Winter … in the GARDEN

For me, No invention of man will ever approach
the joy and satisfaction that I derive from watching
the little birds arrive a dozen at a time,

to enjoy their breakfast of chipped Sunflower hearts
on a winter’s morning.

I recall someone leaving a comment once,
to the effect that such a habit
was “too expensive” and “a waste” …

A statement like that reveals a great deal
about the level of a person’s character.

More especially, when they then have
the audacity to ‘admonish’
tender-hearted folk who actually possess
the capacity to feel empathy:

People gorge themselves on food
– and call it “going out for a meal” ;

they swill liquor – and regard it as “a party”
or, “a way to relax” ;

they squander their time,
and corrupt their minds and morals
in front of a television set … and regard
its gratuitous depravity as “entertainment”.

That may be your idea of “a good time” –
but it is not mine.

I use my money to dispense kindness,
and provide a safe haven for creatures who would
otherwise struggle in the bleak, early-morning hours.

When I look out my window
and see this – especially on a frosty morning
in January …

… the very idea of spending money to bloat my body,
stupefy my senses, or debase my mind,
is, actually … degrading.

THIS is the joy of the garden
on a cold Winter morning.

In the morning light, Calluna vulgaris
sits blanketed beneath a coating of frost …

… which also highlights the edges of the Hinoki …

As the sun warms the air, a few of the sights
to be seen …

Sunlight provides encouragement for this hosta, Fire and Ice …

If FRAGRANCE appeals, Sarcococca – in January,
provides a scent that RIVALS many ROSES.

A wonderful addition to the garden in winter,
sunlight releases its perfume which will
not only transform the garden , but enhance your life
with a scent that will stay in your memory.

If you have not one already in your garden,
allow me to recommend Sarcococca ruscifolia …

January (in the northern hemisphere) is a wonderful time to find
incredible prices on items such as pots which are simply
too expensive to even be considered (for me, at least)
at any other time of the year.

Here, a 48″ high terracotta pot, was sitting covered in frost
with a tiny green sticker that proclaimed: “70% off”.

A £115/€132/$200 terracotta pot … bought for £35/€39/$60.

The high-gloss lacquer coating its deep emerald green surface
now reflects the sights in our garden …

Also in the garden on the 15th of January, the first appearances of

Hyacinth …

Peony …

and Jasminoides …

If anyone has enjoyed visiting the garden
with me today and will be good enough to let me know,
we can meet again for another visit in February …

P Livingstone

じゅうにがつ … The GARDEN in December

In the Northern hemisphere, when
much of the garden is enjoying a winter nap,
garden tools are being used least …

… which makes December the perfect time
to give tools and equipment a thorough scrub.

Spare plant pots should never be
put away when dirty, but any that have been
can now be scrubbed out
and left to dry in the garden shed or suitable
area of the house, if available.

For me, the 90lbs or so of stone
which make up the Ishidourou gets brought
into the house, and given a good scrub down
using a mixture of hot water and bleach.

A thorough cleaning with a bristle brush,
hot water, and a splash of Dettol antiseptic
serve as a well-deserved reward for
the tools that are used to keep the garden healthy
throughout the rest of the year.

Whilst drying each one, inspect tools
for chipped, broken, sticking, or loose
parts.

The leather case of my grandpa’s tape measure
is always treated to a coat of Dubbin
to keep its 70-year old leather supple.

Spades, Forks, and other digging instruments
can be scrubbed and given a light rub
with a quality household oil to counter
any possibility of rust due to moisture.

The hori

December is the perfect time to inspect bladed tools
such as shears, scissors, and secateurs,
ensuring that each is scrubbed, dried, oiled,
and put away with blades honed to a razor edge
ready for the gardening year ahead.

Even in this coldest time of year,
the gardener can still be … ‘tending to the garden’.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org

にしきごい … Nishikigoi and The Garden Pond

I said nothing.
And hung up the telephone.

Having purchased the house in September of 2009,
my wife and I ventured out during a sub-zero ‘cold snap’
one December morning,
to plan where to begin the work that would be needed
to rejuvenate its somewhat neglected garden.

Arriving at the far end of a raised portion of ground,
I paused and bent down to tug at the protruding end
of an old, partially buried … kitchen sink.

What I saw made me miss a breath.

There, in a corner, in the equivalent of about
two cups of water … were two goldfish
almost encased – solid – in ice.

I was deeply distressed by the sight;
disgusted that two fish had been
overlooked and forgotten;
and tried not to think of them dying like that.

Giving the ice a sharp tap in attempt to, at least,
remove and bury the fish properly,
I was shocked – when the block came loose,
to see ice water flow from beneath,
… and one of the fish move.

Trying not to actually drop the ice in my
what-can-only- be-described-as ‘controlled panic’,
I rushed inside the house and immediately
began filling a bucket with cold (ignoring the
overwhelming desire to want to quickly
warm the fish) water.

Adding a generous amount of chlorine neutralizing
drops, I returned to that disgusting, discarded sink
beneath the tree.

Placing ice and fish in the bucket,
I brought them indoors and held my hands
(taking needed pauses to re-warm them)
around the ice to speed its melt

Quickly able to actually cradle one fish in each hand,
I could not believe it when both began to move
and swim feebly on their own.

Genuinely upset, I found the house sale papers,
turned to one section in particular,
picked up the telephone
and called the woman whose house we had bought,
to tell her of my ‘find’, and that
her overlooked fish were alright.

“Oh,” she replied … “they’re still there?”
“We just let the fish freeze every winter,
and buy new ones in the spring.”

I was livid.

Said nothing.

Felt the silence.

Ignored her ‘Hello? Hello?”

And hung up the telephone.

A Graceful Turn … One of the two little goldfish that was saved from the ice.

They feel the cold,
they feel frightened,
they feel pain,
and they play when they are happy.

They are fish.
And, like any animal, they deserve the care
of any human being
who has them in their garden.

Nothing is as loathsome to me as Apathy.

The type of vicious, obscenity-spewing savages
that are lauded as “ real men” today
are brute beasts
who openly reveal themselves as such
to anyone of maturity.

But self-centred ingrates who “use”,
and “enjoy”, or in any way ‘benefit from’

the work, efforts, or good will of any person;
or the loyalty or affection of an animal,

and yet refuse to go ‘out of their way’
to lift a finger in gratitude,

are the most repulsive of creatures:
characterless hypocrites who know to do good,
but CHOOSE to do nothing.

No one who has visited this site
and read its contents, will imagine
that I have any admiration for the Internet.

It is the greatest method (the television alone
excepted) ever invented by man to promote
Confusion, Conflict, and Cruelty
amongst human society.

It is the theatre for every form of narcissism;
the soap-box for every quick-buck con man;
and the podium for propagating infantilism,
arrogance and inexperience.

With rare exception, the Internet is
a labyrinth of nonsense, arrogance, and ignorance
promulgated by those who are out to
to ‘impress’, amass ‘followers’, or sell
a personal agenda or business product.

Any occasional truth … comes only after wading
through a cesspool of fantasy, vanity,
malignity, and outright malice.

Common Sense, Empathy, and a Compassionate heart,
will do far more for that rare person
endued with discretion,
than the massed hordes of Internet ‘experts’
combined.

By proposing a few thoughts from experience,
I hope to encourage one person
who would like to give and receive
the mutual enjoyment that comes from
caring for ornamental fish in a garden pond.

BUILDING a Home … on the 11th of January

In the part of the world where we currently find ourselves,
Racoons are nightly visitors to the garden;
and whilst their splash patterns on the stones
evidence that they enjoy a refreshing bath
in the water garden on a summer’s night …
we want them to keep away from the fish.

The answer – from our brief experience here –
was to build a free-standing fish pool.

The first stop was to visit a specialist lumber yard
for the purchase of fifteen, 4x6x10’
heavy ‘landscape’ ties.

After digging down to ensure that there
was no plant life that might one day
reach the surface only to find the horror
of an impenetrable barrier of pond liner,

a base of boulders was laid,
its crevices in-filled with crushed rock,
and then ‘padded’ with a layer of sand.

Upon this solid base, we began the process
of building the shell …

A piece of old pond liner was placed
on the ground to ‘pad’ the liner
that would actually be containing the water …

Special attention – and excessive time –
is always spent ensuring the liner
fits snuggly into the corners;

and that folds are made with meticulous care
to make them as minimal, and smooth, as possible.

THE PUMP and POND FILTER

Now, a little word about all those remedies
and promises that will (I am sure) be found
on the Internet, on the subject of garden ponds,
algae, and ‘green water’ …

Yes, barley straw and ‘oxygenating’ plants are fine
IF you have a large, natural pond. The ‘field pond’
in our previous home filtered itself quite nicely –

there are, after all, country homes in Britain
and Europe, that use reed beds on boggy ground
as a sewage treatment centres
– and they do wonderfully well.

BUT once you move to smaller ponds,
the number of fish, resultant biological wastes,
sunlight, algae spores, and falling vegetation
all affect the confined environment
of smaller ponds.

Please take up my suggestion to INVEST
in a proper, quality filter
that will clean the water, neutralise the algae,
and remove waste from the pond itself.

Do Not frustrate yourself with the ‘advice’
promises, and do-it-yourself gizmos that
might work for one person in one specific location,

but will end up wasting your time, money,
and best intentions –
in a very short space of time indeed.

The Air Pump is thoroughly cleaned,
and all parts checked for signs of wear …

When considering airline hose,
the spiral ribbing is touted as being
much more resistant to crushing.

This it may well be, however, one must ask
quite WHY anyone should be ignorant and careless enough
to be ‘crushing’ the hose in the first place.

( Those ‘valleys’ between the ridges
are a wonderful home for algae
– which cannot be readily removed
by washing alone – here, the ‘clean patches’
are where the sponge has removed algae;
the remainder provides some indication
of the difficulty in getting in between the ridges. )

I have never, in over 50 years of caring for fish,
found any difficulty or disappointment with using
a quality, smooth hose …

The POND FILTER

The filter here is a very ‘standard’ one
that is made for ponds up to 2,000 gallons;
it will provide a clean, happy environment
for both fish and you.

Clean and check the filter unit –

examine the O-ring in the top channel …

clean and set the biological filter bags in place …

clean and insert the actual filter …

secure the lid in place and connect
the ‘input’ line from the pond pump,
and the ‘outflow’ line, which flows into the pond …

( The third outlet is used when cleaning the filter
– a hose is connected, and green algae-rich
fish-fertiliser-soaked water can be pumped
onto the garden beds. )

FILLING the POND

Once both filter and pump are again cleaned out
and rinsed thoroughly,
Water is added to stretch the liner:

With the pond filling ALWAYS ENSURE that crucial
de-chlorinating liquid has been ADDED
to the household water supply.

In the ‘natural’ pond: check for leaks
from water that is flowing backward
and escaping through some area of
liner whose fold lies below the water-line.

Two little birds enjoy a drink from our Water Garden.

In a Formal Pool, it means selecting rocks and plants
amidst which, the fish may play and hide
– and generally not appear to be in a quarantine tank.

Once the pond has been filled,
test the pump and filter unit …

This is the time to scrutinise the back of the
water reservoir for any leaks from the
input hose … as well as the hoses leading into
the water filter unit itself.

I follow the precaution of adding a final
deterrent to particles of muck getting through
the filter and being returned to the pond –

Here, a piece of filter material is simply
slotted into place immediately before
the waterfall return …

Note the colour of the white filter barrier
just Below the waterline … the results,
after three weeks, are self evident …

Plants having been added to give the fish
a ‘feel of their old home,
they are gently caught and placed in a large bag
to float in the new pool for a few hours
until the temperature in bag and pool are the same.

The whole project today has taken 10 hours,
and we are quite exhausted from our labours.

As cedar boards can be added later
to hide the exposed liner and act as a ‘top rail’
without any disturbance to the fish;

and additional stones placed gently, at leisure,
to provide a more ‘natural’ environment
in which the fish can play, and hide,
and generally feel secure …

not wishing to subject them to
an unnecessary stay in a container overnight,
the fish are gently introduced into their new home.

The following day, with completed Cedar Rail …

(In order to accommodate the water heater (here, in January),
the water level is kept slightly lower – being increased
when the water no longer requires heating.

A cover fits is placed on the pool when the fish are
‘put to bed’ for the night.)

All that is left is to add shrubs at leisure in order to
‘break up’ the outline of the pool itself.

Here, fragrant Sarcococca hides the filter unit
and wires leading to and from it
(and the pond heater in winter) …

If you are tender-hearted, patient, and compassionate
enough to want to give an animal a home,
simply remember that they feel the same
fear, pain, misery and contentedness as you …

and treat them with the empathy, care,
and attention to detail
that you would like to have others afford you.

Even a fish will respond to care, and
the joy of seeing them swim towards you
at “tea-time” to feed from your hand,
is truly, a wonderful thing.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org

ちゃしつ … The Tea Gathering – Part 1: The DISCIPLINE of Tea

“Tea tempers the spirit
and harmonizes the mind …
and clears the perceptive faculties.

The refreshing nature of tea …
is especially fitting
for persons of self restraint …

for those who are virtuous in nature
and satisfied with a simple life.”

Such were the sentiments of Lu Yu,
when writing his treatise on tea
– chájīng – The Classic of Tea,
somewhere around 780 AD.

お ちゃ … Tea

From possessions, to professions,
to pets and pastimes … everything, it seems,
is now used as a Vanity tool to dominate
and degrade others,

which is why conscience has always
prevented me from agreeing to teach,
when asked, even the rudiments
of the martial art that I practice.

What I HAD always offered … was
to teach … The Way of Tea.

Offering to teach TEA to those
who inquired about Martial Arts
invariably insured that those who asked,
would immediately make themselves scarce.

Tea … is about extending HOSPITALITY

… seeking the best interests of a Guest,
and taking infinite care to Serve
someone else.

A self centred, domineering thug
will never discern the relationship
– the significance between Tea
… and learning.

Those who possess Self Discipline, Patience,
and a Meticulous Nature, demonstrate
the humility of character that is required

in a person who actually deserves
to be taught anything
that might give them privilege or power
over other people.

Give a savage power … and he or she will use it
to further Greed, Ego, and Personal Agenda.
Which is precisely why the 21st century
is the immoral, vicious, and vulgar Age that it is.

No mature, responsible man or woman
gives a bad-tempered, ill-disciplined,
emotional ‘child’

the ability to harm or dominate anyone.

Those who have no interest in cultivating the
gentility required for tea … or gardening,
are of no interest to me as students –
– their sincerity is clearly lacking.

A Tea Gathering demands
Self Discipline,
Patience, and a
Meticulous Nature –

it requires someone who aspires to
Refinement,
Etiquette, and appreciates bestowing
Hospitality upon others.

That desire to extend Self-LESS consideration
toward others
will transfer over to the daily aspects
of an individual’s life:

the way they speak,
the way they dress,
the way they handle their (or others’) possessions.

Qualities that are observably absent
in the aggressive and slovenly example
provided by the generality of ‘men’

and the women who strive to imitate them.

Those who Make The Time to appreciate tea
from fine tea cups … value tea for the occasion
it provides to Contemplate alone,
or extend Cordiality to others:

qualities, both, that are diametrically opposed
to the frenetic madness of the world at large,
that mindlessly rushes to gratify vanity,
hedonism, and greed at every opportunity.

Gentility.
Hospitality.
Contemplative Thought.

Tea … is all these things.

Tea … it is the Period of Time when
the tea is being enjoyed,
that is meaningful to me.

It may be that you think similarly.

I hope that, in presenting the qualities
of real tea, I can encourage one or two people
to slow down and … MAKE time to:

prepare tea;
and take ten minutes out of each day
for thoughtful reflection …

“How have I lived my life ?
What example has my life been to those
who have known me ?
Lying on my death bed, will I regret
how I have used the time given me in this life ?”

Tea (for me) is the act of meditating upon
what – honestly – is important in life.

I hope that this series of thoughts about tea
may interest one or two folk enough that they
will Take The Time to isolate themself
from the mental and moral sewage of the TV
– or the mindless noise of the radio,

and set aside part of a day to pause,
and … think.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org

ちゃしつ … The Tea Gathering – Part 2: Black Tea

A Taste for Tea

こう ちゃ … Black Tea

Refreshment,
Consolation,
Ceremony …

Black Tea is all of these things to me.

It has mingled with my tears,
lifted me from exhaustion,
and made happy moments memorable.

Appreciated throughout the day,
it is the one thing in life of which
I would not want to imagine being without.

BLACK TEA is the most oxidized tea.

Having the most intense (or, strongest) flavour
of all the teas, it alone goes well with milk.

To prepare Black tea, use one spoonful
of quality tea for each person
and another half ‘for the pot’,

Pour in – to about three-quarters’ full –
PROPERLY boiling water

( that is to say, on a ‘rolling boil’ – and NOT
the appalling North American practice
of hot bilge water stewing in an electric urn !!! )

Allow a 3 minute brew time,
add a splash of skim milk,
and cherish the perfect cup of tea.

For me, Black Tea is a principle of daily life:
to temporarily lessen the affliction of sad memories
and duplicitous humanity,

Black Tea is a genuine medicine
and the only true … Cup of Tea.

Look for names like Assam, Ceylon, Yunnan,
… and Keemun, which is the traditional ‘British’
cup of tea.

A Tea SAMPLE …

1. Orange Pekoe

Slightly stronger than commercial
offerings) this is a ‘straight’ blend of Assam
and Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea,
whose taste is smoothed wonderfully
with the addition of skim milk.

This is a blend that provides a “real” cup
of “British” tea …

2. Strawberry Tea

Ceylon and Keemun black teas
care combined with dried Strawberry pieces
to provide a medium-strength tea that requires
an extra minute in the teapot to deliver
an incredibly refreshing cup of tea.

3. Blackcurrant Tea

Blended and mixed with dried blackcurrants
and garnished with blue cornflower (centaurea cyanus),
this offering provides a medium-strength
cup of tea with a hint of blackcurrant taste.

4. Raspberry Tea

The addition of red cornflower petals
only adds to the charm of this wonderful blend
of black tea and raspberry leaf.

An extra minute of brewing time is required
to draw out the raspberry flavour
for an extraordinary cup of tea.

5. Orange Spice

Special occasions only … this exotic blend
of tea combines Ceylon and Keemun teas
with cloves and dried orange peel.

6. Rose-scented Tea

Congou tea from China is not flavoured
at all by the addition of dried rose petals
which provide a mild cup of tea with the
blissfully sedative aroma of garden roses.

I hope that the photographs and thoughts here
may encourage one or two visitors to this site
to develop an interest in the refinement of tea

… and, in taking time to savour and share its taste,
become everything that the 21st century

is not.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org

ちゃしつ … The Tea Gathering – Part 3: Indispensable Instruments of Infusion

For those who might be new to the concept of Real Tea,
a brief over-view of the items that are needed
to infuse quality Black tea …

1. Kettle

Boiling the water – for the ‘British’
method of brewing,
water should come off a rolling boil,
and will be around the 95 degree mark
when it hits the tea leaves.

2. A Quality Tea Pot

Whilst this one has an included infuser,
it is better still to allow the tea
full movement in the pot …
and use a strainer when pouring.

Pouring water from a high point
– hand and kettle held high,
allows the tea to move rapidly at the onset,
and continue to move freely and infuse properly.

The reliable British Standard (Brown) …

3. Tea Cups

Two examples from my own sets …

Ceramic

and Cast Iron

4. Tea Caddy

For storing quality teas,
reserve one tea caddy for one type of tea.

5. Tea Tools

for dispensing loose leaf tea.

The HEALTH BENEFITS of Tea

Tea is an anti-oxidant whose statins impede cholesterol
from being absorbed by the body.

It stimulates blood flow, which, in turn,
helps to prevent high blood pressure.

Tea helps to speed digestion

and helps raise the metabolism,
which facilitates the burning of fat.

Theanine, the Amino Acid found in Green Tea,
almost certainly produces an alert mind
whilst equally providing the very real sensation
of being relaxed.

( It will not be necessary to mention that Tea
– as with any aspect of daily life – is to be used
in moderation if its beneficial effects
are to promote all-round health.

Those who abuse herbs, food, or drink
will manifest side effects: It will be self evident
that, in such a case, the fault lies with people
– Not tea. )

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org