Posts

Rats

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First let me apologise to readers in the Isle of Man, where I live. Saying the word “rat” here is considered to be so unlucky that we normally call them “long-tails”, “Rolands” or similar. However, as this blog has an international readership who might be confused by such metaphors, for the rest of this post I will lay superstition aside and call them RATS. There are (or were) rats on my allotment. How do I know? Well for a start, they ate my entire corn crop last autumn, leaving only the cobs, as you can see from this picture. I didn’t mind too much about that because, I reasoned, I could grow another corn crop next year, rats have to eat too, and maybe it was my fault for not growing more corn so there was enough for both me and the rats (the latter being an example of the victim – me - identifying with the perpetrators – the rats). But things came to a head this spring when the rats started gnawing the bark off my newly planted apple trees. I didn’t even know that rats ate

The (real) History of Anaesthesia

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  Dr William Morton pretending to invent anaesthetics  Anaesthesia: a state in which someone does not feel pain, usually because of drugs they have been given (Cambridge English Dictionary) If you do a Google search for “history of anaesthesia”, most search results suggest that anaesthetics were invented by Dr William Morton of Boston in 1846, who was the first to use ether to perform a dental extraction.  There are occasional nods in the direction of earlier, plant based anaesthetics, mainly to dismiss them as unimportant.  I particularly like the comment by the Royal College of Anaesthetists of the United Kingdom, who say: “Although a number of drugs used in modern anaesthesia have their origins in substances found in plants, those early concoctions are irrelevant to the development of effective, drug-induced anaesthesia.” And of course, I completely agree.  If I am going to have a painful surgical procedure performed, I would much rather have a modern anaesthetic than a plant based

Allotment Reloaded - Revenge of the Frankencarrots

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  With the year end approaching, it’s time to reflect on what went well and what went badly in the allotment in the last season, try to learn from your mistakes and do better next year. Programmes featuring celebrity gardeners like Alan Titchmarsh make gardening appear easy, and you might think that all fruit and vegetables turn out perfectly as planned. The reality is that gardening, especially edible gardening, is hard work and there are lots of mistakes and failures along the way. In this blog I’m going to concentrate mostly on the failures and see what we can learn from them. I’ve divided this year’s plantings into five categories: Turned out perfectly with minimal effort Turned out well but could do even better next year The jury’s still out; too soon to say Turned out badly but may be salvageable next year if I do things differently; Complete waste of time: don’t bother even trying that again Turned out perfectly with minimal effort Onions, potatoes, rhubarb and main crop strawbe

The care and use of toxic plants

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  First an important announcement: DO NOT TRY ANY OF THESE TECHNIQUES AT HOME, OR ANYWHERE ELSE. YOU WILL PROBABLY END UP DEAD. IN FACT, TO BE ABSOLUTELY SAFE, DON’T READ ANY FURTHER. That’s the legal stuff taken care of, so now I’d like to explain what this post is about and why I’m writing it. It’s not about herbal medicine in the conventional sense. Most reputable herbalists wouldn’t touch most of these plants with a proverbial barge pole because they’re too toxic and/or illegal. I suspect that a lot of mainstream herbal medicine works by a combination of counselling and aromatherapy, and before I get a lot of angry emails from herbalists, I want to make it clear that I’m not being disparaging. Many of my patients in my family medical practice come to me because they are stressed, anxious or depressed. The best thing for them would probably be a sympathetic ear and a harmless but nice smelling herbal concoction. However, I am afraid I am terribly bad at this sort of thing. (“Wife le

Internet addiction

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  By Michael Mandiberg – Addicted to the Internet, CC BY-SA 2.0,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79520362 You may have noticed that my posts here have been a bit light recently – only four in the last 12 months – and to explain why, I would like to tell you about a surreal online experience I had about a year ago. I was on a mainstream news website when a moderately interesting article caught my eye and I posted a brief comment about it. I can’t remember what either the article or my comment were about, except that neither of them were particularly important. The point is, it drew a swift and angry response from another poster who I will call Angry Woman. I was puzzled by this because I thought my post was quite innocuous, so out of interest I looked up Angry Woman’s profile to see what I had done to annoy her. Her profile indicated that she had posted 37,000 comments on that website alone (by comparison, I had posted about eight). My jaw literally dropped. 37,000? Rea

Allotment Reloaded - The Mistakes Edition

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  Those of you who have been following this blog will know that I acquired an allotment this time last year – a 30×100 foot plot of land rented from a local farmer for the purpose of growing fruit, vegetables and flowers. You will also know that one reason I decided to do this – apart from the fact that it’s enjoyable for its own sake – is because I can foresee food shortages in the years ahead, so learning how to grow your own food is a sort of insurance policy. So I’m trying to prove to myself and my family that it is possible to grow a significant proportion of your own food yourself. Or maybe I’ll prove that it’s not possible, depending on how things work out. If you are going to try growing food, now is the time to start, because you are going to make lots of mistakes to begin with, and it’s better to get your mistakes out of the way while they don’t matter than to depend on a food crop for survival and then have it fail because of something simple you did wrong. I made a ton of m