Wednesday, 1 October 2014

1. Apple Crushing!

On Tuesday 23rd September, veteran volunteers helped SCAN demonstrate our projects and recruit new students. While some ran stalls in the Societies' Fair (for the SCAN Committee, Student Eats Society & Stu Brew Society), Viet and Betty demonstrated apple pressing outside on the lawn outside NUSU.

A short video of the apple crushing in action is here. We all took turns cutting out the stalks and bad bits from apples (which had been collected by children from Scotswood Natural Community Garden). Then we filled up the apple crusher (borrowed from another partner of ours, Rob from Wild Harmony who provides training in bushcraft out in Northumberland).


Once full, we took turns to turn the handle to crush the apples and then Viet had to take over. We didn't have a working apple press to hand, so instead we physically squeezed the crushed apples inside a muslin cloth. And by 'we', I mean mostly 'him'. New students and staff came along to taste the resulting apple juice - as fresh as apple juice can get. Together we discussed flavours, the oxidising process that turns apples brown, and locations around Newcastle which had apple trees available for more scrumping. One new student had worked in an apple juice factory in Essex, another told us about a likely apple tree by Castle Leazes, and another asked to take away a satchelful of apples for home.

The day after crushing apples, Viet came back to help water the Swan Islands in Exhibition Park (a video about this is here). At the moment he is in the process of applying for jobs, and while we hope that he will be successful, we know that it will mean he will no longer be able to help with so many projects. This is normal for student volunteering, and with his help we know there will be new faces coming along to help pick apples, water plants and grow food next year. With our legs dangling in the water, we took a break to watch the swans and the baby coots in the reeds. He said "this is what I dreamed of when I was a child".

I took the opportunity to do a quick interview about his volunteering :

Have you volunteered with any other SCAN projects?

"I have been to a few other SCAN projects like the guerrilla gardening, where I helped to repaint the couches at Leazes Park, but it is at the allotment that I spend most of my volunteering time.  Probably because I feel more comfortable working with soil, plants and nature stuff."
When did you first get involved?

"t was in June I think, I just finished my last assignment and didn't want to start with the dissertation right away so I was looking for some volunteer work, preferably outdoors and with either plants or animals.  I actually got the information from Betty [a friend, also a SCAN volunteer] so I went to Phil at SCAN and described my preferences and got the information about the work at the allotment.  At our home back in Slovakia, we have a large family garden and I used to spend lots of time out in the garden so I guess it just feels natural and relaxing for me to work in a garden environment, so that's why I stick with the allotment - and Jon has been really fun to work with."

What is it you enjoy about growing food at the allotment?

"The feeling of working outdoors and with nature is amazing to me, kind of recharging my battery.  And the free vegetables to take away is also a plus!"

 Are there any particular volunteer tasks that stand out in your memory?

"I just joined in this June so not a very long time.  The tasks are mostly kind of every day stuffs, but I built a kind of hub for the pieces of woods that we collects from
all over the garden to prevent them from getting wet in rainy days (picture below).  And there are many days where I shared my works with other volunteers at the allotment like Jasmine, Betty, Jack and we had really good chats throughout the work so it was really nice."