I guess June is a month for love if the number of March babies is anything to go by… and I should know, being a March baby myself. Yes, it’s my birthday today, and I was woken up by R with a lovely mug of tea and a bag full of pretty parcels – I am a very lucky gal! I won’t be celebrating till the weekend when we’ll be travelling to my beloved Dorset coast for a weekend of coastal walks, birdwatching and cosy nights in. And before that I have the daytime celebration of another birthday gal tomorrow so it’s birthdaytastic right now – which makes a wonderful break from the mundane chores I’ve been struggling with this past fortnight.
What have I been up to? One of the more exciting things I’ve been working hard on is setting up a new venture which better reflects another aspect of myself – the side that loves the fantastical, that loves the grit of urban existence – I may love nature but there are reasons that I live in a city and I want to celebrate them! The Birds In The Meadow has been slightly neglected as a result but I’ll be back writing and crafting up a storm in time for spring. I can’t wait.
Let’s not forget there’s another March birthday girl in blogland…at Earth to Holly!
Last Saturday I was lucky enough to get invited to help run a seed bomb workshop at Haringay Independence Day. It was a perfect sunny summer day and we had our hands dirty for most of it, as well as getting to attend other workshops, jam sessions, swap gardening knowledge and give and get stuff for free. But let’s cut to the chase; what on earth is a seed bomb?
A seedbomb is a convenient way of sowing seed on derelict land in the hope of improving the environment either aesthetically, or by improving the soil, by encouraging native wildflowers or even planting vegetables or other edible goodies. Seed bombing probably came out of the Community Garden Movement that sprung up in New York in the 1970′s, when ordinary people decided to do something positive about the derelict land that blighted the city’s heart. They planted clandestine gardens in vacant lots, utilising seed bombs as a start when access to the desired land was proving difficult. New Yorkers were not the first to practice the creative art of Guerilla Gardening which has a venerable history wherever derelict land and human need have coincided, but seed bombing was a technique the New Yorkers made their own. So, what makes a good seed bomb, and why is it a “bomb” exactly?
A seedbomb consists of three things – the seeds, a pinch of peat free compost or topsoil, and the outer bomb casing for want of a better description. In our demonstration we used London clay for this, which is perfect because it’s free (If you live in London you just dig down a metre or so beyond all the builders rubble and crap and there it is, a rich seam of beautiful clay) and also because when it’s dry, it becomes brittle and shatters easily. If you do not have a local clay soil, you can use newspaper pulped in a blender to make papier mache mixture instead. I guess you could even use a mixture of flour and water…
So, you need:-
- Clay or papier mache
- a small amount of rich topsoil or peat free compost
- seeds of your choice
- a bit of paper to wrap each seedbomb in
Grab a lump of clay or papier mache about the size of a golf ball or a little smaller, and roll it into a ball. Next, poke your finger hard into the clay or papier mache until you’ve made a hole. Then, put a small pinch of your topsoil or compost into the hole… it only needs to be a tiny amount. Now you are ready to add your seeds – you can mix up your flower varieties if you like but a favourite seed bomb flower of mine is poppies. Once you’ve tucked the seeds into the hole, close it up by smoothing clay over the hole or adding more papier mache, and roll the ball in your hands again to make it round. Then put your seedbomb somewhere safe to dry, like a sunny window ledge.
Make as many as you like! When your seedbomb is completely dry, it is ready to use.
How do I use it? And you still haven’t explained why it’s a bomb!
Well, seed grenade is probably a more appropriate name, since what you are going to do is throw your seedbomb on the ground really hard in order to make it shatter. In the act of shattering, your seeds and their little bit of nutrient soil are dispersed much better than if you tried to sow them by hand and it’s much less fiddly… you can plant hundreds of seeds on the move and in an instant – you don’t even have to break your stride! So once your papier mache or clay balls are completely dry, put them in a bag in your pocket and go out looking for targets.
Where should I seedbomb? Any small neglected patch of land. Be creative in your choices! The dirt around a street tree might be a good place, or the long grass near some railings where the mower can never reach, or a neglected municipal flower bed. Grass verges around car parks that need brightening up. Traffic islands and roadside verges are great fun to seedbomb from a bicycle and the extra speed means they explode all the better! If you don’t have time to tend your garden – throw some down there!
Is there anywhere I shouldn’t seedbomb? Seedbombing is best done in neglected places frequented by humans – nature reserves or wild places should not be seedbombed! They may have delicate ecosystems that could get disrupted by introducing new plants.
What kind of seed should I use? Plants that don’t need a lot of looking after are best. If you just want to add a splash of colour to a neglected spot I would always recommend poppies. Poppies are a seedbombers friend because they thrive in neglected soil and wherever you live in the world there will probably be a native species of poppy you can use seeds from, so you are helping wildlife too! In fact, using native wildflowers is always better, because they don’t need looking after and will not create a pest problem. In the UK I’d recommend looking for a wildflower meadow mix as these will contain beautiful colourful plants that will do well in poor soil and with no extra effort once sown.
It didn’t shatter properly! Don’t worry, you can help it on it’s way by crushing the seedbomb underfoot if you can get to it; the weather, passing animals and insects will probably finish the dispersal for you. If it’s at least got a good crack running through it do nothing; the next time it rains the water will split it apart and disperse it naturally.
But what if my seeds grow and the council comes along and mows everything up, that would be horrible! The trick is be prolific in your seedbombing and don’t be too precious – of all the millions of seeds created by nature only the tiniest percentage survive to become thriving plants and for whatever reason this may well be true of your seed bomb babies. Don’t be downhearted… keep trying! Even if only a few plants make it you’ve brightened the world a tiny bit. There is a lovely saying – “If I knew the world would end tomorrow I would plant an apple tree today”.
We made hundreds of seedbombs on Saturday, and there was a handful left over that nobody took away. I’m going to look out for suitable sites to bomb and report back when I’m done!
It’s my birthday today, and I wasn’t going to mention it at all but then my lovely R woke me this morning with a cup of tea, a big grin and a small pile of presents, all from him. I thought I’d share as the gifts he chose say a lot about how well he knows me – and a lot about me too I guess.
First up… The Essential Leonard Cohen …this is long overdue! What little Leonard Cohen I have is on ancient cassette tape, and as at least two of his songs reduce me to tears in an embarrassingly pavlovian fashion it’s amazing it’s taken this long to get it on a decent format. I know it’s a compilation but it has all my favourites and hey, with such a prolific artist where do you begin? I can’t wait to put this on, set my stopwatch and see how many seconds it takes before my eyes start leaking. I have no idea why the tears are so predictable, I always fight them (a losing battle) and I have heard the music so often that the initial shiver of unfamiliar beauty has long faded, but it still catches me out every time.
Next, The Snow Leopard, a book I have long known about and yet… as with the Leonard Cohen, how did this one get away? Generally with natural history writing I prefer intimate tales told by people exploring familiar surroundings, I often find writing that relies on an exotic location to give it weight tiresome. However this classic tale has always appealed, and if friends who have read it before me know anything, I have some beautiful prose and observations on the natural world through a Buddhist perspective to look forward to. I’m filled with anticipation at the thought of reading this.
Finally, That’s Entertainment! The Complete Collection is a glorious slew of thousands of clips from old MGM musicals, I know it’s cheesy but I LOVE it! This one’s for pulling the duvet onto the sofa on a cold wet Sunday afternoon and singing along to the best bits from The Wizard Of Oz, On The Town and Singin’ In The Rain. I am a closet fan of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, which can often startle those who only know me by my love of old punk and other noisy, aggressive artforms.
And finally, that plastic clockwork fish. Is it so wrong to find a bit of painted plastic so amusing? Yes, yes it certainly is, but I can’t help it. What fun! Time I got in the bath to try it out, so again top marks to R for knowing EXACTLY what I needed for my birthday.
A little over a week ago London was under a foot of snow with a promise of more to come, and everyone and his/her dog cheerfully bunked off to go out and enjoy it. The extra snow failed to materialise here (though it did in other parts of the country) and what snow we had was gone all too soon, but the carnival atmosphere on that snowy hill won’t be forgotten by me in a hurry.
R and I walked to Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath in a thick flurry of snow, visibility was poor and we didn’t get the hoped for view from there of the whole of London in its snowy blanket. Still, we did have the fun of playing together with strangers in the snow - snowball fights, screaming chaos on improvised sledges made from tea trays, dustbin lids, estate agents sighnboards and more than one bathtub sent hurtling down the slopes to rowdy shrieks and cheers. Anyway enough words, check out the film and pictures… there’s more to come.
Those of us on the chillier side of the world might find it hard to imagine the terrible events taking place in Australia. We are lucky that the worst so many of us are having to deal with right now is a little snow. Please, if you can, donate to the Red Cross Australian Bushfires Appeal.
Come and meet The Birds In The Meadow in London next weekend and get a whole new wardrobe for free! The Birds In The Meadow has been invited to be part of Visa Swap’s second clothes swapping event held in Covent garden Piazza on 19th & 20th July 10am – 6pm. How does it work? Donate clothes and accessories (in good clean wearable condition, of course). When you drop-off your pieces you will receive a special Visa Swap card loaded with points relevant to what you have dropped which you can use at the final event. That’s when the fun begins – you can then “buy” anything you like as long as you have enough points! There isn’t much time left to drop off your clothes, so if you want to take part you can donate at :-
- 13th July 12 – 6pm No.1 The Piazza, Covent Garden, London, WC2
- 13th July 2pm – 4pm Visa Swap Van Outside Hammersmith Traid, 119 Kings Street, Hammersmith, London
- 18th July 12 – 4pm Final Drop-off at No.1 The Piazza, Covent Garden, London, WC2
You can only take part if you have donated so don’t forget to check your wardrobes and make the drop-offs! The swapping fun commences on the 19th-20th July.
- Final swap week, No.1 The Piazza, Covent Garden, London, WC2 19th & 20th July 10am – 6pm
The Birds In The Meadow will be there along with a whole bunch of other up and coming designers at the Visa Swap Market, eager and ready to fulfill your environmentally friendly accessory needs. You don’t want to miss out on this, so get digging around in your wardrobes and come and join in!