urban foraging

Rich pickings: hunt for a cold frame

(and a digression on local autonomy)

paving slabs - are they going free?

One of the advantages of attempting self-sufficiency in the city (rather than the country) is the sheer quantity of stuff left lying around. In the past this would have bugged me, but now I enjoy being magpie-like, spying what street debris might be useful for my purposes.  London has long had its own informal recycling system way before local authorities got in on the act, as you’ll know if you’ve ever measured the length of time it it takes for a sofa to be ‘liberated’ from any street corner it’s left on.  You have to act fast in this business.

Too good to be true?

I want to make a cold frame to protect some seedlings in advance of putting them into the ground. I tried to suffice with putting seed trays on a warm window sill last year but found that my seedlings became very stringy and weak, and only some survived after being planted outside. Alys Fowler’s Guardian column  describes how to make one out of bricks, which seems a lot easier than some of the Permaculture magazine explanations I’ve seen, with their diagrams and detailed instructions. With bricks, you can adjust the size to the shape and dimensions you like, no DIY required. Thank you Alys!

bricks going spare

These photos show what  I found on a single 10 minute trip to my local supermarket when I wasn’t even looking for stuff. Some is definitely going spare, others I’m not sure so have put a note through adjacent letterbox. Cold frame here I come! (Once I’ve found a way to move the bricks without breaking my back: my bike’s been nicked).

Don’t let anyone make any autonomous decisions!

window frames: but noone can make a decision about them

I also found some wonderful window sashes left outside a railway station, but unfortunately working out whether they were unwanted proved anything but simple. I asked a guard if I could speak to the manager, and he told me there was none and gave me a leaflet with a customer service number. Disbelieving, I asked if I could speak to someone in charge at the ticket office and was told to speak to a man on Platform 3. There, I was given the same leaflet and the first name only of the manager of the whole line. ‘But it’s only about some window sashes,’ I explained: ‘can’t someone at the station make a decision about that?’ His words:  ‘No-one here makes any decisions.’

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