Tag Archives: hemp

Coed Hills magic and more hemp

Wind turbine Coed Hills ++

What is it about living outdoors that feels so good?

Last weekend I was camping on a Welsh hill outside Cardiff.

End of September autumn solstice and time for a mini-festival at Coed Hills, the off-the-grid 20-strong arts community.

A fine excuse to live outdoors in a festive atmosphere with 200 other people with similar interests: music, healing, eco-education, meditation and other forms of consciousness-raising and eating delicious healthy mostly organic vegetarian food.

Coed meal after sauna

I went to some great talks including from BBC5.tv, saw The Age of Stupid, and gave two writing workshops myself, sitting in a yurt with talented students.

And followed the art trail in the 100-acre woods.

Indian summer autumn light but unseasonable climate-change warmth.

Being close to nature seems to open my heart. It hurts to take stock of our wasteful world.

But here at Coed Hills, people are living the dream, putting planet-saving sustainable ideas into action.

I loved the compost loos where poo is not flushed away to join our water supply but will go to feed the soil, and the willow reed beds that clean the site’s waste water.

Inspiringly, the site runs on sustainable energy including the wind turbine (see pic above) that presides over us.

Festivals are green networking cities – if not synchroni-cities.

Or just good timing.

Before leaving, I don my hat as hemp ambassadress and present a packet of Amaru Hempower porridge to the Coed community.

Richard, the cook from Lost Horizons, and Coed communard, says I must meet Derek.

Soon – in festival-chaos style – I am sitting next to Derek Bielby, hemp consultant, on a deckchair in front of an open fire between the wooden sauna and a teepee.

Hemp keeps crossing my path, first at Shambala and then at The Organic Food Festival.

Incredibly nutritious, hemp is also perfectly suited to the UK climate.

Fast-growing , it is ready for harvest after 100-days of growth – and good for the land.

Hemp is super-sustainable – growing hemp for paper gives four times the yield than trees, Derek told me.

It also has many uses including for eco-building, paper and textiles.

As Derek showed me:

The many uses of hemp

1. In the plastic bag on the left: the woody chips, or hurd.

2.The thing that looks like a round goat’s cheese? That, and the fibrous block it sits on, is hempcrete.

Forget the C02 criminal of the building world – use hempcrete instead.

3. Above are squares of hemp felt, a natural fibre. No more toxic fibres when you insulate a roof.

4. Next to the hemp felt, a ‘log’ of hemp waste for burning – this could be used to power the on-farm hemp-processing machine, or primary processor. Talk about sustainable.

5. ‘Woodchip’ made from hemp with a garden pot made of hemp. Plus boards of resin, also made from hemp. And swatches of hemp fabric.

I did not want to leave the magical world of Coed (pronounced coid, Welsh for wood ) where you live outdoors, treading the ground unmediated by cement,  and lit at night by fires and candlelight.

But I did.

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Hemp porridge and membrillo

Amaru hemp porridge with membrillo

Above pic represents synchronicity and sustainability  – and a comforting, tasty and easy-peasy way to get top nutrition. Just add water…

I also dolloped on membrillo – recipe below. It’s nice with something a bit sweet such as sultanas.

Synchronicity: I went to Shambala and got so turned on by hemp porridge, it became the subject of my last post.

Two weeks later, I am at The Organic Food Festival – the after-festival party to be precise at Berwick Lodge, Christopher Wicks’ new fab place – when I find myself talking to what turns out to be:

Rebekah Shaman, founder and director of Amaru Hemp.

Oooooh, I like Rebekah. Right from the start, she plunges me into different worlds with her words for instance about her time as The Shaman’s Last Apprentice in the Amazon.

She also gives me the lowdown on the nutritional powers of hemp:

  • 19% protein (meat is 30%)
  • easily absorbed globular protein (must find out what globular means)
  • every known omega, with omega 3 and 6 ideally balanced
  • every known amino acid
  • every known essential fatty acid.

One conversation leads to another and soon we realise we were linked in a myriad of different ways, culturally, socially etc.

I am taking this seriously (in an excited way): Amaru organic Hempower and me may have some work to do together in the future. Watch this space.

As for The Organic Food Festival 2009 – wow. Hot brilliant sunshine, old friends, new friends, people trading in a wholesome, future-proof, sustainable ventures – no wonder the atmosphere was elated and connections were buzzing.

I was on The Source stall with my darling editor, Dr Rachel Fleming. We shared it with the renewable energy specialists, Kaieteur, and organic soap makers, Flo and Us, both from Sidmouth.

Also sharing our marquee was James Bond (yes, that is his name) of the Avon Organic Group – his organic damsons were a talking/ tasting point for the crowds.

James Bond, Avon Organic Group at The Source stall

James gave me some beautiful quince, and this week I made membrillo for the first time, with a recipe from the Avon Organic Group. Here it is (+ my comments).

1. Quarter quince, leaving core, skin, pips intact. Add just enough water for quince to float. Simmer 1 hour or more, or until it reduces to a smooth pulp.

2. Sieve to remove pips and skin.

I am afraid I got fed up of unsatisfactory sieving (and it was midnight when I started). So I blended the whole lot, skin, pips and all. As a result it did not have that pale pink translucency of traditional membrillo – but it packed more of a nutritional punch and tasted richer and denser. (And was less fiddly).

Making membrillo 1

3. Add sugar to equal weight of sieved pulp, or at least 3/4 of weight.

Not being a sugar-freak, I used 1lb 6oz rapadura sugar to 1lb 12oz of fruit. Apologies for imperial measures – this often happens when I cook.

4. Simmer for 1-2 hours or until it has reduced to a thick pulp and darkened considerably. Stir to avoid sticking.

I stirred non-stop for 1 hour, getting spattered with boiling jam when I stopped. Wear an apron!

Making membrillo 2

5. Pour into greased or non-stick baking pan to a depth of 1-1.5 inches.

6. Bake in a low oven (140c) for about 1 hour.

7. It should set to a firm paste. Cool and cut into bite-sized squares.

Mine set to a kind of thick jam.

And it goes really well with hemp porridge.

Stop press: Amaru co-director Carlo Dawson agrees to take Brixton Transition Town pound.

HemPower pic 448 X 336

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Hemp porridge knowledge

Hemp porridge and The Source (small)

I went to Shambala festival and got turned on by hemp. Every morning I would emerge from my tent to tramp across a field for hemp porridge breakfast.

Its creator, Eddie Callen, told me how he makes it: mixes it 50/50 with oats, by grinding 1/4 of the oats with all the hemp seeds, from Yorkshire Hemp. Once emulsified with the seed oil, the rest of the oats grind-in easily. Then water, hot or cold, to make the porridge, and a host of sprinkles: nuts, goji berries, agave syrup, cranberries, for taste and nutrition.

(I used pecan nuts and sultanas for my hemp breakfast back-home, see pic above).

A fount of hemp-knowledge, Eddie told me how hemp can grow abundantly in the UK without pesticides and fertilisers.

Hemp plants are so productive too: omega 3-rich seeds, and textiles, rope and paper. More sustainable than paper from trees – and cheaper.

We want hemp! ‘Tis the the earth’s most sustainable material.

Although hemp belongs to the same plant family as cannabis it has NONE of its mind-altering properties. It got a bad rap all the same and got outlawed in the 1930s but now it’s legal to grow although most UK hemp ends up as animal bedding.

Hemp-evangelist Eddie Callen was cheffing for the Community Medical Herbalists.

I had gone to see one, John E. Smith, for some remedies and it was he had told me about Eddie’s hemp-prowess.

Festivals are like that – it’s green networking city. I bumped into colleagues, past and present, as well as the legendary Simon Fairlie, editor of The Land. Its summer issue focuses on the  enclosures of Britain’s commons – historical events I have long been fascinated by as I see the roots of our present-day ills in the past.

People’s right to grow food or forage was taken away by force or legal stealth from approx from 1300s to end-18th century. Just as indigeneous people are deprived of their land today.

O I am in the mood for digression. Last night I saw Winstanley, an amazing film. Set in 1647, shot in black and white, British weather featured strongly, with only a camp fire and thatched tents to protect the Diggers from the incessant dripping rain. (As a recent camper, I identified).

Gerrard Winstanley wrote: the earth was “a Common Treasury for all”. He tried to reclaim the top of a hill in Surrey with his fellow Diggers but was beaten by the establishment.

I read about Gerrard (am on first name-terms as he is new hero) in the Land and talking about magazines, note my pic above and the latest issue of The Source.

I am SO proud to be writing for The Source, the southwest’s great green magazine.

In this issue, The Source reviews the new Transition book, Local Food, and asks:

What will we eat when the oil runs out?

The answer is green, local, organic, healthy food…and hey – this means the freshest tastes too. Talk about win-win-win-win solutions.

The Source also carries the programme for The Organic Food Festival, taking place THIS weekend in Bristol.

Organic is farming for a green future.

I am with the Shambala witches on this one.

Da witches have no Plan B (2)