Dry spells and forecasts
Cat Laidlaw - 29 July 2011
The latest Harry Potter film is out and a few spells up the organic grower's rolled up sleeves wouldn't go a miss at the moment. The Impedimenta spell, capable of generally impeding the target's progress, would come in handy for managing some of the weeding. Or the Aguamenti spell, which casts a jet of water, would save shifting irrigation pipes about. Either way, I often seem to get caught up in doing the everyday tasks and forget to actually notice how almost like magic the crops have suddenly grown from the seedlings we were planting not so long ago. In the space of what feels like just a week or two, they seem to have been been cast with an Engorgio spell and suddenly these bountiful looking courgettes, peppers, aubergines and more have appeared.
I don't seem to be doing as good a job as James at keeping up a regular blog. Like him I've been meaning to get my next post up for a while, thinking about what interesting vegetable shaped nuggets of insight I can report on while in the field. But at the moment, with the height of the growing season in full swing there's been little room to get it all down. When I first started my apprenticeship, Mark suggested an arrangement of doing longer hours over the summer and less in the winter, so while it's pretty full on at the moment it makes sense to work with the seasons when there's stacks to do and have a bit more time to curl up with a hot chocolate in the winter. So at the moment my laptop is a little neglected but expect more regular ramblings from October!
As mentioned weeding has been high up the task list at the moment. It can be pretty disorientating with one day pulling up creeping thistle (apparently the stem is good in salad...revenge!) amongst the potato rows and then the next day pulling up volunteer potatoes amongst the leek rows. As well as lots of bending (watch those backs!) I've been expanding my repertoire of different ways to move to perform tasks. Expect to join the Ministry of Silly Walks if you want to head into this game! There's “the crab”, for example, which involves squatting and sidewalking along rows while planting, or you could try “the duck” which involves turning the feet outwards to create ridges of soil next to crops. The last few months though have really made me appreciate how much human energy goes into the food we eat. I know there are all sorts of energy from different sources that goes into food production but I'm finding the human aspect most striking and humbling at the moment.
I've been starting to think what I might do my apprenticeship project on and with some prompts from Mark I've got two main ideas at the moment. One might be to look into community composting and how green waste from the local village could be used for the veg growing. I was reading a really interesting report called “Small is Successful” from the Ecological Land Co-operative which contains some great case studies of people creating livelihoods on less than 10 acres. However, it mentions the “ghost acres” of compost transported to the enterprises so it would be interesting to look at the logistics of using the household waste from nearby residents. The other possible project topic would be to look at making use of the edges and paths in the polytunnels. They're quite artificial environments and while Mark has been doing a no-dig method in the beds, a lot of (human!) energy goes into weeding the paths and outer edges. Looking at how these spaces could be treated differently could be a good way to improve biodiversity, soil health and reducing cake-fueled human input!
A few more pictorial tasters of the past month are below, including the beautiful sight of drying garlic in the glasshouse which were aptly laid out by our visiting French horticultural student, Nicolas. Au revoir et merci de lire ce blog!
Cat is an Organic Apprentice at North Aston Organics in Oxfordshire. Having worked mostly on cycling and sustainable transport projects since graduating with an English Literature degree, she has mainly been utilising her lower body strength and pedal power. Her last job with the sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, was on their Schools team providing advice and support to parents and schools. Now she has decided to build up her neglected arm muscles and make the switch from bicycles to plant cycles and learn more about organic growing.
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18 August 2011 14:10
Proper laugh out loud about the silly walks, I've destroyed the gusset of a pair of trousers and a pair of shorts so far (that's probably too much information, sorry) in various weeding and planting/silly walk contortions. Great blog Cat, keep em coming! J
29 July 2011 10:07
Another inspiring blog Cat. I've never heard the term 'volunteer potatoes' before. Great!
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