About Barney Thompson

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Grow Elgin Bulletin

Bulletin 5 – late July 2020 

As we’re slowly starting to be involved in sessions with people again (hurray!) this will be the last bulletin for a wee while – though we plan to keep them going on a quarterly basis. So harvest all the goodness from this one – the usual mix of tips and info on videos, factsheets and web articles from REAP and others. Keep on Growing Your Own and have fun whilst doing it – it’s the way forward!

If you would like to download this bulletin to share with others please click here

Have fun, enjoy the summer and eat well, from all of us at REAP’s Grow Elgin project.   

  • Do check out our new factsheet about making beautiful rich liquid feed from comfrey – magic!
  • Want to know more about some of the beneficial insects in the garden? Of course you do! Make a start with another new factsheet. There’s even a chance to win salad seeds if you correctly answer a wee quiz question!
  • Did you know that we’ve taken over the old aviary in Cooper Park as a food growing space? Find out more
  • Just a reminder that’s there’s loads of downloads of all sorts of factsheets, leaflets and more on our website; and of course keep checking our Facebook posts.
  • We’re all aware of how many millions of discarded single-use plastic items are bobbing around the planet, including of course in the oceans; but you may not know that it is Plastic Free July – OK, it’s late July, but you can make a positive difference by still taking their challenge or find out loads more ideas on their website, what a great resource!
  • Thrive have produced gardening related fun activities and games for the school holidays here, including word searches, quizzes and scavenger hunts to keep the wee ones occupied.
  • BBC Gardener’s World website has some great free resources, such as garden projects for kids and allotment jobs for July.

WHAT TO DO IN THE GARDEN NOW!!

Some of you lucky folks will be harvesting currants, raspberries and gooseberries – yum!

  • Keep harvesting peas, broad beans, salads, beetroot and more. And garlic and onions should now be ready, along with – if you timed it well – first courgettes and tomatoes. 
  • Early tatties should be ready; if they’re flowering they are! They’re best eaten fresh. Keep earthing (happing) up your main crop tatties for a bigger yield. 
  • It’s still prime weeding time – hoeing is quick and effective if there’s space between veggies. 
  • Soil drying out? Then mulch around plants (with e.g. garden compost or wet newspaper). 
  • Growing veg in containers? Give them a liquid feed – we love organic seaweed extract! 
  • Cut chives back to the ground and they’ll spring back with tasty new shoots super quickly. 
  • Keep sowing quick growing salads crops like rocket, radish and salad (spring) onions.
  • A good time to sow late season crops: orientals like pak choi and mizuna; salads like winter lettuce, lamb’s lettuce and winter purslane; even certain seed tatties for Christmas spuds!

And last but certainly not least, sit back and enjoy!

Grow Elgin Bulletin

Bulletin 4 – late June 2020

We’re still rocking these beauties out! Tips and info on videos, factsheets and web articles from REAP and others galore! Keep on Growing Your Own and have fun whilst doing it – that’s the key! And do tell us how it’s going – we’re happy to share on our website and Facebook to help inspire others.

Have fun, enjoy the season and eat well!

If you would like to download this bulletin to share with others please click here.

  • Our Salad Collection (ooh!) and Country Garden (aah!) growing packs are still available! New growers of Elgin – come get free seeds and support from us in taking your first steps here.
  • We have two (yes two!) new follow-on videos to May’s Sowing in Pots, Modules and Trays! Get your popcorn ready for Potting On and then Planting Out, where we complete the cycle for tender plants from seed to growing plant.
  • Taking cuttings is an ace way of creating new perennial plants and so cheap too! At this time of year we take softwood cuttings of newer growth, as another new video shows – it’s a hat-trick!
  • Nettles are so useful – they help our compost heap, make a lovely liquid feed, and they’re great for our health too, as we can drink and eat them! Check out the new factsheet.
  • More and more people are getting on their bikes now, which is fantastic for reducing carbon emissions. Our new wee Basic Bike Check factsheet will help keep you safe and pedalling.
  • Just a reminder that’s there’s loads of downloads of all sorts of factsheets, leaflets and more on our website; and of course keep checking our Facebook posts.
  • Cabbage white butterflies are now fluttering here, there and everywhere – they’ll lay their eggs on your cabbages, kale, pak choi, broccoli and even radish! Then when the green caterpillars hatch they’ll munch your leaves, the swines! There’s various things you can do, like netting or spraying eco-friendly solutions – we can also vouch that the fun suggestion here of making your own decoy butterflies to deter them works – a wee activity for the kids perhaps?
  • Remember of course that there’s food for free if you go foraging and know what to look out for – check out these resources by Wild Food UK, The Woodland Trust and Countryfile.
  • It’s well worth checking out the Cultivating Wellbeing in Gardens and Nature resource offered by Thrive. There’s a range of tasks and resources to help you connect to nature in a way that works for you, creating your own health and wellbeing plan – lovely!
WHAT TO DO IN THE GARDEN NOW
  • Hopefully the harvest is now rolling in, broad beans, peas, salad, strawbs and more – yum!
  • Plant out any courgettes, squash and French beans left in pots (giving them a wee ‘lunch box’ of garden compost, manure pellets, seaweed feed etc.)
  • Keep sowing annual herbs like parsley, coriander and basil for on-going crops.
  • Time to plant out your wee kale, cabbage and broccoli plants in their final positions.
  • Weed little and often to keep on top of the weeds and stop them establishing.
  • There’s still time to sow carrots, chard, lettuces, radish and even French beans into your soil.

Grow Elgin Bulletin

Bulletin 3 – late May 2020

Here we are again with our third bulletin. You’ll find more links to videos, factsheets and web articles from REAP and others, plus tips. We hope you find some interesting inspiration to Grow Your Own and maybe do it differently. We always love to hear how you’re getting on – We’d love to share your photos and tales on our website and Facebook to help inspire others.

If you would like to download this bulletin to share with others please click here

Enjoy, stay safe and eat well!

  • REAP Growing packs are going fast! Remember that new growers in the Elgin area can get free seeds and support from us in taking their first steps to ‘grow your own’. There’s just a few growing packs left and the growing season waits for no (wo)man – get yours here.
  • You can even make a lovely wee planter for your windowsill from an old tetra-pak milk or juice carton – it’s a nice quick project for the little ones; check out our new factsheet.
  • Kids love worms, and so do all of us at REAP – a gardener’s best friend! You can make a mini-wormery from an old plastic drinks bottle to feed them and observe how they behave – educational and fun! Here’s another new factsheet.
  • Wee tip – no need to buy new plastic labels for sowing or planting: reuse old milk bottles or tetra-pak cartons cut into strips or keep ice cream lolly sticks. Sand paper is good for roughing up the surface to write on – we find pencil is generally best. Or use pebbles with acrylic paint or suitable pens. And here’s loads more lovely creative ideas.
  • Plastic eh? Did you know there are about 500 million plastic pots in circulation?! At REAP we try to reduce our plastic use in the garden, as I’m sure many of you do, to help save the planet. Not sure where to start or wanting more cunning ideas? Check out these resources from the Royal Horticultural Society or Gardening Without Plastic. And we recommend this book through our friends at Trellis, the therapeutic gardening organisation for Scotland – really useful.
  • Talking of therapeutic gardening, we do hope you are finding growing and being in nature beneficial to your wellbeing. Identifying trees in the park or on walks can be great fun and a welcome distraction from anxiety and low mood, plus being nurturing time connecting with nature and good learning for all. The Woodland Trust have some great resources, including Tree ID for kids, a tree ID phone app and some fun nature activities to do at home with the kids.
  • Remember the importance of tasty food to health, wellbeing and enjoyment – check out our recipe for Baby Leeks and Cheese on Toast – mm! There’s loads of downloads of all sorts of factsheets, leaflets and more on our website and of course keep checking our Facebook posts.

WHAT TO DO IN THE GARDEN NOW

  • Support peas and broad beans – use dead branches/twigs or canes, plus natural twine
  • Sow climbing runner/french beans direct in the soil, making them a tall robust structure first
  • ‘Pot on’ courgettes/pumpkins into bigger pots but keep them coddled for a while longer
  • Plant out young kale and cabbage plants – they’ll need netting from birds and beasties
  • Keep sowing lettuce, rocket, radish, spinach and chard – little and often!
  • (Seeds closer together for baby leaves, further apart for full sized plants – check the packet)

Grow Elgin – Bulletin

Bulletin 2 – early May 2020      

Welcome back to our second REAP Grow Elgin Bulletin. You’ll find more facts, tips and links to videos, webpages and Facebook posts, from REAP and others. We hope you get some ideas and inspiration to grow your own in these interesting times… And do let us know how you get on – photos always welcome for us to share on our website and Facebook to help inspire others.

Enjoy, stay safe and eat well!

  • Last week we had a video showing how to prepare your bed for sowing – well here’s the follow-up showing you all about how to sow outside.
  • Made your windowsill planter from last time? It’s not too late to sow the veggies that need starting inside, before being planted out in a few weeks’ time – check out our video.
  • Seeds but no compost? Sprout seeds in your kitchen and within days be scoffing super nutrient dense sprouts. All you need is an up-cycled plastic tray and a wee bit of kitchen roll, or a jar. Here’s our wee factsheet plus a more in-depth web article – there’ll be a video coming soon.
  • Keep checking out our Facebook posts – there are all sorts on there.
  • A tip for growing parsnips – germinate and grow seeds inside first: sprinkle some seeds into a reused plastic tray lined with kitchen paper and water; place on a windowsill and check the paper is damp every day; after 3 to 5 days seeds will germinate; then transfer germinated seed into wee pots carefully using a pencil point, having made a dent in the soil first. Wait till roots are coming out the bottom of the pot before transferring the whole pot into your prepared bed.
  • As this web article details, gardening is great for wellbeing, including boosting your immune system. And you don’t need to do a lot, it all helps. Yet another reason to grow your own…
  • Getting bored at home and fancy a wee DIY project repurposing an old wooden gate or pallet? Short on garden space but want to grow more? In this video a (Geordie) Forres grower shows you how to build a ‘vertical salad wall’ for pennies.
  • REAP Growing packs – we promised you some more information on these last time. So, new growers in Elgin, you can find out more here about free seeds and growing pack, plus help from us and a wee bit you can do to help us in exchange.

WHAT TO DO IN THE GARDEN NOW

  • Plant tatties if you haven’t already
  • Harvest rhubarb – yum! Pull rather than cut the stems.
  • Sow peas into the warming soil, in a trench – a nice big seed for wee kids to sow.
  • Keep sowing salad seeds – just some at a time so they don’t all come ready at once.
  • Sow tender beans, courgettes, squash and more inside, for a gentle start.
  • It sure is sowing time! Sow chard, beetroot, carrots and other root crops direct into the soil (you could sow salad (spring) onions next to your carrots to deter carrot root fly).
  • Water as needed, especially seedlings – it’s best in the morning/evening to avoid full sun.

Grow Elgin – Bulletin

Bulletin 1 – early April 2020  

Welcome to the first REAP Grow Elgin Bulletin! We’ll be publishing regularly in these interesting times – we aim to give you wee ideas and inspiration to keep or start growing your own food (and composting) at home, even with limited resources, and even if you don’t have a garden!

There’s a mixture of standalone facts and tips, plus links to videos, webpages and Facebook posts, both from REAP and many other canny folk out there. If you find things here useful, let us know how you get on – photos are always welcome and we will share them on our website and Facebook to inspire others.

If you would like to download this bulletin to share with others please click here.

Enjoy and stay safe and well!

  • Nature waits for no (wo)man – we’re now right in the busy spring growing season. It’s a good time to start first outside sowings outside of certain veggie seeds – first thing of course is prepping your veg beds. Check out our super quick video by clicking here.
  • Hungry Gap?! Not for all though – you might still have veggies ready to eat right now in your garden. Our Dorothy does – check out Facebook posts here of her photos, plus ones of spring growth at Cooper Park, to bring joy to your heart (and a hunger pang to your belly perhaps…).
  • Got some seeds and a wee bit of compost? Finding it hard to get outside at the moment or just wanting to start off more tender crops like tomatoes or courgettes inside? Here’s something to do with the kids – make yourself a windowsill planter!
  • Can’t make it far at the moment? Don’t let that stop you! This blog by local naturalist Dan Puplett has great tips for nature connection for wellbeing, from inside your window or in your garden!
  • The RHS Campaign for School Gardening has some lovely accessible resources – check them out.
  • REAP Growing packs: if you live in the Elgin area and would like to get growing, we are offering a Grow Your Own kit to get you started; they’ll be great for getting started at home with children. We need to reach new people through our project, so the kits are mainly for new growers. However, even if you’ve been involved with Grow Elgin before, you can get some free seeds by introducing a friend in Elgin new to growing when they get their pack. There’ll be more information on this in our next bulletin – or call us on 01542 888070 and leave a message.

WHAT TO DO IN THE GARDEN NOW

  • Sow seeds direct outside e.g. salad leaves, spinach and carrot. Need tips? Our factsheet might help.
  • Chit seed potatoes (if you haven’t already) so they’re best ready to plant later this month
  • Get into your compost bin/heap and use the free compost in your veg beds – see our factsheets.
  • Listen to relaxing birdsong – and read more about it from the RSPB.

 

 

Energy Champions Autumn update

Hello folks, as the nights draw in and Jack Frost starts to come a’ knockin’, our Community Energy Champions team have been getting busy getting out spreading the word of how to save money on your fuel bills and getting to the heart of our project.

Leaflets and freebies galore for the knitters at Elgin Community Centre

We have run two drop-in information and training sessions: in Elgin in September and Forres in October; with Buckie Community Centre (22 November 10am – 1pm, free lunch!) and Elgin Youth Cafe (5 December 3.30 – 5.15 pm) to follow – booking advised. We cover deciphering your fuel bills and switching tariff and supplier, how much different home appliances use, different heating and hot water systems, factors in Moray that contribute to affordability of domestic fuel bills and heat loss in the home, amongst others. It’s a basic overview, nothing too complicated but extremely useful!

As well as our intrepid Community Energy Champions who’ve stayed for a good while – with the allure of a certificate, the lunch (!), goodies, a follow-up bespoke home visit and the feel-good factor of then passing on the knowledge in their community – other folk have dropped in for a wee blether and to grab loads of different handy leaflets and freebies for saving energy. So something for everyone. Want to find out more? Then come on down!

In the coming months we will be visiting organisations such as tenants groups, sheltered housing units, groups supporting the elderly and vulnerable, and community and interest groups such as Men’s Sheds to put on these sessions – do you know a group who would be interested? We are targeting Buckie, Dufftown, Elgin, Forres, Keith and Lossiemouth in the main. Please contact us.

Mini wind farms at Seafield Primary

And we’ve had tremendous fun visiting Seafield and St. Sylvester’s primary schools in Elgin, Anderson’s in Forres and Cluny in Buckie, with more schools across Moray in the pipeline. In highly interactive sessions, the children have been finding out where their energy comes from and how it links to climate change, as well as simple steps they can take to help tackle climate change and save the grown ups who pay the bills at home – and for their school! – money. Lindsey Jackson from The Moray Council and her solar-powered critters and gadgets have gone down a treat!

Just a couple of the twenty-odd Summer Scorcher families at Mortlach Primary

 

And lastly, while summer can now seem a distant memory, in Elgin, Buckie, Forres and Dufftown, families loved dropping in to make simple solar ovens from pizza boxes in our Summer Scorcher events when we launched the project.

We’re looking forward to the next events!

Warm wishes to you all,

Barney and Lynne

 

Second Grow Elgin blog

As promised, here’s an update on the amazing range of activities that Dorothy has been up to over the first months of this project. Where to start…?

I have had the pleasure of helping Dorothy out the two bimonthly volunteer days at Cooper Park, we’ve hosted so far. People can just pop along and help us maintain the splendid stone edible beds. You can come along and sow some seeds, learn about propagating, planting out, seed saving and, of course, eat and take home the delights on offer. These have included strawberries, blackcurrants, peas and salad leaves so far! A great place to meet others with similar interests. The next one is Saturday 7th October, 10.30am – 12.30pm.

And just last week I joined Dorothy down at the Gardenshare, to lend a wee hand for one session of her popular two-part gardening courses, which was a lot of fun. We learnt all sorts about composting, which included how to make nettle and comfrey liquid feed ‘teas’ – easy-peasy! You can can dilute these in your watering can to give your plants lots of nitrogen (nettle) and potassium (comfrey) as well as other minerals, great for leaf/stem growth and root/fruit growth, respectively.  We propagated herbs from cuttings, saved some seeds, ate some edible flowers, made a fresh rosemary, thyme, calendula and lavender tea (rather zingy!), ate a freshly harvested salad and made some fresh juice using our new cute portable juicer – you can just taste the healthiness..mm. And that was all in one session…Check the website posts and posters for more details of the third round of these, in September – book soon!

I enjoyed covering for Dorothy on her electric bike tours round Elgin (when she recently took a well-earnt holiday), picking up food waste and dropping it off at one of our community composting hot-spots around the city. We’re always looking for more businesses and organisations to donate their fruit and veg peel, tea bags, coffee grounds and shredded paper for us to collect – and all to make lovely compost to then grow food here in Elgin! Contact us if you’re interested.

But that is just the tip of her iceberg, in June Dorothy hosted a wee Eco-Gathering at the Gardenshare where a monster salad was harvested; Elgin’s first Big Lunch with a selection of her home-made soups from locally grown veg; and a stall at Moray Resource Centre with other home-made treats like beetroot hummus and garlic bread, using produce from their beds. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry just writing this!

And she’s been busy raising awareness of the importance of bees, seed saving and composting with the wee ones at West End Primary and heading off with Greenwards Primary into the trees at The Wards, finding food for free and ID’ing trees. What fun we have! 

First blog for Grow Elgin part 3!

Hello there, Barney Thompson here, I’m back in the blog-writing seat, as one of the two Outreach Workers on phase three of this exciting project, aka Grow Elgin and Beyond; the other being the Community Gardening Queen of Moray, nay, Scotland surely (the world even?) – the inimitable Dorothy Allan. It has been a pleasure to get back involved with this particular project, even though I must offer my apologies for the tardy first installment of the blog – what can I say, we have just been so darn busy getting things rolling…

A lot has been going on and in this first blog I’ll report on what I’ve been up to; hot on its heels I’ll post a second blog letting you know all the splendid things that Dorothy’s been doing.

This year we have a focus on therapeutic gardening and a major part of this is developing food growing activities at Maryhill Health Centre. People can get referred by their GP or other health care professional to come join us in building the garden and growing tasty fruit and veg. Us REAP folks are well aware of the many ways in which doing this can be good for the soul – and one’s mental and physical health well-being – and we look forward to others seeing the benefit by joining in. I have been busy preparing a design for the garden, which we recently displayed at the surgery for everyone’s feedback – activities start next week!

AYP’s freshly planted bed

I’ve been doing sessions with many of the other groups I work with. Two Friday evening sessions at Elgin Youth Cafe as part of their summer programme proved lots of fun. Thanks to the hard work of the young people, there are now four new raised beds in their backyard space, sowed and planted up with french beans, peas, brassicas, pumpkins and various salads, to name but a few. Over at  Aberlour Youth Point, the young people and staff have been really proactive in planning what they’d like in order to reinvigorate their garden – a couple of sessions there have resulted in lots of weeding with a wide variety of brassicas going in – such as purple sprouting broccoli, various kales and Brussel Sprouts – with various faster growing salads sown in between for a quicker harvest without being shaded out. We refreshed ourselves with freshly picked strawberries and blackcurrants – mmm…

And time spent with the mums and much tinier ones at a couple of summer sessions (one of which was put on by our friends at Earthtime) at Step-by-Step’s new home at Winchester House proved equally rewarding. We ate a local lunch of broad bean pate to give us strength to blitz some weeding (my, were they quick…) and planted out and sowed a good variety of veggies. As well as collecting poppies for their seeds, I left the workers armed with various veg and salad seeds for more sowing and am looking forward to going back soon to see progress and to put all the ready compost from their bin (collected by the previous occupants, Action for Children) into one of the beds, ready for sowing – truly closing the loop! Talking of composting, the youngsters at Seafield Primary had a fun afternoon totally revamping their composting system and looking for beasties, along with some tidying and planting, but I suspect their most favourite part was eating the freshly harvested strawberries.

The elder folk of Moray have been involved too – we had a lovely time at Gurness Day Centre doing some indoor planting up of containers and tattie bags, finishing off with a delicious fresh herbal tea tasting session – lavender, calendula, rosemary and sage makes for a tasty blend. I’m looking forward to tasting the rhubarb chutney they made on another occasion…

And I’ve been on the road with colleagues at a couple of summer events, promoting the project, giving away seeds and other freebies and putting on some workshops – lots of fun!

So it really has been a summer of working with people of all ages – fantastic to connect with you all!

Barney’s Blog 10 – School orchards galore

They say all good things come in threes. Or is that bad things? Or buses? Well, since the topic in question is my blog – with three in a couple of days, no less – then surely it is the former…well, the many thousands of people sending emails missing their fix and begging for their resumption can’t be wrong! In the previous two I have gone back in time to the balmy days of British Summer Time. However, in this one we’re firmly rooted in November, though strangely in weather more reminiscent of summer.

Team Greenwards

Team Greenwards

Sunglasses and shirtsleeves made an appearance during the glorious couple of days spent last week at Greenwards Primary, Bishopmill Primary and Elgin Academy. Dorothy, Lynne and I were joined by orchardier John Hancox, who had come up the A9 trunk road with a car jam-packed full of young fruit trees and shrubs, stakes, ties, guards, as well as an apple juice press and a selection of his apples. And a rather splendid spade I cast envious glances at, plus a mallet, for banging those stakes in.

Elgin Academy kindly provided the large array of spades and forks; plenty were needed as the kids were out in force to help us. There was no way we could have done without their help, with ten trees plus soft fruit shrubs to get in in each session!

John and the gang

John and the Greenwards gang

Miss Bailey’s eco-schools group at Greenwards were first up on the Monday, a lovely bunch of little ‘uns, thirty or so of them, along with a crack team of student reporters. Lynne got them warmed up in her magic way and then they split into groups of three. We laid out the trees in rows so the lawn mower can navigate easily through to cut the grass. And we positioned them a good four metres apart – remember, although they are wee little things now they’ll grow a lot bigger and we don’t want two trees getting tangled or shading each other. Did you know – the final height that a fruit tree will grow to depends on the type of standard rootstock that it has been grafted on to? This will control the vigour of the tree, as well as potentially improving disease resistance.

The apple trees are in place!

The apple trees are in place!

tree planting (20)

Nice work!

And so a rather nice, if we say so ourselves, fledgling orchard appeared right near the entrance, with a variety of apple trees suited to the Moray climate, such as Katy, Laxton’s Fortune and, yes, Beauty of Moray. The odd plum and pear tree provided a bit of variety, as did some young gooseberry, blackcurrant, redcurrant, tayberry and raspberry shrubs planted close to the trees to give them a bit of company.

The following morning we were at Bishopmill and an even bigger group of cute wee ones, led by Mr Stewart and Mr Stuart. We sited our orchard on a slope to the side of the school for the parents to see and near to their biodiverse play area, again with a selection of apples and other top fruit, plus a row of soft fruit bushes, next to the path.

A pause as the worm hunt intensifies

A pause as the Bishopmill worm hunt intensifies

tree planting (14)

Applying the finishing touches (the camera does actually lie sometimes -it is actually vertical, honest)

Digging here was tricky near the bottom of the slope, where the soil was very stony, especially for wee ones, but they did a sterling job, whilst being careful to handle the tools safely. We were digging out a square about 80cm wide (half that size for the soft fruit), first putting the turves to one side, then digging further down and removing the soil to about a spade’s depth. Then we put the turves in the hole upside down; ‘why?’ you ask. Because the soil near the surface and the grass is rich with nutrients but we don’t want the grass to grow. Then we position the stake and the tree, before backfilling the hole with the remaining soil.

Bishopmill posse - look at the cameras!

Bishopmill posse – look at the cameras!

The final shebang was after lunch, next door at Elgin Academy, where Mrs. Campbell’s class took to the field. Again we were on a slope, adding to the existing fledgling orchard which is part of their brilliant food garden, and facing stony soil in places. The teenagers did well and their stakes were well done, put in with some gusto. It’s important to have a stake in place for the early years of a tree, in order to support the wee thing against the wind and dreich weather. When we put a stake in, it’s not in the middle of the hole as that’s for the tree but close enough so that they can be tied loosely together with the special ties. And we must put a guard around the base of the tree to stop rabbits, deer and other pesky furry critters from munching the bark, otherwise it’s game over for the tree…

Up on the slope at the Academy

Up on the slope at the Academy

And did you know (I didn’t until John explained) that research has shown a square hole is better than a round hole? This is because the roots find it easier to grow into the corners of the un-dug (more compacted) soil.  There was just enough left in the Academy’s water butt to ensure the trees started their new life with a good drink. The trees should start producing fruit in the next couple of years, so not too long to wait.

Lynne takes a breather to tell tales of her fishing trip

Lynne takes a breather to recount her fishing trip

As a small bonus for all the pupils, they got to have a go at using John’s stylish vintage apple press to get some juice; enough for a wee dram for everyone – so much better than your carton stuff!

It was fantastic to see all the pupils engaged in outdoors learning and planting trees for many in the future to enjoy and get healthy free food, and all on the school doorstep. Big thanks to you all – and your teachers – for your hard work and enthusiasm. And thank John!

Good things do come in threes!

Good things do come in threes!

Barney’s Blog 9 – Permaculture a success again

Gooooood morning Moray!

I trust November finds you well. As the days draw right in, this can be a fine time to go inwards to reflect and contemplate. But of course also make sure to get outside to see the fantastic autumn colours before all the leaves fall. I really enjoy being out gardening at this time of year, taking in the precious daylight and feeling the garden and nature slow down.

However, today I’ll tell you a wee bittie about a fine classroom experience I had back in October, thanks to the inimitable Jonny Barton.

SAM_1099Jonny is a Permaculture Diploma tutor from just over the border near Huntly and he has headed to Elgin twice in recent months to deliver an Introduction to Permaculture day workshop for us. On the second one I was lucky enough to help hold the session and soak up his knowledge and enthusiasm. I completed a Permaculture Design Certificate back in 2012 and this was a perfect refresher for me, learning from a highly qualified and experienced tutor.

What is permaculture? is a common question. I’m not going to attempt to properly answer that question in this short blog! Perhaps, I could just say that it is short for permanent agriculture or permanent culture. It combines an ethical framework and an understanding of how nature works with a design process; and the whole point is to provide practical solutions to support the creation of sustainable, healthy and agriculturally productive settlements. I hope we all agree that this has got be a good thing!

Jonny went through the ethics (Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share) and the various nifty principles inspired by nature that underpin it all. A permaculture approach can be helpful with many aspects of life. It’s not just about, for example, growing ‘low effort’ perennial crops or designing your garden better; it could be how you invest your money, how you build or retrofit your house, your approaches to medicine, health and education, how your business is set up etcetera etcetera…SAM_1102

Questions and issues relevant to each participant were looked at and for the last bit we headed out to the Gardenshare site to see some permaculture in action and get our hands dirty.

There is the splendidly marvellous UK Permaculture Association, which has a wealth of information at www.permaculture.org.uk.

But what you probably need at this point is a bit of Jonny in person to really inspire you and get you started down this road – that millions round the world are now travelling on, with a smile on their faces.

And good news…Jonny will be back by popular request, early in 2016, dates to be confirmed – if you contact info@reapscotland.org.uk you can get yourself on the waiting list for a place and of course get further information. I thoroughly recommend it!