On the up…

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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.

Digging Doncaster – #doncasterisgreat

Just to remind anyone who’s going to be in Doncaster this week that we’ll be presenting An Introduction to Permaculture this Thursday night (26th), 7:30pm at The Salutation on South Parade. A big thanks to The Fringe arts group for the invite…

we’ll also be taking the opportunity to formally launch D.U.G. our Doncaster based practical Guerrilla Gardening and Urban Homesteading project…

 

D.U.G. (Doncaster Urban Growres) launch event in Doncaster on April 26th #permaculture #GuerrillaGardening

Now that Spring is well and truly in the air it’s time to really get busy…

On Thursday 26th April we’ll be giving a talk to members of The Fringe arts group at The Salutation in Doncaster. John will be giving a talk on the principles of permaculture, but we will also be revealing plans for widespread practical application of these principles in the Doncaster area. We really hope that you can join us 😀 …

Click here to download a PDF of our launch event poster.

If you’re not local, or can’t make it we’ll be posting regular updates on our D.U.G. blog.

Getting Back to the Land (on any budget!)…

I (Warren) picked a nice clump of Jack-by-the-Hedge (Alliaria petiolata) on my walk to work this morning – more on this plant in a forthcoming post – which I added to my sandwich filling during my lunch. A collegue was intrigued, so I gave him a taste; this led to a conversation about my ecological interests and my involvement with The PermaFuture Project. He asked how I first became interested in such things, and I told him about the following article by Graham Burnett

It was first published in ‘GREEN ANARCHIST’, autumn 1989, the ‘Green and Black Economy’ issue, and was reprinted in Graham’s booklet ‘LAND AND LIBERTY’ in 1994 (currently out of print, sorry). Along with his booklet ‘DIG FOR REVOLUTION’ it has become a bit of a ‘cult’ piece, inspiring a number of folks to take up allotments and get into surreptitiously ‘greening’ the landscape around them. Graham says he was recently quite tickled to find himself described as a ‘Guerrilla Gardening Guru’ in a mainstream ‘how to be green’ type book, ‘GREEN LIVING IN THE URBAN JUNGLE’ by Lucy Siegle!

ALLOTMENTS AND GUERILLA FARMING

by Graham Burnett

Along with learning to build for ourselves, heal ourselves and create energy for ourselves, learning to produce our own food is both essential if we are ever to truly take control of our own lives, and is implicitly a threat to Capitalism as it makes a start towards breaking free of the cycle of supply and demand, liberating us from the role of passive consumers alienated from a real understanding of the nature of the world around us and the most important aspects of our day to day survival.

Of course the first prerequisite for growing food is land, the acquisition of which is financially beyond the means of most of us, something the Ruling class have had sewn up for centuries, even long before the Enclosure Acts of the 1600′s. But there are always holes- spaces in which we can move- call it the black economy, call it the green economy.

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Allotments are more easily available than you might think, there are huge discrepancies between lengthy council waiting lists and the wildernesses of disused plots overgrown with couch-grass and dock. Applying to the Town Hall for an allotment is probably a waste of time, your letter will pass into the convoluted pipeline of bureaucracy, ignored by councillors too busy exchanging masonic handshakes with their property speculator friends. A more positive step would be to get in touch directly with the local Allotment Society, or, better still, take yourself on a tour round the allotment site. Get chatting to the plot-holders and find out which are vacant. On some sites this can be up to three-quarters or more of the total. If you are young and have a green mohican, the ‘old boys’ will no doubt treat you with suspicion, but politeness and enthusiasm will win them over, and after all, it’s in their interests that as many plots as possible are kept cultivated. Take over the plot and get to work straight away, and pay the annual rent when it becomes due (usually about £10 for 1/l6th of an acre (NB, this is a late 1980′s figure, it’s more like £20 a year now- ed.)). There are plenty of books about how to grow food successfully (I would particularly recommend the books of the late Lawrence D Hills, including ‘Organic Gardening’ and ‘Grow Your Own Fruit And Vegetables’ and Kathleen Jannaway’s pamphlet ‘Growing Our Own’, available from Movement for Compassionate Living http://www.mclveganway.org.uk. One golden rule to remember however is don’t try and do too much at once- you’ll exhaust yourself and your enthusiasm.

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‘Guerrilla’ farming is another option, especially if you resent renting land or vacant allotments are hard to come by in your area. Apply a little vision to the land around you, railway embankments, back gardens, golf courses, car parks, overgrown bits of land at your work-place and so on. Then give a little thought to clandestine cultivations- the only limits are those of your imagination; herbs that thrive on poor soils could be grown amongst the thistles, rose-bay willow herb and buddlea on ‘desolate’ bomb-sites; a little known hole in a fence remembered from childhood explorations could give access to your local rich bastard’s grounds-sew your seeds here amongst the undergrowth or venture further and indulge in some scrumping from his orchard. Even if squatting empty property in your area is not an option (hello Neighbourhood Watch…) maybe the back gardens can still be put to use with a bit of cunning and stealth, or maybe seldom Visited corners of local parks and gardens-or even church yards? How about the flower beds that adorn your town centre if they’re not too well looked after-you could be growing your crops right in the heart of the consumerist landscape of the burger bars, chain-stores and supermarkets-imagine the irony!

Such secret gardens could be maintained with the minimum of effort- small amounts of compost could be carried in bags and weeds could be largely left alone except where they threaten to engulf your crop-they provide camouflage for your activities. Nor would you have to bother with orderly, tidy rows. A morning’s cycle tour of a few favourite spots could provide you with a week’s supplies, especially if you take advantage of all the free food that grows wild- nettles, ramsons, dandelions, chickweed, nuts berries and some mushrooms and fungi (make sure you know exactly what you can and can’t safely eat, however!)

A couple that used to live in Southend grew food on local railway sidings for years and were never discovered or interfered with. Clandestine farmers are out there now- why not join them in digging for revolution?

Graham Burnett

Future Farming: from Guerrilla Gardening to Prep Planting

With Spring in the air our friends the Growillaz were keen to do a spot of Guerrilla Gardening. This usually involves taking over a patch of neglected land with the intention of improving it through planting. All over the world waste-ground, vacant-lots, neglected-plots and dump-sites have been turned into something better and more beautiful; such as a community garden or a veg patch.

But we had something a little different in mind…

Over the winter we’ve been nurturing Damson (Prunus domestica) and Blackthorn (Prunus spinoza) saplings on the allotment with the intention of using them for a Prep Planting project.

The idea of prepping the surrounding area with non-intrusive native fruits and other useful plants and fungi plays a key role in our ‘community survivalist’ strategy – which we shall expand upon in future posts.

We’ve always been rather disappointed that nut and fruit trees, along with other edible/useful layers of flora and fungi, didn’t feature heavily in the Millennium Fund and Forestry Commission’s ‘Millennium Forest’ project, which created thousands of acres of new woodland habitat throughout the UK. With a little forward thinking these woods could have doubled as testing grounds for the kind of forest gardening which may prove vital to communities in an economically poorer, post-peak, climatically uncertain world.

Luckily though you don’t have to be a national institution or major landowner to transform your local area. With a little imagination and knowhow the vast majority of neglected sites in the UK, no matter how industrial or barren they may first appear, can be transformed into a resource for humans and wildlife alike. From road-side verges to supermarket car-parks, the possibilities are endless.

With our blackthorn beginning to bud it was time to act…

We’ve been keeping an eye on several sites over the last year to ensure that they’re not prone to disturbance.Unlike guerrilla gardening, which tends to be highly visible to make a point, Prep Planting is a much stealthier affair. The goals are more long-term, and the best strategy for long-term survival is to be low-key. The idea is to encourage the development of ecologies which are potentially beneficial to future (low-carbon) human communities, but which also offer immediate benefits for existing wildlife (with the future of set aside farmland in jeopardy this is becoming ever more important).

One upside to the economic downturn is that a lot of potentially destructive developments have been put on hold. We found one such site which we’ll be using for future growing and survival workshops. These will be short-term projects because the main body of the site will inevitably be developed sometime in the future. But there is also a sliver of land running parallel to the site which is never touched and is virtually invisible from the nearby road; although it is very unlikely to be developed it has been used as for fly-tipping… which is where the blackthorn comes in!

As well as providing a future crop of sloes for our Sloe Gin, we’re using the blackthorn to make the boundary fence more impenetrable to potential dumpers and vandals.

Today's stick = tomorrow's impenetrable barrier ;-)

We want to make the area more inaccessible because we’ll be planting other beneficial species as time goes on. And we were pleasantly surprised to find out that Mo Nature had similar plans…

Whilst digging we found that there was already a crop of Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) on site. Once widely cultivated this plant has become much rarer in the Doncaster region. Which is a real shame because not only is the fruit a milder, more lemony tasting treat than the Garden Strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa), it also has some great medicinal properties. It is used in the treatment of fever, rheumatism and gout and can apparently be used cosmetically to lighten freckles, soothe sunburn and whiten teeth! The leaves make a great tea substitute, providing a good source of vitamin C and an aid to digestion.

We plan to take cuttings from this site so we can cultivate the plant on the allotment. We will then attempt to (re)introduce wild strawberry to other sites in our region.

As with wild strawberries, wild damsons have also become rarer than they used to be (nationally they’re currently outnumbered 30 to 1 by wild plum trees), so we felt it would be good to ‘encourage’ them in a selection of Doncaster’s many neglected, post-industrial, semi-wild areas.

This was once a busy, highly maintained footpath until they built a major link road next to it. Now it’s largely ignored except for dog walkers and courting couples – i.e. it’s a Prep Planters paradise!

We placed our damsons relatively close to existing trees to ensure that they wouldn’t be disturbed. Once they fruit the damsons can also be used to make a gin based drink – less sugar is needed for Damson Gin as the fruit is much sweeter than sloes – as well as wine and Slivovitz. Spiced damson chutney is another delicious option.

As with the previous site we plan to return and plant other species as time goes on. The steep road verge will make a lovely forest garden – we’ll keep you posted 😉