I'm up early, digging and raking the squash bed, turning over the clods of kelp we gathered so backbreakingly back when it was winter and then hauling the 60 big sacks up the steep slope to our raised beds (built by TM and also very often requiring the transportation of 100s and 100s of sacks of compost, manure etc by hand).
It's been a long time since I felt I had the energy and desire to head up there for a spell of hard physical work so early in the morning. And I loved it. So far, I've kept my resolution to do a whole lot more gardening and spend a whole lot less time on the screen. It feels good, though I still don't know how I'm to address the ongoing pressing issue of fiscal poverty with the work I do. I'm planting intentions to change that with each squash and courgette I nudge into the warm soil.
The broad beans, sown directly into the soil in April (they should have over-wintered by being sown in October) are doing well, and so far all the other beans, many of which we grow to freeze for winter protein, are thriving. The garlic is plumping out.
This year the hawthorn, sacred to the month of May and the goddess/May Queen in the old calendar, is pink again. I still haven't found out why that happens some years: a combination of weather-conditions and mineral content of soil is my vague impression.
There's a great spotted woodpecker on the feeder, and a (small) charm of goldfinches. 'My' robin didn't appear for a day or so after I returned from Brittany, but when TM and I sat in the sunny courtyard with a cup of tea the other morning he – for it is a he, and feeding fledglings with his mate – heard my voice and flew over to perch on my hand. This means almost as much to me as publishing a new book. (Perhaps this is why I'm not making any money. Priorities.)
Also early in the morning a roe deer and a yearling head into our margin of woodland. I've seen a cuckoo twice. By such things are the mornings blessed.
Last evening, I stood out in the rain shower, the first for weeks, pictured the beans and new squash plants soaking it up, breathed in the scent released from all the plants and flowers, listened to the blackbird in the oak – the rain song is quite different.
Later, I loved being inside and hearing the thunder in the duskiness.
Next week, I'm heading off to my homeland of West Cornwall to take writers out to the ancient and sacred sites of this land.
The Land's Wild Magic is happening at Cape Cornwall; a venue where I hope to be offering both my Wellkeepers autumn course and a new one in September (still tba), focusing on memoir and nature-writing.
If you are interested in writing that encompasses both mindfulness practice and time out on the land relating to the other-than-human, you might be interested in two more one-day workshops in the Devon lands. You can read more here.
I'm also delighted to announce an autumn writing retreat on Iona next year, in addition to the two spring ones. I've already had some bookings come in. Might I tempt you to join us? People come from all over the world.
How we relate to the other-than-human is more than a matter of pressing concern. For me, it's now the main focus of my life and work (inextricably intertwined, which is how I like it).
While it's not news, I was heartbroken the other day to read the report in the Guardian giving us specific data on our terrible powers of destruction as a species.
Did you know (well, you will if you've read the article by Damian Carrington) that only 4% of all land mammals are wild? Yes, 4%.
36% of land mammals are humans.
And the other 60%? Our prey, the livestock largely of course factory-farmed in appalling conditions, prisoners of our appetites and ignorance.
And of birds, 70% are poultry, mainly chicken, also farmed for our appetites.
I know everyone's banging on about reducing meat-eating. As a vegan, obviously I'm in favour of it. More, though, this is something we can do that will allow us to make positive changes, not just for our species but for other species and the planet too. And it's not enough just to know it; we need to do something. This is what will empower us to feel something other than hopeless and helpless in the face of all the environmental horrors.
My mum used to talk of four categories of risk: the ones we can afford to take; the ones we can't afford to take; the ones we can afford not to take; the ones we can't afford not to take (with me??). Cutting our meat consumption is without doubt in the 4th category – we can't afford to carry on as we are. OK, if we disappear as a species, that's our doing. What's not justifiable morally is taking every other species down with us.
The professor carrying out the research that underpinned the Guardian article said (unnecessarily but I guess it bears repeating): 'Our dietary choices have a vast effect on habitats of animals and other organisms.' Well, yes. And not just on the habitats but on the animals we eat themselves. He has himself decided to reduce the amount of meat he's eating.
This, it seems to me, is the least we can do. How about making a life change that will have an enormous impact?
1-star is cutting out meat, fish, dairy, a day a week. Even this will make a huge difference, and I recognise that we all do what we can from our own starting point.
2-star is going vegetarian. This will help a lot too, though there is still plenty of suffering and death associated with producing dairy and eggs, albeit a lot less than a carnivorous diet.
3-star is vegan. It's not an easy option, but yes, you can live a perfectly healthy life as a vegan – some would say more healthy, as meat and dairy consumption have both been linked with higher incidences of some cancers and heart disease. For nutritional info, see here. And there's no need to sacrifice taste and pleasure: have a look at this website. More and more food outlets are catering for this nowadays.
And know what? I actually can't stand the taste of milk in tea any more; it was giving up that selfish little pleasure that stopped me being vegan for decades: the idea of drinking milkless tea seemed unthinkable (in a minor trivial way). What's more surprising is that nor can TM, a dedicated lacto-veggie. He still eats some cheese although we share the cooking and he cooks vegan, but out of choice goes for soya milk now (I don't, as it's not good for menopausal women, but I love almond milk – sourced from Europe, btw, if like me you're a food-miles stickler and also concerned about the bee-racket in California).
And it feels so good to actually do something rather than moan and despair at the state of the world.