A Few Thoughts about Circles

Most nomadic tents are circular, the circle being the simplest, stable structure and also arguably the most beautiful, no corners to break up the continuity of curve, and for the energy to get stuck. The Native Americans have a saying that ‘the devil lives in corners’, probably originating when they were forcibly moved out of their tipis, into square stone houses on reservations.

Every time someone enters a yurt for the first time, and I still have this even after 14 years of making them, there is what I call the ‘cathedral moment’, when entering the circular space and the eyes rising to the central roof wheel with the sky opening above.

yurt wheel

And as the late Bill Coperthwaite, the first person to make a yurt in the West, said, “there is something indescribably beautiful about the view from a round window”.

yurt windows

Obviously in yurt-making we work with circle geometry a lot. At the simplest level, we calculate the circumference from the radius or diameter (2πR or πD), and floor surface area (πr2). We work out the spacing of gaps in the wheel based on the number of rafters, size of yurt based on the gaps between the trellis tops and the number of rafters, window placing with numbers on a clock etc (There is a lot of backwards and forwards between metric and imperial measurements as we talk about a 20 ft yurt but work in metric so to get from feet to metres divide by 3.28 and from metres to feet x3.28).

Why do we find circles so inuitively beautiful? In a 1921 study conducted by the Swedish psychologist Helge Lundholm, subjects were asked to draw lines representing a set of emotional adjectives. While angular lines were used to depict adjectives like hard, harsh and cruel, curved lines were the popular choice for adjectives like gentle, quiet and mild.

And what about the deeper beauty? Once upon a long ago there live Euclid, of Ancient Greece (c. 300BC), who was known as the ‘father of geometry’. His treatise ‘Elements’ is one of the greatest works in the history of mathematics, and is a collection of mathematical definitions, theorems, geometrical constructions, and mathematical proofs. In it he defines a circle as:

Definition 15 (abbreviated): ‘A circle is a figure contained by one line (the circumference) such that the length of all the straight lines (the ‘radii’) falling on it from one point (the ‘centre’) equal one another.

This is a definition as beautifully smile (that should have been ‘simple’ but spellcheck gave me ‘smile’ !) as could be, but mathematicians are extremely subtle and rigorous creatures so it should be noted that a definition such that as this describes what circles ARE, but definitions do not guarantee the existence of the things they define. We won’t however be wandering down that pre-existential corridor here.

From this basic definition, using just Euclid’s ruler and compass one can create endless geometrical beauty. The most basic is the equilateral triangle:

Construction of Equilateral Triangle using intersecting arcs

And (once you have constructed a square, also using only ruler and compass – not a trivial thing), we have Square in a Circle. (The lighter lines are construction lines).

Circle Geometry
Square in a Circle

And then Square around a Circle

Circle Geometry
Square around a Circle

And ….

A familiar construction, and ancient symbol, associated with sacred geometry is the seed of life, constructed from overlapping circles, which can be extended infinitely to the flower of life. This symbol has been of particular interest of us as the central structure of our Zodiac Tent, the helix zome, as when looked at from above, you will see the intersecting struts form the flower of life. Here is a blog post from the archives with some references to this.

Seed of Life

Flower of Life

Then, of course we come to the magical number pi, π, originally defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, it now has various equivalent definitions and appears in many formulas in all areas of mathematics and physics.

Most people know:

C=πD or C=2πR

Less well known is the formula for surface area of a sphere:

And Volume of a sphere is given by

The digits of pi are like gazing into the infinite as it is an infinite series, with no apparent pattern. Infinite series have fascinated mathematicians for centuries.

In 2004 an autistic savant by the name of Daniel Tammet set the record for pi memorization, memorizing 22,514 digits in just over 5 hours. A savant is someone with significant mental abilities, far in excess of average. These people are often defined as having a mental ‘disorder’ such as autism, but I think this definition lacks a magical element, that these people are tapping into a much greater psychic field than is usually accessible. He says he sees the numbers as complex, 3-dimensional landscapes, complete with color, texture, emotion and sound and journeying through this inner landscape, unfolding like a beautiful poem is how he memorises the numbers. I am fascinated by these incredible powers but Tammet explains that the differences between savant and non-savant minds have been exaggerated; autistic thought, he argues, is an extreme variation of a kind of highly rich and complex associative form of thinking and imagination, a kind that we we all use, from daydreaming to the use of puns and metaphors …… maybe if the consensual reality wasn’t as it is, and the education system wasn’t such a sausage factory, and the world was oh so different, more of these magical abilities would emerge, and would become a normal occurence. ‘(If anyone is interested in reading books by Daniel Tammet, who is quite a rare savant with extremely advanced abilities, who is able to describe his inner processes, I can recommend ‘Born on a Blue Day’, ‘Thinking in Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning and Math’, and ‘Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind’).

The circle represents the infinite.

The Farming revolution

Its 2020, also standing for clear vision.

About 10,000 years ago a farming revolution took over the world, in the last decades a lot of amazing work has been done on the subject and the emerging story is that farming did not evolve as a result of need of possibly climate change as was believed before, but in fact it was a revolution of belief, a magical new start.

Behind this new paradigm shift was shamanic voyaging, people that used to gather annually or at intervals, but lived as nomads, and their magical and tribal trance into other realms of awareness is very possibly the very thing that made them come together for longer periods, eventually ending up in sedentary settlements. This is when they gave us farming, they were magicians and they took their magic and invested it in their immediate surrounding, changing the grass seeds that grew in the hills around them to the wheat we eat now, they turned wild animals into domestic cows, sheep and goats.

Now 10,000 year after, we are living on the earth we inherited from them, but we are at a cross road, because in a way we lost the magical world views they had, and the ceremonial, yet we still farm like they did, in fact we did not really change much since, we clear our fields in the way they did, and having no flood plains to count on, we usually artificially or in some better cases, organically fertilise our fields.

Yet 10,000 years of farming, and amassing wealth, and making the land itself more expensive is seeing us at a cross road now, farming is no as sustainable as it was before, and instead of addressing the issue we find technological ways around it. The UK is on the brink of a new countryside policy, which may end up as farmers growing nature instead of food, harvesting carbon emission sinks for people in the cities, and although this is an interesting idea, it leaves little room for the magical farming past of which our life is based in this last epoch.

We have spent years researching a model for sustainable integration between farming, tourism, and country living. I talk to small projects that confront the various issues, to understand how we should farm now, how should we take people into holidays in the countryside, what is the role of the countryside in society, things have changed so much, and yet there is this apathy, the people writing the policies are out of touch, and so those little projects, each working for years in his own sector, like small scale forestry, anthropologists working in abandoned villages in central Europe, farm to table etc etc, those are my idea of the real policy makers.

To help confront this issue in the UK, we are looking to come up with a new integration of our work with farming, that is now our main focus, this means we run a programme that is dedicated to farms, in which we try and design a new type of farming paradigm, where organic food and social innovation come together. We look for farms mainly in rural areas. A lot is changing in the subsidies system, meaning that places that rely heavily on animal stock, may lose all their livelihood, places like mid Wales and the North.

It is no longer an idea but a necessity, farming is becoming more and more so extinct, it has been abused by the ruling class for 10,000 years, so farmers were always poorer, but we never got to a point that they were not needed.

We look for old farms, and small and traditional situations places that may have been sold at auction, with an investor that finds it hard to see how to make money from the farm, hill farms. The idea is to turn those into the new farming revolution, where organic heritage wheat, and forest gardening take place, where sustainble forestry programmes can make the owners a living, and where glamping has a role in integration with it all.

We have spoke with over 200 projects now, so it is obvious that there is a new trend, and that although people are a little confused, there is more and more people interested in turning farming on its head, to come back to peasant farming. If you have this type of farm, or situation and are looking for a new solution please contact us to talk about it.

We can help you set up the glamping part, in some cases we may even be able to take the farm on and develop some of it with you, we work with a list of small companies that make yurts, huts, cabins and more, so where we can not meet demand we can engage others who have similar outlook.

I hope we can take the year 2020 and stop waiting for someone else to make up the policies for us, I hope the farming sector can turn itself on its head, and that we can see a more local economy approach and the return to the magical roots of farming.

The white race

This is another chapter from a book I am working on, trying to look at sustainability and Human evolution, over the axis of the nomad and the sedentary. Hope some of you will find it interesting too.

“Some indigenous cultures have divided the human races into this scheme, the black, the red, the yellow and the white, following their respective skin colours.

The first farmers

The agricultural epidemics, as we can call them because they rose from domestication of animals and living with them in close quarters, alongside storage of grain and little sanitation, were in truth the way the European continent placed itself ahead of the other three races, in a conquest of the lands of other peoples, to give itself an economic advantage like no other, it was very convenient thus that the sickness the Europeans were now immune to simply cleared the way, so they can come with little struggle and take the fertile lands from the Australian Aborigines and Native Americans, making them economically more successful then all the other races.

That “white” race, living mainly in Europe, the result of the neolithic revolution. Eventually took over all other races, in the biggest land grab in history, with him he brought the sickness he, was now immune to, arising from living in such close quarters with himself and his animals, his arrival and that sickness alone decimated whole populations, Virgin soil epidemic – it has been coined.
History has been written by Europeans in most cases, but the bitter truth of the conquest of the America, is that biological “warfare” did most of the dirty work, with up to 90% of the population dead from sickness in places in south America.

I feel that the connection to the psychic state that arose in man with his continual move away from the natural is not studied enough, and the link between his state of consciousness and the epidemics that arose around him is not really understood either. There are some really good and interesting works though about the connection of those epidemics and their influence on the social and political lives of neolithic Europeans, and from there all the way to our modern times.

There is a clear direction in the need for expansion by the European race, yet with it we also see a sort of counter force – from the so called neolithic decline, to the conquest of the mongols and the black death, the attempt to expand into Asia in the crusades and further through the conquest of the Americas and the indigenous devastation by epidemics, through those cycles we can try to understand the connection between man, grain, and his psychic states, and possibly gain a little understanding to how nature felt about our actions.

In Ecological Imperialism Alfred W. Crosby takes us step by step through the journey of man and his maladies, starting with the neolithic he later lays some of the the ground work to the conquest of the Americas, in the attempts of the vikings to land in North America, and points to the crusades as the first attempt by Europeans to spread into another continent.
He points out what an important role sickness played in conquest, and how in those earlier stages the European expansion was halted. In the crusades the biological warfare played against the Europeans, because they tried to move into lands that in a sense had immunity to the sickness, as is the case with the middle east, and in the first attempts on North America their supply chains failed, and they simply did not establish themselves long enough for the pathogens they carried to have effect.

But they did not stop there, the goal he puts forth was always for any given civilisation (or race) to establish new colonies of “offshore farms”, so to speak, to further their cause, creating a surplus that can be harvested to their benefit yet outside their own lands, that is the name of the game – surplus, more than is needed.

He explains how they took over both the Americas and Australia, the people of those two land masses were not immune, further still with the first Europeans came their domestic animals, something those land masses did not have, and even their European Flora, resulting in a total Europeanisation of those lands, were domestic cattle and horses now ran wild, among plantain and clover, with dandelion to boot. It was the last step in the Homo sapiens strategy of taking over, resulting in our economical and social systems, and it also drove the nail in the coffin for Man as a wild species.

With the physical ailment aside, there is another sickness that the white man carries, a mental one, maybe even a psychic one.

The spirit of the white man has suffered, to a point that nothing makes sense anymore, he is not tribal, he is not a great family man, he has no beliefs and values, and he does not really know what it is that he is following, constantly in a hurry, but where is he rushing to? Our one way process of domestication of nature, and the take over of the natural, has also left us with its marks, the world around us did not simply give way and accept where we were going, but more than all our spirit has suffered.

Western Society has no guidance, or even an overview, it treats all other aspects of life as lesser than it, possibly as a carry over from domesticating other species, and breaking the value systems and natural cycles in which it lives, I call it the white man’s sickness, but as we can see, the case here is not really of the White race versus other races, because in a sense all of humanity has been at this game at least since the neolithic but if I am correct, much before too, if the Clovis civilisation have brought down the big mammals in north America, and the Australian Aborigines did the same some 30,000 years ago in Australia, all the races of Homo Sapiens were always engaged similarly from the start, and of course let us not forget the way other human forms have gone extinct around us, like Homo Erectus, the Neanderthals, the Denisovans.
So we can see that Man has always been on this journey, or at least that it is what they ended up with.
Yet the Europeans were the best, or most ruthless at their game.

All those changes, the advent of farming, and living in one place, called for a new belief systems, and religious aspects that governed those respectfully, this tells us that Man had started with a belief in a higher power, and kept trying to bring that power along with him through his experimentation, the sense of power that came from modifying nature to suit him, turned soon to social systems and religious constructs, which were but a justification for another step away from the natural connection, almost a justification for being allowed to carry on in that way, like a new political power.

It seems to me that in this voyage of progress, we have broken every natural law, but through this journey we can see this white race, looking around almost in fear of retribution, trying to gauge if this systematic take over will be allowed, or will he be struck down in any given moment for breaking down everything that stands true and natural, we can see it in the religious beliefs of tribal godhead, or we can see it in Ver Sacrum, a tribal ritual practiced by Italian tribes when they suffered defeat or sickness offering their young to the gods. Trying to appease some larger force, and cleansing their own tribe from calamity as if they knew they took a wrong turn and they needed to appease the gods, in that we can see that the European white race, did not always felt like it can simply do whatever it wished, it felt a sense of wrong in his actions, as we changed our beliefs we kept looking up, wondering if someone will notice what we were doing, a sense of wrong maybe haunted us.

Yet through this constant breaking down of belief and value systems, the only real constant was the move on, to taking more control, by caring less, not so long in the past, before waging war, the oracles will be consulted, the oracle itself was still a living link to the belief in natural powers, the trance emitting gasses that came from lower strata was seen as the voice of the goddess of the underworld, Mefitis – an Italian Goddess of the foul smelling waters, giving the Sybil messages in a sulphuric induced trance, so we can see man did not just stop to care, and he did not divorce his connection to nature and “higher powers” all in one go, it was a process.

Obviously it was not just a clear line, because as humans we lack an overview over our march through the ages, we can not see man moving away from the natural system systematically, yet raising his head to ask the gods above and below if they approve, from time to time humanity will be almost struck down from the earth, the black plague carried to Europe by rat fleas, the second pandemic as its called, because an earlier one struck the Roman empire.
It was said to have originated in a mongol attack on the city of Caffa in 1345, in what we can consider the first ever biological warfare, the mongols who became afflicted with the black death threw the infected bodies of their soldiers over the city walls, the Italians have fled, but unknowingly brought the plague with them to Europe.
The Italian novelist Giovanni Boccaccio, whose father and stepmother died of plague, wrote that “its victims ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise.”

As a psycho mythological narrative we see the pastoral nomads throwing back the epidemic that has risen with the neolithic revolution, back at the furthest outpost of what is now sedentary Europe, as if the pastoral nomads are raising a question of it being a valid way of life, and in the process of answering that question, half of the Europeans had to die.

We see that our pathogens and parasites have played a more important part than we did in the take over that resulted in the Europeanisation of the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand, so in a sense we used the same trick employed by the mongols to conquer on. But what was our story with the sickness before we just learned to use it on others, what is our sickness?

If we can view the physical body as a hologram for human awareness, and so the affected part standing symbolically for the function that they perform, in this narrative of the plague, we can also view the larger body of man and its progress through civilisation as a hologram too, in which our choices gave rise to symptoms that attack our plural being, it is the story of the way we live.
I would like to take this a step further, and argue that everything in nature is connected, just as we feel things ourselves, everything around us does, in fact some organisms around are possibly more affected, so I am putting forward this notion, that the unnatural move of man away from the connected state with everything else in nature, and bending it to his will, affected the smallest organisms around us, simply because they mutated when a sort of equilibrium that was broken, to a point that they became deadly to us, so saying that our epidemics were not just symbolical to our hologram they were directly affected by us, in order to directly affect us.

We have to raise this question, of the relation of sickness and the consciousness of man, just as we saw with the conquest of the new world by the Spanish through disease, we see the mongol horde taking over the European world in a blatant act of biological warfare, as if they are throwing the mutated state of life back into the European court, no one wants to deal with the issue it seems, being sedentary gave rise to some strange plagues, we never suffered from before, and being pastoral nomads was not the answer either. It seems we chose not to deal with the question but just use the problem on other races, specifically because they did not have the same issues.

So maybe the pastoral nomad invasions of the Mongols did not carry the answer for the European continent, stopping as it did on the shores of the Danube, it seems that the long unconscious debate of Man and his way of life, the hunter gatherers and the sedentary, raised its head again, this time it was the pastoral nomads, a strange mix of domestication and nomadism, as if taking from both worlds was a carrier of the sickness, a people still not immune.
although as we will see it was not the root of it.

I would say that with the neolithic we entered a new phase of our evolution, and its magic was the cultivation of the immediate ecology around us through farming. There were places and times when this approach of being sedentary custodians of the earth seemed to have worked, and even enhance the natural world around us, the Amazon forest is arguably a man made forest, we changed ecological systems not always in ways that degraded them, because at times we enhanced them, and so could possibly have been the case in the Epoch preceding, before we were magical farmers, or at least before we learned how we can be magical farm and chose to ignore it. In that time before we could have been magical hunters, and so we see that through the ages, those two modes of living play with us, in a sort of recurring myth that comes to haunt us, and ask us, how we should live?

Yersinia pestis, the plague-causing bacterium displays many irregularities due to genetic exchange with other microorganisms, and many of its genes appear to have been acquired from other bacteria and viruses, it is as if someone tried to genetically engineer the most proficient biological weapon, it plagued Europe for years, going dormant with the fleas in winter, and coming back in spring killing an estimate of 75-200 million people in the whole of Eurasia, so it is clear that the neolithic did not leave us without mark, it was not just a quiet revolution in which we changed our own nature and the animals around us, it almost wiped us out over and over.

In a paper called – Genome sequence of Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague we read – “Many genes seem to have been acquired from other bacteria and viruses (including adhesins, secretion systems and insecticidal toxins). The genome contains around 150 pseudogenes, many of which are remnants of a redundant enteropathogenic lifestyle. The evidence of ongoing genome fluidity, expansion and decay suggests Y. pestis is a pathogen that has undergone large-scale genetic flux and provides a unique insight into the ways in which new and highly virulent pathogens evolve.”

So if we argue that genetic mutation has always played a role over the affairs of man, what is rarely looked at is the possibility of human consciousness affecting it directly, maybe genetically mutated bacteria is a sort of psychic footprint of the psyche of man mutating, when it broke away from the natural, the natural broke apart around him.

In Ecological imperialism Crosby says, that pathogens went from domestic animals to infect the humans that lived with them and back again as an explanation, but like always science seems to just outline the symptoms.
What could have given rise to those strange mutations in Yersinia Pestis, is it simply an opportunistic pathogen? for it to suddenly become the political and social game changer? We can come up with more questions, because here again like we saw in wheat, genetic mutation seems to play a strange role, this time it is harder for us to argue that it has happened simply because of us selecting grain in the field, the mutation seems to have risen by itself, yet had very devastating consequences over our lives, I feel that we constantly miss that the way our awareness is held modulates reality around us, we explain the symptoms rationally, and seem to ignore the whole story line, the question is what did this sickness come to tell us, what was it trying to stop us from doing?

Yersinia pestis, was not a new bacteria, the closest strain we have to the genetic origin of Y. pestis, was found in the remains of a 20-year-old woman who died approximately 5,000 years ago in Sweden, Simon Rasmussen
and a team of researchers have argued that it possibly arose in the “mega settlements” of neolithic Europe, so here again, we see it as a mutation that arose from farming, and becoming sedentary – the black death was the sickness we got when we stopped moving, a sickness that tried to kill us and that way of living. The mongols did not give it to us, they were just passing it back to us over the wall, throwing it back into our courts, because it was us who developed it first.

“These mega-settlements were the largest settlements in Europe at that time, ten times bigger than anything else. They had people, animals, and stored food close together, and, likely, very poor sanitation. That’s the textbook example of what you need to evolve new pathogens,” .

He also says, “We think our data fit. If plague evolved in the mega-settlements, then when people started dying from it, the settlements would have been abandoned and destroyed. This is exactly what was observed in these settlements after 5,500 years ago. Plague would also have started migrating along all the trade routes made possible by wheeled transport, which had rapidly expanded throughout Europe in this period,”.

Nature was simply not having it. Rasmussen further says – “We often think that these super pathogens have always been around, but that’s not the case,” he says. “Plague evolved from an organism that was relatively harmless. More recently, the same thing happened with smallpox, malaria, Ebola, and Zika. This process is very dynamic — and it keeps happening. I think it’s really interesting to try to understand how we go from something harmless to something extremely virulent.”.

I feel like we were ignoring the elephant in the room, maybe we are missing the point that we are being killed by the first degree of separation, a way of being is becoming deadly to us over and over again, and over the same issue. Does that not tell us something? Like I said it is a little hard to explain that it is in fact much simpler story, and sickness does not mutate symbolically around our way of living to tell us something, it mutates around our own mutations, the way we live and think, when we step out of a certain state of living, we affect the organisms around us, sometimes we get mutations as “benefits” like being able to domesticate wheat to wait for us in the field, and have docile animals we can raise inside fenced areas, and at other times, we get retribution, telling us that we have stepped out of the natural and that the natural is coming to force and stop us.

Because we do not listen, we have became orphaned from the system of values and beliefs that governed the natural world, from our own feelings and thoughts, and all the calamity in the world seems to have no affect over us, because with hundred years of mini ice age, and up to 200 million dead, I would thought someone should have asked the question? was this farming revolution really going the right way? its effects have haunted and enslaved us, creating killer epidemics, but instead of stopping to take stock, we became immune, to the sickness itself, and with it to the issue it raised with us about our life choices.
With becoming immune physically we also seem to have become immune to our emotional and mental sickness, our psychic malady.
In one brilliant swoop (that said, tongue in cheek) we turned all of our issues on the remaining races around us, turning the most severe biological and psychological warfare on them, to gain their fertile lands, to create more surplus, and eventually to effect the same psychic immunity to being connected, which they still were.

So this is the white mans sickness.

Man used to be telepathic, he knew that the voices he shared inside his head were simply the voices of the people around him, or further still the voice of the creator himself, nature used to talk to him whenever he quietened down his own thoughts, the rise of thoughts and feelings in us, must have been at some point a simple connection to everything else, we can hear voices in our heads, and feel things from outside us, the two biggest traits we have, seem to devoid of a function currently, what was the pragmatic value of their emergence in us?
Early man thought differently to us, he was obsessed with sorcery, and the weather control, he could see the energetic lines of the world, and reach to grab them, through them he can affect reality around him, but that in a mutable way that was simply part of his envioerment, that is possibly the distinction, being mutable, he allowed him self to be formed and changed by all of creation around, he was part of the eco-system.

I have portrayed all of this journey simply to point our connection to nature, to showcase that some meta-consciousness seem to have a say about our actions, in a simple and often very loud narrative in which , feelings and the weather, and sickness and our destiny all have a simple storyline. It points to our origins as a sentient part of the envioerment, we have had the tools to shape nature around us, and we still do.
We have the inner workings of a magician, but we seem to prefer to ignore them, questions arise about the way we live, but not wanting to try and answer them, we simply push them to the courts of people living more sustainably, and thus killing their connection to nature, so now no one can point a finger at us and say something has gone wrong, yet because we are genetically designed as part of nature, we also suffer.
Tracing the connection we have with nature, is a little harder, because the belief we affect the elements like that is very forgotten in us, so I tried to follow through elements which are more tangible to us, our crops, and our epidemics,
but there is a story in the way the weather changes globally and how it affected us, and in a way that if we could have traced it instead would have been the best marker. Unfornotely it feels like I would be no too much of a limb trying to portray it, but I will get back to it with regards to how earlier man viewed things.

I argue that it is possible we do not understand our place in the natural envioerment, I believe that a primal state of being, was one in which we affected the weather through our feelings, and our way of life was carried in a sort of inner state of meditation, in which we communicated with every aspect of creation, we could speak to the trees, and we could talk to the animals, not in words, because no words were needed, and thoughts if they arose were directly connected to the reality around us, It points out to me that man had a very different place in creation, one more akin to a warden, a caretaker. And somehow through the last Epoch starting at the younger dryas we lost that place, and with it the ability, or maybe as I suggested we started losing it much before then, when we chose to cull the mythical mammals around us.

With all this ability, we could have and still can create a paradise for us and every other being, we can cultivate nature through harmony, and meditation, in many times in out past as humans we did, but that immunity we gained to feeling every part around us, to the pain that we cause, have wiped all those attempts globally.

We have spoken about mutants, and I called them that, because it seems easier for the main body of society to accept that Human divergency is a mutation, rather than a mutation is having a constant dopamine levels and the way our brain chemistry seems to have adjusted to a “stable” sense of identity, giving rise to a crazy status quo, in which we do not get affected or move with any natural flow, our hard gained immunity, because that is also a mutation, meaning that being unaffected as we are, is actually a modern state of awareness one that has mutated from being connected.
leaving some strange features in us, like thoughts and feelings without a clear function, we can see the simple steps and journey we took there, and we see in the symbolic rise or the holographic information that our epidemics tried to convey to us, yet we ignored, until we reach psychic immunity, which we turned on the rest of Humanity, taking out those that were not immune, those who still felt the pain, and having killed 90% of them as we did in the Americas we ended up with this state of affairs, in which we cant even remember that we are connected to everting.

Once upon a time we were magicians, and we made decisions, we decided one day to control nature, and bend it to our will, it did not just happen because we started farming, plants did not simply obey us, because we continuously selected them in our fields, we had power as part of nature, and we directed it our way. So starting 11,000 years ago, choosing most of the foods we still eat, and made them available to us in a domesticated form, that was possibly the largest decision we made as humans. And it must have been a magical decision, back then when we still had power, was it the correct decision? it seemed that the natural cycles that revolve around us were affected in such terrible ways as if they tried to point to us it was deadly, but we seemed to have lost the capacity to understand sickness as a message, and chose to ignore the weather patterns, we thought we can choose for ourselves.

There is a divide in historical science which is called the Neolithic, as if one day when we chose to live in one place, or developed the technology to farm, we became advanced, that move is seemingly so monumental that it has been suggested by some, that an older civilisation that survived the climax of the younger dryas, came over and taught us, the hunter gatherers, its magic, and his claim is substantiated by many of our earlier mythologies.

What I find hard with all of those theories is that we treat the hunter gatherers as some kind of primitive man with no clue, the Natufians were genetically identical to us, meaning they had exactly the same capacity that we have.
Yet they lived in a much slower world, and as such had much more time and connection with nature, and maybe actually man was just the same when he was a hunter, a magical hunter willing to take on the mythical giants that still roam the earth just before he became a magical farmer, and though the Jury is out on the overkill theory, it seems very clear that wherever man went death followed.

We have forgotten what happened before the younger dryas, as if in every epoch humanity goes through a reset, and the world is destroyed, the Hopi Indians say that the world was destroyed a few times before, and that every time Man’s connection with the creator became lesser, and that is possibly the case with us now, we lost our connection.

I have dedicated my life to working with those I called mutants because for one reason or another they are still open, they are not as painful or false, and they still affect reality around them, so in other words they are still connected, they still have the ability to work with their feelings and inner processes, because they have not opted out, or for some reason they couldn’t.
I believe its our natural state, but obviously like any other species there are divergent strands in humans, and so some of those are born with new capabilities that are meant to help us onwards, adaptations, yet a big part of them are simply not as sick as the rest of us, they are still open, it is us that forgot how to perform magic, that got stuck. Try to explain why 11,000 years ago we made all the political choices that still rule all of our lives, and why we cant make any new ones, because the power of decisions is also a power we lost.

It took guts to wake up one day and say, “enough! we are taking over nature. What is striking to me is that we don’t make any new decisions anymore, we simply plough on, or we simply plough our fields on, we argue about climate change, as if we are disturbed that we seem to be affecting nature, with the technological manipulations that are at the end of our fingerprints I am astounded we still live the same life style, in our man made caves, we can engineer the weather now, why do we even need central heating? We can directly choose the genes to manipulate to achieve any result we choose, why don’t we have the guts to change nature further? and why not simply sort the ecological issues around us through the same means?

So our ancestors have made the last real decision about our lives, they chose to bend nature to their convenience, and from then on we just plough on. We can produce our food much more efficiently now, but instead of just eating and focusing on other things, which would be the rational conclusion, we got trapped in a game of storing wealth, or units of efficiency away, billions are stored in banks, for what end? a big part of our society is in still the same basic shape they were for the last 10,000 years. Where is the progress?

The truth is that through domestication we have become a feeble race, it is not that the Natufians were better, they were just a wilder, earlier version of us, and they chose to magically bind nature in a spell. We lack the guts and now also, the magic.

I study secret human mechanics, I call it secret because no one else really talks about it, so my life has had endless stream of the unexplainable and the magical in it, miracles are the stuff of the everyday, yet I don’t think that its because anything out of the ordinary takes place, its totally natural. I work with normal people, who seem to discover telepathy with very little effort, they can feel others from half across the globe, they can make things happen around them, yet they suffer with those abilities.
I would like us to wake up and find a way to live in a non-wealth-accumulating society, where everyone can simply be provided for collectively, and I would like to stop paying tax, but the biggest questions that face us as a race, are not really my main concern. My concern is our magical abilities, but maybe after all that is the only real issue.”

Italy home

From time to time we are asked to help sell a local home, here is a nice family home in the amazing quiet contrada of Madonna del Roseto, which is named after the small church of the Madonna delle Rose one of the 7 incredible Madonnas of the Aventinto valley.

The price is around 90,000 euros, which is a steal for such a cute little mountain home, Torricella Peligna is 30 minutes from the sea, an hour from the Pescara airport, it enjoys the best of all worlds, not too hot in summer, as it is high at 900m but not so high to be cut off in winter.

The Aventino valley as a whole is one of those quiet maintained valleys, where local tradition and Italian lifestyle is still as it always was, we do have a selection of other properties that we have asked to help the locals, sell, unfortunately because many people have moved away, many families have ended up with more than one house, sometimes as many as 5, so it gives rise for really affordable homes in some spectacular scenery.

Madonna del Rosseto, 1

For more details and pictures – https://www.idealista.it/immobile/18063822/

The pictures don’t really do it much justice, and it is hard to understand how quiet this little location is, yet still only 5 minutes from the village itself. You can contact us about this or if you are looking for a place in the mountain villages in the area, as we do have some other similar properties come up.

Solina, the gold of the Abruzzi


Abruzzo has a secret, it’s called Solina.

We have been eating organic only for years, trying to have a small garden where our travels would see us long enough in one place. We had an amazing teacher in an Australian woman who was called Ashar, I met her one day in Israel, I was living on an open hillside outside the village of Clil, the only free village in Israel, bought field by field from the bedouins and local arabs. I was given 40 dunams (9.5acres) of land to live on, Lucy was still in the UK at the time, soon to join me. We were holding a market day, and all the people of Clil came up the hill. This Australian girl came up to sell her little “Shtilim” (her little veg plants) she lived with her boyfriend in a garden, her life was the garden.

I on the other hand, garden people, someone once told me that one can only be either a nomad, or a gardener. Being a nomad at the time, I felt like he was taking one of my loves away form me, because I also love gardening, my real work is with people though, so I say I garden people, and because most of the people I work with are actually itinerants, I say I garden nomads.

Juliette de Baïracli Levy who has led a semi nomadic life, and wrote endless books about gardening and natural cures, potions and indigenous people, said in one of her books, “even if you know you are going to move, plant some lettuces, chances are you will still be around to eat them when they are ready”. This was our motto, the way we garden on the move. When we could, we would put down a garden. Meeting Ashar in Israel was an eye opener, through the year we lived in Clil (in the Western Galilee), whilst making yurt after yurt which were always being sold the day we finished them, she taught us the secrets of the plants, she gave us Juliette de Baïracli Levy’s books, and she taught us of a life in the garden.

I “garden” nomads, because those are my people, at times I call them mutants, everywhere we went when we traveled we would always meet one person, as if actually the whole reason for us to be in any given place, was in fact that person. I call them mutants because they never seem to adjust to mainstream life, they have certain features, a power that does not allow them to integrate into mainstream society, those are the people I garden. They have always been my plants, I water them and at times when there is enough space and time they also flower, although usually after a while they get carried on with the wind again, maybe this too is how they get pollinated.

Ashar was one of those people, we used to go to her garden at night, Lucy who came to join me by then in Israel, once told Ashar that if she hears an owl call she will know that she needs to come to visit us, we would stand outside her garden and Lucy who could imitate an owl call to perfection, would call Ashar, and she would come and visit us the next day. On one of those nights, laughing our heads off in quiet, because the owls were in fact us, we walked back up the hill, we came back to our place, which was a few miles from hers on the outskirts of the village. There was a set of tipi poles, for a tipi we were making, seeing that every yurt we ever made in Israel on that hill was bought the moment we finished it, we needed another space, so still laughing our heads off like two owls, because actually we did not think there were any owls in Clil, we noticed a bird sitting on top of the poles, it was a small owl.

Ashar tricked us back.

So I garden people, and over the year of living in Clil we worked with Ashar, in return she taught us everything we know about gardening, she would wake up at 4am because she would never sleep, her dreams were always Lucid, and that frightened her.
I told her that Lucid dreaming is actually a power, and half of the people I work with try their best to become lucid in their dreams and practice dream control, she said it happens to her every night, and she hates it. So she would take to the garden instead of sleeping. The plants were her friends, she will take half a year to make her breakfast, silver beat with a sprinkle of olive oil and tahini, corn would shade her lettuces, she taught us about companion planting and much more. When we go on walks together she would always stop to pick some fresh cut grass, thinking about her compost pile, even dead animals to her were just a way to feed her plants and trees. She was our teacher.

When we came to Abruzzo years later, we naturally started making a garden, looking for local veg to grow in it, we are nomads yet we garden, but we never could garden like our teacher. Reading about local veg and produce we found out about the Ancient grains of Abruzzo.

Over millennia, the contadini (peasant farmers) in the hills and mountains of Abruzzo used to grow wheat. The heritage landrace of Solina is a wheat that was only grown in Abruzzo, a “soft” bread wheat , it favours the high mountain land, establishing itself in poor soils. It was called – “the mother of all flours, the one that fixes them all”. Sometimes a sentence like this gets stuck with me, I wonder what they meant?, when they said it fixes all flours, did they mean they mixed Solina, which is bread flour, with the other wheats they grew for pasta, in order to make bread?, it makes sense because, Durum wheat which is was also grown extensively, is harder, in fact it durum means that, hard wheat, and bread wheat is called tenero, meaning soft.

Lucy, who makes all of our breads, found that using heritage Durum wheat in her sourdough bread meant she ended up with a bread that was slightly crumbly, it would not slice well. Lower Gluten content, and the difference in comparison to gluten in modern wheat, was asking to be mixed with another flour, was this the reason that Solina was grown?, did they mean it fixes all flours, because they use to mix it with their Durum wheats, the ones they grew for pasta, to make a softer bread?, it does have a distinct flavour so maybe that was the reason or maybe its something I have not figured out yet.

I have followed a similar thread with the ancient wheats of Sicily, my favourite one there is called Tumminia or Timmilia, a durum wheat, grown by the peasants for millenia, it is the one used to make the black bread of Sicily, it was considered the poor man’s wheat, although I see it as the best of Sicilian heritage wheats for its flavour. The Sicilian had another heritage wheat possibly introduced by the spaniards called Majorca, in contrast this “soft” bread wheat was considered the rich man grain, because the rich only ate of it, it made fluffier breads and sweets. We have experimented with both of those grains, in order to understand the story for ourselves. Yet at times what makes one understand it all is a bite into freshly baked bread, and eating my first loaf of Majorca bread I saw how it all came about, how the white bread could have won over the dark, the soft over the hard. And I guess Solina has gone through a similar journey in the Abruzzo.

I make pasta from Solina, which melts in your mouth, Italians like their pasta al dente. Mixing egg with the pasta, makes it firmer, but Solina pasta is never really hard. Personally, the way it melts in the mouth to me is divine, but my Italian guests do not always agree.

So this is our love affair with ancient grains started, after being in Abruzzo for a couple of years, I met an Austrian guy, Nicolas. He lives with a woman called Federica outside the village of Tuffilo, on the hills that border Molise, the two of them have taken to cultivating ancient grains, their own veg and herb terraces, the guy is a genius, constantly researching ways to make small scale farming more efficient, no tilling, no water, smaller spaces and so on.
He came to visit our project on the foothills of the Majella massif, and he told me I have to plant wheat, I was trying to make excuses, saying I do not know if I’m ready for it that year, but he would not hear of it, he said its almost autumn, and its time to plant wheat. I am glad he did.

He showed me how to fence off a field so the wild boars wouldn’t go into it. We cleared small trees and bushes and piled them high, the thorns in the pile and its height would keep the wild boars out of the field. I cleared the land with the small Benati bulldozer, and me and the volunteers turned it by hand. The group I had at the time was mostly girls, and they took to singing, one would sit and sing to the rest of the group and the others would turn the hard packed clay soil, when one of them would get tired she would swap and became the singer, they all wanted to stop and sing, so the rotation time was quite short.

Nicolas later gave me a few kilos each, of his all grains, Senatori Capelli, Saragolla, buckwheat, and barley. we planted the whole field with our volunteers.
Because we also have an open field next to our other house a km away, and because Solina is the secret gold flower of Abruzzo, I decided that if we are already at it, Ill better plant that too, I got Marziale, our neighbour to plow that field for us, and we hand planted the Solina I got from a local organic mill in Moscufo by Pescara by hand.

Wheat has been domesticated over 11,000 years ago or so, In fact I would say that maybe wheat was really our first crop, there is a line with wheat that extends all the way back, it was the crop that made us all sedentary, it allowed us all as a people to live in larger communities, I guess because most of my adult life was nomadic, yet now trying to stay put in one place, It made sense to grow this primal crop.
Sustenance farming, or peasant farmers did not grow wheat for profit, maybe this is the reason we have lost so much of our ancient grains, because people became farmers, so if peasants grew food for themselves, farmers grow it for others, and for money.

Grain was brought by hand with people when they traveled to other lands, Saragolla was brought to the Abruzzo by a Bulgarian people, its name meaning yellow grain, it is derived from khorasan wheat, Bob Quinn has noticing that grain first in the Montana county fair in the 1960, decided to preserve it and he branded it Kamut, after noticing that people who ate it did not report the same health problems that they usually encountered from eating modern wheat.

It is said that it was actually Saragolla from Abruzzo that was the grain used to make Kamut, which is now a world renown brand, though I do not know if it is true or just another one of the local tales, as they take pride in their history, even if that grain was actually brought to them by another people in turn.
Ancient grains grown over decades, adapted to their terrain through natural and human selection flourished, becoming unique landraces. In her book Restoring Heritage Grains, Eli Rogosa, who spent years preserving ancient wheats from all over the world, speaks about the french term Terroir – the taste of the land. And Solina is the taste of Abruzzo.

There is something that is lost with modern foods, in the not so ancient past, all over the world, food was grown by the contadino, the peasant farmer. He had a special wheat to mix with his durum wheat, he had special cucumbers and tomatoes, saved from seed. His apples were small, and his chestnut trees gave strong flavour nuts. Everything that he grew, had thousands of years to adapt to its land, he chose the seeds of the strongest plants, he trained the plants like I train my nomads, he gave them little water, so they will be able to grow without it. Heirloom strains of vegetables grew in his gardens, everything was made to do well, to taste well, because he ate it, it needed to grow on his small patch, and it did not need to make big quantities or meet quotas. Once he was made to grow it for others, all of that did not matter anymore, what started mattering, is how well or easy it grew, and how much he could get for it, and often, he still grew a small patch of his ancient grains, even if now he also grew modern wheat.

One day I was at Marziale’s farm (our neighbour), we were in one of the small barns under his house, and I asked him about a corn his father used to grow, as I was told his father had a special variety of corn that was legendary. Marziale who had a pig at the time, told me he fed all the last of that corn to the pig, I was aghast, a thousand years of seed saving and contadini life had come to and end right in front of me, Marziale took me into another barn, he said maybe a few seeds fell on the floor, we looked in between the dirty terracotta tiles, and managed to find 10 seeds, and I took them to our garden, trying to save them, but although a few grew, they never produced ears, and it was symbolic for me, as if here in the Abruzzo, I was seeing the end of an older life. Right in front of us, the peasant farmer life is coming to an end, this time capsule of a place, the Abruzzo and its farmers, try to hack a living from the land, but their land was not meant for making a living, it is only suitable for living. The throw away a millennia of taste and ancient foods, and plant modern crops that make them very little money. And so the tastes and flavours of our foods disappear. I saw it first hand, it was happening right on my door step.

All of my neighbours farm wheat. There is a love they have inherited from their parents, a love for the land, like their ancient grains, a thousand years of growing wheat, has gave them too special genes, yet they go to the fields to plant modern wheat for nothing, they use to eat it, but these days they end up paying just to grow it, because they can never make enough money from their little plots to even cover their expanses. Some of them have gone a step back, and they grow wheat or barley to feed their animals, or to make their own pasta, but whatever the case is, they take to their fields every year, because like their Solina, the land is in their genes, and it calls them, I admire them for that, they farm for love.

Over the years, with the introduction of modern wheats, and the demands of pasta companies who are the ones usually buying the grain in small mountain communes, Solina has become almost lost, saved by a handful of traditional farmers. People who passed the seed to their sons and daughters, yet still this old landrace wheat was almost extinct.

The Consorzio Produttori Solina d’Abruzzo, based in Sulmona says that “Solina reflects the identity of the mountain of Abruzzo in the most authentic way, and its value, expressed through its centuries-old history and unique genetic and organoleptic characteristics, it has been acknowledged and extraordinarily exalted by the European Commission (Directorate- General for Agriculture and Rural Development).”
It is a reference point for the Abruzzo, a landrace wheat that carries its taste, the taste of the mountains, it was never grown below 750m.

A lot has been written by experts about ancient wheats, and people like Eli Rogosa has made it their life work to save it from extinction, looking for pockets where people still saved seeds from their fields, a thing that has become outlawed in many countries. The idea that a thousand years of tradition and work could be lost, a wheat that was chosen for its taste, that has adapted to the poorest mountain soils, selected by hand year after year, to produce a better crop on the next, creating a unique relationship between mountain and farmer, could be lost just because pasta companies would have cheaper grain, with better elasticity, as it is easier for their machinery is a crime. This is how we have lost the treasure troves of our foods, we have worked for 13,000 years to create the most special foods to eat, and have almost lost all the tastes we have created in the span of under 50 years.
It is said that it was the gods themselves who taught us how to farm, and that it was them who gave us grain.

Luckily thanks for the good work of the The Consorzio Produttori Solina d’Abruzzo, this Ancient landrace is saved, Italians have a love for food, possibly not equaled by any other people, and the Abruzzi love their mountains, Solina is like eating the power of those mountains, in a perfumed soft flour, that melts in your mouth.
A younger generation has also realised the benefits, and fuelled by an irresistible love for the land and its old tastes, they started using it in a few restaurants that pave the way, you can now eat Solina ravioli that would also melt your heart. Pizza is served with Solina base. And so this wheat is now saved.
One of the few of small pockets in the world, that has managed to save its landrace heritage wheat, Solina is very special, because most other wheats have been grown in a larger area, adapting to a more diverse terrain, but Solina is a love affair with the high mountains of Abruzzo, the only place that it has ever grown. Perfume by lime rock and almonds, figs and olives, proud like the tall mountains of Abruzzo, and like them it grows very tall.

It is a winter wheat, so we sowed our field in September, by growing tall, like a lot of ancient grains it has adapted itself to compete with the “weeds” sown in Autumn it is usually already well taller than any other spring weed in the field, it is usually sown with less than two “quintal” a hectare so about 180kg. But modern farmers have lost the knowledge of their forefathers, because Ancient grains unlike modern wheat can produce several seed-heads from one seed, if given enough space, each seed can spring into several tillers. But local farmers, having got used to modern wheat, sow it too heavy. So it does not grow as many tillers from each plant as it could, and the seed heads tend to grow smaller, a thing that convinces them that modern wheat is really much better, making championing ancient grains a little harder with them.

We sowed our wheat by hand, scattering it, that feeling of walking with a sack of ancient wheat in front of the sleeping goddess, majella, that gentle giant that hovers around central Abruzzo, is a romance, a love affair, in which one is allowed to taste an older life, this is the core feeling of being a peasant farmer, that love, the brisk cold of morning, and the smell of wet earth, growing wheat is a ritual that has been passed in our genes, and growing it to eat yourself, is also part of the magic, because by growing it for others, you remove yourself from the process, But that feeling of belonging is the core feeling, that magic is a big part of why our foods used to taste better, its a certain alchemy that has been lost, now that we grow it for profit, or in the case of the Abruzzi who grow it for no profit, it is hard for one to cultivate that feeling, and the wheat itself suffers.

Next to our fields there are two small houses that have been left standing ,although just barely, the plaster falling of the walls and the red terracotta tiles are all in disarray, yet the oak tree and the houses, the mountain and the hills, paint this picture, we walk scattering grain like the contadini. What a gift it is to be sowing their wheat, in the same fields where it used to be sown, next to their old houses. Only 50 years ago they themselves lived that life. Now it was left to us to appreciate and I was giving thanks while planting that wheat for the land that took us in, I know we are nomads, and maybe we will always be so, yet growing the first crop that took us from being hunter gatherers and turned us sedentary was also an attempt of sort for us to settle down.

Spring has come and our wheat was the tallest, because we live on a hill, going down into the Aventino valley, one can see all the fields on both sides of the river, each farmer has a few plots, so it is a carpet of different colours, green and yellow, at times it goes red with Sulla, and blue with the chicory flowers.

The year we planted wheat saw some of my neighbours planting modern wheat all around our little field. It was a remarkable contradiction, we were the foreigners, growing their traditional wheat, their landrace grain, while they planted modern wheat, using fertilisers, and herbicides.

One day in summer, I remember looking up from La Difesa, which is our bottom house towards the Solina field, I could see all the patch work of fields stretching up the hill in between the oaks, the modern wheat lay in big yellow patches, the field that was sprayed with herbicides in order to save the wheat for the combine harvester, was all brown, yet in the middle of this carpet of yellow, brown and blue, was a golden spot, like a small heart. Our Solina.

Italy is a country, yet its people hold their alliance with their own village, they are not a political people, thousands years of empire and government had taught them that their politicians would look only after themselves, they do not even hold much stock in their respective region, but their village is like a small nation, their pride. Coming here from the UK makes this very evident. In the UK rural identity is very lost, people have bought so much into the countryside it is rare it can hold its history, and tradition. The mountain regions of Italy is a small pocket where tradition and love for the land is still intact.
And Abruzzo is possibly one of the best preserved areas.

So being foreigners we appreciate it like magic, my heart goes to my neighbours, going out with their small tracked tractors, into their fields ploughing into the night, sowing with small lights going up and down the mountainside, rushing to get the hay in, sometimes only in the afternoon because they now have day jobs down in the valley. The love affair they have with the land is evident, they sign contracts with the local pasta factory every year, so they are bound to produce a certain percentage of protein, if the grain is tested below, the price falls, yet the mountain fields and modern wheat can only achieve that protein with chemical fertilisers, so farming has been enslaved by a system, and they can not break out of it because of the system that buys their grain, they get very little help from the government, yet they love farming, though their tractors are often 50 years old, the old tracks still squick up and down in unbroken rhythm every year, it does not matter that they make no profit, they still plough and sow, their land itself calls the, it takes one of them to plough and the rest as if caught by a spell have to go into the field, another year is turning, and the beckons to be tilled.

I have made it my little obsession, for which I am branded a lunatic, I have taken to advocate their ancient grains, every time my neighbours would drive down on their tractor they will stop for a chat, in fact this is one of the main reasons one can not get anything done in Italy, as there is always someone stopping to have a chat, to bring you some vegetables, asking or offering help. But living on the edge of abandon, by the domain of the wild boar king, I understand that if we don’t help each other, we and they could not make it through. I have pulled their tractors out of the mud with my 4×4 Mercedes truck, yet equally spent many a day in which my neighbour Marziale would come down because my digger was stuck, or suffering some mechanical problem, is these lands there is really only the person and nature, and if something goes wrong, and it does all the time, one is left alone, fending for oneself, and I can often hear the wild boar king laughing at me, my Benati bulldozer will be hanging on one track over a slope, or my truck would not drive up the hill, I would be stuck fixing the water pipe from the river, and I can hear him laughing as he knows, that here in the foothills of the Majella, nature still had the upper hand, I hack and cut, I trim and fix but nature is stronger, living in the last house in the commune on the edge of the abandoned lands makes for another sort of conversation that has taught me a lot.

I have spent hours, syphoning diesel out of blocked filters out of my own engines, and out of the neighbours tractors, there was one year, a neighbour would walk up to our house everyday because his tractor stopped again, we would crank open the banjo bolts on his fiatagri, and look for the blockage, I told him he must clean the tank, but because they needed to get the hay in, there was no time for it, so we ended up going through the whole fuel blockage every morning.

Although they have branded me a lunatic for it, I talk for hours with them while we are fixing their tractors together, or when they stop for a chat, trying to convince them to grow their ancient grains again. They told me that the problem is actually that in the current system no one will buy their grain. The other thing is that growing Solina organically means that the field is infested with weeds, and the combine harvester has to deal with those in the harvest, and although a mill can potentially deal with all the other seeds present in the grain and clean it, it is also a source of pride to produce a clean grain they send to the mill or the pasta factory, they love to see only the wheat in the field, once people grew grain for taste, amounts did not matter as much, because you could only eat so much, or barter so much with, an acre of land or two would be more than enough, and growing wheat is easy. I couldn’t argue with their logic, and I understood the problem is much deeper than them not wanting to grow ancient wheat, I felt like I’m trying to sell ice to the eskimos, but I also know that Solina is the secret power of Abruzzo, because it is unique. We came here from the UK, I knew if we can introduce this amazing ancient grain into the market back there, this healthier wheat, with its special taste, one that can be eaten by people with Gluten intolerance, we would had a winner.

I realised though that there is no way I can get them to grow it unless I could find a buyer, I talked to a local organic mill who agreed to try and buy some, even if it did not have an organic certification, something that would take time to achieve, and would need to prove its merits, but they could not take all the grain, as they were only a small mill. The answer came one day when my friend Nicolas sent me a contact that was looking for organic farmers to grow 3000 hectares of heritage wheats all over Italy.

I spent hours on the phone trying to convince the company director to come to our local commune and arrange to talk to the farmers, our mayor agreed to give us the meeting room in the commune and Marco Bertelli who runs the Programme came and talk to the farmers. it was a last moment affair, and we did not advertise it that well, so the room was not exactly full, but Marco gave a two hour lecture about ancient grains.

He spoke about their programme, of how they have created a system of selection that sees organic production yield more than modern, he offered contracts of 75 euro a quintal (100 kg) which is about 3 times what they were getting for their modern wheat. He talked about spelt, specifying its health benefits, telling the audience how modern wheat destroys the gut, because its gluten can not be digested in the same way, saying that all of our health problems actually start in the gut, which becomes blocked by this modern gluten, which is very different from the one present in ancient grains. He suggested that a simple the way to cure people would be be to mix wholemeal spelt that is milled with the husk, with another grain like Saragolla, so not only one will end up with a superior taste pasta, one would also heal the human race from its modern day affliction and gut problems on the way.

It was an amazing lecture. He brought with him a selection of grain they cultivate through the system, showing how through this Programme, by selecting the grain every year, through a machine that chooses only the biggest seeds, through fertilising each one directly with organic fertilisers they were achieving wheat seed heads that was three time the size. His wheats were long and big, he gave every person a packet of pasta of that same spelt and ancient wheat mix.

I ended up trying to get the locals on to that new contract, I was a little beyond my pay grade, I was trespassing into their livelihood, and pride. I did not want to teach them how to farm, but I really felt like this obsession I had of seeing them grow their own traditional grain is a dream that must be realised. We spent months of talking to a bunch of farmers, and driving around with my friend Angela Schmel who was worked with me on this programme, trying to convince people. We even tried renting fields that we can cultivate ourselves, if that was really the only way we can convince them, yet I got nowhere.

I had two neighbours who agreed to try it, but in the end one had no money for the seed, and the other already planted modern wheat for the year. I have lost another year in my battle for Solina.

I decided to try and plant my own Solina again, we spent a week harvesting it by hand, my two volunteers working in the hot sun with me, we cut the wheat with a sickle like farmers did for a thousand years. that was the fun part, possibly even more romantic than sowing it under the mountain gaze, cutting the tall sheaths of Solina, lying gold now in bunches we tied together with string. I filled the small corrugated iron shed to the top with our own grain, harvesting the small field with the grain Nicolas gave me, we had our own wheat.

But we needed to thresh it, such a small scale production does not merit the combine harvester even going into the field, and although I spoke with the local guy who harvests everyones wheat, he said that it will take so much time to clean the harvester completely, and that the grain will just get mixed with the other modern wheat. So we thrashed it by hand, beating the sheaths down with a stick, Bastonare, is how it is called, derived from bastone – to beat with a stick. We got a little over 200 kilos of Solina from that small patch.

So seeing I couldn’t convince anyone else to grow it, I decided I will plant my own grain again, Marziale my neighbour agreed to sow it on his fields, I offered to try to sell it for him later, and asked for my own grain back so I can have some to plant again, he offered me twice what I gave him, a friend from Teramo who also spent some years growing his own heritage wheat asked if he can plant his with ours as he lost his land. So we ended up sowing 3 hectares of land that year.
It was a relief not to have to prepare the field by hand, and knowing the wheat can now be also harvested by the combine harvester made me relax, we had enough quantity. And even if we could not sell it, we will have enough seed to grow all of Marziale’s 15 hectares on the next year.

The Solina grew well that year, although the summer was very rainy, and most of the other fields were almost destroyed, but the weeds were also very bad that year because of all the rains. even the tall Solina was having hard work competing. But with some strange stroke of fate Marziale became very sick and ended up in hospital, the combine harvester was going field by field harvesting everyones grain. But although they tried to get Marziale in hospital to answer his phone, they couldn’t get him, that with the fact that the field now was covered in weeds because the Solina which is very tall and matured a little earlier than the other wheats, has now lodged so was lying low, made their mind to leave it, the contadino lost to the farmer, here in Abruzzo, I was seeing the loss of the ancient gold, taken to an amazing perfection by mountain and man over millennia, the fact that it behaved differently to modern wheat, and needed to be harvested a week earlier, and my neighbour being in hospital meant that our wheat was not harvested.

I tried to get them to come back, I called Marziale in hospital, we tried to come up with a plan of how to sort the grain, but the rains have come back again, and the wheat was ruined. I felt a little dejected, but I argued that being part of the farming community was like that, I was going through the pains they feel every year, so although our 3 hectares were not even harvested, some of them lost hundreds of hectares, and thousands of euros, and It felt good in a way to take part in their pain, because this wheat will always be theirs, and I felt the pain they must feel losing their farming tradition, the battle they fought with the boar king, and a modern world, that has deprived them of their treasures.

I still tried to come up with a way to save the Solina, I thought after all the seed is still in the field, maybe we can somehow plough it or cut it so it will seed itself again. But because Marziale was sick, we could not try it in time, in the end he sold his fields anyway, because he needed to pay back for his new tractor.

It felt absurd my neighbour was selling his farm to pay for a new tractor. But this is the case of agriculture in Italy, small mountain villages can not compete with the farmers down on the plains, wild boars, and weather and the poorer soil are all set against them, the pasta factories tie their hand with contracts they can never achieve, and their old tractors are only fuelled by love, because I can see no other reason why they still function. Yet in all of this what is evident is a love affair they have with their land. And one day I will see them put that love into the landrace heritage wheat, their beloved Solina, because it symbolises that love, alongside the taste of the land, the fragrance of mountain, its the love of men, and his toil that has taken a grass and elevated it into a golden grain, through 11,000 years of selection and seed saving, taking small bag of seeds on his migrations, we now stand to loose in our modern world the whole voyage of love, man took with his seeds a genetic journey of perfecting this grass into the perfect loaf of bread into a bowl of heavenly pasta.
Solina is a story of men, the plight of the Abruzzi. The tall mountains and the oak forests, it’s the story of the peasant farmer in this wild wild land.

I have this dream, to create a restaurant serving the taste of the land, the real tastes of heirloom veg and cereal, and Solina combines all of that in itself. The secret gold of Abruzzo, will be the bread that I serve. So Terroir is the taste of the land, and love is what made it grow, the feeling of belonging, the millennia clock that ticks in our genes, my neighbours still hear it tick, the land calls them to plough, the gods had given us grains made out of grass, and with it they gave us, who were nomads, the feeling of belonging. So wheat is a story of our belonging.

We fight to save the last seeds kept on the terracotta tiles, before they are lost forever. Before we as a people would lose the taste of the land forever, and with it we will be made to lose our place, and made to wander again, the gods gave us wheat, so we can settle and belong. It’s a golden thread and for me it is called Solina, The gold of the Abruzzi.