Thursday, December 5, 2019

There is always compromise: Eating well in a complex global food system

There have been quite a few articles circulating recently about orthorexia, about the desire to control ones diet to the extreme and eat perfectly. With this approach, too often your diet is a type of shorthand, a ticket into some kind of exclusive club. If you say you do or don’t eat x, you get to be in relationship. And that seems quasi-religious to me. I agree that it is good to eat well. I even attempt to treat illness with changes in diet. I’m sold on this— it’s the subject of much of my research and it’s a key reason we farm. 

I want to speak out against the moral dimension that creeps in all too quickly— that we become righteous by what we eat, by what we consume. If someone comes to my house, I want them to be equally valued whatever they bring with them— I want them to know they are valued and that I can never fully know their stories and I will never judge them based on their food choices. 

As much as I want to do right by what I eat, in perfectionism lies madness. I say this with the caveat that I know there are real food allergies where perfectionism is pretty important if one wants to stay out of hospital. The motivation for “clean” eating seems a little different. It’s along the lines of wanting to always be in perfect health, or to be along a uniquely sustainable pathway. It sometimes even sounds a little evangelical. 

We live in a world that is infinitely complex, where our choices are always difficult. They are choices between us and God, or between us and our conscience. 

For me and my family, there is always compromise: what food our children will enjoy in the long term, our desire to not control our children’s preferences, our desire to steward our money and land well, to manage our dreams and our goals, how we manage our time, how a specific food fits with our five-year farm plan. In this set of dreams and dreaming, we make food choices. And in the safety of conceding inevitable imperfection, we make tremendous progress. Our diet is indistinguishable from the diet that we consumed nine or ten years ago. Yet if I need to go back to that diet for a week or a month, because we are traveling, I am sort of ok with that. I am ok getting chips and ice-cream with the kids now and then, ok with consuming meat with friends and family. I’m not saying this way of being is another kind of perfect, just that it is peaceful, and I find that it’s only when I’m peaceful that I’m able to make genuine progress— progress that extends beyond myself, because peace (like violence) spreads.   

In recognizing the compromises I make, I am also ok with the compromises made by farmers, provided they are honest, there are ways for us to talk about these compromises, and they are not compromises that will lead me directly to a hospital, at least in the short term. 

In farming for my family, I am able to farm quite idealistically, because I have made compromises in other areas: I feel I have enough money that I don’t have to farm for maximum profit. When I fail, I can still buy good food. That feeling of having enough is really important and powerful. 

If one is able to eat, supporting only the very best local farms, there are still questions of the definitions of best, definitions of local, prioritizing planet or healthy people or trying to weigh the two. Vegan or paleo? How much do farm workers get paid? How sustainable is the packaging? What if something you’ve eaten for a long time is not grown locally: do you change your diet? Was using the money to buy this food better than giving it to a neighbour who is eating very poorly because of circumstances beyond their control? Why is it better? These are questions of values, and it is ok for people to have different values around food. For me, farming and spending a lot of time on food is about trying to live the value that returns us to the actions that connect us to the earth, physically and spiritually. 

So I think there is always compromise (visible or invisible), and compromise — literally “coming together”— is not a bad thing. Remaining cemented in our rightness means we often cannot meet another person where they are— and in food, there is always a mountain of ambiguity, uncertainty, and trade-offs that are specific to local context. In finding common ground, we can move forward together. And ultimately, it is only together that we can go far.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Philippi Horticultural Area: Preserving agricultural land is urgent

There’s been news recently about the PHA: about the need to protect the agricultural land of the PHA, for the vegetables it produces for the City of Cape Town. Nazeer and the PHA have been fighting for the PHA to be preserved as farmland, and I stand alongside them.

Some older commercial farmers have said: you don’t represent us! This may well be because they are old and need to retire, and have little to retire on— they have worked for themselves all their lives, and there is no pension plan or medical scheme to fall back onto. From the time I’ve spent in the PHA, I could imagine it a hard place to retire. I see them trying to cash in, or already having cashed in and sold to developers, who leave the land fallow as they wait eagerly for zoning to be approved. And I think: perhaps it is a luxury for me tie myself to the land I steward. It must hurt to move on.

There have been several excellent articles about the fight happening in the High Court, and I don’t know more than the authors of those articles about the status of the PHA. I speak as a middle-class academic heading slowly into full-time farm-related activities. I don't want to ignore the racial and class battles at play, but I want to explore the possibility that the needs of the poor and the needs of the middle-class, (and the needs of the city's residents more broadly), all overlap.

Protecting the PHA is a core responsibility of the City, firstly by retaining rural zoning.

At the same time, this is not the end of the City’s responsibility (and, perhaps only the beginning of the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture). Rural or even agricultural zoning is not enough. The divide between the commercial farmers (many of whom are selling and leaving) and the landless farmers (who do not have the money to buy up land) is a reflection of the core challenges faced by farmers. Farming, especially small scale farming, especially physical labour: that these are complex, difficult activities. There ARE still commercial farmers in the PHA who continue to farm despite not having made money for themselves for several years. If the city saw crime in the area as an issue, or the agricultural extension office appreciated and supported the types of capital inputs uniquely needed for urban organic agriculture (for chippers or fencing, for example).

The current battle over the PHA comes after many years of neglect of that area by the city. Commercial farmers— including a robust organic agricultural tradition in parts of the PHA— have been selling up and leaving because it is dangerous, hard work, with little money, and their children will not take on the baton. While the area is close to the centre of the city, and close to market, it is no longer a safe place to raise children. While it remains potentially viable as a livelihood for very poor farmers if they are given land, this does not mean that the small scale commercial farmers aren’t also worthy of our compassion. Those who want to make money by paving over the city and are making boardroom decisions— developers and politicians— are making a choice that cannot be undone. It is the decision to use the space that is resulting in a free-for-all, and this is ultimately the city’s responsibility. It is not easy to re-ruralise built up areas. And there is a massive moral weight to that choice, given both income inequality and food insecurity (lack of dietary diversity in particular) set to worsen with climate change.

To make farming work, the City has to see urban farming as viable, important work. The farms cannot be seen as simply bits of land in a free market economy, or worse, as opportunities for densification. The land cannot be judged by what is looks like when you drive by fallow bits, as that is as much the consequence of political action as the driver or it. Work done by small-scale farmers involves stewardship that is quite different from larger scale operations. It is in the City’s interest to build agricultural traditions— not wine grapes in 17th century vineyards— but the basics: fruits and vegetables to nourish the people of our city.  This should be viable as a living for the middle-class, as well as for the poor. If it is not viable for the middle-class (commercial farmers) it will never really be viable for the poor, even if it appears to be, for a time.

Climate change makes this urgent. Diversified urban farms are essential in an age of uncertainty— small-scale farmers can adapt and grow varieties that work in our climate, we are flexible. I have eight different types of granadillas growing, all suited to slightly different climates. Each year, I throw out pumpkin seed and harvest seed from the best pumpkins that needed the least work. For all this resilience, it takes time to build a farm. For the land once farmed organically in the PHA, it makes me shudder to think of the work undertaken covering that land with compost, year after year, only for builders rubble to be dumped on it: turning all their work to dust. Soil building takes at least five years, growing perennials takes 5-7 years of investment, growing a windbreak takes 10-20 years, learning how to farm well takes decades. If we wait until the problem is urgent and in our face (when fruits and vegetables become too expensive for the majority of our city), it will be too late. 

Our family is on the front end of a trend: there are plenty of young (ish) people looking to farm in the city: they need viable small plots where they feel safe. Far from undermining the goals of poor farmers or even the landless poor in townships, having a mixture of farmers changes the colonial and condescending tone that continues to plague conversations around “local” fruits and veg in Cape Town. That is, farmers don’t need your help in the sense that we’re needy nor do we want you to buy our food/plants out of charity, we need help in the sense that we present a clear, rational response to urban problems, and that response will continue to encounter roadblocks until a faceless economic system acknowledges that climate change is real, urgent, and caused by capitalist excesses. While the economy more broadly is anonymous and distant, our city officials are not. They are human and face difficult decisions. What we ask is that they do not let money or even self-preservation define their choices. The needs of the poor and the needs of a hot planet are aligned.

We face a similar battle in our little set of smallholdings, one that is less public. Raising the possibility of densification and development in a place like ours leads us on an inevitable path that ends with our soil, our work, the connections we have cultivated in our neighbourhood, and even our land itself, all disappearing. It also leads to transience and lack of stewardship: a willingness to do with the land whatever they want, as the whims of the economy and the pressing political priorities shift. Yet the soil is central to our life, our wellbeing, and our future, even in the city. And so, we farm as though all this were not happening, as stewards. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

How to think about biodiversity and food production simultaneously

Wendell Berry has written over the years about the divide between the desire to preserve nature preserves/parks and the agricultural sector: between nature as something to be preserved and … well… consumed by the hiker or the watcher or the tourist… whilst food is almost beside the point. He describes the ways in which nature gets turned into agricultural land, and how that agricultural land is used up, consumed. Farmers and rangers end up at opposite sides of an impassable crevasse. 
Yet these two groups are actually well-poised to be partners. The farmer understands the natural world from making a living carefully harvesting life and livelihoods out of the soil: life that they pass onto you. In a world of runaway consumption, many farmers have also lost touch with biodiversity and wildness. 

For those of us pursuing urban agriculture in Cape Town, engaging in this tension seems really important. Not to find the perfect answers, but to acknowledge the complicated reality. To choose engagement rather than being right. 

In Cape Town, much of our income revolves around tourism, and much of our tourism is centred around our fynbos biome. We have this really unique biome, and we need to preserve it. And that is not in question: fynbos is special and important.

I think what is up for debate is how much food a city can grow. And if there are ways to integrate many kinds of plants into the urban environment. By doing so, to take pressure off the edges of the city, the National Parks. 

What I wish for is a way to actively understand our biome— to preserve the open space, the endangered species, and so on, without ignoring the fact that each time we eat we engage in the natural world, and there are better and worse ways to do this. So that all those people who passionately talk about indigenous plants, become equally competent in the art of growing food.  

At times, one’s vocal hatred of pines and gums and port Jackson has become synonymous with a certain right way of being in Cape Town, and I feel this shorthand is lazy and unhelpful. Our world is too complex a place to operate using these markers as symbols of our rightness. Port Jackson (Acacia saligna) stabilized the sand of the Cape flats. Gums gave wood and forage for bees, pines gave us wood. There are times when when declaring something an invasive is a way of saying you know ecology. Yet even the official invasive list is often nuanced: often there are exceptions if you using a tree for firewood, or fruit. There are exceptions for urban environments, where no-one can really assert what is “natural” or “native:” we have paved over too much to call our environment natural, and the question that remains is whether we can make it simultaneously abundant for humans, for birds, for insects, for bacteria and fungus. I am convinced we can.

The problem seems to be when plants are grown with maximum profit in mind, particularly when there are monocultures (pine plantations) without attention to the ecosystem, or when someone owns too much land to actively manage and care for the land they have (port Jackson takes over). To me, these are both problems of neoliberal capitalism running rampant, not the species themselves.

For our space, our goal is to make it as biodiverse, resilient, water secure, and productive (for us, for others and for wildlife), and to actively support this biodiversity as best we can. At times this means leaving the native soil so that it can continue to grow proteas, at other times it means leaving the much hated port-jackson as nurse trees for our fruit trees, so that somewhere else fruit trees do not have to replace native habitat to provide our fruit. Later, port Jackson will become a key food for our goats, so that we do not need to ship in hay from far afield. In a space with intense wind and no water, the pioneer species that may be invasive elsewhere often barely eek out their survival. Our bees forage the gum trees in our neighborhood. We collect mushrooms under the pine trees, and enjoy their shade on walks. To be clear, we occupy marginal land, and our choices might be quite different if we had a property for sale on the mountain, adjoining the national park. 

Rather than valuing neatness and a preconceived idea of beauty, we need to be creating resilient households, and we need every tool in the book to make that possible. The solution to so many unbalanced ecosystems is to observe, and gradually make changes, and to actively make use of whatever contribution provided by the pioneer species. For example, with Port Jackson the solution is to actively use the wood and leaves to improve the soil, and to gradually reduce the number of trees. Gums, apart from preserving our bee population by providing forage, also show promise for use growing shiitake mushrooms, and imagine the amount of native habitat that could be preserved if mushrooms were grown on waste wood? That is, when we cut something down, let us do carefully, slowly, and with multiple purposes in mind, and a plan for what will be there once the pioneer is gone.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

How do communities change?

We’ve recently been asking each other in our research group: what is our theory of change? That is, how do people and societies change? Because this impacts so much on what we recommend in our food work, and how we go about recommending it.

When I was a teen, I read a Gandhi-esque “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” story about a man on his deathbed who wonders why he did not change the world, then wonders if he had first changed himself, maybe his family would have changed, then his street, then his community, and perhaps even his world. And while it had a cliched quality, cliche is what I needed as a teen, and that story is still at the core of how I think about social transformation.

So my theory of change is around change starting with oneself and not worrying too much about changing the world. This does not mean keeping ones head down and ignoring the pain around us (I write this partly in the context of Nene's horrible murder)-- I think it means engaging in that pain but not trying to control the outcome. This is seen as almost beside the point in academic circles, and I agree: systemic, corporate change is essential. I just tend to agree with GK Chesterton who responded with one word to a newspaper prompt “what is wrong with the world.” His answer?: “Me.” While such an answer has quite puritanical undertones, I think transformation begins when we acknowledge that we are not on the outside of some kind of awful conspiracy looking in. While the 1% or Trump or your worst enemy may seem to live in a particularly awful bubble, I am not so far removed as I would like. I do not believe that I am made of altogether different stuff than Trump, Stalin, de Klerk, Mandela or even Mother Theresa. There is a process through which we become more of who we already are, and I believe in that process we can be brave and make difficult choices, and that small acts of bravery can compound and have ripple effects. And that while we can begin with change that focuses on our beliefs about the world and changing those structures, unless we embody those beliefs, it is hard to imagine deep transformation of (for example) corrupt structures without leadership that has undergone deep personal change. 

In the food example: I don't think grocery stores are evil monsters, even feedlots seem to be a disaster of endless scaling: the people involved didn’t see their work as involving deeper morality (and it is just so easy to justify job creation), and so they strayed, one profit-driven choice after another. And this is the awful part: so many of us— even those of us who grew up without a lot of money— are direct descendants (heirs, really) of this economy that has valued efficiency, money, and the free market over decency, stewardship, and common sense. And so many of us make one profit-driven choice after another in our own lives, also. 

In economic terms, I believe that we transform the little circle around us when we actively pursue downward mobility, and that the ripples move outwards. For those of us with my kind of baggage: when we admit the hold that money has on us and actively try to release that grip.

When it comes to food systems so often the recommendations seem to be along these lines, depending on your audience or your class: Don't waste food! Only eat organic and local! Don't eat sugar! Don't eat animal products! Don't eat fat! Don't eat processed food! Shop at farmer's markets/zero waste shops! Grow your own food! 

Having tried some of these things, I think these recommendations don't speak to the core issues in our food system. If a family tries to do one or more of these things, maybe it will be helpful, or maybe they will feel like failures, because to me it is all about the context and depth of change-- that makes things stick, and that makes us realise diet is always an imperfect, messy series of negotiations. In some ways my suggestions wouldn't be terribly different from these recommendations, but hopefully if you're a friend, you'd see the context in which we eat, the haphazard but persistent planting that happens on the farm, the messiness and the good stuff. Because to me it's understanding context that really matters, and makes us feel braver.

So, what else might deeper change involve? I am not sure exactly, but I think it means that we actively deal with our stuff— our fears, our addictions, our pain. If we have to work hard at a job we don’t really like to support our family, I think that is completely admirable, so I don’t mean to inflate the bubble in which we all just go and fuss around in the dirt. Rather, I think it just means being brave, one decision at a time, whether it involves gradually weaning yourself off paid work and cultivating vegetables, or not. Imagining other possible paths that cultivate your talents or whatever special gift you bring to the world. if you’re a person of faith, taking care of your faith and your soul rather than letting a harsh world turn you into a cynic. 

When it comes to food, it snowballs: I am not a good gardener, a good composter (actually I self-identify as a great composter but don't tell anyone, it's my special superpower), a good farmer, a good cook, or a good eater. But getting better at these things brings me immense joy, and in the long-term, I certainly do get better, and I have an experience learning that is completely humbling and allows for much better transmission of ideas around food. For example, it is only through having killed various plants that I know how to keep (some of) them alive and growing. It is only working with small companies that I learn what values we hold dear. It is only after eating whole wheat sourdough for years that I now think it's the best bread ever. It's only after foraging and discarding mushrooms for years that it finally became a priority for Noah and I to go on a foray with a pro and start cultivating. 

Finally, we have a guinea pig system that's safe for the guinea pigs but also gives them plenty of space and opportunities for us to interact with them.

Our first propagation of mushrooms-- we are propagating the King Straphoria we found on the farm. 

This is just a rain spider, but we have so many and it's hard not be freaked out. We encourage them, because we notice they really help with the flea population-- I think by eating eggs. We never have flea problems if we give habitat to the spiders.

This is a type of baboon spider-- a tarantula that occurs in South Africa. They like one part of our property but never cause us harm. That said, we have to be careful of spider bites as there are several smaller spiders-- including the black widow-- around that can be quite nasty.
This is Noah's favourite dog at TEARS at the moment. Our lives are really enriched by training the puppies.

Our lives are also really enriched by knowing our mushrooms (and eating them, and joking about, but not actually having, psychedelic trips)

Furry Potato had to go back to the shelter because otherwise there'd be more reproduction (his mom arrived to us pregnant), but we really loved him while he was with us.

I am really excited about a new stage that crept up on us: The kids and I went for a 3 hour hike with a group of homeschoolers, and the kids loved it! And I didn't carry anyone! Noah and Eli went on ahead, while Hana and I were with a younger group of kids and adults.

Loofahs are the thing I'm currently really into. Grow your own sponges!! Hana is gathering seeds for this years crop.

Cousin's party!

 A LOT of baby spiders.
We finally have asparagus to eat!

Wall art.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Uncertainty, equality, guinea pigs, mushrooms, making pasta, and spring

The mole rats are driving us crazy by eating through our vegetable garden, but we're managing to keep morale up with microgreens, peas, gooseberries, granadillas, guavas and naive determination. Also by rescuing Guinea Pigs. Four of them. And by learning more about mushrooms, and starting to eat more varieties foraged here and there. 

I've been thinking about equality, specifically equality between food producers and consumers. I think this relates deeply to the economy and to who is poor and who is not. As our society has become more and more urbanized, the division between producers and consumers seems particularly profound and problematic, and we have come to undervalue the people who make our existence possible. 

Speaking from a South African perspective, it is incredibly hard to be a producer, so we/they really need help to keep producing good food at a small scale (or even at a large scale). We require capital to start, or some other form of privilege. So the small scale producer arrives as the underdog to the fight. Not only that, we are not always the type of underdog you want to root for. Because the stakes are so strongly stacked against us, we sometimes develop a victim complex. We can be unreliable, defensive, scrappy, a little desperate, tired, rude. And the consumer is accustomed to high quality, palatable (processed) food available for the taking, the externalities to the ecosystem or our bodies rendered invisible by the sheer convenience of the supermarket.

At the same time, consumers also really need transformation within the food system. Those invisible externalities: the damage to our planet and our bodies, an economy based on endless growth-- these things may be invisible but they are still there. So we need a quasi-miraculous shift-- where we still have consistent food but it is local, nourishing, non-exploitative, not implicated in NCDs. Where we're the consumers, we're the overdog, and we want to root for us because... we are all consumers. Yet we can be demanding, entitled, and hedonistic.

Somewhere in between, there is hope of averting the fight completely. Of confronting the worst characteristics of both the producers and consumers and learning that the fight was something completely different from what we thought. I think somewhere there, is a viable alternative to the neoliberal capitalism I have inhaled since birth.

How do we get there when we're here? It's a minefield: who gets land titles? Should we eat animal based products? If we don't, where are we getting our food from-- what is the collateral damage? If we do eat animal-based products, how do we justify it? Who is empowered or disempowered by our eating? How healthy do we have a right to be?

For those of you who come at this from a faith perspective, I like Wendell Berry's take on how faith and food intersect: the recognition that our daily bread is provided, not earned. That, at the same time, meaningful, productive labour is one of the most powerful ways we can be connected to one another and to the earth. That natural beauty can be a farm as much as it is the mountainside or the ocean. At the same time, that our capability, our competency, is not a measure of our worth, nor is it a measure of what we end up having. Rather, in farming (farming the way we farm, anyway) we learn that we are not Gods. We are small, we are stewards, and we are subject to the laws of nature, and nature always takes its share. We are never fully in control. We also learn we do not need too much to live, grow, love. It is this perspective that I find helpful in embracing the death, loss, sadness, and inevitable joy of the cycles of bringing our farm from bare land to fruition. 

I see the trending phrase: "cruelty-free eating" and my hackles are raised. Not because our farm is cruel, but because in life there is always death, we are always making difficult choices that impact ourselves, our families, our communities, our world. To ignore that in favour of a sterilized version of our lives is to avoid deep change, and deep change is so urgently needed.

At the same time, we find ourselves back in the minefield: of what to eat, when, and how. Part of the reason I am gradually retreating from academia is that I find these questions incredibly compelling, but at the same time I really feel one just has to step out into the minefield, or the thin ice, or whatever metaphor you want to use, and just start walking. One can study almost endlessly, and share ideas from our study-- imagine a different world, even. Without diminishing the value of study, I believe that we talk with more authority when we have skin in the game, when we have a lot to lose, when we've tried and failed. 

By walking, you learn what is right for you. Rather than saying that as a cop out (oh I am just too stressed to do x), or to avoid critique, I mean to say that when something is between us and God (or between us and our conscience), we do not move forward to impress anyone or to secure our future. Sometimes I think I write to keep myself accountable to the trajectory and the journey we are on.

Small-scale production, small scale farming is important and more people need to produce food. We need to find ways towards community, and those ways are not always intuitive-- our route is not clear and straight. Yet we are accountable for the time we have on earth-- not accountable to others' measures of truth and justice, but to our own. 

Sometimes producers do not have easy entry into the market, and so there are intermediaries who bridge these gaps, and power differentials loom large. I'm thinking particularly about the phenomenon in Cape Town of trying to "uplift" farmers in the Cape Flats to farm organic veg for middle-class city dwellers. In general, I think highly of both the farmers and the people trying to be the intermediaries.... and yet I have strong reservations about this model, because I dream of producers selling to those with whom they can negotiate, communicate, and learn with. For this reason, I believe that in a place like Cape Town, there is a big need for middle class people to take up the plough (figuratively only... we're all no-till nowadays aren't we?). That, in short, is a big reason we are farming the way we are: farming in a way we always put in the most physical labour, even though we have staff in our nursery. We only understand the value of physical labour if we have been out there and put our bodies on the line. I feel more inspired by models that actively try to link poor farmers to poor consumers-- to bridge that gap. That is the gap that is very difficult to bridge in a sustainable way; but it's important to recognize that in South Africa, the buying power of the poor is massive.

In our journey of farming (part time, but farming nevertheless) we step back, we strategise, we find better ways to do things, we figure out what is essential and what is optional, and we keep going.

When we produce food, there's some level of epicurianism, but there's also quite a bit of frugality, holding back, learning that basic food is good enough. Learning that very basic food is a blessing, that we do not need endless choice, constant supply, perfection. This is where I find myself out of place in foodie gatherings, much as I appreciate the need for foodies. I feel deeply that restraint and care by the middle and upper classes is essential to change in the food system, to changes in capitalism. Food can be lovely, tasty, nourishing. But not every meal. Some meals can be weird and mismatched, with bits of rubbish leftovers, because that is what you had. Sometimes we don't need to eat very much, sometimes we need to eat a lot. 

I do not mean that we should tolerate a life devoid of joy, but that our tastes may need to change in the transition from this food system to another one. We can't turn back the clock, of course. We cannot become our great-great- grandparents. But we can reinvent what it means to live joyfully in this 21st century of climate change. 

Living where we do in the times we do, our future is always uncertain and we can never feel completely at peace with our choices when so many of our (literal) neighbours are hungry and cold. This is at once very scary, disconcerting, and ... well, a real and important reality. The uncertainty forces us to be brave with the resources we have: resources that are not ours forever. They are just ours for a short time- we are stewards, for as long as we can be, with few guarantees. 

Looking out on the aquarium.

Beautiful and poisonous...

first blewitt 
with a lot of eggs from our ducks and chickens, pasta making has become a big part of our day.

cross section of an unopened bit at the bottom, opened alien-looking mushroom at the top.

midwinter- the 12 apostles and the back of Table Mountain. 

Horse dung fungus, or dye ball. I wish it had been more mature as I'd have loved to spread spores over the farm. These fungi form a relationship with almost any trees, and could support our food forest. Still, we are spreading spores of so many different mushrooms, that eventually, those saprophytic relationships will be cultivated.

earth stars shooting spores into the air

giant porcini...

Our first Porcini. We gave this one to another forager, but got another one for ourselves.

Fly agaric- a kind of magic mushroom. We learned that reindeers eat this mushroom, and people in the Northern hemispheres used to drink reindeer pee in order to experience the high without the toxic effects. 

Bubbles finally has friends. There are lot of guinea pigs needing rescue in Cape Town. We took 4 girls, and got Bubbles neutered (he has to be next to them in a different cage for 6-8 weeks though :( . Poor guy.)

mushroom spores.

midwinter swimming...

Taking a shelter dog to an adoptathon. We were supposed to take a puppy but instead got this massive dog who wanted to drive.

a lot of guinea pig cuddles. 

Also got a second hand trampoline. I've been on the lookout for cheap one with a net for about 2 years-- it was worth the wait!

Turkey tail bracket fungus-- apparently medicinal.

The acquarium is a little far away from us now, but we decided to get membership again because it feels like a season where we're going to be getting out more.