cooking up a tasty life

Westacre Day – just a month away

Waxing Compost Moon

I have been counting down to Westacre Day for nearly a year now. If you have been counting with me, you will have noticed it is 21 December 2012, which is a momentous day.

If you haven’t heard about the Mayan prophecy, you must have lived on another planet in the last few years. The idea of 21.12.12 as the ‘end of the world’ has been gathering strength for many years. I don’t personally believe anything of particular note will happen on a world scale, but I decided to make the prophecy come true on a personal level: 21 December will be the end of the world as I know it and the beginning of a new one. Read the rest of this entry »

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A warm welcome at Westacre

The Westacre orchard in November

The Westacre orchard in November

New Compost Moon

Let me tell you about Westacre. I have liked the place every since I first came to visit, over 20 years ago. I came on the ferry from Belgium to visit my boyfriend Alex and his parents for the first time. I was greeted at the front door with a motherly hug from Molly Tingle. I’ll never forget the warmth of that welcome. It instantly put me at ease and made me feel at home.

I liked the house, and its huge living room. I liked the garden with its apple trees. And even though it was late December, I instantly loved the huge oak tree in the lane that dominates the view from the dining room. It was all so very English, and therefore somewhat exotic to me.

Of course, I kept visiting. Alex became my husband, Molly and Roger my in-laws. As time went by, and Molly passed away, moving to Westacre became a real possibility for us. By then, making our monthly visits, we began to see a possible future in that house. Alex is a computer programmer, and could do his work anywhere. And I saw the potential of that big living room as a space where spiritual seekers could come together to connect and support each other.

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Saying goodbye

Waning Crone Moon

Last week, I held my own private Samhain ritual and said goodbye to the spirits of my Harrow garden. I also collected a bit of its soil, so some of its blessing can come with me to Westacre and be mixed with its soil at the Winter Solstice.

On Saturday, I went to the Samhain ritual of the London Tamesis Seedgroup and said goodbye to my friends. This group has been a part of my life and of my identity for close to a decade. This was my last ritual with them as a regular member.

At the ritual, my friend spoke of this early winter as the time when things decay and rot away to make soil for the next year. It still feels deeply unreal to me, but this is what has started to happen to my old life. Slowly, bits of it are dropping away, and they will continue to do so, until very little of it is left. Read the rest of this entry »

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Autumn colours

Samhain Full Moon

Sweeping the Westacre drive was hard work. It’s a long drive. The broom was heavy. The leaves were damp and sticking to the floor. My back complained. But I was determined to pick up those leaves, so I went at it on pure willpower. I attacked those leaves with all I’d got. It’s my default way of doing jobs like that.

Of course, I wasn’t enjoying it. I was barely noticing the little piles of gold and russet that were forming on the drive, celebrating the closing of the growing cycle with such beauty. I was holding my breath with each effort, competing with myself to see how fast I could do it, and getting cranky in the process. Read the rest of this entry »


Choosing my dream

You may have noticed by now: I have a lot to do. Nine weeks from now, we’re moving to Westacre. That really isn’t very long at all. Before that, we need to finish rebuilding and decorating Roger’s bungalow, get quotes from contractors on the big Westacre project, pack up our house in Harrow, do some decorating there before we can let the place out, finish our work commitments in London, and work on the future of Westacre as a business. And stay sane.

It’s a long list of scary things. Scary in the sense of new, unknown, unfamiliar, challenging, and bound up with our future well being. It requires me to put in everything I have. And of all the scary things, developing Westacre as a business is easily the most scary. It is, for me at least, the whole point of the adventure. This is my once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a dream come true. Read the rest of this entry »



Do you sometimes overthink things? I know I do. As a spiritually minded person, I have spent hours meditating just to become more aware of my emotions as they pass through me. My temptation is to start questioning these emotions, to try and work out why I’m feeling sad or angry or downright miserable. Read the rest of this entry »


The nature of spirits

How often do you get the chance to totally change the way you live for the better? How lucky do you have to be to be able to align your life with your deepest values and beliefs? I am immensely grateful for the circumstances of life that have given us this once-in-a-lifetime chance.

What we will attempt to do at Westacre is to find many different ways to live more lightly on the Earth. We will build in systems to help us preserve fuel and water. We intend to grow as much of our own food as we can. We will try to find ways to work with the place and its assets and challenges to create a life of harmony and sustainability.

Of course, we won’t be alone in this. We will need the blessing and the help of every being that lives on the Westacre land. We will need the co-operation of of the spirits of the house and garden. They need to be involved in every part of the process and we need to learn how to work alongside them. Read the rest of this entry »



My train is hurtling through the country between Harrow and Westacre. Out of the window I can see fields of old stubble and brown earth ready ploughed for winter wheat. This year’s harvest has been brought in and is making its way to our kitchens.

Six months ago, as the year turned to spring, Alex and I started to work towards a new dream. Slowly but surely, I started to write online courses for the Westacre Spiritual Centre. I dreamed up a web site and a business. We both began to work for a whole new life in a different place.

Right now, after a summer of intense work, my life is divided between a field of stubble and a freshly ploughed one, ready for a new cycle. My life is stretched across a wide landscape.

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Into the dark

It is the time of Equinox, equal day and equal night. Now, the balance tips towards darkness, and winter will follow. Even now, the leaves are beginning to colour scarlet and gold, and there is a definite nip in the air. I’m warming my hands on my cup of tea.

For me, time is going way too fast. The work in the bungalow is steadily advancing, but much slower than I would have hoped. I’m sure it’ll all feel a lot faster once we get to actually putting in bathrooms and kitchens. For now, though, the new run of pipes makes me very proud of my husband, but it doesn’t look any closer to being a house someone can live in.

The frustration is very real. And often I feel powerless to make a difference and help things along. And I also feel powerless to move my own projects forward. With my life hanging between places, it’s not easy to stay focused. It makes me angry, and I want to lash out. But I can’t do that. The people who I’m most likely to lash out at are the ones doing the work to make it all happen. Read the rest of this entry »

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Spread a bit thin

Yesterday, I was at our friends’ handfasting party and got talking to an acquaintance. We were comparing notes about living the life of our dreams. We agreed that it could be hard, but we need to remind ourselves that, actually, this is it. This is what we had said we would do. This is the life and this is our chance to enjoy it. Read the rest of this entry »


A look in the mirror

The most powerful thing I have done for myself in the last year or so is to see myself through other people’s eyes. The woman who is looking back at me from the mirror of other people is completely different from the woman who looks out. Yet they are both me, and both very real. Read the rest of this entry »

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Anticipated goodbyes

We’ve spent lots of time at Westacre these last few weeks. And that is a good thing. I am getting to know the garden much better, meditating on the lawn nearly every day. The earth there is beginning to recognise me, and welcoming me as I put down roots for stability and strength. It will be good to already feel connected to the place when we start to work on it in January.

But at the same time, Harrow still feels like home. This garden is still the place where I sink into meditation most easily. This living room the place where I relax. This kitchen the one where everything is easy to find. But it is late August already, and I won’t live here much longer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tree people and spirits of place

I grew up in a house on a small country street. At the time, there was a field opposite my parents’ house, surrounded by tall canada poplars. My bedroom was at the front of the house, so from a young age I was lulled to sleep by the sound of the wind in their leaves. I loved sitting in the grass, leaning against their tall bodies, dreaming the time away. Trees have been people and friends to me for a long time.

The southern boundary of Westacre is formed by an old uncared for mixed hedge. At that point, it is mostly spindly hawthorn and young to mature ash. The trees’ stature, and the sound of the wind in their branches, adds to the enclosed feeling of the Westacre garden. The French windows of the living room look out to them. Their presence is felt very strongly.
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The inner child

Isn’t it weird how everything goes around in circles? I seem to always have to learn every lesson many times, repeating the same thing over and over. And I know I’m not the only one.

Last week’s OBOD Lughnasadh Camp was themed for the inner child. I loved the idea. I was looking forward to letting my hair down and allowing myself to play a little. That’s something I don’t usually do. Playing is something I have found quite difficult for a long time, and I was hoping to learn, easily and joyfully with my friends on the field. Read the rest of this entry »


A moment of rest

The change in the weather, from miserable and grey to blue sky and hot sunshine, may have something to do with it. Or perhaps it’s just a new cycle. But I think what really broke my tense mood was the opportunity to just rest and be.

Our friends in Norfolk gave us a lovely weekend. We watched swallows feed their young under the eaves of an old pub in Heydon. We ate the most gorgeous home cooked Indian food. We had lazy breakfasts and looked at art in Cley church and on the beach. We walked through wetlands and along old railway tracks. We ate large amounts of great cake. For a few days, there was nothing to achieve, nothing to prepare for or make or move or organise. It was restoration for the soul. Read the rest of this entry »

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All change

I always knew this was going to be a tough time. Once Alex stopped working full time, everything was going to change. And lots of change is not something I naturally deal with very easily. I like predictability and routine.

In the last couple of weeks, Alex has been making a start on renovating his dad’s new bungalow, while I have been working in London. I don’t think I’ve ever slept in our bed alone this many times in the last 15 years. We’ve also been putting the finishing touches on our new web site. Renovation works are complicated, technology can be frustrating, and we’re both learning on the job. We will be moving between Harrow, Westacre, and various other places in England and abroad, between now and early September. And once that web site is announced to the world this afternoon, there is no more escape: it’s all getting very real. Read the rest of this entry »

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Self care for adventurous times

I am so tired. We had an epic pilgrimage across England this weekend. Most of it in our blue Landrover that we affectionately call the TARDIS (it’s a big blue box and it growls – hence). It really was an adventure, with trials of mismatched locks and keys and punctured tyres along the way.

I did have fun. And it was good to see my friend and her little boy and her partner. It was nice to help my father in law shovel wood chips onto his flower beds and choose a stove for his new bungalow. But the early starts and the late finishes really didn’t do me much good. I’m writing this on the train back home, and I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ancestral connections

I’ve just spent a few days with my mum in Belgium. And I learned something about my dad I never quite realised before. If my dad had had the chance, if he hadn’t had to give up all of his independence to Multiple Sclerosis, he would have been an organic fruit farmer.

The fruit farmer bit I knew about. The organic bit is news to me. I always thought that it was my uncle who got bitten by the organic gardening bug. He has a big food growing garden that has been organically flourishing for decades. Apparently it was my dad who introduced him to the idea. Read the rest of this entry »

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New roots

In Harrow, my roots are well established. I know the texture and feel of the earth. I am acquainted with the spirits who guards the land, and I intimately know the spirit of that soil. I call her the Mother Clay. She is generous and forgiving, she holds and nurtures so much: a great city, millions of people. I know and trust her.

At Westacre*, things are different. Although I have been visiting this place for over two decades, I have never stayed here for more than a few days at a time. I have only sporadically made the time to get to know this place, this land, this earth. And seeing as I am going to live here relatively soon, making that relationship is a bit of a priority. Read the rest of this entry »

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I want to go play!

Today is Westacre Day minus 200, and this week exciting things have happened. Things to make me dream and plot and plan and really get into the spirit of things.

I bought two books about permaculture and related things. One is huge and scary and implies that I need to know about things like phosphates and shade tolerance. Right now, I’m at the stage of trying to get two tomato plants to survive the wildly changing weather. Thankfully, the other book is friendly and small and really inspiring. It gives you some idea as to what step comes before the other when you’re dreaming up your permaculture garden. Makes me want to play with those maps Alex is half way to finishing. Read the rest of this entry »

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The centre and the edge

The flowers in the garden were just waiting for some warm weather to show their colours. In the last week we’ve gained elder flowers, roses, and yellow flag irises. And those buttercups shine their golden faces to the sun. This is what I call the flower tide of the year, the time when our plans and ideas unfold and begin to show themselves to the world.

At the Winter Solstice, which for me is the beginning of the year, the theme that came up in my private ritual was Renewal. For a year full of dreams for the future, but also full of memories of trying times just left behind, it is a great idea to work with. I have discovered, so far, that at the centre of this renewal is a closer identification with the core of my being. Read the rest of this entry »

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Doing it right

Things have been slacking a bit around here. Ever since I got back from that awesome OBOD camp, my spiritual practice has been lacking in consistency. Especially getting out there on time in the mornings before work has been hard.

So I promised myself that after last night’s new-moon-with-solar-eclipse, I would start doing it right again. And in my head, of course, that meant sticking to the schedule, getting things done, running a tighter ship. Predictably, I failed miserably on day one. Read the rest of this entry »

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Grounding the buzz

Imagine camping in the rain, in a muddy field, for a cold week late in April. Sixty odd people living closely together, seeking shelter from the wet. Imagine a central fire that turns into a central water feature after 36 hours of incessant rain. Imagine sucking mud, and boots that start to all look the same. Imagine waterproofs and damp clothes. Quite challenging, right?

Then imagine a sickness bug levelling about a quarter of those present, and making pretty much everyone else feel sick for at least some hours. Imagine buckets of sick having to be carried across the field and disposed of safely. Imagine seven people puking communally in a bender that is now a makeshift little hospital. Imagine the mother of all thunderstorms breaking over that camp, that bender, those people being ill and the ones looking after them. Some tents are levelled, others have little rivers running through them. You’ve now got trench warfare – it even sounds like you’re being shelled. Read the rest of this entry »

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From Ceremony to Ritual

One of my passions in life is ritual. Couldn’t do without it. ┬áBeing in a Sacred Circle, present to every movement of Spirit, balances, heals and inspires me.

Ritual. It’s an interesting word. It has a certain flavour to it, heady and dangerous. I resisted the word for years, preferring to call what I do ‘ceremony’. Ceremony sounds grand, doesn’t it? It has something about it that feels authoritative, official, sanctioned in some way. I liked the stateliness of the word, the implication that it is beautiful and choreographed. That it is full of reverence and respectability. Read the rest of this entry »

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Walkabout is not my thing

Here is the truth: sometimes I lose my spiritual connection. It usually happens when my routine is disrupted for some reason. Going away from home always does it. Going to stay with my mother in Belgium for a week always stops my spiritual practice dead. Being without my usual room, or my garden, it just doesn’t happen. And without the practice, the sense of connection grows very thin.

I am very firmly rooted in the London clay, in the land between the Hill (Harrow Hill, which held a sanctuary to the gods long before the church was built) and the ridge (a wooded rise of land where and ancient ditch marks an old boundary). If I go somewhere else, I need to put down roots before I feel stable and grounded enough to fruitfully meditate. Read the rest of this entry »

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