Updated: May 4
“Inside the word "emergency" is "emerge"; from an emergency new things come forth. The old certainties are crumbling fast, but danger and possibility are sisters.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark
I've spent most of today panicking about where to start with this series. Over the last 2 years with Custom (and individually for many years before) we've been constantly thinking about how to cook and eat and shop in ways that are better for the planet, better for our bodies, better for communities and this might just be an opportunity to bring these ideas forth in the darkness... danger and possibility are sisters... and my mind has gone blank...
So after a day of sorting out my new studio space and not really getting any closer to working out what to write about, I went to pick up our little one, Ernest, from nursery and on the way home we stopped to let off some steam in this crisp spring sunshine. The water level is still really high here after all the weeks of rain, so if you press your foot into the grass, it immediately soaks up to fill the indent, but just dry enough that when Ernest rolled around in the grass he stayed dry... just! There is clover coming through and loads of young nettles, dead nettles and goosegrass, buds are forming on branches and it was just so... grounding. So here it is. Week 1. Grounding.
I think of grounding as a connectedness to the Earth, spanning cultures, traditions, and spiritual practices. It is linked to feeling balanced, centered, anchored, supported - but for this week, I'm going to look at it in a pretty literal sense. I think if we look after the ground we stand on, it will look after us.
Back then to the new studio. We're out in the countryside here, so we are really lucky to have a bit of land that we are allowed to grow things on. We're even luckier that it is ridiculously picturesque with woodland behind and a stream running down the side, so I am planning a mini forest garden. I want to point out at this point that I am no expert gardener and will be relying heavily on Gini (Custom's Locavore Garden Manager), my Mum, the internet, some dodgy books I've had since the 80s but never read and my new neighbours who seem to have some nice stuff growing in their front gardens. Since there is a street between us and them, I think it will be acceptable to shout across to them for advice without fear of spreading disease. Perhaps we can even figure out some sort of hygienic seed(ling) swap down the line...
It's just a bit of rough land at the moment and too waterlogged to get much started right away, but it's such a privilege to have this space to grow my own food in. It's a complete luxury after 18 months of keeping a garden going on the Harbour Arm in Folkestone - for which I can take no credit as Gini did it all! So here is a random smattering of the things I've been thinking about today that Gini has taught me about starting a garden from scratch in a less than hospitable spot for growing. It's a bit of a homage to her as she is such a gardening guru: - Half drain pipes are very useful for growing in, you can buy end stops for them, cut them to the width of your window sill and silicon the end bits in place, then plant them up with lettuces or use them as a receptacle for seedling pots, so that you can water them all at once. At Custom Folkestone we got all our seedlings started in drain pipes on window ledges before planting them out. These are the pipes and end bits we bought - the flat edge is particularly handy so they don't roll around.
- You can use empty egg boxes as seedling pots
- Every plant is different and needs its own ecosystem, I watched in wonder as Gini figured out that artichokes like to be nourished with seaweed and rock samphire droops unless you sprinkle the soil liberally with sea salt! Seriously - salt in the soil!! I don't know how she figures it out, some kind of alchemy, but I'm planning to learn so watch this space. I'm imagining this involves lots of talking to plants and hoping they talk back, so I'm a bit glad of social distancing - no-one will even know I'm acting like a crazy person.
- Compost is the answer to most of the world's problems. It is the perfect final link in the chain of the food system - connecting waste back to growth. This year, I am going to be giving bokashi a go. Sounds complicated but basically it a quicker, less smelly way of making compost and you can do it with all food waste, not just raw veg bits - I'll let you know how i get on!
- Don't fight the weeds, eat them. This is the mantra of the Locavore Garden! I'm going to do lots of posts about foraging, but will do a special one about garden weeds and which ones you can add to your pestos or salad bowls. In case I leave it too late, don't miss out on all the lovely little dandelion leaves - they are really good right now, perfect in salads - when they get bigger they get too bitter.
- Companion planting is really important but I am currently completely ignorant on the matter. However I will learn and feed back here.
- Bees. Bees. Bees. Bees. Bees. Bees. Don't forget the bees, grow one plant for yourself and one for them.
- Soil makes you happy. I have to be honest, I haven't totally fact-checked this one, but anecdotally I believe it to be true and this story comes up quite a lot in internet news.
Most of all, the reason I will never be without a vegetable garden from now to eternity (even if it's a lettuce in pot) is that the last few years have taught me how much knowledge there is in the earth. All the people I know who have real authentic wisdom and creativity also have deep connection to the earth, a rootedness that I crave. The growing cycles and the seasons get into your blood and the you start to see the beauty and complexity of the natural world in everything, in relationships and technology, in design and politics. Nothing is new, it all came from the soil.
OK. That'll do for post number 1.