People & projects
The mammals of the croplands - the mice, vole and shrew, the bats, the rabbit and hare, the hedgehog, squirrel and deer - are as much a part of the ecology as the plants and insects, so we are fortunate in having Amanda Wilson, a doctoral student based at St Andrews, to work with the Living Field over the coming months. She will start with an inventory of mammals in the Living Field garden as shown on her Facebook page.
Her research project examines the ecology, behaviour and population genetics of mice and voles, based at the Centre for Sustainable Cropping, Balruddery Farm.
Amanda has an abiding interest in wildlife as you can see from her web site Wildlife Inspired. Check her video of a weasel released from a humane mouse trap at Balruddery.
Jean Duncan, who has been working with the Living Field over the last couple of years, was recently commissioned to produce designs for projected backdrops for a staged performance by St Andrews Opera of Handel's Acis and Galatea, a story in which at first sight a rural lifestyle was tragically brought to a close by a unpredictable and violent volcanic force.
There's more to it than that in the original by the writer Ovid, and in the opera itself, but the particular interest here is Jean's use of certain motifs from the Living Field, specially in the depiction of ancient cereals in her circular designs which were projected onto the backdrop during the performance. The one that revolved during the first half is shown right. Close ups and other images have been added to Jean's page on the Living Field web site.
Dundee Astronomical Society at Open Farm Sunday
Our friends from DAS offered to join us at Open Farm Sunday and so of course we welcomed them as one of the 12 science exhibits on the 'tour'. This year they concentrated on noctilucent clouds and the aurora borealis. As last year, and despite the generally fine weather, the sun failed to appear, so they could only tell visitors what the solar activity would look like when viewed through their sun scope.
Some stunning images of noctilucent clouds and the aurora borealis (right) can be seen at the DAS page on this site, together with their images of the sun from last year.
Astronomy nights at the Living Field garden ended prematurely last year after a storm damaged part of the observatory. DAS hope to have it mended in time for winter. Look for updates on this page or at their web site www.dundeeastro.com.
Tay Estuary Forum
The Tay has a huge catchment, the estuary being for centuries a hub for exports, imports and manufacture. In the 1800s, Perthshire Reds left the tattie fields of the Carse via the Tay on their way to markets in London! After industrial decline, the shipbuilding and jute gone, the estuary is now in a phase of welcome renewal with the developments at the docks and the V & A.
Started in 1997, the Tay Estuary Forum is a 'voluntary coastal partnership' covering the coast zones of Angus, Dundee, Perth and Kinross and the northern part of Fife. The TEF aims to promote the 'wise and sustainable us of the Tay Estuary and adjacent coastline'. The James Hutton Institute is a member of the TEF Steering Group. The Living Field hopes to do its bit through projects on the inextricable links between the Tay and its maritime croplands. More to follow.
Mekong and Tay
Mekong and Tay - not a local, afternoon delicacy, but rivers linked photographically some years ago by an error in which the same roll of 35 mm slide film was exposed twice, first in the docks area of Dundee before renovation and then on the Mekong around the golden triangle.
Some artless but quite interesting effects - delapidated warehouses part hidden by a film of leaf and water, maize leaves appearing through the windows of decayed industrial buildings, a rice field on Camperdown St running down to the clock tower.
Link to images here soon.
Lindsay McMenemy, who did her doctorate at the Institute, has been in touch recently. She now works at Penn State University in the USA on a project called PlantVillage, a 'user moderated Q & A forum' that aims to help people grow their own food plants. The project is being developed by Marcel Salathe and David Hughes.
They hope that plant experts will get involved, share their knowledge and upload photographs of food plants and their pests. The plants can be from any part of the world. All the content is freely available and it's not necessary to create a user account to view and share the material. So have a look and contribute at PlantVillage.
Tracey Dixon's images
For the last year or so, photographer Tracey Dixon from Dundee University has been experimenting with various slow motion, time-lapse and video recordings in the Living Field garden. Here are some links to her YouTube sites.
Bumble bee cam - bumblebees on sage in bloom with a slow motion section. Heritage and modern cereals at the Living Field - produced with the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR), University of Dundee.
Tracey has gained international recognition for her stunning landscape photography. The Living Field is really pleased to be working with her.
Samantha's nature blog
Those commonplace wonders, the plants and animals that live alongside people and their activities, are too often taken for granted, overlooked in favour of rarities and exotica. Yet these living things are the only wildlife that many people see.
So to draw attention to life in our midst, Samantha Charman has started a nature blog, based on her notes and records at the Institute's Dundee site.
Her favourite haunts include the shrubberies and hedges around the buildings, the tracks and paths on the farms and particularly the Living Field garden, where she may be seen throughout the year (during lunch breaks) observing and photographing.
The Living Field is pleased to host Samantha's Nature Blog which can be accessed here.
Wild plants of the Acropolis
A striking feature of the Acropolis and its surrounds in Athens is the coexistence of the ancient monuments with wild trees, bushes and herbs.
This mixing is intentional. It is particularly evident in the 1950s restoration of the Ancient Agora from northern slopes to the railway lines, and in the major landscaping of paths and vegetation on the south-west hills by the architect D. Pikionis.
There are few accounts that draw attention to this blend of marble and organic life, so the Living Field's 'man' in Greece - Theophilos - has been taking photos and making notes for our benefit here.
The famous beans on toast project
Let's raise a glass to beans on toast. Quite a few glasses - of water - go into the making of this well loved, simple and, let's admit it, delicious meal.
As part of a Living field project on Waters funded by CREW (Centre of Expertise in Waters), placement student Sarah Doherty from Durham University is looking into the water used getting this dish to your table (and beyond!).
Sarah and our artist friend Jean Duncan took their 'beans on toast' roadshow to a local primary, where it inspired some striking drawing and painting (example right). And Graham Begg's beans on toast event was one of the most popular at the Institute's Open Days. The Beans on toast page tells the unfolding story.
Open Days 15 and 16 June 2012
The Living Field hosted a wide range of activities in the garden and cabins for all ages at the Open Days for schools (15 June) and the public (16 June). There was Nature Detective for the younger visitor. And a set of displays examined aspects of food security. 5000 years looked at the long history of food production in the region. Bread demonstrated how this staple food is obtained from modern and heritage cereals - visitors tried their hand at milling and tasted bread made from rye, bere barley, spelt and other cereals. Then Beans on Toast showed how this simple meal depends on the water and nutrients used by many crops in several continents.
This year we are pleased to host the artist Jean Duncan, who created landscapes with the help of visitors, and the Dundee Astronomical Society, who were on hand to talk about the sun and other astronomical wonders.
Ecosystem design at SEDA 2012
The Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA) is holding its annual conference at Falkland in Fife on 18 and 19 May 2012. The conference 'aims to bring together people involved in different projects in various ways (as client, user, designer)'. The Living Field is pleased to be involved in the event.
Are the maritime croplands designed or do they just evolve as a result of millions of uncoordinated and semi-random events - we ask? And if the latter, then are they edging to sustainability or extinction? Should more design be imposed? If so, we may learn much about the design of ecosystems from observing the principles and practice of design in green architecture and urban planning.
1700-1900 at the SAFHS Annual Conference
Images of modern and heritage crops grown in and around the Living Field garden were used to illustrate a talk at the 2012 Annual Conference of the Scottish Association of Family History Societies, attended by around 100 delegates at the D'Arcy Thompson Lecture Hall at the University of Dundee on 21 April 2012.
The talk began with a broad view of the crops grown in Scotland, then concentrated on the period 1700-1900, which is of interest to many family historians. Here, agricultural improvements coincided with passages in the industrial revolution, but also with times of severe famine and deprivation. Notes on the talk and further images are available on the 1700-1900 page.
Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design
A course on Communicating Design at Dundee University's DJCAD approached the Living Field for background on crops and food.
Discussion and visits followed. The result was an exhibition of design held at Dundee University in late March 2012 that took in topics of food production, unnecessary waste and the reliance on imports.
The DJCAD page on this site gives further information and snippets from the exhibition.
Artist Jean Duncan's work with the Living Field
Jean Duncan CECHR Artist in Residence will be working for some months over the spring and summer 2012 with the Living Field.
With the help of funding from the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW), Jean is working with local school groups on projects linked to water in soil, crops and food.
She will be holding art workshops at the James Hutton Institute's open days in June 2012 and plans to produce an illustrated booklet on completion of the work.
The image, right, is of one of her recent works - Kilmartin. See the Jean Duncan page on this site for further information.