Some Perspective

I went out to the farm with my mother on Sunday. She helped me identify some of the trees that I don’t yet know. But also by her just being there with me it helped me gain some “lifetime perspective”.

My Mom

A perspective that helps me see that its OK if things take the time that they need to take. Its going to take a lifetime sculpting this land, this giant garden. The task will never end. My learning, I am sure will never end. I see this time now as just the beginning of the relationship. The “getting to know each other” stage.

I wish I could tell you more about what has been done, since last I checked in, but to be honest, I have been really busy in business. I have been toiling, mostly mindless toiling, the kind that I just have to do to keep afloat. The kind of toil that makes me wonder if there is a different way, a simpler way, perhaps a more beautiful way for me to live out my life. A direct way. A way that cuts straight to the chase. A way that does not see everything as a means to and end. A way that is the end in itself. 

I spend so much of my time doing stuff, not that I want to do, but what I am required to do in order to achieve an objective and so much of the time even the objective that I am trying to achieve is not actually what I want but rather just something that helps me achieve another objective which is not what I want but helps me achieve the next objective. Yes I can see the insanity in this cycle and you can see the insanity in your own life, but just because I know the question does not mean I have the answer. I can see the treadmill that I am on, but that does not mean I know how to get off. And without wanting to push the metaphor too far, I can see that it really is possible to fall quite hard once you realise you are on a treadmill and look around, take your eye off where it should be and loose a footing, tumbling face forward and head over heals.

I tried not to think of these matters while I was out in the forest with the trees and my mom, where we found a tree that I very much hope is indigenous, but looks very much like

What tree is this?

the Australian invasive Acacia Mearnsii (known here as Black Wattle). As far as I can see its an Acacia Caffra, but some of my clever friends think is could be Peltophorum Africana. 

Its not that I have a facination with latin sounding names or the classification of each plant and tree, but rather just that I would like to know if they should be chopped down or not. If they are invasive, then they are just going to cause me more work over the years as I have to keep them out of areas I don’t want them to be in.So if anyone reading this blog can identify this tree or perhaps knows a internet group or forum that is likely to be able to, please let me know.

My mission in the next few weeks is to get going with planting potted trees that I have been moving from my house in Walmer. My mom tells me its late I should have planted in autumn already. Here I was holding on until spring, but I will plant anyway. 

The other project that is becoming urgent, is for me to move the chickens to the farm. Two of the chickens have turned out to be roosters and have taken to crowing early in the morning, I am sure upsetting the same neighbours who complained last time I had a rooster. So watch this space for chicken coop progress.

The Mystree tree

I love Bacon and Eggs

What a luck for me to be interested in growing exactly the same things that I love to eat!

I love Rump Steak, I love bacon and eggs,  I love nuts and berries, I love cheese and tomato omelettes with fresh coriander. I love fresh cream in my coffee. I lover roast chicken, I love chicken soup. I love green bean stew with tender lamb. I love thick creamy yoghurt. I love smoked fish. Steamed spinach with feta cheese, baked sweet potato with melted butter.Cabbage fried in butter with garlic and black pepper. Biltong, Olives, Blue cheese.

Beautiful, vibrant cabbage in Hlubi’s winter garden.

And what a further luck that the scientific community is slowly catching up tot he fact that these things are actually really good for us. Thanks to Prof. Tim Noakes, I have had the confidence to eat this way for the last two an a half years. (for about two years before that already, I had given up bread because it really just messed with my gut). Noakes calls this High Fat Low Carb diet “Banting”, in reference to a fat London guy, more than a hundred years ago, who cut out carbohydrates, eating fat, veg and protein to loose a significant amount of weight and probably saving his life in the process. The way of eating has now become quite popular thanks to Noakes’ latest book: “Real Meal Revolution”. You can get a sense of the enthusiasm of those following this thinking in the very useful Facebook group called Banting (Tim Noakes Diet). Its inspiring stuff.

For me, eating this way just makes sense. I feel a lot better, Within six months of starting to eat this way, I was lighter than I had been in 10 years and was running faster than I had in 20. What is interesting to me though is that to this day I still have some reluctance or hesitance about eating the amount of fat that I have now come to understand in necessary to remain healthy. I suppose this is because I, like you reading this, was brought up with the belief that fat was bad and would give me a heart attack. What is even more interesting though is to find that idea that fat is bad is actually a recently new notion. It is an idea introduced by a scientist in the 1950’s. This scientist selected data from 6 countries that showed that in countries that ate more fat, there was a higher incidence of heart disease. He did not show that fat caused the heart disease, but that just was enough “science” to get people dreaming up new markets for the massive excesses of grain and sugar that had resulted out of the massive commercialisation of agricultural land in the US after World War 2. I mean, we had been eating bacon and eggs for ever before the Kellogs Corporation convinced us that is was a better idea to eat a bowl full of reconstituted processed maize for breakfast.

What I am interested in is where ideas come from, that end up playing a role in our lives, sometimes devastating roles in our lives. Many people have died of diabetes and cardio-vascular disease because of ideas that have caught on and spread through our society. Very often these ideas are based on the flimsiest of science. Looking back its so easy to see that it really stupid to smoke, that slavery is not an option and that women are actually just as good as voting as men are (or aren’t) The point though is that at the time when these (now unpopular) practices were widespread, all kinds of science was hauled out to defend them.

That’s in the past and I am not that interested to dissect all of that, but what about now? What about today?what beliefs do we hold that may be dangerous? What beliefs do we hold that are not supported by the facts? Let me make an example of some of my beliefs:

  • I hold a belief that I need to earn big money every month to keep my family happy.
  • I hold the belief that my life will not change either way whether Germany or Argentina win the World Cup.
  • I hold the belief that I must remain faithful to my wife in order for me to remain happy
  • I hold the belief that if I keep working hard, it will all work out.
  • I hold the belief that bribery and corruption can not form part of a sustainable business.
  • I hold the belief that this country is the best place for me to be and that it will all be ok

But which of these beliefs will be blown out of the water as clear facts emerge in the next five or ten years? So I say to myself, “be wary of belief” and  in the absence of belief, I keep an open mind and while having an open mind, I know that my path is to  pass the days doing what I love. I choose not to wait for the scientists to catch up to me in five years time with confirmation of  what I knew was right for me all along. We don’t have enough time to wait for them. But we do have the time, every day, to be silent with ourselves to hear what we have to say. We speak to ourselves through our preferences, our tastes, our likes, our dislikes our arousals and our cravings. These voices cannot lie to us if we take the time to listen out for them. If we take the time to cancel out the noise and the clutter, we will hear our own voice.

About this there can be no doubt.

Design and the limitation of language.

For me, it has always been about design. Well I suppose not always, but for a long while. Even today as I cut away the brambles, trudged through the marsh and dragged dead branches away from the driveway, it is about design.

My career has been about design.

Pebblespring is about design.

I have learned from clever people that words point to a truth, but they are in themselves not the truth, so when I say I believe in “design” I may mean something different to a fashion designer friend or a structural engineer friend saying these words. Because, in truth, I have come to see that there is some magic dimension to design. (and I suppose by “magic” I really mean something that is very difficult to put into words) I will talk a little more about “magic” later, but let me explain what I call “design”:

  • To me, Design is more than problem solving
  • To me, Design takes stock of what we have and reconfigures it into something much more
  • To me, Design finds beauty in the re-configuration.
  • To me, Design finds its order and its harmony in the relationship between the parts that make up the whole.(the parts “speak” to each other and inform their nature, their form and their position.)
  • To me, Design is always about the configuring of the whole, it can never just be the part.

The “magic” though is that in any loose arrangement of parts there already exists a higher harmony and a higher order. There exists beauty!

Beauty is beyond science. There is no mechanism to quantify the amount of beauty that exists in a rose or a sunset. Beuaty is qualitative not quantitative. But, beauty exits. When you sit by yourself overwhelmed by the beauty of a sunset, you are not bullshitting yourself, you really are experiencing the beauty of the sunset. It exists. It is true. It just cant be measured.

So, it seems to me as if though the design,…. the beauty, exists before I sit down with the fragmented parts. It requires a still and receptive mind on my part to spend time with these parts to give each of them the “voice” they need to find their role in the new whole. As the designer, I am facilitating the parts toward their higher self in the new whole.

I know its sounds a little spacey, but its difficult to put into words a process that goes on in my head when the design process is going as I like it to go. And by the way it very seldom goes the way I would like it to go. In the work I do in the office as an Architect everyday, there are so many perfectly normal businesses reasons that make it impossible for the design process to go as I would like it to. But still, from time to time we are able to step beyond even these limitations and get some good work done.

At Pebblespring right now I am getting to know and understand the parts that make up the whole. I am getting to understand what their existing relationships are and what they could be. I am in a stage of observation, yes I have done some work, sometimes subtracting parts, like the poison Inkberry trees that kill the cattle, and sometimes adding parts, like a roof over the old cottage to stop the rain from melting away the sun dried bricks.

Every system is a living system. Pebblespring Farm is a living system. So if I change something, by addition or subtraction, it reacts, it adapts. I, as the designer, must be there to observe the reaction learn from it and correct my design and approach if necessary. I must remain concious and aware.

I cannot see that it is useful in this project, or in any project, to arrive with a pre-conceived notion plucked from Top Billing or Cosmo or the latest trip to the Seychelles. That, to me, is a different process and needs a different word to describe it. Not “design”. But I suppose this is the limitation of language!