Spring 2013 update

by Hannah Roberson

January

  • Land use - We had some good news this month when Metropolitan agreed to let us continue using the land we already had instead of reducing our area. This was a huge relief - it meant we didn’t have to take down our rainwater harvester for a start! We also have a new agreement with them which means we can have some extra land to run our upcoming ‘Creating a Forest Garden’ courses. Jo is currently busy researching and designing these courses, which will run over 20 weeks from June to November 2013. Looking to the future, we are in the early stages of a new relationship with Metropolitan. We can’t say much at this stage, but we might be a little closer to realising our dreams of making the Green Routes site into an exciting community food hub. Watch this space for more…

February

  • Plant chats - Gemma ran a really informative ‘plant chat’ in February, focusing on plant reproduction. We all learnt a lot about different types of pollination, and had some fascinating conversations about the complex relationship between how humans use plants as food and the plants’ own need to reproduce. These plant chats are a great way to share knowledge between volunteers in an informal way, and we’re grateful to Gemma for sharing her expertise. The next one, on plant taxonomy, will be on Friday 12th April.

  • PACT Meals/People’s Kitchen - The PACT Meals/People’s Kitchen project took a break in January to focus on recruiting people to lead the sessions and building relationships with suppliers. Excitingly, we now have a great team of leaders and volunteer chefs, and we are collecting food from a number of shops on Green Lanes and in Finsbury Park. The project feels on much firmer footing now, and the February and March events have been really successful. February’s menu included a cucumber and courgette salad, some mushroom soup, ratatouille and rice. We also made sweetcorn pancakes, and perfected the technique on the second attempt the following day. They went down very well with the Urban Harvest people who were holding a workshop on alliums in the greenhouse.

  • Bog garden - Last year, we bought a bog myrtle plant (Myrica gale). This exciting plant has highly aromatic fruits and leaves as well as a host of medicinal properties. Apparently the Vikings used it as a stimulant before going into battle, and it used to be used to flavour beer in the Middle Ages. More info from Plants for a Future here. We put it in the showcase bed, but it wasn’t very happy - perhaps we should have guessed from the name that it might prefer to grow in boggy conditions. Therefore, we created a brand new bog garden by sinking a broken wheelbarrow into the ground and filling it with earth. There is a hole in the wheelbarrow so shouldn't be too wet. Hopefully the boggy plants will be happier here.

March

  • PACT Meals/People’s Kitchen - Another successful event this month, with a menu consisting of stir fry, salad and some hugely popular banana fritters. We began thinking we should produce a cookery book to showcase the best recipes from these lunches. Many thanks to those who turned out to help cook and eat despite the pouring rain. HOWEVER - after both the February and March meals, we have been struggling with the ironic question of what to do with all the leftover food!! We definitely need more people to come and help us eat it up at future events: 2nd Friday of every month, arrive from 10.30 if you want to help cook, or from 12.30 to eat. Bring a container to take home any leftovers.

  • Visit from Rob Hopkins – After the meal, we had a visit from Rob Hopkins, one of the founders of the Transition movement. He was making a short film about ELL and the PACT project. You can see the film (starring a mouse!) and his write-up on the Transition Culture blog.

  • Gardening – It feels like spring hasn’t graced us with its presence this year and it’s been quite pleasant to be indoors eating, learning about plants and discussing the future of ELL. However, we have also been busy putting our new root stocks in air-pots (http://www.airpotgarden.com/) - there’s a bit of an art to this, but it’s worth it because the air-pots are designed to encourage plants to have a healthy root structure. We’ve also done some grafting, including exotic hawthorn and apples.