This is our next event in the Heartland site in Abruzzo, Italy. This gathering is about exploring the link between consciousness and nature. In our events, we aim to take people into a lost link, a sort of tribal mindset. Join us for a week in nature learning to make yurts, green wood work, living in full off-grid open nature in the stunning mountains of Abruzzo.
We have created a system for sustainable rural development, but our transformational events is the core of it all, it’s a way we teach others a lifestyle or a way of being. It’s about dropping the boundaries of separation we all hold in order to survive in western society, it’s about going back to a primal way of being. Into the trance of being a people, a tribe, a family.
We use the tool of group consciousness processing work, at past events we have taken groups right through, touching on inner connectivity to such a degree people became telepathic, they knew what each other felt, learned how to affect the weather through their feelings. We focus on conscious cooking as a way into wholeness and well-being. So those events in pure nature, whilst living as a group is our way of giving back and sharing a very special practice we have been taught ourselves.
The Heartland programme has turned into a small family of people who have been changed forever, and this is also a way we hope we can help them by re-connecting to support the openness they each have experienced and bring it into a sort of platform in which they help us share with others.
This event will take place from the weekend of the third of May until the end of the following week. But you are welcome to join us already on the first of May for Beltane.
You can expect to live in pure open nature, so mud and rain, and living in tents as part of a nomad tribe of others, sharing everything from food through work, to the most personal experience.
Our site is in the foot of the Majella massif, one of the most incredible mountains of Italy, to get here you will have to get a local bus to the town of Torricella Peligna from Lanciano (there is a bus from Stazione Storica every other hour or so). Flights to Pescara airport from Stansted with Ryan air are quite cheap, or to Rome. Pescara has a direct bus to Torricella Peligna every day at 11am (but none after). And from Rome you can even get a direct bus from the airport itself, through Dicarlo bus, or similar but those tend to use a drop just off the motorway and you will have to make your way somehow to Lanciano. We prefer people arrive before 4pm in the day. And hope that people can join us for the duration of the event so not to disrupt the flow. But it is open also if you can only come for the weekend etc.
The event will end with a sweat lodge if we deem that the group is ready. and the whole experience calls for respect and openness for collaboration, because after all we live and work together, and we aim to help people go further into their deepest ability, so please come with that in mind, and with an open spirit.
As part of the new program we are running in Italy for sustainable development we are helping landowners and existing projects to realise their goals.
We have made a list of properties that are half-developed or which we believe are amazingly suitable for the creation of experiential tourism. Because this program we are running is geared towards rural development, its not just about connecting owners and buyers, or finding the best site etc, its about taking a whole area and marketing it, helping it become more developed, finding ways to get people to regenerate it.
Our current phase of the program is focusing on two amazing valleys in the heartland of Abruzzo, the Sangro and the Aventino, both of which are at the foothills of the Majella massif, with dotted medieval villages who aren’t touched by time, lakes (Bomba, and Lago di Casoli), and beautiful nature are what you can expect from this area, to us this is one of the best areas in Abruzzo for slow tourism.
The other day I went on a site survey for one of the properties we are looking to help develop, and as it is so remarkable we decided to feature it separately.
Nesteled in a quiet forest area at the end of the Sangro valley, not far from the touristic destination of Castle di Sangro, we explored this secret pearl, maybe the nicest terrain I’ve seen to date in Italy. In its origins it was the hunting grounds for an Italian baron, so its one of the case barronale you can find dotted in areas of extreme natural beauty, the gentry in Italy used to own spots they would retire to for sport, and nature, and this is such a spot.
It comprises of 7 hectares of open meadow with ancient oaks, the landscape reminds one of an English estate rather than an Italian one, there are further 3 hectares of land of forest.
The property was bought as a project that has never been completed, and the large historic villa was sold separately, although it too can be bought separately if of interest.
The site location is also very special, because although Abruzzo is an amazing land to discover, its mountain villages and town are usually little on the abandoned side, but Castle di Sangro boasts an endless stream of tourism, mainly because it is so close to the ski area of Roccaraso and because it lies on the valley bottom. Some of the local hotels are booked all year round and that is with 100 rooms or more, very unusual for Abruzzo.
A project to develop the site was already in place and received planning permissions – it comprises a main two-story restaurant and rooms for staying overnight, the building is of log cabin construction. A further and separate building that was meant to be used as a bar, and two wooden sheds or barns for horses etc.
Another advantage of this site, is that the owner is a log cabin builder, and he works very closely with an architect that already knows all the ins and outs of this property, one who already applied for planning for the site, this means that the long open-ended period of planning permissions and finding a builder to realise the project are already taken care of, and so even if the current project is not what you have in mind for your own site, anything else can be realised.
We love this site and feel it is by far the best opportunity we have seen so far in Abruzzo for a top end glamping site in nature. Having us onboard also means that an array of structure makers, from yurts to cabins, hot tubs and sauna are also available to choose from at discounted prices. Contact us to find out the price and more and hope you too will love this project. We can email the old planning permission and structure plans too for you to consider.
We promised some exciting new plans for this year, and we have been working hard. We spent a lovely sun-bathed day putting a new yurt up in Pianella, Abruzzo for a beautiful new campsite. This campsite is owned by one of our clients in the UK, so it was funny seeing two yurts going up at the same time in two different countries and symbolic in a way for where we are taking the Heartland rural development program, as a land bridge between the UK and the continent, sprouting new projects and sustainable rural development.
We are attempting to steer Glamping into a new direction in earnest, and this is how the Heartland program was born. Being one of the main structure providers in the UK, has put us in a central position to influence our campsite clients and learn from them. This innovative program is running parallel now both in Italy and in the UK. We started working with landowners, Estates, and small holdings on creating a new type of campsite, with sustainable development at heart. Kerry Roy who has become a good friend is a really good example, and we believe in her! She is the rising star of Glamping, everything this woman touches turns into gold, so keep your eyes peeled for her new Italian retreat centre! She manages the successful Camp Katur in the UK too.
It was fun seeing yurts we made by Volunteers and in some of the transformational events we run, go up over the same week in two different countries.
As Italy is a waking market where Glamping is concerned, it has given us time to reflect and design things from the ground up, and what has started as a project aimed to build our own campsite in the mountains of Abruzzo has turned into something much bigger. We now run a full service for people wanting to set up campsites in Italy and have a list of properties we hand-pick that are gorgeous and perfect for this type of venture. We have also chosen some of the most beautiful structure providers with saunas, tents and more, alongside some local log cabin builders etc and of course let us not forget our own unique tents. This is a program that takes new owners, especially people from the UK by the hand through all the rigmaroles of setting up a newly sustainable campsite in Italy. But the success of this program has also brought up some questions for us because we work mainly in the UK.
We asked ourselves why don’t we do the same for rural areas in the UK, help land-owners and investors into a new program of rural development, help the large profile of campsites we work with move into a more sustainable route, and so the Heartland program is now coming to the UK too! Into a big and well-proven industry. So if you are a land-owner or someone wanting to set up a new site contact us for more details. If you want to take your new site along a more sustainable route we have a plug-in model that has been proven, but its also a way we can really give back to rural areas, to help preserve history and tradition, bring personal development and transformational events in integration with small scale country living.
In the meantime here are some nice photos of our yurt going up in Italy.
Three years ago I have planted some Za’atar (Origanum syriacum) in the land we have in Italy, this is a native plant in Israel and the surrounding countries it is also the main ingredient in the Za’atar spice, made with sesame seeds and ground sumac. However, as we have been talking about our latest inspiration with food and rural development strategies this time I would like to go on a little journey into Italian food.
We All love pesto, originally a paste from Genova made with Pecorino cheese and pine nuts, Basil, garlic and olive oil. However like many things on our table, we make pesto from whatever herb grows plenty, so Thyme, Oregano, and even Rosemary. Instead of pine nuts, we use whatever nut is in the cupboard. Walnut is a good choice although it can add a little bitterness, Brazil is also a great choice, but as those don’t grow locally I prefer walnut after all the trees are just a little walk away, and so are almonds (although in this case, they came from the bag in cupboard which is quite local to the kitchen).
So back to our thread, in tonight’s cooking blog entry I would like to explore a very simple and potent mix, and what we think now is actually, the best Pesto.
We started with a load of Za’atar herb, at this time of year it has a strong new growth, usually I like to transplant a lot of the herbs by using cuttings, but at times one of the bushes does so well, and using it in teas doesn’t do it enough justice, because the amount exceeds what we can consume fresh. Although come summer we make pesto every third day, if you prefer Basil all you need to do is plant a few plants and keep picking the top leaves only, each leaf will sprout into two new ones so your plant will never go into seed and turn into a mighty bush, at least until winter comes.
Here is the recipe –
100g of fresh picked Za’atar herb, (you can use Oregano if you can’t get any because you live in northern Europe, although it is like 20% of the strength).
100g of organic Almonds (this makes for a sweet counteraction to the intensity of the Za’atar)
100g of Pecorino cheese (I prefer Sardinian mature pecorino to the Abruzzen ones, although at times you can find a really good homemade one locally).
Olive oil – We use the local veriaties of Intosso and la Gentile most as they are strong and flavourful and those are the trees we have locally.
3 cloves of garlic (you may want to use less if you don’t like it to strong) I prefer the local red garlic of Sulmona, as we grow it in the garden.
To make the pesto put all the ingredients, but starting with the nuts and herb only, in a strong blender, we have an omniblend V. Having now owned it for 5 years we use it daily, it’s good enough to make flour out of grain so the nuts aren’t a problem for it. Once it is all mixed till its a paste you add olive oil, garlic, and the cheese, at this point if your blender isn’t strong its motor has just burned out!, which is a shame as we can not make balck chickpea Humous or even Falafel (also known as blender killer).
This is a short way to making a great dinner because it takes all of 5m, and if you are a pasta lover you can simply cook a great pasta and serve with pesto only.
For the pasta part we use Ancient grain pasta. This time we used senatoricappeli. It’s not as ancient a grain as the Solina or Saragolla we love, but it is considered one of the highest quality “granoduro” for pasta. You can maybe be lucky and taste it at a good Italian restaurant in London, but here in Abruzzo we actually see it as the lesser grain, because it was crossed to produce its characteristics. Where the Solina is an older grain, and the Saragolla traces its origins to one of the earliest the Khureshan wheat (it’s Egyptian) and was supposedly brought over to the area by Bulgarians, hence its name meaning yellow grain, but it made for a better picture than hand made pasta.
For sauce we threw a simple red sauce, Italians maintain that one shouldn’t bother with fresh tomatoes, and they simply use Passata, we only buy organic ones, and although I do prefer fresh tomatoes, to do it justice one has to peel the skins off, and as this is all done already in the bottle and the seeds are sieved its a no brainer for a quick meal. If you start from fresh this could be a great way to say your tomato seeds, I just peel, blend and sieve in that case, or if you prefer having bits you can just peel and cook.
I prefer leeks to onions, and for the best pasta sauce I use an old Jewish Italian method that adds the onion (leeks in this case) only after the sauce, it is sweeter that way. I love using rosemary and I use a lot in pasta sauce, but that is also because I need to keep using as much as the bushes give us. You can add some green like broccoli heads (cima di rapa) or similar. Cook it until it runs thick, I don’t like to overcook it, but the rosemary is my guide in this case and I cook until the dryish herb becomes soft and one with the sauce.
Before we leave this meal there is another part that completes a good recipe. Or rather its a way of cooking, so if growing your own food and inventing dishes out of your favorite herbs and cereals isn’t enough, there is a secret ingredient that is the most important in my opinion, and that is conscious cooking. Although the name may be a little confusing, as it makes it sounds like some new age thing that goes well with yoga, it isn’t. But I call it that because its under that name that I was taught it, the idea is that everything is connected, and cooking is an alchemical act, conscious cooking is a lot about feeling, or the alchemy of only putting in the food what is meant to go there.
When I teach it to others I get asked if I mean cooking with love, I don’t. Conscious cooking is the act of being aware when cooking, It is done by trying to feel or sense all the feelings you actually feel at that moment so they don’t slip by and end in the dinner and get eaten by everyone, because most of the feelings we go through should not really be served to others, the same goes to thinking. In my opinion, it is best to simply not think at all when cooking. But if you already are thinking (we seem to not be able to stop) try and stay in touch with it, and don’t start “running it” into the dinner. There is a more advanced part, its about feeling all the feelings in the space even those which aren’t yours and saving the food from them too, but this may be too farfetched for most so lets keep sweet.
Now, I agree that once you master the basics and you can hold it, and if you have a flow of love you can add it to the mix, but I would prefer someone who is angry yet holding their feelings to cook my dinner most days. This is the basic law, it is hard to explain what feeling your feelings in full actually means, but whilst cooking this is the method I follow. Sometimes when I feel like I have a free hand and I can be creative I use consciousness as an ingredient itself, in that way you can actually choose what effect your dinner will produce in others, and I don’t just mean taste here. I had a great friend who I taught this method to, she used it on a guy she liked. She was so good she only needed to make him a cup of coffee and he fell totally in love with her, it’s not that she wasn’t the falling In love sort of material, she was. Its the magic she put in while making coffee, so you get the idea, and we should leave it at that.
So here is the best Pesto Recpie, the best pasta in London (but only one of the better ones in Abruzzo), and the secret to making guys fall in love with you through coffee.
My inspiration currently is food, I’m getting really excited about the connection between old vegetables, cereal and legumes and a way of life that is being forgotten. Like you probably already know we do a lot of work in Italy with sustainable tourism. My current hero though is an American chef called, sean brock.
Hence the title (I stole it from him) – he revived the culinary traditions of the American south from the ground up, that is what I find exciting claiming them back before it disappearnd it’s too late. He didn’t just recreate the recipes which he had loved growing up, he went as far as getting people to grow old grains that were extinct, like Carolina rice, in a search after the real taste. I sometimes play with the idea of running a restaurant like that or having a company called “Real Tastes”, finding the real foods that aren’t grown anymore, growing them and making food for people from them. If you end up at my kitchen table that’s the game I play almost every day, and I think everyone should.
What excites me about all of this is creating a way to take people into another layer, into an experience. Into the well being of the past, into the rich taste of real stripey tomatoes, black chickpeas. I mean, seriously wherever you live there have been veg, cereal pulse, cheeses, all grown or made in certain ways for hundreds of years, and it’s worth reaching for that taste, finding that old way of being, and weaving it into your life.
What I like about Sean Brook’s work is that he went after taste the wholesome way, and that inspires me. We have been working with cultivating some old Italian Varieties for the Heartland Association, mainly wheat, with the queen grain in my view being Solina, the soft and warm mountain grain of Abruzzo. You wait until you taste a homemade pasta made with this grain (don’t freak out if you can’t find any, just send us an email and we can get some sent to you).
I love taking our volunteers and getting them to help plant the fields, grow grain, harvest it by hand with us, plant herbs and gardens, and I love teaching them about conscious cooking, and the art of Alchemy in food.
I am not joking you, eating from your garden is one thing, but eating ancient grains that have been grown in the mountains of central Italy for thousands of years, and getting people to learn how to cook them with magic, eating them with veg and pulses that too have molded to the people and the land over a millennia and simply sitting in front of the fire and letting all of that go in…. it’s like what the locals say about olive oil, “it’s not food, its medicine”. The olives are not only not sprayed, for the better part they have not even been picked for years, seeing no man, but the air and water are pure, and so you end up with – sun, stone. solitude, and silence, as is the olive tree lore.
The thing that inspires me, in all of that, is creating an experience. I am working on a new model for sustainable tourism, and developing a new type of campsite experience, and I want to make the Alchemy of conscious cooking one of its main pillars.
Along with all of that, I believe its time we take Glamping, as it’s called, into another direction, I don’t appreciate that it has become this Instagram sort of experience, I want it to be real, I want to combine 4 elements in the campsites we work to create. We already covered food, the second is obviously, open unspoiled nature, the third is the structures themselves, and I have always preferred the tribal ones, although I have seen some amazing spaces that inspire me in other directions. You can inspire people in so many ways by taking them into a setting. I loved staying at the Albergo Diffuso (scattered hotel, as in, it’s not just one building but half of the old village) of Sextantio in North of Abruzzo, it’s like living in an untouched medieval hilltown – the whole feel is 15th century, the houses are untouched and all done in an old way, the restaurant is in a castle cellar, it allows one to drift into another place, to dream..
The fourth pillar is inner work. My volunteers make me laugh a lot (even if I make them cry in return) but together we have made experiments in group conscious work, I am their guinea pig and they are mine, and for a spell, we experiment together in another way of being. The setting is wild Abruzzo and you can feel the old Samnite pastoral nomads walking their sheep in the air, and so we too let go and find different ways. I let them explore consciousness and they let me take them to places they haven’t been before, and we keep the process open and shared. We also run events that take people into this process on a deeper layer, and so this fourth element is the one I deem most important. A lot of it is allowing people to share more, and putting things in the centre, but the connection to weather and body and how everything communicates with itself is also important. One of the things that happen when we host for example is that it always rains when new people come, it’s like a rule, we will be enjoying months of Italian sunshine and…. boom, a newcomer and a storm. Explain it to a 21-year-old?!, but the thing is that some of them get it, so much so they kind of control the weather afterwards, so if you end up seeing some really strange weather, it isn’t climate change, it’s one of our volunteers on a wild day, Ok I’m just joking.
I’ve seen our workers become telepathic, and all it took is putting them into the group making process, living in nature, and sharing life together in a tribal setting, they wake up at 4 am in different tents going through the same thing, later they go back living in separate countries and the same thing happens, its like for a spell they are still connected, yet after a while the spell (usually) fades.
I would like to develop this whole system into the campsites we design and work with, that’s what excites me, a framework and experience from the ground up. Lucy is also a fountain of ideas, she has endless experience types, and how to tailor them around a business plan and she makes me really laugh at some of the ideas of what she would like to see in a campsite/retreat experience.
So this is our current focus – we have started designing a whole new type of experience, and its code is going back to wholesome, to the food grown in a locality, to its history and tradition. The magic of being together in nature. I feel quite amazed that somehow all I need to do is choose a new direction and life finds me the people to work with, and suddenly there is this flow of people asking for our help to design their campsites. And here was me thinking we went against the “Glamping” stream, in that we always push for sustainability and back to earth practices. I thought most people just want to turn their campsite into a money-making machine, but I was wrong, and people find us exactly for that, so in order to help, I thought I would write the basics down, good ideas should be shared openly. I can’t say it will be a good idea for everyone but it inspires me, before it’s too late.
With 2019 at the doorstep, we wanted to share some history with a view to a more sustainable future so in the last days of 2018 I would like to look at some of the history of nomadic tents in the UK, and the role the Alternative movement played in introducing another way of life.
My Story starts when I decided to leave mainstream society and travel. Yet before I had even managed to immerse myself into a traveling lifestyle, I met a different kind of destination. I was Born In Israel and going to my second meeting of world travelers, taking place in a forest by the hills near Jerusalem I have met another type of travel, a journey of awareness, I have met a group of people who practiced group consciousness work in that gathering and so just as I was about to take my first nomadic steps, those were entwined with consciousness work.
The following year, having fallen in love with an amazing Sardinian girl and spending the winter in Italy, I have decided to go to another European meeting of travelers. I and that girl have separated during the winter and we agreed to meet in the mountains of Portugal. When I got to the gathering, I met instead, the very same members of that group. The same two people who came to Israel the year before have greeted me just as I arrived, it seemed as if they were waiting for me. I say I traveled for love, as I used to call that Sardinian girl my true love (sometimes I still do), But the point is that destiny had another thing in mind for me, so I traveled for love, but I got the spirit instead, and so I entered the medicine area they were running as a service for the gathering. We treated the sick, and we worked with the healthy. It was a gathering of 3000 people so there was very little time to rest.
It was 96′ and the alternative scene and the traveling world were very different to what they are today. People used to really live on the road, groups like Spiral tribe worked trans into magic. One of our cases was a girl from the spiral tribe who had kidney failure, and the drama around her healing, and the rest of her friends and some of the strange magic that issued when they tried to take her away, were beyond anything I’ve seen, she ended up almost dying and we had to start her treatment from the beginning, but we mostly worked on ourselves while treating others, the biggest changes took place in us, a younger group of people being taught another path.
I have spent 3 months working with that group holding the medicine area for the larger gathering, in the course of that process everything changed, I have been transformed forever. I was taught psychic abilities I dont even know how to write about, and I have witnessed miracles. I left that gathering a changed person, or you may say even, that on leaving that gathering I ceased to exist as myself, There was no continuity, the person I was before had very little to do with what I became.
But the thing I want to speak about in this entry is the work itself, not the medicine work that was carried, but the journey of awareness that a group of young people took under the guidance of the members of the medicine area. A theme that was really strong in that gathering was the separate “medicines” of the different races, many people have heard about the teaching of Native Americans, or their way of life, maybe fewer know of the Chinese esoteric system, and the same for African magical belief systems. Those are the 4 races: the white, the yellow, the red and the black. It seemed to me that what we were working out was the medicine of the white race, the medicine it has lost because unlike all other races it did not seem to have its own esoteric belief system. We wer not just treating symptoms, we aimed to tackle the symptom of modern day preception altogether, to open up the western frame of mind, and the experiment succeeded in us.
In that gathering in Portugal we have found the key, by attempting a mass shift of awareness in the general Gathering goers, we also opened up our individual awarenesses. The secret tool so to speak is that by breaking the boundaries of separation within oneself one can take them down in others around. Things like Telepathy, thought forms moving into the manifest, weather control through feeling, and a host of other things, were made available to us, a small group of young people who never had a clue.
You may ask how is this relevant for the here and now, or even where this story is even going. This story is a sort of insight into the alternative movement, and the secrets that it explored. The problem with secrets is that they are not normally shared. All of us that have been there have certain issues talking about what we experienced in the open. We often get psychological profiling or shunned, or even because we do not want to frighten people, so we end up never talking about it. This story is an attempt to point out that parts of the traveling scene and the alternative movement, or you may call it the new age traveler scene had discovered something monumental.
The group that has taught us were all from the UK. it was now a year later, and after a spell of living back in Israel alone, and the atomic meltdown that this group suffered as a consequence of what they attempted to do, I found myself following the call for a working partner, It was as if I reached enlightenment, yet I was alone, more alone than I have ever been, because now I was also different to anyone I knew, I seemed to have been transformed on a really deep level.
I traveled to Scotland to take part in another gathering, in that gathering I have met most of the younger group that we with me in medicine area, we were all young and none of us really knew how to process the experience or even talk about it, I guess we suffered from a post-traumatic syndrome, yet because we all traveled no one really had time to reflect and arrive at some resolutions.
I’m getting back to the motive behind this blog post now, and that is that in that gathering I met a woman, she was very tall, and she used to walk around with a brown woolen Jallabyia from Morroco, she walked barefoot in the mud and she played her violin by the fire, but what struck me most about her is the way she lived, and the tribe she belonged to from Tipi Valley (a land-based community in Wales with people living mostly in tipis) . In great contrast to the rest of that gathering where the travelers couldn’t deal with the wet wood, the midgies and smoke, they lived in a proud big tipi. Kids were running around a massive fire, and big iron skillets and pots were cooking food for all to share, whilst it felt like the rest of the gathering couldn’t deal with the harsh Scottish weather, those guys were at home, and that home, was a tent.
Here was a group that actually lived on the land year round, I fell in love with her as you may have already gathered, yet in my personal story, there is still another story, the story of the impersonal, the story of the Alternative movement. Traveling later to Tipi Valley in order to “kidnap” her so to speak from the “Indians”, in some sort of modern tribal act, and traveling the world together, we ended up coming back to live there. Bit by bit, the rest of the younger group from Portugal have followed suit and we lived in a sort of fusion of two core elements of the alternative scene, the medicine tribe, and the tipi people: The marriage of the sacred and the profane.
like I said, we rarely hear about the contribution of the new age traveler scene, people who left their lives to travel like gypsies, living in benders and tipis on the land (this was before yurts were integrated), at best we hear some personal stories of magic and mystery, but more likely we usually hear of tales of failed protest and broken communities, so it is not really understood what this flare did, and where it guided mainstream society, its members now live in the terraced flat next door.
It is said that the new age traveler scene was a bricolage of beliefs with an affiliation with the oppressed, which is a good observation. So in order to shed a little light on its contribution and to share some of its core truths, I felt like I needed to write about the past. To touch a little on what we were trying to achieve, what we explored: a new way of life that had community and magic in its core. The long crystal clear nights of winter when snow lay on your tipi, and big beech fires were the only way to warm up, kids running into the stream and coming out blue from the cold, yet smiling. There is a story in Tipi Valley that Archie Lame deer came to visit when he was traveling in Europe, He told the people of Tipi Valley that they are truer to the Indian way of life than most Indians.
I belonged to the medicine people, and the woman I lived with, to the tent people. In coming together we attempted to bring those two families into one, bring them home, into a vision of living the medicine on the land. Though after a few years, the amount of profane in the community we lived it conflicted with the sacred, or you may say we have not reached a balance of the two.
So this little family, the small tribe we were part of inside the larger community of tipi people left and started a strange life in trucks on the road, looking for a place we can root the medicine work in the land. There are endless magical stories of travel and community in that period too, the guy who brought us together in Portugal 96′ used to call it “Transfusion”, because we were coming together as a community on the road, fusing in movement.
Having touched on some of those subjects, not so much in order to showcase, or even reveal, but as an attempt to remind us all about the role of the alternative movement and the lives it led in search for meaning, and touching a little on my journey in order to give this impersonal story a personal touch, I am trying to point out that the tents we make, the life we try to direct others into, are a result of some larger truth, the medicine way of the White race, the alternative.
Years have gone by now, and those alternative truths have been blended and watered down into the mainstream, its a sort of trade-off that we as the people who lived them underwent too in most cases. It is often argued that Margaret Thatcher killed of the new age traveling scene, but I think that as a movement it simply didn’t have a clear vision, kids were born that wanted to go to school and trying to stand tall in protest, made it clear that the alternative scene didn’t really have anything to protest about, it came out of mainstream society and it got swallowed back into it, and the tradeoff of that lifestyle resulted in us making tents or teaching alternative lifestyles as courses, and it also gave birth to Glamping, a whole new industry, our friends run festivals, wedding hires, its as if the lifestyle got distilled into the everyday, and we have those people living in tents to thank for that, them and their love for the natural, for the tribal.
I say it was a trade-off because on some level we would have preferred to stay poor and live those two realities, we would have preferred to bring that marriage of medicine and tent living into a meaning of its own. But in a strange way, we sold off a part of the sacred so we can find a way to live in the profane. Now we all have tent making businesses, and we hold Glamping sites, yet we feel like we are selling a part of the magic instead of bringing it about in full form, as if we are selling ourselves in every tent we make, selling our fire, the tears that we cried by them, or worst still, we feel like the core issue is always missed, that we sell the tent without the lifestyle, as if we bring many others into the community without ever sharing the magic, that we took part in, the secret we hold.
Maybe its also an attempt to remind us all about what all those tents are really about, and the small tribes of nomads who left a normal life in order to live in them, they were not Indians the grew up in London and Bristol. We understand that this new leisure industry and its success isn’t just another way of holidaymaking, it is built on the lives of people who fought to make a difference, and maybe if you end up in one of those tents, you could somehow trace it to the Transfusion that we went through in them. So behind our tents, there is also a secret love story, with another way of living, and that is the one I wish we could really share.
But enough with all the nostalgia. As its winter I like to reflect, to look ahead at new visions and we have been making some exciting new plans, yet before we launch into them I thought some History would help us all to reflect, and remember why this love affair we have with tents, why has this alternative now a million pound industry, I wanted to share some of its magic, and meanings.
If you have canvas tents or are thinking of getting some, you need to know something about canvas care as well as looking after tents in general. Some site owners avoid tents because of the maintenance – one should remember that they are tents after all and you can’t just put them up and not think about them when the Weather Gods are playing or let them sit unheated through the winter. If you want something with lower maintenance, best go for something more solid like a hut but personally, I think the romance, beauty and simplicity of nomadic tents, such as tipis and yurts, is well worth the effort.
Looking up in a tipi
So canvas…first I would advise you NOT go for cheap canvas however tempting it seems. A lot of the imported Mongolian yurts are made from a heavy canvas which is made for the dry climate of Mongolia but doesn’t adapt well to damp European climates and the canvas will quickly leak. Our main work is making yurt covers, and have re-covered many a Mongolian yurt barely in its infancy.
Sewing yurt covers
The usual canvas used in the UK is 12oz FWR (flame, water and rot-proofed) poly/cotton, Before 2007 it was cotton that was more popular, but the rot-proofing agent used in the proofing was banned, so a new one was used which was actually water-soluble! It meant that there was a batch of bad canvas around that time and we heard horror stories of canvas rotting after a year. Although a new rot-proofing agent was developed, the industry had moved into poly/cotton as it is more rot-resistant and stronger, with 50% polyester content it’s really a game changer.
It’s hard to say how long canvas lasts as it depends on many factors, so we don’t offer any guarantee on its life, but if looked after, one can expect 5-7 years for a tent left up all year. One consideration in pitching your tents is the choice of location. If pitched under trees, the canvas gets dirty from falling leaves and the run-off from tree sap and this can contribute to it perishing. Trees to be extra careful of are pine and willow. Also, obviously, if pitched in the shade the canvas doesn’t dry out so quickly and generally in the UK, the damp is more damaging than UV (although this summer has challenged that trend!) In hotter climates, such as Southern Europe the UV exposure continent, damages the cotton element of the canvas so it is worth thinking about alternatives to poly/cotton (see below about acrylic canvas).
Our Yurt and tipi garden in Israel
Next …general maintenance… we recommend reproofing the canvas once a year which can greatly increase its longevity. Before reproofing one should clean the canvas with a soft brush and warm water, no soap, no scrubbing, no pressure washing, but as long as you reproof the canvas well it should be OK. Remember that any cleaning will remove some of the proofing. (Obviously, white canvas shows the dirt and mould more than other colours, so many of our customers, when replacing yurt covers are choosing to replace white covers with darker colours, such as sand).
Reproofing is usually done with a paint-on solution when the tent goes up for the season – various products are available, but mostly only contain waterproofing and rotproofing agents. Recently the FWR proofing solution used by the manufacturers themselves has become available. (We can supply this at manufacturers cost). We have heard stories of tent covers being sent to professional cleaners, who have little experience of canvas and come back unproofed and sometimes perished although there are now companies who can clean and reproof for you.
Another consideration in canvas care is if the tents are left standing through the winter, they should be heated at least every few days, usually with a wood-burning stove (or open fire in a tipi) and, if the tents are not being used, they should be taken down when the canvas is bone dry and packed somewhere dry and rodent free. The summer before last we had a mice invasion on our site in Italy and we were surprised to discover that the mice chose to eat through the proofed canvas of the yurts rather than the wool blankets and mattresses inside. No accounting for taste. (Troubleshooting rodents and creepy-crawlies is for another chapter).
More yurt covers
There is a common perception that cottons are more ‘natural’ than synthetic fabrics, but people forget that they are proofed with chemicals. Our customers are choosing to go for acrylic fabrics as an alternative to poly/cotton as, although much more expensive, it is a better investment longterm, it greatly outlasts the poly/cotton as it doesn’t rot and it’s also stronger. The acrylic proofing isn’t in a coating but in the thread itself, thus doesn’t need reproofing the same way. It is a woven fabric so looks almost identical to the poly/cotton, yet feels nicer to touch and stays clean and new looking for much longer.
Acrylic canvas wedding pavillion
We are Spirits Intent, expert makers of nomadic tents and specialists in the canvas side of things, call on us if you need any advice on canvas or need new covers for your structures.
Its been a little while since I had time to sit down and write, with the event of brexit looming, and our work in conjunction with the Heartland Association in Italy there has been little time.
Europe has been thrown into disarray, for all of us with homes and businesses in the UK the event of brexit seems somewhat plucked out of a horror movie, so we chose this moment to bring a ray of hope into the future.
We have been busy working out a new model, its sustainable tourism, although some things have been written about it before its largely a new field. Having worked in the the Glamping industry with some of the best campsites in the UK, and after those years of using those methods for rural innovation in marginal areas in central Europe (mainly Italy) we felt its time we bring this into fruition. We have developed a model for sustainable tourism that allows us to develop a small holding together with the owners to create the perfect equilibrium of life in the country.
Working on the European mainland in rural abandoned areas, really made us reinvent glamping into this little gem. The idea is novel because it takes our experience of 15 years, having spoken and worked with over 300 (I just made the number up as its hard to keep track how many campsites and private people we worked with) different enterprises, we now developed a sort of “silent engine”, a model for a small green havens in the country. The focus here is not only to create a sustainable sort of tourism for the client. The idea is to create a lifestyle business that allows one to live in the countryside with a steady flow of income, eating organically grown foods and offering local farms and obviously ones guests a point for cultural meeting, instead of having to run a glamping site that means you are running to keep your business running, we formulated the best investment ratios, the number of tents per site, and the best cultural exchange from our years of experience.
So how does this work? SIMPLY. This new model is based on allowing one to come back to nature, we have synthesised all the that is good in a glamping business, and tailored it for a small site, offering the guests an unforgettable experience, whilst offering the hosts a lifestyle that is sustainable. The model calls for the cultivation of small organic parcel of land directly on ones site. Sure not every smallholding has that type of terrain that is suitable, but its rare one can not grow anything, even if its in a polytunnel.
small scale sustainable tourism
Second this small site becomes a small hub for the local community, offering organically grown foods from neighbouring farms. In Italy having to work within the agriturismo system it is actually a law that food served must be locally sourced. We have found out it works as an amazing way to set up small havens of health and good food, allowing the site to become a small farm shop selling products that support the locals growing organic food and animal products. Now this small site is a little hub in the community, and you the potential owner a little local hero, making circular economy that supports what is important, in a sustainable way.
The next phase is opening up that special hospitality that allows people to come out of the city and enjoy your site, to live alongside you for a period. Here, to keep things ticking in the right balance we have used our experience of 15 years working with campsites, we know what business plans are likely to work, which ones are likely to end up as a headache, the idea is not to be running after the business anymore, its about letting it allow you to live that quiet life you chose to begin with. We came up with the right structures that are made either directly by us, or by a small group of selected companies we feel deliver the perfect product.
In Italy because this type of venture is new we enjoy the benefit of working with some of the best names in the business, we are acting as agents for some of those. But now we have decided to open up this program to everyone, to help others moving abroad into the mainland, either as a life choice, or because Brexit may mean being land locked in the UK, not that we think its really an eventuality but who knows, so we run this program now in other countries, focusing on southern and central Europe but not only.
Back in the UK, we want to take all those points to help focus on a new type of rural development, we have seen so many of our clients try and battle their life style with running a small business, so much so that we decided to take the Heartland Association model and introduce it in the UK too, Glamping in the UK has turned into a monster, its an enormous economy, and while it still does what it says on the can, very often the owners of glamp sites end up losing the initial spark, and the whole industry ends money orientated instead of helping people to live happily in balance, what matters here is size of site, the correct structures used, the exchange with the guests. But more than all the role the site has in the larger scale of things, in the local rural community, we see those work best as small havens of social innovation, with high end quality food farmed directly at km zero, and so each site becomes a local centre for well being, bringing health back into rural areas, supporting a good and healthy lifestyle without the constant headaches for its owners (believe me this is a constant issue) and so it takes going back to nature into every aspect of its operation. Like that we feel we can finally give Glamping as an industry back its role for saving our countryside in a sustainable way.
Working abroad as a non profit we have found a richness we never knew existed, the farmers in Italy have grown ancient wheat grains with us, made organic olive oils, we developed up our own site, learned about working with groups of volunteers and much more, now we have bundled it all up into a package we can offer new or existing sites, from business plans to gardening ideas, we have developed a network of small tent makers that can offer maintenance and support with your structures, but the best part is that we now have small stocks of ancient grains and other products we have come in contact with in Italy, this small producer of top quality foods, and believe me it really is a whole other world of taste and quality, so at this time of fractions, where the UK is thinking of tearing itself apart from Europe, we instead are building a bridge, reminding us all what is important and what is good, the richness that we all have available and how we can all use and enjoy it in a way that builds it further.
The theory of diffusion of innovation as was told to us by one of our recent volunteers maintains that new ideas are hard to bear fruit, we know that, he worked with farmers in Zambia, trying to teach them new ways to farm and commercialise, he says you will see one person take to it, and years later maybe their neighbours would follow but its not really linear.
So we guess this sort of program isnt everyones cup of tea. people dont really know what they are getting to when they set a glamping site up, people arent really aware of the reality of the dream of living in the country side. This program is our extract of all that is good in sustainable tourism, and we offer it to you as a package in which you get –
15 years of experience tailored to your own site. So the perfect ratio of glamping structures to site running ability (so you dont have to be employing staff).
Our experience of structures for Hospitality, be it yurts, safari tents or cabins, we can figure out with you the best return on investment.
Full business plan including a design in setting up your farming or gardening parcel of land to feed yourself and your guests.
A list of social innovation ideas to make sure your site operates as a hub of local transformation, creating circular economy.
Being part of a network we have created of small producers and manufactures offering amazing organic food products, and obviously glamping structure solutions.
A selection of operating possibilities to minimise your need for a big starting investment, things like rent to buy, franchising etc, we have come up with a few possibilities to help new sites into this program.
There is obviously more, this program is a fruit of our work in promoting sustainable tourism in the mainland, especially in central Italy, with the heartland association we aim to work with new sites on the mainland, but now we are opening this program back in the UK too. because we feel its time we all help the Glamping industry take back a course towards sustainability as we feel it is losing its direction with a greed it developed.
This isn’t a yurt related post – it’s about the rule of sustainable development. As you may be aware we are developing a site in the mountainous region of Abruzzo, the land that God forgot about, but the fact he forgot about it doesn’t mean he didn’t love it when he made it, because Abruzzo has been blessed with it all.
Sustainable Rural development is a key word right now – Italy has been too forgotten: the election earlier on this month has shook the country, in fact it shook the whole of Europe, as more than 50% of the vote went to fringe parties. The power, you may say is going back to the people, Italy has grown so tired of bureaucracy and the biggest winner was the 5 star movement, trying to take down the establishment and start new initiatives like circular government, lower taxes and even to pay each citizen a salary. It is headed by Beppe Grillo the comedian.
The 5 star Grillo
But it’s another Grillo that is the real star of this post and it’s not a person but a machine, a 14 horse power motocoltivatore (as its called in Italy) and this is why we are going to talk about it a little, because alongside everything we are hoping to introduce to Central Italy, like ecotourism, there are some things we think Italy should introduce to the rest of Europe. Italy has become a world leader in small tractors and special terrain machinery, tractors that have been developed to suit a sustainable farming tradition, small plots worked by hand driven tractors, like our famous grillo, and tracked tractors which are suitable for mountain terrain. It’s this small scale production that we believe is the thing that may save Europe.
Those small cultivators are adaptable to a myriad of uses: pumps, small ploughs, grass cutters, they even are coupled to small propelled trailers to transport the old farmers about. It’s this small scale life style that is the real jewel of Central and southern Europe, a lifestyle that is disappearing, but it’s exactly the way we see development. We talk a lot about organic farming with locals, but sometimes driving around the small villages, I’m amazed, because with all the innovation we seek to introduce here, I look at the way they cultivate and realise that they actually have it all: they grow all their own food at times, from olives for oil, grain for pasta and bread, to tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Each old house has an orchard of fruit trees: figs and mulberry, lemon and orange, grapes for wine. It’s a self sustainable lifestyle driven by our famous Grillo, they don’t need a 5 star movement – their rebellion is a minimalism, their answer to progress, is to use machinery on a mini scale, and keep it small.
With the disaster that is modern farming methods, with the health hazard that modern wheat has become (i’m not joking but eating bread from modern wheat is like killing yourself by disintegrating your gut – read here), so this country we have come to sustainably redevelop, has actually taught us its’ old ways, and we hope those will take root elsewhere, as the mainstream for real farming, a sustainable living.
The model is very simple – you don’t need to be successful in a business to buy your dream home to retire in. Your home can be a relationship with the land, you live by cultivating organically grown food with minimum machinery, sure you can do it all be hand, but the marvel of small scale machinery means, that with minimal effort you can grow all your own food easily. So instead of becoming more rich and more removed, we decided to go back to the earth, to let Italy teach us about its farming. We aim to start offering Ancient grain from this region for sale (contact us if this is interesting to you) and I didn’t even start talking about the Olive oil, because the in the immediate locality of our site, is a special olive variety called Intosso, or Olive Grande by the locals. It doesn’t produce the highest percentage of oil per weight, but it produces one of the world’s best quality olive oils, a bottle of which can sell for £18 per litre.
So in this time of change in Italy, with Beppe Grillo leading a revolution in politics, and yes Italy does need an overhaul, but MY vote is for that other Grillo, the real motor behind sustainable development, and its called minimalism, live within your means.
The things that people ask me at first is ‘ Why do you live in a yurt?’ Closely followed by…. ‘What’s it like?’
Well, first let me introduce myself.
I am a 40 year old woman who is Mum to 2 boys ages 8 and 6. My husband is called Mike.
We used to live in a nice house in Bristol, UK and realised that we were missing the children’s childhoods and working too hard to pay for it all.
One day, Mike suggested that we sell the house and travel round the world. I thought he was joking at first. Within a few months we sold the house, took the children out of school and set off with a one-way ticket on the trip of a lifetime.
On 2 October 2015 we flew to Indonesia and made our way around South East Asia, employing a strategy called ‘World schooling’ where children lead their education, sparked by curiosity of the world around them. We climbed mountains in the Himalayas and snorkelled with sharks in Belize. We scaled the Grand Canyon and camped on a beach amongst wild kangaroos in Australia.
Our trip was immense, hard work and awesome in every sense of the word. Increasingly though, our thoughts turned to when- and if, we should return home. We missed our family and friends and being part of a community. Most of all we DIDN’T want to fall back into the trap of working to pay bills again. Old friends of ours had a smallholding in Wales with a few acres to spare. For years they had suggested we come and live on their mountain. We skyped them from our beach hut and apparently they were serious. We’d split utility bills and the field was ours, if we wanted it.
We looked at converting one of their barns, craning in a container… but we had always loved camping and yurt holidays. Having spent over a year living in the same room and out of 2 backpacks, a yurt would feel palatial.
Mike set about researching yurts and we joined some Facebook groups to talk to people and get an idea of what we’d need to live fairly comfortably. With friends in the festival trade, installing infrastructure into our field was no problem so we focussed on what we needed from the yurt:
A traditional design
as big as possible to fit on the existing platform.
To future proof it, we’d need to get a high wall and roof so we could install a mezzanine for the children to sleep on for a bit of privacy.
Oh, and we wanted an ‘indoor’ toilet.
We ordered our 22’ Turkmen Yurt from Spirits Intent and that was our decision made. Updates on their Facebook page were exciting as we could see our new home being built from the other side of the world.
Mike was clever enough to bag himself a job when we were in Guatemala, so we had a deadline for the yurt build. We had to be moved in so he could start work on the 4 December 2017. After a whirlwind of reunions with our friends and family, we took ourselves to mid Wales on the 24 November as the weather forecast was… ok…We had been chasing the sun for 14 months and I think we had forgotten how harsh British weather could be. Anyway, this was Wales and we needed somewhere to live so we had to get on with it.
Nitsan from Spirits Intent arrived at our friends’ house, hungry and serious. He had been building our yurt with some volunteers and had come to stay the night before- sleeping in his van, to brace us for the hard work that was to come on Build Day. I felt sick with nerves as I heard the wind and rain battering at the house windows. I think the weather forecast for an‘ok’ day might have been optimistic. The whole family pitched in. We tried to ignore the hailstorm and Nitsan showed the youngest how to do a sun dance. Oddly, it seemed to work a bit even just to lighten the mood as we got battered by chunks of ice being hurled at us from the sky.
The trellis was up, the doors and rafters tentatively slid into place. We stopped to warm up with soup and I realise I had lost sensation in most of my body due to the numbing cold. We piled on the layers and the children decided to stay indoors after the rest of it (I couldn’t blame them)
We knew we’d start to lose daylight at about 3pm. So we hurriedly put up the felt insulation and lifted the canvas on with the last ounce of strength we had in us. Tying the fabric to the lattice was painfully slow as I had to cling to the edge of raised platform whilst my hands were frozen by the cold. Nitsan’s rallies of positivity were soothing, as our energy fell to its lowest ebb.
Then, all of a sudden, despite every sort of weather that the Welsh mountainside could throw at us, we had a yurt.
We were soaking wet and exhausted but we had a home all of our own. We waved Nitsan an emotional goodbye, as our team disbanded- the hard work cementing a bond between us.
For the next couple of weeks we worked at sanding the floors, putting in the filtered water, installing a gas boiler, hooking up electric, building a kitchen, digging drainage ditches and laying pathways… lastly we brought in our furniture.
So, what’s life like in the yurt?
The day we moved in our furniture a blizzard came and covered everything in 6 inches of snow. We slept and woke up to a world that was like Narnia.
It looked beautiful but the reality was hard work. The first night the canvas dripped in multiple places as the seams had not had a chance to bed in…. the children were frozen from playing but it was hard to keep them dry and warm. We had no toilet, running water or drainage and icy drops of water falling on our faces when we were in bed.
After the blizzard though, normal Winter feels easy! We have learnt our lessons, dried out, and are enjoying nature as we fall asleep to flicker of the fire, the sound of the river and Barn Owls calling along the valley.
We have found a rhythm and have learnt that with this life, you can take nothing for granted. We wake and start the fire. We have learnt to shower in the evenings when the yurt is warmest and appreciate that hot running water fresh from a mountain spring is a beautiful kind of sorcery. We keep the woodpile well stocked and keep muddy boots by the door. We have very warm duvets and wear lots of layers. We use ratchet straps to tie down the yurt as 80mph winds are quite common here. We empty the composting toilet every week and we have found that the Ultrasonic pest deterrents really work. Yes, we have found droppings amongst our dinner plates and had whole bags of clothes eaten by mice! Never again.
The horses in the field next door come and bray to tell us when the weather is bad and we all enjoy being connected to our surroundings.
There isn’t a day that we don’t open the yurt door and have our breaths taken away at the sight of the mountains around us. Yes, it would be nice to have conveniences like ‘heating’ but the amount we’d have to sacrifice for that just isn’t a price we want to pay.