Our furthest bike ride so far has been to Castlemilk. We enjoyed the lovely Castlemilk Woods and a good crowd of people at the Castlemilk Stables.

Yoghurt Recipe

Recipe shared at our fermentation workshop.  It works best with whole non-homogenised organic milk, like the lovely stuff now being supplied by Locavore from Mossgiel Farm in Ayrshire. The yoghurt can be strained overnight to make cream cheese / labneh, just add a bit of salt, and try mixing the cream cheese with chopped wild garlic. Delicious!


Natural Yoghurt recipe

From: The Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger

1 litre of organic whole milk

1 tablespoon natural live organic yoghurt at room temperature

  1. Over a low flame, slowly heat the milk in a non-reactive pot to 180˚F. The milk should reach a hearty scald – hot and foamy but not quite simmering. If you are going to make yoghurt a lot it’s worth buying a cheese thermometer, you can also use a jam thermometer if you have one.
  2. Stir it occasionally as it heats, remembering that the faster you heat the milk, the more grainy bits of overheated congealed protein you’ll find in your yoghurt. When it’s done, pour into large glass jar to cool.
  3. Let it sit until cooled to 110˚F, or cool a bit quicker by placing pan in a cold water. At this point take a spoonful of milk from the jar and mix with a spoonful of live-culture yoghurt, then stir this back in. A tiny amount of yoghurt can culture a large amount of milk, so you really don’t need much, but it’s important that it’s evenly distributed.
  4. Put lid on the jar and place in a cool box wrapped in a tea towel. Fill four other jars with very hot water and put them next to the yoghurt. This creates your incubation chamber. Close the cool box (better described as the warm box) and leave for 12-24 hours. Some people culture their yoghurt in a wide mouthed thermos flask which has the same function of keeping a steady temperature but it is then a bit difficult to transfer yoghurt to the fridge so I prefer to do it in jars.
  5. Don’t disturb the yoghurt too much while it’s culturing. Avoid the temptation of jiggling the pot to see how thick it is! After 12 hours check to see if it’s set and refrigerate. If it’s still not set, refill the jars of hot water and leave for up to another 12 hours.
  6. If you like thick greek yoghurt, then you can strain the yoghurt for an hour or two in a muslin cloth. Remember to save a little yoghurt for making the next batch.


SOIL CITY: Urban Alluvium Workshop / Guddling About // April 17, 2016

Artists: Minty Donald and Nick Millar // Field Notes by Ursula Lang // Photos by Clementine Sandison

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What does the water carry?

Have you looked into a storm drain along the streets of Glasgow? Probably you’ve glanced down at the floating cigarette butts, sky reflected on a thick surface, and odd pieces of urban detritus. Following the former tideline of the River Clyde, in this workshop led by artists Minty Donald and Nick Millar, we used urban storm drains to investigate what the water carries as it moves through the city. And how might this matter become soil?

Glasgow’s rivers have been shaped in conjunction with the city’s settlement and industrial history – and vice versa. What was once a wide, flat alluvial plain shaped by the coming and going of the tides has become the solid paved streets we take for granted. Over centuries of dredging and channelizing, the river’s path through the landscape has deepened and narrowed, constraining its meandering tendencies. This Soil City workshop is part of a larger ongoing project of Minty and Nick’s called “Guddling About” – based on the Scots word meaning to muck about, to be playful, to get messy. link:

How do water and soil meet?

It was a cold Sunday afternoon, windy and grey. A small group gathered, lots of conversation. Out we went, to meander along the former tideline. As we talked and walked, we stopped to peer into storm drains in gutters. We collected jars of water from eight storm drains with a basic water pump attached to a length of plastic tubing taped to a stick. Lowering the tubing into the water attracted pretty enthusiastic attention from passers by – many of whom were football fans. The liveliness of the streets loosened up conversation.

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Back at the Soil City Lab, the kettle was on and cups of tea warmed our cold fingers. We used a simple apparatus to filter each of the eight water samples: test tube stand, glass funnel, filter paper, and jar. Part ritual, part experiment. For about a half hour water dripped at varying rates. People chatted, looked through the library, and attended to ongoing Soil City projects like making nettle beer.

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We looked at the eight soggy filter paper circles laid out on the map. Tiny bits of vegetation, grains of sand, a couple of very small piles of wet mud. The actions of this performance brought us into closer contact with the drain water and all it carried, while at the same time our almost clinical treatment of the water once back at the lab distanced us from it. We talked about when dirt, sediment, and soil might be “matter out of place” (Mary Douglas’ famous phrase). Dirt in the garden is soil, is earth, is right where it should be. Is the muck from a city drain ever in the right place?

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At the end of the workshop, Minty sprinkled the filtered water as we walked a length of the former tideline. Lines of water marked the sidewalks, crossed the road diagonally. A man outside a pub watched us go by, and asked if if was holy water. Hard to escape the symbolic meanings of water, how we carry it, and where we place it. Minty smiled and said, “It’s drain water!”

Farm Hack


Further reflections on the Farm Hack event by Ashley Robinson

Mark it down in the diaries, folks – Scotland’s very first Farm Hack – Oct 1st & 2nd, Tombreck Farm in Perthshire. A gathering of people, ideas and skills – all aiming to make the technology and tools of  agro-ecological farming a bit more accessible, collaborative, and open-source. A description nicked from the Farm Hack website describes Farm Hack as, a  “farmer-driven community to develop, document, and build tools for resilient agriculture – and to build community around that goal.”

When I heard that one of the co-founders of Farm Hack, Severine von Tscharner Fleming, was speaking in Glasgow, I knew I needed to attend. Speaking as part of Open Jar Collective’s “Soil City” events, Severine was discussing her experiences of Farm Hack, and the potential for a Scottish Farm Hack later this year.

What IS Farm Hack? I think of Farm Hack as a Wikipedia of appropriate technology for small-scale farmers. Of course, it’s much more than that. It’s an online platform for ‘hacks’ of the farming variety – which enables the sharing of resources, information, tools, blueprints, and skills. It’s also an offline platform for building community, creating connection, and empowering collaboration.

What started in 2010 in the US as a website and a handful of events, has grown into an inspiring way to organise community-led technological innovation and design in relation to small-scale farming. This technological innovation and design is deliberately human-scale – creating adaptable, affordable, and easy-to-fix farming equipment.

How does it work? This open-source and ever-evolving database of technological resources are achieved through collaborative, and slightly unlikely, partnerships. Techy folk and farmers come together in a mutually beneficial way, to develop and build tools. Market gardeners to mechanics, shepherds to engineers, dairymen to designers – everyone has a role in Farm Hack.


Severine speaks! Severine seems to be a woman of contrasts, or at least, my short time spent with her gave me this impression. She offered in-depth analysis alongside silly anecdotes, enlightened solutions and harsh realities, here-and-now examples with grand possibilities for a different future.

She spoke of the importance of developing tools and equipment using design principles that mimic those principles of agro-ecological farming, such as simplifying complexity, and being energy and labour-saving.

She spoke of the multitude of benefits of bringing people together towards a common goal. Particularly bringing together people who aren’t usually in the same sphere – technies and farmers. These benefits are  more than just the formation of genuine relationships, the value is where those relationships can lead. Good design? Yes. Better technology for farmers? Of course. More importantly though, those relationships foster mutual understanding of one another and their respective values and paradigms. This understanding, and this collaboration across different spheres in society, can only lead to good things for the small-scale farming movement.

She spoke of different examples of what Farm Hack has developed, giving us a look into what we could be doing here in Scotland. Software, such as a mobile phone app, that alerts the farmer when their greenhouse temperature drops, or if their electric fencing fails. Pedal powered and draft-animal powered farming machines that use muscle, rather than oil, energy. Clever modifications of old tractors, making a more modern utilisation of existing implements. The sharing of untapped resources that were previously part of society’s waste stream.  The only limit seems to be those of the collective human creativity.

Following Severine’s presentation, many of us gathered to discuss and organise a Scottish Farm Hack, with much fruitful insight and exciting plans coming together. We wanted to keep most of the same elements and format of the UK Farm Hack gathering, including a weekend residential format, practical and technological workshops, skill sharing, and of course, the social aspect of connecting with others.

We discussed the potential of the Scottish Farm Hack differentiating slightly, by having a more holistic approach. This could mean not just focusing on innovative tools and associated skills, but supporting and attracting all aspects of agro-ecological farming. Examples of this include showcasing the methods and techniques of resilient agriculture, or bringing in the livestock, woodland, and orchard aspects of farming alongside arable production ‘hacks’.

Many thanks to Severine for her enthusiastic and enlightened contribution to the Scottish Farm Hack imaginings and discussion – and Soil City for hosting! Perhaps we’ll see you, and many other farmers and tinkerers, on the sunny hillside at Tombreck, dreaming and building the tools for the Scottish farming renaissance.

Farm Hack

Some Notes by Kristina Nitsolva from the talk co-founder of Farm Hack, Severine von Tscharner Fleming, shared at the Soil City Lab

Farm Hack is…

….the meshing of cultures – engineers and farmers are different characters, approaching problem-solving in different ways. Collaborating patience and time and listening, and this should be honoured. Farm Hack is like a microcosm of what it takes for the different cultures/fields to collaborate towards common goals.

….meeting through working in service of sustaining (sustainable) farming.

….sharing a problem or a project at gatherings and inviting input, advice, collaboration.

….hacking open accountability (of the unaccountable organisations, mechanisms).

….activists working with scientists.

….hacking open farm equipment so it can be adapted to the needs of small-scale farmers, it can be easily repaired, and so that it can be affordable unlike farm machinery produced by large corporations.

….is organising- you don’t need to be a designer, a farmer or a tech person; communicating, connecting people and their ideas and bringing them together is vital to the movement.

What is the sharing economy?

The opposite of the current economy which tends to put a price on things and activities we could easily do for free.

How do we go about changing this?

One idea is making our economy visible by situating art and activism in places where multiple intersections of our economy meet (rivers/cities).

Inspiring developments in the movement?

Ouishare ( and their conferences in Paris and beyond

Counting the earthworms

Reflections on North Kelvin Meadow, Tuesday 12th April by Kate Foster

It was raining heavily and chilly too, but Soil City’s research trip to North Kelvin Meadow left me smiling warmly. It was magic! Conversations went backwards to memories people (like me) had about how this was once a football pitch, and forward to the plans for more gardens and activities.

Meanwhile three grey worms took centre stage to be identified, in turn. Digging up a patch of ground for the worm count showed how much soil has formed over the old pitch surface. However enthusiastically kids poured mustard into the lower layers, deep-digging worms refused to be flushed out. Perhaps they weren’t there? As we exchanged experiences, we were also confronted by how much we did not know. What were those birds nesting? Crows? surely not ravens? Had anyone seen a wren? Are those ash or birch seedlings? Is there any known way of distracting kids from screens? Actually several kids were there, up for worm catching and earth-smelling. We all enjoyed watching Alex make a giant worm – to test the soil texture she said.

The next day, I landed the job of testing North Kelvin Meadow soil samples for ‘basic’ information – acidity, Potassium, Nitrogen, Phosphorus. A wee kit with different potions, measures, and pipettes.

After reading the instructions twice, and setting aside questions of why I was doing this, I filled the test tubes (1:4 volume of soil and water) and used yellow labels to make it feel more official. After a little while, you get to add liquid and powders. Then comes the best bit – comparing the mix in the test-tube with the colour chart. Greens, purples and reds mysteriously appeared. Suspiciously, all my readings were the same: alkaline, with moderate levels of nutrients. This will probably be the only day I get to be a lab chemist.

So what do I like so very much about Soil City? I think the bikes push art, and artists, into places where ideas about culture are tested. This isn’t a journey that should end when GI wraps up, and it can’t be understood simply within an individual’s autobiography or fine art practice. Different critical registers are needed to think about what the Soil City mobile unit is doing. The project’s success won’t be told simply by how many people visited the Lab. For a start, we need to count the earthworms too.

Garnethill Park

Thursday 14th April – Reflections on Garnethilll Park site visit by John Hutchinson

Despite having lived in Glasgow for over 10 years and attended many an event at the Art School, this was the first time I’d actually set foot in Garnethill Park. Although very much in the city, enclosed as it is by buildings, streets and cars, I was impressed by the sense of contemplative space that Garnethill Park offered – almost as if time was moving a little slower while the city trundled on around it. A great spot to just sit and watch people drift through and the local posse of pigeons mill around. The arrival of a local with a bag full of breadcrumbs signaled feeding time – a mad flurry of grey feathers with some opportunistic seagulls bullying their way to the front of the scrum. The birds had obviously been waiting for this regular feed – an example of how small green spaces like this can offer opportunities for people to forge connections with the more-than human.

Delving into the soil, we found a plentiful array of worms. A couple were tentatively identified with the help of a flow chart – who knew there were so many different types!? Funny to think of that hidden world under our feet – a hidden meshwork of worm-ways bisecting and intersecting like an inversion of aviation vapour trails.

Due to the park’s close proximity to the Art School, it seemed only right to try a bit of soil painting. Mixing soil from two different parts of the park with water provided two slightly differing hues of soil paint. Although I’m no artist by any means, I enjoyed painting the shapes which popped into my head without much thought. The end result was a mixture of triangles and swirling lines – a subconscious result I think of having been looking at triangular soil ID charts and wriggling worms! Garnethill Park is a great example of how a small urban green space can provide a welcome breathing space to just be – a welcome island of soil in a sea of asphalt. I’m glad it’s now on my mental map of the green spaces of Glasgow.