Thursday, 24 July 2008

eat your own fruit

Last night I made 25 jars of blackcurrant jam from an uplifting visit to Maynards Pick your Own farm. This is one of those places that’s remained affordable and blessedly innocent of PR, so it is just a shed and 50 acres of fruitfulness. After a morning of more gorging than picking – the traditional PYO experience - we came home loaded with strawberries (eaten with friends for lunch) raspberries (mixed with sugar and made into fridge jam) redcurrants (for winter jellies) and blackcurrants (the best jam ever). Stacking those jars into the store cupboard soothes me. As does making yoghurt (and the wonderful yoghurt cheese libneh from the failed batches), harvesting onions and leaving them to dry in the open. Working in Robin’s field, finding bus and train routes to the places I want to go to; learning to maintain my bicycle and becoming fitter. Making do and mending; freecycling things I need and don’t need. Learning how to resolve conflict and get on with others. Helping support my community through the transition with positive action.

And I need soothing, because I am tapped in to the zeitgeist – and it is mainly painful and sometimes exhilarating to witness the showdown that’s currently playing out. There’s some incredible movement towards grassroots solutions and people taking personal responsibility. And there’s also tidal waves of denial, particularly among our leaders – who still think it’s OK to build new coal stations while preaching carbon reduction - but even among my friends and family - some of whom vastly over-consume. Perhaps, as George Monbiot wrote yesterday, a swathe of the professional classes, who have the most freedom to lose, just don’t want to know.

Where do you go when it hurts so much? Cynicism was never an option; alcohol no longer works. Denial – the blue pill - is perhaps the most addictive and damaging drug of all. For me the best refuge is with what I love and what I can do – making blackcurrant jam with my family.

Friday, 18 July 2008


Last month I took the decision to let go of the last vestige of dependence on all supermarkets. Whew. It only took two years. Now I have to source my Guardians, booze and bulk yoghurt from other, local, shops. We go through huge quantities of yoghurt in our family, dolloping it on muesli, veggies and stews, mixed with fruit, honey, garlic or herbs. I’ve been wanting to make my own yoghurt for years and after a disheartening attempt in my 20s, had lost the nerve. Time to take the leap.

As ever, the Universe met me half way and as I stepped into Steamer Trading I encountered a display of a new yoghurt maker, the EasiYo. Developed in New Zealand, these babies don’t require fossil fuels and have no moving parts – great intermediate technology design. Disappointingly, but so bloody predictable in this stupid dependent society, you have to buy a packet of the EasiYo proprietary yoghurt mix (£1.75 to make 1litre). Adding water to the mix you put it in a thermos-like container with boiling water to keep it warm for 6-12 hours, depending on the consistency you want. The first two batches - organic and Greek – came out miraculously well and I accosted all our visitors with the marvel of thick, creamy, delicious – and smirkingly good for you - home-made yoghurt. But though having it packeted makes it easier to store, it costs too much, and it’s not wholefood, really. Tonight I take the next plunge: home made from scratch. According to the internet, you can DIY yoghurt with just milk and some kept aside yoghurt. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Knowing our onions

Despite the background chatter, news of the world crisis/opportunity is deepening daily. The future scenarios vary from apolcalyptic to idealised, so I stick to comment by deep thinkers and visionaries. Richard Heinberg, who visited Lewes recently, describes this time as the calm before the storm and encourages us to appreciate what’s around us. When he was in Lewes he spoke of the need for the world to develop resilient, localised communities, which are flexible and able to respond intelligently to shaky economies, resource shortages and climate impacts such as flooding.

In this recent video, he notes that we’ve already missed several opportunities to do so but that we still have the luxury of time and relative wealth to prepare ourselves and our communities. In terms of a risk assessment, it seems sensible, however surreal, to respond even to a small risk with a big potential impact.

These days I’m developing my food growing skills, since I’ve always had a latent smallholder in me. I’m already outgrowing my tiny garden and am planning next year’s experiment: a medium plot of potatoes, onions, beans and pumpkins. I’ll grow leafy greens and herbs at home and am looking for a plot near enough to commute to for those staples. Robin has offered me a corner of his field, or perhaps I’ll look for someone who wants to share their garden in Transition Town Lewes’s Garden Buddies scheme. One of the most radical positive acts we can do in these times is grow our own organic vegetables or buy them from a local grower.