Weekly Reports for October 2020

29 October 2020

We’ve been paddling about in the Garden but rain did not stop play. ‘Grunt’ work continues as we start to level a semicircle of ground behind the old garage’s concrete pad to allow clearance for the back doors of the new polytunnel (subject to landlord’s consent). We’ll also excavate to see if we can dig holes for fruit trees in the triangle of land beyond. There’s a lot of old asphalt in there so we’ll also need a soil survey for any potential pollutants. (Anyone able to help with this – at mate’s rates?)

We’ve taken soil samples all around the site to test for pH levels (a range through acid, neutral, alkaline): results next week. If our joint application with Transition Buxton for a citizen’s science project as a contribution to national Science Week next March is successful, we will roll this activity out across Buxton.

Kickstart Buxton came up with an idea for a cheerful parade to raise spirits and celebrate community action through town. Could we join in with a few planted wheelbarrows? We had one we’d prepared earlier and have completed another. They’re mobile, but only just: very heavy, so people will need to see them in situ. (The depot area is open for viewing whist volunteers are in the Garden, and tours are still bookable on Sunday afternoons)

Our strawberry underplanting in the fruit cage is close to completion with the addition of a row of pineberry (small white fruits tasting of pineapple), and a row of Plymouth strawberries (green and hairy apparently).  We’ve turned down, for this coming year at least, a kind offer of autumn fruiting raspberry canes. Our late crop has been disappointing so we’re looking at summer fruiting varieties. We are though picking up a punnet of the autumn fruits for a tasting session. That’s a tantalising glimpse of future get togethers when we can all share the harvest.

22 October 2020

Preparations for the coming winter continue. There’s the ‘grunt’ work: making potting mix in huge quantities, turning compost, shovelling manure and transplanting pot grown plants that need more growing space. Then there’s the delicate operations: sowing green manures, nurturing semi-ripe bilberry cuttings, pricking out winter brassicas, putting in a rosemary hedge, planting out young rainbow chard to see how it fares in a new shaded and shallow bed. And the planning: finalising the seed order, sourcing oyster mushroom spawn, working on contract specifications ready for the go ahead from the National Lottery Fund to spend on strengthening the project.

Other initiatives bloom too. Pete Brown pulled together a late minute project proposal to Family Zone for designing and organising an on-line quiz for 11-14 year olds as a precursor to the Give Peas a Chance project starting next April. Success was immediate. Watch out for further updates.

And we have two windfalls. Parks staff delivered the first load of fresh leaves collected from Pavilion Gardens and Serpentine Walks. And Transition Buxton are redeeming Terracycle points earned from their recycling activities in aid of a charity of their choice: us. We’re told to expect £139 in December. Excellent news.

15 October 2020

As wards in and around Glossop in the north of High Peak enter Covid-19 tier 2 restrictions, we continue to review our working arrangements. As a work place and as a provider of informal training, we are not subject to strict restrictions on numbers in any of the current three control tiers. As a team of people taking care of ourselves and our community, we are continuing to be cautious and ready to adjust working arrangements to reflect scientific advice and risk assessment.

Onsite work harvesting of late crops and seeds continues. We are mixing tons (literally) of potting compost to fill new containers for more plants next year. Offsite is a hive of activity. Patty is exploring the feasibility of siting beehives in the top triangle. John and Gil are putting the final touches to seed orders to complement our in-house (in-Garden) collection and provide sufficient stock to grow plug vegetable plants for community sharing. Mail-order potatoes are included this year as we cannot count on there being a Potato Day in Macclesfield in January. No conclusion yet about preferred raspberry varieties or numbers and John and Gil are still trying to confirm a source for loofah whether plain or ridged. Preparations for realising project plans – Culture Recovery and the Give Peas a Chance Saturday programme from April 2021 – are hotting up.

Yet further offsite, volunteers with the street by street mutual aid group are hoping to establish an edible garden space in council-owned land in Fairfield. One of our regular volunteers has offered to be a living link with the new project: very exciting.

Friday 9 October 2020

Last week we received confirmation of a Culture Recovery grant. We were sworn to secrecy before the national press release so were unable to share the glad tidings with supporters in last week’s report. This then is an extraordinary  bulletin with extraordinary news. We’re one of 445 organisations sharing the first wave of grants devoted to shoring up national (and local) treasures and heritage at risk due to the ravages of Covid-19 and the consequent closing down of so many opportunities.

This was a fear of failing fund for organisations under threat. In our application we said we weren’t under threat – but that without support we could fail to develop as we needed to meet new challenges.  We can now. The cash award is modest, but everything we asked for, at £21,200. The recognition of the importance of what we do is huge. Thank you to our members, our volunteers and all our supporters and friends for helping to make this happen.

Our funding application included one element for demolition and clearance of the derelict concrete (and asbestos) garage. On notification of success, our first impulse was to seek to repay High Peak Borough Council  – they gave financial support when they have a massive deficit looming. The Executive team though said no – seek instead to have the funding reassigned for the benefit of the project. Good for them, and good for the community.

Shortly before submission of the Cultural Recovery application we had applied to the Coop Community Fund for around £15,000: £7,650 for employment of a part-time temporary Garden Manager and the balance for a large greenhouse and more raised beds.  The Coop’s decision was due on 30 September and we have heard nothing so must assume it was unsuccessful.  We plan to substitute the garage demolition with the garden manager post. This will be our first paid appointment. We have no payroll system so will offer the post as a free-lance / self-employed opportunity.

The rest of the bid covers building a new website, volunteer training, social media content, particularly focused on attracting interest of young people, help with finance planning to secure sustained income, and a couple of skips to clear the debris that had accumulated behind the old garage.

And in other news – harvesting produce and seeds continues. We now have a Tuesday team of volunteers meshing in with the work of people onsite on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Friday mornings and Sundays.

1 October 2020

We’ve had a week of mixed fortunes. Oscar and Buxton Best Broad bean, marked up to warn against harvesting for eating, were nearly dry enough, with blackened and crispy pods, to pick for seed on Sunday. Come Wednesday, DISASTER, some creatures had eaten every last bean, leaving only a strand of red wool. We can source more Oscars but have no back-up supply of Buxton Best. Does any one have seeds for this year’s crop?

Sad news too on the supply of beer for slug traps. Our regular donation from Claire Mitchell of Worthington and Guinness has dried up as the WMC is temporarily closed. But the drought has been averted. Richard Bateman at the the Ale Stop has offered to save (mixed) best bitter tapped off the lines before cleaning. Even better, he will deliver it by hand. Our slugs can carry on dying happy.

The request for coffee grounds has had a magnificent response. We’ve settled on a single supply. The Tradesman’s Entrance will provide. The grounds promised will meet our needs for oyster mushroom cultivation and leave enough for enriching our compost.

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