Journey into a Permaculture Farm School in the Forest

Artwork by William Kosloski

The forest has eyes that look back at you
In the dawn of morning light
Heart open
Flow in
Flow out

Winter has been trying on some new wears here on the farm, a light coating of wet snow, making everything you touch a cold dampness that seeps into your bones.  The Blue Jays are storing up their seeds from the pumpkins that have been arriving from neighbours to help feed goats, chickens and pigs, and the chickadees are singing their winter songs welcoming the hopeful return of light when winter takes their place on the throne of seasonality.  Life carries on as it always has and always will.

Our connection to place is one that deepens with each season that we have the grace to experience here in Cape Breton, our fourth winter in this off-grid way of life.  Our immersion into the woods has been a journey of exploration of self, of hardship, determination, success and failure.  Notions of a small cabin in the woods, smoke columns churning out of a warming fire, reading by candlelight with hours of long sleep, yes maybe some elements of that, however, we are still caught in the process of dream building, of designing, of creating.  Our small cabin still requires much work, it has not been sealed well with drafts of cold air that remind you of such jobs that require attention, and yet there are other tasks that need tending to.  Every action requires work to insure our comfort and our continuance in this place, and the animals depend on us, as much as we depend on them.  We must be out there every day no matter what winter blows our way.  We have been working at what has felt like an impossible pace, our bones tired with fatigue, our minds filled with the to-do lists to keep such an operation afloat.  The long nights give us rest, and they give us dreams to work into for the coming season.

Yes, the dream building, the listening to the brook, the soft sway of trees in the wind, the brown leaf littered paths and the great pines with their early morning droplets of heavy water dripping onto the green moss taking in this water fed nourishment, all speak if we dare to listen to their language.  The forest of this place is now empty of other humans for the season, as those who found their way to this little piece of Acadian forest have left with baskets full of gifts, of stories and of images that may take them a lifetime to unravel.  They have also left us with a bundle  of treasures that we are taking out one by one, creating a narrative of what the future of this place holds.  We are indebted to their service to this forest that many called home for a period of time.  She continues to hold and digest all of their stories from time spent in her mossy embrace.

And like the wild roots that they all are, these wandering souls have planted a seed of hope here at Twisted Roots Farm,  the vision of a school, a school of wyld roots, to welcome others who may carry on this work beyond our lifetimes.  It is ambitious, maybe a little crazy, but something worth the effort, worth the wait.  And as the sacred holders of this story, we are putting out a call to those who feel a draw, a pull, a curiosity to such a place where our grandest longing is that others will come to learn, to experience and to grow.  A year is a long time, for some it may even feel like a lifetime, however to really feel into what farming is, a year of following the seasons is what is required in this school of permaculture farm and forest.

A human being is a part of a whole, called by us “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest … a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein

What we are inviting, what we are envisioning, what we are dreaming is to combine the practical hands-on skills of permaculture and farming, with that of nature-based dialogue. And what is this nature-based dialogue thing that we speak of? Well, it is hard to put words to, but it is something that we as humans have been engaged in since we were imagined into this world.

Spending time removed from manufactured landscapes, we feel, is a required necessity for healthy human development. We have evolved with nature, with the wild, with the earth for 99% of our existence, and it is only recently that we have taken this turn towards a separation from that which sustains us in every way. She gives us life, however there is a separation between us and “it,” because that is how our language (western language) objectifies our relationship to the natural world, it is an “it” and therefore is something I can use, something I can exploit, I am above it, I have power over it. This however is not sustainable, this is not reciprocity with the beings that give us life. They have names, they have lives and they are related to us. Resources are not inexhaustible, and as human populations grow and rates of consumption increase, we are in some serious trouble as are many of the beings and species that are disappearing each day (species loss is estimated at 200 species / day). As her life systems respond, there will be significant consequences for us. We are seeing some of this now with a virus that is shutting us down, restricting our movements and decreasing our populations. An immune response to our collective actions. We are trying to fight a life system that has been 5 billion years in the making, it is a battle we will lose. Our war-like mentality and language is setting our species up for failure.

See Derrick Jenson, The Myth of Human Supremacy, Stephan Harold Buhner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm and Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul

I am now in my early fifties, and although I will see more crisis moments, I will not be the one who will have to deal with the consequences of  the privileged life I have been so graciously gifted as a child of the seventies.  No, these next generations will have to deal with my lust for consumption.  They are the future earth poets, writers, designers, builders, architects and visionaries.  We call on all them to hear what is being spoken in this forest.

What this farm in the forest is offering, is hoping, is for others to come here, to experience the four seasons in all their wonder and hardship, to feel what it is like to provide for your needs.  Connection with water, connection with waste, with heat, with energy, with food, while also nourishing ourselves with this nature-based dialogue where we can have those parts of ourselves reflected in an environment that humans need.  We cannot do this on our own, and we must have others with dreams,  wonderings, and longings to a life that puts us in direct relationship with the natural community.  

And so, the School of Wyld Roots will start its first year of existence on the first day of spring 2021 from the seeds of the previous year. Shoots will bust from the ground reaching for new life, sending wild roots into the soil, creating a new foundation.  As we follow the seasons, students will be on a steep learning curve of exploration, growing food, tending to farm life, living off-grid and sinking into the depths of this wild community.  Students will build small cabins to provide shelter, learn from others in the larger community and come to understand all the workings of running a farm and a business.  As our time matures with the seasons, more responsibility is required, and understanding how to manifest gifts into true forms of artistry will chart the course for students as they design, build and bring to life ways to create economy.

The more time I spend here, the more I realize just how little I know.  We are no experts, only ones who are trying to follow a narrative that at times feels mysterious, unknown and maybe even impossible.  That however is part of the adventure, part of the journey, a story that we do not and will never know the ending to.  We can only dream it into being.

With gratitude I wander
I am with the trees the forest green
My story, its story our story created with love
The disconnect from culture acknowledging parts of me
Changing how I be
Sinking with the stones into rivers of emotion
And following the raven with great gifts to give
The red pearl of love
Led by the wind not knowing it was there
Confirmation by ancient voices
A song left to sing
To find my way home
To the sacred fires
To sing in the fields of those yet to come
With grief I may not see them
I can only dream them into being

Written by William Kosloski, Twisted Roots Farm

Visit the School of Wyld Roots

Published by Twisted Roots Farm

We are a small off-grid farm located in Cape Breton Nova Scotia.

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