We are thrilled to be joined on A Simple Path this month by Signe Voltelen of SLOW, and urban farming and slow living business. Signe is an architect and urban farmer who not only teaches people how to live off the land but also helps brands style and host beautiful events and gatherings. In all her work Signe strives to reconnect us with the land and nature, to understand the world around us and learn to live in a mindful way. She wants to celebrate the beauty of nature by empowering people to bring their own gardens to life, or to bring nature into their homes and businesses.
We love how Signe sees this as a collaborative process, working alongside the natural world rather than trying to tame or control it. As she puts it, ‘I can change the world with my two hands’. We all can, with a little know-how and the right tools. We think you’re going to love Signe’s succinct and inspiring interview, and her take on the importance of going sideways. And maybe she will inspire you to get outside and plant some seeds, now that Spring seems to be on its way. As the soil warms and the days stretch it’s the perfect time to get sowing.
Even if you only have the space for a window box you can plant herbs and use them for cooking, or plant some cheerful flowers that give you something beautiful to look at as you do the washing up. If you have a patch of rough ground and no time to tend to a garden, try scattering some perennial native wildflower seeds and let them do their thing year after year. And if you have more space why not make this year the year to try to grow more food? You can find local seed swaps where you can get seeds and seedlings, as well as sourcing more unusual and heritage seeds from places like SLOW. Sling on your favourite gardening apron, grab your trowel and trug and soak up the Spring sunshine. There is something therapeutic and calming about digging soil, plunging seeds into the earth and nurturing tiny seedlings until they are flourishing. Take the time to enjoy the space around you, even if it just means sitting outside with a cup of tea for ten minutes and really noticing the buds unfolding and the bees searching for blossom.
But first, here’s Signe’s story.
Can you tell us what you do and how you came to be doing it?
I grow, harvest and sell seeds from heirloom vegetables and edible flowers. Besides that I facilitate urban farming projects and workshops about gardening. This year I am starting up a new seed garden in Lejre, Denmark, where I will bring it all together by growing seeds and inviting locals and tourists to taste and see the great diversity of our heirloom vegetables. Varieties that you cannot buy in the supermarket and that are in danger of being forgotten and disappearing. I very much look forward to see the results of this project!
I studied to be a chef but chose to become an architect instead, and used to work with city planning. When I got my own garden I found out how nice it is to be working with plants, so I found a way to work with that.
If you had one piece of advice or wisdom to pass on to your younger self, what would it be?
Life is long and don’t be afraid of choosing the wrong direction. I have come to use many of my educations and experiences in what I do today. All the sideways are valuable.
What is it about slow living and the simple life that you find appealing?
It makes me reflect on how I spend my time and I try to balance work, family and spare time in a way that makes me able to keep up.
How can we counter the pulls of content-sharing and curating images of our lives with the need for being in the moment?
I get knowledge and inspiration when sharing my interests with others, but I also put the phone away when I am with my famly and friends.
Who inspires you?
Carolyn Steele for her work on how food shapes our cities; the books by Michael Pollan on the intersection of food, culture and nature; Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer; and nature. I get inspiration for garden designs when I look at the variety of shapes and details in every plant and in nature in general. I also like to experiment with cooking, for example fermentation, and I get inspired to try new ways when I use heirloom vegetables because the variation is so wide.
What are your essential homeware items/ things you couldn’t do without?
All my potted plants and my fireplace.
What would you like to be doing in 10 years’ time?
In ten years I really want to be doing the same as now. Being in my garden, collecting seeds and finding new (old) interesting seeds in the Nordic Seed Bank and trying them out in the garden to see if they are tasty or interesting in other ways.
8. What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done?
To follow my heart and intuition and make my own living.
Thanks so much for your wisdom and inspiration Signe, we have loved having you!