Peterborough in Transition’s brand new brew club has kicked off in Birch tapping style. On Friday we went to a secret location to give the ancient art of Birch tapping a go. In the UK, you can tap both Birch and Lime trees for their sap which can be used for a variety of brewing uses, being a base for both beers and wine.
It’s an ancient technique; birch sap can makes a delicious tea or nourishing soft-drink. Boiled down to make a sweet syrup it can be used as a flavouring agent in sauces and marinades for meat, fish or in baking as an alternative to other sweeteners. In many countries, Birch syrup is used as an herbal medicine with antiseptic, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory properties.
As the cold weather extended right into the spring the sap was rising slightly later than usual, meaning that we would harvest it in mid-April. If you want more information there are a variety of guides on the web including this one: http://naturalpathways.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/how-to-tap-a-birch-tree/.
The brew club is really informal but if you would like to get involved then just email transitionpeterborough at gmail dot com. The next brew on the list is Dandelion champagne, followed by Japanese Knotweed beer…brewing can be a legitimate conservation activity after all!
On another drinking note, everyone is invited to come along to the monthly Green Drinks held at the Ostrich Inn. Details can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/535295789862084/.
On 13th April a group of us will be visiting Transition Heathrow. If you are interested in coming along then please get in touch via our usual email address (see the about page). This is the first of a series of visits we have planned for the year. We’re also hoping to visit Organic Lea, Nottingham, and planning a weekend trip to Manchester to visit Manchester Veg People.
We’ll be publishing more details of these and other events when dates and times are confirmed. Check our event calendar.
The February Peterborough in Transition meeting ad PECT was a very productive meeting one, with lots of ideas discussed. We decided to take up an offer from Chime Creation Centre as a place to host some meetings, and we decided that Chime would be a good place to hold film nights. We decided to meet from 7-9pm on the third Monday of the month. As well as showing a film we’ll have a discussion afterwards. The first film night was on Monday, and proved very enjoyable. I took along a freshly baked coffee and walnut cake (it was still in the oven at half past six!), and others brought vegetable crisps and biccies, and the discussion after the film was very lively, with subjects touched on including advertising, feminism, the price of baked beans, and how to find the time and energy to learn to make better choices when buying food and other stuff. If you’d like more information about future film nights then send an email to the address on our “about us” page.
We’re also having a short series of additional meetings to try to firm up a calendar of events for the remainder of 2013. Ben is looking into the possibility of holding a “Green Challenge week” with other local transition initiatives. The idea is that those taking part try to make radical changes to their lives for a week to get as close as they can to having no impact on the environment, and that we document the things that make it hard or impossible to achieve this.
We are also trying to engage with various “consultations” being held by Peterborough City Council. I went to a forum on our local bus services last night.
On Dec 12th PECT organised a public forum in the John Clare theatre on the subject of local food. The meeting was quite well attended, with PECT, the Green Backyard, and Peterborough in Transition all represented. As well as all these usual suspects there was a sizeable (and vocal) contingent from the Newborough Young Farmers club, as well as several other people involved in farming and other agricultural businesses. The meeting began with an outline of various ideas and targets from Ben Middleton, designed to increase the availability and consumption of locally grown food in Peterborough, with the long term goal of having the majority of Peterborough’s food locally grown by 2030. Ben also mentioned the idea of one planet living, pointing out that if everyone in the world lived like the average European we would need three planets, and noted that the world’s ever growing population would pose difficult challenges for farmers. Ben’s opening presentation was followed by a very lively discussion, with most of the audience having something to say. The YFC contingent emphasised how the loss of 900 acres of prime agricultural land to the proposed energy farm was hardly consistent with the goal of growing more of Peterborough’s food locally.
One of the attendees runs a local food website called BigBarn, which is a social enterprise aiming to help put producers and buyers of local food in touch with each other. The website has a local food map allowing users to find local food producers and retailers in their area. You can try it using the form on the right.
There was also discussion on what the council could do to help small independent food shops compete with supermarkets. One speaker pointed out that business rates for supermarkets were generally much lower (on a per square foot basis), then the rates paid by small shops, and that far more of our food was grown locally thirty or forty years ago than is now. I suggested that one possibility might be to charge lower rates to businesses based in Peterborough. A representative of the NFU stressed the need to set achievable short term goals, such as persuading schools and hospitals to use more locally grown fresh produce. The same speaker questioned whether a “local food mark” (analogous to FairTrade, Organic or Red Tractor logos) would be a good idea, pointing out that the work involved in satisfying the criteria for farm assurance schemes was often difficult for smaller farms. There was also a discussion about “Food Deserts”, and I questioned Ben’s claim that Peterborough had few such areas. Melanie pointed out that many poorer people lacked access to cars, and that most existing farm shops were inaccessible to many people. Someone expressed the wish to see a “local food hub” somewhere in Queensgate. Another topic was food waste, and how supermarket requirements for visually perfect fruit and vegetables meant that much of what farmers grow is difficult to sell.
At the end of the meeting Rich and I spoke to some of the Newborough YFC contingent, and invited them to send a representative to our February meeting. At least one of the YFC members is also planning to visit the Green Backyard in the near future, so useful links were made. Possibly the YFC had expected us to be keen supporters of the Energy Farm proposals, but I said that I did not think this was the case at all, and that we wanted to see things like solar panels sited in appropriate locations, not on land that is currently used to grow food.
The PinT family group met at the Green Backyard on Dec 2nd for an informal get together and swap event. Items that found proud new owners included DVDs, books and toys (Have you finished the cat jigsaw yet Charlie?) , Wellington boots, clothing and a wallet made from Zippy from Rainbow (which one of the children got to before I could ). There were quite a few children present, and I was pleased to see them enjoying playing with some vintage plastic meccano I took in. Later on the children enjoyed playing with a Peppa Pig game. There were scones (made with mincemeat instead of dried fruit), and some home made gingerbread too.
We met in the new GBY building, and it was the first time some of us had seen it. Meanwhile volunteers were continuing the job of taking down the old GBY buildings: the old kitchen was nearly gone, and the office/workshop building looks as though it will soon follow.
PinT members hunting for treasures at the Swap Event!
You can find more photos on the family group facebook page.