Saturday, 21 May 2016

Foraging with Transatlantic Friends

This past week we had a class from the Warren Wilson College of Asheville, North Carolina visiting us while they investigated the intersections of community, work, and spirituality. 

After 30 hours of traveling, they landed at Camas and hit the ground running with an adventure over to Market Bay and explorations of the surrounding area to acclimate themselves to such a drastic change of scenery.

Despite most of the week being adjusted around the various rain squalls passing over the island, spirits were kept high with much singing and laughter. The go-with-the-flow attitude turned out some unexpected delights such as learning new games and in depth fireside chats. The results of all of this made for a pretty epically bonded short term community that will surely continue into the foreseeable future. 

The main event of the week was a Camas Challenge of preparing an evening meal with as much foraged food as we could muster from in and around the Camas garden. Armed with books and a hunger for a good dinner, the students from Warren Wilson rose to and met the challenge with an infectious enthusiasm. 

Starting on the shore line they started with sea vegetables and then moved up into the woodland for wild garlic, mint, and various roots and flowers, ending in the garden with more greens for salad and mini strawberries that were sure to end up as garnish on a dessert. 

With ingredients pouring into the kitchen, a team of students and staff came up with some impressive results; among them were: giant fresh salads for each table, crunchy nori, fried sea spaghetti, and a chocolate cake with mint icing and fresh strawberries on top! Yum! 

Thanks Warren Wilson for such a bountiful harvest and delightful meal!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Peacemaking with Pop


As part of the resident team, this is my fourth month participating in the Common Life at Camas Tuath.  In our kitchen- four fathoms from the salty Atlantic, fourteen breaths to the freshwater spring; forty minutes to the tarmac. We've brewed gallons & gallons of Pop aka ‘Juice’ aka ‘Soda’ aka natural ferment health tonics.  Our first clients described it as ‘*bleep*ing Legit’, ‘Pure Minted’ & ‘That's Banging, by the way’; & with those kinds of street level accolades- I resolved to embed it as part of our cultural mentoring framework here so everyone is empowered to pass on the Good Message.

Charge the Cup of Friendship…

One of the first barriers to relationship with our guests, my colleagues informed me; is the question of diet.  Apparently it’s shocking for all concerned.  Sometimes, they said, it’s ‘THEM’ & ‘US’ kind of stuff… rucksacks full of Irn-Bru flagons, hunners of sweeties & pot noodles and... three days in when this runs dry; they begrudgingly start joining in with the ‘food’ aka ‘that organic rubbish’.

Not that I can talk mind, I’ve got so much metal in my mouth from my school days- lunch consisted a can of pepsi, half a quarter of rainbow crystals and a ham roll.  My breath stank so bad, my first kiss with a beautiful girl called Suzanne O Leary was met with disgust.  You start to wise up after that sort of event.

30 odd years on, I’m bringing something to the table, not as a lesson; more as a cultural offering to get involved with on an evening.  It doesn’t taste of seaweed; no… we’re brewing the most fantastic fermented fizzy soft drinks, which raises the barr and blows Red Bull clean outta the gate.

Why Bother? Well,  I feel that if your going to build a genuine relationship and lead guests toward a curriculum designed to go beyond their own perceptual edges and back again in a short space of time; then the least you can do as a host is meet them half way.  Find a common bond, give a taste of something we can all relate too.  That’s how respect and trust is built.  It’s a welcome gesture…

Plus I do love a good glass of Pop.

This Common Life.

The commitment to a subsistence lifestyle is one of the handshakes of the regenerative design movement.  It’s part of a responsible Pushback against the mainstream; meeting our needs creatively in right relationship with our non human neighbours.

Within this arena the two commitments of tending our deep nature connection journeys and a commitment to mentoring becomes contextualized in a tangible relation to landscape- It’s as real as real can be.  

Our food, our shelter, our heat, our energy use, our waste and all our crafts of the rural household. This is it.

These commitments dovetail neatly into the context of living communally here, known as the ‘common life’ at Camas Tuath. Shared tasks are, for the large part- rhythmical, cyclical and seasonal:  Bread is baked, food is harvested or foraged from garden and shore, eggs are fresh from the coop not the co-op; kelp & human waste becomes friable humus for our fruit crops to complete the circle.  All items we can’t provide for under our own steam is linear-to be specific: wheel-barrowed from the tarmac down the track.
The epic gaelic landscape of Ardfenaig district which we wheelbarrow resources through on the handbuilt track.

Participating in the daily chores known as ‘Get-Stuff-Done’, young people happen upon much of the hidden curriculum; fired by their innate curiosity of ‘what-things-are-for’.

4 and 3 and 2 and 1... part of the hidden curriculum known as Get Stuff Done.

For the curious then, Making the Juice once a week is yet another thing to get involved with and learn informally before the ‘activities’ start. A window into the world of human nutrition, ferment, budgeting, foraging,tending the wild, ultra heat treatment, jam making, sterilization; is it? No?  Go give a hand with the washing up then would ya?  If one in a hundred youth who touch the brewing bucket go on to produce their own for their community; I’ll be a happy bunny.

By the way, if your interested in ferment, you'd do well to get this book in your library.

A good looking sourdough loaf; don't you think?

Making Peace with Pop

Where the Pop really comes into it’s own though is in the realm of Peacemaking.  That inevitable opportunity that presents itself after strangers have endured some significant experiences and stretched their edges a little bit.  It is here, celebrating Gifts & Gift Moments- around the feasting table, or the Fire; that the transformative power of the bubbles really work their magic.
Eye contact
a sudden recognition of being
being here
in the same boat
our similarities
& our differences
I  like being here
Good Cheer
This is it 

It’d be Pap with Pepsi.

In good faith.  I have to mention the competition.  The tide we are pushing back against.  Have a look on the supermarket shelf  next time your in there…there’s NO ferment.  It’s ALL carbonated water, saccharine and glucose-fructose corn-syrup; no wonder the UK government decided not to tax ‘sugary drinks’ and took a recent U-Turn; there’s hardly any sugar in it!

 I'm not able to change mainstream culture, but we're committed to peacemaking within our sphere of influence; and certainly if my first observations are correct- the dependency on lots of sugary sweets and drinks- and the resultant physiological 'spiking' creates an obvious barrier for the capacity to reflect or engage in any meaningful forms of critical thinking.  It's THE gateway drug; par excellence.

Temperance for our times.

Despite the attempt to eradicate the native tradition of herbcraft and lore on these Isles by the early church; it is in the direction of modern Christianity we can direct our thanksgivings for preserving some heritage herb-craft recipes.  The experience of an explosive non-alcoholic banging ‘Pop!’ & the resultant cheers of the frothy drink from regional hedgerow ferment recipes; has been handed down through the Temperance bars  that once graced our high streets.

The Temperance Movement, despite pressures from the monopolies buying and burying family recipes; preserved recipes of blood tonics, burdocks and a host of other foragable life-giving tonics.  Back in the day. even a cola was good for you; before Coca-Cola got their hands on the competition.  Nowadays, the cultural fabric hangs by a few threads….

It is to my ancestor Mam-Mam, my great grandmother, aka ‘Mam Temps’ aka Ethel Jones that I direct my thanks.  The Temperance Bar of Bridge Street, Mynydd Cynffig aka ‘The old carpet shop’ aka ‘the new flats’.  It is she who past on the secret of this revolutionary yeast to me, by secretly skipping two generations and inoculating my feet with it at an early age.  Imagine my surprise when I recalled the memory, put 2 & 2 together and took a foot bath in a bowl of water/sugar before feeding the bees with it to extract the culture!  Who knew I was carrying an ancient Brythonic panacea on my feet, whilst simultaneously walking in the footsteps of the Temperance movement all this time?  What are the chances?

Unless your suffering from addiction, it’s not alcohol per se we need ‘abstinance’ from these days.  In the realm of voluntary simplicity; it’s the unscrupulous industries that sell us food and drink that dumb us down & kills our kids that we need to resist. This is the edge to temper, the rest is just symptomatic of a root cause.

At Camas Tuath we don’t buy it and we don’t serve it to anyone that sits at our table.

Here’s to Life! To Peace!  Pob Hwyl! Slanijvar! Nice One!

Monday, 9 May 2016

A look back on volunteer training, in pictures

After two intense weeks of staff training, we are ready to welcome our first group for garden week!
Here is a look back at all we did:

The resident staff put together this training plan based on a natural learning and living cycle. Perfect for the way Camas integrates both on a daily basis.

One of our first morning reflections was kicked off by an epic dance party to energise us for the day.

Our technical advisor, Kenny Lacey, showed us the ropes in preparation for our abseiling and climbing tutorials. 

A stunning view of Camas, complete with our abseiling/climbing assistants at the top of the crag overlooking the bay.

A few of our group looking on and cheering one of our volunteers, Aaron, as he nearly climbs all the way to the top!
Mairaed coaches Janet through her first ever abseiling adventure.

Kenny coaches us through a couple of canoe rescues. 
And the emptying of kayaks while in the water, too!

What looks like another dance party is really us warming up for a coasteering adventure.
The tidal island in the middle of Camas bay couldn't be a more perfect setting for coasteering.

The waves were exciting, the tide was just right.
The depth of the water was perfect for jumping off the rocks into the sea.
No shortage of smiles after this adventurous afternoon! Thanks Kenny!

We practiced our fire building skills with various found materials. 

And learned how to use a fire bow to try and start a fire without matches! (Not for the faint of heart, it takes a long time and a lot of patience) 

The fire was eventually started and we sat around making a map of Camas, complete with all the magical nooks and crannies that were found during the weeks' adventures. 

For all the fun displayed in these photos, we were still learning a lot! George Fell came to teach us about first aid and emergency procedures for all of the what-ifs and just in case scenarios. Thanks George!

The very last day of our training, we got snow!! We delayed our morning chores for a bit of play; it was so beautiful and we were happy to enjoy it when we didn't have an adventure session planned. 

I might be a bit biased, but I think this is the greatest group photo of Camas staff to date!

We packed for an overnight on Iona and headed up the track, enjoying the snowy landscape. 

Still enjoying the sights and novelty of snow at the end of April as we crossed the Sound of Iona on the ferry. 

And true to Scottish weather, we had a beautiful sunny day after the snow day, perfect for relaxing by the beach hut while we finished up the weekly meeting.

It was a full and rewarding couple of weeks, we are all feeling trained up and ready for a fantastic season! Can't wait to welcome you this season!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Fire with Flint and Steel.

Camas volunteers are here!

The sun warmed the six of us as we met to set the plan for the day. Excitement energized us as we cleaned and prepared Camas for two weeks of training with our soon to be Camas family. As 6 pm neared Laura, Hannah, Abbi, Rhyddian and Irena went up the track while Joshua stayed in the kitchen to get dinner ready.

 Then, in the span of a track run, we suddenly found ourselves almost doubled in size as the Camas population went from five to eleven! With smiles and hugs, we started the week excited to get to know Az, Janet, Rachel, Mairead, and Jon and welcome them to this special place 10 meters from the sea and 1.5 miles from the nearest road!

Since then, week one of volunteer training has finished

The week was a flash flood of new bright memories, sharing and exploring Camas’ spaciousness gave us all opportunities to begin forming our community and explore our values together using the framework of deep nature connection Rhyddian shared from Jon Young’s work. (If you’re interested check out Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature).

With wonderful friends of Camas who volunteered to cook delicious meals the resident and volunteer teams were able to immerse themselves in the training sessions each day and be blessed with delicious food each night! On top of learning or revisiting kayaking, abseiling, climbing, hill walking and costeering we used our time this week with reflecting on reflection and asked ourselves, ‘why bother? Why involve youth from the city in these activities? Why should we seek nature connection? What is Camas all about and how does the framework we use inform our actions and shape the experience of people and animals that visit our growing community here?  

The Pushback!

With a quest to find the four parts of Camas and revive it from its winter slumber, we explored Camas’ mission statement: “Together we seek to enable growth in love, respect and awareness of ourselves, each other, god and the environment” and then throughout the week we dove deeper. We gathered around conversation on The Pushback – using creative force to fuel the fire for curiosity and dismantle social systems of ‘dumming down’. We participated in ceremony and created a sand fire pit Mandela in the garden woodlands. We lit its inner circle with one friction spark while lighting and naming the eight attributes of deep nature connection in our minds and around the central flame. 

Throughout the week, around learning about safe food handling, the garden, chickens, worms, the windmill and other camas essentials, we continued diving into Pushback qualities. We explored the use of a sit spot, child passions, curiosity, adrenaline, discomfort, challenge through choice, and orienting and processing each day with a reflection framework as avenues of learning and ways to dive past simple awareness towards sharing a deep authentic and wholesome nature connected pushback.

From gatherings around fire to shared food and music (Jon and Mairead are amazing on the guitar!) we kicked off the season with many laughs and just the right amount of sillyness to keep us warm in the sunny and cold north wind! Like fire with flint and steel, the sparks of spring training have caught the kindling and our energy is starting to glow of the red granite! As our excitement grows and the flames of adventurous curiosities call us, Camas reverberates with us ready to share with us and so many others this season! This week we begin part two of our training entitled – “I’m feeling it!” 

p.s. Pictures of the entire training are forthcoming...stay tuned J

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Camas volunteers experience of 2015

Thank you to all the amazing volunteers who worked, lived and shared themselves at Camas in 2015, you really made a positive difference to all the lives around you.

This what they said about their experience at Camas this summer. 

Dave: “Being a Camas volunteer is an awesome experience. Volunteers are working with brilliant people doing exciting activities in an environment like no other; no two days are the same. I had so much fun and I would highly recommend it to everyone.”

Lynsey: “Camas gives you the opportunity to work in an environment where compassion is at the forefront of what you do. You work as part of a team that really genuinely look out for each other. You feel part of something much bigger because you are all there for the same purpose and goal – to create the opportunity for the people coming to learn, to reflect and to grow in a supportive, beautiful and creative space away from all the stresses of their lives back home. It’s hard work both physically and emotionally but it is the most rewarding experience I have ever had and what I have taken away from it is invaluable. DAE IT.”

Jan:  "Camas is a once in a life time experience. That is what my old house mate said when I had to decide if I would take the offer for a volunteer post. Luckily, I did. I had nice house mates and friends who shared work and special moments with me and our guests in an awesome landscape."

Davie: "Working the summer at Camas was hugely rewarding, exhausting and exhilarating all at once."

Hattie: “Beautiful scenery, rewarding work. I honestly can't think of a better way I could have spent my summer. It was genuinely one of the most rewarding and incredible experiences I've had and will ever have”

Annie: “Living and working at Camas shows you just how many adventures, laughs and conversations you can squeeze into a day, let alone six months!”

Hannah Blyth: “Incredibly rewarding and fun work with THE best people in THE best place.”

Kitty: “There's so much laughter that you think they must put something in the water. Amazing.”

Hannah Butler: “I had the most magical time of my life and met the most beautiful people. Thank you to everyone that made it so special, I didn’t realise it was possible to feel this much love”

From this:

To this:

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Camas Garden Weeks

Camas Garden Week

The saying many hands make like work was put to the test this garden week at Camas, we had a huge mixed group of people from all over the world including Chicago, Germany, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and two groups from Glasgow and one from Edinburgh all come to help us put our gardens to bed for the winter. With nearly 40 hands on deck we were able to combine garden and tack work with climbing and kayaking sessions ensuring lots of work and play mixed in equal measure with bundles of cake!
Avril was in her ditch digging element as work on the track was under steady progress throughout the week. The satisfaction of being up to your knees in bog was not lost on our team of volunteers who managed to get the drains flowing through sheer effort and a few songs. The work on the drains means that over the winter they won’t flood and the track should remain relatively dry!  
Meanwhile, in the garden…
With such an enthusiastic bunch we had many garden projects happening simultaneously and managed to accomplish a huge amount of structural maintenance, as well as giving the garden beds the attention they needed after a long and productive summer. The real beginnings of this work started with a group of volunteers from Caledonian Woodlands who came for and long weekend and lots of hard graft.
The Caledonian team set to work pollarding the huge Aspen trees at the top of the garden which we then completed during garden week. The trees were planted as a wind break for the garden but had grown so tall they were shading out a lot of the fruit cage and lazy beds, after having a severe trim, the fruit cage can now bask in next year’s summer sun, and the trees will re-grow from the cut points in the spring. The tops of the trees that came off were put to good use: the larger branches were stacked and left to dry out for fire wood, the smaller ones were used to weave into the back fence to create more of a wind break for the baby trees, and whatever was left gave us a great evening around the bonfire!
Walking through the garden now, it is clear to see how much effort was put in over these last few weeks. Many hands really do make light work! In no particular order, our list of achievements includes: finishing the dry stone wall around the round house, laying the Hawthorne hedge behind the fruit cage, digging out the drains around the fruit cage and laying a French drain through it, creating steps up to the Pavilion shed, clearing out the brush from the woodlands, clearing around the fruit trees to let in more light, clearing the woodland pathways. Take a breath… All garden beds were weeded and cleared, adding a layer of compost, topsoil, seaweed and covering with weed matting to all rot down nicely over winter. We have made our winter supply of green tomato chutney, harvested and preserved sorrel, nettle and mint for winter use and are continuing to eat fresh food from the polytunnels.
Also we managed to squeeze in a day out in the sun on Iona and Ardanalish! Wowzers!
A huge and heartfelt thank you to all those involved, this work is really what keeps Camas running and progressing each year. I feel confident in the knowledge that the Camas gardens are well prepped for a restful winter! Thank you!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Lichfield Group!!!!!!!!!

A few weeks ago camas had the pleasure to welcome the lovely folks of Lichfield to join us for a week of song, dance and play.  It was quite a spectacular week with familiar and new faces who were invited into the wacky world of Camas.  So with the stage set, all was needed was the sun to be out. We were not disappointed
The beach at market bay was one of the first places we went to to experience the full glare of the sun.  Everyone dived into the water pretending it was not cold when it was in fact freezing, enticing the less inclined down to the sea.  After this the group got a massive game of rounders on the go.  Both teams were equally amazing at batting and fielding but because of James’ cheating, his team won.  The group got some amazing tans and headed back to camas after all the hilarity.
One beach was not enough for this group so the next day they headed to the north beach on Iona.  The group tested their balancing on one leg skills against each other on the boat with only one emerging triumphant.  The camas staffs were all suitably impressed except from Jan who was nurturing his battered pride after lasting only 30 seconds.  After a mad dash to the beach, lunch was quickly had and the group made an impromptu panorama with a camera, unsuccessfully.  A manic game of ultimate frisbee then took place were Dave took it too seriously and the game had to stop for the protection of the participants.  After this the group had to rush back to the jetty were they went on a luxurious cruise boat and did some fishing.  The group then came back and went on a splendid tour of the abbey.  At the end of the day everyone was glad that they went on the trip but were glad to get back to camas for some food and campfire songs.  We were genuinely impressed by the sheer number of songs that seemed to last for hours into the night.  It is something that we will never forget as the group bonded over the fire that night.
The group were also involved in a three way rotation of games, rock climbing and kayaking.  They had great fun showing off their skills to the camas staff.  They got so excited that they even destroyed a bit of the rock climbing wall.  The difficulty skill for this wall has now ramped up considerably!  The games section showed the playful side of the group. They gave as good as they got and showed the team the awesomeness of camouflage, yet again Davie was a rubbish hider. Lichfield also showed their prowess at kayaking to Jo and Kitty who were suitably impressed by their mad skills.
All this sun could not last, and the team headed inside to for an acting workshop where they provided performances for the ages.  Each group was given a basic story structure and had to fill in the blanks, and did they!  The stories were wondrously invented.  Some pontificated on the reliability of beauty with pirates thrown in (with an excellently cast old hag), the dancing of a magical fairy, messing about in second world war Berlin (with Hannah in the role of a lifetime) and the domestic squabbling of Tawhai, Mabel and Shoniqua.  The end results were amazing with sets, props and costumes all made by the group.  Everyone had a great time and it highlighted what a creative group Lichfield are.
There were also reflections throughout the week with one in particular sticking in the mind.  Lynsey asked the group to invent their ideal communities that could involve anything, anyone and could represent any values.  The group rose to the challenge and a fun night was had by all.  A galactic council, an alien gangster laundry mat, and Mabel & Tawhai’s personal kingdom were just some of the examples.  It was such an intriguing reflection as the group discussed what a community could be even if the participants were far removed from their ordinary lives and stressed their importance in improving ordinary lives.

Thursday came and it was the day that they had been looking forward to all week, the Camas challenge!  The group split into four groups and set about arranging food, decoration, entertainment and reflection.  The centre was a hectic place as people rushed from place to place frantically getting things arranged for the night.  The meal was a scrumptious macaroni cheese and chips.  The decorations were delightfully coordinated with Annie into a psychedelic hippie theme in no way egged on by Hannah.  After dinner entertainment was provided by Hattie’s group with some excellent renditions of hallelujah thrown into the mix.  The best impression of Shaniqua, ever, was thrown into the mix too.  Hattie also attempted an impression of Jo but lets just say that that it was an insult to every fifer in existence and leave it at that.  There was also a rap battle where Ab McFab demolished a young adult, it was glorious. After this lovely entertainment the group had a calm reflection were they all wrote lovely things about each other.  At the end of this the group were as close as they ever could be and they had really impressed the camas staff with their chat, maturity and song choices. It was a great week and we hope to see them again soon!