The ground beneath our feet

Tim Young: Most parents probably have phrases they find themselves using far too often. “Say thank you”, “clean your teeth”, “don’t pick your nose”, and so on. This year the phrase my children have become heartily sick of hearing at our allotment is “don’t tread on the soil”, usually exclaimed urgently as one them wanders across one of our vegetable beds. Again.

05 December 2012 | 73 Comments | Recommended by 11

Tree planting

Tim Young: Easter is a busy time in the year for the allotment, and ours is no exception – weather permitting we’ve been getting down to the plot most weekends, and our house and garden are full of seedlings in various states of growth. We’re in relatively good shape at the moment – most of our beds are dug, we’ve got spuds, onions and some squash in the ground, a bunch of brassica, pea and tomato seedlings at home, and we’re still enjoying the last of our purple sprouting from last year – which is absolutely delicious. The most exciting thing recently though has been planting an apple tree. It’s a semi-dwarfing Fiesta from Walcot Organic Nursery, and although at the moment it’s more of a stick in the ground than a tree, there was something particularly satisfying about planting it.

14 April 2012 | 48 Comments | Recommended by 6

Getting busy with nursery food

Tim Young: No matter how many times I see it, I'm always shocked by the statistic that nearly one in four of our children are overweight when they start primary school. I know – because I've two small children myself – that trying to get young kids to eat a totally balanced diet is a non-trivial pastime (indeed some days getting Young's kids to eat any kind of diet can be a challenge) so I don't instinctively blame anyone for this sad state of affairs. It's just that it makes me, well, sad.

15 March 2012 | 12 Comments | Recommended by 4

Happier animals

Tim Young: It was great to see John Craven take a look at labelling of food and what labels actually mean for animal welfare on last night's Countryfile. Obviously I'm biased (as I work here), but I thought on balance it was pretty clear that if you want the best animal welfare then seeking out the Soil Association label is definitely worthwhile.

07 March 2012 | 54 Comments | Recommended by 14

It can be done

Tim Young: Just got out of the Food for Life Partnership workshop at the conference. I can listen all day to the impact the programme has had in schools, and I was particularly taken with both Doug Bone, the head of Wandle Valley school in Sutton, and Stephanie Wood from School Food Matters.

02 March 2012 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 8

Starting where people are

Tim Young: We're in the morning discussion session of today's conference, and Julian Walker-Palin the Asda representative on the panel has been taking a bit of stick with questions from the floor. In response he made a good point, well - the views of his customers (as expressed through big surveys) are real, and they count; they can't be ignored because they're not convenient, or they don't chime with our views of how the world should be.

02 March 2012 | 23 Comments | Recommended by 5

First harvest

Tim Young: Sunday was a red-letter day for us and our allotment – our first harvest. With the gleeful help of the kids we filled an ice-cream tub full of broad bean pods, and a bowlful of lettuce leaves for lunch.

21 June 2011 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 32

Digging in the dark

Tim Young: No, not a metaphor for my life (or if it is then that’s a story for another time), but unfortunately a fair description of my recent ‘leisure’ time. With daylight now extending past nine, I’ve spent several evenings in the last week ‘popping’ up to the allotment after the kids are in bed to try and catch up and get some more beds ready for the seedlings that should already be planted.

27 May 2011 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 2

Official warning

Tim Young: I received a short email the other day from our allotment site rep: “The recent site inspection raised concern about the amount of grass on your plot. Can you please do something about it in the next couple of weeks so as to avoid you getting an official warning”. Eeeeeek.

20 May 2011 | 99 Comments | Recommended by 25

Care and the community

Tim Young: I spent yesterday on Top Barn farm near Worcester, attending a fantastic day about care farming. Care farming is a relatively new term for a practice that has been around for a while – using the farm environment as a therapeutic setting for people with a variety of educational, behavioural or mental health needs. By providing regular, structured activities on the farm that allow people the opportunity to participate in meaningful work in a natural environment, the idea is that the land can be used for therapy and training and build the confidence of those taking part.

05 May 2011 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 15

More digging

Tim Young: The sunshine in the last couple of weeks has been fantastic in Bristol, so much so that we took the previous weekend off digging because we were too busy sunning ourselves. Whoops. To make up I took Friday morning off, and me, my wife and my youngest Theo spent the morning working on more dandelions. We got another chunk clear, but I estimate we're still going to need another ten hours digging and path building before we've cleared the space for our six bed rotation. . . and with the first of our broad beans hardening off and our potatoes chitting merrily, we're going to have to get a move on. Hopefully with the clock's going forward at the weekend we can sneak off in a couple of evenings to catch up a bit.

28 March 2011 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 3

The green light

Tim Young: I’d heard before we took on the allotment that it could be good for the soul; apparently all that digging and fresh air can do wonders for one's inner karmic zen (or whatever). I’m not sure how my inner karma is doing so far, but on Sunday, as I peeled back one of the black winter covers, I was certainly in need of some zen. I was expecting a strip of beautifully clear earth; I was confronted by my very own seed bed of dandelions.

15 March 2011 | 4 Comments | Recommended by 2

Pathfinders

Tim Young: Well, it didn’t rain at the weekend, and we finally made it down to the allotment on Sunday morning, with both boys in tow, and a boot load of bark chip mulch. The aim of the day was to peel back the plastic covers, and lay out a series of beds and pathways.

10 March 2011 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 4

Rain, rain, go-away. . .

Tim Young: This is supposed to be a blog about our allotment, but at the moment the only thing the two things seem to have in common is that I’ve been ignoring both for a while. And given the constraints on my free-time of wage slavery, I thought at least I could give this virtual plot some TLC. The earth of the real plot, I’m afraid, remains neglected.

03 March 2011 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Thank you

Tim Young: So that was my third Soil Association conference, and I enjoyed it thoroughly – possibly my favourite of the three I’ve attended. Overall there it felt like there was more of a focus on exploring specific viable solutions to the problems we face, as opposed to just enumerating what all the problems are.

11 February 2011 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 9

Plain speaking

Tim Young: A comment from the floor in the last session that we need a ‘plain food campaign’ struck me as a fantastic idea. Lots of the debate was around the complexity of the organic message, and getting that across to people – what’s organic about? What is a healthy diet? What are consumers interested in?

10 February 2011 | 9 Comments | Recommended by 9

Engineering choice

Tim Young: Last night’s final plenary session ‘what’s stopping progress’ was a great discussion between Tim Lang of City University, author Joanna Blythman, Riverford’s Guy Watson, and Colin Cox who works on Manchester food enterprises. A lot of the most interesting discussion was around the idea possible ‘nudges’ to individuals behaviour, and the scale of the nudges that might be needed.

10 February 2011 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 6

Caroline Spelman's video link...

Tim Young: ...seems to have split opinion on the conference floor. My fellow blogger Ed Dowding has just called it 'dissapointingly political', while one of the Omsco representatives (I think Huw Bowles, but don't quote me) was much more positive. Perhaps the best comment was from panellist Jan Hutchinson, who thought the Secretary of State was setting a new record for simultaneous smiling and talking.

09 February 2011 | 4 Comments | Recommended by 9

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