Food forest

Het Achterland

Across a wooden bridge, through a small gate and past a greenhouse full of plants, I see a green-colored wooden house in the back of the colorful and wild garden. In the warm sun, several women sit on tree stumps drinking tea together and talking about what needs to be done this day.

“Pluk” is a place full of greenery and peace, for anyone who wants to escape the busy city. A place to meet, get your fresh vegetables or take a soothing walk among the flower and vegetable gardens. One of these gardens is “Het Achterland.” For a long time it was a piece of land where the weeds grew between the tiles, until Eveline changed it.

Eveline is a garden designer and leads the initiative Het Achterland to make it a real paradise for people and animals. In addition to being project manager for Het Achterland, Eveline is also a beekeeper. With her own company “Haagse zaad” and “Haagse Honing” she has a beautiful garden next to her house in The Hague, full of all kinds of plants and flowers, where the bees love to swarm. At various places in The Hague you can buy a bag of seeds from Haags Zaad for bee-friendly plants, in order to keep the bee population and also make the city a lot greener.

After a few heavy rains, the land is in full bloom for the first summer. Through the overgrown paths and the buzzing of countless bees, I follow Eveline, exploring the garden. With her hands covered in sand, she pulls away every plant that doesn’t belong, knowing every plant that grows there.

The idea behind this place is that almost everything is edible for humans and animals. From strawberries to New Zealand flax, elderflower and ginger leaf. There are also a lot of plants and herbs to make your own tea with. Everything grows interchangeably. By covering the soil, it dries out less and the soil and thus the plants get more food. Once a week volunteers help to maintain the garden. It is also a place to meet and share thoughts. But also to learn more about the plants, how something grows and where everything comes from. What is the plant’s function? After walking along the narrow overgrown paths, I see a few stray clogs. With her feet in the earth, her big hat on against the hot sun, Eveline, like a real power woman, operates the chopper, grinding the weeds into small pieces.

It is certainly a true paradise, a quiet place in the middle of a big city, where you forget all your worries and are together with fellow nature lovers. Where you only feel the earth under your feet, the sun beaming on your skin, the bees buzzing and where you don’t have to think about anything else. 

June 2022, Pluk Den Haag, The Hague

Grass gathering

Suzanne Bernhardt

Suzanne and I first met on a fieldtrip to the Van Tienhoven mill. In her van we drove out of busy Maastricht, right into the rolling hills. Past old churches, wayside crosses and grazed pastures.

Suzanne Bernhardt investigates the paths that a product or material takes. Wondering where it comes from and what the relationship is between the product, man and nature. How is this applied in daily life? By going on fieldtrips, researching and being in contact with the earth and everything it offers, Suzanne applies these things in her own projects. From cheese to bread and grain.

I use trace as an act and an artifact to translate the moving, the inquiry, the path into the solid, the residue

On a search for black oats for a project, Suzanne stumbled upon the Van Tienhoven mill. Interested in the building and what went on within its walls, she started training as a miller. Wondering how architecture and wind go together, how to mill with your ears and how man and machine are in relation to each other.

“Through the mill I’m learning about the ecology of grains, farming and baking”

To see what a mill can do with grain and the process of grinding grain into flour sparks ideas for incorporating grain into more products than just bread. Based on the flavors of the mill and the different stages of grain, 3 flavors of ice cream were created. To break a culture that uses a lot of dairy, the ice cream is made from oat milk inoculated with kefir grains. By serving the ice cream flavors directly on the hand, the cold and the melting of the ice cream, brings you closer to the product.

“An ode to the family of sweet grasses, as if you were falling into a green field with your mouth open.”

Due to poor hygiene and lack of hot water in the past, people used to “wash” and degrease their hands with cow or horse pee. Its high PH value makes it a good degreasing agent. With fermented spelt from the mill, bran and wheat germ oil, Suzanne made a soap. While you wash your hands you are connected to the product, where it comes from, what the process is and where it all begins. The wheat in the soap is broken down so that vitamins and other nutrients become food for the skin. The bran is added to give your skin an exfoliation and remove dead skin cells. The wheat germ oil keeps your skin from drying out and gives your hands a silky touch with a wonderful nutty scent.

Through the clay walls and tall grasses, Suzanne walks ahead of me, looking for some useful items for her studio. Along the way, she tells me all about the different types of grains and grasses. We stumble upon a meadow full of grain. The wind blowing through it lets us hear the fine, light sound of the grass rustling against each other. A unique place, squatting in the grain, looking at all the blades growing past each other, tangled together.

Our arms full of different kinds of wild grasses on the way to the studio. All kinds of grasses in different stages of their life. The color differences and dryness shows how grass and time go together.

June 2022, Suzanne Bernhardt, Maastricht

From grain to flour

Van Tienhoven molen

Just outside Maastricht, through the hilly landscapes with old half-timbered houses, is the Van Tienhoven mill, still in use to make flour for sale. Built in 1855 with “mergelsteen”, something common in the area, but rare for a mill.

Dutch history has countless mills. Many have been preserved, but only a few are still in use as they once were. Since 2000 the mill has been turning its wings again and production is in full swing. Processing grain into flour, everything is local and nothing is thrown away.

Koen welcomes me to “his” mill. He is only 20 years old, 1.5 years official miller, for Koen himself it feels like 16 years. He has been visiting the mill since he was 4 years old and has never left.

Becoming a miller takes years of experience. Besides a training of 1 year, because you have to know the mill in all seasons, you are also a weatherman and you have to know the mill from front to back. What should you do when there is a thunderstorm? How should the sail be set on the wings? Listening well is also important, because the mill consists of several layers and everything is connected to each other, you cannot see what is happening everywhere.

“It is important to listen carefully”

Inside it is nice and cool on this hot summer day. It is still quiet because the wind is not strong enough to turn. The only sound I hear is the tapping of Koens wooden clogs on the floor. Koen shows me what happens on each layer, how everything relates to each other and how the product flour is created. 

Through the numerous windows I look far over the Limburg landscape, with sandy paths, hills and vineyards, each time one floor higher.

The local grain is milled between two thick round discs of stone that rotate against each other. The stones are set in motion by all kinds of gears, from floor to floor. At the very top of the ridge is the main gear, which is attached to the wings by a large pin. When the grain is milled into flour, everything goes into a machine where the flour is sorted into 3 categories. To get flour, first the bran and the groats are removed from the flour. This is not used for human consumption. In order not to throw anything away, these bran and groats are given to free roaming pigs in the neighborhood to enjoy.

After going down all the floors and arriving at the top, Koen tells me that to keep the gears running they are greased with belly fat from a pig. Where some mills use frying oil, Koen uses the old fashioned method. Belly fat is a part of the pig that is not used for consumption and is otherwise thrown away. Because it retains its fat for years it is very suitable as a fat or butter.

The wings start turning, I feel a light breeze and hear the soothing sound of the wings swaying in the wind

Something that runs on the power of nature, is related to each other and requires attention and time is something that used to be taken for granted, but since everything has to go faster and faster and is all about profit, it is no longer so obvious. Nice to see how the Limburg Landscape, Koen and the volunteers maintain this and thus deal with nature and a monument.

June 2022, Van Tienhoven molen, Wolfshuis

Haruka Matsuo Banko

Studio visit

Midden in het Gooi, tussen de weilanden met pasgeboren lammetjes en stille wateren ligt de zorgboerderij waar Haruka haar atelier heeft gevestigd.

Net het terrein opgelopen werd ik gelijk begroet door de vele loslopende kippen en het gemekker van de geiten.

Tegenover de geitenstal zit het atelier, in een oude paardenstal. De sfeer past perfect bij Haruka en haar keramiek. Het voelt heel huiselijk en warm, maar ook heel nostalgisch en cultureel. Alsof je tientallen jaren geleden een Japanse werkplaats binnenloopt.

Ik werd warm ontvangen met een thee ceremonie van Haruka. Een momentje van rust en bezinning. Ze leidde me rond in haar atelier en op het terrein.

Boven de oude staldeur van het atelier hangt een briefje, genaamd ‘Ofuda’. Het papiertje met Japanse tekens is een talisman, het beschermt het huis of de ruimte en word daarom vaak boven deuropeningen gehangen.

April 2022, Studio Haruka Matsuo

Bronwen Jones

Darning

Bronwen Jones, London, is mainly into “Darning”, repairing and making clothes. She doesn’t see this as a way of sustainability, but as something she grew up with. A life of repairing, reusing and discovering things. With a father in the house who repaired anything that was broken, a mother behind the sewing machine who could alter and repair clothes and with a grandmother who taught her how to crochet, her interest in repair and textiles was born. After studying in Brighton for 1 year and getting oriented in what she wants, Bronwen ended up in Amsterdam at the TXT Textile Department at Rietveld. Here she learned to weave and understand the context and language of textiles.

“Weaving changes the pace”

Surrounded by Vondelpark and beautiful stately old houses lies Bronwen’s studio, which she shares with 7 other creatives. An inspiring place! Also for Bronwen, who gets her inspiration from the small moments. The sunlight falling through the studio windows, repairing a beloved sweater of a good friend, looking at the way a coat hangs over the chair or a sweater that is thrown in a corner. This was a great point of inspiration for Bronwen’s graduate project. Using silicone to “freeze” a garment, all the wrinkles and creases stayed in it. But as soon as you move the silicone object it changes shape again, just like our body.

“Clothing has a life of its own separate from our bodies”

The pandemic threw a lot of spanner in the works and brought a lot of loneliness. Bronwen saw this problem as an opportunity for something new, she wanted to meet people. Thus, she started ‘Clothing Correspondence’. On social media she posted calls to repair broken clothes in exchange for a conversation. Not only by engaging in conversation with people but also by reading a garment she found out more about a person. How someone moves, how someone takes care of their garment, but also where the holes and wear marks are.

For a donation to refugees, a sweater was delivered that was full of holes. Bronwen decided to repair it so the sweater would be wearable again. The sweater is sent as a card back and forth between Bronwen and a good friend. Gloves for cold fingers that were made by the grandmother of a good friend, which had big wear marks due to logging. A 50 year old sweater with a hole near the heart, self made from self spun wool, which has been in the family for generations, was made by a grandmother and passed on to her son and then her granddaughter. A garment that is worn with love and repaired time and time again. Clothing takes on a life of its own. It is worn, dumped and cared for.

In this era we can buy anything we want, clothing has become a disposable item. As soon as it is broken, something new replaces it. The image of repair used to be for poor people, visible wear and tear. For Bronwen it is very valuable, it tells a lot about the person and how it has been lived. The emotional value behind a garment is much more important than how it looks or where it came from.

 “Gaining happiness in mending is a gift”

March 2022 Amsterdam, Studio Bronwen Jones