Finally.. after a winter that felt like it had lasted all year we get some proper sunshine and spring can begin, albeit about a month late. It feels now like spring is happening all at once, as all the plants try and make the most of the opportunity now that the weather has turned. So it was great to see the Pont Hafren crew come over and enjoy the space and have a barbecue in the garden, this is after all what it is all about.. enjoying the space, being outside and bringing people together.
Composting is something that is near to the heart of every gardener, or should be.. but for us it has even more importance as of course Cwm Harry made it name and established itself as an enterprise with its food waste composting business. We have set ourselves the challenge of utilising as much waste as we can from the College next door.. we are receiving their grass clippings are are now looking for a high carbon source of waste to balance with the high nitrogen grass clippings. Paper towels and disposable card coffee cups seem to be our best opportunity and we will be experimenting with those in different mixes with grass cuttings. A visitor to our compost area, is this slow worm, who seems to love it in there.
Plastic field (below) – I pass this field on the way to work in the morning..to my eye this seems so unlikely, unnatural and energy intensive. As I understand it the film is to help germinate maize.. it is not biodegradable, and at best is used twice if not only once and has to be removed again once the plants have reached a certain size. It has holes in it to let rain through and allows the seeds to germinate earlier and more quickly. In many ways it underlines the connection between agribusiness and oil and petro-chemicals.
Modern farming is essentially a strategy to turn oil into food.. what with all the diesel powered machines, for ploughing and harrowing, for fertilizers and pesticides and their application, and of course the amount of plastic film now used as weed suppressant, for packaging haylage and silage as well as packing and distributing the resulting crops. This heavy reliance on oil in agriculture exposes us to price hikes and dangers from supply disruption and is one of the many reasons why we choose to grow organically here at Get-Growing.
If you want to eat local and organic produce then the best way to do so is to join a local veg box scheme.. a strategy to get out affordable, seasonal quality veg in an area. Cwm Harry has supported the development of a local food company, currently Cwm Harry Food Co and about to be re-branded as Hafren Local Food. They have set up their veg packing operation in the one half of the shed at Pen Dinas and this is where we will be developing a local food hub over the coming years. All businesses have to start somewhere.. and we hope and expect this one to have a big and important future as a shift to a more localised food system seems inevitable development for the future.
Emma Maxwell, lead horticulture trainer at Get-Growing also has her own 5 acre plot which, together with her family and a team of volunteers she is developing as Ash and Elm horticulture. Here she is with a plan of the plot ready for submitting to the local planning department. Emma is pioneer of small scale organic growing and the plot she is developing, a diverse productive and nature friendly space is a template for upland small scale growers all over the UK. Ash and Elm horticulture are demonstrating many of the potentials of what can be done in this landscape beyond merely the sheep based monoculture that occupies most the uplands here in Wales. Planners seem nervous that diverse horticulture plots might change the look of the landscape whilst possibly failing to grasp that it is the presence of the sheep, maintaining a largely treeless landscape that is having the biggest impact on the land of all.