1 October 2013 - 30 September 2014
Milena Kosec was born in January 1947 in Ljubljana (Slovenia, EU), where she has lived and worked her entire life. In 1974 she graduated in technical mathematics at Ljubljana University. In 1971 she started her first job at the Jožef Stefan Institute. She planned and led the elaboration of new applications for different fields in different companies, usually by means of the most current computer technology. By the end of year 2002 she was retired. In the years between1975 to 1983 she primarily devoted herself to her family.
Her artistic work began spontaneously with her first work “Državica Ptičjestrašilna” (The Pocket-size State of Scarecrows) in 1992. After that, she performed several public actions which commented on events in Slovenia intertwined with her own intimate stories. In 2007 she decided that she would no longer produce anything material-based nor document her work. In 2008 she was invited to the European Contemporary Art Biennial MANIFESTA7, with one of her immaterial projects Random Private Conversations.
After her last art action in 2012, Milena read a lot about the situation in her country and the world in general. Bewildered by the vast and contradictory information available and the number of the contemporary artists with similar practice, she became unsure if her critical approach to art was still relevant. This has made her stop her art practice and return to the question: "what are the basic needs for life?" Having "water and food" as her answer to this question, she decided to improve her knowledge on them through manual work and organic gardening. Her first attempt at gardening this past year made her realize that she needed more education about various aspects of organic gardening.
During her residency, she will continue to educate herself on this front and provide a monthly report on her experiences in gardening for a year, from one autumn to the next autumn. She feels that this on-hiatus activity may be helpful for her art practice in the future.
At the beginning I would like to express my thanks to Matt and Shinobu, co-directors of RFAOH, for the unusual experience of being in residence for a full year.
First of all, as a RFAOH resident, I feel it is the greatest luxury and privilege, in light of today's normal western life style, that I have had the opportunity to grow my own organic vegetables, prepare, cook and eat them fresh every day. I had this rare opportunity to spend my time mainly for nourishing myself in the best possible way. It seems that this is possible only in very primitive societies or in art. Thinking that we could go back and produce healthy organic food for everybody is a big romantic utopia. Only very rich people can afford to buy strictly organic food and only healthy owners of good land with a lot of time can, in favorable climate conditions and clean air, produce enough for himself and his family.
Another benefit of RFAOH is to be in contact, with other unknown residents from afar, on the internet. Suddenly I feel a personal contact with so many different residents from all over the world. I recognize that the web offers an additional dimension to our normal life.
If I look back at the beginning of my residency, I see that I quickly stopped thinking about art and art systems. All my thoughts have been focused on organic gardening, world problems about healthy food, physical work in the garden and in the kitchen. Thanks to the residency, I take gardening very seriously. I improve in my organic gardening practice which changes my outlook on life and western art.
Last month I couldn't work in the garden, so I had more time to think about my future in art. I decided to postpone my artistic activities for one more year. Meanwhile I will continue with my organic gardening. For me, personally, art is finding out about the unknown discoveries in life. I think my work is art when I feel I achieved more than I had ever expected (something bigger than I am).
I think that for an artist, it is important to do, with an open heart, that which feels good and right. That is all. One can use, or not, art system for the realization of ones work. For art per se, this is not important. Art systems are always only at the service of ideology. Better not waste words about it. In general art reflects a specific epoch. Only time will tell us what is good, bad or not art at all.
Thanks again to all who have followed me on the internet.
It is our pleasure to welcome back Milena Kosec who will stay at RFAOH another year as an honorary resident. Milena asked earlier if she could re-apply for the 2014/15 term as she had decided to postpone resuming her art practice and instead focus on her oh-hiatus activities one more year, as she mentioned in her final report. We, co-directors, discussed about this unexpected inquiry and decided to welcome her as an honorary resident. Her past reports from 2013 – 2014, as well as upcoming reports are posted here under “current residents”.
We look forward to the further growth of her organic garden this year along with other on-hiatus reports she may deliver to us. Follow and comment on her posts, and join in our conversations at RFAOH!
Milena Kosec’s 12 month on-hiatus residency ended on September 30, 2014. We thank Milena for her (longest) participation as our inaugural resident and for sharing her rigorous on-hiatus activities in organic gardening and thoughts on the relationship between life and art. RFAOH sincerely wishes the best of luck for her post on-hiatus life, with lots of harvests and fewer snails in her organic gardens.
Click “Final Report” to read on her experience at RFAOH.
At the beginning of the month sunrise was at 6.26 am and sundown at 19.37 pm. At the end of the month the day was 12.38 hours long. Goodbye long days. It keeps raining with some sunny days, but with continuous clouds. Average temperatures varied between 12C in the mornings and 20C or less in the afternoons. Only last few days are beautiful. Normally Septembers used to be more beautiful and much warmer than this year.
As I have had an operation on my left eye I can’t work in the garden at all. Now snails and all kind of insects are having a festival.
Anyway I still have enough season vegetables: different sorts of chicory (radicchios) and kales, a lot of endive, leeks, celery, carrots, parsley, red cabbage, beans, broccoli and now I am waiting for new pumpkins and sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). For the winter I will store cabbage, beans, pumpkins, carrots, celery, potatoes and kohlrabi. Radicchio, kale, spinach, lamb’s lettuce, winter lettuce, parsley, sweet fennel and leek will stay in the beds. Fortunately the apple tree has produced a lot of tasteful apples, but all of them are worm eaten. I have enough for two months. All together I am more satisfied with the harvest this year than last year, when in the summer we didn’t have any rain at all. Now I don’t know if I need an irrigation system or not.
Till now I haven’t said anything about compost. I have three places for it: one small one near the entrance of the house for the winter, another one closer to the vegetable garden and one among bushes for grass and foliage from the decorative garden. On the compost I put only healthy remains from my garden produce and food waste. In autumn and spring I mix them together. Then I use it as mulch or I put it on the beds as manure.
When I look at my plans written in November, 2013 I see, I was:
– wrong: I have bought chemical substance against snails and another small plastic greenhouse (propagation bed),
– right: I do all the work myself,
– right: I collect my own seeds and exchange them and plants with friends,
– my vegetables aren’t cheaper than vegetables bought in a super-market, but they are cheaper than from organic suppliers.
My favourite dish: porridge of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) with mushrooms (or with leek). Porcini mushrooms (Betulus edulis) are the best. We need also thyme, marjoram, onion, garlic, parsley and (sweet) cream. We cook together porridge of buckwheat with a pod of garlic and marjoram. Separately we blanch mushrooms with finely cut onion, adding thyme and diced garlic. When both are cooked, we mix all together with cream (as much as you want), salt and pepper. We wait for a while. At the end before serving we sprinkle with parsley. Normally this dish we eat with lettuce.
In the beginning of the month sunrise is at 5.48 am and sundown at 20.28 pm. At the end of the month a day is 13.14urs long. It keeps raining. Days seem shorter as it is by calendar. Usually they are dusky. Average temperatures are from 14C in the morning to 22C or less through day. Less than five days are really hot and sunny. We had also two really big showers.
With garden I haven’t much work. It is no need for dropping at all. Also weeds grow slowly. But new brood of snails is everywhere in thousands. It seems that every stalk of grass has its own little snail. Against them I use all my methods.
I put in beds my own plants of radicchio, cicely and endive, seeds: spinach, winter lettuce and buying seeds: spinach, radish, lamb’s lettuce (Valerianella locusta). I collect new seeds of dill and chamomile.
For eating I have all season vegetable except tomato, cucumber and paprika, which I have to buy. I have to buy also fruits. In the garden I have only one apple tree with a lot of apples this year. For next year I am planning one or two more fruit trees and blackberry. This year planted raspberry will have for eating next year I hope.
This month recipe:
We suffocate small pieces of pumpkin (moschata or butter) with garlic and basil. Separately we cook spelt. Than we mix both together with stamped egg, salt and pepper. We displace all in baking tin, scrape over cheese and bake it.
In the beginning of the month sunrise is at 5.15 am and sundown at 20.57 pm. At the end of the month a day is 14.42 hours long. It keeps raining all month. Average temperatures are from 15C in the morning to 25C through day. Last year in July we hadn’t rain at all. It was very hot summer with almost two months long drought. So I can compare harvest weather dependent. Last year eggplants were really good, this year they don’t grow at all. Opposite broccoli is wonderful this year and it was full of diseases last year. I am also more satisfied with beans and peas than last year. Sweet corn is tiny like Twiggy if you remember her. But because rainy weather I have to collect all broad beans, potato, shallot and also spring garlic before time. I have to cut all parsley. Tomato is also completely destroyed. From the rest of plants I pick of all sick leafs every time. I can’t do anything else.
I hope I have succeeded to collect good seeds of winter and spring lettuce, dill, chamomile and some flowers. In the free beds I put new plants: broccoli, kohlrabi, leek, endive, Brussels sprouts and seeds: turnip-cabbage, red beet, Trieste radicchio, lettuce and for better soil white mustard. I am very happy that my friend’s community for exchanging seeds and plants is bigger each month. It is really unbelievable how many close fiends and artists have them own garden in Slovenia.
I clear of weeds and leave it on the beds simultaneously when I pick up harvest. So I have observable less work with gardening. Very good indeed.
Now in the garden I have all vegetables and herbs for good soap without buying any previous prepared additions. New for eating: pumpkin “tonda di Toscana”, curly and leaf kale and first cabbage.
One recipe for tasteful (hors d’oeuvre) dish:
250g broad beans we cook in salt water and than we slit the skin from each individual bean. We slice through one leek and blanch it. We take one tin of tuna in olive oil or sardines. Than we mix all together with one spoon of chives (or parsley or both), salt, pepper and few drops of vinegar.
In the beginning of the month sunrise is at 5.15 am and sundown at 20.46 pm. At the end of the month a day is 15.43 hours long. At the beginning it was too dry for this month. Temperatures were from 13C in the morning to 33C in the afternoon. But last three weeks are colder (from 10C to about 20C or more) with enough rain.
Now I use new method: I pulled out the weeds and leave it on the beds as mulch, less work with double effect.
New plants in my garden: Brussels sprouts, curly kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala), cabbage lettuce (enough also for friends).
To get new plants I have sown Castelfranco radicchio, endive and Florence fennel (finocchio – Foeniculum vulgare).
For eating I still have spring lettuce, radish, turnip-cabbage, leek, cress, chervil, parsley and strawberries. Season harvest are peas, broccoli and winter garlic. This month I can eat the first potato, broad bean, Catalonian radicchio and carrot.
Turnip-cabbage, broccoli and peas I freeze for later use. I braid winter garlic and hang it on dry air for later use.
Simple and healthy recipe: Millet porridge with peas: 400g proso millet porridge, 200g peas, 6 dl vegetable soup (or water), 2 spoons olive oil, garlic and salt. We roast peas on olive oil. Then we add garlic, millet porridge and soup. We cook all together. At the end we add salt.
In the beginning of the month sunrise is at 5.51 am and sundown at 20.06 pm. At the end of the month a day is 15.12 hours long. It is too dry for this month and also cold. Only last week we have mostly each day rain. Temperatures are from 5C to 22C.
VEGETABLES: eggplant, tomato, corn, butter pumpkin, cucurbite di Toskana, cucurbite mosschata de Provence, beans, New Zealand spinach (tetragonia tetragonides), different kind of kales, mangold, red cabbage, and again leek and turnip-cabbage.
For eating I have spring lettuce, radish, asparagus, spinach, turnip-cabbage, leek, cress, chervil, parsley and strawberries.
Against lice I spray bean and broad bean with milk and water mixture and I plant around them satureja hortensis. With snails story is continuing. Caterpillars I pick with hand. Against grasshoppers I am powerless.
I have also good animals: blindworms, hedgehogs, lizards, birds, a toad and also a snake.
In Celje another initiative is ZELEMENJAVA by artist Andreja Džakušič for exchanging plants,…
My way of gardening is different from artistic one. I try to get enough products from my garden. Against mischief-maker I am more radical as you can see. I am also suspicious about all new advices for good organic gardening. For example: for my country I find out two completely differed calendars for planting.
Each day is longer, each day I have more work. In the beginning of the month sunrise is at 5.42 am and sundown at 19.30 pm. At the end of the month a day is 14.12 hours long. In my garden this spring is so warm that flowers and trees are flowering three weeks earlier. Also first half of April is too much warm. In the second half the weather is unpleasant with a lot of rain and storms. But it is enough warm for snail and slugs. My garden is infested with them. The main job is killing them each morning and also at night.
This month in the beds I put potato, Catalonian radicchio, carrot, parsley, leek, turnip-cabbage, spring and cabbage lettuce, radish, broad bean, kidney bean, celery and broccoli. For eating I have winter lettuce and asparagus.
March Garden Report
In the beginning of the month sunrise is at 6.41 am and sundown at 17.50 pm. At the end of the month a day is 11.53 hours long. I like long days. In the end of the month we shifted 1 hour forward. As it was too hot for our country through all winter – also this month is warmer as usually. Throughout all March we haven’t had temperature under zero. We had only few rainy days. So soil is too dry for this season time.
In my small cold bed parsley and winter salad passed the winter very good. Autumnal Trieste radicchio (small, green leaves for cutting) is also already good for eating. In the decorative part of garden I have a lot of dandelion which is good for salad. The autumnal garlic and winter salad also look very well.
I dug up trough empty beds and to some of them I added my own compost. On the bed without any manure I sowed together spinach and peas. On another such bed I planted spring garlic and shallot together with round French carrot…
The most difficult for me is to consider all regulations about rotation of crops, good plants as neighbours – combination of herbs and flowers for preventive health care of plants. And here is also planting calendar. I am changing my planting scheme every moment. My second problem is what to plant around the garden for protection against wind. As I am not satisfied with new shape of the garden I can’t decide about the borders.
So far I haven’t tried to grow my own plants. Some seeds I have by my own and I get some plants from friends. Other seeds and plants I buy.
We have normal weather for this month with some snow and some rain and temperature about zero.
In the beginning of the month sunrise is at 7.25 am and sundown at 17.07 pm. At the end of the month a day is 10.26 hours long, more than one our longer than in January.
I have eaten almost all vegetable from my garden (fresh and frozen). Now I have to wait for new growing in spring time. In the meantime I am thinking and looking for irrigation system. I am told that the best is dropping one (drop by drop). For it I would like to use my own rainwater.
But all together seems too complicated in this moment.
I found an interesting alternative: OLLA clay pot, which is porous. You put water in the pot for more days. Roots slowly sip water. How to use it you can see on pictures. For beginning I will try with one olla pot in a big container for flowers.