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.

Special & Spiritual Spaces

special & spiritualIn the past few weeks with the weather improving we’ve been able to get out again into the various different growing spaces that PXI is part of in and around the area. At the Cross at Yew Lane we planted new fruit apple trees, and added new whips into our blackberry hedge to strengthen it and add to the diversity with;

  • Cherry Plum,
  • Hawthorn,
  • Hazel,
  • Blackthorn,
  • Bird Cherry and
  • Crab Apple.

In addition to the trees and hedging we planted up a number of new planters in the front and inner garden areas, and erected a new seating area, and began work on attracting more wildlife into the garden. Meanwhile at LEAF we hosted a prayer event called Prayer 8 for the Methodist Church in Sheffield – this led some of us into a conversation about the “Special & Spiritual Spaces” at LEAF. Now this conversation was in response to something I’d read and shared some years ago, an article by George Lings called “The Seven Sacred Spaces of Monastery” http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/news/encounters43 in the article George outlines seven spaces common to monastic spaces, these are:

Chapel – place of public worship & celebration
Chapter – place of decision making and ordering of community life
Refectory – place of eating and hospitality, community and service.
Cell – place of private prayer, reflection & meditation
Cloister –  an ‘in between’ space which allows for informal interaction with the world beyond
Garden – place of manual work
Scriptorum – place of study.

The more I think about these spaces the more I think they speak about the things each of us needs in our lives, we may not all see these from a Christian or faith perspective but together they can help us in achieving something of a balance in our life. The “sacredness” of these spaces comes not from the space itself but to how and if we meet with something of God there, as Margaret sine puts it: “Sacred is where the soul goes ….. A place is sacred, ground is holy because we encounter God there.” 

Those special, spiritual spaces where we find it easier to meet with God, the divine, are sometimes called “thin places” (especially in Celtic Christian spirituality) but this weekend I was also challenge by Rev John Vincent who spoke about the importance of “thick places”. By “thick places” John was arguing the need to find God not just in the beauty, awe and wonder of creation, but also down amongst the dirt – the hurt and pain of life, the struggle (sometimes just to survive another day), amongst the broken hearts and broken dreams, to find God in the very places that seem to be missing God.

Plot64 feels a bit like a “thick place” in allotment terms – as well as all the rubbish we’ve been trying to clear off in the last few months, the current weather has made everything suddenly resume life. The site is so overgrown it seems at times like there’s nowhere to start and it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed by it all, and admittedly this weekend Angela and I were tempted by what seemed an opportunity to swap plots for one that was ready to go as it were. Well it doesn’t always work like you hope and the other plot has now been let out – so we’re just going to have to knuckle down to some hard and heavy graft to clear away all the rubbish, dig out all the weeds and bring new life on to Plot64 – it will take time but it will be worth it.

Just a few sleeps to go ….

OK … my children and the sign in the supermarket keep reminding me that it is now only 6 sleeps until Christmas day! So I thought it was about time to get all festive on the Space to Grow blog, our friends at LEAF have been busy recently with chutney making and candle making and we’ve got Cake and Carols all lined for Sunday 23rd. In case you didn’t see the details last time,it starts at 6pm on the LEAF plot (Norwood Allotments, Herries Road) and we’ll be gathered round the fire for warmth, there’ll be mince pies and it sounds like Garys Mum may have baked us a cake too.

All this writing about mince pies and Christmas cake has made me hungry, so what will you all be having for Christmas dinner I wonder? Whether its the traditional turkey, or something more exotic or vegetarian, one item on the Christmas plate is always the source of debate and disagreement – the Brussels Sprout! Now I have to admit being a fan, the key for me is them not being overcooked, but they really are one of my favourites. Sad news therefore that (according to the Brassica Growers Association) the crop yield of Brussels this year is 30% down on an average year …. in turn this has driven the supermarket price up.

The Mayan "Stone of the Sun"
The Mayan “Stone of the Sun”

Of course we’ve first got the Winter Solstice on the 21st December when the earth turns to its northern pole furthest from the sun – this year of course the solstice also co-incides with the “end of the world” stories that have somehow become linked with the Mayan calendar – which didn’t really predict such things at all. Of course one day the world will end …. will it be this week, I really don’t don’t know and no-one else does either, as Jesus is reported to say in Matthews Gospel (ch24.36): “No one knows about that day or hour, [of the worlds end] not even the angels in heaven … but only the Father.” So let’s not worry too much about it and just give thanks for the changing of the seasons and the wonders of all the universe.

Meanwhile, wrap up tight to stay warm, and enjoy your sleeps ….. however many there are left.

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 –

A time for everthing

with thanks to http://www.facebook.com/themorningbell

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
 a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
  a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
  a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
  a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

These words from Ecclesiastes remind us that in nature, and in life, things change. This can be with the big things in life but also with the small, from Presidential elections to planting onions, it talks about seasons of change all too familiar to those who garden. With this in mind PXI has refocussed its Space to Grow sessions onto the morning and afternoon sessions on a Thursday at LEAF and at Yew Lane, we’ll still be continuing with Plot107 but this will now for a time be a secondary focus. LEAF and Yew Lane offer us spaces that have a real potential to offer those who come far more than a simple opportunity to grow food – with kitchen and rest facilities at Yew Lane we hope to include food preserving and cooking opportunities, and at the community space at LEAF we have the wide range of activities from gardening to beekeeping and related skills. So now is “….a time to build” as we look forward to a new season of focus on these two sites to develop the Space to Grow project.

At Yew Lane the building process is entering an exciting new phase – as well as significant work in the front garden, we hope in the next year to also refurbish the kitchen and begin work on developing a second and completely new activity room. But as well as this physical building work we’re also looking at new activities and new sessions to take us forward into 2013, these include:

  • Thursday afternoon Space to Grow gardening and cooking sessions.
  • “Movement Medicine” dance for women
  • Songs for the Soul singing sessions

In  all this we are looking to build a “family” – not of course one built on birth relationships and genetics, but one based on people wanting to be together, grow with each other; share, care, love and support for each other. We don’t imagine that all our family will be Christians, we simply want to offer the opportunity to be part of it everyone who wants it ….. so if that’s you we’ll look forward to seeing you.