Thursday, 28 June 2007

My Mountain

It has now been over a month since the last attention was paid to this poor, neglected blog, and whilst I'd like to think it was because so much else has been happening it's difficult to pick what that might be. There has been a lot of "day job" to contend with, as well as a good dose of family events which have taken us far and wide.

The farmlet has been well and truly frosted now, and we've had a good dose of rain, 67ml for May and 69ml to date for June. We had a sprinkle this morning, but it looks as though it's clearing up out there now. Whilst we've had a couple of good falls in the 10 - 15ml range most of the time it's been the cold and dreary sort of stuff that keeps everything muddy but doesn't do anything to up the numbers. Just enough to prevent outdoor projects but not enough to give a glow of satisfaction.

The walls (from the last post) are essentially complete, at least that stage of them. I've still got to level out the path that runs above them, but the stairs are done and an extra little garden that starts just above the chookyard gate. I've still got to do the part behind the glasshouse, on the western side of a massive boulder, but I'm in no rush. Hopefully I'll get some pictures before Spring.

The rain has brought out a variety of fungi about the place, which got me to thinking. If fungi work to decompose organic matter, then the flush of fungal delights that now spring up after rain must indicate that we are seeing some improvement in the soil on the block. Where before there was impoverished clay that wouldn't support the thought of a toadstool now we have an abundance of them, so somehow we are heading in something like the right direction.

Maintaining an almost constant cover of some form is helping to prevent erosion, as are the mini-contour banks we've put in, so overall we should be retaining more soil, and also getting a better charge from the rain that does fall.

We've also been seriously considering our plans to move on from here. We had our local real-estate man through the place to give us some idea as to what would be worth fixing up and what is best left for the next "guardians". A part of us is a little scared to think that all this work could be bulldozed for the sake of subdividing to get two blocks from one, but we're going to forge ahead in the hope that the right people come along.

We have some motivating factors, the first being that we'd like more land to try out other things. related to this, that our two roast lambs to-be aren't comfortable on their 1/4 acre, even with the best of supplementary feed. It's also not really fair on the neighbours to be running this kind of operation in such close proximity. Now I'm a firm believer in "Peak Everything" (sort of like Peak Oil, only a bit worse) so it may seem strange that I would think this way. Shouldn't my neighbours be prepared to be happy with this kind of thing, as it may just be the way of the future? Perhaps they should, but then they don't necessarily think the way I do, and whilst council by-laws are the way they are, we're living on the borderline of acceptability and at the mercy of neighbourly good-naturedness (of which there certainly is enough, but I'd not like to push my luck too much further!). So it comes down to moving somewhere more appropriate.

In making this decision we've been plagued with thoughts of "what if it's too much for us to handle?", "why can't we be happy where we are?" etc etc. Beyond the rational decisions there are a whole plethora of emotional things to consider too. Thankfully I was most pleased to be browsing through a friend's blog (Down To Earth) where I came across the following link: The Gaping Void - How To Be Creative and found some inspiring thoughts within.

Whilst number 1 "Ignore everybody" is a good start, it was the detail of number 9 that got me most:

9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.
You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don't make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.

This metaphorical Mount Everest doesn't have to manifest itself as "Art". For some people, yes, it might be a novel or a painting. But Art is just one path up the mountain, one of many. With others the path may be something more prosaic. Making a million dollars, raising a family, owning the most Burger King franchises in the Tri-State area, building some crazy oversized model airplane, the list has no end.
Let's say you never climb it. Do you have a problem with that? Can you just say to yourself, "Never mind, I never really wanted it anyway" and take up stamp collecting instead?
Emphasis is mine

This really spoke to me. An Everest is a challenge, but it's also something you want to accomplish with your life, regardless of whatever rational reasons there may be to not bother doing so. Sure it would perhaps be more sensible to work around this village life, making the most of it. We would probably have more spare time (to spend on what??) and more security too, but that's not the point is it? The point is that we have one valuable gift of a life that is given to us to do something with, and it turns out that that something is usually something you're interested in (otherwise there'd be no point doing it, would there?). Ever since childhood my most constant, back-of-the-mind idea has been living as a "farmer" (to loosely interpret the word as grower of food and other needs). It's something I always come back to, regardless of the other side-tracks and courses in my life.

Is this a desire for a type of art? I'm beginning to think that it is. I enjoy doing (or enjoyed, don't get much time these days) other forms of art, drawing, painting and carving generally, but if I look objectively at my life then I spend most of my spare time shaping this little block of land, working it to capture energy and turn it into life, into food, in a way that is useful and also aesthetically pleasing. I won't be giving up my day job (refer to other points in The Gaping Void, all very sensible IMO) but I can move on to another canvas. This place is perhaps the immature scrawlings and splashes of a beginning painter. I could keep reworking this first canvas over and over, but eventually it will get to the stage where I am expending energy and material resources purely out of boredom, changing things just for the sake of something to do, which doesn't sound so sensible to me. Far better to place this work in the hands of someone else to take the raw brushstrokes and fill in the fine detail as they mesh the fabric of this land with that other great canvas we all work upon, their lives.

(There is also the motivation of getting a larger shed, the one I've got now is filled to overflowing ;-) )

So we're putting the wheels into motion, slowly but surely. We've got a few jobs to do on the house before we could feel comfortable handing it over to someone else, and I'd like to finish off the hard landscaping here (hard as in solid framework, as well as hard work!), so we'll probably aim to put it on the market in Spring, though at a price high enough that if someone wants it straight away we are comfortably able to move. If it takes a lot longer to sell then we'll be okay with that, as we could wait another year or so before moving. I think the twins starting school will be a kind of deadline, best to start them where they'll stay for some years rather than trying to move them after 6 months or a year in a school. They've just turned 3, so that gives us two or three years to get it all done. If we begin to approach that time without any bites then we'll gradually reduce the price.

Know anyone who wants a nice spot in a village? :-)