I have a problem at the moment, something that’s niggling. I need a new pair of shoes for work. My current ones are wearing out and it’s getting a bit desperate. Trouble is I don’t want to buy them from shops anymore. I’ve got a bit of a conscience now and a sudden obstacle has developed in what used to be a fairly straightforward task. All this learning I’m doing on sustainability and permaculture has got me thinking twice about stuff I buy. Questions like what are the shoes made from, how far have they come across the world and how much fuel was used to transport them and manufacture them are now assailing me. And the biggest question of all – who has made them? The thought of some child squashed into some factory, working unfavourable conditions for a measly wage, to make me a pair of shoes for work has become a horrific thought. I just can’t be a part of that.
So I chatted with my daughter about this. Turns out she knows of a good shop called ‘Vegetarian Shoes’. I must admit the words vegetarian and shoes had never associated themselves in my mind before. But I tapped the phrase into Google and sure enough there is a shop with that name. Instead of leather, yachting fabric is used. The shoes are also made in the UK and Europe only so no long journeys to get them here. And working conditions are fair and lawful so no child labour involved.
Excited! I may well be in possession of an item of footwear that addresses my problem and which I can feel good about having bought.
I feel dead chuffed with myself actually. Because last year I grew my own. Notwithstanding they are nearly my favourite vegetable to eat, I also discovered they are very good for the soil. And as we had not long moved into an old farmhouse with a large garden that had been left to overrun, it seemed the ideal veg to start trying to grow myself. I had very little experience up to this point. Just failed attempts at runner beans and tomato growing. But without any serious plan or strategy in mind, just to try to regenerate the soil in the garden, I went to work.
I thought I could just stick them in the ground like any other vegetable. My husband however said no, you have to dig trenches. With a combined effort from me, husband, friend and 3 small children, who proved to be very enthusiastic diggers, we dug 5 said trenches. I also discovered that the soil you dig up has to be kept to ‘bank up’ the leaves as they begin to grow up. Painstakingly I would scoop up mounds of earth as the leaves grew into branches and needed kind of propping up so they wouldn’t fall down. To the uninitiated, like me, this is what ‘banking up’ is.
I was a bit concerned as white flowers appeared. I thought this might be a sign they had got diseased down there in the depths of the ground. Anxiously I informed my Mum, a fount of all knowledge and wisdom when it comes to gardening. She said, ‘Well now you can dig them up.’ Easier said than done I found. Some potatoes were sliced in two or completely disintegrated when levering them up, some I just couldn’t find because they were buried so deep. But nonetheless there were enough survived to have a regular stream of very tasty white potatoes throughout the summer and into the beginning of autumn. And it felt great. A first. Our own home-grown potatoes, dug from our soil. Much tastier and loads more satisfying.