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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.

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.

Categories
Growing Practice Soil Urban

JADAM Sulphur

[Once again – please don’t follow my inexact instructions – instead refer to the JMS recipe on page 284 of the Second Edition of JADAM Organic Farming.]

This is my final JADAM post for the time being. Beyond JADAM’s pesticide and JADAM Microorganism Solution the third preparation which has appealed to me is JADAM Sulphur. or JS for short. JS claims to be “Effective against black spot, pear rust, powdery mildew, downy mildew, etc.” That’s to say as an “organic” herbicide treating fungal problems.

I don’t get much of this but what I do get I don’t like. Naturally I am doing what I can to make sure the soil health is as good as I can make it in containers, and that always needs to be one’s first step, but I need a little more help with these plants.

Here for instance is something which starts to affect my tiny apple tree’s leaves in spring, and by the summer has devoured the entire plant.

And here is a problem which affects the Acers in the back yard.

As you can see from Youngsang Cho’s video on YouTube the process of making JADAM Sulphur for oneself is a little bit fiddly and dangerous, but not prohibitively so.

It’s actually remarkable that one can perform the necessary chemistry at all. In the JADAM Organic Farming book Cho elaborates, “After nearly 100 experiments, I found the method to completely liquefy sulfur. I have still not forgotten the joy I felt that time. My small kitchen was my lab, it was around 3 a.m. that I knew I finally made it.” After further tweaks which meant that you didn’t need steel containers (the temperature gets very high) and the process could be done in plastic ones instead of immediately patenting his method Cho disclosed the knowledge.

However, in no circumstances will I need the 100 litres of concentrated JS that the recipe produces. Not even a fraction of that. To spray the plants I wanted I needed only 1 ml. That would be different if I had a market garden to deal with. So again, I used the JADAM concoction made by Dr Forest.

For one litre of solution (and this was 75cl) you need 10 ml of JWA.

I added to that 1 ml of Liquid Sulphur.

And sprayed it on my Japanese Maple and Amelanchier.

On another Japanese Maple and my Apple tree.

Maybe that will mean they stand a better chance this year? I feel optimistic! I took greater precautions this time when spraying. Wore rubber gloves and goggles. But I neglected to wear a face mask which was stupid. Even at this tiny concentration the Sulphur’s fumes are very strong. Today, the following day, one can still smell it. Last night there were absolutely no slugs whatsoever in the garden. That is uncanny. So perhaps they don’t like the smell either. That would be a bonus.

One final reflection. I thought that using JWA, the wetting agent, was supposed to mean that one doesn’t get droplets like these when one sprays. That’s evidently not working for here.

All told I have enjoyed following these three processes. However, I am neither totally convinced as to their efficacy, nor particularly enthusiastic about spraying chemicals like these in my garden. How these plants sprayed with JS fare in the coming months will be something of a litmus test for me.

Categories
Practice

The Low Tide

A couple of years ago I was following the tide’s height on the Thames quite closely. A student of the unconscious I was particularly interested in the tide’s nadir. It’s always fascinating to see the depths of the foreshore which are revealed. I believe the event when the tide is at its very lowest is called the LAT, for Lowest Astronomical Tide, relating of course to the effect of the moon upon the oceans.

This low tide of 4th March 2022 was particularly low, showing as -0.2m, literally off the charts! So I went down to the foreshore to check it out. It’s a great way to establish some connection to nature and the universe from which we are insulated in the metropolis.

The Thames tide level is measured at London Bridge but I’m not aware of a way of getting onto the foreshore there, so I chose Southwark bridge beside it instead.

At Southwark bridge there is a heavy iron gate, shown here ajar, which opens onto the riverbank.

In 2022 you can see how the Thames just ran like a slither around the bridge’s pier.

This tiny channel is visible in this photo looking upriver.

I was able to reach across and touch the pier itself. That blue anorak went to Ukraine I believe.

At the time I was drawing the “forms” and so doodled one on its wall with one of the chalk pebbles.

When the tide turned the gap filled very quickly. You can see an actual wave reaching up.

This year, purely by chance, or perhaps some astrological impulse, I checked the excellent Tides App (developed by David Easton) and saw that there was to be an even lower tide on the following Tuesday 9th. This was to be a truly epic low tide.

As I made my way down to the Southwark Bridge foreshore I mentioned to a few of my fellow pedestrians that they were witnessing an historic low tide. Certainly, the banks of the Thames were conspicuously exposed. People’s genuine interest and friendliness was tinged ever-so-slightly by concern as to my mental wellbeing. A lunatic, somewhat appropriately. But that’s the risk you run when you think for yourself…

Reaching the shoreline I could see that, although the beach had been subtly reshaped in the intervening two years, the tide was indeed lower.

This time the pebbles reached the foot of the pier itself.

I struck an X on the pier wall with a chalk pebble.

This time I noticed that there were other people wandering the foreshore. I spoke to the lady who you can see on the edge of frame. I was hoping that maybe she had been brought here by this same information, but no.

The view upstream from the Millennium bridge was particularly epic.

In a later post we will look into the effect of the moon upon growing.

Categories
Ecology Food Growing Organic Practice Urban

My Trees

I’ve been meaning to write a post about my trees for a while. Growing trees from their seeds takes a certain amount of care and patience.

I was worried about the health of these two Horse chestnut trees. I was sure they’d succumbed to fungus and died. But they’ve come back looking very strong this spring about which I’m delighted. I’d potted them up and put them in my own compost. These were grown from two conkers I found in the street around the corner in the autumn of 2023.

It’s troubling when young deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter. You think they have come a cropper. This Oak I found as an acorn on Hampstead Heath. I think it’s going to do well this year. I gave its siblings to friends in Wales.

Since I rather optimistically planted a pip in a friend’s back garden in the early seventies when I must have been, ooh, six years old, growing an apple tree from a pip has been an cherished ambition. This was from an organic apple from the supermarket. I currently have a few more pips I’m hoping will sprout – one a particularly delicious variety I got from a farmer’s market, the other from the apple tree by the Caddy’s caravan in Findhorn. I read recently in Mark Ridsdill Smith’s excellent “Vertical Veg” book that apple trees do well in containers on roof gardens – so have redoubled my efforts. It’s all about tree crops, people.

Finally, this Ash tree, a volunteer which I have nurtured has really thrived from what was just a tiny weed. Very proud of it!

Categories
Ecology Growing Practice Soil Urban

JADAM Microorganism Solution

[Once again – please don’t follow my inexact instructions – instead refer to the JMS recipe on page 167 of the Second Edition of JADAM Organic Farming.]

Although the JADAM techniques contain an arsenal of homemade, cheap-to-make, organic pesticides and herbicides possibly the most important JADAM concoction is what is known as JMS, JADAM Microorganism Solution. This might be the easiest of all their recipes to make at home.

You start by finding leaf mold in unspoilt, nearby countryside, at the foot of the largest tree you can find.

You clear away the top leaves which have not decomposed and take some handfuls of the leaf mould beneath. We are all better educated about the importance of the healthy microbiome in our bodies; that natural balance of bacteria in our guts. This leaf mould from the woodland floor has about the best-balanced microbial profile that you could imagine. You’ve heard about fecal microbial transplantation? Well this is the same thing.

Cho, adopting the classical model of Eastern Philosophy, asks his students to not think about good-vs-bad microbes, “this dualistic thought of dividing good and bad is actually unscientific.” Damn straight.

Gather up a bagful of the valuable leaf mould – then, if you are anything like me, furtively cover your tracks!

At home chop up a couple of potatoes.

Boil them and mash them up, skins and all…

This is the resulting gloop to which I added sea salt. Sea salt, and indeed sea water, is a recurring motif within JADAM. The logic being that, in a weak solution, it represents an ideal mineral profile. What was once on the land flowed thence.

You then need a bucket full of either rainwater, or tap water which has been allowed to “de-gas” for 24 hours. You don’t want the chlorine wiping out all those lovely microorganisms.

You add the leaf mould and the potato gloop into a finely meshed bag.

The bag rests, brewing, like a tea bag for 3 days.

You keep a lid on the container so as to prevent animals and bugs getting at it.

This is how it looked after the first 24 hours. A bubbling fermentation builds up.

Here is a close-up after 24 hours. This needs more time. In a warmer climate, like that in South Korea where JADAM comes from, the bubbling is much more intense and you build up something like a thick scum on the surface. In cooler climes like mine it looks more subdued like this.

And this was after 48 hours. I know now that for the UK, at this time of year (even though it’s in the relative warmth of my study), that this is pretty excellent. In fact, I should have used the JMS at this stage. However, thinking I was going to get a scummy froth eventually, I hung around for another day.

This is after 72 hours – well maybe more like 60 hours – and to be honest it looks like I got to it too late. It’s useful to see I suppose… The bubbles have subsidised and a lot of the vitality has ebbed away. It’s still useful as a liquid fertiliser, what’s known as tea by horticulturalists.

Schlep the bucket into your garden.

Decant it as a concentrate into watering cans, and add roughly 20 parts water to 1 of the tea.

And sprinkle it over your plants. In this case my spinach.

It’s a very interesting process. Because I’ve been following No Dig principles in some containers (notably in my raised bed), it must surely help to add some biology back into the soil in this manner.

What I also did was sprinkle the leaf mould on the surface of a number of pots. That’s maybe a simpler thing to do. However, the advantage of the solution is that gets right into the roots.

One more final JADAM experiment to come shortly.

Categories
Community Ecology Practice Urban

Harsh Pollarding

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