Report from the Praxis Project 2018
The Praxis Project NB is a yearly festival held in Knowlesville, New Brunswick on the first full weekend of June with the intent of creating social change through permaculture, art and community. My overall impression of the festival was excellent. It was very different from most music festivals I’d been to, (although I didn’t get to be there for any evening music). People were so open and friendly. I went alone and was worried that I might feel awkward or isolated, but that was completely the opposite of my experience. The conversations that I had alone were worth more to me than the $50.00 ticket price. I
Education, art and sharing really take the forefront at this festival. It was incredibly family friendly with children being treated really respectfully (didn’t see any shushing or keeping kids away from workshops). I also didn’t see drugs or even much alcohol being consumed. Everyone was well cared for with shade, meals, water, clean toilets and medical tent/first-aid. That’s a big accomplishment since everything was in a forest or field and was off-grid.
I left home early on Sunday morning and drove to Knowlesville on Route 107 which was an interesting drive in itself. This is one of the more sparsely populated areas of our province where it seems the forestry and hunting/ fishing are probably making up the greatest part of the economy. When you’ve only seen three cars in an hour and a half it can be easy to be complacent; however, I was brought back into focus when I had to jam my breaks on in Deersdale to let a moose calf cross the road. After that I entered into some beautiful rolling hills with dairy farms and fields at the beginning of the Appalachian mountain range.
When I arrived around 9:30 things were still really quiet. I went to the “portal” or entrance to pay, where I was greeted by Barrette a volunteer who gave me the tour. I was looking for the workshop space for creating herbal salves and approached a group of ladies thinking they were doing the workshop. I was invited to do some “forest bathing” which was moving around the property, finding an area that was of interest to us and then sitting quietly for 4-5 minutes to observe and think about what was happening with nature. We then went back to the group for a few minutes and discussed, and then repeated the process. We had a lovely little girl in our group named Mala, who was about five or six years old helping to lead the event.
After that I made my way to the salve workshop where we learned about infusions, using fresh vs. dried herbs, the properties of different oils and working with beeswax. I left with a calendula and comfrey salve that is good for shallow wounds, bug bites and scrapes. This workshop was hosted by Radical Root Herbs which is owned by Munna who lives on-site and was helping to host the event. There were other workshops posted on composting and preserving, but I was so busy chatting with people that I didn’t make it. All of the workshops were included in my $50.00 day-pass (including workshop take-away products).
I toured the Makers Market which was hosted at the Art and Nature Center. This building is a beautiful, red-roofed, solar-powered converted church. This center is an off-shoot of the South Knowlesville Land Trust which has been an intentional community since 2010. The center doubles as a school for the children in the community. I had the opportunity to speak with Teegan a long-time community member in the greenhouse helping the kids get ready to sell some of their plant starts. She told me that the children designed the greenhouse and were insistent that they have stairs put in so that they could climb out a window and enter directly into the greenhouse without going outside. They will eventually finish this design and use the top of the stairs to store water containers so the children can water by gravity. I was really impressed with how friendly and competent all of the children that I met were. I bought some hand-made earrings from Cassie who looked to be around 10 years old and was running her own jewelry display. The school has some amazing outdoor shelters, a playhouse, fort, sculptures… really an amazing place to learn.
At the makers market I picked up a moon phases 2018 calendar from Hammer Threads leather art, a beeswax candle from Watermoon Holistic Herbs and got some soap from Emilie at Village Sage Herbals. I also had a great chat with ACORN and some other folks selling some radical lit. and Canadian roasted coffee beans from a cooperative in Ecuador that is being affected by Canadian mining. All of these chats were happening while we were treated to an acoustic performance by a duet of two lovely young ladies with very sweet voices.
On my return to the site, I walked around to admire the swales, geodesic domes, perennial nurseries, off-grid buildings and the only corduroy road I’ve ever walked on. The dance floor was formerly an uneven swampy area that was infilled with straw bales and then topped with sand. This was all the hard work of Alex and Munna who own the property and the many,
many volunteers who put in hard work on the site in the months and weeks leading up to the festival. There were beautiful art hangings that were about 12’ long and 6’ high, a tetrahedron structure that was covered in cloth and housed hammocks (where I spent ample time resting), a bouncy castle and probably the cleanest festival toilets I’ve ever used. They were outhouses which is probably why - note the picture with the giant bag of soft, fresh toilet paper.
In the early evening I went to the kitchen where I had planned to volunteer. It is asked that each person put three hours of work into the event so that things can run smoothly and ticket prices can stay affordable. Being the last day of the festival they were getting ready to pack up and didn’t need my help after all. I did enjoy a great bowl of vegan chili. Being a trained Community Food Mentor and having worked in restaurants a good deal, I was really impressed with the lengths the kitchen takes to keep everything sanitary and food safe. The price of three square vegan meals is included in the day pass as well.
In the June 2018 Featured Business post, I had been lamenting how 95% of my Russian Bocking Comfrey crowns that I ordered through the mail didn’t make it through the winter. I saw Comfrey everywhere I went on the property, so I spoke with Alex who runs a company called Ditch Rich Nurseries and I was able to buy a half-dozen healthy, large Bocking plants from him. All in all, a really great day. On my trip home I stopped by the beautiful McLaggan Bridge near Nashwaak Bridge to see the sun going down on the water. I guess this is why I live in New Brunswick.
I hope to meet you there next year.