Today I spend three hours chatting to a guy who came to collect some hops. He was so thrilled by the giant cones that dangled from the wires that tensioned the vegetable garden poles in place that he was almost crying with excitement. Then he spotted the wormwood, which he wanted a cutting off. He remembered eating it as a kid - that naughtiness that associates wormwood with absinthe, despite the fact it was the ethanol that was poisoning people, not artemisa. He made mead, and wanted to try an artemisa mead, which sounded amazing. We then talked about gotu kola, as we chewed its leaves and chickens squawked around us. I gave him fire cider to taste and we talked about the difference between balms and salves, and I gave him a tin of calendula balm. We didn't stop talking for a long time. I told him about my desire to start a herbal medicine course, become qualified and educate people on folk medicines - growing herbs, making tinctures and soaps and balms and all those lost arts that we really should know. He laughed happily, saying 'like a village witch?' and I couldn't help but laugh back in a kind of recognition. Yes, that's exactly it - from when I was a teenager, I always identified with the 'witch' - the one with the herbs drying from the rafters and herbal potions on the shelf, and a hare as a familiar.
I spend a few hours in the morning talking to my friends who wanted to start the alternative economy in town. They've started their Free Stand - a honesty system whereby you drop off fruit and vegetables, seeds and eggs and the like. A community abundance project, a food resilience dream. The council is supportive of it - they're running a community leadership program where they are encouraging people to do things just like this. I didn't end up going because I've been flat out stressed with work, but hope to do it next year. 'Tom' (as I call him here, for anonymity) is keen for me to help, because I get so excited by the prospect, and have lots of good ideas and practical skills. We talk about ideas, and how to ground them in practical ways. A logo, a name, a film, social media, posters, engaging with community, and so on. A quick visit to pick up cucumbers turned into a few hours. Tom is so keen to have me on board 'as you have so many skills'. It's been a long process to realise that maybe I can be part of building something instead of waiting for others to do it. He feels the same about his own rule, and so does his wife, Skye. 'We can't wait for anyone else to build it. We have to be the ones', she says. She brings out some insanely delicious dried pears that had been tossed in agave syrup and coconut oil and sesame seeds and caramelised in the oven.
Going home, I brainstorm names and come up with a possible, whip up a logo on canva, and arrive at 'The Hinterland Collective'. Tom loves it so much when I email him he sends me three voice messages on Facebook saying so. We do live in the hinterland, so it suits, and 'collective' sounds a bit more serious and cool than 'co-op', which has associations with hippiedom. Though we're fine with that, we want something more friendly for the lay person. The logos below are rough, but they're the beginnings of a recognisable identity and reflect a little of the thinking behind what we're trying to achieve. We love the idea of a collective - collective experience, collective input, collective abundance. - in skills, food, labour, love.
And I'm excited. Maybe going travelling isn't where I need to be putting my energies. Maybe it's building community in the way I'm building it in small ways now. I love the idea of a space with a kitchen and garden where we can run workships. Make your own kombucha. Make your own kraut. How to keep bees. Making your own soap - and so on, you know? Skills that have been lost. And I love, love the idea of teaching people about herbs - practical backyard herbalism that needs to be revived. I'm an educator by trade, soit feels like something I should be using as service to the community of which I'm part. I've always been passioante about herbs and it seems more and more that's where I'm being led.
Maybe being leader of Natural Medicine on HIVE has been a kind of confidence testing ground.
I'm certainly realising I do have some skills I can bring to a collective, and that these idealistic dreams of mine are also the idealistic dreams of others, and that together, maybe we can.
This post was written in response to the Abundance Tribe question: Given your talents, passions and values. How could you use these resources to serve, to help, to contribute, to the environment, to other living beings and /or to different causes? Anyone can answer it - post in Abundance Tribe community by 25th March.
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