An earlier post looked at the future of the Living Field project through a diagram of the food system used as a guide at the Nourish Scotland conference in November 2019. The diagram was constructed by the Centre for Food Policy at City University London and is reproduced here in full with permission.
The diagram shows the Food Chain in the centre surrounded by the five spheres of Politics, Health, Environment, Society and Economy. The implication (with which we agree) is that the human food system is so intimately connected to the spheres that it should not be examined in isolation. Moreover, research in any one sphere or aspect of the food chain has to be aware of their connectedness to all the others.
For example, research may find solutions to improving the environment of agricultural landscapes but has to accept that progress is unlikely without political backing and without buy-in from society as a whole …. because there will be cost.
The Food System diagram was published in the following brief: Parsons K, Hawkes C, Wells R. 2019. Brief 2: What is the food system? A Food Policy perspective. In: Rethinking Food Policy: a fresh approach to policy and practice. London: Centre for Food Policy. Available through this link.
Where next for the Living field! Here we look at Nourish Scotland’s Conference and Food Atlas for inspiration. We conclude that the Living Field should remain within its core areas of environment, community and healthy eating, while working towards better integration of these core activities to link agriculture and the human food chain.
The Living Field project began 19 years ago. The name and concept were proposed by Geoff Squire in 2001. The garden and its habitats were designed by Gladys Wright, built by science and farm staff and opened to the public in 2004. It’s time to assess where we are and what might come next. We therefore examine some local and international initiatives in the food chain to help judge where the Living Field stands.
Of the many organisations we have worked with over the years, Nourish Scotland  offers the most comprehensive set of practical aims based on improving the food chain as a system, as a set of connected and interdependent parts that need to evolve as a whole.
Here we look at one of Nourish’s achievements – the Conference held earlier in November 2019. Their Food Atlas of 2018 will be featured later. In each case, Nourish defined those parts of the system that need to be in good shape for the whole to work effectively.
The Nourish system goes well beyond the biophysical properties of soil, agronomy and climate to include human health and wellbeing, the end of malnutrition and hunger in Scotland and the cultural and political will to make this happen. As a further step in our own evolution, we consider those topics from the Conference in which the Living Field already operates and those it might need to move in to.
Nourish Conference 2019
The Conference held in Edinburgh 21-22 November 2019 aimed to devise a Game Plan for a Good Food Nation. Its basic premise is that the food system is broken and needs radical change. It brought together people with a very wide range of interests and expertise. (Nourish will publish a full report in due course.)
People attending were divided into groups of about 8, each group to consider where things stand and what can be done to bring about major change. A diagram, designed by the Centre for Food Policy, City University , helped to guide discussion: the food chain lies in the centre, surrounding by five ‘domains’ or ‘spheres’ that affect and are affected by the food chain – environment, society, economy, politics and health (Fig. 1). Each person indicated their expertise by placing paper dots on the diagram. The domains were all well covered.
The Food Chain and its five spheres
The Food Chain in the centre is made up of of 8 topics . The five surrounding ‘spheres of sustainability’ go farther than the widely used three (environment, economics and society) or four (those plus politics) to include health. Each sphere consisted of 6 essential topics [listed at 3].
Fig. 1 Food chain diagram (top left) used at the Nourish Conference reinterpreted to show main activity in the Living Field project: the bigger the letters, the greater the activity in the Living Field. Full list of topics at . The food chain diagram was created by the Center for Food Policy, City University , used with thanks.
The diagram is shown upper left in Fig. 1, but to examine our activities more closely, the spheres are reproduced as boxes drawn in the same colours as in the original. Each box lists those sub-topics that the Living Field has been active in over the past 15 or more years. We have a strong base in many topics of the Food Chain from production to eating, but have done little in processing, retail and waste.
Of the surrounding spheres, most activity has been in three – Environment, Health and Society – where we combine practical knowledge in the garden and farm with online activity in this web site.
Looking at the possibilities, it would be difficult for us, with a base in the Garden, to move far into economics and politics. Rather, the scope for expansion lies through improving the connections and overall integration among topics that we already cover, with some additions such as waste.
For those readers with long-term interest in the Living Field and its future, we summarise below our work on the Food Chain and in the spheres of Environment, Society and Health, providing links in each case to articles on this web site. Finally, we look to the future.
Fig. 2 Schoolchildren visiting fields at the James Hutton Institute, looking at crops and the bugs (invertebrates) that live in them – hosted by the Living Field.
The Living Field has been active in four of the main topics in the Food Chain . Agricultural production and Farm inputs have been core activities, both in the garden and the surrounding farm. A range of cereals, legumes and tubers, some bred at the Institute, have been grown in most years. We have interpreted many aspects of Research and Technology and their practical application on the Hutton Farms for our audience of schools and the public. Eating has concentrated on the use of home-grown grains, pulses and vegetables.
There has been some integration of these topics. Our ‘grain to plate’ – or more graphically ‘seed to sewer’ promotions – have looked at links along important segments of the food chain. And we have explained that, while most of our food is imported and relatively little produced locally, there is scope to raise home grown production.
Fig. 3 Diversity of crops: panel of photographs to show the range of crops and other useful plants grown in the Living Field garden (original images by GS).
Of the 6 topics in the sphere of Environment , the Living Field has been active in Biodiversity, particularly as it affects ecological functioning, and Land use and Soil. The need to study and display diversity among managed and wild plants of the croplands was one of the main reasons for constructing the micro-habitats in the garden.
In Water, we have looked at both the water cycle as it affects agriculture and to a lesser degree the use of water in processing. Less emphasis has been given to Climate and Air, other than through having to respond to weather, as do all gardeners and farmers, and writing articles on climatic patterns and shifts.
Fig. 4 Biodiversity in the Garden – collage of images taken in the Living Field garden arranged to show the micro-habitats with their plants and invertebrates, all interconnected. Original images by Stuart Malecki / Living Field.
The Living Field has placed Education centrally from the beginning, offering visits from schools and the public and working with formal education to produce teaching aids, notably the Living Field CD which was distributed to all schools in Scotland and had been widely requested from overseas (though is no longer updated). Working within the wider Community has exposed many people to the issues being discussed here, for example through various open events including Open Farm Sunday and public road shows.
In Culture, we have promoted the existence of our traditional crop landraces, notable bere barley, and explained the transitions in farming that have led to the present state. Several artists and writers have worked with us to extend the Garden’s activities to new appreciative audiences.
Fig. 5Living Field roadshow at a Biodiversity Day, Dundee Science Centre, showing: top right c’wise, people at the event, learning how to make bread, two types of edible insect, bread made from insect flour, gluten and a sheaf of emmer wheat, with (centre) cereal grain.
The project has promoted the benefits of healthy eating, mainly through growing and locally processing pulses, vegetables and grains. A major living exhibit in 2017 emphasised the nutritional content of different types of vegetable. The wider community has shown how to prepare and cook healthy plant products. Our work touches on food safety and general wellbeing, but much less so if at all on other topics in this category .
Fig. 6 Vegetables grown in the garden, sectioned: cauliflower, carrot, onion and beet (images by Living Field)
Living Field expand into Politics and Economics
The Living Field project has had little activity in spheres of Politics and Economics. The web site has touched on issues in rural policy, such as CAP Greening, and value-generation, for example through new legume products, and web articles have pointed to our reliance for food security on international trade in commodities. Yet in general we have kept out of Politics and Economics.
How far then should the Living Field enter into Politics? There is scope for more activity in topics around tax and subsidy but little option, given our status as part of a research institute, to enter into debates on party politics, power relations and governance structures. We have not been a campaigning organisation. Rather, we contribute basic knowledge and experience which we hope will be useful to others.
Similarly, how far into the Economy? There is certainly scope to raise our contribution to generating value in agricultural products, mainly through public outreach in food technology as developed within the Institute. There is perhaps more scope in comparing the economics of various crops and forms of agriculture, and the associated trade in these products, but to do that would need closer involvement from those with the right skills.
Fig. 6 Each year the garden grows a wide selection of useful plants in addition to the food crops. Here are some from 2019: top left c’wise, flowering stems of dyer’s weld, flower of dyer’s coreopsis, great mullein, dyer’s greenweed with wild carrot heads emerging, chicory flowers, and (centre) painted lady on knapweed (www.livingfield.co.uk).
The Centre for Food Policy’s concept of five spheres around the Food Chain is a challenge. The Living Field has worked in two of the spheres from the beginning – Environment and Society – and has increased its activity in a third – Health – for example through diet and nutrition. The other two spheres, Politics and Economy have been left to other organisations adept in these areas.
Talking to people both at the conference and elsewhere, it looks like the greatest value offered by the Living Field is to continue concentrating on its core areas. Very few small projects can grow and display year on year around 200 plant species that are or have been useful to people as food, medicinals, fibres and dyes.
In looking to the future, the work needs to be more directed. Progress since 2001 has been a fairly random walk through plants and their cultivation since the neolithic. The speed and direction of this walk have been determined mainly by external events and the interests of the community – the scientists, artists and practical people who have contributed their time, effort and knowledge to the project.
Integration along the food chain
There is scope therefore for the Living Field to take on the Food Chain more holistically by integrating Environment, Society and Health with an awareness of Economics and a nod to Politics. This more purposeful approach should show the progression of products along the food chain, developing several case studies from the cereals, pulses and vegetables.
An example of how the project might operate in the future might learn from the Vegetable Map of Scotland . Gladys Wright had the idea of constructing the Vegetable Map as a living entity in the Garden. The idea came from earlier web-work with Nourish in which we constructed a digital map of the country showing where the various legume and vegetable crops were grown. But when the map was made real, growing in the Living Field Garden (shown right) the wider interest was immediate – here’s the land, here are the vegetables now grown – and here’s what could be grown if the food chain was operating for the benefit of all.
We have already begun this to a degree in association with the Hutton’s lead in the EU TRUE project on legumes in the food chain . Taking Scotland’s pulses, peas and beans, as an example, the Living Field has describe their history of cultivation, shown how to grow them, their agronomy and environmental benefits including nitrogen fixation, and explored the potential for new uses and higher value in products such as Scofu. Yes, the Scottish tofu!
And we could extend the line of thought and practice: here are the benefits for environment and health … and this is what it would take in the form of support to farming to achieve these benefits ….. and perhaps most important of all, here is the public buy-in and political will needed to make it happen.
to think about …. and not least where the money comes from for the next phase.
 Conference Food Chain diagram: Centre for Food Policy, City University of London http://www.city.ac.uk/foodpolicy. The diagram was published in the following brief: Parsons K, Hawkes C, Wells R. 2019. Brief 2: What is the food system? A Food Policy perspective. In: Rethinking Food Policy: a fresh approach to policy and practice. London: Centre for Food Policy. Available through this link.
 The Food Chain comprises: Farm inputs, Agricultural production, Research and technology, Processing, Distribution/transport/trade, Food retail/service, Waste/disposal and Eating. The sphere of Environment comprises: Land/sea, Soil, Water, Air, Climate and Biodiversity. That of Society: Education, Livelihoods, Gender, Media and advertising, Culture and Community. Of Health: Wellbeing, Food safety, Environmental health, Diet and nutrition, Antibiotic use and Workplace safety. Of Economy: Trade, Jobs, Skills, Competitiveness, Value generation, Allocation of resources. Of Politics: Legislation, Policy, Power relations, Tax/subsidies, Governance structures and Political parties
Update from Dundee Astronomical Society. Ken Kennedy writes …
Phil and I had a trip to our observatory on Wednesday evening as the sky (miraculously!) cleared. Our aim was to check out the ‘Go-To’ function of the telescope following our refinement of the polar alignment on the last clear night (a few weeks ago).
The procedure is to start from a ‘parked’ position and ask it to go to a reference star then fine tune the alignment with the hand set. We chose the star Altair and centred it then asked the telescope to go to a nebula known as the Dumbbell Nebula (M27). To our joy it went there almost precisely.
We then asked it to go to the globular cluster, Messier 15, which it did, again very accurately. At this point, having our cameras with us, we decided to have a go at taking a few images of M15. I had always thought of this telescope as being most useful for photographing (or viewing) the Moon and planets because of its long focal length but I was amazed to see the results of our brief attempt at a distant, faint object.
I took only 10 images of 20 second exposure each. Normally for deep sky work I would take about 40 images of 30 – 60 seconds each but I could see that the results with the 12 inch Meade looked very promising.
Just 33,000 light years way and 12 billion years old
I have attached a final image of M15 which was produced by stacking the images I took. With this result I think the potential to photograph faint, deep sky objects is huge and I look forward to trying some other objects soon.
Out of interest, M15 is a globular star cluster in Pegasus at a distance of 33,000 light years and with an age of 12 billion years. It is a very dense concentration of stars which probably has a black hole at its core.
We continued to have a look at several other objects with complete success.
Invitation to Astronomy night?
We would like to ask any Hutton staff who may be interested to have a look through our telescope. Probably the best object to begin with would be the Moon but that is very low at first quarter until at least December and it gets better at the start of next year.
However, although low, it may be possible between November 04 and 12 and December from 06 – 12. The hedge to the south of the observatory has grown a bit and may hide the Moon at its lowest points but it isn’t a problem otherwise so, if there happened to be clear forecast, perhaps I could contact you earlier in the day and you could pass that on to staff. I know it’s a last minute thing but, unfortunately, that’s the nature of astronomy (at least in Scotland!).
If interested staff knew there could be a last minute call, perhaps they would be willing to return to Hutton for around 7pm on any clear night on which we would contact you during the day,
Ed: Thanks again Ken. We’ll find a way to let people know about this and get the message out on the day.
Examples of plant fibre and plant parts used used in construction: coir from the husks of the coconut, simmens and sookens from oat straw. The Tang Shipwreck, found in the Java Sea, its hull planks sewn with coir. House roofs in Orkney protected and insulated with oat rope. Traditional uses of unprocessed plant material brought to life through museums in Singapore and Orkney.
Coconut fibre binds 9thC wooden hulled ship
The Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore  hosts a major exhibition on the Tang Shipwreck, found in 1998 in the Java sea . The ship carried pottery before it sank, including many porcelain bowls made during the Tang Dynasty of China (618-907), far to the east of its resting place, and intended for export and sale to the middle east. They were decorated with homely designs, trees and flowers, but also fantastic sea creatures and other beasts (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1 Images of the Tang Shipwreck: a replica of the ship among examples of pottery; (upper right) a silver medallion; (lower right) bowl with fantastic sea monster; (lower left) a large pot in which many individual bowls were packed. From Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore (www.livingfield.co.uk).
It is not so much the surviving pottery and coins that caught the interest of the Living Field‘s roving reporters, but the way the ship’s hull was constructed. It was made of wooden planks, but they were not nailed or bound by iron. Rather they appear to have had holes bored in them through which coir fibre was passed to sew the planks together. The joints were bound with wadding and sealed with lime. The guidebook states ‘these techniques are typical of early ships made in the region of the (Arabian or Persian) Gulf and India’ .
The Tang ship was recreated using techniques as in the original and proved seaworthy during trials in 2010.
What of coir?
Coir comes from the husks of the coconut fruit . The durability of coir can be seen in the many coconuts that are washed up on beaches throughout the region. Strands of the fibrous content of the husk appear clearer when the coconut has long exposure to salt water, during which the natural packing material disintegrates, allowing the coarse fibre to fall free.
Fig. 2 Coconut grove and palm-thatched hut typical on shores of the South China Sea (taken 1980s), discarded coconuts after food extracted (lower left), and part of a coconut in cross section showing the band of fibre about 5 cm wide (coir) between the inner kernel and the outer skin (www.curvedflatlands.co.uk).
Coconut Cocos nucifera is one of the most useful plants : as food, drink, oil, medicinal, fermented alcohol, utensil, animal feed, fuel, roofing material, and more. In Europe, its flesh or ‘meat’ is widely used in oriental cooking, but more common is the coir fibre used to make mats and matting . The fibre surrounds the ‘nut’, the whole protected by an outer skin. More recent uses include the fibrous ‘compost’ in which some protected fruit crops are grown.
Orkney Simmens and sookens – oat rope
At that time of the Tang shipwreck, the Picts in Scotland were carving stones and cross-slabs, reaching a high point in European Celtic art. Like the Tang potters, they also depicted fabulous monsters. Little is known of how they built their ships, but there is no equivalent of coir here, nothing quite so strong and durable that grows ready-made on trees, except perhaps the stems of heather and worked willow.
A material moderately strong and durable was however used to make rope, and that was straw from the oat crop. The distant origins of oat-rope are uncertain, but it was still in use until recently in Orkney where it was called simmens, used in roofing and securing hay ricks .
Fig. 3 Inside the Corrigall and Kirkbuster Museums on Orkney Mainland , showing plaited oat rope or simmens, balled for storage, and a rope hanging across the room over the fireplace (www.livingfield.co.uk).
Simmens is plaited from oat straw by hand, then typically stored as balls (Fig. 3). Its most celebrated usage was as a roofing material. It was looped from one of the eaves, over the top of the roof, down the other side, secured there and then looped back again, a procedure called needling.
The simmens rope was packed tightly to form a complete covering. In some places, straw was packed between successive layers of simmens and the roof completed with a final layer weighted down at the eaves by stones.
Where roof-stones were available, it was used as sarking, the inner layer, as insulation as well as to secure thatch below the stone roof tiles. Vast quantities of oat straw – probably a few kilometers of it – were needed for a single house . There must have been similarly vast quantities of long-stemmed oat grown to provide the straw.
The last few roofs that used it in Orkney were examined in the 1990s, but no attempt was made to conserve original simmens and it has all but disappeared. Could simmens be recreated today? One obstacle is ‘obtaining regular supplies of uncrushed, long-stemmed straw and the skill and amount of labour required to make and apply the simmens’ .
Simmens is on display at the Corrigall Farm Museum and the Kirkbuster Museum in Orkney . Also demonstrated (on request) is a quick method of making temporary ‘rope’ or sookans from straw using a tool shown in Fig. 4. The tool is turned by one person, straw being fed through the hook, and the twisted straw pulled through by another.
Fig. 4 Oat plants, probably bristle oat Avena strigosa, a tool used for twisting the oat straw into sookans and twisting in progress, Corrigall and Kirkbuster Museums Orkney (www.livingfield.co.uk).
These two plants, coconut and oat, are two of a number from which structural fibres can be extracted and used without the need for any highly technical processing (though coir extraction takes much effort and skill). They and others like them, including sisal and heather, would likely have been used from well before settled farming.
The two museums visited in 2019 are both excellent in their own way, each displaying ancient crafts and allowing people to see, and in Orkney touch, the exhibits. We have to admire how the peoples from mediaeval times back through Iron, Bronze and Stone ages built their ships, strong enough to cross some of the most dangerous seas around the Northern Isles.
 The Tang Shipwreck exhibition is on permanent display at ACM – superb layout and information. The museum offers a free guide book from which the information given here was taken, but much more detail can be found in a book sold there with the title The Tang Shipwreck and on Wikipedia at the Belitung Shipwreck (another name for it) which covers construction and contents and also the controversy surrounding excavation.
 Coconut fibre or coir is a protective coating between the inner ‘shell’ that shields the ‘flesh’ and milk and the outer tough skin. The fibre has become a substitute for peat in some horticultural uses, but its transport to Europe from the tropics is hardly sustainable as is sometimes claimed. The Wikipedia entry is useful: Coir. The Living Field relies for information on Burkhill’s massive treatise on the uses of plants (A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsular, 1935, 1966) which describes the long process by which coir is extracted and made ready for use.
 Simmens (but also simmans and simmons in various modern sources) is made by plaiting oat straw. A photograph of simmens being used to thatch a roof is reproduced on the Living Field site at 5000/Fibres. The Scottish National Dictionary under Simmen gives examples of usage over the past few hundred years and indicates a Norse origin. Its use in roofing is described in the booklet:
Newman, P, Newman A. 1991. Simmens and strae: thatched roofs in Orkney. Extracted from ‘Vernacular building’ published by the Scottish Vernacular Buildings Group. Herald Printshop, Kirkwall.
“There is made of barly a certaine kinde of drinke …. and a meate that is good for sicke persons, called mundified barly.” (L’Agriculture et Maison Rustique 1593)
More than Aquavitae
The Library of Innerpeffray  holds a book, named L’Agriculture et Maison Rustique (1593), that tells of, among other things, how to grow crops and use their products. Touch, open, read ….. and you will get to the page on mundified barly or barlie .
As in many sources from the 1500s through to the early 1900s, barley was viewed as a nutritious food – a health-giving corn, much more than a raw material for alcohol. The book gives instructions on preparing the barley and in one case adding fruit juices or seeds.
Boil it till it burst
Preparation begins with rough barley grain and converts it one way or another to the consistency of papmeate. One method is to boil it, beat it, strain it …. and then the surprise …. add to it various juices or seeds as available. Here’s the original, the spelling kept where possible :
The almonds referred to were presumably still juiceful, well before maturity (unlike those top right in the photo below). Other sources  offer slightly different methods of preparation and and suggest adding grape juice. Probably the juice of any fruit or sweet vegetable leaf would do.
To wet it but not to make it swim
The second process seems more involved. Wet it but not so much that it swims, beat it, force off the husks, chafe it between the fingers, dry it in the sun, put it back in water, boil it to bursting, strain it. So stressful … ! Here is the original.
Much more than Aquavitae – but was it bere
So there is in this account – and there is in many accounts from barley-country everywhere – procedures and recipes to convert this life sustaining grain to a food or healthy drink!
In temperate climatic regions unsuitable for wheat, the meal or flour from barley and oats was the main source of carbohydrate. (The equivalent crops in tropical Africa, for example, are the sorghums and millets).
In Scotland, bannocks , a form of flatbread made from barley with oatmeal and sometimes peasemeal, sustained the populace before it came to rely on traded cereal products in the later 1900s. After being cooked, bannocks remained in shape, flat and round, and so could be carried about.
The book says little about the varieties of barley that were mundified. They could well have been similar to ones grown here – the landrace known as bere  and more modern (for that time) cultivated forms.
Varieties resembling Scottish bere were known from parts of Europe. Lawson and Son (1836, 1852) refer to a form of bere grown in France and Germany and also a bere-like, naked six-row barley said to have come from mainland Europe . If they mundified in Scotland, they could have added local wild fruits in season (not melon or grapes) or even kale-juice.
Maybe the Living Field will try to mundify? More to follow on barley as a food and health drink …..
 The Library at Innerpeffray. On a visit to The Library in September 2019 (GS writes), I was handed a book L’agriculture et maison rustique. The title page credits Charles Estienne and Jean Liebault. The book examined was dated 1593. Online sources list one edition printed in London 1600 with a variant of the title – The Countrie Farme – credited to Charles Stevens and John Liebault, and translated into English by Richard Surflet, Practitioner in Physicke. The book appeared in Latin, then in several languages and editions. Available online – see Dumbarton Oaks or search for the title.
 To Mundify: the Shorter Oxford Dictionary (third edition) indicates this is now rare or obsolete, descended from mundificare (latin) and meaning to cleanse, to purify, to free from noxious matter.
 The letter ‘u’ was written as ‘v’ and the letter ‘s’ has the appearance of a tall form of ‘f’. Barley appears as barlie and barly.
 Some examples. The title page of Dictionarire Oeconomique gives it written by M. Chomel in 1725: it advised the use of mundified barley or ‘barley water’ to counter various ailments (including Hectick-dever, for which the author also suggests small meals of frogs, snails, tortoise or good fish and ‘Asses Milk’). For another ailment, the preparation is a tisane of barley and marsh-mallow. In A garden of herbs by ES Rohde (1922), another 1600s source is given for a slightly different method of preparation, but the author calls it a Hordeat as well as mundified barley.
One in a series on vegetable markets around the world: this one in ‘Little India’, Singapore.
Fresh vegetables, unpackaged, mean local production, short food chains, fine taste and a high nutritional content. The Living Field encourages local growing and use of vegetables, most recently through its Vegetable Map of Scotland.
Here we look at some of what’s on offer at Tekka, in the district of Singapore known as Little India . As in most other vegetable markets, the goods offer a range of storage times from a few days to weeks or even months.
Here are some unusual ones … unusual to us that is. They are widely eaten throughout the tropics and sub-tropics. To the left of the three above are flowers of the banana or another plantain, encased in their reddish sheaths. The tough outer layers are usually discarded then the softer inners used in soups, salads and curries.
To the right are custard apples, not so appetising on the outside but split them with a knife to get at soft tasty fruits inside. In the middle, fresh coconuts, pared ready for extracting the ‘milk’, jostle on the central shelf, gourds above them and more banana products below. Just visible above the banana flowers (left) are two jackfruit, their rough surfaces protecting luscious, tasty, orange fruits inside.
Next are two types of fruit that will be more familiar in European supermarkets. Lower right in the panel above is a mass of gooseberries and above them the shiny purple fruits of brinjal (also known as aubergine and eggplant) of which there are many forms. The brinjal’s botanical name is Solanum melongena, relative of the potato therefore (Solanum tuberosum) and some poisonous nightshades. The wall poster to the left of them is advertising a vegetable mart.
And here are some more unusual ones. To the right of the flower stall (centre) are spiny gourds Momordica dioica, a fruit usually cooked as a vegetable, fried with meat for example. They are a little larger than a golf ball.
To the left are clusters of green ‘berries’ – the fruit of the pea eggplant or turkey berry Solanum torvum, used to give some bitterness to various dishes including curries.
So brinjal, pea aubergine and potato are part of the same plant group. People throughout the world have learnt to eat the safe parts of these Solanum species and leave or neutralise the inedible or poisonous parts (usually the leaves). Potato’s edible parts are tubers rather than fruits – though if left to flower and fruit, potato produces berries similar in appearance to those of pea aubergine .
And finally there are things both familiar and exotic. To the left are limes and next to them sections of banana stem. Then in the panel of three to the right are what looks like a type of okra or cucumber, green but characteristically streaked with white, then tomato in the centre and at the bottom a collection of carrots, beans and what are probably long tubers locally called ‘radishes’ but which are not a bit like the small oval radish grown in Britain.
Further sources and links
 Little India, Singapore: vegetables, herbs and spices at and around the Tekka Centre off Serangoon Road and Bukit Timah Road.
 Potato plants can form fruits in fields in Scotland and if dropped, persist in the soil for many years, giving rise to ‘volunteer’ populations that occur as weeds in subsequent crops of potato or other species. The role of potato as a weed is described on this web site at Crop-weeds.
On a bank high above a branch of the Earn and overlooking agricultural grazing land sits The Library of Innerpeffray. It is a Library of old books, open to the public and with a remarkable ethos of access before conservation. You have to travel along twisting roads, between Perth and Crieff, to get there …. but what a place!
The founding of the Library in the late 1600s by a local landowner is described at the Library’s web site . The people – not just the gentry – could read and borrow books. That tradition continues.
Andrew Wight’s travels published 1778-1784
The Living Field has often referred to The Current State of Agriculture in Scotland – anonymous but written by Wight – as a source of knowledgeable and first hand appraisal of the agricultural Improvements instigated by certain farmers and landowners . And here it is on the shelves to be opened, the pages turned. Some sentences from the Preface, not by Wight, justify his years-long mission .
Improvements to land use and production had been made by some but not widely taken up. So in an age of slow communication between widely separated and sometimes isolated farming regions, there needed to be a means to share knowledge and good practice.
Quite possibly, the sentiments written above could apply to any age!
Mundified barlie, oates and Durer’s rhinoceros
L’Agriculture et Maison Rustique was published first in Italian, then in French and English . The Library had copies of the latter two, the front page of the one examined dated 1593. It’s an early account of crops and their uses. On pages devoted to cereals, it explains how to mundify barley, to convert it to the consistency of papmeate and to add fruits and seeds for taste as available or desired .
Then on oats, the book refers to the property of oat seed to emerge in other crops (known today as ‘volunteer’ weeds).
But which oats were they – possibly a more primitive variety such as black oat Avena strigosa, known by some in Britain as ‘famine food’? The writers then refer to the use of oatmeal boiled and enriched with meat into a porridge-like consistency.
There is no end to the interest and fascination. The celebrated wood engravings of the rhinoceros by the artist Albrecht Durer  were there for visitors to see, unphotoshopped, the ink lettering coming through from the back of the page.
 Albrecht Durer (1471-1578), a German Renaissance artist, engraved an image of an Indian rhinoceros, which he had not seen directly but crafted from verbal descriptions and a drawing. There are several versions, the one above photographed from an book of unusual animals at The Library of Innerpeffray.
The present ‘image of the month’ shown at the top of the right-hand margin is one of Ken Kennedy’s photographs of the moon’s surface. Ken and colleagues from Dundee Astronomical Society  have worked with the Living Field for years, exhibiting at our open days and writing about the sun, moon and atmosphere .
Here’s the photograph:
“The image you have chosen shows the dogleg of the Hyginus Rille, a volcanic feature along which you will see a series of small craterlets. Above the Hyginus Rille and to right centre you will see a distinct but fairly small crater called Triesnecker. When I took the image I was attempting to catch the complex of rilles around this crater and, on this occasion, I was successful.”
“These rilles are believed to be of ‘tectonic’ origin which probably means that they are ‘cracks’ in the Moon’s surface due to early shrinkage and moonquakes. Other rilles are caused by lava flow or graben faults causing collapse of a section of ground.”
Apollo moon missions
“The memory seeing Apollo 11 live on television 50 years ago is still vivid in my mind. Although I did not meet Armstrong or Aldrin I did meet David Scott, commander of Apollo 15 when he visited Mills Observatory in 2005. I was astronomer there at the time and was able to ask the seventh man to walk on the Moon about Hadley Rille near to where Apollo 15 landed. “
“David Scott and James Irwin took the lunar rover to the edge of Hadley Rille and he told me that, contrary to it’s telescopic appearance, the walls of the rille are at an angle of about 45 degrees. He said that he could have walked into the rille – but did not do so!
He was kind enough to sign a photograph of himself on the Moon beside Hadley Rille. I have also attached an image I took in May which shows the Apollo 15 landing site.”
With thanks to Ken for the moon images and the historical connection.
 Dundee Astronomical Society has a very active membership and an extensive web site: dundeeastro.
 Jim, Ken, June Andy and Tony from DAS demonstrated telescopes and astronomical images at Open Farm Sunday on 9 June 2019 – “one of the busiest we ever attended”. On the day, Geoff Squire and Glady Wright from the Living Field project were presented with certificates as Honorary Members of DAS. With thanks!
Mixtures sown for hay or grazing in the 1800s. Grass, legumes and other broadleaf plants selected for their ablity to live together. Many of the plants grown then coexisting now in the Living Field garden. Lessons for grass rediversification today. One of a series of articles on crop-grass diversification.
The run of bad weather, crop failure and hunger of the late 1600s, sometimes called ‘the ill years’, was one of the factors that led to a period of agricultural improvement from the early 1700s to the late 1800s. The improvements raised and to a degree stabilised food production. One of the most important developments was the design and trialling of species-rich plant mixtures for hay and grazing.
Early accounts of ‘grass’ mixtures by agriculturalists, notably Stephens, Elliot and Findlay, are valuable to us today because they gave weights of the seed of each plant species that made up the mix . Though weight of sown seed does not translate directly into mass of the species in the field, it is the only measure handed down to us by which the diversity of those old mixes can be quantified and compared with today’s commercial seed mixtures.
Why is this important? Over the last 150 years, crop-grass agriculture has become less diverse, more dominated by a few grass species and in the process losing many ecological functions. Plans to re-diversify could learn from past practice.
Mixing grass, legume and other broadleaf species
The hay and grazing mixtures from this period are summarised in a related web article  as circular diagrams, the inner ring showing the proportions of grass (blue-green), nitrogen-fixing legume (red) and, when included, other broadleaf plants (orange-brown), while the outer ring shows the proportions of individual species. The diagrams below show the rise in complexity of the mixtures from one-year-hay (1) to two-year grazing (2) and permanent pasture (3, 4).
The main feature of those mixes – though rarely seen today in commercial grass fields – is the presence of several legumes species and sometimes broadleaf plants other than legumes. The role of the legumes is to fix nitrogen gas from the air and so enrich the soil for the grass species at a time when mineral fertiliser was not widely available. The other broadleaf species were included to fill ecological gaps (functions and processes) that could not be provided by the grasses or legumes.
Meadow plants in the Garden
The meadow in the Living Field garden  was sown back in 2004. In the first few years, the most visible plants were those that grew quickly and flowered in the first or second year. These annuals and biennials were soon ousted by perennials, some that had been sown and others that came in. After 5 or 6 years the meadow was populated by a diverse group of perennials.
The meadow has been lightly managed – cut once a year, usually in September. Yet many of the plant species that were part of the 1800s mixtures appear naturally able to coexist in the meadow and surrounding patches.
The typical legumes in early grass mixtures were clovers, the red and white species but also alsike and several others. Red Trifolium pratense was thought best for one year’s hay because it was fast growing but short lived, while white Trifolium repens persisted much longer and was suited to pasture. Both have lived in the meadow for at least a decade. Alsike Trifolium hybridum was grown as part of a legume collection a few years ago but has not remained.
Other legumes in sown mixtures from the 1800s included the bird’s-foot trefoils, mainly Lotus corniculatus which is as common in the meadow as white clover, and kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria which persists as only a few plants here and there among the grasses and sometimes in the medicinals bed.
The meadow has other legume species, of the genus Vicia, that were not generally favoured in earlier mixtures because they have tendrils and so tend to twine among and drag down the grasses and other plants.
Two common tendril-bearing species recur in the meadow each year – common vetch Viciasativa which generally keeps to itself and hairy tare Vicia hirsuta which can become a serious weed (as this year) smothering other plants. A third one of this type, tufted vetch Vicia cracca tends to move around unkempt patches rather than live in the meadow.
The images in the legume panel above show (top left, clockwise) white clover among grass and plantain, common vetch, kidney vetch and red clover with bird’s-foot trefoil (yellow flowers).
The other broadleaf plants
It may come as a surprise today to learn that plants other than grasses and legumes were purposely sown in fields as part of mixtures for hay and pasture. Of those reported from the 1700s and 1800s, the commonest in the meadow itself are yarrow Achillea millefolium and ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata.
Two others have appeared in grassy areas – chicory and burnet. Chicory Cichorium intybus was first planted in the medicinals bed, but has spread and now lives among grasses such as yorkshire fog and cocksfoot. Its main role in the 1800s mixtures was to break through soil pans that formed at 10-20 cm depth due to the shallow ploughing that was typical of the time.
A few plants of burnet Sanguisorba minor were noted a some years ago, and like chichory have persisted for years among competitive grass species. We do not know where the burnet came from.
The images above show (top left, c’wise) burnet and ribwort plantain among grasses, yarrow leaf, chicory plant with blue flower inset, burnet leaves and red stems. and finally ribwort plantain with flower inset.
They might ‘all look the same’ in leaf, but their basic floral structure recurs in many forms to give great diversity among our common grass species. Many of the early sown mixtures included timothy-grass Phleum pratense, cocksfoot Dactylis glomerata, crested dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus, several fescues (Festuca species) and tall meadow-grasses (Poa species), all of which are present in the meadow.
Two other pasture grasses are common in the garden – sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum and yorkshire fog Holcus lanatus which become established wherever the ground is left untilled for a few years.
The grass panel above shows (top left, c’wise) mainly yorkshire fog growing among wild carrot, flowering heads of sweet vernal and timothy and (from the early years) fescue and crested dog’s-tail among ox-eye daisy.
High diversity – low management
The 1800s mixtures were designed to give a balanced diet for livestock and to ensure fresh plant tissue was present for a long as possible during the year. They mixed species to ensure that each came to prime leaf or seed at different times. For hay, the progression of floral or reproductive structures was important, for pasture the blend of leafy parts.
The meadow in the Living Field garden also harbours other plants sown specifically for wildlife, including field scabious, perhaps the favourite of the pollinating insects, ox-eye daisy and lady’s bedstraw. At one time wild carrot lived in the meadow (top left in the grass panel above) but now prefers grassy margins next to paths. Even with these additional species, the meadow complex retains many of the species sown for hay and pasture from the 1700s to the early 1900s.
The secret of sustaining the meadow is to keep soil fertility low by not fertilising and ground cover high by growing many species that quickly react to fill any gaps. No one species dominates and noxious weeds are given little chance to enter.
 The original sources, mainly Wight (late 1700s), Stephens (1841 onwards), Elliot (1898 onwards) and Findlay (1925) are given in this companion article: Grass mix diversity a century past on the curvedflatlands web site.
 The origin, main species and management of the meadow are described on this web site at Garden/Meadow and Garden/The_making. The drone image below from early 2019 shows the location of the meadow (covering about 200 square metres), see also : Living Field garden from the air.
The Living Field team has maintained very high diversity per unit area here for almost 15 years.
Contacts: this article email@example.com; meadow management firstname.lastname@example.org.