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
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

Categories
Food Growing Urban

April Raised Bed Update

Half the Spinach was already harvested but I wanted to flip these beds to Beetroot.

I was very proud of these Leeks but they took FOREVER to grow.

Amazing!

Very nice crop of Spinach. Did well through the Winter.

Rocket was surprisingly excellent. I’ve a bad habit of leaving it too long. It then gets woody, “lignin”, but this was delicious.

After everything had been harvested.

Mulched.

Mulched with this stuff which I bought by accident but subsequently got great value out of.

Out come the Beetroot seedlings from under the grow-lights. Less far along than I was with the soil blocks last year.

Looking very cheerful in their new home. Gotta love Beetroot.

Planting my other seedlings from indoors. Chamomile. Calendula. Red Cabbage. Rosemary. For the first time, I sieved my potting compost. I’m going to do this every time from now onwards.

Pretty alarming all this huge debris. Great compost though – and this stuff is nice mulch for my bigger plants.

Here are the seedlings in their makeshift tent.

Washing Spinach.

Rocket and Spinach ready to eat.

Leeks steaming on the stove.

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
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
Growing Urban

JADAM Slug Control

[Please note – do not follow my instructions here – refer to JADAM’s own recipe on page 346 of the Second Edition of JADAM Organic Farming.]

The spring is a big time for slugs and snails. I found this out to my cost last year. This year I noticed earlier and decided to bring the ruckus sooner. I don’t own ducks (pace Mollison) and therefore need to be the predator myself.

Youngsang Cho is a man after my own heart. Undergoing four NDEs and living with “the realization that my death was always near” Cho, a brilliant chemist, decided to share rather than claim exclusive rights to his knowledge. He writes, “I could have gained enormous wealth through patents, but I gave up for the greater good.” This decision was influenced by his passion for both Jesus Christ and Karl Marx. Cho describes having an apocalyptic vision of a capitalist society and thus embarked “on a long journey to liberate agricultural technology from monopoly capital, by following the spiritual ideals of two great teachers.” He is a bonafide genius.

I’ve been studying Cho’s JADAM Organic Farming Technology and decided to make the assault on the Phylum Mollusca the first part of my investigation into it. Credit must also go to Garden Like A Viking for his adaptation of Cho’s recipe which includes adding garlic.

First blend two cloves of garlic with a jam jar of water.

Let the resulting garlic juice sit for half an hour.

Make JADAM wetting agent. This is a soap. Its application means that there’s no surface tension on what you spray. An application coats leaves evenly.

As tempting as it was to make this JWA myself – it simply wasn’t economical to buy huge catering buckets, a paint-stirrer, gallons of purified water, rapeseed oil, and source Potassium Hydroxide.

If I had a market garden, maybe! But not for my tiny roof garden. So, I bought this wetting agent off Dr Forest on eBay. I needed roughly a cap full of this.

And this is Sodium Hydroxide. Of which I needed only a teaspoon. Now for the contentious part… Mine is not a truly organic garden. I have, for instance, purchased compost which wasn’t organic. It would also be entirely pointless to get it certified. However, I have generally abided by the spirit of organic growing. Up to this point, a few years in, I haven’t used any chemical fertiliser, herbicide, or pesticide.

JADAM is, they claim, made entirely with chemicals which are USDA Organic approved. That’s to say they are supposed to be approved under American Organic regulations.

In the JADAM Organic Farming book one can find tables from the USDA which specify that these two chemicals are “Inerts of Minimal Concern.” Summarising the documents below, you’re only prohibited from using NaOH and KOH to peel fruit and vegetables. KOH you can even use to peel peaches.

JADAM also have on their website a document written to them which clarifies that these chemicals abide by USDA Organic regulations:

However, neither Potassium Hydroxide nor Sodium Hydroxide are chemicals approved by the UK’s Soil Association. Furthermore, it might need to be pointed out that these USDA Organic regulations are the same ones which allow Hydroponic growing and Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to be certified as organic.

Gotta be straight with you, I don’t think this is what Sir Albert and Lady Eve had in mind. There are also rumblings from American farmers which one can read in the comments box:

Did this stop me? In fact, no. Because I detest snails and slugs, because Potassium Hydroxide is just an ingredient of soap which decays in the process of its manufacture, and Sodium Hydroxide breaks down relatively quickly into salts which are, broadly-speaking, positive amendments to the soil. I don’t need to worry about losing my organic certification, because I’m not certified. JADAM is fascinating and I was very curious to try.

All these ingredients: the garlic, water, JWA, and Caustic Soda I mixed up into roughly 2 litres of juice.

And in the dead of night (because you can’t spray this stuff during the day) I sprayed my plants. This is me spraying the Yarrow I got from Anthroposophy HQ, Emerson College at Forest Row. For some reason the slugs love the Yarrow. Rudolf Steiner will be turning in his grave – preferring, probably, that I would incinerate a single slug and dilute and spray its ashes everywhere. I may yet try that…

I followed this process on the 26th and 27th of March and sprayed for two nights in what has been peak slug era. What did alarm me was that on the first night, being a little gung ho, I got the spray on my hands. I think I was carried away with all the hype of how harmless this stuff was. I ended up getting it on my arms and face.

It was not only very irritating but also slightly painful. Here’s a post by the Okanagan Okanogan blog which goes into a heavy-critique of JADAM and the effects of NaOH. Not deterred I took more precautions the second night, was like really careful, and still managed to get some small amount vapour in one of my eyes. This was sore and, because it was in my eye, also a bit worrying. If I sprayed again, which to be honest is unlikely, I would wear goggles, not just glasses. Even the odour of the garlic has lingered somewhat unpleasantly…

The following night, the 28th of March I found the slugs and snails still very busy. Was their activity less than it would otherwise have been? It’s impossible to tell, but to be honest I was disappointed. I think if one was trying to subdue slugs and snails on a 3 acre market garden this might be an excellent solution – but I don’t think it was appropriate to my situation.

Henceforth I am going to return to my tried-and-tested technique of going out after 10pm, picking the tiny fuckers off with tongs and dumping them in very strong brine. This being my own unpatented method and one most suitable to my twenty square metres.

This, however, is not the end of my JADAM experiments. There are a further two more to come.

Categories
Food Growing Urban

Winter Spinach Harvest

My spinach did so well over the winter.