Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Transition Free Press Issue 2

The second edition of the Transition Free Press is out now! What's more I'm honoured to have been asked to write the main article that appeared on the front page. The gist is that shale gas fracking in the US has led to a glut of cheap coal on world markets, which is being burned up by China and others. Next time anyone tells you shale gas is 'green' tell them that!

In the course of researching the article I got to speak to some very interesting people (not all of whom are mentioned in the final article). One of them was Carl Shoupe, a third generation coal miner from Kentucky and outspoken critic of mountaintop removal and other acts of grand vandalism. You can see him talking in the video below.

Anyway, you can read the latest edition online by clicking here

Monday, April 29, 2013

Adios to Orange Blossom and Stranded Assets

I have just returned from Spain, where we had to go at short notice to give a farewell kiss to our stranded asset. Yes, our farmhouse, which had been the focus of all my dreams and efforts a few years back, was finally released from legal limbo land and the keys handed over to the happy new owners. We got back around half of what it cost us to buy it and do it up, but speaking with other people in the same situation we know that we are among the lucky ones.

What a strange place Spain is! This truly is a country where dreams go to die. To the casual visitor it looks like an earthly paradise. The entire region was bursting forth with a trillion wildflowers on our visit, the air was scented with jasmine and orange blossom and the boughs of the lemon trees still hung heavy with fruit. A bumper wet winter had left the Sierra Nevada mountains with a deep snow pack - meaning happy times for farmers in the year ahead - and the local people were just as courteous, graceful, witty and family-oriented as they ever were.

These were among the reasons why, almost ten years ago, we had chosen to go and live there. The ruined house on the side of a fertile hillside had been converted into a small organic farm. Our kids were happy to sit in the shade of an almond tree with a rock and bash open almonds while I either worked on the land or went into the office where I was running a small ecologically-conscious newspaper that I had set up. Life was good.

Or at least it would have been if we hadn't taken out a loan to renovate the property. In time that loan became an unbearable burden and our dreams slowly dissolved before our eyes as we found ourselves forced to return to work in Copenhagen and live in a government subsidised flat for five whole years. That wasn't part of the plan.

And we were the lucky ones. Those who steadfastly refused to leave are now stranded. Most foreigners have left the area. Those who stubbornly refuse to lower the asking price of their houses are hit the worst because they can't cut their losses and move on. Instead they exist in a shadowy half-world of penury, trying desperately to earn a euro here or there and doing anything they can to keep the wolf - or in this case the bank - from the door. The last thing they need is escapees like me parachuting in and pointing out how lovely the smell of orange blossom is in the spring air.

Those with families to support face an unpleasant decision. With all work having dried up many are finding that the only way to feed their families is by doing illegal things. 'Such as?' I asked my friend, who is still desperately clinging on in a legal way. 'All sorts,' she replied. Dope grows remarkably well in Andalucia.

Only those who can draw money from the currently still-functioning pension systems of northern Europe are faring better. Yet even that may not be a shortcut to safety as healthcare costs are climbing just as they themselves go into decline. The Spanish have a word for foreigners like that. They call them 'soloistas' or some such word - loners. People without family who rely on their money from other countries, their healthcare from far away and a cheap and functional system of airlines to take them wherever they need to access these services. Many of them sit in their jerry-built concrete shells by their swimming pools, drink in hand, and convince themselves that they are still living the good life - even though sterling has depreciated, food costs have rocketed and all of their friends have either been evicted or hot-tailed it back to the country they had said they despised before things started to go wrong. Just one more glass of sangria and everything will be okay again ...

Spain is a strange place. It has been in a state of free fall collapse for several centuries. One of my favourite writers, Jan Morris, described the country's fortunes as (paraphrased) 'like a rock bouncing, bouncing, bouncing down a steep mountain, its descent every now and again arrested by a small outcrop.' Here was a country that had a vast empire that was able to liquidate - quite literally - the wealth of an entire continent and bring it home. Five centuries later it was one of the most backward regions of the western world and an embarrassment to the EU. And then the money began to pour in.

The money was used to modernise the country in a kind of Spanish Great Leap Forward. It was all about catching up. Building. Building roads and airports and millions and millions homes that nobody really wanted. You want ten thousand euros? - I'll lend you fifty! Peasant farmers who owned dry and dusty parcels of land in Almeria - land that would have been literally worthless, almost a curse on the family - suddenly found they could borrow thousands from the bank to buy boring equipment, pumps, plastic greenhouses and fertiliser. All of a sudden they were rich on selling tomatoes and lettuces - and all kinds of other tasteless pseudo foods - to the moneyed northern Europeans, and could afford to employ migrant Africans in bonded slave-like conditions. New pickup trucks and a house by a golf course were suddenly the order of the day. It was a boom alright.

I'm happy that the place where we had chosen to live - La Alpujarra -  was considered too backward even for this kind of boom. The roads were too bendy. The people were too simple. The land was too steep and the streets of the local town were full of the dirtiest and most bedraggled kind of New Agers. Sophisticated people from Granada would come and visit in their thousands every weekend and bring with them loud music, iPhones and shiny fast cars. The locals secretly called them 'aliens' and kept their mouths shut as they were serving them in their restaurants and guest houses. I'm happy to say I was never called an alien. At least, not to my face.

But what of these urban sophisticates now? They are among the ones we see on the news reports, living on food handouts and protesting against the government. With their safety blanket pulled out, unemployment rocketing (said to have reached 6 million last week) and the country's political (and royal) classes being steadily exposed as crooks and liars, things suddenly don't look so rosy. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Not so for my erstwhile neighbours who, by and large, are getting along just fine with their fields and their small houses and appropriately sized vehicles. Fertlizer and pesticides had always been too expensive, so not that many people had got into the habit of using much of them. These folks had always said things were terrible even at the best of times. The country people of Andalucia haven't forgotten that the region is prone to famines, genocide and an unstable climate. Listen to some proper flamenco and ask yourself if this comes from a land of happy upbeat people.

Driving back down the coastal highway on the way back to the airport it was impossible not to notice how empty it was. This was a Saturday mid-morning and a few years ago one would have expected it to be moderately busy. Now, we saw a car only every few minutes. It felt like the whole road was ours - and this was the widely ballyhooed mega motorway that was supposed to be a 'ring of tarmac' encircling the whole of Spain. Sadly uncompleted, like a broken necklace.

In the news today I read that a Spanish woman dowsed herself in petrol and walked into a bank. The bank had taken her house and her savings and everything else she owned. 'You have taken everything from me!' were the words she shouted before igniting the fuel. Such stories are increasingly common.

What next for such a country? There is a growing chorus calling for the debt to be abandoned - for the country to walk away from its obligations to the monolithic banks and finance organisations and to set themselves free again. There is, if the truth be told, no other option. Whether it goes smoothly or is done with explosives is the only question worth asking. Alas, Spain's history, if it can be used as a guide, doesn't bode well. I'd love for someone to tell me that I'm wrong on this, but I'm not sure I'd believe them.

But I hope that in this case the past is going to prove to be no guide to the future. Spain held out for so long against the Anglo model of capitalism. Petty local corruption, ironically, kept development at bay and ensured the system as a whole remained resilient. It was only the surging tidal wave of EU reforms that swept away the small scale municipal corruption and replaced it with respectable-looking TBTF corruption.

Bounce, bounce down that mountain.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Thatcher: The Oily Lady

Margaret Thatcher: the first peak oil prime minister

There has been an awful lot of debate raging since former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher died last week. And like many debates that raise the emotional tempo this one is crystalizing nicely into two competing camps, namely the camp that says she ‘saved’ the UK from decline and the camp that says she left it a scorched moral wasteland where only the greedy and the bigoted flourish.

Regardless of what one might think of her policies however, what has been mostly missing is the role that oil played in her ascendency. When she came to power in 1979 Britain was a dark and miserable place. At least that’s the official narrative; from what I remember things were actually not that bad at all. I, as an 8 year-old boy, could roam around my local town at will without anyone regarding this as unusual, the music in the charts was pretty good, television was for the most part entertaining and giant supermarkets had yet to suck the life out of local communities. Things were pretty good if you didn't read the newspapers.

But one aspect of life in the 1970s that could hardly be called good was the price of oil. The two oil shocks that had occurred earlier in the decade has threatened the onward march to a wealthier, more comfortable, future. People might have been watching the Good Life on television, but that didn’t mean they actually wanted to give up their jobs and raise pigs in their own back yards. Something had to be done!

Enter Thatcher stage right. The grocer’s daughter from Grantham hit the moribund political scene like a whirlwind, smashing taboos and giving the whole gentleman’s club a sharp kick up the backside. Like any successful politician in a democracy she had identified a deep craving within the psyche of the electorate and had used the power of promise to unleash a wave which she rode to victory as well as any Oahu surfer.

Although people didn’t realize it, they had just done a deal with the devil. No, not Thatcher, the devil I am referring to is right out of Doctor Faustus and its name is oil. Thatcher, and her ideologist in crime Ronald Reagan, pulled every trick in the book to flood the world with cheap oil. North Sea production was ramped up off the coast of Britain, and Reagan did the same thing, eliminating price controls on oil and natural gas in the US. Deals were struck with other oil producing nations to do the same thing and pretty soon the price of oil – and thus the price of everyday life in the industrialised world – crashed to a level so low that it was hardly worth thinking about. The age of mega-abundance was upon us.

Britain, along with much of the industrialised world, then moved into a peculiar position. The access to cheap energy and materials might have been temporarily secured, but Thatcher had a dragon she wanted to slay in the form of the unions. British industry, as she saw it, was inefficient and stuffed full of unproductive suits and workers – most of whom happened to be socialists. The miners’ strike is the best remembered battle here, and Thatcher, by now power-crazed, refused to back down – and won. 

But who needed industry anyway? It was much cheaper to get poorer countries to make stuff for you. I remember going on a school trip to a factory where they made tennis racquets. The production manager gave us a talk and I clearly remember him saying that they were ‘offshoring’ soon to China where ‘Each worker will make ten tennis racquets for a bowl of rice.’ And we children all nodded sagely at what seemed to make sense.

Instead of industry we got finance. The so-called Big Bang happened in 1986, when the shackles were thrown off the City of London and financial firms were, not to put too fine a point on it, allowed to create money out of thin air. This proved to be much easier than making cars or ships or digging up coal, and the tax receipts were fantastic too. Nobody mentioned the fact that the whole thing looked like a Ponzi scheme, and the boom in the 1980s swept everyone up, including many of Thatcher’s former naysayers who suddenly found they were doing quite nicely out of it. There can be few more spectacular examples of this than the former Marxist comedian Alexei Sayle, whose stock in trade was lambasting Thatcher and the Tories with foul-mouthed invective. Sayle now test drives luxury cars for the right wing Telegraph newspaper and he’s tied himself in quite a few rhetorical knots trying to explain that one. 

But bitter cracks had opened up in the national discourse. Who had the greater moral right to exist? Was it the pit miner, whose family had worked in the same pits for generations, or was it the new breed of financial whizz-kids in the City, who wore red braces and said things like ‘Greed is good,’ into their brick-sized mobile phones? Well, we know who won that battle, if not the debate, in the end.

Individual families were riven – including my own. Once, my aunt and uncle came for dinner. I must have been about 15 at the time, and after a couple of glasses of wine a discussion started between my father and my uncle about the coal miners. My father was ardently pro-Thatcher and had done well out of her policies, whereas my uncle was a socialist through and through, and drove an ambulance for a living. Things became heated and my uncle said to my aunt ‘Get your coat, dear,’ and they walked out. I never saw or heard from them again and have no idea if they are dead or alive. Such were the divisions that opened up over Thatcher.

Now, almost thirty years later, it is clear what Thatcher’s legacy was. She, and others like her, rode to power on a gusher. People wanted a cheap way of life and she gave it to them. The billions of barrels of oil that have been wasted over the last few decades could have been used to build a new infrastructure that didn’t rely on the assumption of an infinitely available and cheap energy source. Instead, we wasted it on expensive plastic yachts for the rich and cheap holidays on the Costa del Sol for the poor, and a million other things in between. The chance we were given was squandered.

Was Maggie to blame? Yes and no. She might be a figure of hate for the left and a source of quasi-religious devotion for the deluded neoliberals on the right (including, I might add, Tony Blair) but ultimately, if she hadn’t come along, someone very like her would have seized the same opportunity. Is this how democracies seize up in the end? With two ultimately competing blocks of voters vying for their own share of the pie and regarding the competing faction as ‘evil’? What would Jung say ...

People often accuse her of making Britain a crueler, nastier place. Is this true? I have no idea. Looking at it the other way around it could be said that a modern industrialised lifestyle was making Britain a crueler, more atomized, society and that Thatcher was merely our totem. She was the crucible that allowed the 60 million residents of these islands to access vast material riches at the expense of the Third World, and to burn our way through oil supplies that took billions of years to form. She allowed the proud nationalists among us to perpetuate the myth that Britannia had not quite finished Ruling the Waves, and that it was our manifest destiny to remain Great. 

Without her, or someone like her, our energy descent would have proceeded in a nicely linear fashion. It’s fun to do a thought experiment on this one. Imagine, for a moment, that instead of electing a Thatcher, we had elected a dull leader lacking in charisma but with the nation’s long term security at heart. This leader, instead of throwing her weight behind motorway and airport expansions, chose to support and invest in bicycle power and energy from windmills. Her government made it law that every house should be thickly insulated to cut down on energy loss, and that cars should be taxed at 200% so that you had to be quite well off to afford one (reinvesting the money in public transport instead).

Yes, Britain would have looked like a larger version of Denmark, where all of the above were followed through on. But instead we got a massive road network that is constantly jammed and unsafe to cycle on, millions of new flimsily-built properties that leak heat like sieves (I have freezing toes as I write this in the fairly expensive 1990s-built house we are currently renting) and an energy grid that is geared for failure.

So, instead of a painful but relatively gentle transition to a future where the ability to harness energy slips slowly from our grasp what we can expect instead is a traumatic and sudden drop-off of available energy exacerbated by a painful financial crash that will likely be the most traumatic time since the cities were bombed to rubble by Hitler.

Luckily for Maggie, though, she won’t be around to experience all that. That joy is all ours.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Chinese Monument to Progress

If you want to see a picture of what defying progress as defined in the modern sense looks like, see the picture above. I came across it today as I'm reading the classic Farmers of Forty Centuries by the American agronomist F.H.King.

Published in 1911, King travelled to a China before petroleum powered agricultural machinery and artificial fertilizers. It's quite an amazing book, and in it he details all the ingenious methods that Chinese farmers used to enrich the soil and continue the traditions of forty centuries. The book is a cross between a travel journal and a permaculture handbook - my kind of book!

But the copy I have seems to be a bit of a dud - all the illustrations are missing! I was reading about King's fascination with Chinese burial mounds- or 'graves of the fathers' - of which he saw many thousands as he sailed up the Hwangpoo River towards Shanghai. These burial mounds were sacrosanct; nobody was allowed to plant crops on them but shallow burials meant that the nutrients of the corpses didn't go to waste. He writes:

"These grave lands are not altogether unproductive for they are generally overgrown with herbage of one or another kind and used as pastures for geese, sheep, goats and cattle, and it is not at all uncommon, when riding along a canal, to see a huge water buffalo projected against  the sky from the summit of one of the largest and highest grave mounds within reach."

Intrigued, I Googled the subject to see if any of these grave mounds were still there, which yielded the above picture. So, yes, at least one of them remains, although in this case it is only there because some elderly and traditional Chinese person didn't grant permission for the development company to build a condominium complex on it!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Peak Oil: All Going to Plan

Something wicked this way comes? Lightning strikes Cyprus.

Perhaps it’s the unseasonable chill that has settled over Britain and shows no sign of abating but there’s a decidedly gloomy feeling in the air. Something doesn’t feel quite right; indeed it’s all gone a bit Twilight Zone of late.

I’d hazard a guess that the eerie feeling is the initial and ongoing onset of cognitive dissonance that is growing in the damp basement of the nation’s consciousness. It’s that uneasy feeling that all is not well and that all is not going to be well, despite how many times the politicians and techno optimists tell us everything is on track.

And that’s just the small minority of people who take a passing interest in current affairs. The majority, whose days are filled with TV entertainment shows, sports and other diversions, must really be wondering what the hell is happening and why they are suddenly finding their options for living a normal life constrained ever more with every passing month. It must be the government’s fault.

But this is what peak oil looks like. It’s what peak oilers have been saying it would look like for years if not decades. In fact, we are following the script to a tee, which makes it all the scarier because we know what is coming next. We can tick off the following as ‘happened already’:

  • Global liquids (excluding ethanol etc.) plateauing and supply remaining constrained despite growing demand
  • Which in turn led to a huge hike in oil prices that has stayed with us
  • Thus causing a permanent state of close to zero growth or shrinkage in the major industrialised nations
  • And a shortage of food in much of the Middle East, leading to riots and revolutions
  • Followed by a desperate scramble for unconventional fossil fuels, such as shale gas, tight oil and deep sea oil

Furthermore, we were told to expect politicians to do anything to restore the expected growth paradigm, and that all of their efforts would be in vain because of their collective failure to recognise energy inputs as a limiting factor for economic success. We can certainly tick that one off the list as well.

So what’s next in the peak oil recipe book of How to Make a Global Disaster of Epic Proportions? Well, almost certainly we can expect to see the wheels come off the global financial system. The 2008 ‘credit crunch’ was just the first distant rumbling noise of an approaching storm, and what happened in Cyprus last week was the first violent flash of lightning as that storm makes landfall. Depositors now face losing 60% of their bank deposits in what looks like a smash and grab by the troika of the IMF, the EU and the ECB. I’d be surprised if many of them saw anything at all of their deposits back. Europe is so phenomenally broke that to ‘fix’ the debt would require some several hundred trillion dollars. Reality check: the entire world economy is only about 70 trillion dollars measured in annual GDP.

Those on the inside know the scale of the problem and we are now seeing the first part of the great deleveraging. For the past hundred years or so we have seen a giant credit bubble grow – the biggest credit bubble in the history of the world. There is now something like 99 units of phantom ‘money’ for every unit of value. Those in the know are quietly getting rid of their soon-to-be-worthless paper wealth and using it to buy up tangible wealth in the form of solid productive enterprises, land, minerals and gold. Empires in waiting are quietly disposing of their US debt and buying up precious metals, and the average man in the street thinks the fact that the US stock market is rising means that everything is doing fine (just don’t look at the trading volumes, which tell another story).

Why is finance important? Because, as Nicole Foss tirelessly points out at The Automatic Earth, finance is the operating system of the global economy. If it crashes, then nothing but a complete system reboot will restore the economy. Indeed, when it does crash we will see economies freeze up, like has happened in Cyprus. Forget a 1 or 2 percent drop in GDP, we’re looking at anything up to 50% wiped off the value of the economy in short order.

The history of humankind is a history of snatching. First it was just basic land snatching from one another. Slavery was a form of snatching other people’s energy and using it to get useful products and money from the land we had snatched. Then we discovered oil, giving us the chance to snatch energy that had taken millions of years to form. This in turn allowed the creation of the biggest credit bubble in history, which is a form of inter-temporal snatching i.e. appropriating wealth in the form of debt from our descendants. Now that the inter-temporal wealth bubble is collapsing in on itself the clever snatchers who know that the game is up are busy appropriating productive assets with the idea of leaving the rest of us out in the cold to freeze.

We didn’t mind the snatchers as long as the game was on the up. We were quite happy to buy shares and over-priced property and take out private pensions. But now that the game has been thrown into reverse we are losing our trust in the institutions that rely on trust to function. Banks, corporations, regional and national governments. And as the trust erodes (prior to an all-out stampede when a critical mass of people catch on) these centres of power will do whatever it takes to maintain the concentrated core at the expense of the periphery.  Once that happens panic will set in as people suddenly realise that they are actually on the periphery, and an unholy scramble for ‘safety’ starts- although by then it will be too late.

In the meantime we are fed an illusory series of bubbles, which rise into the air before our eyes, shimmering beautifully. A bubble in this sense is an apparition of wealth that convinces us of its value. It rises up, expanding as it does so, getting bigger and bigger as people inflate it with their wealth. It’s a law of physics that an expanding bubble will always burst and a law of human nature that some people will always insist that this isn’t true. That’s what our economies are doing these days. In the absence of creating real value they are instead merely blowing bubbles for reasons of political expediency and the enrichment of financiers extracting wealth from the suckers among us. 

Bubbles might be ephemeral, but when they burst they create real damage in the real world. Industries crash, people lose everything, political careers are cut short and everyone says ‘never again’. We’ll likely witness the bursting of the shale gas bubble pretty soon which, among other things, will spark off an energy panic and case stage two (or perhaps it will be three) of the financial crash.

So contagion is likely to be the order of the day. Europe will contaminate the US (despite an initial flight to the illusory safety of the US dollar), China will struggle to service its infrastructure under the deadweight of its reckless expansion, and everywhere else in the world will bear the brunt of the ensuing chaos. A vast deflationary period will ensue, probably for a century but maybe longer, until economies can reestablish themselves at a lower level of energy throughput and with a lot fewer mouths to support because several billion of us rely on business as usual to ensure adequate food for our survival. 

And that’s just the financial problems, which in the long run are actually the least of our worries. Following financial collapse and the inevitable wars that will ensue (Europe is laying down the groundwork for one right now) we’ll be hit with the kind of power shortages that nobody in the 21st century really likes to contemplate. There may well be plenty of oil left but that doesn’t mean you or I will benefit from it. What’s really important is traded oil. Once a country, say Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, falls below a certain threshold of oil production needed to keep the local population happy, the idea of selling it abroad becomes deeply politically unpopular. The only way to then get at that country’s oil is to fabricate a casus belli and invade it. It’ll be a pity that the major economies will likely be too broke to finance such resource wars.

Telescope events again and even the great energy crunch of the next few decades will pale in significance to the great damage we are doing to the environmental commons, with topsoil, the oceans and the climate all being left in a state far less capable of supporting life than they are even now. That is the great gift we will leave our children and their children and so on.

It doesn’t give me any joy to contemplate this, or to say that these predictions are coming true. Indeed, it’s hard enough being a Cassandra when people don’t want to listen. Try telling any of the above to the cornucopian techno optimists and they’ll tell you to perk up a bit and put your faith in the scientists or policy makers or economists. Soon it will all be flying cars and trips to Mars. Indeed, there’s been plenty written in the last couple of weeks on the peak oilosphere about the modern religion of progress, and some of us would do well to acknowledge that we’re probably also trapped by it to some extent. The realization of the trap is perhaps even harder to bear than when one considers our current predicament in any depth.

And that’s another techno trap of our age – the assumption that the universe operates along linear lines. That’s why we put hope in economists who regard monetary and fiscal policy as scientific instruments. Just tweak this knob and this will happen. Pull that lever and that will happen. But that’s not how the real world operates – economies are human constructs and as such they are vulnerable to the vagaries of human irrationality and emotional drivers. Fear and greed are two words conspicuously absent from economics textbooks. 

And it’s the same with science. Most people these days erroneously equate science with technology. Thus scientists in labs create the latest iPhones and cures for diabetes. Give them enough time (and money) and they will cure cancer and perfect cold fusion. Just don’t hold your breath while you are waiting.

So what hope is there? Well, it’s not my intention to dish out hopium. For what it’s worth I’ve spent the last week researching shale gas and coal for an article. I had a long phone conversation with Carl Shoupe in Kentucky, who used to be an Appalachian coal miner and now fights big coal in a town where everyone is a) working for the coal industry and b) is being shafted by the same. He says that even in this community some people are starting to twig that blowing up mountains and bulldozing the rubble into valleys wasn’t such a bright idea after all. There’s a bit of hope for you.

And what else? I’ve been out meeting local food producers, including organic farmers, fishermen and various artisanal producers. It’s heartening to see such a thriving network of local foodies, even if it is against a backdrop of continued supermarket expansion and a general lowering of food quality. I have been a bit surprised by the lack of organic food in the shops in the UK – there seems to be far less than when I lived here last in 2000. People, on the whole, seem to be going for the cheapest, junkiest food and the situation seems to be getting worse all the time (the only ‘job creators’ in the news seem to be the big fast food chains and the discount food stores – all of whom are doing very well. Yet another facet of peak oil.) So from now on I’ll be getting my organic foodstuffs delivered in a box once a week from a local farm. It costs more than the local Tesco, but at least it won’t poison me and my family and it’ll provide a bit of extra income for a local farmer.

But even so, if the supermarket trucks stopped rolling tomorrow, how much food would the regional food network where I live be able to supply? 10%? 15%? Who knows. Hopefully it was pay to get to know the people growing the food I eat.

In the meantime I’ve been concentrating of getting some resilience built into my own life. A few fruit and nut trees have gone in at Fox Wood – the start of a forest garden. I’m stocking up on tools and various pieces of equipment while I can. I might even get that poly tunnel set up this year instead of next – there’s no point hanging around. I know it’s not much, but it’s a start, and you’ve gotta start somewhere.