#DoncasterIsGreat for Growing… come along and find out why…

small get growing

Come and join us next Thursday (May 23rd) anytime from 6pm onwards as we begin to plant an Apothecary (food, herbs and medicinal plant garden) at Church View (just behind the Minster opposite Tesco car park) and find out how growing your own can make you healthier while saving you a shed load of money.

Click here to download and share a copy f our Get Growing poster 🙂

Advertisements

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

MAKER SPACE

 

or how I learned to stop worrying and just love stuff !!

In 2012 we exported a lot of stuff. One direction, rain water into the north sea, British pride and the royals ( the Americans get that last one free to make up for 1776 ).

But the export business started long before that… it started with ideas. And one of those ideas was the maker space. We sent it over to America where they have latched on to it with the same vigour they had with the Beatles. So once it became the done thing to hang around with old guys that knew more than you did, knew it and could give a toss they sent our baby back. Now we have sulky petulant teen of an idea ready to take on the world and the world be damned !! So what is this maker space I hear you cry ??

A maker space is simply a place where a group come together Co-operatively and in collaboration.

Errrr OK that’s not so simple is it…? I’ll try again….

A maker space is a building which house’s all the tools you need to build what ever you want. Fancy building a bookcase ? Maker space. Got a great idea for a product but can’t afford prototype or production cost’s? maker space.

You see not all of us are nicely well off middle class types with google chrome as our task bar. Most of us have an idea or two or just want to simply learn how to do stuff properly, that age old ache to create, to produce to express .. but the cost of the equipment is way out of our league and we may find it a bit hard to justify the cost of a pillar drill or bench lathe to our spouse’s if we just want to play. Especially as the benefits get cut and I wont get a pay rise this year. And forget about adult extension classes. Who has the time ??

Well your local space might have that equipment, if it doesn’t it might have the tools you need to build it. The people that you meet down there will come from a wide background, an untapped resource of unbelievable potential from welders and fabricators to draughtsmen and designer’s. The computer girl that will show you, that if you can use a photocopier you can use a 3D printer. The old time carpenter that can teach you all you need to know about making that presentation box.

You know, the one that wowed the sales team and convinced them that your doohicky is what has been missing all their lives….

A maker space is an eclectic mix of old world wooden hand tools to mega gig computers and star trek replicator’s …

So why am I banging the drum for the maker space. Well my nearest one is access space in Sheffield. It’s main focus is multi media but its also a bit too far to travel if I want to make a bike trailer !!

However a new year a new opportunity. Doncaster is getting it’s own maker space !! . the copley roadproject will soon open it’s doors to you fair and creative citizens so please show support for what could be the best thing since an ironed shirt….

Lets take a chance and become producers not consumers. Lets learn things we didn’t know we wanted to learn. We are willing to pay 20-30 quid for a gym membership why not the same for our local maker space ??

Here’s a few links to get you in the making mood…..

A podcast about maker space’s, it’s woth skipping the housekeeping !

Maker space in ann arbour

And another american based one

Hope to see you at the Copley road project !!

The Fiscal Cliff & the Permaculture Parachute

The world may not have ended on December 21st, 2012, but it looks highly likely that the economic dominance of the US will be very much in its death throws during 2013…

This puts the UK, with its intimate links to both the US and the Euro-zone, in a very precarious position. On hearing about the looming fiscal cliff and the risk of hyperinflation there are some people who will be tempted to build a bunker, dress like an action man and stock up on freeze-dried chicken noodles (the kind of people who give preppers a bad name courtesy of the Discovery Channel). But those of us who enjoy fresh air (and fresh fruit & veg for that matter) like to take a more logical (in actual fact ‘methodological’…) approach.

The word economy comes from the Greek oikonomos (manager of a household) and is closely related to the word ecology (oikos = house + logia = study), but modern attitudes which focus on ‘bottom lines’ and ‘perpetual growth’ can seem far from homely. This is because the economists define wealth and security in terms of access to the market. But despite being elevated to a central position for the last few centuries the market is not the most important factor in the economy… the real driving force of the economy is – and always has been… – the land. As The Land magazine say in their manifesto:

Anyone who has land has access to energy, water, nourishment, shelter, healing, wisdom, ancestors and a grave. Ivan Illich spoke of “a society of convivial tools that allows men to achieve purposes with energy fully under their control”. The ultimate convivial tool, the mother of all the others, is the earth.

Don’t get us wrong, markets can play a vital role in the peaceable exchange of skills & resources and in countering creative and cultural stagnation, but when the market is placed above every other aspect of human ecology the effects are devastating… hence the current crisis. The dominant economic and legal systems we are expected to live by have divorced the vast majority of us from both the land in general and the skills to cater for our own central needs – food, shelter, sanitation, etc. – in a convivial and ecologically sensitive way. And as the ongoing economic crisis makes it ever harder for an increasing number of people to secure access to the essentials, the ecological crisis – which is itself a product of a dysfunctional socioeconomic worldview – is making present human ecologies even less stable… a viscous circle spinning at the heart of a perfect storm.

sandy

Spencer Platt/GETTY IMAGES

If this sounds a bit gloomy, it is; there’s little point in denial when it comes to one of the most rapid and monumental changes in the earth’s climate. What’s more there’s not a whole lot of real, decisive action taking place… in fact, thanks to a political system ultimately based on lobbying clout (whoever can pay has the last say), the very opposite is true. On a global level we’re about to witness some of the most dramatic shifts in sovereign power for centuries, but there is little evidence to suggest that Gaia will replace the gun regardless of who’s in the big chair. On a local level even before the economic crisis there were very few local authorities which paid anything more than lip service to building genuinely resilient communities. But we have now reached a point where we are being forced to reconsider both our economic and ecological systems in the light of the overwhelming evidence that continuing along our current path is almost certainly suicidal.

london-futures-main

From Robert Graves and Dider Madoc Jones digital art series Postcards from the Future

Well that’s the doom & gloom done with, now for a glimmer of hope… THERE IS A BETTER WAY!..

Permaculture is a design system which uses naturally occurring ecological patterns and feedback-loops to create highly sustainable, convivial and resilient human habitats. Far from being a pie-in-the-sky utopian dream these are widespread everyday practices which often take advantage of techniques that have been known to humans for millennia (and to mother nature for billions of years). What’s more it is a process which doesn’t rely on any outside help from politicians, bankers or business gurus; so regular people (like you and me) can begin to make a very real difference – both locally and globally – regardless of the inactivity of government and the local authorities. Some might find that they have to bend the rules a little depending on exactly where they live and the socioeconomic circumstances they find themselves in, but absolutely anyone can – and should!.. – begin to practice essential permacuture principles today.

Permaculture is no magic bullet, as you’ll quickly discover it’s all about small steps and a lot of patience. But taken seriously each small step you take will lead you  to a healthier, more fulfilled and resilient (not to mention cheaper!..) way of living.

P13-1382_7664

Design for Eco-Village Wroclaw

There are plenty of freely available online resources (this is a good place to start), but if you have some spare cash one of the most accessible (not to mention most beautiful) introduction books has to be Graham Burnett‘s “Permaculture, A Beginner’s Guide.

permabeginners1

At the moment it’s on special offer and includes a copy of Graham’s “Top of the Crops“, but even if you miss the offer we recommend ordering Top of the Crops as well anyway… especially if you have kids!

PermaFuture will be hosting an Introduction to Permaculture workshop in Doncaster sometime in the Spring; drop us a line or follow the blog for further details… in the meantime, GET GROWING!

Views from International #Permaculture Day 2012

International Permaculture Day occurs each year on the First Sunday in May.

Here are some great little videos from Patrick Whitefield, Andy Goldring and Polly Higgins, as posted on the wonderful IntPermacultureDay YouTube channel, enjoy…

Growing in a Small Space

As a follow up to our presentation for The Fringe last week, John Briggs will be giving a practical lesson* in Growing in a Small Space on Saturday 12th May, 2012. If you’d like to join us we’re meeting 9am at The Cenotaph on Roman Rd, Bennetthorpe, Doncaster.

Click here to download a copy of our ‘Growing in a Small Space’ poster.

* To cover costs we’re asking for a minimum donation of £2.00 on the day.

Why pay for sickly @redbull when you can get delicious #SilverBirch for #FREE

It’ll soon be that time of year when the sap begins to rise… both metaphorically and actually. Spring is when we begin to feel rejuvenated after the grey days of winter. Luckily for us there’s a natural energy drink which becomes freely available just when we need it the most (and which doesn’t rely on a bombardment of crappy advertising). Filled with sugars, amino acids, proteins and enzymes, Birch Sap is guaranteed to deliver a Usain-Bolt-paced-energy-jolt to tiring bodies. 😉

Birch Sap is also so delicious that it is sold commercially in some countries, and because it can only be collected during an average period of 1 month in every year and is highly perishable, it can demand a very high price indeed (even higher than that overpriced Red Bull stuff) – in Japan it has sold for as much as €50 per litre!

Any prepper, bush-craft enthusiast or forager worth their salt will find the idea of paying such a high price for Birch Sap a little crazy, because we know how easy it is to obtain…

A cut branch will provide a good drink, but we wouldn’t recommend this technique. It’s much better for the tree, and more ethical for the forager, to learn how to properly drill a tree to leave it in good repair. With this in mind the ever wonderful A-Z Bushcraft & Srvival Skills  have produced this informative, Creative Commons licensed video…

The video recently featured on Permculture Magazine‘s website, where they also included the following recipe taken from Ben Law’s book The Woodland Year:

Ben Law’s Birch Sap Wine

Ingredients

1 gallon of birch sap

2 lemons

1/2 lb (454g) raisins

2 lbs sugar or 2 pints of honey

yeast

Method

Squeeze lemons. Add a little grated zest to the birch sap and boil for 20 minutes. Pour sap on to sugar or honey and raisins. Stir until the sugar or honey is dissolved. When lukewarm add yeast, cover with a cloth and leave in the fermenting bin until fermentation has slowed down. Then strain into a demijohn. Top up with water as necessary and fit an air lock. Should be ready to drink by late summer.

Special Offer direct from the publishers: save 25% on The Woodland Year and get it p&p free (in the UK). RRP £19.95. Discounted price £14.96. Offer lasts until March 31st 2012.

Future scenario’s of an energy descent world part 4

And now for the final part of our series on security options for a post peak community…..

 

Establish Economic Security

“Economic Security” in a Peak Oil context likely has a far different meaning than we currently understand it. Economics is the study of the intersection between psychology and resources, and we currently focus far too much attention on this description than on studying the resources themselves. Hence, our fall into a world of Peak Oil and global warming without having understood how our extraction (and abuse) of resources undermined the resource base itself.  In a post-Peak Oil context, economic security has a more obvious connection to resource security. This would include developing farming capabilities (food security), ensuring a clean water supply (water security), assisting families with developing sustainable post-PO homes (shelter security), as well as setting up specialized operations like blacksmithing, carpentry, medical care, and so forth.

 

Conduct Regional Community Outreach

A wealthy community with poor neighbours is not a strong community. The interdependence of neighbouring communities has largely been ignored in modern times and will sharply regain prominence in the years ahead. Becoming insular will not serve to improve a community’s security, but rather put it at risk of retaliation due to the envy or ire of its neighbours. Remember that the wisest military leader is the one who engineers conditions such that a war need never be fought.

Diplomacy with your neighbours increases security by establishing a network of mutual aid in the event of attack, natural disaster, crop failure, or any other calamity that can befall a human. The benefits of reaching out and sharing with your neighbours most often result in exponential returns back to you.

Specific strategies could include:

1) Organize a regional council of community leaders to identify projects that would provide benefit to the entire region. Politics will always intrude on human affairs, so it is important to ensure your representative exhibits strong skill at navigating political minefields.

2) Establish a Community Reserve Corps to deploy to other communities for building up sustainable infrastructure. This may sound ludicrous for a community that is itself caught in the throes of a post-Peak Oil world, but it is not as ridiculous as you might think. The concept is to send rotating teams of sustainable designers, builders, farmers, doctors, and security professionals to spread what your community has learned to others that might have no such capability. The investment would very rapidly reap rewards by putting more heads on the problems involved with establishing sustainability, and — most importantly — improve the stability of the region surrounding your community. This concept will be discussed in more detail in the future on this site.

 

Establish Robust Information Systems

Communication can have a massive impact on human psychology and in turn lead to economic, diplomatic, and military capability developments, all of which add up to drum roll — community security.

Information is the grease for the engine of a well-functioning society. Information – and control of information – is the key to leveraging advantages for your communities against potential adversaries. This includes not only communication (internal and external) but gathering of intelligence. A community must have a clear understanding of what is going on inside and outside its borders and use that information to develop intelligent plans. I would hazard a guess that most of us know fewer than ten of our immediate neighbours, and few details even of those ten. This will largely contribute to the death of some communities in the near future, but you can easily take steps to encourage communication in your own immediate area. Laying that tentative groundwork now will improve your community’s ability to weather ever increasing risks.

 

Raise and Maintain an Appropriate Physical Security Presence

 

Addressing economic, informational, and diplomatic issues will provide a solid foundation for a secure community, but in order to execute a security strategy there must be a physical security presence. We currently see such a presence in our communities every day in the form of police. Consider that even currently we live in an extremely stable society, which requires only a minimal security presence (police) to maintain civil order and prevent the friction of crime from significantly impacting the workings of the community. Unfortunately, a post-Peak Oil situation inevitably leads to a weakening in the three foundation areas of economics, information, and diplomacy, for which we must compensate by increased physical security.

The first item that we must recognize for any community security strategy to succeed is that the current model of municipal police will not be enough to secure a community in an unstable post-Peak Oil environment. However, please note that it is extremely important to separate military function from police functions — blurring this line inevitably leads to authoritarianism, which is the last thing a struggling community needs. The training for municipal police versus military is starkly different in philosophy, and it would be best to establish and maintain two distinct corps of security personnel.

So how best to augment the police force? For a community, this can take many forms. As alluded to above, the security situation consists of both internal and external threats. Internal threats would include the typical array of crime with which we’re familiar: theft, domestic issues, fights, and other more violent crime. This should be dealt with by a corps of people whose training is focused on resolving disputes peacefully (the function of municipal police — “peace officers”).

 

External threats in a post-Peak Oil environment require a different approach, as preserving the community peace often means keeping interlopers out. This is likely the best function for employing the former military in your community, and training should focus on more military-style tactics. I don’t mean to pretend that developing this capability will be easy, particularly due to potential conflicts with police authority, difficulties winning approval from the community, and the substantial risk of a Para-military team being viewed as something far more sinister than a community protection force. Every community situation is different and will evolve differently. Some areas are perhaps already perfect (in a sense) for establishing a robust external security force, and yet other communities might view their position as so stable that the mere whispers of armed men augmenting the police might bring horror. That is why a clear and flexible strategy is necessary and must be very carefully tailored to the individual situation.

 

We hope this has given you all food for thought, and that you find it useful in developing your local security plan..

Future scenario’s of an energy descent world part 2

Here is the second instalment in our ongoing series of articles dealing with possible security issue’s in a post energy world…

2. Foreign Invaders

Although the United Kingdom is currently bogged down in foreign wars, many within and without the U.K. military predict that the U.K. will soon face the threat of another peer competitor along the lines of the U.S.S.R. Such a peer competitor would likely not be a single country, but a global alliance centred on a major power like Russia, China, or both. Some in the Peak Oil community fear that such a strong energy secure player could easily overrun a now weakened western society and play havoc with its people. Admittedly, a new alliance is a real and credible threat in the very near future. However, to leap from the current situation, with the western economic and social model spreading to all corners of the world, to a time when Chinese troops march down oxford Street, is a monumental shift in realities. Even though the west is significantly weakened politically, economically, and diplomatically, it still holds significant physical and figurative ground world-wide. The approaching depression alone will not completely unravel this power; it will take sustained pressure in a world of declining energy availability to erode globalisation. A third world war would likely only result in the western powers losing its overseas footholds and retreating back within its borders – and that would be after several years of conflict. Adversaries of the West will likely continue to use asymmetric means to weaken the powers that be, by further undermining our economic, energy, cyber, and political interests long before the advent of open warfare. Our adversaries understand that it is foolish (and will remain so for at least several years) to attempt to compete with the west in the one domain we have trained and prepared for exceptionally well — large-scale open combat. This is not to imply that we shouldn’t be concerned about the very real possibility of major war, just that it is not a near-term (i.e. within the next one or two decades) security problem at the local community level. Even if, decades hence, we face the prospect of foreign powers on western soil, all the difficulties outlined in scenario 1 apply to a foreign occupier — only much more magnified given their foreign status.

 

3. Mutant Zombie Bikers

Many in Peak Oil circles and other groups speak frequently of “Mutant Zombie Bikers” (MZBs), or the golden horde, which are composed of highly mobile independent groups of heavily-armed bandits scouring the countryside for riches or destruction. In this “Mad Max” scenario, individuals or even isolated communities do stand a reasonable chance of mounting adequate defences against MZBs. But are scores of roving MZB groups attacking peaceful communities a likely scenario following societal collapse? To state the obvious, with the advent of Peak Oil, or even during any societal collapse, fuel will become a very valuable commodity. As recently witnessed during the gas shortage in the U.S. Southeast, gasoline supplies dwindle to near zero within a matter days. In such a scenario it is unlikely that any sizeable group have the ability or the foresight to meet their logistical requirements over any significant length of time. While some isolated cases of MZBs may exist (e.g. gangs commandeering tanker trucks or well-fuelled military units going rogue), MZBs are unlikely to pose a significant threat to the average community. While it may be prudent to consider the possibility of an MZB encounter, it could prove a disastrous (or even fatal) waste of resources to focus on MZBs as the primary security threat while ignoring the key risk to post-Peak Oil communities.

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
Ingredients:
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
salt
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
Ingredients
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.