Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Intro to Erraid

Val, one of the Erraid residence, took us on a walk around part of the Isle on Sunday. Subsequent walks around the island were also part of what I did when time allowed for such activities.

I did go swimming twice, yes it was pretty darn cool in the North Atlantic, OK it was cold, and I did not swim for too long either time, but it was really nice and really refreshing.

Isle of Erraid

Getting to Erraid

A group of six EVT participants (Angela, Kara & Dave, Kate, Elias, and myself) and Rie traveled on one of the Findhorn buses to the Isle of Erraid on Saturday the 14th of March.

View Larger Map

Erraid is owned by a Dutch family and have contracted with the Findhorn Foundation to run the farm on the Isle throughout the year when they are not there. The family will visit once a year for holiday, at which time the residence will leave except for a skeleton crew that stays on to tend to the animals and other chores.

Erraid was originally a community of Dutch in the 1800's (1840-1850) that built two lighthouses (not on Erraid by about 20 miles away) from granite found on Erraid. They also had a shop that was used to build metal components for the lighthouse on Erraid.

The Findhorn bus ride was about a 5 hour ride and included a couple of short ferry rides that got us the the Isle of Mull, near Fionnphort we met up with Paul (one of the Erraid residents). He took over to Erraid via tractor, during low tide "the narrows" allows you to get to Erraid via foot or in this case foot & tractor.

The farm is comprised of a block of homes that were built in the 1840's, very sturdy homes built out of granite, barns, and gardens. The community makes candles and provides a work program that allow it to continue, it does produce veggies,fruits & herbs out of the gardens to feed the community (including some awesome jams), unpasteurized milk (it was delicious and vibrant) from the cows, and eggs for the chickens, but it does require grains (cereals) and other food from Findhorn.

The daily/weekly rhythms of Erraid are very simple, pleasant, and allows for times for reflection and exploration. A typical day for me would begin with a bowl of muesli, then out for a stroll, meditation, a group tune in to understand how each person is doing and what tasks are available for that day, and then we choose tasks for the day; gardening, candle making, milking cows, splitting wood, cooking, and helping launch a boat were the tasks we participated in.

Erraid Community

Friday, March 13, 2009

Moray Firth Sunrises

I have enjoyed walking the beach of Moray Firth in the mornings @ sunrise, there are times when it is really peaceful, this morning it was really peaceful and beautiful.

Oceanside Sunrise @ Findhorn

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Week Four: Project Week

So week for we teamed up on projects that were pitched by participants to everyone in the EVT, I did pitch an idea for a house design that was in the shape of a tetrahedron, but I didn't make the cut; meaning that I did not get enough interest for other participants to move to the next stage of developing the plan for the house project. I did join up with Galen, along with Hasmik & Lena to help with Galen's project of designing the common areas around a new set of co-housing that is being planned for Findhorn. There are seven new homes that will be in the section.

The project needed to embrace the permaculture ethics that we have been studying the past three weeks; peoplecare, earthcare, fairshare. These projects needed to have some realistic goals and were hopefully going to be sincerely developed after this part of the project was completed (this was one reason why I did not really want my project to move forward, I don't know that it is going to be a reality in my life, though it was a cool design). There were several projects that were about developing education/community programs to introduce permaculture to folks of all ages, specifically our children, in South African, Switzerland, Montreal, Wales, Spain, US; another project lead by Adam was going to develop a financial fund for Sustainable Businesses to specifically fund businesses with small carbon footprints, PermArtCulture was about bring sustainable art in to the gardens, and David & Kara put together a short film that can be used as an intro to permaculture. Everyone worked really hard for a 2 1/2 days on these projects and they all were well presented fun & passion and the ideas that came from the brainstorming was enjoyed by everyone (I think).

Here are some photos of the group I was in.

Monday, March 9, 2009

EVT Sweat Lodge

Our, the EVT participants, sweat lodge experience had a sputtering start, but it ended up in the right space.

A sweat lodge is an important aspect of many native cultures along North America, Siberia and North Europe whose religious beliefs depend on the shaman. I wanted to emphasize that though many attribute this ritual to North American Indians, it seems very likely that the ritual was brought with those hardy ancestors who came to North America via the Bearing Straight thousands of years ago and that the American Indians are connected to this ritual through these ancestors. It is a place of ritual purification and mystical insight through a vision quest, where the shaman performs prayers and songs in a sauna-like environment (the word 'sauna' is itself of Finnish origin and goes back to the shamanic heritage of Siberia). Anthropologists and psychoanalysts have observed and studied the fact that modern science-fiction very often reflects ancient epic structures (see Bibliography).

The EVT sweat lodge was to take place on Saturday night, but the weather was looking rather ominous and the decision was made to move it to Sunday. Well, the weather wasn't that much better on Sunday, snowing in the morning, raining thru the day, and very windy. But, we pulled it together and we all had a wonderful experience. With lodges there are a variety of traditions that can be followed, American Indian, Picts, Celts, Norwegian, etc. The tradition used by Craig is Celt base, I believe, but that is hard to pin down, because Craig's sweat lodge is very organic, very much like his garden, things come from variety of influences most of the time. Craig dedicated himself to be the Firekeeper (very important person in the lodge, keeps the fire going and stones hot), Gabriel led three (East, South, & West) of the rounds (prayer sessions in side the lodge), I was fortunate enough to lead the forth round (North, Earth, Wisdom, in some American Indian traditions the Wisdom of the Great White Buffalo is brought in to the lodge), and Andrew lead the fifth (free form). The women were allowed to have the first two rounds, then the men were integrated into the lodge for rounds 3, 4, & 5. For most of the participants this would be their first experience with sweat lodges, for most it will not be their last. The sharing that takes place in the lodge is very, very, very deep, this is brought on by the intense heat that is in the lodge due to the heated rocks. A round would last about 30-40 minutes, depending on the number in that round and length of the sharings. After each round we would exit the lodge steaming in the cold night, which was always welcomed, in side the lodge you must stay focused on your breathing or you will be overwhelmed with fear of dieing because of the intense heat. FYI, no one died, but there was never any expectation that this would occur, we take great care of one another.
I have had my eyes on a space behind my house for a couple of years thinking that might be a good place for a sweat lodge, now I am inspired to make this a reality, if not there somewhere in my future.

I will get some pics of the lodge tomorrow before we tear it down, but here is a picture of the sunrise on Sunday.
From Sunrise @ the Beach

Friday, March 6, 2009

Trees for Life & Alan Featherstone

Alan Featherstone may be a man of small physical stature, aka very gnome like - a forest gnome possibly, but his visions for restoration of the Scottish forest and of the restoration earth itself are antithesis of this physical attribute. His passion and accomplishments over the past 25 years are a testament of what love and determination can manifest in our world, for our world.

Alan committed to restoring the Caledonian Forest 25 years ago and from that effort grew Trees for Life which is now 20 years old, which is a program to re-forest Scotland with native trees, that had been decimated to approximately 1% of it's original growth over the past 300 years. This effort is not just focused on the re-forestation of the forest but also renewing the ecology that once thrived in this region which supported beaver, wild boar, wolf, and lynx, but not these animals are gone and too many deer now populate the region. The deer are one of the reasons why new growth is prevented as they graze on the pine tree saplings.

We were going to help Alan's project out by planting trees, this was going to be really cool because the trees planted by TfL are planting to "fit" the surroundings, not in a pattern. But, the snow prevented us from being able to participate in this activity. We were able to help the project by picking Pine cones for seed stock, so we picked enough pine cones that several thousand pine saplings will be ready to plant in about 2-years from now, after the seed is started this May. Seems like an good reason to come back to Findhorn;)

Everyone really enjoyed themselves so much on this adventure, being outside in the classroom was great; many snowball fights, Yeti-piles (akin to dogpiles), laughter, talks lead by Alan, and wonderful views of Glen Affric.

Glen Affric

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Shamanic PermaCulture

Today started with yoga, breakfast, and a meditation.

The morning session was on Conflict Management and Resolution, something that I have no real skills at doing. So, for me the exercises were very helpful, even if they only scratched the surface of how adverse situations can be handled with respectfulness and with an goal of closure of the issue(s).

The afternoon was back up at Craig & Beatrice's Barrel where, Beatrice lead us thru another session of looking at permaculture thru the gardening lens. These exercises continue to reinforce the themes of mindful designs, energy & efficiency, and resource usage, not only in gardening but in our daily life and activities as well.

This Saturday Craig has invited any one whom wants to attend a sweat lodge to do so; thus we sat in the lodge as Craig discussed with the group the history of sweat lodges and the healing they can provide. I will be joining in the lodge and I hope that can assist my Holding the Fire and possibly leading a round within the lodge.

Tomorrow is Thursday, this means we pack it up and head up to the Highlands west of Loch Ness to Glen Affric. This is part of the Trees for Life program that a man, Allan, from the Findhorn community started about 25 years ago, because of his passion desiring to help reforest Scotland. His vision is a 250 year vision, so the work is just beginning, but Allan is very passionate about this goal.

We will be in the Highlands overnight and will be helping plant trees in an area where trees are required to be reintroduced. It will be cold out there, it snowed last night down here in Findhorn and snow is expected in the Highlands tomorrow.

Living Machines as envisioned by Dr. John Todd

Living Machines have been developed throughout the world as a sustainable method of servicing a communities waste (black) water by using a process that mimics a natural process found in wetlands, Findhorn built one in the mid 90's.

It is really very cool and I urge you to read about these systems (click on "Living Machines" above), if you have an interest in alternate methods of treating black waters as compared to the methods used by the majority of cities in the US that I know about.

The Living Machine

Monday, March 2, 2009

Galen as a force of nature

EVT was introduced to Galen last week during one of the afternoons at Craig's Barrel, but none of the jobs I had allowed me to interface with him.

Galen is such a pleasant person, really relaxed, extremely intelligent, has a great sense of humor, and is very confident that good solutions are at hand for what ever the situation is but it does take some thoughtful trials to find the better solutions.

Last night Galen lead us through discussions on building materials, best practices, things to consider, flexible designs, location, etc.

Today he had us build an adobe stove, to go along with an adobe oven that he already had. What a blast this was, stomping on sand, clay, straw, and small pebbles (and some water) with our feet to get the mix just right (you squeeze it and listen to it to determine if the mix is right), experimentation is required. We also were cooking pizza in the outside wood oven that was built previously, and it rained harder today (it was probably about 8C or 45F today) that it has at any time over the past two weeks, this makes for a great time when you add community to the mix.

Galen's Adobe Stove & Pizza

Week Three: Earth Share

Earth Share, hmmm! what might this be?
Well it is about how we can better adapt our lives to live within the eco-system provided by our Mother Earth, how do we share and renew the resources provided, etc.

This week we will look at eco-friendly building techniques that would involve a huge number of opportunities: waste water treatment, gray water reuse, solar heat, solar power, wind power, building materials for insulation, local building materials, building techniques - breathing wall, straw bail, adobe, rammed earth, lighting, location, efficiencies, heating, cooling, ventilation, ...., there are many things to consider, but you must know that the ultimate design is one that can evolve over time at least where possible and know that mistakes will be made and experienced will be gained.

The photos show a couple of things; very small yurts that are very efficient and very Findhornish (from my perception of the social-ecology) and big "green bling" (socially crying to show everyone that you are eco-green) houses that are built on the Field of Dreams (a addition of homes at Findhorn that provided needed money to the community, but with what some see as less than desirable outcomes, some call it the Field of Screams).

I like the yurt style, but the co-home, sharing of some resources, concept is appealing to, maybe a yurt co-home community.

Findhorn Dwellings