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Wartime home grown anaesthetics. Part 2: Summer

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In my last post in March, I described how Britain circumvented the German blockades in World Wars 1 and 2 by growing, or foraging, plant-based vital medications, and I showed how to start growing some of those plants.   We are now going to revisit the plants and see how they have got on in the last three months. Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) This grows well in the Isle of Man climate and as you can see, this specimen has already started to flower.   The plants are still small (about 9 inches) but should reach a height of around three feet before setting seed. Jimsonweed / Thornapple ( Datura stramonium ) A plant of the sub-tropics, Jimsonweed can be an aggressive invasive weed in warm climates but is difficult to grow in cooler climates like the Isle of Man.   This is the third year I have tried to cultivate it   here.   My last two attempts were unsuccessful, but this plant is doing well.   I learned from my previous failures that Jimsonweed needs room temperature (around 20 degrees Cels

Wartime home grown anaesthetics. Part 1: Spring

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Wars can bring out the worst in human nature and result in indiscriminate violence, property destruction and large scale suffering, such as we are currently witnessing on our television screens night after night.   They can also foster great resilience and ingenuity in overcoming obstacles.   In this post I am going to look at how our wartime ancestors in Britain circumvented the German blockade of vital medicines during two world wars and re-learned how to gather or grow medicines at home.   And as part of this, I am going to grow some of these plants myself and record their progress throughout this year. At the start of the 20th century, many of Britain’s pharmaceuticals came from Germany, but during WWI and WWII, this source of supply was unavailable, and alternative sources from elsewhere in the British Empire could not be relied upon because of enemy blockades of shipping.   However, anaesthetics, painkillers and other essential drugs were needed in large quantities to treat both

COP26 - an analysis

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Winter solstice time will soon be here and very little is growing in the garden right now.  Next year I hope to write about growing my toxic plants through a full year, but for now, as I can't write about gardening, here are some thoughts on last month's COP26 summit.  As you no doubt know, this was the 26th conference on climate change, and although it made tiny steps in the right direction, it was widely recognised to be as much a failure as the previous 25 COP conferences.  In order to appreciate the magnitude of the failure, let's compare what needs to be done with what was actually agreed. What needs to be done is simple to say, although hard to do.  We need to stop burning fossil fuels.  That means exactly what it says.  It doesn't mean we keep burning them but try to mitigate it by planting trees, burying carbon underground, burning fossil fuels more efficiently, or paying other countries to burn less so we can burn more.  It means actually stop burning them.  We

God's autumn notebook

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Autumn is here again. It’s a time for gardeners to enjoy the fruits (literally) of their labours over the last year, to reflect on what went well and what went badly, and to consider how they might do things differently next year.  Like many gardeners, I keep an autumn notebook in which I jot down a few thoughts at this time of year. The weather played havoc with the crops this year.  “Driest Manx summer since ‘95” – that says it all.  Last summer was dry too.  Crops which did particularly poorly were the raspberries, blueberries, corn and medicinal plants.  Crops which didn’t seem to mind the drought so much included the apples, strawberries, peas, potatoes, onions, rhubarb and Brussels sprouts. So I don’t have much to put in my gardening notebook this year, except that it was wise to hedge my bets by growing a lot of different crops with different climate tolerances.  I was hoping to describe my ongoing experiments with toxic plants, but owning to not having many plants to experiment