Sunday, 10 January 2016

Down 'mongst The Fellow Pebbles

First impressions, and half formed thoughts from Oxford Real Farming Conference

Still processing so you might choose to excuse the random note form;

Oxford is beautiful; but in a rather pleased with itself kind of way.
Or am I just being grumpy?

But the last thing that City needs is any more pretty pictures taking of it...
So here is one of our lovely cabbages instead...As apparently, more than three paragraphs of prose without a picture and people switch off.... Patronising? Probably...    Accurate? Who is to say...


No 'Green Tripe' here...


But still, hospitable of her Spireyness to host us Hairy Farmers in her ornately grandilicious Town Hall.
The Mayor, in his welcome speech ventured, in an encouraging manner, that he was looking forward to the day when the event outgrew the premises.... 850 delegates; and sold out weeks in advance; so growing; one would hope in the right direction.

Here to connect and reconnect with concepts, and friends, new and old...
Fresh discoveries.
From the deeply technical..... Literally; I had never realised that the microbial life in soil could be enhanced up to 15 feet deep.....Imagine the root system..

To the somewhat edgily social, and no, not just the beery professional gossip over pizza, with an ex Greenpeace G.M. specialist who also happens to be a yogi of mine...

She's going freelance by the way; if anyone out there needs a cogent, thoroughly scientific, non 'tin hatted, sock puppet' precis* of why meddling with such matters is a 'bad thing', and isn't going to feed the hungry; just inflate the usual suspects' bank accounts....

*I will expand soon; in a doubtless never to be read by those who should post 'ere long

 Deep contemplation, from a centipede. In general the speedier critters, being the predators, are the 'good guys' in the books of us gardeners. The ones who go at a snails pace less so... But they all have their place.

 I fear Chazzers' Estate manager wasn't expecting quite such a "Well justly though? Whose land should it be anyway?" barracking within the floridly decorated council chamber.

 We did listen patiently as to how HRH's tenanted peasantry were the recipients of a jolly good patting on the head; for being properly deserving sturdy rent paying farmerlets.....And how patronage was being bestowed about; by those who know best about such matters...

But all the same; you could argue brave of him; and several others of a similarly suited flavour to turn up.

One of whom happens to be a customer of mine... Oh; hello John!.....Waves...\ /
Well; I was fully intending to turn down that OBE for services to veg growing anyhow...

So; land reform anyone?

Might we enquire as to just how those extensive acres were acquired; all those generations back?
May we question the justification for such a small percentage of the population, to effectively have access to, and control over, the ultimate 'means of production' and sustenance on so many levels?

No... Unlikely; 'tisn't the English way; even if the Scots are considering....

But maybe; if we asked nicely; some of those larger landowners could be persuaded to long lease; at least; a small proportion of their (sorry; how purloined?) acres to my young; champing-at-the-bit-to-get- farming-but-almost-nowhere-to-get-started, friends in the Land Workers Alliance, and even perhaps to some other slightly less 'hair 'em scare 'em types'...

 Part of me wants to say to the youth "Don't do it... It will take over your life"
But I know they wouldn't listen; any more than I would have have done at their age.

And besides; we need intelligent; driven people like them to feed us in a way that can be sustaining and sustainable in the long term..

Despite being no champion of 'looking back on a life from ones deathbed' motivations; a limiting, one moment, driver for doing stuff if ever there was; I do believe that having fed folk; both deliciously and nutritiously; is a reasonably laudable thing to have worked to achieve...

Agroecological Farming is what it would seem we are calling it now.


Look, Look a market!... Wherein local people, can buy local veg.
This one in Norwich; which is deserving of more pictorial plaudits.


fascinating factoid # 43... Norwich is home to the largest six day outdoor market in the UK...





The jaunty 'Via Campesina' (!Up the small farmer!) green and yellow neckerchief bestowed upon, and worn when inclined, made me feel like a cross between a Girl Guide and a Zapatista.
 Probably not that far from actuality, personality wise, where'ere I be...

And of course the fork on our logo is of the muck variety; not of the pitching persuasion; I should have known - four prongs .... Not two.....What  an'ignorant peasant...



Sociable lunch in the company of the chap who runs the fascinating 'make your own gear' for the farm magazine... Thanks for the complimentary copy Mike, and sorry for nabbing the last bowl of broccoli soup.
 And greetings Alisdair who might like to come and get some grade 1' Devon Soil under his fingernails this season..

Bring on the Summer.




I like this kind of event; where; earlier in the evening you can be served your damn tasty dinner by undergrads at a white napped table, in the charming company of 'Just who is funding this research, and what results do they expect for their money?' disillusioned academics, turned independent stateside science writers.

Followed; a scant half an hour later by an enthusiastic discussion down the pub regarding the joys of nurturing an organic suckler herd...

With the natural musical accompaniment of ones hirsute chums; sadly there wasn't quite enough room; or energy on my part for the knees up..


So much, and so many to see and exchange with.... Too much by far; for one post. Even with pictures...

Quite looking forward to some simple conversation with my feathered friends the morn...
Although they do always give the impression of being fascinated to hear tales from outside of The Valley; at least that's what chicken talk sounds like anyway..."Aauwww?"




And, as an added bonus, when engaged with leaving my baggage with the Magdalen* College Porter, I hear a piercing whistle, no great surprise, in my line of work, happens all the time...
 But here it must be for someone else... Then my name; shouted very loudly across the street.

Of course 'tis old / young friend B' who I'd forgotten lives here.
 She forgives my so called witticisms over cardboard box reconstitution (she works in maintenance for a homeless charity) to the point of insisting upon buying second born (and from whence did he spring in this story?) and myself dinner; pre train to Norwich...

B' now lives on a boat on the river; and is instructed to visit the farm forthwith; or risk kidnapping!!

* Despite being from the kind of background where one knows that this particular Colleges' moniker is pronounced as if all of its studentii are a bit gloomy, it still annoys, in a "That'll sort the them. from the us" sort of a way..
So why did I stay there? Well price mainly; and I really can't do hostels anymore; unless absolutely no other options...

 And, upon departure, I resolutely resisted setting fire to the bed in an anti-elitism protest...
What a good girl (guide)...












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