Outside!

DSC01281My goodness it’s a long while since I wrote anything here – I guess that happens over the winter, there’s not a lot happening growing wise when all said and done. Actually we’ve been pretty busy with PXI – Space to Grow in the past few months, and more is planned as we slowly but surely move closer to Springtime.

So here’s a few highlights of our recent activities:

The Chutney and Jam making sessions in October / November were really popular, a number of people joined including people who’d never made them before in their lives. We experimented with Quince, and Hedgerow jams, as well as with a number of varieties of Chutneys (Ploughmans, Windfall chutney, and Green and Red Tomato) all delicious. The sessions took place at Cross at Yew Lane Quiet Garden and were led by Diane Cocker (LEAF) assisted by Charlie Hill (local artist).

As well as the Chutney and Jam making, we’ve also worked with Charlie (using a grant from CDF for groups in Southey ward) to organise mini beast hunts in Parson Cross Park and a willow weaving session this last Saturday. This took place again at Yew Lane and we joined by adults and children who helped construct upright willow structures 1506275_274456372709334_1633333516_othat we’ll be using to support planting this year.

The sessions have gone so well we’re already looking forward to the spring and what else we might do but already we’re thinking of a Using Seasonal Food series of events, as well as family activities at Plot107, and more creative sessions at yew Lane, Mount Tabor and the Learning Zone. So watch this space for more news.

We’re Jammin

How quickly the seasons come and go – it’s a while since I last updated the Space to Grow blog and in that time, summer has changed into autumn. Its been a busy few weeks, which is an excuse rather than a reason for not updating you all as much as I’d hoped, with various harvest festivals in the local churches I’m part of – but also with the actual task of harvesting and deciding what to do with the produce that is now gathered in.

Food for the Share meal fresh from the community allotments at LEAF
Food for the Share meal fresh from the community allotments at LEAF

As part of the whole emergency food parcel / food bank provision that PXI offers from Mount Tabor we’ve been able over the past few weeks to offer some fresh food alongside the usual tinned and dried products – and today we’ll be holding our second monthly community meal out of “Share” the Friday drop In that we run.

Now our minds have turned to preserving some of the last fruit and parts of the harvest and so we are starting to look at jam and chutney recipes. We’ve been blessed with a small grant from Community Development Foundation to work with local artist Charlie Hill and other local partners including LEAF and Yewlands School to do a series of seasonal events from walking and creative writing to willow weaving and jam making. So next week on Thursday (24th October) and on 7th November we’ll be doing jams and chutneys at The Cross at Yew Lane. Sadly much of the soft fruit has gone over now so they’ll be no local blackberry jams this year – but instead we’re trying our hands at Quince Jelly and variations of apple chutneys all using locally harvested produce.

For those interested here’s a page all about quince: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/quince_jelly/

Meanwhile we’re expanding the “green” stuff we are doing in PXI with Peter our Community Youth Worker now helping with gardening groups in a number of local schools including Yewlands and St Thomas More schools, as well as celebrating harvest with new friends at Wooley Wood school. In the past week we’ve also been chatting to other growers in other parts of Sheffield including a project at the Methodist Church in Hollinshead – its good to see more and more people reconnecting with growing food, and with the spiritual dimensions of relating to seasonal changes, and becoming re- grounded in the earth and creation.

Summertime

left to right from the top: Chaucer students get stuck into Plot18 during the holidays, apples growing at LEAF, the Bee Project at LEAF, blackberry picking.
left to right from the top:
Chaucer students get stuck into Plot108 during the holidays, apples growing at LEAF, the Bee Project at LEAF, blackberry picking.

“Summertime…” says the George Gershwin song “….and the living is easy.” With the summer we’ve been having there have certainly been some days when just sitting down and enjoying the sun and all that’s alive around you has without doubt been the most sensible thing to do. That said there’s still been plenty of work to do on the various plots and allotments PXI is involved in – Plot107 has produced loads of fruit this year, especially rhubarb and gooseberries despite the fact its all got a bit overgrown in places, and now we’ve teamed up with Chaucer school to work on the neighbouring Plot108 we’re hoping to be even more productive next year as we also hope to use it as a base for some out of school youth work.

As well as the work in Parson Cross Park, we’ve been busy down on Herries Road at LEAF and at Plot64. The new plot is still taking time to get into a productive state again, with loads of weeding and digging out still to be done as well as avoiding disturbing wasps nests! Even so it’s gradually beginning to take shape and hopefully by next season we’ll be looking to plant.

At LEAF we’ve been busy with some enthusiasm from some of our younger volunteers over the summer helping to do much needed work harvesting, weeding and replanting. The bees are also doing really well there and continue to busy themselves with storing up and making honey. We’ve also had time for some social time, last Saturday LEAF threw “open house” and invited people round for tea, using food made from stuff grown on our various allotments – in the end about fifteen people came and made their own pizzas in the pizza oven before sampling a range of pies, cakes and crumbles.

Soon we’ll be looking to the apples and pears and other “hard fruits” and hopefully be working once again alongside Abundance (the Sheffield urban harvesting group http://growsheffield.com/abundance/  ) and starting some more jam and chutney making and cooking sessions at Mount Tabor and at the Cross at Yew Lane. So enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and look forward to the seasons to come.

Prayers and Potatoes

Well it’s not been the best start to spring as far as the garden is concerned, its been very wet, cold and with more late snow than I can remember – though I recall my Dad, now 92 years old, telling me he remembered snow as late as May!

All that said, I’m late putting in the potatoes this year – traditionally they’d be in around Easter but this year I’ve not even thought about it properly yet. On Plot 64 there’s still a whole load of clearing to do before we can realistically start to plant and plan, on Plot 107 in Parson Cross park the heavy clay soil makes drainage issues the highest priority, whilst at Cross at Yew Lane we’ve now got a “Gardening day” planned for 27th April when we’re planning to re-lay the hedge with some additional whips with hazel, blackberry and the like as well as plant a couple of new fruit trees at the back, if you want to join us you can come anytime from 10am (we’re doing soup about 12.30pm) and stay for as long as you choose.

LEAF of course has its own long standing cycle of work and a ready and committed band of volunteers to carry it out and it has seen lots of work done even in the past few months. New beds have been built, structures renewed, and the banking has had new paths made and planting completed with bulbs and other plants. On May 8th, I’m looking forward to holding a special “Prayer Trail” on the LEAF site as part of Sheffield Methodists Prayer 8 series – the trail will use the site to provide opportunities to sit, think, reflect and pray about issues such as; food and fairness, our environment, and our place and role in our communities, the event is an open one and anyone is welcome to join us between 2-3pm at LEAF on Herries Road.

Clearing out the rubbish

Rubbish to be cleared from Plot 64
Rubbish to be cleared from Plot 64

Well although it’s all gone a bit foggy again over the last couple of days, this weekend felt like Spring really was on its way and it gave us a good opportunity to get stuck into the new plot (Plot64) at Norwood. The new plot has been out of use for sometime and is quite neglected and overgrown, but the major task before we can start growing anything is to clear out all the rubbish – piles of it (as you can see from the picture!)

At the moment we’re in the period we Christians call Lent – the time that we prepare and look ahead to Easter. Traditionally it’s a timing for giving things up (chocolate always seems to be a favourite – maybe in anticipation of the over indulging of Easter eggs in a few weeks time!) and for reflection and prayer. Well all things rubbish got me reflecting on the rubbish we pile up in our lives that maybe we need to get rid of. Some of it, like some of the stuff on the allotment might have been useful once, like the hurt we carry from past and broken relationships or let downs, some of it might never had any use in the first place – but however it got there, and whatever our reason for holding on to it sometimes there comes a moment when we have to make the decision and just get rid.

We’ve still got more clearing to do on the plot but until we do there’s not much point in starting to plant anything new – but in time, clearing a particular spot each time we go, it will be ready and we can start to look ahead to a new season of growth.

A good days work

We had a great time this Saturday on our “Garden Day” and a big thank you goes out to all our friends who joined us on the day to help out. We managed to get loads done: cleared the “inner garden” of weeds, dug up all the old roses, and filled and planted all four of our new planters – as well as enjoying lots of fun and food together. We thought you like to see some of the pictures from the days.

Earth Abbey Reflections

Jonathan & Chris planting garlic and onions at Yew Lane

This week I was able to welcome a special visitor to the Space to Grow project, Chris Sunderland, who is involved in various community growing projects in and around Bristol including: Sims Hill Shared Harvest, Barton Hill Walled Garden and Earth Abbey.

Chris visited the three sites used by PXI in our Space to Grow project at:

  • LEAF (on Norwood Allotments, Herries Road)
  • Cross at Yew Lane
  • Parson Cross Community Growing Space (Parson Cross Park)

We were able to share ideas’ and Chris was able to provide a useful “outside” view on the work currently undertaken as well as suggest new ideas for taking partnerships between PXI and local growing groups forward.

You can read more about some of the community growing projects that Chris is involved in on these links:

http://simshillsharedharvest.wordpress.com/about/

http://bartonhillwalledgarden.wordpress.com/about/

For those of you who would like to join us for a bit of gardening this weekend, we’re having a garden work day at the Cross at Yew lane on Saturday from 10am until about 3pm (we’ll provide a light lunch for all volunteers) we’re hoping to do more work on developing the front and inner garden spaces at Yew Lane as well as a whole load of “tidying up”. We’re also hoping to plant some Spring bulbs around the area -it would be great to see both old and new friends even for only a short time on the day –

Space2Grow Sessions

Here’s the new Winter 2012-13 Space2Grow poster ….. as well as the Thursday afternoon sessions, we’ve got a garden “Working Day” on Saturday 17th November at Yew Lane – everyone is welcome to come and have a look around and help with planting the new raised beds. We’ll even provide snacks for lunch and plenty of drinks!

It’s chutney time!

It’s that time of year when we start to think about what we might do with some of the excess of our fruit harvest in order for it to last us through the winter – one of my favourite ways of doing this is through chutney making. Last year PXI-Space to Grow ran a number of days in the pavillion at Parson Cross park and at Mount Tabor where a few of us got together to make some lovely chutneys. If you’ve never made chutney before or if you want to try a new recipe here’s a video from June Bingham who lives locally showing us how to make a lovely Pear & Walnut Chutney …. enjoy!

 

June uses Fairtrade products alongside local produce to make tasty foods to enjoy, you can watch more of Junes Fairtrade recipe videos on YouTube.

The “raggedness” of Autumn

Spiders web at LEAF

“If you like things tidy, this may not feel like a good time.” says Ian Adams in his blog http://www.mysticchrist.co.uk/blog/post/autumn_equinox_the_raggedness_belongs

Autumn is a messy time – leaves fall from the trees to cover grass and pavements, the last of the summer flowers drop their petals leaving them looking like someone who’s losing their teeth or a wooly jumper that’s being unpicked and unravelled, and somehow the greens of summer are growing paler as they turn to the reds and browns of Autumn, even in the urban surrounds of Parson Cross the change is visible. Autumn has a kind of “raggedness” to it – like it’s a between place, a time when things unwind or reach their limits, it’s a time when quite frankly things start to look worn out.

That feeling of “raggedness” reminded me of a book I’d read some time ago by Brennan Manning called “The Raggamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggeled, Beat-Up and Burnt Out”. In the book Manning repeatedly cries out for those of us who recognise that we are ragged – that all of us struggle with parts of ourselves that we wish weren’t quite as “messy” as they actually are. Whatever that messiness might be: a real addiction, a raging anger, a bad temper, a broken heart, a constant desire to put off the difficult, a feeling of guilt, or a feeling of guilt for feeling guilty …. so many of us have lives that are messy and ragged. Manning offers a clear picture that through Jesus we can see that Gods love is big enough, powerful enough to love each one of us – as we are, messy-ness and “raggedness” included – to love us and change us through that love, not into mistake free perfect people, but into people who have learned to love and learned to love those who we see are also ragged, also messy – who need that love just as much as we do.

Blackberries in Parson Cross

And so, the messiness of Autumn can also bring us signs of that same hope for change – first we recognise that this is a season and like all seasons it is a part of life and death, a part of creation, a part of God. We can recognise that even amongst the mess and fading summer colour there are still bursts of life: so we can be glad that the blackberries are just coming into their prime with all the deep dark beauty and goodness, that the elderberries are providing food for the birds and the potential of jam and wine and cordials to us, that the apple trees are ready for their rich harvest, and to know that the journey to another Spring is already about to begin. The cycle continues, the seed that falls to the ground now to die will soon be in fact be changed into a plant that next Spring will bring new life …..

….. So with the equinox sun on us we went out blackberrying, there really is something I love about blackberries and blackberrying, quite apart from the thought of them served up in a crumble!