#Staying the Course

Serena Engel & Jared Rust

These are two people who came to Germany from Australia and America, or better, from Taiwan where they met, fell in love and started to make their music some ten years ago. They are young and beautiful but even more, resilient, artistic, hard working and giving all for creating life and environment in a way lost on most of the lost of today, who are many……

Ladies first: Serena Engel knows what she wants. At age twelve she had a 17-hr. stop-over in Taiwan on her way from home in Sydney, Australia to visit her grandmother in New Jersey, USA. The short visit her Mother arranged for her in downtown Taipei made her decide she wanted to move there right away. When she told so once back home in Australia her parents were taken rather by surprise, but the young teen was not to be deterred and so every year in the summer holidays she started exchanges taking her to the Republic of China, and at the tender age of 16, she had a high-school diploma and had permanently relocated to the island. Being more than just talented, she also managed to get admission to the best university in the country, National Taiwan University in Taipei, by the time she was 17. She studied horticulture for the next two years and along the way met her boy, Jared Rust, who was teaching English and Music, or both at the same time, in smaller cities on the north-east coast of Taiwan, about 100 km outside of Taipei. The two started to perform together, he on the guitar, ukulele, percussions and more, she on the cello; and both sang/sing like angels….. The young duo was a success in town – and one could have thought that a music career in Taiwan would be the logical consequence. But Serena was feeling dissatisfied with the conventional and entirely theoretical education she was getting at NTU, and they wanted to find the best place in the world where they could learn the actual practice of tending land and raising vegetable, fruit and grain cultures using bio-dynamic methods. 

So, in 2015 at the ages of 19 and 33 they had made up their mind to go to South Germany (Serena’s father, Mathis is German) and look for a farm where they could live and work in order to gain this knowledge and experience. First they ended up in some semi-industrial bio-plants near Lake Constance, where the veggies were maybe bio, but the work as bad as the worst assembly line production in industry. They didn’t like that and were told, that for what they were looking for they had to go a few ten km North to the Allgäu, where there might be a chance to find. They had never heard of Allgäu but went anyway and, long story made short, got themselves a small farm with a decent plot of land where they were free to do whatever pleased them. But that’s not all, while the assumption had been, that there would be so many great musicians around that to make a living on music seemed impossible, the contrary turned out to be true: the exotic duo became an immediate hit with the locals and TheStringBeanParty started onto a successful career which within less than a decade already has produced a documentary to be released shortly.

But what about the farm? Without tiring Serena has turned about 3,500 square meters (so far…) of the land – which for at least one hundred and fifty years previously had been exclusively used as meadow and pasture land for cattle – into a vegetable, fruit and herb paradise of untold beauty – and resource. Soon there were volunteers who joined her for the fun and for the fruits. All of the work in the fields – which are full of literally hundreds varieties of mixed vegetables, herbs, fruits, and grains, not to mention kitchen mushrooms – is done exclusively with hands hand-tools (no machines!), using technology that has been available to humanity since the bronze age.

Before all is told, Jared needs to be done some justice. Jared does not work the land but works the music and ‘the wood’. The interior of the farmhouse is gradually turned into a most beautiful natural wood environment and the design displays what the Japanese call wabi sabi; and that’s inviting silence as well as good sounds. Out of that silence he also creates the philosophical lyrics underlying their only at first listening simple and candid sounding tunes (one of my favorite examples is attached hereunder) …. He went a long way of independent struggle to get to here: exceptionally talented he was not satisfied what he got at university and dropped out without a degree to devote his searching to what he had found to be his calling: the music – as of the age of 14 and the wood work, as of the age of 24. The journey was arduous with many an up and down, but he stuck to this calling, wherever he was – which he didn’t mind too much as long as the environment didn’t withstand. So, by chance he got to Taiwan, where him and Serena met – joined and took off for this shared and co-created adventure….

Now, the music grows the circle of friends as well as the uniquely delicious fruits, veggies, etc. grow from the farmland, called the Helenenhof. Since the music performances bring enough income the harvest from the farm the two are giving away. They call that “universal basic nourishment” which is a literally brought down to earth version of the concept of a universal basic income, discussed by many an idealist around these days. And now them and us only have to (quote Douglas Rushkoff) “look where are the others”.

God bless them and may the brook grow a resounding river…..

July ‘22


You Made It Up (by Jared Rust)

You made it up,

in all of its infinite spiralling glory, and we wriggled up

out of the waters and knew that it must have been You, who made it up.

The stars and the spirits recounted the story, ’til we broke it up

into matters of logic and reason ’til nothing was true.

It started last week,

I think I Wednesday afternoon. I was reading in a book,

when I started to think about You… So I just tried to ignore it;

I put my hands over my eyes.

But I just had to peak through the cracks; now I’m scared o’ what I almost see….

That if You made it up,

then how could a child have a hole in her belly and filth in her cup?

The more we suss it out, the more fiercely we doubt there’s a You, who made it up.

This ancient, almighty, benevolent One must have been all mixed up

with the mindless, mechanical maelstrom that we’re passing through.

It happened last night,

as I was wandering through a dream. Like a feather on a breeze,

I was silently blown up to You… And as we came face to face,

I looked directly in Your eyes. In spite of my fear,

I demanded to hear how You could let it be that we have agony and misery,

the greedy and the needy, or any of these evil deeds.

And then I just shut up,

when I noticed you reaching to hand me a paper that You’d written up.

And it smothered my rage, as I read from the page. It said, “You made it up.”