Posts Tagged ‘petals



It was far too frickin freezing this morning to be outside. It was so cold that I even invited a Jehovah’s Witness in for a cup of tea. He politely declined, sensing I was a woman who simply couldn’t be saved and carried on his way. He was after all on a mission from God.

The gentleman did leave me some reading material that, surprisingly, did catch my botanical interest. Awake magazine’s July 2011 issue has an article about cork. I haven’t paid much attention to cork, even though it is an often-met hurdle between me and a glass of some sparkling elixir. But the JW magazine has, and here I summarise some of the most interesting tidbits.

  • The outer layer of bark from the cork oak tree is phenomenally useful due to it’s light, fire-resistant, insulation and elastic properties.
  • Harvesting is done completely by hand and top-quality corks are still punched by hand.
  • The trees are first harvested at 25 years. The bark regrows and is harvested every 9-10 years after that. The best quality wine corks are taken from trees that are at least 50 years old.
  • Spain and Portugal’s cork forests support several birds in danger of extinction – the imperial eagle, the black vulture and the black stork -as well as the Iberian lynx.

In Defense of Fake Food

Something for your Friday morning guffaws, from an article entitled: If five portions a day are so good, how come rabbits and slugs are so stupid? Read Stewart Lee’s masterful piece in The Guardian.

The German E coli bean sprout scandal offers damning evidence that all fruits and vegetables are dirty beyond reason, toxic timebombs that have secreted themselves at the very heart of global cuisine in the form of trusted dietary staples. Yet government food eggheads continue to bray from their state-sterilised laboratories, demanding that we eat at least five portions of the crusty filth a day.


What actual evidence is there for the benefits of vegetables, the worms of the food world, scrabbling in the dirt, or of fruits, hanging limply from branches, like plastic bags full of dog excrement hurled into the trees of an East Anglian layby?




The Myth of ‘Fully Self-Sufficient’

Many times I’ve heard people claim to want to be fully self-sufficient. With a dreamy look in the eye, they think how peaceful it would be, how simple life would be growing all your own food and living ‘off the land’.

Quite frankly, I think these people are mental. They don’t realise how much hard work, skill and organisation growing all your own food takes.

Toby Hemenway, American permaculture expert and author of the excellent Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, seems to agree and explains the myth and reality much better than I would.

I don’t think this mindset is reserved for permaculturalists and idealists. I see it in those entrepreneurial types who’ve battled through and made ‘their own way’, doing it ‘all by themselves’. They generally think everyone else should have to too. It’s incredibly myopic thinking. Usually said with a sense of pride, it simply shows that they’ve forgotten, or disregarded, all those who’ve helped them over the years. Getting things achieved, you simply can’t do everything yourself. Living is not done solo.

Thanks to Ours Not Mine for the heads up.



Watching Ray Mears Northern Wilderness

There’s a whole lot of nature doco-watching going on in our house right now. It’s become the thing to do for us to keep sane while being up at strange hours, spending a lot of time nursing and trying to get a young one to sleep. The flavour du jour is Ray Mear’s Northern Wilderness series.

The six-parter exploring Canada, has the typical BBC visual splendour and a great mix of social and natural history combined with a bit of practical survival. Unlike the showy and shallow styles of certain US presenters, Mear’s takes both a practical and social anthropological approach to his bushcraft.

There’s a lot of plant-based info candy in this series. Here a just a few snippets from the first two eps that I found really interesting.

Buy the DVD at the BBC shop


The number of different ways a single plant can be used by humans constantly tickles me. Episode 1 shows the First Nation’s tradition of pulling apart the many layers of birch bark into almost paper thin sheets. These can then be bitten to form intricate patterns. Episode 2 introduces the beautiful, strong but lightweight canoes used by the fur traders along Ontario’s French River.

Poison Ivy

Everyone has heard of the infamous poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), but it’s thankfully rare in NZ. Leaves are grouped in threes, each with jagged edges. Containing urushiol oil, it causes itchiness and blistering on contact, painful enough for 350,000 Americans a year to seek medical treatment.

The fascinating bit of info here is the use by some of the First Nations tribes in eastern North America as an early form of chemical warfare. When the wind was blowing in the right direction, the plants would be burned carrying the toxic oil into the eyes and lungs of the enemy. Cleverly diabolical.

There is a lot of really good plant stuff in these programmes.

Buy the DVD at the BBC shop

Buy the book Northern Wilderness: Bushcraft of the Far North at Mighty Ape



We’re going to try something new. Petals will be little snippets of plant-based interestingness gleaned from the huge amount of info I seem to consume each day.

One day these little gems will hopefully sprout stems and leaves forming the basis of more substantive articles. In the meantime, they serve as a bit of regular trivia and a reminder of the plant kingdom’s amazing diversity. It should also mean some more regular postings.

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August 2020

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