London Permaculture Festival coming up soon – I will be the one wandering around trying to find carrot cake – click on the flyer for more info – see you there then!
The tomatos in the front room have not given much fruit yet but are making rather wonderful curtains – an unexpected yield!
Perhaps I was a bit over keen putting two in each oil drum planter.
Filed under: Doing, Learning, Planning, Thinking | Tags: fan, fruit tree, grapevine, pruning, training, trellis
When we first cleared back some of the undergrowth in the back garden we discovered an old grapevine stump that looked like it was dead. To our delight it started to sprout a tonne of leaves a few months back so todays job was to start training it up a trellis into a fan.
There is some good advice here – http://www.realenglishfruit.co.uk/content/treetraining.htm
Filed under: Collecting, Learning | Tags: ladybird, larva, larvae, photo, picture
Just in case you are as clueless as me – here is a picture of a ladybird larva hanging out in the sun in the back garden. They are our friends - eating aphids and generally looking kinda badass.
Filed under: Doing, Learning | Tags: apprenticeship, growing communities, Ida Fabrizio, robin grey, ru litherland, sara davies, Sophie Verhagen
I am now half way through my appenticeship working on the urban market gardens at Growing Communities – this photo was taken today after an epic harvest.
Quite how I managed to get three months into the apprenticeship without mentioning it on the blog is a mystery but I have been so busy learning the names of leafy green things that my mind has not quite been on the money in other areas :-)
The fellow front left is Ru Litherland, the head grower, and the person to whom I now owe a huge chunk of my knowledge about plants, especially salad growing and pruning fruit trees.
If you don’t know anything about Growing Communities can I recommend you have a peek around their website – http://www.growingcommunities.org/ – as part of their weekly fruit and veg box scheme they run the only pieces of organically certified land inside the M25 to produce mixed leaf salad and other bits and bobs.
Filed under: Doing, Learning, Planning, Recycling, Thinking | Tags: grey water recycling, Horizontal Flow Reed Bed, reed beds, reeds from seeds, vertical Flow Reed Bed
One of the projects that really stuck in my head after reading my first book on permaculture was creating reed beds for recycling grey water (any waste water from the house except sewage from the toilet).
After a good deal of time spent researching and reading around the topic the time finally came to make it a reality. Luckily there is a builders depo at the end of my street who sell gravel and my friend Morgan was on hand to help me put it all together.
For an average household you need 1m² of reed bed to recycle each persons grey water and you need four reeds per square metre. As I already had two used bath tubs to hand which came to just over 2m² and the three of us who live at 33b don’t use that much water I decided to go with that even if it was a little below the recommended area.
Ten reed plants were bought from Reeds from Seeds who can be found here – http://www.brynpolyn.co.uk/ – The total costwas £27.60 most of which was the delivery cost to London from Wales. They were very helpful people indeed explaining that late April or early May were the best time to plant.
A depth of about a metre seems to be the order of the day from a couple of diagrams I saw. The bath tubs took a maximum of about 80cm so I went with that, filling them with a layer of fine gravel on top of a layer of coarse gravel, about 50/50 of each.
It was decided after some debate to run the water into the bottom of each bath tub with water exiting out of the top. This way it has to pass up through the whole reed bed and cannot flow straight through as some designs seem to indicate. Pipes were fixed in the bottom with bricks and slate to keep them from being crushed by the weight of the gravel and to stop them from coming out. You can see that the first ‘metal tub’ reed bed is above the height of the other ‘mighty white’ tub so the water passes from the house into the bottom of the upper tub, rising through the bed to a pipe which feeds it into the bottom of the lower tub before it overflows through the bath’s original overflow into either the pond or the adjacent bed.
The metal tub was lined with a plastic sheet as it had many holes in the bottom from a previous life as a planter. Making the right sized hole for the pipe fixture was a challenge finally managed with a drill, some elbow grease and a bit of love, hence the three photos!
A lot of designs have settlement tanks and other features. I decided not to go for these yet but allowed space further back upstream to retro fit a settlement tank if needed. Whilst the reeds establish themselves I only plan to put bath and shower water into them and to use only natural grooming and cleaning products in the bathroom so there shouldn’t be anything too nasty for them to have to deal with and not too much by way of solid matter as the plug hole catches all the hairs!
Here are a few other pages of interest -
A beautiful short piece on making a garden in a bag
Filed under: Doing, Learning | Tags: leaf concentrate, leaf curd, leafu, lime tree, richard godwin
I recently invested in the British permaculture bible, The Earth Care Manual by Patrick Whitefield. It is a truly awesome body of work which I recommend to anyone with a pulse.
One of the first things to catch my eye was a recipe tucked into an obscure corner of the book about making leaf-curd and feeling slightly nervous about where us vegans are going to find tofu when flying it over from the other side of the world stops making economic sense, I thought it time to have a go at making some…
- First I accosted my friend Richard Godwin to climb up the lime tree and harvest some of the lovely young leaves, which just so happened to be a nice lime colour.
- Next we stuck the leaves into a liquidiser until we had a smooth leafy paste which was then strained through a tea towel to remove the pulp.
- The remaining liquid was then boiled and the curd which formed on top collected by skimming from the top of the pan and put into an improvised mould.
- Then we knocked up a quick stir fry and ate ‘leafu’ as it also seems to be affectionately called.
Richard also wrote a column about this for the Evening Standard which can be read here – http://godwin.thisislondon.co.uk/2009/04/permaculture.html
Further research lead me to this PDF document – Leaf concentrate: A Field Guide for Small Scale Programs by David Kennedy and Leaf for Life (1993) which is utterly huge and if you want to get geeky on the topic seems to pretty much cover EVERYTHING, ever that you could ever ever ever want to know about making leaf curd anywhere at anytime with anyone.
Filed under: Brainstorming, Doing, Learning, Recycling, Thinking | Tags: battle, cloches, copper, defence, drinks bottles, egg shells, recycled, slugs, snails, war
Okay so we had to lose our virginity at some point. You create a nice bed, you plant stuff, it grows, then slugs and snails come and eat it…
One of the first things planted out were some beans which got utterly munched within days. It was clear that some extra thought was required and non-lethal reinforcements came in the shape of cloches made from plastic drinks bottles, broken up egg shells, copper from wire and coins, and midnight slug and snail raids with my brand new head torch!
Not wanting to kill any of god’s creatures, I have just been throwing them over the fence so far which seems to have worked, making a huge dent in the local population and seems to keep everyone happy as next door don’t really do much with their garden and there is lots of nice green stuff growing there.
Our veg is safe for now…
Filed under: Doing, Learning | Tags: chit, chitting, dibb, dibbing, Laurieston Hall, potato, potatoes
I was up in Scotland over the weekend visiting some friends of mine at Laurieston Hall, an intentional community near Castle Douglas. They were all up nice and early on sunday morning to dib potatoes and kindly let me get involved too!
The 101 on potatoes in that you need to chit them which can be done in a number of ways – basically you just leave them somewhere and they sprout little green shoots. Most of us have done it by accident before so I am sure you are glad you now have a name for it so next time you can make it look intentional. Then you dib, which is the lingo for making a hole, I seem to remember them being about a foot deep, then you plant them. Nice. These were ‘earlies’ which go in in March and I have totally forgotten all the rest I learnt about potatoes… must take notes next time.
It may not have anything to do with growing veg but somehow couchsurfing feels like it belongs on this blog.
Basically you sign up to a social networking site of people who are happy for you to come and kip on their couch. Nice, huh? Have a peek here – http://www.couchsurfing.com/
I have had one person to stay so far and all went swimmingly. My first couchsurf will be in Glasgow in two weeks time.
Filed under: Learning, Thinking | Tags: burning, fan, flume, recycled, reuse, smoke free, wood chip, wood stove
A quick jaunt up north to Enfield on the train from Hackney Downs and we are in Gunpowder Park at The Energy Cafe for a workshop on pedal power. Andrew was also about and demonstrating his smoke-free wood stove which impressed me muchly.
Hooking up a fan to feed the flames more air increases the efficiency of the combustion and decreases the amount of smoke, which is essentially unburnt hydrocarbons or very small bits of wood to you and me.
All of the stove had been made from reused parts found in local skips. The main body was an old flue buried into a tyre filled with soil, the fan was from an old laptop. As the flue was already double walled it provided excellent insulation so the wood could burn at a higher temperature. The fan created a vortex in the main chamber which meant better mixing of air again leading to a higher burn temperature resulting in no smoke at all and 5kW of heat apparently!