Finding Common Ground

second growing workshop, planting the lettuces and the brussell sprouts together!

second growing workshop, planting the lettuces and the brussell sprouts together!

Want to know the secret behind a thriving organic garden?  Diversity.

As I have learnt from participating in this project, if you want to keep your vegetables happy, you have to accommodate a wild variety of wildlife in the form of flora and fauna.  Down at the allotment we take just as much care of our wildflowers as we do our vegetables and we know our frogs are just as vital as our raised beds.

The same goes for our community.  Every person that comes to the Moss Side Community Allotment, whether they come down for an hour or they make a long-term commitment, brings something to the table.  And it doesn’t have to be horticultural skills.  It can be an infectious laugh, a way with words, mass biscuit-eating capabilities…..whatever you’ve got, we’ll take it.

Being at the heart of an incredibly diverse and vibrant community with it’s wild flowers and it’s vegetables, we get all sorts of contributions brought to our table, which is probably what makes us so successful.  Yet despite these differences, we all have so much in common as well; most especially a desire to give, which is what we all do.

I’ll leave you with some photographs of our eclectic community (both flora and fauna) and with some of the things we’ve been getting up to over the past few weeks.

Make Hay When the Sun Shines (And When It Doesn’t!)

Spring into action may sound a bit cliche but it certainly feels like that’s what we’ve been doing since the onset of spring so there’ll be no holding back on the cliches in this blog…..

market dayTo Market, To Market

We kicked off April with a lovely sunny market day selling our organic wares including our home grown seeds, climbing-out-of-the-pot strawberry and mint plants, the traditional allotment eggs and of course our homemade organic cider vinegar.

bug hunt 6It’s A Bug’s Life

Last Wednesday we had our very first bug hunt.  With the help of Matt from the Greater Manchester Record Centre, a butterfly net and some very keen wildlife hunters (big and small) we explored the world in miniature at Moss Side Community Allotment and we had plenty of surprises.  After a grueling hunt, our brave insect seekers made some beautiful bug hotels to take home with them.

raised bed 1

Off the Ground

And then for the weekend…..when we held our second raised bed workshop with plenty of participants.  Twelve lovely ladies rolled their sleeves up and got on with some sawing and screwing as they learnt about the benefits of this piece-of-cake growing method.

little diggers 1Sunshine on a Rainy Day

We finished up last week with our marvelous Little Diggers event- we were joined by 11 little diggers and several big diggers too to paint some beautiful pots and hear the tale of the King and the Seed.

Dirt

8899336591_9e3f03dada_k-e1424993096873-1389x500Fact: In one teaspoon of soil there are more microorganisms than there are humans living on the planet.

Imagine the worlds you are transforming when you dig up a whole vegetable patch.  Lesson one in our series of workshops on growing food was all about our favourite thing: dirt.  We learnt about the fundamental importance of soil to the health of our garden and the resilience of our vegetables.  We analysed it, broke it down into parts and ran it through our fingers.

If you didn’t make it to this workshop, and you’d like to learn more about the value of soil and it’s potential to transform whole civilizations, then take a look at this article and don’t miss out on our next workshop on April 25th.

Planting Seeds for The Next Generation

10942497_10152775011893269_1963505136906460621_nPassion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young, it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. – Richard Louv: Last Child in the Woods

A healthy community is one that looks out or it’s children.  It is one that recognizes the importance and value of the next generation and makes their education a priority.

This year at the lottie, we’re dedicating ourselves to the next generation of little diggers, which is why we’ve been working hard to extend the children’s garden and seek funding to undertake exciting activities including a bi-weekly family club and (fingers crossed) work with local schools to get children outside with their fingers in the earth.  Our aim is to move the learning space beyond the classroom and into the community; allowing children the unique opportunity to experience the world in full 3D colour.

Although all of these exciting projects are yet to come to fruition, this weekend at the lottie we were fortunate enough to have some little digger visitors who were ahead of the game.  We had help watering and moving the plants, digging over raised beds and even building a beautiful hibernaculum to house our frogs and newts when they’re not pond-dipping.

What became apparent to me as I saw the children zealously getting their hands dirty, pulling out worms and searching for twigs was that very little was needed to kindle the learning process and perhaps more pertinently, we as adults have as much to learn from children as they do from us.

May the learning commence.

Letting the Sunshine In: Pre-Spring Preparations

IMG_7536[1]

Snowdrops: A traditional symbol of hope

February is a funny old month.  It’s the shortest month of the year, the long winter still lingers on and yet change is in the air.  The long, sleepy nights begin to slowly shorten and in amongst the seemingly dead remnants of last year’s crop, the first brave little shoots of new life begin to creep through.  Unlike the yellow splendour of spring’s show-offy daffodils, the shoots are more subtle, green and hidden.  Birds that had made their escape start to come back.  Winter is definitely not over, but there’s hope.

Our pagan ancestors would have marked the season with the traditional festival of imbolc; usually held on 1st February to celebrate the coming of spring.  This involved (and still does involve) lighting a candle or bonfire to represent the return of warmth and light.

Down at the lottie, the first shoots are beginning to appear and our snowdrops are quietly flowering.  New flocks of birds have been making their presence known and there are plenty of little green shoots.  We have also been making more space for new life in the new growing season, building new raised beds and making a start on a polytunnel.  Today, we also cleaned the perspex in the greenhouse, which was covered in last year’s snail poo and whilst we didn’t light any candles, we’ve certainly been letting the light in for next year’s little seedlings.

So here’s to February, and to quiet new beginnings…..

Where the Wild Things Are

IMG_7471There’s more than just parsnips and people at the Moss Side Community Allotment.  Living beneath the soil and between the gaps in the stone walls, whistling down from old cherry and elder trees and huddled in the hedgegrow are….the other wild things.

Any organic farmer worth his salt knows that the key to a successul harvest and a beautiful garden is just as much about how you look after the wildlife as your veg patch which is why we provide little treats to encourage local wildlie into the lottie and maintain the natural balance we need.

This weekend we were focusing on birds, who have definitely been enjoying our urban oasis during the cold winter months.  As part of RSBP’s national event to observe wildlife this weekend 24th-25th January, MSCA diggers had a stab at birdwatching and here’s what we recorded:

-a pied wagtail

-a robin

-2 wrens

-A flock of about 20 sparrows

-A few starlings.

-a pair of blackbirds

-a couple of magpies

-we usually have some blue tit visitors but they decided not to make an appearance today.

And we’ve had even more on previous weekends!  If you like wildlife, come down to the lottie and share our passion!

Singin’ In the Rain and Other Sustainable Living Tips

2 Simon LadderRain?  Snow?  Hail?  Nothing stops us!  This Saturday 17th January we got down to business and started work on our water catchment system and just in time for a rain storm….

With guidance, we learnt about putting up guttering at just the right angle so we can harvest all of this lovely rainwater ready for those long, (hopefully) dry days in the summer without having to use water from the tap.  Not only is this kind of water better for the health of our plants but it also reduces water wastage and our carbon footprint.

When the rain finally did pick up, we curled around a warm cup of tea inside the hub and got on with organising the seeds we’ve been drying out ready for the spring.  One of our aims is to try and become more self-sufficient and thereby relying less on funding, so we’ve been collecting up and drying our own seeds.  This both reduces our costs and ensures that we are collecting seeds of the highest quality that are well-adapted to our climate and soil.

Talk about killing two birds with one stone….though this isn’t something we advocate at the Moss Side Community Allotment.  Speaking of which: next week we’ll be doing some birdwatching, to appreciate the marvellous biodiversity which the allotment attracts (in human and non-human forms!) as part of a national event from the RSBP so bring your anoraks and your long lens camera next week from 10am.

Solidarity in Austerity: Moss Side Community Share

IMG_7426It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay – small acts of kindness and love.” – J. R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

This Saturday 10th January 13 Moss Siders came together to sort and box the food donations from the Moss Side Community Share which our generous community have contributed to.  The idea was simple: to bring non-perishable food goods to the MSCA hub to be distributed among the people most in need in our local area, working with various housing associations.

“It’s not going to be about charity,” insisted Phillip Dodd, who initiated the project.  “It’s about sharing what we have with the more vulnerable people in our community.”

We have had approximately 40 kind contributors, bringing three tables full of soups, sauces, pasta, cereals, chocolate, marzipan stollen (a massive temptation), fresh vegetables from The Kindling Trust and much more.  We estimate that in total we have provided around 120 meals to people in Moss Side in that very difficult period after Christmas when money can be tight, particularly with current national austerity measures.

Some of the food has already gone out to several families in urgent need and we have more still to be collected.  What was clear was that the small acts of kindness of many ordinary folk in a trusting and loving community can make a difference.  Whilst we are a long way from bringing about long-term changes for these families and no doubt we wouldn’t have been able to help all those that really needed it with what we contributed, lets hope that what we shared has bought a glimmer of hope to those that received the donations, not just from the food but from the solidarity that we demonstrated as a community.

A massive thank you to all those that contributed and to those that attended our Soup and Solidarity event yesterday, it was wonderful to have your company.

In 2015, Moss Side Community Allotment Needs YOU!

jka-needs-youDo you want to be part of a LOCAL, organic community food-growing project, dedicated to COMBATING FOOD POVERTY whilst helping build community centred around a natural space?  

Are you interested in ORGANIC food-growing techniques?

Do you like TEA and BANTER?

Then you may have just come to the right place.  We have a very exciting year ahead of us at the Moss Side Community Allotment as we have just been awarded a Food Poverty Grant which means we can expand our work and reach more people in the community, including those most in need.  In that grant we have funding for:

– A brand new community shop to sell our produce on site to local people!

-More raised beds, seeds, compost and tools so we can make use of our newly acquired plots and grow more grub.

-Workshops including 12 monthly growing workshops, raised bed workshops, seed-saving workshops, sustainable cookery workshops.

-Working with a local school to create their own growing area.

And that’s not all!  Coming up in January, February and March we will be undertaking several other exciting projects including:

– Creating a water catchment system for rainwater collection to keep our soil nice and moist during the summer months (weather permitting this should be undertaken on Saturday 17th January).

-Completion of our polytunnel so we can grow a wider variety of crops all year round.

-Starting to build some of the raised beds ready for the spring.

If all of this excitement is just a bit too much for you, we’ll be doing plenty of ‘light’ gardening work to prepare our beds for spring time growth, so do come along anyway, even if it’s just for a natter.  There’s a job for everyone, including little diggers as well.  Whether you’re a newcomer, an old-timer or just a bit curious come down to take part in this fantastic project, we’re going to need all hands on deck this year!

Remember we’re open every Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 2pm and sometimes during the week (for more regular updates join our Facebook group).  We’ll also be hosting our AGM on Sunday January 18th at 12pm at the allotment hub for those interested in having their say.

Don’t forget to keep calm and carry on digging.

Reflecting on a Vibrant Year at the Lottie

Zoom!  Has another year really almost passed us by?  Before 2014 toddles off on it’s merry way, we wanted to take some time to reflect on what an incredibly rich and fruitful year it’s been here at the Moss Side Community Allotment so we’ve compiled a photo album to savour some beautiful memories.

Early in the year we successfully built our community hub; for the community, by the community and it’s certainly been put to good use….

We’ve had pot luck dinners, cottage industry collective gatherings, craft workshops, residents and housing association meetings, Moss Side Market meetings, Environmental Scrutiny Committee meetings….and that’s only scratching the surface.  We’ve hosted 6 community events, not including all the birthday parties, with everything from a traditional village summer fete to a fireside storytelling circle.

Once again we won a level 5 outstanding award from the Royal Horticultural Society and we got nominated in the top three for the Manchester Evening News environmental community project award.  We’ve acquired three new plots, pulled down the fence around the hub, a polytunnel is under construction and just you wait until next year!

We.  We. We.  Do.  Do. Do.

In the meantime, have a gander through our photos and warm your cockles as the winter solstice approaches and the year comes to a close.