an integration pattern

there’s a pattern that allows us to simplify and manage a great deal more than we might otherwise. it’s a pattern of integration.

between homeschooling, homesteading, working from home, here, we turn to this pattern to sustain us.

homeschooling here is almost indistinguishable from living, life-learning. while our children grew up relating to the world by reading a good deal, it’s in making with their hands, writing, image-making and living that they test and integrate. this isn’t often felt as hard graft, unabashedly so, in that way a party springs up when many hands make light work on the farm. projects in learning can be inherently projects in living.

our youngest is eerily my likeness in being wholly project-based. we’d never dream of assigning her the tasks she’s crafted, say, to tell the ducks a story every single night (after feeding them and locking them safely in the duckhouse she helped design and build) never mind sustaining this creative writing project for six solid years. this is the power of integration.

so too my work in filming, writing, supporting folks through farm tours and mentorships to grow more resilient, collaborative, regenerative, ready for uncertain futures, is also how i help us to become so. this work is almost indistinguishable from tending to the farm and farmhouse. we like choices that meet multiple needs, stacking functions. work done once can feed us and our community many times over.

the principle of integration repeats. we see it as we free-range geese in the orchards, food forest, ponds, creek and silvopasture, to protect ducks and chickens from predators, and so too, trim the grasses, convert them into microbially rich compost distributed effortlessly across the farm. the flocks pick up every windfall apple, plum or pear, tidying and nourishing at once, setting carbon as the grasses root-prune and feed a microbial underground that feed trees that feed flocks and people.

immersed in these multiple languages, connected to the needs of the ecosystem that we support and that supports us, we can find a rhythm to simplify how we learn, live and work.

get on the appleturnover ‘postcards’ list below for new films, farm tours or mentorships.

an introduction

so, this is appleturnover, 1½ acres of heritage orchard-turned-smallholding over half a century ago, planted densely with an astonishing number of fruit, nut, and coppice trees around a farmhouse built by the old grandparents who made the studio, root cellar, gardens, added to with great care by a carpenter and shepherd, made vivid by a painter and now tended by our little family of artists, filmmakers, writers, life-learners.

my sweetheart and i unschooled our two all the way to college, from my city to his, striking out into the countryside in sussex then to the lakes of vancouver island and for the last seven years, right here on this tiny island in the salish sea, salt spring, part of the important traditional lands of the hul’qumi’num and SENĆOTEN speaking peoples.

i came to farming by way of art, following a fascination with traditional skills and learning to make what we need. i came to it too, by way of attachment parenting. it didn’t take long to find these threads tied to the land, to languages almost lost to me, though my mother’s people in finland were farmers and my father’s people in germany kept the village shop stocked from their gardens and delivered the milk by horse and cart.

like many of you that lineage grew very thin and my work has been to knit it back together, preparing a strong tether to help our children to weather whatever storms may come. in this orchard-turned-smallholding-turned-food forest, art is now inextricable from living, living from tending the land, just as learning is now synonymous with it.

not long after we moved here and added goats, ducks and geese to our flock of chickens and very important cat, i began to write, though i never was a writer, as if all the life here is writing through me.

one day my sweetheart suggested i make films, and being a filmmaker he taught all of us how. now i make films for anyone who might like to grow a little more connected to how we might live in ways that create the conditions for all life to thrive. you can find my work here and community on patreon.

i’m elisa rathje and i’m so pleased to meet you. i’m looking forward to spending some time together. get on the ‘postcards’ list below to hear about new films, new podcasts, new conversations and events.