We still don’t have a date for moving into the house, and nothing is certain, but I am looking forward to the day when I can be reunited with my books. For two years now, many of them have been stored in my parents’ garage; some travelled with me to Kent and although I briefly lived in the same place as some of them, they’re now in a storage locker.
Although I have missed some of my fiction favourites, it’s the distance from my reference library that has pained me the most. Now that it appears the end of the separation is in sight, I have been giving some thought so how I will organise them in their new home.
I used to have an ad hoc system whereby books on a similar topic were clumped together, although it was complicated by the fact that I liked to keep books by one author together as well. I found it hard to keep track of which books I had, and where they were. When I was looking for a book on a shelf it was mostly by the memory of what it looked like – and, when I finally found one, it wasn’t unusual to find out that it looked nothing like I thought.
Keeping track of books in multiple locations has been trickier still. There are a few volumes that have slipped through the net, and are currently… somewhere, but I kept a list of the contents of each box I packed, and stored it in an Evernote database. Over the last few months this has morphed into a Library notebook, in which each book has a record based on a template. It lists the title, author, source details and current location. For non-fiction books it has a space for notes, and for a citation if I think I will want to make use of my research. New books are added as I acquire them, and as long as I keep the locations updated, everything is hunky dory. It’s nice to be able to refer to the database and know that, yes, I do have a copy of that book somewhere. (And it can keep track of ebooks in different formats, which I otherwise tend to forget I have.)
But unless I label my shelves with very specific location data, my Evernote catalogue isn’t going to help me find the book on the shelf. So over the weekend I decided to become a complete and utter library nerd and develop a personal classification system, so that I could label my books and shelve them in a way that makes some sort of sense.
I’m reasonably familiar with the Dewey Decimal System (DDS) from a user’s perspective, since it’s quite popular in libraries. The basic idea is that it is a ‘tree’ system, with ten umbrella subject categories at the top, each one of which is broken down into ten divisions, each one of which has ten sections. You end up with a classification for a book that looks like “629.786 FRE”, which includes the first three letters of the author’s surname, and means you can shelve books alphabetically within each section.
The problem with the standard DDS for me is that a) I wouldn’t use a lot of the classes, and b) I own so many different kinds of gardening/plant books that I keep running out of sections to put them in. So I looked at the topics of the books I do have, and tried to work out my own, personal classification system. I won’t really know whether it works or not until I have tried to shelve all my books, but I reckon they should all be covered by this:
Class 000: Plants and gardening
000 General gardening
000 General gardening
002 Wildlife gardening
003 Composting and soil
005 Community gardening
007 Plant diseases
008 Garden pests
009 Garden history
010 Edible gardening
010 Edible gardening
014 Unusual crops
015 Edible flowers
016 Perennials and forest gardening
018 Heritage varieties
019 Wartime gardening
020 Ethnobotany and anthropology
020 Ethnobotany and anthropology
021 General ethnobotany/ anthropology
022 Plant use
023 Food culture
026 Off-grid living
030 Botany and plant science
030 Botany/ plant science
031 General botany reference
032 Plant identification
033 Botanical Latin
034 Botanical history
040 Fungi and microbes
040 General fungi
041 Fungi cultivation
050 Garden animals
050 General animal reference
053 Insects and minibeasts
Class 100: Food
100 General food
101 Food memoir
102 Food history
103 Spices & seasonings
104 Tea and coffee
105 Other drinks
106 Seaweed and algae
110 General recipe books
111 Garden to table
113 Middle Eastern
Class 200: Science
200 General science
200 General science reference
201 Popular science
Class 300: Humanities
300 General humanities
310 General writing
313 Home & garden writing
340 Crafts and hobbies
340 General crafts/ hobbies
343 Drawing and illustration
It clearly has plenty of room for expansion. You may be thinking that it’s overkill for a personal library. It might be – but I have over 300 titles in my non-fiction collection and, having had the experience of wanting to pick up a book I once read but no longer own, I am loathe to have any more clear outs. Plus, it may be nerdy, but putting it together made me happy :)
I should be able to use my Brother garden labeller to label my books – the labels don’t fade, they’re removable and don’t leave behind a sticky residue (I know from using them for pretty much everything for a few years!). They may have to go vertically on the spine, rather than conventionally horizontal, but I can live with that.
Even once you have a classification system, what number to give a particular book is a bit of a judgement call. I have a copy of The Complete Yurt Handbook, which stumped me for a little while. I nearly put it in with the food books, because it’s the details of Mongolian food culture in it that I really enjoy (I’m never likely to build my own yurt!). Having put it to one side for a little while though, I found some other titles it naturally falls with – hence the “Off-grid living” section. In some ways it doesn’t matter, as long as you can find the book, but I like the serendipity of going to look for a particular book in the library, and finding something even better close by on the shelf.
Ryan bought me a Personal Library Kit, so I can be a proper librarian – it has a date stamp, and sticky wallets you can put in the books to mark in the date books are returned, and removable cards so you can keep track of which books are on loan, and who has them. Not that I intend to lend my books to many people – that’s a very quick way to lose friends!
Anyway, labelling and shelving my books should be a fun rainy day project once we’ve moved into the house. How do you keep track of yours?
Posted in Blog on Jul 10, 2014 · ∞
In this video from Cambridge University, Dr Beverley Glover uses a Scanning Electron Micrograph to explain the ‘trick’ that makes daisy-family plants more attractive to pollinating insects.
Posted in Blog on Jul 9, 2014 · ∞
Last modified on Aug 2, 2014
Tags: flowers & science.
If you’re off to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show next week, keep an eye out for the Jordans Wildlife Garden. Jordans, famous for their cereals and cereal bars, are using their first show garden at the event to showcase their long-term commitment to the British countryside. They believe that good food comes from working with nature, and the show garden features food that can be foraged from the countryside, creating a natural ‘larder’ that doubles as a shelter for birds, bees and butterflies. It should provide plenty of inspiration to gardeners who want to support British wildlife.
Oat fields outline the sides of the garden, and there are swathes of species-rich meadow curving through the space. A cut log wall and grassy banks surround the garden, forming a wildlife-friendly edge. A reflective pool in the centre of the garden is surrounded by a nut terrace, feeding both human and non-human visitors. Mixed native hedgerow and fruit trees surround one side of the garden. The local wildlife will benefit from insect hotels, bird houses and feeding stations.
The garden was designed by Sheila Botham, who offers up her tips for designing a wildlife-friendly garden on the Jordans website. Ed Kimber (winner of the first series of the Great British Bake Off) has also contributed a series of recipes to complement the garden, the planting plan for which includes the following edible species:
Corylus avellana (hazel)
Malus Golden hornet (crab apple)
Prunus cerasifera (cherry plum)
Amelanchier lamarchii (Juneberry)
Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn)
Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn (Sloe))
Foeniculum vulgare ‘purpureum’
Origanum laevigatum ‘Hopleys’
I’m not going to Hampton Court this year, so if you go – please come back and let me know what you thought of the garden!
Posted in Blog on Jul 4, 2014 · ∞
Tags: events & wildlife.
In Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs I take a look at some of the journeys familiar plants have made across the globe, and touch on their arrival in previously inhospitable places – underwater, Antarctica and even outer space. Since writing it I have become increasingly interested in the idea of plants in space, and have blogged about some of the current projects (lettuce on the ISS, and a ‘Mars’ greenhouse in Hawaii, you can scroll through the posts by selecting the space blog category). Researching the history of plants in space has proven to be quite a challenge. It’s not that there’s no information available, it’s that there’s a lot, and it’s a fascinating topic. Tracking down one piece of research inevitably brings up something new and shiny, and you’re off down a rabbit hole. It occurred to me that it’s a bit like a maze, and I thought we could treat it like a Choose Your Own Adventure story.
So… here’s the plan. I’ll write a blog post on something interesting I’ve found during the course of my research, and then list three rabbit holes I could have quite happily fallen down. You’ll have a few days to vote on which topic you’d like to hear more about, and then a couple of days later, voila! a new blog post will appear and we’ll repeat the process. We’ll be going on a research adventure together. Ideally I’d like to do one new post a week for the series, but whether I’ll be able to keep that up is another matter (things are a little busy here).
This week I have been reading The MIR space station: A precursor to space colonization by David M. Harland, who is an author and space historian. He has put together a very detailed book about the history of Soviet space stations – the Salyut series and Mir. I have been guilty in the past of assuming that advances in space have mainly been made by Western nations (NASA is very good at disseminating information, and the USA is justly proud of its space programme), but in fact a lot of nations contribute to space research, and a lot of pioneering plant science came out of the Soviet programme. It was on Mir, for example, that the first plant completed an entire lifecycle (from seed, to mature plant, to seeds) in space – the result of a concerted effort to overcome the many problems inherent in horticulture in microgravity. (Objects in orbit around the Earth experience ‘weightlessness’ because they’re always falling; although this is sometimes referred to as ‘zero g’ or ‘zero gravity’, it’s more accurate to say that the gravitational forces are very small – hence microgravity).
Harland’s book isn’t about plants, it’s about space exploration. He goes through each and every space mission relating to the Salyut stations, and Mir, through to the Shuttle-Mir missions and the plans for the ISS. (The book was published in 1997, and so pre-dates Mir’s demise in 2001.) What saves this from being a very dry recitation of facts is that Harland includes a lot of the human aspects of space exploration. The book doesn’t gloss over the very real risks that the cosmonauts were taking, or the lives that have been lost. He relives the drama of cosmonauts being stranded on a damaged and leaking space station, after a collision with a supply vehicle. He draws out an important thread – that a continuously manned space station (such as the ISS) has a much greater chance of long-term survival, as the crew can fix (very often with considerable creativity to overcome a lack of resources) very serious problems that would jeopardize the continued existence of a station if it happened to be unmanned at the time.
There’s plenty about the joys and problems of being in space. If being a glorified medical guinea pig doesn’t put you off the idea of being an astronaut, perhaps this will – apparently one consequence of weightlessness is that stomach gases do not rise to the gullet; instead they pass through the intestines and give rise to highly aromatic, intense flatulence! Imagine that smell waiting to great new arrivals when they open the airlock…. That’s generally not a problem gardeners on Earth have to deal with, unless they choose to feed their dinner guests with homegrown Jerusalem artichokes ;)
And so it turned out to be a surprisingly fascinating read, chock full of detailed information (some of which I skipped over), but eminently readable and it details a non-Western chapter of space exploration that we perhaps haven’t heard enough about. Along the way it allows us to read some of the early history of plants in space, providing a jumping off point for further research into those experiments.
Which means that it’s time for me to hand over to you to choose the next step of our adventure. Would you like to continue to delve into the history of of those early plant experiments, and learn more about the first plants in space? Or wander off down a tangent and look at what happens when you take honeybees into space? We know that bees are a critical part of Earth’s ecosystem, and they may be an essential feature of self-sustaining manned missions (to the Moon, or Mars), but how do they fly in microgravity? Or perhaps you’d like to come back to the present, and find out more about the possibility of using the Moon as a safe repository for our most precious treasures – including a lunar seed bank.
Have a think about which path you’d like our journey to take, and then cast your vote. I’ll count the votes on Monday evening and start working on the blog post you’ve chosen :)
Update And our first winner is Bees in space! Watch this space for a blog post on that topic in the next week or so, and then it will be time to pick again – so don’t worry if your favourite topic didn’t get picked this time, there’ll be other opportunities as our journey together unfolds.
Posted in Blog on Jul 3, 2014 · ∞
Last modified on Jul 7, 2014
Tags: space & books.
Mayfly Television is making a new Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall TV show called Plate of the Nation (working title), which will take a look at how we cook and eat as a nation to provide an insight into the very heart and soul of modern British home life.
The show is about what we cook and eat, how we behave with each other in the kitchen, who our self-appointed household head chefs are, what we talk about at the dinner table and how food brings us all together.
They are now searching for foodie families and households across the nation!
They are looking for everyone from carnivores to vegans to showy self-styled chefs to people who don’t know how to boil an egg, and everything in between.
They want couples, solo chefs, shared communal kitchens and raucous family homes.
Most of all they want households where the kitchen is busy and filled with laughter.
If this sounds like your house or one you know, they’d love to hear from you.
Email: email@example.com or tel: 0207 148 6731
NOTE: expressing interest in a show is not a guarantee you will be chosen to take part
Data Protection: Mayfly Television will not share your contact information with any third party without your consent and have in place systems and practices to protect your data. If you are under the age of eighteen, please ask your parents to make contact on your behalf. www.mayflytv.com/privacypolicy
Posted in Blog on Jul 1, 2014 · ∞
If you’ve heard about Incredible Edible Todmorden, you probably think it’s a project to fill the town with edible plants, available to anyone to harvest at they wander past. You may have seen pictures of the beds of sweetcorn outside the police station, or heard about the herb beds at the medical centre.
But although the vegetables are putting Todmorden on the map (it has spawned a whole new pastime of ‘vegetable tourism’), the original founders of Incredible Edible Todmorden would tell you that they’re Trojan horses – ‘propaganda planting’ delivering a far more powerful message of community empowerment.
Todmorden was a town in decline. It had lost most of its industry. Jobs were few and far between. The local school had a poor reputation, and pupils were being shipped elsewhere. Residents weren’t hopeful of a turnaround in their situation; government initiatives at various levels weren’t providing a solution.
As Pam Warhurst and Joanna Dobson explain in Incredible! Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution, the idea behind Incredible Edible was to engage the community in developing their own solutions – using food as a concept that can unite us all. Building a kinder society was the goal; planting vegetables was merely a means to an end.
The first part of the book is a look back at the early years of Incredible Edible, and shows just how successful that idea has been. The founders took action, rather than relying on words, and didn’t wait for permission or funding. Slowly but surely they have created new planted areas across the town, and build a bee-friendly walking route to showcase the highlights and local businesses.
There are three ‘plates’ to keep spinning in an Incredible Edible town. The first is community, bringing the town together to work as a team. The success of this aspect was clearly shown when Todmorden suffered serious flooding in June 2012, with people rallying round to provide 1200 meals to those whose houses had been affected by the floods and were left unable to cook for themselves. The police now donate any materials they confiscate during raids on drug farms to Incredible Edible, which has benefitted greatly from compost and buckets, gardening tools and even heated propagators that they would never have been able to afford to buy.
Learning is the second plate, and schools in the area have actively participated in the Incredible Edible project. Todmorden High School now has an aquaponics system, and offers an Agriculture BTEC as well as more familiar subjects. With a canteen offering good food made from local ingredients, the school has lost its poor reputation and is threading food themes throughout the curriculum.
And the third plate is business, and the authors are keen to showcase those local enterprises that are benefitting from the Incredible Edible ethos. The local market, small farms involved in producing local cheeses, or high quality meat products. Restaurants serving local produce, and cookery classes and demonstrations galore.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. Although the authors have downplayed their struggles in favour of an upbeat, ‘can do’ book that mirrors the Incredible Edible mindset, there have been dissenters. Some residents have been suspicious of their motives, others have been bluntly critical, and some ‘downright nasty’. They have not, however, had to worry about vandalism. As they say, “…it really has been our experience that people are not interested in vandalising parsnips.”
Each chapter in part one is accompanied by recipes for using homegrown produce, whether it’s a sausage casserole that caters for a crowd or a delicate French soup recipe that relies on radish leaves. There are also colour photographs at the heart of the book, showing what has been achieved.
Once you get to part two, the emphasis changes to how you can start your own Incredible Edible movement. It includes a wealth of practical information, with suggestions of plants to grow, tips on building raised beds, how to working with schools and businesses, and raising money and keeping volunteers.
Part two is a reference section, and will be good to have to hand if you find yourself supporting a community food project, but don’t be put off by thinking that this is a ‘how to’ manual – part one is entertainingly written and a thoroughly enjoyable read for anyone with an interest in communities, food, or growing your own. I occasionally found myself lost in the timeline- although the tale is written sequentially, it’s not always totally clear which year you’re rattling through – but that’s a minor problem and you soon find yourself back on track.
With good food, good company, drama, natural disasters and heartwarming community, Incredible! has all the makings of a summer blockbuster – with peas :)
Incredible! Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution
by Pam Warhurst and Joanna Dobson
Kindle edition, £3.99
, 304 pages, RRP
£12.99, published 28 August 2014
Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of the ebook by the publisher, but these words are my own.
Posted in Blog on Jun 30, 2014 · ∞
“We grow! We harvest! We eat!” mural in the Exotic Garden at Ryton organic gardens
I haven’t felt much like writing over the last few weeks. I haven’t felt like doing much of anything. It took Ryan and I far longer than we had anticipated to get his flat ready for sale – having moved some of my things in, it was cluttered. We had to put most of my things (and plenty of his) in storage to declutter, before redecorating the whole place. It was worth it in the end, when we quickly found a buyer for the flat once we’d chosen the house we hope to live in, but it left us both exhausted.
The allotment has been left to fend for itself far too much this year. We tried at one point to control some of the weeds, but we lost that battle. I popped over last Sunday morning to see whether any of the plants that I have in pots there (the refugees from my old garden) needed watering in the sunny weather. I couldn’t even see them, they were hidden by a wall of grass and bindweed. Even the areas we had cleared were smothered. I felt a little bit like sleeping beauty, waiting for a prince to rescue me. Except that the allotment doesn’t need one prince with a sword, it needs an army of princes armed with strimmers and hedgetrimmers to break a path through at this point in time. It’s not going to happen.
We’re ploughing though the mountain of paperwork that comes with buying and selling houses. For the last couple of weeks Ryan has been working some insane hours. Warm nights and early sunrises aren’t conducive to a good night’s sleep, and sometimes you just have to concentrate on the things you can do whilst waiting for a situation to change.
The garden that may become mine was, last time I saw it, in much better condition. It’s probably a similar sort of size to the allotment, but it’s in three different sections. The main ‘back’ garden is a square off to the side of the house. There’s a strip along the front side of the house, and another strip a similar size and aspect on the other side of the garden that can’t be entirely fenced off because there’s a supply box of some description that the utility company need to have access to. There’s a lawn, some shrubs around the edges, and plenty of vertical spaces to make use of. The house faces west, with the garden to the north – at midsummer all but the patio is in full sun at midday. I’m not sure there’s room for a greenhouse.
I have been trying to think of a plan for the garden, but of course it is difficult without proper measurements – and there’s no point getting too invested until the house buying process is further along. I was originally trying to think of a ‘theme’ for the garden, but nothing really seemed to fit. More recently I have taken a more basic tack, thinking about how we want to use it.
My old garden was large, and gave me a lot of scope for gardening, but it never became a place where we simply went and sat. There wasn’t much of a patio, and most of the garden was in full sun (and far too hot) all day during the summer. There wasn’t any shade for us or the plants. With the new garden we’d like to be able to sit outside, have a BBQ and eat outside, and have some shelter from the sun. The living room has patio doors that open onto the garden; it would be nice to sit inside with them open and have the sounds and smells of the garden wafting in. Essentially, I suppose, I want a garden that is an outdoor room.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to be full of roses and carpeted with a well-manicured lawn, though. And it’s certainly not going to be one of those ghastly “low maintenance” gardens. *shudder* I’m still me, and I still want plenty of space to grow my plants. I want to be able to pop outside before work, or when I get home, and at the weekends, and spend time gardening. There isn’t a definitive list of the things I want to grow – I like trying new things, and I get new ideas all the time. So although I’d like a defined structure to the garden (something the old one never really had) that’s relatively easy to maintain, I want plenty of scope to experiment with the planting.
A compost bin and a water butt are pretty much essential. There will be some perennials, and climbing plants. I may experiment with stepover apples, and other trained fruits. Ryan is keen to put in some raised beds, and I concur – they will be great for annuals and biennials, concentrating most of my gardening effort on the plants that need it. I think a strip of herb garden alongside the front door would be both welcoming and efficient – with access to a larger kitchen again I’d like to get back into garden-to-table eating.
So… I may not have a plan, but I have some ideas. Now I just need the garden :)
What’s your favourite part of your garden?
Posted in Blog on Jun 28, 2014 · ∞
Tags: general & allotment.
Loving this infographic from Chadwicks :)
For those of you without a magnifying glass, this is the link to their sources!
Posted in Blog on Jun 25, 2014 · ∞
My cow’s milk intolerance makes it quite difficult to shop for processed food – once you start reading labels it’s amazing how many products milk (or a milk derivative) makes its way into. In an ideal world we’d all be cooking every meal from scratch, from fresh ingredients, but it’s not always possible. I haven’t yet mastered the art of making a decent curry by hand, for example.
Curry sauces can be particularly problematic, so I’m glad to have found one that’s almost dairy-free (it contains some clarified butter) and that I really like. Waitrose Makani curry paste is £1.65 for a 200g jar (avoid the ready-made jars of Makhani sauce if you have a problem with cow’s milk, as they contain double cream). Each jar contains enough paste to make 2 or 3 meals, depending on how many people you’re serving, and how strong you like your curries. Once the jar is opened, it will keep in the fridge for up to 4 weeks. If you don’t have a local Waitrose, you may be able to order online via Ocado.
I have three go-to options for using the paste, which is best added at the start of cooking. The first is the simplest – simply stirring it in for a dryish curry. You may need to add a little water to stop the sauce from sticking.
The second involves adding a tin of chopped tomatoes – you get a milder, saucier curry, with plenty of healthy vegetable content.
The third is my favourite, and by far the most decadent. I use either coconut milk or coconut cream to make the sauce. Again, the result is a milder and saucier curry – it’s divine, but you may want to factor in the extra fat content.
All three versions reheat nicely, if you find yourself with leftovers. Your home will smell like an Indian restaurant for a little while – it smells like a ‘proper’ curry!
This is, to date, the only curry paste/sauce I have found that I like and that I can eat, and I have been buying it now for several years. I am a genuinely satisfied customer, so if you’re a fan of the occasional simple curry then I recommend you give it a go :)
Posted in Blog on Jun 23, 2014 · ∞
Tags: food & meh!.
I don’t normally say much about plants that you can’t eat, but this week I was escorting some visitors* from the Hardy Orchid Society around the site at work so I took some photos :)
The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory has a population of 3000+ bee orchids, which are in flower at the moment:
It’s also the right time of year to see the pyramidal orchids, of which there are a few dotted around:
And there’s the occasional common spotted orchid as well:
What you can’t see at the moment is the white helleborine – its flowers have been replaced with seedpods:
*For reference, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is a secure site. You can’t just rock up and see the orchids there, they’re inside the security fence. However, there are examples of orchids in the local area, outside the fence, and the Hardy Orchid society would be able to give you more information on where to see those :)
Posted in Blog on Jun 22, 2014 · ∞
Last modified on Jun 22, 2014
Tags: flowers & wildlife.