Do your thing

Every so often I come across a story that particularly inspires me. This happened during our holiday when we visited the amazing creation of Rowena Cade. Maybe you have heard of her? I hadn’t, although I knew of the thing she made, namely The Minack Theatre. And when I say she made it, I am being literal – with her own hands and initially only the help of her gardener, Billy Rawlings, she built the most incredible theatre. But not just any old theatre – one created within the land, on the Minack Headland in Cornwall, overlooking the sea, nestled between the boulders.

In order to allow a local group to stage an outdoor production of The Tempest in 1932, Rowena and Billy created an amphitheatre on the headland. In the months prior to the performance, they moved granite boulders and shifted soil.  In August 1932 the play was staged, lit by car headlights and with the audience scrambling down the slopes to get to the grassy seating terraces. It was a great success and the start of an amazing project.

To begin with many of the building materials were scavenged. Sand from the beach was carried up the steep path by Rowena herself each evening, ready for making concrete the following day. There’s a story of her collecting some large beams that had been washed ashore – she and Billy carrying them up from the beach. When the customs men came to see if she knew of the timber’s whereabouts, they took one look at her apparently frail frame and assumed that she couldn’t possibly have taken the beams and she didn’t correct them!

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These are some of the steps from the beach!

WW2 interrupted development of the theatre, but when it was over, they were left with a concrete bunker, which served as the box office for many years! Rowena kept working on the theatre until she was in her mid-eighties. She died in 1983, but her vision and legacy live on.

I love the story – I love the fact that Rowena had a vision and had the tenacity to turn that vision into reality. I love that she didn’t simply achieve this by spending money, that she dedicated her time and her energy into creating this amazing place. I love that she worked alongside Billy and subsequent helpers. Admittedly, she did have the benefit of money to allow her the freedom to do this, but much of the labour was her own. What an inspirational woman.

I really hope that we can go and see a performance there in the future – this time we only went to look round.

Très bon

One of the unexpected yields of blogging is coming across other people’s good ideas. Yesterday, for example, the Dorset Finca mentioned that she has been growing living stones (Lithops) and I was so excited that I immediately found out where to get the seeds and ordered some. These little succulent plants have fascinated me ever since I was a child, but I have never owned any. That, hopefully, is about to change if my seeds germinate. Without that chance reading of a blog post, I probably would never have thought to have a go at growing these little plants, despite my long-standing interest.

Other blog posts have inspired me with recipes, gardening tips and creative ways to reuse and recycle. But perhaps my favourite inspiration comes from the folks who knit and crochet and then share their patterns, ideas and links. And so, when Nice Piece of Work posted her guide to making a Bonbon hat a couple of weeks ago I was smitten and knew that I must have a go. All did not go to plan to begin with and I had one false start, but I’m not easily put off and my second attempt has been much better:

The finished BonBon

The finished BonBon

The technical bit

The yarn I used was double knitting wool acrylic blend and I worked with a 4mm hook. I followed Jill’s basic instructions with the following modifications: I increased 7 times on round 9 and 3 more times on round 12. I worked 23cm from the top before I started the brim. To make a snug brim, I crocheted front post trebles (fpt), but I missed every fifth stitch on the first round… that is on alternate ridges I only worked one stitch rather than two:

Detail of the start of the brim

Detail of the start of the brim

I worked about 6cm of fpts, which I folded over once to expose the horizontal reverse.

Finished hat

Finished hat

If I was making it again, I think I would use a slightly larger hook, perhaps 5mm, for a floppier texture (this will depend on your tension). Once you get going, it’s a really straightforward pattern and very adaptable, as this post from Jill demonstrates. It’s certainly a pattern I would use again – thank you Jill!

Return to Karuna

Nothing is too good for Karuna's ducks!

Nothing is too good for Karuna’s ducks!

I haven’t posted for a few days because, once again, I’ve been teaching an introduction to permaculture course at the Karuna Permaculture Project in Shropshire… three days focusing on how to design robust, resilient and sustainable systems based on the principles and processes that we find in natural ecosystems. The sun shone on us (most of the time), Merav cooked lovely food for us, much of which was grown on site, and we were able to see examples of the things we were discussing all around us, with the opportunity to spend lots of time chatting to people who had created the place and who live there.

Sculptures nestle amongst the trees

Sculptures nestle amongst the trees

In general, I like teaching, but I particularly enjoy it when I am in an inspiring place – and Karuna is one such venue. The project is an amazing series of forest garden areas with surrounding meadows, developed by a single family, with the help of WWOOFers in the summer and occasional other volunteers. It’s hard to describe the diversity of the site, with its fruit trees, herbs, vegetables, specimen trees and  glades, plus a mass of butterflies and birds. In addition, there are some beautiful sculptures to be found as you explore.

The trees around this sculpture were only planted seven years ago

The trees around this sculpture were only planted seven years ago

It’s a young site (only seven years old), but that is hard to believe when you look at it and consider that, apart from some large trees on the edge of the original fields, it was just grazing land when the planting started in 2006. The incredible growth of the trees can be attributed, at least in part, to increasing the fertility of the site and suppressing competitive grasses by mulching around the trees with straw soaked with urine… you see, I told you it was a good source of nitrogen! It’s even more impressive when you discover that the site is at an altitude of about 300m… so it’s not exactly in a sheltered lowland area.

We run a permaculture course there once a year at around this time, but Karuna is a demonstration site as part of the LAND network, and there is a variety of interesting courses run during the summer and early autumn… how about Earth Bag Building (in early September)?

So, here are just a few pictures to tempt you to visit Karuna… perhaps to do a course, to volunteer there, or to book it to use as a venue for an event you are organising…

Camping next to a forest garden area

Camping next to a forest garden area

Vegetables and herbs in abundance

Vegetables, flowers and herbs in abundance

A guided tour

A guided tour

Cucumbers in the polytunnel

Cucumbers in the polytunnel

Exploring the forest garden

Exploring the forest garden

Oh, there’s also a Karuna blog on WordPress here, and a Facebook group here

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