Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Land, productivity and the blended lifestyle

In the beginning of the 19th century 10% of us lived in cities. 100 years later, 90% of us did. (Rogers).

We left the land - some by choice, others by force - in order to participate in the growing industrial economy.

The land available for us to live and farm on was reduced, so that we would have to turn to wage labour to sustain ourselves.

"Lord and Lady Stafford were pleased humanely, to order a new arrangement of this Country. That the interior should be possessed by Cheviot [sheep] Shepherds and the people brought down to the coast and placed there in lots under the size of three arable acres, sufficient for the maintenance of an industrious family, but pinched enough to cause them turn their attention to the fishing [i.e. waged labour]." Patrick Sellar, Lawyer, 1815

1912, Kenya - Lord Delamere:
"If... every native is to be a landholder of a sufficient area on which to establish himself, then the question of obtaining a satisfactory labour supply will never be settled."

Both quotes from Soil and Soul, p94. Pic from internet shakespeare. 

That industrial economy has brought us very useful wealth.

It is now unsustainable.

But we cannot slow or reduce the economy, we believe, because people will lose their jobs and incomes.  Without jobs and incomes, how will we meet our needs?

My answer to this question is, by re-organising our use of land, such that we can work for money part-time, and be self-sufficient part-time, total employment can stabilise or reduce with wellbeing at least maintained, and probably enhanced.

200 years ago, it was thought that people would not want to move from local self-sufficiency to employment, so they had to be forced to, by reducing access to land.

Now, few people would altogether give up our jobs and put both hands on our spades. We like our incomes, our professional identities - some of us, at least - me for one.

So we need not fear that by increasing opportunities for self-sufficiency, you reduce the available workforce. Rather it will reduce the necessary workforce and enable the economy to explore what sustainable growth means in practice.

By taking parts of our lives away from the money economy, we give it a bit of a breather, and let it find its next, unprecedented form.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Become Uncivilised

I'm very much looking forward to the Dark Mountain festival in Wales, 28-30 May, with Alastair McIntosh , Jay Griffiths, George Monbiot, and me! Among others. Having a big, fat, disorganised, creative, collaborative conversation about the emergence of the new and how we want to live.


This is their ning site and this their website.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


I'm back at the lovely Canon Frome Court.

Five baby boys last night! All in two hours, triplets and twins, mums and babies all happy and well.

(ok, this wasn't them, i got it off flickr...)

Ok I'm totally abusing this blog now and using it as my own note keeping tool but here's what I learnt.

1. Generally the mums get on with it and you stand back, wearing overalls, with a flask of tea and hopefully something nice to nibble on.

2. Try to co-ordinate the knocking up of your different animals so that they're due about the same time. Then when they're due, check on them every three hours, day and night, for signs of early or full on labour, or immanent birth.

3. First you see the water sack. That comes out and breaks and dangles around for a while, then the lamb (goats are the same they say) should come out front hooves first followed soon by head, coming out in a little dive. Once the first half's out, mum has a little rest before pushing the hind legs out.

(if it comes out head first you have to push it back in. If it comes out hind legs first, have a look, it might work, did last night for one of them, but might need "intervention" and I don't know how to do that.

4. The lamb is covered in a gooey sack which seems to constrict its breathing so mum sets straight away to eating it off. Once free of sack, after about five minutes of arriving the lamb is up on its feet, and finding the teet.

5. Once lamb 1 is clearly healthy, on its feet and suckling, mum goes into contractions for number two, and so on. Last night there was 30-60 minutes between babies.

6. The first bit of milk that comes out post birth is super concentrated good stuff. If twins, the second twin needs to suckle on the Other Nipple because the first twin will have got all the good stuff from the first nipple. You kind of grab them and move them to it. That's ok.

7. Now it's time for Paperwork. You need to check gender, identifying marks, and have a piece of paper where you tick things and check the eyelids and stuff. I don't know if you do this for you or for Defra or what but they do it here and they do things well here so that's what you do.

8. You will have pre-prepared a Birthing Unit - a little 1m x 1.5m or so fenced off area full of straw with lots of hay to eat and water to drink, safe from foxes. Now you Pick Up the babies by the forearms and hold them in front of mums face - walk backwards showing the lambs to mum and she'll follow you to the birthing unit. (It's good that this is a different space to where she gives birth because the latter is gooy and wet). Then you shut them in safely, check none of the others are going into labour, call it a job done and go to bed feeling warm and happy.



Oo and then after that they run around and spring jump a lot for no reason and it's really funny which, apart from getting to eat them in a few months, makes the whole thing make sense, to me...

But actually, I prefer Alpaca wool to sheep wool. I wonder what their meat tastes like...

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Would you build your own house?

I met the good Viv Goodings recently. If you remember Ben Law's woodman's cottage that was on grand designs, Viv was the guy who led the building and told the volunteers what to do.

In the end, the house cost Ben £20,000; because it was built by volunteers learning how to build a house, there were no labour costs, and because Ben got the land in exchange for work, he only had to pay for materials.

Most parts of building a house are very simple, Viv told me. All you need to know is what order to do them in. So really you only need one expert and lots of willing participants to build a house.

It made me think of Alastair McIntosh's description of community house-building in the Hebredes when he was a child.

"On this particular day the school bus had been delayed... Isobel and I wandered into the new house to keep warm. Nobody ever knocked on doors in those days, and many houses had no locks fitted. You went in and out of other people’s houses as if they were extensions of your own. If you were hungry, you would be fed; if you were cold, you would be warmed by the peat fire; if you were naughty, you would be ticked off, because the village was like an extended family. 

"As Isobel and I stepped inside the half-completed bungalow that frosty morning, we encountered a hive of activity. It was buzzing with men. All manner of building skill was being applied. Every mod con was being installed. And over the open fire a string of salted ling and cod from Loch Leurbost was being cured for consumption later. ...

‘How is it,’ I asked one of the workmen in the bungalow, ‘that Neilie’s not rich but he can afford to have all of you working on his house?’ 

‘Ah, well,’ came the response. ‘You see, Neilie’s helped all of us to build our new houses each time he’s been back on leave. Now it’s our turn to help him.’ 

"I think that may have been the last communally built home in our village. Now, to comply with government regulations for housing grants and planning requirements, contractors put up most houses by competitive tender."

Once the house was completed, Alastair writes, at the end you had not only a house but a bonded community, and a householder who was not bound to a lifetime's work to pay of the debt and the interest on the mortgage.

Walter's Way in south London is a cul-de-sac of self-build homes using Walter Segal's wooden frame method.

Would you build your own house, given a little help from your friends?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

What is beautiful about Capitalism

I'm going to start two lists and add to them gradually. Feel free to add your own bits in the comments.

If we're embarking upon a creative, collaborative conversation about what post-capitalism means, then it's an appreciative enquiry.

In an appreciative enquiry we keep the baby but throw out the bathwater.

So what in contemporary capitalism is baby, and what is bathwater? Baby here.

What is beautiful about Capitalism

1. The decentralised agility of the market.


Anti-capitalism is a critical, divisive conversation.

Post-capitalism is a creative, collaborative conversation.

Post-Capitalist life

I was at a Talkaoke last night, with some Norf London Yoof and some East Londoners of about my age and sort.

"Humans are a virus", someone said at the end of the night.

Humm. "I don't think humans are the virus," I said to him. "We've been around for over 100,000 years I think and we've only really started to unbalance things very badly, like a virus does, in the last 500 years or so, and only then really in the last 100 years, and then particularly in the last 30-40 years. These periods correspond to the arrival and advancement of capitalism. Perhaps capitalism is the virus."

I have started to use the term 'post-capitalism' this week.

It works for me.

I realise today that this is what I am learning how to live; a post capitalist life.

A life where man is beside, not above or below, woman; where head is beside heart, beside body; where reason is beside spirit; science is beside nature; wealth is beside wellbeing.

It means a reimagining of almost everything. 

Post-capitalist work; post capitalist music; post capitalist joy; post-capitalist food; post-capitalist love. Half of these explorations have been on a private blog. Maybe it will all make a book one day.

But in the mean time, the question becoming primary in my mind is, what exactly does a post-capitalist business finance model look like?

To be explored...

Are we wealthy?

Look at the UK budget deficit 1946 - present - The Guardian has put together very clear information about
it a little way down this page.

I never realised that we had been in the black so much before the 1980s. And we are now incredibly in the red, of course.

With all this talk in the news, of strikes. cuts to public services, raised taxes, times ahead worse than when Thatcher came to power... 

"The increase in the deficit," writes a Guardian blogger, "excludes the bank bailouts - this is just the structural deficit. Including the bailouts, the deficit has been in the region of £300 billion to £500 billion in both 2008 and 2009."

... with all this talk, it's time to talk post-capitalism.