Winter Updates - Feb 2022
With February still ahead of us, it may feel a bit premature to consider winter to be almost done, but as a grower the initial activity of spring isn’t far away as I prepare for the early sowings of Solanums. We are still focused on woodland work, with two more of our main events of the winter, the forestry weekend and coppicing weekend, fully booked. I enjoy this transitional time, as the woodland still feels dormant and there is space in our schedules to be doing the many additional jobs that get crowded out by summer – tool sharpening, firewood prep, fence mending – whilst also feeling the beckoning of spring’s busyness as I plan the summer's sowing schedules.
Since the last update in August, the shape of the community has shifted again. Kirsty and family have moved to the Glastonbury area, as she flourishes her expertise as a caterer. Laura, Phil and Wren have also moved out, to focus on setting up their own mobile catering business. All still feel connected to the Bubble, with Laura, Wren and Kirsty returning for the forestry weekend in January. Benoit, who was with us for a few months before Christmas, has headed off to the spiritual-activist community Eco-dharma. This exodus left us feeling a bit thin-on-the-ground in the lead up to Solstice, with only 5 residents. Since the New Year the initial overwhelm of that has softened, as we re-constellate around a smaller group. It is interesting to see the changing dynamics in community, as larger groups allow for more to be engaged with, but the cohesiveness of a smaller unit allows for easier communication and adaptability. It has helped that the December-January period is a quieter time in the community, when we take less volunteers and let the work pace dial back a bit.
The community does now feel like it is growing again, with Richard arriving a few weeks ago. He is a traditional craftsman who lived at the Bubble previously and is returning from a couple of years of practicing his craft in Germany (see https://www.instagram.com/richard.toogood/ for what he's been up to). The Bubble has immediately felt his arrival, as once-blunt and handle-less tools come back alive. With his expertise, long-dreamt of projects become possibilities as we talk about rejuvenating the dairy area and the outdoor kitchen, among other ideas. The first stage of this is currently in progress, as he and our current volunteers are wheel-barrowing stone from the local quarry to re-pave the quagmire of our outdoor living area. We are also anticipating the arrival of Nina, who volunteered with us in November, as a long-term volunteer for the growing season.
Other than those changes, the main ‘news’ that I want to reflect on here is a sense that the culture of the Bubble has been changing. It is hard to pin down quite what it is that feels different, but I have a feeling that we are coming closer to holding wellbeing at the centre of what we do. For a long time, people have felt that life at the Bubble is dictated by hard work, as our fossil-fuel-free approach demands a lot of us. That work is still present here, and makes itself felt, but it is possible to engage with it from a place of ease rather than striving. This is an on-going experiment, in community and in land-work, around how we can live from a place of harmony rather than struggle. I still experience much of myself and how we operate as not yet being in harmony, not yet really feeling cohesive, and yet there are more times when those qualities are present. The two forestry weekends that we have held seem to reflect those changes, with more space for gentleness, listening and learning to exist among the previously macho culture of Felling Big Trees. It feels important that the Bubble is not only a response to the environmental crisis, but is also a response to the patriarchal structures that still dominate much of our conventional working environment and ways of relating.
One of the highlights of the last few months was hosting a Land Workers Alliance (LWA) regional event on our land. We had about 80 people come for a look around, and various conversations about land work and the activities of the LWA. Engaging with the LWA gives me a feeling for how much the impetus is growing for more small-scale and new-entrant land workers, in various sectors, and connects us to the bigger political picture of what our day-to-day lives here represent. There is so much scope for the shape and meaning of the farming sector to change back to something more holistic, if policy can support environmentally-informed people who are passionate about the land and food production, rather than supporting the large-scale agri-business that dominates this industry. For this to work, it also needs consumers to inform them(/our)selves about what our purchasing choices mean, and to be willing to forego ease in order to strengthen food sovereignty.
It feels important to me that the Bubble continues to actively engage with the network of communities and land workers beyond our own hedges, and I’m excited by the prospect of hosting more events this coming year. One major upcoming event, which you're all invited to on the 2nd April, is our promise auction (http://www.tinkersbubble.org/promiseauction). We hope that the event will be a celebration of community as we gather in the sharing of skills and offerings. People’s promises will be auctioned off to raise money for the repairs to the steam engine. If you'd like to attend then get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and offerings can be submitted via this form:
We're also looking forward to being involved in the setup of the Green Scythe Fair again, as well as hosting our own small-scale fayre in our orchards later in the summer. Other than that social focus, this next season of land work will look much like this time last year, as we finish up the winter's forestry work and turn back towards the gardens.