Monthly Archives: March 2012

Music for the Apocalypse #27: The Poison Summer (aka The Boys of Summer), by Don Henley

by Apocalypse Womble

OK, so ‘The Boys of Summer’ may seem like an odd choice, but, thanks to my mishearing the lyrics as ‘The Poison Summer’ for years until someone showed me the title of the song, this song is lodged in my brain of one of the cooler post-apocalypse songs out there. Honestly, just that one small change and it reads perfectly as a guy driving through a poisoned and deserted world, remembering the woman he loves, hoping to find her and forge a life with her again once whatever it is that has poisoned everything has reduced to a level that’s safe. Check out the lyrics, it works:

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
The summer’s out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets
The sun goes down alone
I’m drivin’ by your house
Though I know you’re not at home
But I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
You got your hair combed back and your sunglasses on, baby
And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the poison has gone

I never will forget those nights
I wonder if it was a dream
Remember how you made me crazy?
Remember how I made you scream
Now I don’t understand what happened to our love
But babe, I’m gonna get you back
I’m gonna show you what I’m made of

I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
I see you walkin’ real slow and you’re smilin’ at everyone
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the poison summer has gone

Out on the road today, I saw a DEADHEAD sticker on a Cadillac
A little voice Inside my head said, “Don’t look back. You can never look back.”
I thought I knew what love was
What did I know?
Those days are gone forever
I should just let them go but-

I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
You got that top pulled down and that radio on, baby
And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the poison has gone

I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin’ in the sun
You got that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on, baby
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the poison has gone

I swear – this is what the lyrics should have been. Unfortunately, I was unable to unbed a video of this; there are no official videos for the song on YouTube, and it looks like Mr Henley has been enforcing his copyright. I did find this live version sung by him, but embedding has been disabled. Oh well, it’s still a kickass song.

 - Apocalypse Womble out.

Things my mum taught me

by GClarkHellery

A somewhat belated shout out to the mums! Hope you all had a fabulous Mothers Day and were treated like the true Apocalypse Girls you are. Mums are great, they are always prepared for anything, be it a tissue to wipe away snot, treats when you need them most and a hug when it all goes a little wrong. They also pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation of Apocalypse Girls, giving us the ability to truly kick the ass of anything that gets in our way.

In thinking about this post, I wondered what skills my mum had passed on to me which would help me survive in an apocalypse situation. I suppose most people, when asked the question what has your mum taught you might say cooking. Now, I’ll let you into a well-known secret – my Mum can’t cook. She’s been known to burn toast to such an extent, even the birds in mid-winter won’t touch it. However, my mother-in-law (aka Mum 2) is an excellent cook with skills to rival Delia. So while my Mum instilled me with a sense of adventure with my cooking (when you’ve burned two thirds of dinner and have guests waiting, you get creative with what you serve) Mum 2 has given me the knowledge of herbs and spices and how these can save any meal.

Of all the skills you might need during and after the apocalypse, cooking will be essential: the ability to get creative in the kitchen while knowing what herbs will truly bring out the flavour of a genetically deformed chicken will literally be the determining factors between life and death.

So a big thanks Mum and Mum 2 and all the mums for being amazing Apocalypse Girls.

What skills or knowledge has your mum passed on to you that you can use in an apocalypse situation? Let us know below.

Killer Nails

You never know when trouble will break out and here at Apocalypse Girl HQ we’re great believers in being prepared. And so, courtesy of icanhascheezburger, we give you the ultimate in killer manicures…


Now where can we get ammo that small?

battleaxebunny out.

Post Apocalyptic Archaeology #3 – Artefacts to Save the World

by battleaxebunny

So, having hit up all contemporary and historic sources available, you’ve discovered that the cause of the apocalypse was either 1) mad scientists, 2) archaeological accident, 3) aliens, chthulhu or mad fairies breaking through to the world, 4) sorcery hijinx.

Now comes the fun part. You can’t do much to change what’s already happened to the world (unless your apocalypse has left an opening for some nifty time travel to mess with key events) but what you can do is minimise the current threat by applying your mad-research skills and all round kick-ass chickness, so gather your gang and get geared up to save the world through archaeology.

Apocalypse by Mad Scientist

Whether it’s a virus or a plague of genetic mutants, your treasure of choice is going to be found in the science labs. Since you’ve already done your research you will have found which laboratory caused the problem so your mission is to break into it and secure that secret cache of antivirus that is bound to be lurking. If there are no live stocks of clever chemical-brew in the ruins, then treasure choice number two is research notes on the virus and antivirus as information is gold. While paper copy is more adaptable, ideally you’ll want to download files from the main system (and you brought your resident genius along for that, right?) but failing that, grab any likely looking external storage devices and yank the hard drives of whatever computers are left.

Make sure you go in well protected and do not, under any circumstances, cut yourself while in the Mad Science Lab – the last thing you want is to pick up the infection or mutate into something weird. Assume the worst at all times. Odds are high that the strange noise you just heard is something nasty that probably wants to eat, infect or kill you for fun. Or possibly all three at the same time. Don’t trust innocent looking corridors. Mad Science Labs, like many other archaeological ruins, have sneaky security measures that remain fully functional no matter how old the site. Make sure you know where your exits are, tag potential cover sites and identify weak points that can be kicked in to create emergency exits for when the inevitable disaster happens. Always scan the high ground before entering a room – many scary mutants nest in the rafters and overhead pipes and vents make for useful alternate routes if something nasty is laying claim to the floor.

Once you’ve picked the site clean of goodies, switch your paranoia up to eleven because getting out is always more dangerous than getting in. Watch out for latent security measures, beasties lurking right by the exit and stray corporate clean up squads who really don’t want you getting away with intel on how they’ve screwed things up; and make sure everyone on your team declares their injuries immediately so you don’t carry any worse infections out into the world.

Apocalypse by Archaeological Accident

As you’ve seen from the mummypocalypse, sometimes archaeology can get you into trouble, what with the digging up of ancient evils and accidental speaking of curses. Luckily, with this kind of the apocalypse, the vital treasures to counter it are usually obvious. Spell books that have curses in often have the counter curses included, ancient tombs have ample inscriptions describing how the resurrected mad god can be put down (with bonus helpful pictures) and sometimes all you need to do is destroy the artefact that caused the mess in the first place.

Unfortunately, whatever artefact you chase is going to be well guarded because even the most brain-dead ancient evil has a basic survival sense. Expect to encounter hoards of minions – zombies, mummies, bugs, minor demons, gold-blind idiots who think a bit of bling is worth serving dark gods… The carnage will be high so make sure you and your team tote the heavy armament. Once you’re past the goons you’ll have the big boss to deal with – he or she will be throwing god-like powers at you so move fast, find solid cover and have a couple of distractions planned so your pre-picked expert can duck in and destroy or counter-curse as needed.

After that, run. Any encounter with a big-bad destroys the building so once you’re certain there’s nothing left that can cause trouble for you later, get out of there fast and don’t let anyone stop to pick up treasure. Not unless you want to see them squashed by falling masonry or eaten by scarab beetles.

Apocalypse by Otherworld Invaders

For this type of apocalypse, your target treasure is going to be specific to the race of beasties that were idiot enough to think they could get away with invading the Earth. Alien invasion usually doesn’t need an artefact to counter it as aliens are easily dealt with by their allergies or a well placed computer virus; but with the rest, all that research you were careful enough to do should point the way to specific exploitable weak points.

Mad faeries are vulnerable to standard household goods such as salt or iron and can be stopped large scale by permanently shutting down any portals to their home world. If accidental activation of an artefact caused the portals to open in the first place, then, naturally, destroying the aforementioned artefact is key. Make sure your team is kitted out with four leaf clovers to break fairy glamours, and keep stocks of St John’s Wort, Red verbena and rowan to counter fairy spells. Holy objects also work well against your fairy enemy.

Solutions for a cthulhu apocalypse are tricky as most survivors are said to go mad, however if you can keep your sanity, look for artefacts relating to the Elder Gods and try summoning them up and appealing to them to intervene. Otherwise, stay away from coastal towns as these are where their loyal worshippers flock to and under no circumstances go near the sea. Unless you happen to have nicked some major weaponry capable of splattering the fell beasts.

Apocalypse by Sorcery

Doesn’t matter whether your apocalypse was caused by resurrected ancient witches or modern mages getting a bit excitable on a Saturday night, the main key to stopping the magical mayhem from getting worse is going to be their spell books. Whether it’s a traditional tome bound in human skin, a cute moleskin jobbie or an app on their iPhone, everything you need to know about undoing their spells will be in there, just don’t make the mistake of trying to use the other spells in the book. Burn it. Salt it. Scatter the ashes. Move on.

For lack of a book, the artefacts to look for will be either staffs, wands or some piece of gaudy gimcrack jewellery that emits a strange glow at inappropriate times. Usually to be found on the main magical offender but check out any shadowy people lurking nearby as the obvious suspect may simply be a puppet ruler. In all cases, the goal will be to get close enough to nick said artefact and destroy it. With any luck, the backlash of power will take out the naughty magic user. If not, they will be weakened enough for you to use the more traditional methods of decapitation or a few dozen rounds from a semi-automatic.

Once the main threat is neutralised, efficient body disposal is essential. Burn the body, salt the ground and scatter the ashes in as many different places as you can sensibly manage to avoid a sneaky resurrection as the last thing anyone needs is an undead sorcerer prancing around and getting up to shenanigans.

Battleaxebunny out.

Music for the Apocalypse #26: Battlestar Galactica Theme (2004)

by Apocalypse Womble

I actually thought of this one first, before the 1978 version (track #22), but I had to give the original its dues. This theme is fantastic, though. I pretty much got the BSG soundtrack because I wanted this song. I secretly hoped that there would be a longer version of faux-ancient-alternate-cultures awesomeness. Of course, TV companies aren’t in the habit of creating music they’re not going to use, so I was disappointed, but it’s still fantastic.

A mere 43 seconds long, this has to be the shortest track we’ve chosen for passing the time in the lonely desert wastes, but check out the awesome sanskrit translations on this vid. They prompted me to go research the shit out of this thing, and holy cow is it ever interesting (more below).

The lyrics are taken from the Gayatri Mantra:

oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tát savitúr váreniyaṃ
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt

Which is an awesome thing I did not know before researching for this post. It’s based on a verse from a  hymn of the Rig Veda, (iii /62/10), one of the four sacred texts of Hinduism. ’Gayatri’ apparently refers to the meter, rather than anything connected with the content of the mantra. ‘oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ’ is not a part of the specific mantra itself, but rather a traditional opening to prayer, known as ‘The Great Utterance’ and meaning something like ‘a “call to creation,” that the light of the sun (the light of God) shines on the earth (bhur), in the sky (bhuvah), and in space (svah), and therefore the implication is, “let that light also shine on me.”’ according to the Devasthanam website. They also give the following word for word breakdown of the mantra itself:

tat–that (God)
savitur–of the sun
varenyam–the best
bhargo (bhargas)–light, illumination
devasya–divine
dhimahi–let us meditate (a verb)
dhiyo (dhiyah)–thought(s)
yo (yah)–which
nah–of us, our
pracodayat–May it push, inspire (a verb)

And suggest an interpretation as: ‘Let us meditate on the light of the sun which represents God, and may our thoughts be inspired by that divine light.’ (Obviously the maker of the video above has adopted some poetic license, but the spirit seems intact.)

This makes for a really interesting opening to the 2004 Battlestar Galactica, with its rich and complex discussions of faith, monotheism, polytheism, and atheism – to begin with a mantra that invites us to meditate on one of the representations of God, suggesting both multiplicity and singularity. All the more significant when one adds the fact that the personification of the Gayatri Mantra is a five-headed goddess, who embodies the supreme brahman – God as raw energy, as force’. The Final Five as avatars of the One God, anyone?

I was also interested to read that this mantra is traditionally whispered into the ear of a young boy as part of a right or passage. Am I pressing it too far to see Six whispering in Baltar’s ear as an analogy to this?

Well, maybe, maybe not. What is true is that understanding the meaning behind this small part of the rich tapestry of Battlestar Galactica has opened to me a whole wealth of new threads I hadn’t been aware of – and I already thought it was one of the most incredible television shows ever to be produced.

But to tie this back to the apocalypse at the close, meaning was evoked for me in this song long before I had a translation or even knew that the words were from a genuine language. The music, with the qualities of the voice, had already set the tone as one of an ancient culture, and of meditation on immense loss, followed by those powerful and frantic beats that speak palpably of a struggle for survival. Simply breath-taking.

And still only 43 seconds long.

 - Apocalypse Womble out.

Comics of the Apocalypse: Romantically Apocalyptic

 - by Apocalypse Womble

If you’re looking for guides in the apocalypse landscape, you probably can’t do much better than the Captain, from Romantically Apocalyptic.

Although, on the other hand, possibly not…

Transcript:

SNIPPY: Captain you do realise that this train isn’t going anywhere… ever?

CAPTAIN: NONSENSE! I’VE RIGGED A JET ENGINE TO THE ROOF! PUBLIC TRANSPORT WILL ALWAYS BE ON TIME NOW!

SNIPPY: Dear God, we’re actually moving

CAPTAIN: YES! OFF TO THE EXCITING LAND OF NEW ADVENTURES!

What’s clear is that life with the Captain and his two gas-masked companions, Pilot and Snippy, will never be less than entertaining. Despite living in a blasted landscape as one of possibly just four human beings left alive, the Captain maintains an attitude of optimism, never seeming to accept (or possibly realise) the pointlessness of his or her existence. Long-suffering Snippy is a voice of reason, sometimes forgotten, but never left entirely behind, whilst the joyously demented Pilot accepts the Captains orders without hesitation – be it to create a working flying machine, or save Snippy from an alien monstrosity sent as judgement upon the Captain (who believes it to be Cancer, summoned by a bag he found that apparently contains cancer causing chemicals). Or possibly it is all just Snippy’s benighted dreams, caused by a super-computer that allows almost all humans to connect mind to mind, except for 1% of people who, like Snippy, can only endure maddening headaches and poor sleep, caused by the omnipresent transmitters.

Possibly, but probably not.

One thing I know for sure is that the artwork is stunning – painstakingly crafted from photographs of real settings with live actors and combined with digital art to create the most awesome of apocalyptic visions. If you’re not already following this comic to brighten whatever living Hell you are currently enduring, you should be.

Romantically Apocalyptic, make it a part of your life.

 - Apocalypse Womble out.

Zombies vs Professors

by Katemandi, Last Girl on Earth

If only I’d seen the original call! But there’s still time for you to make your plans to attend if you need the academic approach to the Apocalypse. I wonder if they’ll be able to come up with a catchy song like Plants vs Zombies

Zombies vs. Professors: 

An Academic Symposium 

(April 13th-15th, 2012)

Indiana University/University of Louisville

Zombies seem to everywhere these days, and now they’re banging on the gates of the Academy . . .
The undead hordes have always represented a challenge to humanism and civility, to the humanities and civilization. Stalking the cultural horizon, they wreak havoc on notions of identity and agency, ideologies of expression, mechanisms of production and consumption, and boundaries of property and safety, culture and theory, bios and zoe, death and non-death.

But now it’s personal—they’re coming for us, threatening to feast on our student’s brains, tear through our professional identities, and rot our intellectual categories. Brain workers everywhere must rise together to shore up the defenses, firm up critical and analytic resources, develop new lines of inquiry and tactics of common cause.

This small conference, to be held in a secured site in Louisville, Kentucky, will aim to chart lost histories and craft novel escape routes; we seek researchers for a multidisciplinary discussion about the many facets of this phenomenon and its implications for our work and its future. To those ends, we seek papers in the following categories:

Zombies through history: cultural representations of the undead from antiquity to modernity; in both Western and non-Western contexts; approaches may be literary, art historical, anthropological, sociological, etc. (no vampires or werewolves, please)

Zombies in/as popular culture: zombies in literature, films, music videos, video games, graphic novels, flash mobs, etc.; zombies as avatars of capitalism, consumer culture, etc.; zombies and the public sphere, etc; zombie rules and zombie canon; etc.

Zombie science: virus theory, epidemiology, statistics, physiology, etc.; zombie manuals, anatomies, technical guides; zombie and science ethics; etc.

Zombie theory: zombie philosophy, zombie ethics, zombie history, etc.; zombies and political theory; zombies and sociology; zombies and the subject; zombies and race; etc.

The conference organizers seek papers that promote new thinking about cultural studies and cultural critique—adventurous work that moves beyond the parochialism of contemporary disciplinary apparatuses without compromising intellectual rigor. We also seek stylish approaches that would appeal to popular as well as academic audiences; we don’t want anyone to sacrifice intelligence for the sake of accessibility, but we do not think that these two terms are necessarily incompatible.

Organizers:
Edward P. Comentale (Indiana U)
Aaron Jaffe (U of Louisville)

Music for the Apocalypse #25: Acrobat, by U2

by Apocalypse Womble

U2 are certainly a band that have been kind to the end of the world motif. They like songs about wide open spaces, barren, deserted cities, emotional ends of the world – you can be sure we’ll come back to them again at a later date – but ‘Acrobat’ may not be the most obvious choice. Nothing in the lyrics is obviously apocalyptic, but all the same I think there is something in the roiling, churning, vitriolic anger at both society and the self, in ‘Acrobat’, that speaks to the emotion of apocalypse. Eliot once intimated, chillingly, that the world will end ‘not with a bang, but a whimper’, but most visions of apocalypse predict something more dramatic: societal meltdown, war – even if the cause is slow and undirected (plague, accident) factionalisation seems to ensue – and apocalypse has long been used as a tool for societal critique. Surely part of the attraction of the end of the world is a call to pull down the structures that stifle and inhibit us and either live in anarchic freedom, or build something new in its place. Something in ‘Acrobat’ speaks to this emotion, even as it rails at the formlessness of its realisation in most of us:

Don’t believe what you hear
Don’t believe what you see
If you just close your eyes
You can feel the enemy
When I first met you girl
You had fire in your soul
What happened your face
Of melting in snow

I know you’d hit out
If you only knew who to hit
And I’d join the movement
If there was one I could believe in

There’s a great tradition of students going on protests because they feel like that’s what students ought to do – they want to be a part of something, regardless of whether the issue truly drives them. Perhaps we’ve seen an about face on this in recent years, as genuine hardship has affected more people after so many years of borrowing and plenty. The Occupy movement, in particular, seems to have captured this formless desire to hit out in the face of the frictionless edifices of government and big business, where there is no one issue to get behind, because there are so many.

Beyond this emotional recognition of anti-establishment zeitgeist, however, there is a direct apocalypse link. Regardless of whether U2 intended it thus, the verse:

And you can swallow
Or you can spit
You can throw it up
Or choke on it
And you can dream
So dream out loud
You know that your time is coming ’round
So don’t let the bastards grind you down

is strikingly reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, for me, anyway. Margaret Atwood’s seminal novel depicts a world after some sort of disaster that has rendered most women infertile. Society shifts, creepingly, but with disconcerting swiftness, towards the marginalisation of women into reproductive and sexual activities. Fertile women are forced into servitude of rich men, becoming ‘handmaids’ – live-in reproductive slaves with whom they sleep (in the presence of their wives) in the hopes of producing children. In one, striking moment, the protagonist find a scratched message from her predecessor – a message of mixed hope and bitter anger, written in Latin: ‘nolite te bastardes carborundorum/Don’t let the bastards grind you down’. This line ends both the above verse – charged with sexual metaphor ‘you can swallow/Or you can spit’ – and the song as a whole, and seems perfectly to capture the anger and frustration of the hopeless oppressed as they rage against the machine.

Whatever your apocalypse, ladies, be it personal or global, fight the good fight: don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Curse of the Mummy

by battleaxebunny

Just because the archaeologists keep managing to put down the armies of the undead, doesn’t mean the world’s been saved – one of these days the mummies will triumph and then it’s march-of-the-undead, dust-of-the-ages and rotting bandages all over the place.

Bad news: once you’ve got an infestation of mummies you’re looking at a relentless hoard of killing machines that can scale most surfaces and adapt to most injuries. Any attempts to slow them down by chopping off limbs will result in those limbs reanimating and coming after you so decapitation is best although a grenade down the throat has also proven to be effective.

But killing each mummy in the hoard will be time consuming so what you really need is a mass solution – luckily there’s The Book of Amun-Ra which will give you all the spells you need to control the armies of the undead. Made of solid gold, most treasure hunters worth their salt will know something about it – look for it under the statue of Horus in Hamunuptra if the site is still intact, otherwise look for any reincarnated royal mistress who’s sending minions out to dig the sands. Once you’ve recovered the book you’ll need the key to unlock it and a good knowledge of Egyptian Hieroglyphics or you might accidentally end up summoning more mummies.

Follow the Leader

Once the mummy hoards have been dealt with, you should turn your attention to the leader because as long as he’s walking around he’ll be looking to raise more mummies, steal armies of undead minions from forgotten Gods, unleash a few plagues and generally do whatever he (and it’s usually a he) can do to keep himself in the evil overlord hotseat.

Unfortunately he’s a little harder to kill than his mummified minions. You’ll need a spell to take away his immortality, which can also be found in the Book of Amun-Ra (a handy thing to keep in any post-apocalyptic library) – but if you don’t have the fabled book in your possession you’ll need to make use of his weaknesses to turn away his attacks while you yell at your resident tomb raider to hurry up and get the big gold tome.

As distractions go, pretty women seem to be quite effective. Specifically, pretty women who bear a vague resemblance to his long lost love. As weapons go, this one cuts both ways as he’s just as likely to decide to use your plucky bait as a sacrifice to reincarnate the aforementioned ancient girlfriend. Nobody wants that.

So your best bet is to throw a cat at him. Legend has it that the cat was the eternal enemy of the mummy, legend also has it that the Egyptians knew this and worshipped their feline overlords accordingly but be careful as you don’t want to swap the mummypocalypse for a cutepocalypse.

With luck and some killer combat moves you will eventually get all the pieces in place to cast the de-immortalising spell and once you’ve whammied him, a quick blade to heart will finish him off nicely. Just watch what happens to the remains because that long dead girlfriend we mentioned? Just as likely to reincarnate and try and bring him back so we’d advise you burn the body, scatter the ashes in multiple very-hard-to-reach places and give the local ancestral guardians your mobile number so they know who to call if things start looking a bit hinky…

Battleaxebunny out.

Digging for When the Canned Goods Run Out #4: First Blush of Spring – Nettles and Rhubarb

by Apocalypse Womble

Despite the mild weather this winter, it’s never an easy time when you know the zombies don’t feel the cold. Still, with any luck, if you did your looting right, your canned goods will have seen you through the winter. There’s not much for the plucky post-apocalypse farmer to do in the winter months – not this first year, at least – but at last, spring is creeping over the hills, and all women who want to survive to next winter should be out taking a look at the warming ground.

If you followed our advice you’ll already have done some of the work, breaking the ground and weeding it out. Alas, some of this work will need to be redone – weeds will have been slowed by the cold, but most will not have died. If you have cooch grass in your ground, go over your beds again, I guarantee you’ll find some you missed. Now’s also a great time to deal with any stinging nettles growing in your land.

Like so many pernicious weeds, the stinging nettle has long, vine-like roots that grow only just below, or along the surface of the soil. This makes them easier to pull from the soil than weeds that send roots deeper, but it’s still no picnic. You’ll face worse things in your brave new world, but nobody really likes getting stung if they can help it, so be sure to wear those good sturdy gloves you looted. One of the real advantages of acting on your nettle-invaders now, however, is that the winter will have sent them into dormancy. At this time of year they will have started to resurface, letting you know where you need to start, but you won’t have to work your way through a forest of stinging evil to get to the roots.

I’m fortunate enough to have some rhubarb growing in the allotment I’ve been cultivating in anticipation of zombigeddon, but the nettles are growing in, through, and around these treasured plants. Early spring, therefore, makes for a great time to deal with this menace. The rhubarb is beginning to poke its head through the soil, so I can see where it is and know where I need to be careful of the rhubarb’s roots, but it’s not yet spread out enough for its leaves to get in the way of a nettle cull.

As with cooch grass roots, loosen the soil around where you’ve spotted your nettle shoot, but then grab hold of the shoot and gently pull – see how much of the nettle you can get out this way before sticking your fork in again. A trowel may also be useful to help clear roots from the soil. Chances are that vine will ave gone places you didn’t expect from just looking at the ground. Nettle roots are typically pinkish near the surface, where shoots form, becoming thick and white as they travel under ground. Young roots will be flexible and rubbery and liable to snap, but older plants will have tougher, more gnarled roots deeper into the soil. Get as much of these out as you can and put them on the compost heap. Nettles are good in compost, and can make good fertiliser as well if left in a bucket of water to soak and mulch.

Of course, you may be tempted to use nettles as a food source – one can make nettle soup and nettle tea, after all, and I’m willing to admit I’ll try and infuse most things if I’m in danger of running out of tea. If you’re interested in nettle soup, there’s a fairly straightforward recipe here, and nettle tea seems relatively easy, not to mention that there are reputed to be a number of health benefits. I don’t know about you, though, but I’ve got better things to grow on my land that aren’t in danger of strangling my rhubarb. And don’t forget: if you’ve got nettles on your growing site there are probably plenty growing wild round about. This is a plant that gets everywhere. And if you’re desperately curious, you can always try cooking the young shoots you pull whilst weeding.

Whilst we’re talking about rhubarb, though, keep an eye out for edible plants already in your ground whilst you’re digging over – you never know what you might already have in your soil! You’d never even know rhubarb was there in the winter, but if you haven’t dug it up by accident it may be peeping through the ground now. The leaves will be tightly coiled at first, the heads either red or green. Easy to miss if you have one eye out for zombies! But rhubarb is a tasty delight that takes several years to establish, so if you have some in your plot it’s worth cultivating. A good picture of what it looks like breaking through can be found here.

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