Treats And Truths Of Country Living

20031830_1440254776063914_6770098460197945556_n - onto Instagram 13.7.2017 - THTT signed

Our peaches are ripening! The bumblebees, and a little hand pollinating by feather, have done the trick. An exciting time in the rickety greenhouse on our organic acre in Berwickshire, UK.

These are the treats of country living that are hard to beat, a blessing so much appreciated, especially when one pays such a high price for living in the British countryside, surrounded by vast acres on which synthetic fertilisers, highly toxic sprays and huge machinery are employed to perform every task. It’s the little blessing that gives strength to the next hour.

It has been a journey learning to live in this cold and temperamental climate, living very isolated in a range of ways, learning to understand the lie of the land, to work with the seasons, to make sense out of some vicious hands that have been dealt. The eight years have been incredible in many ways, but they have also been eight of the hardest years of my life, pressed and crushed and shocked by all sorts.

With every squeeze, in every rocking challenge, I always take my focus back to the blessings, back to what is solid, back to what is beautiful, back to what is miraculous, back to what is even fleetingly lovely, back to what is simple and straightforward, back to what is truth, back to what is sustainable, back to what is real and utterly good … Always refocusing, always learning, always getting back up, always moving forward inch by tiny inch …

These peaches are quite symbolic, representing what is still reliable, what is honest, what is wonderful, what tastes and is pure and purely good. Nourishment for the body, nourishment for the soul. The taste of Summer, the taste of health, the taste of joy and delight. The taste of innocence, the taste of simplicity, the taste of hope.

I started this blog / website a few years ago, to record some of my experiences, poetry, recipes and thoughts, now and over the fifty plus years of my interesting life. The blog grows in hiccupy stops and starts, but there is a fair body of collected writing here now.

These peaches form part of the story of the last eight years, and so much more.

 

- onto Instagram 13.7.2017 - THTT signed

Yours mindfully,

Holly x

[This post has been adapted from the original, which appeared on Instagram on 13 July 2017  Link: https://www.instagram.com/p/BWeocXsgLZQ/?taken-by=hollymaxwellboydell ]

Weedy Heights

I started my life in Africa living in a little house, on a hill, called “Weedy Heights”. I have recently learnt the address of this home that I once knew, felt safe in and loved, but have not seen it since I was three years old. I have no idea whether it kept that name, but to be honest, I doubt it.

There have been times over the past five years or so, when I have referred to the home where we currently live in Britain as “Weedy Heights”. It too sits on a hill, has a sense of rootedness and history … and has many “weeds” (aka herbs and flowers in the ‘wrong’ place), which I allow to grow for the sake of the suffering wildlife and to bring natural balance into the barren environment here. The obvious difference between this “Weedy Heights” and the original one, is that the original was in the Southern Hemisphere and currently I am in the North.

Another key difference is that the fauna and flora are completely different, although there are isolated elements (like inherited floribunda roses) that are the same. And there is a severe lack of vegetation in the area where I currently live – much to my dismay. Our garden has sufficient self-sown trees in it to start a sapling business … if only I could lay claim to the barren hill behind us and plant them all there!

Another clear and often painful difference, is that I have no photographs whatsoever of my life at my beloved first “Weedy Heights”, but have thousands collected and moments recorded over the short time at our current home. My happy early childhood exists only as a few bell-clear moments in my memory, the rest relegated to rare and awkward recollection by my estranged parents, who divorced soon after we moved from the area, while I was knee high to a butterfly … and my whole world completely collapsed, then changed.

Perhaps one of the reasons that I responded so immediately to our current home when I first saw it, was that I recognised a sense of security in the presence of mature shrubs and towering trees within the property on our arrival – a greenness and a solidity that was all around my first “Weedy Heights”, its borrowed landscape lush, alive with flora and fauna, and deeply, magically abundant. I had a sense, when I first came to view this current home, that this was a garden one might play in. Something deep down inside me saw glimpses of prettiness lurking in the overgrowth, and I longed to explore.

When I was a tiny child, it did not matter that our garden was small (at least, I assume it was), because to me the whole environment around our home was a magical, green oasis of all that made the world right and good. On days like today, when the farmers in Britain are out spraying toxins across their vast acres with a tyrant’s vengeance, I want to pack up my treasures and just go home … back to Africa … even as far back as my darling “Weedy Heights” there … and start the whole journey all over again.

It breaks my heart to see what the landowners are doing to the soil, the Earth, the whole once-biodiverse environment and I know that I will not last long here if I do not see positive change. Where to go from here? My own country was in collapse, or I would never have left there in the mid 1980s. I long to return now, yet cannot – at least not while the political instability and soaring crime rates continue to escalate  – but I go to bed at night wishing that at least one of my dreams could come true: A return home to where my heart truly is, or to see and feel the heart return to where we live now.

Some days the ache just will not go away.

Holly x

Invitation to join us at Towards Greener Borders

DSC05261 - TGB signed

Sunshine and snowdrops (galanthus) in the little organic woodland during February 2015 … a magical moment.

If you’re on Facebook, we’d love more support at Towards Greener Borders, to help spread an important message and contribute towards a brighter, safer world for us all.

Towards Greener Borders is easily found at http://www.facebook.com/towardsgreenerborders.

Please join us and do tell your friends about TGB too!

Many thanks …

Looking forward to meeting fellow bloggers and others there!

Yours in caring for our health and the environment,

Holly x

Children playing

As I waved goodbye to one of my children, who was setting off back down South yesterday, watching her disappear down the country road, I turned back to close our gate slowly and stopped to take in this sign pinned onto our property …

“Children playing. Keep gate closed.”

It spoke volumes to me.

How soon they are grown.
How sad that a gate must contain them.
How important that we all remember to continue to play.
How wonderful to give a child freedom to develop an imagination.
How vital the imagination becomes when they have flown.
How incredible that nowadays most will not see the countryside as it once was.
How much play has shaped the lives of those who feel the real need to care.
And I thought so much more.

The words, the moment, the whole picture …
I felt it all deep in my soul.

Holly x

Children playing. Keep gate closed.

Children playing. Keep gate closed.

 

The Truth Is Not Always Beautiful

A Red Admiral butterfly sitting on asters in Autumn, which started its life earlier in the year, as a tiny caterpillar.

A Red Admiral butterfly, which started its life earlier in the year as a tiny caterpillar, sitting on our organic asters during Autumn.

 

 

Living in the British countryside, this is the time of year (Spring in the northern hemisphere) when I find myself becoming increasingly agitated, on alert, frustrated and not a little fearful. I am twitchy at the thought of what is about to happen with a vengeance, and what has already begun in some fields this year … agricultural chemical spraying taking place beside or near our home and organic garden, and around the living and working environments of many others in or near the countryside too.

In our garden, one of the few creating a tiny island of some biodiversity, in the midst of miles of chemically managed agriculture, the birds are welcoming in the Springtime with their presence and their song. Flowers are beginning to open, adding more life and loveliness to the stunning displays of our many snowdrops (galanthus), which have been lighting up the Winter dark for weeks, and fresh leaves are showing on any number of different plants … signs of hope.

Yet with the charm and relief of the arrival of Spring, I know that soon Man’s dominance will roar into action all around us and the toxic agricultural spraying will recommence, where it has not indeed done so already, to shatter the beauty and peace.  With so much resting on humans being able to transform the damage that has been escalating  on our planet, I find it completely irrational that modern, toxic agriculture be allowed to continue at the pace and severity that it currently is.

Chemical Agriculture businesses all around us, our organic garden amongst the few areas of refuge for wildlife, and one of the few gardens for miles offering biodiversity without the use of chemicals within them.

Chemical Agriculture businesses all around us, our organic garden amongst the few areas of refuge for wildlife, and one of the few gardens for miles offering biodiversity without the use of chemicals within them.

Not long ago, it was hard to find many who would agree that farming can be done sustainably, with financial viability and sensitivity, and be done well, without increasing the demands that we are placing on our landscape, our soil, our natural food and drinking supply, and our life-giving air. However, that has all changed now and many are up in arms at what is happening to our life sources on this planet, agreeing wholeheartedly that there is a better way, with statistics, examples and heavy paperwork to prove it.

I am aghast at the monstrous reality that farmers continue to use toxic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilisers, when they are the ones to whom stewardship of the land and our food supply has been entrusted. Nowadays, there is a murmur so often heard that the only reason this toxic farming continues is “for money” or “out of greed”. I know it is not that simple. As to the companies who drive this … well, that is another story.

How can this all be acceptable?
How can these people live with themselves?
And what of the many farmers committing suicide?

What value is there to farmer or society, when we plunder the earth and transform the natural health and viability of our soil?  What intrinsic value is there in devastating the land, dominating all species bar a few allowed to remain, and seeking to control the earth wherever we can?  How can our eco-system survive this madness?  How can our food supply be healthy, whole and ensured?  How can we continue as a species ourselves, when we are wiping out those very species who offer us their unconditional support, and without whom we could not long continue to exist? We have all now heard, I assume, the quote by Einstein that, without the bee, Man would have a mere four years left.

We cannot expect to go on, if we wipe out our natural cycles and try to perform every task in Nature ourselves.  No number of men and their machines can ever replace the work done for us by our vital insect pollinators, birds, soil micro-organisms and varied underground species, and of course the many different types of bee – all of whom are being either harmed, mortally wounded or wiped out by chemicals to a lesser or greater degree. Our established trees we are losing at a frightening rate, and with them so much life and vitality, not least providing us with the vital clean air we all need. Whatever we do on the land, we are causing to run off and harm the many, precious life systems in the sea … the cycle of harm is alarming.

Monoculture, reliant on manmade chemicals to produce viable crops, the farmland in this photograph owned by three separate farming businesses, all operating their machines and cropping activity at the same time.

Monoculture. Reliant on manmade chemicals to produce viable crops, the farmland in this photograph is owned by three separate farming businesses, situated within and around our hamlet. All operate their machines and conduct their independent cropping activities at the same time. Chemicals know no boundaries.

How can we be so arrogant as to think that we have a right to strip our children’s planet and their right to an inheritance of a future filled with hope, healing and diversity?  How can we be such murderers, stripping the tapestry of our green and wooded environments, raping the Earth with our monstrous, egotistical and idiotic, swiping and sweeping destruction of all that was here before us?  How can we possibly hope to go on this way?  How can we look our children in the eyes with love, when we are meting out to them such poison?

Have those who climb into the cabs of their killing machines ever looked into the face of a child holding a butterfly?  Have those very souls and others like them, not heard that a butterfly must start its life as a little grub … a caterpillar?  Do these adults not know that a whole and functioning, diverse eco-system is vital, in order to sustain our lives, our health, our right to good food to live?  Can those who seek to dominate the economic markets with their greed not see the damage that their choices and their actions are doing to each and every little child? Do they not care? Do they not live on the Earth too?

Soon I shall hear the rumbling of a farmer neighbour’s smart new piece of machinery, pulling behind it a vast tank filled with a product made by Man … glyphosate … whose detrimental, cancerous and deleterious effects are being made known around the world, yet people continue to spray and dab it on.  I cannot hold back the ire that rises up inside me when I hear about and see the use of “RoundUp” (or glyphosate by any other name) and I believe that every person who dares to use this poison ought to be held accountable if they indeed know how evil it is.

September 2014, Autumn - RoundUp (glyphosate) being sprayed on the field beside our house - we had not yet closed our kitchen windows, nor are we protected from this toxic spraying in any event anyway.

September 2014, Autumn – RoundUp (glyphosate) being sprayed on the field beside our house – we had not yet closed our kitchen windows, nor are we protected from this toxic spraying in any event anyway.

There is a vast body of evidence already available to everyone who cares to seek it, which fully and substantially shows how dangerous this way of treating Nature is, and what a devastating effect it is having on so many people’s lives, through sickness, failed wellbeing (psychological and otherwise) and cruelly shortened life.  How can we call this way of producing our food “farming”? How can we call this of way doing things “growing food”?

As the anticipation of Spring brings with it so much joy and promise, there is a tug of war going on inside, as for me there lurks a deep undercurrent of frustration and fear at what is coming and what could be.  I know that we are not safe, and nor are the farmers who work with toxic products rather than listening to Nature and working with her instead.

It has been proven that organic agriculture is viable and can feed the world.  Why then, does an intelligent, wealthy and forward thinking country like Britain continue to fund and allow its farmers to harm us, as they are subsidised to unwittingly rape the land?

This picture taken one recent April (Spring) on a verdant ORGANIC farm in the region. Here the land is managed without any chemicals whatsoever and, whilst a monoculture system too, the farmer’s response to me, when asked how he dealt with pests, was “Pests? What do you mean?”.  And weeds? He uses a mechanical hoe. No chemicals necessary.

My deepest hope and greatest dream, as a mother, a thinker and a human being, is that our harmful reliance on chemical farming will cease with urgent effect, and the countryside become once more the healing, safe for foraging, bountiful and biodiverse place it used to be. If only that dream could sprout, take root and blossom to grow abundantly this Spring!

In hope,
Holly x

Did you know that Towards Greener Borders HQ is a ‘real’ place?

The following is a new post that has been published on Towards Greener Borders’ page today at http://www.facebook.com/towardsgreenerborders. It gives a little background about my philosophy when dealing with our health, environments and wellbeing, and shows what we are doing on our tiny property in the Berwickshire hills and how tenderly it is being managed, while we are the custodians  …

 

Did you know that Towards Greener Borders HQ is a ‘real’ place?
It is ‘An Organic Property’, a place where no chemicals are used, where the grounds are managed as sympathetically and mindfully as we know how, where Nature is observed before decisions are made about what to work on and how, where soil is kept covered and digging is rare, where wildlife is welcomed and nothing growing is considered ‘bad’, where mosses and lichens are allowed to flourish, and self-sown trees such as holly, yew, ash, sycamore, willow and elderflower are being encouraged, in order to save them for use elsewhere. It is a place where the forget-me-not is remembering to seed again, chickweed discovery excites and where dandelions are called friends, where the foxglove is admired and its floral beauty feasted on, where wild daisies are cause for rejoicing and hawthorn allowed to bloom …

At the moment, the snowdrops are shining and soon the purple crocuses will be shining fully too.

“Towards Greener Borders HQ” is where Towards Greener Borders first grew, and from whence it is currently managed. Not open to the public, we are sorry to say, as there are just too many tasks to attend and currently too few to do them, but we’re delighted to share our pictures with all of you.

Thanks for joining us on the journey and helping to spread the word. Just as every plant and every creature is valued at “Towards Greener Borders HQ”, so is each and every one of you. Let’s keep the mission spreading … and for all the help and all the support, we thank you.

The TOWARDS GREENER BORDERS Team
www.facebook.com/towardsgreenerborders

Taken on the first day of March 2015, a glimpse of the lovely snowdrops beneath and surrounding our holly, sycamore and cherry trees at “Towards Greener Borders HQ”.

Taken on the first day of March 2015, a glimpse of the lovely snowdrops beneath and surrounding our holly, sycamore and cherry trees at “Towards Greener Borders HQ”.

How Towards Greener Borders came to be

Yesterday marks ten months since I launched a page on Facebook entitled “Towards Greener Borders”, on 2nd May 2014. It is a platform with a purpose; an entity which currently exists merely on the internet but based in reality, run on an entirely voluntary basis and presently managed from a one acre organic property in the United Kingdom.

Towards Greener Borders’ Facebook page has grown itself organically, now joined by a community of many ‘followers’, both individuals and businesses/organisations/groups, from around the world. This is the personal story that I wrote, to accompany the launch of the page last year:

 

 

FOUNDER’S STORY

Like so many others through the aeons, I find guidance, inspiration and parallels to human life by observing Nature. Since I was a young child growing up in South Africa, I have felt a deep affinity for the outdoors, for plants and wild animals, as well as native traditions and old ways of ensuring wellbeing.

When I found myself living once again in the Borders (south of Edinburgh) a few years ago, I had great hopes of experiencing familiarity, peace and strengthening, healthful solitude in the British countryside here. We had returned to Britain after a long stint in Australia, before which I’d led a busy life in London and Edinburgh, after emigrating from South Africa to the UK (the birth country of my mother and grandparents) in the mid 1980s. Our family anticipated at long last being able to put down roots again, have freedom and enjoy life fully, benefitting from a well-earned and much-needed rest in the country, after a stressful few years including many home moves, as well as crossing continents and both hemispheres. Sadly, the opposite proved to be the reality, as ever more pressures mounted in the locality where we chose to buy our home in Britain, making the settling process exceedingly difficult.

Having known for many years about the dangers of agricultural chemicals, and having learnt a lot in Australia about the use of these toxic methods in farming, and the residues they leave in food, water, air and soil, I had purposely searched for somewhere safe to live. It was difficult to find anywhere, near to my extended British family, that was not closely aligned with a ploughed and sprayed field, until we found our current home at short notice. Desperate to have somewhere of our own again, we had chosen to buy an old house on an acre in the hills, which we immediately assigned “An Organic Property”, despite it being set amongst farms.

Unfortunately, the dream of peace and security turned into a nightmare and I soon found myself becoming increasingly tense living here, unable to relax in this (what was once a beautiful) country environment, in which we had eventually found our UK home. I discovered that I was more stressed and anxious in the British countryside than I had ever been, anywhere else, before – either in city or country. Although I had always loved the countryside (most especially in Africa) living here was like nothing I had ever experienced elsewhere. It was soon evident that we were sandwiched between several landowners, all working their land at the same time, ploughing, spraying and bombing down the road past our home, as if we did not exist. Life in the British countryside was proving to be anything but calm, anything but healthy, and anything but restorative.

Then, when farming around us changed unexpectedly (from the peaceful grazing land that we had thought it to be), and we discovered that the house we had bought was to be chemically-farmed immediately beside (which had not been clear to us at the outset), and we were in the path of the prevailing winds carrying chemical drift from at least one other farm to the other side of us, my anxiety levels rose exponentially, but I did not know where to go to from here. We had already had several moves since bringing the family to Britain, and I had endured many personal moves prior to that. I was worn out with moving and readjusting… as well as not knowing a clear direction to take. So we remained where we had ‘landed’, and have been here for almost five years, which have been unbelievable, on many levels.

As so often in the past, when faced with a challenge I have tried to use the challenge to advantage, not least to learn from it. Knowing that things were not as we had expected to find them here, nor seemed likely to change to suit our needs, the temptation to run away has been ever-present, and every time more and more chemicals are used around our home, I experience severe anxiety, coupled with a resulting shock response and debilitating fatigue. However, despite a desperate need to settle somewhere safe, we find ourselves unable to, and this has proven to be one of the few times in my life that I have found myself unable to walk away from something that was obviously not working for me. So, whilst the outside challenges have been immense, in the midst of the usual adjustments that one (and a family) has to make when moving to a ‘new’ country, and starting everything afresh, we have remained living where we are, in the best way we can, coping with all of life’s other challenges at the same time.

Like so many others around the world now, I am acutely aware of the dangers, not only to the farmers themselves (and their families), but to everyone who is breathing the air that is being sprayed with toxins or covered with chemical fertilisers. Increasingly in the media, we are hearing about the deaths of native species, plants and animals, and the demise of vital pollinators … all being wiped out in the name of modern progress. I do not see this as progress; I see this type of land management and the chemical farming methods as dangerous, demonstrating limited thinking. We all hear about the evidence that this is the case, so simply shown by the severe decline of bees in the UK and Europe.

I have said many times that “bees are the canaries in our coal mine” and I know that we do not need Science to prove that we are killing them. The picture is so simple and logical, that even a young child can understand it. I frequently quote Einstein, who said that we will have limited time left on earth, once the bees die. We are shooting ourselves in the foot by treating our earth with such disrespect and disdain. But, most poignant, is the fact that we are hurting one another by doing this to the earth, which is in all of our interests to cherish. I do not see the earth being cherished in these hills where we currently live, and I do not see it in many other areas of Britain either, and this worries me enormously. It is extremely short sighted of us to continue to do to our planet what has never been done before, and is already proving so futile, destructive and harmful … Man is hurting what he should be stewarding, and I see industrial-scale agricultural methods, on an island as small as Britain, being key to this alarming predicament.

Instead of running away, I have decided to turn my attention to trying to help the situation, from my own limited circumstances, in the hope of inspiring others to change the status quo, to gather round the people who are doing just that, and to empower one another. I dream that it will be possible to transform this region into a positive, healthy and hopeful one, learning from the mistakes that have been made, and reassured by those around the world who have proven that it is possible to live well, making positive choices about food and farming methods, as well as in our own living and working environments. I know that it is profitable, viable, and sustainable to do so.

While this is my personal story, providing background as to why I have created “Towards Greener Borders”, this page is intended to be a forum and a platform for all who feel similarly, and wish to find or share ways to effect positive environmental and lifestyle changes as well.

I hope you will join us on this journey and help to spread a positive message of authentic, natural and organic sustainability.

The Author, photographing Summer beauty in an organically managed garden in England.

The Author, photographing Summer beauty whilst visiting an organically managed garden in England.



For more information, please visit:
TOWARDS GREENER BORDERS
http://www.facebook.com/towardsgreenerborders