Monday, 31 August 2009

Tar No Ta.

Watch that first. Tar, and see ya Tuesday morning, if you were there.

And then watch the interview with Clayton Thomas-Muller. This guy is an awesome speaker.

And more detail from this link. Here are Lionel Lepine and George Poitras, representatives of the Athabasca region First Nations, discussing yesterday the film and the actions which must follow.

Photo left: Hackney Green Party sends a delegation over to Climate Camp. General thoughts on the experience. Very chilled out and pretty chilly towards the end of my stay, with that healthy power generator that was blowing across the Heath. There were so many things to learn there, and not much time to make choices about that. The Tar Sands issue stood out front and centre for me at least, but I guess that it may not have been the same for everyone. I would have loved to learn a bit about building a pedal-powered sound system, but I think that I maybe possibly don't really have the time for that hobby right now. Shame.

Lewisham Green Party sent a creditably large contingent to greet the Camp, though I must confess I was a bit jealous that the Camp hadn't chosen Hackney Marshes. Another time, hopefully. All but one, I think, of Lewisham's six Green councillors were there (and apologies if the last one was and I didn't count him - I just don't know). Here are those five, plus Jean Lambert MEP

OK then, back to the allotment today, innit.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Tangential Post

Just to show that there's a bit more to Green politics than allotments. These were taken on Critical Mass, on the way to Blackheath to visit the Climate Camp. The quality is low, granted (though the sound isn't too bad). The other thing is that I can't get my phone to record for more than 30 seconds at the moment.

All of which = v. annoying, so for that reason I've put two snippets. Yes, there is a bloke in the second video riding a penny farthing:

Friday, 28 August 2009

Ah, I keep forgetting to take my camera

It would have very been nice to photo-document today's bit of fun in the car park down at the back of Café Oto in Dalston. Never mind, I'm sure that there will be a few more wombling sessions for me to document with the camera.

We stripped a few large packing crates with a hammer, a crowbar and my Streetfighter-style sideways jumping kick. Dangerous, bruv.

Thanks very much to Sally and Phillipa for bringing the pick-up truck. It's a community fing, innit (though we still do need a bigger van for this kind of thing - help somebody, please!) I'll take some photos of the stuff we brought over next time we're in the garden.

Ah, you might want to know what we're planning to do with that stuff we got today. Many's the thing we can do with it, I suppose. Tool shed, garden furniture, full size snooker table. You've just got to use your imagination.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Contemplation #1

Just a small session yesterday. Periodic rain was spotting on us, and we were few in number. It was just Ed and myself, really, although Anna and Joe turned up at the end.

I forgot my camera, so there's nothing to show, I'm afraid. In any case, we didn't do much more than hack out some ivy and take down the rest of the tree which we had cut on Sunday. There's just the stump of it left now, and we'll have a bit of a back-breaking job digging up the roots. Other than that, Ed and I spent a fair bit of time discussing namby-pamby permaculture stuff, and since I don't have any photos, this is as good a moment as any to introduce this text, which I'll certainly be quoting from time to time.

As soon as Ed came out with the phrase "one straw" I jumped on it. The term was coined by Masanobu Fukuoka, a crazy Japanese guy (at least, everybody thought he was crazy) who dropped his promising academic career and went to live in the country, with the idea of developing a new, and yet ages-old technique of farming. A couple of decades later agricultualists were coming to visit him from far and wide to see how his super-organic farming method managed to produce amazing crop yields. His fundamental premise, as illustrated by the following quote in one of the early chapters of the book, is that the more we humans try to tinker with nature, the more complicated we make things for ourselves in the long run. Core Green values:

So, here's what Ed's thinking to do with Dave's garden. We can treat it as an experiement - do a completely hands-off Fukuoka-style patch in one area of the garden, and do a traditional "Dig For Victory" allotment-style patch elsewhere. The latter is what, for instance, Ray (see the previous entry, and this link) does every year, digging up all the ground to start all over again. The central notion in permaculture is that the closer you live to nature, the less you should need to make that kind of effort.

Let the battle of ideas commence.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Clear-up #4 - Sunday

Aha, Manisha made it over, finally. We'd almost given up.

Interesting discussions today with Guru Ed and Joe's dad Ray, who came over all the way from Richmond to see how we're getting on, and to offer his advice. Ray's an old hand in the allotment movement (is there an allotment "movement" as such?), and you'll see a few of his thoughts on allotments and many other social issues in his blog, which you can check here. Ray's a bit sceptical about what permaculture actually means, and seems to think it's just a namby-pamby intellectual gloss on what is a fairly obvious thing that any of us can observe if we engage our brain for a few minutes, that as the world's population increases beyond six or seven billion humans, we are all going to have to think a lot harder about where the food we eat comes from, and start making a bit for ourselves. Ray's been putting that into practice for forty years, so fair play to him.  

Ed's more "on it" as far as the permaculture side of things goes. His scepticism, by contrast, is about whether the immediate environment which we're working on in this project will allow us to put permaculture principles fully into practice. Three factors which we need to think about are:
  1. How long is Dave going to be in the place? A proper permaculture project takes time to implement.
  2. Dave is in the garden flat, which gives access to the whole of the garden. That's fine, but one of the things you need to be able to do in a permaculture garden is to collect rainwater from the roof. To do this, we'll need to talk to the people in the upstairs flat, or possibly to their landlord/landlady. Like that, it starts to look complicated.
  3. And, ah, yes, we really do need to clean up Dave's kitchen :~}
Ed's wondering, then, if we ought to scale down our ambition for the time being, and just focus on growing a few veggies. It's not as if we won't learn a lot by doing that, in any case. There'll still be plenty to write on this blog. No doubt about that.  

And so, what did we do today then? Joe enjoyed himself up a tree (aah, can someone please remind me what the name of this tree was). What, Green Party members cutting down trees? Well, it depends on the tree, doesn't it? If the tree can produce food for us to eat, that's fine, and nut trees can be a very sustainable and effective alternative to (GM) cereal crops; but the only really "useful" tree which Dave has in the garden is the pear tree near to the back door, and the other trees have only been serving to block out the sunlight which we're going to need if we're going to plant proper fruit and vegetable patches. So, down it went, and we spent pretty much the rest of the day lopping the branches, and separating what we had. The straightest of the branches will get used as stakes when we start planting, the leaves will get composted (although the leaves from this tree will take an awfully long time to decompose), and what we're thinking to do with the smaller branches and twigs is to get hold of a wood chipper which will break the wood down to the point where it can go into the composter. So, if you've got a wood chipper which you can loan us for free or just for a small fee, please get in touch.

It was a beautiful day for it.
Here are two of the main carnage culprits enjoying the afternoon sun on a bed of leaves, and contemplating permaculture principles. In its own way, that's a pretty important part of the process, you know.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Clear-up #3 - Saturday

This is how the garden looks after three sessions. There's already a radical change.

In attendance: 6 plus Dave, who did actually pick up a shovel for about 20 seconds, though we unfortunately don't have the photographic evidence :~}

Without Guru Ed (aka Mr Miyagi) we were a little bit rudderless for today's session. We started off doing a bit more clear-up, and then we got a bit bored and wanted to do something more radical, so we got stuck into some more of the nettles and took down a couple of bushes. We also got permission from Dave to take down a couple of trees which are blocking the light coming into the garden. So we've got a bit more carnage to look forward to over the next few sessions, before we settle down to applying the more gentle and harmonious principles of permaculture (or something close to that, anyway).

And here's the woodpile that we're going to have next to the pond. This is to encourage beetles to hang around the garden and do all the good work they can with breaking down nutrients. A very interesting picture, I realise.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Clear-up #2 - Midweek

The second clear-up session in Dave's garden.

The pong, sorry the pond, which will eventually be the fulcrum of the self-sustaining ecosystem which we'll create. Looks promising, eh.

Unfortunately, someone subsequently took the executive decision to remove the football, which is a shame. I was thinking it would continue to play a crucial role. Ah well.

If anyone out there has seen a lovely French film called Une hirondelle a fait le printemps (literally "One Swallow has Made the Spring", but brilliantly translated for its UK release as "The Girl from Paris") you may well remember the scene where the old man's friend ties a bottle to one of the most promising looking blossoms on his pear tree, with the intention of making some kind of brandy. I haven't got the foggiest recollection of how he does it, but anyway I've got the notion in my head of doing something like that next year. And then the year after, I can repeat that simple but beautiful line - "Tiens, on va goûter ma poire!"

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Clear-up #1 - Saturday

OK, then, Day One in the HGP Allotment Project.

This, including the face behind the camera, is the first intrepid troupe who tackled Dave's five-foot-high nettles and brambles. Back row (from left to right): Wing Commander Douglas, HGP Admin, Guru Ed. Front row: Cruisy Hughesie, Joe-Local and Matty-La'.

Ah, and Ginger Joe came and joined us later.

I wasn't there at the beginning of the day's efforts, as Joe-Local will be happy to remind us all, so I think I kind of missed the Alice in Wonderland moment when the others reached the wall at the bottom of the garden.

The francophile in me can't help identifying this picture with picking grapes. Actually they're picking blackberries for the pear and blackberry crumble which we had the day after. Of course, you can actually make perfectly good wine out of blackberries, but crumble involves a bit less waiting time, eh.

Planning conference with Ed, soon after this moment to become known as Guru Ed, against his severe egalitarian objections. We'll give him a few more sessions to find his own personal horticultural banana skin, and then maybe we'll stop slavishly doing everything he says.

Watch out for that axeman.

It's possibly not the same individual wearing the hard hat in this photo. We actually need about five of those brown bins at the moment. Thanks very much to the friendly neighbours who have been letting us use theirs. Community - that's the whole point of this project.

And that concludes Day One. Soon after that last photo was taken, we were probably Dahn the Boozer, reporting back to Dave on how his garden was looking. I don't actually remember now, so yes, we probably did go to the pub.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Dave's Challenge: Preliminary article

The scene - HGP Youth(ful) Section's favorite boozer - one average reasonably merry night following Liverpool's ups and downs, a couple of pints and the odd game of pool, but then a fateful moment... in a moment of temporary insanity Dave the Scouser sidles over and invites us to use his garden as we will, warning us of the pitfalls we face when we attempt to tackle his five-foot-high nettles.

It took a couple of months and a bit more discussion, but how could we resist this opportunity to put our Green principles into practice and show Stoke Newington and the world how we can work together in our communities to survive the shocks of climate change?

The purpose of this blog is to record over time what we hope will be an example of how all of us can find ways to deal with the threats of climate change by working cooperatively to change our way of life in a peaceful and sustainable manner. As we proceed with the project, we shall describe the problems that we encounter when trying to implement these ideas in the urban context, and the solutions that we (hopefully) come upon.