Category Archives: Gardens

February in Karel Čapek’s gardening year

February is a dangerous time which threatens the gardener with black frosts, sun, damp, drought and wind. This shortest month, this whippersnapper among months, this premature, leap-year and altogether unsound month surpasses all the others in its cunning tricks… The devil only knows why in leap years one day is added to precisely this fickle, catarrhal, crafty runt of a month. (29)

The illustrations are by Josef Čapek, and this is a beautiful rendition of myself yesterday experiencing ‘Storm Doris’, though Salford experienced more wind I think:

…if you look properly (you must hold your breath as you do), you will find buds and sprouts on almost everything; with a thousand, tiny pulses life is rising from the soil. We gardeners do not give in now; we are rushing into new sap. (35)

My own little yard — rented, so I cannot take a hoe to it as Čapek suggests is necessary in February in an obsessive attempt to make its soil as fertile as it can be. But there are fine buds and sprouts, and life is rising.

Longsight Garden

Save

Save

Save

June Jordan: A handful of flowers and fruits

June Jordan - Directed by DesireA few more poems from June Jordan, easing the end of a rough week where so much had to be done, almost all of it cold-derailed. I love her poetry, love how Jordan always holds in precarious shining balance joy and suffering, life itself as we are bound within it. Part of nature, never apart, and nothing is wholly innocent.

Queen Anne’s Lace

(From Things I Do in the Dark – 1977)

Unseemly as a marvelous an astral renegade
now luminous and startling (rakish)
at the top of its thin/ordinary stem
the flower overpowers and outstares me
as I walk by thinking weeds and poison
ivy, bush and fern or runaway grass:
You (where are you, really?) never leave me
to my boredom: numb as I might like to be.
Repeatedly
you do revive
arouse alive

a suffering. (211)

Her words take my breath away sometimes.

Sunflower Sonnet Number Two

Supposing we could just go on as two
voracious in the days apart as well as when
we side by side (the many ways we do
that) well! I would consider then
perfection possible, or else worthwhile
to think about. Which is to say
I guess the costs of long term tend to pile
up, block and complicate, erase away
the accidental, temporary, near
thing/pulsebeat promises one makes
because the chance, the easy new, is there
in front of you. But still, perfection takes
some sacrifice of falling stars for rare.
And there are stars, but none of you, to spare.

Always they fill me with release, reading in these perfect words the wordless furies I know, resistance I feel.

From Sea to Shining Sea

From Living Room – 1985
6
**

This was not a good time to be married

The Pope has issued directives concerning
lust that make for difficult interaction
between otherwise interested parties

This was not a good time to be married.
This was not a good time to buy a house
at 18% interest.
This was not a good time to rent housing
on a completely decontrolled
rental market.
This was not a good time to be a Jew
when the national Klan agenda targets
Jews as well as Blacks among its
enemies of the purity of the people
This was not a good time to be a tree
This was not a good time to be a river
This was not a good time to be found with a gun
This was not a good time to be found without one
This was not a good time to be gay
This was not a good time to be Black
This was not a good time to be a pomegranate
or an orange
This was not a good time to be against
the natural order

—Wait a minute—

**

7
Sucked by the tongue and the lips
while the teeth release the succulence
of all voluptuous disintegration

I am turning under the trees
I am trailing blood into the rivers
I am walking loud along the streets
I am digging my nails and my heels into the land
I am opening my mouth
I am just about to touch the pomegranates
piled up precarious

This is a good time
This is the best time
This is the only time to come together
Fractious
Kicking
Spilling
Burly
Whirling
Raucous
Messy

Free

Exploding like the seeds of a natural disorder. (330-331)

What better way to respond to such a week, such a world, than this. Together with a dream of growing a much much thicker skin.

Save

Masanobu Fukuoka: Sowing Seeds in the Desert

Masanobu Fukuoka - Sowing Seeds in the DesertMasanobu Fukuoka…I have now read his first book, One Straw Revolution, and his last, Sowing Seeds in the Desert. There is such a distance between eastern and western ways of knowing and thinking, I like how provocative it is to explore the spaces between them. I like how this book sets them in dialogue. Reading Fukuoka reminds me of seeing the Dalai Lama talk at the LSE — they seem so idealistic, they speak using familiar words but in such different ways, seem so removed and unworldly and thus so easily taken advantage of by a capitalist system that thrives on co-opting everything and turning it into profit. Yet really, seems to me their points are needle sharp in deflating the engorged balloons of western, capitalist ways of knowing and valuing. If you listen.

It also, of course, resonates so much with indigenous systems, with permaculture, with struggles for biodiversity and tradition as against monoculture and many another relationship between generations and the land they are connected to.

From the editor Larry Korn, who also helped bring the first book into the world:

The most conspicuous of the cultural difficulties is that the Japanese way of telling a story or developing a complex argument is different from the approach that is generally taken in English. In Japanese, the author typically begins with the theme or the point he wishes to make, then he offers an anecdote or an argument that helps to take that story or bolster the point before returning to the theme, which is restated. Then the author goes on another loop, again returning to the theme. One might say that these side stories or arguments form the petals of a flower with the theme as its center. (xxx)

In Western writing, however, the linear is preferred. The character arc. The beginning ramping up to a climax and then a tidy conclusion. Even in our non-fiction.

There has never been a generation like the present where people’s hearts are so badly wounded. This is true of every are of society–politics, economics, education, and culture. It is reflected in the degradation of the environment, which comes about through the material path humanity has chosen. Now we have the ugly sight of industry, government, and the military joining forces in the struggle for ultimate power. (14)

I don’t know that this linear thinking can be blamed for our current world, but it is part of the larger pattern I think. Curious that old certainties about cause and effect, our capacity to know everything, so many simplifications are being increasingly challenged by new thinking in biology — and this sounds remarkably like the kind of thing Brian Greene writes about in terms of new directions in physics:

Time does not simply flow mechanically in a straight line in a fixed direction. We could think of time as flowing up and down, right and left, forward and backward. As time develops and expands, multifaceted and three-dimensional, the past is concealed within the instant of the present, and within this instant of time is concealed the eternity of the future. (26)

All made of the same things, connected at the base like a chain of islands whose tops are above the ocean

In the past, present, and future, the true disposition of nature is toward abundance for human beings and for all species. Therefore the question should not be “Why are there too many people?” but rather, “Who has created the scarcity into which they are born?” And then, finally, “How can we heal the earth so it can support future generations?” (42)

On the equality and interconnectedness of all things…

Plants, people, butterflies, and dragonflies appear to be separate, individual living things, yet each is an equal and important participant in nature. They share the same mind and life spirit. They form a single living organism. to speak of creatures as beneficial insects, harmful insects, pathogenic bacteria, or troublesome birds is like saying the right hand is good and the left hand is bad. Nature is an endless cycle, in which all things participate in the same dance of life and death, living together and dying together. (43)

It is in using massive interventions to destroy parts of the cycle, with very little understanding of it and driven by motives of profit, that we have arrived at the point of destruction. This lack of holistic understandings is endemic, seen in many a western method for solving things.

When the specialized Western medicinal approach is used, the question of what gives life and health to the whole body and mind is put off. In other words, modern Western medicines puts the human body ahead of the human spirit. This separation is a starting point for emotional anxiety among people today. (44)

Fukuoka keeps them together:

Gradually I came to realize that the process of saving the desert of the human heart and revegetating the actual desert is actually the same thing. (47)

This is all talking about land and spirit and some of us (not me, especially not any more) will be rolling their eyes. But this understanding of the capitalist economy, the ‘Money-sucking Octopus Economy’ (50) as he calls it, is interesting,  it definitely breaks things up in a different way than I am used to. At the heart of the octopus? politicians and the military-industrial-government complex. The legs?

  1. maintenance of the transportation network
  2. control of agencies administering transportation
  3. supervision of communications
  4. establishment of an economic information network
  5. education and administrative advising
  6. control of financial institutions
  7. control of information
  8. control of citizens’ personal computers and registration (53)

I like this list, it’s funny that control of land and resources is not on it.

There is nothing I don’t agree with about consumption and our economic model though:

I have often said that value does not lie in material goods themselves, but when people create the conditions that make them seem necessary, their value increases. The capitalist system is based on the notion of ever-increasing production and consumption of material goods, and therefore, in the modern economy, people’s value or worth comes to be determined by their possessions. But if people create conditions and environments that do not make those things necessary, the things, no matter what they are, become valueless. Cars, for example, are not considered to be of value by people who are not in a hurry.

Economies that aim at production and consumption of unnecessary products are themselves meaningless. (51)

Yet that is our economic model of development. And it is all about control and the marketing of products — whether luxury goods or Monsanto’s technologies:

When I went to apply for a visa from the Somalian government, I was flabbergasted when they told me that any kind of instruction that agitates the farmers and encourages them to become self-sufficient would not be welcome. If such activity went too far, they said, it would be considered treason. (76)

Colonial agricultural policies…Big money into big damns, big irrigation, drawing water from aquifers leading to salinization of land, cash crops, ending nomadic cultures resulting in massive stress on one area of the land and damage to a culture and a people, national parks that its former indigenous residents must leave, and suddenly go all the way around in their movements. The are sudden insights, like the ways that the irrigation of water in high dikes controls the people who surround it, cuts them off from free movement and free access to water. And it puts blame where blame is due:

I started with the recognition that the causes of desertification in most areas are misguided human knowledge and action. If we eliminated them, I believed that nature would certainly heal itself. (87)

It examines the real costs of our current agricultural practices of GMOs, monocropping and etc — Fukuoka writes ‘Agricultural “Production” is Actually Deduction’ (88):

If you really count all the inputs of cost to the environment, mining and fossil fuel extraction, construction of machinery, damage from cash crops etc, we have the most inefficient agricultural systems possible…

It is not just in Africa that these problems exist.

About half of the land in the United States is, or is becoming, desert. I felt that the expanding American desert was at least as great a problem as the deserts of Africa, but most Americans seemed totally unaware that their country is becoming more arid. (123)

We don’t talk about those kinds of things, but it threatens the communities, like New Mexico’s acequia farmers, most likely to offer hope and the capacities to sustainably grow food in increasingly arid condition.

I do like that he toured the US saying this kind of thing:

Everywhere I went I preached the abolition of lawn culture, saying that it was an imitation green created for human beings at the expense of nature and was nothing more than a remnant of the arrogant aristocratic culture of Europe. (129)

This philosophy is a very particular way, very Japanese way of embracing the world, of changing it.

When people are released from the idea that they are the ones who have created things and have abandoned human knowledge, nature will return to its true form. The rebirth of nature is not simply a return to the primitive, it is a return to the timeless. My method of natural farming aims at liberating the human heart… (140)

I loved this final quote, partially a reminder that even if we are not the ones who love land and roots as farmers, we still can live in sustainable ways. But mostly it is good to encounter — to know — that radically different ways of being are still possible in this world:

I still remember the words of an Ethiopian tribesman who at first rejected my ideas of natural farming. “Are you asking me to become a farmer?” he asked. “To be attached to the soil and to accumulate things are the acts of a degraded person.” (52)

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Enrique Salmón: American Indian Stories of Food, Identity and Resilience

13226644I came to Enrique Salmón’s Eating the Landscape through The Colors of Nature, this covers some of the same territory, but I learned even more about the Colorado Plateau that we had just been driving through. The landscapes of my baby-self, and so many of my dad’s stories. But no one in my family ever had anything as awesome as this:

I recall the many plant-related lessons I learned in my grandma’s herb house. this latticed structure was filled with hanging dried and living plants as well as pungent and savory smells from the many herbs hanging from the ceiling. The roof was no longer visible through the layers of vines that draped over its eaves to the ground. (3)

I love this connection between food and landscape, so obvious and yet I had not quite seen it in this way before.

…because so much of the food we are discussing in this book comes directly from the land, food landscapes remain intact when old recipes are regenerated. The food itself, and the landscapes from which it emerges, remembers how it should be cooked. This can happen because the food itself activates in us an encoded memory that reminds us how to grow, collect and prepare the food. (9)

Thinking about what our food teaches us about our landscape…well. I have learned a lot through my short time on smallholdings, through growing up in the desert, but I don’t know enough.

An essential lesson for us, as we continue on our current self-destructive path of monocropping, genetically modifying our food using artificial irrigation, and overfertilizing, will be to relearn how to cook our landscapes: the manner in which we sustainably steward our food crops, relying on a process that began in our home kitchens. (10)

It is not just loss of knowledge through city living or supermarkets, I think of Vandana Shiva writing about just how much the proponents of monocropping have actively destroyed. Yet there is so much happening that gives me hope. Like Emigdio Ballon, come from the highlands of Bolivia to Tesuque Pueblo of New Mexico. Working now with the Pueblo to grow fruit trees and beans, and maintaining a seed bank of heirloom crops.

I think too of settler and scientist arrogance, the kind that has driven unsustainable agricultural practices through the fields and lives of small farmers on the land for generations. Not seeing the complex systems these farmers were often embedded within:

For the longest time, the conservation and environmental movement had assumed that the human-environment equation would always result negatively for the land…until recently, researchers had not considered the possibility that humans could actually enhance their landscapes; that human communities might actually play a role in enhancing diversity; or that humans could be a keystone species of some ecological systems. (75)

In southern Arizona the Hohokam are everywhere, I remember hearing stories, imagining their presence across the land. There is a chapter on the Sonora desert and this:

The word Hohokam from the Pima language — always translated as ‘”those who have gone,” or “those who have vanished.” Archaeologist Emil Haury, who has studied the Hohokam, provided a more literal translation of “all used up.” (82)

Damn.

Up near Phoenix, along the salt river, they built extensive irrigation systems. Left them. Salmón writes that this is possibly because they became salinized, silted up. Instead of upping the ante, the people returned to a simpler agricultural system, one that was more beneficial to their landscape and more sustainable over the years.

Damn. I can’t imagine that conversation, our current reality is worlds removed from that kind of thinking. Perhaps this is a great part of the problem. One other thing I never have experienced, but so want to:

The diversity of the Sonora Desert seems more obvious the farther one travels through its namesake Mexican state. (128)

There are lots of stories here of the Colorado plateau, the fields in canyons and along washes hidden from sight — oh, I wished so much we caught just a glimpse. He writes of Peabody Coal’s draining of the aquifer and the drying up of springs. An enterprise bringing death to extract energy, destroying place to facilitate movement. A mindset alien to the people here, and to me. I loved the description of a concept from Juan Estevan Arellano:

Hispano querencia: that which affords his people a sense of place. Querencia is also simply the love for the land and place. (118)

Salmón continues:

To Hispanos, querencia is a blend of mental spaces not only involving bioregionalism but also including emotional, spiritual, cultural and ecological health. When people think of land the concept is enmeshed with notions of cultural memory. These and other mental spaces merge into a multidimensional blended space… (118)

This is the space of resilience, of community, of words. The thing evoked so powerfully in Jimmy Santiago Baca’s poetry describing these same places. It is strange finding the language of development I am so familiar with rewritten, recoded in this way:

Story is at the core of community resilience. It comprises the matter, substance, and adhesive of human capital. Stories communicate our values through the language of our heart and our emotions. Stories are what we feel. In northern New Mexico, enough of the viable land remains in which the story of querencia can be housed. (121)

More ways to reframe development debates, from The Declaration of Seed Sovereignty that came out of the Traditional Agriculture Conference held March 10-11, 2006 in Alcalde, New Mexico:

Sustainable stewardship and cultural resilience are neither decisions nor rights. Nowhere in the Declaration of Seed Sovereignty does the notion or term of rights arise. Instead, the associations conferred to include in their “living document” concepts of relationships, generational memory, embodied practices, spirituality, caring, respect, traditions, and celebration when declaring their revival and survival of their way of life. Together, these concepts reflect identity connected to responsibility towards one’s place in a community within a landscape. (150)

Everything is relational and connected.

Salmón, Enrique (2012) Eating the Landscape: American Indian Stories of Food, Identity and Resilience. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

For love of brutalist concrete conservatories

Concrete conservatories are amazing. I have long had an architectural love affair with conservatories of metal and glass, and these elements are not missing from Krakow’s Botanical Garden of the Jagiellonian University. Founded in 1783, it still serves as a teaching garden, and has a most wonderful collection of orchids and other tropical plants, many from the collection of botanist Joseph Warszewicz (1812–1866). The first greenhouse was built here in 1787, but they have been extended, reconstructed, and added to over the years and are entirely wonderful.

Krakow Botanical Garden

Krakow Botanical Garden

Krakow Botanical Garden

Krakow Botanical Garden

Krakow Botanical Garden

Krakow Botanical Garden

Krakow Botanical Garden

Krakow Botanical Garden

Krakow Botanical Garden

The plants were beautiful too, and here you can find many of the medicinal plants collected in jars upon jars at the Museum of Pharmacy, botany just another form of the dual aspiration to explore the wonders of the world and to better understand the various healing powers of plants. Until, of course, you bring Empire and the desire for profit extraction into it, I am curious how countries like Poland were part of that dynamic. But mostly I just love plants and conservatories.

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

For more on brutalism and/or gardens…

Save

Save

Stone, Flowers and Violence: Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle… Authority and conquest built in stone. Material embodiment and defense of a way of life and thought. Ruling centre of a community. Many of the remaining old Norman castles here in the UK stand stark and grim and square — imposition of French feudal aristocracy on earlier versions. They are squat and violent and empty of all but petty dead ambition achieved through bloody force. Dirleton castle, however, has notes of true grace overlying this — I wonder what it grew into and just how it related to the surrounding communities.

The prison and ‘pit’ for lower-class prisoners are probably the best indications, yet castles remain overlaid with a touch of gothic romance despite my best intentions, and I keep visiting them in a forever unfulfilled desire to explore Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. Still, had I been alive at the time, I have a feeling I would have been all for burning them down as a peasant with ambitions for a better life and the ability to read.

There is also a lovely garden here, which contains the longest herbaceous border in the world. A rare Scottish sunny day showed it at its best.

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

In looking this up I was troubled that the crown has re-established a barony of (Fulwood and ) Dirleton — overlaying my images of picturesque ruins of violent stone with a very different, modern kind of violence and power. It ties together efforts to rebuild a monarchy in Brazil to Israel’s devastating invasion of Lebanon (‘Peace for Galilee War?) to hotel management in South Africa to Florida notary public-ship to Mozambique, and my only reaction continues to be, if you will excuse me, what. the fuck. Because Le Carre did not, apparently, invent this. An abbreviated version of the the bio from the barony’s website:

Camilo Agasim-Pereira of Fulwood & Dirleton, The Baron of Fulwood & Dirleton The Feudal Lord of Dirleton, Lord of the Manors of Colemere, Fulwood, Gresley, Repton, Morpeth Castle and of the Hundred of Gresley and Repton, was born in Brazil, and educated in Brazil, USA and Israel.

He served in the Israel Defense Forces, IDF Between 1981 to 1983, was discharged with Honours and mention in dispatches, was mentioned in dispatch for valour and was an active reservist between 1983 to 2003. He was awarded a medal for operations in Lebanon, during the “Peace for the Galilee War”. After Military Service, he served as an assistant community envoy and spokesman in the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia. Late on he was also a member of the Israel Police and Security Forces.

He has a Degree in Hotel Management, his last position as Hotelier, was Operation Manager at The Sun City Complex in S. Africa one of the largest and most luxury hotel resort in the world…

Since 1993 The Baron of Fulwood & Dirleton, holds an appointment from the Governor of Florida as Notary Public at-large for the State of Florida…

From 1993 to 2000 he was acting Hon. Consul of Mozambique in United States, the appointment was made permanent from 2000 and was recognized as a permanent appointment by the USA State Dept. in 2001 and server until 2006.

There is a charitable trust associated with the position, has as a mission

The promotion of Monarchy as the most stable form of government and the understanding and exchange of ideas among people of all races and creed. The Barony of Fulwood Trust host a website dedicated to the restoration of the Brazilian Monarchy at: www.correioimperial.com and www.monarquia.com.

Is this for real I asked myself. The armorial register and Burke’s Peerage supports its reality, though not a hint of what he might have done for Scotland to gain a barony. I have some ideas.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Gilbert White on changing customs around gardening (and London)

I need to finish up thoughts on Gilbert White — his writings on nature are here, on superstitions here, a few things about his perceptions of how people were dressing, eating and gardening are to be found here — linked to how they foraged from the commons, but not quite same.

In talking about leprosy, he notes not just the superstitions surrounding it, but the changes in habits and dress that he believes have reduced the frequency of skin ailments — the change in clothing and the growing of fresh vegetables and fresh meat (the aristocracy at least ate SO MUCH meat):

This happy change perhaps may have originated and been continued from the much smaller quantity of salted meat and fish now eaten in these kingdoms; from the use of linen next the skin; from the plenty of better bread; and from the profusion of fruits, roots, legumes, and greens, so common in every family. Three or four centuries ago, before there were any enclosures, sown-grasses, field-turnips, or field-carrots, or hay, all the cattle which had grown fat in summer, and were not killed for winter-use, were turned out soon after Michaelmas to shift as they could through the dead months; so that no fresh meat could be had in winter or spring. Hence the marvellous account of the vast stores of salted flesh found in the larder of the eldest Spencer** t in the days of Edward the Second, even so late in the spring as the third of May. It was from magazines like these that the turbulent barons supported in idleness their riotous swarms of retainers ready for any disorder or mischief. But agriculture is now arrived at such a pitch of perfection, that our best and fattest meats are killed in the winter; and no man need eat salted flesh, unless he prefers it, that has money to buy fresh. (** Viz.: Six hundred bacons, eighty carcasses of beef, and six hundred muttons.)

I found this even more fascinating on the growth of gardening, and the widening availability of vegetables for sale (and clearly, a corresponding growth of markets, transportation links between town and country, and the ability of people to buy them where they cannot grow their own).

As to the produce of a garden, every middle-aged person of observation may perceive, within his own memory, both in town and country, how vastly the consumption of vegetables is increased. Green-stalls in cities now support multitudes in a comfortable state, while gardeners get fortunes. Every decent labourer also has his garden, which is half his support, as well as his delight; and common farmers provide plenty of beans, peas, and greens, for their hinds to eat with their bacon; and those few that do not are despised for their sordid parsimony, and looked upon as regardless of the welfare of their dependents. Potatoes have prevailed in this little district, by means of premiums, within these twenty years only; and are much esteemed here now by the poor, who would scarce have ventured to taste them in the last reign.

And to throw in just a few fun observations on London!

20 Nov 1773

Martins love to frequent towns, especially if there are great lakes and rivers at hand; nay, they even affect the close air of London. And I have not only seen them nesting in the Borough, but even in the Strand and Fleet- street; but then it was obvious from the dinginess of their aspect that their feathers partook of the filth of that sooty atmosphere.

On the great frost of 1776 — amazing

On the 22nd the author had occasion to go to London through a sort of Laplandian-scene, very wild and grotesque indeed. But the metropolis itself exhibited a still more singular appearance than the country; for, being bedded deep in snow, the pavement of the streets could not be touched by the wheels or the horses’ feet, so that the carriages ran about without the least noise. Such an exception from din and clatter was strange, but not pleasant; it seemed to convey an uncomfortable idea of desolation

From farm emergency to emergency

I spent most of the morning weeding, but only after the feeding. The lambs were happy to see me, and Sandy is no longer my favourite. Those goddamn docks keep seeding and I have been speeding to lop off their heads and chop them down — I have discovered that the only way to be safe with flowering docks is to send the whole of them to the muck heap as they seed up and down every stem. Every time I look closely at the mulch pile on the raised bed I see the still-living flower heads growing up from the stems I cut a week ago quite certain I had removed the flowers. Wrong.

Lessons learned. Emergency in the making? Just like every hogweed and nettle flowerhead. It is too late now, I should have been doing this a month ago. I should have known better.

And did I tell you the tractor caught on fire yesterday, or was it the day before? It did. Fault with the wiring which is hopefully fixed, and it’s raining today so it should be just fine right? But I didn’t see it myself, so it’s almost like it didn’t happen, still, I am collecting emergencies. There have been infinite and ongoing small ones, but I have set a limit on size and scale you see — so I thought perhaps the milk for my morning coffee getting pinched this morning from the fridge didn’t quite make it into the list, because by after lunch my bitterness had gone.

The rain fell fairly relentlessly so I spent much of the morning in the polytunnel, destroying docks and burdock and mizuna run amuck and creeping thistles.

This afternoon, Leo and I cleaned out the cow trailer with a broom, a brush, and little more than a trickle of water. I remembered the pressure washer with great affection and even longing. Scrubbing and scrubbing and I am so tired. A little after four we went to let the cows into the middle path, but before we could send them through the hurdles we had to rig up, we were swept off to help deal with a proper spectacular emergency as the cows in the far field had got out, and were in the neighbour’s silage field. Off we went to collect them up — it was nice sitting down in a car. Very nice indeed. I had time to remember how beautiful it is here. Then we collected the cows, walked them down the lane (the cars had to stop for us and we ambled along cow-paced and it was the highlight of the day) and into their proper field. Bob fixed up where they had broken loose. We found the two cows we thought we were short, they had stayed in the field. Endless evening emergency search averted.

I wish I had pictures.

Almost 7 we got back and the poor lambs and Sandy and Lilly the kid still needing to be fed.

So. Tired.

The lost garden, and hogweed

No baby animals today, the Steiner wonderchild did them (very very slowly, like everything else), but I did get to start work recovering a lost garden. Hopefully I’ll have time to clear it and start some lovely things growing between other chores before I go!

This morning really started with Molly providing some comic relief by standing on the roof of the wood shed:

Farm 3.5

But then we came to where I hope I will be able to point to and say I left this place better for having been here.

You come to a wire gate alongside some of the sheds, keeping the herbs and veg that once grew here safe from marauding chickens that run loose in the yard.

farm 3.5

It’s some time since anyone spent any time down here, as you can see from the passage down to the gardens — though of course these weeds come up so ridiculously fast:

Farm 3.5

Arriving at the end of this passage is a very long lost garden, a huge undifferentiated swath of nettles and docks and hogweed and others.

Farm 3.5

This is looking back from the other direction:

Farm 3.5

The wunderkind began an attack on this later in the day with a strimmer — again, I so so missed the scythe. It is so much more useful as it cuts closer to the soil, apart from the noise and the petrol. You work your way along the edge of this towards a garden a little less lost, a series of raised beds, and bark put down between some of them to preserve the paths. What I also wouldn’t give for the little semicircular blade that would clear the paths…ah well.

Farm 3.5

Continue further — on your right, and down below you find Lilly and her mean father, Arthur:

Farm 3.5

You turn left to see six or eight more beds, with a polytunnel behind them needing reclaiming:

Farm 3.5

The view from the other side:

Farm 3.5

Quite a task! But first, I had to focus on cutting off all the flowering heads of the dock and hogweed before their seeds were dispersed across the farm.

Hogweed is quite interesting — I missed the media frenzy about Giant Hogweed, imported here from Georgia — this grows over ten feet, sending up huge white umbrels of flowers and its sap can cause horrible burns across your skin that may take days, weeks or years to heal properly.

from the Royal Horticultural Society:

The giant hogweeds are usually referred to by one name, Heracleum mantegazzianum. Research by RHS and other botanists shows that, while this is one of the species, there are as many as four other giant hogweeds at large in Britain some of which are biennial and others perennial. However, when tested all these had high levels of furanocoumarins (the chemicals which cause burning by making the skin sensitive to sunlight) and so all pose a risk to public health.

There is also a native hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium, which will be a familiar plant to gardeners and those who like to go walking in the UK. It can grow to six foot or so when in flower but is nevertheless a much smaller plant than giant hogweed. It can cause rashes and other skin complaints but reactions tend not be as severe as with the larger species.

The giant hogweeds were introduced into Britain and Europe from the Caucasus Mountains in the nineteenth century. The earliest documented reference to their introduction into Britain that has been traced is from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Seed List of 1817 where giant hogweed, under the name of Heracleum giganteum was listed among seeds supplied to Kew by the Russian Gorenki Botanic Gardens. They were soon introduced into the horticultural trade and being aesthetically impressive plants, were widely planted in ornamental gardens throughout Britain. Unfortunately they quickly escaped from cultivation with the first naturalised (‘wild’) population recorded in Cambridgeshire in 1828, and are now widely naturalised as invasive species throughout much of Britain and Europe.

What they don’t note is that the shoots of the native hogweed are apparently quite delicious steamed and buttered. I definitely want to try that. In picking them, however, they are still not pleasant to handle so gloves must be worn. They can’t be strimmed, because that can send the sap shooting across your skin (again a scythe wouldn’t have that problem) with force, which makes it even more painful. They have to be dug out one by one — I didn’t do that today, just walked around the very considerable field that has recently been mowed picking off the flower tops.

Here is some alongside the little bit that has been left as woodland, and where willow grows aplenty for use by the wood and willow-worker who has workspace here.

Farm 3.5

I picked a plethora, and tiring as it was, I got to explore the far end of the field where I had not yet been (except when I was sitting in the tractor). I found another badger sett! A lone one, but seems to be well used.

Farm 3.5

The views are stunning, back down across the farm:

Farm 3.5

Across the other field that will at some point become hay:

Farm 3.5

It started raining in the middle of this, and has not yet stopped. I did a little more work on the lost garden, but left my ipod in the caravan so have no work-done picture. We have a half day tomorrow, so I will get one then I suppose.

Long day, but a good one. In other news, my last rejection apparently wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was yesterday as I skimmed it over. But I still haven’t been able to read it again myself. Time for all things.

Save

Hens aren’t always good mothers, and planting beans

Long day today, but a very nice one. There has been some drama around the chickens that I haven’t yet written about. Two of the broody hens were given eggs to hatch, and on Friday the chicken eggs started hatching. Not the duck eggs the second broody hen was sitting on — the ducks here are terrible mothers apparently, not surprising given the traumatic scenes preceding the laying of eggs. Though apparently it has more to do with the domesticated nature of the breed. Though it doesn’t look too likely that they have succeeded with the duck eggs either.

The hen started with 12 I think, broke three, and only 2 of the remaining 9 hatched. On Monday afternoon we thought that both chicks had been smothered or predated because they were not in the secure house with the mother. But a few hours later we found one chick with the mum who had incubated them, and another with another of the broody hens. So this morning, we had to set up two (rather than one) secure little houses with runs to allow mums and babies a little privacy and extra safety from jays and foxes.

The calm and competent new mum who rescued one of the chicks:

IMG_1691

I couldn’t even get a good picture of the nervous not-so-good-but-trying mum, but her chick is very cute as well and heads this post.

Then it was back to weeding and beans. We planted two more circles of french beans in the broad bean bed. These are white flowering heirloom beans — Cherokee ‘Trail of tears’ and Sarah’s Old-fashioned black beans. I am pretty sad I won’t be harvesting and cooking up these beauties to try them out.

The afternoon was spent digging a new bed for some scarlet runner beans. Two months ago they covered these two beds with plastic as they had been overrun with couch grass and nettles.

IMG_1706

We peeled back the plastic enough to plant a new row of beans crowding their seed trays. These are usually just planted into the ground, but the weather has been so strange and changeable the past few years given climate change and all, Rob planted a bunch in trays — and May’s snow and hail I discussed in earlier posts proved he was wise.

The couch grass had died back enough we didn’t need the azada, just a rake to peel it off the top. The nettles though, were well entrenched and required spade work.

IMG_1705

We put a line down with this brilliant victorian contraption that I forgot to get a picture of but I will, and then dug out a trench a spade wide and deep

IMG_1708

IMG_1711

A sprinkle of seaweed calcium balls, some cut up comfrey plants, a layer of rotted horse manure, the old soil raked back over and we were ready to plant. We put in sticks using the trowel as a spacer

IMG_1713

In the bean plugs went, mostly scarlet emperor, one per stick.

IMG_1716

We planted out the seedlings most in need. Alongside them we also sowed one heirloom borlotti bean which will prolong the crop yielded by this bed as they will be ready for harvest weeks later. When we ran out of seedlings we continued sowing seed directly into the ground, two for each pole rather than one.

I learned that beans climb round the poles counterclockwise in the Northern hemisphere, so that is how you should wind and tie them. That is quite cool.

I also learned how to make dumplings — a heaped tablespoon of self-raising flour per person, half that amount of suet, parsely is quite nice though not necessary, salt and pepper, water until it looks like dough, and then just drop them on top of your covered stew for ten minutes.

Yum. Imagine that, with scones and clotted cream and fresh strawberries for desert. A good day.