‘Gangsta’ Gardening

Ron Finley - Gangsta Gardener
Gangsta Gardener in Los Angles Ron Finley

This is no damn Hobby

The garden seduces me,” says Ron Finley, who is known around the world as the “gangsta gardener”. “I’ll get out there at 9am and next thing I know it’s 7pm … gardening takes your mind off things. Everybody should have a garden to cultivate.”

Ron is gardening in South Central Los Angles an area that does not sound like a gardening hot Spot to me. You would be more acquainted with the Gangsta Rap music from there rather than the zucchini harvest.

He calls his area a food prison with very few productive gardens, yet there is a great climate for growing food plants. This is a serious enterprise and Ron says ‘This is no damn hobby’

He calls his area a food prison

It all started when he wanted to access food that had not been sprayed by chemicals and started off by gardening the land between his house and the street. In typical petty bureaucratic form, the local council officials told him you could not do that. No gardening on the footpath!! The typical response to anything outside their narrow world.

No gardening on the footpath said the local council

He worked to get the law changed and was successful. He also starred in a 2015 documentary about community gardens in South Central Los Angeles. After ten years he has many gardens around Los Angles in vacant land.

Read the full article on this link Gangsta Gardener in the Guardian.

Here is a link for his entry in the Ted Blog.

No more citations for roadside veggies in Los Angles.

He worked to get the law changed and was successful.

He even has his own master class on You Tube – I just saw the ad for it!

So, let’s just summarise – This is a black guy in South Central Los Angles who changes the Local Government laws, grows lots of food, spreads the word and starts lots of other gardens plus a film and a Ted Talk.

Talk about Flower Power! – What your excuse? I will leave you with one of his sayings

“Let’s all become gangsta gardeners … If you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta”

Follow the breadcrumb trail

Strange things happen when you read a herb book…

Follow the breadcrumb trail into the deep dark woods of the unknown

I recently reflected on how my adventure into Herbal Medicine had came together over the years.


Did your Mum & Dad read you fairy stores before you went to bed?… I hope so.. What about Hansel & Gretel and that wonderful image of the bread crumb trail in the woods?

Well let me tell you my story of a reverse bread crumb trail where instead of them being eaten by birds and you loose your way, I ended up following Matthew Woods herbal bread crumb trail into the deep dark mysterious Herbal Woods where few go and about which strange tales are told in polite society.

You start off buying a herb book from an Author you respect. Bread crumb #1

In the book are portraits if you like of a range of herbs, all their quirky little characteristics and at the the end of each chapter is a brief description of how to make medicine from them.

Nothing intimidating just simple steps like take this part of the plant add the brandy of vodka then wait a bit and strain out. Nothing intimidating or complicated. The best way to start – Breadcrumb #2

That book is Matthew Woods  The Book of Herbal Wisdom. Well I read the book and got inspired by several plants and set off …

The Book of Herbal Wisdom
Matthew Woods book of herbal wisdom.

First stop was the Hierophant my favourite Herb store. The herbs I was after were not made commercially and Solomon’s Seal was one of them.

So the horticultural brain kicked into gear and said – well we can find the plant and grow it – Breadcrumb #3

So I did and eventually made my own Solomon’s seal tincture. From there interest kindled in these herbs, the collection of plants expanded. They expanded so much that Matthew on his last two visits to Australia came and spent time on the farm with the herb collection.

A herbal colleague visiting the farm said to me – go and do the workshop at Pindari herb farm in Tasmania – Breadcrumb#4 so I did.

Standing in the herb patch one day on a visit, a Local College CEO said to me – Hey why don’t you become professionally qualified – Breadcrumb#5  So I did.

The bread crumb trail never ends… and I am still following it even today The talk I am giving this coming Wednesday came out of that bread crumb trail followed over the years.

Continue reading here through this link to my book review of The Book of Herbal Wisdom. Read more here

Book Bargains

What MORE Second hand book bargains!
 The treasures keep coming from my secret location in Queanbeyan.

Cedric Mims – The War within us  covering  our immune system and disease. A serious tome yet written for the general reader. Originally sold for over $90 yet I snapped it up for well under $5

Healing Remedies – Comes from Bottom line books a publishing  enterprise from Boardroom Reports.  It is a collection of American folk remedies re purposed into this one volume. My interest is the way the book is presented. Boardroom reports is a very savvy  organisation running newsletters and book publishing marketed directly to consumers. Many lessons to be learnt from their example.

Louise Hay – Heal your Body – I had a problem with this book for a long time. I resented how people would look up your ailment then diagnose and  pronounce judgement upon you (like an Old Testament Prophet) about how you were thinking incorrectly.  Reading the book that is not how Louise envisaged it being used. I actually learnt a few things including a great insight into Menieres Disease about the Cervical spine. It is meant to give you insight as to where your mental attitudes are being manifested into your physical body. Your body talks to you through what we experience and name as illness. A small but profound book

The Fischer King and The Handless Maiden – Robert A Johnson Jungian Analyst Robert Johnson writes books where every word and story is carefully measured. In this volume he speaks of each genders psychic wounds and how to deal with them.

I recently learn that Robert passed way last September at the wonderful age of 97. Any book by him is to be read and reflected on and treasured. He was one of the best contemporary writers on Jungian perspectives for us everyday Folk. Jung is one of those Titans who needs intermediaries for us to grasp what he meant and how it reflects into our everyday lives.

Another trove for well under $10

Trilliums – Bethroot

Trillium abundance

Trillium Flower
Trillium in flower

Our plant photo this month is Trillium in flower – The botanists will note that all the plant parts are in threes – leaves sepals petals. This follows up my talk about it in an earlier post.

Dividing up the two pots of Trillium kurabashii in stock has now created over a dozen plants in one bathtub.  This proves the ease of growing propagating this species. This is important knowledge to support the availability of this precious medicinal herb and move away from wild harvest.

In the Eastern United States of America harvesting is done by Rural folk who see this as a traditional activity and income sideline. Its hard work gathering enough material then to be paid very low rates by dealers.

Each harvest depletes the remaining endangered plant stocks – Its a vicious no win cycle.  Rural poverty – Ignorance- exploitation of a natural resource.

A lady by the name of Jeanine Davis Associate Professor with North Carolina University has worked long on the education and research to make forest plant cultivation a profitable agricultural enterprise in Eastern USA.

Pharmacists used to be Herbalists

Lets talk about what chemists used to do as opposed to what they are now. 
Once upon a time not too long ago Chemists were actually Pharmacists and used to manufacture compound medicines individually for you either to a Doctors script or from a short consultation at the  pharmacy.

Now a manufacturing pharmacist  is a specialty requiring additional studies and you need to travel to attend one.

The proof of that is in a set of old pharmacy records unearthed by Pam Scott and her sister. Pam kindly allowed me to take some photographs and view these documents.


The several volumes date from the turn of the 20th Century right up in the 1930’s. Herbs were part and parcel of the Chemists dispensary. The big change came post WWII when a range of manufactured drugs were released and the plant medicines let go.

The mentality changed as well with the new belief that what was made, manufactured and synthesised in a laboratory was inherently better than what came from the plant world.

So when you see a Chemist or Doctor talk down Herbal medicine you know you are hearing someone who is ignorant of their own professional heritage and development.

Have a look below at the picture – The neat cursive handwriting  – in pen and ink  The Pharmaceutical latin used to describe what was dispensed – The Pharmacist signature in the bottom left corner – The use of measurement short hand to record the dosage of the drug or plant, minums grains.  Nowadays it is in the metric system – Dosage and frequency.

The ruled columns on each page – the patients names on the front piece with the pages where something was dispensed as reference.

Unfortunately there is no record of the presenting symptoms or Doctor diagnosis  so you have to reverse engineer that. There seemed to be lots of digestive upsets in those times.

Having looked through the books there is the recorded usage of Belladonna, Nux Vomica, Quinine, Hyosyamus, Digitalis and Gelsemium.

Many of these herbs are no longer available commercially (probably wisely) as dispensing a therapeutic dose needed careful judgement and usage. All of the above mentioned are available homoeopathics thank goodness

Pharmacy Records & prescriptions
Handwritten Pharmacy records

Talking to your Pharmacist

How to understand what the chemist is really saying
Pharmacist
A pharmacist dispenses pharmaceutical medicine
 You may have had this experience and wondered if you were just lucky to have received special attention?

You have the script from the Doctor and attend the chemist to have it dispensed. All good so far.
The assistant usually takes your script back to the pharmacist to review.

The Pharmacist then comes out to you in person to talk over the medicine with you.  You are now being professionally advised politely and usually in a kind gentle understated manner on the side effects, how to take, maybe some other questions.

This means you PAY ATTENTION VERY CLOSELY. The Chemist is telling you all the things the Doctor did not have time for, forgot or did not know. ASK QUESTIONS!!! be curious. The Chemist is not just being nice he is carrying out his professional duty.

You have just fallen into the professional advice gap between Doctor and Chemist both of whom may not even know each other due to the separation of professions and business offices.

More commonly than we would all wish for there is a professional tension between what Doctors prescribe and what Chemists knows about the medicines and advise when dispensing. 

This is not indented to be anti Doctor or anti Chemist – its an insight  as to what is happening so you are aware and can pay attention.