Comfrey: Past, Present and Future and other Lawrence Hills books now available

You can now get a print on demand version of Lawrence Hills‘ classic book on Comfrey and Its Uses. Its published by Faber on December 11th and is available through their website. You can also get other Lawrence Hills’ books – Down to Earth Gardening and Grow Your Own Fruit and Vegetables. All previously out of print. These are all great books with I think some useful if forgotten organic information.

And Emily loved him

It’s a sad day on a blue crated moon somewhere in space. The soup dragon is crying into his ladle. And on a Welsh hillside a little stream train has nothing to toot toot about. He has lost his voice. And somewhere in a small shop in a little street in England a certain Professor Yaffle can be heard to say ridiculous, ridiculous. And however hard they try there are some things the mice on the mouse organ just can’t fix. Yesterday Oliver Postgate passed away and now that Bagpuss has gone to sleep I wonder whether all his friends will too. I loved Oliver Postgate – as many people of my generation did – somewhat irrationally probably as I never met the man. But he was a hero, a passionate advocate for the environment and for peace and love and a teller of lovable, meaningful stories. In a strange sort of way he was probably one of the most influential people of his day. Even in later years he used the money he had made from his stories to post full page adverts in national newspapers telling people the truth about global warming. His autobiography Seeing Things is a joy to read and an inspiration. It actually appears to be out of print as Amazon is only stocking the second hand editions at £38. I hope the publishers print a new edition. In tribute to Oliver Postage join me, take a few moments out of your day and watch…

Last Weeks Garden News Article – in full.

Last week’s Garden News article in full!

With only three Allan Shepherd columns left until Christmas, the end of the year and sadly the end of my time at Garden News I thought I’d use my remaining features to provide a round up of my favourite organic books, ethical products and seasonal activities to keep you going through the coming year. There won’t be an organic column next year so I feel like I need to fill your stocking with something that will last a while!

For Christmas this year I’m asking santa to enrol me as a member of Garden Organics’ Heritage Seed Library. On Boxing Day I’ll get to chose up to six packets of seed from over 200 unique varieties that are only available to members. These seeds are no longer to be had commercially because their owners could not afford to register them on the National Seed List. Instead they have been made available to gardeners free of charge through the HSL. This does not mean that they are inferior seed stock; far from it. Some are more flavoursome and colourful than varieties grown commercially and many carry interesting histories. Perhaps just as importantly, all help to increase the diversity of crops grown in Britain, with many specifically suited to local climatic and soil conditions. I’ll be looking out for the Welsh ones!

Like all organic seeds HSL seeds are free from Genetic Modification – something that is important to me and may become more important to you over the next few years. In Britain Genetically Modified (GM) crops are currently only grown in field scale trials, where they have to be monitored by law to see if they contaminate other crops near by. There are moves afoot in the gardening industry to introduce GM crops to gardens but as yet there is no certainty whether this is safe or even in the best interest of gardeners.

In some agricultural scenarios GM seeds are designed to be grown with chemicals made by the same company. The farmer is reliant on the company for both seed and pesticide. And even then the seed can only be used once. GM seeds are not designed to be saved but to be grown by the farmer under licence from the company. Farmers do not have the right to save seed from their GM crop. Whereas a Heritage Seed Library seed can be saved and used indefinitely by the gardener and allowed to morph and change over many years, perhaps evolving over time into a new stronger variety, a GM seed is a fixed and patented invention designed to stay the same.

To me, membership of the Heritage Seed Library will not only be great fun – what could be better than picking out new varieties of seeds to order on boxing day – but it will also be a constant reminder that in gardening diversity = strength. Can we sign up for a better future? To borrow Barack Obama’s phrase: Yes We Can!

Recommended Reading
Back Garden Seed Saving, Sue Stickland

No more Garden News articles but I’m in The Guardian this weekend.

Well you can’t win them all. Garden News have decided that they don’t want an organic column next year so its adios and farewell to my compost lover column. I’ve enjoyed writing them very much and I’m quite sad that the magazine has decided to drop compost lover next year. Its no secret that Garden News supports the chemical industry and is supported by the chemical industry. It promotes the use of chemicals and arranges for particular columns to be published in association with specific chemical remedies. I guess its no surprise that an organic column would find itself a little out of place.

If you didn’t see last weeks paper you wont know that Garden News carried the front page headline SOS – Save Our Sprays. Because the European Union is examining the list of approved pesticides to remove the most dangerous the horticulture and agriculture industry are up in arms. Rather than explore alternative practices and change the way they do things to make the growing of plants a safer occupation or pastime, they are going to fight Europe to protect their own interests and profits. 

As a result they are running a high profile media campaign to get gardeners to write letters to their MEP’s in support of chemicals. The chemical companies have always tried to manage the media agenda – going way back to the attacks they made on Rachel Carson when she wrote Silent Spring. As the stakes get higher the campaigns get busier and more aggressive.

The most hurtful claim In the Garden News article was that chemicals promoted a healthy way of living. How anybody can say this without one finger crossed behind their back I’ll never know. There is plenty of evidence to show that pesticides are dangerous. Ask Georgina Downs – who has just won a high court case to prove that she has suffered from ill health as a result of farmers spraying pesticides next to her country garden. Or the millions of farmers in the third world who are sold all those chemicals developed nations will no longer allow because of health fears. Or the families of those farmers in India who have committed suicide because they have been forced into chemical dependence. Chemicals are also bad for animals and no one ever seems to want to talk about that. Thousands of animals have to suffer testing so that governments can ‘prove’ that chemicals are ‘safe’ for us to use.

Anyway going back to my headline – The Guardian is publishing an article I wrote on comfrey on saturday – thank you Jane Perrone for offering me the opportunity to talk to people through another medium. The article is published to coincide with the re-publication of Lawrence Hills‘ classic book on Comfrey and Its Uses. Its published by Faber on December 11th and is available as a print on demand book through their website.
Lawrence Hills lived by the motto “search only for the truth that hurts no man”. I’ll try and continue to do the same.

If you’re free this friday and near to Central London go to The Rachel Carson Memorial Lecture – http://www.pan-uk.org/Projects/RCML/index.htm.

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