Going Potty

My veg plotMy tiny-but-glorious veg plot: 1 – Chili; 2 – Spuds; 3 – Carrots; 4 – Garlic; 5 – Salad leaf; 6 – Raspberry; 7 – Comfrey; 8 – Tomato

The pot. A humble vessel for dirt and seed and the foundation for the glory that follows. But pots can cost money, and money is something best saved for punk rock music and cider wherever possible.

So what’s a thrifty punk with an eco-conscience to do? Call on his / her DIY ingenuity and put it to good use, that’s what. So here’s my list of favourite ideas for growing your own pots.

Yoghurt pots. An obvious one to start with, and probably something that most Brit schoolkids have used. Simply punch four holes in the bottom with something sharp and / or pointy (I used a screwdriver with the tip heated up in a flame for a few seconds). They can be used for both sowing seeds and for growing on young seedling transplants.Yoghurt and paper potsNewspaper pots. You can do this completely for free, or you can spend a few pounds on a paper potter, a simple tool that should last a lifetime and makes the process even easier. The free way involves getting an unsquashed toilet roll tube and some newspaper. You can then follow this brilliant walkthrough if you want to give it a go. The other way simply involves buying the potter tool, cutting up strips of newspaper to the right size and following the instructions. The bottoms of pots made this way are firmer and don’t use as much paper, so you can usually make at least four or five pots with each sheet of newspaper. Kids seem to love using it too (a handy source of free labour if you know how to play it right).

Cardboard egg boxes. Impossible to find in a vegan household, but most of us know some ovum eaters who will happily donate them. Egg boxes are very useful for chitting potatoes and, once they’ve done that, can then be turned into biodegradable seed pots. Simply add dirt and a seed or two to each segment and sprout as directed. Once the roots show through, cut or tear the segment off and plant out into its growing position. The card will break down quickly once its buried.

Plastic tubs. Use takeaway tubs, maragarine tubs, in fact anthing that’s flat on the bottom and open on the top. Like the yog pots, you’ll need to punch some holes in the bottom. Fill them and use them as seed trays, or use them as pot holders for your paper or card pots.

Tin potsTins. You need the sort with the ring-pull lids that your baked beans (or whatever) come in. Remove the ring-pull end and put in your recycling box. Then use a tin opener to remove the other end. Let this end fall down inside the can to act as a base – it’ll sit on the flange left behind from removing the ring-pull, and water will freely drain between the overlap. Fill with soil. These are great for beans and peas because of their depth. Use two or three seeds per tin. Once the seedling is around six inches tall, simply push the base back up into the tin to remove the bean and rootball.

Loo roll potsToilet roll tubes. These are also good for beans and peas. You could just put them into a plastic tray and fill them with compost but you may end up losing half of the soil from the open bottom when you come to transplant them. You could loosely stuff one end with newspaper before filling, which is better. Or you could take a few seconds more and do a proper job. First, make the cylinder square by squashing it flat down its length. Then cut a slot along each of the four creases, so that you now have four flaps. Simply fold these in like you would a cardboard box and you have a flat base. If you want to use toilet rolls for smaller seeds or seedlings, simply cut the tube in half first.

Tetrapak potsDrink cartons. The tetrapak. A very useful but also very annoying invention. Useful because it keeps my soya milk fresh, annoying because it’s very triple-R (reduce, reuse, recycle) unfriendly. I’m one of the lucky few to have a collection point for ’em fairly close by, but it still seems like a lot of work (and energy) involved in recycling ’em. So I’ve started to turn them into larger pots for young teenage plants (like these tomatoes) to allow them to grow into healthy young adults before planting them into their final tubs. Once the cartons are past their best, they get a rinse and a trip to the recycling bin.

Plastic sacks for spuds. OK, I’ve not actually done this myself yet, but friends have had good results. You can buy very expensive designer sacks, but we’re thrifty remember? So get a large thick plastic sack, such as an old compost bag or garden refuse sack – they need to keep the light completely out, so maybe double them up if they’re on the thin side. Use a garden fork or scissors to make some drainage holes around the bottom then roll the sides down. Put about 4 inches of compost in the sack, place 3 seed potatoes on the surface, then cover with another 4 inches. As the spuds grow, keep adding compost to bury the stems to leave just the top 3 or 4 inches of plant showing each time, rolling up the sides as you do, until you’ve added around 12-18 inches or so of dirt. Then leave ’em to finish doing their thang.

You can do a similar thing with any kind of large container. I bought a cheap large plastic garden tub (another fiver), punched a load of holes in the base, and use that. It works grand and should last for years.

Anything you can salvage and scavenge. Be creative. You might strike lucky and find some decent pots, like the big green plastic ones I’ve got the garlic and carrots in, on Freecycle. You might find ready-made stuff in a skip, which is how I got my seedtrays and many of my small plastic pots. Or you might spot some piece of ‘rubbish’ (like a big can or old teapot) that would look great with something growing in it.

Cheapy shop bargains. OK, so it’s not free, but it’s not far off. Just this week I was passing my local bargain shop and saw a wicker laundry basket for a fiver. I was looking for something to grow a mint collection in (I love mint, but it can be pretty invasive in an open bed), and I immediately saw an opportunity that was a lot cheaper than buying a decent planter from the garden centre. I lined it with an old plastic rubble sack (speared several times for drainage with my garden fork), filled it with compost, trimmed the sack to just above the soil line and planted four mints into it (spear, pepper, orange and ginger). Give it 3 months and the edges will be overgrown with mint and it’ll look lush. It’ll also make a good present for a friend (which is what I’m planning to do).Mint basketLabels. Once everything’s planted, you want to make sure you don’t forget what’s what. So make your own plant labels by cutting any suitable non-transparent plastic – margarine tubs, washing up liquid bottles etc. – into strips, and use a marker pen (Sharpies are my weapon of choice) to write on them. You can see them in full effect in some of the above pictures.

And finally, buy terracotta pots for anything else you want to both grow and show off at the same time. They’ll last forever with a bit of TLC, are eco-friendly, look better as they get older, and display your plants perfectly. Shop around and you can find all sizes and quite a few shapes for not much money at all. Even if you break a few (and you will), the broken bits can be used as drainage crocks if needed. Don’t forget to line the inside of your terracotta pots with a plastic bag or similar before filling them, to prevent water loss.

Anyone got any other ideas?

Punks With Gardens

I’ve been a keen gardener pretty much for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I spent happy summer days on the allotment with an old retired couple who were neighbours in our block of flats, as well as loads of time in my gran and grandad’s tiny cottage garden (even though it was in a massive council estate). And when I say cottage garden, I don’t mean the picture-postcard sort on chocolate boxes. I mean the proper practical sort that look fantastic and provide food and flowers throughout the year.

Once we’d moved into a house, my mum had a garden of her own to play with. She encouraged me and my brothers to grow our own stuff too – carrots, lettuce and spring onions were popular with us, as were sunflowers, snapdragons and hollyhocks.

So when I finally left home, I had a reasonable working knowledge of growing stuff. Since then, I’ve grown things pretty much everywhere I’ve lived although, until more recently, I’ve never had the chance to really get intimate with land – it’s usually just been a few pots of herbs on the windowsill and a few tubs in the garden to play with. Temporary accommodation doesn’t lend itself well to the longer time span you need to really develop a garden.

But over the last 8 years, I’ve lived in the same place. And that means I’ve been able to get totally stuck in to being a gardener. So I’ve decided to write the occasional bit about my garden, partly to pass on some of what I’ve learned, partly to try and encourage a few of you to give it a go if you don’t already, and partly just to show off the end results of mine and Mother Nature’s efforts to a wider world. Also, punks with gardens are as important to the revolution as punks with guns.

I’ll post up some specifics about what I’ve done in my space later but, to start the ball rolling, I want to tell you about the most important thing you should do before anything else – start a compost heap. It’s the closest thing to alchemy that you’re ever likely to experience. Put a load of waste in the top and, a few months later, black gold comes out of the bottom.

Compost is the bedrock of any successful garden, whatever you grow. It has almost magical properties that feed, nurture and protect the plant as it develops. With good compost, things will almost grow themselves (leaving you with more time to sit back with a cuppa and simply enjoy the life happening all around you).

There are people who’ve already done the hard work of explaining how to go about the whole process, which means I don’t have to. UK folk can also find discounted ready-made compost bins through this site.

One thing that this site doesn’t tell you is how to make good use of the ‘bad’ perennial ‘weeds’ that you might find (in the UK, that includes things like bindweed, dandelion, couch grass etc.) There are a couple of solutions (literally, in one case) that I’ve successfully used.

Method one simply involves putting all of these types of plant in a heavy duty black plastic sack, loosely tying the top and leaving it in a warm spot in the garden for a few months. This will kill the weeds and they can then be safely added to your main heap.

The second option is smellier but quicker – make weed tea (no, not that kind of weed, that would be foolish and expensive). Give it a few weeks and you’ll have a foul-stinking brew that is surprisingly good for your garden. You use the liquid as a fertiliser, and the leftover dead weeds can then be put on the heap.

Feel free to share composting hints n’ tips in the comments, or ask me any questions if you’re unsure of something or having problems.

Superstar DJ!

I was asked to put together a playlist for Sunday night’s shenanigans at the pub but, for various reasons, it wasn’t needed in the end.

Rather than put all that hard work to waste, I’ve uploaded the set for you to all check out. It’s in the order I would’ve probably played it on the night, but you’re not obliged to listen to it that way. Everyone’s a DJ these days, and that’s a good thing.

Track list (Band – Album – Track):

Stage Bottles – (We Need A) New Flag – Real Skinhead
Choking Victim – No Gods, No Managers – Crack Rock Steady
Dub War – Dub Warning MLP – Crack
Fighting Chance – Dacrifice & Struggle LP – History Repeats
Capdown – New Revolutionaries CD EP – I Wanna Riot
Runnin’ Riot – The Best Of CD – Work Together
Inner Terrestrials – Guns Of Brixton EP – Guns Of Brixton
The AK47’s – Don’t Call Me Vanilla – Tottenham Three
Blaggers I.T.A. – Blaggamuffin MLP – Emergency
The Fallout – Dismantlement – The End Of The War Years
Link 80 – The Struggle Continues… – Intolerance
Star Fucking Hipsters – Until Were Dead – Immigrants & Hypocrites
Oxymoron – Feed The Breed – R.I.P.
Esclaves Salaries – Hate the State Vol. II – Histoire De Skinhead
The Oppressed – Music for Hooligans – Sleeping With The Enemy
P.A.I.N. – Oh My God – We’re Doing It – Punks With Guns
Scum Of Toytown – Strike – Jackboot Crusade
Operation Ivy – Operation Ivy (remastered) – Unity
Los Fastidios – Rebels ‘N’ Revels – 3 Tone
Sonic Boom Six – City of Thieves – Rum Little Skallywag
D.O.A. – Bloodied But Unbowed & War On 45 CD – Class War
The Ruts – The Crack & Grin And Bear It – Staring At The Rude Boys
Los Fastidios – Siempre Contra – Antifa Hooligans
The 241ers – Murderers – Stories Of Old

Click here to request the download link.

If you are the copyright owner and want us to take down your music, just click here and let us know. We’re really not trying to piss anyone off, we just want to share great music with people who want to hear it.

Full Tossers

It’s been a busy weekend. Friday and Saturday saw me catching up with mates from near and far, nothing too hectic but still requiring me to be a bit of a social butterfly.

Then came Sunday night, spent in the company of Geoffrey Oi!Cott, Valdez, Spiteful Way (their last ever gig, boo!) and some other scallywags at my local, which finished at late o’clock. All bands put on a damned fine show, especially the Oi!Cotts – funny as fuck and very tongue-in-cheek. If you like good old-fashioned working-class alehouse humour, don’t mind lyrics that would offend the prissy middle classes, and have a penchant for cricket, you need to go and see this band.

The gig was a low-key benefit, split between a Brazilian streetkids football project (run by some like-minded friends in São Paulo that a few of the pub team will be visiting and playing in the next couple of weeks) and Bristol Antifa. We were only asking for donations and, after paying a few costs, made about £150 in total. Not bad at all.

The bands joined in fully with the bank holiday madness at the pub, including helping judge a bake-off by the netball team (which basically involved eating shitloads of the finest home-made cakes). The creative confectionary and subsequent scoffing of it raised £104, which is also going to the streetkids fund.

And everyone helped support the local economy by purchasing many gallons of fine beers, ciders and lagers at the best pub in the world (no ‘probably’ about it). The only exception to this was yours truly, who was the designated driver / voice of reason for the night. I managed to fulfil half of my role.

Today was spent helping round up the various northern types, after sending them off in the early hours to the tender care of several Cowboys & Girls for ‘sleep’. Everyone then headed out to the cricket pitch for a hangover-curing session at the crease (or watching from the warm comfort of the clubhouse bar for the less-athletically / more-alcoholically inclined). The Oi!Cotts had enlisted the aid of a few 1-in-12‘ers and the ex-guitarist of Anti-System to make up their side, while the Cowboys put out their usual blend of ne’er-do-wells, social rejects and a gimp. After a lot of tossing of balls, waving of wood, incomprehensible scribing (also known as the Score Book) and witchcraft, the Cowboys were adjudged to have won.

All agreed that a mighty fine time was had and that the event should become an annual affair. Here’s to next year!

Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate TrufflesWhile I generally try to keep my recipes here free of less common manufactured products, sometimes you just need to break the rules. This recipe is one of those times. The ends really does justify the means – the rich melt-in-the-mouth creaminess and intense chocolate hit of the finished product is incredible.

Makes about 25, lasts about as many seconds if you have friends around.

  • 150ml vegan ‘double cream’ (CremoVita or similar – other brands may need a bit of trial and error)
  • 200g plain chocolate, broken up (try flavoured plain chocolate too)
  • 25g vegan margarine (hard if possible)
  • Cocoa powder to coat

Bring the cream to a gentle boil then remove from the heat (you can also microwave it in short bursts to the same temp – don’t worry if it seperates a bit, it’ll soon recombine when you start mixing). Add the chocolate and stir gently until it’s completely melted and blended with the cream. It should be a nice even colour. Try to avoid getting air bubbles into the mix.

Add the margarine, cut into 3-4 lumps, and continue to gently stir until it’s fully incorporated into the mix. The surface should be glossy with no oil ‘slick’.

Chill the mix in the fridge for at least 4 hours (and preferably overnight). Remove from the fridge. Put a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder in a bowl and sprinkle a bit more on your hands (add more cocoa powder to the bowl or your hands as needed). Use a teaspoon to scoop out a lump of the truffle mix. Roll it into a ball in your palms, drop it into the cocoa powder, roll it around a bit until it’s fully coated, remove, give a gentle shake in your palm to get the excess powder off, and put in an airtight box. Keep in the fridge, where they’ll theoretically last for several days (although my money says that your tastebuds won’t give ’em that long).

I’ve yet to experiment with this basic mix, but the idea of alcohol (especially brandy) and / or coffee added at the melt n’ mix stage will soon be investigated further.