Tuesday, 6 September 2016

What could we do differently?

"Society is like a stew.  If you don't stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top." - Edward Abbey

For the purpose of this post I should clarify that the "We" I refer to are those of us lucky enough to have been born in the affluent west.

For those that have read this blog I hope you can see that I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to not come across too sermony! (just made that word up)  The older you get, if you properly pay attention, you realise that most of us don't like to be told what we should think, we already know what we think, I think!   We do, however need to be open to some uncomfortable truths.  Thinking that we know everything, or at least enough to get by, is a reality that needs to change, and change fast, especially as it relates to the on-going and accelerating climate catastrophe (it is a catastrophe!) https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/

The science is crystal clear, there is a clear consensus of all the experts in the field of atmospheric science, but this consensus is being challenged by scientifically illiterate people for nefarious and not scientific reasons.  Even with this clear scientific agreement, we, can't seem to believe our lying eyes.  We, would rather not think about the consequences of our western lifestyles and would rather listen to the not-so-scientific-ranting's of "Business As Usual" spokespeople. http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

We've done nothing wrong, we've not broken the law, we've acted with honesty in our choices and we try to choose ethically and morally acceptable options, if money, time and availability all allow.  Besides this is what we, have been doing since the industrial revolution, isn't it?

Go to school, learn the state-approved education of the era, find yourself some work, then and I leave this next part to a post I received to my Twitter timeline, unattributed, but I think does a reasonable job of describing the rest...

And this is where I re-join my meandering pathway with this thought... we have bred and continue breeding a generation of voyeurs, instead of a generation of explorers.  These voyeurs consume without limit, destroying nature, the nature that they will never explore, never smell, taste, hear, touch or appreciate.  These voyeurs destroy the life-support system that our biological selves require to survive.  These voyeurs can't even achieve the most basic human need, of feeding themselves.  They are completely clueless about how to take care of themselves without their "smart" phones and supermarkets.
Lacking Empathy
We don't solve the problem because we can't be made to see the problem, there is no problem, this is what everyone else is doing.  A guilt-trip, this is not, a plea to think about our actions, it is! (That Yoda moment is for Judi) So if there is no convincing the voyeurs that their actions are having a catastrophic effect on the wider biosphere, then, seriously, what the fuck can we do?  We are an immoveable force, too stuck in our ways to change, but we or someone MUST change.

Now, in a change to my usual rants, I offer some positive encouragement!

Let's beg, encourage, support and praise children to make the changes.  Let the children grow up to be explorers, philosophers, artists and gardeners. Let them be brave.  Let them experiment. Let them try and fail.  Let them feed themselves.  Encourage adaptive thinking.  Encourage resourcefulness.  Encourage creativity.  Encourage courage!  Let them be brave enough to challenge the status quo.  Let them envisage a fair, egalitarian future that does not look at themselves but considers all species human and non-human.  Let them redesign our living arrangements, one that is not ecocidal, one that is not suicidal, one that will allow future generations to actually live.

It's just a thought!
Image result for explain to future generations it was good for the economy

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Earth Overshoot and Living like a Victorian!

One of the many advantages of trying to provide more food for yourself and your family on an organic small holding is that you get to/have to (delete as applicable [d.a.a.]) spend a lot more time outside, using your own fair hands, to grow it.  This also means you get to/have to (d.a.a) spend more time with your family instead of travelling off to an air-conditioned box with relative strangers/work colleagues/fellow wage slaves (d.a.a.), which to my mind is good for me, my wife and my darling daughters.

Getting to/having to (d.a.a) work outdoors has a number of health benefits also, I am fitter now as a 44-year old man than at anytime since I left university, my weight is almost at an ideal (healthy) level, my mental health is improving all the while as I have a beautiful tan and I get to/have to (d.a.a.) experience the natural world in Basse Normandie and spying some creatures that I have never seen before and quite possibly would never have seen had I continued on my previous life!

This slow/boring (d.a.a.) lifestyle also means that preparing and cooking meals becomes a slow/boring (d.a.a) process of invention, creation, experimentation with seasonal foods, freshly picked and consumed just hours after coming off the plant or out of the ground.  This slow/boring (d.a.a.) lifestyle extends to our woodland that entices/burdens (d.a.a.) us with her woody bounty.  She provides a generous supply of energy which she entices/burdens (d.a.a.) us to come and collect from her, which adds to the healthy lifestyle that this whole way of living entails.  So we take our axe & saw/chainsaw (d.a.a.) down and enjoy the sounds of nature and slowly/tediously (d.a.a.) take the wood that we require to heat our food, our water and our central heating.

So what is the catch to living this way?  Well dear reader that is simply a matter of perspective.  I could say that we ONLY have one car and must share it's use between a group of 4-adults and 2 children.  I could say that we live 20-mins from the closest food market to buy foodstuffs and other home economic supplies.  I could also say that it is inconvenient that this culture treats Sunday as a day to spend with family and thus chooses not to open business on that day.  I could also point out that I can't just pop out and get a coffee at a popular chain coffee store or purchase some Chinese/Indian/Mexican/Thai (d.a.a.) food at a time completely convenient to me.  But again I stress, that is a matter of perspective.  So here comes the rub of my meandering thoughts.

Why do friends and family of my crazy French family describe us as "living like it's the 19th Century" like it's a pejorative. What they are really saying is, "I couldn't live that way" and that is probably true.  Most of us westerners have been used to living comfortable lifestyles having access to whatever we want, as long as you have the MONEY to purchase it.  But money is getting harder to come by, isn't it? 

We are not the baby boomer generation who got used to a comfortable lifestyle, year on year post World War 2, fuelled entirely by the cheap extraction of oil.  We are not the baby boomer generation who went on spending sprees at the expense of the Earths capacity to regenerate.  We are not the baby boomer generation who now think that the lifestyles to which they are accustomed can continue on a finite planet, infinitely!!!

We are and my children are the generations that must now live with the consequences of such profligate consumption.  AND YES, I was part of that consumption for the majority of my life, but like the born again Christian or the rehabilitated criminal, I am changing.  I am making changes, MASSIVE changes, in my life to try and give my children a chance.  What is the point in living a western lifestyle and pretending that my daughters will be able to enjoy the same lifestyle when they categorically will not!

Do you know what Earth Overshoot day is?  It is the date on which humanity's resource consumption for the year exceeds the Earth's capacity to regenerate those resources that year.  It includes but is not limited to extractive practices, like logging, fishing, farming, mining but also includes measures such as the Earth's capacity to absorb our carbon pollution we pump into the air as if it were a sewer, so trees and oceans ability to sequester that carbon.  In 1987 when I was 15, that date was December 19th, so we consumed 6 days too much in simple terms.  At the turn of the century when I was 28, that date was now November 1st, not completely horrific but a bit of a worry perhaps.  This year, 2016, when I was/am 44, that date was August 8th.  We have OVERCONSUMED the resources on this one planet, our ONLY home by 4 months... excuse my language but that is completely fucking unacceptable.

Yes I live a lifestyle that could be described as slower, a little low tech, low carbon, but perhaps that type of lifestyle is the type of lifestyle we should all be trying to achieve... FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN/all other non-human species, do not delete as applicable.  Think about it, please.

Monday, 11 July 2016

And the temperature rises

Hi, this is me. I am fortunate enough to have grass that needs cutting and a scythe that needs using.  For this 44-year old it's an awesome way of getting exercise and enjoying nature, close up.  I carry out this in the evening, the temperature can be too hot for me in the day and at least I can avoid the discourse.
You see the level of discourse that I find myself seeing and hearing is deteriorating fast.  The discourse in politics is infantile and at the same time very dangerous.  The discourse between regular people is polarised and angry, we have ceased to be courteous, we have ceased to respect differences of opinion, in short we are all becoming hate-fuelled dumbasses.  I do not exclude myself from this charge, before anyone calls hypocrite.

And the temperature rises.

We create punchy, simple and memorable labels to identify those we support and those we wish to vilify: BLM, Brexit, Nuit Debout, Christian, Muslim, Black, White, Liberals, Libertarian, Librarian, for fucks sake!

Fear keeps the stress levels high and stressed people CONSUME. Boy do we consume, if all 7-billion people on the planet consumed at the same rate as the Wealthy West, we would need in excess of 1.5 planets to feed that consumption.  But have you ever stopped to ask what should we really be afraid of?

And the temperature rises.

We demonise the intelligent, the thoughtful, the artist, the expert, the peaceful, the philosopers, the child-like who see the world as a beautiful place to awe our only and most magisterial home.

We instead allow the worst among us to narrate and contextualise the changing world around us instead of investigating for ourselves. As Charles Bukowski said "The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are filled with doubt while the stupid ones are full of confidence."

And the temperature rises.

We are consumed by information and entertainment, reality TV and 24-hour news is stronger than heroin, your hand is merely a tool for supporting your smartphone and no longer the amazing versatile tool it was developed to be, you don't even know you are addicted, these drugs are THAT STRONG.

We are manipulated like puppets... without consciously knowing.  We are told who we are, what we think, what products can make us special and we spend all we have on these useless trinkets. We just don't want to be angry, or afraid, or left behind, or in poverty.

And the temperature rises.

We are all being played and we are all willing participants.

Our species is beholden to wealth and power instead of love and beauty

And the temperature rises.

We spread to all environments and force them to accommodate us despite the damage that causes.

We value money first family and friends are a distant second, the rest of the non-human species are way down the pecking order.

And the temperature rises.

We despise and mistrust our neighbours because they differ to me... how soon would we bore of identical people surrounding us, trust me, I'm a twin and understand the tedium of "sameness". We should be thankful and embrace the differences, it's what makes us interesting.

We are extremely intelligent and adaptable, our food and all over living things are not so blessed...

And the temperature rises.

Enough of your "click baiting" and meme forwarding and pathetic simple minded jingoism.  Enough of focusing on what separates us and focus more on what unites us. We are all human, we are all born, we all fall in love, we may become parents, we all age and we all die.  That knowledge should encourage us all to help each other and not fuck each other over.

Without a livable planet everything we know is meaningless.

Without a diverse ecosystem, rich in all manner of living creature, all we are left with is sterile lifeless and unsurvivable.

Put some wise adults in charge... probably the quieter ones, definitely the women, us men have proven ourselves to be without doubt the worst to make the hard and right decisions.

Stop watching your Television and using your smartphone just one day a week.

And reconnect with the living biological being that you are... dependent on food, water and shelter.

The temperature is rising. It is probably too late to reverse that trend, but you could bear witness in your short lives, cos lets face it, life is too short and enjoy the stunning bewildering and awe inspiring spectacle that is the only home we have... earth.

Don't hate me, I just want to draw your attention to a huge problem we need to face, now! Our new battle cry must be "We are not defending nature, WE ARE NATURE defending itself."

And sadly, the temperature still rises...

Thursday, 12 May 2016

For Lori's Class - Part 3

The final instalment of movies for your viewing pleasure...






Watch out for updates later in the year to see how our landscape changes with the seasons!

For Lori's Class - Part 2

For Part 2 I have provided a number of links to my google drive as Blogger limits the size of movies you can upload to your blog page.
Don't be frightened of the link, it should simply open up a video I compressed.  Enjoy, and please do remember, it was meant for 10-year olds :~)
Part 3 - The Final chapter to follow...

For Lori's Class - Part 1

Back in December whilst visiting the out-laws in Wisconsin, I spoke with a class of a friend of mine about my life in France (http://palmer-permaculture.blogspot.fr/2016/01/unexpected-school-visit.html). I have made some videos for them to show what we have been up to and as they are all U-rated I thought I could share them on here.  Steven Spielberg I am not but it was fun making these for the kids.  I will endeavour to make some further follow ups for them in the summer and autumn too.  (Yes, I know, I need a shave!)

Part 2 to Follow.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Thank you stranger.

“Beyond work and love, I would add two other ingredients that give meaning to life. First, to fulfil whatever talents we are born with. However blessed we are by fate with different abilities and strengths, we should try to develop them to the fullest, rather than allow them to atrophy and decay. We all know individuals who did not fulfil the promise they showed in childhood. Many of them became haunted by the image of what they might have become. Instead of blaming fate, I think we should accept ourselves as we are and try to fulfil whatever dreams are within our capability.
Second, we should try to leave the world a better place than when we entered it. As individuals, we can make a difference, whether it is to probe the secrets of Nature, to clean up the environment and work for peace and social justice, or to nurture the inquisitive, vibrant spirit of the young by being a mentor and a guide.” - Michio Kaku  (my emphasis)

Those of you that grew up in the English education system probably remember the pointlessness of asking a 13/14-year old of choosing subjects to do over the coming 2 years like what you think you want to do at 13 is what you will be able to do once you leave school.  Were we all fortunate enough to have inspiring, multi-skilled mentors?  Were we all fortunate enough to have parents/advisors with the fore-knowledge of the future jobs market to adequately prepare our kids for that future?  Not really.

So we put our faith in careers advisors! Who trains career advisors?  Who wants to be a careers advisor? These people shepherd you into a very limited number of choices based on simplistic matrices (gonna upset a lot of uninteresting people, sorry careers advisors).  You see, society doesn't require lots of smart, questioning individuals, with excellent critical thinking skills.  It doesn't require philosophers, musicians, artists or other creative talents.  Modern western society requires a constant supply of unmotivated, sullen, uninspired doers.  If you don't believe me, what do you do?  More importantly, answer this simple question, why do you do what you do? 

Many of you can probably convince yourself that you love your job/career choice and are happy to be paid less than the market average for your time, in order for your company to be "competitive", to "secure" your future and provide great "opportunities" for your continued "growth" in a company that "values" you as an employee.  But be honest, isn't there something else you could be, or should be doing?  Couldn't you find something else more fulfilling, a hobby or pastime maybe to fill your days?

If you're lucky you'll live for 80 summers, or 20 Olympics, or maybe 1 viewing of Halley's Comet (my daughters will be 51 and 47 respectively on it's next flyby). That's not a lot.  It really isn't and yet most of us will convince ourselves that the career we have chosen is "worthwhile" or at the very least "pays the bills".  Is that what you want written about you in your obituary, "John Smith, husband, father, brother, uncle, son, payer of bills..." It's a bit shit really.

Well, where is my meandering post leading?  Straight to this simple question; what is your raison d'être? Your purpose for existence!  Some readers of this blog know me personally others not, but I hope what I leave you in no doubt of what I believe.  What I believe has been shaped by you, people that I know and strangers alike.  These three things below are not an exhaustive list, but they certainly guide most of my middle-age adult life.
  • Global Social Justice - a lie doesn't become truth, wrong doesn't become right and evil doesn't become good, just because it is accepted by a majority.  The Earth has enough for all to have a fair share! (http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/17/news/economy/oxfam-wealth/index.html?sr=twmoney011816oxfam-wealth0742AMStoryLink&linkId=20440984) If you believe we live on a fair and equitable planet, then you my friend are delusional! 
  • Precautionary Principle - states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus (that the action or policy is not harmful), the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action that may or may not be a risk.  The application of this principle has been introduced into some areas of European Law, especially those relating to the environment.  We appear to no longer listen to those with the most knowledge (sciencey-types) and put more stock in those that shout the loudest! 
  • Learning Adaptability - it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the richest or most intelligent.  It is the one most adaptable to change (to paraphrase Darwin!).  Be under no doubt that YOU will need to learn adaptation strategies if this (below) continues.  I advise you all to take your time and read through the information on respected websites, NOAA, NASA, WMO about the threat we face... certainly don't take my word for it and certainly don't expect the media to give you an unbiased, sound and thoughtful summary of what is happening.








It is quite clear what is happening if you read and comprehend at your own pace.  (http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-noaa-analyses-reveal-record-shattering-global-warm-temperatures-in-2015) 15 of the hottest 16 years have occurred since 2001.  2015 was the hottest year since records began (1880) eclipsing the previous record year (2014).  January 2016, February 2016 and March 2016 have all in turn set new records for warmest month compared to the previous warmest.  Oh and if you are too stupid to see what your lying eyes are showing you, then, as we say in England, "do one" as you are equally as liable for causing the misery that awaits my children.

But lets not end this on such a negative note.  I wanted to say thank you.  Thank you for making me think about my children.  Thank you for giving me a laser-focus on giving them the tools to face an uncertain and scary future.  Thank you giving me the time to learn and teach adaptation.  Thank you for doing nothing, you forced me to do SOMETHING and I sincerely mean this, I needed the kick in the ass!  Thank you for turning me into a useful mentor for my children.

“The purpose of life is to stay alive. Watch any animal in nature--all it tries to do is stay alive. It doesn't care about beliefs or philosophy. Whenever any animal's behaviour puts it out of touch with the realities of its existence, it becomes extinct.” - Michael Crichton

Oh and if any of you were shocked by this post, I've got form...

Monday, 4 April 2016

Spring Update April 2016

Welcome to Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.  Whilst many in the dark days of Winter cosy up and become a little lethargic, we've been pretty busy.  Photo documentary time...

Axe and cross-cut saw are our chosen weapons...
Wood is kind of an obsession now.  The above picture shows the main wood processing area's yield to date.  Lots more to be cut and split this year though.
The area has been cleared of canopy to encourage coppicing.
It's a mixture of oak and beech this year.
This wood is in the lowest part of the valley by the stream so will require quite the effort to get it back to the top of the slope.
Looking back up the slope you can see how we are clearing as we go, low hanging fruit first.
This is the secret garden with dozens of small growing areas.  There is a lot of experimentation going on here, more to follow as we check out the yield throughout the coming year.
This picture and the one below is the sun garden.

Hedgerows are increasing in density each year, we heavily mulched this one on the western side of the house.
This new hedgerow has been planted just to the west of the Yurt to add a bit of protection from stormy winters.

The hazel and goji berry are doing well.
We also have a new hugel bed to the north of the Yurt.
We went a bit mulching crazy.
As those familiar with gardening will know you can spend a lot of time in the Spring and Summer pulling weeds... we don't really want to so have started a program of sheet mulching an area, followed by heavily mulching the area with organic materials and moving the sheet to a new area.
A very exciting development is the addition of a 14ft x 40ft poly tunnel that should be here this week.  A separate post on the construction and then use of it to follow.  We have decided to position it on the furthest bed away in this above picture.
The pond has been dug for some time just waiting for a liner, which turned up this Spring.
We sodded it, stretched out the liner and recovered with the sod.  Next we will get some ducks to enjoy it along with some pond plants.
This adds some humidity to the area and will hopefully encourage beneficial predators to our garden.  Pond accident drills are next on the agenda seeing we have two little girls, Papa is going to get wet, me thinks!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

A Duel with the Grim Reaper

"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
This is not a post about religion.  Faith is exactly that, "faith"; if my wife and I can believe differently but coexist peacefully, then so can everyone else... let me throw that out there straight away.  Our deity choice is normally driven by our fear of death and the promises that (insert deity) will offer at the ends of our lives.  Some of us mortals though choose to follow a different path, different but none-the-less ethical, moral or fulfilling.  But lets be honest, there aren't many subjects that us western folk avoid more than a discussion of death.

This is not a post about death either.  We all witness it in our lives, it is the single thing that unites every living thing on Earth, yet we don't do EVERYTHING in our power to prevent our earliest demise.  In fact, if you look at something as simple as say, our diet, you'd think we don't give two shits about how long we live.

This IS a post about me.  I want to tell you about my personal fight with the bastard known as "Heart Disease".

In my early to mid-thirties I started to experience intermittent and what the medical professionals in my life determined were atypical chest pains.  No big red flags, but there was something.  I drank, I still do, I smoked, I no longer smoke, I worried a lot, I still do, I ate a varied diet and I exercised in fits and starts (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/fits-and-starts.html).  I reached my forties and found my symptoms getting more frequent with the additional problem of tachycardia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tachycardia) some nights, joy of joys!  Eventually after diagnosis including Asthma, Gastrointestinal Disease, Acid Reflux, Muscle Strain/Sprain, Hypertension and stress (that's all that comes to mind right now), I was sent for a CT scan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CT_scan) to check for signs of blockage and/or cancer.

I won't malign the NHS in the UK, it's a good medical system, hugely underfunded by central government to make it look bad, so they can sell it to private companies to fuck up even more... FACT!  Having said that it did take, from the time of the scan, to an appointment with a cardiologist, 4-months before I knew what the first findings were... to be honest I was shatting myself for most of that time thinking the absolute worse, I had a four-year old and a new-born daughter, how would they fair without a father?  I met with my cardiologist who quite simply stated I had heart disease.  Heart disease.  My left anterior descending artery was 60-70% blocked, they estimated, which sounded like a lot to me (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anterior_interventricular_branch_of_left_coronary_artery), but apparently no intervention is needed until over 75% blockage, so that's ok then?!?!?!?

I was advised to lose some weight, stop smoking (even those seemingly harmless "social" smokes), consider a lower fat diet and chill-out for (insert deity) sake.  I was lined up with a follow-up visit in four months to have a myocardial profusion scan and umm, off you go.  (http://www.rbht.nhs.uk/patients/condition/nuclear-medicine/myocardial/scan/)  At the very least, I knew who my enemy was at last.  Some bastard called Heart Disease.

Knowing your enemy doesn't make it disappear though.

I went home, discussed this with my family, impressing on my brother (twin) that this may be something he should be aware of, considering this diagnosis was not typical for our age, maybe someone 5-10 years older but still a bit early really.  Then three-weeks later, in our kitchen in France, my brother complains of discomfort in his chest (alarm bells).  My wife gets on the tinterweb to check symptoms as I continue to question him.  Chew some aspirin dude, we're going to l'hôpital... now this thread could have a post of it's own, but I value my brothers right-to-privacy, so in summary:  gets to hospital, tests and observation, confirmation of cardiac event, FLOWN to bigger hospital, two stents inserted, 4 days in cardiac ICU, 7 weeks of cardiac rehab, pharmacy-store amount of drugs to be taken daily, ad-infinitum.

A few weeks later, I felt proper shite, stress levels high, Christmas feasting excesses not helping.  On my return to work in the UK from a couple of weeks off in France, I self-presented (walked in off the street) to A&E (Emergency room)in Brighton.  My blood pressure was off the scale 199/119, I immediately had a cannula inserted (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannula) and was administered with cardiac medicines (aspirin, GTN etc).  After some observation and questioning from a cardiologist, it was determined I'd be taken to the "Cath Lab" for a more detailed look at the LAD blockage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cath_lab).  The experience was, umm, interesting... they insert a very fine tube into your arteries via your groin which then is pushed along those arteries all the way to your heart.  They insert a contrast medium (ink) and use a camera to image the arteries, thus allowing them to see the condition of your heart and related plumbing.  It's magnitudes more accurate than a CT scan with the added advantage that if they find anything, they can also fix it whilst they are viewing it.  So what of it?  Well nothing!  The nice registrar (doctor) advised the blockage was around 50% and therefore no further action would be taken, here's a number of drugs for you to take, go speak to your cardiologist.

The follow-up Profusion scan, mentioned earlier discovered much the same as the CT and angiogram had.  A limit of oxygen getting to the heart in certain places, but nothing too bad!  Take your meds, they'll keep everything, we hope, in check.  Something for your blood pressure, something for your hearts work-rate, something for your cholesterol and something for anti-coagulation.  All bases covered with our scatter-gun.  See you in 12-months.

A lot happens in 12-months.  I gave up commuting from France to England every week.  I spent more time with my daughters, the one thing that brings me so much joy.  I watched the shell of my brother grow angrier and sadder, fighting his own scrap with the bastard Heart Disease.  I also watched my wife as she tried to hide her fear of losing one or both of her boys to heart disease.  I kept experiencing chest pains.  We all fought more, I think stress was going to kill all of us, I really do!  Then the family (not including my brother) took a visit to American family, in Wisconsin.

I think we can all agree that Christmas excess is not for me... again, 12-months after my last time of feeling PROPER SHITE, I was not well.  In 12-months of owning a GTN spray (http://patient.info/medicine/glyceryl-trinitrate-for-angina-gtn) I had used it once, maybe twice... this visit I was using it 2 or 3 times a day.  Was my wait at last over and was I going to have MY very own cardiac event?  Let's face it, that's what we had all been expecting ever since my brother had his!  I just wanted to get home to France... insurance or not, America is not the place you want to be sick!  It's very expensive.

We made it home.  Drug assisted, granted, but we were back in France.  The question really was, is 2016 going to be exactly the same as every other year.  Where we live is beautiful.  The WAY we live is beautiful.  The people in my life are beautiful.  My daughters are so, so, unbelievably beautiful. Why do I feel so bad? That bastard Heart Disease!

Like all good stories, there seems to be a turning point... I came across this in my Twitter feed: http://www.forksoverknives.com/the-film/ Now any of you that know me or my brother will know we are the biggest cynics, if it sounds too good to be true, then it is!  But some of the information was compelling: 

Look, like I said above, I'm a huge cynic, but if this means that by choosing a plant based and whole foods approach to eating I could, REVERSE my heart disease and not have to take drugs then lets investigate this further.  Furthermore, a plant based and whole food diet is something that our modest 15-acres can provide me and my family with little change to what we are currently doing! 

Hey, it's early.  It's not going to be easy, I already miss cheese!  I live in France for (insert deity) sake, but honestly, for the first time in many years I actually feel optimistic about my health.  I feel that I can retake a modicum of control back from the spectre of death that has hung gloomily over me for years.  Please don't label me either with vegetarian, vegan, beyond vegan or whatever.  I'm fixing my Endothelia, one delicious vegetable at a time. It can help my brother, it can help my wives auto-immune disorder, it can help my daughters so they never have to face this bastard, Heart Disease.You never know, maybe, just maybe you might get a smile out of me yet in 2016.

Bonne Chance!

Friday, 22 January 2016

What's on the menu this Year?

Unlike say, July, the hot, fun, no school month, January is much maligned in the pecking order of months.  It's typically cold and grey, or grey and wet, or wet and cold, simply put it's pretty flippin grim!  What makes it worse is that we still have another eight weeks or so of winter, so it's not going to get any better, any time soon.

See original image
Last week contained the most depressing day of the year (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/blue-monday-the-science-behind-the-most-miserable-day-of-the-year-a6816926.html), and we are slap bang in the middle of S.A.D. season to boot! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder)  So not too much to be upbeat about, right?
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In January, every day we get two and half more minutes of daylight (http://www.timeanddate.com/sun/france/paris?month=1) and this will accelerate as the northern hemisphere starts to tilt back towards the sun and Spring approaches.  This is a really exciting time of year as we now start to plan what we will want to be eating this year and through the hungry gap in early 2017. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungry_gap)
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So what do the Palmers have in store for this years grow-fest?  Well firstly we have some of the usual suspects still stored over the past few seasons, some of which we have not diligently noted the variety, sorry about that!  These are listed in order of when we should be starting them off... (For the record, if I misspell any of these varieties, it's because I can't read my brothers chicken scratching he calls 'writing'):

Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Basil, Celery, Parsnip, Togi vine Tomatoes, Yellow vine Tomatoes, Rotoco Peppers, Lipstick Sweet Pepper, Yellow Bell Pepper, Early Jalapeno, Early Watermelon, Piacenza Cabbage, Spinach Beet, Quintel Winter Cabbage, Garden Cress, Sanguine Beetroot, Unknown Runner Bean, Unknown Coriander, Sanda Brussel Sprout, Seven Hills Brussel Sprout, Hardy Leek, Pointy Spring Cabbage, Golden Acre Cabbage, Wheelers Imp Cabbage, Dwarf French Bean, Tall Giant Sugar Pea, Climbing Pea, White Beetroot, Green Bush Corgette, Red Baron Onion, Unknown Yellow Onion, Tall Flower Sunflower, Nasturtium, Broccoli, Boltardy Beetroot, Leaf Lettuce, Flame Lettuce, Yellow Leek, Paris Early White Onion, Kyoto Spring Onion, Cherokee Bean, Long Green Ridged Cucumber, Finisimo Basil, Dwarf Bush Corgette, Blacktail Watermelon, Cheyenne Bush Pumpkin, Autumn Giant Cauliflower, Asturian Tree Cabbage, Petit Gris Watermelon, January King Cabbage, Sutherland Kale, Toothed Lettuce, Cardinale Lettuce, Mustard Habanero, Wrinkled Garden Cress, Radish, Garlic Chives, Pattipan Squash, Marrowfat Peas, Qunioa, Spring Cauliflower, Early Sprouting Purple Broccoli, Later Sprouting Broccoli, Florence Fennel, Pointy Spring Cabbage, Yellow Leafed Pakchoi, Turnip Broccoli, Large Half Long Carrott, Quick Heading Broccoli, True Siberian Kale, Purple Autumn Cauliflower, Early Dwarf Pea, Lemon Balm, Cupidon French Bean, Velvet Queen Sunflower, Champion of England Pea, Small Bush Pea, Unknown Swede, Cornichon, Panais.

This year we have ordered again from our favourite supplier in the UK (www.realseeds.co.uk), the tasty morcels for this year are:
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Dragon Purple Carrot, Manchester Table Carrot, Touchon Carrot, Basque Chilli, Early Jalapeno, Ohnivec Hot Chilli, Osaka Purple Hot Mustard Greens, Red Mizuna, Coquille de Louviers Lettuce, Belleville Sorrel, Kaibi Round Sweet Pepper, Napia Pointy Red Sweet Pepper, Aquilon Dwarf French Bean, Cupidon Dwarf French Bean, Hatif d'Annonay Dwarf Pea, Lord Leicester Tall Pea.

We are also trialing a new supplier here in France (www.fermedesaintemarthe.com), lets see how these turn out:
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Lavande Officinale, Oignon Ailsa Craig, Oignon Jaune Paille des Vertus, Oignon Robelja, Thym Commun, Ptiron Banana Blue, Epinard Fraise, Poireau Monstrueux d'Elbeuf, Melon Honey Dew, Piment de Cayenne, Tomate Beefsteak, Tomate Cherockee Purple, Ail Violet Germidour, Ail Cristo.

Additionally from Ferme de Sainte Marthe, Remi, our long-term volunteer, has ordered the following:

Celeri a Couper, Arroche Rouge, Chicoree Rossa di Treviso, Chou de Bruxelles de Rosny, Fenouil Romanesco, Poireau Bleu de Solaise, Artichaut Vert de Laon, Aubergine Black Beauty, Concombre Le Genereux, Fraisier Alexandrie, Mais Pop-corn Tom Pouce, Melon Charentais, Piment Boule de Turquie ou Red Cherry, Poivron California Wonder ou Carre Doux d'Amerique, Pivron Corno di Torro Rosso, Mais Doux Golden Bantam, Carotte Longue Rouge Sang, Radis de 18 Jours, Haricot Purple Queen, Assortment de Courges, Assortment de Tomates Reines de la Table, Assortment de Medicinales, Assortment de Fleurs Comestibles.

All that is left to order are this years tatties (potato, pomme de terre) and we should be ready to commence.  SEE, January is bloody exciting.  Time to fire up the heated propagator people!

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Addendum: As we build up our stock of seeds, we could really do with a more organised umm, organiser. If anyone sees something like this (below) for a reasonable price (free), please nab it for me. Come on Natalie, you work in the Library system, you must "know a man"!
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