elisa rathje lives, writes and films the small work* at appleturnover, a small farm on a small island.
appleturnover is home to a pair of little milk goats, a trio of geese, a flock of chickens and runner ducks, a small homeschooling family of artists, writers and filmmakers, as well as a charming farm cat.
the micro-farm is part walled kitchen garden, part silvopasture.
all 1 ½ acres of this century-old heritage apple orchard are filling up with a forest of food, fibre, fodder, fuel and medicinals, with ponds, a root cellar, a tiny summer house, an art studio, espaliers, grape arbours, composting toilets, hazelnut greywater mulch beds, hidden rainwater catchments, untilled potagers and a creek running through a thicket.
focusing on traditional skills, regenerative living and creative responses to everyday life in an era of ecological emergency, together we are documenting slow, simple approaches to becoming resilient at home and in our island community on ćuán (salt spring island in the salish sea.)
they make short films of their experiments in regenerative ways of living on the smallholding and the island beyond.
Bio photos by @stasia_garraway
when we choose to live closely bonded with the land, to turn to it in reciprocity, tending to the soil and the water and the plants and the animals for our mutual thriving, we are reclaiming a pattern of collaboration with all that lives. when we take the responsibility for what we need back into our own hands, those intimate relationships become vivid and immediate. we bring it home.
some of us came to the smallholding, the homestead, through pregnancy, seeking to bring birth home, reclaiming how we feed our children with our own bodies, breastfeeding, turning towards attachment practices like wrapping, wearing our babies so they are included in all the work of the day; or choosing the family bed, keeping each other closely knit. in attending to our babies’ signals, we have learned again to read and respond to those intimate languages, and so it follows with a surprising effortlessness that we want to go on, deeply attached, feeding our children good food whose source we know and trust, so much so that we feel compelled to grow it and to learn to nurture the plants and the soil with the same intimacy. so that we might find the thread of tending to other animals that much easier to take up, reclaiming a connection to the heritage of farming that may have broken for generations.
we may come to this seeking medicine in the plants around us, reclaiming our health from the industrial through both the culinary and the medicinal. we may come to it from a profound sense that the future we want to see will be healthy and thriving only as far as it is reciprocal with a healthy, thriving planet. and so our small work is to tend to the place we are in, and all those beings, all our kin, who depend on us to take care of this place.
we may come to this and find that we are learning all the time, just by living, by providing more and more of what we need with our own hands, and that our children grow and learn alongside us, immersed, becoming fluent in these languages without translation as our great-great-grandparents must have, so effortlessly skilled and so profoundly knowledgeable in place and practices, and in close relationship with the people relying on each other.
we may find that this life-learning, away from dominant patterns that only reinforce competition, of beating the other for scarcity instead of collaborating with each other for abundance, of polarising to dominate in hierarchy instead of embracing our own diversity and the strengths that our differences give us when we share, well — we may find that it is a fine way to live. many of us followed this path quite effortless into unschooling, homeschooling, bringing learning home, bringing our children deeply into context, not abstraction, nurturing thriving, creative minds in the familiar space of our families, our communities, our ecosystems.
so we become rooted again, attached to family and community in ways that the corporate-industrial could never replace, for all its convenience and ease. so we are growing a generation that might have the the well-being, the knowledge, the skills, the community-mindedness to face uncertain futures with equanimity, in interdependence, in collaboration with all of life thriving around us.