Back to the land – a stewardship/apprenticeship program in Italy 2018

Wow, its been so busy…… I cant remember when I last got to write a blog entry.

Its been a really intense year this last one, working a lot on our site and sustainable rural development project in Italy, making yurts, meetings, events, working with people there has been so much, I felt at times like I was going crazy.

Having spent 3 years working on this Heartland Project, with our Main site in Italy I feel its time to start drawing conclusions, the first is that we want to focus more on real situations, and develop sustainability also on the level of relationship with people, what does that even mean? you ask.

It means we decided to focus less on events that we host, and little less on working with volunteers like we did, but start finding people that can integrate into the project for longer periods, On the Heartland site in the Abruzzen mountains, ive cleared a set of spots, its a place of outstanding beauty of nature so this year instead of pitching the yurts in a circle I want to try something we use to practice a million years ago when I lived in Tipi Valley (its a community in Wales that used to live only in tipis) Namely, pitching each yurt in its own dedicated field.

This way the yurt becomes the centre of a small area in Heartland, a place with its own eco system, and this way the yurt and the person living in it can focus on that special area as their own project, clearing the land planting gardens and herbs, etc.

As part of this project we have started dedicating some of the land plots to people we love, mostly nomads, or people we work with that have no place, so ive been giving them a little piece of heartland, because land with no people, is like people with no land. 

Back to the wild nature

Anyway to get to the main subject of this blog post, what we are aiming to do this year is to start a land stewardship program, through this program we want to invite people who can live for a period in a yurt in Italy, the terms of the exchange can be worked out, for example we can do work exchange, but the focus is sustainability, so we are looking for people who can dedicate over a month at a time and stay in a yurt, and look after the immediate area as their own little garden of eden, this way I feel, clearing the land integrates with a special opportunity that we can offer, for someone to go back to the land.

 

The other part of this program is apprenticeship, a part of the exchange could be that we teach people yurt making, so signing in so to speak for a couple of months or so next year can have an element of that too, where we teach a person to make yurts from a-z, peeling poles, steam bending, making wheels the whole lot. As we are now looking for people to make frames for us because of increased demand, this can also be an opportunity to establish a small self employed business once the person goes back home.

Yurt Making apprenticeship

We will be putting up the yurts in Abruzzo around may time, maybe a little later this year, so this program will open around than.

So many volunteers

Another part of program will be working with volunteers, as those are constant part of our project. We have a constant flow of volunteers, and they need looking after, sometimes they even need to be cooked for, but they are usually a lot of fun, and look after themselves, so although the focus is for people who want to go into pure nature and live there by themselves for a long period, having a constant flow of volunteers means that one isnt really usually alone.

Yurts in the wild

The person we look for needs to be ok with living outside, washing in fire heated baths, or using a heated bucket, because the yurts are going to be set apart probably this year cooking might take place in each yurt (we still need to figure this out). we want to emulate a more nomadic pattern over the site, so its possible also we will shift the yurts to new pastures so to speak. The site is very wild, so its not really Glamping, its more akin to living in a yurt in Mongolia, one has little furniture, sleeps on a bedroll, and nature isnt groomed in his or hers immediate surrounds, so all of that is part of the experience, so we are looking for people who can live at that level for a long period of time.

The amazing Lands of central Italy

The projects we are looking to focus on are mainly yurt making as part of the apprenticeship, Land clearing (this actually works hand in hand with the yurt making as a lot of the stuff we clear is yurt making ash), there will be some small scale farming, pruning and grafting fruit trees, looking after olives and planting of herb all over the site, possibly some building work. Through this program we are mainly looking for people who want to go back to the land, as an experience, that arent afraid of hard work.

I cant really describe the Heartland experience, but its often our volunteers leave here crying, and although we sometime make them cry, I dont mean they cry because of us, they cry because they feel they are leaving the last hold of freedom to go back to their lives, and thats what we want to start opening to a deeper integration. so we invite you to take part, learn how to be a yurt maker, live on the land by yourself without having to worry about bills, if the work exchange is clear we can offer you food too. other wise you will need to support yourself, but we get most of things in Bulk anyway so good organic food is cheap.

Heartland in the News

More and more people are interested in Heartland and our Sustainable Tourism project in Abruzzo, Central Italy – enough that Heartland has been featured in 2 of the UK’s biggest Glamping magazines.

The first was the June/July edition of Open Air Business Magazine. See page 22.

Digital Issues

The next was the September edition of the International Glamping Business Magazine, which coincided with the Glamping Show, an annual event for the Glamping Industry in the UK. It runs a whole feature on Glamping in Italy and we are on page 21 – and strangely there is a story of some other people who came from the UK to Abruzzo to start a glamping project.

Ready for the media…

The Journey of Heartland

So we lived for many years on the road in trucks or on the ground in tipis, as a part of a group consciousness process. We started making yurts in 2003, and set up Spirits Intent, making yurts and other nomadic tents in 2005, and at that time there were only a handful of other yurt makers in the UK, and the word ‘glamping’ didn’t even exist. We focused more on the canvas sewing side of things, as that was what seemed to be missing in the UK— our clients included other yurt makers, and obviously campsites, who need replacement tent covers, which we do from afar using measurements, whilst also supporting them with ongoing canvas care.

We always had an idea to build a new kind of campsite, with a focus closer to the origins of these tents, and as a base for the group consciousness process which we have part of for many years. The cost of land in Britain was prohibitive, so fast forward to 2015 when we packed up and left the little valley in Wales, where we had been living and working, and headed to Italy.

Who doesn’t have romantic ideas of La Dolce Vita in Italy: good food, a rich history, beautiful language and great climate. As we crossed the border into the Abruzzo region of Central Italy, we were welcomed by a magnificent double rainbow, so knew that this was going to be our place. We had never ventured this far south in Italy, and were amazed at the extraordinary variety of the land, with dramatic peaks over 3000 m just a short drive from the beaches of the Adriatic Coast, hardly any big industry, and hilltop villages with spectacular views.

Abruzzo is a land of mystery, who has never forgotten her history and origins: traditions, folklore, festivals and ancient varieties of grains and vegetables have stood the test of time. It still stands like a stronghold against the mainstream of Italian culture, like it did when the Samnites, its nomadic people, fought with Rome and is now known as the Green Heart of Europe with rich vegetation, forests and wild life: wolves and bears, deer and wild boar, magnificent birds of prey.

We found 12 hectares in an old abandoned farm with an old stone house, as we found that having a building on the land helps considerably with any project. The farm is called La Difesa, an ancient term that comes from its prior land use, where the feudal lord had a parcel of land, defended (difesa) for the grazing of large animals, feeding on the acorns under the massive oak trees, which were not allowed to be cut. As well as oak forests, it is abundant with fruit orchards and olive groves.

It stands on the doorstep of the Majella Massif, known as the ‘Mother Mountain’, whose views are so jaw dropping we still can’t believe we live here. It’s a wild powerful land, lying between two rivers and the nature is strong — the mountain has a rhythm of its own and it’s not unusual to have intense storms, interspersed with endless sun, never mind the myths of old goddesses lying asleep next to sulphur springs that are hidden in a grove 500 meters away.

To begin with, alongside our UK canvas work, we just focused on building Heartland, our site: clearing the land, restoring the orchards, making yurts, renovating the house, and running small non-profit events with a theme of well-being and sustainability. The local people were curious and overwhelmingly welcoming, coming to meet us and bring us gifts of their produce, the local priest even came to bless the house, and recently, the mayor of the local commune came and sat around the fire and joined in the singing.

We soon realised we couldn’t just focus on our project as we could help the local region, which like much of rural areas in central and southern Europe suffers from the disease of depopulation with outlying areas of villages being abandoned as the farmers compete with big industry on the plains and youth leave the villages for jobs elsewhere, taking with them ancient knowledge of the region. We realised that we could design glamping sites as a tool for famers and land owners to diversify and supplement income and bring energy to the area in a sustainable way. Glamping in Italy is no where near as established as it is in the UK, and still in its infancy in Central Italy, so a Glamping Revolution was born: GlampItalia. It started promoting Glamping products in Italy, and got names like Featherdown Farm, Outstanding Safari Tents, and others on board.

We started sitting in meetings with famers and local bodies, eventually gathering a whole network of small eco-projects and farms in Abruzzo, for the creation of an integration between sustainable tourism, and organic farming that has roots in the rich farming tradition of the area. Abruzzo is a well kept secret, and doesn’t need an invasion of mass tourism, but a slow tourism which supports the local culture. There is an opening to put together a methodology based on a concept that has transformed the hospitality industry in the UK, but here it can actually save villages from ruin.

Meanwhile we started hosting more events: yurt-making, healing arts, green building, with personal transformation work always an underlying theme. Living as a group around the fire in the quiet of wild, abundant nature is a profound experience. We intend to host two events every year, Spring and Autumn, and this Autumn we plan to raise the central canopy of our Zodiac Tent. We have always had a passion for tent palaces and, over the years, have made or been part of making several of the grandest. This tent is a reproduction of a court tent of the Mogul emperor Humayun: a grand 20 metre central tent (representing the celestial sphere) surrounded by 12 yurts in a circle (for the 12 Zodiacal signs) – a micro cosmos, and will form a magical venue for events for all over Europe but with a base on our own site – Heartland.

The site now has 4 yurts, a tipi, a kitchen area, compost toilets, outdoor wood-fired bathtubs and a Shepherds Hut under construction. As well as running our own events, we intend to open the campsite, including the Zodiac Tent, for groups of people to run independent events such as team-building workshops, bushcraft courses, and holistic health events.

Bureaucracy in Italy is agonising and about 20 years behind the UK, but the legendary red tape for planning permission has been surprisingly not so red, and can be as easy as liasing with the local Commune. Obviously the nature of permit is defined also by the activity, but there are options that do not exist in the UK, where tents can be pitched on agricultural land, or the commune can bypass a need for a change of land use with a simple declaration from the mayor.

The Italian tax system is more prohibitive than in the UK, but like many people that have moved here, the sun, food, culture and warm hearted people by far make up for it. It is important that a place inspires your love strongly and we advise people moving over to allow two years for the leap, and to work with a solid local team of commercialista, geometra, lawyer and architect. There are an endless amount of rural properties at a fraction of the price of land in the UK, and some villages in Italy are even giving away houses to reverse their abandonment. If you have a dream of moving out to Italy to start a glamping site or similar project, it is a good time now before Brexit as who knows what will be possible then? We are happy to offer advice and bring more projects onboard to create a sustainable tourism network throughout Central Italy, and a movement of visitors between them.

Abruzzo is unbelievably beautiful, and we are finding a balance between reversing the abandonment yet loving the quiet it produces – living in a myth of ancient Italy, on the verge of a new dawn of sustainable redevelopment. It’s a full, fulfilling life and a good cause to live by.

 

The Network and the Cure

Summer has been somewhat hot: some people even gave it a name “The Lucifer Heatwave”.

Its Obvious to anyone who have got eyes that global warming is already here. I am not scared about it, the earth will look after itself it always does: it’s us, the people, that will suffer. 

Don’t get me wrong I do think we should do something about it, but I have this approach to activism that is very simple: I don’t believe we can change it without changing ourselves. This takes me to the core issue I’m dealing with these days.

We are working on the creation of a very special type of performance/event series, the idea is one we have been working 5 years to realise, is to create a sort of tented camp, based on the nomadic designs, a sort of contained travelling city with a heart. 

Nomadic tent city

The heart of that city, or performance if you wish, is the Zodiac Yurt Palace. It’s a sort of tent venue that hopefully can address the real issue, that we, “the white race”, have lost our connection to this earth and to each other. It’s a blatant opposite to our work in the Glamping world – to take an individual into a sort of togetherness,  an experience that will focus on taking us into a connectivity. The idea behind this show, this series of events, is to take people back into a state of mind and of being which is primal, and hopefully to help address the real issue, that we have lost our place in society, our role as beings on this earth.

I’ve been writing a lot lately about the fact that many people we know, take to other cultures as a solution to move away from where the Western world has got to. My experience from travelling for 16 years, and from studying other cultures is this – contact with the white race has always brought disaster, but also that the core of the issue seems to be that there is this mental disorder that affects everyone in western society, and simply being exposed to it seems to spread it to any other society or people, so I guess, to me it seems like an answer must come from the western world, from the white people. Like our friends, we hope to glean something that is lost here, from other cultures, and we wish to use it to find a way to help people back into a state of being that we never get exposed to anymore. In working with people at our events, we have noticed that it can take over a week for people just to shed off the problems of being in society, the city, the demands. It’s little by little that their natural inner being comes out again:  that’s why its all worth it, for those moments when they break through, when they go home and make a little difference.

I admire those friends that go and live with the Indians, people leave their lives and uproot into native and indigenous society but I feel like my place is here, in Europe.

And so this platform has come into being, we aim to use the biggest yurt palace ever made as a centre to take people into another state of being. It’s called together.

The yurts of the  zodiac tent are all in a circle so there is less room for each person to go into his separate self. Instead we each are almost pushed into being together, then the central arena is also a place that hosts performance, but the line between the public and the show is eliminated, so it’s a series of lead participatory workshops, where the performers and the public are one. 

The idea behind this venue is to try and work out a remedy for this mental Illness, to use Glamping for sustainability, and inner work as the torch bearer. We teach groups about telepathy, and inner psychic ability, how to affect others through service, and working together, but more than all we teach others about this space, the group mind, where miracles seems to happen, and so this performance we have been working on is the real focus, to raise this tent as a sort of hospital, where we can connect to our real network, to open up to a state of being that is lost in the West, and to affect the cure for the separation we all hold so dear. 

If you are reading this and this is something that inspires you, we are now working on two parallel groups: one in Europe and one in the USA. We are looking for people to be part of the logistics, the performance and the network that operates this show, so feel free to contact us to talk about it in detail. 

 

Forging the Heavenly Mill

In Ancient times there was a mysterious theme the one of the sky mill, it wasn’t a motif, it was a symbol for the change the ancient viewed in the sky over the ages, through the procession of the equinox, different constellations presented themselves to the eye in the sky at different times, the change was so slow as to take hundred of years to present a new constellation all together at the time of the equinox, yet the ancients understood and saw that changed and called the whole effect a mill.

In the norse epic the Kalevala That heavenly mill is called the Sampo, its a multi coloured article, a magical mill forged by a the best Smith.

We want to use this motif and develop it into a themed event this coming September, In the Heartland campground in Abruzzo where we are researching a new type of hybrid between sustainable tourism and personal development work.

The idea is to run another of those special events which are a mix of tent making, and promotional work, cutting edge performance and inner work, but all the while in the wildest nature of Abruzzo, the mountains and the open air, we will be raising 4 yurts, and be focusing this time of the central tent portion of the Zodiac tent, the Zome.

Because the theme happens to be The heavenly mill, we want for the cooking part of the event focus on food made from the ancient grains of Abruzzo, to develop a way to feed the event participant that connects us to a gluten free or at least gluten healthy past, when the local ancient grains where still healthy to eat….. Before modern Wheat, so we will make pasta, and eat Spelt grain for staple, make bread in the fire etc. 

The focus of this month long event will be to create a sort of alternative performance geared towards change Alongside a group of other people we are developing a type of activity that hopefully will turn into a participatory show, one that takes the spectator right into the show, like a sort of rite of passage from the past, the zodiac tent is going to be a sort of oracle edifice, and so we are working to have a sort of mix between challenging the self into deeper layers of connectivity, we hope to again touch on the subjects of telepathy, and well being, inner calling etc.

Like each of our events, there will be a sweatlodge to purify ourselves, this will hopefully take place around the equinox time, the moment of change.

here is a video of the last event we hosted in the spring, we hope to be holding two of these month long events every year.

Contact us if you feel called to participate, remember we will be living only in nature and sleeping in yurts, and the scope of inner work and this level of natural encounter isnt for everyone, its for people who wish to further into their psyche, for those of us that are willing to witness the mill of change and understand how it makes everything revolve, how it grinds the new age.