A deep adaptation experience
This is the beginning of the extinction rebellion week called the ‘Impossible Rebellion’ I am not sure why it is called that but it may be as a challenge- can we take on the impossible? Because all the events here in Norway are up in Oslo and I can’t get up to Oslo until Thursday, I woke up this morning and decided to use this week for a ‘rebellion of food’
Not a fast, but a weeklong commitment to eat ONLY from the food we have grown ourselves. I wander into the garden before breakfast to look for what it might be. I pick beans, chard, onions, garlic, plums. The quinoa is not ready yet, but I still have some quinioa left over from last year. We have picked apples and raspberries and so many cucumber and green squash and some hokaido squash. There is dill and oregano and basil and sage. There are lots of potatoes. I feel a sense of gratitude and think of Joanna Macy’s spiral of the work that reconnects- I already feel reconnected to my place, my living on this small piece of land, and am filled with gratitude at the harvest that is available.
I also find myself thinking of Jem Bendell’s Deep adaptation and of the principle of relinquishment: what will I need to relinquish this week to accomplish this rebellion? Salt. Sugar. Coffee. Of course, Chocolate. The raspberries have all been made into jam, with sugar that was not grown here. I question myself whether this will be ok, and decide no, not for this week. No wheat either. No oatmeal, although we have some oats grown down in the far field for the goats. I wonder how much is there, how to thresh it, if it is possible to make bread or small cakes. No yeast. Of course yeast is naturally occuring in the environment, but I am not sure if I can make a sourdough with oats. I muse on how much we take for granted, what deep adaptation will mean, even for those of us that have some land and can grow some food. Of course we will need to work together, come together communally and share what we have grown. But not this week, and so I ponder how ready, how unready we are for living in ways that are really light on the Earth, and on the need to start now, not later. There really is no later now.
I decide to use half of the small amount of quinoa I have left from last year, and make a quinoa pudding. Quinoa needs to be soaked, then boiled, and the water changed several times because of the saponins in the seeds. I save the water- if it contains saponins can I use it as soap? Can I use store bought soap this week if I am taking this challenge seriously? How could I make soap? I begin to think of all the things I need to learn.
I am aware as I boil the quinoa and then spin it to a pulp that I am using electricity that does not come from here. In a perfect experience I would need to use solar or wind power, or build a fire with my own wood. Our wood is from the farm next door, but not from our own land. I decide that for htis week, I will have to compromise on the energy.
I mix the quinoa with some apple pectin I cooked down two days ago, and with small pieces of apple and plum. No sugar or salt. We have some honey from the neighbor next door- I reflect that this may be ok, but I am not using it this morning. I regret slightly, that I did not pick more raspberries when they were ripe, or more of the black cherries. I wish the hazelnut trees had nuts this year, and that the sunflowers had grown better. I am aware of the better choices I would have to make, the care I would have to take, if my garden were the only source of nutrition.
The pudding is slightly nutty and creamy from the pectin, slightly tart and slightly sweet. I drink mint lemon water with mint from the garden and slices of lemon from our indoor lemon tree. It’s fine, and I have gratitude for nourishment, food planted from seeds by my own hands, watered an nourished by my own energy, now providing abundance and giving energy back to my body. It’s actually very filling, and I save half the bowl for tomorrow’s breakfast. I think of people who do not have enough to eat, of the coming food crises due to climate calamities, and move also into The Work that Reconnects’ “acknowledging our pain for the world”. The next step of the Work, “Seeing with New Eyes”, is also right in front of me: We are of the Earth and nourished by the Earth, and the solutions to this crisis are in reconnecting to the Earth, relearning to grow and harvest from her bounty without destroying ecosystems, and working as community to help each other. There is no other way.
There is no oil. Can soybeans make oil? Do I have some sunflower seeds from last year? This year’s sunflowers are too small and not yet setting seed. In the future we can expect more chaotic weather that will make it impossible to predict which crops will fail and which will grow. I had an olive tree; it had grown large enough that last year it flowered, although there were not olives. I had it in the greenhouse and hoped that would protect it, but this past winter there was a very cold spell and it died.
I boil garlic and onion with some potatoes, add some carrot and some beans, and then some corriander and oregano. I smash some of the potato to make a thickish soup. It’s nice- the carrots are sweet, and there are subtle hints of corriander. I can’t taste the oregano, or even the garlic and onion much- I wonder if sauteing them in oil is what brings out their essence. I am not hungry. Am I satiated? I consider the idea that both appetite and satiation are very much culturally developed. Hunger, of course is not. Again, I am reminded of others who do not have 3 meals a day of any kind, and I feel grateful for my garden.
It has taken me ten years to get the garden to where it is now, a good loamy soil is the result of years of composting, building a microbiotic and mycorrhizal richness. But we do not have ten years now, so we will have to work smart and fast. Again, I am aware that we do not have time.
I am still trying to recreate what I know as ‘food’. It takes me two hours to prepare dinner but I am able to manage some bean/chard/oat falafels with some boiled potatoes, a cucumber and tomato salad, and a tomato and potato soup. I use some of the potato liquid from the soup at lunch and add tomatoes, garlic, onion and herbs. I had been down to the field where we planted oats together with field peas and vetch. I take several handfuls of oats and pull them off their stalks, then have the thought to toast them to get the kernel out of the chaff. This works, and I am able to separate a good handful of kernels, grind them, and then sift them to make a rudimentary oat flour that smells rich adn deep. I am thinking again about time, but also feeling hopeful- we did have the field plowed by the fellow who tills the land next to us, so there was fossil fuel involved at that stage, but everything else, the planting and the harvesting, was by hand. I make enough ‘falafel dough’ to have some left over for tomorrow, with a handful of beans, some chard and herbs, some mashed soy beans from the soy milk attempt this morning, and a handful of ground oat kernels. I feel full, and not unsatiated, but tired.
How much time will we need, without the energy from fossil fuels, for just collecting and preparing food? And this is a warm day in late summer with a harvest coming in. How much will we need to cooperate to make sure everyone has food? How much will we need to change our expectations? Jem Bendel speaks of four ‘Rs’ that will be important going forward: resilience, relinquishment, restoration, and reconciliation. We will need to restore our soils and create resilient seed for new climates. We will need to be resilient ourselves to take on the task in the face of setback, climate hardship and sheer labor. We will need to relinquish our demands for easy, quick, sweet, and more; the consumerist attitude toward unending supplies of unnecessary indulgences in food. And we will need to reconcile with everyone to work together to create communities that can feed us.
I am tired and have a headache, perhaps from lack of coffee. I eat a half a pear as desert. It surprises me a bit, how much I still try to recreate what I am still thinking of as ‘normal’: three meals a day, a three course meal at supper, with desert. I think how powerful cultural norms are, and yet also how important it is, and will be, to keep some of them in order to avoid the sense of despair, or overwhelm, or loss, that can come with sudden change. A regenerative culture will need to be joyful, safe, and comfortable- it is a tall order.