Saturday, May 17, 2008

Blooming colour

When you move into an established garden, part of the fun is not knowing what is really going to appear from season to season. I love the colour combination of the leaves and the red paeony 's palette in the garden plot. There also has been a guessing game with regards to the fruit trees but I can now begin to tell that this is a pear tree. Not many pears as we pruned the tree back severely but nevertheless nice to have a pear tree in the garden.
The business and house improvements are taking a lot of time and working in the garden has been a little sporadic. I have tomatoes and peppers growing in the garden room together with seedlings of salads and beans awaiting the completion of the raised beds. In between the flowers broad beans and mangetout peas are growing up nicely and the courgette and squash plants are reaching double leaf stage.

Our village holds a variety of plant sales for charity in which it is possible to obtain extra plants at reasonable costs. I did receive a present of marjoram, lovage, chives, rosemary and thyme which will add to the herb collection already in the garden. This will serve to season our foods.

The brill lawnmower is going well , without the use of fuel, sheer muscle power from little boys creates a near cricket pitch lawn standard on the small lawn that creates a green focus in the garden.

What I am really looking forward to are the soft fruits that are beginning to form on the blackcurrant, redcurrant, gooseberry bushes as well as the strawberry plants hidden around. The morello cherry looked pretty too and is now forming little fruits. I love the month of May, so full of promise and optimism. It May all be blossoming and a marvellous crop, it may not....we need to wait and see how the climate shapes up.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The meatrix

The meatrix is a cartoon series based on the Matrix about factory farming of meat and dairy.

Having given up on meat, dairy, wheat, yeast and sugar this week I can say that it is possible to do. I have known for some time that changing to a vegetarian diet would have an impact not only on my health but also on our carbon footprint.

Here are the steps we have taken to get this far :

  • Change from normal milk to organic milk.
  • Check out alternatives (almond, rice, oat and soya milk)
  • Explore other grains than wheat : oats, millet, rice, barley, spelt
  • become aware and ask where your food comes from.
  • Shop local for meat and poultry from sustainable farms you can visit
  • Change from 7 meat meals per week down to 6, then 5,4, 3 until you have 1 meat meal per week.
  • Go to the library to read up on recipes based on vegetarian cooking.
  • have soup for lunch or a rice salad.
  • Trust that your tastebuds will change.
  • Grow salads and vegetables in your garden
  • Grow herbs in your garden to season your food.
  • Eat fruit 3 times per day to enable your body to get used to natural sugars instead of artificial ones.
  • Eat seasonally and locally produced food.
This is not about going hungry. Until recently I was unaware that the food we ate was nutritionally deficient making our bodies want more and instant fixes of sugar as this is quickly absorbed into the body.

After a week, I can eat strawberries without sugar and cream, icecream or yoghurt and they taste of strawberries.

Fresh food requires no refrigeration, can be eaten straight from the garden and waste is reduced or composted easily.

Sample menu today :

oat cereal with fresh strawberries and rice milk
mid morning snack - banana and herbal tea
lunch - rice salad : rice, grated carrot, grated courgette, raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped herbs, olive oil and lemon juice, black pepper.
afternoon snack- apple and herbal tea
dinner: roasted vegetables on quinoa fussili
evening snack - herbal drink

A few months ago I would not have managed this but reducing consumption of meat and dairy is possible slowly. This is not an entirely local diet but in time further changes will be made.

Some good resources are :
Barbara Cousins - Cooking without made easy
Lizee McGraw - Energy on a plate

Friday, May 09, 2008

Winds of change

The cyclone in Burma has hit and killed thousands of people and yet in this quiet english village, life is going on as usual. Maybe we are getting immune to disaster messages and shrugging our shoulders because we cannot relate to such devastation. We can however notice that a temperature yesterday of 22 degrees C was out of the ordinary ( lovely but out of the ordinary).

To visually picture the devastation, the after cyclone picture gives an indication of the area covered.

Thousands of people in a hot country with no water and very few facilities. Add to that difficulties of aid getting through and the devastation cannot even be imagined.

I wonder when enough will be enough for people to realise that something is wrong here?

It feels sad, overwhelming and before we dismiss that feeling let us imagine what we can do today to alleviate the situation for the human beings caught up in this region and also which one of our actions is contributing to future events.

This is hard to look at , much easier to run away and ignore the news. Actioning aid is a good response.

Personally I am uncomfortable with the thought that if we continue living along the same lines, someone else on earth pays the price for that simply so that others may simply live.

I stare at my bowl of brown rice with vegetables and I am thankful and saddened at the same time.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Are you your self?

Following the Crowd
Following the Crowd

I reflected on my son's school report and how he needed assurance that it was OK to be him. I am not sure why the school system seems to favour head people, pupils who work things out logically, but it does. It suits some children but those who are practical, arty and pay more importance to how a task feels than what it achieves stand to be considered a failure in the current education system. Just because the level is expected to be 4c and has to be attained gives me no clear indication as to whether the subject is interesting, enjoyable or entirely useful. It all is about balance I guess.

We cannot be a world full of intelligent ' head people' surely? The logical side works things out by analysing criteria rather than how things feel. In contrast our intuition whispers to us between our thoughts. When we use our intuition we are using the right side of the brain and we feel comfortable with what we are doing. If sensitive and intuitive people are forced to use their left side of the brain exclusively, it could be possible that they have difficulties with that and do not feel happy. Just because you are good at maths does not mean that you need to be an accountant or a teacher; the question is ....will it feed your soul and make you feel good as well.

Working in the garden feeds my soul; creating a meal from scratch, feeds my soul and yet these are not career paths I chose in my lifetime.

Living too much in our heads can lead to losing touch with our sense of self. Losing our sense of self means that we are doing, being and thinking what others have taught us. Detoxing the body is about stripping off those layers and uncovering the core of ourselves.

If you are a left brain person, great we need you in this world to figure out what is happening and how we can work with global warming. If you are right brain person we need you to remind us of how we have lost our connection with the earth, why we have an inbuilt sense of unhappiness and loss. The facts and figures of global warming do not have an effect; its pictures and movies about what is affecting people that speak to us at a deeper level.We could be feeling everything and be overwhelmed and we need logical people to find a way forward.

In fact we need to work this out together. Problem is that most children will be focused on targets and solutions; not having the practical know how of how to be putting it right. The farmers who have told us over the years that the landscape was changing have been ignored by a majority of logical human beings. It needs something to appeal to our core level of self and nothing focuses the mind better on that than ill health and disease.

Levels of toxicity around us are rising and having started a nutrition route without yeast, sugar,dairy focused on basic foods I am astounded as to how addicted I am to such substances.

The question asked by my son was : Who controls your life? Who indeed ( you can answer that for yourself). His answer was that either a higher power controlled his life, he could be in charge of his own life and be responsible and true to himself or his life could be influenced by his peers.

How would it be if your life was controlled by an addiction to oil, wheat and sugar? Reducing these is a possibility only if we can truly take charge of that path our self......if we had to give up oil, wheat and can expect a reaction on a physical level ( withdrawal symptoms), emotional level ( behaviour issues), and a mental health level. How healthy do we feel as human beings on this earth?

Answers on a postcard...........

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Detoxing breakfast

One of the side effects of detoxing is that in eliminating toxins from the body, the body reacts( in my case giving me headaches), as in general it craves the missing element.

Take for instance the morning cup of tea. It contains tea, sugar and milk. I am simplifying by drinking it black first without sugar, then when I have got used to that, I change from tea to redbush or herbal teas. Reducing milk and sugar in tea does not seem to have as many side effects as reducing the caffeine in my daily cup.

Many breakfast cereals contain sugar. Here are a few breakfast options to try to reduce temptations of instant, conveniently packaged breakfast cereals.

Oats soaked overnight in water, with cinnamon, almonds and currants
Oats, yoghurt and fresh fruit
Smoothie ; 1 banana, cup of raspberries, cranberry juice and yoghurt
Good Morning by Bjorn Baar
Good Morning

I have come to realise that when I feel hungry my body is infact thirsty. Ultimately our bodies are made up of a large proportion of water ( not tea, coffee or fruitjuice). Water therefore seems a good source of hydration.
I used to drink 6 cups of tea per day, now am down to one. I am not saying its for everyone but we do load our bodies with complex infusions, drinks with sugar and extra sugar and maybe we were not designed to deal with that amount of sugar on a daily basis.

Herbal teas have never been a favourite of mine but I am trying a variety of them, some I like and some I do not. Herbal teas are made from herbs and many can be grown in the garden. Lemon balm and mint are easy to grow and make a really refreshing cup of tea.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

You can have cake

Cake takes on a whole new meaning.

6 months have passed since stepping into a supermarket for my foodshopping. In fact this week I reflected on the fact that I have lost touch with consumer mania of too many choices for supper, impulse food buying and being influenced by adverts.

The local shop has only 10 varieties of cereal ( heavens can we survive a choice of 10 against about 45 in the supermarket). We can have fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit delivered while we wait for the garden to take shape.

The ingredients have simplified and I am discovering that moving to a vegetarian diet may be a better possibility.I have talked about this in the past but had very little personal knowledge of where to start.

This week I visited a nutritionist and discovered the shocking truth that our diet here is based on a lot of wheat, corn, sugar and fats and that toxicity levels in the food available in shops is far too high to create a healthy environment for our bodies. Did you know that cucumbers carry a higher than normal aluminium level?

I am therefore cooking in unknown territory and the ingredients before me are not the usual ones I have been cooking with. The aim is to store some dry ingredients that hold more complex nutrients and minerals . These will not perish as fast as the usual foods, frozen or canned and will provide a good base food in the future. They will take longer to digest and longer to release their nutrients in the bloodstream. We should feel fuller, longer and less inclined to go for sugar fixes and bars of chocolate. ( I don't mind the latter one!)

Today, I made a cake with lots of seeds, no fats or eggs or sugar and surprisingly it worked and tasted quite good. Its consistency is that of bread pudding. I say quite good because my tastebuds were expecting something else. I felt like one of my sons who says' I do not like that' before trying it but even one of the boys had a bite from the cake and said it was quite good.

So what was in it :
Brown rice flour
whole wheat flour
rolled oats
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds
sesame seeds
flaked almonds
ginger grated
ginger spice
rice milk

Not the usual cake ingredients of fat, sugar, flour and eggs, not dripping in sugar icing either. Best of all,we could have cake and eat it. Seeds are not just for birds.....