Saturday, 19 July 2008

However hard you try, the corporate world still stuffs you

It's happened again.

We switched electricity supplier because the previous lot were reluctant to send us a bill as our use was lower than the previous occupants. The new suppliers have sent us an estimate and refuse to accept the actual reading as it "does not match projected use". Great. You act responsibly, reducing power usage, putting in low energy bulbs, nothing on standby, lights off when leaving rooms, and they accuse you of clocking the meter. If I thought we'd get a refund plus interest I'd stump up for the current bill, but I so doubt that will happen I'm going to stand my ground and only pay for the power we've used. Pretty certain there's enough of a difference between the estimated bill and the actual amount to buy a little wind turbine.

It's at times like these that heading for the hills (preferably the Brecons or the Black Mountains) and living somewhere off grid moves from fantasy to logical option.

However hard you try to free yourself from the stranglehold of the corporate world, it finds a way to bite back. The past couple of weeks has seen a story emerge that proves that yet again. Hundreds of gardeners grow their own vegetables have found that their crops, most notably potatoes and tomatoes, have become distorted and died. It turns out that an agricultural herbicide, Aminopyralid, is responsible. The weedkiller is used to kill specific broad-leaved plants in pasture without killing the grass. Livestock then feeds on the grass, either in the field, or as hay or silage. However, the chemical passes through the animals' digestive systems intact and continues to be in its active form in their manure for 18 months or more. This is not a problem if it is used on pasture, but if used on broad leaved crops (and most vegetables, barring sweetcorn and the onion family, are) the weedkiller is still active.

There has been much discussion as to whether it is safe to eat contaminated crops, but as the manufacturer states in the small (ish) print that it should not enter the food chain, intuition says no. But the main issue is that people who have taken the responsible move to grow at least some of their own food are suffering, losing crops and having ground put out of use for at least another growing season, plus all the related costs. It has now emerged that commercial potato growers are suffering too. Maybe that will be enough to prompt an end to the use of this product (or at least a moratorium).

There is now an online petition, calling for an end to the use of this weed killer:

Sign it, whether you grow your own food or are just worried about the price of chips.

Anyway, this week in the Wartime Weekend Gardener, only one task is pinpointed, and it happens to be one of the few non broad leaved crops - harvest Shallots. I love shallots, especially the ultra strong elongated type - especially Jermor. They're great used as you would onions but their finest use is roasted whole until sweet and sticky. Shallots are valuable also because you can save part of the crop to use as sets and replant either in Autumn or Spring.

One less thing to have to buy - always useful.

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