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Happy Hallowe’en

The period from the end of October into early November has long been a special time in our part of the northern hemisphere.

In the Roman Catholic church, 1st November is All Saints’ day. For the pre-Christian inhabitants of the British Isles it was known as Samhain, the time when the veil between the seen and unseen worlds grows thin. It marks the mid-point between the September equinox, when the sun starts to shine overhead in the southern hemisphere, and the December solstice, when it shines overhead at its southernmost point, the Tropic of Capricorn.

In the temperate zones, between the tropics and the arctic and antarctic circles, the planet seems to express itself in fours. Dawn, dusk, day and night. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. 1st November (or thereabouts) marks the start of the quarter of the year when the Sun is lowest in the sky, when everything grows misty. We leave behind the time of sharp outward expression and turn inwards.

It is the day when the northern hemisphere steps into the darkest quarter of the year. We enter the Underworld, the mysterious place where all is no longer obvious.

Picture yourself outside on a warm sunny day. Look around you. The strong sunlight gives sharp edges to everything. Even the shadows are strongly defined. All is fixed, all is on show. We wear bright summer colours. Summer is a time of display, of expression, of externalising. A person knows where they are in this high-definition time.

With 1st November, we enter into the other side of that world. All now becomes fluid. In the dim light and mist of autumn days and the longer nights, what was blocked out by the strength of the sunlight can now impinge on our consciousness. Instead of the definitive world of summer, this is a time where uncertainty comes to the fore. What is that shape in the mist? And the very uncertainty allows other realms to make themselves known.

In that context, it makes sense that in many cultures around the world, this is a time to welcome back the dead; to adorn the graves of deceased family members, to set a place for them at the meal table, for example. The most well-known such festival is probably the Dia de los Muertes, the Day of the Dead in Mexico.

Not only is this a time to make connection with family members who have transitioned into the Underworld. Other beings can also engage with us. The Boyhood Deeds of Finn Mac Cumhaill*, an Irish legend, tells of the dealings he had with the fairies at the time of Samhain. In other words, as the Sun steps back the land can come to life. We move into a magical time where stories can be told, songs can be sung, dreams can be pondered. It is an interior time, a time to stay indoors with the bright fire in front of us and the cold, dark, outside world around us. The old certainties melt away, allowing a review inside ourselves, with the promise of renewal in the cycle that is yet to make itself known but will surely come after the winter.

There is another aspect to this time. It is the last of the harvest festivals. Traditionally in northern Europe, the animals were brought back from the fields, and those that would not be fed through the winter were killed, their meat prepared and preserved. Fruits which are best harvested after a frost, such as rosehips and sloes, are gathered. Sweet chestnuts also ripen now. So it is a time to decide what stays outside and what comes in, to be kept through the winter. For the Irish Celts, it was a time of gathering and feasting, maybe to eat all of the meat which could not be preserved. It was also a time of renewal of agreements, of lawmaking: another expression of leaving behind what is not to be carried forward into the next cycle.

And things rot. The trees shed their leaves, making a soggy mess on the ground. Mushrooms appear in the damp grass. Nature also is taking in stores and jettisoning what is not needed for the cold time ahead.

For us humans, it is a time to be vigilant. The cyclical phase of endings, of falling away is powerful. If we are not careful we can become subject to it too. It is up to us to select what it is that we want to go forward with, through the winter and into the new year. The watchword is CLEAN. Clean the house, the backs of the shelves and behind the cupboards. Food packets that are well past their sell-by date, cobwebs that the spiders have long left behind: now is the time for them to go. A time to remind ourselves what is important, where our centre of gravity is, what we want to be with.

With that settlement, we can stay warm and dry and well-fed in the dark days ahead.

Given all this, I can understand the proliferation of scary stories and loud noises at Hallowe’en, but it seems not the best use of this special, liminal time.

* Extract from The Boyhood Deeds of Finn Mac Cumhaill:

Now, when Finn was there between them, on Samain night, be saw the two fairy-mounds opened around him, even the two strongholds, their ramparts having vanished before them. And be saw a great fire in either of the two strongholds; and he heard a voice from one of them, which said: “Is your sweet-root good?”

“Good, indeed!” said a voice in the other fairy-mound.

Question: shall anything be taken from us to you?”

“If that be given to us, something will be given to you in return.” While Finn was there he saw a man coming out of the fairy-mound. A kneading-trough was in his hand with a pig upon it, and a cooked calf, and a bunch of wild garlic upon it. The time was Samain.

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Looking back at 2020

2020 was the year when everything changed.

It was the year in which the skies cleared. Hardly any contrails. Sunrises and sunsets were breathtakingly clear and beautiful.

We heard birdsong, louder than most of us could remember.

There was concern about an unknown enemy, an invisible virus that haunted our world.

During the first lockdown in the UK, many of us started to reassess what was important and what was less so.

If a person lived alone, they had no physical contact with another human being.

There were demonstrations of kindness, of local initiatives on a heartwarming scale.

There were stories of personal tragedy, of confrontation.

Maybe because we were prevented from going anywhere else, many of us began to value the place where we live, to see it with new eyes. There was a renewal of interest in gardening. And along with that interest, the tools we offer went above the radar for the first time.

In retrospect, we can see that our business ticked a couple of boxes. First, it is an online business – and 2020 was the year in which an awful lot of people embraced online shopping. Secondly, many people decided to take up gardening last year, whether as a way to be outside for the sake of their sanity, or to grow more of their own food, or for other reasons.

2020 was a challenging year in so many ways. The goalposts shifted for all of us. The challenge that we faced at Implementations was that we had never been so busy. We are a small venture, with just two people. With lockdown and space constraints we couldn’t invite anyone else to work with us, so we had to get on with the increase in orders as best we could. We kept reminding ourselves that this was a good problem to have, while at the same time trying to be there for our customers in the way that we would want to be – even though there were twice as many of them as before.

When the first lockdown ended in July, we heaved a sigh of relief. Orders continued at a higher level than usual, but summer is one of the quieter periods of the year for us, so this was liveable with. We even managed to get away for a week’s holiday at one point.

In August we had a press request for an image of the Carina Mini-spade, for an article due to appear in the November Country Living magazine. We have noticed with press coverage that most of the time it doesn’t lead to much interest, so we don’t get our hopes up when such requests come to us. 2020, again, was different. This was the first of three published articles to generate a great deal of interest. But more of that later.

Because there was another problem on the horizon. The tools are manufactured in the EU, and there was a great deal of uncertainty about what was going to happen when Britain left the EU at the end of the year. In October we decided to order a Brexit stash of tools, to see us through the transition. There are just six coppersmiths, who were already dealing with an increase in demand, so it took a month for them to make the extra tools for us.

In October we started receiving a lot of orders for Carina Mini-Spades – and we remembered that press request from Country Living Magazine.

In November the large order was due to arrive from Austria. The week it arrived we had another press request, from the Financial Times for an image of the Castor Trowel.

Gardening writer Jane Perrone wrote a beautiful piece in that weekend’s FT magazine with the title ‘Gardening in Lockdown: it’s about planting hope‘ (behind paywall). Towards the end of the article she names ‘Five pieces of gardening kit every newcomer should have’.

Here is what she said about the Castor Trowel.

As soon as our Brexit order arrived, we had to raid it to cope with the increase in interest in Castor Trowels.

We started to hear that the tools were getting recommendations in blogs and in other publications, but by then we were already too busy to check them out. November and December are usually our busiest time of the year, so we were bracing ourselves. By mid-December we had ordered so many Castor Trowels from Austria that they had run out of them too.

The final press request we had came from the Guardian. Allan Jenkins, the editor of Observer Food Monthly, has championed the tools for a long time. In an article entitled ‘Christmas wishes for gardeners’, published on 20th December, he said

“If someone loves you a lot, then perhaps drop a heavy hint about Implementations tools. They are the best in Britain, to my taste. Beautifully crafted blades from bronze and copper. We have acquired a few over the years, from the versatile two-pronged handheld Phoenix hoe, my go-to tool, and various trowels to a large rake and a spade. I often tell myself I am saving up for the full-size fork.”

By the time we closed for Christmas we were exhausted, but 2020 wasn’t done with us yet. Imports were getting held up at the border, including consignments of the tools. Finally, in the first weeks of 2021 they started coming through again. We sent the last of the December orders on its way to its new home on 14th January 2021. The backlog was cleared at last.

2020 was a learning experience for us. We found out where our limits were, and where the stress points were. We had to prioritise. This is the first blog posting for five months for example, because they are lower priority.

Most of all, I am so, so glad that more people than ever before now know about bronze garden tools. They are no longer a strange idea. Maybe the tools have moved into the mainstream.

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5 for 65

The lockdown has been a strange experience so far. While we are physically restricted to our homes, other things have been released. In our part of the heavily populated English midlands, I never expected the loudest noise around to be the birdsong. The air feels like spring water. The colours are brighter. The garden and the many lives in it can come out to play.

Because of the resurgence of interest in gardening, our tools have never been so popular. As we are a small business, this is challenging, all the way from production through to sending a trowel via Royal Mail (who also have never been so busy).

We are still here, though. If you place an order with us it will arrive. It just might take a little longer to reach you, that’s all.

I suspect the lockdown is giving us each a chance to look at where and who (or what) we are. This writing is about the ‘who’.

As I approach my 65th birthday, here are 5 things I’ve learned about being this age.

  • It’s ok to feel tired.

In the last couple of months, work has never been so busy. At times I have felt grindingly exhausted. I found myself wondering why I was so weary, wondering if I could manage. Was there something wrong with me? I could have easily handled this level of work 20 years ago.

It took a while for the penny to drop. My body is in its seventh decade! Give it a break!

  • Listen to your systems.

A graphic example. When a child says they feel sick, or they need the toilet, you know you have to respond quickly, preferably within seconds. Otherwise you will have to clear up the mess. When children are tired, they just stop. Adults can override those signals for much longer than a child can. We work through the tiredness, or nausea. We tell ourselves how long it is before we can go to the loo.

So, at this age, I have to learn when not to override the systems. I have to learn to listen. Otherwise I am a tyrant on my own body.

Another example: in my twenties I got out of breath running for a bus. Now I can run for a couple of miles – as long as I pace myself.

  • Play to your strengths.

Does experience make a difference? How would I have coped with this workload half a lifetime ago? I wouldn’t be so tired, but I would have been seriously stressed. I have different resources to call on now. I have a better idea of what is draining and what is energising. I am much better at listening to people, for example. I have come to the view that arguments are a waste of time and energy, so I try to find the points of agreement, so that we can find a way forward together. I am learning how to prioritise.

This also speaks of settlement to who I am and what I can contribute. Other people have different life experiences, and different strengths. I trust that they will cover the bases that I am clearly not equipped to cover.

  • No hurry.

I have learned that knee-jerk reactions are a bad idea. When a problem presents itself, I now sleep on it. I brew on it, because I know (from experience) that different departments in me work at different speeds. They will deliver their own responses in their own time. I wait until the issue has been viewed from enough angles for me to take a position about it. That way, I know there is less likelihood of getting sideswiped later by a consideration that hadn’t occurred to me.

  • Where is the love?

At school I was good at exams. I could learn all the useless rubbish and regurgitate it in a format acceptable to the examiners. I then forgot what I had memorised because it had served its purpose. At this age I can’t do that to myself any more. If something is not meaningful, I don’t want to do it.

I have to find the value in the things I do.  I want to be with what is precious, what is important. I want to find the nourishment in a garden, or a conversation. I want those things and people I love to flourish.

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Consider the coronavirus, part 1

I love the word ‘consider’. It comes from the latin con, meaning ‘with’ and sider -the stars. A good place to start for an overview, I feel.

For those of us who haven’t succumbed to the virus itself, it has had two major consequences. The first is that most of us are enclosed in our own homes and can only go out of our front door for essential reasons, such as shopping for food. The second is that when we venture outside our front door we must observe social distancing: two metres apart from any other human being. No personal contact with anyone other than those with whom we share our living space. If we live alone, we have physical contact with no other human being.

These are profound changes. The habits of the human race have had to take a handbrake turn in a matter of weeks. Our routines have been torn to shreds. The routine of getting up, getting ready for the day, going out to work. The routines of socialising: going out with others for something to eat or watching a performance together. All are gone. It is astounding that we have been able to even attempt this change in behaviour on such a scale.

I suspect that this, in part, is where the panic came from. For a start, there is the financial uncertainty: will I have a job to go to when this is all over? And in the meantime, how will I manage? The lives in us that are conditioned to such regularity must be shrieking: where is my certainty? What will I do?

The isolation in one’s own home has been, for the writer, quite strange. I would have thought that, with so few distractions, I would get on with all those projects I had been meaning to do. Instead, I have slept a lot. I have hardly read a book — and I tend to read a lot of books. It is as if the physical lockdown has corresponded with a mental one too. I have been forced indoors both physically and psychically.

And in the quiet of no aeroplanes, less traffic, less distraction, the being forced inwards, it is starting to dawn that something else can make itself known. I have been thinking about mealtimes, and putting more attention into preparing them. The garden is getting a lot of attention too. It is spring in the UK, and the birdsong is loud at this time of year. But this year it is dramatic.

In late March, just into the lockdown, I noticed the planet Venus each evening in the sky above our garden. It was very bright in the sky to the west. I followed it as it lined up with the new moon until it was in front of the Pleiades a couple of weeks later (which can be seen with good binoculars). A breathtaking sight. The Pleiades are on the edge of the constellation of Taurus. From the position of Venus I could work out that the Sun, which had just set over the horizon, was in Pisces. The full moon on the 7th of April was on the other side of the sky, so it was in the constellation of Virgo. But for me the amazing thing is, I could feel it. The world is quiet enough for me to feel this immense realm we are moving within.

Crescent moon and Venus, seen from our garden

It makes me wonder why astrologers (who would tell you that the Sun was in Aries and the moon was in Libra) stopped looking at the sky and relied on charts and tables. They only have to look upwards to see that their charts and tables do not match what is overhead, there to see. Are we now in the time for a new astrology? Can we look at the sky anew?

It is as if I have been forced to abandon the routines I have been trained into — worrying about money, or work, or any of the other things that used to fill my life — and in the quiet, other rhythms can make themselves known. Whereas the rhythms I was conditioned into have disappeared, these ones stretch from my garden to the solar system, to the stars and all that surrounds us. They have always been there, but in the short-wave noise of my daily life these subtler, long-wave frequencies were drowned out. The plants know about those rhythms and respond to them through the days and nights and seasons, but in the artificiality of my previous existence I had hardly registered them.

Which means a massive reprogramming. I can feel my systems almost going into shock at the very prospect. Can I trust this larger realm? Will I still be able to go to the supermarket for supplies, and will I be able to pay for them? And again, how will I manage?

In this context, the social distancing requirement is a bit spooky. Our body’s electromagnetic field, our personal space, stretches about a metre out. This requirement means an almost monastic seclusion within our own aura space. Which is just what is needed if we are being reprogrammed.

There is a serious quality to this reprogramming. It gives me a chance to see and value the place where I live, to sense the many stories going on here, from the wildlife to the trees and plants as they respond to the days and nights and the season. From that location in myself I can start to perceive the larger realm we all move within. And this is real, in a way that the distractions that used to fill my life were not. I feel more grounded, more located, than I ever have been in my life.

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The holiday is over

Who would have imagined, in December 2019, that we would witness the collapse of the holiday industry a few months later. In 2020 we can’t even go out for a day trip, let alone a holiday in another region or country.

Which prompted a ponder: why do people go on holiday? No other tribe on planet Earth does. Some creatures migrate, but none of them go away from their home environment for a few days or weeks, just for a change of scene. Historically speaking, it’s a recent phenomenon for humans, too:

“A wealthy man in ancient Egypt would never have dreamed of solving a relationship crisis by taking his wife on holiday to Babylon. Instead, he might have built for her the sumptuous tomb she had always wanted.” (‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari, p130)

Wealthy young Englishmen of the 17th and 18th centuries didn’t build tombs. They took the Grand Tour. They boarded the ferry at Dover, crossed the Channel to France, made their way to Paris, then on to Italy, where Venice, Florence and Rome were popular destinations. Along the way they learned new skills such as fencing and dancing, looked at ancient ruins, studied works of art, fell in love. Then they travelled back home and redesigned their homes and gardens based on what they had seen and learned.

Tourists at the Pantheon in Rome

For them, the trip was ostensibly to round off their education before they settled down to the duties that awaited them back home. In the following century, the educational holiday became available to the less well-off too, through the work of entrepreneurs such as Thomas Cook.

Seaside holidays started for medicinal reasons. The Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV, suffered from gout. In 1783 his doctor recommended fresh air and seawater as a cure, so he rented a farmhouse by the south coast (which became the Brighton pavilion). As the prince was the style influencer of his time, the concept of trips to the seaside became popular.

As the fashion caught on, a problem became evident. How to change into one’s bathing suit without compromising one’s modesty? Enter the bathing machine. By 1800 there were about 30 bathing machines on the beach at Weymouth, the preferred seaside resort of the Prince of Wales’ father, King George III.

Then, during the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, the necessity of closing down the mills and factories once a year for maintenance was turned into an opportunity to send the workers for a refreshing and restorative week at the seaside. Each factory chose a different week, and laid on transport for the trip to Blackpool and other towns along the coast. ‘Wakes Week’ became ‘Factory Fortnight’ as the holiday period was extended from one week to two.

In the UK we talk of going away on our holidays. The word derives from ‘holy days’, the days in the calendar which were marked as religious festivals and the people were exempt from work so that they could go to church. The US word ‘vacation’ derives from the French ‘vacances’. The original meaning of this word was more like ‘vacancy’, as in job vacancy: something being unoccupied. Again, it meant that people were released from their usual chores. Both words, holiday and vacation, kept these meanings until those wealthy young men started travelling to Europe in the seventeenth century.

So far this tells us two things. First, that the idea of travelling for pleasure is just over three hundred years old, and second, that it resulted from searching for something that the home environment could not provide, be it education or healing.

Our holidays became a highlight of our lives. It was a major discussion topic at work, with questions like, ‘Are you going away this weekend?’ or ‘Have you booked your holidays yet?’. My childhood photos were mainly taken away on holiday. Almost the last thing an elderly family member said before he died was, ‘We had some good holidays, didn’t we.’

Then it all went exponential. Package holidays, cheap flights, cruises … the planet became a playground. Long-distance travel became affordable. It was cheaper for myself and my partner to fly to the south of Spain than take the train to many parts of the UK. People who did not have the means to buy a home could easily afford to spend a weekend in Barcelona or Amsterdam or Prague. For their grandparents it was the other way round: fifty years ago, putting down a deposit for a house was a priority but overseas travel was beyond the means of most. Within the last twenty years, ease of travel reached the point where many of us would fly to a beach on the other side of the world for a week or two. Some places became overloaded and had to restrict visitors. The Faeroe Islands decided to exclude visitors for a period each year, to let the place recover.

And in early 2020 the party was over. We all had to get used to being at home.

Where are we now? Is this time an opportunity to re-evaluate the place where we live, to find sustenance at home rather than waiting 50 weeks for the two weeks by the sea in Bali, or Turkey, or Spain? Will the skies again be crowded with contrails once the current restrictions are lifted? There is a part of me that hopes not, I confess. The part that looks with new eyes at the place where I live, that sees it changing each day as more spring flowers appear. The part that sees people smiling as they take a walk. The part that sees the walkers greeting each other across the road because the traffic no longer drowns out their words.

I suspect there is a restlessness that is hard-wired into the human. We are the species that galloped around the globe within a few millennia of leaving Africa. We settled on every available piece of land, every inhabitable island. One of the last was New Zealand, which the Maoris reached in the 14th century. Then the Europeans got there a few centuries later.

I wonder what we’re going to do with that restlessness now.

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What can a garden be?

This post is a ponder about what a garden can be – for us, and for the other inhabitants of planet Earth that live in the area. This is a big and sometimes controversial subject, so please take this writing as exploration rather than answers. All discussion that opens up the area further is welcome.

The word ‘garden’ originally meant ‘enclosure‘ and shares its origin with ‘yard’, ‘orchard’ and ‘garth’, among other words. The first recorded garden is probably the Garden of Eden, which from the description in the book of Genesis was just that: an enclosed space. Into such an enclosed space selected plants (and sometimes animals) were brought, maybe from the local area, maybe further afield. It puts me in mind of the images of Persian gardens one sees depicted in carpets and paintings.

Lightly skipping over 3000+ years of human history, it is clear we are in a different world now. Those original gardens were for a select few, the elite, and now most people have gardens to be in and engage with, including you and me. Our gardens, private and public, take up a lot of space. There are few wild places left. This means that our gardens have a new job to do.

There may be some clues as to a way forward in the rewilding movement. In several crowded and not-so-crowded countries, large tracts of land have been allowed to revert. A famous instance in the UK is the Knepp estate in Sussex. 3500 acres of marginal farmland have gone back to scrubland, with fascinating consequences. Birds, bats and insects, not heard or seen for a generation or more have come back of their own accord. Interactions and intricacies of interdependence in the ecosystem have been understood. It is an inspiring story, not least because the land is still productive, but in a way which does not involve eradicating whatever is deemed not to fit.

What is possible depends on the size of the piece of land. On a larger scale than Knepp, at Yellowstone Park in the US, wolves were reintroduced a few years ago. The effects rippled down through the whole ecosystem. The wolves ate the elk, which soon learned to avoid areas where they would be vulnerable. Those areas regenerated, as the vegetation was able to grow back. The willow trees came back and with them the beavers. The beavers’ dams provided more pools in the rivers: more space for the fish. And so the effects cascade through the system.

Can what has been learned in such large spaces be applied to our gardens? My suspicion is, yes in principle. One principle being that Mother Nature has a good track record of looking after her own affairs if we don’t get in the way too much. There is no need to plant native trees on reclaimed land, for example, at least in the UK. Don’t mow it for a few years and the trees will plant themselves. So, note to self: don’t micro-manage.

Another principle for me is that I am custodian of the garden, not its owner. Other species: birds, rodents, rabbits and insects also have their part to play. Leave them to get on with it. Again, don’t micro-manage. Leave the seed heads on the plants over the winter. Better than a birdfeeder!

Thirdly, my needs are valid too. I’ll still cut the hedges, for two reasons. First, the large herbivores that would browse on their leaves haven’t been around here for a long time. Our garden is not on the scale of Knepp or Yellowstone, so I will have to fill that gap, do the job those animals would do if they were here. The second reason for clipping the hedge is that I have my own notions of what is attractive. And a clipped hedge provides a great background for a small garden like ours. I’ll do it when the birds aren’t nesting in it, however.

So, because our world is so crowded, our gardens have become a valuable resource. This presents opportunities for new learning, new understandings of the delicate interactions that we have blithely blundered through for so long. I’m sure we’ll all get on fine in the new regime.

However, there are some adjustments to be made.

For example, there is a big discussion going on in the rewilding world about whether to eradicate non-native species. This is a complete about-turn from the views of gardeners a century, or even a few decades ago. For Victorian gardeners, a garden was a showcase for exotic species. Our garden centres and seed catalogues offer us plants from all over the world, descendants of those brought back by plant-hunters from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Tulips and snowdrops from Turkey, peonies from China, fuchsias from South America: the list is endless. And as for vegetables: potatoes, runner beans and tomatoes from south America, carrots and onions from Asia .. clearly some perspective is needed here.

Here is a comma butterfly feeding on the aster flowering in our garden a few weeks ago, in October. Aster is native to North America – but I don’t think the butterflies and the bees were concerned about that. So I won’t worry about it either. I won’t eradicate human-introduced species for the sake of it, because I have noticed that Nature is pretty robust and adaptable. Having said that, however, I’ll think carefully before introducing anything from outside into the garden from now on. I’ll try to check beforehand, in whatever way I can, with the non-human residents. I’ll also set aside spaces for the vegetable beds, cut most of the lawn and pull back whatever gets in the way. I live here too, after all.

In the end, for me what counts is the love. Do I love this space, do I want it to thrive? What does it call for?

For more about garden-scale rewilding, here is Mary Reynolds’ website:

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The statuette’s story

Bronze figurine, Ashmolean Museum

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.

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The Wood-Wide Web

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.

This is the diagram Suzanne Simard used in her TED talk. The darkest circles are the ‘hub’ trees, the paler ones younger trees. It looks like a diagram of the internet. It has been called the wood-wide web.

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.

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No pressure …

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 …




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.

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How I view my relationship with Planet Earth

A January ponder. Something I wrote in 2014. It still rings true, although I might add a bit more now.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.