Friday, April 10, 2015

Apartment Permaculture, Grinling Gibbons, and changing the world

Ok, no pictures and no woodworking here.  I managed to write this down before we had to start to look for another flat and before my trip to italy last week, where I learnt the secrets of tortellini making.

Next wednesday is my last day of work in Austria. I'm quite happy about that. If everything goes well  we will be in Celle the 1st of May and then in Holland from the 10th. My ticket is for the 26th and there is already an empty house waiting for me in Chile. Some wood too and plenty of workshop making once arrived.  There will be one more re-packing of my stuff in celle, and the list of the immigrant's tool chest. With only two 23kg bags to take the selection is very very heartbreaking.

Anyway, I'm still alive and changing countries suck. I will not do it for the next 5 years.

Didn't have time to post it before but here it goes:

1. We finally moved from the old flat. No more nice entrance door, no hand made handrail, no oak parquet floor. No plenty of space for Sebastian’s tools. The kitchen is so small that cooking something slightly more complex than a cereal bowl is impossible.

We don’t even have internet here so I’m writing for the first time offline. [Note of the writer. I keep without internet in the flat but now we have been kicked out it, so Julia is looking for another one to stay 1 or 2 months more, then go to Chile.]

So, after having dinner from the kebab shop down the road and having a shower in the small toilet, I started to think about permaculture.

I’m just a theoretical “permaculturist”, ie I read a few books (perhaps only one fully) and watched some videos. In particular a really good one of one random guy that later I discovered was the author of Gaia’s garden, the one book I did read. By the end of the talk, he mentions that permaculture is not just about making gardens, but about designing patterns.

Example. When we were living in the old flat, Julia was in charge of cooking since she works fewer hours. Now we will both have some free time and more money, since we are living in a smaller place, so it makes sense to expand the circle where we get the food from and spend some of the money going for dinner instead of trying to cook in the small flat.

I cannot woodwork in the flat since is too small and the landlord doesn’t want noise for he works from home. But a friend of us has a communal garden that’s open everyday and has  plenty of space, some wood, and lots of things in need to be made. So again it makes sense to expand the circle of where I was making my woodworking and move a bit with my tools to an open workshop. Since soon I won’t be working everyday I can do that in daytime while Julia is at work and like that I get my dose of sunlight. Plus Julia likes gardens and won’t mind the shavings over there.

What I want to say is, there may be some more pictures of stuff being build before Chile.

2. I was last week in Macclesfield, in a project meeting at the Aztra Seneca site. Plenty of Ales, pies and stupid meetings. My postdoc is in simulation of “pharmaceutical powders” and I hoped it would be only technical but I was wrong and had to have a walk on the dark side.

Monday they took us to the Lyme house, an old english country house with lovely gardens and a pond. After walking through the garden for an hour or so I went inside the house. Nothing very special till in one room I ask about the carvings, if they were made of wood, and that they looked like Gibbons. A few months ago I read the lost carving, and learnt who that bloke was, so my surprise was immense when they told me that the carvings attributed to Gibbons where in the large room, 30 meters of so from where we were at that moment.

So I went there, fast as I could and 5 meters before entering the room I could see the leaves of a carving hanging from the wall, long and delicate leaves, like daffodil leaves, curving downwards in such a sad movement.

You could not take pictures in there, and words are useless to try to describe what happened in those 20 minutes I was there, speechless, trying to absorb the carvings, following the curves, looking behind the flowers, then the front, and laughing at the knowledge he had of our perception.

That night we had some good ales again, in a 400 years old house. Old timber, fast joinery, lots of carvings in the outside. Slate roof too. Drinking beer made there and that you only can get there, and god saw it was good.

And that was the corpse of England that Sturt wrote about and I have never seen. I was in London before, and tired of life one could say, but back then I was into books and philosophers and positing the questions rather than working on the answers.

3. A friend of mine sent me his “background thoughts” for an art festival this sumer in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The festival is called RE-CIVILIZATION and the rationale goes something like this: since civilization is the whole lot of crap that has the world going to hell, we need to civilize ourselves again, this time in a proper way.

There was a lot of de-growing on the text and some hints to permaculture but there was something missing. A lot of attention was given to “ethical” consuming and recycling but the word producer didn’t appear anywhere.

What got me thinking in Ghandi’s be the change you want to see in the world. Now let’s give it a producer twist, and rephrase it as “be the producer you want to see in the world”. Bring the old Marx from Alice in wonderland dream and let’s remember that the means of productions are the ones that create the world.

And then it struck me. In a previous post Francois quotes the infamous “el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido”, and for me, being born and raised with Pinochet and american TV, if there was something clear in my worldview was that the pueblo either never got together or the saying was just plain wrong. I was born in a defeated society, and there was no way out of it.

El pueblo was not going to get together anytime soon as long as they see themselves (ie we see ourselves) as consumers or individuals, for both are concepts that stem directly from the same mode of production that put us in the mess in the first place. What we need to do is to unite as producers. And unite in a very material way. I need a fellow to make my files so I can sharpen my saws and cut the wood that will be his door. I need another friend to bang hot metal into tools that later will make his table. And so weider.

The game is called why we should not kill you, and the permaculture guy from 1. mentions it in a video. You are with a group of people and everybody needs to convince the rest that he or she posses skills that are beneficial for the whole group. The first on dying are always the guys who work in a call centre, followed by the high score angry birds guys.

So, how do we get rid of the corporations that rule the world and the psychotic personalities inside and outside them? We start producing stuff ourselves. It’s not so difficult, humans are used to do it. The more you decouple from fossil fuels (own by corporations) and high tech-solutions (created, patented and maintained by gigantic corporations) the better your chances of a good life once the weather makes those corporations unviable (according to some models, we only got 15 years more until we lock in +2 degrees and the world goes to hell). But it’s not so easy either. On the one hand, doing this in the developed world may be pretty much illegal, due to safety concerns, insurances and weird laws. On the other, you just cannot go to amazon and order your association of producers. The most probable thing is that either you have to create it yourself from scratch (as will be my case in Chile), or you need to connect with other people who’s into the subject but working individually. And now we are in a full different level of crap talking.

First it was about the tools, what diamond stone to get. Now we are talking about establishing social relations, bonds, that will change in a small but very real way, our economy. And with that, they will allow us to live in different way, in a different world.

Another world is not only possible, but it's in the making.


  1. Wow, what great good fortune!!

    And the last sentence.

    I've been reading books, for two weeks, and today was the first thunder here this year - so time to get back to making.

    1. Hopefully a japanese forge is up on the list, I would love to steal some ideas from you for mine. I hopefully will have some time in Celle to bang saws straight, we do need to re-marry in the embassy in amsterdam during that week though. Have a good making!

  2. One of my biggest regrets was some years ago when there was an exhibition of Grinling Gibbons' work in London and I did not go. A large number of his works were assembled for the show as some were being having some restoration work done. I have been a carver since I was young and I am a huge fan of Gibbons. His work is, like you said, indescribable! I am jealous.

    1. I didn't know the guy till I read the David Esterly's book, the lost carving. Now I'm really considering a trip to london to check that chapel with carvings... hopefully is there in 5 years still. If you have the chance to visit manchester, drop by the Lyme house, totally recommended.