Beat your Olive Trees, But Not Too Much

11 04 2011

Landowners have a duty to leave some food for the poor and give people access to get it. Or that’s what it looks like at least. Here are two scriptural passages taken from the Office of Readings (part of the Liturgy of the Hours) that  caught my eye when I read them. One is from January and the other is a Lenten reading.

Office of Readings 24th Jan 2011, Commemoration of St Francis de Sales: “You must not pervert justice in dealing with a stranger or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I lay this charge on you. When reaping the harvest in your field, if you have overlooked a sheaf in that field, do not go back for it. Leave it for the stranger, the orphan and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat your olive trees you must not go over the branches twice. Let anything left be for the stranger, the orphan and the widow.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Christmas Trees: a Symbol for the Common Good?

28 10 2010

A Christmas tree farmer working for the common good The Fall is a beautiful season in New England, as every tourist brochure will tell you, and so I am out and about  a lot at the moment. I was delighted on a recent walk near Henniker in New Hampshire to come across Forster’s Christmas Tree Farm. The farm is situated on a hilltop and his shop has a deck where you can sit and enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding area.  Steve Forster the charming proprietor was in and so I immediately starting quizzing him about local walks on developed farmland. Regular readers will know why (otherwise the curious can go here , here and here for past articles outlining my thoughts on the subject). Steve immediately told me that he has opened up trails on his land and makes them available to local people. Read the rest of this entry »





Gardening in England and Spain

21 10 2010

My parents are both keen gardeners and their love of beautiful gardens has rubbed off on me. (Although, sadly, the knowledge of how to do it hasn’t. I feel I ought to know far more than I do.)

Gardening is a great British enthusiasm. Britain is an island so there is plenty of rain brought over by the Atlantic winds; and it has a temperate climate, which means that is rarely either very hot or very cold. Read the rest of this entry »





An Old England Walk in New England

15 10 2010

The pleasure of going round in circles I have written before, here, about my belief that farms and gardens are, or at least with God’s grace can be, even more beautiful than the wilderness. I have also referred to my love of walking in the countryside. There are lots of set aside hiking trails in New Hampshire, nearly everything I have seen is set in conservation land, owned by the state and so not farmed but rather, it is left to grow wild. Typically, therefore, one is walking through a tunnel through trees, emerging occasionally at vista points to see…tree tops. Read the rest of this entry »





Serving the Common Good in Rural New Hampshire

20 08 2010

Thomas More College students clear an 18th century cart track

Following on from last week’s article, here is an example in New Hampshire of a landowner who is putting his land in the service of the common good. He is Fr Roger Boucher, a chaplain at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. Fr Boucher lives on his hermitage which is situated on a farm, several miles north of Concord, New Hampshire. Read the rest of this entry »





Farms, Country Walks, Private Property and the Common Good

13 08 2010

I am a keen walker and when I moved to the United States 18 months ago to take up my position as Artist-in-Residence at Thomas More College, I immediately started to investigate the local country walks. I live Nashua, a town in New Hampshire, very close to its southern border with Massachussetts. Both are beautiful states and there are state and national parks with developed paths within striking distance of here. These are very different from the British country walks that I am used to however. The countryside in Britain is almost all farmland of some description. So whereas in the US, as a general principle, the state and national parks aim to present man with a ‘wilderness’, that is countryside unaffected by man, the British national parks preserve a traditionally farmed landscape. Read the rest of this entry »





Come Out of the Wilderness and into the Garden

7 05 2010
Hampton Court, London

The garden is the symbol of the culture of life

Gardens and farmland are more natural and more beautiful than pristine, untouched wilderness. Or at least they should be.

Of course the wilderness is beautiful. I am not trying to change anyone’s view on that. But I am seeking to raise the status of cultivated land relative to it. The assumption of most conservationists today seems to be the opposite. In fact, my experience is that for many if there is an objective standard of beauty, it is nature unaffected by man. Read the rest of this entry »