Saturday, 22 September 2012

The challenge is carrying on.

The Challenge

This summer has been full of many activities. We have been holding regular workshops on ecological topic such as making wildlife habitat from recycled materials, wild food foraging, and composting. We had two groups of young people for the organisation called The Challenge come round and got involved in compost making, seed, firewood collection and apple pressing. It was a such a privilege having them over and seeing them get excited about their environment the potential they posses to make a difference. One of the groups went off and did a sponsored barefoot walk as a direct result of their visit. The other returned and built themselves a few bird boxes. It was great having the young people over but it was also challenging. We had to convince them that it was alright to get dirt under your nails and that worms were actually really cool creatures and have a very important role to play in the grand scheme of things. It took a while to convince them but at the end of the visit the vast majority of them were happy playing around in the soil and holding worms. So we now have a new member organisation to add to our network and for that we are thankful.
Courgettes (marrows)
Collecting straw and manure
Our bond with Deen City Farm has also grown stronger. For the past few months we have been helping them get their allotment space up and running and it's doing amazingly well. We have also been harvesting loads of courgettes from our little plot at their growing gardens site located at the farm and we often collect straw and manure from their muck pile. Deen City Farm is an amazing place and has a number of exciting programmes ongoing. We will be a feature at their harvest festival on the 29th September. Our theme for the event will be Permacultue and Guerilla Gardening. We will be engaging the public by making clay seed bombs and a wormery made from used tyres. We are very excited about it all. We have also been collecting straw and manure for mulching and compost making from the farm. This is an amazing resource to have just outside our doorstep and everyone gets involved in the process. 
So the rains have finally held off for a bit and we were graced with a long spell of both dry and hot weather. As a result we have seen the number of volunteers increase. Many came and helped out in the harvesting and maintenance of the garden. We had a good potato harvest this year, and we are picking tomatoes on a regular basis. We did loose a lot to blight and mildew but luckily we were prepared and had quite a lot of seedlings on standby, we always sow about a third more than we think we might need. The excess can be given away or planted out on a disused site. 
Volunteer digging for potatoes
Golden sunrise tomatoes
We have also been harvesting peppers, aubergines, beans, sweet corn and beetroot. Our onions didn't do well this year, many of them were repeatedly attacked by slugs and snails and as a result did not get very big. Our garlics on the other hand were a success and were surprisingly strong flavoured this time round. We lost the majority of our pumpkin crop but managed to save one and she now lives in the polytunnel. During the hot periods we move our nursery outside the polytunnel. We used pallets to make a temporary table and this is where we keep our young plants. We are getting ready for winter and have sown the majority of our winter crops this year we are going for leeks, parsnips, broccoli, chard, cabbages and kale. We will also be trying to have some salads going over the winter period as well.
Roasting sweet corn on the BBQ
We have been doing a fair bit of salvaging over the past few months and have came across some really good finds. It's amazing what people throw out in a country where surplus is in abundance. A few weeks ago we found a cut little cast iron BBQ and a large heavy duty waterproof tarp which we used to waterproof the pallet shack we have been building since last November. The wormery we built a few months ago has been doing very well and was made using old tyres we found while out scouting. We recently harvested the first bit of worm castings and the texture is amazing, very light and airy. The wormery was made by attaching chicken wire to the bottom of each tyre and stacking them on each other. We then lined the inside of the tyres with straw and laid down a generous layer of absorbent organic material like newspaper, egg cartons, and dead leaves at the bottom of each tyre. The bottom tyre was filled with well rotted compost, leaf mould and some partially rotted organic material (kitchen waste, garden weeds, etc), then a few handfuls of worms which we collected from our already existing composting systems. This was then covered and left for two days to allow the worms to settle into their new home. The second tyre was filled with organic kitchen waste and two weeks later the final tyre was also filled with organic kitchen waste and the wormery was complete. The wormery was built in May and approximately four months later we harvested the first of the bounty. We refilled the harvested tyre (bottom one) then refilled it with organic kitchen waste and topped it off with the worms from the previously harvested batch.
Fresh tyre of organic kitchen waste(left) and topped off with worms and some compost(right)
Lots learnt this season. Though we had a very challenging summer we harvested loads and are hopeful for the autumn and winter months so we carry on.