‘Gracie’s School’ Q and A Post + An Exciting Blogging Announcement

In my last post I introduced to you to my very own school, students and classroom. I shared my happiness at being able to fulfill my dream and making it happen through my own determination.  I  also asked you to submit your questions for my school themed Q and A. Well, many of you had lots to ask so read on…and enjoy!

Questions from Mukta:

When and how did you realize you wanted to be a teacher?

I’ve always loved learning and, to me, nothing sounds more like paradise than a place where young people can gather together to learn and share and pursue their passions.

School, and the modern education system, are supposed to provide that service, but I don’t believe they are. The majority of my generation view school as a negative place, a prison, something they’re forced to attend. School should be a place everyone wants to go to.

I am home-educated and the above is precisely the reason I don’t go to school. The reason I decided to become a teacher is because I want to create the school that I dream of, the school I want to go to.

What time do you begin/end teaching?

Nothing is set in stone yet, at the moment I’m being pretty flexible. Usually we start at about 10am and finish about 4pm??? 😀😀😀

Questions from Loren:

When you start a real school, will you want it to be elementary, middle, or high school?

I hope that my school will be a place where kids and teens of all ages can come together and learn. I want it to be an environment where they help and teach each other. I am from the UK so I’m not exactly that familiar with the US education system, we say ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ schools here!

Questions from Melissa:

Are your pupils allowed to direct any of your teaching and follow their own interests or are you quite strict in following your lesson plans?

There needs to be a balance. I do make lesson plans (which I try to stick to), but if I see that my students are interested in or enthusiastic about a particular subject, I’m more than happy to focus on it. I also welcome my students suggestions and ideas. I have certain parts in each lesson where I ask one of my students to lead the activity and I just watch. It teaches them teamwork, leadership and creativity, all equally important lessons!

Questions from The Girl With IronWings

Are you guys going to travel around the farm place and learn things practically or…..?

Yeah, I guess so. It’s important to include a bit of reading, writing, maths and theoretical science, but most of the activities we do are outdoors, hands on and practical. I find that my students learn better when out and about on the farm. For example, we went fishing in the stream and then identified and learnt about what we caught. They loved it! Way more than reading about the affect humans have on natural habitats! 😀 I bet they remembered more of the former too.

How is the teaching going to be – How different from today’s schools? 😊

Hehe. I would say it’s pretty different. Here’s a quick list.

  • All different ages and abilities taught together.
  • We learn about things that are important in life, like knowing and appreciating your surroundings and how to protect them. 
  • The learning (and teaching!) is FUN!!!
  • I try and think about what suits my students individually, what they need help with and what their strengths are. I keep that in mind when making my lesson plans, unlike school with its ‘one size fits all’ attitude.

Also, since it’s about the environment will you be using gadgets?

We have a few gadgets… a camera trap that we’ve used to try and capture the secret lives of wildlife on the farm. We don’t use a lot of technology, just the internet to research things and find information.

Questions from Misabella :

What is your favourite subject to teach?

I’m about to start doing a book club + English and creative writing classes. I don’t enjoy maths very much, just because I teach out of a book and have to follow a set system/curriculum. These ‘environment’ lessons are great, I get to be creative and come up with fun, unique ideas that really engage my students. 😁

Do you find particular methods of discipline more effective than others?

I’ve googled the different ‘methods of discipline’ and would say my style is a mix of them all! I do try to set boundaries, but I also try and be positive and humorous. I wouldn’t say I’m strict, I try to be patient and listen to my students – although that is something I struggle with. I think this is an area I need to look into a bit more – especially if I want to be a successful teacher!

Questions from Tom:

How long do you hope to be keeping up with this school for?

Well, we’re living at the farm over the autumn, winter and early spring so the lessons will probably continue through those seasons. After that my family and I are off on our travels, maybe into Europe, maybe even further, searching for a place to settle down and call home. When we find that place I have no doubt that my school will re-establish itself and begin again, stronger and better than before. 

School is an interesting word, I wonder if it’s Greek?

Well, thanks to your research, Tom, we now know that it is a Greek word meaning ‘lecture place’. It would have looked like this in its original text: skholḗ or σχολή. Great fact! 

 I hope you all enjoyed that little Q and A! I loved sharing my thoughts and ideas on education, I even learnt a few interesting things in the process. If anyone still has any questions, please feel free to comment them and I’ll try to answer.

Okay, now I have an exciting and important announcement to make: I am getting some newly designed features on A Light In The Darkness soon! Not saying anything more, but watch out for a post revealing those. This is me at the moment: 🤐☺☺☺🤐 

Xxx

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Sunrise In The Middle East

I wrote this story about girl’s rights in the Middle East. Hope you enjoy, but any constructive criticism is welcome! I have entered this short story into the Wicked Young Writer’s Awards so wish me luck!

Sunrise In The Middle East

“Greetings People. It’s me, Sunrise, and I’m back with the latest progress on the Girl’s Rights In The Middle East front. As you know…..”

I pause to blow away some of the dust that’s trapped in the gaps between the letters on my keyboard. I smile as the tiny particles are momentarily suspended in a ray of sunlight that’s disturbing my writing session, in a good way. I cup my hands around it and watch them glow with golden light. It reminds me of myself.

“On the morning of your birth, the sun seemed larger than ever before.” my Mother’s sweet, quiet voice echoes in my ears. “ I saw it coming up on the horizon, huge and round and blood-red. It spread its life-giving light all over the earth and eventually it reached you. It seeped in through my window and into the shadowy room. Then it touched your head and you awoke. So I named you Sunrise and hoped you’d be full of life, laughter and most of all, light.”

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I sigh as I pull off a floral-printed headscarf and a cascade of knotty, tangled brown hair tumbles down my back. My amber streaked, hazel eyes that are usually full of humour and curiosity sparkle as my big flashing smile makes an appearance on my smooth olive-skinned face.

I sit back down to read my emails and idly click the first one that pops up.

Dear Sunrise

My name is Aaminah and I am 11 years old. I wanted to tell you how much you inspire me and how, because of you, I go to school and learn how to write beautifully, like you do. Thank you.

You are the Middle East’s best female activist, that is what we say at my school. All the girls are pleased that you spoke up for their education so I write to you on their behalf too.

You are very brave and you have said what our people have all been too scared to say.

Thank you again and may you be blessed.

Every time a child sends me an email like this is warms my heart so much that I click Reply immediately and begin to type.

Dearest Aaminah

I am so glad that you are able to go to school now, I am certain that one day you will be an amazing writer. It was not just me who helped you, there are many girls like myself campaigning for education. When you are a little older perhaps you will be one of them. Perhaps we will even meet one day. I would like that. Say hi to your classmates for me!

Keep safe and may you also be blessed.

Sunrise

I hover over the send button and press it down. I imagine her delight as she reads my message of hope and shows it to her friends. It makes this risky and sometimes dangerous role that I have taken on all worth it. With a contented smile on my playing at my lips, I prepare to read the next piece of mail.

Sunrise Abdullah

This is a warning. Stop your campaigning or you will suffer the consequences. What you are doing is forbidden. We will stop you because you are a disgrace to us all. How could you abandon our ancient ways for the ways of the West? Empowering women is wrong.

I sit back, my face shocked and expressionless, and stare at the screen. I take a deep breath and scroll down to see the sender. Nothing. Email address? Security protected. “Arrghhhh!” my mood changes to angry and confused.

How can people say that? How can they not see that all people should be equal? Education is a chance that all people should have. A chance to escape poverty and oppression. When you’re educated it makes it easier to change the world. And believe me, there are a lot of things that need changing. In my frenzy of mad and blind rage, I hit Reply once again.

To Whom It May Concern

You are wrong.  A rule might be ancient, but that doesn’t make it right. If you truly believe that empowering women is wrong then tell me why. Now. I demand an answer. Because I am, like you, passionate. I won’t give up without a fight. I don’t care for your threats and promises, I am a peace-maker and I make peace through education.

Sunrise Abdullah

Writer and Girl’s Rights Activist

 

 

Let The Audience Look to Their Eyes!

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Titania, queen of the fairies, in the spectacular A Midsummer Nights Dream Live from the Globe.

I’ve been watching Midsummer Nights Dream by William Shakespeare Live from the Globe on Iplayer this morning. It’s so good! It incorporates music, dance, comedy and, of course, the wonderful, enigmatic, meaningful language of Shakespeare.

The title is a quote from Nick Bottom, the comic part in this play, when he is describing how good an actor he thinks he is. He wants to play all the parts in the play, the hero, the villain, the lady and the animals. He is saying, in this quote, that when he kills himself (as the hero) he will need to produce some tears so he says: Let the audience look to their eyes! Which is silly really as you can’t exactly look to your own eyes, can you? Shakespeare’s good like that.

I love, love, love Shakespeare. I’ve already read all of his 37 plays, I can quote whole passages, translate them into modern English, I’ve written a few adaptions of many of his plays, completed in depth study guides,  I just love the language. It draws me in, makes me think.

Anyhow, A Midsummer  Nights Dream is two and a half hours long, so I’m watching it in half hour parts.

Here is a quote that I particularly like: “My soul consents not to give in to sovereignty.” Hermia. sovereignty means supreme power and authority, in my own words. I like Hermia a lot because she stands up for what she believes and she isn’t afraid of anything. She even tells the Duke of her land what she thinks is right and sticks to it even when he threatens her with death.

 

Here’s my favourite dialog from the first part, between Hermia and Helena. If you don’t know the storyline, I would go look it up now. Not only is it intriguing, it will help you understand this next passage.

Basically, this is Helena complaining about how Demetrius doesn’t love her to Hermia, who Demetrius does love.

Helena: Teach me how you look and how you sway the motion of Demetrius heart. 

Hermia: I frown upon him yet he loves me still.

Helena: Then your frowns could teach my smiles some skill! 

Hermia: I give him curses yet he gives me love.

Helena: Then my prayers could such affection move!

Hermia: The more I hate, the more he follows me.

Helena: The more I love, the more he hates me.

Hermia: His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.

Helena: Except your beauty! I wish that were mine!

Hermia: Take comfort, he shall no longer see my face. Lysander and myself will fly this place! 

Helena: No!? 

Note: Lysander is Hermia’s love.

Poppa

 

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The next part of our adventure takes place in Kent. Currently we are living in a house here, taking care of a good friend’s 95 year old father.

We are looking after Poppa, as everyone calls him, in his own home on Romney Marsh.

It’s a lot of work looking after Poppa and a lot of it my parents have to do, but I am Chief Tea Maker and I do bake a lot of cakes and puddings for him, as he does have a very sweet tooth. He’s a lot of fun to be around and everyone loves him.

It’s funny, but exciting for us to live in a 3 bedroom house, seeing as we’ve only ever lived in tiny houses and, just recently, in the back of a car!

We have our own room, me, my brother and sister, and we look out of our window in the morning across the flat marsh with sheep grazing in the sunrise. It’s beautiful.

I’ve set up my own little corner on the landing with a table and a chair. I’m right next to a window again and the view looks like a painting. I have my stack of books and my writing stuff. And, of course, a tin of biscuits! It’s blissful.

This morning Poppa did some Homeschooling with us. He seemed to be enjoying himself. He made everyone laugh by playing Irys’ recorder!

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Looking after Pops is a pleasure for us.

We always said that if someone’s in need of help we would make it part of our journey to help them and we are.

 

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A good student

Alice And I’s Interview: A Wild Taste Of Fame!

wildsaladThe sun beat down on us as we walked through the field, sun hats bobbing, hands trailing through the long grass. We stopped every now and then to point and then set off at a quicker pace towards what we’d spotted. Then we’d stop and begin to harvest, sometimes crouching down and sometimes reaching up. Our chatter floated away on the slight breeze.

The salad we were planning to make was a picture of summer colour. With thirteen different flowers of red, orange, yellow, purple, blue, pink, white and cream and five types of leafy greens, this was going to be a work of art.

We set up in the shade outside Clarabella, our vintage train carriage. We laid out three pretty china plates and three elegant silver forks. Then three glass mugs, one with a sprig of self heal, one with a floret of meadowsweet and the other with a few creeping thistle flowers.

But there was two of us, Alice and I, who was the third person?

I laid out a sheet of dirty white paper on the wooden table and then put all of my specimens out on it. Then, in my neatest, black , loopy handwriting I labeled them with all of their beautiful names.

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Soon our mystery guest joined us, Rebecca from the Viva Magazine. Viva is local to Brighton and Lewes. She was here to interview me and Alice.

In the interview I made sure I was bold and enthusiastic, as I wanted to make the most of this great opportunity and not ruin it by being shy.

The first thing Rebecca asked me was: what is your job? I replied that I was Alice’s student and that she taught me everything she knew about foraging and herbal medicine.

While Alice went to get the hot water for the three different teas for our journalist to try, Rebecca quizzed me on how I thought each of them tasted. I told her that meadowsweet is vanilla-y, creeping thistle has a gentle and honey like flavour so is soothing and self heal tastes green, bit like green tea.

Alice arrived with the water, smiling her usual wide smile. Rebecca liked self heal best.

Then we ventured out of the shade and into the baking heat again. We walked around the field again showing the reporter the plants growing in the wild. All the while Rebecca snapped away with her big, black, fancy camera. Photos of the sunshine, of me holding the creeping thistle tea by the creeping thistle, of the creamy meadowsweet flowers and the delicate yet prickly thistle flowers.

When we got back I read out the whole list of ingredients for the salad and together me and Alice told Rebecca a bit more about each plant, its medicinal properties, how to identify it, along other useful facts.  Rebecca scribbled it all down in her notebook, me glancing over at her trying to make sense of her shorthand.

Then, after a load more photos, we tucked in. The salad was like a rainbow of tastes, from hot and spicy nasturtiums to cooling, cucumber-y mullein flowers. The array of textures, mucilaginous to crunchy. With a drizzle of sweet, pre-prepared by Alice, blackberry vinegar, the salad was just what we all needed on a summer’s day.

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Overall, the interview went really well and I’m grateful to Alice for inviting me along to help out. Rebecca was friendly and keen to learn and I think she enjoyed herself. I can’t wait to read a certain article in the August issue of Viva Magazine.

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Four Birds

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I hope you like this short story that I wrote. I’m working on my story writing and I do believe it’s slowly improving. This story is like a fable, it has a moral, and the moral is that your parents may make you work hard and learn lots, but they’re doing it because they want to prepare you for life. And they want the best for you, because they love you. Dad and Mum talk to us about this all the time. They are always teaching us things and it’s because they care.

FOUR BIRDS

There once was a family that lived peacefully up in the High Hills. They lived a simple life, in a simple little cottage, on a simple little farm. The children never knew anything about the outside world, but the parents did. Every evening they would sit by the crackling fire, the littlest on the Father’s knee, the other three curled up on the rug. The Father would tell stories of big cities, millions of people, great palaces, schools, brightly coloured markets, beautiful sunsets not blocked out by hills, mountains that touch the sky, majestic forests and exotic animals and oceans that stretch further than the eye can see.

The children listened in awe and one by one they decided that one day they too would see all these wonders. They spoke to their Father about this and he nodded, smiling. “My children,” he began ” I would like nothing more than for you to go out and explore the world, follow your dreams, settle down and help our world to grow.” The children’s eyes grew wide with anticipation. “But,” their Father continued, “but first you must be ready. The world is not just wonderful, it is dangerous too. You must be able to think for yourselves. At the moment you are fully reliant on your Mother and I. Before you go, you must learn and put the effort in. If you do not work hard, you will not be able to go out and adventure.”

The four children walked away, their wise Father’s words resounding in their ears ” You must be able to think for yourselves.”

That night, as the children lay asleep in their warm cosy beds, their Mother and Father sat talking. “Must we make them think for themselves?”, asked their Mother, “Can we not think for them?” ” My dear, the time has come. We cannot think for them always and forever. They must begin now otherwise they will be adults who have no idea how to live. They will always have to rely on someone else, they will never live their lives to the full. Surely that is not what you want for them?” “No,” sniffed the Mother, “I want them to spread their wings and fly.” “Good” smiled the Father “I’m just giving them a little push. That is my job as a Father, to help my children be the best they can be.”

At first the children worked extremely hard, watching and learning from their parents and trying to think for themselves at every opportunity they got. But their Father knew it wouldn’t last long. Slowly, they grew tired and less motivated. Their Father took them aside and reminded them. “Children! How many times have I told you the importance of thinking for yourselves?! You mustn’t keep relying on me and your Mother. It is my role to guide you , but I can’t do everything for you. If you want to go, you must do it for yourself.”

The children felt refreshed and inspired after their Father’s speech and they set about it once again. This time they stuck to it. They learnt more and more and they began to do things for themselves ever oftener.

Their Mother watched them with tears in her eyes, but also pride and joy. Their Father just looked on, content. He rarely had to say anything nowadays.

Eventually the time came when the children were ready to leave. Their parents stood on the hilltop, outside the little cottage, and watched them go. Four birds, flying free.

The Father put his arm around the Mother’s shoulder. “My dear,” he said “our children are off to live their lives the best they can and we have helped them the best we can. They are part of the future and, because we love them, we have made them as ready for it as they possibly could be. They will contribute to a bright and hopeful world.”

THE END

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Botho

If change was a fire, then a small piece of tinder has been lit! And I’ve just smelt the smoke! The fire has started deep in the heart of Africa, in the country of Botswana, and it goes by the name of Botho.

 

 

A small village in Botswana

A small village in Botswana

Botswana is governed by five national principals, democracy, development, self-reliance, unity and Botho.

Botho is a philosophy that the people of Botswana follow.  It is based on a number of important things: Mutual respect, responsibility, compassion and realising your full potential as an individual and as part of the community you live in.

The people of Botswana  practice Botho everyday, at school, at work, at home and in their local community. They think about the decisions they make and see if they are good for others and not just for themselves.

Botswana’s vision for 2016 states:  ‘Botho defines a process for earning respect by first giving it, and to gain empowerment by empowering others. It encourages people to applaud rather than resent those who succeed. It disapproves of anti-social, disgraceful, inhuman and criminal behaviour, and encourages social justice for all. It means above all things to base your thoughts, actions and expectations for human interaction on the principles of Love, Respect and Empathy’

You cannot live  Botho alone. Botho is all about working together, about doing what is best for the community and not just for yourself.

I think that Botho holds the secret for the world living in peace and harmony. That is what it is all about, unity and in unity we have strength to stand up for what is right.

I challenge you, people of the world, to think about Botho and how you can apply it to your own life. I too am going to think about it. How can I apply it to life in my own little community: my family? We, as a family, feel like we already try to follow some of the principles of Botho.

I am going to explore it even more, so expect more blogs about it. As I journey I will share my thoughts . My final destination is to live Botho.

Tell me what you think in the comments, I’m really keen to know…….

They don't have a lot of things or a lot of money, but they have Botho and that makes them happy!

They don’t have a lot of things or a lot of money, but they have Botho and that makes them happy!

One family found the philosophy so important that they named their child Botho.

One family found the philosophy so important that they named their child Botho.

Caring about others is essential for the people of Botswana. They believe that it is important to do what is best for your community.

Caring about others is essential for the people of Botswana. They believe that it is important to do what is best for your community.

 

 

 

Malala Yousafzai: A Real Light In The Darkness

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A long time ago, in a country called Afghanistan, there was a battle. The battle was between Afghanistan and England.  Afghanistan was losing.  Amongst the masses of slain soldiers, sat an Afghan girl. She looked up and saw her people running away. Slowly she rose to her feet, she climbed to the top of the highest mountain. Here she spoke up, the words poured out of her mouth, loud and clear and brave. ” It is better to live for one day as a lion, than to live for a hundred years as a coward”.  The people were encouraged and they turned to face the English. The girl stood at the head, holding the flag.  Her words had made the men of Afghanistan strong and they won a great victory that day, but as the English went to ride away, a man looked back over his shoulder. He pulled out his pistol and aimed. The girl fell, dead. Her name?  Malala.

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Over a hundred years later, in a small village in the Swat valley (Pakistan), a baby girl was born. Her father was a teacher and a wise and good man. When his daughter was born he knew he had found his soul mate. She would grow up to be an incredible girl, ordinary yet extraordinary. Her father knew it, he named her Malala.

Malala is seventeen now and has become one of the world’s greatest and most amazing young women. She has campaigned for girl’s education all over the world.  She has met with world leaders, written a book and produced and starred in her very own film ( Which I have just seen and it actually inspired me to write this blog) and won the nobel peace prize. All of this was to work towards her goal: every child shall get an education.

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Malala was just an ordinary girl, but her love for education and her determination has made her extraordinary. But how has she got here? What and who has made her who she is? What has been her journey?

The Taliban said that she and no other girl should go to school. Then they said that it was against Islam and that no girl will go to school and if you do then they will kill you. Even at eleven years old, Malala believed this was wrong. She argues that girls and boys are equal. “In the Qur’an,” Malala says ” the first word means ‘read’. Nowhere does it say ‘only to be read by men’. It simply says ‘read’.”

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Malala and her father spoke out against the unjust laws of the Taliban. They put their lives in danger. Malala’s father said ” I would rather die than live another day in silence”. They were brave and they did what was right.

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Malala when she was no older than me!

But Malala paid dearly. One day, in the school bus, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban, along with two of her friends. The other two girls where not too badly injured, but Malala was. No one thought she would live, but everyone prayed for her. Praying the hardest, were all the girls she had stood up for.

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She was taken to hospital in Birmingham and here she made a long, slow, but miraculous recovery. But Malala was sad, never again would she see the valleys of her home land. If she returned, the Taliban would kill her.

Malala has inspired me a lot. She is what I want to be: A light in the darkness.  Malala is a girl who was passionate about something and look how far she has come! From a small child living in a remote village to a nobel peace prize winning activist! She first started speaking and standing up when she was just eleven years old. I am almost twelve.

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Malala is living proof that children can make a difference. She says that you should not doubt yourself and think you are uncapable of achieving great things because of your age. Children are powerful, they can be lights in the darkness. I struggle with being a light sometimes, it isn’t easy, but watching Malala’s film and hearing her story has made me more determined than ever. Even though I am a child, it does not make me any less able to make a difference than an adult. Malala needs all of us children to stand up for what is right.

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My favourite speech that Malala has made was when she stood up in front of many important world leaders and said:

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A few helpful tips and points from Andy

Today I was sitting in the manor house kitchen, sipping yannoh and chatting, when Andy came in.  “Hey Gracie,” he says, ” I’ve just read your blog.”  ” Is it all correct?” asks Mum, ” I mean all of the facts and figures?”  ” Well,” Andy answers ” I’ve made a few notes of things you could change, add or include.  Do you wanna come up to the office now?  We could discuss it, you can make some notes of your own”.  ” Sure.” I reply and I follow him up the creaky wooden staircase to what all of us call the ‘Top Office’.

The next hour or so was spent in a comfy chair, with a view out onto the wheat field, discussing extra information concerning wheat, illnesses, spelling mistakes, varieties, questions and so on.  I learned a lot in this short period of time, these are the main points that Andy talked about.

Now for Summer Harvest! Part 2.

 Why Do We Grow Heritage Wheat?

Heritage wheat is taller than modern wheat.  The reason why our ancestors grew tall wheat is because it grew higher than the weeds and so cast a shadow over them.  Obviously no plant can live without sunlight, so, simple as, the weeds died.

Now farmers want to put chemical fertilizer on, if they put it on the tall varieties of wheat they’d get super huge and topple over.  Therefore they have to create a small type of wheat so that when they put the fertilizer on the wheat grows to the right height.  But the weeds can grow easily in short wheat, so now what do we do?  Easy, we spray the field with weed killer!  Ah, but what if you’re an organic farm, like us?

Now you’ve covered your wheat field in weed killer,all the weeds are gone.  In most fields of modern wheat it’s all the same variety, unlike a lot of heritage wheat where it’s lots of different types.  Without the weeds the illness just passes from plant to plant to plant.  Whereas if there were weeds the disease would hit one and stop because that species isn’t affected by it.  Because all the plants are identical the illness spreads mega fast. So?  We can easily spray the plants with fungicides to stop diseases.  Oh no!  The organic problem has just popped up again. Eeeeeeeeeeek! Here come some pests, ahhhhhhhhhhhh, what can we do?  DON’T PANIC, we’ll just put some pesticides on. Grrrr, why does that same old prob keep ruining everything?!

So you see how many chemicals and horrible, disgusting, artificial substances are in the bread that you eat?  If we all just grew heritage wheat, all these things wouldn’t be needed.

Thanks Andy for your advice.

If you want to learn more about heritage wheat visit Andy’s wesite:

http://brockwell-bake.org.uk/