Ranch:

I’m awake at 5:20 on Tuesday 13th September 2022, after a rare solid night’s sleep.

From dawn, the sky is crystal blue and the newly waning moon, after a harvest one on the 10th, is clearly visible in the morning sky. I go out into the back yard to assess the day and I estimate the temperature to be 8 degrees centigrade.

The forecast is good, and knowing that this may be the last warm sunny day, I dedicate it to ranching. My favourite days of all are those without plans. Without commitments. 

Within my planless days, I have taken to making modest ranch micro-plans.

In the face of overwhelming ‘to-do’, I pick a handful of achievable jobs, write them down and work through them. I make sure I complete one and tidy up, before moving onto the next. It works well.

Early on, realising that it’s impossible to keep on top of a large area all at once, I learned to develop one small piece at a time, then maintain it. It’s a method that I’ve stuck to. Furthermore, instead of using timber for raised beds, I tend to use brick (all dug up from the ranch) and concrete, because it lasts a lot longer. Patches of concrete are oases against the onslaught of weeds.

Skyline

 

Last year Pev terraced the lower part of the field into 3 large beds with a digger. I’ve experimented with a small part of it by digging a foot-deep trench and filling it with concrete, to hopefully stop the under-invasion of weeds. I’ve then built a bottle wall on top to make a raised bed. I filled it with fairly fresh manure + some half-rotted hay from next door. As an experiment, I planted 3 leftover courgette plants and they’ve done incredibly well. Digging the trench is very labour intense but probably no more expensive than building a wooden raised bed, especially given the price of timber these days.

Lots of gardening books show perfectly manicured gardens which advise ‘Just put some cardboard down to kill the weeds, then put a layer of compost on top’. I’m afraid that doesn’t work on a weed infested field in the grim North. I keep thinking of doing a ‘Starting from scratch on a weed patch’ type video.

Cider?

 

In the kitchen ’til midnight!

The apple and damson harvests are large. In an ideal world, where I was part of a well-coordinated network of growers and gardeners, other people would harvest the fruit and at some later stage, I would be rewarded with jams and wines. Alas, it’s still me and the trees. I think I might be one of those extrovert/introvert recluses or something. I am honestly planning to get more people involved and there are already a couple.

I think I need to undergo a training module: How not to expect people to be as obsessively punctual and reliable as me.

The apple press comes out of the attic and I painstakingly mash the apples in a food processor. I have twice as many this year and my small press just isn’t big enough. I’ll hopefully build my own next year – about 3 times bigger, using a bottle jack and a welded frame.

Damson wine?

 

I’ve watched a few nerd cider-making videos and I chose the quickest simplest method. We have a home-brew shop in town and I buy a few bits.

It takes me all evening to get one and a half gallons of juice then it takes forever to clear up the ubiquitous bits of chopped apple. A couple of people have told me of their own disastrous vinegary efforts. I’m not that bothered. I’m trying to establish routines for dealing with my excess produce – so much so, that I buy Parma ham and brie to accompany my glut of figs. I don’t normally like sweet and savoury together, but I’m learning to cope.

A couple of nights later, I’m at it again with the damsons. I’ve gingerly climbed a tall ladder to harvest them and put a hook on a long stick to get the rest. This time, Louise helps and it’s a lot quicker. It’s soon all fizzing away in buckets. Is it supposed to smell of farts?

Acorn on Sam's oak tree

 

As part of my concerted effort to enjoy this particular sunny Tuesday, I elect to do as little as possible. After an extended (unhealthy) breakfast, I resort to reading a book – something that I’ve not done for a long time. 

It’s Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She’s an indigenous American from the Potawatomi Nation and also a Professor of Environmental Biology.  She talks about the interconnection between indigenous knowledge of plants and the associated native teaching and mythology versus western science. It’s right up my street, akin to my notion that what can be learned from nature on the ranch, is applicable to the wider world. At one point, she echoes verbatim my concept of ‘your time and energy for mine’, in the context of nature’s bounty being a gift to be reciprocated. Gwen recommended the book. I read four full chapters – a record for me in recent years. I find writing more fulfilling than reading.

 

Braiding wheatgrass

 

Queen

The earliest recorded queen was Kubaba of Sumer, around 2,400 BC, in what is now Iraq . There are numerous other famous queens throughout history.

Wherever groups of humans get together, there will always be those that come to the fore as leaders who are approved by their peers. Likewise, there will be those who use strength and brutality to push their way to protected advantage. I suspect that all monarchies are on a spectrum of both.

I have a whole bunch of stories writing themselves in my head and one in particular is coming to the fore. I can only ever write about what interests me and what I know about. From childhood onwards, it was cowboys and Indians, Lord of the Rings, Castaneda’s Don Juan, Japanese Samurai, archery, David Carradine’s Kung Fu, plant medicine and Celtic mysticism. I think humans need some magic, romance and mystery in their lives.

Coincidentally or not, I’ve also returned to daily meditation in an effort to help declutter and find some clarity.

I remember reading that Tolkien’s inspiration was due in least at part to the dullness of his students’ work.

I don’t have students but part of my inspiration is the sheer blindfolded, gutless dullness of swathes of populations in the face of such obvious tyranny staring us all in the face.

There is then naturally a mysterious beautiful queen in my epic story. There is also of course a dog based on our beautiful lurcher Jet and a wonderful horse, based on my ranch neighbour Linda’s horse Satin.

Seed saving

 

Monarchies work in different ways in different countries. Ours is hereditary which is a double-edged sword. History shows that one generation can have a powerful, loved monarch and then the next a right turkey.

Ours is also constitutional, meaning that the monarch is the Head of State, but takes little part in political decision making.

Our current Royal lineage is German Hanoverian from the Saxe-Coburg Gotha dynasty. King George V changed the name to Windsor in 1917 after the growing anti-German sentiment during WW1. His first cousin, Tsar Nicholas II was slaughtered along with his family during the Russian revolution. The government at the time had wanted to offer them political asylum, but George didn’t think it was a good idea.

The British grew a refined contempt for Germans during both world wars. What would the peasants do if someone told them that their own unimaginably rich and privileged royal family were pesky krauts? They might get fancy ideas like the pesky Frenchies did when the abuse by their royal family went too far.

Like any Royal family, ours has a rich colourful history. They are rich beyond imagining, which rankles many, me included, when so many in the UK are living in poverty. Furthermore, so many more are about to be thrust into abject usury and misery by the machinations of the ultra-rich.

The blatant and well-documented sexual impropriety is also a non-starter for me. Jimmy Savile and Charles were very close friends. Epstein’s links are well-known as are the Not on Normal Courtyard Exercise activities of some of the others.

The propaganda juggernauts can only convince some of the people some of the time – certain types of dogshit just won’t wash away.

Fig struggles

 

My opinion is that the 20th September 2022 will be one of the most poignant dates in history.

Not only will it mark the irrevocable end of one era, it will mark the beginning of a darker continuing one, where the subtle slices of tyranny march ever thicker and faster.

Last time, a couple of days before she died I said:

‘When the queen goes, thereā€™ll a smokescreen of ultra-nationalism to cover up more political skulduggery.’ 

I wasn’t wrong.

People are being arrested and charged for publicly voicing any objection to the monarchy. ‘Not my King’. Well he’s not mine either. He’s a prominent WEF member and already he’s been publicly nasty to his minions. Poor chap – at his age, he can never come remotely close to filling his mam’s shoes.

It’s only apt that the day after is Mabon, the autumn equinox, perhaps the most apt for me, because it’s closest to my birthday. The witches and pagans will be out doing their thing and who knows what magnificent gifts from the earth will evoke the gods and spirits?

The wheel turns forever on

 

As we top the last gentle winding rise in the track, I dismount. As so many times before, we stand in silence and survey the terrain before us.

To the left, the twinkling town sits nestled in the valley below. There I am needed as apothecary at the infirmary and leader of The Council of Codagh. Our longest return journey is almost over and we are anticipated.

To the right, the road into the mouth of the dark dangerous forest opens, leading eventually back to my homestead and beloved physic gardens.

We are a triumvirate. To my left, with her dappled head gently nuzzled on my cheek is Satin. She came from the Pachaiu people, whose horses are famed for their speed and endurance on mountain terrain. Her gentle breath mists the twilight air.

On my right, head against my thigh, is Jet, the sleekest and most magnificent of long dogs, gifted to me from desert people of Fasach as a small pup.

The birch bark handle of my bow, in its saddle holster is worn smooth and even after sharpening, my sword is deeply nocked.

Our last battle was our bloodiest and most protracted and we are weary. Our scars ache in the evening chill. Jet’s muzzle shows his first grey hairs, and Satin after a long hike struggles to hide a subtle limp.

We stand in silent telepathy for what seems like an eternity. All council has left me. I am spent.

An almost imperceptible silent nudge from them both signals the time to move. I swing into the saddle and we quietly move forward.

Although we three are as one, not for the first time, it is they who make the decision.