The Nourishment Cycle
In modern society we have come to see nourishment as the things we put in our mouths and the nutrients these bring to our bodies, like vitamins, minerals, proteins, starches etc. So have you thought about the nourishment derived from the food production, land management and the ecosystems in which we live? Of what nourishment value are they?
Organic food offers a lack of man made chemicals like fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides so we can recognise a benefit in this aspect of our food. It promotes husbandry of our land, even beyond our own land boundaries
Biodynamics brings us in touch with cosmic forces and provides a vigour to the growth of our crops which brings benefits in the harvest quality and quantity.
Permaculture starts to embrace the relationship we have with our foods in a nature centric way and I have read many articles about working with nature in terms of care and cultivation of healthy soils, irrigation of crops and care for the land.
Whilst these elements are our compass, and they guide our food production activities in a methodical way, they make food the prime product of our actions. I would like to take a look at a much larger cycle of food production and make a case that every part of the process is capable of nourishing us deeply, not just the food we put in our mouths.
I like to see nourishment as being about promoting and sustaining all aspects of my growth, emotional as well as mental and physical, through the whole cycle of all things that lead to and from the food on my plate. It’s not about ‘plot to plate’ so much as from the organism called Earth to the organism called me, i.e. every aspect of nature is capable of nourishing every cell of my body.
To illustrate I divide the processes of nourishment into a hierarchy of three levels of action. These I call the Human, Land and Earth Nourishment Cycles.
The Human Nourishment Cycle.
When cooking for myself, I get to participate in the whole process not just eating the food and I find that it is possible for me to derive nourishment from the various steps of the food process and not just from the meal in front of me.
I source my food locally; fresh, seasonal and organic. This brings me in touch with my integrity and means that I am honouring the earth, bringing myself closer to nature’s cycles.
Meal preparation is done slowly, with mindfulness and to perfection. By staying in the moment I find a wholesome connection with who I am, what I am cooking and the anticipated joy of eating my meal.
When cooking, I stir in some love and find it giving me love back. Cooking is a creative process and so any deviation from the recipe should be encouraged to release the nourishment of discovery, exploration and play. With this in mind I cannot create a bad dish!
I eat mindfully, slowly and remember to chew. I chew my liquids and drink my solids! This will bring the maximum nutrients into my body. Also a good serving of gratitude will find me enjoying the unfolding flavours and feelings that the food contains and that I have put into the dish.
Afterwards, I clean up to perfection in order to close the cycle and return the environment, as well as my energy, to their resting state. This process may be work, but work is love in action, so I do it to perfection. Cleaning on the outside is cleaning on the inside.
The Land Nourishment Cycle.
When dealing with the Land Nourishment Cycle I can likewise derive nourishment from the various steps before and after the Human Nourishment Cycle to feed my soul.
I choose to cultivate using organic, permaculture and biodynamic standards, methods and inputs and put myself in touch with my true nature which is part of Nature, as well as nurturing my sense of connection with the soil. I prepare and feed the soil using the no dig and bio-fertiliser techniques, and watch the earthworms, micro-organisms and mycorrhizal threads smile up at me. When hoeing I use biodynamically favourable days and feel the cosmic energy coursing up from my toes to my nose and back again. This whole approach brings energy and nourishment to my body.
I grow my crops using sustainable, low input methods and encourage growth using biodynamics. Rainwater harvesting not only helps irrigate my crops but it is also fascinating to watch the butts fill up and bless me with a more sustainable solution to keeping my seedlings moist. Feeding my plants with home made nettle and comfrey fertiliser puts me in touch with the real benefits of some of our more maligned weeds. Following the biodynamic calendar gives me rhythm and poise in my schedule.
This step is the Human Nourishment Cycle as described above.
After the crops have done their job, delivering Human Nourishment, they are transformed into rich and fertile compost. Smelling a new batch of compost coming from the heap or freshly cut hay raises my spirits to the heavens and brings my feet down to earth. If like me you don’t like waste then turn it on its head and see waste as a fresh input to the cycle of life, whether this be compost, pallet furniture or mushroom bed.
Finally the cycle closes with fresh compost applied to the soil, or the soil is left fallow to heal itself. It’s a time for slowing down and reflecting on the lessons of the season, doing some inner work on my mind, body and soul.
The Earth Nourishment Cycle.
The Earth Nourishment Cycle is about the long game and is nourishing not only to myself but also to future generations and so represents my contribution to the nourishment of humanity.
It’s very much about co-creation of landscapes and habitats and the joy and pleasure as well as the ease and opportunities that this brings to myself as well as to my children and their children. The satisfaction that I get from planting a wood and seeing it grow to maturity is akin to my heart singing. To imagine the benefits to nature, wildlife and to myself all brings a real sense of inner peace.
But here I am also talking on a grand scale, so to be involved in helping to fund real large scale projects or supporting nature charities is exhilarating! I feel like part of nature and a guardian of nature, working with Her rather than against Her. I find my heart in Nature and Nature in my heart.
This step is the Land Nourishment Cycle as described above.
So, what to say about sustainability? At this Earth scale it is about waking up to size of the problem but also to what I can do personally to help. For me it is about disconnecting from all the wasteful mechanisms in society as far as possible. Sometimes I feel that I live in a parallel universe and totally disconnected, ney alien, from current societal standards but still I see that I cannot live without the rest of society at all. I still use money, it seems impossible to do without it, but at every opportunity I learn new skills which take a little further from its burdens and makes me feel lighter in spirit. Sustainability is a life goal, maybe never to be ultimately reached but an enriching journey nonetheless.
Restoration on this level is about reforestation with native tree species and cleaning up the earth, air and water in our environment. I realise that I am a small being in the world but this element really brings my passion to great heights in helping the Woodland Trust in their ancient woodland restoration project and in volunteering work in the local Area of Outstanding Beauty to help clean up and care for our rivers, woods and natural habitats. Through this passion I find a very deep connection with nature in a very spiritual sense which cleanses me and energises me from the inside.
So if we have inspired you with our insight on nourishment then take that first step, try something and check out our website. We are now offering an experience of this lifestyle to anybody wanting to come and stay and work with us to see and do any and all of the principles in this article. It only costs as much as a modest bed and breakfast room per day and includes 3 home grown and home cooked meals a day and time learning from us, as well as a drop of our cider or other drinks in the evenings. The room you pay for, our experience is our gift and your participation is our reward.
Andrew De La Haye and Yolande Watson run Caenwood B&B on Howle Hill near Ross-on-Wye.