The Garden Journal

When I was a kid, I was raised to love the land.

My family would go on walks whenever we could, and mum and dad would point out all the plants you can use: cleavers, comfrey, gorse…plants that are often mislabelled as weeds, pests and useless are actually remarkably good for us. Meanwhile, plants live holly and ivy – plants we romanticise and admire – are actually toxic.

My family was always good at distinguishing between the edible and the inedible, and we always kept to the most basic rule: if you don’t know, don’t touch it.

There are some plants that are clearly edible, and they always brought excitement around the summer months. We would look forward to the changing of the seasons, and the fresh crops of blackberries, apples, cherries, cherry plums, sloes, damsons – whatever we could find! It was amazing to see just how much you can find in your local parks and woodlands, and it would become a tradition every year to make things like apple and blackberry crumble, sloe gin and cherry brandy.

It would be so easy to just reminisce for hours about the old knowledge that was passed down to us. There is so much to tell.

That’s why I’m putting it together in a book on Amazon.

I’ve taken pictures of my personal garden journal, with notes and doodles for identifying plants, and I’m putting them together in a compilation for others to use.

I hope this proves helpful to someone in these weird times.

Difficult Times

My other half left for basic training a week and a half ago.

Today he was sent into isolation for what he thinks is just a cold…in a shared living area with people who have shown coronavirus symptoms.

Worldwide people have lost their jobs, companies have closed down, and many have died.

So all in all, 2020 has been a bit shit so far.

I can’t sleep. Today I’ve lost my appetite. And now, in my early/mid twenties, I’m trying to think how I’m going to financially cope with the rest of my life.

I wanted to settle down within the next five or so years.

It doesn’t look so likely now.

‘This Thing Grinds You Like a Mortar’: How Jessica Lustig is Fighting Coronavirus — Longreads

‘“You shouldn’t stay here,” he says, but he gets more frightened as night comes, dreading the long hours of fever and soaking sweats and shivering and terrible aches.’

‘This Thing Grinds You Like a Mortar’: How Jessica Lustig is Fighting Coronavirus — Longreads

Cultural Tips: Dating in China

Extract from The Way We Communicate, Volume 2, by Xu Zhenya

Find a good excuse before talking with a female stranger, especially with good-looking ones. Most Chinese still think it improper for girls to talk with strangers on the street, though helping a stranger would be acceptable and considered a good deed. One should come up with a reasonable excuse before talking with a Chinese girl, or she may refuse to talk.

In traditional Chinese culture, girls are submissive and tend to follow directions rather than make decisions. Therefore, it would be easier to ask a girl out with confidence. However, girls are becoming more aggressive and taking initiative when going out with boys nowadays.

It is not true that men must pay the bill when dating at the first time. It is also common for girls to pay the bill. Sharing expenses is also popular now. However, a proper gift is not a bad idea to make girls happy.

Girls in general enjoy compliments on their appearance. Remember to use correct expressions when praising them. For instance, some expressions such as full-grown (丰满), slender (苗条) are preferable to fat (肥), plump (胖), skinny (瘦) to commend a girl. Learn the exact words carefully, you will not only succeed in making friends, but also in building a lasting relationship!

Plant Research

I know this is a little different from what I usually post, but given the panic buying at supermarkets I figured it’d be good to share some info on free food with you guys.

When I was a kid, my family loved foraging. This is what I’ve learned from a young age:

1. Stinging Nettles

Image result for stinging nettle benefits

At this time of year, you can eat the whole lot because it’s nice and fresh. If you wait a couple of months it’ll be best to just eat the fresh growth on the tops. Boil em up so they don’t sting you, and keep the water you boiled them in – it’s great for stock, tea, soup, you name it. Some say it tastes like spinach, so treat it like a spinach substitute when the supermarket’s empty.

2. Herb Robert

Image result for herb robert

A.k.a. Storkbill, Stinky Bob, Mountain Geranium, Herbe Rouge, Dragon’s Blood.

It smells quite strong – I like the smell, but a lot of people don’t, hence the name Stinky Bob. The stems are often green but tinged red, with little hairs on them, so you’re going to want to boil them so the hairs don’t stick to you. It’s a brilliant plant with a ridiculous number of uses. If you’re just starting a garden, encourage this near your crops because it works as an insect repellent. If you crush the leaves and wipe them on your face it can deter mosquitoes and other such pests, but again not everyone can handle the smell. As a food it’s good for making a pesto with, but you can boil it to get a nice tea, and there are a few decent recipes out there with this. It’s high in iron, vitamins B and C, carotenoids (which convert to vitamin A), phosphorou, magnesium, potassium, germanium, calcium, etc.

3. Cleavers

Image result for cleaver plant

When I was a kid these were the biggest pain in the butt because they’d stick to your school uniform all the time. But that’s how this plant survives – it finds something to stick to, and then shoots up! Now I find that the velcro-like nature of this plant is brilliant, because all I have to do is put my hand in a patch and the plant will come out nice and easy. It’s great when you have a lot of long grass mixed in with the cleavers.

So what does it do that’s so good? Well, in the Medieval times cleavers were a staple of the diet because of their reliability. You can find them even in frost. The leaves and stems can be used for soups, stews, pesto sauces, and even add a nice bit of flavour to curries. The seeds can be ground to make a coffee substitute when the shops are all out. But health wise, this plant is rich in vitamin C and can help with treating kidney and urinary disorders. Just a heads up, you may end up peeing a bit more because it does have a diuretic effect, but it’s a good way of expelling infections from your body.

Plus, here’s a fun fact: when birds eat the roots, it turns their bones red. Throughout history the roots were used to make red dye!

And now, my last piece of advice. If you’re all out of bread, but have beer (or cider) and flour, you can bake your own bread by just mixing the flour in with some beer bit by bit until you have a nice doughy consistency!

Hope that helped guys!

Freebie Time!

Hey folks, maybe it’s silly but I feel like commemorating my 10th follower!

I’m still new to blogging, so small achievements make me feel happy.

So I’m doing a giveaway! The first person to respond to this post gets 3 lessons – for free! – in Mandarin. It’s all online, so geography and the coronavirus won’t be affecting the lessons. I’m going to do this every time I reach a milestone: 50, 100, 200, etc, I’ll do a free Mandarin lesson giveaway for each one.

Plus, the second person to message will get a gorgeous tea set! Deep green, with a wooden platform to hold the set on. Teapot, milk jug, and five tea cups, as well as a brush for the leaves, a holder, a filter, a pump for steam, and cute good-luck figurines!

The Unknown Virus: A Personal Story

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

San Angelo is in West Texas. The county seat between Abilene and the Mexican border. Farms, oil wells, and cattle ranches fenced with barbed wire dot the county. Blessed with a warm climate and reputation as a healthy place to live, in one year San Angelo added to its reputation in ways that city leaders dreaded.*

In mid-spring, the newspaper reported that a local child had come down with a viral disease that had occurred in earlier springs like hailstorms and tornadoes. Previously, when this disease occurred, it had not spread. This one, however, did.

Parents began arriving at Shannon Memorial Hospital with “feverish, aching youngsters in their arms,” the local newspaper reported. Within days these children died: 10 month-old Esperanza Ramirez, seven year-old Billie Doyle Kleghorn, four year-old Susan Barr, and others. The city health officer said that an epidemic was occurring. Because the disease had no known cause…

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By Hook Or By Book


Unless you live in Antarctica, it’s likely you reside in a country where COVID-19 has reared its ugly head. The high contagiousness of this virus is certainly frightening and while the mortality rate right now is the subject of much debate and is sure to change several times over when all is said is done, the deaths thus far as well as the continuing uncertainty are adding to the underlying panic.


What is also frightening are the conspiracy theories and mind-blowing, idiotic medical quackery that’s popping up all over the web. In an effort to put some trustworthy information out there that everyone can easily access, here are some links to resources where you can get more information about the virus as well as common sense preventative measures you can take to lower the risk of getting the ill that don’t involve drinking bleach. (Seriously. That’s apparently a thing.)


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What Good Is Studying?

This picture was taken in the Red Sea, during a holiday in Egypt.

Five years ago, Egypt seemed like a romantic dream, but too dangerous, too poorly understood on my part, for me to even consider going there. The news is often filled with stories of attacks and dangerous happenings going on in the world, and sometimes our critical thinking just doesn’t kick into gear.

Even now, a large part of me feels uncomfortable about going to Egypt, just based on the media here in the UK. This is after having one of the best holidays in my entire life in the country!

It’s important to study, for so many reasons.

Sometimes our thinking gets distorted without us realising it – studying can fix that.

Sometimes there are things we never even dreamed of doing that are right within our reach, things that are the stuff of fantasy and dreams – you can reach them, discover them, by studying.

Because I study geopolitics, I am gaining a better insight into where I can and can’t go. I’ve been scuba diving in Egypt, rock climbing and dune buggying in Jordan, and paragliding in Turkey. I would never have done any of these things if I didn’t take the time and effort to open my mind.

Look how high up we are!

I know I’m nowhere near done studying, and thank God for that!

It means I’m nowhere near done adventuring.

Not yet anyway!

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