OxGrow Monthly – October 2016

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).

fresher-stall

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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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 mail@oxgrow.org (questions and suggestions always welcome!)

With warm wishes

Team OxGrow

OxGrow Monthly – September 2016

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…)

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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.

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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!

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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

Team OxGrow

Questions? Suggestions? Email us at mail@oxgrow.org.

OxGrow Monthly – August 2016

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!

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Dining al fresco: pasta with freshly picked courgettes and a side salad made with our own lettuce

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.

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Gorgeous Garlic

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.

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Organisational Circle

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.

Art In The Garden flyer

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

Team OxGrow

 

Questions? Suggestions? Email us at mail@oxgrow.org.

AUGUST NEWSLETTERS:

🐝🌻 Weed -> harvest -> relax! 🍨
😎🌴 Hollyhocks! Blackberries! And so much watering to do… 🐳
🍅🍅🍅 Some tomatoes are red and ready! 🍅🍅🍅
🍅🌽🍈Beat Bank Holiday Blues with gardening!🍈🌽🍅

Art in the Garden – free workshops

Art in the Garden @ OxGrow

Art In The Garden flyer

Join us in celebrating autumn by letting our stunning garden inspire your creative side! This September/October, we will be inviting you to join us for four different free arts-focused workshops. Through singing, 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.

Join us for any or all of the following free workshops:

Thursday 8th September – Painting And Drawing Session 

Come and paint or draw with us. This session will involve freestyle painting with watercolours, sketching and drawing (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.

Thursday 15th September – Taking Great Photos Workshop

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.

Thursday 22nd September – Singing Workshop

What better way to enjoy the beauty of the garden than by having a good old sign along? Please feel free to bring your own musical instruments, we may have a few you can borrow too. This session will be led by Chrissy Pusey.

Sunday 9th October – Collaborative Writing Session (as part of the Hogacre Harvest Festival)

The aim of this collaborative session, based on word games and group exercises, is to have a bit of creative fun together, and create a nature-inspired ‘Ode to Hogacre’ in the process. This session will be led by OxGrow.

PLACES ARE FREE BUT PLEASE R.S.V.P. @ http://tinyurl.com/gpdcpvh

Art In The Garden flyer

 

OxGrow Monthly – July 2016

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‘Leaves
Murmuring by miriads in the shimmering trees…’

TV presenters tell us we’ve been having a ‘heat wave’, but it is such a poor expression. What actually happens is infinitely more complex and interesting than what is conveyed by that dry (ekhm) phrase.

For those lucky enough to be enjoying their summer break, hot days mean a wonderfully lazy time: having ice cream, cooling off in the river or Hinksey Lake, listening to bees humming in the garden (and neighbours blasting summer hits through their windows)… Wilfred Owen captures the heat-infused summer mood perfectly in his poem ‘From My Diary, July 1914’, which I enclose below this post – enjoy!

For gardeners, hot days mean hard work: we’ve been spending lots of our time watering all our crops, both in the polytunnels and outside, but even so the earth got so dry in some patches that it started to crack (to the point where it reminded me of that scene from the Lion King when Timon and Pumba find Simba – scary!)

But the garden seems to be doing well regardless. It is so abundant right now, with a lush green backdrop against which the wild flowers are swaying their vividly multi-coloured heads, and a glorious gala of leaves and tops which come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes: the feathery crowns of fennel, cumin and coriander; the regal parsnip and carrot tops, the lazily sprawling beet and turnip leaves, and the huge, exotic looking leaves of horseradish, squash and courgettes. Bees and butterflies visit often, attracted by the wildflowers. We’ve also spotted some pond skaters skimming along the pond surface and we wonder what other creatures are living in it which we can’t even see…

We have been harvesting loads. Some plants only give us a little bit, just enough to gather a handful and stuff it in our mouths, which we have been doing with raspberries, wild strawberries, and sweet peas. Others come in batches big enough to cook or preserve, and so we’ve been making sauerkraut with our cabbages, ratatouille with our courgettes, side dishes of fried, steamed and cooked beans (dwarf, French, speckled…), and an infinite assortment of salads (made with rocket, mustard, mizuna, turnip tops, amaranth leaves, and herbs such as sage, mint, fennel, and dill). An absolutely incredible discovery of this month was, for me, fried tiny turnips: after I’ve thinned them to make room for the remaining ones to get bigger, I took the tiny ones home, removed the tops, scrubbed them clean, and fried them for a few minutes in a little rapeseed oil. They were delicious – tender, sweet, and packed with a kind of nutty, rich flavour.

The most satisfying thing about cooking OxGrow stuff is that you know it is so special – not only was it grown together by a bunch of lovely, dedicated people, but it is often stuff you would not get anywhere else. No shops sell thinned tiny turnips. Not many sell heritage varieties such as achochas, which we planted last month and which will soon be ready to eat. And none of the stuff from the shop will ever be as fresh or tasty as that bit of kale I picked yesterday afternoon and steamed later that same evening.

Despite all the work we had to do – the incessant and relentless drill of weeding, watering, sowing, harvesting, thinning, planting, trimming, cutting, weeding, watering, sowing, thinning, planting, trimming, weeding… you get the idea – we still found a little bit of time to enjoy the space, have some of those delicious Hogacre Café treats on Sundays and share a bit of food on Wednesday evenings.

And we found some time to plot and plan a little… We have some exciting ideas for the coming months. Keep your eyes peeled for updates – we are looking to have quite a few events in the garden in late summer and early autumn (workshops, courses, and arts and crafts evenings). We’ll be spreading the word via our newsletter, social media, and the wider Oxford networks, so stay tuned.

If ever you feel like you need a bit of space just to catch your breath and escape the pressures of the modern world for a little bit, feel free to come down and join us on any Sunday afternoon or Wednesday evening. There’s no other place like this in Oxford – our very own secret garden.

 

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July Newsletters:

(And here’s the poem I mentioned earlier:)

Wilfred Owen
From My Diary, July 1914

Leaves
Murmuring by miriads in the shimmering trees.
Lives
Wakening with wonder in the Pyrenees.
Birds
Cheerily chirping in the early day.
Bards
Singing of summer, scything thro’ the hay.
Bees
Shaking the heavy dews from bloom and frond.
Boys
Bursting the surface of the ebony pond.
Flashes
Of swimmers carving thro’ the sparkling cold.
Fleshes
Gleaming with wetness to the morning gold.
A mead
Bordered about with warbling water brooks.
A maid
Laughing the love-laugh with me; proud of looks.
The heat
Throbbing between the upland and the peak.
Her heart
Quivering with passion to my pressed cheek.
Braiding
Of floating flames across the mountain brow.
Brooding
Of stillness; and a sighing of the bough.
Stirs
Of leaflets in the gloom; soft petal-showers;
Stars
Expanding with the starr’d nocturnal flowers.

 

OxGrow Monthly – June 2016

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Summer sun is here and the garden is bursting with life! The combination of a few hot days, interspersed with rain showers, is enough to transform the place into an abundant, productive garden as we see seedlings maturing into the plants we recognise. The last weeks of June are the time to keep on sowing to ensure a plentiful harvest for late Summer and early Autumn. The last few weeks at OxGrow have seen much digging, raking and watering. We have so many plants growing now it can be hard to remember them all! The broad beans are bursting out of their nets but still need a little more time to fully develop. Onions and leeks are steadily ripening and a few strawberries are beginning to weigh down their stems. In addition, the harvest bed is full with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet corn, and cabbages. More recently, salads, tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins have been planted.

Elsewhere in the garden we are excited to be growing some plants from heritage seeds. The aim of heritage seeds is to conserve varieties of vegetable that are no longer widely available. This may be varieties that were grown in earlier periods but are not used in large scale growing. The seeds are collected and maintained by gardeners, farmers or ‘seed guardians’. They can then be collected by a seed bank to be redistributed to interested gardeners. Currently we are growing Dudi (Tower Hamlets variety), Achocha and Lablab (Yings variety). The Achocha is a climbing plant that will produce small cucumber-type fruits which can be eaten raw or cooked in stir fries and curries. Dudi (also known as bottle gourd) is also a climbing or trailing vine. It will produce white flowers and fruits which can be eaten when young. Later, the gourds can be turned into pots, instruments or bird houses. Lablab is a bean which also produces beautiful flowers. It will be fun to observe how this interesting and attractive bed of plants develops!

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The last few months have seen some new and attractive additions to the OxGrow garden. The new Polytunnel (Polytunnel 2 – the larger one) has created a new space for growing. Currently, we have a few different varieties of tomatoes growing (heritage and otherwise). Soon we hope to take out the staging and dig a middle bed to increase our growing capacity. The pond has created an attractive centre space to the garden with a few reeds and now a solar powered fountain. A few tadpoles have been seen darting about already! As we move further into summer the garden attracts more visitors. It becomes its most relaxed as a social space with people wandering through from Hogacre Cafe. Pleasant weather makes it a wonderful time to enjoy this peaceful corner of Oxford and we have several events coming up. See below for details and this month’s newsletters. Nevertheless, the garden needs our attention as sowing, watering, weeding and picking continue! Join us for Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Remember all are welcome for as little or as long as you like.

Our wormest wishes,

Team OxGrow

 

June Newsletters: