Incredible Edible Todmorden

Remarkable Things: Billy Bob Buttons

‘If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?’
Jon McGregor

An occasional series, in which I shine a spotlight on outstanding people, projects and places that deserve more attention

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I’m kicking off this new series with a big cheer for a man called Billy Bob Buttons.

That’s not his real name, of course. He’s actually Edward Trayer, a successful children’s author, and he’s remarkable because every year he undertakes a ridiculous amount of hard work simply to help fellow writers.

Edward organises the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards, a rare opportunity for self-published writers like myself to enter a competition (most don’t accept self-published books) and get honest feedback from real readers. And by ‘real readers’, I mean people who read for pleasure rather than people who get paid for it. Children’s books are judged by schoolchildren and adult books are judged by reading groups in London and Stockholm.

The awards are affordable and EVERY SINGLE ENTRANT, finalist or not, gets honest feedback from people who have read their books thoroughly, plus a catchy quote and the option of a review on Amazon and GoodReads.

At this point I have to get out my own trumpet and give it a little toot because I was thrilled that Incredible! won a bronze medal in this year’s awards!

Our Incredible Award! Read on for news of a special offer

Our Incredible Award! Read on for news of a special offer

But now let me sound a much bigger blast of the trumpet for Edward. I’ve never met a writer who said they had SPARE TIME; in fact I’ve only met writers who wish they had MORE TIME TO WRITE. So for me Edward is truly remarkable because he is prepared to give so much time and energy to promoting other authors, particularly ones who might be overlooked by the mainstream.

It means a great deal to get recognition and honest feedback in an area that can, frankly, be pretty lonely

So thank you, Edward and may your own books continue to garner the kind of success you so richly deserve!

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Sharing bed in Todmorden

Sharing bed in Todmorden

Some comments from the judges

‘What a sweet book. I loved every page. Fab cover and blurb too. Made me want to go out and plant carrots.’

‘This book offers a solution in a world of economic decline and climate change. Set in Todmorden, Yorkshire, the community there begins to plant vegetables in public spots. As a result, not only is the community spirit revived but it begins a world-wide, vegetable-growing REVOLUTION! I liked this book very much. It is well-written with a fun, witty undertone. There is help at the end of the book if you wish to get involved.’

‘A very inspiring read presented in an eye-catching cover. The tone is perfect for a book of this nature and the strong, environmental image is relevant to many of today’s problems.’

In celebration of our Bronze Award, we’re offering 25% off the cover price of Incredible! between now and Christmas Eve. Click here for the online shop. £1 from every book sold will go to Incredible Edible Todmorden Unlimited, which is run entirely by volunteers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incroyable!

I am very, very excited to tell you that we have just signed a contract with the French publisher Actes Sud and our book Incredible! will be published in France in the spring.

The French edition will be called Incroyables Comestibles, the French name for the Incredible Edible movement, which now has more than 400 groups across France and more in other French-speaking countries, such as Morocco, Senegal and Mali.

The inimitable Mary Clear wrote a wonderful report of the recent Incroyables Comestibles conference in Cergy, which you can read on the Incredible Edible Todmorden website here.

To celebrate we’ll be putting the English book on special offer throughout December – more news on that very soon.

For now I’ll leave you with a picture of the amazing François Rouillay, founder of Incredible Edible France, taken at the book launch in July. He’s saying hello to Rufus at Incredible Farm.

Francois and Rufus

 

Launched

view of Tod

Did ever a book launch have a lovelier view? This is Todmorden, as seen from outside the Unitarian church, where we had a beautiful afternoon of celebrations for Incredible! on Saturday.

It’s one of only three photos I managed to take but I appointed our daughter Finn as Unofficial Launch Photographer, so here’s a little insight into the day, courtesy of her excellent pictures.

The first part of the launch was one of the ‘rewards’ for some of our top Kickstarter backers, although sadly not all of them were able to come. My co-author Pam Warhurst welcomed them in her usual dynamic and inspiring way.

pam welcome

Then Estelle Brown, Incredible Edible’s full time, unpaid webmaster and tour guide, took everyone off to look at the town. Here she is outside Mary Clear’s front garden, where everything is edible and anyone can help themselves.

Estelle

Thanks to Estelle, our guests saw all the sharing beds around town, from the police station to the pre-school, and also enjoyed the edible walking route that features not just food for humans but lots of plants that are good for bees too. To avoid overkill on the pictures I haven’t put many of the town on here – if you want to see more of the wonder that is Todmorden, take a look at Incredible Edible’s website.

children's bed
blackcurrants
pollination street

Meanwhile, back at the church, it was all hands on deck to get the lunch ready. Here’s Pam in a pinny with lovely helper Alison.

food setting up

The food! What can I say about the food? It was stupendous.

food marigold

dip

food and lavender

stuffed tomatoes

sprouts

 

sushi cropped

And lots of the ingredients came from around the town.

IMG_9323

If you didn’t know, you’d never guess it was completely free of meat, dairy and other animal products. Volunteer Hilary Wilson, who is a passionate vegan and outstanding cook, had spent the whole week planning and prepping. I managed to snap this picture of her during a rare moment away from the kitchen.

hilary

It stayed dry all day (never a given in Todmorden) so we ate outside. Don’t worry about the policemen – they weren’t there to keep order but to represent the local force, whose station plot is one of the most photographed in the town.

lunch

Lunch over, it was off to Incredible Farm, the project that never stops evolving. It’s almost impossible to believe this was once a piece of waterlogged, rubbish-filled scrubland.

polytunnels

Some of the new developments this year are a solar powered pumping system …

solar pump

… and Rufus the cow, seen here with François Rouillay, founder of Incroyables Comestibles, the French manifestation of Incredible Edible.

Francois and Rufus

Back at the church, lots more people were arriving for afternoon tea. All the cakes were vegan too, and they tasted even better than they looked.

cakestand

cake

chocolate buns

And what about these for some Incredible tea cosies? Somehow, town centre grower Jenny Coleman manages to find time to knit them.

carrot cosy

tea

Over the time I’ve been writing about Todmorden I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. This time it was a magnificent peal of bells that rang out just as we were coming to the end of our tea, part of the celebrations to mark the volunteer-funded restoration of the belfry.

Some of the hardy Incredibles were staying on for the second party but for us it was time for one last photograph and then to set off back to Sheffield through the beautiful Calder valley.

pam and jo1

Thank you, Incredible Edible Todmorden, for an unforgettable afternoon.

Read all about it

Just a quick post to say that Incredible!, the book I wrote with Incredible Edible Todmorden co-founder Pam Warhurst is now  on sale here.

I’ve been very touched by some of the feedback that’s filtered through from early readers of the book. Here are a few things people have said. (And yes, I am Finn Dobson’s mum but I loved the comment so much I just had to include it!)

There is so much to admire in what has been achieved here, and this delightful book is a fitting written account of the difference to a community that has been made by people in that community coming together and doing things – with kindness.
Professor Leigh Sparks, University of Stirling (Full review here)

What a splendid story! Unputdownable!
Lyn Wilson, Cambridge (aged 81)

I’ve never read anything that addresses sustainability, environment, economy and community that is so encouraging and hopeful and makes me realise I can do something to make a difference.
Finn Dobson, Leeds (aged 21)

I’m proud that I helped crowdfund this book. Very impressed.
Sharon Shephard, Incredible Edible Wakefield.

Leigh Sparks also took a wonderful picture:

SAMSUNG

 

 

 

 

 

 

One pound from every copy sold through the Urban Pollinators website will be donated to Incredible Edible Todmorden, which receives no outside funding and is run entirely by volunteers.

To order a copy, click here. We hope the book will also be on sale in Todmorden very soon.

Fledged


lorry

This is the moment the Incredible Book arrived at our house – and I wasn’t there!

pallet

I had carefully squeezed in a visit to my parents between the last of my uni hand-ins and the arrival of the book, or so I thought. But then the book came early!

pack

Julian came to the rescue (as usual) and sent a copy recorded delivery to my parents’ house and actually I am so glad it worked out that way. My mum and dad have both been battling poor health lately, so it was lovely to share such a special moment with them. And I have written before about how important my mother’s deep care for the earth has been to me.

Now I’m back home and it’s all systems go to get the books out to the wonderful people who backed our Kickstarter campaign.

stacked

mailbags

The first two sacks went to our local post office this morning and it feels a little daunting, letting this book go out into the wide, wide world.

But I’m also feeling so thankful: to the people in Todmorden who shared their stories and were so endlessly helpful; to Pam for her willingness to work with me; to everyone who believed in the book enough to back our Kickstarter; to Julian, whose business made it possible for me to take the time to write it; to our three young adult offspring who cheered me on whenever I was flagging – the list goes on!

Like the Incredible Edible project itself, the book is the result of very many people giving their time and energy with great kindness.

It’s been such a huge privilege to help tell this story and I really hope it will inspire. I hope it will spread the magic of Incredible Edible Todmorden, which demonstrates so clearly that, as Pam says, it doesn’t take complicated strategies and important people to bring about change. It takes you, me and everyone else believing that small actions have great power and then getting on and doing something.

Our main job for now is to get the books out to our Kickstarter backers, but I’m excited to say that from 2 June, the book will be available to buy online.

Watch this space – or pre-order a copy here!  Meanwhile, I’ve got some envelopes to stuff.

hope: an update

ask not what

Recently graffitied by locals, the old health centre in Todmorden, west Yorkshire has lain empty for years while the multinational corporation that owns the site decides what to do with it

Coming face to face with the fact that tens of thousands of people in our city are going to bed hungry can be gut wrenching, as I wrote in my last post.

The danger is that it can also be overwhelming, and it is only a short step from feeling overwhelmed to sinking into despair.

Back in January I chose HOPE as my one word for 2013. I thought  then that I knew what it meant but here we are at the end of November and I have realised that it is a lot more difficult to pin down than it seems.

When I taught English to speakers of other languages I found that sometimes the easiest way to explain the meaning of a word was to give its opposite. So far, my understanding of real hope is mostly around the fact that it is ‘not-despair’.

Despair rarely achieves anything. It paralyses us at exactly the time when we most need to be doing.

But where despair results in paralysis, real hope not only leads to action, it is often birthed there.

I used to think that hope came first and then you acted because you were hopeful. It sounds logical but this year I realised that I had it the wrong way round. The more you act, the more you grow in hope.

When Incredible Edible Todmorden co-founder Mary Clear ripped out the roses in her front garden and replaced them with vegetables and a sign saying ‘Food to Share’, I am sure she did not think of herself as a prophet.

But her action demonstrated another key aspect of hope, which is imagination.

Despair is like a fog. It clouds our vision and numbs us into thinking that things can never be different. We need prophets, poets and seers to pierce that numbness, stimulate our imagination and remind us that there is always another way of doing things.

We also need to recognise that these visionaries are walking among us, living life beside us. They do not (necessarily) have long beards and sandals.

 

plaques

Incredible Edible plaques made by Linda Reith

Mary’s action gave people a new way of seeing things, a way to re-imagine the world. It was one of the jumping-off points for the whole Incredible Edible movement.

I have taken several friends to Todmorden and they all come away seeing land differently. They send me texts saying things like: ‘I’m noticing bits of wasted space all over my town. I keep telling people we should plant some food there.’

Runner beans in a Todmorden cemetery

Runner bean plants in a Todmorden cemetery

The point is not that we are going to solve world hunger, or even UK hunger, by handing out free vegetables. Of course we’re not. The point is to shift people’s perceptions so they can imagine a different way of doing things.

It’s about helping people realise that there is more than one story to live by, and then it’s about demonstrating a way to take the first few steps into that new way of being in the world.

One woman I interviewed for our book about Incredible Edible told me she used to think growing food was ‘a whole other world of strangeness that could never have anything to do with me’.

Then she took on one of several raised beds that Incredible Edible has built at her son’s school and now the two of them eat home-grown, fresh vegetables for nine months of the year. Not only that but they have saved money, made new friends and grown in self-confidence.

What I see in Todmorden is that actions like growing food lead to more actions like, say, signing up for a class to learn how to cook that food and then, for some people, actually teaching other people how to grow and cook things.

You can’t predict exactly where these actions will end up. Someone who spent an entire winter helping another Incredible Edible co-founder, Nick Green, build a rabbit proof fence is now learning about advanced permaculture and training apprentices to become market gardeners.

The point is to start.

And once people start, they grow in imagination and they develop real hope – and who knows where that might lead?

They like to say that Todmorden is the town of the example. They’ve been living the Incredible Edible story for the past six years and literally thousands of people have visited the town to see what they are doing.

One of the reasons I am so determined to get our book about Incredible Edible out into the world is that I think it has the potential to inspire people who can’t make the trip to Todmorden to get started on a different way of doing things in the place where they live.

A way that will build community, increase skills and even benefit the local economy. A snowballing of hope, if you like.

People have been massively supportive of the campaign we’re running with Kickstarter to raise enough money for the first print run of the book. I am truly grateful for the people who have already pledged money and overwhelmed (in a good way!) by the messages of encouragement.

However, we need more of that support to translate into cash if we are to reach our target.

I’d be so thankful if you could spread the word as widely as you can and – if you are able and you haven’t done so already – pledge a bit of money towards it. 

You can pledge as little as £1 and it’s all perfectly safe. If we don’t hit our funding target, nobody pays a penny. Also, I won’t be making any money personally out of the campaign.

Thank you!

The Kickstarter page is here.

knot your regular apple crumble

Knotweed stemsTwo words to strike fear into the heart of any gardener: Japanese knotweed. This is a plant unparalleled in its thuggishness, more invasive than the Romans and so difficult to eradicate that it is actually illegal to put it in your dustbin.

Fallopia Japonica was brought to the UK by the Victorians who liked its ornamental appearance but did not realise that their descendants would forever curse them for introducing a plant that can grow a metre in a month and has the power to displace tarmac and even force its way through brickwork.

Huge sums of money are spent by local councils attempting to kill off this brute but it takes a place like Incredible Edible Todmorden to find a way of putting it to good use. Up at Incredible Farm, a brilliant social enterprise that is, among other things, training young people to become market gardeners, they’re harvesting the knotweed shoots and cooking them up for a new kind of gastro experience.

Helena Cook, herbalist extraordinaire and the brains behind Todmorden’s fabulous apothecary garden, goes so far as to call Japanese knotweed ‘the new superfood’. According to her, it has been used for centuries in eastern medicines to treat a range of ailments from heart problems to liver disease. Pharmaceutical companies use it to produce resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that can slow the ageing process and reduce age-related illnesses.

New shoots of Japanese knotweed look a little like a pink version of asparagus but the taste is similar to rhubarb. I’ve tried them lightly fried in olive oil, which was OK, but tonight I thought I’d try one of Helena’s suggestions: a fruit crumble.

colander

I had a cooking apple that needed using up, so I mixed that with some freshly picked Japanese knotweed shoots and Demerara sugar, scattered a crumble top over and baked it for about half an hour. It was absolutely delicious.

This is the recipe as best as I can remember it. The crumble top is in ounces because it’s my mum’s formula that she’s been using for more than half a century and to convert it into grams would seem a bit sacrilegious somehow.

Japanese knotweed and apple crumble

 Base
About 250 grams Japanese knotweed shoots
One medium cooking apple
About two heaped tablespoons of sugar, preferably Demerara for the crunch

Topping
5 ounces plain flour
2 1/2 ounces butter
2 ounces soft brown sugar

::Cut the knotweed into pieces about 4 cm long. Peel, core and slice the apple, mix with the knotweed and sugar and place in an ovenproof dish.
::Whizz the flour and butter in a food processor and mix in the sugar. Scatter on top of the fruit and bake in a medium oven for about 30 minutes.
::Serve warm, preferably with custard. Crème fraiche is good too but lacks the comfort factor.

 

crumble

Incredible Farm’s apprentice Jed wrote a nice blog about Japanese knotweed here. I’m looking forward to hearing what ingenious recipes Helena comes up with for Jed’s harvest.

Rules for disposing of Japanese knotweed can be found here.

And as Jed says: ‘The same caution should be exercised consuming Fallopia japonica as to other plants that contain oxalic acid.’ See www.netplaces.com/foraging-guide/becoming-plant-wise/allergies.htm