This publication was put together by Open Jar Collective to share some of our initial investigations into soil and snippets of the conversations, questions and images that have arisen through our field research so far. It forms a partial document of the first stage of Soil City, a long-term project to reimagine the city of Glasgow as if soil matters. The collage of material is gathered from Open Jar Collective members and some of the people who have contributed to the conversation so far. We would like to thank all the contributors who have brought their individual perspectives into the soil mix. Open Jar Collective is a group of socially engaged artists and designers operating within co-operative principles. We believe that artistic practices can contribute meaningfully to the development of new perspectives on culture and the environment through the Sharing of food, ideas and possibilities for change. Through active and creative community engagement, our work strives to empower people to take part in the growing debate about the future of our local and global food systems. Open Jar Collective members are Alex Wilde, Clem Sandison, Hannah Brackston, Daniele Sambo, Nicola Godsal and Beth Ramsay. www.openjarcollective.co.uk
Soil City is a space for conversation, participatory research and knowledge exchange. By engaging with the citizens of Glasgow and a wider community of scientists, artists, activists and academics, we hope to gain a better understanding of the relationship between healthy soil and healthy people. We’ll be exploring how inequalities within society are reflected in the way land is used or remains ‘vacant’. By reframing soil as a valuable collective resource we aim to play a role in challenging economic, environmental, and health inequalities in Glasgow. You can expect to find explorations of soil culture through the alchemy of composting, growing, foraging, fermenting, brewing and cooking, as hospitality and sharing food together are at the core of Open Jar Collective’s approach, and living soil is what supports our nourishment. www.soilcity.org.uk Designed by Alice Rooney, Kat Loudon and Kirsty Geddes at Design by Zag Edited by Alex Wilde and Daniele Sambo Printed by The Newspaper Club The initial field research was funded by Glasgow International and Seedbed Trust Unless otherwise credited content is covered by Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Licence 2016 For more information about Open Jar Collective or Soil City email email@example.com
Quote from Sandor Katz, The Art of Fermentation, 2012 Illustrations by Beth Ramsay
NORTH GLASGOW WALKING TOUR by John Hutchinson
I think it’s fair to say that North Glasgow doesn’t figure high on the itinerary of most tourists visiting Glasgow, and for those of us living elsewhere in the city, it perhaps isn’t a regular destination. Despite living in Maryhill when I first moved to Glasgow, and having used the canal as a regular running route for the last 10 years or so, I’d rarely ventured to its northern side – so I was keen to explore. A Soil City walking tour led by Clem Sandison, considering the city’s industrial heritage, questions of dereliction and the benefits of wild spaces, provided the perfect opportunity to investigate. Our first stop was the Hamiltonhilll Claypits. A former industrial site which was vital to the expansion of the canal system, the claypits are so named due to its historical use as a quarry for boulder clay and blue clay, which were used extensively in the construction and lining of the canal system. Other past occupants of the site, such as boat repair workshops and the Victoria Iron Foundry have also left their traces, whether it be in the soil, surface outlines of former infrastructure, or fragments of local memory. Left to nature since the demise of these industries from the 1960s, the claypits are now a vibrant greenspace of great biodiversity. It was really enjoyable to have a root around and take in the quiet ambience of the place, with that compelling juxtaposition between natural and human-made things that you find in such places –from the metallic shine of discarded cans of Tennent’s Super Lager to the bleached bones of roe deer. A steep bank of shale deposit with its tell tale smudges of black oil drew us upwards. Crowned by a soaring electricity pylon, this natural vantage point provided a fantastic view looking south over the city across church spires and high rises, to the steady swoosh of wind turbines on the hills beyond. Looking down into the wood below I spotted a couple of roe deer huddled amongst the silver birches, their dark eyes comprehending us briefly before they turned their cotton wool tails and fled - a quick reminder that even in the depths of the city, non-human nature abides. In this way, the hidden gem of the claypits are a bona fide ‘edgeland’; what Farley and Roberts describe as – “a wilderness that is much closer than you think: a debatable zone, neither the city nor the countryside, but a place in-between”. It is patterned ground, where the material entanglements of nature and culture do much to scramble their persistent conceptual separation in Western modes of thought. Perhaps the hybrid understandings of nature and culture provoked by places such as the claypits,
can point towards new ways of approaching ‘derelict’ spaces in the city? Whereby the gaps between, and margins, of ‘developed’ spaces are valued exactly for their liminal qualities. As Richard Mabey observed in his 1973 account of urban nature, The Unofficial Countryside: “It is not the parks but railway sidings that are thick with flowers.” Our final stop on the walking tour was nearby Cowlairs Park, a large area of open parkland (formerly several football pitches) which after being effectively abandoned by the council has become somewhat of a dumping ground, and garnered a reputation as a bit of a ‘no go area’ due to drinking and antisocial behaviour. With this absence of any official regulation the park has been re-purposed for an altogether different use – its open layout and the differing elevations of its former football pitches now provide the perfect race track for motorbike enthusiasts. This was evidenced on the day, as a large number of quad bikes and dirt bikes tore around the place, zooming by at great speed. Not so much a ‘stalled space’ then, but one going full throttle. Added to the fly-tipped rubbish, random discarded objects lying around and scorched areas of grass, the park had a slightly post-apocalyptic, Mad Max feel to it, with the throwaway nature of our consumer society laid bare. Despite this, it was a compelling place to be, with great views towards the north of the city and a strange beauty. Although Cowlairs Park is far from the manicured care of other greenspaces such as Kelvingrove Park or Glasgow Green, perhaps places like this are needed, where people are able to get away from the regulated and monitored spaces of the city to find excitement and release some energy by driving motorbikes at high speed? Clem described Cowlairs Park as a “feral commons”, which I think describes its sense of place perfectly. References ⁻ Farley, P. and Roberts, M. (2011) Edgelands: Journey’s into England’s True Wilderness, London: Jonathan Cape. Mabey, R. (1973) The unofficial countryside. London: Collins.
Photographs by Clementine Sandison
LAND RIGHTS NIGHT, 11TH APRIL 2016 curated by Clementine Sandison Some post-event conversation (edited)
Severine Von Tscharner Fleming Farmer, activist, organizer and Director of The Greenhorns – a grassroots organization that works to support new farmers in America
Ruth Olden Cultural geographer, landscape architect, freelance writer.
What is earthen footprint of this city? How do practices of governance Practices of relation Deepen, enliven In the food shed.
I began my research on the Govan Graving docks towards the end of its thirty years of ruination and reclamation, and I was particularly interested in the new kinds of agencies that were emerging here – agencies that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere in the city; of water, seasons, people, and soils. This ‘wasteland’ seemed to offer a more inclusive definition of that word ‘public’ in the term ‘public space’ – where it was opened out to diverse human and more-than-the-human communities. I began to think of it in terms of a feral common: an unofficial public space, shared and enacted by its users.
Alec Finlay Artist and poet
Fergus Walker Designer, maker, co-founder of Common Good Food - a practical advocate of food sovereignty in Scotland.
Soil city. Solidarity
place-names are composed of words for what a place once was place-names are social signs for natural forms place-names identify a field of biotic relationships a place-name is a sound-designating reality a name describes a patch of phenomena a names is an intensification of awareness our experience of a landscape grows from the place-names we know a name may offer counsel: take care here, plant here, walk here, cross here from ‘After Watson and Nicolaisen we used to say…’ http://gathering-alecfinlay.blogspot.co.uk
How is land part of our culture? Being able to grow our own food, for own use or sale, challenges economic ideas about scarcity and finity. ‘Commons’ are resources, owned by noone and shared by everyone, and based on the premise that there is plenty for all if access is managed fairly. The Common Good Croft is a vision to set up a new type of smallholding for the outskirts of towns and cities which is based on the best aspects of crofting, and uses recent gains afforded by the Land Reform Act, such that landless urban crofters can gain access to a sizeable plot of land by being a member of a cooperatively managed holding. www.commongoodfood.org
Alec: I valued how the conversation revealed the unresolved tensions – unresolved in my own mind – between the healing effects of feral-play and the task of community growingproducing. I don’t know about the other speakers, but I felt the different examples opened that up as a discussion to move towards, without seeing it as an opposition. There is a lot to think about in terms of the alternatives of preserving feral places as ‘refugia’, where wild things grow and people heal their pasts, in a locality, and, on the other hand, taking over sites, to grow things, make innovative parks, or harvest (e.g. biomass). I was left reflecting on that tension between conserving industrial ruins, and translating them into productive green sites (ideally with the addition of renewable energy). I liked how the conversation introduced these issues, and possible solutions, without finding one answer. Translating crofting into the city, and composing a “ruin” – they kind of meet in Kevin Langan’s wild shelters, or bothies, or huts – where the den becomes a dwelling, and that makes a ‘steward’ to protect a place from development. So I valued the way the other speakers opened up that discussion, and possibly hinted at a menu of solutions? For me, I think dwelling became more important than commons – though its a useful word. Access is always an issue, but what seems to protect spaces is lived presence, and maybe not even a word like commons is powerful enough, at this time, to resist development? One thing we didn’t touch on, but which the soil project will, is the toxic soil in Glasgow, and what can be done with it. Some of it is ‘ruined’, some of it can be redeemed. Severine: I very much enjoyed the evening, and seeing through the eyes of others engaged in commons-study from very different perspective and practices. Fergus and I are both in the “practical groundwork to make territory for local food systems and economies” but I hope we can keep this conversation about the larger “meaning” moving forward, and build a simple enough story that it can be better transmitted to young people, young farmers, and agents of change. Seems like the wordless pleasure of “ building a hut” does that quite nicely. Encouraging urbanites to go out into the urban clutter, and make relationship with a part of the place, or even to build their own hut, could become an equivalent. “wild gardening” the wasteland or experimental commons repair? Fergus: I think the nub of the discussion for me was the conversation around ‘feral commons’, and Alec’s identification of them as being ‘teenage’. In many ways as we rediscover the idea of commons, our ideas are quite raw and unrefined, which can be exciting, but also as Alec points out, can be vulnerable to erasure by the powerful vested interests. It feels like it is important to steward that muddly process of navigating new relationships for a piece of land - there is always meaning there for someone, and razing it to build flats, or even marking out new crofts or
gardens, is a degree of violence that upsets existing relationships. So perhaps we should instate ceremonies for change of use, as well as having a support network for patterns of new governance - maybe help from the IASC? I was particularly excited about the discussions on dwelling. It would be amazing to re-establish patterns of transhumance. Common Good Food’s Community Croft idea (or perhaps that should be a Common Good Croft) is about setting up land outside towns and cities which is managed as a commons and includes hutting, or temporary dwelling. This is blurring the perceived rigid boundaries between city and countryside, so that people can start to think that they might be part-time crofters near Bearsden while living in Bellgrove, or indeed part-time foresters - and also be less surprised to find forests and deer within the city limits. I was also heartened to hear about the thirst to pursue the idea of commons and setting up of new ones. I suddenly feel like communities governing land and other assets as commons is the primary route to reinstate local democracy. It’s only when you can control what’s around you that you can feel inspired, motivated, compelled to speak up. Dwelling might be part of that process... Alec: Just adding, I think the idea of ceremonies is a strong one, or wee rites, and I am sure Ruth would have records of those already existing in the way people use the old yards, creating territories and desire line paths, dens, etc. Perhaps there can also be negotiations between ceremonies, as it were? One link that I am not sure if we fully developed was Clem introducing the wild fauna, such as deer, which come into bits of the city, which kind of suggests its own symbolic ceremonies and encounters. From the work I did on the LAGI project it became clear that Glasgow doesn’t need as much housing as is being planned – it isn’t all gentrification either. So, there is a real chance to think about growing biomass, and crofting, and orchards, and some ‘refugia’ – which is my word for what others call feral spaces. I find the idea of city crofting exciting for all the reasons you give. It does seem to resonate with the idea of alternate forms of dwelling that help to protect refugia, feral spaces, etc. Glasgow is ideally suited to this approach. I think it is still true for me that I prefer the possibilities of people being active protectors and users of these spaces, as ‘crofters’, gardeners, bio-mass ‘husbandry’, etc., but I also think Ruth’s idea of landscaping ruins, but keeping them as ruins, or refugia, is a form of human protection. It’s all about the signs we can make that say a space is cared for. I’ve been working on ideas for a ‘den’ for a tree charity up north. It’s a place where some folk are volunteering to play the role of wolves, to scare deer away. Its an experimental project to protect a tree nursery, so, I was aware I have come full circle, back to looking at dens, and feral style structures, made in a rural setting.
Prints of soil from samples collected when touring the city with the Soil City bikes Prints by Hannah Brackston Photograph by Daniele Sambo
SELECTED INDICATOR SPECIES FOR VARIATIONS IN GLASGOW SOIL
compiled by Erin Despard
The term “indicator species” refers to plants whose requirements are specific enough that their presence in significant quantity and/or vigorous health is associated with particular environmental conditions. When we see the plants described below growing wild in Glasgow, they tell us something about differences in soil composition. The trick of course, is to see them—for they are common, but often mis-identified, or missed altogether. In this sense, the search for indicator species is less interesting for the kind of diagnosis it offers (which is often inconclusive anyway) and more for the way in which something invisible (soil acidity, nutrients and minerals, an underground water source) makes other things visible in a new way, revealing meaning and complexity—history even—in the most ordinary plants. Seeing in this way opens urban places to new questions and possibilities: what exactly is going on here? What other events or processes—of repair, growth or reinvention—might be welcome? Common Ivy (Hedera helix) This evergreen vine is a nitrophile—it thrives in shady locations with soil that is high in nitrogen. While most people recognize ivy by its five-pointed leaves, the leaf shape is larger, rounded and undivided when the plant is flowering and/or fruiting. Gorse (Ulex europaeus) This thorny evergreen can thrive in less fertile soil, in part because it has nitrogen-fixing bacteria in its root nodules. It has yellow flowers in early spring and looks similar to broom, which does not have thorns and blooms in the late spring and summer. Elder (Sambucus nigra) These trees or large shrubs are common in hedges, woods and waste grounds around Glasgow—in disturbed, base-rich and eutrophicated (i.e., fertilized) soil. They have a bumpy, light brown or grey bark, and the leaflets are arranged in opposite pairs in groups of five or seven. They have large, umbrella-like white flowers in summer, followed by black berries. Rhododendron ponticum This is a tall, evergreen shrub that was popular in woodland gardens of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and is now considered an invasive species. It spreads by the prolific production of seeds that find hospitable ground in the damp, often acidic soil of Glasgow. However, it takes 10-20 years to begin flowering.
Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) While not necessarily absent from acidic soils, this evergreen fern thrives in shady locations with damp, calcareous soil (i.e., basic, calcium-rich), as well as on shady rock walls. Its simple, undivided fronds brown on the edges during the winter and are replaced with new ones in spring. Rushes (Juncus species) Rushes are evergreen and often mistaken for grass. You can tell a rush by its round as opposed to flat leaves. All rushes require a very wet, even poorly-drained soil. Pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) This low-growing annual can survive in poor, compacted soil, and is often found between cracks in the pavement or on pathways. It has yellow cone-shaped flowers in spring and early summer. Sources consulted (though any errors are of course my own) Dickson, J.H. and others (2000). The Changing Flora of Glasgow. Edinburgh University Press. Smith, Paul (2013). Indicator Plants: Using Plants to Evaluate the Environment/s. Wildtrack Publishing Ltd. Database provided by Plants For a Future at www.pfaf.org And a very informative conversation with Dr. James Dickson, archaeobotanist.
Profile of soil samples collected from around Glasgow during site visits with the bike. Embellished with samples of different soil types. Illustration by Alex Wilde.
CRUD MUD SOD EARTH DIRT MUCK GROUND HUMUS COMPOST MANURE SILT CLAY LOAM PEAT TURF CLOD TOPSOIL GLIFF SLOMP SQUELK SCRUDDY MOLP OCHRE BLACK SAND BROWN RED BEIGE GREY
Compiled by Nicola Godsal.
Those who dwell in leaf litter and feed on it; those who dwell in soil and feed on soil; and those who dwell in soil and feed on leaf litter. Illustration by Kate Foster
MAKE YOUR OWN SOIL by Malcolm Coull
Ingredients Several hundred grams of crushed up brick (or other mineral material) A good handful of green waste compost A sprinkling of ash from a wood fire (optional) Seeds (grass or flowers) Water Other things Gardening gloves Safety glasses Cloth bag Hammer or mallet Mixing bucket Medium sized flowerpot
Method X Take your brick (one that is already beginning to break up is ideal) and put it into a strong bag (cloth or heavy duty plastic) to contain it. Crush it with a hammer till you get a nice mix of a few larger particles (5 – 10 mm), some small ones (2 – 4 mm), and a bit of dust. Make sure to wear your safety glasses in case of flying rock chips and don’t breathe in any dust. The more fine particles you can make, the more your ‘soil’ will be able to hold water and nutrients for your plants to grow. If you can’t find a brick, you could try concrete or a paving stone but they will be much harder to break up! X Put your ground brick into a bucket – use gloves and take care of sharp edges – and add your green compost. Any well-rotted vegetation will do: leaves, grass and other stuff from your compost bin is ideal. X Mix the two together well. If you have some ash from a bonfire or woodburner you can add a small amount as it will add extra nutrients. Don’t use wood that has been painted or treated with chemicals (like preservative or varnish) as it can release harmful chemicals and contaminate your ‘soil’, and don’t add too much as it can make the pH of your soil too high for the plants to grow properly. X Put your mixture into a pot, sprinkle with a handful of grass seeds (or you can try flowers if you like) and give it a water. Probably best not to grow vegetables or anything else you might eat unless you are absolutely sure there is nothing in your ‘ingredients’ which is harmful (like heavy metals or organic compounds). Put your pot on the windowsill where it can get some sun, or in the garden, and wait for the grass to grow! X For an interesting experiment, if you have enough left over to fill another pot, add a handful of ‘real’ soil to the other ingredients before you mix them. See if having extra beasties makes your plants grow better.
SOURDOUGH CHOCOLATE DEVASTATION CAKE From The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz (2012) p. 239 As made by Clem for the Soil City Lab tasting party
A very easy and delicious vegan cake. You will need good-quality unsweetened cocoa and sourdough starter to make it. Recipe makes a two-layer 9 inch / 22cm cake Lightly oil and line two 9 inch pans with waxed paper. Preheat oven to 165C. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir together with a dry whisk:
¾ cup/180ml unsweetened cocoa 2 cups/500ml sugar 3 cups/750ml unbleached white flour 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda ¾ teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons strong coffee 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine wet ingredients in another bowl and stir well with a whisk:
1 cup sourdough starter 2 ¼ cups water 2 tablespoons vinegar ¾ cup sunflower oil 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
Combine wet and dry ingredients with as few strokes as possible. Turn into pans immediately and bake 25-30 minutes, or until knife inserted comes out clean. Remove and cool on racks. For the icing chop good quality dark chocolate (enough to make 1 cup). Add to a pot with:
1 teaspoon vanilla 3 Tablespoons maple syrup ¼ cup sunflower oil 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder Stir over a very low heat to melt and then set aside.
When cake and icing are cool, spread between layers and over cake. You can sprinkle with desiccated coconut (optional).
Illustration by Hannah Brackston
A CONVERSATION WITH OPEN JAR COLLECTIVE
How did Soil City come about? Alex Food is at the core of our work. We make projects about the production and consumption of food so naturally we started to think about where fundamentally that food comes from. Without soil we wouldn’t have food. Clem … And we’ve been experimenting with fermentation - thinking about the bacteria and yeasts that make it possible to preserve food, brew beer, or make bread - and how these microorganisms are also present in the soil. This is another way that food has a direct relationship to soil microbiology. Hannah … And I think the supply chain stuff that we were thinking about in Dumfries and Galloway around not necessarily being able to get products that were grown in the region... Thinking a bit about what the city itself could produce. Alex I think it is also about us as individuals living and working in this particular city. We wanted to do a project that really embedded us here in Glasgow and that our lived experience of being in the city is that we actually feel a
What has soil got to do with the city? Beth Soil is a site of memory for the city. It tells us historically what has happened and it reflects the traumatic ways in which the land has been treated. Clem Loads of the soil in the city is brought in from somewhere else and we don’t know where that somewhere is. There is something interesting about that which is like covering over the past, as if we can’t deal with this history, so we are going to seal it and then we’ll bring in someone else’s soil to make this home for somebody. Godsal Why do we not know more about it? Rurally, soil’s a positive thing, it’s part of culture. Alex There is perhaps a romanticisation of soil in the countryside. I’m sure there are plenty of people who live rurally who would have very similar problems of contamination, lack of access, lack of agency around soil. It is maybe helpful to talk about a ‘Soil City’ because although soil doesn’t recognise the boundaries of our city or the ways we have treated it there is a different cultural relationship between people and soil in the city. Clem What’s interesting about that from a rural communities perspective is that they hardly have any public land and actually in the city we’ve got loads more public land. So, looking at soil and the city and land in general brings up more questions around common good and land ownership and what land is used for. We explored those questions as well as the physicality of the soil. Hannah In Glasgow in recent years we’ve seen so much transformation happen, constant regeneration and renewal. Soil isn’t necessarily talked about as part of that.
disconnection with the soil and when we begin to think about it, we can’t see it. We can’t see the soil!
Dan Is this Soil City or Soil Glasgow? I think some of the dynamics that characterise soil in the city are similar from city to city, the fact that on the map they are always grey areas, quite literally.
How did we approach this subject as artists? Hannah We are interested in people’s relationships to their environment and empowering people to make changes. We feel that doing hands-on work with people -which is about taking them on journeys rather than just showing or telling things can be a powerful tool for people to learn and gain new perspectives on something like soil. I think socially-engaged arts practices are often about inviting people to enter into a dialogue on their own terms. Alex It’s about reimagining, isn’t it? To see if we can provide alternative narratives to the idea, which lots of people believe, that there is nothing we can do about contaminated soil. Clem I think it was about generating curiosity. The lab and field visits built relationships and a sense of curiosity and sparked imagination in people. The bikes in particular brought a childlike kind of curiosity. Hannah People valued different things, some were really, really interested in wildflowers in Glasgow. We felt this was of equal value to other people’s interests around the social history. Godsal Also getting people involved with the soil testing and worm survey was really good because it was really ‘touchyfeely’: not talking about it and thinking,
just doing, which made it really accessible. Clem I found that stuff challenging. It felt like I was positioning myself as an expert even though I wasn’t. Dan The point to me was that the perspective we were coming from wasn’t a scientific one. The point was to create a platform, like the publication, which is a collection of reactions from people, from a scientist to a library archivist. Collecting these relationships to soil is complex ... there is no art without discomfort. Every single thing you create comes from a situation where you are not sure what you are doing.
Beth Often, I am drawn to people’s personal narratives and relationships to land. I’m not usually involved in scientific methodologies or ways of surveying, so that opened up my perspective. The initial stages of the project pushed everyone’s edges a little bit and provided as many different invitations as possible to participate. Within the context of GI we hosted a very different space to most other artists. Passers by could hang out in the lab if they wanted to - read a book, take part in a workshop, drink a coffee...
How do we know when it’s finished? Hannah I don’t think that’s a question that we necessarily know the answer to at this stage. I think part of the conversation is about how things start to reverberate and new initiatives start to take up whether we are involved or not. Clem We have always had in mind that there are some practical projects we would like to initiate. The whole idea of going out and about was that we would be able to meet people and find places where, with a little bit of a catalyst, or facilitation role, something might happen. Also there is the desire to push the boundaries in our practice to engage more with planners and the City Council. Alex Do you think that’s about asking “what does success look like in this project?”. That success might be about maintaining those initial conversations we have developed but extending them to different levels of power and different organisations and that the conversation isn’t just amongst those people that are interested and passionate on a very local level. Beth An ongoing interest is to find ways to collaborate with the non-human within our work. I am curious to develop ways in which a project like this can give agency to something like soil.
Alex I think we can ask as artists is there a political action that we want to take forward, do we want to be overtly political by doing Soil City? Clem Just by doing Soil City we are being overtly political because we are saying soil is important, ecology is important, we think people’s relationship to their environment and access to land is important. That is the subtext even if we are not always outrightly saying that and they are the values behind our work.
Alex One of the reasons for being outand-about from the lab and on sites was to really stimulate people to ask questions which relate to the longer-term aims of the project: what changes would you like to see?; What is it that matters to us about the soil?; How could we change the things that we find problematic? Hannah As a starting point though, we realised that a lot of people didn’t know anything about soil at all and that maybe we had to start the conversation from just looking at it, going outside, getting our hands dirty.
Illustrations by Hannah Brackston
Drawing of the â€œLoam Rangerâ€? a pedal powered research unit built with William Greensmith by Hannah Brackston
The National Soils Archive is one of the facilities of the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen and consists of more than 43,000 air-dried soil samples collected from 13,000 locations from 1934 to the present day and contains a collection of representative soil samples from all over Scotland. To avoid contamination or changes in conditions during storage the samples are kept airdried, cool and dark in either glass or plastic containers. Soil DNA is stored at minus 80Â°C in special freezers. by Daniele Sambo
A selection of books from our Soil City Lab resource library Illustration by Lilly Williams
GUDDLING ABOUT: EXPERIMENTS IN VITAL MATERIALISM WITH PARTICULAR REGARD TO WATER
Guddling About is an ongoing project devised by artist-researcher Minty Donald and artist Nick Millar. It consists of an evolving series of actions or ‘experiments’ intended as means of investigating human relationships with water/watercourses. Each experiment was initially designed and carried out by Nick and Minty in response to a particular watery environment. To date, these include: The Bow River and its water tributaries, Alberta, Canada (experiments #1 - #6); The River Kelvin, Glasgow (experiment #1, #5, #7); The Forth and Clyde Canal, Glasgow (experiment #8); The storm water drainage system and River Clyde, Govan, Glasgow (experiments #9 - #11); The Manzanares River, Madrid, Spain (experiment #1) Streams and burns in Nithsdale, Dumfries and Galloway (experiment #12) The River Nith (experiment #1 and #13) The River Spree, Berlin, Germany (experiment #1) The storm water drainage system, Merchant City/City Centre, Glasgow (experiment #9 - #11) The Maribyrnong River, Melbourne, Australia (experiment #1) All the experiments can, and have been, revised and adapted in response to different watercourses and different sets of human-water inter-relations. Each experiment is also described as a set of instructions. These instructions can be carried out by anyone interested in experiencing and contemplating our (human) relationships with water. The experiments are seemingly simple actions that are intended to invite reflection on the essential liveliness and wilfulness of water and on the interdependency of every life form with water. The instructions can be treated as ‘thought experiments’ or carried out with actual bodies of water. Ideally, the experiments should be undertaken in a spirit of playful seriousness, paying attention to personal, emotional, sensory, practical and poetic connections with water. * Guddle Verb. Scots. 1/ To act in a playful way, without clear purpose. To mess about. 2/ To catch fish by hand, groping under rocks and riverbanks where they lurk. Noun. Scots A mess. A complex or confusing situation. http://donaldmillar2014.tumblr.com
Information sheet from Urban Alluvium workshop by Minty Donald and Nick Millar which took place at the Soil City Lab
A selection of images from activities that took place in and around the Soil City Lab Photographs by Clementine Sandison
Soil Texture Triangle Print by Hannah Brackston
In addition to all the living organisms you can see in garden soils (for example there are up to 50 earthworms in a square foot of good soil), there is a whole world of soil organisms that you cannot see unless you use sophisticated and expensive optics. Only then do the tiny, microscopic organisms – bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes – appear, and in numbers that are nothing less than staggering. A mere teaspoon of good garden soil, as measured by microbial geneticists, contains a billion invisible bacteria, several yards of equally invisible fungal hyphae, several thousand protozoa, and a few dozen nematodes. Most organisms eat more than one kind of prey, so if you make a diagram of who eats whom in and on the soil, the straight-line food chain instead becomes a series of food chains linked and cross-linked to each other, creating a web of food chains or a soil food web. Each soil environment has a different set of organisms and thus a different soil food web.
Illustration by Clementine Sandison
At the bottom of the soil food web are bacteria and fungi, which are attracted to and consume plant root exudates. In turn, they attract and are eaten by bigger microbes, specifically nematodes and protozoa who eat bacteria and fungi (primarily for carbon) to fuel their metabolic functions. Anything they don’t need is excreted as wastes, which plant roots are readily able to absorb as nutrients. How convenient that this production of plant nutrients takes place right in the rhizosphere, the site of rootnutrient absorption. Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis, Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Garnder’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, 2010, p. 19-21
Photocopies from a selection of soil science books. References in Library overleaf.
SOIL CITY LIBRARY A collection of books and publications loaned to the Soil City Lab, which were available for people to browse. The list continues to expand.
Kathy Hinde, Submerge Louise Bustard, Chickweed, Willow, and other Wild Glaswegians Adele Nozedar, The Hedgerow Handbook J H Dickson, Wild Plants of Glasgow Lucy. R. Lippard, The Lure of the Local Greenspace Scotland, Greenspace for a more Successful and Sustainable Scotland George Mckay, Radical Gardening Carolyn Steel, Hungry City Richard Reynolds, On Guerilla Gardening David Harvey, Rebel Cities Jennifer Cockrall-King, Food and the City J H Dickson, The Changing Flora of Glasgow Rob Hopkins, The Transition Handbook David Crouch, The Allotment Fritz Haeg, Edible Estates Doreen Cronin, Diary of a Worm Mary McKenna, Compost Stew Graham Burnett, Permaculture a Beginners Guide Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything Alastair Mcintosh, Soil and Soul Lucy. R. Lippard, Undermining Carol Klein, The Edible Container Garden Looby Macnamara, People and Permaculture Amy Franceschini, Farm Together Now Julie Bruton Seal, Hedgerow Medicine The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, 13 Attitudes George Monibot, Feral E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful Sandor Ellix Katz, Wild Fermentation Masanobu Fukuoka, One Straw Revolution Paul Sterry, British Trees Nance Klehm, The Toilet House of Knowledge The Land: An Occasional Magazine about Land Amy Franceschini, Victory Gardens St Trudgill, Soil and Vegetation Systems R P C Morgan, Soil Erosion S R Eyre, Vegetation and Soils R M Courtney and S T Trudgill, The Soil: an Introduction to Soil Study in Britain J MacBean, The Soil Bruce Ball, The Landscape Below Bryan Davies, Soil Management Tom Batey, Soil Husbandry
E.A. Fitzpatrick, An Introduction to Soil Science B W Avery, Soil of the British Isles Inge Hakansson, Compaction of Arable Soils E M Bridges, World Soils Andy Wightman, Poor Had No Lawyers Marion McCreedy, Tree Language Michael Pollan, Food Rules Aranya, Permaculture Design Max Adams, The Wisdom of Trees Julia Rothman, Farm Anatomy Eric Millstone + Tim Lang, The Atlas of Food Joel Sternfeld, Walking the High Line Andy Goldsworthy, Hand to Earth Roger Phillips, Mushrooms Judith Schwartz, Cows save the Planet Gabrielle Hatfield, Hatfields Herbal Tom Standage, An Edible History of Humanity Paul Stamets, Mycelium Running Michael Phillips, The Holistic Orchard Alec Finlay, Global Oracle A. Laurie Palmer, In the Aura of a Hole