April 17, 2012

Common Unity

Away from the farm (visiting family and friends back in England) it all begins to feel a bit like a dream. The view from above sits on my screen available to view from anywhere in the world – a memory or a plan, as mood dictates.

Whilst my big girl does the rounds of grandparents and friends, little Maia and I settle into community life for a week – a job to finance this journey, yet also an insight into a way of life that attracts so many, but never quite captures them all.

My role is to make sure a good hot meal is on the table by exactly a quarter to one, to monitor all the laundry, listen to daily gripes and double check medicines, take phone calls, do the shopping and support the preparation of supper for precisely ten past six.

Habits and routines are essential to the smooth running of Camphill, a place where different generations of mixed abilities coexist in a village setting that provides food, work and a home for adults with special needs and their carers. I have dipped in and out of this work (covering for house parents in need of a break) for the last five years and revisit it now to make this trip possible. It could well be the last stint away from our farm for quite a while.

My favourite part of this job has always been the walk up to the vegetable shed first thing in the morning. There the day's pickings are neatly laid out along the shelves in piles and in crates ready to inspire the flavour of lunchtime creations.

The next best part is the larder - a walk-in cold room filled with staples like flour, oil, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, as well as treats such as olives, chocolate and wine.

Cooking in this way – led by the daily harvest and consolidated by an abundance of basic ingredients – makes the creation of a meal an absolute pleasure. Sharing it is the central point of each day, the coming together that enables everyone to check in and air joys and grievances and to remain up to date with any new activities or changes ahead.

Eating together is essential to well functioning community life. It is also the glue that binds family and friends; the only context that makes meetings worth attending; a child’s best teacher; and the ice-breaker that transcends all verbal and written language. Partaking in the food culture of another is to experience the visceral reality of the ‘other’ in a way that sight-seeing, screen technology and academia simply cannot rival.

We have made a conscious choice with our farm project to begin alone. This is both challenging and empowering. To address the challenge we will need to develop a network community that reaches across borders and inspires participation, enabling our power to remain focused on a clear vision for the future.

Our very first step is to welcome and encourage interest by opening our doors for the month of August to friends and acquaintances from near and far. We will provide a place to camp, hot meals for the workers and plenty to do. All that is needed is a sleeping bag, all weather gear and lots of energy.

Our ongoing network community will be nurtured and developed thereafter through the sharing of seasonal food on the farm once a month, whatever the mood or the weather.

Weekly column 'A Taste of Earth' published @ www.porkandgin.com

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