Of Mice and Hen(s)

Where the Red Kite Flies Blog Post 2

February 2022

Compost Toilet, Pembrokeshire

It’s noon and I’m writing this from a relatively dark but cosy cabin in the woods. It’s the first week of February and I’m hoping that this month brings a better ‘start’ to the year than January did. It felt like a month of constant bad news, for both me and my partner and those around us. But I have some hope that February will bring better things, with the evenings getting lighter and a bundle of shot film ready to be sent off to the lab.

I’ve been back in Wales for two weeks and I’m slowly getting stuck back into my ‘Where the Red Kite Flies’ project. With that comes living a more land-based life, carting drinking water I’ve brought from Malvern across the fields, collecting water for washing from the stream, stacking a new heap of firewood delivered by my pal Joe. There’s also the less idyllic aspects of this lifestyle. Using a compost toilet isn’t for everyone. I also need to be very aware of how much power I’m using and how much battery life I have left in my portable power banks. And I’ve spotted the sweetest mouse hanging around outside but he/she seemed less cute once I’d discovered they’d cracked my refrigeration system and had tucked into my hummus. Also, the term “Don’t shit where you eat” doesn’t seem to have reached the mouse kingdom. 

Having such a heightened awareness of power and water supplies isn’t for everyone, and it certainly isn’t for me all the time, though I do like that it gives me a greater appreciation of my resources. There’s something I find satisfying about the challenges, such as working out how to make 3 bottles of water last for 4 days and working out what meal I can make from the £2.43 left in my wallet from the Lammas honesty shop. 

One of the things I love about shooting analogue for project work is that same awareness of being cautious with my resources and how with that comes a slowing down with the process of making images. While the price of film these days is getting ever-more terrifying it does encourage a more considered approach. That said, I do my best not to give myself a hard time when I make mistakes, especially when using my new 5x4 camera because it’s a format that’s new to me. Yes, it’s a terribly expensive mistake when I forget to shut the lens before removing the dark slide but if I give myself a hard time it still won’t bring that sheet of film back and I’ll be even more scared about using the intimidating large format camera than I am already. Which I really don’t need as I was pretty scarred from my first experience of using large format in college. But more about that next time. 

I’m so grateful for learning photography when digital wasn’t nearly so prevalent as it is now. My first introduction into black and white film and the darkroom was at my alternative high school in Toronto, Canada in the 90’s. I will never forget that feeling of pure magic and joy of watching a print emerge from the tray of developer in the depths of that red-lit little darkroom. I miss the feeling of freedom and exploration that I think you might only really have when you first discover photography but I’m really glad that that appreciation of process and the magic of discovery that comes from things not being immediately accessible has stayed with me.

Despite being convinced in high school and early on in college that I was going to become a fashion photographer, I’m really rather glad that my photography has gone another way and has led to hanging out with teenagers in eco villages, living in a cabin and stacking firewood. This first week of February has brought many joys. I went tree shopping with my friend Meg (10 Downy Birch, 4 Silver Birch) ate the world’s BEST falafels (thanks to Stiwdio 3 in Cardigan) and came across a gang of hens hanging out on a trampoline. And that was all in one day. There were also several photo sessions with the kids/teenagers from Lammas and a games night at the community hub. I think I’ve gotten over my fear of Catan and I reluctantly admit that it really is good fun. 

One good thing did happen in January: I finally changed a gas bottle on my own. Remembering that everything is opposite where gas is concerned (righty is not tighty, lefty is not loosey,) I managed to finally figure it out on my own. After 11 years of off and on off-grid life, this felt both ridiculous and wonderfully, joyously, epic. 

Chuffed Store Print Sale

Left to Right: Skye and Monkey, Quiet Sacred Place of Sweet Things

Part of the funding for Where the Red Kite Flies will be coming from print sales. Both the photos above are currently available from The Chuffed Store as A3 prints. Other prints and sizes are available, contact me using the form below for more details.

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