Homes & Gardens
MY SUSTAINABLE LIFE Sebastian Cox on his harvest-time birthday
It’s a special time of year for Sebastian Cox, as he celebrates his birthday, the harvest and its biodynamic produce
My birthday is in September, so I feel a particular fondness for this month. My dad was a farmer when I was born in the middle of harvest – he rushed from the fields to the hospital to be with my mum and eventually me, then back to the fields the next day, so the story goes. I’m sure the tale of dusty fathers-to-be dashing to hospital in late summer, still in their overalls, is familiar in agricultural communities around the world.
Harvest has its festival in September, mostly, coinciding with harvest moon, which is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox. It is a holiday linked to lunar cycles rather than modern or Christian dates, suggesting it has roots in ancient natural rhythms and observations. Increasingly, I believe the knowledge we had before science or organised religion is knowledge we must urgently rediscover. Too much of modern life is out of sync with nature; with convenient flown food do we even remember harvest, let alone notice the moon that once governed our time? We can use traditions to re-synchronise, and harvest festival is a double whammy of lunar observation and celebration of seasonal harvest, so I advocate it.
‘Biodynamic’ is growing ‘in sync’. It holds the principle that a crop is connected to the land, the planet and the solar system in which it grows. Growers of this kind use lunar cycles to sow and harvest their crops, and see increased yields and nutrition as a result. Dismissed by some as hippy nonsense, biodynamic produce is gaining credibility as we relearn that we are not separate to nature. Restaurants like Spring in London, and luxury hotels like Heckfield Place in Hampshire, serve biodynamically grown produce, bringing moon-grown food to trendy audiences. Biodynamic wine is also increasing in availability and reputation as hangover-free plonk.
A few years ago, I worked with a weaver in northern Italy called Mentore, and we designed a storage unit (pictured) together. He would only use hazel cut in waxing moon, and having worn his hands on thousands of baskets, his material specification opened my eyes to this natural connection. There is science to explain this; the moon’s pull on the oceans also pulls on the sap in trees and plants, altering their water and sugar levels. This affects everything from the sweetness of a carrot to the suppleness or durability of a piece of timber. The more we learn again to read these subtle and beautiful complexities of our natural world, the more we can resonate with our planet and all it has to offer us.
We will be celebrating these growth-governing laws, and those who work to them, later this month during another favourite September celebration
– the (albeit somewhat altered this year) London Design Festival – when we host a harvest festival supper. We wish to take time to note the rhythms of the solar system and our planet, while raising a glass to thank our harvesters too. Want to join us? Head to sebastiancox.co.uk to find out how.