Monday, 26 October 2015

Law of the farm number 18: ‘The rooster will crow, the hen will make a nest’

The rooster is not competing with the hen when it crows. The hen is not competing with the rooster when it makes a nest, lay eggs and rears chicks. For the rooster to think it is better that the hen or the hen to think is better that the rooster is just a waste of thinking. I spend time watching chickens. I admit it. I get pleasure out of observing how they forage, how they chase the grasshoppers and scratch of bugs in the pasture. I see how they run for cover when a shadow passes overhead. I see how cocky the roosters are. I see how submissive the hens are. It is incredible to see a broody hen in absolute and resolute determination. It will not move from those eggs. She has the absolute strength of character to do what it takes.
A broody "Venda "hen
When the chicks are born, she will care for them to the point where she will attack a dog ten times her size or a human 20 times her size in order to protect her offspring. The rooster leads the hens. It will find food for them, call he will call them. Step back and allow them to eat the prized caterpillar he has found or the little snake that he has killed. The rooster will warn the hens of danger, sometime false alarms, sometimes real threats. He will make the rooster noises that mean “run for cover” and he will follow the hens in under the awning or the shade of a tree. The rooster is full of colour, bright dazzling feathers, a long sweeping tail and a mane of sorts around his neck. He has a red crown on his head that is his comb, and extravagant jowls that hang down like a beard. A rooster has two things on its find all the time: Fighting and fornicating. Even when it wakes up at three in the morning crowing at the top of its voice, it is thinking of fighting, or at very least trying to warn other roosters in the vicinity that he will fight them if they come any closer. Roosters are different to hens. They have a different energy. Rosters are almost the opposite of hens. They are poles apart. We find the similar polarity with bulls and cows. Dogs and bitches. Boars and sows. And you know what; our species is not magically exempt from the law. We too are divided into man and woman. Men have strong natural tendencies toward certain behaviours and women have strong natural tendencies toward certain behaviours. But, why am I taking time to point out such an obvious fact? Why am I taking time to dwell on something we all know? I suppose because the modern urban life that we have all grown up in has begun to send us mixed messages that have confused some of us. Our system has, since the sixties, at least begun to hint that men and woman are the same actually, and it’s just that they have become conditioned differently. The feminist movement all over the world is an essential mobilisation against oppression of people using a gender based philosophy. In the same way there has been an essential mobilisation against race and class based oppression. So it is very unpopular, even now, to begin to suggest that men are different to women; that they are not equal in every way. This is obviously because people generating arguments justifying inequality are very often trying to defend acts of oppression against the female part of the population.
What I am advocating is different to this and quite apart from the discussion of how to confront the oppression. What I am practicing in my own life, is an awareness of my own gender. My aim every day is to be conscious of my thoughts, habits and behaviours. Not necessarily to change them or feel guilt for them, but rather just to observe them, as a spectator almost, as a loving interested party. My attempt is not to measure my male thoughts and energy against some standard of correctness, but rather to try to feel that male energy more deeply. Every one of us, has inside us, some male energy and some female energy. After all, half of our genes come from a man and half come from a woman. Of course each of us, man or woman, is free to explore more of our male energy or more of our female energy. For me though, in my life, it makes sense for me to feel my “maleness”, to laugh at it when it comes up with silly suggestions, but to play along with it where its suggestions seem reasonable or fun. There is nothing in this approach that leads me to think that I am in competition with the women around me. There is nothing in this approach that causes me to believe that I am superior in any way to the women around me. There is nothing in this approach that causes me to want to go out and be oppressive to the women around me or to any other members of my species.

But I have seen in my own life, as I am sure that it is true in the lives of so many others, that I have caused myself pain and distress, when I have come to see my male energy as un-progressive and backward or felt guilty perhaps of the kinds of “boorish” ideas my boy brain may come up with. This censoring of self has lead, in my mind, to an exercise of "will" over "passion", becoming polite, politically correct and sanitised in order to live up to a standard of “civilisedness”. This attempt to be polite and correct has in the past made me weak, it has made me ill; it has made me to withdraw and become depressed. I will have it no more in my life. The rooster does not feel guilt for his rooster thoughts and I would guess that the hens around him are more fully hens because of this mind-set that acknowledges Law of the Farm number 18: “Roosters will crow and hens will make nests”

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Law of the farm number 17: “Don’t sell the farm to buy a tractor”

One of my favourite “tools” on the farm is our little 160cc Suzuki quad bike. My friend Eldred had it lying around in his garage and gave it to us as a gift when we first bought the farm. What I like about it is that it’s small and light, but powerful enough to take a load of fence poles or drag a log out of the dam.
Having a big fancy John Deer tractor would be great, but very expensive, so right now we make do with what we have. The heavier puling tasks the quad bike can’t handle, I use my 4X4 for. The big digging and pushing tasks I hire in a TLB at R300.00 per hour. No, it’s not ideal, but I am working within the realistic limitations of what we have and how best we should invest what we have. And what’s more, the quad bike is agile, it has a tight turning circle, it can manoeuvre through narrow paths in the forest. Places where a tractor just could not get right now. The quad bike is also light on the ground, it will not easily compact the soil or sink into muddy patches. Oh yes, and of course, it doubles as a toy. I feel quite comfortable to let even smallish children take turns up and down the driveway on the quad bike. I would not be able to let them do this with a tractor.
My policy favouring a quad bike (for now) over a tractor I suppose comes out of a long tradition where my grandfathers’ grandfather would have had to make such conscious choices all the time. My grandfather’s grandfather would have lived on a farm; he would have known that if he invested too heavily in extravagances he would struggle to feed his family. If that meant walking to town because he could not yet quite afford a horse cart, then I guess that is what he would have done. If that meant housing is family in a one roomed cottage, that is what he would have had to do. That’s just the way things were, and actually that’s still the way things are.
Our modern urban lives have helped to blur the lines between what is possible and what is impossible. Banks and other credit giving business have created the illusion that we can have anything we want right now. All we have to do is sell our future lives to them. All we have to do is to agree to labour for them. So we buy the horse cart, or the three roomed cottage or the tractor, but we sell the very thing we were trying to attain by entering into the bargain. Let me be clear. In some way or other, we are always trying to be free. When we buy something or build something it is in order that we may be free. Free from discomfort, free from toil and struggle, free from inconvenience. We are always trying to buy our freedom. The banks and credit giving institutions know this, but also know that we have become conditioned to selling our very freedom, our future time and energy for the privilege of having right now what we actually can’t afford to have right now.

The debt trap has become so common and so widespread that it has become generally accepted that this is the route any young person should follow when leaving home and embarking on their journey to independence. Young people who do not go into debt to buy cars, clothing and big screen televisions risk becoming social outcasts. There are the brave ones that do resit the trend, but these are a very small, very courageous minority of thought leaders.
I must be careful to clarify that I am not speaking out against debt as a concept; I am speaking here about moving toward some acceptance that debt is a very powerful and at the same time a very dangerous tool. Clever people have learned how use debt to invest well and build empires that serve them and their families for generations. But debt is dangerous. Like dynamite. Not something to hand out an street corners to children , but something to entrust to experienced miners who after years of training, know how to apply its force surgically and precisely to extract the ore from the rock. Right now, we are suffering a pandemic of indebted , young and old, running around dazed through the city streets with sticks of dynamite blowing off hands and limbs.

I am not saying that buying a tractor is a bad idea; I am not saying that debt is a bad idea; I am saying that we must be become skilled before making decisions so that we are not tricked into selling the farm to buy the tractor.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Law of the Farm number 16: ”When it’s hot, work in the shade”

February 2015

I did not get as much work done over the weekend as I would have liked. I did make good progress with a small hen house that has become an urgent need. The chickens are now roaming free in the paddock near the cottage. They are behaving very well and have not been eaten yet. Perhaps they are trying to reassure me that they don’t need to be locked up at all. My intention though is just to make sure they are locked up at night, primarily to protect them from predators and secondarily to make it possible for me to find the eggs that would otherwise be laid all over the show. But just watching these beautiful chickens roaming around through the grass and shrub over the weekend had convinced me that that is how they should be allowed to go about their lives.
Gary - using his head on a hot day!

I enjoy the physical task of putting together a chicken coop from scrap wood, or clearing the forest with the chainsaw or building fences or clearing the dam of reeds. Solitary work for me is very satisfying. It’s a kind of meditation. I allow myself to be completely in the present moment. Yes, I have a plan of what I would like to do, but I allow most of my mind to focus only on what I am doing right now, and then the very next step. In this way my work sometimes becomes “meandering. As the next step may be to cut a board, I would power up the generator, only to find that I need to fill up with fuel. I would fill up with fuel only to find that the extension lead that I need to run from the generator to the cross cut saw is hopelessly tangled and I would spend time untangling it. I would cut the board then realise then match it to another, realising that in fact the structure will need to be a bit narrower than I thought; to match an ideal board that I have that would work well as a hen house floor. And so on. I let each step guide me to the next and I make peace with each step and am fully involved and present to each step.
I was able to do most of the cutting work indoors, bet the assembly work had to be done outside or I would not be able to get the structure outside once it was fully built. It was damn hot on Saturday and I could feel the sun beating down on me. When I felt the heat was too much, I would step inside, sweep up the saw dust. Or make some tea. Or repack the tool box. This is the way I prefer to work. Not as a slave who is driven to work at a task regardless of where our energy is. I have come to see work as being something I must have “energy” for. I am sure that “energy” is not the right word. It’s more like I must “feel” the task, I must have an appetite for it I must “desire” the task. If I can work when I am in this task, I find that I am super creative; I am energetic and can keep going for very long periods of time. Perhaps this is why I prefer solitary work? Often the people I would be working with would drain my energy somehow. Especially if have employed cheap casual labour. Often I would find that the fact that they are in my space, make me not want to work myself. Its illogical, it’s irrational I know, but I am just telling you how it is with me.
So when it is hot, I work in the shade. Or I work wherever I feel that the “energy” is where I have an appetite to work, where I have desire. Sometimes when it is hot I will find a task in the shade that I have desire for. Sometimes I don’t find energy for anything and all I want to do it sip my tea and stroll through Facebook. I have stopped whipping myself for that. Sometimes the only thing I feel like doing is having a short nap under the oak tree. I have come to trust that my desire for the tasks that need doing will return.
The problem is that the modern urban world that we have built does not very much like law of the farm number 16. In fact the modern urban world says. “when it is hot, just keep on slogging because if you don’t we are gonna fire your ass” the modern urban world causes you and I to believe that physical and mental work is meant to be un pleasant and it is just something that we have to endure in order to by the privilege of having somewhere dry and warm to sleep at night and to send our children to school. The modern urban world tell us to distrust any “feeling” and “energy” any desire or appetite that you may have to slow down with the task you are busy with or any inclination you may have to rather do some other task for an hour or two. The modern urban world tells us that you and I are not best placed to decide how to spend our time, our energy and our lives. These decisions are best left to people who give us “jobs”. In fact we begin to believe ourselves that we cannot be trusted with our own energy, because when our jobs give us “leave” or a weekend off, all we do is crash on the couch and play Xbox. The truth is that these jobs have exhausted us physically and mentally to such an extent that we probably need some time to recover, given time, we would get off the couch, begin to feel our own energy, beginning to trust our own desire. But in most cases, just as this sense begins to return, we are summoned back to the office, for another week, another 11 months of being told what to do with every waking hour.

No, I say this is not the way. This way of living is contradiction of a fundamental law of how things are. This modern urban way of life is a direct contravention of law of the farm number 16 “When it is hot work in the shade” But no, don’t go off and resign your job today. Small steps first. Begin today, right now to “feel” what it is that you want to do with the next hour of your life. You may be so tired that all you want to do is sleep. Even if you can’t take a nap, the very step of being conscious of what you want to do with your time is a step in the right direction. Take 10 minutes quite time every morning your tea break. Switch off your office mind of deadlines, payments and reviews. Become silent in your mind. Don’t think. Just feel what you are feeling. At first name the emotions that you are feeling. Don’t judge them, just name them, acknowledge them, and preferably write down the name of what you are feeling. Then as a second step, feel what it is that you need to be doing with your time, where your energy is. Preferably write it down. It may take a long time before you are able to act on these desires, but that time will come.