Why I shop at Locavore

There’s a long wooden bench outside. It’s under the shelter of the awning running from the newsagents to the barbers and people, presumably, could take their chai or herbal tea out there, even in Scotland, in January, but I suspect that some passersby sit there too. Taking a restful moment off, from all the trundling about that’s so much part of modern life. It’s a nice touch. Human, simple, neat, good business sense. That’s Locavore.

Inside and…ah! The herbs and fresh fruit and veg and scented soaps and candles. I breathe it all in, immediately feeling better. I smile at the customer on her mobility scooter, coffee resting on the large wooden table in the cafe area, and head towards the free fruit and veg box.

I’m an inveterate recycler. I just can’t see things go to waste, so this is one of the many aspects of Locavore that I approve of. I start here because I’m thinking of what’s in the vegetable rack and fruit bowl at home. As a vegan who prefers whole to processed food, that’s where I start my meal preparation.

I always buy something too and recently decided to buy all my bread and pastries here. Everything’s organic. That sounds like a luxury until you think about the choice: with or without poison. Why do that to yourself and your housemates—then have to spend more on remedies for the harm those poisons cause?

The vegetables are interesting. Kohl rabbi and fennel as well as the usual cabbage, carrots and spuds. Paper bags or biodegradable plastic. There are huge containers of nuts and seeds and pulses at the back—I really need to investigate that end more—as well as refills for Ecover and other products that are natural and not tested on animals.

Okay it’s not entirely vegan, or even vegetarian, and I wish it was. But it’s shops like these where, looking along the shelves, someone who usually buys salami might see the vegan chorizo and decide to give it a try.

Let’s talk about cost. Yes, you’ll probably find an inferior version available for less in a supermarket but here’s the difference: this isn’t a shop where the emphasis is on sugar and starchy empty calories. This is good food and it’s good for you. So it terms of what you’re getting, pound for pound, this is better value.

Finally, the best thing about Locavore—apart from the unhurried time and space you have to pack your shopping—is the staff. People who know that their work makes a difference look different from other shop staff. Their eyes shine. When you chat about a recipe (3-ingredient vegan pancakes, for example) they’ve probably tried it or they want to and will tell you about it next time you shop. As they’re ringing your purchases up on the till, you’ll hear about the new baby, the new doggie, their visit to the Glasgow allotments where the produce is grown—and they’re interested in your news and views too.

I always come out of Locavore feeling better than when I went in. I’m a carer, going through considerable employment stress right now (and seeking legal remedies for it). My life at the moment is quite challenging. I shop at Locavore because it makes my life easier and reminds me of the consistent aim of philosophers down through the ages: the good life.

Colourful crammed Locavore veg box

Photo from https://locavore.scot/ (I’m not on commission, I just really like the shop!)

Advertisement

Breathing Fire, Missing Scale

I’ve never watched an entire episode of Dragons’ Den. To me, when I eventually saw some footage, it smacked of the new, voyeuristic TV programmes like Big Brother, The Weakest Link or Britain’s Got Talent, that used the excuse of aspiration (a combination of Machiavellian strategy, a lust for fame, and greed) to showcase the grief and pain of failure. I found it cruel and the presenters callous, the suffering they caused the majority of the participants not incidental but rather the dirty little secret of these shows: Schadenfreude, as our Germanic cousins call it. Pleasure in the suffering of others.

The names of the presenters meant nothing to me until one of them started making waves in my small, close-knit, and (until then) generally friendly political party. I looked up this person and, coming from a long line of nurses, I immediately identified what my elderly Mum calls “a typical thyroid case”: nervous excitability; forceful, non-stop talking; mood swings; bulging eyes. It can especially hit menopausal women badly but a younger friend had it, was diagnosed with cancer—and the regime of drugs and surgery altered her body chemistry and she lost a baby. “No-one ever mentioned thyroid imbalance” her husband said to me, afterwards. I felt so guilty for not speaking up. My embarrassment about being accused of ‘mansplaining’ a female condition wasn’t an excuse. Especially when I was simply sharing the observations of wise women and my advice was no more controversial than: “maybe you should get this checked out”.

So I did, and was smacked down by the dragon lady for my trouble. My conscience is clear. I tried. I’m not a medical doctor and I don’t have proof that her psychological inability to listen to opposing points of view is at root physiological. Maybe it’s not. Perhaps she’s simply the type of rich middle aged woman from the English ‘Home Counties’ that can’t abide contrary opinions. A sort of Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, without the humour.

From the body to the body politic: my party will survive. She’s calling us all shills for throwing her out when we’d all had enough of her abusive publicity. What concerns me more, having informed myself now, is what she may do next. I’m a keen conservationist and, unfortunately, her sights are set on ‘developing’ one of the most beautiful areas of woodland and meadow in England.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for grow-your-own and organic vegetables. I don’t mind meditation, chanting doesn’t bother me at all and I can even put up with a certain amount of circle dancing. I’m not keen on drugs, I must say, and my objections to aged hippies congregating on unspoiled land in order to consume quantities of magic mushrooms is not only medical (just because I’m unqualified doesn’t mean I don’t care, and they can cause severe heart palpitations, apparently) but also because such gatherings are often marked by ecological irresponsibility. Take Glastonbury, post-festival, as an example.

A member of my party told me that, when this fire-breathing businesswomen (whose own company went into arbitration, it seems) stood for us last year, concerned villagers made the trip from the Peak District to warn us to have nothing to do with her, as they feared the destruction she was planning to wreak on their beloved acres of Merrie England. He confessed that he’d declined their invitation to visit their beautiful village, set in Cressbrook Dale, out of loyalty to our candidate. Surely, he may have considered, these people were exaggerating.

Unfortunately, it appears that they’re not. Human waste, stone chips strewn in a forest glade by people clearly more accustomed to facilitating access to a suburban double garage than contemplating and reverencing the intricacies of ecological networks (and only taking action in order to better support them), plastic tents pitched and looking abandoned over winter, publicised plans to uproot the highest category of protected land in a national park…in order to grow massive amounts of vegetables. While everyone’s on drugs? And their (non-hierarchical) muse is off round the country, or perhaps the planet, leading, somehow by the aid of a perfectly flat structure, the movement against…well, anything that stands in her way really. The wheel must be broken, and all that sort of thing.

The New Age often attracts the precise middle of the English class system. The “chattering classes”. Middle managers, chartered accountants, those who’ve clawed their way up HR, board members of quangos. Places like Findhorn are full of them. The superwomen of the 90s are among them. You can have it all, they were told. To give them their due, they really tried to. The yuppie revolution. Thatcher’s children. Keeping the faith in monetarism—until the emptiness set in. They may have tried creative writing, or pottery. Some women, desperate, even went to the extreme of bringing up their own kids. At least when they were back from boarding school.

Tragically, I think that’s why these people can’t listen. They share that characteristic with the Woke. To admit doubt is to allow the possibility of meaninglessness. To look in the mirror and see youthful charm (if ever possessed) fade. New seekers age. “Dreams have lost their grandeur, coming true.” That’s if there were any, in the first place. Very few people, JK Rowling perhaps an exception, can find magic in suburbia.

So I can’t blame these bland people for wanting more. England is famous, worldwide, for having lost its culture. Abstract the Celtic Twilight, cut off the Moorish dancing learned from the Crusades, omit everything that actually belongs to someone else and what’s left? Only one element remains, the liminal location of Shakespearean dreamland: the Greenwood.

This is why nothing else will do for the breaker of chains and her merry band. If they were truly ecological, they’d buy up brownfield sites and reclaim them. Now that would be magical. Instead, cut off from rural wisdom for generations, these self-indulgent townies, unable to limit the gratification of their desires, must have this virgin soil in order to despoil it in search of their souls.

The capacity of self-reflection of such people may be so limited that, once they’ve made a Glastonbury out of the Greenwood, with only themselves to blame, their final act—before being thrown off the ravaged land by court order—is likely to be an internal witch-hunt to identify the source of the karmic forces acting against them.

In the hell of their own creation, a hall of mirrors where fame reflects ever more monstrously the distorted features of their inability to contemplate the impact of their unchecked desires, they may forget the basic tenant of even the watered-down version of Buddhism which they claim to practice: responsibility.

Colourful Carnival Dragon Head

Thanks to Linnaea Mallette for releasing her image Dragon Carnival Head into the Public Domain.

God’s Green Earth

The potatoes I dug up for dinner last night aren’t perfect. They range in size from huge to tiny, a couple got a bit green and one or two had beasties inside them, happily munching. But they’re all homegrown, organic and—when washed in rainwater, peeled (their occupied territory consigned to the compost heap along with the occupants) and boiled—they were the fluffiest tatties I’ve ever tasted. Mum loved them.

The wee ones I wrapped in brown paper and dated—to plant next spring. This lot, as is traditional, I’d planted on Good Friday but some sprung up from tiny tubers I’d missed in the soil the year before. So it goes to show that what matters isn’t size: it’s potential.

As we face a winter of artificially inflated cost-of-living (which, as a friend in the Scots Libertarian party points out, is actually cost-of-government) we may feel demoralised by the scale of the gargantuan forces oppressing us. Yes, they are individually and collectively powerful—but we are many and they are few.

Many of us in the Freedom Alliance party have been warning of the current crisis for years. I started posting about it in March 2020, because my previous research into the lies of Big Pharma and its censorship of experts had already opened my eyes.

Gardening is a major strategy of defence in the resistance movement: we don’t need their frankenfoods if we’re growing our own. It’s also incredibly good for your physical and mental health. Out in the fresh air, maybe chatting across the fence to neighbours, getting some natural light (maybe even some sunlight where the chemtrails are less frequent) so our skin manufacturers vitamin D. Just touching soil calms us. We’re literally grounded. Watching the busy bees and beautiful butterflies as we work reminds us that there’s another order, natural, ancient, harmonious, productive and yes truly “sustainable”—rather than this poisonous bureaucracy of surveillance and anxiety.

So grow your own! It’s worth it—and it might just save your life and your sanity!

Black plastic tray on long green grass with about 20 potatoes ranging in size & colour—2 with small holes.

The Real Greens

The trouble with the terms “greenwashing” and “pinkwashing” is that those using them may (perhaps) inadvertently do what they accuse others of doing: painting over structural issues that need to be addressed.

Pinkwashing is often used to denigrate the success of the LGBT community in Israel and there have been several aspects to this accusation:

  • Denying the issues faced by LGBT people in majority Muslim countries in general and in Palestine in particular.
  • Denying the freedoms won by the LGBT community in Israel.
  • Denying the possibility of a people under oppression to simultaneously oppress a community of their own.

Countering the first denial, Mark Segal of NY Daily News is quoted as stating:

If you have a need to prove your “wokeness” by assimilating with those who support the rape and death of LGBT people, you don’t know the meaning of LGBT liberation.

Countering the third denial, Al-Qaws, a group dedicated to gender and sexual diversity in Palestinian society, has a more nuanced statement:

Singling out incidents of homophobia in Palestinian society ignores the complexities of Israel’s colonisation and military occupation being a contributing factor to Palestinian LGBTQ oppression

My point is not to reduce the socio-political complexities to which the latter quote alludes to some kind of catchy soundbite but rather to emphasise that key word. Some issues aren’t simple—but that doesn’t mean they should be painted over in pink.

Or green. Cory Morningstar, on the blog Wrong Kind of Green, has written a detailed take-down of current media environmentalism entitled The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg. (For those who prefer listening to reading, there’s a beautifully-read podcast version.)

The reaction to greenwashing can also be rather simplistic and, similarly, has various aspects:

  • Denying the ecological issues of the planet
  • Denying the benevolent motivations of environmental protestors
  • Ignoring the possibility of both of the above co-existing with invented (or exaggerated) issues and with malevolent motivations

To stop communicating in double negatives, let me state clearly what I mean. While climatologists are divided on the question of there being a planetary temperature crisis caused by human (or animal) agency, no-one sane denies the obvious issues of air, land and water pollution by pesticides and other poisons and by plastics. Electromagnetic (high or low) frequency pollution is another source of concern.

Related issues are those of the cost-effectiveness of supposedly environmental alternative sources of energy and fuel—as well as the social impact of the market for conflict minerals (used in phones, laptops, solar panels and electric cars).

About all these issues my point is simple:

  • Unless supposedly progressive groups are prepared to grapple with the complexities of real intersectional oppression and liberation, they aren’t really progressive.

It’s not enough to pay attention to the wake-up calls of green celebrities; we also need to see beyond—to the marketisation of Africa and other repressive goals of the Great Reset.

It’s not enough to acknowledge the latter and ignore the very real problems of pollution.

It’s not enough to be aware of the dangers of Frankenfood and the sinister appropriation of the means of global food production by a very small group of plutocrats; we also need to acknowledge the unnatural and inhumane treatment of farmed animals—if not for their own sake then at least for the effect that their confinement, torture, forced assimilation of toxins and barbaric slaughter has on our own bodies and on our souls.

The so-called Green parties are allied with inhuman forces indifferent to the fate of most of the planet and its population—apart from some ecological pleasure parks strictly set aside for the elite. Let’s not pretend that meanwhile these plutocrats are all ethical vegans: they’re all guzzling meat pizza, fatty hamburgers and high sugar Coca-Cola.

In contrast, the resistance to global tyranny is full of people who eat healthily, exercise daily, participate voluntarily in various community projects and grow our own food.

We’re the real greens.

Cress growing out of soil held in a White male hand in front of the mesh cover of a plastic greenhouse.

Composting

Spring has sprung and there’s lots to do in the garden, with the main task being preparing the raised beds for planting. My last plant-related post was about pumpkins 🎃 and how they did unexpectedly well. The strips of carrot seed, unfortunately, yielded nothing and (as detailed in a previous post) although it was a good year for onions & garlic, tiny sweet strawberries, nasturtiums for salad and the bees, chilli peppers, chives, cleavers, basil, peppermint, thyme, sage and even some potatoes, planted or not, the Chinese cabbage and carrots weren’t a success.

Flowers, always important in and around a vegetable patch, also did well, with Calendula adorning the bottom bed and blue alliums in a corner beside the (failed) tomatoes. Two out of the four fruit bush saplings grew and honesty in a big pot was a lovely addition to the rather wild circular flower bed nearer the back door.

This year I’ve benefited from having written down a plan in a notebook in autumn and buying seeds to sow. So yesterday, having raised the other half of the side bed and reinforced the organic underlay of the big green box, I was pleased to discover, tucked into cloth pockets at the back of the cupboard under the stairs, packets of both broccoli and cabbage seed.

Raising a bed is hard work. First you have to dig out all the soil.

Top of side bed with soil dug out
Soil piled up beside the raised bed

Then lay twigs, small branches and leaves, to provide drainage.

Twigs and branches at the bottom of the raised bed
Old flower stems on top of the twigs & branches

Then fill it back in! Forking the soil in gets air into it and breaks up clumps. This soil is clay and otherwise tends to form endless airless mud only good for potatoes so, if you want more variety, you have to work for it.

Side bed with soil replaced

After all this I flung compost on top. The idea is to let it lie for a week or so – to give the birds a chance to eat up all the slugs. They’re useful in compost heaps and if I find any that’s where I put them but if the birds find then first – it’s the circle of life!

Meanwhile the bottom bed isn’t doing much apart from pushing up chives, some of which I plan to relocate to the big green box. The calendula has survived the winter and will need restaked.

Chives and calendula in the bottom bed

This was the first bed I raised and did well with Brussels and cabbage that year. Since then the wicker fence has been rather damaged by Ben 🐕 jumping over it so at some point I’ll need to spend an afternoon weaving more supple twigs into it.

The top bed is full of foxgloves, spring onions and garlic. I thought I’d lifted everything last year so the alliums are a nice surprise. It does complicate composting though.

Foxgloves, onions & garlic shoots in the top bed

I faced the same problem in the big green box and, though tempted to call it a day at this point, decided to take advantage of the rare sunshine and my good mood. First I potted all the saplings, about 60 of them, mostly apple trees from pips in the compost that had seeded due to the combination of temperate weather and good drainage.

6 pots of saplings surround a wooden box

I put the pots around the wooden box (held together with screws and a spare bike tyre) which had held the struggling rhubarb that eventually gave up. Last week I planted some irises inside and other flowering bulbs around the garden.

10 saplings in a pot

Now it was time to lift all the spring onions with their surrounding soil from the green box and temporarily put them in a tray in the greenhouse.

Onion sets planted in tray in the greenhouse

I also put the foxgloves in a trays.

Foxgloves in trays sitting on the trampoline

Then scooped the soil from one side of the green box into the lid of the compost bin in preparation to reinforce the woody organic layer below – some of which had got quite patchy. With soil falling through, the level had gone down and I also found some gladioli bulbs attempting to grow six inches under! I removed these as it struck me that they could possibly be mistaken for edible alliums.

Patchy soil covering of woody layer in green box

You’d have to be pretty stupid to confuse foxglove and cabbage leaves (which is why Miss Marple allocates that task to particularly muddled housemaids) and they are great for the bees so in the top bed those can grow together and here they and the nasturtiums should help keep the pests off the pumpkins.

Twigs and branches on one side of the green box with soil inside the compost bin lid

I replanted the foxgloves in the green box after adding more branches, twigs and leaves, replacing the soil then composting.

I’ll probably replace those central foxgloves with chives but they can stay there for now.

The rest of the compost from the plastic bin (the compost in the wooden box is less broken down) I removed from the bottom of the bin placed in the riddle set atop, in order to give it a good airing.

Compost airing on top of the plastic bin

Tomorrow I plan to compost the top and bottom beds and the greenhouse but that’s enough for today. Hands scratched from bending and breaking branches, muscles tired but mind relaxed, I took off my wellies and went indoors for tea.

(All photos copyright the author, may be reproduced, but not altered, with link to this post.)

Wrong Turning: Lab-Grown Meat

I tend to say “yes” to requests from handsome men. (It’s a character flaw, I know, and it often leads me into trouble.) So when animal activist Jon Hochschartner asked me for my thoughts on the moral problem of theodicy with reference to wild animal suffering, I published a reply and I liked what he did with it. Two days after Boxing Day isn’t the season for blogging about possible religious objections to lab-grown meat but I’m still no better than I should be, so here I am.

Ethical complexity was central to my doctoral work and whenever I get a gut reaction that I can’t immediately intellectually justify, I’m intrigued. I’ve been vegetarian for decades and vegan for years. I can’t even eat meat substitutes that taste too meaty. I hate the very idea of lab-grown meat. It appals me. Yet Jon argues otherwise and calls for massive state investment in R&D:

…cultivated meat is grown from animal cells, without slaughter. When this new protein is cheaper to produce and superior in taste to slaughtered meat, we will have achieved the conditions under which animal liberation starts to become possible.

CounterPunch 19th Nov. 2021

Put like that, bearing in mind the huge reduction in animal suffering from factory farming and slaughter, it seems like a no-brainer. So why am I instinctively against it? On reflection, I’ve identified seven reasons:

  1. Pragmatic: veganism is booming and there are already acceptable meat substitutes for those that crave them. It seems like the time to invest in changing the culture away from meat rather than towards a more ethical version.
  2. Nutritional: I’ve been lectured at, for decades, by fat people with bad skin and no stamina who frequent burger bars and wouldn’t know B12 from beetroot – and yes there are new vegans who do not eat a balanced diet – but nowadays few nutritionists would attempt to argue that a human diet heavy in animal products is healthier than one based on plants.
  3. Ideological: The push for lab-grown (and insect) meat has a global political context that even to mention this time last year earned an automatic penalty on social media – either jeers of “conspiracy theorist” or some form of shadowbanning. The Great Reset, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, leverages climate anxiety and White guilt in order to greenwash economic disruption – disproportionately impacting the most marginalised – and focusing on exploiting the bedrock of the 4th Industrial Revolution: the conflict minerals of Africa.
  4. Financial: Bill Gates (who finances: the media, government public health advisors, “fact-checkers”, the pharmaceutical industry, the World Health Organisation and both sides of the aisle in American politics, directly or indirectly) is now the biggest private owner of farmland in the USA. I say all this because his PR is so successful that any critique is immediately met, in the USA especially, with “oh you must be a [insert ideological other]”. His push for synthetic meat clearly doesn’t come from any concern for farmers – who went out of business during the lockdown his funded advisors imposed and sold their land to him (cheaply?) – or for animals – who were slaughtered early, often under even more barbaric conditions than usual.
  5. Sociological: with citizen journalism available to anyone with internet access, the mainstream media version of events falls in hegemonic power. As reports of vaccine injuries rise, along with those of the pharmaceutical industry’s attempts to cover them up, Gates may well become a toxic brand and any products he pushes unlikely to meet with consumer approval from his conservative opponents. Across the aisle, liberals are more likely to be open to veganism – so why try to sell them something less?
  6. Compassionate: Gates (while publicly expressing angst over eating cheeseburgers) does occasionally match donations for an animal sanctuary but with his money he could have bought all the animals as well as all the farmland and saved them from the gas chamber, drowning, shooting and electrocution – and hardly noticed. Why didn’t he? Because to Gates and his ilk, life on earth is the problem, not the solution.
  7. Religious: lab-grown meat does not solve any moral problems unsolved by veganism. Even for ritual purposes, there are acceptable vegan substitutes.

Done well, a religious process of pondering a moral problem is holistic, taking into account all the patterns of values concerned. While developing technology may be seen as participating in the creative energy of God, what is important is its impact: all its relations. The lines connecting lab-grown meat and human and animal life in all its fruitfulness form a spiderweb with a morally ambiguous opportunistic businessman, passing as a philanthropist, at the centre.

There was a moment, after the Second World War, when the conditions that had led to the wartime unbalanced monoculture production of carbohydrates (potatoes, wheat) that could be shipped and stored were no longer in existence. This followed centuries of disenfranchisement of the rural poor as they migrated to the cities, losing their connection to the land and their culinary, herbal and nutritional knowledge as they boarded in shacks with no kitchen and fed, almost solely, on wheat pies of meat and potatoes. As shell-shocked men returned home and deprived women of the jobs they had been doing capably for years, there could have been a reversal of the mechanisation of agriculture. Employment on labour-intensive small-holdings would have raised morale as well as levels of nutrition and avoided the turn towards factory farming that inevitably followed.

As, like it or not, we are presented with a similar moment in our history – except this time all over the world – we have the opportunity to make the right choice. Greater artificiality, centralisation of food supplies and association with industrial giants whose lack of prudence is infamous – all these things are not what is needed now. As we face the prospect of another industrial revolution, we need to turn from our former errors and not repeat them.

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image Red Germ into the Public Domain.

Pumpkin Soup! 🎃

If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know that (surprisingly) pumpkin triffids have been taking over my greenhouse and happily cohabiting with nasturtiums and nicotianas. Two pumpkins developed (I was watching the male and female flowers eagerly as there’s a window of only a few hours for the bees 🐝 to get busy with them) and today I took the biggest one in, for Hallowe’en! 👻 I think I’ll leave the other one for Christmas.

Male yellow pumpkin flower
Closing female pumpkin flower with seed pod bulge
Holding the pumpkin in my hand
Small pumpkin growing on the vine

My two objectives were to make pumpkin soup and a lantern. First step was cutting it in two, about 1/3 of the way from the top.

Pumpkin cut in two on a wooden table

Now comes the scraping. I cut around the seeds and spoon them out first, chopping and squeezing the pulp to extract them. Some to eat (cos they’re great for the digestive tract apparently for humans and dogs too!) and some to keep to sow next year. I spread them out on kitchen paper, push more on top, turn it over and do that a couple of times till they start falling out cos they’re dry! Then I wrap them up in a clean sheet, put a plastic band round the wee packet and date it.

Pumpkin seeds drying on kitchen paper
Package of pumpkin seeds on table

Frequent readers—and anyone who doesn’t confine their news input to Big Pharma funded mainstream media and their antisocial media shills—will know that we’re in the middle of a global technofascist takeover and that food and seed shortages are a major weapon in the disaster capitalist armoury. If you haven’t been paying attention, you probably have just decided that I’m a “conspiracy theorist”. Bless.

Then comes the fun of carving the evil Hallowe’en face! If you’re a young thing born in the UK this century who goes about saying “Trick or Treat!” as if you’re an American, you may not know that tomorrow is All Saints Day, so tonight is the Eve of All Hallows: Hallowe’en. (Yes, that is where JKR got it from.) So the old idea was that evil things pranced about before they all got chased off by all the sanctity tomorrow. The even older idea, at least in Celtic countries, is that on Samhain, the night of this old Quarter Day (that marks the triumph of the Dark until Beltane or May Day) the veil between the worlds is thin.

Carved pumpkin with electric light inside, on table

In some Latin countries the Day of the Dead/ El Día de los Muertos/ O Dia dos Mortos combines all of these ideas. Anyway, now for the soup! Basically I just chopped up all the pulp and blended it with spinach and cherry tomatoes, then added a home-grown chilli pepper, onions and a slice of ginger, a touch of turmeric and a twist of black pepper.

Added together it’s turned a nice light green. Hopefully it tastes better than it looks!

A Fairytale

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there was a very purple potato and an exceedingly twisted paperclip.

The potato was very vain and he wasn’t content to stay underground, like all the humble spuds. Instead, he threw his weight about and levered himself up through the soil until he managed to get a place in the sun. There he lazed, belly up in the back garden, and occasionally flopped over and lazed some more. As the sun grew warmer, the potato grew lazier until his flip-flops from lying on his frontside to lying on his backside got longer and longer apart…and his potato skin got more and more purple!

Meanwhile, upstairs in the office space at the front of the house, the paperclip was busy at the computer — tapping out a poison pen letter to herself. (She hadn’t always been a paperclip and had actually started out as a long straight crocodile clip. However she hadn’t liked just being in a box with all the other small stationary items as she felt herself destined for greater things. So she’d started to cry crocodile tears, to get attention, but all that had happened was that they’d rusted her snapping jaws…until they’d broken right off! All she’d been left with was her long steel stalk and, when she’d thought about how unjust her fate was, she’d started twisting sideways and had bent herself so much out of shape that she’d become a paperclip!)

Just as the exceedingly twisted paperclip finished the email to herself, and tapped “SEND”, a movement outside the window caught her eye. She twisted around and looked out.

There she saw a beautiful snow white songbird, with wings flecked with vivid green and purple. The paperclip saw how the songbird soared and swooped around the house and sang — and she envied and hated her. She had to find a way to bring that beautiful free bird down!

As she twisted herself off the desk and out of the door, along the landing and down the stairs, a plan started to form in her twisted steel brain. Twisting into the kitchen and out the back door (picking locks was very easy for a clip of her talents) she headed right up the garden path, ignoring all the lovely green and white and purple flowers around her, until she arrived at the potato patch.

The fat potato, presently sunning his big purple belly, was very surprised indeed to see a mangled item of office stationary twisting up the garden path. “Not In My Potato Patch!” he thought, starchly. He was even more surprised when she ignored him completely and instead bent back to peer up at the netting covering the strawberries in the wooden cold frame. “Well!” thought the purple potato, “what about ME?” And he flipped and flopped his big belly and his backside until he was balanced, precariously, on top of the wee wooden posts that made up the low fence around the vegetable patch. “She’ll have to see me NOW!”

But the exceedingly twisted paperclip had a plan and she was sticking to it. Twisting herself past the potato patch and up one side of the cold frame, she poked and twisted and tore…and pulled the netting right off the strawberries! Twisting back down the side, pulling the netting behind her, she paused when she got back to the potato patch.

A huge, discoloured, fleshy potato was lounging on top of the low wooden fence, obviously trying to pretend he was comfortable and that he wasn’t looking for attention! She eyed him for a moment and then stared down at the netting. A gleam came into her eye. She twisted round to glance up at the songbird, still flying freely and singing sweetly, then twisted right round again.

“Hello spud! Want to help me bring down that bird?”

The fat potato opened one eye, and then shut it. Not pleased at all at this blatant lack of respect for a potato in his position! However, suddenly he realised that she might go away and he’d get no attention at all — and that was the worst thing ever! So he tried to sit himself up, but potatoes of that age and size aren’t very flexible so all he succeeded in doing was to fall off his perch. Right on top of the paperclip!!!

“Je suis pomme de terre!” He said, in what he hoped was a passable French accent. Then added. “I will help with your scheme. That bird has been annoying me all morning! Flapping about and squawking! I hate attention seekers!” But the paperclip, deciding on action rather than talk, stabbed her steel point up into his abundant flesh, scuttled sideways to entangle his bulk in the netting then twisted as she had never twisted before and threw the purple potato up, up into the air towards the songbird, with the netting trailing behind like the tail of a comet!

The potato was horrified at the thought of being stabbed through the heart but, fortunately, he didn’t have one so it was only a flesh wound. Hurtling through the air he looked below to see if the flowers were looking up at him. But they weren’t. They were giving all their attention to the bees and the butterflies.

Then, the potato struck the side of the guttering, flopped over and rolled in, just as the netting flipped over the songbird, who had just alighted on the roof to sing from there.

Startled, the songbird suddenly found herself entangled, her wings pinned to her side and her feet caught in the netting! She let out a trill of terror…and all the green and white and purple flowers lifted up their pretty heads and saw her plight!

“Help me! Help me!” sang out the songbird. “This could happen to any of us! Flower fairies come to my aid!” The songbird was a great friend of the flower fairies, and she often sang songs for them while they danced in the sun or the dew or the moonlight.

The potato couldn’t understand the language of birds and flowers because he only understood selfishness and cruelty. Beauty and compassion were beyond his ken. So, while he was huffing and puffing and humpfing his great discoloured bulk along the gutter to try and see what was going on, he didn’t know that three great bands of flower fairies had risen up from the green and white and purple flowers to fly to the aid of their friend.

Suddenly he saw them all! The sky full of whirring wings and colour as the clever fairies, used to helping each other, lifted the netting right off the struggling songbird — and flew it back down to the cold frame. But then they saw that it wouldn’t stay in place as it had been ripped away from the little tacks that held it. One sharp-eyed fairy spotted the paperclip and joyfully caught it up in her agile hands, using it to lever up the tacks so that the netting could once again be stretched over the strawberries. There was only one place left where the net was too torn, so the fairy drove the point of the paperclip deep into the wood and that pinned down the netting safely.

Meanwhile, up on the roof, the fat potato was outraged that once again he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved! Rolling over in indignation, he almost went over the edge of the guttering and flopped sideways to save himself from falling off the roof! But, so intent on the beautiful songbird and her helpful friends, he didn’t see the downpipe beside him and fell right into it! Down and down and…right down into the drain below than washed down into the sewer!

The exceedingly twisted paperclip is still stuck in place, finally doing something useful, but what became of the fat vain purple potato no-one knows. (Or cares.)

However, the songbird is free to fly and to delight the flower fairies with her songs as they do her with their dancing. After all, they sport the same three colours — and they know that, with love and freedom and mutual aid, good fairy magic will always triumph over the evil plans of the envious…and beautiful songbirds will keep singing!

The Good Life

Gardening, when you’re an fulltime unpaid carer with other paid work (3 PT jobs in my case), isn’t just a hobby, it’s much-needed therapy. When you’ve read the script of the current global technofascist takeover, so you’re not continually surprised at the plot of this panto, it’s also a survival skill. (Remember, in the fairly near future, if you found that funny.)

Last post (apart from the one on the strawberries) was in April. Since then, the red onions and garlic shot up and got ate up, and in the big green box (one of the raised beds) there was an unplanned crop, planted I think by my dog Ben, as the burrs stuck to his fur: cleavers, as they’re known in England; sticky willies, here in Scotland. In soups and stews they taste like fairly tough broccoli stems (very green) but, even if strained out at the end, they’re apparently excellent for lymphatic drainage. Not something to be sniffed at, in these days of food and pharmaceutical toxins!

In the same place, I finally worked out what the mystery plants were. About 50 sturdy seedlings with red stems and single serrated green leaves, I felt they looked familiar and guessed everything from beetroot to brambles. Wrong! They’re wee apple trees! A couple of rowans got in there too (planted by the birds, maybe from our trees out front, whereas the apple pips were in the compost). Well, they say in life you should write a book, plant a tree and have a baby, so two out of three so far (or rather 15 and 50) ain’t bad!

The chives delivered, like last year, and some potatoes (planted and unplanted) are growing well but the lettuce and carrots failed to sprout at all and the pak choi either got eaten up by the birds or bolted. Our avian friends also put paid to my hopes for the runner beans and sunflowers, transplanted en masse from the greenhouse. I’d hoped the abundant spread of buttercups (pretty but annoying) would shelter them but instead I think they just crowded them out of the soil.

However a big surprise are the pumpkin plants taking over the greenhouse with one fruit currently the size of a baby’s head! With the stems both running along the soil and raised up to run along shelves (to keep the fruit from hungry slugs) I’m not sure if we’re going to eat pumpkin pie come Hallowe’en – or if this triffid is going to eat us!

As for flowers, a lovely calendula is nodding gracefully over the potatoes and basil, one lupin is delighting the bees, nasturtiums are everywhere (including intwined with a bramble and in salads) and the gladioli have finally decided to shoot up, but so far no flowers.

I took advice and took the pots of geranium and begonia out of the greenhouse so, apart from the triffid, the only other flowers in there are the purple and yellow nicotinias (which I’m glad to say have survived their near-death Brexit customs experience and are thriving) and the wee white stars on the chilli pepper.

I also took advice on the roses which were straggling everywhere dangerously and had developed black spot on some leaves. They survived a fairly drastic prune a fortnight ago and seem better for it.

Last but not least, the rhubarb is holding its own (just) and the strawberries did get a bit parched in the heatwave but have bounced back with all the rain. Today, deciding to give the unconvincing strips of carrot seed another go, I made another raised bed, removed sticks and stones, added compost and sand, and broke up all the clumps so we’d have straight carrots not bendy ones! Then I tore up and sowed the strips, like last time, and planted the last of the onions sets around the edge, for good measure. I think they’re supposed to make good companions. Just looked it up. Yes! But compost isn’t recommended. Oh well, let’s see what happens!

(All photos copyright the author, may be reproduced, but not altered, with link to this post.)

Giving Shelter

Last year I bought some bedraggled strawberry plants or rather I rescued them from outside a shop where they were dying of thirst. The staff inside told me the watering machine (can?) was broken and they didn’t have time to go outside to water them anyway. I don’t think they were uncaring, just overworked, and they did give me a discount.

I brought them all home and could almost hear their sighs of relief as they sooked up the water I stood them in, through their roots. The next day they were looking a lot less sorry for themselves and the day after that they were positively sprightly.

I repotted them into trays as they were also pot bound, their roots wrapped round and round the wee pots, seeking more soil. Then they started growing with gusto and sending out lots of shoots, which I buried under the earth so they could root. By the end of summer, the greenhouse was full of trays of strawberry plants. The nitrogen-rich organic compost I’d added to the soil apparently primes them to grow lots of lovely leaves, but very few strawberries.

But I was happy they were happy and decided to be patient and dedicate one year to propagation and the next to fruition. The problem was winter. Our plastic greenhouse isn’t heated and I didn’t think they’d survive.

We’d taken down the old garden hut and I eventually got round to constructing a cold frame using the wood, the window and the long triangular door hinges. In went some netting, some more compost and soil – and in went the strawberries.

It rained all autumn and all winter when it didn’t freeze. I’d get on the Mac and the wellies and lift the lid, sometimes covered with snow. And there they were, surviving, snuggled into the soil with the wood between them and the weather.

Come the spring I was opening the lid more, to let the air circulate and let the sunshine in. Occasionally I’d water them, especially along the edge nearest the hedge that gets less rain. I was happy to see that, while there were still some shoots like last year, there were a lot more flowers.

Now in the summer the lid is mostly open, unless it’s very windy, to let the pollinators in and I can see lots of wee berries starting to form. I might have to put some netting up eventually, or the birds will eat the lot.

Even if they do, I’ve learned a lot from those once struggling and now thriving plants. As a fulltime carer trying to fit in 3 PT jobs with far too much time on social media (cos there’s always a crisis) I sometime just wander out into the back garden seeking serenity. And as my eyes, tired from lack of sleep and too much screen time, rest on the green leaves and little white flowers, I find it.

It strikes me that they needed so little in order to survive and that, once they got that, they managed to thrive.

This year in Scotland a lot of berries won’t be picked, as Brexit has put paid to the migrant workers who usually harvest them. This year in Scotland, for the very first time, refugees (even with limited leave to remain) were allowed to vote. In time, hopefully, we may get to the point of allowing anyone seeking asylum to work legally.

Sometimes intervention is necessary. There are situations where that makes the difference between life and death. Then there’s a period of adjustment to new conditions and that may involve some protection or support. But life is ingenious and finds ways to thrive.

People, like plants, just need some shelter to flourish.