Monday, 19 October 2009

Grovel at Gravel ... Recipe for a Moss Milkshake ...

Genuflecting at stones and making a moss milkshake where on earth is this world taking us. Just sometimes we need to take a closer look and these days we are being encouraged to do just that. One of my favourite stopping points on my way to Penzance Cornwall is The Eden Project, as described in this post; Eden has a ‘Flowerless Garden’ exhibit, where they have been introducing, over the past two years, the story of evolution through the planting of mosses and liverworts.

"Lichenes" from Ernst Haeckel’s Artforms of Nature, 1904

Britain boasts 1,000 native species of the world’s 20,000 species, and is considered along with New Zealand and British Columbia to be one of the premier temperate, global moss locations: Cornwall is in a unique position with its damp climate to be able to showcase a wide range of healthy and beautiful mosses and liverworts.

Moss trunk - courtesy of Andrew Westcott

The Eden Project are great experimenters and are absolutely determined to do everything naturally – to grow moss garden on site; their inspiration was the moss garden, Wistman’s Wood, in one of Devon’s oldest woodland on Dartmoor. The woodland looks as prehistoric man would have found it – a magical, ancient copse, festooned with moss and liverworts – or where J K Rowling would have taken us in the Harry Potter series.

Believe it or not, moss milkshakes are an ideal way of establishing mosses on rocks and stones. The recipe – take one part buttermilk, one part water, and a handful of moss: blend until a thin smooth soup, ensuring all the moss lumps are finely mashed; spread, brush or spray onto the selected moss site. Alternative flavours: beer, cream, yoghurt or sugar. Finally keep the area damp for the first month. Courtesy of The Eden Project magazine Summer 2009.

Moss –shakes could be used in a number of ways in the future to green-up troublesome north-facing, damp walls, or dull winter spaces, which could do with some colour and texture, or in due course may be used for moss walls rising vertically, thus revitalising and greening our urban areas.

Mosses are one of the very early indicators of plant life, but are surpassed by lichens as the first form of plant in the plant chain. Mosses were often used to stuff mattresses and pillows in the eighteenth century and one of our native moss genera, Hypnum, derives its name from the Greek for ‘sleep’. Lichens today, in times past probably ignored, can date buildings from the lichen growing on them – pre-determined by looking at gravestones, with their dates, and taking that species of lichen, its growth period, and thus determining the building’s age.

In my post on Herbs, Worts and all, I briefly summarised early herbal medicine; the Apothecaries’ discipline embraced new learning and the Chelsea Physic Garden was founded soon afterwards in 1673 on the edge of London, as it was then – now in the heart of Chelsea, with its entrance from the river along Swan Walk.

Today, lichens serve as important biological indicators of air quality, which the lichens in Chelsea have been reflecting for centuries, and are now being monitored. When the scientists started to take an interest in 1977 only 11 species of lichen were recorded, however now there are 38 – which shows that London’s air quality is improving. We had only just come through the ‘pea soupers’ (simply nasty fogs!) of the 50s and 60s with their acidic effects.

When fungi are found in association with algae the dual plant is called a lichen – but don’t be put off by this definition! Climb out of the car and look at the surface of the ground. This was the ‘call to arms’ for my mother and I on our trip to the Namib, where you wouldn’t quite expect to be told to grovel at gravel .. but yes, Namibia has some of the rarest and most interesting species in the world.

Crustose and foliose lichens on a wall

These next paragraphs were written in an informative letter (not much has changed then?!) by me nineteen years ago: The vegetation of the gravel plains contains, again, many intriguing forms of life. The desert eidelweiss and other everlastings look more like cultivated old-fashioned posies, than desert xerophytes growing under arid and harsh conditions.

Lichens too, of many varieties, occur on the gravel plains, rocky outcrops and mountain slopes. These strange organisms, which are normally hard and brittle, come to life or ‘bloom’ when water is sprinkled over them – moving visibly and becoming soft and leathery to touch.

Lichens are not really plants, but composite organisms composed of algae and fungi, forming a symbiotic association. Because they ‘help’ one another, they can grow in places where no other plant could exist. Like other plants in Namibia, lichen is dependent on the sea fog for its survival, although it can manage without moisture for long periods of time.

Gravestone, with lichens on it, showing date of death at 1639, Wormshill, Maidstone, Kent

Lichens are a very important link in the food-chain of the desert and there is a close interaction between lichens and the insect life. They are the first form of life in the plant chain and the lichens of the Namib have created considerable interest amongst international lichen experts.

So please grovel at stones they may be able to tell you something and should you feel a little under the weather, why not try a lovely green milkshake – make mine a beer one!

Dear Mr Postman – we are relatively quiet: my mother has been happy with her birthday, but sleepy too; she remembers and forgets that Derek has died, but is philosophical in her acceptance. We just quietly move on .. thank you all for your thoughts –

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

20 comments:

Shaw said...

Hello Hilary,

Interesting to know the English moss garden, since Japan has this moss temple in Kyoto. Japanese have such wired things like stone garden or moss garden. When I visited moss temple in Kyoto, I felt some serenity in the air. I would love to visit English moss garden, too, some day.

Thank you for your sharing.
Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Wilma Ham said...

Hi Hilary.
I love moss, those are beautiful photos, the whole scenery looks unreal, spooky like.
I love their color and their texture and their soft touch.
I have tried to dye wool with lichen, here in New Zealand we have a soft yellow one and I loved the shade. However it didn't work out and the lichen got all stuck in the wool as I in my enthusiasm did not think to put it in a seperate muslin bag. The color was not strong as I hoped either. I have never tried it again.
Interesting to decorate city walls with a moss smoothy, makes sense and will look a lot prettier.
I enjoyed reading it all, as usual, thank you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw .. glad you liked the moss garden. I've just had a look at the site in Kyoto - perhaps others who comment may click across - link below.

You have just such a different approach to life - beautiful weird gardens! One day I'll visit.

The temple does look so serene - here's the site.
Hi Shaw .. glad you liked the moss garden. I've just had a look at the site in Kyoto - perhaps others who comment may click across - so this is the temple's link.

You have just such a different approach to life - beautiful weird gardens! One day I'll visit.

The temple does look so serene - here's the site.

http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/visitkyoto/en/theme/sites/shrines/w_heritage/11/

Good to see you here -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma .. just so pleased you like the photos and the scenery. I was so interested in learning more.

Interesting your comment re your trials with dyeing. Apparently dyeing was quite common, but resulted in some species of lichen almost becoming totally extinct in the last century.

That's the kind of thing I'd do .. forget to put the lichen in a muslin bag .. so I sympathise .. like forgetting to take out a tissue from a pocket when washed!

Greening walls with mosses certainly will cheer up rather unpleasant grey spaces.

Glad you enjoyed it ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Filemot said...

Hi Hilary

I had a lovely time trying moss milkshakes on my concrete urns. Of course we didnt call them anything that sophisticated. It sort of worked eventually but I think they were mainly lichens that grew on the concrete.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Filemot - as you're the scientist .. I guess you're right .. but did you try the beer or the yoghurt one? Lichens seem to grow everywhere and live for years too ..

Thanks for the comment - always appreciated ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Daphne @ Joyful Days said...

Hilary,

Your title was intriguing, and I half expected to read about the latest health craze - moss milkshakes! It was fascinating to find out how moss is grown by making shakes and spreading that over stones. I love the look of moss, though I can't say I love feeling it as much - I'd rather sit on clean stone than moss-covered ones!

Marketing Unscrambled, learn to earn 14 said...

Hello Hilary,

We do not get moss to much here. It is nice to learn more about it. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. What wonderful photos. They always make your blog posts.

Have a great day.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Daphne .. glad you were intrigued by the title .. well perhaps healthy moss shakes. I agree moss does look so wonderful and is usually damp if it's soft and fluffy: so like you - a nice clean stone, but that might have lichen on, to sit on!

Good to see you - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. no I wouldn't think moss featured in Utah. Glad you enjoy the photos .. yes they highlight appropriate parts of the story-letter, showing what things look like.

Thanks for coming over and good to see you - you too have a good rest of the week -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Liara Covert said...

Lichens on tombstones are mysterious phenomena. To look up close reveals intriguing insects and a variety of suprises.

One practical use of green moss is for feminine hygiene absorbancy out in nature during a feminine menstrual cycle. Ever heard the idea, 'flows back to nature?' As women who live in nature reconnect to Mother Earth, they are known to sit on moss during peak periods of the month. Campers sometimes do this or individuals involved in particular meditation or other ritual.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. I've spent the past hour looking at lichens as I walked down from my mother - now I look loads there. Yes - insects and animals can rely on lichen, especially in very harsh natural conditions.

No - I hadn't heard that - but makes absolute sense and I'm sure it is so natural. Interesting.

Thanks for visiting -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Marketing Unscrambled, learn to earn 14 said...

Hello Hilary,

Thank you for visiting our blog, It is always good to hear from you. You add so much to our blog. Have a great day.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. it's a pleasure I always learn something or look at things in a different light. You too have a good day ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

janice | Sharing the Journey said...

I smiled when I read this. I remember when we bought our first flat with a garden,in England; I used to use this technique to try and turn garden ornaments and stones mossy. Now that I live in Scotland, I hate the sogy, boggy stuff in my lawn, and my back 'pathio' is currently more green than teracotta! It truly is beautiful on woodland walks, though, and I love the mossy smells in woods.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Janice .. did you - I'd never heard of the moss milk-shake mix up before. Yes - mossy lawns .. they grow so easily! The birds love the damp moss on the rooves down here .. a bit of moisture (as we've been quite drought-like); but that earthy smell of greened woods is always so evocative.

Now I can think of you wandering around chucking green milkshake everywhere! Enjoy your Scottish or Greek pathio .. unless that gets a decluttering too?

Have a good weekend - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary,

I must say, I never care for Moss. However, your post make moss more friendly and even beautiful. You are amazing. I enjoyed reading this.
Thanks for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. good - glad you're looking at things in a new light .. from this perspective! And am so glad you enjoyed it .. the moss is glorious soft and lush isn't it .. I think when I go to Cornwall I must stop off and see this wood - look spectacular.

All the best - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Filemot said...

Hi Hilary

The moss wall at Anthropologie is a living wall . Its a very impressive collage and I am sure Ma will know most of the plants. I took a photograph of a real sheep in a cardigan for her too.

Love
B

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Barbara .. Excellent pictures via the link. It is as you say an impressive collage of plants. I'd better get to London town sometime to see it. Real sheep too for her (well teabag ones - if I understand you right?).. we'll have to see if these pics show on the iphone?!

Really pleased to have seen these - thank you!

Saw good one of the baby pup too I could use & her ball.

Well good selection of pics - thank you ..
Love Hils