The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009
The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

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Friday, 30 June 2017

Norwegian lifestyle - training for refugees

The outdoors is an integral part of life for most Norwegians. A sparse population and some dramatic and accessible countryside means that many spend at least some of their free time hiking or skiing or hunting or just hanging out in the wild. There is a mountain hut in most families for indulging this passion.

Norway arrived in the 20th century as the poorest country in Europe; it arrived in the 21st century as the richest. From the early days of oil wealth it embraced a policy of cautious welcome to those in need from abroad. In the 1980s they offered free language classes to all-comers. My best friend from my Norwegian class was a lady from Sri Lanki, a nurse who wanted to do healthcare training in the UK. She found obstacles placed in her path there which did not exist in Norway.

30 years later they understand that free language classes is not enough to support incomers and a broader introduction to Norwegian culture is desirable.

The Norwegian Red Cross has some responsibility for the welfare of refugees. They run a program of mentoring - assigning local volunteers to support individuals and families with national cultural matters. They have also got together with  the 'Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi'), and DNT - The Norwegian (Walking) Tourist Association to run an annual event, called Til topps ("To the top"). This is designed to help promote integration work among asylum seekers, settled refugees and other immigrants living in Norway. 

Last year more than 1400 people joined for two days and topped out on the snowy peak of Norway's highest mountain Galdhøpiggen. This year's event starts on the 30th June.

In fact it starts many weeks before then as newcomers to mountain walking start training and acquiring the necessary equipment - waterproofs and footwear - to go out in the wild.

Last week I joined a training walk in Baerum, south of Oslo. The local DNT walking group augmented their program with a number of training walks for incomers. To join the Galdhøpiggen trip it was necessary to attend at least two training sessions and this was almost the last chance for those interested to meet this requirement.

The high point - top of Tjaeregrashogda

It doesn't always rain! Same spot, next day.

Spot the Norwegian!

 The next day I set out alone from a different direction arriving at the same area - this time in bright sunshine!
Utsikt means view ...
.. and here it is!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Composting Woodchip - it works!

 One of the old guard of UK organic farmers maintains his credential for the soil association by bringing on to the farm 'nothing but woodchip and certified organic seeds'.

Of course woodchip from trees grown elsewhere implies a gap in the sustainability profile, but the trees are from local domestic gardens and they are said to cover the needs for potting compost which would otherwise be another import to the farm.

This story came to me as I was cutting back some trees and hedges, so I thought I would give it a try! I was told the pile of tree chippings was turned every 3 or 4 months. And that after two years good compost was made.

So after just over two years you can see the result. It works!

The compost heap
 The picture of the compost heap in fact shows 3 ages of composting - the nearest are chippings from the last 6 months or so, while the middle of the heap has chips around 1 year old. The far end it the original pile that is 2+ years on the making.

After 2 years the insect life seems to have moved on
The oldest compost is strangely devoid of insects. While the more recent stuff is quite lively. Indeed watching a infra-red recording of it at night it seems to be in constant motion.

Sieve to make a fine potting compost or use as-is for mulching
What you see here can be sieved to make a fine-ish potting compost or used as-is in planting out as ground conditioning.

Incidentally mulching with uncomposted woodchip is likely to take valuable nitrogen away from plants it is protecting.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Plant Quiz! What is it?

I used to be keen on Chiltern Seeds bargain offers. They sell several types of 'anonymous mix' which provides a single packet of a thousand or more seeds such as perennials or annuals. Then they sell a 'non-anonymous mix' which provides 5 or 10 packets of their choosing.

One of the latter, I think gave me a packet of potent seeds which I planted more than a year ago. In autumn this bed showed a crowd of healthy looking plants which zoomed up in spring to provide this spectacular show.

Of course, they're overcrowded despite some thinning out, but what are they? I've been through my records of seeds bought and I cannot find any name which googles to reveal something like this.

What is it? Taken in April

Now in the second half of May the flowers are almost finished, leaving this light green sprays of stems which, I guess, will eventually by covered with seeds.

What is it? taken in late May
It was always a thrill when these seeds arrived - particularly the non-anonymous packets. White packets with a Latin name typed on the front gave no clue about what might eventually appear from a successful germination.

These often included some strange plant indeed -  a 'blue sausage' plant from China was one which sticks in my mind, and rare cyclamens from Palestine. Sometimes there would be several packets of tree seeds - from Scandinavia, the Alps, or Australia. Sometimes germination would require repeated sessions of refrigeration to simulate winter time. Sometimes there'd be several packets of seeds of familiar or unfamiliar local wild flowers which would germinate quite easily.

They counsel waiting at least two years before giving up on a seed. I found by then my label had fallen off or faded and become invisible. Many trays and modules by the second year were germinating local weeds. One tray was strangely full of beech tree seedlings, handily just when I needed to replace a hedge - but none of the packets I had bought had been labelled 'beech'.

After several years my thrill is tempered by a weariness. A packet has so many seeds in it and some of the more exotic ones need special care. Very quickly I found I had a job of unmanageable proportions keeping hundred of plants and their different requirement clear and separated in my mind.

Much easier to buy just one or two packets and concentrate on those, and then bulk buy the rest ready growing from a garden centre.