Meeting With the Enemy, Over a Cup of Coffee . . .

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A Wintery Greenhaven Farm, Looking East.

A Wintery Greenhaven Farm, Looking East.

 

Some time ago, in preparation for the move to a simpler way to live, I participated in a Permaculture Design Course. This course has helped with decisions around how to work with the Land on Greenhaven Farm, (where we live when we are not on SY Jerrican, sailing.) It has also informed the larger decisions  about where to place a cottage, a food growing system, orchards, roads and dams.

Permaculture is a fast growing, grassroots movement for sustainable living, for living close to nature and in cooperation with it.  It works deeply with food growing systems, both urban and rural, but also concerns itself with the regeneration of soil and with systems for self sufficiency, like the use of alternative energy sources and dealing with one’s own waste, all concepts we are very familiar with, on a boat. Permaculture is, however, most often associated with the growing of food in a diverse way, using nature rather than the Industrialised Farming method which emphasizes (and relies on) the inputs of Herbicides, Pesticides and Antifungal treatments for plants and the soil. The Permaculture way is to observe and to mimic nature. A food growing system which mimics a forest system, for example, does not need exterior inputs. In a more conventional sense this might be called “Ecological” or “Regenerative” farming. The shift is to see a piece of land as a growing system and working with what is already in the system and cycling things, the idea being that the growing of food needs very little outside input and only a small amount of energy.

So, with my “Permaculture Hat” firmly placed on my head (I tell myself daily that this is who I am, who I want to be) I prepared my Coffee Bean offering for the local Montagu Saturday Morning Market today, after a week of intense thoughts about Weed Killer. Today, the enemy, Mr MW, who sells Agricultural Chemicals, presented himself as a customer for a cup of coffee. Life/Nature always sends something or someone to level things out a little!

Mr MW, sells Agricultural Chemicals , but Mr MW is surprisingly approachable and open, and he enjoys a good cup of coffee so we talked. There is a certain large company with a name beginning with, well, M, which produces a certain herbicide which contains Glyphosphates. Mr MW explains that the  company is delighted with all the publicity it’s  Herbicide receives via the Internet, even if it is negative. It also knows it’s Herbicide’s days are numbered. But this does not concern them at all as there are newer formulations of Herbicide, which are little known to the general public and which are far more sinister and scary, being produced by other large Chemical Companies which may or may not have been bought out by the company with the name beginning with M. He described, by way of example, a Herbicide where, if a single drop is placed on a cigarette it can kill the person smoking that cigarette, instantly.  He explained that Glyphosphates are rather benign in comparison. Mr MW, continues in his narrative about how Pesticides are far more scary as they are the ones most responsible for inadvertent poisoning. He believes that there is a role for Herbicides and all things Chemical as he believes that this is the only way possible to grow food in a mono cropped system. Mr MW, was interesting to chat to and open but on the drive home, to Greenhaven Farm, the thought of all those many people who are against the Industrialised Farming Model,  model which involves high cost inputs in the form of Chemicals, into a “Mono Cropped System”,  inadvertently “helping” those chemical companies by focusing on just ONE formulation makes me feel quite ill.

I am certain the Industrialised Farming Model is unsustainable, it will die a natural death. Mr MW agrees, and voiced his enthusiasm and support for alternative methods. He helped me understand some of the challenges to the change, but what is refreshing to know is that most farmers know that change has to happen. The Chemical Companies are looking at nature for inspiration too. They are looking at the use of

natural predators as solutions for the future. We all need to engage in discussions across the many groupings of ideas. It is simply not good enough to wear only one hat, the Industrialised Farmers need to talk to the Permaculturists, the Permaculturists to the Ecological Farmers, the Regenerative Farmers to the Organic Farmers, the Biodynamic farmers to the Industrialised ones. It occurred to me that perhaps, one cup of ethically grown coffee at a time, we can discuss, find common ground and learn from each other.

 

Two different Sides to a Cup of Coffee

Two different Sides to a Cup of Coffee

 

Montagu Saturday Market

Montagu Saturday Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Sunshine

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Today is the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, the 21st of June. The time is 11h19 and the sun has only just reached the solar panels at the cottage on Greenhaven Farm. This is an exciting event as the cloud cover and winter rain over the last two days has left the house a little energy deficient. All power on the farm is harvested from the sun, so without sun and without sufficient battery storage one has to be patient. The battery storage on the farm will be increased, but all in good time!

Patience seems to be the mantra for simple living. The more I am having to practice patience, the more the challenge of patience arises! Sailing and at sea, we wait for wind, on land, the sun! I am thinking that maybe it has been the human tendency towards impatience which has driven our current social and economic system. In the past we waited to save enough money to enjoy a meal out in a restaurant, this used to be a luxury of the highest order, reserved for celebratory occasions. Today we expect to eat out regularly, or to cook abundant meals, daily. My mother tells stories of waiting for a year or two for a new dress, or for her mother to afford the fabric to make new dresses for her daughters, and when that occasion came around, how special and exciting it was. Today we expect new clothes every season, manufactured clothing from a factory, sometimes made with little care for quality and often made from plastic materials .

We live in a world of instant gratification, we expect abundance and pleasure instantly, to turn on a switch for instant power, always.

I am wondering if the scourge and the “DISease” of substance abuse is not linked to impatience, the need for instant pleasure without the reward and the wait. Without the work and the effort. With impatience there also seems to be the expectation of having and owning more and more. We are “gobblers” of things and experiences.

 

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I have waited, impatiently, for the sun to reach the cottage and the solar panels. The Solar Regulator is shouting the good news that there is now 5.8 amps of power pouring into the batteries, up from 0.1amps an hour ago. It is time to place “things” on charge and to enjoy a cup of coffee in the sun and the prospect is pleasurable!

 

 

Growing a Good Head of Cauliflower

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It’s been a while since I last posted and much has happened since I was actively blogging about our Indian Ocean Adventures. My most popular post was the post titled “An Honest Look at the Cruising Lifestyle”. Some people were troubled by the perspectives I discussed, others felt an understanding. Cruising is loved by some and for others it does not appeal. I fall into the latter category, not because of the challenge of the endless sameness of the sea horizon, or the challenge of weather and sea state, or the boredom, but because I love SOIL and have an unexplored need to grow stuff. I love the sea too . . . I love the rhythm of passage making, of working with the wind, the waves, getting to know fellow crew very well, but once our passage is over and we are at our destination, I need to be off growing something. Some anchorages are breathtaking beautiful and some marinas are lots of fun for a while. Being a nomad can be addictive, the excitement of a new landfall, new people, new environment, but I find I need to create and grow, to contribute and participate rather than be the passerby. So, by means of compromise, I sail occasionally on SY Jerrican, I am an active crew and love the journeys, the passages, the night watches the adventure, but once they are over, I like to go home, to Greenhaven Farm, in the Little Karoo, the beautiful semi arid part of South Africa where I put my hands In SOIL and learn about Permaculture and growing food. I have heard it said that farmers want to be sailors and sailors want to be farmers. The two lifestyles “talk to each other” and I am fortunate enough to have a choice of both. Perhaps this makes me a “Hobbit” by nature, fond of adventure but at the end, it is truly lovely to go home, to put on the Red Kettle, make a cup of tea and plan the next seasons planting.
SY Jerrican as an expedition boat, will be embarking on some adventures in the months ahead, in the meantime while plans crystallize, I have planted winter veggies and the days are getting cooler and shorter here in Montagu. Perhaps the next adventure will be another sail up the Indian Ocean . . .or a trip to Kergeulan in the Southern Ocean or, it might simply be growing a good head of cauliflower!

 

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More Farewells

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A final Sunset. Farewell Addu Atoll.

A final Sunset. Farewell Addu Atoll.

It is time to say goodbye again! We have enjoyed our stay in the Maldives and found the people we encountered on Addu Atoll to be generous, friendly and helpful. Mas-ood Saed, our agent helped with everything and really went out of his way to find fan belts, gas, diesel, water and anything we needed. He went out of his way to assist our son with his re-entry into the Maldives from Sri Lanka. The Coast guard guys, under the tree, were exceptionally friendly and helpful and kept us in a supply of dried fish. Aisha and Musha from Mas-ood’s office asked to visit us on board and we enjoyed their company while we refueld at the jetty in Gan. We felt very welcomed in Maldives, such a different experience to what we were lead to believe.

So . . . farewell dear friends in the Maldives . . .for now, we will return, hopefully, one day.

We are off to Rodrigues Island, and expect to be at sea for 2 weeks.

Coast Guard Jetty. There is always so one on duty under the tree!

Coast Guard Jetty. There is always so one on duty under the tree!

 

Mas-ood Saed, Agent in Addu Atoll.

Mas-ood Saed, Agent in Addu Atoll.

Agent in Gan, Addu Atoll, Republic of the Maldives
MNS Maldives
Mas-ood Saed
marine@mnsmaldives.com
[

Coast Guard
Ali Riffadh
Coast Guard (Gan)
riff-004@hotmail.com

 

 

Aisha and Musha our visitors on Jerrican

Aisha and Musha our visitors on Jerrican

 

Refueling In Gan

Refueling In Gan

Cape Town to Port Louis

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“This is the most difficult of Oceans to sail through, especially during winter” claims our skipper Jeremy, quietly and calmly during the chaos of our third night out. A provocative statement to a wife who is gripped with fear and remorse! I asked myself what on earth we were doing on this bloody ocean? It has been an interesting journey, confronting despair, anger, fear and then acceptance of the inevitable discomfort which we were to endure for the next 2 weeks. I simply could not contemplate three weeks, the brain rejected that number. It did end up being another week on top of the two and we found a rhythm. How easy it is to shift blame to someone else when in an uncomfortable situation. I blamed Jeremy for everything , the sail slides that popped out of the mast track, the colour of the Genoa sheets which were too blue and the staysail sheets which were too green. the bumping and thrashing, being tossed and thrown became all his fault. At some point in the trip I reached an “aha” moment. We are ALL IN THE SAME BOAT . . . We all have emotional challenges to face on this journey and I DID choose this life. Rationality came with a starfilled calm night watch. During the long 2 hours of night steering, chanting mantras and singing, practicing yogic breathing, it all became so small and so irrelevant. Ah, the power of nature!

We were blown in to Port Louis on a 30 knot gale 25 days after leaving Cape Town. A few hours before reaching the lee of the island a rogue wave smacked the side of the boat, and dumped itself and what felt like thousands of liters of water into the cockpit. I sprung out of my bunk expecting to find an empty cockpit only to see Jeremy sitting quite cheerfully soaked to the bone behind the wheel. Nothing, absolutely nothing was going to keep us from getting to land now!!

Some of the highlights of the Passage through the Southern Indian Ocean included
1) Being rushed at by a small whale which played in our wake and then “Spy hopped” meters from the cockpit to see what we were.
2) The glacial blue of the tips of huge waves during the teeth of a storm.
3) Pelagic Seabirds in the morning sunrise. Albatros, Petrels, Skuas, Gannets, Shearwaters (I think?)gracefully, fearlessly and calmly flying over our transom and then swooping down millimeters above the waves. So very beautiful.
4) Our two crew, son Grant and friend Garrick, their enthusiasm in the midst of absolute chaos! Playing guitar, singing, graciously getting up to stand their 2 hour watches every 4 hours and steering in exceptionally difficult seas.
5) Observing the excitement as the boys caught first an Albacore and then later a Dorado. I quietly thanked both fish for the fresh protein they provided and the cheer given to the crew.
6) “Life of Pi”skies and phosphorescent seascapes.
7) The tiniest of little black southern ocean sea birds ( Shearwater? ) which calmly floated by on a massive wave as we sat hove to. It swung my fear around. If this tiny little thing can simply accept and embrace the power of the storm, riding it out on the wave, wings folded then so could we.

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We are Leaving! Tomorrow . . .

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We are leaving . . . .tomorrow. This has been the mantra of the last two weeks as we make final preparations for the long journey to Gan, Maldives and then from there to Chagos. We are expedition boat for an expedition and filming company. This unexpected charter left us rushing to complete carpentry and finishing work that we had thought we would do in 6 months. There are certain heroes in this story, one of whom is Jason of Jays Kitchens who jumped into the incomplete carpentry with so much enthusiasm. He has worked 7 day weeks, sometimes until late at night on Jerrican, adding the value of his keen skills. Carpentry work is tricky, but especially tricky in a confined space with all the odd angles and shapes that a boat is made up of. But it is not only Jason’s skills but his enthusiasm which has carried us through the absolute chaos of the last month.

Jason, our carpentry hero!

Jason, our carpentry hero!

Chaos of the last month

Rubbiks Cube!

So, we will now leave . . . tomorrow morning. The last of the food should be loaded later today. I am running last minute errands that include finding specialised fan belt spares for our alternator, more screws, an extra flask, more Rye Vita biscuits . . . . a standby inverter for charging things. The list is endless. I have not yet had time to think about weather, what it is going to be like out there, how are we going to cope, are we strong enough, young enough, old enough, wise enough, skilled enough, brave enough.

The Challenge of Inevitable Departure

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SY Jerrican sailing off Kalk Bay, Cape Town

 

 

Things are escalating into a crazed frenzy of activity. We MAY be leaving in 4 weeks (more about this another time, don’t want to jinx anything), but what this means is that the work we had planned to complete over the next 6 months will have to be completed in 1 month. This is of course quite mad, but we need to try. I accept that not all will be completed and that we will have to cultivate an attitude of contentment towards the aspects of our boat home that will remain less than perfect for a little while. However, the non negotiable tasks are themselves quite overwhelming at times. I have a week of full time sewing of pockets, bags, covers and shade awnings. We need to complete our “heads” story and given that we have chosen the non conventional (although gaining in popularity) dry toilet option, this requires lots of thought and planning as we are breaking some new ground with this. We need to have stainless steel work done in the form of grab rails and a design for the saloon bench, we have all the ceilings on the boat to complete, water makers to install, foul weather gear to purchase, safety harnesses, life rafts . . . . draws in the galley, floor boards to be secured, lockers to be sealed and completed, hard dodgers to be installed . . and then all of this is to be done by the end of June, when, if all goes to plan we leave, turn South and then East and then head to Chagos. It all seems a bit surreal, but, academically possible. On the positive side . . . . there is nothing like a little pressure to motivate one to move. We had become a little complacent over the last few months. Enjoying boat life alongside in a marina. SY Jerrican acted as a committee boat for the Western Province Dinghy Championships, we have enjoyed a few fishing trips and have generally been just a little lazy!

 

SY Jerrican as Committee Boat

Western Province Dinghy Championships 2014

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