Minger – the name of a new cheese from Highland Fine Cheeses in Tain. It’s been getting some press coverage in recent days because (in case our international readers are unfamiliar) the term tends to be used as a mild insult, meaning something or someone that smells. Apparently, up-market food outlets are concerned for their customers’ sensibilities. The cheese gets its name from an odorous, orange outer coating. Back down the line, ewes grazing in Caithness and the Black Isle provide the milk. The Times newspaper of 29 October 2018 tells the story. (Is it really smellier than an epoisses that you forgot to put back in the fridge!)


The astronomers from DundeeAstro have been busy preparing their new telescope. There will be training sessions for members interested in using it over the winter; and next year they are offering a night for Hutton staff. Should good.

Time to begin sorting out the various beds in preparation for next year. But what’s this – a big patch of turf in place of the arable plots ? And someone put big stones among the turf. What’s going on? The plot will become clear after the turning of the year when the winter merges into spring. Wait and see.


Everything was well ahead of its usual timing after this year’s heat and lack of rain. The meadow plants had stopped flowering in August, even the field scabious dried and useless to the bees. The meadow was cut in early September and the hay removed.

The many bees that frequent the garden must have suffered this year. It was rare to see a red-tailed bumble bee at any time. Flowering in the meadow and medicinals bed stretches into October most years, but there is little left apart from the betony and few legumes.

Jean Duncan’s barley timeline has also been harvested. More to follow.


June 2018 continued the dryness of May. New plants put in the garden had to be watered a few times to get them to survive.

The Living Field meadow in early July, musk mallow inset

The barley timeline continues to progress – see a time lapse on Twitter.

Visitors have commented on the meadow’s splendour in late June: the ox-eye has receded and the mauve-flowered field scabious, much appreciated by the many bumble bees,  is rising above the legumes and lady’s bedstraw.

Our artist friend Tina Scopa held her plant pressing workshop again at Open Farm Sunday, this time at Glensaugh farm near Fettercairn on 10 June. Then she was asked by the Hutton Institute to do the same for a few days at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, where she set up among the RHET displays. A great collaboration developing.


The garden’s birds and insects saw some unusual activities in May 2018.

Dundee Astronomical Society completed their ‘shed’ which now houses a more powerful telescope. There will be an opening event later

Hoverfly on wild rose, early June

in the year and opportunities for Hutton staff to see the stars. Learn more at their Dundeeastro page on this site.

Jean Duncan has been organising a barley timeline, demonstrating change in varieties since the 1800s. They are behaving themselves (more or less) all in rows. Tracy Dixon from Dundee University (exCECHR) fitted up a couple of time-lapse units to record the changes in barley with the season.

Note there will be NO Open Farm Sunday here this year – the event is moving to the Institute’s Glensaugh upland farm – for details see the Hutton-LEAF web site. Otherwise it’s been unusually hot and dry for May.


The Living Field has taken to Twitter to help manage and promote its growing role in outreach and education.  @TheLivingfield will post updates and progress with what’s going on in and around the Living Field garden. @curvedflatlands will link activities in the Living Field project to current global research and debate on sustainable agriculture and environment. Follow us …..


We continue our investigations of the bere line with Bere country, contrasting distributions of bere and barley in the 1854 agricultural census and Grannie Kate returns with more bere recipes at Bere scones.

New images at some of the Garden pages on plants – Cereals, Dye plants, Vegetables. And after a very long and cold winter, here are some photographs in the Living Field Garden in April and early May.

The current Living Field image (top right) is Hutton Rocks! – a slightly processed photograph of one of Andy Goldsworthy’s split and carved sandstone sculptures on the Hutton Roof at the National Museum of Scotland.


The Living Field is pleased to work in association with artists and craft workers. Two of our friends have exhibitions current or soon to open.

Tina Scopa’s exhibition on Plant Prints and Earth Paintings will run at An Tobar on Mull from 3 to 30 March 2018.  Tina works with a range of methods including plants and soil as media for art. Find out more on the Comar web site. See also Tina’s Living Field web page.

Kit Martin is an experimental photographer specialising in plants and insects. Some of her cyanotypes are being shown at the Bones exhibition held at Perth Museum and Art Gallery from 17 March to 24 June 2018. See more at the Culture Perth and Kinross What’s On web pages. We are exhibiting some of her cyanotype images on the Living Field site .


“Find out more about the cutting-edge research into plants being carried out at the University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute. ” A series of sort talks to complement the Beauty and Science of Plant Exhibition (see below). Including talks from Geoff Squire, Pete Iannetta, Ali Karley and Isabelle Colas from the Hutton, and Mark Cutler from the University.

Venue: Baxter Room, Tower Building, University of Dundee DD1 4HN. Date: Tuesday 27 February 17:30 to 18:30. Details: Eventbrite.


This is true! The more so in Winter, specially if you’re in Cairns! Coming up on the Living Field web site are a range of articles and images, some you wouldn’t believe, other you always knew were true.  In the next few weeks:

  • Colours of silverweed –  plants and animals competing with plastic, eating it, dying through it; the impossibility of removing all of it.
  • The amazing utility of plants – turning maize cob-husks into art paper and cheroot wrapping.
  • All about chestnuts in Portugal, including recipe for chestnut soup.
  • Open Farm Sunday 2018 preview.
  • Plans for a Living Field garden exhibit on vegetables in 2018.

And the latest images and customs around the February cross-quarter day.


Quick update on new pages and posts.

  • The famous Beans on Toast project has been given its own space from where you can go to Sarah’s original study    ….
  • Beans on toast – a liquid lunch which looks at the constituents and the water used in making this simple dish, then more on water at 
  • Seed to sewer – the water footprint of a simple meal, which attempts to estimate how much water is needed (a few bathfulls) to grow the crops and process their products just to get them into the tin or package, and finally …..
  • The art and craft that comes out of the Beans on Toast roadshow and open day exhibit – Where does our food come from?

And though Beans on Toast hogs the show, we also have –

  • Paterson’s Curse – the brief story of a borage-family plant that became an invasive weed in Australia
  • Bangkok Market – sights and reminiscences of vegetables and fruits in south east Asia

And lastly, some new images from the garden at the Winter Solstice on 21 December 2017.


Matthew Jarron from the University of Dundee’s Museum Services sends this note on two forthcoming exhibitions. Opening times from this weekend 20 January 2018, Mon-Fri 09.30-19.00, Sat 13.00-17.00.

“In the Lamb Gallery, the exhibition Botanical Conversations features highlights from the University’s amazing Herbarium collection, stunning botanical teaching charts and beautiful works of art inspired by plants. It describes the history of botany teaching at the University and also showcases some fascinating projects being carried out both here and at the James Hutton Institute.” Exhibits also include the Citizen science GROW Laboratory at DJCAD, The Beauty of Roots exhibition, and the poetry of  Heather Yeung. Runs until 31 March 2018.

“Meanwhile, in the Tower Foyer Gallery, Exploring our own Backyard has been put together by the University of Dundee Botanic Garden and highlights the current project to revamp the Garden’s native plants area. This is the jewel in the Garden’s crown and is still unusual in botanic gardens, which traditionally showed little interest in their natives. Dundee’s garden is young, founded in 1971, and it was committed from the start to telling the story of Scottish plants and their ecology. Runs to 17 March 2017.


The Living Field is pleased to post an article by Transition Turriefield on their experiences with growing vegetables as part of a community project at a latitude of 60 North. Long days in summer mean a good solar income, but temperature and soil condition impose severe limitations to plant growth. To have grown and sold such a range of produce this far north is a major achievement.

We sometimes think we have problems in the Living Field garden at 56 North, but here the soil is deep-ish with a rarely limiting water-holding capacity and not too much organic content.  You have to applaud the Turriefield team for persevering against the odds. An example to all doubters! See their account at Transition Turriefield.


In addition to Transition Turriefield (above), new posts and pages in and around October and November 2017 include:


Tuesday 24th October 2017 from 09:45 to 16:30 at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Nourish Scotland sent us the following notes and link. On 24th October 2017 London, Edinburgh, and Cardiff will host Vegetable Summits where wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, caterers, government representatives and manufacturers will be making a pledge for more veg.

Map of vegetable growing in Scotland prepared by Nora Quesada, Agroecology Group, Hutton). Full sized image and commentary in a later post.

We should be eating about 3.5 portions of veg a day, but most of us fall short by one portion and many of us, including children, are eating hardly any veg at all.  Yet, 79% of UK adults want to be eating more veg in their diet. Our environment makes it difficult to eat well: from aggressive junk food advertising, to limited availability of veg in convenience stores and high prices, to lack of cooking skills.

We will be hearing about the barriers to veg consumption from each sector, and from the trailblazers demonstrating great leadership in this area. We will see bold action as organisations pledge to do their bit to increase veg throughout the food system.

We invite food businesses – from production to retail – to attend to discuss how collaborative action can make veg the easy choice. For the programme and eventbright booking link, see


Tina Scopa’s art exhibition at the Roseangle Gallery, Dundee in August is shown in some images provided by the artist – right, and more at Tina’s web page on the Living Field.

The Food Life in Angus is a collective that aims to reconnect local people and with local food. They have organised a range of events over the coming weeks and months. Looks great. For details see the eventbrite page.

The Carse of Gowrie Sustainability Group has organised a Patrick Matthew Festival Weekend in the Carse between Dundee and Perth. The opening event is at the Inchture Hotel, Inchture on Friday 29 September 2017. Other events follow: check the twitter page on Patrick Matthew. There is also a PM trail planned along the Carse. The wikipedia entry gives more on his life and contribution.


lf_ntsmgs_mn2_kk_1100The structure covering Dundee Astronomical Society‘s telescope in the Living Field garden was damaged some time ago in a storm. After some planning and discussion with the Living Field team, and with the blessing of the Institute, the astronomers are now in the process of making a new cover to be installed later this year.

In preparation, Ken Kennedy and friends will be dismantling the existing cover and removing the telescope for safe keeping until the  new structure is in place [11 September 2017].

Update 26 Sep: The old telescope dome is now ‘off’ and disposed of (thanks to Gladys Wright and Jim Wilde for arranging the mini-skip). A strange looking stump, shielded in plastic, sticks out of the concrete  pad’ and we are told the construction of the new ‘shed’ is moving apace. [Ed: can’t wait to see it!]


The Living Field Garden at the end of August 2017:

  • Most vegetables now harvested or left for seed, Brussels sprouts and runner beans still growing, the potato varieties waiting in the ground to be unearthed.
  • All ancient and modern cereals now matured, soon to be lf_g_vgtbls_mrgld_ikon_gs_500harvested, the seed saved  – the emmer, spelt, bere barley black oat and rye have been propagated in this way as landraces for many years.
  • Bee plants now mostly finished – some field scabious, viper’s bugloss, wild marjoram, wild mint, a few betony still with flowers; of the N fixers, red clover and yellow vetchling will continue for some weeks. There are still a range of bee species but numbers are falling.


  • Vegetables in the Garden – updated page with many new photographs of this year’s vegetables and herbs.
  • Labours of the Months – medieval wall paintings at St Agatha’s Church, Easby, Yorkshire: a contribution to the Living Field pages on The Year.
  • Bere battered – another bere-meal recipe from Grannie Kate
  • ScoFu: the quest for an indigenous Scottish tofu – article by Chantel Davies on making tofu from locally grown beans.


ts_poster_dundeeartsociety_exhibVisitors will be aware of Tina Scopa’s recent work with the Living Field, including her well attended  workshop in the Garden and her article with images of her Edaphic Plant Art.

She has since been preparing an exhibition at Dundee Art Society from 14-20 August (poster right) and has been interviewed by ArtPlantae who published an extended Q&A session about her work on 24 July 2017 under the heading Plants that draw themselves.

Tina has two workshops coming up: 30 July, Sunday at Tayport Community Garden and 13 August, Sunday at Ninewells Community Garden, Dundee.

We will be working with Tina on new projects over the coming months.


lf_nws_nwngd_chv_gs_500The Living Field Garden in the middle of July 2017.

  • Harvesting the vegetables and herbs – peas, kale, lettuce, parsley, courgette –  will continue into the autumn
  • Cereal ears all maturing, the bere almost there
  • Aggressive weeds trying to take over – pulling up the ragwort
  • Bees active on a wide range of plants – field scabious (the long lived favourite), greater knapweed, betony and viper’s bugloss (nearly finished); hemp agrimony flowers starting to open.
  • Medicinals, dyes and herbs – cutting back the comfrey stalks after flowering, staking up the cotton thistle and chicory, preparing a spot for some honesty seedlings.


Over 1000 people visited the site on 11 June. Wet and more wet, with the occasional downpour, but good to see the local community is interested in what is being done here in sustainable agriculture and environment. Some images at The Garden on Open Farm Sunday.

As part of the build up to Open Farm Sunday, to be held 11 June 2017, the Garden featured in an article by Gayle Ritchie in the Courier of  3 June. A PDF version is accessible.

The television programme Landward visited the site on 2 June to film a range of activities that will take place in and around the Garden on Open Farm Sunday. The clips will be aired on BBC One Scotland on Friday 9th June, 7:30 pm, and on BBC Two Scotland on Saturday 10th June, 4:00 pm. (No spoilers, sorry.)


lf_g_17may31_whtcmpn_gs_500The Living Field Garden at the beginning of June 2017.

  • Raised beds in the west garden now filled with a range of vegetables and herbs as part of an outreach project on vitamins and minerals in food.
  • Ancient and modern cereals beginning to show their ears – also maize and pumpkins well established.
  • Bee plants in flower – field scabious, comfrey and viper’s bugloss.
  • Preparations are well under way for Open Farm Sunday on 11 June.


  • Article by Jean Duncan on Maize paper,  showing how to make paper from parts of maize plants grown in the garden.
  • Burnt whin – the effect of random bush fires on juniper, a species at risk.
  • On the edge – notes on extensive lazy bed field systems and crops grown from 1690s around Eoropie, North Lewis – a link in the Bere line.
  • Beauty of Roots exhibition in Dundee by Paula Pongrac, Jean Duncan and friends.


Open Farm Sunday will be held at the Institute on 11 June 2017. As in previous years, the Living Field garden will be the alive with activities. Check the Hutton Open Farm Sunday page for details nearer the time.

Some rain we hope. The dry spring continued. So dry that some farmers have been irrigating spring-sown crops to get them germinated and putting out leaf and root. Irrigating spring sown crops in Scotland!! A article to follow comparing spring rainfall patterns over the last 1000 years. (See also notes on the Living Field garden.)

lf_nws_17_frdwhn_350The early May cross-quarter day, usually on the 5th, known as Beltane in some cultures, traditionally meant the crops were sown, the blade was out (the first leaf of the cereals)  and farming could expect increasing light and warmth, yet enough water in the soil not to worry about the young plants being droughted.

This year, a dry May followed a dry April. Beltane in 2017 brought more than festival fires. Areas of moorland and scrub were blackened by flame in some areas. The lack of rain was so severe that some spring sown crops were starting to fail, not germinating and not putting up the blade.

The winter crops, wheat and oilseed rape were fine, their roots having extended to depth over the previous months. There have been other dry springs in the last 100 years but only a few as dry as this. More on the May cross-quarter day at XQ2.


A few updates from our friends at the Dundee Astronomical Society.

  • lf_ntsmgs_mn2_kk_1100Their observatory at the Living Field garden, damaged some time ago in a storm, will be repaired in the coming months and used again for observing the skies.
  • Ken Kennedy has kindly written an article on Noctilucent Clouds for the Living Field web site – see The Phenomenon of Noctilucent Clouds and the full article with images at Clouds on the Summer Horizon.
  • Ken has also sent some images of the moon and of several galaxies which we will display over the coming weeks.
  • Dundee Astronomical Society will be with us (we hope) at the forthcoming LEAF Open Farm Sunday at the Dundee site on 11 June 2017 – all welcome.

[11 April 2017]


Our correspondent Anne Thomson sent the following note.

On Sunday 26 March 2017, The Food Life is holding a Spring Food Festival at Strathmore Mart in Forfar, bringing the Taste of Angus Festival to a close. “You can sip cocktails while browsing for fresh seafood, handmade chocolates, Arbroath Smokies, Forfar Bridies and freshly-baked artisan bread …… take your pick from a mobile patisserie, delicious vegan dishes and wood fired pizzas.”

Taste of Angus is a food and drink marketing campaign ….. to raise the profile of local produce, its producers and suppliers. More at and


lf_nws_crlwbrch_gs_350Twice a year, night and day are the same length. Yet though the autumn equinox marks the descent to winter, the air stays warm, there’s little chance of snow and crops could grow. In contrast, the solar equivalent on 21 March is a time of uncertainty: temperature lags well behind the rise in the sun’s intensity; deep snow some years, dry warmth in others.

Stone-, Bronze- and Iron-agers would be weighing up the best time to sow their spring grain. With technology, it’s still a lottery when best to sow.

This year it was more dry and warm than cold and wet. But not so warm that the wild plants are much more advanced than usual. Plants in the Living Field garden bide their time, as ever. You can move plants and they’ll hardly suffer.

More on the solar cycle, crops, plants and traditions at Spring Equinox. The image is of the stairs between outer and inner walls, Dun Charlabhaigh (Carloway Broch), Lewis, Iron Age, two days after the equinox 2017.


lf_nws_tsl_gs_500March 2017, only three weeks to the spring equinox –

  • Preparations for the 2017 sowings are underway: the ancient cereals will soon be germinating in pots before being planted out in late April as young plants.
  • Seeds are being collected and sown for a new display later this year on vegetables (and fruits) that accumulate high concentrations of nutritional elements and vitamins.
  • Some of the medicinals and dyes are beginning to sprout – the garden angelica Angelica archangelica is one of the earliest and hardy against any late frosts; others, like marsh mallow Althea officinalis will not appear for a few months.
  • The farm and workshop are carrying out late winter repairs to posts, gates and display panels.


As part of the 2000m2 Field of Enquiry project based at Whitmuir Farm, Geoff Squire and Ali Karley from the Hutton Institute will be presenting and discussing issues in food and food security at the session titled Feeding the Cities on 25 February 2017. Topics covered will include the history of food insecurity, intensification in the later 1900s, the present yield levelling and associated decline of ecological function, future internal and external threats to food production,  alternative sources of protein and the potential contribution on nitrogen fixing legumes.

The session will be held at the Lamancha Hub in the village of Lamancha, south of Penicuik.  There is more on the project at Whitmuir Community Farm while past and future events can be reviewed at 2000m2 Field of Enquiry Workshop programme. Thanks to Heather Anderson, project manager, for inviting us to the event.

[GS writes on 26 Feb 2017: great day – what enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge from those involved in 2000m2 – the organisers have drawn in such a range of people,  a range of expertise over the 10 week-ends; looking forward to the result.]


Stephanie Frischie (from the US presently in Spain) sent a link to this web site The Botanist in the Kitchen – where botany meets the cutting board, and in particular the post of 28 December 2016 titled Closing out the International Year of Pulses with Wishes for Whirled Peas (and a tour of edible legume diversity). This is really excellent article, and excellent web site, blending food, natural products, evolutionary biology and …… botany.

Last time Stephanie was over here she helped out at one of The Crunch events Feel the Pulse. More to follow on the International Year of Pulses (now gone but not forgotten).  Pulses are grain legumes, like peas, beans and lentils, high in protein and highly nutritious. To see how legumes are used in low-fertility cropping systems (as they were once here) see Mixed cropping in Burma.


Here is a rare opportunity to view the complete Tam O’Shanter paintings by Alexander Goudie.  They will be displayed at Rozelle House and the MacLaurin Gallery in Ayrshire until 12 March 2017.  As a taster, the paintings can be viewed online. This is only the second time thay have all been publicly on view.  For ‘Tam’s blue bonnet’ and background on dye plants, potato, neep and Burns Night – see the article SoScotchBonnet on this site.


lf_nolfwtsn_img4_gs_200The present BBC 2 series Britain’s Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney is a great chance to learn more about neolithic Orkney and its european connexions. The series revolves around excavations at Ness of Brodgar. It’s been screened on Monday evenings and is continuing. Details on BBC iPlayer [posted 17 January 2017]

And the Royal Mail has just released Ancient Britain Special Stamps which includes one of Skara Brae, Orkney.


A moist but not too cold solstice-time this year. The shortest day, near 21 December, the turning of the year. Climatic cross-currents,  the days lengthening, but two more months of lowering temperature. You can image why the early Bronze age people who lived here aligned Clava Cairns and their other monuments to the winter solstice.  The start of a countdown for how much time was needed to survive on the stored grain and livestock.

Now it’s imports of bread, rice and pasta that sustain us through the winter. But it’s still a tricky time for farming. Go back a year and remember the floods of winter 2015/16 that  shifted cereal land from wheat and barley to oats and depressed the 2016 autumn harvest. Some images around the winter solstice are given on the Welcome page. More on the climate, weather, crops and midwinter festivals at Winter solstice.


Late 2016 –

  • Connexions from Mike Whellans ‘Cornbread, peas and black molasses‘ at Dundee Jazz Festival to poverty-food in the US, chain gangs, slavery, maize, pellagra, and Goldberger’s revelation of dietary deficiency.
  • Jean Duncan’s experimental etchings of root cross sections from micrographs by Robert Baker at Sectioned II.
  • Images from the Living Field garden in early December at The Garden.
  • Update for XQ4 (early November) including new images.
  • Further examination of the effect on crops of the 2012 winter floods (commentary on the 2015/16 flood to follow).


Reflections on Celts continues at The McManus Art Gallery and Museum, Dundee until 5 December 2016 – two iron age mirrors, the Celts in Dundee plus ‘a stunning 3D visualisation of the Dundee Law’.

Katy Dove – memorial exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts – films, prints, animatiThe gons with music, ‘inhabited landscapes’ until 20 November 2016.


The mid-point between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, on or around 5 November: a transition, not cold yet, but low sunlight – a time to mark and remember, All Hallows, All Souls, Samhainn, Guising, Guy Fawkes,  Galoshans, and in India, Diwali, the festival of lights. For more on the yearly cycles, the crops, the festivals – XQ4.

va_grdnlfltV&A MUSEUM OF DESIGN 

The V&A Museum has been growing into its fantastic shape these last few months at the Dundee waterfront. Sam Edmond and Peter Nurick from the V&A team visited the Living Field garden and cabins in October 2016 to discuss collaborations with Geoff Squire, Gladys Wright and Gillian Stirton.

The V&A Community Garden Dundee – ‘an innovative design project at the heart of the city’s waterfront’ – is looking for volunteers to help with creation and maintenance. If you want to learn more or take part, contact


Thanks to Stephanie Frischie for sharing these links on ‘the land-food-art-culture continuum’ –

“Dedicated to integrating culture and agriculture, the Wormfarm Institute is an evolving laboratory of the arts and ecology and fertile ground for creative work. Planting a seed, cultivating, reaping what you sow…both farmer and artist have these activities in common.”

And each year they hold Fermentation Fest – “brings together farmers, chefs, artists, poets and performers in the beautiful working lands of Sauk County, WI for nine days of tastings, demonstrations, cooking classes, art events, performances, food carts and more.”  This year it’s on 1 to 9 October 2016. Go if you’re in the area: Wisconsin USA.  Looks fantastic.



lf_nws_brlyhngyn_gs_200A series of exhibits and ‘meet the expert’ events will take place on topics of sustainable and healthy food on Saturday 10 September 2016 at Dundee Science Centre.

Exhibits connected to Living Field themes include Grain to plate (the basis of human civilisation – cereal crops, bread), Roots of Nutrition (plant roots taking up essential nutrients) and Eaten from inside out (parasitic wasps controlling crop pests). Image right shows barley (Huangyen) in the Living Field garden. More at The Crunch ….


lf_nws_clts_350Last few days of the Macoto Murayama exhibition on ‘growth and form’ at Lamb Gallery, Dundee University.

The Celts exhibition continues at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh until 26 September – quite stunning art and design, with connection not isolation as a main theme, e.g. Europe in the iron age (600-150 BC) and Britain and Ireland’s Insular Fusion  600-800 AD. (But why does agriculture hardly figure? More on this.)

Inspiring Impressionism / Daubigny / Monet / Van Gogh at the National Gallery Edinburgh 25 June to 2 October 2016. Landscape, farms, fields, crops and wild plants among other things.


lf_nws_2016_blswth_gs_300End of July and a week to the August cross-quarter day, the time of highest mean temperature, and the garden’s many midsummer flowering plants are now moving on to seeding. In their place, the late developers are coming to their peak – chicory, hemp agrimony, betony, wild marjoram. Recent images at the Garden page, including new addition blue-sowthistle (right).


lf_noim_crnch_bns_gs_350The second event in our contribution to The Crunch dealt with the beneficial role of pulses – beans and peas – in agriculture and nutrition.  Pulses are among those plants (the legumes) that fix atmospheric nitrogen and so reduce the pollution of air and water by mineral fertiliser. They also offer a high protein food to balance cereal grain in the diet. The Institute’s display, hosted on a fine sunny day at Baxter Park, Dundee by Pete Iannetta, Philip White and Stephanie Frischie, was part of Picnic in the Park, 28 July 2016.


Gill Banks and Linda Nell hosted an exhibit on grain to plate, the making of bread, contrasting old and new cereal varieties, showing how some types ‘rise’ more than others in baking and how to get the glutinous and nutritious saitan from flour. The event was part of the The Crunch, a UK-wide festival, the local events in which are organised by Dundee Science Centre, this one at the Maxwell Centre in Dundee on Friday 1 July 2016.


lf_5_hxtr_thrftclffs_gk_350The longest day and the highest solar income, around 21 June each year. The winter crops sown last autumn are soaking up the sun, but many of those sown in spring still have leaf to grow if they are to yield well in September. It’s still a time of uncertainty – the sun’s period above the horizon changes very slowly day by day but the cloud cover and wind direction, and therefore temperature, can bring periods of heat or cold and damp. A time for observing the rituals. More in The Year at Summer Solstice and at Huxter Shetland.


Leading up to the solstice … still weeding to do and the medicinals bed to sort out. More than a few of these plants develop late, especially if they self-seed, and have to be noted, nurtured and then transplanted (sometimes to pots for a time) for next year. The cotton thistle is back but the madwort seems to have gone, our last plant until we can find more of the species.

The meadow is well into flower and populated with pollinators. Of the meadow legumes, common vetch continues as the most common this year, but now the trefoils are in flower and more visible while red clover still appears among the grasses. The main legumes species shift around in numbers from year to year. Exciting if you’re into legumes.

[mid June 2016]


The Living Field lies on farmland above what is now one of the most extensive natural reedbeds in the UK, providing whole stems for thatch. Here are some links. For a general view of the development of the Tay, see the Inner Tay Masterplan 2012-2022. A note from the Tay Landscape partnership on the Tay reed beds. From the RSPB, Bearded tits thriving in the Tay reedbeds. And theTay and Earn Trust About page.

[16 June 2016]



The early May cross quarter day lies between the spring equinox and summer solstice. The ground cultivated and the crops mostly sown. A time of fire-festivals and maypoles. For graphs, notes and images, see XQ2 in The Year.

[Around 7 May each year]


The arable plot has been cultivated and will be returned to the original rotation of cereals, potato, vegetables and fallow. The medicinals bed has been part-cleared; many of the plants have strayed out of their allotted space, and will soon be rearranged into families – Umbellifers, Composites, Borages, Labiates, etc.  That tall, self-seeded tree is felled and removed (great job done by the farm). The small ‘pond’ is full of tadpoles. The meadow is putting out its young shoots of lady’s bedstraw, field scabious and a few wild legumes.  Yet despite the high sun, the air is cool and growth is slow.

[25 April 2016]


[7 April 2016]


AERIAL ROOTS is a multi-media web resource launched in 2007, from artist Su Grierson (looking at issues relating to land and landscape using image, text, sound and video).  Really worth exploring and good for schools, groups, etc. See and also her main web site for more exhibitions and projects

And now in Edinburgh – CELTS – a major exhibition running from 10 March to 26 September 2016 at the National Museum of Scotland , Edinburgh. Details on their What’s on page.

[26 March 2016]


The land is still recovering from the very wet winter: many autumn sown cereal fields showing yellow not green, and puddled still; areas of crop lost and areas still to lose. Here’s some news and happenings from other parts.

And see Spring Equinox atThe Year for this time in the annual weather cycle.


  • lf_5_dypln_skmrks_gs_300Dye plants, dyestuffs and dyeing – new pages in the 5000 – Plants series on natural dyes, just opened, with more to follow.
  • Reno the philosophical fox gets a style makeover from Grissel. We hear he won’t lose his cynical mocking angry self.

[9 March 2016]


lf_g_tsl_gs_300The hedges have been trimmed. One of the self-seeded trees has become too tall and will need to be felled.  The early plants, woad and angelica, are starting to expand. The leaves of woad are winter-hardy, the floral stems now beginning to elongate. Angelica disappears over the winter, then puts out bright new leaf, which by early summer will have harvested enough light to make its giant stems. The hazel catkins are swaying, the elder buds are breaking. Otherwise it is quiet in the garden.

[3 March 2016]


  • lf_noim_dbb_cvr_750Dust Bowl Ballads – a look at Woody Guthrie’s seminal LP on Folkways: in view of recent reports of a second dust bowl.
  • Night and day diagrams added to The Year for each of the quarter days and cross-quarter days, with also sunrise and sunset times (uploading in progress).
  • Winter flood – an addition to the Water-field series – on the winter flooding in 2015/16 and with reference to crop-losses caused by the autumn floods of 2012.


News from this well preserved bronze age site in Cambridgeshire, including bundles of lime-bark fibres and preserved foods: see the BBC page at Bronze Age houses uncovered

[12 January 2016]


Wheel of plants (Jean Duncan)
Wheel of plants (Jean Duncan)

The Living Field will take part in a Biodiversity theme day on Saturday 9 January 2016 at the Dundee Science Centre.  Further information at Botany, Bugs and Biodiversity.

Update: A great day at the Science Centre last Saturday. Living Field themes of dye plants and dark materials were on interactive display, together with hands-on microscopes  for looking at plant structure and insects.  Thanks to Daniel Leybourne, Jenny Slater, Ali Karley, Graham Begg and David Miller from the Hutton and various family members who made themselves indispensable.

[12 January 2016].


Time of the lowest sun. On some recent days, the cloud has been so heavy that it’s as if the twilight lasts all day. Yet is is warm, well above the average, and wet. It was an important time – the winter solstice – important to know that the days were about to get longer, little by little. With the variable cloud, it was hard to tell when the shortest day had arrived. So the neolithic people of these islands built monuments aligned with the sun.  The webcams at Maes Howe on Orkney are now live.  For more on the solar year, see No life without the sun and Winter solstice at The Year.

[21 December 2015]


Celts – Art and Identity at the British Museum 24 September 2015 to 31 January 2016 then at the National Museum of Scotland from 10 March to 25 September 2016.

Shifting sand reveals remains of Bronze Age houses in Orkney. BBC on 9 December 2015.

culture24Late stone age woman with rickets – Vitamin D deficiency, implying absence of sunlight, reasons unclear. Carbon dating of 1912 study confirms burial on Tiree  was 3090 to 3340 BC or over 5000 years ago.  Source: Culture 24, 21 September 2015.


Thanks to Dunkeld and Birnam Historical Society and ‘The Field’ for the invitation to talk on 23 November at Birnam Arts. Geoff Squire’s presentation Food production from the first crops to the present day quoted extensively from Andrew Wights journey’s around Scotland 1778-84. More to follow on Mr Wight. See also Great quantities of aquavitae.

[27 November 2015]


We’ve been alerted to certain goings on to do with the fictive curator of the Living Field Garden, who turns out to be far from what she seems and probably a bit shady – at least in the world of a novel based around Dundee, in which the Garden and Marianne  make an appearance.

Who’s Marianne and what happens to her? Can’t say – you’ll have to wait until someone gets to the end of the book (and even then we won’t tell until everyone else who’s reading it gets to the end).

[12 November 2015]


  • Customs and festivals around the solar cycle, starting with XQ4, early November.
  • More from Reno including Grissel’s dark memory.
  • More images and examples in 5000 Years/Fibres
  • Article on rice under Water-field (available soon)

[3 November 2015]


lf_g_20151002_sltb_gs_350Preparing for the winter! The meadow is being cut. The hay is drying. The cereals collection is all harvested and the plants drying out in the cabins. The potatoes – Mayan Gold and Lady Balfour – are uplifted and tasting good. Swedes, parsips, red beet, leeks and cabbage will be harvested over the weeks and months. Images at The Garden.

[2 October 2015]


  • New pages opened under 5000-Plants on Crop-weeds, those plants, now common in and around fields, that originate from the main crops – oilseed rape, potato, barley, wheat, oat and bean; notes of their role in the ecology and economy of the croplands.
  • More from Reno on strange white objects appearing in the countryside.
  • Recent images from the Living Field garden.

[29 August 2015]


A Society of Scottish Artist’s members exhibition begins 25 July and runs until 29 August at The Old Ropeworks, Montrose. Jean Duncan will be exhibiting recent drawings, etchings and paintings based on a plant – the tree peony –  brought back from China, lived in Angus for a time and now growing at the Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.

See poster and images. Web site at Wall Projects.

[23 July 2015]



  • Reno‘s philosophical take on fox hunting with horses and dogs; also badgers.
  • More photos of river views and life from the Urban Field article Mekong and Tay

[15 July 2015]


To see images of Pluto during this amazing event on 14 July 2015 and find out more about Pluto ‘the planet’ and the boundary of the solar system:

[14 July 2015]


Children from Busy Bees Nursery came to the Living Field to look around the garden, see how to mill grain and make dough from flour and examine beetles and spiders. The real bees were out and about in great numbers, feeding off the field scabious, foxglove, viper’s bugloss and many of the other plants on flower.

[9 July 2015]


  • Fixers 1 begins a new series on nitrogen fixing legumes starting with a selection from the Angus coastline – see also Kidney vetch and the Small Blue
  • New material and images to Fibres the first of the 5000 Years – Plants pages
  • Latest images of the Garden

[29 June 2015]


The Living Field cabins hosted a visit to the Institute on 15 June of about 20 students and staff from AgroParisTech, a University in Paris France, hosted by Farm Manager Euan Caldwell. Cathy Hawes and Graham Begg presented work on the Centre for Sustainable Cropping and landscape ecology.


Over 1500 people visited the Hutton yesterday, 7 June, for Open Farm Sunday. The weather held sunny most of the time. Hundreds of families visited the Garden and the events held in and around it.

Events held in the Garden included Grain to Plate (cereals, grain, bread), DundeeAstro, the seed-in-the-landscape (seed=marble) game, and Dark Materials (a quizzical treasure hunt of roots for eating, healing and dyeing).

Many thanks to all visitors.


Sun031005 partial eclipse_168Our friends from Dundee Astronomical Society will be back with their knowledge of stars and planets at this years Open Farm Sunday on 7 June 2015.

See further images at the Living Field’s dundeeastro page and their own informative web site.


Some new entries on the web site.


Much activity in the garden this past week. Gladys and Jackie, with several of Ralph’s helpers managed to plant the remaining temperate cereals for the 2015 display and sowed a range of ‘roots’ under fleece. Just the tropical cereals to go in now.

The medicinals bed received seedlings of opium poppy and corncockle. Further rearrangements and transplantings of wild carrot, salad burnet and hemp-agrimony.

Paul from the farm cut some of the grassy areas in preparation for Open Farm Sunday to be held on 7 June.

Dragonfly, wood sculpture, by Dave Roberts, i the Garden 28 May 2015 (Living Field)
Dragonfly, wood sculpture, by Dave Roberts, in the Garden 28 May 2015 (Living Field)

Dave Roberts’ dragonfly sculpture was installed in the meadow.

Stunning addition to the garden and great effort all round – thanks to the mechanics for fixing the stand.

For more photos see New wood sculpture.


[Page began late May 2015]

sustainable croplands