Yesterday I hitchhiked to Leeds and the Permaculture Association’s office here, where I am going to help out for a couple of weeks. It took me four lifts, 3.5 hours, to get all the way from the depths of a Cumbrian valley to the precise location in Leeds. I met a sheep farmer who has spent her entire life in the same valley in the Lake District. She owns a thousand Herdwick sheep, the most popular breed in the area because they don’t have the wandering tendencies. They’ll stay on the same fell as where they were born even without extensive fencing requirements. I met a guy who worked for the Forestry Commission and was not happy with its policy of planting oak, ash and other hardwood. He was of the opinion that we should be planting softwood, which at least would quickly produce a crop to sell.
My last lift was by far one of the most hilarious I’ve ever had – with an elderly man who seems to own half of England. He was selling and buying sheep and cattle on the phone as we were driving – in between telling me crazy stories about the women he’d pursued around the world and the amount of money he’d thrown at them. In his youth he fell in love with a Swedish lady, 6 weeks later he bought a house in central Stockholm. Their relationship didn’t work out and a few years later he ended up giving her the house. Just as an example. In fact, that was one of the more low key stories, others involved 1100 dollar taxi rides between Boston and Cape Cod, or spontaneous trips to Sydney opera house. But he was also a generous sort of bloke – he was once giving some Greek hitchhikers a lift and left them with the keys in the car, much to the horror of his daughter. But his response to her concern was that “If they take the car, it means they needed it more than us, so we should be happy that we have helped them!”. Part of this laidback attitude was of course that he had the means to get a new car easily, but still, imagine if all rich people were like that. And as it turns out, the hitchhikers didn’t steal the car.
So, now I’m exploring Leeds, staying at Andy’s (chief exec of the permaculture association) place. Last night he took me to a social with the Leeds Permaculture Network. So I have so far been completely immersed in permaculture here – good first impression! Andy and her partner are quite into raw food. Breakfast today was raw buckwheat porridge: Soak buckwheat (a locally grown superfood!) overnight. Blend with some seeds, soft fruit, aloe vera juice, or whatever you want. Garnish with seeds and fruit. Really tasty, you should try it!