Beamspun 1.6 "Worm": 28th March 2021

Local sunrise / publish time: 0544 UTC (weekly -15m)

Chunfen, Thunder sounds and cherry blossoms open for the first time. It's a full moon, and it's time for another edition of Beamspun.

Over here in my corner of the world (your local mileage may vary), the short days of winter have become legends, and the pale yellow lines of morning that Spring brings are scything through darkness, sounding cornets to rally forth the flower heads.

I stroll round, taking it all in. The garden and hedgerows are proudly boasting their potential - fresh tree blossoms make whispered promises, congregations of tiny flowers jingle in the wind, and bumblebees dart round, dizzy on the sudden buffet choices.

And not just the bees. As I wander, I wonder what each plant is. Some I'm familiar with now - snowdrops, cow parsley, daffodils, the basics. Some even have several names, like stickyweed and cleavers.

Others I have seen before, but I can't identify. I have a pattern for these - I take a photo and a mental note, and try to look them up in one of the few identification books I have, or on the net. Most often, I flounder and scratch my head between all the plants that look alike, and give up.

Traditionally, I get slightly annoyed at that point - why do they have to look so similar? Why are there so many plants in the world? My desire to name the things takes over and I feel like I've failed in my studies.

This year, though, I'm more relaxed. What's in a name, after all? Or rather - what isn't in a name? What gets left behind by a photo in a book and an entry in an index? Can even the greatest tome tell us what signs to look for year-on-year around our own corner, or how a particular plant sways in the wind? Are the pages scented with crushed leaves, or decay so specifically?

As Robin Harford says, "Little by little as you engage with a plant, pay attention to it, and love it for who it is."

Happy worm moon by the way.

A single white flower growing on concrete


  • food: Vertical farming is getting serious: "Here, in a former Siemens washing machine factory, stand four white, 18-metre-high “grow chambers”, controlled by software and served by robots. These are the company’s next generation of vertical farms: fully-automated, modular high-rises... According to Infarm, each one of these new units uses 95 per cent less water, 99 per cent less space and 75 per cent less fertilizer than conventional land-based farming." Do cities offer more flexible, well resourced spaces to experiment with fundamentally different farming approaches?

  • narratives: And from real-world urban tales, to more fictional future-gazing: World Weaver Press are releasing "Multispecies Cities" on April 13th, a collection of short stories looking at what cities might look like if they integrated humans with nature more.

Cover image of Multispecies Cities book with illustation and title

  • books: Back in Beamspun 1.4, I mentioned an article looking at the book "A Good Home Forever" by Rosemary Morrow. I was pleased to find it in ebook format for 10 AUD over at Holmgren Design's on-line store. It's a decently short guide, and will be familiar to anyone interested in permaculture, but I enjoyed its down-to-earthness and its very practical approach, that made me want to just Get On With It.

  • flowers: "The moonflower cactus ... produces a stunning, snowy bloom once a year for only 12 hours." Cambridge University Botanic Garden managed to capture it on film, and here's a timelapse in case you can't wait for next year... (via QueenMollyBones)

Looking up at trees with their canopy neatly separated by thin lines of sky

(photo by Patrice78500/Wikimedia Commons, via Treehugger)

  • africa: Via the new and unofficial @GreatGreenWall mastodon account, I'm learning about the Great Green Wall project, "an African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa." It's clear (and yet still seems to be a minority viewpoint) that trees and soil quality are one and the same, a system that generates and cycles in the direction that brought us here. We're foolish to separate the two.

  • architecture: New term to me - Biophilic Design aims to directly integrate nature into the built environment, including plants (of course) but also natural rhythms - light, airflow, water, etc. I'm a big fan of the way Japanese garden aesthetics try to recreate some idealised image of nature, to the point where we stop thinking about whether something has been "designed",and placing less emphasis on whether humanity has "achieved" creation, or "matched" nature in some way. (via Derek Caelin)

  • windtech: The Guardian covers Vortex's bladeless wind turbines that use vibration to generate power. Having also seen SBM's "wobbly" wave energy converters, I'm intrigued by whether technology that doesn't rely on sheer torque can have the potential to scale up to something significant.

  • solarpunk: This is awesome - Solar Protocol is a network of solar-powered servers mirroring web content, and page views are automatically redirected to the server with most sunshine. Like the soalr-powered lowtech mag site, the underlying platform completely changes the design of the site, how its used, and what user behaviour gets encouraged and reinforced as a result.

  • rewilding: "Regain the swamp!" The BBC looks at a team who have restored Walker Swamp in Australia after 150 years of being artificially drained for blue gum tree farming.

  • reconnecting: Steady now. In tai chi, we learn to ground ourselves, rooting from our body down into the earth beneath us. We gain power and suppleness from the planet. In that context, the nature of the ground and our connection to it forms the basis for our movements, so this video of Master Wu Nanfang's form sitting on a rock takes on a subtle new perspective.
  • mentalhealth: Over on Twitter, Emma Mitchell has some amazing photos of collated plants and items from nature, and encourages simple activities to avoid depression and improve mental health. Here's a lovely collection of fractals in nature, for example. I've also really enjoyed everyone's photos of things growing and things they've found on walks over the last year. I need to get back into that habit.

  • surviving: Bit of a tangent, but I figure this whole newsletter is about us surviving together, and I just found this book, The Art of Survival, a very powerful and moving thing. Put together from thoughts, memories and actions of people going through the 1992 siege of Sarajevo. In the face of a remote or unseen dnger, among all the fear, how do we stay together, stay positive and keep looking to a day when things are different?

  • roots: What an amazing collection of root system drawings over at Wageningen University (via someone on Mastodon, but sorry, I lost the link). Here's Adenostyles glabra but they're all spellbounding in their own way:

Drawing of the root system of Adenostyles glabra

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