We cleared out and sorted the pile of earth/composted materials and rubbish from the designated Shed area at the top of Plot 33 towards the end of 2021 so it was all ready for artist, Richard Redwin to work his magic. Richard is building us a bespoke shed using upcycled materials. It will have very practical eco elements including a compost loo (wees only!) and will incorporate an outdoor kitchen area, a green roof and vertical growing walls, to name a few features Not forgetting that it will also, of course, be a work of art. Sooooo exciting. Fingers crossed it will be finished by the spring. So far we have a raised level floor and an emerging structure.
2022 sees Wonder Women going from strength to strength, with existing members making new members very welcome. On Wednesday WW had our first visiting artist of the year. Jess Byron, ceramic artist, led a a lovely, busy, messy clay session using Vulcan Black brick clay with white slip for contrast to create objects and small plaques that can be installed around the plot. We can't wait to see how they look when fired.
This time last year our hopes for taking on a community allotment were a dream that was slowly becoming a reality we'd been offered plot 33 and were just a viewing and some paperwork away from getting our hands on the keys and starting a new phase of Greening Stoke.
After what seems a long break from the plot (covid, Christmas and life in general all pulling us away over December) Both Anne and I were keen to get stuck back in before our lovely groups start back up. We started where we first began by weeding the flower bed, thankfully it was a lot easier, warmer and with a lot less weeds than last year! So here are some of our favorite bits from last year
We have had so many highlights this year from the frosty January mornings drinking coffee in the greenhouse together watching the world go by, through to sitting in the sunshine sharing freshly picked salads with the Wonder Women. One of our favourite things has been to successfully growing loofahs on the plot - we produced 3 of these intriguing sun loving fruits that we plan to use in a little social enterprise project (watch this space)
So here we are at the end of January beginning to plan our next year. Our new artist (Richard Redwin) built shed is on its way and will be inviting more people onto Plot 33 to enjoy planting, growing, harvesting and eating together. We also have plans to extend our activity from the allotment into the community.
We were struggling to get the mound of earth dug out at the back of Plot33, where we want to install our 'super shed'. So why not have a 'dig it' party?
We invited people to come and help us dig or clear the the beds for winter growing or paint or cheer from the side lines! Our call out with the promise of soup and cake - of course made from Plot 33 produce as far as possible - was a great success - 15 willing helpers turned up over the day.
We jointly made a big impression on the earth pile, dug out the buddleia roots, cleared the courgette bed, painted the back of the tool shed and so much more.
A massive 'Thank you' to everyone who helped - it has really spurred us on. What a lovely day of being outdoors - no rain bonus - testing out the new gazebo - enabling us to work outside in all weathers - chats, laughs and sharing food. On the menu was a choice of marrow or pumpkin soup followed by apple and pear spongy gooyness.
After a week away there's lots going on, on plot 33 this week. We've been clearing away spent summer crops, taking down the pea and bean wigwams, harvesting the squash we still have a few courgettes hanging in but their production has slowed right down and the tricky job of cutting out the old blackberry canes. Anne nearly had to come and rescue me as my coat got completely caught on the thorns. In the greenhouse the cucumbers and aubergines have finished and been cleared while the tomatoes still have a few fruit but i think we'll clear them next week. The winter crops of leeks and Kale are looking good and we have some winter lettuce to go in along with garlic, shallots, onion sets and board beans to plant
All this clearing and cutting down means lots of composting material and having not turned the compost bin for a fair few weeks we thought we should. When we opened the bin up we were greeted but the delightful and unexpected sight of compost that looks almost finished! and lots and lots of worms. Thanks again to bread in Common and fair share that give us all their peelings and bits that cant be used
Our projects outside of Plot 33 are beginning to surface ( sometimes with allotment elements) so our focus has slightly changed. Wonder Women have made beautiful silk flags for the Heritage Action Zone H! Culture Festival. With the arrival of Autumn lots of harvesting, cooking, jam and chutney making as well as deciding what to plant for over winter. We are concentrating our main efforts, immediately, on preparing to install the shed, compost loo and outdoor kitchen area before the winter.
This is a big physical task … we felt a bit overwhelmed … but we made a start and a plan emerged. The area we are digging out is well composted down so we have made temporary holding bays in which to chuck some of the excavated soil. Armed with a pick axe and a rake we started to break up the bank of compressed soil, sieve it into the wheelbarrow to remove all the bits for composting, then tip the good soil into tarpaulin bags and the holding bays. A slow but satisfying process as we begin to see the change. Then we went on hols (Peterborough & Isle of Arran) for a week!
We are going to have to go for it over the next couple of weeks ready for our shed installing work party on Saturday 23rd October. When we are inviting local people to help, cheer from the side lines and share a Plot 33 pumpkin soup meal. We are praying for a bright, cold, dry day ???
Its been a much quieter week this week on Plot 33, with all the hard work making sure all was spick and span for last weeks event im happy to say there wasn't much in the way of weeding to be done (as long as you ignore behind the greenhouse). So we've mainly just been watering, harvesting and cooking our produce.
The blackberry continues to be very productive so i thought id ask around for some more adventurous recipes to use them and was given one for Blackberry Siroppo a fermented blackberry syrup. It is delicious if a little scary to make, you leave the berries in a shallow dish at room temp and mash twice a day for 2-3 days how it doesn't go moldy i don't know but it does bubble away (sorry no photos but it did look pretty) then strained and boiled with sugar. to me it smells like red wine and can be made into a drink, eaten with yogurt or ice-cream
Now does anyone have a recipe idea for the mountain of courgettes???
During the week was really busy getting the plot ready for our event on Saturday 28th August ...which was a a bit of a celebration of our small grant from Get Creative (https://getcreativeuk.com)to buy some tools so we can extend our participatory activity. We invited people who have been involved(including other allotment holders) or have expressed an interest in Plot 33 to come along to have a nosey, participate in some activities and partake of some soup and cake made (as far as possible) from allotment produce.
In preparation there were trips to the dump to get rid of the rubbish we are pulling out of the top end of the site. We are clearing and digging it out to create a lovely space for our bespoke shed/compost toilet. There was lots of weeding and general tidying/sweeping of paths and the area around the greenhouse...it looks so much better. Wonder Women helped a lot and finished off some of the fence painting. We attached Wonder Women's decorated tin can planters to the fence.
Saturday dawned beautiful and sunny. We arrived early and set up the site using some flags and bunting made in previous projects and installed the more recently finished Mysterious Moth banners. Chris from Wonder Women came early too and while we set up some creative activities and the refreshments she harvested some tomatoes, apples, courgettes, petit pans and cucumbers for people to take away. In spite of being bank holiday we had 23 visitors over the day, 10 of which had never been before. All the soup (Golden Tomato and Shallot & Rosemary) and the Chocolate Courgette Cake disappeared. It was a really lovely day and we are very inspired by peoples comments and suggestions. This was us dipping our toe in the water to see what worked and what didn't. We are definitely going to organise further events. Watch this space!
last week on a particularly rainy Tuesday while sitting in the greenhouse Anne and i thought we would cheer ourselves up by remembering all the things we've planted and harvested during our first 8 months on plot 33 (much better then going out and continuing to clear and level the ground for the new shed) We made a list with 40 different fruits and vegetables on it then patted ourselves on the back and went home it was a very full week last week :)
As part of the Greening Stoke Project I was given the opportunity to draw a set of doors for one of the entrances into St Marks Church in Hanley which had temporarly been boarded up during restoration.
Saturday 17th June, I joined Anne and Rachel up at St Mark's church for the Greening St Mark's event where I met Lynne and Rev. Phillip and discovered more about the church and it's restoration which was really interesting.
It was a busy day, Rachel and Anne were also running art workshops for visitors to decorate their own tin can planters, planting seeds and plants to take home and adding some bright new additions along the gate as well as two planters beneath.
During an earlier vist I had taken a few photos of the doors and drawn some sketches making a stencil to paint with. With help from Rachel, Anne, Kim and the lovely sun the outlines were painted and dried quickly.
It was always going to be difficult to incorporate every aspect of the church so I started with the shape and structure of the other doors. I was immedietly drawn to the arched nine segment door and the colour pink from the other doors.
To decorate the doors, I added white roses, a symbol of peace and hope for the future, slowly growing around the door and a dove ,who act as messengers and are symbols of love, peace , in a significant place above the door offering guidance and shelter. I included the smaller animals interacting underneath to reflect the sense of community.
More than anything I wanted to create a friendly, welcoming entrance for people to enter through.
I really enjoyed working as part of the team and meeting some lovely people.
Thank you Anne and Rachel and everyone involved for the oppourtunity.
So things have been crazily busy for the past month and we seem to have missed a few posts! We've run our first public drop in workshop since the pandemic started, a greening workshop at St Marks church (there's a post in the pipeline about this). Anne has set-up, invigilated and taken down an exhibition. We've collected a shed kindly donated by Allan and got it back to plot 33 ordered wood to make a few repairs to it before we put it up. Run banner making workshops and written 3 funding bids. Plus run our weekly Wonder Women session at the plot along with the day to day maintenance that takes place on an allotment weeding, watering, harvesting and planting and very occasionally we've just sat and had lunch caught our breath and marveled at how quick pumpkins grow.
so here are some photos for you to enjoy and we'll try and keep on top of the posts
Greening Stoke is a project run in partnership between Festival Stoke and Letting in the Light. We are based in Stoke-on-Trent.
We are started this adventure in January 2021 in the middle of a national lockdown. Gradually, as things begin to open up, close down and then open up again, Rachel and Anne abided by all the Covid-19 Government guidance, worked in a socially distanced way, to prepare and maintain Plot 33 so that they were eventually able to invite the community to work with them.
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