The bible talks about food and eating a lot. In John 6v35 Jesus even uses food as a metaphor to describe himself, “I am the bread of life”. Food is something its OK for Christians to take an interest in (although the bible condemns greed) and yet its something most Christians don’t stop very long to think about. At least not where its come from, how its got to them, who grew it (and how) and whether they were justly paid.
As we mention in our book food is one of the biggest problems we will face on the downside of the oil peak. Growing food is a highly energy and oil dependent business. There are no easy solutions to this. The energy inputs and oil dependency for organic food are lower than industrial agriculture, but still high. One (partial) solution is to grow as much as you can yourself. Most of us cannot hope to be self sufficient but we could make a contribution to own food supply, counter climate change and save ourselves money in a future when all food is likely to be very expensive. There is precedent for growing food in our gardens or on any spare land and that is “Dig for Victory” in World War II. Unfortunately in the UK this seemed to become associated with both the war and post-war austerity -meaning people lost interest and many allotments were sold off. That is until recently when interest in locally grown food has been growing, the waiting list for allotments has soared and most areas is many years. Gardens and back greens are a God given resource and one of the best decisions made by the UK coalition government is to stop “Garden grabbing” where people sell off houses and gardens which are generally demolished to make way for flats.
Although we are not self sufficient I have tried to grow more food over the last few years. After the crazy weather we have had this year it was with some trepidation when I returned from holiday I went down the garden to the veg patch. On the day we left it was so wet the garden was starting to flood and the the raised beds were made up of pools of water, something I had never seen before. However, on return I was fairly pleased, the mangetout hadn’t rotted and the potatoes hadn’t got blight, most things had been in suspended animation and were exactly as we left them.
Here’s a potted update to inspire- not to boast- I find most fruit/veg is technically easy to grow and failures are usually weather and pest related…
Soft fruit successes
Gooseberries, we did not get round to picking these before we left, but two weeks later they were still sitting there. The rain doesn’t rot them and the birds don’t bother them in my experience. They were easy to find since gooseberry sawfly caterpillars had stripped at least one bush of most of its leaves. This bush still gave us 3-4 kilos of fruit. Also successful are blackcurrants and raspberries. Most of the strawberries I have are new plants and I picked the flowers off.
The biggest disaster has been the plum tree. We had a taste of summer here in Edinburgh in March when on the 3rd Sunday afternoon we sat and read in the garden in our T-shirts. I think this bought the tree into early flower and then a week later there was snow and frost which wasted the flowers. Result no plums. The apple tree has a reasonable number of apples mostly on its south side (cause its warmer?), but few elsewhere. It was in flower for 5 weeks rather than 10 days, presumably due to the poor weather.
Its too early to say in many ways, some of the potatoes may have developed blight, but most are OK and I’ve tried spraying them with hydrogen peroxide. They are certainly not going down like ninepins. About half the tubers rotted before the shoots came above ground (never seen that before). Mangetout have been attacked a lot by snails/slugs although it looks like the crop is going to be reasonable. Lettuce -fantastic. Carrots- some and no carrot fly. Very few parsnips. Courgettes coming on, squash plant healthy, but not sure we are going to get any off it. A big worry at the moment is runner beans. I made the mistake of buying a non self-fertile variety and there are relatively few bumblebees and those present are not interested in them. I’ve tried hand pollinating them with a tiny paintbrush. Lots of other things like spinach and Pak choi either didn’t germinate or were eaten. Tomatoes and cucumbers are inside and are coming on, but behind mainly because I managed to kill the plants in the spring and had to start from scratch…
For the future I’ve planted one desert apple and I’ve got another one waiting to go in when I can get an old tree root out.
In the news just before the Olympics were Farmers protests over milk prices. Its important we think about where our food comes from and how the producer is treated. At the moment we buy food from wherever in the world its cheapest – not necessarily giving the growers a fair price. This relies on cheap energy and this era is coming to an end. If we have put all our domestic producers out of business then what are we going to do?