indeed feeling like we were in Never Never Land or some kind of fairy tale, we proceeded to have a generous supper in their garden with more champagne, seafood, and meringues!!!  Then a walk up the hill with the other villagers to light the traditional beacon.  It all felt like a dream.  How funny….. our eternal gratitude to Peter and Wendy for their kindness and generosity.

 
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June – Veg patch at 4 Cross Hands Cottage, Gloucestershire

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Rosa at the reservoir

 

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Chillin with the chickens

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And to finish off for now here is a photo of the compost – good shit man!

It’s 2pm on Saturday 7th July.  Gonna have some lunch now and then help Andres finish off Rosa’s tree house.  I’ll leave it to him to add some photos of his creation – an incredible structure.  He dusted off the bikes this morning and then we’re off to Wales tomorrow!

We wish you all well and hope you’re enjoying the summer so far!  Oh and just to mention – we are planning to head to the Green Gathering in Chepstow, Monmouthshire 2nd – 5th Aug.  Let us know if you want to join us or just appear!

Big big love to all!