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Ecology Practice Spirituality Wilderness

Leaf Mould

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Community Ecology Urban

Guerilla Bamboo

The Camellia from 2002 looking very well.

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Community Ecology Growing Health Organic Practice Regenerative Soil Urban

Broad Bean Harvest 2024

The broad beans that I planted in December were ready to be picked. They hadn’t formed nearly as big a bush as last year.

The harvest wasn’t bad, but was not as impressive as before.

These stems went onto the compost heap.

I think this shows the limits of the viability of applying No Dig principles to containers. There’s not enough nutrients OR biology to support more growth.

And I’d taken measures. Rotating the crops, and after all beans are a legume, after the first round of them I’ve had buckwheat and nigella before this crop. I’ve also applied leaf mould. And chanted my mantra over them too, innit.

Digging it out, I WAS surprised to see that the trough was not root bound.

But equally it was rooty enough…

The box itself, given to me by my dear-departed father-in-law, was in need of some repairs. This was another reason to crack into it.

Sieving the soil produced these nuggety chunks of clay. So hard they felt almost like gravel. Sorry, but in no way could these be an optimal growing environment…

Biology

But it wasn’t all barren! There was a lot of insect life. No doubt from the poor guys who lost their homes in my demolishment. Aah, they’ll be OK! I will look after them. It’s mainly wood lice, but there’s other stuff happening. Wait for the cat’s miaow at the end.

But check out these nitrogen nodules on the broad bean plant’s roots. This has been the first time I have seen this with my own eyes. Very impressive.

I mixed the sieved soil from the wooden trough with a mixture of Lakeland Gold compost and some Carbon Gold fertiliser pellets. Heaven knows if that will work?

This new soil went into a shelter I’ve built for the next crop, buckwheat and a few others in pots.

The beans themselves were delicious.

I shared them, steamed and then dressed with olive oil and salt, with Mrs Ingram.

Categories
Ecology Growing Urban

Spontaneous Fungal Eruption

The woodchip mulch I used on this Bay bush suddenly sprouted these mushrooms one morning. That was at once to be expected and a surprise. They had all disappeared by the end of the day.

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Ecology Wilderness

Cow Parsley

Such a beautiful pentagonal structure.

Not to be confused with Yarrow. I never could get this to grow from the seed I picked up at Samye Ling.

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Ecology Food Growing Organic Practice Spirituality Urban

Herbs

Fooling around with 20m2 on a roof terrace in the centre of London, there are distinct limitations to one what can achieve in a garden. I could, as the genius Mark Ridsdill Smith does, grow a lot more vegetables. However, my own view is that whatever vegetables I grow to eat – and this year it’s been spinach, leeks, rocket, red cabbage, yacon, potatoes, runner beans, broad beans, beetroot, and tomatoes – is only ever going to be a token, for giggles…

For whatever reason, after growing cavalo nero, lettuces, and spinach erbette, I’ve cooled on growing leaves. I’ll grow spinach again over the winter but, although they are touted as the best things to grow in the city (because they are fast to grow and expensive to buy), I find leaves somehow boring.

Equally I find most ornamentals, often highly cultivated plants you couldn’t imagine happening in nature, almost products of a laboratory, a very tedious thing to grow. The flowers I’m growing, borage, phacelia, limanthes, marigolds, sunflowers, dandelions, nasturtiums are found at vegetable-growing seed suppliers as varieties that are good for insect life. Even my most ornamental flowers honeysuckle, poppies, zinnias, dahlias, (this last especially a concession to Mrs Ingram who loves them – they are beautiful…) are renowned for being attractive to pollinators.

What works very well among these select vegetables, trees, and carefully-chosen flowers, are herbs. Ever since I came across Juliette de Baïracli Levy and went on Kirsten Hartvig’s amazing country ramble at Forest Row I’ve been enchanted by them and their awesome potential. In the city they really work well, they don’t take up masses of space, the bugs love them, and they are fascinating. Currently, I am growing nothing particularly far out.

I believe that what one grows in the city should fundamentally address our urban alienation from nature. That selection should be geared to making us connect with the process of growing, with the seasons, with the cycle of life and death, and our cosmic alignment. In the city, we can’t pretend that we’re living wholly natural lives, but at least we can use growing to keep in touch with those things; like a diver underwater has an oxygen tank.

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Agriculture Community Ecology Practice Urban

P-POD

Researching my forthcoming book which is now complete, “The Garden: Visionary Growers and Farmers of the Counterculture”, I visited the New Alchemy Institute in Cape Cod. Watch this wonderful National Film Board of Canada documentary if you’re interested in finding out a little about New Alchemy.

I interviewed Hilde Maingay and Earle Barnhart, the married couple who were central members of the collective. They now live at the site itself, which was originally not inhabited. Maingay herself was the main grower; the garden there was at the heart of New Alchemy’s activity.

I enjoyed their company so much that during lunch I offered to make them a video for their current project, the P-POD. Between jobs this past few weeks I designed and animated this film which I can share with you.

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Community Ecology Practice Spirituality Urban Wilderness

The World About Us

Created by David Attenborough “The World About Us” was a BBC Two television documentary series. Its central topic was natural history, but it had a wide remit covering people and geography. Running from 1967 to 1986 its list of contributors is remarkable.

“The World About Us” was the only TV show which, as children, we were allowed to stay up late to watch. It aired on Sunday evenings in the mid-seventies. I trace my fascination with animation back to The Pink Panther and The Rescuers, but before them “The World About Us” title sequence, commissioned by Attenborough, was the first thing that entranced me. What was this, this golden latticed globe, with its eerie aftertrails? Where was it?

My initial hunch was that the sequence was the work of Bernard Lodge who made the first Dr. Who title sequence, and I was correct. Blogger Tim Dickinson Pink for Your Actual Pterodactyl has a wonderful breakdown of it.

Lodge designed a skeleton ‘globe’ from bands of metal. The bands intersected both vertically and diagonally… Filming on 35mm, the globe revolved on a black background, and the camera tracked from one side of the screen to another. This negative was later replicated with the bands rotating in the opposite direction. The key ingredient was the duplication of the film six times, with each frame shifted by 2 or 3 frames. The resulting dupe (negative) consisted of a swirling array of bands.

An additional negative of the globe zooming into the screen was recorded, again using the same process. This faded out as the two tracking shots (the ‘pan from left to right, and right to left) cleared the frame. This left the sans-serif title caption to fade in, before the sequence fades to black in time with the final flute motif. Lodge used a simple and effective technique, using multiple exposures to create a world rich in mystery and intrigue. The repeated imagery fits perfectly with the swirling, echoing, multi-layered soundtrack.

The title sequence to ‘The World About Us’ (BBC, 1967, Bernard Lodge)

The cue by John Scott was, I know now, straight out of the Paul Horn playbook. Jazz as it sheared into the New Age. The sequence has all the hallmarks of Hauntology, because (and this is my own definition), this was TV as a conduit of the countercultural current.

Animation is a very etheric pursuit, but refreshingly these metaphysical graphics and music were tethered to a TV show on… the world about us. As above, so below.

Categories
Ecology Urban

Daisies

Categories
Ecology Spirituality Urban

Sunflower Sutra

I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and sat down under the huge shade of a Southern Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the box house hills and cry.

Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, surrounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of machinery.

The oily water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that stream, no hermit in those mounts, just ourselves rheumy-eyed and hung-over like old bums on the riverbank, tired and wily.

Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust—

—I rushed up enchanted—it was my first sunflower, memories of Blake—my visions—Harlem

and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes Greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the poem of the riverbank, condoms & pots, steel knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the past—

and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset, crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye—

corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face, soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sunrays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried wire spiderweb,

leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear,

Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O my soul, I loved you then!

The grime was no man’s grime but death and human locomotives,

all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black mis’ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuberance of artificial worse-than-dirt—industrial—modern—all that civilization spotting your crazy golden crown—

and those blear thoughts of death and dusty loveless eyes and ends and withered roots below, in the home-pile of sand and sawdust, rubber dollar bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely tincans with their rusty tongues alack, what more could I name, the smoked ashes of some cock cigar, the cunts of wheelbarrows and the milky breasts of cars, wornout asses out of chairs & sphincters of dynamos—all these

entangled in your mummied roots—and you there standing before me in the sunset, all your glory in your form!

A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden monthly breeze!

How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your grime, while you cursed the heavens of the railroad and your flower soul?

Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? when did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive?

You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower!   

And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not!

So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck it at my side like a scepter,

and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack’s soul too, and anyone who’ll listen,

—We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not dread bleak dusty imageless locomotives, we’re golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed & hairy naked accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our own eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown vision.

Allen Ginsberg, Berkeley, 1955