Part two from guest blogger Jim Buckland: Learning – all I needed to know and then some….

The next instalment of my ‘passion for putrescence’ consisted of a long hot summer spent living in a caravan at the end of the Henry Doubleday Research Association trial ground surrounded by other organic obsessives. Here I was introduced to the ‘scriptures of decay’ such as Farmers of Forty Centuries, a study of how Chinese agriculture had been sustained for millennia on a diet of composted night soil; Humus and the Farmer by the wonderfully named Friend Sykes; Lady Eve Balfour’s tomes on the experiments of Sir Albert Howard at Indore in India; and of course the extensive writings of the wonderfully interesting and intelligent (if slightly scatty) founder of the Henry Doubleday Research Association, Lawrence D. Hills.

Further semi-scientific experiments with heap construction and constituents (the fastest and hottest heap was one made almost entirely of freshly cut nettles if I remember correctly), an introduction to the role of comfrey tea in the well-being of the organic plot and much, much more meant that I left the Research Association firmly committed to a lifelong love affair with those miracle workers of the compost heap - the thermophilic bacteria. Sadly for a period, life’s long journey led me down other routes than horticulture, but even then my heart was always set racing by the smell of a dung heap or the sight of a well-made compost bin. The passion hadn’t died, like a spring bulb in the dead of winter it lay dormant, merely waiting for the right conditions for it to burst forth once again.

Chinese night soil, thermophilic bacteria! I’m completely hooked….Annie


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