REFLECTIONS ON LAND RIGHTS

IMG_7892Alec Finlay reflects on his involvement in the Land Rights Night which took place at South Block on Monday 11th April

I valued how the conversation revealed the unresolved tensions – unresolved in my own mind – between the healing effects of feral-play and the task of community growing-producing. I don’t know about the other speakers, but I felt the different examples opened that up as a discussion to move towards, without seeing it as an opposition. (Maybe at first I introduced it in that way, but I thought the examples of wild huts, shelters, and the creative potential of ruins made it clear that isn’t the case, and the conversations I had afterwards suggested that).

There is a lot to think about in terms of the alternatives of preserving feral places as ‘refugia’, where wild things grow and people heal their pasts, in a locality, and, on the other hand, taking over sites, to grow things, make innovative parks, or harvest (e.g. biomass). I was left reflecting on that tension between conserving industrial ruins, and translating them into productive green sites (ideally with the addition of renewable energy).

Part of that is an artist feeing a need to analyse and criticise my own tendency to be involved in a ‘play’ activity; part of it is the duty climate change brings; and part of it is about strategies of how you preserve spaces from unnecessary development. Without becoming “something”, whether a landscaped ruin, park, garden, etc, feral places are always vulnerable. My point about the teenage den was that it tends to be vulnerable to developers, unless, perhaps, we define that evolution towards “something”. (The something can be landscaping the ruin as a ruin, productive of a feral space and healing activities, or it can be the productivity of crofts or gardens. What we need are innovative solutions to what that “something” is?

I liked how the conversation introduced these issues, and possible solutions, without finding one answer. Translating crofting into the city, and composing a “ruin” – they kind of meet in Kevin Langan’s wild shelters, or bothies, or huts – where the den becomes a dwelling, and that makes a ‘steward’ to protect a place from development. So I valued the way the other speakers opened up that discussion, and possibly hinted at a menu of solutions? For me, I think dwelling became more important than commons – though its a useful word. Access is always an issue, but what seems to protect spaces is lived presence, and maybe not even a word like commons is powerful enough, at this time, to resist development?

One thing we didn’t touch on, but which the soil project will, is the toxic soil in Glasgow, and what can be done with it. Some of it is ‘ruined’, some of it can be redeemed.

Thanks to everyone.

 

Oat Library

NADFLY Oat Library at the Soil City Laboratory

Nicola and Caspar of NADFLY gave a talk on a Wednesday evening during Glasgow International in a Merchant City railway arch that was transformed into the Soil City Laboratory. Oat Library is an artist vision for creating sculptural pocket fields of oats with Glasgow, and we related an intimate narrative of how the project has developed.

We talked about the challenge of growing oats, a grain rich with history and full of uses from cooking to beauty products. Glasgow’s industrial past is never far away when trying to find uncontaminated ground to grow on, and we have learned as much from archaeologists as from agriculturalists.

At the end of the talk, Nicola made peppermint creams using oat milk, and we gave out ‘oat capsules’ – small glass jars with organic oats, enough for one large serving of porridge or oatmeal.

Many thanks to the team at Open Jar Collective for inviting us to participate in their Soil City programme, and for creating such a great space in the Laboratory!

Fermentation Circle

Saturday 9 April, blog by Kristina Nitsolova, photos by Clementine Sandison

It is a wonderful thing to realise how much can be learned in the space of a few hours, even if the subject may be the ancient practice of fermentation (pre-dating agriculture).

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It took an afternoon in the Soil City lab to motivate me to turn all the leftover vegetables (especially cabbage) from the weekly Locavore veg bag into all sorts of delicious sauerkraut experiments and to give rye sourdough bread making another go. Hearing about the different approaches to preserving and preparing food of experienced Glasgow-based ‘fermentators’ made the use of natural fermentation techniques seem less of an aspect of countryside life and more of a possibility for a healthy urban diet.

Some great books to guide the novice as well as those more experienced in the art of fermentation, are available in the Soil City library- The Art of Fermentation and Gut reveal a lot about the principles and health benefits of incorporating more naturally fermented foods into our modern diets.

Not only did we get to taste Clem’s sourdough rye bread, beetroot and cabbage sauerkraut, and yogurts, Martin’s white cabbage and caraway seeds sauerkraut and kombucha, and Lindsay’s allioli but we had a go at making some sauerkraut with seasonal (very aesthetically pleasing) vegetables, and even ferment some wild garlic.
On a personal level participating in the Fermentation Circle was a way to switch off from the politics of our global food system and its ills (which I often find thinking about and discussing) and re-connect with food as a source of nourishment and health when produced/processed/prepared using natural methods- another valuable point of engagement with sustainable food activism, in my opinion.