From his article in the October 2019 issue of Star and Furrow, the journal of the Biodynamic Association, Charles Mitchell shows us his toolshed. From left, the Deneb Hoe, Perseus Rake, Alya Spade, Syrma Rose Fork, long Polux Hoe, Hydra Hoe and further towards the corner, an earlier shape of the Tuza Mattock.
Yesterday we visited the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The Ancient Cyprus section was lovely – soft and gentle. I was drawn to a small figurine in a case in the corner. This is what it said to me.
“The men go into the ground, following the seams of green stone. With stone hammers they break up the seams to remove the lumps of rock. Sometimes they come across a nugget of pure copper: solidified strands of tangled pink metal. These they keep. They put the lumps of rock into baskets which they bring to the surface.
Back at the surface, the green stone is crushed and then heated over fires. The heat releases the liquid pink metal which is then poured into oxhide-shaped ingots. Oxhide-shaped in recognition of the time of Taurus, recently passed, when this activity began.
When the men have come out, it is the women’s turn. I do not know if the figurine was made by a man or a woman, but it is the women who take it back into the chambers recently cleared by the men. The women come with value and respect for what has been given by the Earth. They give back something of their own making, in order to reset the balance. A bronze figurine, standing on an oxhide ingot, naked, not hidden, her hair braided, her neck adorned with a precious necklace. They place the figurine in a safe place where the green stone has been removed. They bring food and have a party, a feast. Because of their genuine value and gratitude for the gift from the Earth, the rift is healed. All parties benefit.”
P.S. I have no idea if this is factually accurate. I am sure the humans living in Cyprus over 3000 years ago had their problems. However, I am also sure that living with the consequences of damage to the earth from industrialised extraction of minerals was not one of them. If they travelled to our time and saw the gaping holes that we have made in the ground, I have no doubt they would find such behaviour difficult to comprehend.
The newly-released Tamworth pigs, two abreast, “unzipped the turf down the public footpaths, following the exact routes on the Ordnance Survey map, heading diagonally across the fields. We realized that what they were doing, with the undeviating propulsion of slow-motion torpedoes, was zeroing in on all areas of the park that had never been ploughed – margins rich in invertebrates, rhizomes and flora. In the first few days of their release the pigs drew an accurate blueprint of what modern farming had done to our soil.” ( page 110 of ‘Wilding’ by Isabella Tree, Picador 2018)
‘Wilding’ by Isabella Tree is an inspiring account of an experiment to return marginal land, ill-suited to intensive agriculture, back to the rhythms of nature. As well as leaving the land to regenerate, they reintroduced grazing, browsing and rootling animals – the last being some Tamworth pigs.
The man who inspired our tools, Viktor Schauberger, had a horror of what modern ploughing was doing to the land. At the time, he could not imagine cultivation without ploughing, so he searched for an alternative, less destructive material to make the plough, and came up with copper. Subsequent field trials bore him out. The crops were healthier in areas cultivated with the copper-plated plough.
Times have moved on, and we are rethinking our relationship with the land. We know that the use of chemicals has long-term unintended consequences. Organic growing is becoming mainstream; it is hard to remember how it was seen as eccentric and unrealistic a generation ago. No-dig gardening does not disturb the life of the soil. No-till farming is proving its value. Bronze garden tools, the inheritors of Viktor Schauberger’s vision, share their sentiment of working with nature rather than against it.
Today, using my Mira Trowel, I harvested the onions from the new raised bed.
The frame of the bed was laid on the lawn last August, then the grass was covered with cardboard and the frame filled with about four inches of home-made compost. In September the onion set was planted.
The boiler room now has a decidedly oniony aroma. And I have transpanted some calabrese seedlings to where the onions were.
If you have navigated to implementations then you are looking at purchasing high quality gardening hand tools. Each tool is manufactured and designed so that it is more efficient when working resulting in being able to do more but at the same time reduce the stresses placed on the body. This stress is often the cause of pain particularly lower back. Pain from gardening is something that takes the pleasure out of something that you take great pleasure from.
Why, because tools such as the Atlas Pick are ergonomically designed better for their particular purpose. They rely on a swing action with gravity to assist. The long shafts improve efficiency of the tool with added leverage whilst working in an upright posture. Next a pulling action using again the upper body. It is a natural fluid motion. The bronze heads and shaped ash handles are forgiving and absorb energy when working.
In contrast consider using a spade. One uses body weight to penetrate the soil, this places more loading of the spine on the left or right side which can expose back issues. Then one levers away from the body often lifting the soil at the same time. This motion is not fluid or natural and places greater strain on the lower back, this is made worse by the short shaft which necessitates one to bend the back. The back is vulnerable when loading whilst bent but add a little rotation whilst bending over and one increases this vulnerability further.
One has to use the PKS bronze tool in a different way to the conventional British tools but when one has mastered its correct use you will wonder why the tools developed for gardening use in the UK ever became the standard. It does not make sense to continue using tools that take more energy to use and can cause pain and injury.
Why use tools that can reduce the pleasure you get out of something you love. Buying a gravity-assisted tool will not be a decision that you will regret.
From our latest newsletter:
In the last few years there has been a fundamental shift in how scientists view the way the plant kingdom works.
Take trees, for example. The old view was that woodland trees grow tall because they compete for light – and the strongest win. That view has been questioned. Researchers like Suzanne Simard have shown the level of co-operation, not only between species (she demonstrated how paper birch trees support douglas fir) but also between kingdoms. The fungi underground allow themselves to be used as a food bank. They store surplus nourishment for the trees in the good times and give it back in leaner periods. They also provide minerals which the trees can’t access for themselves, and they act as a woodland communication system. The world in a woodland has been shown to be a distributed network, with hubs (the ‘mother’ trees) and links.
That was the preamble to my ponder. My ponder is – if that is happening in woodland, what is going on in my house and garden? How can I best work with this intelligent, caring, interconnected world?
One immediate response from us was to think differently about potplants. For a single plant in a pot, life must be like solitary confinement. So, nowadays we put more than one plant in a pot, or we make sure that their leaves are touching other plants nearby. And we brush the leaves as we walk past them.
A lot of good gardening practice makes sense in the context of the wood-wide web. If you take something out, put something back, whether it is a bit of compost or a sprinkling of fish, blood and bone. Minimum-interference gardening practices like ‘no-dig’and permaculture are in tune with this view. The biodynamic approach sees the entire piece of land as a single entity, an ‘organism’. That also makes sense. And of course, our view is that the bronze tools help. Copper is a connector. Like the fungi in the forest floor, it links things up. It’s in our wiring. In our bodies, copper is to do with energy transfer. So at the very least, bronze tools should be less disruptive in the garden.
Last summer this was part of our lawn.
One afternoon in August, partner Nigel made a timber frame. I laid cardboard over the grass, and then filled the frame with compost.
This is how it looked by the end of that afternoon.
In September I planted some onion sets and sowed some spinach and broccoli
Now, half a year later, the onions are flourishing, and I have been picking spinach leaves for meals. This is the first time I have managed to grow spinach that hasn’t bolted. Note to self: from now on, sow spinach in the autumn, to overwinter. The broccoli isn’t looking wonderful, but there is plenty of time yet for that. And as a bonus, some self-seeded land cress has appeared. A side-effect of using our own compost. I’ll put up with the weeds for that!
When someone is at high pressure, conversation with them is not easy. There is a certain glazed look in their eye, as they try to manage the intensity of what they are trying to express. And you can’t get a word in edgeways. You open your mouth to reply – and they are off again. You just have to wait and sit out the onslaught. When children are excited and at high pressure, it is wonderful to witness. Plus, you know they won’t maintain it for long. But adults – that is not so much fun. It can go on – and on.
It’s like the weather. With high pressure weather systems the winds go one way – outwards from where the pressure is the most intense. When the high pressure system is over your area, there are the same conditions for days or weeks. If it’s cloudy, it stays cloudy. If sunny, it stays that way too. But on the outer edges of the system it is a different story. There are winds and turbulence as the high pressure equalises itself out, dumping its excess on the surrounding area in the process.
Given that being on the receiving end of someone else’s high pressure can be an endurance test, why do businesses inflict it on us? You know the sort of thing …
LAST FEW IN STOCK!!
HURRY! OFFER ENDS SOON!
It’s usually associated with exclamation marks, capital letters and gaudy red or orange notices.
It’s more subtle, but equally irritating, online. All those ads on Youtube or Spotify, whose main effect is to send me reaching for the ‘mute’ button. And the providers know the ads are irrritating, because they tell me that if I pay for their service, I won’t be bothered by ads. What incentive is that for an advertiser? I promise you, here and now, you will never be interrupted by an ad from Implementations when you are watching a film or listening to a piece of music.
What is the alternative? Is there another way of interacting with potential customers? What is the low-pressure approach?
As I see it, the low-pressure approach has three stages. First, I have to let you (and anyone else who might be interested) know that we exist. When the business was new and young, we had to go high pressure to do this. We went to shows. We pestered journalists. Jane gave talks. We said the same things, over and over again. Nowadays, we don’t have to be at such high pressure, so we have a Facebook page, and more recently, a Facebook group.
We run a small ad in some magazines, something like this.
It says who we are and how to contact us. That’s all.
That’s the first part.
In the second stage, we have to make sure that the lines of communication are open, that nothing will prevent the people who want to engage with us from engaging with us. Does the website work smoothly? Make sure someone is there to answer the phone if it rings. If someone has a problem with delivery or anything else, get on to it. If we get it right, this part is rather like a swan gliding on a lake: serene and smooth above water and paddling furiously in the part that can’t be seen, below the water.
The third stage looks simple but is actually more tricky – for us, anyway.
We wait. We go low-pressure.
We trust that there are people who love the concept of the tools as much as we do. To use the analogy of ‘Field of Dreams’, we’ve built it. Will anyone come?
The low-pressure approach has some hidden bonuses. I have some amazing conversations with customers, for example. I like them. I relate to them. We find we have common values. Interactions are a transaction, an exchange rather than a persuasion. A human-to-human affair.
So we will stay low pressure.
A January ponder. Something I wrote in 2014. It still rings true, although I might add a bit more now.
- Planet Earth gives me a body and maintains it during my existence here. Thus will I trust in her and study her ways in order to understand them better.
- Planet Earth gives a home to our companions here – the tribes of animal and plant life, all mutually upholding and maintaining. Thus will I value each for its unique contribution to the whole.
- The different regions of planet Earth resonate with distinct frequencies. Thus will I pay respectful attention to the expression of each place, both as I feel it direct and as I witness it through its people.
- Planet Earth lives through cycles of days, seasons, years and more. These have their theatre through the elements: the air, water, fire and earth. Thus will I take note of her rhythms and adjust accordingly.
- Planet Earth moves within a larger domain, which I have been given the faculty to register. Thus will I develop my sensitivities to what is at play at any time, so that I can find my own expression within it. This expression then becomes my offering and contribution back to the Great Mother.