While there have been many things I have loved about life in Nova Scotia, the fact remains both government and populace are, by and large, short-sighted and afflicted with intractable notions of 19th century economics. If you guaranteed Nova Scotians jobs today but also guaranteed them that their grandchildren would find the province poisoned and uninhabitable if they took those jobs, I think most Nova Scotians would figure: Well, that’s their problem. With barely 1% of its native forests left, and almost no remaining old growth woods, the government of Nova Scotia continues to sanction the idiotic policy of biofuel, which involves cutting down slow-growing hardwood forests, grinding them to chips and burning them for electricity. And when I say “cutting down”, what I really mean is giant machines that look like archetypes of a “Terminator” apocalypse are used to rip everything from the forest, right down to the roots. It’s all ground up and burned, leaving nothing to even revitalize the soil. But in a country which has no required qualifications to serve in office, can one expect any different? The PEI Minister of Environment’s qualification is a real estate license. The Nova Scotia Minister of Environment is an avaricious, sniveling MBA. The Minister of Agriculture is a self-serving pawn of corporate farming. Soon, I think, Nova Scotia’s environment will be wrecked, all the traditional jobs like violin carving and woodworking will be gone, and so will the province’s legendary beauty which once made it a tourist draw. And that’s not to mention that hardwood forests are environmentally diverse and rich biomes that are being destroyed wholesale.
“But now there was this little fox, weaving and leaping in a meadow of green-beyond-green, among countless bright hued butterflies on a perfect summer’s day. It wasn’t after food. It wasn’t after shelter. What it did, it did for joy’s own sake—there could be no doubt. And would an automaton with no soul do such a thing? Would an insentient being desire to play? All that activity would burn calories, and among wild creatures which must strive for every morsel of food, energy was hard won and precious. Wild creatures must hide, for there is always some other creature that would prey upon them if opportunity presented. If this little fox were merely an automaton with no real emotional life, no appreciation of beauty, no dreams, no joy . . . then why was it risking no cover and burning energy to play in a meadow of flowers and butterflies?
“And it was there in that moment I began to question all I thought I knew of the natural world, all that priests and science alike had taught me. It was, so many years ago, a transformational moment for me. I was barely more than a child, but it was like in that moment I woke up inside. I had loved the natural world before, but as I realized its creatures were so deep, so profound, so full of life and spirit and joy, it was like Nature took on color and marvel, depth and mystery, and I knew of a sudden that that little fox down there was my brother or sister in all of life’s wonders and perils. And if the fox, then perhaps all the creatures that shared this world were likewise. Even the slow green spirits of trees were my kith and kin, and the realization was so profound it brought laughter to my lips and tears to my eyes. That moment, I think, was the first time I ever touched the deep magic at the heart of the wild in a truly spiritual way. It was a gift of the Great Spirit. And though I did not know it at the time, because of that fox my life would be changed forever.”
More than 40 years old, the single most comprehensive publication on small farming and rural living in the world, Mother Earth News reports this month on how mega-farmed meat kills small farms and small towns. Colwell, take a look at the article at the bottom (the one highlighted). Oh wait, you can’t do that–you’re corporate masters and personal yes-men say you cannot.
For over a year, I and other woodsmen/homesteaders/organic-permaculture farmers around the province have been telling Nova Scotians that the government is allowing the illegal cutting down of old forests for pulp wood. NS government has ignored this because apparently it’s “good for the economy”, and they have given NS forestry the ability to “police” themselves. I have photographed this ongoing destruction at various sites. You won’t see this from the roads. It’s often tucked away behind a hedge of trees or in folds of hills so it’s not obvious to passersby. This is one old forest that was destroyed, probably to feed the Pictou County pulp mill, over the last year. In the first image, my wife and daughter stand near a great tree for scale. In the second, taken middle summer, you can see the loggers going to work. I figure they’ve cut about 100 acres in this image. In the third section, taken yesterday, they have leveled roughly a square mile (640 acres) of old forest. The cut is so large, I had to zoom way back to squeeze it all in and still couldn’t get all of it in the photo. Why? Either biofuel or for the pulp mill, to make toilet paper or fuel pellets to sell to the “green minded” Europeans, where green really means buying the environmental destruction of other places of the world.
I had to go into town today to pick up our new truck, which was getting a rust prevention treatment. While there, I stopped at the grocer to get some things we cannot grow ourselves, like tea, and some day old bread for the livestock. I noticed the price of groceries. Unbelievable! Prices have skyrocketed over the last year alone. Some meat is triple the cost. Chocolate was 25% to 50% more expensive. Veggies are through the roof. One small chicken, 2 or 3 lbs, was “sale priced” at $18. We notice food prices so rarely because we grow and forage so much of our own food, but how on Earth do most families afford to eat anymore. Daphne and I calculated that, eating leanly and mostly buying on sale products, it must cost a typical Canadian family over $100 per week per family member to maintain a healthy diet. This is sham agriculture, people, and I know for a fact at least some of those prices are due to engineered shortages. And if people like the Nova Scotia Minister of Agriculture, Keith Colwell, have their way, it will become rapidly harder for families to get affordable food from local farms and market gardens. Colwell says it’s all about food safety. He is lying. it’s about lining pockets.
Recently, the Wild Hunt did a thorough review of my last book, Seasons of the Sacred Earth. It was heartwarming to read it, and I was deeply honored to have my work compared with that of Richard Louv and Henry David Thoreau. I am sharing it below. You can visit their photo be clicking any of the photos. Keep an eye open for my new book, The Wildwood Way, available at bookstores everywhere next summer.
WH Book Review: Seasons of the Sacred Earth by Cliff Seruntine
In 2005, Richard Louv introduced an emerging theory that many of our modern children’s ills – obesity, depression, behavioral problems – are caused by their lack of interaction with nature. In his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, he brought together research and information from several sources to support the idea that reconnecting with nature was the antidote for many of these struggles.
His work was inspirational and influential in several ways including the founding of the Children and Nature Network, an organization with a vision of creating a world “where every child can play, learn and grow in nature.” This is a stark contrast to the reports of children who spend endless hours inside watching television and playing video games.
Increasing numbers of people, either out of support for the environment, concerns over rising food costs, or the desire to feed their families higher quality foods, are creating urban and suburban gardens and (re)learning how to preserve food, brew beer, make cheese, and raise chickens. Other people, including many who have been inspired by Louv’s work, are doing so for the healing that nature provides. Still others turn to nature in their search for deity and a meaningful spiritual connection to the Earth that we share.
In Cliff Seruntine’s most recent book, Seasons of the Sacred Earth, he argues that in “this artificially rational, industrial era … it is important that folks remember the truth of a deeper reality.”Seasons of the Sacred Earth is a collection of thoughts, stories, and magical experiences that take the reader from the Louisiana bayou to the Alaskan wilderness and, finally, to his family’s Novia Scotia homestead. Seruntine’s storytelling and vivid imagery make the magic of forests, raging storms and even a struggling vegetable garden come alive.
Raised in Louisiana, Seruntine recounts the many childhood hours spent in a “vast, rambling, lazy realm of forests and farms,” losing all sense of time on river banks while deepening friendships on forest floors and becoming mesmerized by the natural magic surrounding him. After leaving this magical environment for college and career, he and his wife moved to Alaska where he learned the ethical hunting of caribou, the way to fish for salmon, and the process for harvesting wild mushrooms.
When his chosen career path as a psychotherapist took a toll on his spirit, he and his family moved to Nova Scotia and began setting up a homestead called Twa Corbies Hollow(“Two Raven’s Hollow). There he “found again the truth [he] knew as a child—the natural world is enchanted, powerful, healing, and ultimately vital to our wellbeing.”
Arranged by months, Seruntine’s book takes us through the Wheel of the Year and highlights the lessons that his family has learned by living close and in rhythm with the Earth. The most important lesson, it seems, is to “live in harmony with life’s weave and Nature keeps you.”
Seasons of the Sacred Earth is rich with stories and ideas that many practitioners of earth-centric religions will appreciate. He does not include spells, scripted meditations, or devotional prayers; nor does he include any history and interpretations of various deities across culture and faith traditions. Seruntine set out not to write a homesteading how-to book, but rather to offer a book about this “knowing,” about finding our spiritual journey in Nature rather than in books. He recalls,
… the more I studied the various paths, the more I realized their essential foundation in Nature was slipping from the experience of modern folk. Most modern witches I had met had never picked a wild herb in the woods. Followers of Norse lore were more concerned with casting runes than wandering the wild mountains in search of wisdom, as their god Odhinn had done. The British druids, who come from a path firmly rooted in the green world, had become an almost entirely urbanized and academic lot. I recall a discussion I once read on an online druid mailing list. A new person asked what he should study to become a contemporary druid. Every person on the network referred him to enormous reading lists on Celtic history and culture. Not one thought to advise him to immerse himself in the green world for a spell. How very odd for a path that is considered a Nature religion to entirely neglect the essential need of Nature.
In many popular seasonally-based, Pagan books and you will find crafts, spells, and meditations for each sabot or rite of passage. The writings often seek to inform us of the harvest of Samhain, the bitter cold and promise of Imbolc, the explosion of life at Beltane, and the hard work and toil of Lughnasadh. Seruntine’s stories take us beyond the meditations and workings that many of us perform in our climate-controlled temples with store-bought bread and wine, which are often followed by a feast of food shipped in from all over the globe.
Through his stories, Seruntine offers the reader the experience of enormous hauls of ripe sweet fruit from Grandfather Apple, blinding blizzards, stir-crazy humans and animals, balefires with friends, home-brewed cider, frighteningly violent electrical storms, and a soggy-turned-wildly-abundant vegetable garden. Along the way, Seruntine weaves in conversations and experiences shared with his daughters on magic and spirit folk, communication with other species, and sightings of the barn bruanighe and the Green Man.
Between the talks of magic are seemingly practical, mundane discussions of archery, soil improvement, and goat milking, through which he brings validity to his belief that “[m]agic comes in many ways, and there is enchantment in so many things. All you have to do is really open your eyes. It’s everywhere.” The few family recipes that he does share, such as making cider, cheese, and cough syrup, feel like spiritual processes full of tradition and the wealth of the seasons.He acknowledges that it may be difficult for many people to leave the comforts (and discomforts) of the cities and suburbs in order to set up a self-reliant homestead like Twa Corbies. He writes:
You don’t have to launch off deep into the wilds as we have done, but you do have to go out your door. The trees and grass, the animals and brooks and sea, and earth and sky have much to teach any who look at them. There is magic and wonder beyond your door, and it is happy to enrich you if you walk its way.
As it is for many Pagans, Seruntine’s relationship with deity and with nature is highly personal. This book is an intimate peak into his own experiences and interpretations. There are times when he has profound epiphanies that will easily stir excitement, despair, and understanding. There are also moments that, in his wanderings through the forest and farm, his explanations are so particular to his observations and experiences that readers may find it challenging to follow his logic. But logic is often not the stuff of enlightenment. Seruntine’s overall message is that, if we take care of the land and its spirit folk, they will take care of us in return. There is wisdom is in the dirt, in the trees, in the animals and in the Great Cycle.
The development of deep spiritual relationships with the land is not a new idea. It was over 150 years ago that Henry David Thoreau built himself a tiny house by Walden pond as an experiment, the experience leading to him famously writing, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” His explorations became an inspiration to many who value and advocate for the environment. Seruntine, like Richard Louv, is newer contributor to a continued movement toward a simple life embracing nature for both health, balance and spiritual connectivity.
Seasons of the Sacred Earth is available through book retailers in paperback and electronic formats. Seruntine’s ongoing musings and activities can also be found on Facebook and on his blog.
An interesting read….the information isn’t really new but does pertain to Nova Scotia and the severe issues we face with regards to food security. That’s why these resolutions are very important. By addressing the Natural Products Act it will ensure that Nova Scotians have the power to fend for themselves without threat of suppression from out dated, draconian regulations that leaves the power in the hands of a few. Also, by coming up with a solution for an acceptable licensing system for slaughterhouses, it would put choice and power back with the consumer which has now been taken away. The questionable practices of a waiver for turkey poults will also need to be addressed as it essentially cuts off at the supply chain taking away not only the farmer’s right to farm, but the consumer’s right to choose what food they put into their bodies and where it comes from. If we cannot come to a solution and things are allowed to continue on this path, the turkey issues and control/enforcement of the Natural products Act will only get worse and spread to other areas. This is why it is so important that if you are a member of the NSFA, that you get out to support and vote for the 2 noted resolutions at the Provincial meeting this Thursday and Friday. Likewise, if you are not a member, you are still allowed to speak and let them know how important it is that we get these issues resolved and that the help of the Federation is imperative to opening discussion and finding a fair resolution to these issues that will affect our children and the future of the province. This province needs a supportive system and government that helps to prop up it’s citizens, not break them. #onevoice #theywilllisten
I see a lot of memes floating around the internet along the theme: Thank a Farmer. It’s feel good kind of stuff. The motif is, Hey, farmers work really hard to feed you, so you should be grateful to them. But I want to inform you, you should carefully consider the kinds of farmers you thank. Some of them have your interest and Earth’s interest no more in mind than do Alberta’s tar sands developers.
Farming is hard work, and I say that from long experience. I’ve been growing, hunting and foraging my family’s food literally as far back as I can remember, except for a brief stint in college and grad school when I lived in a small city. But some farmers are doing it because they love it, and some farmers are doing it because it’s business, and some farmers do not care how they turn a profit. There are, sadly, more of the last than you might imagine, too.
See, over the last couple months I’ve been very involved with some farming advocacy causes. The reason is simple: Nova Scotia’s crooked Minister of Agriculture, Keith Colwell, is a firm believer that corporate farming, mega-farming, and big business battery/GMO farming are the way of the future. He believes in it so much that he is trying to ban, bit by bit, small farming in the province of Nova Scotia. He claims it’s for food safety, but the real reason is simple: Nova Scotia government through its history has always catered to big business interests. Look at the Northern Pulp Mill in Pictou County, which emits as much as 10,000 times over the UN limits on carcinogenic particulate matter but which our government has refused to mandate they clean up or shut down. Look at Nova Scotia’s history of mining: the Sydney tar ponds which had to be cleaned up at the tax payers’ expense. Colwell seems more hellbent than most of our fool politicians on phasing out small farming in the province through abuse of the archaic Natural Products Act (anyone else smell a kickback?). Colwell has absolutely refused to speak with any constituent or knowledgeable person about his actions and their ramifications, too. For over a month, I have sought among thousands of concerned people for confirmation of a meaningful communication by Colwell, yet not one single person has confirmed receiving any more than meaningless Trust us, we’re really nice replies.
As I’ve been in contact with farming groups throughout the Maritimes about preserving their traditional ways of life and the consumer’s right to choose wholesome food, you would not believe the amount of hate mail and venom that come in reply from mega-farmers and those invested in the food monopolies Colwell supports. Oh, it’s not the majority of those group members. Most of those members are either supportive, concerned or just want to live in peace without this new government drama. But within each of these groups is a certain and constant subset that will screech endlessly that GMO is harmless, burning the topsoil with fuel-based fertilizers is okay, turning over food to mega-corporate/big business farms is a wise choice, and consumers are not smart enough to make their own choices regarding where their food comes from. The worst of these groups has been based on FaceBook called Farming In the Maritimes, which is a hub for several thousand persons with agricultural interests around the Canadian Maritime provinces. While it has many progressive thinkers, its moderators seem to want numbers and are as happy to entertain the worst of battery/GMO farming as they are responsible/ethical farmers.
I’ve been told, Why can’t you just peacefully accept the other side (you know, the GMO/mega-livestock kinds of operations). The reasons are simple. The most important reason is what they do is vicious to the land and to the wildlife and it makes people sick. (Did you know that farmers who engage in GMO/chemical/battery farming suffer markedly higher incidents of poor health?). But the other reason is as important: Because that side wants to hide the GMO products in your food (look at Monsanto’s current lawsuits against Vermont and Hawaii to force them not to label GMOs despite voter resolutions), force conscientious farming out of existence (the NS Turkey Board’s ban on private small farm turkey husbandry despite regulations stating small farms can sell up to 25 out of gate), and create monopolies to force consumers to shop from them (did you know there are plans to shut down your access to many foods available in farmers’ markets?). You can’t make peace with persons who operate like that, or who think that sort of thing is okay. Somewhere, you have to draw a line.
So, the next time you are contemplating thanking a farmer, take a moment to be a little more specific. Thank an organic farmer, a permaculture farmer, a free range farmer, a small farmer. Thank the people who are doing their best to get good and real food to you, because increasingly they are having to fight for your right to choose it.
Date: December 13, 2014
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Location: Twa Corbies Hollow Organic Farm 45 minutes from Antigonish and New Glasgow (register for directions).
Contact Info: twa.corbies.hollow at gmail.com
Are you interested in learning to make homemade gourmet cheeses? Want to create something unique and special for the holidays? Join us at our homestead, Twa Corbies Hollow, for an all-in-a-day cheesemaking course. You will learn:
How to select equipment and milk for cheesemaking.
How to make rennet, citric and vinegar based cheese curds.
How to transform those curds into cheeses.
How to preserve cheeses by salting, waxing or pickling in oil.
How to season and spice cheeses for sweet and zesty holiday treats.
The class will be held at our backcountry cottage not far from Garden of Eden, Nova Scotia (about halfway between New Glasgow and Antigonish and off the road a half dozen miles). Pre-registration and prepayment will be required so that we can estimate how much material we will need for the class. No special equipment is required of participants, but we suggest you bring something to write notes on.
To register, contact Daphne by email at:
Our background: Nine years ago Daphne and Cliff relocated to Nova Scotia from Alaska where they lived at a remote wilderness cabin for many years, perfecting many arts and crafts of traditional self-sufficiency. Cliff is a registered psychotherapist as well as an expert tracker, wild food forager, organic farmer, horse trainer and fiddler who is best known for his books on the spiritual elements of living well with nature (see his website at:cliffseruntine.wordpress.com ). Daphne is accomplished at herb gardening, goat husbandry and many of the traditional skills of homesteading and each year crafts and preserves nearly all the food their family requires. Each year, from their semi-remote homestead, Cliff and Daphne offer courses on traditional skills of self-sufficiency.
(Due to Nova Scotia’s absurd restrictions on traditional foods, milk used in the course will be bovine milk from a registered dairy.)
So, what Monsanto and Dow Chemical are really saying is even if people don’t want their pollution where they live, they’re going to force them to accept it. Really, what they are saying is they’re more important than democracy.