Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 paddles in the shallows of the fat of the land

a streaming path  - 4/11/12

Field Study's Man in E17 felt alternating-ly/directly wired and confused following all the electrifying drama of a hazardous liaison with a pylon on Walthamstow Marsh. Some radical earthing was required to re-root his energies and so avert a state of couch potato entropy. He was inspired by Argentinian artist, Victor Grippo, to stick some appropriately coloured wires into himself and power his way to the northern most reaches of his home ground, an allotment in Chingford.

On Sunday the allotment site was saturated; an expanse of slippery paths, muddy puddles, pools and ponds; the result of relatively heavy rain in October. According to the Met' Office, the south/south east had 129.9mm of rain in October, which is 173% of the (October) monthly average between 1981 and 2010. Going by the BBC Weather service, November is usually the wettest month in the London area and if this is the case this month the site will get much wetter. Here are some more images of the sodden site as it was on Sunday 4th November with various autumn maintenance tasks in progress.

 water logging between raised beds

 pond area

Over the last 10 years various things have been done to try and control some of the movement of water on the site - mainly via a swail ditch and, more recently, the introduction of another pond with an overflow channel leading down to the main pond area at the bottom of the sloping site. There are also some very large water tanks (currently full) to collect or harvest rain water run off from various sheds and outhouses close to the allotment. Here is a short video of the (not inconsiderable) diverted and channeled water flowing into the main pond area:

Back in August I published a photograph of the same location featured above (top) in, 'Field Study's Man in E17 Returns From Myrmidonia E4', and that photograph shows a drier, though still often moist and soft, path 'engrooved' by many journeys made between a water trough and the 17 thirsty raised vegetable beds which make up our allotment. Each journey was made with a wheelbarrow full of watering cans, the latter alternately filled with, and emptied of, water for the purposes of irrigation. After much practice and repetition I was able to transport five watering cans, two buckets and a water cooler bottle at a time via the wheelbarrow without spilling very much. I developed a weary familiarity with the bumpy terrain between the trough and raised beds and this embodied knowledge along with a careful arrangement of the water bearing vessels in the barrow meant that what water did spill out was mostly caught in the wheelbarrow and that spill could be poured back into the cans or poured directly into the beds.

This experience of carting water might be the basis of an image to be included in a contribution to the 2012 Field Report (Field Study) from 'Field Study's Man in E17'.

Hives 4/11/12

Sunday also presented an opportunity to seize the warmth of the sun rays and make a quick inspection of the beehives in the apiary to find out how much honey the bees have managed to store in readiness for winter. So above is a short observation of bee activity at the hives at about 12.30pm. Each hive had been given a feed of specially treated sugar syrup 2 weeks prior to this inspection and I hoped the syrup would help boost the honey stores.

Hefting the hives indicated a surprising and encouraging increase in weight and opening them up very briefly allowed a glimpse of some frames fat with honeycomb - which, going by the weight, were likely to be more full than empty. The situation might be less dire than it seemed two weeks ago. This is also a time of year when beekeepers need to practise a form of water/moisture management as conditions in the hive can get very damp. If a colony of bees in a hive has approximately 20kg of stores it will, in the process of digesting those stores for energy, create around 20 litres/ 4 gallons of water. All that moisture can build up causing mould and increased susceptibility to disease. The beekeeper can make slight alterations to how the hive is put together which ensure increased ventilation and less build up of moisture.

It was several hours after making the inspection when I recalled having seen some wet patches in one of the hives. I judged the wet patches to be a consequence of the heavy rain and trusted that the changes we'd made to increase ventilation would deal with that dampness. It was with a distinctly uneasy feeling that it occurred to me the wooden hives might have been saturated - waterlogged - as they have not been treated and weather proofed for several years if at all. Might some of that weight, assumed to be of honey stores, actually have been of soaking wet wood?

This has set Field Study's Man in E17 to thinking about how the hives can be weather-proofed or shielded without disturbing the bees as well not compromising the ventilation.

waterlogged beehive?

My hopes are that the bees survive the winter and that next year does not see a re-occurrence of the weather we had this year; the unusual inclemency of the weather in early summer is recorded in stark terms in the Met' Office statistics.





I have been thinking about how these personal and sometimes shared pursuits fit in with other local initiatives to produce food sustainably. Some of this thinking involved going to Organiclea's recent event at the Hornbeam to mark, International Food Sovereignty Month - an introduction to that event is here.

The reflections on a growing season have also involved a return to an interest in artists who use food and food growing in their work - hence the reference (albeit flippant) to Victor Grippo.

I have also started reading, 'The End of Food' (Paul Roberts) which presents an in depth study (for a lay person) of the crisis in the global food economy. Robert's critique, so far as I have read, relies on a calorie based analysis of food production/productivity which might be used to judge anything I do via the allotment as being quite ineffective in terms of a viable local food culture. Future posts might see me try to present some locally based understanding of Robert's study, including a reflection on another presentation organised by Organiclea in which Simon Fairlie examined the desirability and sustainability of various sources of fat.   



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