After an unintentional break we're back! Well we didn't actually leave plot 33 but we have been super busy juggling other projects in different places and the ball we dropped was the blog. Sorry.
Lots has happened since our last post.
We had our Plant and Share plant swap event as part of food for life get togethers, which exceeded all our expectations. A big thank you to all the people who helped make the day happen and all who came along making it such a great day. Food for Life get Togethers came along to film the event and heres a link to the film trailer the film will be out shortly!
Artist Richard Redwin who was tasked with building our shed and wee only compost toilet has finished! we'll do another post soon (haha promise) all about the shed
And a big step for us Anne has broken ground behind the greenhouse! When we first got the plot last year we made the decision to concentrate on the 5 existing beds in front of the greenhouse clearing and cultivating half the plot and essentially leaving the other half fallowish only keeping the weeds cut down as they went to seed. Now after much digging of couch grass, bindweed and other such lovelyness. We now have a bed of potatoes almost ready to harvest and a bed of sweetcorn, courgettes. Beans will go in the space leftover. Imagine the 3 sisters planting theory if the sisters had had a argument and weren't speaking. Plus some beautiful produce harvested and eaten on the plot
There's been a whirlwind of activity up on plot 33 in the last few weeks, getting beds ready for planting out, general tidying up, weeding, planting seedlings, watering and best of all seed sowing! there is so much potential an almost endless list of what could be, wrapped up in the act of sowing seeds. Not to mention the therapeutic mindfulness of the actual process of sprinkling seeds onto fresh compost. Will these seeds become part of a salad, a stew, some soup, or a pudding !!!
Here is some of the best advice i was given when sowing seeds hope it helps
1, label, always write down what it is and the date you sowed it. It really helps when you feel they are taking to long to germinate to have the sowing date at hand and lots of seedlings look the same th can be hard to tell apart
2, for spacing think salt and pepper on your dinner too much will spoil the experience (or make pricking out the seedlings much harder to do) unless you want micro greens like cress then you want to be more like icing sugar on a cake!
3, only sow what you enjoy not what you think you should there's no point in setting turnips if your just left wondering what to do with them
4, sow little and often that way you can avoid gluts and have fresh produce for a longer period.
ignore number 4 if your having a plant swap and you need lots of plants to give away
hope to see you there.
Sometimes we do a bit of 'this', sometimes we do a bit of 'that' and sometimes we argue (not too seriously) over what's going in the soup!!
Over the winter months Wonder Women have continued to meet up at Plot 33 whatever the weather ...helped enormously by having the use of the allotment holders community hut. We have been making , experimenting, plotting and planning with the occasional foray outside on brighter drier days to clear and weed the beds and paths ready for planting in the spring.
The activities we have engaged in have included :
Over the last few weeks, with the days getting longer and the weather (theoretically) getting warmer, our Wonder Women group have been starting to think about what to grow and when to sow! We've started by tomatoes, peppers, aubergines which like a longer season to grow in. Looking over our vast array of seeds we decided to see if anyone would like to share our bounty and set up a seed swapping event
We set about making signs for the different family groups / category of seeds we have, flowers, herbs, tomatoes and peppers etc. As well as making some beautiful stamps to print seed packets with on the day
We had lots of people come on the day of the swap, from other plot holders, too members of the public. It was great to see so many new faces and people using the community hut, taking part in seed packet printing, eating cake (Anne delicious courgette cake) drinking tea and coffee and of course rummaging through lots of lovely seeds deciding what to take home and plant.
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 ???
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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