Sown in Bolton Day 5

Phew what a Scorcher today has been. We began our mornings work in Breightmet with a quick brew and a pint of ice cold water then made our way down to the Hub where we loaded our trusty ex-store trolley with raised beds and began pushing it up and down the hills of Breightmet dropping them off at various growers houses.

As is always the case when we are out and about on the estate word soon gets out about the project, and today was no exception we picked up another two growers purely through chatting to folk on the street.

In the afternoon despite the fierce heat and lack of breeze we managed to do three large trips around the site with the trolley loaded up with large pots containing tomatoes, and also mixed herb pots, then it was time to stop for a breather and down a pint of much needed ice cold water.

After re-hydrating we continued to pot on various edible plants for delivery to our growers houses next week. After our work in Breightmet was finished it was off over to Tonge Moor to work with the women and children of the Kitchen garden project, When we arrived at the site the women and kids we already strimming and tidying the site, sadly there had been a bit of vandalism on the site, but nothing too serious and the mess took around three minutes to clear so no great loss of resources and time.

So today on the site we dug a trench and planted potatoes, and sowed various salad seeds into one of the raised beds. The site was also strimmed and towards the end of the session we visited the homes of the women who intend to start growing at home, all three gardens were in good shape and there was some food growing activity already happening.


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Sown in Bolton Day 4

I decided to put some time in today ahead of my usual Tuesday working on the sown in Bolton project. It was a warm sunny morning and we had purchased lots of gardening and growing resources over the weekend so it seemed like a good move to get ahead a little whilst the weather was good.

As is the case in the first few weeks of these projects its all about ordering stuff, getting large pots filled with young edible plants and seed sowing, with the three tons of compost that were delivered last week it was time to get some plants into pots.

So today’s potting on consisted of lots of Outdoor Girl Tomatoes and mixed herbs, thankfully most of which will be distributed tomorrow freeing up the floor space of the New Lane UCAN centre.

After the potting on session I went over to see Si one of our growers and dropped off some plants for him in the process and discussed what he will be growing for his family this season,. then spent some time with Jenny another of our growers from Thicketford Brow. A short day today but a fair amount of work done, so all is good.


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Sown in Bolton day 3

A real mixed bag of a work day today on this the third day of the Sown in Bolton project. The morning began with a good soaking as I struggled to plant on a few bits and pieces in the UCAN centres Yarden, on two occasions having to retreat to the shed because of the rain.

Then came the three ton delivery of organic compost that was skillfully dropped behind the New Lane UCAN centre, this compost will be barrowed round the estate to fill raised beds and large salad pots in our growers gardens next week when the weather has hopefully perked up a little.

It wasn’t long before it started to rain again, so me and Mark Walmsley, one of our growers from the project went into town to buy gardening resources for the project, and also to pick up a grant award from Irwell Valley Housing Association to help towards the cost of the project. After that I went home and continued potting on and sowing seedlings until once it again, it began to rain.



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Sown in Bolton day 2

I arrived at the UCAN shortly after nine, fired a quick brew and a fag down and then set to work planting stuff on for the growers ready for distribution to various houses on the estate next week.

So today I potted on tomatoes, filled grow bags full of compost and seed potatoes and finished off clearing and planting in the Yarden growing space ready for the emerging propaganda garden of summer.

In the afternoon I walked round the estate with a pen and paper collecting names of people who were interested in growing, and making lists of the different resources needed for each house.

Not a bad afternoon, all in all I managed to get ten families signed up for the project, gave on the spot gardening advice to three families and have another potential three families through People I spoke to on the estate.

After recruiting growers I walked over to Tonge Moor to work with the kitchen gardeners on their site which is situated in the middle of the estate. As part of todays session we continued thinning out the strawberry bed and potting on the newer plants which were taken home by the young kids that helped to pot them on.

We also weeded a little, had a general tidy, and planted on two fruit bushes. Towards the end of the session we spoke about expanding growing on the estate, and have decided to start working on individual families gardens in a few weeks time.

So all in all, a lovely day weather wise with the sun on full beam all day, and some good work carried out, so its a cold one from the fridge for me, and some more seed sowing as the sun goes down, thanks for reading, and be back soon with more tales of fighting food poverty through food growing.


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Sown in Bolton day 1

So here we are with a day and a bit left of our Sown in Bolton crowdfunder, its not looking like we are going to hit the twenty thousand that we need to work with a hundred families, but do have some resources that have enabled us to start the project, we uncertain of how many families we can work with but will endeavor to work with as many as we can.

Despite us doing some work behind the scenes we have finally decided to call today day one of the project, and what a great days its been, we spent the morning tidying and sowing seeds in the Yarden at the Breightmet UCAN centre, in previous years this growing space has proved a great propaganda tool in inspiring local people to grow their own food, here’s how it works: local residents come into the UCAN centre to access support services, whilst at the centre we give out veg that is grown in the yarden and in good weather UCAN users will sit outside where the food is growing, we have picked up around a dozen growers in recent years using the Yarden is a propaganda tool.

After clearing the beds and sowing various veg seeds into them, I walked up to the Tonge Moor UCAN centre where we worked with the Kitchen Garden growers who live on the local housing estate, here we sowed seeds with the kids and potted on dozens of strawberry plants from the raised beds, which were taken home by the Mums and kids. The site itself is situated on a small site in the middle of a council estate and is well attended, at the height of today’s session which wasn’t advertised, word of mouth bought around a dozen people to the site.


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Sown in Bolton Crowdfunder: What your pledges will provide

Its quite difficult in a three minute promo video to explain everything that we intend to deliver if our crowdfunder is successful, so I shall run through everything here as a means of providing a broader insight into where your pledges will go if you decide to support what we are trying to do.

Resources  We will provide a 100 households with raised beds filled with organic compost, a fruit tree, some fruit bushes, large pots containing herbs, a small portable greenhouses, seed trays and seeds and watering can. We Will also be providing seeds, seedtrays and plug plants at the sessions that we are running to complement and support the growing project.

Project delivery We will set growing kits up in our growers gardens and then support them every week by providing both Labour and horticultural advice directly to growers in their gardens. This support will run until the end of the growing season.

Complementary training and support at growing Hubs In order to support our growers further in their en devours to grow food effectively we will be running workshops throughout the growing season at both Breightmet Hub and Willow hey project, these sessions will focus on cooking tasty and health meals on a budget, and support sessions in organic horticulture. Again these sessions will run throughout the growing season ending in autumn and will be open to not only our growers but any person who lives on the two local social housing estates that are within close proximity to the Hubs.

Social benefits beyond the monetary  The social benefits of projects like this are very much worthy of a mention and cannot really be explained or quantified by monetary value, in the old speak of community orientated work there are both hard and soft outcomes from projects like this.

In the previous years that we have ran these projects with our co-collaborators Bolton at Home we have noticed that the kids who engage in the project actually eat the veg that they are growing. Neightbours talk to each other more and share ideas over the fence. People also learn new skills, and in the case of some of our growers who are suffering with serious long term health issues a level of both physical and mental well being has been nurtured through the the exercise of getting out in the garden, the sense of achievement from growing cooking and eating something from their garden. In some ways this direct way of getting people to grow and eat fruit and vegetables sidesteps the need for our growers to understand the nitty gritty of vitamins and minerals, and as I am sure most health specialists would agree if families are eating a variety of fresh seasonal produce from their gardens then they have met that so hard to achieve objective of healthy eating without being baffled and bamboozled by daily nutritional and vitamin information.


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Men in Sheds projects and the Transition Initiative

The bridge to a Revolution  I have always been a fan of the Transition Initiative, it makes complete and total sense to wind down our fossil fuel activities and create new strategies for low impact living whilst we are still able to. Indeed when I was part of Permanent Culture Now with friend Michael Thomas (now part of the Transition team) Mike asked me what I thought of the then Transition towns movement,  my answer was this, if a lot of people start getting it and growing and making things on a local community basis that it is potentially a revolution in disguise because it reclaims and recreates the everyday resources that we are held to ransom with through wage slavery and low pay as well as addressing how we perceive and use resources and our relationship to the eco systems that provide us with these materials.

What are Men in Sheds projects?  For anyone who is not familiar with Men in Sheds they are projects that began life in Australia and now exist all over the world encompassing different ethnicities and genders. The Sheds were initially started up as places that men who suffered from isolation and mental ill health could attend and socialize with other Men whilst they carried various different crafts including: Woodworking, Metal work, repairing Computers, and practically any other activity that involves making or repairing things.

Men in Sheds and the Transition Initiative  We are currently involved and working with two Men in Sheds projects in Bolton and there are a number of things worthy of mentioning in relation to the Transition Initiative, firstly at both sites during the last year they have used up around ten tons of timber that would have otherwise ended up being thrown in Landfill. This ten tons of wood has turned into work benches, which will last for decades, vertical planters and raised beds which will help to provide people with food. The Men have also helped out with the food growing arm of both projects where they have helped out with seed sowing and planting on,  and of course not forgetting the people care aspect of projects like these, the Men themselves develop greater levels of confidence, social interaction and learn new and traditional skills in the process.

A different way of working  One thing that myself and Men in Sheds tutor Landrover Dave have done at the Men in Sheds project in Breightmet is to make the project a hierarchy free zone, we all have different skills and these are equally valued. Similarly at the Men in Sheds project at Willow Hey in Farnworth co-coordinator Lee is an enabler not a boss. One of the Men commented to me a while back whilst we were having a brew and fag at the Breightmet project ‘Why cant work be like our Men in Sheds sessions, we get loads done and have a good laugh doing it, without having some arsehole stood over your shoulder checking his watch’

Connecting with Communities There are now over two hundred Sheds in the UK with more opening on a weekly basis, There is no reason why these Hubs will not spread further and integrate with local communities where ever they spring up. At the Two project where I work, we already have local community members bringing stuff in to be repaired or actually joining the project itself. We have had a number of inquiries from Women wishing to do this type of thing so Jean from Bolton Urban growers is looking at putting a crowdfunding page together with a view to starting a Women in Sheds project in Bolton. As more and more community food growing projects pop up all over the place, as is the case with Men in Sheds projects, it makes perfect sense that these Community food groups should contact and connect with their local Men in Sheds project there is much work that they can do together in terms of generating local resources and sharing skills.


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