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To celebrate the culmination of OxGrow’s ‘Art in the Garden’ sessions we are having a pARTy with Hogacre Cafe!
3pm | Opening of the exhibition in the pavillion.
3pm – 5pm | Exhibition viewing – Showcase of creative writing and music – Singing Workshops – Explore magnetic poetry with Oxford Poetry Library – Paper People making with Jez (paperpeoplebeauty.org) – Painting and drawing in the garden
5pm | Ceilidh with live band
***Bring your bellies! We’ll have organic veggie food and drink aplenty!***
Sessions made possible with grant from University of Oxford Community Fund.
Join us in celebrating Summer by letting our stunning garden inspire your creative side! This June/July, we will be inviting you to join us for five different free arts-focused workshops – ‘Art in the Garden’. Through muisc, photography, painting, drawing and writing, we hope to make the most of our beautiful garden space, celebrating and enjoying its beauty. These relaxed, outdoor sessions will help us explore different artistic techniques and create art. As usual for OxGrow, we welcome people of all levels, from absolute novices to experts, to share the space in an inclusive and supportive environment. We’ll culminate the sessions with an exhibition event at the end of July.
**Painting and Drawing – 22nd June 6pm-8pm**
Come and paint or draw with us. This session will involve freestyle painting with watercolours, ink drawing; observational drawing using microscopes and sketching (or anything else you’d like if you have your own materials). Please bring your own art materials if you have them but if not we can provide some materials for sketching and watercolour painting.
**Leaf Printing and Collage – 29th June 6pm-8pm**
Come and create images by printing with leaves and vegetables and using natural materials to make collages. Artisits Jezella Pigott and Moez Kaudeer will support on this event.
**Take Great Photos – 13th July 6pm-8pm**
Capturing the perfect photograph is always harder than you think. Come along to learn and practice a few basic tips and tricks that can help you take attractive and eye-catching photos in any situation. This session will be led by freelance filmmaker Peter Lefort.
**Creative Writing – 20th July 6pm – 8pm**
The aim of this collaborative session, based on group exercises and nature themed poetry is to inspire participants to create their own poetry of, about or around the garden.
**Please bring snacks and drinks to share to all sessions.**
**Exhibition Event in colloboration with Hogacre Cafe – 30th July (exact timing tbc**
A chance to celebrate and share the art we have created together!
These sessions are part of OxGrow’s ‘Art in the Garden’ series of free workshops.
PLACES ARE FREE BUT PLEASE R.S.V.P. @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Sessions made possible with grant from University of Oxford Community Fund.
Whoa, these last two months have sped by! We’ve had our hands full! February might have seemed a continuation of wintery slowness, but things started to pick up. We carried on with the various clearing, tidying and fixing jobs so that we’d be ready for the sowing and planting when the time came. Bill and Martin started building upright frames out of pallets – they will be covered with polythene sheets to provide more space for tomatoes.
In our last blog, we talked about how we sorted seeds and put in an order with Garden Organic, and we’re happy to say they have arrived! We’ve also got some extra herb seeds from the Wildflower Shop. We’ve been busily sowing these seeds, and planting onion and garlic sets, from February onwards – most of them indoors, in trays (kept in the polytunnel and in the two cold frames), but some also outdoors (roots – parsnips etc.)
It all got a little hectic and confusing so we decided to have a garden planning meeting to get our heads around our big list of tasks. We met on 2 March and talked mostly about how to stay on top of our sowing schedule. We realised that because we sorted our seeds into bundles, organised by the month in which they need to be sown, this is actually not that difficult – at the beginning of every session we now look at what we’ve got left in the box for the current month, see what’s still left to be sown, and make sure things are coming up as planned. And because our system of keeping a record of what we do in a set of colourful notebooks works really well, we seem to be doing ok for the moment. Phew!
Although we’ve lost some beans and peas to, by the look of it, an industrious mouse which was undeterred by our netting, we managed to replace them (and fix our nets) so hopefully we’ll have plenty of seedlings to put into the ground over the next couple of months.
Our intrepid volunteers have been steadily helpful, and we’ve had some guest volunteers as well – a great visit from the very hardworking green-fingered members of the Oxford University’s Islamic Society, and a group of enthusiastic, eco-minded architecture students from Oxford Brookes. It was great to welcome them to the garden, and they seemed to enjoy their time with us too!
We hosted three more Incredible Edible courses in the pavilion, and some of our own volunteers took part. One of them resulted in the garden acquiring a brand new Victoria Plum tree, grafted by our volunteer and committee member, Marta. In April, the last workshop of the series will see a group of participants build a cob oven, which will remain part of the garden (and allow us to bake pizzas and veg throughout the summer!)
It’s getting very busy now, what with all the sowing, planting, weeding and watering; and we’ve still got to keep seeing to the various organisational tasks. If you’d like to help with any of these – such as event planning, publicity and social media, funding and budgeting, outreach and facilitation of sessions and workshops, don’t miss our Annual General Meeting, set for Sunday 2 April at 4pm, in the garden. We will be talking about our plans for the next year and how you can get involved, as well as electing three new officers for the organisational committee. Snacks and drinks will be provided so it should be good fun.
We always have fun anyway! Just look at these smiles – could they be any bigger?
MOST importantly, the days are getting warmer and lighter, and so are our hearts and souls! As the clocks move forward this Sunday, our Sunday sessions (facilitated) will now run between 1 and 5pm, and we’ll also start meeting up during the week (Wednesday evenings, unfacilitated) so there’s lots of scope for coming to the garden and being part of the movement for more lovely, healthy, affordable and natural food in Oxford.
So, Happy Spring everyone and see you in the garden!
Welcome 2017! January has had rather changeable weather to match our changeable levels of motivation. Sometimes it seems that not only are the plants asleep but we are too! However, this has not stopped us from having a good crack at digging in the green manure (clover, trefoil, the dreaded Hungarian Rye of winter 2016). Perhaps after all this digging in you’ve been wondering why we plant green manure in the first place? Here’s a quick guide…
- It grows quickly and covers up bare soil after we have harvested and cleared whatever was growing there before.
- Its roots prevent soil erosion.
- When we dig it in it ensure a nutrient rich soil in which to plant the next set of plants.
The middle of January saw us having a lazy session mainly spent in in the pavilion. We chose heritage seeds from the organic gardening catalogue. Our heritage patch last year was a super success with Dudis, Achochas and Lab Lab causing much interest. I think it’s prime spot as the last thing you see before heading to the café in summer had something to do with it! Nevertheless, we can be proud that our little garden had such interesting things growing in it. We hope to repeat the success again this year!
After a wonderfully sunny session cleaning tools and clearing thistles and bramble from the borders the following week was a downpour worthy of Noah! This did not stop Hogacre from being a hive of activity. Incredible Edible ran their fantastic ‘Build a Cold Frame’ course. The day started with many trips over the railway bridge to ensure we had all the tools and wood we needed. After a quick get to know each other we began building! Cold frames are like miniature green houses which you can use to protect plants from frosts e.g. keeping them warmer for longer. The ones we built have four wooden walls which can be placed anywhere in the garden. They have a hinging transparent lid to let in sunshine and create warmth. Two participants on the course did so in order to create cold frames for OxGrow so we now have two for our garden! Watch this space to see what’s growing in them!
January is a time of resolutions and this often brings newcomers to the garden. This year has been no exception and we have welcomed lots of friendly, enthusiastic, new volunteers! Some people talk of the ‘January blues’ but how about the ‘January greens’? That’s the positive, happy feeling you get when even though it’s grim and grey; the working week seems a slog and the glitter and sparkle of December has gone Sundays in the garden are bound to cheer you up with smiling faces and lots to do! Cheers ( and a wink!) to the ‘January greens’!
It’s that time of the year again! A time to withdraw, relax, rest, and take stock of the last 12 months. If we wanted to list all the things we’ve done, you’d be in for a really long read which you’re probably already too lazy for, so let’s just have a quick glance at the most interesting changes or events that happened in 2016.
- We planted apple saplings, sunflowers and holly bushes along the border fence (to complement the striking Jerusalem artichokes and an array of wild and garden flowers which were there already)
- We built a small pond to attract more aquatic wildlife – see how happy Judy looks posing in front of it!
- We constructed a large polytunnel which significantly increased the hothouse growing space (= more tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, melons, and the like)
- We dug up new beds: a lovely little children’d bed and quite a large patch for growing many different kinds of herbs
- We had really great social gatherings. Having kicked off with a sociable AGM on 13 March, we then celebrated the Spring Equinox (20 March), had a great turnout for the Harvest Festival (9 October), Pumpkin Day (6 November), Christmas Social (4 December). We had a couple of cosy get-togethers on Winter Wednesdays, a few impromptu meals, and several bonfires, some with hot chocolate and toasted marshmellows and some with a can of something refreshing and cold 🙂
- We did quite a lot of outreach/media work: in addition to this lovely article in the Oxford Times, we also attended meetings of the new Growing Collaborate group which brings together various green and growing spaces around the city; Penny and Marta were on the panel of Garden Experts as part of the CAG Skill Share; and OxGrow was represented at various student and city fairs around Oxford.
- We got new funding from the Midlands Cooperative which will keep us going for another year or maybe even two!
- In May, we hired a Garden Community Development Officer on a six-month contract. Jade helped us lots with reaching out to more people, including a leafleting campaign we launched jointly with the Hogacre Cafe, and attending numerous fairs and networking events, both in the city and at the universities. She played a major role in strengthening our structures and communications, from the new signage system to monthly organisational meetings, to drafting and improving various written documents. She was also instrumental in instigating our collaboration with Incredible Edible Oxford, which resulted in our launching a series of workshops around self-sufficiency skills. So a great success all around, and we feel we’ve become a stronger organisation as a result of her work – thanks Jade!
- We’ve had some good creative sessions as well: from our own Peter Naumann launching his new poetry book in the garden in June, to the very successful Arts in the Garden sessions in September, we celebrated the garden not just as a source of delicious food but also as a beautiful space which nourishes the body as well as the soul.
We created a new signage and garden record-keeping system. Each plot is numbered on a map, so they’re very easy to find. The whole space is divided into five sections, each of which has its own colour. We have notebooks which correspond to each of these colours, and after every session, we write down what we did so that it’s easier to keep track of what happened in each plot. It’s been working really well – it adds to the fun and makes communicating easier.
- Finally, over the last few weeks we’ve had really good garden planning sessions. From coming up with a list of things we’d like to grow, to choosing particular varieties and mapping out where they need to go, to writing down the order, it’s been great fun and quite a large group of people got involved. The whole process made it clear that OxGrow really is a community garden where a group of people, rather than one or two individuals, take responsibility for how it develops, so it’s been really wonderful to be part of that.
Phew! And that’s in addition to all the usual garden activities! Yes – lots and lots happened over the last 12 months. We really feel like the garden is going from strength to strength, both in terms of what grows there and in terms of the group of people involved in the running of it. So, we all look forward to 2017 when more of this good stuff is going to happen! As a sneak preview, here’s a few things to look forward to:
- getting new seeds in early February. Some of the less usual seeds for 2017 include cucamelons, okra, scorzonera, cardoons, mangel, and we’ll probably get another ‘lucky dip’ wacky selection of heritage plants from Garden Organic
- our Annual General Meeting in February or March (tbd)
- More ‘Art in the Garden‘ sessions and more festivities
- More courses, workshops, and skill-share sessions, from indoor mushroom growing to using herbs to cooking and preserving food
So book those Sundays in your 2017 diary now and make sure you come along! OxGrow Community Garden is a unique space and a unique community: a group of humans who do their best to look after a patch of land, nourishing and caring for it and getting some nourishment and caring for their bodies and souls in return. Being there every week in 2016 has given us a wonderful sense of purpose, stewardship and belonging, both in terms of the place and the community. We feel very lucky to have OxGrow in our lives and our one resolution for 2017 is that we will carry on loving it as much as we have in 2016.
Enjoy your winter breaks everyone and have a Happy New Year, and see you all in 2017!
“Come, for the dusk is our own; let us fare forth together,
With a quiet delight in our hearts for the ripe, still, autumn weather,
Through the rustling valley and wood and over the crisping meadow,
Under a high-sprung sky, winnowed of mist and shadow.
Sharp is the frosty air, and through the far hill-gaps showing
Lucent sunset lakes of crocus and green are glowing;
‘Tis the hour to walk at will in a wayward, unfettered roaming,
Caring for naught save the charm, elusive and swift, of the gloaming.
Watchful and stirless the fields as if not unkindly holding
Harvested joys in their clasp, and to their broad bosoms folding
Baby hopes of a Spring, trusted to motherly keeping,
Thus to be cherished and happed through the long months of their sleeping.
Silent the woods are and gray; but the firs than ever are greener,
Nipped by the frost till the tang of their loosened balsam is keener;
And one little wind in their boughs, eerily swaying and swinging,
Very soft and low, like a wandering minstrel is singing.
Beautiful is the year, but not as the springlike maiden
Garlanded with her hopes, rather the woman laden
With wealth of joy and grief, worthily won through living,
Wearing her sorrow now like a garment of praise and thanksgiving.
Gently the dark comes down over the wild, fair places,
The whispering glens in the hills, the open, starry spaces;
Rich with the gifts of the night, sated with questing and dreaming,
We turn to the dearest of paths where the star of the home-light is gleaming.
(November Dusk, LM Montgomery)”
November has that unique poetic quality of sharp contrasts: the howling wind and the chilling rain belong to it as much as the warmth of our kitchens and a cosy time with a cup of tea and a book. It can be quite difficult to pull yourself out of the house, especially as the days are getting rapidly shorter, but when you do manage to get outside, it feels all the more rewarding.
We managed really well throughout the whole month to carry on getting together on Sunday afternoons to continue with our work, and the garden is looking really well. Loads of people I’ve spoken to seemed surprised that we are still doing anything there, so here’s a short list of what we achieved for those who think we must’ve already stopped for our winter break:
– pulled out all the dead or dying plants (having harvested all the edible parts of them first): corn, potato and squash plants outside, tomato and melon plants in the polytunnels
– cleared most of our raised beds
– cleaned the algae off the Small Polytunnel
– cut down and dug in green manure
– cleared the former ‘bottle green house’ which had turned into a bit of a junk pile; we’ve recovered lots of usable wood and are thinking of using it to build a little shelter there
– harvested: chard, spinach, herbs, swedes, salsify, parsnips, beetroots, salads, lettuces, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks
– planted: broad beans, garlic, onions (to be harvested in spring), green manure
We also did quite a bit of organisational work. Over a couple of sessions, we painted numbers on wooden signposts so that they match our map of the garden – it’s now a lot easier to identify which bed is which. We also started a new record keeping system: we have five books, each devoted to a particular section of the garden, where after each session we write down what we did. We hope this will help us track what we’ve done and avoid making mistakes. We also had a few garden planning sessions, starting with a Friday evening gathering of 12 volunteers who talked about what to plant next year and what challenges and opportunities there are. Each person took on a group of plants to investigate and they will then try and plan with Judy where and when to plant everything.
We also took part in the annual Community Action Groups Skill Share where our own Penny and Marta represented OxGrow at the Gardeners Question Time, and participated in other sessions where they learnt some really useful and pertinent stuff about the ways to strengthen and diversify community groups. Thanks CAG!
Despite all this hard work, we didn’t forget to celebrate and have fun! We started the month with a lovely Pumpkin Day celebration – we cooked and ate some delicious soup and pie, using our own pumpkins – making literally zero mile food! We also had a couple of bonfires and at least one spontaneous pub outing.
So it’s been really great: productive, fun, heart and body-warming, relaxing and stimulating! November doesn’t have to be gloomy after all, and we’re looking forward to the rest of this season of slowing down – bring it on, winter!
OCTOBER WAS SO ACTIVE!
We did loads in the garden and outside of it. We did a lot of outreach: visited Freshers Fairs, were represented at the Oxford Food Festival, and spoke at the Midlands Cooperative’s annual meeting (following the grant we received from them recently). This resulted in lots of new faces in the garden, which in turn meant lots and lots of activity as we now regularly have between 25-30 people there each Sunday (compared to 10-15 during the summer).
We’ve harvested most of our veg, and a lot of it ended up being cooked or given away for a donation at Hogacre’s annual Harvest Festival. A few hundred people attended and learnt more about Hogacre’s activities and local food and drink. We had some really excellent music, and it was a special treat to see the amazing Horns of Plenty walk through our garden while playing their powerful music!
We also started doing some garden planning. We had a very fruitful discussion about the organisational structures of OxGrow during our first Cosy Wednesday meeting, and started putting together a list of vegetables we’d like to grow next year.
So it’s been really good fun and we’re looking forward to more activities over winter! We’ll be doing more planning and organising; clearing and getting ready for spring; and celebrating and feasting!
AND WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN NOVEMBER?
Lots of things!
- Pumpkin Day is on Sunday 6 November
- Garden Planning session number 2 will take place on a mid-week evening – look out for updates on Facebook
- CAG Skill Share on Saturday 12 Nov
- More clearing, digging, tidying, constructing, de-constructing, plotting, charting, chatting, planting, harvesting and just generally HAVING A GOOD TIME outdoors, rain or shine or frost!
If you want to make sure you’re up to date with what’s happening, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, sign up to our newsletter, or email us at email@example.com (questions and suggestions always welcome!)
With warm wishes
So, what happened in September?
In the garden, we finally slowed down a little. September was about harvesting and relishing our produce: tomatoes, cucumbers, swedes, potatoes, kale, cabbages, salads, salsify, carrots, raspberries, blackberries and wild strawberries.
We also picked our first apple! One of our tiny apple trees which have been planted along the fence earlier this summer gave us the most delicious, crunchy, sweet-tangy fruit we’ve ever tasted. (Although we probably are a little biased…)
We also picked lots of beans for the Harvest Festival and Judy’s been steadily freezing them. Beans need to be picked continuously as that encourages the plants to produce more, so it couldn’t really wait. Other veg – pumpkins, beetroots, parsnips, corn and carrots – will be picked just before the Festival and cooked up on the day.
We’ve continued sowing more and more beds with green manure and some of them have already been covered for winter.
But it’s not just pure gardening we’ve been busy with over the last few weeks.
We’ve hosted our Art in the Garden workshops and they were really good fun! Drawing inspiration from our beautiful surroundings, we painted, photographed and sang together, as the sun slowly set over the horizon… We hope to do this again in future so keep an eye out for it!
And finally, we’ve officially launched the amazing courses we are organising in partnership with Incredible Edible Oxford. These are around various self-sufficiency skills, from making a sheep wool rug to designing your own growing space, and you can view the full schedule here.
And what will be happening in October?
- Harvest Festival! Sunday 9 October – a community festival of music, food and enjoying the beautiful outdoors
- Building & clearing projects – fixing our raised beds and compost bays, clearing away some old structures
- Getting the space ready for winter – covering beds with tarpaulin, clearing beds, sowing green manure, ordering seeds
- Cosy Wednesday – an evening session of garden planning over a shared meal (Wednesday 26 October)
Don’t forget that the next meeting of the Organisational Circle will happen on Wednesday 12 October, 6pm, in the garden. Everyone is welcome. We will be discussing our plans for the garden for the autumn/winter period (building work, getting ready for winter, winter crops), events organisation (workshops, festivals), finances (budgeting for the next year) and any other business that might crop up in the meantime. Tea and nibbles on a bring-and-share basis.
With wormest wishes
Questions? Suggestions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, what happened in August. . .
. . . in the garden?
Quite a lot of activity this month; the main jobs have been keeping those greedy weeds down by hand and hoe, watering, harvesting, and a bit of planting. Somehow, it seemed like less work than in previous weeks – nature was taking care of things more or less and we could spend a bit more time just enjoying the space and sharing impromptu meals made up of freshly picked produce. Salads (rocket, mustard leaves, lettuces), tomatoes, courgettes, beetroots, achochas, carrots, parsnips, and various types of beans and peas have made their way to our plates, and were all delicious! We also tickled our taste buds with sweet and juicy fruit: raspberries, wild strawberries and blackberries. Yum!
In addition to those, we picked other delights – onions, garlic bulbs, and potatoes – and either used them up at home or started storing them in various ways. Penelope made these gorgeous garlic plaits and we’ve been pulling onions up and letting them dry on the ground before transferring them into indoor storage for winter use.
We’ve carried on planting things, too: salads, chard, leeks, kohlrabi and more herbs have been planted in various beds around the garden. Other beds have been sown with green manure (clover, rye) which will help keep the soil rich in nutrients.
Community gardening is never short of challenges and this month’s small disaster was the rapid demise of one of our raised beds. Some part of its wooden structure had rotted through and in our valiant effort to rescue it, we managed to knock one of the sides off completely. Oops…
. . .and on the organisational side of things?
You might not know this but running a community group like OxGrow can take quite a lot of work which often happens a bit unnoticed. According to our constitution, OxGrow has a Committee of three (Chair, Secretary and Treasurer) and decisions can be made by the Committee as well as other volunteers. In practical terms, there are usually a couple more active organising spirits who do quite a lot of backstage work; for the last few months, it’s mainly meant a group of four who have held a few meetings and made some things happen, in addition to the usual volunteering in the garden.
Following some good advice from our friend Dot of Abundance Oxford, we have decided to broaden our structures on the basis of the sociocracy model. In this model, anyone who is a volunteer can join the Organisational Circle which will meet monthly to discuss everything to do with the garden, both in terms of the growing and all the non-gardening activities that happen in and around OxGrow (skill shares, courses, special events, outreach, finance, etc.) In August, we held a meeting attended by five OxGrow members and discussed our plans for the nearest future – some of the things listed further down (Art in the Garden, Incredible Edible workshops) came to happen thanks to the work of the Organisational Circle. If you are interested in becoming part of the circle, come down next month and see what you can help with. Enthusiasm and commitment to the values of OxGrow and Hogacre is a more important requirement than any particular experience so don’t be shy! We are hoping that more people will join the Circle which will hopefully contribute to making OxGrow more sustainable as a project.
We are also very happy to announce that we received a very much needed financial grant from the Midcounties Cooperative which will help us cover our costs over the next year, or even, if we’re frugal enough, the next two years.
And what will be happening in September. . .
. . .in the garden?
Lots of harvesting! Salads and chard will continue to be ready for picking over the next few weeks so we can stock up on vitamins K, A, E and C, anti-oxidants, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and iron. In the Small Polytunnel, a sizeable melon and our first ever aubergine are getting bigger each day. In the Big Polytunnel, we will carry on picking tomatoes and basil leaves throughout the month. Outside, we’ll be harvesting pumpkins, carrots, turnips, swedes, beetroots and potatoes. Towards the end of September/beginning of October, we will also have a special session to pick everything that has been growing in the Harvest Bed and which we will cook up for the lovely community feast that is Hogacre’s Harvest Festival.
Towards the second half of the month, we will start thinking about some structural work in the garden. Some areas need clearing, raised beds need fixing up, and there is always loads of tidying up to do in the garden and the garage.
September weather is often gracious in Oxford and we want to celebrate this beautiful time of year by awakening our creativity in a few creative sessions under the heading of Art in the Garden. For more details, see here: https://oxgrow.org/2016/08/25/art-in-the-garden-free-workshops/. Sessions are free but please RVSP as that will help us with organising things.
We will also be running some workshops in partnership with Incredible Edible Oxford. A broad range of topics, from composting to building a cob oven to making a sheep wool rug, will help participants (re)connect with their natural environment by equipping them with various practical skills. Full timetable will be released soon so keep your eyes peeled for that.
. . .and on the organisational side of things?
The next meeting of the Organisational Circle will happen on Wednesday 14 September, 6pm, in the garden. Everyone is welcome. We will be discussing our outreach activities (freshers fairs, market stalls, leafleting), plans for the garden for the autumn/winter period (building work, getting ready for winter, winter crops), events organisation (workshops, festivals), finances (budgeting for the next year) and any other business that might crop up in the meantime. Tea and nibbles on a bring-and-share basis.
With wormest wishes
Questions? Suggestions? Email us at email@example.com.