Category Archives: Gardens

Feed the World with small scale farming: Cultivando Biodiversidad: Red Andaluza de Semillas: Seed biodiversity .

We spent some interesting hours at this Seed Network Fair in one of the nearby towns in the Sierra Aracena. There was an exchange of seeds by various people or collectives that are trying to cultivate organically or here in Spain ‘ ecologica’ or ‘ bio’. We were able to visit  a plot of land that had been an abandoned ‘huerta’ outside the smaller village of Las Chinas. The aim of this collective was to cultivate organically and to be able to use abandoned land. The collective was called ‘sin tierra’ without land. It was great to see the young people involved in horticulture and we saw the most amazing sized tomato too! We have now bought some very tasty veg from them. Am not sure how my own attempt at self sufficiency will go and maybe it is better to support other projects and help people make a living out of growing on a small scale.

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The seed exchange stall at the Andalucia seed network Fair
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The stall of the collective Sin Tierra

There was also a stall about permaculture in the Sierra Aracena and some very tasty apple juice was being shared from a wooden press.  image I struggled with my Spanish but attended some talks on how to conserve seeds and preservation of fruit and vegetable. Speaking to Trini who was giving some of these talks and who runs a very successful Eco Finca it was clear she also meant the biodiversity of flowers and all kinds of cultivating. She felt that monoculture can damage the environment. Is there hope for more small scale farming and the ability to support the natural world along with feeding the billions of human mouths. One of the food myths on the BBC web site from the UN was that large agribusiness was the way forward for the future. The suggestion was that small scale farmers are major producers of food to feed the world already and that biodiversity of the natural world can be supported by this type of farming.

More seedy thoughts and photographic art

Some follow up photos and thoughts on  waking up the seeds at Wakehurst Place, the  Royal Botanical Millenium Seed Bank. Many of the seeds conserved so far have been UK indigenous and endangered. Some of these seeds collected are being used to restore wild flower meadows in UK.  I am pondering how to maybe use some of the wild flower seeds on the Finca. Should I offer a helping hand?  Or interfere with natures’ ways? Is too much endangered and we need carefully planned conservation of  habitats that support biodiversity. IMG_2509 The view walking down to the Millenium seed bank looks as if you are walking towards greenhouses! However the Southern roofs all have solar panels to give the power needed to conserve the seeds that are in deep freeze way down below in the vaults of the building.

Phaenocoma prolifera Cape Strawflower Banked 2006
Phaenocoma prolifera
Cape Strawflower
Banked 2006

IMG_2498 This seems all very high tech as you can watch the botanical scientists at work in the airy and light atrium.   There are also some photos and beds of seeds from the seed bank. Some of the endangered seeds from hot dry habitats are shown. These have been grown from seeds once frozen.BUT not all seeds can be preserved by deep freezing. This seems to support the case for trying to conserve habitats but in some areas this is difficult due to many human factors and I will include drought in that as it is likely that is due to man made climate change. IMG_2500 IMG_2507 Another thought that occurred to me having read a fascinating blog on orchids and their seductive nature for key pollinators is the need to conserve the pollinators too! Thanks to Pipmarks for that and the comment on previous post should link anyone interested in orchids. I will end with one of the photos that had won the photography competition on display at Wakehurst. Such detail and so complex a beastie!

Paul Harcourt Davies 1st place Wildlife in the Garden
Paul Harcourt Davies
1st place Wildlife in the Garden

Wake Up call at Wakehurst Place. Home of the Kew Gardens Millennium seed bank.

IMG_2536.JPGWakehurst Place is a large estate with a diverse range of trees from different areas of the globe. It is the country home of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and there is the space for not only many trees but different botanical areas and the Millennium Seed Bank. Our visit in August gave us a glimpse of many of  the flowering plants showing off the glory of their seeds in the garden areas. This seemed quite fitting as housed  deep under some long glass barn shaped buildings is the Millennium Seed collection. This is part of the conservation work of Kew Gardens and  involves collecting as many of the rare and endangered plant seeds and preserving those that can be kept at very cold temperatures. The aim is to protect the biodiversity of plant life as habitats come more under threat. It will also ensure future research into the amazing range of plants and their properties.  The seeds I have taken photos of are in the lush gardens by streams and ponds.

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Stinking Gladwyn Iris foetidissma, S>W> Europe, N Africa

Adopt a seed and save a species is a campaign set up by Kew. It seems that four plants a day are at risk of disappearing forever. At present Kew has stored 30,000 species. More info on www.kew.org/adoptaseed

The Seed Bank is already helping with conservation and an online seed list makes 900 collections of over 450 species available to organisations. These can then help in the conservation of other species.

IMG_2556.JPGWakehurst Place also has many sculptures and art and photography exhibitions. We also enjoyed the labyrinth set up in the woods. And a finger one on the stump of one of the many trees lost in the 1987 hurricane that hit the south of England.I am determined to try a labyrinth shape in one of my fields in Spain! I must also try some more painting and sculpture. So much to do! Or just enjoy the close ups of the seeds themselves  that provide plenty of sculpture and in many forms.

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Firsts………..Pop goes the weasel, half a pound of strawberry jam for half a pound of plum and who murdered the tomato.

The past week has been a week of firsts. It was the first time I saw a weasel in the wild. He or she  was very close to my feet and I must have startled the poor creature into stopping still as it was madly chasing a lizard for lunch. Lucky for the lizard, my feet helped it get away, that time. For a few seconds the weasel was absolutely still and I could see its face and most of body clearly. Full identification is unclear as I did not see its tail, which I am told if it had been a stoat would have had a black tip to it. It was very small and about a year ago Josie, Theo and I had visited the British Wildlife Centre and been intrigued by the weasels running fast around wire tunnels. It seemed very similar to those.

The next first was ….. Sorry, I have never made jam  before. It is plum time in the Sierra Aracena. We have found some plums on the Finca and picked some but a few days later ……..all gone.We think some badgers or the wild boar as the birds only peck at them. Perhaps they have learnt to bash against the tree. Friends also have many plums and I was given a large box of juicy yellow plums so I have experimented with pickling some, drying some in the sun, and jam. The plum jam recipe that worked was easy and just seemed to be throwing the same amounts of plum and sugar into a pan and stirring and waiting and stirring and waiting… However the taste of this jam has met with approval and we have done an exchange for a jar of strawberry! My next batch will not be so easy to exchange as I went a bit mad on the ginger.

The final first was to eat my first ripe homegrown tomato. With all the building work and the need to prepare an allotment patch in this wild and overgrown place I feel pleased that my friend’s tomato plants are now beginning to show fruit. I am also hopeful about the seeds from Lidl supermarket’s butternut squash. After a lot of earth clearing and moving. I also moved some of the wild bugloss which did try to hurt me with its stinging hairs in exchange for being given another place. There is at the moment a lot of it on the Finca. Is this part of the wild bison work that might be needed in the wild?  Pictures of the small garden by house and the Huerta, vegetable garden I am preparing in one of the chestnut fields. And of course the tomato.

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Inspired by Keats,gardens, and a poetry workshop by Daljit Nagra

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The peony poem in one of my previous posts inspired me to try out a poetry workshop at Keats’ House during the Keats’ festival. I was also interested to find out that the poet Daljit Nagra was to take over as poet in residence there and was leading this workshop on how to write an ode. I have followed from a distance Daljit Nagra’s progress from an aspiring English teacher in a school I worked at to an inspiring poet and much quoted now from many GCSE anthologies. He is a truly modern British poet and very innovative not just with ideas but also language.

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We attempted a Sapphic ode and this meant we had to be concise and focus on a tight structure. This was to be the slightly longer length of 11 syllables to 3 lines and the fourth line with five. Instead of a more traditional 10 syllable the 11 suggests a more ‘falling’ tragic tone.  We were introduced to terms used for poetic structure but the focus of this ode was to address a person with a sense of absence, loss, time passing.  As an example we were shown a modern ode written with this structure and the example was very moving but also was inspired by a poet I was introduced to when I stayed in Karachi in 1984. Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
We had to go and sit in the garden of Keats house and had about 25 minutes to write a Sapphic style ode! My mind was filled with so many memories of Chris Abbas and her garden in Karachi. It had lovely trees and flowers but also a little white dog, a parrot and a turkey she had been given for Christmas and had kept rather than ate. The dog inspired my Jabbu Jabbu stories. His name was Jabbu and he was a cheeky miniature Samoyed type dog. Chris was a trained artist from the Slade school and she had met her husband, Ghulam Abbas, an Urdu short story writer, in London. They had had three daughters and lived in Karachi but sadly she had recently been widowed. She had invited us to stay with her while I was volunteering to help children learn to read. She had many inspiring artistic ways of helping children draw and trace letters.

All of theses memories were flooding into my mind and I had to cut out so much in order to write an ode to her but the parallel of sitting in an English garden and enjoying time with her in her Karachi garden seemed to be the focus. I was able to feel I finished an ode and reading it out later at the workshop it seemed to work. Now as I reflect on it and have more time to count the syllables accurately I am not so sure! I also feel I want to slightly change the structure by adding just a few more lines! Writing seems to be such a difficult art as there are many ways to express ideas but it needs to feel right or fitting.
The poem isn’t quite ready yet but is an ode to her and her inspiring and diverse garden. In the blog are some pictures of Keat’s house and garden and it is here that he wrote some of his most famous poems in his very short life. The window view is from his upstairs study.

 

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Consider the lilies: Consider the bins! A walk through the mean streets of Manchester!

imageimageConsider the lilies:  Consider the bins!

imageA walk through some Manchester streets to Whitworth park showed an interesting variety of care for the environment. In some key streets there were so many gardens with great  white lilies and other flowers, but certainly the lilies were outstanding. Unfortunately there was also a lot of litter and overflowing bins not far away.  How some people can show so much care and then so nearby there are bins that could be cleared of the rubbish shows the variety of human attitudes there are. It  is not fair on those that take a pride in their surroundings and go the extra mile to grow and water flowers.  Manchester City council has a system similar to North Lincs where the bins are only collected every other week. Well!  Well done to the London Borough of Hounslow that collects and recycles every week. Sad to say the streets here in my local area would be far worse if this was not the case.

Whitworth park was founded by Joseph Whitworth around 1890 and as an industrialist he gave the land and created a park with a boating lake for the people of the city of Manchester. How many corporations are buying prime real estate in cities and  giving it to the people who live there as a green open space ?Are the city planners allowing for more green space as the need for building more homes, bigger schools increases and developers want to gain as much profit as possible from land bought?   Are there any more benevolent capitalists like Joseph Whitworth?

imageThere are charities like the wildlife trusts that buy land for conservation of wildlife and rely on the contributions of ordinary folk.

 

 

Some of the photos show how people in Manchester do care about having gardens and alleyways with flowers, small plots of green, and support for their green spaces. Manchester City Council has recycling bins but could maybe step up to having some of those bins collected more often than twice a week!

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And the symbolism of Lilies? Well, one was Cleanliness!  From a bit of Internet trawling the biblical lilies of the field in Palestine might not have been white; possibly red.  It seems that lilies might have been a very generic term like daisies.  Maybe Jesus was referring to a wide variety of flowers from the Liliaceae family with a variety of colours.

 

So from the sacred insight to the more profane. We humans love to appropriate the world around us. If lilies are used to represent death, loss and funerals they can also be symbolic of birth and reproduction Look carefully inside the lily. White Lilies are supposed to have a pistil like a phallus and be highly erotic. This is from the Greeks who also felt the pollen symbolised fertility. No close up photos at present! Well I was asked to spice up my blog!

Some extracts from internet on Lily symbolism and myth.

Purity, modesty, virginity, majesty, it’s heavenly to be with you. The white lily is linked to Juno, the queen of the gods in Roman mythology, by the story that while nursing her son Hercules, some excess milk fell from the sky creating the group of stars we call the Milky Way, and lilies were created from what milk fell to the earth. The Easter lily is also known as the symbol of the Virgin Mary.

(I have just read  an  intriguing fictional insight into a Mary’s  grief , by Colm Tobin ‘The Testament of Mary’)

 

And from the Tarot, there are three cards which have lilies portrayed in them!  The magician one looked the closest resemblance to white lilies in the background.

I have been told my garden in Spain is surviving my absence while visiting family and friends in the UK.  Thanks to friends there! Maybe I will be back in time to see if my lilies are still in bloom. The wild part will hopefully have had some rain but from now there can be long periods of dry weather.