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This site has not been updated since 2014 and is being maintained as an archive for now. As time allows we'll be weeding out the dated material and presenting the many useful articles in a new format. We'd appreciate any feedback on what you find most useful on this site via our contact page.

Guest Writers

The Wisdom Offerings of a Garden

The Wisdom Offerings of a Garden – “Remembering our Way” at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Sonoma County, California

The Gardens at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Occidental, California are a unique combination of abundance, wildness, and spectacular beauty. These 36 year hand- tilled gardens focus on growing living soil, honoring biodiversity, and reconnecting the human world with the diversity of food, flowers, and spirit. When most people walk through the gardens, they are touched by a deeper knowing of what nourishes us - something so many of us yearn for today.

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The Lie of the Land

Knowing the orientation of your plot is crucial

This is for those of you currently at the observation and analysis stage of your Permaculture design process: there’s some really good advice to be found on the Telegraph website gardening section these days.

In this piece on understanding the lie of your plot Bunny Guinness writes:

“It's not just bees that love a sheltered, sunny garden: many plants perform better, too. In older walled gardens, where they had to maximise production for survival, gardeners frequently used to choose or make productive land slope south, to receive the maximum amount of the sun's rays (ideally the rays should fall at right angles to the soil for as long as possible).
They chose well-drained soil, which heats up faster, and soil protected from fog, frosts and damp. The walls might well have been screened by a belt of trees for shelter. 
Dampness affects the temperature quite dramatically, because water removes heat from the surroundings as it evaporates. 
Even the colour of the soil affects the speed at which it heats up, with darker soils absorbing more heat than lighter types.

Frost Pockets and Hot Spots

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Re-enchanting the World

Fraction of an infinite book review

‘Towards Re-enchantment: Place and its meanings’

Ed. Gareth Evans and Di Robson

£9.99, 151 pp

Available from www.artevents.info

I recently produced a book review and sent it in to the guy who had commissioned it. ‘People,’ he told me, ‘enjoy summaries about what is in the book’. Apparently ‘this is one of the reasons why people read book reviews’. I did as I was told in that case, but couldn’t help thinking a better book review, or one that was at least just as valuable, would consist in a list of thoughts prompted by reading a book.

I mention this flimsy line of reasoning because I’ve found it very hard to review a collection of articles, essays and poems when each one deserves an in-depth review in its own right. I toyed with the idea of producing one that ran in installments over several years or even decades, or possibly writing just one infinitely long book review. Then I considered the possibility of a discursive commentary on the nature of book reviews, a kind of meta-book review.

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A Bit of a Caper

Poor man’s capers

Capers are not really viable in our clinate, and tricky to boot. Nasturtiums are great for use in salads, especially the flowers, bees love them, and the seeds make a passable substitute for capers. So here is a recipe from the careful generation making do after the war, from whom we can all learn a lot!

From Good Housekeeping c 1950

Nasturtium seeds

Spiced vinegar made with:-

1/2 teaspoonful salt

1 bay leaf

3 peppercorns

to each half pint if vinegar.

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What to grow this year: Comfrey

A beginner’s guide to Comfrey

This native perennial grows in ditches, damp hedgerows and woods, and sometimes alongside water courses.  It forms clumps up to three or four feet tall, with long, pointed, slightly hairy, oval leaves.  There is also a dwarf variety which is less invasive than the standard type.  Flowers appear May to September, and are bell-shaped and purple-blue to pink; sometimes these are white.  The long tap-root goes very deep, and the plant is valued by Permaculturists as a mineral accumulator because it mines nutrients from deep in the soil, making them available to other more shallow rooted species. Planted between apple tree roots at their extremeties, comfrey will bring up these nutrients to feed the tree, (apple trees feed through these shallow root tips) so comfrey makes an excellent companion plant.

History

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