Rhymes and Reasons

My guitar broke! The bridge that holds the strings in place ripped right off, and the man at the music shop said it isn’t really fixable. I bought it at a charity shop last Autumn, and I have been teaching myself how to play, by working my way through a “John Denver’s Greatest Hits” music book. I have a good handful of tunes in my repertoire now, so I’m sure you can imagine how devastated I was.

Naturally, I signed onto my faithful Freecycle account, and posted a message- “WANTED: GUITAR PLEASE”. I explained my musicless situation. The next day a lady wrote to me and said that she had 2 guitars that I could have! She said she was moving house and they just weren’t getting used. We made a plan, and the next day I cycled my bike trailer down to Yelverton to meet her. She was lovely, and she gave me 2 very nice classical guitars. I gave her some home made chutney as a token thank-you. I say thank-you for most things these days with some jam or chutney concoction.

I cycled home with my lucky prize, and have spent the last 2 weeks playing one guitar when I’m upstairs, and the other when I’m downstairs. What a life of Freecycle luxury! Then, a few days ago I was walking out of the market, and I said to my daughter, Matilda, “Listen. Can you hear that music? There must be a band!” We walked round the corner to get a better look at the band, and found a teenager sat on the floor, playing guitar like there was no tomorrow. He was hitting it like a drum, at the same time as playing it. He reminded me of an old friend, Jake Morley, who is a musician with a very similar style. He was a one man band, and he was incredibly talented. I gave Matilda some coins to drop in his case, and he looked up from his big knitted hippy hat. His glasses were as thick as the neck of his guitar, and they were held together with blue tac. His guitar looked like it was older then him, and was duck-taped together. He invited us to hang out and listen, so we sat down on the floor, and listened. Matilda took her wellies off and started skipping and dancing around us, like it was a mini festival in the middle of Tavistock.

When he finished his song, we got chatting. His name is Vince, and he is 19. He lives in Princetown, about 10 miles away, up on the moors. I told him I was teaching myself guitar, and he asked me to play something on his. I’ve only played to an audience once before, and they were friends, so this was a big step up for me. I played “Rhymes and Reasons” on his twangy guitar. It felt good to play outside, in the sunshine, with an audience. I sang too quietly, and Vince told me to sit up straighter and really push my voice out. He said if I wanted, we could busk together sometime, and he would teach me more. Without meaning to sound too eager, I asked if he was free tomorrow.

Tomorrow came, and Matilda packed all her bells into her bag. We cycled into town and found Vince in the same spot, looking ready to jam. The plan was that I would play whatever I knew, and he would improvise, following my lead. He made me sound good! “Country Roads” rocked out, followed by “I’m leaving on a jet plane” and my only Bob Dylan song, “Ramona” (I’ve been trying to open my mind to other song writers). It was so much fun, and Matilda was a little star, dancing around with her bells on. Vince taught me how to tap my guitar in-between strumming, and some basic blues chords. People tipped us like they had no idea that we were just hanging out and having a bit of fun.

Vince told me he really wanted to move to Tavistock, but that it’s really hard to find places to rent that accept housing benefit. My mind was going into overdrive at this point. I had been thinking of going to visit my family over the weekend, back in the East country. However, I didn’t have anyone to look after my 6 chickens. I asked Vince if he would like to house sit for me over the weekend, and look after my chickens. Then I asked him if he would like to help me renovate my piggery and he could rent it from me….I know this sounds a bit bizarre, but he was lovely, and my gut instinct told me I could trust him. He seemed really excited. It meant that he wouldn’t be reliant on the expensive and infrequent buses in and out of Princetown. I wouldn’t charge any more rent then housing benefit would cover, so he wouldn’t have to worry about payments at all. He could have his own separate space and still have use of my house.

We finished busking (we made a very exciting £10), and walked back to my house. I introduced him to my girls, and told him which shops would give him free food “for the chickens”. I got the sofa bed out for him, and gave him a key for the house and my second guitar. Who needs 2 guitars?! Then I got on a bus to Plymouth, and took the train back East to see my family.

My family think I’m mad, but it’s just Permaculture. I think its a good example of how I apply the ethics of People Care and Fair Shares to my life. It’s also a good example of the principle of Beneficial Relationships. Trusting Vince is going to work out to be really great for both of us. It will be financially beneficial for both of us, he will get to move to Tavistock, and I won’t have to worry about my chickens when I need to stay away over night. I like to live with other people, and I think it’s important to have company. He is vegetarian and he plays guitar – what more could I ask for?

Posted in chickens, community, Fair Shares, Gardening, jam, Low Impact living, People Care, Permaculture, philosophy, Tavistock | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My Pain In The Arsenic

Hectic. There is no other word for it. Which is good, because if I wasn’t really busy right now, I might stop and get depressed about the lack of sunshine that my skin has seen.

As we say in the Permaculture community, the problem IS the solution. The rain has brought with it, a colossal amount of fat juicy slugs. My chickens have been gorging themselves on slimy grossness. Good for them! First thing in the morning, I let them out of their little wooden house, and then I clean out the green house of slimy monsters. They are often so big that I have to cut them in half for my happy girls.

I had a meeting with a professor at Plymouth University, who has a student who wants to study the arsenic in my garden as part of his dissertation. However, he said, this kind of study has been done many times over, in areas much more highly contaminated then my garden. He showed me the previous results, and explained them to me. Even the vegetables which suck up the most amount of arsenic from the soil, are fine to eat. Brassicas and salads are the worst, but they are still within the safe limit. Big sigh of relief?…..not just yet.

So food is fine to grow in my contaminated soil, he said. But I need to be careful not to ingest the soil itself. Leafy greens and cabbages are bad, not because they suck up arsenic, but because they are grown on the surface of the soil, and they are crinkly. It’s almost impossible to wash all the soil off. Foods like fruit from trees, and runner beans and tomatoes, are better simply because there is much less chance that the soil will ever touch the food surface. He said I just need to wash and peel everything thoroughly, and I’m all good. All good? Up until now, I’ve had a philosophy of ingesting as many germs as possible, to keep my immune system in check. If my daughter finds a raisin on the floor in my house, it’s her lucky day. I don’t wash my vegetables unless they are covered in mud! And peeling them feels like an utter waste!

But this was just the beginning. My Professor said that my biggest problem with Arsenic, is going to be via inhaling it, through dust particles in my house. He said I will need to be particularly careful with Matilda, who is only 4, and thus has a longer life span to build up contaminants in her body. But I don’t own a vacuum cleaner, and I only sweep when you can’t see the floor for all the twigs. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but I really don’t care to keep a disinfected show house. I have better things to do with my time. Well…I did. I guess now I will have to be a bit cleaner.

We then started to discuss what tests this student will do on my garden…Cherries, pears, gooseberries, carrots, broccoli….Oh and why don’t we test my chicken’s eggs? Up until now, I had assumed that my 6 ex-battery chickens would be fine, because the vast majority of their diet is stale pasties and waste fruit and veg, from the very kind independent shops in town. I figured a tiny bit of arsenic in the grass would be fine. But actually, they ingest a hell of a lot of soil. That’s what they do. They root around and dig up worms. I feed them slimy slugs, which often have plenty of soil stuck to them. They need to ingest grit, to grind up their food in their stomachs. I eat their eggs every day. So does Matilda.

My research into hyper-accumulation of the Arsenic, has proven to not be a viable option. There was an Arsenic mine on the other side of the road, so there is Arsenic mineral in my soil. If I did attempt to absorb the contaminants using hyper-accumulators such as mushrooms or Pteris Vitata (Chinese Brake Fern), my efforts would be futile. The mineral will continually leach more arsenic into the soil.

SO. Without panicking, I’m going to get my eggs tested. I’m going to get everything tested. And I’m going to try to sweep at least once a week! Maybe the problem wasn’t the solution this time. Or maybe I just had the wrong solution. I’m still in the thinking stage of my design. I still have so much to learn about my garden, before I can make a well-informed permaculture plan of action. It’s only been 5 months.

I remain positive. I can adapt and change. I will figure it out for myself.

Posted in Arsenic, chickens, Earth care, Food, Gardening, Low Impact living, Organic, Permaculture, philosophy, Self Sufficiency, soil, Tavistock, The Problem is the solution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dartmoor Classic 2012

I had a childless Sunday and no plans. I was new in town and didn’t know anybody. I googled “Tavistock meets on Sunday”, and up popped the Tavistock Wheelers Cycling Club. I thought to myself, I ride my bike every day. I cycle Matilda to nursery and back. I cycle to get my groceries. I love cycling! This could work. So, off I peddled on my mountain bike to meet the guys. I say guys – I didn’t realise I would actually be the only woman there! It’s not a problem, I thought, I can hold my own

Gradually, about 20 (predominantly) middle-aged men in lycra showed up on their fancy road bikes with all their racing gear. I asked cautiously if it was okay to come out on my mountain bike… “Of course!” They said smiling, “We all started out on mountain bikes!”

We cycled 38 miles that morning in March. I was at the back the whole way, but the guys took it in turns to cycle with me so that I was never on my own. They were lovely. Every half hour or so, someone turned back because they had other commitments and couldn’t be out all morning, so I had plenty of opportunities to give up. I didn’t. I can be rather stubborn sometimes.

A week later I made a friend, who happened to be my height, and happened to have a road bike which was gathering dust. She sold it to me for peanuts – she was just glad that it was going to see the action that she didn’t have the time for anymore.

Cut to a few months later, and I’ve blagged myself a last-minute ticket to the Dartmoor Classic: 100miles or 100Km around Dartmoor. If you don’t know what Dartmoor is like, just imagine a lot of very pretty hills in a row. Needless to say, I did the shorter route. The guys gave me a lift to the start point in Exeter, and most of us began the Sportive together. Thousands of cyclists of all ages and abilities, cycling across the moors. It was truly thrilling! I had coconut water in my bottle, and chocolate coffee beans and natural cereal bars in my pouch. I’d had my porridge for breakfast, and I felt great. What’s more, I wasn’t the one who was always trailing at the back, desperately trying to keep up. There were people faster than me, and people slower than me. There were people who this was clearly a massive challenge for, and people who made it look like they cycle 100miles everyday before breakfast!

I surprised myself by getting in touch with the more competitive side of my nature…. It was no longer just an opportunity to get out and go for a cycle ride in the country, on a Sunday with a bunch of friends. I was being timed! I was pretty confident I could cycle the route, but how fast could I cycle the route? Every now and again, I would spot one of my club guys, and I would try to keep up with them. When there was someone in front of me, I tried to over take them. I didn’t take a break on the down hills, I kept pedalling. I only had myself to beat! What a beautiful, endorphin fueled tour of the magnificent Dartmoor… I swear I saw the house where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs must have lived! There were, sobberingly, a number of accidents on the route. I had to cycle past people who were obviously seriously hurt (and being taken care of), after going down a hill, or around a bend too quickly. There were marshals everywhere though, and nobody was left on their own. I was incredibly impressed at the number of people out on the road telling us to slow down because of a sharp bend, or about a turning up ahead. The Dartmoor Classic is apparently the most well organised cycling event in the country, and although I have nothing to compare it to, I was very impressed with the organisers.

When I got to the end, I got off my bike and lay down before I could collapse. I was really pleased – I knew I had tried my hardest, and I had loved every minute of it, despite the muscle pains and back stiffness and reduced ability to walk afterwards. I did the course in just under 5 hours, and I got a silver medal for my efforts. It was probably still the slowest time out of all the Tavi guys, but I’m proud of myself, and I’ll be back for more, I’m sure.

So, here is to all the people who cart their children around on the back of their bicycles, and call it “training”. Here is to the Tavi Wheelers for being the friendliest bunch of middle aged men in lycra I have ever met. And here is to everyone who agrees that the bicycle is one of the most fantastic inventions ever made! Do you not agree?


Posted in community, cycling, Dartmoor Classic, Low Impact living, Permaculture, Tavistock, Tavistock Wheelers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Wonderful World of Jam

This week has been absolutely rubbish, and I look like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards. Literally.

Three of my closest friends are departing my life, and Tavistock. I will forgive Max. He is embarking on a moneyless pilgrimage across Britain, to spread the word about “Peace One Day“. Jeremy Gilley has pushed for a day of Peace, on the 21st September, for 10 years now. This year will hopefully be the largest global reduction of violence on one day, ever recorded. It is an incredible opportunity for UN agencies and humanitarian organisations, to enter war zones, and immunize children. 4.5 million children in Afghanistan have benefited from immunizations on Peace One Day, since 2007. Can you imagine being a child who has known nothing but a lifetime of war, and then experiencing peace? And if one day is conceivable, then why not two?

So I guess I can forgive Max. The others shall be saved for a good long diary rant, rather than the internet!

The reason I have looked like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards, is because I have. Once the leaves finally crept out on my hedge, I discovered that half of it was dead, and covered in Ivy. It was privet, but I decided not to plant more privet, just so that it matches the rest of the hedge. I’ve spent a few months thinking about the best way to provide privacy for my chickens, and have decided that Gorse would be the best permaculture plan. Gorse (Ulex Europeus), is loved by bees and butterflies for its lovely yellow flowers and coconut smell. It also has a very long flowering season, which makes me love it. It grows well on poor rocky soil (like on top of my wall), and it is nitrogen-fixing, so will have a beneficial relationship on the other plants around it. It is particularly prickly, and if I am lucky, it may detract people who think it appropriate to leave their rubbish in my hedge.

So I spent a lot of the week pulling out dead hedging, and planting my new gorse. I then broke the dead hedge up into little bits and put it into boxes for firewood.

Then, a friend came round with a tub of gooseberries for me, from their garden! What a lovely gift! The vegetable shop in town had given me some rhubarb which was going soft and they couldn’t sell, so I got my jam pot out. I put my music on loud, I poured myself a glass of wine (it is Sunday and my daughter is away with her dad – this is very acceptable behaviour), and I shoved a bunch of dead hedge into my wood-burning-stove. It roared. I topped and tailed the gooseberries, chopped up the rhubarb with a squish of lime, added an equal weight in sugar, and chucked it all the in the pot on top of the stove.

This was my “permaculture in a nutshell” for the day. Permaculture is about looking at systems, and re-designing them. What are your inputs and outputs? How can you integrate them, so that you have no leakages in your system? My hedge was dead, so I used it to cook my jam and heat my house (which shouldn’t be necessary in the middle of June, but sadly, it is). I will now put the wood ash back onto the soil where the gorse has been planted, to add nutrients and phosphorous, thus helping the hedge to grow quickly. The waste food from the shop has been preserved rather than binned, using the energy from the dead hedge. I always use second hand glass jars for preserving, which is another output which I intercept. And now I have jam to feed myself and my daughter, or to barter with. I will probably give a jar to the friend who brought me gooseberries, and a jar to the shop-keeper who gives me boxes of limp vegetables “for my chickens” every week.

When you are sad because your friends are leaving you, making jam is a really healing process. There is a reason why my blog is called The House Of Jam.

Posted in Bartering, chickens, Food, Gardening, jam, Low Impact living, Permaculture, philosophy, Produce no waste, Self Sufficiency, Tavistock, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Lesson In Listening

I’m a pretty outspoken gal, and I regularly wear my heart on my sleeve. I tell most people anything, and until a few years ago, I was happily toddling along in life, completely oblivious that I had a habit of interrupting.

“I was doing this…”

“Oh I know I know, me too, I did that the other day and this happened and then that happened….”

I did it all the time. I still do it occasionally, although I think I’ve reined myself in a lot, and I can catch myself most times.

Not that long ago, I was cycling along the pavement. I cycle with my daughter on a “Tag Along” on the back, and after years of yobs beeping, to try to scare me as they drive by, and a lorry that once literally tryed to run me over, I don’t really feel guilty about it. Other countries make cycling very safe. Britain does not yet, however, seem to think it is a priority (in most areas). So, for the time being, I regularly use the pavements.

On this particularly sunny day, I came around the corner of a graveyard, to a middle-aged man yelling at me with his arms flailing around all over the camp. I stopped. I wasn’t going fast… There hadn’t been another person on the pavement for my entire journey… He kept yelling – Something about catching me. Something about putting a camera on the back of his car to video me. Something about police! I couldn’t even say “I”. He kept yelling. I kept trying to say something, anything, to get him to stop yelling. He was still waving his arms around. I started crying (Yes, I am a girl).

“Stop yelling at me!” I cryed. I couldn’t get anything else in. He was yelling a lot, about taking me to the police, because I knew I was in the wrong, and I knew it was illegal to cycle on the pavements. He was going to film me so they could catch me.

“I’ll give you my details!” I blurted in desperation. “Just please stop yelling at me!”

He ran into the grave yard lodge where he lived, to get paper, and I followed him. He came out still yelling and pointing at me. I pleaded with him to “talk to me like a human being”, but he kept interrupting. We sat down. I gave him my name, phone number and address. I told him I had already spoken to many policemen, who had always agreed that it isn’t safe on the roads. They’ve seemed happy to let me cycle on the pavements, as long as I have respect for any pedestrian I pass, which I do.

We started a conversation – a proper conversation. I told him that I had never knocked over a pedestrian. Why I can’t take any risks with my daughter on the back of my bike.

He told me that 7 people a year in Britain, are killed by being knocked over by bicycles (I can’t find data to back this up, but I’m sure somewhere out there this has happened). He told me that he is a single dad, with 3 teenage sons who have mental disabilities. One of his sons has been knocked over by a cyclist no less than 3 times, whilst coming around this very corner. His son is now so scared of the corner, that he walks into the graveyard and climbs over a wall.

The middle-aged man was called Jeremy. He was crying. I was still crying (it was probably that time of the month). We had come to a realisation, that we were both single parents trying to protect our children. I cycle on the pavements to protect my daughter. He was yelling at me to try to protect his son, although he admitted that he should really be yelling at the youths who come racing by on their BMX’s. It was just that I was the first person who actually stopped to listen to him. We were both in the wrong, but had landed there out of love for our children. He also told me that he hadn’t had a proper conversation with someone in 20 years. He had hidden himself away in the lodge by the graveyard, after being dealt a pretty rough hand in life. His sons are his life, and he doesn’t have much time for other people.

When I left, he asked me if I was going to cycle on the pavement. I smiled, and told him I was going to cycle on the pavement on the other side of the road. He laughed.

The next day I had flowers delivered to me. The card said “Sorry – From Jeremy”. I’d given him my address!

A pretty epiphanel moment for me, was during my Permaculture Design Course, 3-ish years ago. We held a talking circle in which the group, who had been living with each other for over a week, sat in a circle in a relaxing room, lit with candles. We passed around a ball of yarn. There were two rules – If you are holding the yarn, it’s your turn to talk, and if not, its your turn to listen.

I remember crying during that circle. About what was good, what I was happy about, what I wanted for my future, and my insecurities. I talked about my unexpected learning that I was a bad listener. That until then, I had not been taught to let a person finish what they needed to say, before I started.

The flowers from Jeremy were Hydrangeas, in a pot of soil, rather then cut flowers which would have been dead by now. I can plant them in my garden, and every time I look at them, I am reminded of the importance of listening.

Posted in Communication, community, cycling, Gardening, People Care, Permaculture, philosophy, talking circle, Tavistock | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Chickens Love (Devonshire) Pasties

Years ago, when I was young free and wild, I hitch hiked up and down New Zealand. I kept myself going by WWOOFing – I worked on farms in exchange for room and food. Two weeks here, two weeks there. If the host turned out to be less than pleasant, I chucked my stuff into my backpack again, and put my thumb back out onto the road.

My favourite hosts were a family of Mormans called the Gubbs. Brain and Karen, their 5 children, a lovable, outspoken alcoholic, who they desperately and altruistically tried to care for, their bees, their chickens, their pigs and their goat. They had previously lived in a large house, but when the Brain got sick, he decided there was no time like the present to follow his dream of building a house out of old car tyres, AKA an Earthship. So they sold their large and comfy home, and bought some land. While I stayed with them, they lived in an enlarged garden shed. Brian built their future home with the help of WOOFers like me, and the kids. Karen worked in an office for a little cash to keep them going.

Now, let me describe this enlarged garden shed…It was split into two. One half had the parents double bed, which doubled as the sofa. it also had a kitchen area similar to one you would find in a camper van. The other half had three triple bunk beds, and nothing else, other than piles of “stuff”. The compost toilet was somewhere down the path, and the shower was outside, powered by a hydro-electric generator, which sat in a small stream which ran through the property. In this luxurious living arrangement, they even had a sauna. They had dug a small cave into their clay hillside, which could fit 4 naked people who didn’t mind being cheek to cheek, sat over burning hot bricks, which they carried in carefully with hot tongs.

My days there were varied – one day I would be packing car tyres with clay, another day I would be cementing the tyres together to create a base for the 2nd floor. My favourite job was feeding the pigs. The Gubbs had bought pigs, because unlike in England, New Zealand supermarkets are (or at least were) allowed to give out-of-date food to farms for their livestock. The Gubbs saw this as a perfect permaculture opportunity to turn the free waste food into free bacon. So three times a week, Brian drove the truck up to the supermarket to collect multiple barrels of bread, cakes, vegetables and fruit, to give to the pigs. My really exciting job (that is most certainly not sarcasm) was to go through the food, and pick out all the good stuff – the stuff that was absolutely fine, and had just been thrown out by a technicality of flawed supermarket systems. Most of it was good, so I had to be really fussy. We all lived on this food, and the pigs got the rest.

One of my top 10 games of all time: throwing pink iced buns at the pigs while they ran around licking it off each other!

The Gubbs were an inspiration to my future, and I will never forget their love and generosity. I now have six ex-battery chickens, who are all getting their feathers back very nicely. They have begun to lay more now that they are recovering, and I picked up the 50th egg my girls have given me today. The novelty has most definitely not worn off.

Some supermarkets spray their out-of-date food with blue bleach, to deter skip-divers (people who go out after closing, to illegally dive into the skips and dig out the good stuff). My local supermarkets don’t even leave their bins anywhere where I can find them. Believe me, I’ve looked. But I am a determined young girl! I now have three independent shops in town, who have come to expect to see me at the end of most days, with my bicycle trailer. Some days, I cycle home with a trailer full of vegetables, bread end slices, pasties and hot dogs. You should see the chicken dance that my girls do, jumping around right and left like Santa Claus just arrived in broad daylight…..

Just incase I get myself into trouble, I shall admit no further. But I have happy girls and happy eggs. Less food is going to landfill, and my garden is being covered in happy compost.

Posted in chickens, community, Compost, Earth care, earth ship, Low Impact living, Permaculture, philosophy, Produce no waste, skip diving, The Problem is the solution, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

What, You Don’t Have A Bath Tub In Your Garden?

So this is what you do, when you find out that your garden is full of Arsenic: You put a bath tub in the middle of your lawn, and plant it up. My neighbour gave it to me because she is currently having a new one installed, and I asked nicely. I put it under the cherry tree, and planted it with a grape-vine which I am going to train up to the branches of the tree, making use of the natural growing frame. I also put a blueberry bush, some onions and brassicas into it. It’s great because it is naturally free draining through the plug hole.

I’ve been cycling over to a local cemetery, which has a very large composting area around the back. I smile sweetly, and the council-garden-maintenance-guys tell me that they didn’t see me…. So I help myself to leaf mulch and wood chip, and a couple of logs for the fire. I have a trailer on the back of my bike, and I am always surprised at how much it holds, as I get out of the saddle to pedal slowly home under the weight of my bounty. I’m filling my containers with cemetery leaf mulch, commercial compost from the shops, straw mixed with chicken poop, a little wood ash from the fire, and then I mulch the top with wood chip. So far so good.

I came home one day to find a mint green water tank on my door step. (I learned a week later that a friend had seen it on a job and thought of me!) I did my excited little chicken dance, and then planted it up straight away with a fig tree, rhubarb, and a brocoli seedling. This is an experiment in companion plants – I actually have no idea whether they will compete for nutrients or not, but I figured they are in different families and will grow at different heights, so they won’t compete for light (stacking). It’s worth a try I reckon! I also found an Urn which I planted, although it’s not free draining, so I will have to be careful with it when it rains non stop, like it has for the last month. I discovered that the council guys at the recycling center also couldn’t see me when I wanted to take home some more plant tubs, and chairs, and a basket of costume jewelery for my daughter……

I’m concentrating on the things that I can do in my garden. I can grow in containers, in bags and in hanging baskets. I can build a pond. I can plant stuff to encourage wildlife and choose plants that bees like, such as lavender and Wisteria. I can keep chickens, who give me eggs, and weaken the arsenic concentration with their humongous poos.

Soil remediation is a going to be a longer journey. Nobody seems to be able to give me solid advice on using hyperaccumulating fungi to remove arsenic. Ferns (Pteris Vitatta) were my front-runner for a while, even though they like a more tropical environment then rainy Tavistock. They have been used in Bangladesh, where millions of people are effected by arsenic contamination. However, a professor in Aberdeen advised me that even if I did remove some arsenic from the soil, the Arsenic mineral (it was being mined in my area) would continually leach more into my soil, so it would be a never-ending battle. Removing my top-soil and replacing it, is not really an option – I don’t think it deals with the problem properly. It just puts it somewhere else.

I’ve had a meeting with the council- environmental-health-guys, who did see me. I must have worn bright colours that day! I will be working with them and with a professor in Plymouth University, to test any food that comes out of my contaminated soil. Just because the arsenic levels in the soil are high, doesn’t mean that the plants are absorbing it – Certain plants absorb different amounts. A little bit of arsenic never hurt anyone. A little bit more, apparently means you’re from the South West. More than that, and you might die, so it will be good to get some tests done and get a clearer picture of the situation.

Permaculture Principle for the Day: Creatively Use and Respond to Change. Nature doesn’t give up when it is faced with contamination. It changes. It grows, it moves and it aims for a new equilibrium. My garden won’t become what I thought it would when I moved here, but I can be creative.

Posted in Arsenic, chickens, companion plants, Compost, Container gardening, cycling, Earth care, everything gardens, Food, Gardening, Low Impact living, mushrooms, mycoremediation, Organic, Permaculture, philosophy, Produce no waste, Self Sufficiency, soil, Tavistock | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments