Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Madness of the Global Food Industry

This is a great youtube clip with Helena Norberg Hodge talking about the need to localise food production and other economic activity.  She talks of rebuilding community and the local environment.:

Main points:

  • There is a split between governments and their people
  • Governments are pursuing an outdated economic model
  • This economic formula says 'more trade' 'more foreign investment' 'more production for export'
  • Governments implement local cuts while investing in the global economy
  • There are local movements (permaculture, urban farms, farmers' markets) that shorten the distances, increase diversity of production
  • The global food industry asks farmers to grow in larger and larger scale monocultures which leads to a loss of biodiversity and food waste (crops not of standard size are thrown away)
  • More food per unit of land can be produced with small scale diversified local farming as well as more jobs.
  • Locally grown food means cutting out waste (irradiation, preservatives, refrigeration, packaging ....)
  • It's a case of reducing the ecological footprint while increasing productivity and increasing diversity and getting rid of toxic chemicals
  • This appies to fisheries and forestry as well as agriculture
  • The global economy with its long distances is responsible for the widening gap between rich and poor
  • The issue is global versus local
  • Small, slow and local is the way to go
  • The globalisation of the food industry has led to the breakdown of communities and an escalation of energy consumption

Seed saving at La Mariais

We made a start this year with seed saving.  I have grown quite a lot of heritage seeds in the last two years and saving the seed is not only a way of cutting next year's seed buying bill as well as having seeds to swap with friends and at seed saving events but is also a political act.  Many seeds now available in the big stores are F1 hybrids which means that the seeds produced won't give you the same plant ... you are therefore obliged to buy new seeds every year.  By buying 'open pollinated seeds' you can avoid this problem. And by buying heritage varieties you will be helping to increase diversity.  To date I have bought many seeds from the organic company 'Biaugerme' - but there are others - notably 'Kokopelli' and 'Germinance'.

Some images from our seed saving exploits:

Some harvested seeds left to dry for a week before putting
in labelled envelopes.

The good doctor JO teasing seeds
from their pods ....

Here he is again ... a nice peaceful contrast to the
heaving of buckets of clay earth into the house for
rendering .................

Two wwoofers ... they spent quite some time in
the garden saving seed .... it can take some time!!

We left a couple of radish plants to go to seed.
After harvesting, they were left to dry in the sun
before taking the seed out of the pods.

Seed pods of 'Cresson Alénoise' before being
We have collected huge amounts of fennel seed
which will be great for replanting, swapping
and for cooking ......
Marigolds or 'soucis' have been great - they self
seed freely everywhere and their petals have brightened
 up our salads ... collecting the seed is really easy
and we now have prolific amounts ....

Have managed to collect loads of chard seed -
it's one of the easier ones ......


Friday, 29 January 2016

Inspirational books - 'This Changes Everything' Naomi Klein and 'Ecology into Economics won't go' Stuart Mc Burney

I'm having an intensive reading time - giving my muscles and joints some time to rest while feeding my brain with new ideas ....

Naomi Klein 'This Changes Everything'
"Our Economic model is at war with the world"

I would recommend Naomi Klein's 'This Changes Everything'.  An incredibly readable book.  It is rare for me to read a book from start to finish without stopping to read other stuff .... she writes in a passionate and engaging way about many of the issues around climate change ... much of it shocking and saddening but it is not without hope.  The big question being how to tackle the seemingly unstoppable momentum of the fossil fuel extraction companies who have 10 year plans in place while experts are telling us that we are dangerously close to the 2 degree global warming limit .... as she puts it 'POLICY MAKERS NEED TO SAY NO TO THE FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY'; 

"Fundamentally the task is to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis - embedded in interdependence rather than hyperindividualism, reciprocity rather than dominance and cooperation rather than heirarchy ..." p462


Stuart McBurney 'Ecology into Economics Won't Go'

Interesting book - written a while ago now (1990).  Some useful ideas for understanding the origins of our capitalist economic system and why its driving force runs counter to the idea of living within the limits of the earth.  He has much to say about the idea that landownership and inequity are at the heart of the problem.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Some winter produce

I was sad to see the extensive nasturtium crop wiped out one cold November with the first frost.  However there's lots of edible stuff still in the garden here - for winter consumption:

Heritage turnips and the leeks have done really well
in the rich soil here without needing any extra
help this year from me ...............

Wild sorrel - this is growing everywhere on the land here

The fennel plants have started to
re-grow at the base - the leaves are
great in salads and for making tea.

Cultivated rocket has self seeded itself around the
garden after an initial sowing earlier this year -
it has survived the winter well.  Great in salads
and pesto .....................

Rocket flowers in January!! Great
in salads.

Great cabbages dotted around the land.  This is a
Biaugerme heritage variety.

The leeks have done amazingly well on an area
 of rich soil.

'Mache' in French.  Hasn't been that vigorous.  Leaves
used in salads.

Chervil (cerfeuil) - a lovely addition to salads with
its slight aniseed flavour.

Another view of the turnips

Baby lettuces that survived the frost with the help
of a little mulch around them.

The romanesco cauliflower heads were a little small
but then they had no extra help from me.

Chard is very happy here.  It self seeds
itself freely and provides winter
leaves .......

Lots of broccoli.  You can eat
the leaves of the plants as well.

Radishes that I sowed earlier in the year have
continued to self seed everywhere.

Brussell Sprouts

Marigold flowers in winter!!

Cresson alénoise - very hardy and deliciously

A great broccoli head in the round garden.

The potatoes harvested earlier in the year are still
doing well.
The heritage Hokaido green
pumpkins are still going strong.  They
are out in my old camper van which
acts as fridge in the winter.  They make
a lovely dense soup, roast and mashed
vegetables ....

Still eating the yacon roots harvested in November.
I just grew a couple of plants but next year hope
to grow a significant crop.  They can be eaten
raw or cooked.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Wwooffers - Yani and Marie Pierre

Yani and Marie Pierre from Quebec, Canada stayed for a couple of weeks this year in November.  They are travelling around Europe before starting university studies - Marie Pierre agriculture and environmental studies and Yani social work.  Thanks girls for your help ...

The Sheet Mulching Continues

The girls tirelessly sheet mulched large areas of the garden and forest garden in preparation for planting next Spring.  The first stage is taking off tape and staples from the cardboard, laying three layers of it over trampled vegetation.  Next comes the manure, collected from a local horseriding centre - followed by hay from the barn here and/or sawdust from local saw mills and finally a layer of leaves collected from the land and surrounding area.  This gives about a foot of material that will slowly break down and make great soil for growing.

Marie Pierre putting down a sheet mulch around
a newly planted lime tree (Tilia cordata) that will
be coppiced and its leaves used in salads ....  a guild
of fruit bushes, edible perennials, roots and climbers
will be planted in the Spring around it ................

A Landscape construction/renovation

The girls and I worked out a way of holding back the earth around a circular path that was constructed last year.  We used bamboo lengths collected from a friend's woodland to create an
attractive and useful barrier and then cleaned up the slate tiles (original old tiles from the house) for the path ............

Wow - it looks great!!  An attractive solution that cost
nothing in materials .... all recycled stuff from the land ...

Harvesting, preparing and cooking food from the land
Making a nasturtium pesto .... just in time before
a severe frost killed off all the plants in the garden.

Cracking walnuts harvested earlier in the month.

Harvesting yacon bulbs ... this is
the first year I have grown them
- a perennial bulb -  not frost hardy
so the bulbs need to be lifted and
stored in the winter. 

Peeling the yacon ..... it can be
eaten raw, roasted or boiled -
just like potatoes but its texture
is more crunchy.  An interesting
addition to the garden ......

We dug out 200 laurel (prunus lauroceracus) saplings and exchanged them for fruit bushes and trees at a local nursery

The Girls at Leisure

Marie Pierre used the workshop
to make a wooden gift for Yani
for xmas ...........

Yani sewing up a rather outsized washing bag supervised
by grey cat while Marie Pierre reads ..............

Another convert to the ideas of Pierre Rhabbi ...

Bon voyage and good luck with your studies ..............