Local is the new Exotic!


It’s a measure of the distance ‘we’ have travelled in the last 100 years or so, that the meaning of the word ‘exotic’, has drifted from the original ‘ coming from outside’ to mean anything new and exciting : it is perhaps a relic of the victorian rush to colonise the world through trade, and bring back fabulous commodities that had never been seen before, from the farthest flung places of the globe.

I have been engaged recently on a so far fruitless search for some local honey : my nephew had hayfever a few weeks ago (its the trees! there is no hay!) and wanted to try inoculating himself with local pollens. I know it’s a bit early, but I like a challenge, and, after all, how long does it take to produce 375g of something by sucking it out of flowers  and condensing it with your wings?

I have so far found Essex and Hertfordshire Honey, which is quite local to North East London, as well as honey from Norfolk, Sussex, and Dorset. But by far the most prevalent is honey from ‘more than one country and outside the EU’, Portuguese, Brazilian, and I even found some from Malawi. I haven’t really bothered looking in supermarkets, as you can imagine, but even in my really local health food stores ( Whole Foods doesn’t count) it is really hard to find much home produce, of any kind, not just honey.

Last year I got a jar, harvested in Tottenham, from the beekeeper Ian Bailey : maybe I primed myself for this by my sheer excitement at possessing something so precious its not available in any shop, but it really was the nicest honey I have ever had.

The second law of capitalism is supply and demand (the first : find a natural resource and exploit it!) so I can’t understand why highly prized local honey that is not commonly available in shops, and has to be sought by much travel ( by bike!) and development of contacts,  still only costs about a fiver, which is pretty much the same as the boring old ordinary honey shipped over from the Brazilian rainforest.

First Forage of the Year


IMAG0667 I am having a bit of an oniony year so far : yesterday I repotted my collection of  foraged or donated onion family plants which include :

Allium ursinum : wild garlic : just coming into leaf :

An elephant garlic from last year : Allium ampeloprasum : quite big, if not quite elephantine enough to harvest

Allium proliferum : Egyptian walking onion : teeny, but the name gives me high hopes of it proliferating!

Three cornered leek : Allium triquetum : looking strong.

Then after my meeting in Walthamstow, of which more later, I cycled along the path that goes through the churchyard of St Mary’s and found this lovely patch of something definitely allious :  which I am not entirely sure which it is : it looks most like 3 cornered leek, but with flatter leaves than my potted ones : it is in the churchyard, under a tree, so maybe richer soil accounts for the difference.

I picked a handful, to make risotto, maybe, or pesto, or perhaps an adapted east end sauce for sausages like the parsley ‘liquor’ you get with eels. Any recipe suggestions greatly appreciated!

This plant is an interesting example of perennials producing useful food, when the sun has only just come out, and annuals are still mostly curled tightly asleep in their seeds : although me and my son have started some pumpkin and black bean seeds on the windowsill :IMAG0673Cute, yes, but feed us, they won’t!

My project in Walthamstow, is with a care home, to help them with their sustainable garden project : It’s an interesting one, because of the potential to change the way a large organisation looks at landscape, and even the earth : but man, is it hard going! None of the people have any knowledge of permaculture, or even organic gardening,  and are doing a hard job for quite low pay : and the last thing I want to do is increase their workload. It would be easier, I realise, to set up a site and work with a small group of like minded individuals : which is an easily funded and much trodden route : Organiclea, Edible Landscapes etc. It would be like a perennial plant, with last year’s growth to build on, rather than an annual growing from seed, in what may turn out to be stony ground. Although before I star moaning too much, it occurs to me that Perennials are largely stuck, where they put down roots, whereas the seeds of my project in its year can potentially reach further :  as far as the birds and wind will take them.

Published in: on March 10, 2014 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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One at a time…


I became a landscape architect, way back in 1999 ( yes, I partied) because I wanted to work on projects to transform the environment, and empower communities to engage with changing their place for the better. One of the first projects I worked on was the forecourt of a call centre somewhere in Scotland. I never visited the site : why bother, there was nothing there but an area of grass overlooking the River Tay. What my employer wanted, thinking back, was a quickly produced, cheap to build, turning area for cars that would look nice in front of the building, and require no maintenance. What I did instead, and which was probably chucked out as soon as I resigned in a huff, was created a break out area, for the call centre staff to be able to commune with nature in their breaks. I struggled like this for about 15 years, trying to find the space for people and nature in what was supposed to be an environmental design profession, and not really succeeding. I wanted to work together with communities to design spatial solutions that worked to improve people’s lives, not just produce attractive images for publication : aesthetic design / landscape as art was fine as far as it went, but to me seemed shallow :

http://www.landscapeinstitute.org/news/Proposal-for-Silvertown-Docks-wins-Royal-Docks-competition

Then in 2005, everything changed. I had a baby, did my maternity leave, and found that the worth of my many skills was invalidated by my need to work ‘part-time’, which in architecture means having to leave the office, not just at a regular time, but basically ever. The fact that this causes a skills drain is the subject of regular bemused hand-wringing in the professional and mainstream press :

http://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2013/aug/07/women-leaving-architecture-profession

I am and have always been, incredibly ambitious : On the last day of college I had a conversation about aspirations with a fellow landscape graduate, that has stuck with me : I was not intent on a particular area of design, but I did want to do useful public projects that would be significant to real people. She replied, ” I am sorry, but I really look down on those kind of ‘worthy’ projects : I am much more into minimalist design”, which one sentence would be a whole blogsworth of unpicking in itself. But, she is probably at least the head of a practice landscape team that…yawn. Sorry, what was I saying?

If anything, I have got more ambitious, while earning less money, and doing ‘lower status’ work : I work with people in urban areas to design and run sustainable systems for growing food and maintaining their landscape. Its a job that has no actual title : its permaculture, yes, but calling it that doesn’t necessarily help : I have settled for the moment on Community Landscape Architect ( I removed the ‘Chartered’, because that also doesn’t help.)  Why people think gardening is easy, I don’t know : the knowledge and experience you need to do everything well is perhaps why our best ones are the oldest!

This work is actually Revolution, but disguised, so as not to bring the government’s new water cannons out, as Gardening. My ultimate design would be a place that looked as if it has not been designed at all, but had occurred naturally : so that my peers, my boss, my trainer, and actually, my lunch are all Nature herself.

Every time someone says something like :”I have never thought about that before” or “I’ll remember that, next time”, or when people who scream at the sight of worms stop screaming, and start looking, I feel that I am helping to build the revolution, one thought at a time, and one person at a time, which is the most powerful way there is.

9 flower & bees

 

On yer Bike!


Bike

At God’s Own Junkyard, Walthamstow

I have been cycling in cities, mostly London,  for about 20 years, now, and by dint of a quite miraculous level of caution on my part, I am not dead!

Yet!

I live in North East London, and my most common cycle route is down the roman road which morphs from  Stamford Hill to Stoke Newington High St, then Kingsland Road, then maybe Shoreditch High St. Anyway, thankfully I don’t go that far, because it really gets a lot more dangerous with every change of name. There are a lot more cyclists on the road now, so we are all having to improve our skills of Phalanx cycling, a la Chinese, and I find I am joined by a lot more biking women these days, so welcome, ladies, and non-ladies to

Rachel’s Guide to Cycling Survival:

  1.  Be Highly Visible : my bike is yellow, my hi-vis jacket is yellow, my panniers are, yes, they’re yellow. When I replace my recently stolen helmet, I am tempted to buy a yellow one.
  2.  Don’t ever assume that the driver of a car has seen you, because there are any number of things they could be looking at, both inside and outside the car, such as their phone, their sat nav, their lunch, their radio settings, attractive people walking along the road, shops, the inside of their eyelids etc. Even if you are a blazing ball of fluorescent yellow, still, be ready to slam on those brakes at any second. You tube is full of entertaining little helmet-cam films of  drivers making life-threatening mistakes.
  3.  If you keep only one thing on your bike honed for maximum performance, make it your brakes, for mine have saved my life on many an occasion.
  4. Don’t trust other cyclists : YouTube is full of entertaining little windscreen-cam films of cyclists making life threatening mistakes. I’m sorry, but we have all seen people riding with headphones on, overtaking cyclists who are overtaking other cyclists, not looking behind before changing turning or pulling out, or indeed, ever. To be fair, many of them are new to two wheels, and haven’t passed cycling proficiency, as I have. Ok I failed first time for not looking behind after an emergency stop, but it was only because the instructor had emphasised its importance so much that I thought doing it would show an embarrassing lack of initiative.
  5. Remember that most car drivers neither know nor care how to ride a bicycle. For example, I regularly get beeps and indignant gesticulations for waiting in the middle of the junction to turn right. Yes, you and I both know that’s the correct position, but honestly, I think we are alone.

I have noticed, though, that since the Olympics in 2012, there are a lot more bikes on the road. It wasn’t the inspiration of British medal success, because it happened before, when ‘they’ did something to traffic to make it more difficult for people to drive. I’m sorry I don’t have more precise information to support this, but I have always cycled, even when I was almost the only woman I ever saw on a bike in London, and everyone thought I was mad.

I had to travel on the Overground before 9am this morning, and based on that experience, I think we are on the verge of a revolution in cycling in London : how people can bear to start their day crushed in with everyone all up their aura like that I don’t know. If only they knew the joy / knife edge of London on a bike. We need to reach the tipping point, though, when so many people are cycling that vehicle drivers no longer feel able to cut us up / side swipe us / overtake and turn left, and that means numbers! Get that bike out of the shed and give it a spin!

Blaming the Victim


(This post was originally created in January 2014)

Someone on Change.org today wrongly thought I might like to sign a petition to BAN the tv programme “Benefits St”, a channel 4 bollox-umentary about a street in Birmingham where nearly everyone is on state aid of some kind. The reason being that people on twitter were against claimants and had lots of self righteous things to say about taxes, scroungers and, er, baseball bats.

People who like making sneering and aggressive comments on social media and forums actually aren’t the problem : except when their actions become criminal, of course, then they can be dealt with by the law, and we can all see how they deserve more pity than fear. Banning a programme because the people in it don’t like they way it was edited, seems like a bit of a dangerous precedent to set. And certainly against the rules of the ‘reality’ genre.

Blaming the victim is a response born of fear : whenever I hear someone is ill, I have to stop myself from criticising their lifestyle choices and reaching for the Echinacea. If it was their fault it won’t get you is the subconscious thought behind it, and lets face it, losing our jobs, and being forced to eke out our lives on the dole is something to make anyone who’s still got a job shiver a little ( and not just because they’ve turned the heating off to save money). “They” are lazy and stupid, with too many children, and greedy, and not from round here, and should be punished, and have their lives, and their children’s lives made more miserable than they already are : these first thoughts are the touch of the rosary, the extra step avoiding the crack in the pavement, the touch wood talisman that says there but for the grace of god. Except it’s not god, its a government that is just waiting for us to stop listening and think about something else, so it can hand over yet more millions to the already super-rich corporations and individuals, while the children of ordinary people are brought up with the double poverties of present resources and future opportunities. And saying its their own fault, and if they weren’t so fat and lazy they could be joining in the bonanza for the rich is nothing but a lie, because the jobs that would pay a single breadwinner enough to live on are gone, and there are no caps on landlords profits, and people largely have no choice.

Did you notice, by the way, the news last week that the FTSE 100 index, which shows how much the top companies in the economy are generating rose 14.4 percent last year? So large corporations are making huge profits : yay! Bankers are going to get huge bonuses! Yay! Food banks are booming!

2013 Review of the Year


One of those round robins from an old friend plopped onto my doormat this morning. robin pooping

‘We’ don’t really do these in Britain : and for possibly obvious reasons. The midwinter feast, which eventually morphed into the various festivals of light we call Christmas / Diwali / Hannukah etc was created

a) because it’s the darkest time of the year, and

b) it’s a good time to kill and eat animals you don’t want to have to feed all through winter, and

c) the vegetarian option : it’s near the end of the harvest, when stored crops are abundant.

diwali

Diwali

hannukah

Hannukah

christmas lights

Christmas

Thorrablot-Iceland

Thorrablot

It’s a time when summer seems impossible : proximity and excess have made you hate your family beyond reason: it’s getting dark at 3.30 ( I’m supporting Scottish Independence if only for this reason), and winter has only just started. Getting drunk, pigging out, having fires, and pleading with whatever Gods will listen to just make the sun come back, all seem like a good thing to do.

So, would a letter from someone you haven’t heard from all year, enumerating their various achievements and a description of their summer holiday cheer you up? No, I didn’t think so.

Maybe I, as a self-hating Brit,  don’t like these because they read as boasting, and that’s just not cricket ( see next paragraph for politely understated explanation). Yes, objectively, it’s all good news about little Timmy starring in the school play, getting £200 from his dad for achieving a karate black belt, taking up a third instrument, swimming 20 lengths without armbands, etc. but its the one-sidedness of the format that gets to me : an A4 printout, in the post, in an age when digital broadcast of your most banal thoughts is a basic social requirement, doesn’t exactly invite a dialogue.

Also, while I am broadly in favour of children ( if only for the continuation of the species), I consider it bad form to go on about my own. Because I know I have produced the brightest, most beautiful, funniest, most sociable, talented, sensitive and wonderful child ever to have walked the earth, and I feel a little bit sorry for every other parent, simply because their child, while being perfectly ok ( if you like that sort of thing) isn’t as good as mine, I can be very graceful in acknowledging their children’s achievements, and don’t need to go on about it.

But maybe I am being too harsh : maybe persuading others that we are fine is never more important than when life is tough. Like a time for family togetherness and joined social celebration. I remember a card I got a year or two ago : from an Italian lady,  addressed to the previous owner of the flat I bought ten years ago, and with no return address : in which it became apparent, in very few sentences, that she had just discovered that her husband had a secret child who was now three, and promising a proper letter in the new year. It never came, but I do sometimes think of that poor woman, who I never met, but who was so distraught, as to send out this cry into the void.

In my own year  : I have officially achieved Mad Cat Lady status : after the kitten explosion of the summer ( at one point there were 15 of the blighters!) Mini-Mitzi has finally had her operation, and is looking a lot more playful and chirpy as a result. I am now down to six cats, which yes I am aware is 100% over the sane limit of three per household.

just-add-crazy-lady

http://www.babble.com/pets/top-11-best-pics-of-the-crazy-cat-lady-meme-photos/#next-slideshow

No really, that’s all that happened. I’m writing this in my dressing gown.

The Proletarians aren’t Revolting!


Santa has seen fit this year to give me a copy of Capital by Karl Marx, along with a lovely reprint of Darwins ‘The Formation of Vegetable Mould through  the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits’. He does know what I like, that Santa! Spot the difference!

santa Karl_Marx 266px-Charles_Darwin_01

2013 has been a funny old year for me : since completing a Permaculture Design Course in April, I have been going on about Capitalism more than at any time since the sixth form at school. I know it’s partly the company I keep, but also, I think I smell a whiff of zeitgeist proletarian discontent on the way in 2014! 2013 was the year young women started to call themselves Feminists again, and what with the return of the 1980′s in the form of Doc Martens, big glasses and rolled up jeans, I think  we are due this year to collectively cast a critical eye on our political landscape since 1979.

One of 2013′s most memorable moments for me, was an episode of ‘Have I Got News for You’ : the panellists were satirising the number of politicians from private schools, then, possibly struck by the irony, started asking each other if they went to private schools : on that occasion, there was one person on the programme who had gone through an ordinary education, not paid for by their parents. A short silence followed, during which I imagine they were contemplating their careers, their incomes, and their access to the satisfactions of fame, had they not had the advantage of private schooling.

In the UK, the dominance of people from private schools goes further than almost everyone in Parliament and almost everyone in the Media, to include almost everyone in Business as well. I think this explains much of the absence of women in powerful jobs too : Eton, the school which educated apparently nine tenths of our political and social elites, does not take girls.

Now, I am not knocking the achievements of some of these people : privilege might get you the interview, but once you’ve got the job you have to stay there by your own wits, of course. And private school doesn’t guarantee you a successful career : there are plenty I’m sure, choosing to drive around in the family Bentley smoking heroin rather than having an influential career in Politics, Media or Business.

The thing is, though, that, given a useful quantity of limbs and brain cells : the one thing that makes a difference to any child’s life is this and only this : Opportunity. For a brief time in the UK, intelligent working class children could be lifted out of their class by access to Grammar Schools. My mother was one of these, and I remember her telling us of the yearly struggle to afford the cashmere uniform that had to be bought from some posh shop in Piccadilly, from the wages of a single mother working as a dinner lady. Not that her education ushered her into a fabulous career : but it did find her middle class friends, and gave my parents the opportunity to ‘fake it till you make it’ for us. They told us we were posh, and, in the way of children, we believed them : and no amount of evidence to the contrary would make any difference : the fact that we had tea instead of supper, and it was leek and potato soup rather than Vichyssoise, the ramshackle farm that gave way to a (for shame!) council house, the lack of a university education, or, ahem, any money, none of these gave us an inkling, bizarrely, that we were in fact working class.

Last year, Margaret Thatcher died, after a long illness which could apparently only be eased by residence at the Ritz Hotel. She was another of the few working class girls, like my mother, who was lifted from the masses by a Grammar School Education, but so much about her legacy is explained by  her origins and her struggle. Now, I know when she got power, she used it for evil rather than good, but I think she should be recognised for her achievement in getting power at all, firstly, as a girl, and also, as a working class person. I’m fairly sure the Devil went to Eton, but she didn’t have his advantages : she emerged from a small town dominated by heavy industry, through a male dominated career, and got to the top of a party dominated by class and gender privilege. Once there she set about dismantling the structures by which men passed on power to other men : from the trades unions to the old boy network in the City. When she died, people held parties, but the truth is she didn’t get us into this mess alone : for decades those with political privilege, whether born or acquired, have been lining the pockets of the rich, while chewing holes in the safety net for the poor, and pulling the ladders to university education and home ownership ever higher. Our manufacturing skills have not been nurtured,  any job that can be exported to a low wage economy has already gone, and Academy bootcamps are teaching inner city children not how to think, but how to obey.

We had riots in London in 2011, where outrage at police treatment of the young and/or marginalised spilled over into fightin’ and lootin’ : if you must tell people their worth is measured by their acquisition of trainers and tellies, but deny them the means to get any, don’t be surprised if it causes trouble in the end!

Zero Hours


Is it just me, in the runup to Christmas, that can’t stop thinking about Capitalism? As its the season of wish fulfilment, I’ve put Capital by Karl Marx on there, along with a juicer, a DVD of It’s a Wonderful Life, and  a Norwegian Style Jumper from Primark.

jumper

Without having read Marx yet, what I can say about capitalism is this : profit is made from using what money or resources you already have to make more, and the more people you have working for you the more you can make, and the bigger the difference between what you pay your workers and how much you make from their work, the bigger your profits.

The only limit on this being how many hours you can get from your workers, and of course, the limits on how you can treat them, imposed eventually, and long overdue, by governments. They listened for far too long and with far too much sympathy to the businessmen who proclaimed their value to the economy, and claimed they couldn’t survive without slave labour, then child labour, then banning unions, then exporting production to the ‘Developing World’, now zero hours contracts.

And they have some powerful guys on their side :

Boris Johnson

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/quiz/2013/dec/03/boris-johnson-iq-test-questions

The idea of getting people to work for free occurred early and was applied with enthusiasm globally : slavery was the basis of capitalism because it obliged people to work, firstly by genocide and landgrabbing within Africa, then by  the imprisonment, forced labour, dehumanisation and more genocide on the descendents of the survivors of this process : these are the foundations on which the prosperity of the ‘Free’ or ‘ Developed’ World is built.

Nowadays, apparently,  we do things differently : mass enslavement and brutalisation is not an acceptable business strategy, per se, at least in the UK : but because the origins of global corporations are in the Perpetration of Evil, maybe its not such a great surprise, that a couple of hundred years later they are still very much in evidence.

zero hours

I have been reading recently about the wholesale destruction of the rainforest in central Africa, to make way for oil-producing palm oil plantations. You may think you never eat this stuff : but apparently enough of us do, that without it Mr Kipling would either be out of business, or simply using a more traditional, but more expensive, local ingredient, and making a few pennies less profit on every nutrient free item in the production line.

sponge-equipment brazil-stephenferry-getty4601

The picture of the rainforest in Brazil above came from this explanation of the links between economic growth and deforestation :  http://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/amazon_destruction.html

If I had a choice of what life to lead, I am not sure I would choose to be a hunter-gatherer, with my life dependent on the weather, the outcome of chance meetings with large predators, and my ability to survive childbirth : the value inherent in individual consciousness is of huge importance to me. I am glad for every day I don’t have to spend searching for enough calories to keep going : whether working for a global corporation or living off the land.

It often seems that the only way out of capitalism is through capitalism : from eco-villagers to co-housers, from organic garden volunteers to ethical food businesses : all have benefited from capitalism’s surplus to fund their escape. From doctors to designers, we are all paid from the surplus produced by the exploitation of slaves, but does it have to be so?

boy, is it sunny in Wales

Published in: on December 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Are you Granola enough?


IMAG0441[1]

Apparently, I am : according to Urban Dictionary : it means an urban hippy, but not like those terrible driftwood casualties of the 1960′s, but a nice mainstreamy one : shopping at farmer’s markets, eating healthfood , organic, outdoorsy, but not yet ready (or able) to turn their back on the whole nightmarish capitalist experiment.

Christmas-shopping-005

I have decided today, while making some for myself, that everyone I know is getting granola for Christmas : and this is why :

1. I won’t have to go Christmas shopping : the soulless obligation of tramping round shops in despair of finding something nice, or failing that, appropriate. Ok, the health food shop : my favourite one  is called Mother Earth. And maybe the haberdashers!

Mother%20Earth%20Cafe%20&%20Shop

2. As you get older, you supposedly earn more money, but feel less inclined to accumulate stuff. ( not in all cases, I grant you). The real gift is that the giftee doesn’t have to find a space in their life or house to put what they’ve just unwrapped : very easily enjoyed and recycled, is granola!

3. It’s really, really good for you. Maybe not the stuff you buy, which can have quite a lot of salt, and even corn syrup (ew!) in the ingredients, but the stuff you make : all the things western diets don’t have enough of are in here : fibre, both soluble and not, seed oils ( still in the seeds), fruits full of micronutrients, and cholesterol-lowering oats. All traditional seasonal ingredients from harvest stores btw.

4.Christmas, while being an appropriation of pagan midwinter feasts, is still a feast y’know! Apparently, we’ve been looking at Stonehenge the wrong way round all these years : instead of being built for the Great Hippy Tokefest of Summer Solstice, it was actually designed for a Hogroast and a Hoedown on the darkest day. In our modern times, a nice bag of goodness should hopefully go down better than  a freshly killed pig on Christmas morning, especially with all that nutrient-depleting alcohol we’re all forced to drink!

CRDJoyfulWinterFeast

So far I have made it with almonds and cinnamon, then I ran out of almonds and today I have made a version with chocolate and hemp seeds.

The Recipe :

I haven’t gone into quantities, because what I actually did to make this was chuck in what looked like enough : and having just tasted it cooling on the hob : I’d say this worked fine.

Some jumbo oats

some honey

some coconut oil

some other nuts, seeds and fruit as available

Melt the honey and oil together, much like with flapjacks

Mix in dry ingredients

Spread on a baking tray and bake in a medium oven

For about half an hour,

Turning every so often if you feel like it.

Other things you could add :

dried fruit such as : goji berries, dates, figs, apricots, cranberries

Seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, sesame,

Nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, coconut flakes, brazil nuts, pecans etc

Flavours such as tahini, nutmeg, orange, vanilla, molasses

The only warning I will give is that eating it all yourself is not in keeping with the spirit of the season! Enjoy!

Published in: on December 1, 2013 at 2:03 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

Leave It!


get-rid-of-leaves

The sight in late Autumn of gardeners poking leaves into piles is one that I haven’t really thought much about before this year. I love autumn : not only the crunchy carpet under the trees, but the leaf colours that seem to change every day, the crisp freshness of the first frosty mornings, and the spider webs appearing out of the mist like the ghosts of forgotten ancestors : it’s a season of poetical fruitfulness with lots to enjoy. I do hear a lot of complaining, though, among the custodians of the land : about the leaves : if it’s windy they blow everywhere, if it rains they stick to the ground, if it freezes they’re a slip hazard, but the main beef seems to be that there are just too many of them, and its a hassle to get them all into plastic bags and off to landfill.

The ones swept up by road sweepers, which are possibly the majority, certainly do go to landfill, because they get mixed up with all the other detritus of the road :  the dead cats, the feces, the broken glass, the chewing gum, the drinks cans, the chicken boxes, the blue plastic bags… :

And I know that they can form a very slippery carpet if they are left to rot on paths, but I do wish that the petrol driven leaf blower and scraper industry hadn’t had such successful marketing in local councils, because it seems like a lot of effort to go through, to save us all the inconvenience of leaves. I wish they would just leave them there, under the trees, like in a forest, where the trees create their own winter blanket for the earth,  keeping their feet warm,  and the earth moist, and rotting down in the end to feed the soil.

Last year, I successfully managed to make leaf mould, usable as mulch, from London plane leaves in a single year. There is a myth about these leaves that it takes about five years for them to rot, and that they need separating from compost makers, but I haven’t found this to be true. I diverted some of the many bags of leaves that the school caretaker used to chuck over the fence for the council to pick up, into one of the composters, and kept it well watered, covered with a layer of cardboard, and turned it a few times during the year. By the end of the summer it was dark, and rich and I used it to cover the soil on the raised beds over winter.

And today, I saw some goats which were extremely keen to eat as many of these leaves as they could get hold of : and I bet they make a very useful by-product out of them too!

Published in: on November 21, 2013 at 11:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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