Tuesday, 28 December 2010

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A Beginners Guide to Shopping in Derby.

Shopping in Derby is not conducted in the street but in special houses called shops. Some of these shops are very big, bigger even than the Mayor of Derby's house.

You can get a pie and chips in Derby for around two and sixpence but the nutritional quality may be questionable. Mushy peas are not as popular as urban legend would have you believe.

Derby people call each other "duck" or "ducky". Don't try this in Shepton Mallet as you will not be understood.

The Westfield Centre is full of well-dressed people buying new clothes. They are obviously all certifiable but as yet the authorities don't appear to be doing anything about it.

People who can't afford to shop in The Westfield Centre are known as "The Others". If you are very poor you can still be part of "The Others" but have to go to the car boot sale at the cattle market on Sunday mornings. The cattle market is located outside the inner ring road.

The inner ring road was completed in November 2009.

To be allowed in The Westfield Centre you need to have more money than sense/be shoplifting/be taking a short cut to the cattle market.

Traffic wardens in Derby are easy to spot as they are dressed the same and walk around in pairs. The same goes for security men. This doesn't mean they are twins; I know because I've asked.

Derby city centre has many CCTV cameras and security men. This makes shoplifting a challenge but don't let that put you off.

Derby is a multi-cultural sort of place so it helps if you can speak in tongues and wave your arms around a bit. This may also help when you are caught shoplifting.

Derby is very safe and does not have a police force.

There is a shop in Derby called The Merry Cobbler. This used to make me laugh but not any more. Cobbling is a serious business.

Don't try shopping in Derby on a Wednesday afternoon as most of it will be closed. On other days of the week Derby may appear to be closed but this is not the case. You just aren't looking hard enough.

On the other hand a lot of shops in Derby are empty. If you walk into a plate glass window in Derby it's probably because the council has cunningly disguised it as a real shop. You could try suing but I don't fancy your chances.

The main industries in Derby are shops, cobbling and nuclear weapons.

Thursday, 23 December 2010


A belated happy solstice to you all. Did anyone see the lunar eclipse? I missed it on account of it being too cloudy here in Derby. And too cold to get out of bed anyway.

I'm feeling the cold having just spent three weeks in sunny Tenerife, working (through HelpX) on a finca up in the hills above Puerto Santiago, a small permaculture holding with bananas, advocado and mango trees interplanted with cardoons, sweet potatoes and stuff. And vegetable crops like pumpkins and tomatoes. Mosly clearing areas for planting, pruning and mulching around the trees. Good time had by all and hopefully somewhere I'll get back to soon.

There's more photos of my trip here, here and here.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

New World Disorder

November is the new January. Siberian winds, snow and penetrating frost; we've just had the coldest November night since records began. -8 here this morning. And apparently it's going to get worse.

The Jet stream appears to have stopped or broken down over Europe:

You see the UK and Ireland, Northern France, Germany etc. and Scandinavia in the bottom centre? Usually the Jet stream goes straight across Northern Europe acting as a buffer against the freezing Arctic weather. But now it has looped down over Spain with another arm over North Africa. Apparently that has never happened before. (source: Sott.net)

If I were a conspiracy theorist I might say that this is a result of our government's clumsy secret attempts at geo-engineering via chemtrails. But surely they wouldn't be going that far! Would they?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Peaceful autumn colours

I find September a bit depressing, end of summer and all that. But once I get my head round it and the leaves start changing colour, autumn isn't all that bad. Especially when the sun comes out.

Still plenty to eat too: carrots and leeks; apples and the last raspberries; spuds, onions and dried beans in store. In fact I seem to have enough spuds to feed an army, which would be handy if I decide to declare war on my neighbours. Perish the thought.

Thoughts on digging

I'm taking a different approach to digging this year. I'm not yet convinced enough to go for a complete no-dig system but I did notice where my maincrop potatoes did so very well this year was where the ground hadn't been dug for several years (prior to that it had been growing strawberries). And farmers always used to leave part of their land fallow each year - I think putting my meadow mixes into the rotation and leaving them for two or three years should achieve something similar. So anyway this autumn I've only dug compost into this patch where the ground is heavy and cloddy, so that the frosts can break it up over winter. Everywhere else it's already nice and fertile - and has mostly been mulched with compost over the spring and summer - so I reckon I'll cover bare ground with leaves to stop nutrients being washed out by the winter rains, then just fluff it up a bit in spring prior to sowing.

More autumn colour

Besides the changing leaf colours there's also still a few flowers to enjoy in the garden and on the plot:


Evening primrose

Californian poppies


I'm having a go at drying the last of these. Should make useful ammunition for the winter.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

How it is

It's shaping up to be a wet autumn so I'm glad I got the maincrop spuds safely gathered in last weekend. Out on the plot there's carrots, leeks and sprouts for the winter and purple sprouting broccoli for the early spring. The spring cabbage is starting to grow away and I've sown some broad beans for then too. The runner beans are over but I've got peas in the freezer. In the greenhouse the tomatoes are about over but the dastardly peppers are still cropping nicely. In the fruit department I've still plenty of apples, pears and the last of the blackberries and autumn raspberries. I'm also sprinkling a few home grown flax seeds on my muesli of a morning - I haven't developed x-ray vision yet but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

A belated happy autumn equinox to us all!

Saving seed

Pea beans and french beans - I'll let these dry out for a few days before shelling them.

Funky pea beans:


Bottom leaves need removing when I get round to it.


A nice row of Autumn King, if I do say so myself.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Right then

Right then, back to gardening. Time to savor the last of summer.


Am I eating apples? Yes I am.


Tried a couple of slices of the first red ones yesterday and they nearly blew my head off. Should make useful gifts.

Disappointing sweetcorn

These made great looking plants but the cobs are disappointing. They were supposedly meant to be "mini-corn" (Minipop F1 from Mr Fothergills) but are much the same size as normal corn and you can judge the quality for yourselves:

Having checked the seed packet again it says to harvest them before the kernels form at approx 10cm long. But surely they wouldn't be ripe then? And the picture on the packet shows cobs with ripe kernels. I may have to investigate further.

Green manure

The winter tares are growing away nicely and I'll dig them in in the spring:

The trefoil I've dug in now and I'll be planting garlic here in November:

Meadow mix

Still looking lovely.

Back garden



Rose campion


Monday, 6 September 2010

Remembering Sid Rawle

I first went to Stonehenge free festival in 1981. I didn't know any Sid Rawle but I did get to score some dodgy acid and see Hawkwind.

Time passes, I settle down then un-settle down and the first I get to hear about Rainbow Circle camps is in 1990 at Sunseed in Spain from Tara and Steve who are running the place at the time. I thought "that sounds interesting" and so it was that I landed up with my kids in a field at the healing camp at Upper Hill. The first I see of Sid he's bawling at Ra who's up in a tree house. (Sid was always bawling and shouting back then until he found out he was diabetic - once that was sorted he was a lot more mellow and likable).

The camp was all a bit much for a council gardener from Derby - hundreds of people, a bit chaotic, women screaming - "sorting out their stuff" I would learn. Personally I spent a lot of my time wandering the woods and fields, dipping back into it now and then. But anyway I go to a few more camps and slowly it starts making sense and over the years I get myself a proper education in everything from transactional analysis to how to fly a spaceship and all points in between.

I started to understand where Sid was coming from at a workshop he was running in the big lodge. I can't remember what the theme was but he was throwing stuff in the fire and doing incantations - ever the showman/shaman, then up in the woods, something about the glass always being half full, half empty. I can't remember much more, I was smoking a lot of dope at the time and was staring into the sun, trying to get information. Probably should have paid more attention but learning is a curve yeah?.

Anyway with help from some wonderful people I eventually get to sort out a bit of my own stuff. Make many friends and a few lovers; probably got a few peoples backs up from time to time but that's life (deal with it). Then the split...yadda yadda...Sid and Bernie set up Rainbow 2000, time to make a contribution and I end up crewing. Led the occasional meditation to Dusty Springfield or maybe it was Abba.

One day I'm mooching round the site near Jules's dome and in the hedge bottom I find an old Forest Fayre t-shirt. "You can have that" says Jules, "we've got a bag full of 'em somewhere". Of course it didn't fit, it was too big - it was Sid's.

Sid wouldn't drive, he preferred to be chauffeured around. One time I was driving him all round the west country, trying to drum up support for the camps which were losing money at the time. We were in Jules's old rover and the engine was screaming. "It has got a fifth gear y'know" says Sid. After that it was plain sailing. I learnt a lot of little things like that from Sid. Not rocket science, just cruise control and stuff.

The land behind the bungalow at Blackthorn Farm was just a hayfield back then. Sid had planted some fruit trees which he wanted me to prune but I couldn't be arsed. He didn't seem to mind, he probably couldn't be arsed either.

Groups of people eventually start behaving like families. Someone has to be mum and dad and Sid and Jules fitted that role - Sid with his natural air of authority and Jules with her infinite patience. Which was just as well with all us children acting out and forever demanding their time and attention. Never judgmental, never trying to tell us what to do, letting us learn from our mistakes. But a time comes when you have to leave mummy and daddy and get on with your life. I've only made flying visits to the camps in recent years but have always been welcomed back with open arms.

So now Sid's gone back to the light and all that. No-one will ever be big enough to fill his boots, or his smelly t-shirt. The Rainbow family carries on.

There's some "proper" obituaries to Sid here and here.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Rain rain rain

All the rain we should have had in the spring seems to have fallen in the last fortnight. Still, life goes on, which is just as well really. More than enough to eat, still sweet peas and carnations for fragrance, and I'm in danger from falling fruit with all the plums. Thinking ahead I've been sowing chicory, spring cabbage and kale. And this afternoon it even stopped raining.


Summer cabbages


I've got one of these on the plot. So blue. Can't eat it but that hardly matters.


Still going strong. Tomato sauce on everything at the moment.


I'd never grown chillis and jalapenos before before so when someone gave me some little plants back in the spring I thought I'd give them a go.