Winter this year was sooo long for me, but it seems now the spring is here! Well, maybe even summer, because we have tropical 30°C in April:) But there is still the fresh dew on the grass almost till noon, tulips and narcissuses bloom in the gardens, just wonderful times, the mood when you just wanna listen Kool & the Gang with their song Celebration every day all day. I used to ski a lot, from my early childhood, and I hardly remember any winter weekend off, winter months were so filled with sports and adventures that there was almost no time to sit down a feel the winter. Until this year:) When I sat with my friends before Christmas and we talked about winters, how this time of the year can be hard, dark days call for realizing our own darks, there is no fresh fruit or veggie, no green outside. I knew all of it, but I was thinking like "What? There is powder snow and skiing and snowboarding and smell of soups and cakes, winters are great!" But for the first time in my life I dared no to rush anywhere, I stayed home those dark days and allowed myself to see and to feel some deeper sides of myself. It was hard, raw, unexpected, I wouldn't change it for any weekend in the mountains, but when the spring arrived, I was happy, truly happy. Everywhere I looked there were flowers and young birds, I felt so lucky and so grateful for just being here and being alive. We decided to celebrate this spring abundance with a little trip in our van and I wanted to share this with you since this place is wonderful and definitely worth a visit. It all started a while ago when my friend Gabrielka told me about a friend of her, who just got back from Morocco and I should really see a crystals collection he brought from there. That was a first time I met Honza at his bar called Nebe located at Komarovsky rybnik. A few years later, this little bar expanded to a beautiful wild camping and tasty vegetarian friendly restaurant, with great reggae concerts and unique atmosphere, where likeminded people meet spontaneously - Well tell yourself - This time we met there beautiful German couple with 6months old kiddo Mauritz. They have been on the road for 2 months heading to New Zealand with huge amazing offroad vehicle (!!). They didn't know about this camping, but when they stopped for shopping in the city, some locals told them they would love it, so they gave it a shot. They for sure loved it and we spent great night talking, eating and laughing. If you want to stay in Bar Nebe overnight, you can sleep in (your) tent or in the car at the little pine forest ten meters from the beach. Speechless sunsets, singing frogs, the famous Prachov Rocks just behind your back, kids love nature climbing features and especially old boats they can play at.. Simply recommended :)
You can have a look at Bar Nebe website here.
I have been thinking a lot about the way jewelry is made recently, on how we dig more and more gold and diamonds, even though the antique shops are full of old rings, that can be transformed. I've struggled with this fast consuming world for some time and worked just with fair trade gold or silver and czech stones (garnet, quartz etc..) and I even felt anger towards the classic way of goldsmithing and I would do anything to avoid it, some years ago I even sold my car so I could buy fair-trade gold. I made sustainable jewelry, but my life was everything but not sustainable (stress all the time, anxiety, 10 jobs etc.). I've reached the point, when I think it's all good. Everyone has now a chance to pick from so many choices and they are all here for some reason. When I'm in the mood of not shopping stones but looking for some special one (which is all the time:) I love to go to the markets where I can buy stones from local mineralogists themselves. If you love minerals too, here is the list of mineralogy markets happening in Czech this year. These smokey quartzes were found on Month Blanc and I have them for some time now, but I also bought beautiful pieces from Pavel Plzak who finds amazing quartzes in the Alps (you can check his website here). And if you don't want the stone rough or wish to have it instead of a diamond in engagement ring perhaps, you can have it cut by some local lapidary artist. I've been working on a new ring lately and I will set there one of Pavel Plzak quartzes shaped by Honza Stika, the brilliant cut stone looks just amazing, almost like a brown diamond, breathtaking. If you are around Prague and need lapidary artist here is Honza's website, I love his work with stones, very delicate and precise. I will make a new post with more information, when the ring is ready.
Autumn around my home
I was not a big fan of Autumn, I wanted summer or snow. But things change:) This year I feel so inspired by all the earthy tones in nature just minute from our house, and I enjoy those extra layers of clothes, chilly mornings and evening dinners on the fire outside. Simply thankful.
Man discovered pearls thousands of years ago, althought it was very difficult to find one in those days – natural pearl is hidden in maybe one of two thousands oysters. But people were so in love with the beauty of this shiny organic gems, that in early twenties Japanese came up with first cultivated pearls. They knew pearl is born inside the oyster by reacting to some irritant (we love to believe it is grain of sand, but mostly it is some invading worm..), so they started with grafting – instead of waiting for natural coincidence, the irritant was placed in the oyster by man hand. Pretty soon after this pearl farming became attractive business venture and the popularity of pearl jewelry has been growing ever since.
There are many many venues full of pearl farms now, but when I found out about Kamoka Farm on Ahe atol in the Pacific, I simply felt in love. I got their pearls as a birthday present from my husband last year and I can’t even describe how beautiful they are. It is probably the very first ecological pearl farm out there and the story of its owners, the Humbert family, is just breathtaking and inspiring – well, tell yourself – young California family of four building a sailboat on their garden, hitting the oceans, founding little island near Tahiti and deciding to build a palm house there and stay, selling fishes with locals and finally establishing a pearl farm. I wrote an article about pearl farming for czech magazine Lide&Zeme, but since it’s in czech, here is the original interview with Josh Humbert.
How old were you when your parents decided to sail through the Pacific? I can hardly imagine the situation, why did they choose this direction and was there something like a plan? I've heard they built the sailboat themselves..
I was just a couple weeks old when my parents left the US on the boat they made themselves out of rebar, chicken wire and cement. My brother was just over three and a half, we had two dogs, two cats and $300 in savings. There was no particular plan other than leaving America and seeing the world.
There must be hundreds of virgin islands, why Ahe?
Ahe is on the path for sailors from the Marquesas (and therefore the USA) to Tahiti. Also, it has long been known for its ideal anchorage in the lee of the atoll as well as its friendly locals.
I understand that the beauty of Ahe stayed in your hearts, but how did it happen that you/your father decided to start a business there? I would come back often for holidays or so, but setting up sustainable pearl farm would be for me pretty big thing – the investments, long period before the first harvest and the unknown pioneering path of pearl-sustanability..
The farm was originally my father's idea. A frenchman who had lived in Tahiti since his youth, he had been working for years as a cabinet maker and builder. He was tired of the loud machines, his hot and dusty workshop and the fairly suburban life that he had fallen into. He dreamed of returning to the atoll that he had lived on for several years when his family was still in French Polynesia with him. He had heard rumblings of pearls being made out in the atolls and recognized his chance at a better life. The last thing he built in his shop was the small wooden boat that he built the farm with. It was a very unknown path but it offered a dream that he knew he had to pursue. I came to visit and help out about a year after his arrival in Ahe. I was on holiday from college but I ended seeing my calling as well and (much to my mother's distress) never did return to school.
Your father and brother started Kamoka Pearls in 1991, you joined the year after. Was the sustainability and self-sufficiency aspect of it important for you right from the beginnig? Were you aware of how were the huge pearl farms operating and did you believe in this kind of organic farm/company also from the economic perspective?
Ecology and pearl farming logically go hand in hand. We never did anything to be "green" or "eco," it was just a natural extension of how we did and do everything. Take care of your lagoon, your oysters, your people and they will take care of you. The large farms on the atoll had some destructive practices such as cleaning their oysters with power washers that would dump all the refuse back into the lagoon. This triggered massive outbreaks of certain lagoon species that were normally kept in check by the lagoons fish. We organized other atoll citizens against these bad practices and today they are no longer.
I imagine common pearl farm practices include destruction of the underwater environment or poor workers rights. In your farm, all your electricity needs are met by solar and wind power, fresh water is supplied by rainwater catchment systems, septic systems are fully biodegradable, working environment is probably dream for many of us. What about the farming itself – what are by your opinion the most different and important things in sustainable approach?
The way we clean the oysters is the most compelling part for me. Instead of manually scraping the fouling off or blasting it back into the water, we displace our oysters so that they are in shallow zones where the fish populations are robust. The fish clean the oysters which strengthens the fish populations across all the different species. For every kind of organism that grows on the oyster there is a corresponding fish species. This prevents one kind of fish from out-competing and displacing others. Everyone wins! How many other gems in the world can you think of that strengthen the ecosystem they are extracted from? At last count, I was at zero.
You were one of the key note speakers at Sustainable Pearls Forum in Hong Kong. What is the most disturbing issue of pearl farming these days? Is it as serious problem as for example in food or cotton?
To measure the challenges in pearl farming against other industries such as food or cotton is to diminish the efforts of Tahitian pearl farmers who work hard to respect their lagoon and surrounding ecology. The bottom line is that lagoons matter as does the coral, fish and every living creature that is impacted by the efforts of man. If we can help to bring lagoon fish populations back towards where they were previous to the arrival of man, is that not a goal worth striving for?
Photography of Kamoka oyster by Josh Humbert / NatGeo Creative
About freedom and beaches
Maybe it is the endless ocean view. Maybe the birds flying high so easily. Maybe it is the memory from my childhood, when I could do whatever I wanted while my parents were sunbathing. Maybe it's all of it, why I feel so good at the wild beaches like this one called Kreptiz at the north of Rugen Island. While Ondra was surfing I just sat down in the meadow above the beach, looking at the ocean, listening to the birds flying around and feeling the fresh air going through every cell of my body. What a blessing. I recalled words of Maya Angelou and enjoyed the very moment.. You are only free when you realize you belong no place - you belong every place - no place at all.