I love having a little heap of compost in a corner of the garden. This morning I went out and threw some vegetable peelings on, turned the heap inside out and breathed in sweet warm composting air. It brought me back to the 90’s when there was a F_____ family mushroom growing business   and bags of  prepared compost would arrive on a lorry in bags which I’d smell. That same smell 20 yrs later.
There was a moment this morning when I just looked at my compost heap and felt content with the world. That doesn’t happen that often so I wanted to note it down. What is it about the compost heap that made me feel so content?
Well it is a sign that death and decay isn’t necessarily the end. There is life in decay as well. The rotting vegetables will decay and in a few months I will put it back into the soil to help grow new vegetables.Tomorrow’s fresh green lettuce and leeks will be nurtured by today’s rotting vegetables and grass. There is the promise of resurrection and new life in death and decay. A moment of contentment.

vegetable stock supply chain


This is all theory being a man without a garden but I was wondering how much land would it take to grow all the vegetable stock I need for a year based on simple stock recipe in River Cottage Everyday.
I reckoned that roughly 6-7sq.m might do it but was wondering about the celery as I’ve heard it’s a bit of devil to grow. Then I remembered the old soup celery as it’s called here in Northern Ireland, or leaf celery you see in veg soup packets in Spar. So I’d probably try growing a patch of that and keeping a few bay trees.

instead of bowling clubs

Sometimes I imagine loads of Presbyterian churches equipped with nice homely (but not expensive) dining rooms and a lounge for lazy Sunday afternoons (instead of drafty halls) and big pots of soup made from vegetables grown on the gardens that used to be their lawns (or from land donated by a church member with spare land).
When it came to dishes time everyone washed them in a relaxed way not eager to rush home, and the men would be in the kitchen just as much as the women. There would not be someone trying to rush the people out of the hall because he had to lock up and wanted to go home. The last person out can lock up.
If there was soup left over it could be frozen and given to people who are sick or poor, there would be boxes of vegetables to distribute to the needy or just for people in church.

we have to farm Eden

‘Today’s global food economy, with its lengthy distribution networks traversing continents and oceans, makes it difficult for eaters to know the places and communities that produce and prepare food. Having so little direct contact with food’s context’s – the fields and waters, livestock crates and pens, the factories and distribution centers, worker communities and restaurants – it is next to impossible for us to act in ways that would promote the good of any place or community’
Norman Wirzba, Food & Faith, A Theology of Eating

It can tie your head in knots to think that each time you eat something there is some specific place somewhere on planet earth that had to grow that food,
(or the things that make up that food)
with very specific fellow human beings doing the farming and either treating creation with respect and love or else treating it badly.
It can tie your head in knots and so why would we even bother thinking about stuff like that? Why not just be thankful you have enough to eat and get on with living life as best you can.

I often do and my default setting is just to consume uncritically, to munch my way through a Mars Bar as I rush from one thing to the next. Yet at other times a sense of unease comes upon me. Because I eat I ‘m involved with agriculture and farming, and so are you. You are responsible for farming.

This can of tinned rice had to be farmed in different nameless places throughout the planet

It’s an incredibly complex journey from farm to my mouth (without even considering the packaging) so I won’t even try or else I might drive myself crazy.
Yet surely few things (if anything) are as fundamental to humanity to eating, which also means that few things are as fundamental as farming to human beings.
This is something which we have completely forgotten in our culture. We know that we have to eat but we don’t seem to realise or have lost sight of the fact that we are dependent on the farmer to grow our food. Right now you are completely dependent on the fact that someone, somewhere is growing your next meal. Farming and agriculture matter, they matter  more than the Man Utd game or ipad 3 or Google or nearly anything else.
And because we eat and depend on the farmer (who depends on grace and things he ultimately can’t control) we also depend on taking care of the earth like we were designed to do in Eden.
If we’re serious about looking after creation we need to support good farmers and those gardeners who use sustainable practices, even if that means much more work on our part in doing research and paying more for our food. We also need to stop supporting those who use destructive practices.

With most of our mass produced food  it’s nearly impossible to know if you have acted in a way that has promoted the good of the communities and places it has come from. So we need to go looking for good farmers who we trust, (or grow as much as we can ourselves) which means more work for us but is the sort of thing we probably should do more off if we’re trying to reflect that idea in Genesis of tending the garden of Eden.


it can’t go on forever

‘Petroleum, perhaps the single most important input in modern food production (it serves both as a fuel for tractors and transportation and as the chemical base for fertilizers and pesticides), is gradually becoming so scarce and expensive that many of the assumptions underlying a global industrial food system are now in question. Nearly everything about the way our food system has developed over the last half century – from our ability to manufacture fertility to our capacity to move food to import-dependent nations – could not have occurred without cheap energy, and the degree to which that system can continue in a world of high energy prices is a frightening unknown.’
Paul Roberts, The End of Food

pig/church calculation?

This is only a rough guess to try and get a  rough figure but how many pigs  would we need to supply approx. 200 church families with all their pig related goods for a year?

And how much land would that use?

I’m assuming that a church would want to do right by the pigs and treat them in a nice, ethical way which would mean not factory farming them. We would want to give them plenty of space to rummage and roll about in the muck.

From here and here I am taking a figure of ~40kg of pig per person in the church, which would give us a figure of 100kg or more of pig per family per year. (Yet that’s suggests that a family eats about 2kg of pig per week?!That couldn’t be right could it??)

According to the website the average weight of a slaughtered pig  in Ireland was  about 73kg.

But as we know you can’t eat everything in the slaughtered pig, like bones and hair so we have to adjust that into approx usuable meat.

This leaflet from Oklahoma suggests that only about 57% of meat makes it from ‘pen to pan’.

That would give us 41kg of  usuable meat per person (57% of 73kg) from every Irish pig slaughtered which is almost the same as ~40kg of pig per person that we eat per year, or 3 pigs per family per year.

Yet that seems like too much to me. There is no way I eat that amount of pig meat a year. Do you?

So I’m going to say that 2 pigs per family in church  which would work out at very roughly 400 pigs for slaughter per year. And then there is the mother pigs.

From this website

‘Sows usually produce two litters of between nine and 12 piglets each year, which are weaned at four weeks before being placed in one of the finishing paddocks.’

So taking a rough figure of each sow producing 20 pigs each year, that would leave us with at least 20 sows as well as her children, our future sausage and bacon.

Different figure I’ve read and am too tired to quote such as this one say that you can keep about 6-10 sows and their litter per acre, so that is anything from 2 – 3.3acres,
plus the land that you would be resting after the pigs have been kept on it and dug it up,
plus the land you would need to grow the feed for the pigs to fatten them for slaughter.

beetroot/church calculation

how much land would we need to grow enough beetroot to provide a church with 200 families with a bunch every 2weeks for 6 months of the year?Beetroot might not be overly popular and grows quite close together so we might not need to use much of the farm to supply enough beetroot.

A bunch =  ~ big 4 beetroot
Beetroot spaced every 4in = 1 bunch per ft

Number of bunches needed = 26weeks (half a year) / 2 = 13 bunch per family

13 x 200 = 2600 bunch of beetroot

Area needed = very roughly 3000 square ft