Tuesday, 14 June 2016

So long and thanks for all the shhhh.....



A nourishing, thought and emotion provoking week, where many stories were told and ancestral traumas were revealed.

Community member Alison Swinfen came with a group of activists and academics, working hard on the frontlines, supporting the asylum seeking community; and together we explored the themes of rest and rejuvenation.





We were visited by Jan Sutch-Pickard who told local tales around the fire at the top of the garden; kindled in the old way by Josh and Alison from plants gathered throughout the day's fruitful wanderings.

Stories were told of displaced peoples of past & present, Gal & Gael, stories of freedom of expression and worship; on the liminal borderless intertidal zones.

Argyll folklorist, Bob Pegg also came to Criech Hall that week and played the clasach, a bone pipe and many other ancient instruments.  During the course of the evening I learned that there is a certain pink fish, in decline of late; that traditionally is not spoken of among the Gael here.  As a resident of Camas, itself with a biography of fishing this particular species, whilst being part of a community dedicated to honouring the 'Integrity of Creation'; it prompted me to think deeply on what true community engagement can look like here on the Ross. 

How do we have a meaningful conversation on what factory shhhh-farms are doing to local and migrating populations when it is frowned upon to mention the name?  When it comes to the integral nature of biotopes, sometimes the elephant in the room is conspicuous by her absence.

Midweek, we saw a group changeover and a large group of Phd students from Glasgow came to experience Camas and, amongst other things;  how to communicate their specialisms with a wider audience.  On the last night, the rafters groaned with the sound of thundering feet as the pipes played out across the bay at an impromptu ceilidh.  There is life at Camas Tuath!

Not content with having two weeks in one, we bade goodbye to the Glasgow students and said hello to the Camas Committee and Iona community leader Peter McDonald who stayed for a weekends meetings.  Lastly, the weekend's end was punctuated with poignancy as we bade goodbye to Irena Arambasic, leaving for Croatian climbs after five months as coordinator. Farewell Irena; with love!
  
It was on leaving the island of Mull, and having an opportunity to reflect on the intensity of the week; that this poem bobbed to the surface on the journey from Craignure to Oban:

They gave men fish but they did not spare the rod.
Lest we forget,
The people  at Camas Tuath who built a wall for alms,
A border to keep them from their own fertile land that yielded; crops,
This ‘Galloway’ wall!

Daily we knead our bread,
Weekly, we rekindle the neid fire,
Monthly, feeling our way through the nets,
we renew our commitment to the land,
we know the land needs us!

Just; we connect.
The people at Camas Tuath will deconstruct this wall,
These grandfather and grandmother stones,
once and maybe again; Shielings.
Build shelter from sheep to grow the sprouting hazelnut.
A forest of burning bushes to feed our prayers for a return of the salmon.
And a turning away, at last;
 of the sheep-dipped tide.”

It was a week where shit, both figuratively and literally; came to the surface.  In the realm of peacemaking and reconciliation; sometimes humour is the best medicine.... :)

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Oh How The Garden Grows

Oh how the garden grows…


Walking down the track into a dream, the bog cotton waving at me; I stand atop the hill, looking out across the still and silent sea. The bracken is big now, unfurling with all its might – a luminous green that only comes with spring. The leaves of the Aspen are in full power, the bed of self-seeded delights have turned into a jungle of greens to eat, the grapes in their infancy fascinate me and how tall the sweetcorn grows! The Asparagus too, I could watch it stretch, the potatoes, raspberries, salad crops, apple blossom and rhubarb. The kale and the chard, turnips and beets, the strawberries are ready to eat! Fresh herbs from the herb canoe and a sea of sunflowers – I could sit for hours and watch the garden grow, the birds bouncing from branch to branch, the Adders curl in the sun, the tidal ebb and flow and the chickens mischievous charm. The bees come for the borage, as do I. Infinite pickings of nettles and ‘weeds’ from the sea and ground, sorrel is my favourite zesty treat to find on forage.  A gift freely given, food for foods sake. Beauty for beauties sake. I could sit for hours and watch the garden grow. Watch how the light moves across the rocks at the round house, how the rowan leaves turn with the moving sun, how the infant trees made quickly small by the increasingly tall bracken, one day it will be reverse. The willow dome is complete now, a secret to retreat to and look out from within the leaves. The baby apple trees are flowering too and that pine we cut has its use. We sit on the logs around the fire, telling stories united by our mandala. I could sit for hours…

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




Ma-Ain-Bru.

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
now
together
in the same boat
our similarities
& our differences
Acceptance
I  like being here
Good Cheer
Effervescence
This is it 
Legit 

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!
Rhyddian

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: