Not just the bodies of humans but the body of the Earth itself

I could copy out the entire book as one amazing quote, but here is just one of its beautifully-written lengthy passages that I can’t stop thinking about.  Very challenging stuff on so many levels.

From Ta-nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me:

I left The Mecca knowing that this was all too pat, knowing that should the Dreamers reap what what they had sown, we would reap it right with them.  Plunder has matured into habit and addiction; the people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, then engineer their own forgetting, must ineviteably plunder much more.  This is not a belief in prophecy but in the seductiveness of cheap gasoline.  

Once, the Dream’s parameters were caged by technology and by the limits of horsepower and wind.  But the Dreamers have improved themselves, and the damming of seas for voltage, the extraction of coal, the transmuting of oil into food, have enabled an expansion in plunder with no known precedent.  And this revolution has freed the Dreamers to plunder not just the bodies of humans but the body of the Earth itself.  The Earth is not our creation.  It has no respect for us.  It has no use for us.  And its vengeance is not the fire in the cities but the fire in the sky.  Something more fierce than Marcus Garvey is riding on the whirlwind.  Something more awful than all our African ancestors is rising with the seas.  The two phenomena are known to each other.  It was the cotton that passed through our chained hands that inaugurated this age.  It is the flight from us that sent them sprawling into the subdivided woods.  And the methods of transport through these new subdivisions, across the sprawl, is the automobile, the noose around the neck of the earth, and ultimately, the Dreamers themselves.  

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Three things: Hot sauce, garden refreshment, and slow fashion reading

I was given a bag of jalapenos a couple of days ago and I was so excited to use them to make  this yummy hot sauce… until cutting into the last peppers (with protective gloves and scissors) I discovered that they were tricksters.  Much too sweet for the job!  So I guess I am making an experimental batch of sweet pepper sauce now.

I really enjoyed this podcast recently on how to refresh your garden.  Even though my garden is probably more functional than ornamental, it still had some really helpful tips for me.  The bit at the end about optical illusions was especially interesting.

Slow Fashion October… it nearly passed me by… but this weekend I hope to catch up on a little reading about it for this year, starting with this post at Fringe Association.

Challenge 3: My soil is not what I hoped for

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This sheep sorrel is prolific in our acidic soil, in spite of our regular harvesting.

What began as just a couple of wee sorrel clumps poking through the chuckies, quickly became a carpet when we pulled up the stones.  Listening to weeds can tell a gardener a lot about their soil… but did I listen to our happy sorrel?  Oh no.  What might I have heard if I paid more attention to the sorrel?  For one, that the soil at our place is rather acidic.

Good sense might have instructed me to get a soil analysis done before planting too many things.  However, eager to get things in the ground for the growing season (and to diminish the big muddy patch that was our entire property) I went planting things with willful ignorance.

While a few intentionally planted things thrived (tatties, kale, yarrow, borage, to name some), many plants did not do so well.  Raspberry canes yellowed before their time, blackcurrant leaves became tinged with purple, and my apple trees just managed to survive a few aphid attacks.

This is when I decided to get a soil test done.  I dug ten samples from around the garden, mixed them all together, took a 200g sample from that, and posted it with £30 off to the RHS.  They tested for texture, organic matter content, pH, available phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.  Along with the analysis, they sent recommendations for soil amendments for growing different kinds of plants successfully.  They also noted what would happen in the absence of these amendments… indeed, yellowing rasps, purpling blackcurrant leaves, and attacks from pests were just some of their warnings!

In the challenge of a tight budget I talk about how parameters should be helpful in framing your project.  That stands true with soil too.  The ideal garden shouldn’t involve amending the soil for eternity in order for it to grow well.  Yes, it needs to be fed and watered and maintained, but in the end, we need work with what we’ve got by locating plants where they are best-suited to grow.  This benefits the individual plant itself, but it is also better for the garden as a whole.  As an aside, one of my favourite landscape designers who works with this principle is Pied Oudolf.

That all said, it is hard to know what the true equilibrium of my soil is, given it has been buried under gravel for about ten years.  Most organic gardeners will be able to get great results with generous piles of compost through each growing season, as well as other simple organic methods like cover crops and organic fertilisers+teas.  But my soil, I suspect, is so out-of-whack that it needs a little extra attention and some mineral additions… ideally a year ago.

What I really wish I had done, is tested my soil in the early days and then incorporated additions with the compost and topsoil.  But it is never too late.  This rainy month, I will apply dolomite lime in most areas to adjust the pH and raise the magnesium level.  Early in the spring and throughout the season, I will work in more compost and apply some Grochar (an organic alternative to the oft-recommended synthentic Growmore) and fertilising teas.  I hope that further down the track my garden will show me what it wants to grow well and the application of extra minerals will not be so neccessary.  My job is, and will be, about feeding the soil so it can keep feeding me.

For now, this concludes my Three Challenges series.  I had intended to write more on this particular issue going into more detail about, for example, cover crops, crop rotation, fertilising teas, and “no-dig” solutions, but I think I will leave it more generalised for now and wait until the season is appropriate for these other topics.

If you would like to read about the other two challenges I face in my garden, here are links:

Challenge 1: Part I  Challenge 1: Part II

Challenge 2: Part I  Challenge 2: Part II  Challenge 2: Part III

Also, here are some yummy recipes, two of which I have tried, with sorrel (beyond just brushing the soil off and popping them in my mouth, which is also worth trying).

Sense of place

As he stepped out from the doctor’s house on the grey autumn morning after his unconventional arrival in St Piran, Joe could already feel a dissonance about the place.  There was it seemed to him, a discomforting misalignment in reality in this village–like a variation in gravity, or a change in the composition of atmospheric gases.  Perhaps the brief coma from which he had emerged had unsettled the balance centres in his brain.  Leaving the house felt like his first foray into an alien world.  How curious, Joe thought, that a location should possess a feel.  He had heard architects discussing a sense of place, as if there were some alchemy in the soil, or a confluence of ley-lines that could endow a site with mystical properties.  A sort of geographic feng-shui.  The idea had always struck Joe as unlikely, but something about this village seemed to confirm such beliefs.  It nestled so comfortably in the crook of the hill-side, the winding streets and granite walls echoing the natural contours of the rock cliffs beyond.  Indeed, it might be hard to imagine this bay without the village, as if these low walls and slate roofs were part of the local geology, features hewn out of the rock face by the sea and the wind.  

Not Forgetting The Whale, by John Ironmonger.