Tuesday, May 25, 2010

1 acre - a combination of art and healthy thinking

Interview with Johanna Braun

When I went to visit the Oxford Art Week Festival  (still up until the 31st of May!) I also had a look at the Oxford Brookes University BA Fine Art Show 2010.

The first exibitor that got my attention was Johanna Braun with "1acre". I was very happy to meet her in person and funny enough she is from Freising, near Munich which is about 30 minutes from my home...
Johanna combines art with ecological and healthy thinking and her attempt of showing this was so unusual and "awakening" that I would like to share it with you.
When you got to the Richard Hammilton Building you would see a strip of fabric running away from it into the landscape. Once following it you were lead to a table with fresh homemade bread (german style and soooo yummie! -recipe further below...) and also fresh homemade butter. Apparently it was a 1 acre walk and it was interesting to actually "feel" the space and size of land that could feed you for one year.
Inside the building on her booth you could see bags full of seeds as well as handmade paper bags with prints of sprouts that belonged to the seeds that were inside. Each labeled with an important information about the actual plant. And I want to point out that everything was home- and handmade!
Alex: What did you do before you started studying at Brookes?
Johanna: After completing my Abitur (the German equivalent of A-levels) I cycled round the south bit of England and volunteered on some farms as part of the wwoof scheme. On one in the oxford area i liked it particularly, so the 3 months i initially wanted to stay became a year during which i found out about the art programme at Brookes.

Alex: Your work is called 1 acre - What is the main intention?
1 acre is roughly the amount of land one person needs to grow enough food to live from with kind of "reasonable" diet. With that I mean you wouldn't have to be vegan or vegetarian but meat would need to be consumed in a conscious way.
The agricultural land worldwide divided by all the people on the earth would give everybody a share of two acres which is more than one would need.
I am interested in the relations of what we have /what we want/ what we actually need/ what we appreciate.
I marked an acre on the ground which you can walk along to get a sense of that space that could cover all your essential needs. I think the appreciation for those essentials has become very low, they are somehow taken for granted even if they are the ones we depend on.

Alex: What was (or still is) your inspiration?
Johanna: I grew up on an organic farm in Bavaria where the connection to the food i eat is very easy to make. I am moving back there now long term because it is very important and exciting for me to see and take part in what's happening in the different seasons.

Alex: We really loved the printed seed bags, very beautiful! How did you make them?
Johanna: I made paper from hemp fibres and printed a macro picture of a seed with some information (from history, legends or its agricultural/ nutritional properties) about this particular seed. Inside two sheets of paper I sewed a few real seeds so you could see their actual size.
With that i wanted to show the power and potential which is hidden in those little seeds.

Alex: We followed your track all around the campus and tasted your bread- sooo yummie, do you have the recipe for us?
Johanna: The bread is made with a sourdough starter.

- Make this by mixing flour and water together to a pancake-like consistency and put in a jar covered with a cloth.
- Leave this to ferment in a warm place and add some more flour and water everyday.
- After 3-5 days you have a slightly vinegary smell coming from it- lactic and acetic bacteria which will later make your dough rise.
- You start by refreshing the starter with some flour and warm water which you leave to ferment for about five hours, until you see bubbles on the surface.
- Then mix half of this starter (the other half keep in your jar in the fridge and keep for your next batch which you start at the refreshing stage. This way you can keep using it indefinitely) in 400g flour of choice with 2 tsp salt and more warm water to make a very soft and sloppy dough.
- I added some walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
- Knead for about 10 minutes, then cover and let to rise at room temperature until it is about doubled in bulk.
- Shape it into a loaf and leave to rise again for about half an hour.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven on the highest possible temperature and bake for 10 mins on very hot, then turn down to 180 degrees and bake for another 25-30 mins.

I used Heritage flour from The Oxford Bread Group which consists of  different ancient wheat, oat and rye varieties. It is very wholesome and lots of people with wheat intolerance have been able to have this unlike intensively bred and refined flour that is ususally available.

Alex: Did you also make the butter yourself;-))) ?
Johanna: I made the butter from cream from North Aston Organics, whose milk and cream taste amazing because the cows are being fed exlusively on the greens and grass of their meadows.

English double cream is easy to use, just whippe it until it starts to get slightly yellow and crumpy and you will see water being extracted (buttermilk). You can either through the buttermilk away or drink it which is very healthy. Wash the left over with cold water until the water becomes clear. Knead the rest until the last bit of water comes out. É voilà! 

Alex: How long did it take you to prepare the exhibition?
Johanna: I had about 4 months to prepare this project. 

Pictures by Johanna Braun

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bread from The Town Garden

Went to see my favourite shopw in Oxford on the weekend again: The Town Garden in North Parade with owner Jebs to buy fresh organic cauliflower and the yummie bread which I enjoyed this morning.

Yummie! And what a wonderful start into the day... It is a "heart bred"- makes eating it even more enjoyable...;-)

The sandwich recipe:
1 thick slice of the Town Garden organic white bread
mixed organic lettuce
1 slice organic mild cheddar cheese
2 slices of organic british ham slightly roasted in a pan
1 fried freerange organic egg
pepper and salt if you like

If you wonder why I only use organic food: it tastes better and is more healthy. If you think of yourself as a bin- think about how much junk you put into yourself every day! Food should keep us alive and give us energy. So how much energy would you get from (for instance) an animal that was kept inside only and fed with rubbish inappropriate food from suppliers from the other end of the world?
I prefer an egg from a happy chicken and not from a sad one. Because I believe the egg can not have much of happy energy... :-)

And I get always asked where my never ending energy comes from, hey people...maybe thats why?
By the way, white bread now and then does not harm you, but I generally use whole meal rye (the german style ;-) ) but the balance makes life wonderful, doesn't it?

Apparently Jebs found some new suppliers for bread in pots! :-)) Look here....

Enjoy your day!

Garden Design Exhibition

Hi everyone,

this years Oxford College of Garden Design Student exhibition will be held on June 17th in the new college buildings for next year - I am kind of jealous! Very nice, very old- here you get the typical "Oxford College- Feel".

And because its is another hot day today I will go and get ready so you can see all my wonderful work on the 17th...lots and lots to do. See you there!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tree Survey at Harcourt Arboretum

The final lecture (quite sad!)of this years Garden Design Course covered the topic "Tree Survey" and started with a test about the 31 most common trees in the UK. We actually all did quite well remembering common and latin names ;-) thinking for instance of Harry Potter ( Fraxinus Excelsior)...:-))) Thank you Tracy, I will NEVER forget that plant in my life, as well as the alnus glutinosa...(not telling what we thought of that one actually...)
We then went to Harcourt Arboretum, part of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden- the oldest Botanic Garden in Grait Britain with a history of 380years.

The task was to survey 10 trees in hight, branch width, stem diameter, physical and structural condition and then finally grade them...poor trees were like models on a catwalk ;-) And yes, the grading is a little bit subjective as the tree can be not super healthy but if you find its structure interesting and like its character because it add architectional interest to the garden you might give it a better grade.
The bluebells were out as well as the azaleas...colours and fragrances, absolutely beautiful!

It was a great way to finish this one year course, the sun was out and I actually experienced my first hot day in England!
A stroll through the garden made this day perfect. I have seen my first Snowdrop Tree (Halesia monticola, USA) which is stunning!

They are rare and you might only find them in larger gardens and if you think we have time off now to rest...WRONG. But the bench was nice anyway...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Photography Course at OCGD

During our photography course at the Oxford College of Garden Design Giles Heather told us all about the tricks in garden and plant photography. It was very intensive but a lot of fun and I got the know my camera but also realized that there are a lot more toys to buy...;-)

One task was to go to the Oxford Botanical Gardens and take several shots:

 Panning Shot 

"Don't give a dame" Shot

Small Depth of Field Shot

 Freeze Action Shot

Slow Action Shot

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Winner of the Student Garden Design Competition- Southport Flower Show

Momo and I started talking about doing this competition when I took over her room in Oxford...It was not easy to prepare all documents as Momo now lives in Canada so we had to overcome the time difference. But it all worked out fine! We won and are very happy.

The topic of this years competition was COAST. Our idea was to "enlarge" the 6x6m garden by shallowed water ponds, a pergola with hammock above pebble planting and a deck walk leading from a chrome door- that reflects water and sky- to the hammock.

I am very excited to see it all finished ;-) and I am very glad to have my colleagues from school who help with ideas and searching material.

The Southport Flower Show is actually the UK's largest and friendliest, independent flower show on 34 acres with around 80.000 visitors over 4 days. It starts on august 19th, hope you all come and visit! :-)))
More information you can get on www.southportflowershow.co.uk

Here is the press release from Southport Flower Show (Chris Corfield):

A TOUCH of international class will be gracing Southport Flower Show this year.The winners of this year’s Southport Flower Show Student Garden design competition have been announced, with this year’s top entry showcasing the best in continental cool.

A team from the Oxford College of Garden Design (OCGD), consisting of Momo Pino, 32, from Croatia and Alexandra Lehne, 34, from Germany, won the competition with their design based on the show’s theme of Coast. The team of judges congratulated them on the high caliber of their entry, and praised the winners for their use of both conceptual and sculptural elements in their design.

The competition challenges design students to create an exciting and unique garden with a budget of £5,000. The winning design is then brought to life and displayed in front of over 75,000 people at the Southport Flower Show, which runs from August 19 – 22.

For one half of the winning team, it was a chance to improve on last year’s second place finish. Momo, who was highly commended for her 2009 entry, said she was happy to go one step further this year: “I made a few mistakes with my entry in 2009. It was unrealistic in terms of budget, so I made sure that this year our entry was within budget without losing any of the flair that made our design stand out.”
Momo, currently living and working in Canada after finishing her course, will be flying over to the UK to oversee the building work on the garden. She said: “I was sceptical about the design at first; it took some convincing from Alex. I wasn’t sure it was ‘showy’ enough for a show garden, but Alex had the vision and it has paid off for us. I can’t wait to see it finished and on display.”

The pair, who will also receive £1,000 in prize money, embraced modern technology to work together on the designs, often working on the same project despite being thousands of miles apart.
Alexandra said: “I am so happy we won; it will be so exciting to see the final design built and displayed among all the other wonderful things on offer over the weekend of the show. "
“You can have brilliant ideas but they don’t always work in real life, so this competition gives us a chance to show people that we can not only manage the whole process, but also that by being positive you can make great things happen. It will also give us the opportunity to start our careers as garden designers with an award-winning first item in our portfolio!”

Duncan Heather, from OCGD, said: “Competitions such as this one are invaluable to designers like Alex and Momo."
"It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to demonstrate what they’ve learnt and also gain the credibility needed to forge a successful career in garden design.”
Building work will start on the winning design in the last week of July, and will be ready in time for the show’s grand opening on August 19.

So far we got press featured here:
Horticulture Week
Garden Design Guru

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