Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Freedom is our Heritage. It belongs to us.

Well today is Heritage Day, but is so wet here that I cant bring myself to make a braai. Its quite interesting actually that the idea of having a braai on Heritage day has caught on. Because, if I were to question people I meet in South Africa everyday and ask them about their heritage, they will most often speak about their specific national, tribal or language identity. In some cases the individual may also have some kind of clan or family heritage that they like to speak about. Heritage, for so many of us has been about trying to answer the question "How are you different from other people?" Well I am not sure that's the only way to think of it. There are so many things that we in fact have as a common Heritage. That's why I like the idea of "Braai" day, because no matter who you are, your ancestors at some stage cooked meat over an open fire. This is an in and inescapable truth and a comforting ritual that we are all still drawn to in some way. We are all drawn to music, we are all drawn to conversation and laughter and we are all drawn to being outside and breathing fresh air. This is our common heritage and this is what we should be celebrating. In my life these are the things that I celebrate. The minuscule and scientific differences between us are not of such a great fascination to me. Rather I see as  academic, the differences between Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey, I see as academic the differences between Rooseterkoek and I'rostile. I see as academic the difference between Pot Roast Chicken and Umleqwa or Umqa and Pap.

I would also argue that it is our common heritage to interact with each other in a civilised way in order to exchange with each other goods and services, In fact, on our way out to the farm this morning Hlubi and I stopped in at the Lake Farm Centre for Intellectually Challenged Adults. They were having their annual fair. Unfortunately a little washed out, but there were still enough people to form a queue at the coffee and cake table and to buy out the boerewors rolls. We huddled indoors looking through the bric-a-brac or choosing the fresh fruit and veg on sale from local farms. It just came to me how different and pleasant this experience of trade is. It feels honest. It feels caring. Dealing with ordinary pleasant people like you and me. Not sexy, Not Flashy. Just ordinary and pleasant.So different from the malls and superstores where I am constantly on my guard, un-relaxed, conscious that this big huge business, is a very clever machine and it is trying its best to drain my wallet and suck my blood. There is no relaxing in such an environment.
But at Lake Farm this morning I wondered: "Is the act of buying and selling our daily needs in a pleasant and civilised environment which we own and control not a common Heritage that we should reclaim for ourselves?". Really, its only in the last 50 years or so that the act of consuming has been turned in to massive industry that it is. Can you think of a shopping mall that even existed in the seventies? I cant, but maybe there was one somewhere far away. The point is that Heritage is something that has come a long way from the past and belongs to us. We need to defend against those gifts being taken away from us. The corporations taking those gifts away from us are mindless and soulless. I don't mean this as an insult. It is an observation. Remember, while corporations were all at some stage founded by people, they are not people, they are code, like a computer virus, a piece of programming. They employ humans yes, but they are not human. Corporations are machines and they are out of control. They have no "off"switch. Any single human who tries to switch off Walmart or Macdonalds will be ejected by the machine. Discarded, disciplined, imprisoned...

Am I digressing? 

Is it not our heritage to have clean water and breathable air? Is it not our heritage to have clean food, free toxic commercial chemicals? Is it not our heritage to be free from toil and drudgery? Yes, I know some will say that it is also our heritage to be riddled with lepracy and dying from bubonic plague, But have the scare mongers not been too successful in convincing us all that we have had to accept drudgery, toil and environmental collapse in order to achieve the technological advances that have brought us the anti-biotic? 

No, I think we can confidently lay claim to a heritage of freedom. We are more knowledgeable now as a species than we have ever been before. If freedom is the freedom from drudgery, poverty and environmental collapse, then yes, it can be achieved if we set to it as a project, as if we had to get a man on the moon or build a Hadron Collider or rid Iraq of Saddam Hussain. It can be done.

Freedom is our Heritage. It belongs to us.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Two dead Chickens

Its not that I expected it to happen, but I am not surprised. Two chickens were taken last night, probably something as small as a mongoose. It must have slipped under the frame of the chicken tractor. We have re-enforced the pen now, by adding a trim of chicken wire that I believe a mongoose may not be clever enough to dig under.

I suppose the other way to have gone about this would have been to have built an absolutely impenetrable concrete and brickwork fortress for the chickens. Something that would have taken a year and something that could withstand any attack including hurricane and leopard. But I don't think that's the approach that I care to take. What I am trying to get right at the farm is efficiency in design. The question I continuously ask myself is: What is the appropriate response?

I suppose this is what I am trying to get right in my life. Because I can be cautious but it may stop me ever setting a foot out the door. Or I could be reckless and risk hurting those that depend on me. Too much caution is bad. Too much recklessness it bad. But what I am doing with the chickens and what I am doing on the farm generally, is observing. Taking and action and observing the response of the farm.

Through the action of introducing the chicken tractor, I have been able to observe that I have a mongoose challenge. I can now prepare a measured, sensible response to the mongoose challenge. I can respond with design. The kind of design that does not destroy habitat. The kind of design that is the gentlest possible intervention to address the challenge.

Do you see how this is different to the approach of conventional agriculture, conventional medicine or conventional city building.? In conventional agriculture where we find we have insect challenge we introduce insecticides and destroy all insects, good bad or indifferent. We do not take the time to observe and develop a measured response. In medicine we respond to microbial infections with antibiotics. We do not take the time to observe. We annihilate all bacteria, good bad or indifferent. In city building we act against variety, where one noisy business upsets one complaining resident, we abolish all mixed use suburbs and replace them with a monoculture of residential, a monoculture of offices and a monoculture of factories. We act in this way perhaps because we are afraid of things going wrong. We are afraid to make mistakes. We are afraid perhaps of the ridicule or the mockery, So we become cautious. We make very safe decisions that cant possibly go wrong. We get life cover, medial aid and short term insurance. We get cars with a "motor plan".We get safe jobs that promise a pension to look after us so we don't embarrass ourselves by being a burden by making the mistake of running out of money before we die.

But of course in all this cautiousness our dreams are postponed and the richness of what could have been our lives becomes displaced with a life of slavery to those that offer the promise of comfort and security. This life my friends, is not for me. And yes there will be some blood and guts along this path.

But this is the path that I am committed to walk.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Moving the Chickens

I am not entirely sure that I am ready to move the chickens to the farm, but its done, I moved them today on the back of a hired trailer, with a whole lot of potted trees from my hothouse which I am busy dismantling. All but the one hen that is broody and sitting on eggs.

I am sure I could have built a  better shelter for them. In fact I have a much better one planned, drawings and everything, but like with so much in my life, this is what I am able to do now, with the time and resource that I have. I console myself by saying it is a temporary solution. But I say this as I look around my study on the Sunday evening with all many of the temporary shelves, piles of books, heaps of tools un-carpeted floors and skew hung posters, which were all "temporary " solutions.

 How much too in my business is the result of pragmatic thinking. "This is the best that we can do, let it out the door, or run the risk of missing the deadline".* But is it not in this way that my life becomes a sequence of compromises.  Is it not in this way that I miss on the opportunity to do great work, lovely chicken sheds, great articles, beautiful buildings? But perhaps its better this way. Rather a life of compromises than a life of waiting for the time to be right. Waiting for the movement to strike. But never taking action, Never doing stuff, because the circumstance is just not right.  I don't know!

But I do know that we have 5 fowl in the new pen. One hen got out when I was moving them out of the transport cage. I hope we can somehow get it back. I will ask Mandoza if he can think of a way to catch it tomorrow. The danger of course is that unknown predators roaming the farm kill all the chickens tonight. I have not yet taken the time to make the shelter "dig under proof".

I will keep you posted. Lets see how it goes tonight.

* In a way too, this blog is a battle between getting something out and getting something right. I would like the blog to have more meaningful articles. I would like there to be thorough videos explaining some of the things we do. I would like the photograph to be of better quality. But I suppose if I waited for all those things to happen, I would never put a blog out at all!

update - 8 9 14

 Chickens all still alive this morning and I managed to catch the one that got out. (I popped into the farm on the way back from a meeting nearby.

update 11 9 14

Added a nest box this afternoon.

A simple design of 300 X 300 boards cut from a 19 mm Shutterboard sheet. A little plank across the front to keep the eggs and nesting material in. Then simply screwed into the side wall of the Chicken Tractor.

The chickens seem happy. The peck at the grass all the time and scratch in it. Mandoza is moving them to new grass every day. So far so good. No predator attacks. I put a bunch of Bluegum leaves in for them to nest in. I heard somewhere that Bluegum leaves are some sort of natural bug repellent.

We'll see!