On the up…

Big day last Friday as the main growing section of the polytunnel got fitted out!


Thanks to the kind loaning of a 7.5 tonne truck the racking was picked up from storage and delivered on site.

racking-1 racking-3

After carefully measuring and levelling the foot pads the upright frame went up with literally an inch to spare!!

racking-2 racking-4

The idea is to build a platform on the beams at the base, on that we will put grow bags to start us off whilst the last section will be the hydroponic test area. This gives us the opportunity to learn about running such a system and then roll it out over the whole polytunnel as we gain confidence.


The tomato’s, cucumber and other vining plants will be trained up guide wires so eventually all you will see is a wall of green.


#DoncasterIsGreat for Growing in a Small Space…


















PermaFuture co-founder John Briggs will be giving a presentation for Growing a Greater Bentley (GGB) on Growing in a Small Space at Bentley Baptist Church at 6:30pm on Tuesday, 7th May. We’ll be following this up with a practical session in the heart of Doncaster at the end of the month, so watch this space for further details.

Click here to download, print and share a PDF of the poster. 🙂

Next DUG meeting 28/3/13 at The Sal… #DoncasterIsGreat #GuerrillaGardening

small DUG poster Mar 2013The next Doncaster Urban Growers (DUG) meeting is at The Salutation from 7pm on Thursday 28th March, 2013. As you can see from recent DUG posts members are itching to get active. With Spring in the air and mud on our minds you can expect some interesting debates and ideas! 😉

Click here to download a PDF of the poster.

Graham Burnett teaches permaculture in Doncaster – #DoncasterIsGreat

The very wonderful Graham Burnett will be visiting Doncaster this April to host an Introduction to Permaculture workshop at Glass Park in Kirk Sandall. Leave a comment or email us at permafuture.project[at]gmail.com if you’d like to get involved. Details as follows…

yorkshireDates; Saturday 6th – Sunday 7th April, 2013 (Meeting-up 5pm on Friday 5th for welcomes and orientation)

Venue; The Glass Park, Kirk Sandall, Doncaster. Nr St Oswald’s Church, Kirk Sandall Old Village, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN3 1RA

Led by; Graham Burnett (Dip Perm Des)

An excellent way to find out more about permaculture is to attend a two-day introductory course. This ‘taster’ will provide an opportunity to actively learn about the ethics, principles and applications of permaculture design.As well as introducing you to the key principles & practices of permaculture this course will mark the first stage in turning an underused recreational park into a self-reliant, permaculture-based, managed woodland.

Glass Park was a former dumping ground for a Pilkington’s Glass factory and was turned into a large recreational area by a local charitable trust over a decade ago. Since then the economic downturn has made it difficult for the trust to continue developing the site in the way that it had originally intended. PermaFuture is a local non-profit company which uses permaculture principles to help set-up low-cost, low-impact resilient community infrastructure. Working closely with the Glass Park Trust we intend to integrate woodland management, local food production/distribution and traditional skills, such as green-woodworking and bee-keeping, to build a financially self-sustaining educational facility for the people of Kirk Sandall and Doncaster.

Under the capable guidance of the very wonderful Graham Burnett (author and illustrator of ‘Permaculture- a Beginners Guide’ and holder of the Diploma in Permaculture Design) you will be introduced to the basics of permaculture design in a unique community space. Not only will you take away a grounding in the practice and philosophy of permaculture, you will be helping to lay the foundations for an important community project.

Full cost £55, concessions £35. £10 deposit secures a place.

Fees include tuition, light refreshments and handouts.

This course is limited to 15 places, so book now in order to ensure your place!

Please note that bookings/enquiries for this course are NOT via Spiralseed, please directly contact John Briggs permafuture.project@gmail.com

The next Doncaster Urban Grower’s (DUG) meeting is on the 21st Feb… #DoncasterIsGreat

DUG poster Feb 2013 (small)

Come and join us at The Salutation from 7pm on Thursday 21st February, 2013. We meet downstairs in the bar and then head upstairs for a presentation at 8pm… look out for the signs! 🙂

Click here to download and print a copy of our poster.

Dibbing about in Donny…

Well,  It’s a new year and a new you. So hello to you !!

After much ado this year that has kept us pretty busy we are officially launching the DUG network in the salutation inn on January the 24th at 7PM

I’m sure your asking what the hell all this is about, so sit down put on your slippers and get comfy because I’m about to tell you !

DUG was created to help folks like yourselves take that first tentative step into the wonderful and exhilarating world of home grown food. Maybe the ever rising costs, especially fresh local produce, brought you to our door. Maybe it’s a concern about industrial practice or just a desire for a simpler better way of life. Whatever the reasons we welcome you with open arms to our friendly fraternity…

DUG is here to fill that gap between allotments and their associations and farmers and their experience. Here you will find like minded people, all with a story, a hint or a tip to help you get started, fight of those bugs and get the best out of your plot no matter how big or small. You don’t need an acre of garden or an allotment to grow loads of fresh high quality ingredients. In fact we think you’ll be surprised just how much you can cram into even a terrace garden with a bit of know-how.

Our vision, our aim here at DUG HQ is to see Doncaster turned into a food lovers paradise, a garden of plenty with little urban farms dotted through out or great borough.

Join us to help make it happen…..

DUG growers’ poster January 2013

Lentils: An Investment Opportunity!

Only when the last tree has died

and the last river been poisoned

and the last fish been caught

will we realise we cannot eat money. 

~Cree Indian Proverb

After years of lobbying by powerful bankers and hedge fund managers, the strict (and rather sensible…) regulations surrounding speculation on food were relaxed allowing financial companies to make huge unearned profits (i.e. they didn’t actually do anything – such as till the soil or reap the harvest – to deserve a cut!) by gambling on food prices. This has drastically pushed up prices for essentials like wheat and corn, which has added greatly to everybody’s cost of living and is leading to worldwide increases in hunger, poverty and civil unrest.

Although speculation by it’s very nature does mean that prices do actually rise and fall, these fluctuations are rarely passed on to the end user (a situation we see regularly with regard to oil and gas), which means consumers have faced near constant price increases for food at the tills (not to mention a near constant reduction in the size of processed food products like chocolate). But there is a way to fight back – by fighting fire with fire and investing in food!

Don’t worry, we’re not about to suggest that you join the bankers in their addict-like quest for more, more, more! Not when you can invest in food and stick it to the banks at the same time…

The 5th of Jack Spirko‘s 12 Planks of Survival is:

Food stored is an exceptional investment. You simply can’t lose by storing additional food that you use on a regular basis.

In other words if you buy and store food you get a much higher rate of return than if you simply ‘store’ your wealth as money in the bank – and if things get really bad any Cree worth their salt will tell you that beans and lentils are a lot more digestible than cash. This is not to say that you should empty your bank account and build a cellar (not yet anyway 😉 ), but you should at least start thinking of ‘wealth’ in terms way beyond mere bank balance. At a time when traditional bank ‘savers’ are being hit hard it makes a lot of sense to diversify… things like land, food, building/manufacturing materials and gold are all sensible options (the SAS technique of carrying gold sovereigns hidden about your person to help buy food, shelter and safe conduct behind enemy lines is good prepper practice – as long as you know how to handle yourself in a mugging situation 😉 ).

Don’t worry if you’re not a saver, or even if you’re totally skint (I lost everything I had during the 2008 crash and have virtually no disposable income), you can still invest in food. If you grow your own (highly recommended) then you can experiment with different techniques for preserving the surplus, but even if you have no garden or allotment Jack Spirko shows that you can store more food than you think simply by using your regular food budget:

The key with storing food is you don’t run out and just buy 50 cases of military style rations and put them away for a decade in a basement.  Instead modern survival philosophy revolves around the mantra of “eat what you store and store what you eat”.  When you follow that concept you soon realize that storing food for the most part doesn’t cost a dime more then you will spend anyway.

A good approach is to join – or start – some form of buying group. Simply get a bunch of like-minded people together so you can collectively place bulk orders with wholesale suppliers. We’re currently involved with setting up a bulk-buying group in our area – so if you live in or near Doncaster, South Yorkshire then feel free to get in touch. We will place quarterly orders with the Yorkshire based workers’ cooperative, Suma, for foodstuffs which are easily stored (bulk buying is also a good way of buying other household goods like soaps and detergents). The order will be split up as requested between each member, but some items will be placed into our special rainy-day cache to be stored both as an investment and as good survival practice… more on that in a future post 😉

Kale Krisps

Kale can be a bit like Marmite, you either love it or you sit there gurning, gipping and looking generally like a toddler in a strop. It’s a real shame if you don’t like Kale however because it’s a bit of a wonder-food! High in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium, it’s also known for  it’s anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties thanks to it’s high sulforaphane content.

So it was a delight when a friend recently cooked Kale Krisps for the kids and they all wolfed them down. Searching for a recipe on the internet I was doubly-delighted to see this post from the wonderful Dolly Freed of Possum Living fame…

A while back, I was in a grocery store waiting for the manager to reveal the price of ginger root to me because heaven knows it wasn’t marked anywhere, when I noticed a women holding a bunch of kale also waiting to have the price of produce personally divulged to her.  Feeling that we had a bond, I cozied up to her and asked how she intended to cook the kale, assuming that she would, indeed, be able to afford it.
I do this kind of thing regularly.  When I see people in the grocery store buying something that looks interesting that I don’t know how to use, I ask them how they plan to cook it.  I’ve never had anyone not cheerfully tell me.  I’ve learned how to use chayote, exotic Asian produce, miso, tofu, jicama, and lots of other stuff this way.
I am familiar with kale and like it in all its forms–steamed, stir fried, soups, colcannon–and it’s easy to grow, but the rest of my family hates it.  Maybe this lady would have a way to cook it that my family would like.  And she did!  It turns out she roasts it.  I bought some, roasted it, and, lo, it was good.  Everyone ate it!
Flushed with my success, I looked online, and sure enough, there were lots of roasted kale recipes.  Some advocated cooking it quickly with a hot oven and some advocated cooking it slowly with a low oven, but the end results were the same; delicious, crunchy kale.
With the recipes that called for a hotter oven, I found it too easy to go from crispy to burnt within minutes while the low oven took forever.  After some experimenting, here’s the version I developed for my family:

Roasted Kale
whole kale leaves (do not use old kale that has been sitting in your refrigerator for a week,
wilted kale, really huge kale, or kale that has a funny sulfur-like smell)
olive oil
1.    Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2.    Wash kale leaves and pat dry.
3.    Cut out the main stem if it’s more than a 1/8” thick.  (Do this by folding the leaf in half long ways with the dull side up and chopping off the white stem along the back.)
4.    Coat leaves with olive oil.  (I dip my fingers in a bowl of olive oil and rub it on the leaves.  These aren’t low fat!)
5.    Place oiled leaves on a cookie sheet and space them so they aren’t overlapping.
6.    Bake for 5 min., then flip leaves over.  Return to oven.
7.    Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.  (How much longer to cook depends on the size and age of your leaves. You want them to be bright green but crispy.  Dark green spots are OK, but you don’t want even light brown spots.  Experiment until you get leaves that are very crunchy, like potato chips, but not burnt.  You may need to take out the smaller leaves while the big ones continue to cook. )
8.    Remove the leaves from the oven and let cool.  Sprinkle with salt.  Serve immediately.
(If you get a tough vein while munching, just nibble around it.   For variety, I’ll sometimes sprinkle the leaves with garlic powder, fresh lemon juice, or vinegar.  If you use lemon juice or vinegar, put it on right before you eat the leaf or it will get soft.)

Trimming the kale:
kale, cutting stem 1Oiling the kale:
kale, coating in oil 2The roasted kale:

kale, roasted 2Then last week, I saw a lady buy “baby bok choy” (which I think is actually a cultivar called pak choi).  I know how to stir fry and braise it but I was curious what she was going to do with it.  She was Chinese and used it in stir fries, chopped up in soups, and boiled with a light oyster sauce dressing; which reminded me that we were served the last dish frequently in China and loved it.  So I bought a bunch and looked up the recipe.  Here you go:

Chinese Greens
1 lb. of baby bok choy or similar green
1 Tablespoon of peanut oil (you can substitute olive oil)
½ teaspoon of minced garlic or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon of oyster sauce (available in the Asian section of the grocery store)
1 teaspoon of corn starch (optional)
¼ cup of water plus a pot of water
Soy sauce

1.    Put a large pot of water to boil on the stove.
2.    Pull the baby bok choy leaves from the stem and wash.
3.    When the pot comes to a boil, put in the greens.  Let return to a boil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  (You want the leaves to be bright green and just tender.  They will continue to cook after you remove them from the water.  If they are overcooked, they will get mushy and nasty tasting.)
4.    Drain the greens and set aside.  (If you think you’ve let them cook a little too long, drain them, return the leaves to the pot, fill it with cool water, and drain again.)
5.    Wipe the pot, put it on medium, and add the peanut oil.
6.    When the oil is warm, add the garlic or garlic powder and cook for a few seconds. (Don’t let it get brown.)
7.    Add the oyster sauce and stir.
8.    Blend the cornstarch with a ¼ cup water and add, stirring quickly.  If not using corn starch, just add the water.
9.    Bring to a gentle boil and stir until the sauce thickens.
10.    Add the cooked greens to the sauce in the pot, toss to coat, and remove from the heat.
11.    Serve with soy sauce.

I meant to get a picture of this dish when it was finished, but it got eaten too fast.  You’ll have to settle for a picture of the greens getting washed.

The Michigan Madness: woman faces jail for planting veggies!..

In the face of economic downturn, ecological crisis and an uncertain future, people are beginning to take more responsibility for their own lives. So all around the world gardens like this are becoming more and more common…

Photo Credit: Julie Bass

But this particular garden could get it’s owner, Julie Bass, 93 days in jail!

After having her front yard torn up due to sewage works she decided to turn crisis into opportunity and create a beautiful vegetable garden. The finished result, we sure you’ll agree, is rather lovely, with a mix of squashes, tomatoes, corn and other goodies. But thanks to an obscure Michigan bylaw she found herself charged with a misdemeanor and now faces trial by jury on July 26th.

The law itself simply states that only “suitable” plant material is allowed on the lawn area of residences – which is obviously wide-open to interpretation. For anyone who realises the problems the world faces at the moment a veg garden is not only ‘suitable’, it’s damn near vital. But for a myopic legal-eagle who was born nearer to the 19th Century than the 21st it looks like ‘suitable’ can only mean that ever-present mundane mono-culture of Western Civilization – the lawn.

Treehugger reports that…

[t]his is not some gated community with HOA regulations. This is an ordinary, working class neighborhood in Oakland County, Michigan. Like nearly every other city in my home state right now, Oak Park is facing financial issues. Here at home, people are amazed that a cash-strapped city has the resources to investigate, charge, and prosecute a resident for something as innocuous as planting a vegetable garden.

They also have some advice for concerned citizens…

How to Help

If you want to help support a gardener’s right to grow food for her family (even if it is — gasp — in the front yard!) there are several things you can do:

1. Email or call officials for the city of Oak Park. Mrs. Bass has listed contact information for the mayor, city manager, and other city officials in the sidebar of her blog.
2. “Like” the Oak Park Hates Veggies Facebook Page.
3. Spread the word via Facebook and Twitter. By gaining attention to this particular issue, with this particular homeowner, the hope is that other cities will reconsider before they harass another homeowner for something like this.

What do you think? Should a front yard vegetable garden be a crime?

Check out https://oakparkhatesveggies.wordpress.com/ for more info…