To purchase a copy

Title: High Up in the Rolling Hills
Author: Peter Finch

Category: Biography, memoir, manifesto, sustainable living
Format: Trade paperback, hardcover, ebook
Publication Date: April, 2013
Pages: 204
Recommended Price: $17.95 softcover, $27.95 hardcover, $9.95 pdf
Trim: 8.5 x 5.5 inches
Available from: iUniverse; Amazon in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Brazil; Barnes & Noble; Borders; Chapters Indigo in Canada
First Print Run: On demand (with iUniverse on-demand capabilities, there is never an out-of-stock situation)

Friday, 28 November 2014

A Trip to the Old Country

I returned this week from a trip to the old country. Missing several days of wild snowy, blustery weather here at home, I enjoyed mild and mostly dry conditions in England and north Wales.

Niece Anna ’s wedding with Dan was a traditional church affair, and it was lovely to see Anna wearing my Mum’s flowing white dress from her August, 1946 wedding in Horspath, near Oxford, some sixty eight years ago. 

Mary Mullins, August 12, 1946
Anna Blackaby, November 15, 2014

After the ceremony, Anna, Dan and the entire wedding party walked over the English Bridge and strode proudly up the hill into Shrewsbury town centre and to the reception at Mission Hall. It is always lovely to reconnect with family in person and it happens all too rarely these days. For me, this means two sisters, a brother-in-law, three nieces, one nephew, one great niece, and two great nephews. My sister Jenny and I even worked in a visit to Mum and Dad at their resting place up on Kinver Edge. A mild morning was illuminated by a bright early winter sun as we approached the ridge where their ashes are spread. We communed with their spirits by way of tulsi tea from holy basil I had grown and dried this summer, along with local ham and cheese baps.

Jenny and Peter up on Kinver Edge

 This family occasion was followed by several days in Snowdonia. The train delivered me first to Llandudno, where I got my fix of archetypal Victorian seaside, wandering along the salty promenade, supping on fish and chips, mushy peas with sliced white bread and a pot of tea. Pints up the pub whilst watching England beat Scotland at football, full Welsh breakfast , a bracing walk up on the Great Orme headland… Then it was off on the train again up the scenic ConwyValley to Blaenau Ffestiniog in the wilds of upland Snowdonia. The landscape up here is stark, open, and overwhelmingly grey. An historic slate mining town, mounds of slate are everywhere, piled dense and high. Small-gauge railways that were built to transport the slate down to the coast are now quaint tourist attractions that still run seasonally. My walk took me up above the town to a placid lake and  the tufted grasses and browned ferns of mountain sides dotted with sheep, and ever more slate excavations. The sky was slate grey reflecting the land use. And water was everywhere, tumbling down the valley sides in gurgling cascades and spilling over the saturated soft peaty turf underfoot. After weeks of rain, it was still finding its way slowly into the soil and down the hills. The dampness everywhere created a melancholic mood but nature here is pure, clear, and ever in flux. A Turneresque sky would momentarily appear as  sunrays broke through the clouds and bathed a distant mountainside in diffused light.

Back down in the lowland, the river Conwy sweeps broad and majestic through the green fields. The Bodnant Estate hosted four of us college buddies for a long weekend as we made a very well appointed Welsh farmhouse perched high up overlooking the valley our home for three days and nights. A Blaenau butcher and Bodnant’s  Welsh Farm Shop provisioned us with excellent local, artisanal foods like black Welsh ribeyes, a shoulder of lamb, Severn -Wye smoked salmon, local vegetables. Our wines were more international, of course, with French Chablis, Chilean Carmenère, Australian Shiraz, Argentinian Malbec to the fore. Needless to say, we did not go thirsty or hungry. Conversation was rapt in reminiscence of good times spent during our years studying and carousing in Oxford. As we chat, we bounce around the world, and the world bounces off us. Next year, we look ahead with some trepidation to the landmark 40th anniversary of our meeting at college. Yikes, where does the time go‽ How easy it is to be among friends that one has known so long. How readily the laughter flows. How nice not to be judged or criticized by others, but to be readily accepted for who you are, no questions asked.

In Britain today, people ply their trades and go about their lives as they traditionally have. Yes, the world is changing fast, and everywhere people are distracted, slaves to their devices and technologies that have them all aflutter. They cannot readily unwind, disconnect and smell the coffee, take in a deep draught of pure fresh air, take a good look around. Stimulation is around every corner and I was glad to be in the moment, alive to sense and sound as we walked purposefully across the landscape. Soaking up the scenery and the company, I felt the special love that comes with truly appreciating friends and family.

Andy, Peter, Jeremy, Neil at a Welsh farmhouse

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Happy Anniversary

Carefree Gundi on Tioman Island all those years ago.
Happy Anniversary, luvee. You are my sunshine.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Mum's Birthday Ginkgo

Today would have been my dear old Mum’s 91 st birthday. She actually made it to the ripe age  of 86, succumbing then to a major stroke. Though she was beset by poor short term memory in her final years, she was sharp as a tack when it came to naming family and friends in photos (though she did get me and Dad mixed up!) She retained good humour and  never forgot her little boy, her eyes lighting up whenever she saw me on my twice a year visits.

We planted a ginkgo biloba tree in her honour in the garden. We look out over her  and the fields beyond from our deck. She is flourishing, with her striking leaves just starting to turn yellow at this time of year. Ginkgos symbolize memory and remembrance; adaptable and ancient, they are akin to the mother of trees. Happy Birthday, Mum, up there with your beloved on Kinver Edge.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

To Farm or Not To Farm

Corn, beans and summer squash growing together here at Rolling Hills Organics
 in a "milpa" system practised by Central and South American smallholders

The reasons I farm were addressed in my book High Up in the Rolling Hills, of course. Here is my commentary on an article in the Summer 2014 edition of Edible Toronto magazine written by Montana Jones:

To farm or not to farm? For me, there is only one answer to this existential conundrum – a hearty affirmative. As an organic market grower, I would be bereft if I were not to be able to farm. I dread the day when my bones ache so much and my back is stooped to such an extent that I shall have to surrender my body to the waste heap and give up this farming life.

Yes, farming has its challenges – the trying weathers with their spikes and extremes, the bugs, the pests that gnaw away at the leaves, the weeds that grow faster and bolder than the sown plants,  the fatigue, the various downsides that Montana describes, but…

There is nothing in this world that I would rather make a livelihood from, nothing I would rather be doing, dreaming about, planning, experimenting on, learning about, innovating with, or even getting wrong, not perfecting. Each season always throws up something new – new crops, new failures, new shortages, new over-abundances, new challenges, and fresh successes, fresh insights, fresh joys.

What could outdo the pride and joy gained from seeing seeds germinate, planting out rows of transplants, dripping with the early morning dew, watching the red sun come up over the horizon hills, harvesting the fragrant blooming lavender and the strong garlic bulbs, looking back from the tractor as the earthy soil folds over with the furrow plow, being in tune with the weathers and seasons, inhaling drafts of fresh country air, feeling the glow of robust good health, interacting with cheery regular and loyal customers, coming home from market sold out of produce again, tasting the bounty, falling into bed and deep sleep as head hits the pillow? Only by sinking hands into soil, out in the fields, in the glorious landscapes we steward – only by farming – can we do all of this. To me, farming is a learned trade; as with everything, proficiency comes with practice. And yet, it is also a romance, a passion, a marriage, and a full-time commitment. There is occasional heartbreak, but there is endless beauty. As in life in general, we do it for the love.

So, hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to farm I go. Let’s keep on encouraging and inspiring fresh, new, young farmers, and count our blessings.

Monday, 28 April 2014

On Blog Tour to May 9

High Up in the Rolling Hills

High Up in the Rolling Hills book blitz April 28 – May 9!

Publicity Tour Schedule

Friday, 18 April 2014

Fantasy & little yellow butterflies

The passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez has drawn me to seek out my treasured copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, now yellowed with age. We too have aged, by some 33 years, a third of a century.

My copy is treasured because it is well travelled, fully seasoned and mailed to me by Gundi shortly after we had met on the train in Lake Louise. It found me on assignment in the Libyan desert amongst a cascade of some thirty missives from Gundi that could safely be called love letters. So many letters arrived all together, having been misdirected and lost in transit for several weeks. (I had thought she had forgotten me).

Gundi’s inscription on the front pages reads:  “Peter, this book goes out to you filled with fantasy and little yellow butterflies, enjoy it and remember…” I hadn’t realized the words that followed in the scrawl… until today, that is, when Gundi pointed them out to me.  Fitting, heart-warming words to celebrate our life together, and the life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who dared us to fantasize and charmed us with magic, wonder, and little yellow butterflies. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

5-star review on

5.0 out of 5 stars Charming and originalMarch 6, 2014
This review is from: High Up in the Rolling Hills: A Living on the Land (Paperback)
Finch, an Oxford trained linguist and cartographer turned organic farmer, writes with wit and wisdom of a life spent in pursuit of good health, good food and an authentic livelihood. His personal story is well worth reading.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Book Signing in Toronto

I will be signing my book, High Up in the Rolling Hills, at the organic consumer conference in Toronto on Saturday, February 22. The book is for sale @ $15 on this day only (30% discount off retail). This year’s conference organized by the Toronto chapter of Canadian Organic Growers is called The Organic Vision - in Search of Change and takes place at the University of Toronto Conference Centre89 Chestnut St, Toronto from 9am to 5pm. It features 20 speakers, including keynote speaker Woody Tasch of Slow Money, an organic lunch, and many exhibits, including my own!

The sixth annual one-day conference is for everyone with an interest in healthy food that nourishes people and the environment. The show is always inspiring and informative. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Creative Time

Recent screenshot from my Pinterest page,

It is off-season on the farm, a time for creative pursuits like reading, researching and writing. I have spent quite some hours recently - through the bone-chilling weather outside, toasty by the woodstove inside - delving into some themes that fascinate and inspire me. The media by which I have made these explorations are two-fold: books in print and Pinterest. That may sound like going from the sublime to the ridiculous, but both channels have been highly rewarding.

In books, I have been taking in There is a Season by Patrick Lane, The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane, The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, Secrets of the Soil by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, Grass, The Forgiveness of Nature by Charles Walters, The Real Crash by Peter D. Schiff, The Farm as Ecosystem by Jerry Brunetti, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, earth works by Scott Russell Sanders, An Epidemic of Absence by Moises Velasquez-Manoff. I have been thoroughly captivated by them all.

On Pinterest, I have developed several boards of interest - Magical Places, Magical Foods, Magical Plants, Health Naturally, Art & Sculpture, Home is Where the Heart is, Green Heroes. I like the format of Pinterest; it draws the viewer in via the image, following up by opening worlds of words, detailed analysis and so deeper meaning through web links.

You can find boards from my Pinterest page that are pertinent to this blog here:

Monday, 6 January 2014

Brady, the frog

Brady & a frog

I woke up this morning from a vivid dream:

Gundi and I wanted to take our grandson Brady for a walk. We left the house, which was like our home on Fallsview in Dundas and went outside, which was like the waterfront at Port Alberni. As Brady was walking ahead of us, he suddenly turned into a frog. We couldn’t believe it. Before we knew it, he hopped off and disappeared. As we were scratching our heads, wondering what to do, Andrea, Brady’s mother, came out and said: “We’ve been looking out of the window and we’re worried about Brady. Where is he?”
“You won’t believe it, but he turned into a frog!”, I blurted.

We finally found a smaller frog, and wondered if this was Brady. We weren’t sure. We coaxed him back to the house. As he hopped up the step, we asked hopefully: “You ARE Brady, aren’t you?”, at which point Brady re-appeared, disappointed to be called back from play so soon. “You shouldn’t have called my name”, he said. Les, Brady’s Dad, came out and asked what was going on. “You won’t believe it, but…”

The morals of the story are: Kids will be kids, or frogs. But all is well that ends well.

I hope Andrea is not still mad at us.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Pondering peaks

Photo of two caribou bulls with locked horns, from

As another year slides into the past and a new one challenges me in my winter cocoon to shape up and be more energetic, efficient and productive than ever, the world we inhabit remains challenged on many fronts. I am reminded on a passage from my book, High Up in the Rolling Hills:

“I ponder whether I have reached the maximum rate of return after which returns enter a terminal decline—peak life? Have living standards for many of us reached peak abundance? Is the big bubble about to burst? My generation has certainly borrowed much from the future and from the planet. The debts to be repaid are astronomical, and it is certain that they cannot be fully retired, at least at current punitive interest rates and current accelerated rates of destruction. Governments and mega-corporations—now in the developing world as well as the developed—plough through finite natural resources like there is no tomorrow.

Intensified industrial technologies have been aggravating unintended consequences for the ecosystem: air pollution, nuclear waste, radiation contamination, extreme weather events, desertification, acidification of the oceans, ravaging of fossil-fuel reserves, poisoning and depletion of soils and farmland, loss of flora and fauna habitat (and biodiversity). With these upheavals and losses go peak food, peak soils, peak health. It is simply not feasible for us to maintain our general well-being by turning our backs on the natural world. The truly wondrous biodiversity and plenty that recent generations inherited in short order by feverish greed in the quest for short-term gain. Long gone are those vast herds of bison roaming the wide-open North American grasslands, great auks patrolling the seas and passenger pigeons swarming in the skies. Wild salmon, cod, whales, sharks and turtles are disappearing from the oceans. Domesticated and farmed surrogates of wild creatures are no real substitute. With the animals and plants goes the heritage of ancient cultures, languages and whole ways of life that had been passed down over millennia. Which species is next to be rendered extinct by this orgy of wastefulness? The caribou? The hippopotamus? The rhinoceros? The elephant? The panda? The gorilla? The tiger? The polar bear? The penguin? The whale? The tuna? The butterflies? The bees? The frogs? All of the above?

"Humans have been killing other animals and slaughtering our own kind for as long as we have stood upright. But only in the last half century or so have we developed the capacity to extinguish not merely a species or a tribe, but whole floras and faunas. With the burning of fossil fuels, the splitting of atoms, the synthesizing of chemicals unknown in nature, the genetic engineering of organisms, and the headlong growth of our own population, we are disrupting all the life-sustaining processes on Earth. As our actions throw into disarray the conditions that have nurtured humankind for hundreds of thousands of years, what conditions will replace them?" (Scott Russell Sanders, Buffalo Eddy)

What are we learning from the tsunamis, the earthquakes, the volcanoes, the floods, the droughts, the tornadoes, the typhoons, the hurricanes? They We should react to these extreme workings of nature with some humility and a determination to rebuild and adapt. When we witness melting glaciers, ice sheets and polar caps; massive oil spills; radiation leaks from damaged nuclear plants; and extreme weather volatility across the planet, we would be wise to take a hard look at our world, size up the gravity of the situation and set out systems to mitigate the severity of the threats. As we witness the poisoning of our bodies and the poisoning of our planet’s lands and oceans, it only makes sense to make substantive changes to the way we live our lives. Our governments, drowning in debt and consistently sucked in by unrestrained multinational corporations, are driving us not away from but into the storm dragging us in a downward spiral. In tandem, governments and corporations lead us toward the brink, just as the herders led the buffaloes to the cliff to jump to their fate.”