The Glory Has Departed


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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Shewell-Cooper Had It Right Decades Ago



I found Compost Gardening by W. E. Shewell-Cooper at a bargain price on Amazon (used). The book was printed in 1974, and I read it at the Grace Dow Library in the 1980s. The library was my education in all forms of gardening, organic and anti-organic.

Note:
When I first started gardening in the early 1970s, I discovered a fascinating book entitled The ABC of Soils, Humus and Health. The author, Dr Wilfred Edward Shewell-Cooper, was an early organic gardening campaigner and pioneer of what he called the ‘no-dig’ gardening system, which advocated growing vegetables directly into beds of compost spread over the lawn, without the need to dig the ground. 

In 1966, he founded The Good Gardeners Association, which survives to this day. Shewell-Cooper was a devout Christian and the original meaning of the word ‘good’ in the organisation was taken to mean that members of the association were good because they carried out God’s plan for the soil. The title for one of his many books was ‘God Planted a Garden’, in which every reference in the Bible that relates to the principles of organic gardening and good soil management has been extracted and made relevant. However, whilst many Christian gardeners were attracted to the GGA, today this theological emphasis is no longer relevant to the Association’s aims. 

Shewell-Cooper was born in 1900 at Waltham Abbey, where his father was a major in the Royal Artillery and assistant superintendent at the town’s Royal Mills gunpowder factory. The family later moved to Blackheath, then Penarth, where Shewell-Cooper’s father was stationed. Before the outbreak of WW1, the family moved to South Africa, later returning to Britain where he studied at Monkton Combe School, near Bath. 

Shewell-Cooper’s early interest in gardening took him to Wye College, where he achieved a Diploma in Horticulture. His long and illustrious career in horticulture included Principal of The Horticultural Training Centre at Thaxted, Command Horticultural Officer, S.E. and Eastern Command from 1940 to 1948, Director of the Horticultural, Educational and Advisory Bureau, Horticultural Superintendent at Swanley College, Horticultural Advisor to Warwickshire and Cheshire County Councils and Gardening Editor, BBC Northern Region. He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, although his greatest accomplishment was being awarded the MBE.

It was while managing the training centre at Thaxted that Shewell-Cooper, together with his Australian wife, Irene, and son, Ramsay, set up at a market garden to test his organic ‘no-dig’ theories. Ten years later, in 1960, the family moved to Arkley Manor, in Herfordshire, which became the headquarters of The Good Gardeners Association. The ten-acre garden was the research showcase for his ‘no dig’ system, being visited by thousands of keen gardeners interested to follow his organic gardening ideology. 

Shewell-Cooper brought out the British gardener in me -
quirky methods that work.


So it was fun to read the book again, and the book was just as I remembered it from 30 years ago, including his reference to humus as that substance from which God formed Adam. 

I was reading about organic gardening and earthworms at the time - and trying them out - so his argument about using compost as the ultimate mulch made perfect sense. Ruth Stout wrote about gardening in the midst of mulch, and that made even more sense. Mulch becomes compost, serving not only as an immediate weed barrier but also as compost as it weathers and rots.

Beastly Winter Not So Beastly in Springdale
We were told repeatedly about how awful winter was going to be. So far we have only had a snow that melted on impact. A hard freeze gave way to a thaw and this week - two days of rain.

I took the latest donation of newspapers and spread them out in the rain, so they would get soaked. It is a good time to add another row to the vegetable garden. I will line up the newspapers, wet and thick, and cover them with wet leaves, to hold them down. That will give me a new row to plant in the spring, reclaiming even more lawn for the garden.



Sow Abundantly, Reap Abundantly - So I Order Abundantly
Paul's advice to the Corinthians is related to good gardening practice, just the opposite of seed marketing, where they sell tiny packets for outrageous prices. They figured our the Keurig tactic (individual cups of coffee, based on $50 a pound costs) long ago. A little here, a little there. Soon the budget is gone and there are tiny little rows of this and that, a garden for ants.

I am sticking to some basic favorites and planting large amounts of them, so I will order pounds of giant sunflower seeds, for a green fence, pounds of edible pod pea seeds, for an early crop, plenty of Silver Queen corn. Since I will have large amounts seed, I can plant it all over instead of running out. And I am sure our helper would like some, and his children could create their own garden.

2 Corinthians 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

Congregations and denominations chase fads, using the Keurig approach, something for everyone, whatever seems popular at the moment. Lenski observed this, and he was active in the parish a century ago. "Fads come and go, but only the Word builds up the church."

Faddish ministers do not visit their members with the Word. They do not use the Word of God for evangelism, since marketing gimmicks seem so nifty. They avoid the Word of God in sermons, because someone will be offended. Moreover, why would a congregation or denomination use the Word when they are so far removed from it? The purpose of an apostate denomination is to advance the latest fads and flog the congregations for not cheering with loud Hosannas.