Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Suffolk Foodie Bit!

A Suffolk Blonde!

Tastes of Suffolk!

September is knocking on the door.  Suffolk is definitely a rural county today!  The products found on our shelves many and varied, the wheat beer shown left is a good example.  This time of harvest is a good reason to look at some of the food and drink related activities in the county and surrounding area!

The season of the food fayre is starting!  There was a food event in Bury St. Edmunds over the last weekend.  Various shots have appeared via the local accountancy firms Facebook page.  In Cambridge on Parkers' Piece (famous as the home of  association football)  there is the annual Cambridgeshire food festival in two weeks.  

A few topics to discuss over the next few weeks: Hedgerow wines, pickling onions and Suffolk traditional recipes!


Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Sunday Garden Shed!

When is an allotment not an allotment?

The debate of what constitutes an allotment hit the news this week.  An allotment holder was taken to task for growing fruit trees on his patch (Telegraph 16th August).  The allotment holder was told that three-quarters of the allotment should be put to "productive crops".  A very loose term generally but not in this case apparently.

The picture to the left is an allotment society's plot that I was involved in a few years ago.  The trust that owned the allotments was apparently divided over whether to sell the land for housing.  This is a very rural village in West Suffolk. Arguably West Suffolk is one of the least developed areas for housing in the East of England because it is still essentially an Industrial Landscape.  An agricultural industrial landscape and has been so for hundreds of years.  It could be argued that without the Agriculture of Suffolk the sprawling metropolis of London would not have been able to grow.   

The value we put on allotments is very much in the eye of the beholder.  Allotments were originally provided for low paid workers to give access to the means of supplementing your own diet by growing your own.  Today we have food banks that can be used to supplement diets set up on the back of overbuying and production by the supermarkets.  A laudable green solution to disposing of mountains of food that the supermarkets would otherwise bin.  This, however, reflects a little of the aid culture we have developed.  Instead of giving food to developing nations (from whom we buy our supermarket produce all year round) We are now doing it at home with finished and packaged goods.  Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, give a man a fishing rod and he could also eat tomorrow.

In an ideal world it would be argued that everybody grow at least part of their own food.  However, in the time poor and on demand requirement for cheap food this is a rose tinted view.  Or is it? We tend to look at the cost of small parts of the food supply chain.  In supermarkets we buy either on price or perceived quality indicated by the marketing packaging.  The food contains the same major nutrients but may have those nutrients processed more or less depending on perceived added quality.  Everyday value brand or premium brand (often the same product) is a "choice" for the consumer.  Looking closer at the produce we have the major food chemical components of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous (and not forgetting water since  lettuce's water content is 94.5% making a 500g lettuce roughly half a litre of water) being transported at great expense around the world.  Kenya as an example may produce beans of different types all year round but is exporting a major source of nitrogen to northern Europe.  To produce grain it would then have to import nitrogen generated from expensive and potentially insecure oil supplies.  This is without considering the cost of composting waste nitrogen in Europe and the effects of eutrophication. How long before Kenyan economists start to do the maths and decide like Russia did last year that domestic consumption is more important and cost effective than the balancing act of  food export income and food production costs?   

In Haverhill we have the pressure of our green areas and allotments being developed http://www.haverhillecho.co.uk/news/latest-news/education-centre-proposals-are-slammed-1-3798542.  This is reflected in moves a foot nationally to build on green belt land, again!  A food security question needs to be addressed with a concern that globalisation may have made western consumerism vulnerable.  The  vulnerability being  of home consumption in the country of production as  populations becomes more affluent! 

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Saturday Foodie Bit!

Sqaure Foot Gardening

The Square Foot Garden!

First Earlies Arran Pilot not 2 minutes
 out of the ground
Sunshine across the veg patch today!  I started on this veg patch on or about the last day in March. I probably started a little late this year. The intention was to experiment with the patch to see if I could produce some veg for a family of four!  Weather permitting there was the potential to produce some veg. However, drought then too much rain and more importantly cold overcast days and cool nights conspired to make a poor showing!  However we did have some results with  potatoes grown in bags!

Square foot gardening is a concept readily achieved in any garden.    A good guide to square foot gardening can be found at http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/schools_organic_network/leaflets/SquareFootGardening.pdf .   This is a leaflet I have been using for many years.  I was very surprised to see the number of square foot gardening sites that turned up in the Google Search.  This is obviously a trending movement since a year ago when I last looked there were relatively few sites!  A blog article I wrote awhile ago explains a little of the theory behind this form of micro-farming http://2pointfiveageofman.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=square+foot.

With Summer almost drawing to a close the all round veg patch can be kept going!  Now is the time to sow turnips, winter lettuce, japanese onions, winter radish, swiss chard ( very popular ingredient in a lot of Mediterranean countries), perpetual spinach, cabbage and kale.  These are all hardy and will survive most of what the British weather can throw at us.  If you are not going to want to produce produce through the winter, sowing a green manure crop is a useful alternative.  Not only can they add nutrients and structure to soils but also act as a weed suppressant as they out compete by vigorous growth and cover!  For adding nitrogen to soils deep growing Alfalfa (good for improving structure of soils) and crimson clover (sowing season March to August so just within the window).  Alfalfa can be left for a year or more before before digging in.  Crimson clover can be dug in just before flowering, this prevents self seeding and it becoming a weed (a plant growing in a place where it is not wanted).

New "sowing" has been a bit of theme this week.     I have been experimenting with starting off a sourdough culture.  This is a bit of ancient microbiology relying on natural airborne yeasts.  So potentially each batch of sourdough is unique in it's microflora owing to geographical position and time of year.  This is a bit like local honey that contains local pollen that some people recommend as a supply of antigen for controlling hay fever reactions.  Potentially also a good way of acclimatising the bodies immune system to local yeast strains.  Using River Cottages Bread Handbook as the reference I set up a culture.  A flour and water (1 cup flour, 1 cup water) batter was made in an earthenware jar and set aside to ferment.

The Batter
Fermentation and checking, started
fermentation within 36 hours  

Preparing for the first feeding of the culture
with 1 cup of flour and and one of water

Have found that the recent warm temperatures during the day and much cooler temperatures during the night do influence the rate of fermentation.  The aroma from the culture has also changed during the process to a now pleasant sweetish alcohol laden "nose" (makes it sound like a fine wine).

Next step is to discard halve and add more flour and water.  In the next next few days hopefully I will making bread!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Ten year Plan - How it is going!

With Hindsight!

Word Count 833 

A friends wedding nearly six years ago  prompted me to start considering where I was heading.  It may have been the beginning of the "mid-life" crisis or a realisation that we were heading for major changes in my career path at the time.  At the time I did not realise quite how much of the crowd I was!

An interesting career that had experienced a lot change up to that point http://www.linkedin.com/in/philipspalding66, was about to become more interesting.  I sat down in the pre-wedding gathering in Weymouth (it had only just been announced as an Olympic venue) and contemplated the 10 year plan.  I made a statement that I would not be teaching full time in the classroom by the age of 50 (Eddie Izzard's new 40!).  I had an early night on the final night went back to the B & B.  Early next morning I boarded the ferry from Weymouth to Jersey.

In Jersey I stayed at my usual hotel in St Helier, the Mountview, and contemplated my statement.  I had a few pints in the more traditional pubs in the West End of St Helier.  A very good one with sporting prints from "antique" times was the venue to watch the Test Match and listen to the sage at the bar who also turned out to be the chairman of the Jersey Cricket Federation.  Picked the right pub!  But then you only have to look at the outside of the pub sometimes and know it is not going to be just q quick half to test the beer and atmosphere.

A few days of visiting my distant cousins in the north of the island (http://www.durrell.org/).  The orangutans seemed well, the funky gibbons were being funky.  They share an enclosure to simulate the Sumatran and Borneo rain forest habitat.  By the end of the break as I flew back into Stansted I had a bit of a plan.  Not quite a cunning plan but one that had light at the end of the tunnel which did not seem to be generated by a Eurostar! 

Another year on from this the following August and certain career paths appeared to be getting narrower (now we see the result good or bad?  http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/suffolk_cabinet_member_under_fire_after_suffolk_slumps_in_league_tables_1_1472060 ).  I was sitting in the bar in Pefki, Rhodes with a good friend shooting the wind as we  prepared for the Wedding.  A Rhodian escape started to be planned.  The mad engineer friend of mine combined with the agri-IT-scientist-teacher came up with a cunning plan.   A sustainable living/ well being plan, but in essence still a plan.

Two days alter back at work and the plan was shelved for another year until I went to Crete.  Fabulous island, cradle of European civilisation (forget mainland Greece)!  Schools Organisational Review (SOR) was just stating to come in and Haverhill along with Lowestoft was in the firing line.  A little bit of relaxation in Hersonissos led to realisation that work-life balance was really not balanced favourably on the cliff edge.  A couple of good nights spent in the company of a very attractive and relaxed Irish girl from Dublin and we started planning again!

The plan was expressed graphically in the Logo above. Sometimes you do not always need to write things down since the written word can always be misinterpreted by "experts".  Visit to a local print shop, and day later had the plan on a disc, five polo shirt (I went there and got the Polo Shirt, T-shirts were not good enough quality).  Scratch Rhodes, Crete would appear to be part of the plan! 

So back to work and another year of battling career change I finally hit the buffers.  An article in the Harvard business review started me thinking.  A position I had occupied through major career traumas such Ofsted, special measures, six (not really sure if some were actually allowed to be) head teachers and school federation was that of a Middle Manager.  The Harvard Review produced some insights (http://2pointfiveageofman.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/death-of-middle-manager.html).      I had started to blog by this time.  The following March, I made a clean break and walked away from the pressure of achieving continual goals against the trickle down management culture of similar to First World War Generals.  Whistle goes and then over top! (Blackadder Goes Fourth clip here  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IglUmgYGxLM).  

Two years on from the break with the treadmill and the BlackAdder goes Fourth clip seems apt in the context of the East Anglia Daily Times article  http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/suffolk_cabinet_member_under_fire_after_suffolk_slumps_in_league_tables_1_1472060.  

Still have weathered all this, the ten year plan is half way through!.  I have achieved the stated aim of not needing to be in the classroom full time or managing change (for change sake?).   Last time I jumped out of a plane I definitely had a parachute, this time I have to construct it on the way down!  Necessity does become the midwife of creativity and invention!  Here is to more blogging and on ward and upward up with up hill skiing!

Καλημέρα σας και είναι εδώ για τα επόμενα πέντε χρόνια! Ή θα έπρεπε να είναι ένα νέο σχέδιο δέκα χρόνια!