Mud Pies

IMG_7764[1]There’s a special kind of freedom in nature.  In nature, we are not judged- we just are.  The carrots don’t go about their lives wishing they were parsnips and the flowers couldn’t care less if you think they’re pretty or not.

At the lottie, we work hard to create a vibe in which the community can just be (as long as the work gets done of course).  If there’s no fresh milk for the tea breaks, we make damn sure that we go out and get some immediately because we know how important the being together (not just doing together) is for the whole thing to work.  That’s the secret of our success.

So that’s why we’ve been working hard to create a space in which the little people can be….because inspiring the next generation of diggers is high on our agenda.  We created a mud kitchen with adult utensils, a counter and of course…..dirt.  The fact is: we are a working allotment which means that many of our growing areas are sensitive and we can’t set two-year-olds loose with spades all over the place but we recognize that messing about with mud, getting dirt underneath your fingernails is an essential part of the learning process and more importantly it gives a space in which our little people can be free.

So all we need now…..are the children.

Big Lunchin’ : Big Lovin’

On Sunday 7th June, in an inner city oasis normally peaceful and serene, the ground wobbled to the sound of music, the air jiggled with laughter and smoke billowed from the barbecue, effusing the pungent aroma of a feast created by a community.  That was the Moss Side Community Allotment Big Lunch Day.

People came from far and wide (but mostly round the corner) to savour jerk chicken, potato salad, cheesecake, coleslaw, spanish omelette…….you name it, it was there.  They came to dance and delight in the harmonic genius of a natural space and a sharing community.

Many people pulled together to make this event happen: preparing the space, taking charge of the barbecue, providing the beats, the food, the banter and defied that age-old saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” because our broth was rich in flavour because of all the chefs…

So here’s a big thank you to all those that came and made this happen, may it mark the beginning of a colourful summer.

You Say Tomato, We Say……

At Moss Side Community Allotment, we are most definitely in the busy season….everything is bursting into life; the growth is unstoppable (a couple of warm days wouldn’t go amiss though).

side shootLast weekend we had the third growing workshop in the series of 12 and we learnt all about tomatoes.  So at this time of year, with a bit of luck (if the weather hasn’t hit you too hard), your tomatoes should be well on their way with their fragrant leaves and you might even spot the odd yellow flower or two.  But don’t rest on your laurels just yet!  As we learnt through our eager fingers, it’s time to side shoot!  This means pinching off either with scissors or between your fingers and thumb any growth between the main stem and the main flowering shoots to make sure all the lovely juicy soil energy makes it way straight to the tomatoes and not on making itself into a great green bush!

As Phil informed us, you don’t need to do this with bush variety tomatoes, so make sure you check what variety you are growing before you give your tomatoes a hair cut!

Would you like to pick up more tips like this?  Then come along to our next growing workshop on the last Saturday of the month.

Hands On Learning

bug hunt 9Let nature be your teacher – William Wordsworth

In a world of touchscreens and keyboards, it’s easy to forget the incomparable learning which occurs when we work with our hands.  The different textures, the ways that different materials respond to our movements, the comfort of a hug; these are all things that we learn through our fingertips and cannot be encountered on google.

In fact, psychological and educational research suggests that there is a kind of learning which goes on in our very hands which is being lost in the current generation.  In the words of Frank Wilson, professor of neurology, who struggled to teach a group of children how the heart works as a pump “we’re cutting off our hands to spite our brains” by not exposing children and young people to “direct experiences in the backyard, in the tool shed, in the fields and woods.”

At Moss Side Community Allotment, we try to address this need both with our workshops for adults and children.  Since the beginning of the year we’ve had:

-2 raised bed workshops

-2 growing workshops (and another one on it’s way this week)

-11 school visits

-4 children’s gardening and craft workshops.

…..and there’s a lot more on it’s way, without mentioning the cooking workshops.  In every workshop we make it a priority that participants come away with dirt under their fingertips and rosy cheeks.

So if you want to get outdoors and sizzle your senses, come and visit us any Saturday or Sunday from 10am or come down to one of our workshops.  We’ll keep you posted :)

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!