Chew on this

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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Chew on this

Chew on this
In these days of carbon counting, our focus is often guided toward what we believe to be the higher impact aspects of life – heating the house, flights and car journeys mostly. But what about the food 
we eat? The term ‘food miles’ is often banded around, but do we really know the entire story? 


The truth is our shopping baskets are spewing out more greenhouse gases than we first thought. In fact, scientists now know that our love for food accounts for up to twice as many emissions as our love for driving. So, is the simple answer to shop local? When you look at the supermarket shelves and see grapes from New Zealand, tomatoes from Spain and apples from Africa, locally-grown produce sounds like a logical answer, doesn’t it? 


Well, it does until you learn that the term ‘food miles’ is solely focused on the products’ CO2 emissions. But, when you throw other harmful gases like methane and nitrous oxide into the equation, then the food production process becomes a whole lot dirtier. Those two gases alone are known to be way more harmful to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide.


Research shows that farm to fork transportation accounts for only 11% of food’s total carbon footprint, with up to 83% of the emissions coming from the food production process itself. The remaining 6% going into wholesale and retail, refrigeration and lighting.



The most emission-intensive foods are red meat and dairy. That’s down to the amount of fertiliser and food that farmers use to rear cows and the amount of CO2 and methane they expel (the cows, not the farmers). You might be surprised to know that the carbon footprint of a tasty steak is the equivalent to that of a 19-mile journey in a 4x4 and that a simple bowl of cereal creates the equivalent stink of driving 4.5 miles (the main culprit in your bowl being the milk rather than the cereal itself).



So, one way of reducing your carbon food-print could be to give meat the chop entirely. Switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet could cut your annual carbon footprint by the equivalent of 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per person. That might be a bit too much of a leap for some meatlovers, so perhaps another way could be to simply reduce the amount of red meat we eat. Maybe replacing it with a nice free-range chicken. Chickens eat less grain and fart out less methane, so, in turn, cause a lot less damage to our atmosphere.



I guess there’s no simple answer and we all have to make our own choices in the end.

Just some food for thought.

Facts: 
Fertilisers and manure release nitrous oxide, which is 296 times as good as CO2 at trapping heat and remains in the atmosphere for 114 years on average.

By 2050 meat consumption is expected to reach 465 million tonnes per annum.

The Foraging Calendar

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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The Foraging Calendar

The Foraging Calendar
January - Hairy Bittercress

February - Sorrel

March - Nettles

April - Wild Garlic

May - Sea Beet

June - Wild rose

July - Elderflower

August - Rowan Berries

September - Blackberries

October - Rose hip

November - Gorse Flowers

December - Sea Purslane

Our Farmer

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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Our Farmer

Our Farmer
Our Farmer, who art in Devon,
Hallowed be thy tractor's name,
Thy supermarket will come,
Their orders will be done,
On time as it is in their quote,
Give them this day our daily milk,
And forgive us our overheads,
as we forgive those who trespass on our land,
And lead us not into bankruptcy,
But deliver us by tanker,
For thine is the dairy,
the Jersey, and the Friesian,
for Tesco and Asda,
Ooh Arrmen.

How to catch your own supper

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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How to catch your own supper

How to catch your own supper
Between the months of May and September, the coastal waters of the UK are visited by shoals of mackerel – a delight to those who prefer their food direct from source and without clingfilm. For years considered a second-rate eating fish, recently the mackerel has been re-considered by fishermen and cooks alike – and deservedly so. It is plentiful, nutritious (high in Omega oils), and – unfortunately for the fish – extremely easy to catch. The most important thing is that a fresh mackerel fillet, patted with flour, fried and served with a squeeze of lemon juice, a slice of bread and butter and a cold glass of beer – is one of the best suppers ever.

Being fortunate enough to live by the coast, and being part-owner of a second-hand river canoe, it’s possible on most summer evenings to paddle out into the harbour. After a work day, and when the sea is mirror-flat (the only time its safe – our canoe isn’t really designed for the sea) it’s a great pleasure to glide along until we’re about 50 metres out, and then tie up to a buoy. With the sun lowering but still warm, in the calm of the bay we’ll start to fish.

Countless words have been written about the restorative effects of being in, on, or near water – and they are all true. No matter how stressful or draining a day at work has been, within five minutes of being on the sea, there’s a wonderful sense of carelessness, not as strong as after a long run or good surf, but still very special. Especially as there’s hardly any exertion involved in this kind of fishing. The canoe bobs gently and we sit at either end, with handlines over the side – hoping to catch our dinner. Often we’ll fish until the light dies and it is rare to go home empty-handed.

Of course you don’t need a canoe to catch mackerel. Most seaside towns will advertise trips on boats where equipment is provided and you’ll be pretty much guaranteed to catch. But the simplest and least expensive way to have a go is the old-fashioned way. You’ll need a rod and reel (borrowing is cheap), a weight, and a set of feathers – usually six hooks strung together with silver foil lures attached (for around £3 from a good tackle shop). If you’re unsure, ask someone else to set up the line for you.

Mackerel swim in to shore from deep seas to feed on the incoming tide. The best time to try and catch them is half-an-hour before high tide, and at this time in any coastal town worth its salt there will be fishermen ‘jigging’ for mackerel – whether for bait or plate. Cast from a safe place into calm water and then jig the line. This means pulling the line shorewards and then letting it drift out again repetitively and rhythmically. This constant motion will hopefully mimic the small fry the fish are looking for. Shaped like a torpedo, the mackerel is a voracious hunter, and has been clocked travelling 19ft per second after prey. If the conditions are right, then it shouldn’t be long before your line starts thrumming and you’ve made a catch. It’s not unusual to haul up five fish at once, but to take only what you need seems a good rule, and joeys (juvenile fish) should be put back until next year.

Another good rule is ‘an hour from hook to plate’ – mackerel, like most things, is at its most delicious when fresh, and part of its (unfairly) bad reputation comes from the fact that the flesh spoils quite quickly, so eat them as soon as you can. Cleaned whole fish or fillets can of course be frozen – but don’t keep them longer than a month.

The simplest method of cooking as mentioned earlier is by far the best – but being so versatile, there are many mackerel recipes, and many more you could invent yourself.

Happy fishing.

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What happens when you wake up one morning and have no oil?

What Happens when you run out of oil?
The USSR collapsed in 1990/91. Cuba’s ability to feed itself collapsed with it. Overnight it had 80% less oil and no money for imports. The next two years were called “Special Period”. They were not that special. Everyone ate less.

They had no choice but to grow their own food and go organic. Oxen replaced the tractors. Old ways replaced chemical fertilizers. Every bit of land that could possibly grow something, did.

These small organic farms and gardens located in urban areas became known as Organiponicos. 

They learnt to be farmers again.

Cuba now leads the world in sustainability in urban locations. Cuba’s infant mortality rate is lower than that of the US, while at 77 years life expectancy is the same. Approximately 90% of its food is organic.

How would we cope without oil?

The total oil imported into the UK per day is 1,084,000 barrels.

Here’s to the slow guy

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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Here’s to the slow guy

Here's to the slow guy
The Slow Food international movement officially began when delegates from 15 countries endorsed this manifesto, written by founding member Folco Portinari, on 9 November 1989.

Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model. We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.



To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction. A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.

May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency. Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food. Let us rediscover the flavours and savours of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.



In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer. That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, projects?



Slow Food guarantees a better future.



Slow Food is an idea that needs plenty of qualified supporters who can help turn this (slow) motion into an international movement, with the little snail as its symbol.

Push the bees where they want to go

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

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Push the bees where they want to go

Push the bees where they want to go
A stinging insect that evolved 35 million years ago collects nectar from plants. It converts this into honey and stores it so that it can survive the winter as a social unit. To protect this store of honey, each worker bee is armed with a sting which is capable of producing severe irritation, and, at worse death.

There is no substance in nature (unprocessed) that is sweeter than honey. In a world without sugar, bees’ nests were prized discoveries and great efforts were made to steal the honey. Some of the earliest cave paintings show men with ropes and ladders, and flaming brands, climbing up to bees’ nests to hack off some of the comb to get at what must have seemed like an impossibly sweet substance.

Now it all seems so much more civilised; bees are kept in wooden beehives, managed by beekeepers who have an intimate knowledge how the social organisation of the hive works, and are able to manipulate them to their own advantage, to produce colossal crops of honey and also to provide much needed pollination to the huge acreages of crops like almonds, oranges, apples, courgettes, tomatoes, etc.But in fact it only seems that way. Anyone who works with bees knows that you are really only a bystander. Bees still do what they want and their behaviour is ultimately determined by the weather.

If you keep bees at the bottom of your garden, you are sharing your garden with a wild animal, which, like most wild animals, lives a precarious life at the margin of survival. It will swarm if it wants to and go to live elsewhere, and will only produce a honey surplus over and above its daily needs if the sun shines. And this is actually the point. Keeping bees gets you honey, but is also gets you a way into the way nature works. By understanding the way bees respond to all the different aspects of the natural world, the beekeeper is able to recover his own relationship to the natural world through bees.

Beekeepers are much more sensitive to things like the weather because they understand the importance of sunshine to the bees’ ability to gather nectar. You soon come to realise that you can only get what nature gives you.

Facts:
Around 15% of our diet consists of crops which are pollinated by bees.
The honey bee will visit up to 500 flowers in any one day to collect nectar.

Find Nowhere

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

Aberteifi & Fish

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

Categories:

Aberteifi & Fish

Aberteifi & Fish
The river Teifi is 75.8 miles long and is one of the largest rivers in Wales. It is also one of the most pristine and least modified river catchments in lowland Britain.

Cardigan (Aberteifi in Welsh) used to be a thriving port for trading as well as ship building. But the development and activity of the slate quarry caused a build up of waste material in the river, making the river shallower in places, which in turn prevented access by larger boats. This was seen to be the cause of the end of the sea trading port.

The Teifi is renowned as one of the best rivers in Wales for salmon fishing. However, fish stocks have been under steady threat since the 1960s. This was due to the use of drift nets by Irish Sea trawlers. In 2006 drift nets were banned and since then salmon numbers in the Teifi have been on the rise.

Mostly sewin, salmon, brown trout and bass are found in the Teifi. A reasonable year’s run will contain around 20,000 fish. The average Teifi salmon weighs around 9lb, but they have been recorded up to as big as 30lb.

The Teifi is famous for its rich history of coracle net fishing. This used to be the only real source of income for many of the town’s folk. Now in Cardigan there is only one fishmonger and one lobster/crab seller.

Fishmongers have closed and been replaced by large supermarket chains. One man and his boat are fighting back, his name is Len, and you’ll see him come rain or shine out on the bay catching lobsters and crabs (and sometimes a cold). When he has something to sell you will see a sign outside his door (but only when he has caught something).

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