White Ladies go in

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For the past two years I’ve planted out runner beans on this bank holiday weekend. This year the White Lady variety have gone into the raised bed which is in a different part of the garden from last year to avoid disease, I’m using the raised bed for fill in crops – things like salads, radishes and now 6 runner beans plants that will climb a garden cane wigwam. I love planting these beans out and hope that the comfrey tea and a dig in of chicken manure into the soil 2 months ago will kick-start a good growth spurt. Summer for me just wouldn’t be Summer without a plate of runners, tomatoes and herbs.

Meadowsweet

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21/05/2015

This Meadowsweet is growing in my local area in a small area of public grassland which is not tended by Birmingham City Council. Meadowsweet is a perennial plant growing native to Europe but also found in North America. It is a commonly used as a hedgerow herb which is more well-known for its small yellow clouds of flowers, at present this plant was not flowering but the leaves could be used to flavour wine, beer and vinegars. I will go back to this patch of grassland to pick the flowers which will then be used to make a cordial.

 

Food Banks in 2015

One of the things that really hurts to see reported in the mass media is learning about how people are suffering with food poverty in the UK. Food poverty is on the rise and as a result we are seeing more food banks opening across the UK, the statistics provided by Oxfam in their yearly food poverty reports state that although the UK is the seventh richest country in the world many people are struggling to afford food and to stay nourished.

We live in the western world and fundamentally I feel food should be available to all, food should be cherished and respected and in essence it should be in a well looked after supply chain where food goes to every mouth in the country without people going hungry. We have the finances to do this, but we don’t do it and as a result 1 in 6 parents have gone without food to feed their children, 2 million people in the UK are malnourished and 3 million people are at risk of becoming malnourished.

Distribution of food in the community food banks can not build a culture of dependency but can only fight fires and these fires are hungry stomachs – people with low-income, benefit sanctions, destitution, people facing homelessness, loss of earnings – the list goes on. It is easy to see the food bank donation bins in supermarkets and walk past without considering where this food is going and who it is going to, it may be to the family in my area that I walk past when walking up my high street with my bags of shopping in my hand. This concerns me. I am lucky, I have a wage and as a result I can have food.

But people do not have wages and people go without food. Joanna Blythman in The Guardian on Thursday bought to readers attention ‘this pursuit of the hungry’  and how Paul and Kerry Baker a couple from Sunderland who became so desperate in their lives ended up stealing from the bins of their local Tesco. Tesco made an example with the couple by charging them both with thievery and sending them to court. Thankfully the district judge chucked the case out whilst also asking society how people like the Bakers were supposed to live and how the state had failed them.

We need solutions, we need to find ways of helping our local communities so we do not have people like the Bakers facing the problems of having to fend for themselves, communities need to understand that resource distribution is for them and not for wealthy corporations or government, the power is in our pockets even if their pockets are empty and that the right to eat isn’t just a human right but is a social right too. Yes, think about putting the UHT milk in the bin to help the poor sod who cant afford milk, think about also who you can speak to about making positive social changes in your area.

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To see the flyer above go through my door and for me to supply tins of food and pasta has made me think, it has made me angry and it has made me realise the supply change of food is momentarily fucked. I need to be part of the solution, I can’t just sit there and fend for myself in my own backyard. I need to think compassionately about my local area and the mouths that need feeding. Self reliance is not just about me or you, it is about everybody.

My first move this morning was to volunteer with my local food bank in Birmingham, any other ideas will be greatly welcomed in the comments box.

Rant over.

Self and Roots – 1 month in

16/05/2015

It has been a month since I started the Self and Roots blog and I feel like the blog approach to showing the internet what I am doing at home is working, I am pleased that the online community of self-sufficiency and home growing has got in touch and shared their enthusiasm to the little things I have been doing throughout the month. Thank you for the comments and supportive messages, it means a lot. I want to now write about my opinions and findings rather than doing a show and tell style blog, I won’t just be showing off to the world of this so-called ‘good life’ and more so my goals achieved and also my failures following the ethos of Self and Roots by going further down the rabbit hole of self-reliance. wpid-20150516_180352 Today I bought a £1 bag of garden peas from the CO-OP to have with dinner, I picked these up from the freezer cabinet and didn’t feel that I was doing myself a disservice, but whilst bringing the peas to the boil I thought about the packaging, the amount of electric to keep the peas frozen and the manpower and fuel to get them to my supermarket in South Birmingham. With the ease of the service from my local store, I was pleased to have peas but I thought that depending on my supermarket isn’t always going to be the best idea. I need to keep considering these choices I am making and I need to keep finding other alternatives to work out a way of stopping myself going to the supermarket as much as I do at the moment. I mentioned in my homemade all-purpose cleaner post that I want to rid myself of the kitchen roll, but in truth I want to rid myself of this learnt impulsive behaviour of ease and to develop the ideas of nourishment by doing it myself and for the people I love in my life, yes self-sufficiency is an ideology but we have to try and we have to start somewhere. I need to keep considering what I can do to be more efficient at this journey. Kitchen towels or the frozen peas, it is all related and I am treating these decisions and my plans for the future as the same.

The joy of salad

15/05/2015

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As we are coming into salad season I’ve taken advantage of growing space before the additional Summer crops are planted in. Catch crops like salad onions, a second sowing of radish, lettuce and a salad mix of rocket, mustard and mizuna have all featured. I hope these will stay in the garden until September, after that it’ll be Winter Salad leaves, something I’m new to and very excited about.

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But before then, I optimistically look forward to colourful leaves with basil and lemon dressing, fresh eggs to be made into a summer frittata eaten in the back garden after work.

Hardening off Nasturtium seedlings

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12/05/2015

These little seedlings are climbing nasturtiums which when hardened off in root trainers will be grown up a trellis area in the garden. I love the peppery leaves from the plant and the decorative edible flowers that will add colour to what can sometimes be a fairly green garden. Climbing Nasturtium types grow easy from seed and can grow up to 3 metres tall, varieties like full sun and need little attention as plants thrive off poor soil and not being over watered. I am a big fan of the taste of mustard and the deep pungency of anything Dijon, English or Wasabi lends itself to Nasturium flowers, this will be an edible long flowering plant that will increase my gardening and cooking repertoire.

Gorse Flower Syrup

05/05/2015

Becky and I yesterday walked for what seemed a long distance but was really only a few miles taking in the views of the Shropshire countryside from the rock hills of Stiperstones ridge, we watched the clouds change with the weather whilst being treated to a natural landscape which reminded me of how beautiful British countryside can be.

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On the decline we picked a carrier bag full of Gorse flowers, it was a warm day so the smell of Gorse was in the breeze which gave off the scent of coconut and Summer holidays. Gorse can be found all over the British countryside, it flowers throughout the year but it’s best to pick new blossom in April or May. It’s also a very spiny bush, we didn’t have gloves but I would recommend using some when picking.

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Today I used the flowers to make a syrup for a cordial or to be drizzled over vanilla ice cream. Below is a simple recipe which has a few different recipes amalgamated off the Internet.

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Gorse Flower Syrup

  • 4 handfuls of gorse flowers or half a carrier bag full
  • 250g of caster sugar
  • 1 lemon juiced and the zest of 1 orange.
  • 500ml of water

Boil on a rolling boil the sugar and water for 10 minutes to create a syrup, after the 10 minutes in a large bowl pour the sugar syrup over the gorse flowers add the orange zest and lemon juice. Steep the flowers overnight or throughout the day. Once the petals have been steeped, place the flowers over another bowl and squash all the flowers through a fine sieve, add as much pressure as possible – there will be around 500ml of syrup with the recipe measurements. Pour into a sterilised bottle and store in a cool dark place.