Barney’s Blog 3 – oot n aboot

Hello good Moravians, it’s been a wee while since my last installment.

A helper at Home FarmLast time I told you a little about our preparation for the Open Day at Home Farm, Pitgaveney. A cracker of a day was had! Sheepdog trials, sheep shearing, a farmers’ market and bicycle powered smoothies were just a few of the attractions. Our raised bed and (especially) our herb spiral drew countless admiring glances and tempted many folk into the marquee for a blether. They were most chuffed to hear how quick and easy these are to build. Free seeds and factsheets on the above as well as composting were particularly popular take-aways. We learnt lots ourselves, hearing some great tips and stories and a good number of people were keen to get involved and signed up for our mailing list.

Signing up folk at GreenfingersDorothy and I were ‘oot and aboot the previous day too. We were down at the Greenfingers project at Cooper Park nurseries, for a sale of lots of very healthy looking plants straight out of the polytunnels and cold frames. Not surprisingly, the folk from Elgin and beyond were there in their droves, picking up a bargain or ten. And so we got in on the action, spreading the word about how easy and tasty it could be to put aside even a wee part of your garden for growing your own grub, to accompany all those bedding plants…. Folks took away some seeds for germinate – of ideas as well as veggies.

Seed sowing at Greenwards PrimaryA few days after our weekend bonanza we headed down to Greenwards Primary School to spend the morning with Miss Taylor’s year P4/5 class. We went on a Where in the World? journey with them, tracing their supermarket food back to source and looking at the many contributions to its carbon footprint in getting from field to supermarket shelf. The kids showed great geography knowledge when looking at the labels, and were surprised that food was coming from as far afield as Vietnam, Chile and Kenya! After that we headed out with them to the Allarburn Farm Shop, where there was such a contrast; local butchers selling their products from Huntly, garlic from Nairn and local veg grown in farms just a few miles from the shop in Elgin’s Edgar Road.

There was a return to Action for Children last week; unfortunately I was laid low with the lurgy but Dorothy and Ann had a fine time by all accounts, filling pots with herbs, rocket and strawberries, transferring veg into the filled raised beds we made last time – so there’ll be plenty of lettuce, cabbage, leeks, onions and kale soon. Patrick and Kaden found a 1936 one penny in the soil, treasure, what a great find! Then the lashing rain put paid to our raised bed party at Pitgaveney last Sunday – please summer, come soon – but we’ll be heading back for the rearranged fixture shortly, as well as starting the first of our four Grow Your Own gardening courses at Elgin Gardenshare on Forteath Avenue this coming Saturday 13 June from 10am – 12noon. It’s called Sow and Grow and we’ll be on hand along with some other gardeners to give a gentle introduction to people doing it themselves. To book a place just contact the REAP office. This course will run every fortnight taking you through sowing to harvesting. See you there?

Barney’s Blog 2 – Tuesday epic

Hello it’s Barney again and time for my second installment, where I’m going to tell you about my busy day last Tuesday. It was a day of varied activities (and weather!).

I joined Dorothy in the morning at Home Farm, Pitgaveney just outside Elgin. We were doing the preparation for the big Fun Day they have this coming Sunday 24th May. Get down if you can – there’s going to be a lot going on. As part of it we’re going to demonstrate raised bed construction and seed sowing for windowsill propagation and help the wee ones to make paper pots, sow bean seeds and make bug homes. We’ll be promoting this project too.

We had a most pleasant morning, firstly building a herb spiral from unused bricks which we then planted up with a wide range of culinary herbs. We celebrated its completion with a lovely cup of lemon balm and grapefruit mint tea, freshly harvested and bursting with freshness. We moved on to building one of our legendary metre squared raised beds. We filled this with lovely peat-free compost and then a smorgasboard of veg seedlings and young plants – including kale, carrots, leeks, salad onions, lettuce, mixed leaves, radishes, garlic – to show how easy it is for people to starting grow their own veg. We had some help from Jim Grant the friendly marquee man who gave us a shiny new drill bit. What a man!

Herb spiral being built

Jim helping with raised bed Home Farm

Raised bed building with Jim to the rescue

sprial and flower bed

All done!

After lunch we met up with our manager Ann and new volunteer Sophie at the Elgin Community Allotments site on Wards Road and then went on a tour of possible sites for community allotments and orchards in north Elgin. There is such potential round there to get growing and work towards a whole edible trail.

And then it was on to the final destination, Action4Children on King Street. We joined the kids and staff in preparing the ground for two raised beds, which we then put in place and filled with topsoil. There was just time for a few tatties to go in – more sowing and planting to follow. They all showed amazing enthusiasm and perseverance in the face of some chilly rain and wind. Such keen diggers and shovellers – excellent work guys.

everyone planting

Never mind the rain, let’s get stuck in!

planting tatties

Tatties being tucked into their new bed

A weekend of fun beckons at the Home Farm Open Day after working alongside the Greenfingers crew at Cooper Park for their open day on Saturday. I’ll report back when I can – bye for now.

Barney’s Blog

Hello everyone, my name’s Barney Thompson and I’ve just started as a Project Assistant on the exciting new Grow Elgin project that REAP is running. I’m going to be writing a blog of what I’ve been up to – to give you a taste of the project and maybe encourage you to get involved in whatever way you can.

I’m a keen gardener and composter and love growing food organically, so I’m really looking forward to joining the people of Elgin – young and old – in the activities that we’re going to be running in various locations. Amongst other things, we’ll be developing and maintaining community gardens and orchards, sowing seeds, building beds, composting and, of course, harvesting the tasty produce. We’ll be getting our hands dirty and having lots of fun!

Last week I went on my first visit with my lovely colleague Dorothy. We had an excellent time at Elgin Academy with two classes, Mrs Sutherland’s and Miss Ainsley’s classes from S1.

The Academy already has a food garden underway, developed with our help . They are ready to build some composting bays, so we took time to work with the young people, developing their composting knowledge. We looked at which things from your garden and kitchen you can and can’t put in your compost, as well as techniques for making a good balanced compost mix. Students looked at some compost that we’d already ‘made’, both from a compost heap and a wormery. The worms were more popular with some students than others!

elgin academy 05 (4)

Dorothy explains some of the joys of compost

The Academy has some splendid raised beds and students also sowed some seeds, for many this was the first time they had done this. Beetroot, carrots, potatoes, parsnip s, radish, leaf beets and lettuce will hopefully be making their appearance when they’re ready at the Academy. Students also had a go at pruning fruit trees that had been damaged by the wind.

elgin academy 05 (3)

Seed sowing and chatting about favourite veg.

If you need any help with composting, we have a handy simple leaflet you can download here. There is also other information you can download about about food growing.

That’s all for my first instalment folks. I hope you enjoyed reading and I’ll be writing more soon.


DIY Draught Excluder

What with the cold weather setting in, I thought it would be the perfect time to make a draught excluder.

We have a knitting pattern for a draught excluder that can be downloaded here. But if you’re like me, and you can just about tell one end of a knitting needle from the other, here is an alternative method using the leg from a pair of old trousers.

Step 1. Cut the leg off the old trousers and turn it inside out. 


This gives you a tube of fabric that you’ll stuff.





Step 2. Lay the tube flat then stitch the two edges of an open end together.


This will form a tube that is closed at one end. How neat you make it is up to you, but the important thing is that the stitching is secure so to keep the stuffing inside. If you’re like me and are not great at sewing it can look a little rough, but that doesn’t matter because it will be hidden when you…



Step 3.  …turn the tube inside out again.

Step 4. Stuff the tube with a suitable material.


I used the polyester filling from an old pillow but shredder newspaper, plastic shopping bags, polystyrene beads, and bits of old garments also make good filler.




Step 5. Close up the remaining end.


I sewed it but  it would have been quicker to fold over the ends and secure them with safety pins. That way the stuffing could be removed and the fabric outer washed if needed.

And that’s it. It took me about forty-five minutes from start to finish, with the sewing accounting for most of that, and it works pretty well.



Things I will do differently the next time:

If aesthetics are a factor I’d use a more attractive piece of fabric. I pulled the polyester for the stuffing apart and this caused a lot of mess. Next time I will cut it into small chunks or use one of the other materials mentioned above. I also used too much stuffing resulting in the excluder being too firm. You want it to be a little soft so that it sags and increases the contact with the floor and where it touches the door. And finally, I’ll use safety pins for the reasons mentioned above. It would also make it easier to take out some of the excess stuffing and cut down on sewing time.


Here’s our wee slideshow with just a few photos from the Apple Day. Roll on next year!

If you click on the play button it will take you to the Smilebox website where the video will load and play automatically.

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Apples, apples, apples…

You can freeze, refrigerate and wrap apples to store them. You can bake them, roast them, juice them, mull them, make pie, crumble, muffins, tarts, chutney them, dry them in the oven or airing cupboard to make apple crisps or jelly them alone or with other flavours. Apple loves bramble, greengage, cinnamon, rosehip, chilli, cheese, lavendar, rosemary, sage… The list goes on. They are so versatile and the perfect portable snack.

Here are a few of links to apple recipes – please get in touch if you’d like to add yours.


wee appleThe Fife Diet has recipes galore here – see Applicious Autumn for All to get your tastebuds tingling.
For a range of seasonal recipes and ideas, why not join The Fife Diet? Membership is free, and in return for pledging to cut your carbon FOODprint, you’ll be kept up to date with all sorts of goings on and receive 4 lovely seasonal recipe books over the course of the first year. See for more information.


wee apple

Love Food, Hate Waste is always a good spot to stop for recipe ideas to use up bits n bobs.
There are plenty ideas for dealing with an apple glut and using every bit. Click here for a link to a refreshing apple peel drink.


wee apple

BBC Good Food website – recipes are tested and commented on by real-life cooks.
You can search for things that are quick or easy or vegetarian or low calories A is for apples and there are over 300 apple recipes here!


wee apple

The Royal Horticultural Society has a list of seasonal food recipes  – with a couple of apple cakes to start you off.








Seeds are like stories…

… they are meant for sharing not for keeping. That was the big message from The Fife Diet Seed Truckers during a tremendous day spent in Keith.

The house ceilidh in Longmore Hall was a lovely evening with sharing of stories, song, music and poems. There were tears and laughter and it was a pleasure and a privilege to get a chance to hear so much local talent. Keith Heritage Group brought along videos of The Keith Country show from 1951 and 1994 that played as a captivating backdrop.

Superb hosting!

Superb hosting!

Thanks also to the Scouts for their excellent service, good humour, and managing to resist eating anything till after all the refreshments were served, especially the beautiful home-made cupcakes.

Fergus and the Seed Kist

Fergus and the Seed Ki

The famous Seed Kist came along to the ceilidh too, and Fergus from The Fife Diet spoke about the importance of saving seeds, especially Scottish varieties, which are more likely to thrive here. The kist is full of seeds that are swapped or donated. The Fife Diet collect information on how they grow, as well as gathering recommendations on other varieties. It is hoped one day to have a Seed Kist for Scotland and this is certainly an idea we’d like to see go forward.


Fife diet allotment visit 030It’s very easy to get started with seed saving, and we’ll be putting a simple guide online soon. Earlier in the day, Dorothy from REAP ran some workshops including basic and some more advanced seed collection and storage techniques, and we donated seeds to the truck for them to take to St Fitticks Community Garden in Aberdeen. If you’d like to know more about seed saving, we can deliver a free workshop to your group, so long as you’re based in Keith and Strathisla. It’s an easy way to grow sustainably and work in harmony with the environment.

Another workshop featured a herb spiral built with help from allotment volunteers, made from re-used bricks and donated topsoil.



Meanwhile, Penny did story telling and nature activities for children.

Fife diet allotment visit 023

There were were busy bees flitting from flower to flower in the bee game and one or two hunts for giant, enormous turnips, rumoured to be growing in the allotments.

There was also a chance to mill and take away your own flour, with every step of the process explained from winnowing to grinding, while Mrs Mash made delicious pancakes with some of the finished product.

The bakery van

The bakery van

We would like to thank Moray Beekeepers who brought their virtual hive, and a virtual encyclopaedia of knowledge and fascination; Duncan from Waste Aware with kids’ activities and a very active wormery; Mr Les Coull for bringing along his stunning vintage Model T bakery van, very eye-catching and gleaming red, it was a big draw and a great chance to sit in the cab and imagine driving out with the day’s loaves on board.

REAP volunteer Charlie had the electric bike on show, as well as a vintage grocery bike kindly loaned by Annands

Community Food Moray were there with some lovely fruit platters and thankfully, apple and orange juice cartons. They are also in the North Church Hall, Mid Street, Keith every Thursday from 9-9.45am with fruit and local veg for sale.

Thanks also to Clive Coney (landroverlad at hotmail dot co dot uk), who supplied some very attractive seating made from local wood.

It was a day of glorious sunshine, great conversation and lots of sharing of seeds, food, knowledge and fun. The Seed Truckers would love to go on tour again next year and we’d love to see them back in Keith

You can see more photos on our Facebook page find out about what happened on tour here.