ENJOYABLE VISIT TO SONAIRTE, LAYTOWN, TO TALK ABOUT GROWING FOOD – FOURTH WEEK IN NOVEMBER 2010

Speaking at Sonairte

Last Sunday in spite of the snow, I sallied forth to take up an invitation to speak at the Christmas Fair in Sonairte, the National Ecology Centre in Laytown, Co Meath. Some wonderful food and crafts supported by the brave members of the public which included Ian Lumley of An Taisce and James Nix, writer on sustainability issues and broadcaster.

VOICE, the environmental organisation had a very good display there too, explaining the way our food supply depends on a huge use of fossil fuels. On average, for every 1 calorie of food we consume, we require 10 calories of fossil fuel energy. So unless we revolutionise the way we feed ourselves, the queues at petrol pumps will be overshadowed by food riots.

The fossil fuel energy embodied in our modern food production requires more debate if humanity is to survive. Talk of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources are a start whereas throw away remarks I hear such as ‘something will turn up’ are too flippant to be seriously considered.

The scale of the energy/food challenge is illustrated best by trying to imagine a store of solar energy in a very hot world. Between 360 and 286 million years ago, (the Carboniferous Period) the conditions existed to turn dead plants and animals on land and in the sea, into mineral oil, gas and coal. In the last couple of generations we have used most of the easily accessed fossil fuels which resulted from that 74 million years of solar energy.

Apart from not having any more cheap fossil fuel in years to come, the burning of this ‘ancient energy store’ is re-creating the hot atmosphere and extreme climate of the Carboniferous Period, a period too hot for humans or even for dinosaurs.

At a time when people feel let down and disempowered, growing food to save on money and fossil fuel use and growing trees to lock up the airborne carbon and provide fruit and timber, are practical measures to create a better world than the one into which we were born.

Right now the time is right to collect leaves for leaf-mould. Fill up a few plastic sacks, punch in some air holes, and store away for a year or two. After a year the leaves have broken down enough to be used as a weed free mulch on the permanent beds, where roses and asparagus grow etc. If the ground is not frozen, this is a good time to divide rhubarb crowns. When I get a chance, I’ll be pruning the apple tree and blackcurrants in this dormant season.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Margaret Costello on December 1, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Dear Mr. Sargent, I just heard of your blog in the Irish Times last Saturday. I’m glad to have found it as I’d like to grow edibles, but my experience has been that slugs ate anything I put down during the first night after I planted it! I know Sonairte and was there last week to get root artichokes for soup. I visited earlier in September and was told they’d have them. Hard to find, and as you know, nothing like the creamy soup they make. I get them from a grower in Drogheda Market but he hasn’t had them for a year or two. I’ll

    Reply

  2. Posted by Margaret Costello on December 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Dear Mr. Sargent, I just heard of your blog in the Irish Times last Saturday. I’m glad to have found it as I’d like to grow edibles, but my experience has been that slugs ate anything I put down during the first night after I planted it! I know Sonairte and was there last week to get root artichokes for soup. I visited earlier in September and was told they’d have them. Hard to find, and as you know, nothing like the creamy soup they make. I get them from a grower in Drogheda Market but he hasn’t had them for a year or two. I’ll study your blog preparing for next year in all this snow! Thanks, Margaret

    Reply

    • Dear Margaret,
      I have a slug problem too. Late night patrols with a torch are essential to dispatch as many as I can find. Barriers like dry clear paths, egg shells, beer traps, lines of wood ash etc are a help. I’ve not gone for ducks YET. As with weeding, one has to keep up the routine to prevent slugs becoming overwhelming. I hardly ever sow directly, except for potatoes and carrots. This means seedlings are robust enough when planted to withstand the odd nibble from a clug or snail.

      As for artichoke, this veg is a bit too big a plant for my small garden, but Kathy Marsh in Sonairte would be a good person to advise.

      Happy planning and growing,

      Trevor Sargent TD

      Reply

    • Thanks for comment Margaret. I hand pick slugs at night with a torch. If you remove as many hiding places for slugs, persistence pays off. Regards. Trevor Sargent

      Reply

    • Hi Margaret,

      If you want root artichokes, I am selling them at the Sonairte produce stall in Balbriggan Fish and Farmers’ Mkt on George’s Square on each Friday morning, 9 am to 2pm. I too love the soup they make.

      Happy growing,
      Trevor Sargent

      Reply

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