Category Archives: The Preserve-a-thon

Crawling to the finish

I think I haven’t done much on my diploma, or this website, for pretty much a whole year. I’m not going to beat myself up about that. I was busy bringing a human being into the world. But now she’s here, and we’ve got our routines, I need to just finish this thing. Why is finishing something so hard? I have done more or less all the work, I just need to present it in a compelling way.

 I have never been much of a ‘finisher-completer.’ I am far better at having ideas and getting them going than I am at seeing them to completion. It’s probably one thing doing this diploma has driven home. It’s now a matter of pride to take bite-sized chunks and see them through to completion. I am doing well in other areas of my life, but finishing the diploma seems to elude me. I know why though. I haven’t given it full headlights-on focus. I need to think about it, and just it, for a period of time. And that’s the issue… I am doing plenty of other things (not least looking after a baby) and they seem (and frankly are) more important than what my brain now regards to be ‘admin.’ But, but… I have to finish this darn thing so I need to make time and space to do so. 

So, here’s what I am going to do… I am going to set myself two simple tasks… 

1. Read the diploma guidance manual in detail and check how I should be presenting my designs (and whether I have missed any steps). 

2. Contact a diploma tutor and ask them to look over my designs (I jettisoned mine a number of years ago). 

That shouldn’t be too hard! 

Now, where am I up to with my designs? I’m afraid not a lot has progressed but a few things have. 

Action Learning Pathway

Not redesigned. I need to be honest with this one. It’s less of a redesign and more of a historical document. I just need to write down what I did. I’m happy to be honest about this. Were I to do another diploma, I would be able to plan it in detail from the start, but when I started this one, I had not yet developed the skills to have that overview. So, it developed piecemeal, and designs chopped and changed though my focus was always on developing designs for livelihood. So, I think this design needs to be a sort of ‘how my diploma panned out’ précis to the whole thing. Suddenly it’s seeming more achievable 

Action: find my original ALP and work out how I got from there to here.  

Career Design

Written up! 

Scythe Teaching

Written up! 

Permaculture Teaching

Written up!


Yet to be written up. 

Action: write it up

The Seed Blog

In all honesty, I can’t remember where I am up to with this. Implementation of this has all but ground to a halt, because of the baby and because of the need to focus on other projects. I think it’s written up in draft form though. 

The Garden

As I am currently implementing this design, I have written up what I can. I need to revisit this and finish this write up. 

Action: finish this write up

The Larder Project

Yet to be written up

Action: write it up

Fat Hens

Designed and written up!


Designed and written up! 


Am I finished? How I know when a design is done.

At the beginning of my diploma, when I was looking at my big, sprawling, open-ended designs, I wondered how on earth I would know when they were finished.  It was a good question, and the lack of clarity was definitely a flaw in my design process.  Two years in, I find that the constant process of thinking about what I want to achieve has really developed my skills in defining project  boundaries and knowing when I am done.  I find that I can come up with an idea and not only know whether or not it is feasible (through experience of biting off more than I can chew), but also know how I will know when I have finished that particular design.  I have italicised the I, because I think that markers of success are very person-specific.  For example, in a design for a business, one person’s goal might be to earn a certain amount of money, but financial goals just don’t work for me, I am not motivated by them.  I would prefer to set goals along the lines of ‘run x amount of courses,’ or ‘raise prices to x amount’.  What I have realised is that being able to clearly define what you want out of a project means knowing yourself, your priorities and what is feasible for you really really well.  So, for me, the first step to knowing when a design is done is to know yourself well and set project boundaries that fit in with that.

The second way I have discovered of knowing when a design is done it to understand the lifecycle of how things are achieved.  I wrote about this idea in this post.  It’s the Hero’s Journey, the idea which suggests that all of the stories in the world are based on one story – the monomyth.  My friend Erica has just written a book on how you can use this idea in your own life.  The hero’s journey goes (a little) like this:

The call to adventure – “wouldn’t building a garden on this roof be cool?”

The refusal of the call – “nah, it would be too difficult and I couldn’t do it.”

The acceptance of the call (this is when you get cool stuff and people want to help you) – “ok, sod it, let’s have a go!  Wow, thanks for all of the plants, mum.  Yep, it’d be really great if you helped me out.”

The belly of the whale – “Aggh, it’s really hard to get stuff to grow up here because of the wind.  This isn’t as exciting as when I started out.”

The Supreme Ordeal  – “All my plants have died.  Ok, I’ll plant the whole lot again.”

Triumphant return – “I’ve done it!  I’ve grown all these plants through a whole season on this less than easy roof. Want me to teach you?”

When I think about all of my designs, I can plot them along a point on this journey.  I have come to realise though, that a greater ‘journey’ (e.g. making a living from scything) might be made up of several smaller journeys.  You might not get your big success all at once.  In fact you probably wont.  I think that every success (for example, I feel like I have done really well with scything courses this year), heralds a rethink and a new journey.  I have discovered that it is impossible to create a design that is too big, because each big design with naturally break itself down into several smaller ones.  A garden design will do this – e.g. a smaller design for a pizza oven, for planting for beneficial insects, for year-round produce.  This ‘breaking down’ is a pretty good example of designing from patterns to details – a principle that baffled me when I first started, but which I really really value now.





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We moved, goddamit, we moved!

Well, finally we have moved. Here it is, my new abode (the one with the white door and the yellow flowers outside of it). I am sure that I will get over the post-traumatic stress disorder in the next few months…

The house!

The house!

Now that I have moved house, quite a few of my designs can enter a new stage of implementation. It’s really interesting how having more (and different) space means that new and exciting things can happen. I thought I would use this post to map how my designs are affected by my new place – area by area.

The Shed

Well, we don’t have one yet, but Will assures me that he’s onto it… Once we do have a shed, I will be able to expand my scything empire by stocking more scythes to sell on courses and perhaps at other times too. Having all of my teaching equipment on the ground floor (and not up four flights of stairs) means that going off to teach courses is a much pleasanter experience. I honestly did not realise how much I dreaded emptying the car and dragging all my crap upstairs. It’s little things like this that make a big difference to how you feel about doing a particular job, and I am glad that I will have this sorted for next scything season.

The Garden

Long view of the garden

Long view of the garden


The current growing area

Well, I have one! And it’s great! I have been doing some observation of light patterns and – in August at least – most of the garden gets sun at least some portions of the day. The soil looks really good and well looked after. There is a compost bin with a strong-looking colony of worms. There is corn and courgettes and beans to harvest.

I am going to spend a year observing and growing on a small-scale – in pots and annuals in the empty beds, and then do major changes next winter (i.e. winter 2014). I think what I’d like to do over this winter and next spring is move the compost heap closer to the house, research and get some chickens and establish a 365 day a year salad system. I’d like to work out my seedling system so that the whole house is not completely covered in pots all the time. We have south-facing windows which is very exciting.

Other than that I shall be doing lots of research and getting some idea of what I would like the garden to contain and to look like. I still think that I would like to do a garden design course, so I will have to see if I am rich enough to be able to do that!

The Outbuilding

The larder to be...

The larder to be…

I started calling this ‘the larder’ until I realised that Will and I had not discussed how we would use various rooms. So anyway, this is the larder… 😉 Currently it’s housing much of the crap that will go in the shed, but when that’s moved, we’ll put a work surface over the top of the washing machine, and as many shelves as we can fit in there and it will become a larder of great joy! I am itching to get going at this one… I am going to attempt to emulate the store stump from Brambly Hedge or Bilbo’s larder from the recent Hobbit movie. I’m a bit obsessed.

The store stump

The store stump

Bilbo's larder - with hairy dwarf

Bilbo’s larder – with hairy dwarf

Having outside space and space to store stuff means that I will be able to get going on the dehydrating and canning that I want to do with ease (and with somewhere to store the equipment).

The Office

The office to be...

The office to be…

This was another room that I had started calling ‘the office’ in my head before I had really discussed it with Will… Ooops! Having an office means that I’ll be able to write more easily and I can do stuff like leave my sewing machine out so that I am more likely to use it. I have an online sewing course to finish after all! We’ll use this as a guest bedroom as well, as rooms have to have multiple uses in this house.

Finally, just knowing where I am going to be for the next few years means that I can get on with my coppicing design knowing that I will (hopefully) be in one place for the whole of a coppice cycle and I can design for succession after that. Also, being in the countryside (more or less) means that my foraging design – whatever it turns out to be – will be so much easier to implement. Even though I’ve put a lot of planning and thought into this move and what it would make possible, it’s still amazing to be here and realise that all those things really are possible and I can do them now!  Expect more from me soon…  Maybe even pictures of bits of the house without stuff all over it!


End of winter round up: Part 3


In the past four years, I have moved at least four times which has made creating a garden difficult.  I am just about to move again.  This will hopefully be a more permanent move, as Will and I are buying a house together and we don’t intend to leave it for at least seven years.

My original idea for this project was to design a roof garden for the roof here at the flat, but I didn’t live here at the time and that made observation difficult, so instead I did a design for the house where I was living with my friend Ben.  Some of it was implemented, some of it was not, as you would expect from a design for a place you are renting.  I have yet to see whether the random seed experiment has had lasting effects or whether the green alkanet has got the better of the self-seeded nasturtiums.

On moving into the flat, I reconsidered the roof again as a growing space but concluded that while it had an amazing south facing aspect, it was high on limiting factors – the main one being the wind.  Being realistic (which is what I am all about now, don’t you know…), I knew it would take a lot of infrastructure in the form of wind-breaks and barriers around the outside to make it into a useable growing space.  As I predicted that we would move again, I decided that putting all of that work in wasn’t worth it at the moment.

Instead what I did was knuckle down to learning more about gardening.  I did a composting course and a course about growing food in small spaces (actually, I am still doing that one really, as I didn’t keep up with it while it was on).  I have read quite a few inspirational books (but need to read more).  What is still outstanding is doing a course in garden design.  Not permaculture design, but ‘where to put plants so they look pretty type design.’  I also want to learn more about perennial plants and guilds and also get some experience of ducks and chickens within a permaculture system.  I am leaning towards ducks, I have to say…

But ducks come later.  When we move in, I am going to spend a year growing in pots and observing the plot before making any significant changes (as I am a good little permaculturalist), so I have a whole year to fill in the knowledge that I think I am lacking.  Apart from those few areas, I am feeling really really ready to take on a plot of my own again.  I haven’t really had that since I gave up the allotment, and I feel like I have learned a lot from that experience.  The biggest lesson?  Start with a small piece of land that is right outside your door, and when you have done everything you can to that, get somewhere bigger and further away.

The design I do for my new house is going to be the one that I submit, so I consider all of the designs I have done for gardens up to this point to be practice for that.  I am glad that I have done it this way.  I really have a chance to properly implement the design I do for my own garden, and I am at a place where I think I know enough about all of the things and systems involved to really do it well.

Action:  Start observing garden when we move house



I absolutely love this design.  It progresses slowly but surely.  I started with grand designs and then realised that my goals were both ill defined and very difficult to achieve, so I here’s where I got a bit more real.  In terms of my plan of action, I have more or less done all of the things that I put on my ‘can do now’ list.  Making jam in bulk and bulk buying cheese are as yet undone, but I plan to do at least the first one this summer.

I got really good at making chutney to take to work with oatcakes and cheese for my lunch, but then I observed that I was essentially eating a jar a week of what is really, vinegary jam (I don’t like low sugar chutney) and that it probably wasn’t very good for me.  Instead of doing that, I decided to experiment with fermented pickles and made the  kimchi recipe from Sandor Katz’s wild fermentation.  That was a big success, though it honks of garlic and is mildly embarrassing taking out in the canteen at work.  I also started making fermented soda this year too.  Lactofermentation is part of my arsenal now!

So, I guess we are on the ‘soon’ and ‘later’ tasks of my plan of action.  They were:


10)  Investigate getting a freezer for the loft and get one if appropriate

11)  Build cutting garden and develop conceptual plans for real garden (this is part of the garden project)


12) Investigate sources of apples and berries for fruit snacks

13) Build solar dehydrator

14) Buy electric dehydrator

15) Get a pressure canner

16) Learn to can

Getting a freezer can happen as soon as we move house, but the other projects might take a little bit longer.  I am most excited about learning to use a pressure canner so that I can ‘put up’ food that is not soused in sugar or vinegar.  This is a really American way of preserving and hardly anyone does it in the UK, but I have found someone!  Her name is Gloria Nicol and she recently ran a workshop with the Secret Garden Club which I sadly missed because I was doing something or other (probably related to scything).  Gloria, if you are reading, please teach me to can!

Dehydrating, whether electrically or solar powered, may have to wait until next year, but the larder project is coming on, it really is.  I have my three month stock of food, and now I need to work on growing and preserving as much of it at home as possible!  I don’t mind if this switch over takes a while as small and slow solutions are the best, as we all know…

Action:  Learn to can



It has been such a long winter that I forgot the natural world was out there…  Last year I was out on the downs, foraging (actually botanising) with my iphone in mid April.  Now it’s the end of May and the new, brilliant greenness of the world is still burning itself into my shocked retina.

This design hasn’t formed itself properly in my mind yet.  I know what it’s probably going to be, but that relies on other projects coming together first, so I am happy to let this one slide for a while.  This one is going to be a small design that can go from start to finish in a few months and the key aims of it will be to both learn and teach.

Action: None at the moment 


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End of winter round up: Part 1

Welcome to my six-monthly round up of how my projects are going.  Please overlook the fact that it’s nearly the end of May and cannot really be described as the end of winter any more.  On the surface of things I have hardly done anything for my diploma this winter – no blog posts for four months etc – but actually I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my designs, about my motivations for doing them, about how to make them work individually and all together as a group.  What follows is fairly dense, apologies for that now.


I am using my diploma to effect major change in my life.  I have chosen to do it over four years to give myself the time to make these changes happen.  This long period of time has also meant that I can observe and redesign the more complex designs.  I’ve also used it as an opportunity to do ‘practice‘ designs in some cases.  I’m working on a redesign of my Action Learning Pathway as I have refined my ideas a lot since I used Hedvig’s as a jump off point.

One of the ways in which I have refined my ideas is working out just how big or small a project should be.  In my head, the optimum size for a single design is the size of Hedvig’s clean air plant design (which I can’t seem to find a link to right now, but I am sure Hedvig will supply in the comments).  I’ll admit that when I first saw it I thought that it was quite unambitious in its scope, but that’s before I learnt how much observation and analysis it takes to actually make a design work properly.  Now I think it’s just about the right size to be interesting without being so big that it needs to be broken down into smaller designs.  This realisation has actually made a big difference to my designs as it as given me a scale at which I feel comfortable doing observation and analysis.  I feel like I have ‘got real.’

I have also realised that there is a different between a project which is large in ‘area’ (i.e. happens over a large piece of land) and a project which is large in complexity (i.e. has lots of different facets and therefore requires lots of different mini-designs).  A design could be large in size but not complex (i.e. the coppicing design I am working on – more soon), or be complex but not obviously large and important (such as the marketing designs I have been doing).  What I realised is that it’s really hard to work out the size and scope of a project without either quite deep analysis or without doing it.

As I know that I naturally tend towards massive overblown projects that will change the whole world (and which I haven’t got a hope in hell’s chance of pulling off), this has been the biggest win of the diploma so far.  Using the design cycle has made me slow down, observe, analyse and really think about how a design will fit into my life because for me (and I suspect for most people), it’s self observation rather than external observation that makes the difference between the success and failure of a project.

So, in redesigning my ALP I have decided to include a ‘non land based design starter kit’ which can function as my jumping off place for all non-land-based designs, as well as the basic roadmap towards my goals.  I’ll include the checklist in this starter kit obviously as I am already finding it immensely useful.  I’m so glad that I managed to write those ideas down because where the hell you start a non-land based design has always baffled me completely.  There’s so much help with land based design and almost none at all with non-land-based design.

ACTION: Write up redesigned ALP and ‘design starter kit.’  



The design is a basic overview of the ways in which I make/hope to make my livelihood, how much each strand will contribute to my finances and how much time it will take.  With this design as with a few of the others, I hit the issue that it was impossible to do real observation and analysis without actually implementing it.  I found that without actually launching my scythe teaching business I could not estimate how much time it would take up nor how much money I would make from it.  My first design was based on a series of guesses.  This is because almost no one (with a few exceptions) are teaching scything at the scale that I want to do it.  Even if I could have done, I think I would have struggled to estimate how much time it would take me to get up to speed with running a micro-business (a long time).  I really feel like I had to learn by doing in this case.

Despite ostensibly being about ‘time and money,’ this design is really about me – what motivates me, what I want to spend my precious time doing.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this recently and when I have finally come to some conclusions (I’m 90% of the way there), I’ll need to do a redesign of this.  One of the biggest changes I’ll need to make is to take account of how many different income streams one person can really deal with.  I am still in favour of the poly-income (a portfolio career) – spreading out your income over a number of different streams so that it is resilient to crisis – but I have come to realise that the number of different subject areas that one person can keep in their head at the same time is limited.  Changing gears, e.g. from thinking about marketing scythe courses to writing, is an activity that takes time in itself.  Working out which strands to keep and which to drop is hard though and I have not quite come to the end of that process so I don’t feel like I am in the right place quite yet to do a redesign of this project quite yet.

Action: Time and Money redesign when ready

Two projects down… more coming up in the next posts!

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The Larder Project: To Infinity and Beyond (bulk ordering food)

Yesterday my order from Infinity Foods wholesale arrived on my doorstep.  This order was part of my ‘larder’ design which aims to build up a three month use-every-day store of food.  The Infinity order was for the many things I couldn’t produce myself – oats and other grains, tinned tomatoes, sugar and a multitude of other items.  I have been meaning to do this order for months and various things including Christmas, lack of money and confusion over email addresses have prevented me, but this week my goal has been achieved.

There are certain challenges inherent in getting a lot of food into a fourth floor flat.  The first was that the very narrow commonways (the staircase) up to the flat are being refurbished and were hence filled with ladders, plasterboard and builders.  I had alerted said builders to the fact that a whole load of boxes were about to come up the stairs and they offered to help which turned what could have been a nightmare into a delight.  They formed a human chain and passed the boxes up in about two minutes thus illustrating that many hands do indeed make light work and that the problem is indeed the solution.

Once all the boxes were piled up in the living room Will freaked the fuck out (Will, sweetie, if you’re reading this, I love you…).  I will admit that it did look like we had ordered a lot of stuff (I wasn’t expecting quite so much toilet roll) but I had plans for where everything was going to go in the loft.  Will made the very valid point that we needed to be careful about how much we were loading up there as the joists are not as strong as the ones under the floor in the flat, so I divided the stuff up into heavy stuff (olive oil, tins, bags of grains) and light stuff (pasta, toilet roll) and put the light stuff in the loft and secreted the heavy stuff in other places around the flat.  I will need to spend a whole day organising it all so that we can get at it easily and so it’s not in the way, but it’s out of the way until I can do that in a week and a half.

So, I have done items 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 of my larder plan of action (below).

Can do now

1)  Observe what I eat

2)  Identify where I get those things from and what I could do to ensure I have a store of them.

3)  Do an Infinity order and carefully monitor how long things last

4)  Continue making pickles with the surplus from the veg box (find a recipe book I like, develop an easy labeling system, build a store of pickle flavourings and vinegar)

5)  For next year – identify a cheap bulk source of berries for jam

6)  Investigate bulk buying cheese and do so if appropriate

7)  Start making yoghurt again

8)  Go to Fish and Archers more often

9)  Experiment with lactofermentation

10)  Investigate getting a freezer for the loft and get one if appropriate

Number 10 (get a freezer) is also under discussion, but given the current worries about loading in the loft, that one might take a little while to materialise.  Still, this design feels like it’s moving forward.


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Designing information: Organising my RSS reader

bloggery pokery crop


I spent a few hours today reorganising my RSS reader.  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and an RSS reader, like Google Reader (which I use) means that you are informed when blogs are updated and don’t have to visit them individually to find out.

I follow a lot of blogs  (yes, including interior design blogs, I am entering into ‘that’ stage of my life…)  I’m unapologetic about the number of blogs that I follow.  I do spend a reasonable amount of time looking at them which used to set up a frisson of guilt in me (Am I wasting time?  Should I be doing something ‘more useful?’).  In the end I just concluded that I was interested in certain subjects which other people wrote about so why feel guilty about garnering inspiration, information, advice and ideas.  Actually, why feel guilty about being interested in someone’s life?

I am a ruthless culler of blogs too.  I only keep the blogs that I look forward to reading, otherwise looking at my RSS reader turns into work.  I also cull blogs that I enjoy, but which give me the feeling that my life is rubbish.  These tend to be American blogs written by women whose children are perfect, husbands are perfect, houses are perfect, Christmases and birthdays were perfect…  Likewise blogs that rejig the same tired ideas.

I signed up for a few more gardening blogs today because I am looking for places to write guest posts about scything for and by the time I had added them, the list of blogs that I follow was enough to give you a migraine.  No more!  I decided to put them into really simple folders according to their subject.  Previously my folder titles had been things like ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Green Thinkers.’  They date from a time when I had many few blogs to follow, but even then they were a bit vague.  Inspiration for what?  Thinking about what?

Putting these blogs into categories was really interesting because when I was done I looked at it and thought, yep, those are my life interests.  I thought through my diploma projects and considered whether I followed blogs about all of those subjects.  The answer was, almost all of them – coppicing, preserving and scything didn’t get a folder of their own but they fit in under rural skills and food.  One area that I did notice was missing was general life design, livelihood design and blogs about money.  These are all things that I am working on very hard in my diploma and yet they weren’t represented in my blog-roll.  I think this is because I still find the idea of talking about, thinking about or designing for financial rewards a bit gross – the way I felt about marketing before I discover Marketing for Hippies.  I’ve signed up for finance/entrepreneurial blogs in the past and always unsubscribed because I didn’t read them because it made me feel icky.  I need to find someone who is talking about these things in a way that I am willing to listen to.  Any ideas?  They need to be funny and directed towards money-phobes.  I’m also looking for some life-coaching/life-organisation blogs that don’t make me want to be sick.  Help gratefully received…

After I had taken the picture above, I went and looked at these folders and put the ones with some connection to each other next to each other.  Really, they all have connections to each other in my head, but I wanted to draw out the most important ones.   Gardening, foraging and permaculture went next t each other and also next to food.  Photography and graphic design went next to each other and were also linked to lifestyle.

I have decided to read them in a different way too.  Instead of clicking on the feed for the individual blog and seeing a stream of posts just from that blog, I have decided to click on the category – e.g.  Food.  This will show me posts from all of the blogs in that category in the order that they were updated.  Doing it this way means that it’s much harder to discern immediately which blog you are reading.  This is useful because it means that I can see which blogs broadcast their individuality immediately.   For example, I predict that in the ‘food’ category I will be able to recognise Smitten Kitchen immediately because while the pictures are good but not amazing, the writing is hilarious (which is, I have to say, unusual for a lot of the blogs that I read).  I also predict that I will be able to recognise What Katie Ate immediately because of her distinctive photographic style.  This sort of observation is really useful for developing my writing and photographic style.


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The larder project: Plan of action

Here’s the plan of action for the ‘larder project.’  I’ve included some of the things that I have already done in there so that it’s complete.

Can do now

1)  Observe what I eat

2)  Identify where I get those things from and what I could do to ensure I have a store of them.

3)  Do an Infinity order and carefully monitor how long things last

4)  Continue making pickles with the surplus from the veg box (find a receipe book I like, develop an easy labeling system, build a store of pickle flavourings and vinegar)

5)  For next year – identify a cheap bulk source of berries for jam

6)  Investigate bulk buying cheese and do so if appropriate

7)  Start making yoghurt again

8)  Go to Fish and Archers more often

9)  Experiment with lactofermentation


10)  Investigate getting a freezer for the loft and get one if appropriate

11)  Build cutting garden and develop conceptual plans for real garden (this is part of the garden project)


12) Investigate sources of apples and berries for fruit snacks

13) Build solar dehydrator

14) Buy electric dehydrator

15) Get a pressure canner

16) Learn to can

Wow, it’s good to have that written down.

The larder project: An update

The larder project is back on track.  Next week, I am moving into my boyfriend’s flat which, although ‘cosy,’ actually offers more than where I am currently living in terms of building a store of food.  It has a large and accessible loft which we are boarding out this weekend.

It’s actually really interesting to me that what was limiting me in this project was actually space to do it, as well as not getting buy-in from the person I was sharing the house with.  I felt a bit like I was getting nowhere with it and that was my fault, but actually what was stopping me was that I would have had to create the space store my ‘larder’ and my housemate/landlord was not keen on that idea.  It’s fair enough, it was his house and he didn’t want extra sheds appearing in front of it or all of his cupboards full of pot barley…

Now that I am moving, I have decided that now is the time to really look at what I eat and where I source it from, and to see what I can do in order to be able to build a store.  I looked at the individual things that I eat in this post, so this time I want to look at the general food groups and what I can do to store these in bulk.  I also want to take the opportunity to really make sure that everything that I eat is as ethical as possible.  I feel that I have slipped in this in the last 18 months, for various reasons, but now is the time to get back on track.

You’ll notice that this is mostly about my diet, not Will’s.  I am working from the basis if we can make tasty food from what we have in store, then Will will be happy with it.  He usually is.  I’m really glad that, apart from the wheat thing, we have compatible diets.  I think it will make home life much easier!

Here are the main food groups that I buy:

BULK CARBS            FRUIT AND VEG                MEAT AND FISH                    DAIRY                         SNACKS AND EXTRAS 


Bulk Carbs

Current supplier:  Bulk carbs are difficult to produce yourself, but easy to buy and store for a long time.  I tend to get my bulk carbs from Infinity Foods and my giant sacks of flour by mail order from Wessex Mill.

How can I build a store of these things/make my supply more ethical?:  Well, I already have a good store of flour which is a bit unfortunate actually as I am not eating wheat at the moment due to getting searing pains in the abdomen whenever I do.  Luckily Will is, so I shall encourage him to take up bread-making…  Apart from flour, the easiest way to build up a good store of bulk carbs is to do an Infinity Foods wholesale order regularly.

Fruit and Veg

Current supplier:  I get a veg box from Hankham nurseries which is moving with me.

How can I build a store of these things/make my supply more ethical?:  It’s stating the obvious to say that it’s impossible to store fresh fruit and veg for a long-ish period of time.  The best way to get around this problem would be to have a well-designed garden that was productive year-round.  Given that I’ll be living in a flat, that idea will have to remain in the dream stages for the foreseeable future.  Despite that, there are several options that I could take to store preserved fruit and veg.  These are:

  • Lactofermentation
  • Pickling
  • Canning
  • Freezing
  • Drying

These are all things that I plan to do.  Some will need more planning than others, so I will write about the order in which I want to approach these things in the next post.

Meat and fish

Current supplier:  Both Will and I buy most of our meat from the Brighton Sausage Co.  This is because they’re open late which seems to be the point when we decide that we want to buy meat.  Being a sausage shop, they sell mostly sausages, which has led to our diets being sausage-dominated…  We do, on occasion, buy supermarket meat which is bad bad bad.  And on the rare occasions that we eat fish, it’s usually from the supermarket.  This needs to change.

How can I build a store of these things/make my supply more ethical?:  There are a couple of options which would cover the ethical requirement.  One of these is to buy more often from suppliers which I know are good around town.  However, the option that I would like to go for (which is yet to be discussed, let’s see if Will reads these blog posts…) is getting a small freezer for the loft and buying super-ethical, look-into-the-eyes-of-the-animal-you’re-eating meat from Tablehurst farm in bulk and then freeze it.  Either that or join a pig/sheep club and buy a quarter/half a sheep at a time.  We could do the same with fish from Fish in Shoreham who sell the local fishermen’s catch.

Dairy (Milk, cheese and yoghurt)

Current supplier:  All of these things generally come from Infinity or from the Brighton Sausage Company (who also have a wide range of cheese).

How can I build a store of these things/make my supply more ethical?:  It would be worth investigating buying wheels of cheese – especially as I have a friend who makes cheese and it would be good to support him.  Wheels could be bought of other local cheese too.

Milk is an interesting question.  At the moment we buy organic milk from Infinity or from Morrissons (boo hiss).  Obviously it’s best to not buy milk at a supermarket but they do sell their milk in larger cartons than Infinity do, meaning that there is less to recycle.  It’s also likely that we’ll buy quite a bit of milk from Morrissons anyway as it is the closest shop and milk is one of the things that you run out of (unless you get a delivery which, given that we live in a flat in the middle of the ‘party (milk-stealy) district’ of town, is probably not a good idea).  I’m going to start making yoghurt again too, I think.

Snack and extras 

Current supplier:  Muesli mountain (oatcakes and mango cheeks), Turkish shop (oatcakes, dolmades), Infinity (fruit leather and oatcakes), University shop (bad snacks – chocolate and sesame snaps and occasionally Fruit Pastilles).  There’s a definite snack dearth in my life.  Other extras that I use regularly include jam which I buy ‘wherever,’ and chutney which I make from veg box surplus.

How can I build a store of these things/make my supply more ethical?:  In the short term, include oatcakes and mango cheeks in the Infinity order.  In the long term make my own fruit crisps and leather in a solar or electric dehydrator.

Phewee, well, there are a few things to do then.  The next post is going to be a plan of action of when I can do them.







End of the summer round up: part three

Project five: Localise (Book)

This project hasn’t really materialised as a diploma project yet as it is stalled for reasons outside of my control, so we’ll leave it for now…

Project six:  The Garden

Designing gardens is tricksy when you’re a renter, and even more tricksy if you live with your landlord.  The garden at Toronto Terrace is really the first iteration of the garden that I aspire to (isn’t it always…)  What has been great about it is that it has given me the chance on a very small scale to practice things like base-mapping, observation and designing – even if not all of the aspects of the designs have been put into practice.  Previously Will and I had had an allotment which was far too big for us to cope with and far too far away, so small – for a bit – has been really good!  I’ve also really enjoyed the random seed experiment which has taught me something of plant competition and also how well planted areas lose a great deal less water than areas with bare soil.

The aspects of the garden that have been challenging have been people, rather than plant related.  Most of them are to do with me.  I live with Ben my friend and landlord and I have always known that this is not a ‘forever’ arrangement.  I knew I was going to leave sooner rather than later and therefore I didn’t feel motivated to put too much time, money or effort into creating a garden here.  Really, this garden has always been someone else’s project.  I completed a design and the infrastructure (beds, seating, planters etc) has gone in according to that design, but I really haven’t got on with acquiring many plants  for it.  As a permaculturalist I lean towards perennials, but as I am not permanent here, me making a decision on perennials that would stay always seemed a bit wrong.  What I possibly should have done is to take the opportunity of not having much planting space to take cuttings and start them off in pots so that when I do have space then I will have ‘free’ plants ready to put in.  That’s what I should have done, but even cuttings in pots take up space and while I have not known where I was going – and if it would have any outside space at all – then I have felt reluctant to do even that.  I now know where I am going, and it is tiny, but it does have some outside space – a roof.  I’m also not sure how long I will be there, but I’m a bit sick of feeling rootless (literally…) so I think I am going to investigate this cutting solution.

So my short term, for-the-next-house, vision?  To build up a small (really very tiny, Will) army of plants grown from cuttings that can be planted into the next-next-house which will definitely have a garden…  A kind of super-reserve of plants.

Next step:  Get my mum to teach me how to take cuttings, work out where they are going to go.


Project seven: The preserve-a-thon

What’s going well about this project is that I am absolutely crystal clear about what my aim is with it now.  What’s going less well is that I am yet to write this down properly…  Hmm, that’s a clear next step if ever I saw one.

This project has changed a lot since its inception.  My original design was bitty, with no clear objective.  Now my objective/vision is very clear – to create a use-every-day larder (as opposed to an emergency food store) which always has three months worth of food in it and for home-preserved food to make up as much of this store as possible in the circumstances.  This project also suffered from the ‘am I going to stay here?’ issue as well as the ‘who am I storing food for?’ issue and the ‘wow there’s really no space at all to store food here’ issue.  All fairly critical issues which has meant that while I know what I want to do, I haven’t really done much of it yet.

However, as I am moving there is the opportunity to progress this project a little bit – even if it’s just doing an Infinity (local food coop) wholesale order and having oatcakes available on tap…

Next step:  Write the freaking thing down, goddamit!

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