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Community Practice Soil Spirituality Urban

Miles’s Lane

I noticed this chap’s grave on my periodic visit to Bunhill Fields to say hello to William Blake and the other nonconformists. This being 2024 you can look up a performance of Shrubsole’s music. May he rest in peace.

Categories
Growing Practice Urban

Thinning Out

Be strong-minded. Sow thinly.

Leonard Wickenden

As a grower, as in so many areas of life, I am very much still learning. My biggest newb error this year has been to sow seed too densely. It’s very embarrassing. In mitigation, I haven’t made this error universally across my growing, only with these plants.

The problem is that all the seed for these plants is my own. And I have so FUCKING VERY much of it. Plants create incredible amounts of seed, it only stays viable for a certain amount of time, and it seems rude to waste. And so like a total idjut I have sperlunked too much of it into these pots. As a result, were I not to intervene, things are going to go from bad to worse. These would all choke themselves to death,

I’ve made a crude attempt to thin them out. Yanking seedlings out by the roots (badly disrupting their neighbours) and either repotting the remains, or putting more soil underneath them in their exiting pots. It looks like a total car crash right now. The limanthes, butchered. I’m hoping most will recover… I’m optimistic. But what else can you do?

Categories
Ecology Practice Spirituality Wilderness

Leaf Mould

Categories
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 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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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
Practice Spirituality

No New Age Mix

Mahakala. Protector of the Dharma.

This mix accompanies the chapter New Age in my book “The “S” Word”.

Woebot Field Recording – The brook at Samye Ling
Tony Scott – Za-Zen (Meditation)
Paul Horn – Mantra/Meditation
Don Robertson – Dawn
Iasos – Aries
Deuter – Aum
Dadawah – Run Come Rally
Keita – 流れ : Nagare
Jon Hassell – Ba-benzélé
Sheila Chandra – Quiet 1
Fumio Miyashita – 神/Kami
Shiho Yabuki – Energy Flow (Ki No Nagare)
Hiroshi Yoshimura – Dream
Brian Eno – Quartz
Manuel Göttsching – Ocean Of Tenderness
Hans-Joachim Roedelius – Veilchenwurzeln
Popol Vuh – Brüder Des Schattens – Söhne Des Lichts
Laraaji – The Dance #1
Karlheinz Stockhausen – Mantra, for 2 pianos with percussion & electronics: Movement 4
John Cage – In A Landscape
Harold Budd – First Light
Deep Listening Band – Seven-Up
Somei Satoh – Mantra
Daniel Emmanuel – Wizards: Part II: Prayer
Steve Roach – Reflections In Suspension
Woebot Field Recording – The Grafton Peace Pagoda

Categories
Ecology Food Growing Practice Soil

Sunflowers

In the past I have never liked Sunflowers. I always felt there was something ungainly about them. That they were such a popular flower, I think also brought out my snobbishness. What is a music critic but a snob?

However, on my journey writing “The Garden” I came across them repeatedly. More than any other plant they are emblematic of the hippie movement. In practical terms, not only do they attract wildlife, they also create a crop with their seeds. They are not a boring ornamental.

For instance, this is Helen Nearing’s walled garden at The Good Life Center in Maine. I wish I had a better photo of the Sunflower itself, a volunteer which the center’s residents let grow because it was Helen’s favourite plant. You can see it in the distance against the back wall on the left.

Therefore, this year I decided to grow them myself. On the left in the seed tray are the classic Giant Yellow variety; on the right with the darker stalks are Velvet Queens.

When the seedlings got root bound, I graduated the larger ones to pots.

Here are the largest and most promising seven plants.

Then I started hardening them up outdoors on the roof garden where we get a lot of sun.

These too needed planting up quite quickly. Lorra growing power in Sunflowers which can reach up to 30 feet tall.

I planted the biggest three into my own compost in large pots which I had been protecting through the winter with clover. This will be their final destination. I’m excited to see how they will get on through the Summer.

Categories
Practice Spirituality Urban

Yoko Ono

Went to see this at the Tate Modern.

Olive Tree.

Acorns.