Tuesday 5 October 2010

Casting seed

When Charlotte suggested that we pick three posts from the first year of the blog, I knew that I had to include one of Mark's plant posts. I've been growing organic fruit and veg for years and I suppose I thought of myself as reasonably knowledgeable about plants. But Mark has reminded me that there is much more to plants than the common veg that I grow from the seeds that you can buy in any garden centre.

All around us are plants that grow as weeds but often have powerful medicinal properties that were once common knowledge. A few sages, such as Mark, keep this knowledge alive but most of us are ignorant and have to rely on synthesised medicines bought in plastic pots. Knowledge of plants is just the sort of skill that we are going to have to relearn - and learn to value - in a world of dwindling resources.

I have made a start by growing an Anise Hyssop plant that Mark gave me and I have just collected the seed to post off to someone on the Freegle Cafe. I will also be working with Jane to grow some less common food plants to extend the season into the winter.

Of course this particular post was not just about plants and Mark cleverly used the picture of weeds pushing through the cracks to talk about people 'starting from scrap’. For me this was the epitome of a Transition Blog post - some nice pics to catch the eye, but read it carefully and there is lot to be learnt.

So, Mark's posts have fallen on fertile ground in my case - and I look forward to learning more from him.

The picture shows me on hols two weeks ago, having climbed to the top of Golden Cap in Dorset - the highest point on the south coast - and yes it really was hot and sunny!

Growing Up through the Cracks by Mark Watson - Saturday 3 July

When I began to work with medicinal plants, I started in the wastegrounds of Oxford. These were the places on the edge, ignored or dismissed by most people and often ‘earmarked for development’. Out of the stony bare ground rose magnificent mulleins with their spires of yellow flowers and soft leaves, a huge borage shaped like a boat flowered into November, tough and beautiful evening primroses flourished on disused railway tracks. There were gnarly goat willows, butterfly bushes and elder trees crammed with berries. Some of the strongest medicines grow in the toughest places.

In similar territories in Suffolk, bee and pyramid orchids appear before being mown down by the council at the height of their flowering. They come back, although this year I haven’t seen any bee orchids.

Last night we watched Michael Moore’s documentary Capitalism: A Love Story, where all over America, in Detroit, Florida and Chicago, people who have been made redundant are reclaiming their jobs, repossessing their homes from the banks, backing each other in neighbourhood groups.

This is what Naomi Klein at the end of her book about disaster capitalism, The Shock Doctrine, calls ‘starting from scrap’ rather than scratch. She’s referring to movements of ordinary people everywhere beginning to work together with whatever they have at hand to reconstruct their lives - from people who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina to dispossessed farm and factory workers in Latin America.

These pictures are of St. John's Wort growing up through the cracks of Lowestoft railway station. At the end of the platform. At the end of the line.

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