We are pleased to announce that the talented photographer Jonathan Goldberg has published a book which documents life at Grow Heathrow since it’s beginning back in 2010 all the way through to today.
Recently some Grow Heathrow residents paid a visit to a small scale farmer in South Wales to see what he’s been doing in the way of reversing the cycle of releasing carbon into the atmosphere by actually locking into the ground.
The first thing you see when you get there is his teeming one acre no dig annual vegetable plot. He combines alleys of perennials, including trees, with annual crops grown on 100metre long raised beds. The tree roots go deep into the soil, retrieving otherwise ‘lost’ nutrients. They also encourage symbiotic fungae which remain present when the annuals have been harvested. The trees will provide food crops and fuel for his biochar producing stove systems.
Just beyond the no dig agro-forestry garden is another field, currently grazed by horses with a small orchard forest garden and two poly-tunnels at the southern side. He plans to plant this field as a larger forest garden with willow and hazel coppice and other food and fuel tree crops which will also increase carbon draw down. These trees will be planted on the berm (the downhill side) of swales (water retaining landscapes) and it is hoped that, through creating these wetlands, some of the carbon drawn down by the trees will be stabilised in the soil.
In his home and in various guest and worker accommodation buildings and caravans, the heating and cooking is done using indoor wood burning stove systems which use pyrolisis rather than combustion to burn the volatile component of wood, leaving the biochar unburnt. This has the effect of stabilising much of the carbon in the wood, preventing it from readily decomposing when it is added to soil. The biochar is used on the stable floors, the chicken coop floor or added to composting organic matter in order to nutritionally activate the biochar before it is added to the soil.
Ed Revill is working towards closing the loop of his food and fuel crop cycle. More than closing the loop, he does the reverse of food and energy systems which release carbon dioxide into the sky. This he does in two ways; firstly by optimising carbon draw down through optimising plant surface areas and growth rates and secondly by stabilising some of the carbon which the plants have drawn down, making it resistant to bacterial and other decomposition and holding it in the soil. this in turn builds soil and improves soil structure.
He has been using conventional organic farming methods since 1997, using horses to ridge up the soil and hoe the weeds, but now he has turned to preserving the soil structure through using no dig raised beds which have biochar incorporated into the mulch material. The biochar helps to stabilise much of the organic matter used as the mulch through which crops are grow, saving work, conserving precious resources (the organic matter) and reducing run off and atmospheric pollution.
By adding the biochar to the mulch, the soil builds up because the biochar (which is around 95% carbon) will not readily decompose. It has a massive surface area and strong adsorptive properties which enable it to hold nutrients and encourage micro organisms such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungae (AMF) which have a symbiotic relationship with crops and which help to build soil aggregates. Biochar has been found to dramatically increase the CEC (cation exchange capacity) of soil. This enables the electrical bonding of soil components (adsorption) which further builds soil aggregates.
Tilling or disturbing the soil can disturb the symbiotic fungal networks and destroy the aggregate properties of the soil. The symbiotic fungae (AMF) also produce a form of stabilised carbon called glomalin. This carbon is given to the fungae by plants and in return the fungae bring nutrients to the plant roots. Glomalin acts to bind particles in the soil to create soil structure with strong aggregate properties, soil which retains water, nutrients and fertility and which is resistant to erosion and decomposition.
The inspiration for using biochar to build soil whilst reversing the causes of climate change came from studies of Terra Preta, (Portugese for ‘black earth’), a man made soil found in much of the Amazon basin. This soil supported a large, settled civilisation. This is an important discovery because this civilisation grew as a result of the practice of building soil through stabilising carbon in soil. This is the reverse of our ‘civilisations’ practice of burning fossil fuels and degrading soil, releasing carbon dioxide into the sky, in order to produce food and energy.
Our agro industrial system is failing. It relies on burning fossil fuels, it degrades soil, releasing soil carbon which contributes to climate change which in turn further degrades soil. It relies on land grabs, deforestation and transgenic technologies. If we continue to discourage small scale, soil building, climate change reversing systems of food and energy production through the massive tax payer subsidies to the fossil fuel and agro industrial corporations and through buying food and energy from corporations which destroy soil, burn oil and pollute the Earth then we will inevitably continue to destroy the biosphere.
Inspired by this form of agriculture, some residents at Grow Heathrow have added these tools to it’s array of features, and is producing biochar using a gassifying wood burner and adding it to the mulch. We also have a new willow coppice for the production of fuel to be used in it, as well as drawing carbon out of the atmosphere. Come visit to see how the system works.
To find out more and to see plans for making biochar producing stoves please visit www.soil-carbon-regeneration.co.uk
Come and help build a 17 foot (5.1816m)! Geodome at Grow Heathrow. The workshop will run for a week from Friday 6th Dec.
We’ll be using a unique design that innovates the geodome structure for ease of assembly. This design incorporates a new star connection method that enables just one person to construct. Laying out the cover over the stars means that the cover will be already in place as the geodome is erected. Possibly included in the course will be waterproof seam sewing techniques and dome canvas sewing if we have time. The course will be limited in numbers to 4 persons each day so please email in advance to let us know your availability and interest so we can maximise participants.
Geodomes are based on triangular geometry and were popularised by Buckmeister Fuller. They are predominantly used for earthquake relief due to their intrinsic strength at intersecting joints, this makes it an ideal solution for earthships, which this model is intended.
We will be using recycled metal poles from the dilapidated greenhouses we have on site. Geodomes are one of the most versatile structures available; they are scalable and can be made into any size you wish, you can use all sorts of materials available, and can be used for all sorts of applications, and they can also be joined together.
We will be using a 3V design, which means it has 3 different size pole lengths. It also has the option of a 4/9 or 5/9 variant, which alows the dome to have 2 different heights, either less than or bigger than half a sphere.
Hope to see you budding eco builders on the week of the 6th.
We have an exciting new week to finish the roof of our wonderful straw bale house. It’s a whole insulated barn built out of waste, where all we’ve spent is £80 on some sand for the mixture of clay, sand and straw that protects the outside of the straw bales.
The local building materials make the environmental impact and embodied energy tiny, and the insulation means we need to burn much less wood to heat the space. It’s a brilliant buiding to learn about.
See http://www.madepossiblebysquatting.co.uk/ for more info, including an outline of all the upcoming events.
Reblogged from 195marestreet.wordpress.com:
Right now we’ve got a great vibe going on, everyone sitting outside listening to chill music; the free shop is on display and we’re cooking up vegan burgers. Lots of people have been coming in to see what we’re up to and grabbing some stuff from the free shop – everything for free, they can’t always believe it.
We’ll be doing the same tomorrow, letting people see that we’re here and that we want to do something positive for the community. So many people are keen to start running their own workshops and start making use of this amazing unused and abandoned space. We can’t wait either.
Join us on Thursday for lots of free food on the BBQ, popcorn, music, bubble show and lots more. We’ll also be having our free shop outside so come and get yourself some freebies.
Earlier on in the day we found 3 men knocking at our door. They told us they were contracted to come on Thursday and knock down the walls of the building, pull out the floor boards and pull out the plaster from the walls. One guy became the ‘owner’ and said that he was going to knock down the building so he could build luxury apartments. The land registry is yet to be updated with who the new owner is, and if its only just been sold there in no way that they have been granted planning permission to do anything. The building cannot be knocked down or damaged because of this, and there has yet to be an owner who has been willing to invest in restoring this beautiful building.
We’re not sure how they intend on damaging a listed building to build flats without planning permission; there is nothing on the planning register that states any planning works to 195 Mare street at present. While this building is being left to rot away, we intend on making as positive use of this space as possible. Come and join us and make this an amazing space for everyone
Grow Heathrow is looking for bike mechanics to help run our weekly bike workshop. It’s just a few hours in the afternoon. We can move the day of the workshop to a day that suits you best. Please contact us or drop by if you or anyone you know is interested.
Also any donations of allen bolts would be wonderful, as we’re quite low
Come to Grow Heathrow on Saturday 6th of July from 2pm – 6pm to make your very own costume for the Hayes Carnival procession.
Exploring ways to recycle textiles and clothes creatively, the theme of this year’s carnival is Hayes, past, present and future.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07890751568.
The highlight of the Transition Heathrow year is coming up on Saturday 13th July – that’s right, it’s Hayes Carnival time!
We’re incredibly proud and honoured by our past awards for best float and best eco-float. This year’s going to be the best yet. You’ll have to see it to believe it.