Existential Epiphany…

Two weeks away from the organisation I work for has given me the opportunity for some serious contemplation time. Clearly I’ve always known that their bottom line is to make as much money as possible and provide its shareholders with the highest dividend-related pay-outs in accordance to the current market conditions. As time goes on however, its raison d’etre is becoming a bitter taste in the mouth, cleansed only by a glass of locally produced, sulphate-free natural wine.

Maybe it’s because I am moving quite swiftly towards a new and more ecological path nowadays, that as each day passes, my attachment to the organisation becomes more meaningless, more pointless.

And as each day passes, more and more synchronicities are occurring giving me hints that I need to move on, almost like an esoteric and invisible elbow is nudging me in the ribs and towards the door. An unusual cloud formation, a lyric in a rock song, a conversation with a stranger are all pointing my compass needle away from its current direction.

Founding Fathers (and Mother) of Neo-Liberalism…

During the last few months, days and weeks, I have also come to the realisation that democracy is truly dead, globally, not just in the UK. I’m not well-read on the matter, but my current understanding is that the catalyst for our current state is the advent of neo-liberalism, defined by Wiki as the following:

“Neoliberalism or neo-liberalism is the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with economic liberalism and free-market capitalism. It is generally associated with policies of economic liberalization, including privatization, deregulation, globalization, free trade, austerity and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society”.

Naturally, perhaps, this led me to the door of Noam Chomsky, a name I had heard from in the past but hadn’t really had the opportunity to dive deeper.

Noam knows the score…

From what I have read and watched thus far, the neo-liberalist slippery slope began in the US in the 80’s, which moved society away from democratically elected constructs and nationalised industries and towards unelected big business calling the shots, all of which was introduced by Ronald Regan and Milton Friedman, with Margaret Thatcher (my anathema) as their evil and twisted counterpart on the other side of the pond.

It all starts to make sense to me know. The power that the current elite billionaires yield is so much more than that of governments, and just a quick glance at the pitiful corporation taxes companies like Amazon and Facebook pay globally effectively means it is they that are controlling the system, not elected officials who allegedly represent the greater good of the people.

Then we have the current batch of Tories, who have abused their elected powers for total cronyism, handing out billion pound contracts to their party funders, no doubt increasing their own personal wealth in the process.

So here we have a situation where the world is effectively run by big business, underpinned by corrupt governments, neither of which have the health and wealth of the people at heart, only personal wealth and power over others.

So knowing that no one has our back and there are no real alternatives out there at present, what real choices do we have. It is difficult, but we do have choices, and I have started to make those choices.

Humans only need five basic things to survive, clean air, clean water, food, shelter and sleep. The air where I live is free (at the moment!) and clean, the water I have to pay for (which I can’t really avoid just now) and includes various chemicals all of which I filter out before consumption, most of the food is sourced from local farms, butchers and dairies, my house is well-kept (although I am still mortgaged to big business which I hope to pay off as soon as I can) and I sleep well (all things considered).

Anything beyond the basics falls under comfortable living, but non-essential to sustain life. We have clearly evolved over the last few thousand years to do more than just exist, to have fun and enjoy the time we have here, advancing the species in the process. Sadly, not many of us have enjoyed the last eighteen months for the obvious reason, but for me and some of my new friends, we have come to the realisation that we can make a break for it, and leave the chaotic world behind.

That all starts with a reversion back to tribes. Our new cooperative is starting small, but is already bringing together strangers as friends, all with a common middle digit erected to the UK government and big business. Not only will our collective produce organic food for group consumption, it will act as an experiment to counter neo-liberalism. Clearly our collective aims are the same, but I guess we are all at various stages of enlightenment (socio-economic enlightenment as opposed to spiritual enlightenment), but I think as one “micro-movement”, we can look to the implementation of a different lifestyle, one not beholden to power-wielding constructs.

Naturally, this existential epiphany is leading me to conclude that an exit from my current organisation will happen sooner rather than later, I don’t think I can wait until my retirement in five years, my tenure is really is starting to grate on me too much.

Wish me and the wider cooperative luck…

Seaspiracy…

How much do we really know about industrial fishing and its impact on the environment? The answer is probably not much.

The common understanding is that there are a lot of plastics and micro-plastics in our oceans, put there by humans one way or another, which is having a negative impact on our aquatic ecosystem and that the fishing industry take out too many dolphins when trying to catch tuna.

Most of us are also probably aware that one can purchase “sustainable” fish products by reading the label on the tin (when it’s in a tin of course), and that there are several companies out there that sign up to sustainable fishing or that what you are about to purchase is a dolphin-free product.

But peel back the layers a little and you may find that the story is quite different.

Seaspiracy: A Netflix documentary…

I watched Seaspiracy this weekend, a new documentary on Netflix which follows a roving reporter whose initial scope was to find out how plastic discarded from humans was impacting our largest bodies of water. It quickly turns over some startling and sobering facts about where the vast majority of plastic comes from and how large scale industrial fishing severely impacts the health and well-being of the seas, its inhabitants and the environment in general.

It is alleged that almost half of the plastic in our seas is due to industrial fishing, that bottom trawling decimates wildlife and the seabed on a scale much higher that deforestation, and that the deaths of other wildlife being caught in the process known as bycatch (dolphins, sharks, whales and sea birds) is both huge and wasteful.

Bycatch, a bi-product of commercial fishing…

I literally had no clue about any of this and have never given a second when purchasing fish. I knew that commercial fishing probably had a negative impact on the seas ecosystem, but not to this extent.

Clearly one cannot just take the word of a single reporter and that of Netflix as gospel, fact checks (as far as one can do that) are required and there are of course several anecdotes and counterclaims bringing into question the validity and accuracy of the data and insights presented.

So much in the same way I did for Cowspiracy and the rather biased Planet of the Humans (sponsored by Michael Moore), I found that whilst some of the film making and segments may have been taken out of context and subsequently refuted by interviewees, I still came away with the notion that we have a big problem here and we need to make some informed and personal choices when buying fish. Like other sustainable goods and services (cars, energy, meat etc), the buck starts with the consumer and works backwards. If we make the decision to purchase or acquire a specific product, then the rules of supply and demand will kick in, as long as we are in a fortunate position to choose, sadly some are not.

Who’s line is it anyway…

I intend to do just that from now on. I typically only eat salmon, trout and tuna so going forward I will look to only buy line-caught products as advertised. I know this may not be the whole truth and I will pay more for the privilege, but I’ll take that chance. If I do eat such, I will look to have it endorsed by those affiliated companies (again on the basis that something is likely better than nothing).

A final thought did occur to me. In my youth I was an avid young angler, but only course fishing so catching carp, tench and the odd pike for sport.

My wife always said that firstly it was a boring sport just sitting there waiting for hours on end (which I counter-argued on several points), secondly it hurts and could potentially kill the fish (agreed) and lastly why did I not bring it home for the plate (those fish mentioned above you wouldn’t typically eat).

Fly Fishing (by J.R Hartley)…

This got me to thinking that once again, the only person I can trust in this crazy world is myself. I have been fly fishing twice in my life, and it is quite majestic, the art of casting and the chasing trout/salmon in pursuit of dinner that evening an exciting one. I also live two minutes away from the sea wall, which is fully occupied by anglers when the tide is high, all catching for their supper.

So in an effort to confirm that my fish are indeed line-caught, I will take it upon myself to catch them personally, thus taking another baby step to off-grid living…

Seedling Sanctuary…

Alas, the “Cabin in the Yard” project was cancelled before the virtual ink was dry on the graph paper (excel). The Dragons Den pitch to the wife was a solid one I thought, but the to-be space and light constraints were all too much for her and our rather tiny patio garden.

The decision was made after I had already ordered and paid for some new power tools that very morning, much to my disappointment, frustration and decreased account balance.

I guess on reflection it was the right decision, so the eco-lodge prototype for the eco-retreat will have to be built elsewhere, most likely the new allotment (so not the worst result).

So with a day off yesterday and unboxed tools screaming from their cupboard under the stairs to be used, I took it upon myself to test them out by building a seedling sanctuary / mini greenhouse, which will also get me some Brownie points with the “er indoors” as our internal living space will free from propagation units which will now be housed outdoors.

I have a new best friend, let me introduce you to the Dewalt Cordless Circular Saw (this is neither product placement nor marketing campaign – just an honest critique of an excellent tool). Why has my life been without one of these beauties for so long!

Dewalt 18v Cordless Circular Saw

I had already alerted my neighbour to a “period of intense swearing / cursing” as is customary when I do DIY. But after a full day of working, not a single expletive was uttered, except those targeted at B&Q for only providing lengths of 2.39m 2×2 and not the regulation 2.4m, which threw my measurements off (only realising this after I had cut a lot of the wood already).

The circular saw was so fast, easy and accurate, and very quickly the frame was up, with the other bits soon to follow:

Ready, set, go…
Frame up in record time…
Slats in…
Doors on, poly carbonate on…
Voila!

As I’ve stated, my joy comes from different things these days. The sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle has been replaced with calmer and more sedate activities of late, yet I get the same dopamine highs from gardening and building things as I would have thrashing out to death metal, drinking myself stupid and getting laid (with the added bonus of not having a hangover, tinnitus spikes, black outs and possibly / probably upsetting people).

“The times they are a changing”…

Amazon Anonymous…

Me: “Hi. My names Infinity and I haven’t purchased any goods or services from Amazon in three days now”.

Group: “Hi, Infinity!”.

Where do I begin here. I guess at the beginning where most things start. I set up my Amazon account back in 2007, with my very first purchase being a copy of the RPG game Diablo II, which was ferried to my parents address in the UK during my summer leave and lovingly bubble-wrapped for the 7000 mile journey back to Kuala Lumpur where I had taken up residence.

The new AA…

Little did I know back then that this was start of something big. Big in terms of a shift towards online retail, but more a shift in the way marketing and consumerism was to take a hold of me as the years proceeded.

Of late, I have been sickened to the core apropos the exponential wealth growth of the likes of Messrs Musk, Gates and especially Bezos, as I was pretty sure that I was contributing to his Cheshire Cat grin as he bathes in dollars (digital or otherwise).

“Public” Enemy Number One…

Amazon don’t make it easy for you to obtain your own data, there is a convoluted process and Service Level Agreement of one month, whereas the data they have on you and your retail profile is there for their data, analytics and insights consultants at the touch of a button.

So my “big data” came through today, I could not believe just how big it was. I knew of course that I had been spending more and more money lining Bezos’s pockets as the timeline went from left to right over the years, but 2018 saw a huge spike in the amount spent. Why was that? Was it that I needed more things? Was it that those goods and services were no longer available on the high street? The answer was simply no I’m all fronts.

I had become an addict, a shopaholic, and impulse buyer without knowing it. Just like any addiction, it crept up on me until it was too late. Around that time, it is no coincidence that online marketing and social media profiling really took off, and I would say like most others I have been a victim of those aggressive “you must have this now” campaigns, like those “coincidental adverts” that come up on Google or Facebook for the items or things you were only just discussing with your friends and family.

The graph below is absolutely obscene. I knew I had spent a lot over more recent years, but just how much really knocked me for six:

The real need for AA – Amazon Anonymous…

Here we have a real trend, Christ I even have my very own Covid Gompertz curve!

That really is the power of advertising and consumerism right there. Clearly the machine got to me, or I allowed it to get to me. A grand total of over fifteen thousand pounds has been spent since I first set up that account, the vast majority of it since the Covid Lockdown first started in the UK exactly one year ago this week (23rd March 2020 – during which period I spent £9200). Covid has been a lucky break for the elite billionaires hasn’t it.

Looking back on my purchase history (briefly, as there are too many line items), not a great amount of goods or services have been for essential living, the vast majority have been gizmos and gadgets, most of which have been used, abused, broken and discarded no doubt.

Where most Amazon purchases end up…

So today, I deleted my Amazon account, the last hook I have in cyberspace (with the exception of this site and my also-anonymous YouTube account), and set up several donations to UK-based charities close to my heart (MIND, RNLI, Barnado’s and Shelter).

If I need things (I mean really need things) in the future, I will acquire them by other means (local means from local businesses), come up with alternative solutions or simply go without.

Lining the pockets of the richest man in the world whilst so many people are suffering should not sit well with any of us, it’s time we recognised this and did something about it…

The Plot Thickens…

Our communal and agricultural experiment has got off to a good start. When a collective forms of six individuals (and of course family members and to-be active players), it brings together people from all walks of life, each with their own backstory and points of view.

I can honestly say that it’s been a joy to converse with people on the exact same frequency as I am, all of us thus far intent on finding out successful methods of growing ones own healthy and organic food, keeping those pesky processed sugars at bay.

The 2D Plot…

One of our group had already sketched a plan for our plot before I jumped on board, so with my new found love of Minecraft (hey it’s not just a kids game right?), I took it upon myself to “3D-ise” the blueprints he had put down on graph paper so that we could all visualise what the plot could look like and where each component would be best placed for optimal use of the land.

I was very happy with the final output, which I’ve uploaded below.

The Plot Thickens…

We will meet up at the weekend to agree the final plan and start to order the poly tunnels and greenhouse, now that all of the compost has now landed and the temporary raised beds are under construction.

Looking forward to the next steps…

Spring Equinox…

If I’m not mistaken (we can’t Google everything can we), today marks the astrological start of Spring, and as such I was up early to get a few hours in at the allotment as the sun rose boldly in the West.

Before the hard graft of relocating a couple of tonnes of compost to our “landing strip”, I took it upon myself to have a wander through the two main plots on the site, each thirty foot wide and two hundred and forty foot long, with various sized sub-plots in each.

I recorded a video walkthrough of both plots (including our “landing strip”) to see so what our green-fingered comrades have added to their sites, and what seems to work well for them so that we could take some good ideas to use for our own.

Plot A – Our Neighbours…
Plot B – Our “Landing Strip”

I also took some overhead drone footage of our plot, sadly I’m still a novice and didn’t calibrate the settings properly so it’s a bit grainy and the colour transitions aren’t great, but at least it gives us a good idea of what it looks like from above, and the Herculean task we have over the next few weeks to get the land primed quickly and ready for planting our seedlings.

Drone footage of our “Landing Strip”

I was the sole human on site for a good two hours on this new Spring morning, and I found myself transported into a different world, one devoid of stress, commitment and consumerism, just me and my thoughts as I shovelled my way to happiness. It gave me the first real glimpse of what retirement will be in five or so years, that day can’t come soon enough.

Until then, I will learn new skills, experiment with nature and bond with more people in tune with my own frequencies.

Those frequencies and conversations are already paying off, and I’m paying it forward in the shape of positive planting, the smart garden has worked wonders on the broad beans I planted just one week ago.

With a two day break from work this week, I’ll be spending both days at the allotment to give us a real kick-start, hopefully more mindfulness and ideas will flow, I’m certain it will.

The Barrow Boys…

When I first saw the fifteen tonnes of compost, the first thing that sprang to mind was the Jeff Goldblum line in Jurassic Park “That’s one big pile of shit”…

That’s one big pile of shit…

Never a truer word spoken…

Detox complete…

I started a science experiment last week to remove all processed sugars from my diet to see whether it was my food intake that was causing me several problems (including broken sleep, inflammation, fatigue, irritability and of course weight gain).

Little did I realise the truly negative impact processed foods and sugars has on ones overall well-being (mind, body and soul).

I ended up cutting short this two week test period, as by the end of Day Ten (yesterday), all of my goals were complete, my hypothesis validated.

As my (rather lengthy) last post detailed, I wanted to regain control of me, by shopping at the local farm, dairy and butchers in an effort to lose a little weight, get my BMI back into the green zone, give myself an energy boost and restore my ailing cognitive abilities, especially at work.

The Green Zone…

So by the end of Day Ten, I had lost 3.1kg, got to my green zone target of 24.9 BMI (any lower than that and I start to look skinny), felt great throughout each day, and came up with some really inspiring and innovative thinking in work.

Eating the healthy and more plant-based options really helped. After the inevitable body crash, things got better very quickly, I stopped getting hungry and got to the stage where I no longer opened the treat drawer to see what was inside (which I used to do several times a day).

Detox Food…

My mindset has also changed due to the sugar detox. Boycotting the supermarket and their exploitative marketing of bad-for-you products helps. Buying local produce helps from a sustainability perspective and keeps family businesses afloat, diverting funds away from big farmer and food corporations. Getting out to exercise everyday, even if it’s just a walk (with or without the pooch), allows body parts to move for this office-worker and gives the mind a chance to wander, ponder and reflect on things, a meditation if you will.

So I can’t recommend highly enough to experiment yourselves to see if a sugar detox works for you, clearly it has for me…

Sugar: A cereal killer…

It may or may not be a surprise to some that the biggest killer on the planet may actually be sugar.

The vast majority of people have a good understanding that those processed and great tasting foods are generally quite bad for us and as a result, too much of them can attribute to weight gain. We have all been there.

A Convenience Truth…

My recent experiment in an effort to reduce my raging tinnitus by stacking several “mushroom-based supplements” (not including psilocybin!) and juicing celery every morning failed. After one whole month of fastidiously sticking to my early morning regime, I came to a few conclusions.

Firstly, it didn’t work. Secondly, if it didn’t work, the outcome and especially the cost made no sense in carrying on. Lastly, and probably most importantly, my general dietary intake hadn’t changed. I had fallen back into old ways of convenience eating and snacking, eating processed / sugary foods, drinking booze too often and having many take-aways. I of course blame boredom and the Covid lockdown, and there is some truth in that.

As a result I felt bloated, my weight had escalated back up to unacceptable digits as had my BMI, and the overhang of the belly made it a bit more difficult to see my “lovebone” when I looked straight down in the shower.

With the advent of the allotment and thinking more seriously about my organic future, I came to the conclusion that it could well be the influence of sugar that was the root cause of my problems.

A brief sojourn through YouTube last weekend gave me the reaffirmation that refined sugar was bad for us, and the two videos below, a science one and an influencer one gave me the extra kick to kick sugar.

The Science…
The Experiment…

It’s not through a lack of education that piles on the pounds, it’s a lack of focus. My brain has been conditioned over the years that in times of melancholy or stress, the resolution to that temporary negative state of mind is either sugar or alcohol. The serotonin /dopamine hit it gives me boosts my mood and makes me forget, albeit for a fleeting moment and the reason why I reached into the cookie jar / beer fridge in the first place. Gets me every time. That very behaviour is the dictionary definition of addiction and sugar is the drug.

There is no argument in my mind that sugar is the biggest cause of death on Planet Earth. If we take a look at the UK and the USA, then the obesity and diabetes rates (amongst the major nations) are right up their at the top of the league tables. Map those two counties against the Covid death rates and there is a similar view. There is also a link between obesity, diabetes and dementia / Alzheimer’s. It appears that if heart disease through ones lifestyle choices doesn’t get you, then your twilight years may not be worth living anyway (sadly my father in law suffered the latter, a decade of dementia purgatory).

The case for healthy living is a strong one, the real difficulties, as the influencer video above calls out, advertising, convenience and the ubiquity of sugar-powered food, you can’t get away from it. Go into the supermarket and just look at the labels. I was surprised (but not shocked) to find that even “Free From”, “Low Cal” and “Fat Free” are saturated with sugars. Shockingly so. Subliminal food advertising is a real scandal, but that’s what make the big bucks for “Big Farmer” (and I was interested to see the billionaires Bezos and Gates are buying up vast expanses of land in the US, I wonder why)…

Shocking advertising, always read the label (which sugars)…

So with that information in mind, it was time for real and direct action.

I wanted to remove all processed sugar from my diet, not overly concerned by whether it’s plant-based, meat-based or that nutrients are delivered via paleo or keto methodologies.

I wanted to test scientifically whether in just one week, I could notice the difference. Well, that’s an understatement!

I set up a non-calorie-counting routine, boring perhaps for some to follow and maybe more difficult in the long term, but I wanted to see what effects and outcomes having zero processed sugars had.

Day One was fine, eager to go and regimented.

Day Two was a kick in the testicles, I felt like a Trainspotting Ewan McGregor lying in his crack den bed whilst a baby crawled across the ceiling, a migraine literally splitting my brain into a further two hemispheres.

Day Three was much better, as if my headache had purged all of the badness in one awful twenty four hour cold turkey period.

Day Four I felt lighter and less bloated, and noticed I had a full nights sleep and felt better for it.

Day Five and I felt my cognitive ability improve in work by quite some way, and my mind, body and soul sang a common chorus.

Day Six was the dreaded weekend but surprisingly, there was no “reach-in” to the snack store, just a reach-up to my secret stack of no-processed-sugar fruit bars (my saviour throughout the week!).

Day Seven was again plain sailing, helped mostly by my tornado tear-out of all sugared products in the cupboards and fridge.

During the seven days, I lost 1.7kg and 0.5 BMI, improved my sleep, energy levels and cognitive abilities, and due to the lack of stress, my tinnitus didn’t seem as bad.

My wife knows all of the above and is now sold on the idea of sugar-free living. She admits she is totally addicted to sugar and I will do all that I can to free her from those deeply ingrained hooks she has. That will be a challenge, as will migrating my thirteen year old daughter to our new processed-free-pantry.

Weekly tracker below:

Day 1

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = 86.5kg 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Apple 🟢

Lunch = Egg/Salmon/Asparagus 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Shrooms 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Moderate Pain 🟠

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 2

Sleep = Broken 🟠

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Apple 🟢

Lunch = Egg/Salmon/Asparagus 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Shrooms 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = None 🔴

Mind = Average IQ 🟠

Body = Chronic Pain 🔴

Soul = Purgatory 🟠

Day 3

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Satsuma 🟢

Lunch = Egg/Salmon/Asparagus 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Broccoli 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 4

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Satsuma 🟢

Lunch = Carrot Soup 🟢

Dinner = Vegetable/Nut Stir Fry 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = None 🔴

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 5

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Paleo Bar 🟢

Lunch = Carrot Soup 🟢

Dinner = Vegetable Fajitas 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = None 🟢

Exercise = Gardening 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 6

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Home Fruit Juice 🟢

Lunch = Roast Chicken Breast 🟢

Dinner = Low Carb Lamb Roast 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 7

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = 84.9kg 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Home Fruit Juice 🟢

Lunch = Home Broccoli Soup 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Shrooms 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

On reflection, I think the real problem we have here is convenience-store-capitalism, we all need food to live and on that basis if big companies can make that food look better, smell better, taste better, feel better and sound better (via advertising), then they attack all five senses at once, not many things in life have that ability.

We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, and then we eat the seed…

We received our first organic farm produce today, and have already welcomed back our old milkmen with open arms after he delivered his first pint of fresh milk this morning. So it’s up yours Morrisons

Stay strong. Stay focused. Stay away from sugar…

We, sow the seed…

As soon as the affirmation was received that I had acquired my “in” for the communal allotment last week, my initial thoughts amusingly turned to the 1980’s sit-com, The Young Ones.

Vegetable rights and peace!

There is an episode called Sick, and part way through the anarchistic character Ryk (played by the wonderful and gone-too-soon Rik Mayall) kills Neil the Hippy (Nigel Planer) because Neil keeps repeating the phrase “We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, and then we eat the seed”, and after several minutes Ryk whacks him with the spade. He then buries the body under a load of horse manure which had been recently dumped in their back garden, only to find that ironically he has cultivated three Neils, who return in the middle of the night to taunt and haunt him. Classic.

My sister is also keen to get involved in the venture and armed with gloves, hat and wellingtons, she joined me and my wife to visit the plot today. The weather this week had been been awful, and the rain and howling winds have wrecked a lot of the hard work in laying down the cardboard “runway” prior to the dumping of the compost next week to get our no-dig operation off the ground.

Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, and we agreed that the cardboard matting and composting needs to go hand-in-hand and not in isolation.

We started work on collecting “free timber” in the form of disused pallets and will, over the course of the next few weeks, create borders and raised beds, recycled and upcycled, costing us just a few pence in nails.

After we had stockpiled around twenty pallets, the weather turned gnarly so we headed to the garden centre next door to buy some multi-purpose compost, small seeding trays and pots (the latter which we got for free).

So today I started off with broad beans, sowing eighteen pots, and under the advice of the nice lady at the garden centre, wrapped them in a plastic bag and put them by the window to germinate.

We, sow the seed…
Nature grows the seed…
Pre-fill…
Post-fill…
Multi-sowing in action, double the fun…
All potted and watered…
It’s in the bag…

Tomorrow I’ll experiment with peas in my smart garden, no idea if it will work but it will be fun finding out.

The days of stage diving and crowd surfing at Obituary/ Napalm Death gigs seems like a lifetime ago, but in the immortal words of both John Tardy and James Hetfield (of Metallica), “the memory remains”.

On reflection, I think that is life is like a car ride, get in, learn how to drive, start slow, speed up, go fast, slow down, reach your destination and eventually stop. Looking back at my life to date, I’ve certainly done that, and even though I’m starting the slow down phase which will inevitably lead to the stop phase, I’m still far away from my final destination and I’m enjoying the ride…

Allotment: Meant a lot…

The age-old adage of it’s not what you know it’s who you know never rang so true this week.

As I’m rotating around different circles of friends these days, opportunity seems to knock more frequently now. I had put myself on the local authority register for allotments to grow my own produce a few months back, but the waiting lists post-COVID are now ridiculously long, with the average wait a staggering ten years, now that a great many people are now wanting to do the same.

One of my new eco-retreat comrades alerted me to an opening in his new venture, which is a strip of land behind one of the market gardens close by to where we live, thus expediting my off-grid journey towards the Good Life by a mere decade.

Much to do…

Excited to see the land, it took a quick “recky” to assess the current status and envisioned future state at the weekend, meeting some of my would-be farmers friends at the same time. The land is approximately eight metres by eighty metres and is totally barren.

Some work has already been done, the visqueen weed-blocking layer has been stripped from the land and the goodly folks of the cooperative (nine others in total) have just completed the laying of flattened cardboard boxes, making it look like an alien landing strip from above, welcomed too by a fire pit already installed at the foot of the land, to warm their cockles after their sub-zero temperature interstellar space travel (should they have cockles to warm of course).

The Landing Strip…

The plan for the site will be to follow the no-dig methods of Charles Dowding, laying down strips of cardboard to block out the weeds, on top of which sits several tonnes of compost, creating narrow lanes of cultivatable land with minimal back-breaking work. The plans are to grow pretty much everything one can grow, with the additions of a poly tunnel and green house making this all possible.

The Communal Shack…

The inclusion of a communal shack will be a place of solace in the summer once built, allowing us all to click back and whittle some, after a hard days graft,

Needless to say, me and the extended family (sister) are super excited to get started, and the to-be seedlings will be seated in their respective pots and growing cells over the coming days, prior to the virgin planting once the compost has been successfully splayed across the allotment.

I’ll also experiment with my smart garden to cultivate the seedlings, nine at any one time all year round, a constant conveyor belt of cultivation…