Tuesday, 30 December 2014

LOOKING BACK 2014


It was a busy end of year as staff and volunteers attended various award ceremonies. We were nominated for best Green Project in the Argus Achievement Awards, Small Group – Big Achiever in the Voluntary Sector Star Awards received a commendation from City in Bloom and we won a BBC Sussex and BBC Surrey Community Heroes Award for 'Outstanding Contribution to Education.'

Now the garden is twenty it's funny to think back to a few mates working on a half derelict allotment to a project that now boasts an amazing eco-cabin built almost entirely out of locally sourced wood and recycled materials. A place where over 50 pupils a week visit from seven different schools and which will soon become an outdoor college. We're we've built up great partnerships with Homewood  College, Moulsecoomb Primary, Brighton Aldridge Community Academy and the Cedar Centre.

Our work with pupils is highly regarded. Recently a senior social worker was telling someone how helpful our work has been with a pupil we’ve been working with. People don't see all the work that happens behind the scenes; the reports to enable pupils to get their qualifications and all the meetings staff attend with schools and other outside agencies to discuss the progress of the pupils we work with. Our work also gives pupils the space to talk as well as giving them opportunities for work experience and too broaden their horizons taking them to award ceremonies, festivals, camping trips, museums and swimming.

We continue to have a fantastic mix of volunteers with referrals from many different agencies which sometimes brings its own unique problems – including finding enough work for everyone to do in the winter. We have increased the number of students who come as part of their University community module and now have Plumpton College pupils working with us. We particularly liked the Eastbourne physiotherapists, the strongman was especially helpful when we got a massive delivery of compost.

Carly North continues to cook up a storm on a Friday and is now working at Moulsecoomb Primary as well as Brighton Aldridge Community Academy. We received a two year grant to build a new community garden in Moulsecoomb Primary on a disused playground, and to fund Carly’s cooking with parents and pupils.

Our immense compost bins are now producing endless black gold, with more organisations dropping off waste to get the bins all hot and bothered, and our crops are really benefiting from this.

The bees flourished this year thanks to Sonny and his assistant Daisy and we will be improving that area in the future to make build its educational value.

We ran very successful Easter and summer schemes for Moulsecoomb children with about 70 youngsters coming along and 3 very successful team building days with Southern Water, the Carers Centre and Santander.

We now produce a regular (ish) newsletter for our supporters as well as organising local talks, including Brighton Green Drinks and a packed Godless Churchless Church one Sunday morning, who were moved by the short clips of some of our pupils that our on our website. These are always good places to get more people to become Friends of the Forest Garden and increase our monthly standing orders. Susie is one of our trustees who along with Duncan, Julie and Nick worked behind the scenes to make sure the garden can carry out all this work and comply with the all the legal requirements. Email us if you’d like to sign up to the newsletter.

We are developing great links with The Garden House who raised nearly £3,500 for the cabin at their open day. They invited us for tea and cakes recently - and Paul had a fight with a chicken. Thanks Bridgette and Deborah!

We've had to say goodbye to quite a few people. Russell Kingston who turned up unemployed and left as a qualified carpenter. Nancy Walker has now got a job at a city farm in Bristol, while the two Adams – Beer and Keeves are working on organic farms.

Finally our 20th birthday party open day summed up all that is brilliant about the project as 300 people from all over Brighton and beyond came to see our work, and the Argus and Latest TV fought over the best pictures of the cabin.

All in all it’s been a great 20th year for the project, and we’re already working on plans for another great year ahead.

Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for all for your help and support over the years.

Monday, 6 October 2014

WE ARE 20!

On a beautiful autumn day we celebrated our 20th birthday party. 300 people came along to see our new eco-building, have a nose at our vegetables, make a hat, see the bees, eat some cake, drink a smoothie, even use the compost loo and enjoy the last of the sunshine

Loading up the smoothie bike
Compost John deep in compost thought

Teresa making sure we've been looking after her flower garden

Party hat time!

Father John of Moulsecoomb comes to bless the new build!

Phil and Pat getting the outdoor classroom ready for business

Some of the lovely people that make the garden so special


Michael, Maureen and Suzie meet and greet

Thank you to Holly and her team from Santander for serving up refreshments all day

What a view!

Carly, Jo and Courtney and Paige from Brighton Aldridge Community Academy serving up burgers all day

Russell our apprentice shed builder, now a qualified carpenter, cuts the birthday cake, donated by Forfars.

* All money raised on the day will be doubled by Santander, but we still need a few thousand pounds to finish the shed. If you can help or would like to become a Friend of the Forest Garden and make monthly standing orders, please get in touch.











Thursday, 11 September 2014

CELEBRATE 20 YEARS OF THE FOREST GARDEN




Well, can you believe it. We are 20 years old and will be celebrating with a party and the grand opening of our 'shed' on Sunday 5th October 12 noon till 5pm.
There will be tours of the garden and a chance to chat to the people who have built one of Brighton's greenest ever buildings. 
You will also be able to find out about bushcraft, bees, make party hats and go on a treasure hunt (the last two are probably more for children but we understand if you like looking for woodlice and old bits of flint).
Food and drink will also be for sale.
Entry is free, but all profits will go towards finishing off the building. Santander have also said they will double the money we make on the day, so please be generous!
There might even be a few of our outlawed tomatoes still growing!
RSVP hello@seedybusiness.org


Thank you to all the people and organisations that have contributed time and funds to our new building.
These include Comic Relief, Sussex Community Foundation, East Brighton Trust, Southern Water, Body Shop Foundation, Santander Foundation, Sussex Police Community Cashback Fund, Eleanor Hamilton Educational Trust, Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust, The Garden House , Cat Fletcher & her Waste House and everyone who supported our crowdfunding campaign.






Wednesday, 10 September 2014

UNMEASURABLE

Schools will tell you that there is a lot more to their work than league tables and brief visit from OFSTED.
Education isn't a football match and there are loads of hidden extras than can't be measured.
The way the forest garden works is also hard to measure. Yes 4 pupils who struggle academically are the latest to receive accreditation from us in the form of OCN level one in woodland skills.
One of these pupils spent a lot of time making a handmade hawthorn Harry Potter wand. This gave him a basic understanding of plant and tree growth, eco systems and sustainabilitywhile learning about safe use of sharp tools and green woodworking techniques. Making the wand also encouraged him to read all the Harry Potter books!
One of the lads has one to one mentoring every Thursday. He has visited museums for the first time and can now swim!
Thanks to funding from Eleanor Hamilton two lads have been taken fishing and then out for lunch as a thank you for all their hard work throughout the academic year.
That might not be a big deal for pupils whose parents can afford these treats, but they are a big deal for those that can't.
How do we measure lunch times or workdays with our eclectic mix of people, when our pupils muck around with our young lads with learning difficulties. When one told us that he no longer would make fun of people with disabilities. How do we quantify that? Surely just eating lunch together isn't educational is it?
Carly North, our chef on a Friday, runs a youth community cooking group. Her work with Brighton Aldridge Community Academy meant that two pupils who had done her food hygiene course went to Strawberry Fayre for 4 days cooking for festival crew of up to 450 people! Two of her pupils also helped with some of our summer scheme, help her with a primary school cooking club and thanks to a burgeoning portfolio now has a job in a cafe at the weekends. One young lad with Downs has also been helping cook pizzas for a shed team-building day and our summer scheme.
This immeasurableness doesn't mean that they don't learn, that it isn't worthwhile, but these extras are what we feel makes our project really work. Still, don't listen to us, listen to what some of our young adults think. 

 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

NEAR THE FINISHING LINE




Thanks to everyone who supported our Buzzbank crowdfunding campaign and came to the amazing secret Garden House, gave us cash donations, got messy during our team-building and volunteer days or donated materials We are very close to being able to complete our outdoor classroom.
We still need a few thousand to finish and you can help us by donating in a number of ways.
Our young apprentice Russell is now a qualified carpenter and will be leaving us soon.
So one last final push for funds. Sunday 5th October will be our grand opening and where we will also be celebrating 20 years of Moulsecoomb Forest Garden Project!  Email us at hello@seedybusiness.org if you'd like to go on the invitation list.





Our storage space looks more like a place of worship!

Monday, 14 July 2014

RAINY OPEN DAY

The welcoming committee


Despite the rain, we had another great open day. A chance for pupils we work with to show off their skills and other schools to visit to see what we do. For our volunteers friends and families to see their work; a chance for people to find out about our outdoor classroom, woodland skills, composting, bee-keeping and of course a chance to make and stuff your face with pizzas and wash it down with a smoothie! 












Moulsecoomb Primary Year 1 came up in the morning to harvest the garlic they planted in the autumn as well as rocket and basil for their pizzas they made in our outdoor clay oven.




Carly and our pizza oven were very busy all day  
The bushcraft family! 

Pond dipping for newts

Catching slow-worms
Rendering the classroom inbetween visits 
  
Sonny the bee-keeper opens up the hives
Elaine is one of our best supporters has just been awarded an British Empire Medal for services to the arts. We treated her to pizza & a mug of tea!                  Thanks to Scott Hortop for most of these photos. If you'd like to see more go here



    


Saturday, 24 May 2014

MUCKING IN


Our timber-framed 'shed' is really starting to take shape after a busy few weeks of team-building with groups from Southern Water, Santander, The Carers Centre and our regular volunteers.



Part of the team-building challenge was making cob which involves people removing shoes and socks to mix sand, clay and water with bare feet before adding in fine straw to hold the mix together. People also made and sharpened hazel stakes and used them to pin the bales together by banging them in with wooden mallets. They also carried bales up the hill and helped build a cordwood wall with cob, logs, and bottles. Each team were rewarded with home-made pizzas cooked in our outdoor clay oven.


 

The bales give excellent insulation and once rendered are extremely fire retardant. They will be covered in cob render then a lime and linseed oil wash will be painted on top. The large overhang of the roof will also protect the render from the worst of the weather.

Building Manager Russell Pountney said "The work groups were all fantastic and very productive. Mixing cob is labour intensive and would of taken us weeks without the extra help; everyone got stuck in and got covered in mud and had a good laugh doing so."


You can support the rebuild by donating to our crowdfunding campaign so we can finish it in time for our 20th anniversary party in September.

If you are interested in a team-building challenge get in touch. 

 

Monday, 12 May 2014

CARROT SEED TEA, CATCHBOX FISH AND CHAINSAWING STRAWBALES

No two days at the forest garden are ever the same. Of course there will always be weeding and cleaning out the compost loo, but you never know who to expect, and with the changing seasons there's always something different to do.
On Friday, one of our special needs lads helpfully used all the carrot and radish seeds up to make tea! Others were being a bit more productive helping move strawbales up to the outdoor classroom – although some were disappointed they weren't allowed to use the chainsaw to cut them to size for the walls


Pupils were busy in the woods, coppicing and making stakes.

One of them showed new people round the project as they do; these are the pupils who really struggle at school, if they bother going at all, and as we roll out our outdoor qualifications we can work with schools to tackle issues like poor literacy by doing simple things like getting them to keep a dairy of their days work.
Thanks to the kind garden weather, we are already harvesting salad, herbs and peas which went well with the fish Catchbox co-op kindly donated for lunch.

Although the maturing broad beans seem to have been hit by a mini tornado. But that's real life gardening not that pristine, made-up stuff you see on TV in a world where slugs don't seem to exist.
As i'm being shouted at to find the biscuits, the coffee and show people how to plant and mulch the runner beans, you have to marvel at the mix of people who come along.
So if you support what we do, how about donating to our crowdfunding campaign to finish off our eco-shed? Not only will this keep all our lovely volunteers dry and warm in the winter, but it will double up as a classroom to help get our pupils the qualifications they need to get on in life. 
And if you're not sure pop up for a cup of tea, chat and a tour by one of our lads. Just check what sort of tea your offered to make sure its not carrot and radish seed!

 

 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

FANCY A TEAM CHALLENGE?

We are looking for energetic teams to spend a constructive day using traditional skills to build the walls of our timber-framed shed. The work will involve:
  • Building straw bale walls, fixing in place and fitting a wooden framework
  • Mixing cob (a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, straw and earth) – this is the messy part!
  • Rendering walls and applying lime wash
We need groups of 10-12 people to help with this, all work will be supervised and you will be provided with enough food and drink to keep you going. Other jobs to support the day include preparing and cooking pizzas in our outdoor clay oven.

What’s in it for you?

  • Opportunity to learn new skills and develop teamwork that you can take back to the work environment
  • Supervised learning in a positive outside environment
  • Tasty local and homemade food
  • Genuine and much-needed support for a well-established and well-loved local community project - in its 20th year of providing a safe working environment for vulnerable adults and children to learn skills in gardening, cooking and bushcraft as well as social skills and access to employment.
There will be a notional charge per person to cover our costs, and further contributions to the garden project would be very welcome!

When: This will take place during April and May 2014, and is weather dependent

How to apply:  Contact Warren to apply, discuss arrangements, and how to get the most from the team challenge, both on the day and when you are back at work

For more information please contact us at - email: hello@seedybusiness.org - tel: 07988 837951


Thanks

Warren Carter and the team at the Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project


The roof is finished! If one green bottle should....Finishing the cord wood walls



If one green bottle should....Finishing the cord wood walls


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

STUDENTS, STEWS, COMPOST LOOS AND BOYSONBERRIES

As part of Student Volunteer Week, a dozen students supported by Brighton University and Santander staff  turned a chalk wasteland into a fruit growing area on a beautiful spring day.

First they had to finish pickaxing out the chalk and subsoil.

Then they went behind the compost loo to collect the bags of humanure that have been composting away.


They added it to the hole and shoveled some of the topsoil back in, then pushed up wheelbarrows of compost up our steep slope to help feed the new plants.

After a bushcraft beef stew lunch...

... everyone helped plant 3 boysenberry plants (boysenberries are a bigger, sweeter version of blackcurrents and the bushes were 2 year old cuttings from one of the forest garden plants).



Other students dug the first potato trench of the year and checked out the croaking frogs who've been busy spawning (while the newts have been busy eating the spawn)

A great bunch of volunteers who we'd welcome back anytime. Cheers!

Friday, 14 February 2014

TRAILER TRASHED COOKING COURSE


Participants were today given their level 2 certificates for food safety after a successful 10 week vegetarian cooking course. The course run by youth group Trailer Trashed taught a range of vegetarian cooking recipes and techniques. The 11 participants were supported by youth volunteers from Trailer Trashed, volunteer nutritionist Louise Comerford, volunteer cook Jo Pearson and founder Carly North.

Each week young people split into smaller groups facilitated by a youth member of Trailer Trashed to prepare and cook a recipe. A variety of food related topics were discussed including food waste, portion sizes and nutrition. At the end of each session everyone got to sit and share the meal together.

Evan Beesley (18) said that the course has “helped me at work because I have learnt new techniques”.  Rhiannon Atrell (15) who wants to be a chef enjoyed being able “to make food which people have liked.” Many of the participants have also reported eating more fruit and vegetables and cooking more varied meals as a result of attending the course.
The course was made possible due to funding from Brighton and Hove Food Partnership and Sussex Community Foundation with the donation of the training kitchen at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA).
Carly North said “This has been a really positive and enjoyable experience for all and I am so proud of everyone involved. We hope to be able to secure funding for further courses in the near future.”




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Sunday, 19 January 2014

TIMBER FRAMED BUILDING AWAITS ITS RECYCLED ROOF

Since January 2012 we have been working on a new timber framed building using locally coppiced wood. It is now ready to receive its recycled plastic tile roof thanks to funding from Santander Foundation and the Sussex Police Community Cashback Fund.
The cord wood wall made up of coppiced wood and the odd recycled bottle stuck together with straw, sand, clay and welly boot power is also nearly finished. This will be used for storage. 
But we need another £25,000 to finish the whole project. Can you help?
 






Thursday, 2 January 2014

MY NEW YEARS WISH TO CHARITABLE TRUSTS

Writing grant applications is the most soul destroying and pointless waste of resources a charity can do. The problem is, how can you function without them? Of course if you hit the jack-pot it's worth all the effort, but with odds getting longer and longer and Trusts being swamped by applications, it seems it would be better to spend all your reserves on buying lottery tickets!

If you multiply all the small charities across the country chasing the same small pots of money; well, I hate to think of all the hours, resources and ultimately cash that is wasted on grant applications.

There's got to be a better way than this.

As someone who runs a charity and is on the board of a Trust that gives out small grants I like to think I have an insight into both sides of the coins. In fact it wouldn't do grant givers any harm for their staff to do some work experience at a small charity to understand the problems and some of the over the top demands they and councils make.
I recently spoke to one organisation, asking if it is worth us applying for their pot of gold. I said that we fitted all the criteria perfectly, but as a small charity without many admin resources, needed an idea of our chances. Come to our one day seminar I was told. But that's the point: I haven't got time to come to a bloody one day seminar in London!

So here's a few steps grant givers can do to make things more bearable (and they're not exactly rocket science).

Make forms as simple as possible.
Make the guidelines as clear as possible.
Speak English! It took me ages to figure out what an 'outcome' was.
Forms seem to get more demanding. Is this necessary? How many hoops do you really need to make people jump through? How do you know that you aren't just giving the money to those who can write the best bids or know the right people?
Why not have a two phase application process, asking for just a few paragraphs to see if the charity has a cat in hells chance of getting any money in the first place, before they waste lots of hours.
Stop funding only new projects. Surely it shows success (or should I say 'sustainability') if a charity has been going for a number of years. So fund core costs and boring but essential stuff like insurance, rent and wages.
But probably most importantly give feedback if an application is turned down.
It's not acceptable to ask organisations to write pages and pages, budget forecasts and how much they spend on loo paper and then tell people that you don't have the capacity to say why you didn't give them any money.

I don't want our charity to rely on grants and we have doing our best to increase our income to nearly 50% of our turnover. We try to get support from sympathetic business and supporters ('diversify'). However, the nature of the work means we will probably always have to rely on some grant funding which is probably more fool us.

But how much more 'effective' would we be if all this precious time was spent doing what we were set out to do in the first place. There's nothing about sitting in front of a computer screen in our 'aims and objectives'.

So when I sit down to another application, making sure we fit all the guidelines, I cant help thinking of that Einstein quote that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

It's time for a major rethink. 

Warren Carter

* Save us! Become a Friend of the Forest Garden (please)