Friday, 3 July 2009

Visit from Moulsecoomb Primary School

On Friday 26th June, the Year 3s (aged 7 and 8) from Moulsecoomb Primary School came to enjoy a day on the allotment.

our friendly local food fanatic, helped them to make and cook pizzas in our clay oven, while others foraged for fruits amongst the bushes.

The day was designed to keep the enthusiasm for all things 'green' amongst the children, so they would look forward to joining the environmental group next year and pass on the message of healthy eating and living.

They certainly left with big smiles and happy bellies!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Open Day Success!

The Open Day - what a glorious day was had by all! We all held our breath setting up for the event as a few drops of rain fell, but all turned out well and it was a beautiful evening. The allotment was alive with families, creative activities, and cooking. For the first time, we were able to include storytelling and walks in the woods for our visitors.

Our volunteers were invaluable throughout the day: setting up, conducting tours and tatting down at the end of the day.
Some of
the children who use the allotment proudly offered tours and helped with the strange selection of creepy crawlies that visited our classroom for the day. Not just regular common or garden bugs - this lot included giant African land snails, scorpions, giant millipedes and even tarantulas. Some of our braver visitors even dared to hold them!

Due South, a prestigious restaurant on Brighton seafront that specialises in using local produce, provided a delicious spread of roasted vegetables and bread throughout the day. All cooked in our clay oven and kept warm through our high tech system of hot embers in a wheelbarrow...

The World Food Project also spiced up the day with a
delicious curry that lasted for mere moments. We also sampled Arabic coffee and the children helped themselves to the abundance of ripe berries and currants found around the allotment.

Local arts group Clowd 9 took over the turf sofa area to make
willow butterflies, naturally coloured felt and badges with an environmental theme.

The project was heaving with visitors all day, and everyone seemed to enjoy the vibrancy
and variety of activities on offer. The wonderful collective of people from all backgrounds participating showed the strength of this true community project - to overcome racial, age and class barriers.

Outlawed Vegetables

What the hell is an outlawed vegetable?

It’s a frequent question at the garden where we grow French beans, peas and tomatoes that are illegal to buy in the shops.

Why illegal? Well under EU regulations each variety of vegetable seed has to be put on the National Seed List, and this costs money.

As most of our seed companies are now owned by the big bio-tech companies that are trying to force GM (genetically modified) greens down our throats, they aren’t really bothered about a ‘Carnival’ lettuce that only flogs a few packets. Or ‘Champion of England’ which grows too tall for the mechanical pickers. And the supermarkets don’t want a tomato like ‘Tangella’, with beautiful soft, orange skin that would turn to mush on the long food mile journey of most supermarket food.

The British Isles has one of the richest garden heritages in the world. For years, scor
es of gardeners and smallholders have nurtured thousands of unique vegetable varieties. But in the last hundred years most of these varieties have all but disappeared.

Thousands more are under threat from climate c
hange, loss of habitat, invasive alien species and the desire for ‘perfect’ vegetables.

Does it matter? The
Heritage Library think so.
“Every variation and strain is remarkably different. Each with its own taste, growing
habits, cultivation time and heritage. Just as we value the diversity of plant and animal species, we need to keep the gene pool of the plants we grow to eat as big as possible too. It’s not just vegetable varieties that we are losing, but the local history, culture, tradition and skills that go with them. Once the varieties are extinct, we will never be able to get the seed or heritage back.”

The Heritage Seed Library work around the EU regulations by getting people to join the
library. They send us a catalogue and we order some seed. We also save seed from varieties that we like the taste of. But they don’t just taste good, some can look spectacular – such as the ‘Kent Blue’ Pea currently growing at the forest garden.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Blooming May

Over the past few months there has been a real buzz of activity. Not only has the allotment been transformed to a lush green jungle, but structures have also been built to help us enjoy the haven that little bit more.

Through the gate and archway of the new children's area/Saxon village is a new seating arrangement impressively crafted by our builder Russell, together with the Targeted Youth Support Team and volunteers.

In just a few days a turf sofa was constructed from natural materials to provide a sturdy and comfortable viewing point of Moulsecoomb and beyond from the top of the allotment.

The piecing together of the turf over its solid earth base was like a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle and Aiden tried on a grass beard, much to everyone's amusement.

Once the grass was fitted and pinned down, the completed sculpture looked like a contemporary art piece worthy of the Tate Modern, but far more practical. Russell and his daughter were the first to test out the sofa, before it was well watered and left to take root.

The work of art is now camouflaged against the rest of a very green garden. We just await the arrival of herbs, and the thatching for the roundhouse to finally complete that area.

We also had Alex Mets to show us the potential for producing our own electricity through a bike-powered generator. It seemed ironic being positioned so close to a electricity building that you can hear it humming from the allotment as we would peddle away for a few sparks!

We were treated to an enthusiastic history lesson about the discovery of harnessed electricity and learnt how it all worked. The first question on from most was how long you would have to peddle power a kettle for a cup of tea...

We look forward to his return when he will install lights in the tree-house with the help of local school children.

Some of the woods in preparation for the Fringe Festival fundraiser event, rasining money to replace our stolen woodburner. This area will also give us more space for the woodcraft area that is gradually being developed.

A banquet table and bench were created for the event.

Woodland expert and environmental project worker Pat Beach and volunteer Amyas have also successfully tested out harnesses for the potential of being able to practice tree surgery skills, or just as an excuse to climb some trees.

The rest of the allotment is doing well and competing with the weeds are the beans, onions, garlic, lettuce, beetroot, and carrots. Our radishes are successfully crunchy, rhubarb crumbled, peas blooming, broad bean pods filling out and the first strawberries quickly plucked out before the slugs and snails have their nibble.

The next big event is the Open Days on the 12th of June for local schools and 13th June for everyone. On the 13th we will have some mouth watering delights provided by the restaurant Due South and the World Food Project cooks; tours of the woodland and allotment; story telling and environmental art.

There should be something for everybody, so pop the dates in your diary and come and visit us.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Snow and a Stolen Stove

We arrived on Tuesday to find the allotment had been transformed into a winter wonderland!
The snow was ankle deep over the entire allotment, the pond frozen and plants blanketed or just peeping through the surface. As the firepit was inaccessible for tea making we decided to close up for the day. The paths were great for sledging, but a nightmare under foot or wheelbarrow.

Unfortunately, others had made it to the allotment before us - there were car tracks up to the gate and large footprints making their way towards the shed at the top of the allotment.

Warren discovered that our beloved wood burning stove had been stolen, which had only recently been secured in place and tested out. Nothing else was taken from the site and it had been carefully removed so it could be sold on.

The stove was made from recycled metal including old garden forks to add to its charm and relevance to our project. It had successfully made the shed cosy and comfortable for the few times we were able to use it during the cold working days.
This had made our shed almost complete and, with a lick of paint and a few furnishings, it would have been a home away from home. We would have had the opportunity to finally put our classroom into action; or hire it as a meeting venue for local groups.

Alas, we shall now have to wait a little longer for the children and volunteers to have a warmer treehouse to perch in.

If anyone has ANY information about the incident or think they may have seen it, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We were unable to put it under our insurance in time, so we will be looking for another stove just as soon we have the money to buy another.

If you would like to donate to us or know of a cheap replacement in the meantime, please let us know.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Ruben in the roof-less Round-House

'My son Ruben in the wattle and daub round-house, which is still awaiting a proper roof, but the Co-op have just given us 870 to build a turf sofa and put in herb garden around it.

Freezing day at the Garden in early January

Early January. Freezing day at the garden. The water pipes are frozen and we couldn't get a fork into the ground. We need these heavy frosts to kill the slugs and bugs.