Archives for the month of: July, 2020

The chaos in my current corner, in the land of milk, is ongoing, I am longing for the desert.

I am not sure where it stems from, this longing for wide open landscapes, desert and desert-like environments. A 360 horizon in which movement of my body seems to make very little impact, my perspective shifting slowly, yet becoming aware of other shifting bodies as changes in light sets other processes in motion that can be observed even from my own stationary position. But I know this, dwelling in such setting connects me to the universe at all scales and transcends my being, becoming simultaneously. aware of the fragility and force of life 

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Finland view toward Norway 

 

People have made interventions in the landscape to observe planetary movements since time immemorial and a range of small to monumental structures present in our current landscapes  testify of this fundamental human need to understand our larger context in relationship to our daily needs of producing and sharing food, Stone Henge, Nazca lines, to name a few, even though many of these monument are still shrouded in mystery. Why did people spent so much labor and energy in these works, what was the purpose?  And now, did we lose this ability to connect to our lands in such a way?

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Stone Henge Spring 2020

In our current capitalistic worldview we tend to consider the planet as an exploitable resource, compartmentalizing our shared planet into commodities, ours for taking. But in our modern societies this  need to understand the bigger picture, to feel connected and provide meaning in our lives was taken up specifically by the land art movement in the 1960’s in tandem with an emergent ecological movement. Lightning fields (Walter de Maria), Spiral Jetty (Robert Smithson), Roden Crater  (James Turrell). The latter, 45 years in the making is nearing completion in northern Arizona. About 400 miles west of Roden Crater, Charles Ross, a contemporary of Turrell is also finishing a major land art work, Star Axis, after about 50 years. Both works consist of chambers and tunnels, as a gateway to experience space and time in transcendental ways. 

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Northern New Mexico Spring 2020

Without a doubt, it is an incredible landscape to be in and in between Roden Crater and Star Axis is Chaco Canyon. At its center lies a magnificent ancestral site of the Indigenous communities living in the larger region today. Not only does greater Chaco exist of a network monumental structures, the history of the people is inscribed and enshrined in the landscape in multiple ways, a spatial language that is difficult to understand coming from a world of written words. It is a language of ongoing conversation with the land in which ancient sites play an important part, vast in temporal and spatial scale. The land that is fragile, the land in which people have lived for centuries, taking care of the land and its waters to sustain life. Of the many extraordinary aspects of Chaco the astronomical heritage stands out. Brought to broader attention during the late 1970’s, the Sun Dagger as it then became known, is an ancient instrument that was used for instance to align the architecture with the cycles of the sun and the moon, connecting land, people, and cosmos.

Over the last decades the region has experienced record droughts, which has affected many types of trees in detrimental ways. It is during this time that the oil and gas industry is expanding its reach, especially in the San Juan Basin, Chaco homeland. Fracking, a drilling process of using high pressure water to release gas, has made the US fossil fuel producing nation and the promise of jobs and revenue had led to opening up public lands for oil and gas exploitation and extraction in New Mexico. A different type of intervention, consumptive instead of sustainable. 

Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out at the head of the well, a process that is promoted as being risk- free. Fracking however is controversial, not in the least because it keeps us hooked on fossil fuel. Fracking uses enormous amounts of water, at a significant environmental cost. Furthermore, potentially carcinogenic chemicals may escape during drilling and contaminate the groundwater around the fracking site. 

In a fragile environment this is disastrous. 

If not in New Mexico, wherever you are, please find a way to connect to your land in a meaningful way. Roden Crater and Star Axis are almost finished, supported by generous donations. Unfortunately, and critically so, Chaco Canyon is under threat, not just, but especially by current oil and gas exploitation. Please consider keeping this incredible heritage alive. 

https://www.frackoffchaco.org/our-coaltion

https://solsticeproject.org/Preserving_Chaco/Fracking/index.html 

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/fracking-boom-ransacks-four-corners 

https://www.nps.gov/chcu/index.htm

http://rodencrater.com

https://www.staraxis.org 

The composition of the cheesemaking team I am part of has been plagued by personnel changes over the last two years. Unlike the problems caused by the current pandemic elsewhere in the world, problems here seem to be site-specific.  Last year I was part of the team for about half a year when a landslide change occurred; somehow those of us who remained were able to keep the Kaserei on its course. Returning a year later, the team has grown, but so has chaos. A new leader whose competence and integrity is now being questioned, has plunged the current team in disarray. I am not sure what my role is in this drama, the stage is set, Chaos in der Kaserei.

To recharge, I often go for a run or walk in the nearby forest, seeing green, inhaling the aromas and hearing the avian dwellers satisfies and resets the senses to equilibrium. The forest patches are a mix of tall deciduous and pine trees and walking along the pastures, giant oaks rustle in the wind. I wallow in Psithurism. I pick up some odd looking balls that remind me of truffles, but that I recognize as a type of oak gall, the product of a parasitic visitor. Over the years I have picked many of these in different places, often looking slightly or very different in shape. Over a number of centuries, up until recently, oak galls were used to make ink and many old manuscripts are written with this oak gall ink, the standard ink in Europe from about the 5th well into the 20th.

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To grow a nursery for their offspring the gall wasp, Bassettia pallid pierces a leaf of stem of her selected host. This part of the tree swells, forming tumor-like growths called galls, also called crypts. Within each, a wasp egg develops until it is big enough to chew through the gall wall and enter into the larger world. Unless…the crypt-keeper wasp joins the nursery. Euderus set, as this creature is called, injects her eggs into the young gall wasp. As both develop, the crypt-keeper feeds off the baby Bassettia’s body. When Bassettia starts to chew her portal to a new world, Euderus stops him or her and by feeding on its head from the inside, is able to crawl through the hole that was started by baby Bassettia. Wow, that sounds rather cruel to us. But no matter who makes it out of the gall, the abandoned nursery has served us humans for a long time, to tell amazing stories in many languages.

Is there a lesson in this for me to assist me in my role?  As the first Act of Chaos in der Kaserei begins, I hope something good comes out of it.

 

Making my first Gouda, 1000 liters of raw milk. I am well aware of where I come from. Back to my roots? In a way, maybe, but maybe not in a straightforward way. Disclaimer: I never drank milk in my life, my body can’t handle it, yoghurt and cheese on the other hand are fine and have been dietary staples for most of my life. 

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https://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(18)32583-4/abstract

Sicily 2018, I spent a winter on a hill near the modern town of Aidone, close to the ancient site of Morgantina. The story of Morgantina is that of an old indigenous, SIkel, village, that later became a Greek settlement, through integration between the native and colonial communities. The local belief centered on the cult of Demeter and Persephone, which, under Greek influence spread widely and served to explain the changing of the seasons. Persephone, the daughter of Demeter was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld. Demeter, goddess of harvest and agriculture, giver of food and grain, who presides over life and death, who after learning about Persephone’s fate, plunges the world into metaphorical darkness where nothing can grow. After mediation by Zeus, Persephone is allowed to return to her mother, but Hades has one more trick up his sleeve, allowing her only to return part of each year to Earth while during winter she returns to Hades’ underworld. 

Lake Pergusa, located in the center of Sicily is still considered a site where this scene happened and explains for us the cycle of seasons. Every year we are reminded of Demeter’s anger over the disappearance of her beloved daughter, the personification of vegetation. From my hill location near Aidone, I have view of Enna and the nearby Lake Pergusa. I am amazed how strong the presence of this history is still felt in this land, not just collectively, but also personally. It ties people to their land.

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view toward Enna, Sicily winter 2018

I have a scientific background, so yes I know why we have seasons, but knowing something does not necessarily make you understand the complexity of the relationships that frames such knowledge bits. A belief system underpins our behavior, whether it is organized religion, esoteric cults or science. The advantage of science it that it includes a method to systematically test our beliefs, it doesn’t necessarily devalue the role of myth and stories in our collective behavior. On the contrary, myths can guide us when we are challenged by a lack of understanding of the complexities of life, but neither does it mean we should follow blindly. 

Demeter. Since the early twentieth century Demeter also serves as the trade name of the first organic cooperative and quality control for organic, biodynamic farming. To be Demeter certified requires biodiversity and ecosystem preservation, soil husbandry, livestock integration, prohibition of genetically engineered organisms and viewing the farm as a living “holistic organism.” It is based on strict standards, such as the requirement that the farm produces its own fertility  as much as possible and that 50% of the livestock feed be grown on the farm. All good stuff. Still, there are other requirements that have been criticized because the efficacy cannot be scientifically demonstrated. For instance the preparations that are used to nurture the fields, such as the fieldspray made from fermented cow dung, known as preparation BD #500. 

If you have ever been involved in the making and application of these preparations, you probably know that even if these methods are not helpful, they are probably not harmful either, while the act of preparation can serve another function, namely, collective attention and consideration of the importance of the soil for producing a healthy crop. Collective awareness as an important tool in generating change. 

Demeter 2020, a long way from Demeter 550 BC to BD 500. I am a participant in biodynamic production. While traditional biodynamic requirements are strictly followed, I am surprised that others are introduced less critically and selectively. A century has almost passed since Demeter became our modern – biodynamic – guide and along the way industrial practices have changed our values.

For instance the tractor; It is hard to imagine agriculture without the tractor and biodynamic farms have adapted to include machinery in their daily practice. It is inevitable, but somehow it surprises me that the focus on sustainable agricultural machinery is only a recent one, even though the horse or other kinds of tract animals have long disappeared from our modern landscapes.

Demeter, she of the Grain, doesn’t live in northern Germany. The general history of the this region reads like a series of war and conquests of feuding tribes. This is however also land of the Vikings and good harvest, peace, and prosperity is assigned to the Norse god Freyr. His reputation does not actively live on in modern society like that of Demeter elsewhere, although numerous place names refer to his presence in the land in northern Europe. In Schleswig-Holstein, considered part of Southern Jutland, there is a place called Frøs Herred (“Freyr’s Shire”). Freyr is also known to have been associated with the horse cult. Horsepower; Freyr, give us something sustainable.

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http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/212184/icode/