September 2009


On Sunday September 20th, I teamed up with people from Transition town food group who want to kick start a project called Cookers and Eaters, learning traditional food cooking skills. And well, I can make jam but in fact, jam making is very easy but this was the first time I’d done it in the open air. 

Programme of events for the day

Programme of events for the day

 We were in the Food area at the top of the park with 4 tables surrounding a raised stage.

Four tables and a stage in the middle

Four tables and a stage in the middle

 The idea was to use the sound system to give a commentary on the jam which would have been hilarious but the sound system stopped working so I didn’t have the opportunity to interview passersby about their jam making experience and top tips.

Herbs and flowers we found in Brockwell Park

Herbs and flowers we found in Brockwell Park

 We started the day with a walk round the park to collect some herbs for tea. We found nettle, yarrow, plantain and of course, lots of herbs in the walled garden. My favourite is hops which grow on the west wall by the lavender beds. I first tried hop tea a few weeks ago and I haven’t slept so soundly ever since I’ve had Zeca. Then I read that it was part of the cannabis family.

The Outdoor kitchen we called it and that stage deserves a second mention

The Outdoor kitchen we called it and that stage deserves a second mention

 We had a table for book browsing, a table for the stove and food preparation, a table for the teas and a table for drawing plants and making triangles for bunting.

Chopping apples

Chopping apples

 We started chopping the apples and asking people if they had any jam making experience they could lend us.

Getting the storm kettle going

Getting the storm kettle going

 We used the storm kettles to boil water for the tea. It was hard work sometimes because some of the sticks we picked up from the park were a bit green. I like getting a feel for which sticks burn well, which ones are more brittle, which ones are more bendy. We did a lot of blowing to keep the flames going.

Stirring on stage

Stirring on stage

 I love this photo and that red in the pot and that white dress.  We boiled the jam for over 20 minutes but it wasn’t always boiling furiously. When the wind picked up the flame decreased.

Jam splattering bubbling cauldron deep red

Jam splattering bubbling cauldron deep red

 Here, it’s boiling quite well and frothing up.

Decanting jam into jars

Decanting jam into jars

 We filled about 6 jars.

Finger that's just been licked

Finger that's just been licked

 And the pot was there for anyone to dip their fingers in.

Bread made in the Park to eat with our jam

Bread made in the Park to eat with our jam

 So, when the bread was ready, we brought the jam over.

Raw food salad, the flasks, apples, fresh ginger beer & some children

Raw food salad, the flasks, apples, fresh ginger beer & some children

 Other people had brought produce from their allotments and homemade ginger beer. Lots of apples too.

There was a lot of hungry people digging in

There was a lot of hungry people digging in

 

The Jam was a bit runny but it tasted good on the bread. A pregnant woman asked me about three times to buy a pot of jam and I kept saying no so we had enough for the picnic and to try again after if we had some left over. We did and she bought a jar but the jar I took home with me had gone off a few days later and I realised that the jars hadn’t been sterilised. Ooops and apologies to that lady! (the jam would have been fine on the day, don’t worry about that all of you who ate it, it just won’t keep if the jars aren’t sterilised).

But it was a great day and it was so nice having a big saucepan on the boil full with a bright, sumptous red liquid. It really drew people in and if we had had the microphone, we could have sung some incantations  – bubble bubble boil and set please.

As the autumn sets in, I want to find increasing opportunities for eating and cooking outside.

Thanks to Sarah for all the connections, Jasmin, Clara, Michelle and Adam for all their support on the day.

On Saturday September 19th, there were 15 of us, including 3 under 10s. A lovely mixture of residents from the Loughborough estate and people from around the surrounding area and from even farther afield. I love this mixture.  It’s so rare this meeting up and opportunity to talk with people from different cultures, even though we pride ourselves on London being multicultural and diverse etc etc etc the opportunities for dialogue are often few and far between.

This is one thing that the Invisible food project is trying to tackle in its own little way. Food and plants resonate deeply with people and we all know they are important. Those who are willing to experiment with new tastes are sharing something important from their store of life skills … an openness to the new, a skill which eases the passage of a life transported to London, a skill which rejuvenates a life rooted in one area.

I began the walk this month talking about how I’m noticing that everyone who participates brings something different to the walk (a memory, a skill, knowledge, surprise about a plant, wonder, curiosity, the ability to strike up a conversation, a question, a half-remembered recipe) and everyone takes away something different (any of the above, a feeling you get after speaking to someone new, the feeling in the body you get after walking). I’m interested in these elements as things that could be mapped into an intricate map of human relationships to the plant world.

In gaining or regaining skills in how to look at and use plants, we bring identity, our selves, a memory, a personal and collective history. I’m interested in this identity having a voice

 

Starting the hunt at Wyck Gardens

Starting the hunt at Wyck Gardens

 

We met and started hunting for plants in Wyck Gardens, near the sad rowan tree, we found nettle, dandelion, mallow, tons of yarrow and mugwork. I mentioned how I love the curve of the bramble – like a fishing rod with a catch – and how this helps it spread as when the tip touches the ground it roots and moves on in this way. Another walker said how bramble stem can be made into rope – removing the thorns and whittling it down with friction.

Fig tree on Old Loughborough

Fig tree on Old Loughborough

 

The figs on this tree have been there since last year. I was saying how figs are harvested only every 2 years but I’ve just checked on wiki pedia and have just discovered that that’s rubbish. In hotter countries,

 “Two crops of figs are potentially produced each year. The first or breba crop develops in the spring on last year’s shoot growth. In contrast, the main fig crop develops on the current year’s shoot growth and ripens in the late summer or fall. The main crop is generally superior in both quantity and quality than the breba crop”

I’d be interested in finding out more about fig growing in England. The fig tree on the Loughborough Estate has good looking figs but they’re rock hard and they have been there since last year. 

Apples on the herb garden

Apples on the herb garden

 

 One of the walkers, Darren, revealed what this next plant was – and I’ve been wondering for ages – first I thought it was Rosebay Willow herb http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fireweed which is often associated with London as it sprung up readily on all the bombsites after the war and Loughborough was heavily bombed during the war. But the pictures weren’t matching the real plant I was seeing around, then Darren said it was Buddleia and how it spreads rapidly, especially by the side of railway tracks, due to the seed head being whooshed along with the passing of a train. Don’t think it’s edible.

Bees and butterflies love buddleia

Bees and butterflies love buddleia

 

 We gathered in Mostyn Gardens for refreshments. This month we had the usual herb teas from the herb garden and as I’m going through a dandelion coffee phase due to giving up real coffee. I made some dandelion coffee. I love the thick syrupy consistency, especially from the Cotswold brand which is deeper roasted and roasting it yourself – even through I prefer learning how to do all these things myself – it’s difficult to get the same deep roast which makes it more of a coffee and less of a watery tea.

Mostyn Gardens is a large expanse of open green space, a little bit barren and devoid of care and attention but I wanted to go there to collect the now ready for collecting wild rocket seeds. It was great spending an hour or so there and having a different bodily experience of the space, relaxing, chatting, preparing a little picnic with a crowd of people. All these spaces can be reclaimed and the open, green ones are the easiest to reclaim!

Preparing the storm kettle in Mostyn Gardens

Preparing the storm kettle in Mostyn Gardens

 

 In addition to the blackberry and apply jam and the scrapings of the mulberry jam from last year. I’d made a carob and rosehip cake, which even if I do say so myself, was very nice. My cakes are always hit and miss. I always make vegan cakes and normally always make cakes free from refined sugar. This one was sweetened with date syrup which went well with the carob.

Having tea, carob & rosehip cake and jam

Having tea, carob & rosehip cake and jam

 And this is one of the walkers posing for a photo in the style of collecting rocket seeds. Goia normally takes the photos but he got left behind a bit with Zeca and the rocket seed collecting hadn’t been documented so we had to set up this photo so the moment didn’t pass by undocumented. There are lots of wild rocket bushes on Mostyn Gardens. Keep the seeds wrapped in paper in the fridge until next spring.

 

Wild rocket seeds on Mostyn Gardens

Wild rocket seeds on Mostyn Gardens

 As we sat down to eat, I asked people to write down things that they brought with them to the walk and things that they’re taking away with them from the walk. This was Segen’s drawing of mallow and chestnut.

Mallow and chestnut by Segen

Mallow and chestnut by Segen

There’s something about setting up ‘shop’ anywhere that I really like. The spontaneity or freedom of just putting up a table and getting the flasks out. Last time I did this, lots of people stopped and talked and it was a great way of getting people to come on the walks who might not otherwise have come. I did it again.

Broken apple tree, block and sky

Broken apple tree, block and sky

This is a lovely photo of a rotten apple tree that two boys had climbed up and broken the day before. They owner of the newsagents told me as I hung outside his shop handed out leaflets. Everyone was shocked that 2 boys had done this, but a gentleman passed by and said he used to work with trees and that the trunk was rotten. It broke because it was dying.

Sunny day & broken tree

Sunny day & broken tree

You can see the tree better here. And the table with the Invisible food flasks. Gorgeous blue sky, not that warm but bright. The teas went down quite well and enough people were willing to try to make it worthwhile.

Come on a wild food walk!

Come on a wild food walk!

Flasks, part of the library and Leicester house

Flasks, part of the library and Leicester house

A fallen tree makes picking easier. These apples are rotten though.

A fallen tree makes picking easier. These apples are rotten though.

A little bit of talking to people, sharing herb teas and browsing through the books in Woolley Gardens at the Loughborough Centre’s first green day. Friend and resident Segen volunteered to look after the stall for the day. Thank you Segen!

P1010421

Canada’s Tar Sands are the dirtiest source of oil in the world. Extracting oil from these sludgy deposits in the heart of ancient forests produces three to five times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil. Until recently, using Tar Sands was not considered economically viable even by big industrial polluters. But now BP, along with others, is undertaking the unthinkable, extracting oil for profit at the expense of the climate and the environment upon which Alberta’s indigenous communities depend for survival.

At Climate Camp 2009, representatives of Canada’s First nations told us about the devastating effects on people’s health  (arsenic and heavy metals in essential food supply, contamination of  ground water, terrifyingly high rates of cancer in a population with traditionally low rates) and a scarred landscape which is SACRED to these people.

Dirty oil rears its ugly head outside National Portrait Gallery funded by BP

Dirty oil rears its ugly head outside National Portrait Gallery funded by BP

Today, Tuesday 1st September, a huge gathering of around 400 people came together to express their anger at the National Portrait Gallery (sponsored by BP), the Canadian Embassy (for constantly ignoring indigenous people’s rights and not signing up to the UN declaration of Indigenous people’s rights) and the BP headquarters on St James’ Square (the new big player in the region). BP will decide in the next 6 months if they will move into the land they have acquired to jointly exploit with Husky Energy. Pressure on BP now will have a signification impact. We need to stop Tar Sands oil extraction as if our life depended on it, because many people’s lives do.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8232522.stm (report on the protest)

Outside Canada House, oil extraction is killing people

Outside Canada House, oil extraction is killing people

If you’ve ever felt sorrow and anguish at the extermination of vast proportions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, now’s your chance to do something useful!

The campaign to stop BP investing more heavily in tar sands will kick off now and needs an intense effort and lots of solidarity from people like you. Contact Jess below and keep your ear out for what you can do.

First Nation representative Heather speaking outside Canada House

First Nation representative Heather speaking outside Canada House

Scarring the landscape irreversibly

Tar Sands (or ‘oil sands’) are a particular type of oily soil. The oil is found in the ground in the form of bitumen, which is solid at normal temperatures and mixed in with sand, clay and water.  It is extracted in 2 ways:

Open pit mining: this strips away the trees from the top layers of the earth to expose the bitumen beneath it. Two tonnes of bitumen-rich material are extracted for every one barrel of oil produced. This process destroys the local environment and eco systems, leaving gaping open pit mines 75 metres deep, turning once pristine stretches of forest into desolate, post-apocalyptic landscapes and producing toxic pollution.

High pressure steam injection or in situ mining: This requires injecting the bitumen with high pressure steam to separate the oil from the sand so that it can be piped to the surface. Heating the water to produce the steam requires large quantities of natural gas. Enough natual gas is used every day to heat 3.2 million Canadian homes for a year.

Bitumen is a lumpy, oil derivative. Oil flows, this stuff doesn’t. It has been traditionally used to patch canoes. In other words, it is oil in embryo form. It has to be artificially ‘aged’ to make into oil by processing, adding about 100 million years to it!

“This is the proof that peak oil exists. They’re doing this because there’s no other oil left.” McDonald http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil

Poisoning precious water

Water is needed  in huge amounts in Tar Sands. It takes up to 5 litres of water to produce one litre of usable petrol. This water is being diverted from rivers, lakes, farms and cities throughout Canada. Much of the water used in Tar Sands production ends up in toxic ‘tailings ponds’  so vast they are visible from space. These ponds leak toxic waste into local water supplies.

“I worry every day I have to give my 2 year old son water from the tap.” Lionel Lepine, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

Companies working in the area bring in bottled water for their employees to drink, which shows how dirty and lethal even they consider this water to be. As these companies don’t have a good record on workers’ rights and are ruthlessly hiring and firing, bringing in workers from China and the Philipines under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, who are denied the rights of citizenship.

Recent history of the Tar Sands

It was only in 1967 that Suncor began commercial production in the Tar Sands, followed a few years later by Syncrude. Then in 2003, the year the war in Iraq started, oil producers started diving in headlong as the price of oil peaked at US$70 per barrel whereas Tar Sands barrels were being sold at US$40.  In the words of McDonald, a researcher based in Edmunton, Alberta, and visitor to UK and Climate Camp with the First Nations representatives and collaborator in their struggle, “the investment in the area starting from 2003 made the gold rush look tame in comparison”. What is happening in Northern Alberta is the second largest rate of deforestation after the Amazon, in an area which is larger than England and roughly the size of Florida.

British companies, funding and causing destruction

Shell are already up to their eye balls in this oil. They have invested 30% of their operations into the Tar Sands. They’ve already decided that Tar Sands is their future.

BP is a relatively new player in the region. In 2007, they formed a partnership with Husky Energy (who part own Superdrug) to create the Sunrise Project, a large in situ )high pressure steam injection) extraction project in the Athabasca region.  BP are paving the way for huge investment but they’re yet to commit heavily. As James Marriot from the arts and social and environmental justice organisation, Platform put it in a talk at Climate Camp 2009 http://www.carbonweb.org/ It’s like they’ve bought the house but they haven’t yet decided to move in.

British banks RBS, HSBC and Barclays are heavily behind this project, committing pension funds and investment funds in it. Every British pension fund has a big stake in Tar Sands. Since the UK government’s massive bailout of RBS in 2008, they are now using taxpayer’s money to finance the most destructive project on the planet.

2010 Winter Olympics are destroying native lands too

2010 Winter Olympics are destroying native lands too

more info:

http://www.ienearth.org/

http://www.carbonweb.org/

http://artnotoil.org.uk/

”British companies are killing us”: Indigenous campaigners join Climate Camp to launch anti-Tar Sands action in the UK

For interviews and further information contact Jess Worth on 07946645726 or jessworth(at)riseup.net or Clayton Thomas-Muller, Indigenous Environmental Network, (001) 218 760 6632 or monsterredlight(at)gmail.com

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