Tasty Tales from the south-bound bunch

14th August 2012 by

Once upon a time in a land farrr far away (well, in the Scottish lowlands that is), there lived a group of 20 intrepid young adventurers. They had come from far and wide to learn about local food production, to support Scottish farmers and to share skills for building a brighter future. High up on the plains of Mid Lothian, Macbiehill Farm stood ready to accept these eager young change-makers. Bread-makers Andrew and Veronica filled both their minds and their bellies to the brim, and before long they were ready to hit the road and spread their newfound knowledge. So, they split into two, one group bound for the rugged North, the other for the hilly South.

This is a tale of what befell that South-bound bunch…

Kerry, Ralph, Claire, Coraline, Tom, Hannah, Andy, Emily and Ellie packed up their tents, stretched out their dormant muscles and filled their lunch boxes, set for a day in the saddle. Out on the open road, their faithful bicycle steeds sparkled in the sunlight as they set a path for Pishwanton Woods. That night would be their first one under the stars away from their guides, and they were keen to set up camp in good time, having found food along the way.

However… Unbeknownst to the group, the mischievous scourge of all two-wheeled wonderers – the Google-Ro ute-Planner – had some tricks up his sleeve to torment the young cyclists. It fooled them into believing they only had 16 miles to go on their first cycle day, knowing all along that really they would actually have more than 35 miles to go! That mischevious young techno-tool rubbed his hands together and sat back to watch the confusion ensue.

By midday the cyclists had come to realise that all was not as it seemed. 14 miles had already passed, and they were not even half way through their mapped route … But their spirits were not to be dampened, and as the sun shone brighter so did their smiles!

Now, as we all know, no fairy tale is complete without either its castles or its wicked witches, and we would not want to disappoint! So, the food-finders bravely set a course for the rough and remote Oxenfoord Castle, deep in the heart of Pathead. Reaching the gates of the encampment, they strained their eyes through the thick trees, and there on top of a hill across a great bridge stood the giant stone strong-hold. Warily, the group wheeled across the bridge and all of a sudden they were greeted by a shrill cry from high up in the turrets. “Oi! What are you doing here, what do you want!?” Their eyes widened with fear as a menacing old woman bellowed down at them. “Ummmm, errrrr, eeeehhhhh… we’re looking for food. Do you know where we can find Oxenfoord Organics?” An outstretched finger pointed in the direction of the castle gardens, and the group turned tail and were off back up the driveway in a flash.

As they rounded the corner the path was blocked by a gate with a giant CLOSED sign swinging in the wind. But they would not be stopped by such a miniscule obstacle, and – with the help of a kindly old garden spirit (locally known as Ted) – they heaved open the gate and ventured into a field filled with polytunnels. There they met a kindly young man named Peter and his family, who happily filled two boxes full of fresh vegetables and homemade jams, happy to have the custom during such difficult times.

Back on the road, the team threw all they had into the last few miles, and finally the green expanse of Pishwanton woods appeared on the horizon. Up and down, up and down, through fields and hills and valleys they went, picking raspberries and singing songs along the way. Finally they pulled up to the woods, jumped down from their steeds and set up camp to prepare a delicious feast of Vegetable Wiffwaff. Yummmmmm!

A long day’s adventuring was finally at an end, and they crawled in to their tents, dreaming before their heads hit the pillows.

At 8am the next day, the wake-up fairy sounded his bell, and they all rolled out of their tents, energised and ready for a new day in a new place. They soon discovered that mysterious woods in which they found themselves was home to The Pishwanton Project, and held the learnings of a great wizard named Rudolf Steiner, who was a very powerful philosopher at the turn of the 20th century. Steiner’s teachings inspired a whole new model of food production and farming, known as Biodynamics. As well as being totally organic, biodynamic small-holdings are run as living organisms and draw upon the wisdom of the stars and planets to nurture plant development.

Once the group had absorbed all of this worldy wisdom, Margaret the matron of the woods whipped them out of their seats and in to the fields to spend the rest of the day building compost heaps and weeding the land for future generations of plants and wildlife to thrive in that magical place.

That night, after a dinner of scrumptious curry and salad, all 9 young volunteers finally crashed in to their beds – stomachs full, brains whirring, and the smell of soil firmly set in to their palms – satisfied with a hard-day’s work and ready to move on to pastures anew.

Who knows what challenges the next days would hold for the brave bunch, but it was sure to be filled with tasty treats and lavish learnings one way or the other.

Will they live happily ever after? Well, you’ll have to read on to find out.

To be continued…

Tasty Tales – Bread Matters

8th August 2012 by

Hello!

Welcome to the second blog post of the Tastetastic food sustainability tour! We write to you from the magnificent Scottish Borders, a land of beautiful rolling green hills, many happy sheep, and an enthusiastic bunch of foodie cyclists, who have come from far and wide to embark on a 3 week Otesha extravaganza.

We started our tour in sunny Edinburgh, our first task being to cycle en masse through the capital and navigate our way to our first host – Bread Matters – who have kindly welcomed us to their home on Macbiehill Farm for our five days of pre-tour training.

Bread Matters, in Peeblesshire, provides weekend courses teaching people about the importance of slow fermentation, a traditional method of making nutritional and tasty bread. Recently, industrial bread-making techniques have arguably led to a rise in many health problems such as wheat intolerance and other digestive ailments. Bread Matters is seeking to educate people about the benefit of Real Bread – better bread for individuals, communities and the planet.

Bread Matters has been a great place to start our tour, as it is an example of a local initiative that is building a vibrant (and resistant) local food economy. The founders of Bread Matters have grown varieties of wheat (and other grains), and processed it by gently milling on a small scale. The flour that is produced is crafted into beautiful bread, and this bread is sold locally through innovative community-oriented distribution networks. This approach to local food is a ‘message’ that we hope to take with us on tour, to inspire a new generation to become more engaged with where their food comes from, and how it’s produced, as well as forging community ties through the sharing of nutritional, wholesome food.

During our time on Macbiehill Farm, we have been thrown into a whirlwind of learning workshops, thought-provoking discussions, scrumptious vegan food, and (perhaps most importantly) sowing the seeds to build our own tastetastic community. As a group, we have shared our stories, experiences, knowledge, and values with each other. There’s also been lots and lots of laughter (and some tears, too). Not to mention, being treated to use the most LUXURIOUS compost loo EVER! Courtesy of Andrew and Veronica of Bread Matters.

It’s really hard to believe that we are only 4 days into the Otesha experience – it’s as if a magic spell has been cast to temporarily stretch out space and time, with everyone happily saturated with ideas, excitement and positive energy.

This is just the beginning, and everyone is itching to get on the road, get cycling up more hills (!!) and start putting into practice everything we’ve been preparing for during training week. (But first, we are spending a vigorous afternoon tending to the small-scale agro-forestry project at Bread Matters, as a work exchange to thank our generous hosts).

Are we ready? Yes we are!

PS. A massive thank you to Amy and her team for spending 2+ hours sharing with us how to love our bikes (and maintain them).


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