Surviving the Shit Show: 2018 End of Year Review

I used to have a good habit of publishing annual reviews. Reflection is an important part of the design process – evaluating where we are at, what we have learned and so forth.

2018 in three words? Total shit show! So here we go…

What was challenging?

• October 2017-April 2018 was back-to-back bereavements. I lost six beautiful people from my life. Each death had a different flavour. Some, like my grandfather and grandmother (on different sides of the family), involved slow weeks of a gradual descent into death. A beautiful goodbye at their bedside. Others involved a brutal shock, including my ex-partner Anna who was killed in Afrin. Her death sent shockwaves around our anarchist community and broke my heart. Each death brings its own kind of disruption, demand and dent to your life force as you contend with the weight of grief.

The day after Anna’s memorial gathering, I got a call from Her Majesty’s Prison Service saying one of my best friend’s, Taylor, was in the hospital and might not make it. I bolted down to the south-east to the hospital and soon began a hellish experience of them being in a coma and me being left to pray. Coupled with the emotional challenges of interacting with prison officers and Governors, as well as transphobic and queerphobic nursing staff who couldn’t understand Taylor’s gender needs or our relationship (as I’m their next of kin). Thankfully I was supported by a few absolute mega-babes who visited the hospital with me. When Taylor finally woke up and was able to talk properly, they told me they’d tried to kill themselves with an overdose. It was the first of many attempts to take their own life this year. This autumn, I’ve lost count of how many times they’ve gone to the hospital after slitting their own throat or trying to hang themselves, only to be found by prison officers who are meant to be keeping them on suicide watch. Taylor is an IPP and feels powerless and desperate enough due to this sentence that death feels like the only possible option at times. The heartbreak and rage move me to organise against the prison system which is destroying so much life.

• My other best friend, Sam, who I have blogged about on many occasions, finally accessed surgery in January for her anal cancer. This was after over 13 months of intense medical neglect in a private prison who failed to take her to hospital appointments (we later learned, 9 in total). Unfortunately, when operating the surgeons found cancer had spread (but thankfully, we learnt 8 weeks later that this lump was benign). Sam has had to return to the hospital for further laser treatment to remove the AIN3 (pre-cancer cells) and now has to return every 6 weeks for monitoring, which often includes taking biopsies. The doctor told me on the phone if it had grown 3 more millimetres it would have been game over by now. Sadly the doctor also believes Sam still has cancer under an ulcer but she has but has been unable to prove it with biopsies. We just keep going. Sam is due to go to the hospital again in January.

My health got bad again, really bad. Especially after losing my grandad. I had to step back from one of my jobs which meant a big loss of income and more financial precarity. In February, I could barely work more than an hour or two a day before being crippled by rib pain again, something I thought I’d really ‘got on top of’. However, this month of pain did lead to some interventions which have dramatically improved my health.

• Another close friend entered the prison system, which meant more support work, prison visits and all the physical and emotional challenges they come with, as well as a deportation order from the Home Office that we’ve been resisting.

• Having stepped back from Feed Avalon meant that now my whole life feels like prison, prison, prison – researching prisons for work, visiting friends in prison, doing anti-prison and prisoner support organising. More than often, it’s felt completely overwhelming and it’s taken a lot of energy to integrate new ways to connect to the land and find more balance again.

What went well?

• I had some major breakthroughs with my health. I got some food intolerance blood tests done which showed up a reaction to wheat and yeast. Militantly cutting these out of my diet has stopped 95% of my rib pain(!!!). I couldn’t believe it. I also got my gut bacteria tested and this has influenced my dietary choices and a new herbal and supplementation regime which has massively improved my energy levels. I also had some osteopathy on my ribs which I think has made a difference too. I’m still trying to build my immunity and strengthen my gut so that I can have a more diverse diet, but I’m getting there slowly!

• I finished my masters degree!!! I’m about to graduate with an MSc Applied Agroecology with Gaia University. The weight off my shoulders is truly phenomenal. After five years of hard work, in all honesty, I’m super proud of myself.

• I’ve really enjoyed working at Corporate Watch and got to publish a bunch of important research on prison expansion, carceral colonialism and more.

• All the back-to-back deaths and life-and-death situations with my friends in prison have propelled me to re-engage more powerfully with my own spirituality. I am unashamedly witchy as a fuck and this year I’ve found so much strength in making altars, learning tarot and astrology, connecting with plants and doing little rituals. I’ve also been studying the lunar apothecary course and it’s been simply incredible.

All of the collectives I am involved in feel stronger than ever and people really stepped up during my many months of challenges. There finally feels like a burgeoning anti-prison movement in the UK now <3

• I began a four-year apprenticeship with the Plant Medicine School in Ireland this October. I finally made the decision to train as a clinical herbalist after many years of uncertainty. I’ve also set up a new website for my herbal work, the Solidarity Apothecary – http://www.solidarityapothecary.org

• I have been studying the soil food web courses with Dr Elaine Ingham and to be honest, I have loved every second. Anytime I have a day off, I literally wake up in the morning super excited to study. With some inheritance from my grandad, I even bought a microscope!! Watch this space for more soil geek adventures.

• I am absolutely head-over-heels in love and have been in the most supportive, amazing relationship for 18 months now. My friends and all my queer babes have also been incredible this last year <3

What have I learnt?

That even in those most awful moments, there is also joy, friendship and connection. The days I spent at the intensive care unit with Taylor brought me closer to an amazing crew that have been incredible at supporting both of us. Even in a heartbreaking loss, there are opportunities for silly memes, affection and hope. (BTW – wholesome memes have literally got me through the year!)

• That if you’re engaging with heavy stuff, it feels a whole lot lighter if you can balance it out with anything that gives you joy. For me, that is agroecology and herbalism. I’ve realised no matter how hard I try to be this frontline organiser who is as tough-as-fuck and able to deal with prison 24/7, there are still so many other sides of myself that I need to express to be happy. Whether that’s witchy shit or soil science.

That it’s okay to not be okay. This year I got really useless at managing emails. I used to be a militant ’zero inbox’ kind of girl but now, well, I’ve just let it all go. Sorry to use a speciesist phrase, but I’ve ‘lightened the reins’ on my self. I used to want everything done yesterday, and being sick has made me reduce my expectations of myself and others. Being kinder and compassionate to myself has actually helped me be a better organiser. I learnt, after all these bereavements, that actually when the shit hits the fan, it’s okay to forget things, it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to not be available to everyone else 24/7. And communicating how others can help you takes you a whole lot farther in getting your needs met rather than expecting friends or colleagues to be telepathic. And also? If you can’t organise for a month because of a death, the sky isn’t going to fall down.

So there you have it, my 2018! There’s probably a bunch of stuff I have forgotten but these are the high and lowlights. For any astrology geeks out there you won’t be suprised to know that this has been the climax of my saturn return.

Once again, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has been there for me and my friends in prison this year. I love all the people I organise with so much and if you’re reading this, you know who you are!

I aim to do better in 2019 with some more regular newsletters and updates!

MSc End of Year Presentation with Gaia U – Agroecology, Prison Aboltion and more

After five long, hard and incredible years, I am finally about to graduate with an MSc Applied Agroecology!

On the 13th November 2018 at 10am US Pacific Time (18:00 UTC), I will be hosting my End of Year Presentation.

The presentation is 45 minutes followed by questions and answers and feedback. The whole call is 1.5 hours but you can stay as long or as short as you like. I would really appreciate folks being there.

The call will go over what I have learnt during my MSc in the fields of agroecology, food autonomy, prison abolition and more. It will share outcomes of my projects, as well as key learnings. It will also share the back story of how I manage my learning pathway and my life to make things happen. So it’s a good chance to also learn more about Gaia University and its approach to education.

To register visit: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/f6b841086ce0a34c8c34be5db4a05ad8

 

 

Deconstructing & Decolonizing Science for Agroecology

Deconstructing & Decolonizing Science for Agroecology

Next week I will be giving my Middle of Year Presentation with Gaia University. You are super welcome to join the webinar! It’s 4pm UK time.

“During this webinar, Nicole will share her work on deconstructing science – specifically how applied agroecological science, such as soil science or plant ecology, is inseparable from agrarian social thought and social movements. This call aims to begin conversations on deconstructing science, exploring its historical and contemporary relationships to the state, capitalism, and colonialism while still embracing critical research and inquiry.

There will be a short presentation follow”

Earth First! Summer Gathering 2017

Don’t miss this year’s Earth First Summer Gathering that is happening just outside of London. Five days of skill sharing for grassroots ecological direct action – make links, share ideas and get involved in the struggles against fracking, new roads and more. There will be a prisoner support space and letter writing, as well as a workshop on toxic prisons. Plus a SoilHack workshop!

For full details visit: http://earthfirstgathering.org/

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Fantastic Day learning about Fungi!

Last weekend, we had a fantastic day learning about fungi with Feed Avalon at the Red Brick Building Community Garden. As part of the Avalon Fantastic Fungi Day, volunteers inoculated logs, made mushroom bags and learnt about plants at the Avalon Wildflower Park.

A huge thank you to the Grow Wild Team who supported the event and shared their knowledge! A big thank you to all the volunteers and helpers during the day.

If you are interested in getting involved in growing mushrooms and remediating the morlands site please contact Bon. Email bon@feedavalon.org.uk

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Please share your Education and Training needs and desires!

EAT LogoHere is a little shout out as part of my job coordinating education and training with Feed Avalon:

We are asking anyone who has come to one of Feed Avalon’s courses or workshops over the last year, to please take a minute to give your feedback.

If you haven’t been on one of our courses yet, please still use the form to tell us what you’d be interested in!

We want to develop an even more exciting program of learning opportunities in 2017/2018.

Let us know what you need and desire in terms of training for food system skills.

Take the survey here: https://goo.gl/forms/E5ElKyOUdLH7Mulm1

 

Announcing SoilHack 2017

So my inner soil geek is having kittens right now. I’m SO excited about this gathering…

Soil Hack Gathering Poster Centre

SoilHack Gathering 2017

What: A weekend to share our passion, knowledge, and skills for building healthy soils

When: 27 – 28th May 2017 (arrivals welcome Friday evening)

Where: Brook End LAND Centre, Compton Dundon – near Street and Glastonbury in Somerset

How to book your place: Please email eat@feedavalon.org.uk
About: SoilHack is a knowledge sharing network focused on soil. It is part of the FarmHack movement and has been born out of the need to save what soils we have with the best information possible.
The first national SoilHack Gathering is taking place this summer at Brook End LAND Centre just outside Street (near Glastonbury) in Somerset. We invite you to come to contribute your experiences, share good ideas and learn about soil regeneration. This is a DIY movement where we collectively learn about soils and apply our learning in our own gardens and farms. We try to bring the best research to life and share it horizontally.
The Gathering will involve workshops led by participants with practical experience in soil biology, biochar, agroforestry, cover cropping and more. We will also create a space to explore how to build the SoilHack movement in an effort to defend, repair and build soils that are essential to life. It is a not-for-profit event with financial support to enable access and participation. Contributions are sliding scale between £25 – £125 for the weekend including meals and camping.
To book your place and offer a workshop please email eat@feedavalon.org.uk

Upcoming Nutrition Day School

The amazing Isy of ‘Another Dinner is Possible’ cookbook fame and lots of bad ass projects is teaching a Nutrition Day School with Feed Avalon this March:

When: Thursday 30th March 2017, 9.30am – 5pm

Where: Unit C1 Thriveability Hub, Northover Buildings, Glastonbury, BA6 9NU

What: Confused by nutrition information and ‘what’s good or bad for you’? This day school will explore the links between food, health and well-being, demystifying nutritional concepts and science, and emphasising a sustainable and pleasurable approach to feeding ourselves.

You’ll learn the nutritional science around healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, ‘superfoods’, fibre, blood sugar, food and mood, and more. We’ll discuss problems with our current food system, and think of ways to improve how and what we eat.

The emphasis is on plant-based nutrition, but not exclusively. The class will be a mixture of
presentations, activities, groupwork and discussion, handouts, plenty of breaks, and a potluck veggie lunch to share.

About the Tutor: Isy Schulz is a qualified nutritionist (BSc Human Nutrition) with a catering and community food organising background. Trained as a ‘Well Now’ health facilitator and co-author of the cookbook ‘Another Dinner is Possible’. Isy’s interests lie with sustainable food production, inventive plant-based whole food cookery, and improving our current food system.

Cost: The course costs £35 (there are some subsidised places).

To book: please email Nicole: eat@feedavalon.org.uk

Nutrition Day School