Books. Looking for the healthy alternative..?

We relish books that champion independent ideas, progressive perspectives, stimulating subjects and unconventional wisdom – essential ingredients in anyone’s daily digest!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Review of Andy Hamilton's Booze for Free

These days the price of everything is going up but that doesn’t mean the availability of the best things in life has to go down – what was it someone said about ‘necessity breeding invention’? And so it was that I came to open Andy Hamilton’s excellent new book ‘Booze for Free’.

Long have we bleeted on about the merits of nettle beer (garnered from Andy’s own site, and indeed enjoyed its hedgerow fizz, so it was with excitement that we came to this book looking for further inspiration for some more exotic, and yes preferably cheap, home brews.

Nevertheless, low cost does not have to mean low quality and this book painstakingly sets about providing you every bit of knowledge you’ll need to produce something tasty and different.

In part one he sets out what equipment you’ll need with thorough descriptions of the various implements, pots and boilers required before you can make the most of the ingredients he also suggests with great detail.

Part two of the book is where you get to the good stuff. Literally! Birch Sap wine? Boozy dandelion and burdock? Holy water (made with marmite)? All these and more are set out season by season, brew by glorious brew.

If you’re already a home brewer, welcome to seventh heaven. If you’re not but you occasionally enjoy a sip along with the rest of us, god knows why you wouldn’t give at least one of these recipes a go! They’re fun to try, excellently explained and just waiting to tingle your taste buds – and they’d even make a great gift if you’re as strapped as you like to make out.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Monday - our last day at Kew

Our final day dawned bright. Hooray! We’d had just about enough of the ‘dark clouds on the horizon’ thing to last us.
Getting to the site at Kew a little earlier than usual, we decided to actually see some of the amazing grounds (really idyllic so close to Central London  - as long as you forget about the thundering jets on the flight path above), not least the new and exciting tree top walk; a circular construction high in the tree tops and affording up close acquaintance with these beautiful canopies.  

So after taking our time (it was so early we had the place to ourselves) we thought it was high time to get back to our stall and open for the day’s proceedings; after a successful Saturday we were keen to duplicate the result.
The most impressive thing about this year’s Start were the diversity of stall holders. Sure, you had your M&S and your B&Q making their claim on sustainability - which was refreshing, no matter how ‘market led’ their motivation – but the most interesting stalls were the small business and enterprises:
·   Helping abolish the plastic bag, and led by a very friendly chap called Dan, were the excellent Onya Bags. We just had to spend a little of our profits on each getting a rather neat Wrap-n-Mat to keep our future out-and-about lunches in. Ingenious.

·   These guys have to be a big part of the future: take a look at what The Donation is doing to save on resources and cut down on all that junk we keep on accumulating

·    From the first day, we were also happy to sell some excellent and interesting little children’s books on behalf of Secret Seed Society – again they’ve designed and produced amazing things in their cute publications – we’ll be selling them on the site from now on.  
So this was the pleasant company we were enjoying as the first customers rolled in. As was the case the previous day, we sold loads during the hour from 11.30 – 12.30, whereupon it fell off for lunch – and to watch some entertainment  on the main stage: ‘Bee, the musical’.
The afternoon warmed up nicely as Caroline took on ever more willing participants in our ‘make-a-bee workshop, and visiting friend Coelina, help a reading circle for passing children  - it all helped to create a very nice little vibe to our corner of the tent – and get people talking Beetroot of course!
At the end of the day we had broken well and truly into the black, spread the word and networked with some great people. Well worth the effort and time.

We can’t wait for our next stall!

Monday, 29 August 2011


We had maybe a 10% improvement in the bank holiday weather at Kew on Sunday, but wow, we had a 500% in sales. We sold more in the first our than we had the whole previous day.

Caroline from London Buzzing continued to draw in our buzzy minded little friends and keep them enthralled making little bees out of cones and teaching them in turn about the joys of keeping ‘em. Pretty soon people were following the bees back to our stall and buying our books.

We’ve met some amazing people and been overawed by how much innovation there is in this sphere  - more about that later. Gotta go to work again!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Start Festival at Kew Gardens - Saturday

It was s low start of the blocks for our first day at the Start Festival at London’s Kew Garden’s. Better than the last few days, yet hardly exemplary, the weather did at least look like it was going to behave itself for our set up.

We arrived at 9am and got to work.

By 10.30 there were a fair few people mulling and wandering around the site; the corner we were in was amongst some brilliant stalls: toys remade from recycled plastic, eco-bags, knit-a-thon, Project Dirt and much more.

We were treated to some pretty heavy rain throughout the day, (well it is August Bank Holiday), but we still made some sales, met some great people and got some good contacts.

Caroline from London Buzzing, in tandem with our stall, held Bee workshops for kids (making little bees from tree cones and dyed sheep’s wool), which went down  storm! It really did create a ‘buzz’ around Beetroot Books!

More good stuff tomorrow we hope!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Community garden? Every street should have one...

Those amazing folk who crew the Bramford Rd community garden in Wandsworth - these results speak for themselves. Every week they're there and they're a real asset to the area - brilliant.

First of the foraging for 2011

What a fine day it was for foraging Saturday. There was mist below my bedroom window, over Sandown Park when we got up. Upon leaving the house the air seemed sweetened by the heavy rain of yesterday; water scrubbing out all of the pollution from the huge city just north of us. The sun had even decided to return casting its ever long beams over a beautiful late summer day and somehow making up for far too many overcast days. Although there was still the threat of clouds.

So it would be a shame to not get into the woods and check out everything that nature has once again generously left in arms reach for anyone with a mind, or appetite, to claim (helps if you have both).

We decided to go around Midhurst in the South Downs  - wonderful expanse of trees around there.

Its been pretty warm of late (climate not weather) with plenty of moisture for our friend the mushroom (although these aren't edible - but you could have a pretty good time with the last one):

At the end of the afternoon, we'd found plums, cob nuts, some very nice puffball mushrooms (Olive oil loves 'em), some nice crab apples - and of course a ton of blackberries.

Love it!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Recovered from an excavated building foundation (c. 2011) 2093

Dear friend,
I guess you’ll be thinking; what the hell were they thinking?
You probably have all kinds of questions about how we could ever be so immersed in mythologies that were so plainly bad for everyone and everything – particularly as we were awash with information all around us as to the origin and purpose of these stories. You’ll no doubt think us naive for putting everything noble, natural and wild under the dark, callous world as mere units of exchange. You’ll think it strange that many amongst us were obsessing about what paste to apply to their face or even how to self mutilate to adhere to the demands of fashion whilst many in the world went hungry, cold and hopeless. You’ll no doubt have a problem with how our perpetual war has forever scarred and damaged so much of your inheritance, aghast as you’ll be at our stunning arrogance to think that everything here was turned on some potters wheel for our benefit alone. You may have cause to laugh at our bizarre addiction to junk and objects; you’ll not be able to fathom to the emptiness in our heads and hearts we’re trying to fill. You with your full and natural connections restored won’t be able to relate to a mindset of spooky individuality such as ours. We lived and died alone believing everything was owed to us and everything was our own fault.
I had to write this note to prove that someone could step outside of that mode.
I had to scratch it somewhere that even though we were incapable of revering the flow, backing up from the cliff, resisting the raging tide, we did at least acknowledge the problem and tried to do something….
As there was less left to lose, others tried to change the course. The universe is a song that will scream until harmony ensues.
We hope we had some part in enabling you to connect with us now.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London riots - an eruption from the divide

I can easily condemn the actions of the mobs that lit the streets last night leaving only chaos in their wake. Mindlessness is abhorrent. The priority is stopping this from happening and, despite the calls for penalties and punishments ranging from medieval to malign, it comes down to economics,  and our obsession with valuing everything through recourse to its narrow priorities. Namely our subservience to a system designed only for profit at the expense of people. We seek to prop it up, we break our backs to support it and yet it blatantly fails to meet the needs of the country. It serves only a few.
I've seen what's going on in the poor areas of the city. noted the divide. I worked four years as part of a youth project tackling disaffection and gang related crime in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. I have seen first hand the effects of territorial postcode wars, overwhelming poverty and the disconnect from the ideals aspired to by wider society. In that particular area, every day thousands of highly paid workers are shepherded into the towers of Canary Wharf to make massive amount of money, only to promptly take it out of the borough within which they operate. Residents exist sometimes nine to a single room flat. Hardly any locals are employed by the occupying corporates except maybe to clean and service.  
Everyone knows about the ever widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. Who could be surprised at the resentment felt by the latter when they live side by side in many areas with the former? In Tower Hamlets they’re across the street from each other in many places. This is a situation that is repeated across the capital. Decades of raging against social values, state-encouraged slander against ‘society’ combined with erosion of our manufacturing, outsourcing of jobs and selling of public assets  not to mention ever increasing criminalisation of dissent, worship of material goods and shallow celebrity without the mediating hand of any sort of spiritual or moral tradition  – have made this country incredibly unstable.  Our bizarre obsession with ‘terrorism’ has even blinded us to the real threats to our national security from within. People at the top pillage and pilfer far more than those at the bottom, they merely own the terminology. What’s more it is getting worse and shows no signs of changing course, for there are bigger problems to come.
Since 2008 I have been involved in the Transition Town movement so have become painfully aware of the large issues of energy constraints (peak oil) and climate change. When I first encountered the idea that oil was close to peaking, that all the easily extracted fuel had already been used and that the West would suffer an imminent decline in living standards, it was fringe to say the least. Now it is mainstream, indeed we’ve been treated to a deluge of reports detailing the facts and only need check out a local garage forecourt to witness the volatility of fuel prices. If you’re looking you’ll notice our increasing grabs to soak up the last of the good drops through our adventures in the Middle East.
Oil is the root of the western world. It is literally the fuel that drives our economic engine, without it you have nothing but a return to the pre-industrial society.
These are all huge, endlessly debatable issues. But what have they got to do with what’s going on in London?
What we have seen over the last three days is the leading edge of the trouble to come. I had assumed that these troubles would happen when resources were scarcer, employment even more sparse and people’s backs were firmly to the wall. Now I see that the disaffection runs so deep, the indifference to inequality so severe and the breakdown so prevalent that the conditions already exist for chaos to engulf our society. Today. What’s going to happen when things are tougher? Will there be roving bands of disenfranchised gangs marauding for what they could get? Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it – at least it did until the last few days.