Published: 01 November 2013
Sue's Views: Week 5
Wednesday was soil day – again. Soil is a big issue I’m discovering. I managed to read quite a lot about it in ‘Principles of Horticulture’ (Adams et al).
Most plants like pH 6.5 – 7. I’ve tested the soil from home on the course and it turns out a helpful 7. It’s also a loam (I’ve found out by squashing it and rolling and bending it). So if things don’t grow I’ve only got myself to blame. This week we were doing a ‘perlocation test’. This sounds very professional but basically we dug a hole, poured water into it and watched it drain away. Or for our group it was watching it not draining away. I’ve had more exciting moments in my life. 
Wednesday afternoon was almost too much fun as I had a hilarious time trying to fend off chickens. There is a huge Rosa rigosa (rose tree) in the middle of the chicken run and we were meant to be taking cuttings from it. I, however, found that I spent most of the session trying to kick the chickens (reasonably gently it has to be said) without anyone seeing me. There was one in particular, ‘Ginger’ I’ll call her, who was convinced that buttons on my trousers were not only edible but irresistible.
We identified trees this week which I loved. Looking at the differences between alder, beech, hazel, birch and so on. There are so many types of trees I had no idea. I thought there was only one lime tree but there are about 45 of them! While we were wandering around the grounds I happened to see Satish Kumar. He is one of the founding members of Schumacher and a profound thinker. He’s written several thought-provoking books and led an amazing life. My ambition is to actually get beyond a fleeting glimpse and get to talk to him before the end of the course. 
One of the other founder members of the college gave us a fantastic lecture this week: Stephan Harding. Actually I’m not sure I’d call it a lecture. We were all spell-bound with his story-telling technique. He took us through anima mundi and gaia theory. He had been close to major theorists such as James Lovelock (Gaia) and Arne Naess (Deep ecology). All these authors feature in the masters he is teaching: holistic science. I chatted to a couple of people on that course over lunch on Wednesday. They had been learning about ‘fractals’ that morning and their heads seemed to be buzzing. I did attempt asking them about fractals but I’m not sure I understood the answer. 
Friday afternoon was back to basics; scarifying a lawn. This removes ‘thatch’ (dead grass etc) and moss and encourages ‘tillering’ of the grass (growing extra roots). We also jumped on our forks a bit to make holes in the lawn. This helps to aerate the lawn, encourage drainage and reduce compaction. We’re being tested next week so I’ve got to try and remember this stuff. Over the weekend I need to finish my identification assignment, start my soil assignment, look up 2 versus 4 stroke engines, revise how to take a cutting and begin my assignment on a career in horticulture. No time for any mischief.
Reported by Sue  

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