August Update (sorry no photos)

Well, its been quite a while since I’ve written anything on the blog. The co-op has been plodding along putting in monthly orders for approximately 7 members per month, but we have many more people who have showed an interest and are probably just getting round to putting in their first orders. Its all gone really well so far and we have had some really positive feedback from members who can now easily and cheaply stock up on quality foods that they are otherwise unable to buy in Swansea.
The only obstacles we have encountered so far have been looking for discrepancies in the bank account (we didn’t know we had to add VAT on to certain products) and struggling with an inefficient system, which thankfully resulted in us creating an interactive order form to save time. It’s been 6 months now and it’s definitely getting easier and so we may be ready to take on more members. We even had interest from a local magazine wanting to do a piece on us to help us get more members, however the offer came just before I was due to go on a 3 week cycle tour so was postponed until a more convenient time.
In other news, the veg box scheme (Greenbean Organics) that I was using made the decision to stop delivering in my area, due to a gradual decline in customers since the beginning of the recession. They will still be operating as a shop in Carmarthen but unfortunately that is just too far for me to travel. Thankfully though, one of the new co-op members told me about another veg box scheme that somehow had evaded my conscientious researching last year, so next time I want to place an order I will be trying out Organics Around Wales
As mentioned Lloyd and I went on a 3 week cycle tour from St Malo in France to Santander in Spain. It was an epic adventure of 1150 miles over 22 days. However, it did end up costing us a bit more than we had planned so since we have been back I haven’t been able to afford the organic veg. I’m not going to feel bad about it though, because it is the summer and the local fruit and veg is abundant at this time of year and I am supporting the local greengrocers on the market again. I suppose that is one of the great things about the style of sustainability that Otesha showed me. It has to be ‘sustainable’ for me as well. Thanks to setting up the Co-op I still have a lot of organic food in the kitchen and I am easily able to adapt to harder times. Next month some friends of ours are arranging a foraging weekend so that will also help. So far I have only foraged nettles and blackberries despite having a couple of foraging books so I am looking forward to some free, fresh and nutritious food in the coming months. Sometimes I do get a bit fed up of not having any money but I think that the food is so nutritious it is an investment in our health, which for me is priceless. I see so many people that would give up all the money they had just to be healthy. My body is my greatest resource, without it I can’t do anything.

Co-op

At the end of August 2012 I returned from my amazing Otesha tour full of enthusiasm for being a change maker in my local area of Swansea. My intention was to begin this blog and document my journey into sustainable living. I have found this journey to be a juggling act of priorities trying to decide what is best for the environment, for social justice, what I can afford and how far I am willing to go from ‘normal modern life’. I want to do the right thing but also I want to find a way of life that is attractive to other people. I know that no matter how much I am doing I could always do a bit more but each person has to find the balance that is right for them. As long as you are prepared to listen to new information, thoughtfully evaluate the impact of your everyday practices, and be prepared to make changes that feel right to you, you are on the same journey as me.

Since the Otesha tour my enthusiasm has worn off a little (very predictable though, I am only human after all). I have continued to live my life in as sustainable a way as I can. I STILL haven’t shopped in a supermarket. I have been getting the majority of my food from local shops, the market and the veg box scheme with occasional visit to the Co-op when it’s necessary. I agree that the Co-op is like a supermarket but the difference is that it is owned by its employees and customers and therefore, there is a fair representative of societies’ views among the shareholders and not the promotion of consumerism at any cost.

The Co-op has often lead the way in ethical practices which the big supermarkets have yet to embrace. Just the other day I was watching the film “The Vanishing of the Bees” about the effect that pesticides and mono-cultures have on our little black and yellow friend. In this documentary, the Co-op was specifically mentioned, for spearheading a campaign to save the bees that are under direct threat from the industrial farming practices endorsed by the big supermarkets. The Co-op have done other things besides, such as committing to only ever using free range eggs, fair trade coffee, chocolate and cotton in their products. By competing in the same arena as the big supermarkets they have the power to challenge and change the food system and prove that doing the right thing isn’t bad for business but obviously they can only do this one step at a time. They are a long way from providing the perfect solution to shopping sustainably but either way I am behind them and hope that they continue to make more changes.

And while we are on the topic of co-op’s….. We are just waiting for the bank account to be set up for the new ‘Swansea Organic Food Co-op’ and we are going to have a trial run, hopefully at the end of january. I cannot wait to get stocked up on Suma organics! Watch this space….

Update

Hi guys,

Sorry that it has been such a long time since I posted. I have been getting spammed to death with comments about knock off designer handbags and I couldn’t bear to log in for ages. Nevertheless, as my good friend said, I shouldn’t let those idiots stop me from blogging!

So Since my last blog I have attempted to make the homemade moisturiser (see previous blog), which was not very successful. I believe the main problem arose from not having the correct equipment. I used a whisk instead of a high speed blender to combine my ingredients and I just couldn’t get rid of the lumps no matter what I did. Also it was a bit too oily for my skin, which was a big disappointment seeing as the recipe was for ‘non-greasy moisturiser’. Whilst searching Swansea for the ingredients, however, I found a hair shop (where they do weaves and extensions) that also sells blocks of pure mango butter and shea butter among other things. I will definitely be going back there when I attempt another recipe. AND I have bought a blender on the car boot sale for £3.50!!!!! So no more lumps!

I also tried to make toothpaste, which was absolutely disgusting. I know that toothpaste creates a massive amount of waste but I draw the line at having a mouth full of minty bicarb of soda twice a day. I did consider toothy tabs from Lush but again I am drawing the line at £2.50 for 40 tabs, which would last 10 days between the two of us. Instead, I have switched to Kingfisher natural toothpaste (I love the fennel one, it is lush). Being produced from natural ingredients,  is better for the environment both during production and when it is washed down the plughole and also better for my health. My only issue is why does the tube need to go into a cardboard box? Please will someone invent a refillable toothpaste!

Thankfully these were my only disappointments and the other things I have made were a huge success. I made mango chutney, brown sauce, pasta sauce, Thai curry paste and banana bread. In fact the banana bread I have made several times. It is absolutely gorgeous. My only amendments have been to reduce the sugar by 1/2 and to add some dates. Drool!

 

A couple of weeks ago my friend took me to Llandeilo food fair where I saw the lovely pie guys from the Parsnipship again. Afterwards I was inspired to have a go at some of my own mini pies and they too went down a storm with some home made chips and dark leafy greens. Yum! These ones had a simple filling of Sweet potato, chick peas, onion, tinned tomatoes, curry powder and creamed coconut. The pastry was made with vegetable suet and flavoured with tumeric and cumin seeds making this a tasty vegan meal. Don’t tell my family of meat eaters but this is what I am planning to feed them on Christmas eve! He he he!

Talking of Veganism- Who would have thought that you’d EVER see something like this in Swansea town centre of all places!??? Surely this is evidence that mainstream society is becoming more open minded- I hope so. GO PETA and Vegans and Vegetarians!

Also since my last post we had a surprise visitor from the online community “Warm Showers” which provides passing cycle tourers with some of the comforts that can’t be packed into your panniers. Our visitor was called Fabian Trummer and he is cycling the WORLD and raising money for UNICEF. You can find out more on his website. He was a lovely guy and it was  a pleasure to have him here even though it was brief. He had a good nights sleep in our spare room (much better than he has been doing in his tent!) and the next day I cycled with Fabian to Taibach and waved him on his way. Here is Fabian in Taibach. Bye bye and Good Luck!

 

So some of you might have noticed that it’s nearly Christmas and so a lovely afternoon in November was spent making minimalist wreaths. Lloyd was not happy, as strictly speaking Christmas decorations shouldn’t be put up until December, but once I made them they were so nice that I had to put them up.

Another nice afternoon was spent carving a snowflake pattern into a large Swede and printing cards on these recycled paper cards.

My only mistake was that I didn’t make nearly enough cards and have only realised now that the swede has gone into the compost! Oh well. Next year I’ll have to make 100 instead of 50.

Ok well that is all my thoughts for now.

Be well, safe and happy.

Ellie

De-horning

Seeing as I spent about an hour writing this email I thought I would post the email conversation on here. Please share your thoughts in the comments box:

Hello there. My name is Ellie I am a recent convert to more sustainable
living and part of this has included buying only local organic dairy. For
the past two months I have been buying calon wen dairy products through
the Organic Fresh Food Company in Lampeter. I am very happy with it and
have been getting through 12 litres of milk a week as I’ve been making
yoghurt and 4 packs of butter due to plentiful cake baking.
Today I found out about de-horning cattle and was wondering if your
farmers de-horn theirs?
Kind thanks Ellie Jones

                                                                                                                             

Ellie good evening

Canvassed views here amongst our farmers – this is the view from one – Dai
Miles
Look forward to your thoughts:

” I Can’t really understand the problem with de horning… as normally
calves are de- budded  between 3 and 10 weeks with a local anaesthetic,
and very much for their own benefit as well of course as health and safety
precautions for humans, both farmers, and those they may meet walking
through our fields.

If missed at that early age they can still be de-horned at 12 – 18 months,
again with more anaesthetic, but it must be carried out by a qualified
Vet.

Sadly I’ve seen the dreadful damage & the terror a group of horned animals
can inflict on their polled or de horned cohorts and its horrific, and we
also fail in our duty of care to those that work on our farms too, should
they ever be placed into danger by such an animal.

We do hope this practical, and very carefully managed program won’t put
you off buying our milk, we spend a huge amount of time and energy
preserving our Organic farms so that your milk is produced in a
sustainable  & caring system.

Best regards
Dai”

                                                                                                                                          

Hi Richard,
Yes I understand that this is the dominant perspective on de-horning. Who could argue with putting safety first? I have only done a few days work on a dairy farm with a relative but obviously I am not a dairy farmer and cannot comment on your farmers’ expertise.

I wonder if you knew how old the dehorning practice is?- whether humans have always dehorned cattle, or whether it was a practice introduced as herd sizes increased. I am aware that this is no fault of the small scale farmers, but rather industrialised food production and a culture of consumerism promoted by supermarkets put pressure on farmers to produce more milk at a cheaper price. I understand that managing a horned herd would involve more intensive management and that means more money. I don’t imagine for one minute that small scale farming is so lucrative that there are pots of money waiting to be spent. However your organic farmers are much more likely to open their minds to challenging the norms of farming than factory farms supplying the supermarkets. As a consumer the first step of course is supporting small scale farmers until business is thriving before taking such steps but the ideas have got to start somewhere. Here is an article which suggests farming horned cattle may cater to a gap in the market (http://www.dairyexporter.co.nz/article/35417.html)

Research about horned cows and the purpose of the horns is lacking and therefore seems to be a marginalised perspective. From what I have read (http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/farm/docs/calves_alcasde_D-2-2-1.pdf) about working within horned herds it seems that cattle have quite complex social needs which, if poorly managed, is what increase the chances of injury and not the presence of horns. Personally I see the dominant practice of dehorning entire herds of cattle as a convenient solution to a problem where there could be any number of factors contributing. But rather than looking for the root of the problem and less aggressive methods the horns are removed. There are loads of suggestions in the above research, but the primary seemed to be prevention of confrontational situations which would be preferable to de-horning.

I fully understand if what I’ve said comes across as ignorant, ill informed, jumping to conclusions and so on but again I am not a farmer and I do not understand the complexities and practicalities. For example I could not really decide whether using a traditional tying system suggested for horned herds, in which cows sleep more and spend less time eating (and therefore produce less milk) was a good thing for welfare. It could be more comfortable for the cow, hence more sleeping, but worse for social interactions and behaviour (clearly not good for high milk yeilds though) http://lhu.emu.ee/downloads/Welfood/Eating.pdf

Even though I have a few questions about de-horning I don’t think that it will stop me from buying Calon Wen as I am grateful to have found milk that I can say is environmentally good and supports small scale Welsh farmers. It is a good quality product and I love the fact it is not homogenised.

Kind thanks for reading my email and obtaining the reply from Dai.
Best wishes
Ellie

 

Cancer

Yesterday I came across a nice young man asking people to ‘help kids beat cancer‘. As I was feeling about a level 9 on the virtuosity scale I emptied my purse of change and he gave me a leaflet. The leaflet, to my surprise, focused on the topic of organic coffee, organic food and avoiding deodorants with aluminum.

Many of these ideas are not promoted by the NHS and so the charity called Kids Integrated Cancer Treatment shares the latest research about cancer causing products that we consume and keeps parents informed about how to help their children survive cancer. Please look at the Recipe Book which was written by the parent of a child diagnosed with cancer. When the doctors advised him to feed his child whatever the child wanted, which was along the lines of wotsits and pot noodles, this parent wisely knew this was wrong and the following quote I thought summed up the truth of the matter:

“Remember we can only be made out of one egg, one sperm and what we absorb, which includes the food, drinks and medicines we consume, the air we breathe and anything which comes into contact with the skin.”

It’s so obvious but just think about it for a minute…..

The saying ‘you are what you eat’ has reached a new level of meaning for me. If eating natural food can improve the chances of surviving cancer then I want more of it and to stay well away from the rubbish that is sold to us as food.

Finally, here is an interesting little tidbit taken from the leaflets:

Fruits and veg with the highest pesticide load:

Peaches, Strawberries, Apples, Sweet bell peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Cherries, Lettuce, Grapes, Pears, Spinach, Potatoes.

Fruits and veg with the lowest pesticide load:

Broccoli, Aubergine, Cabbage, Banana, Kiwi, Asparagus, Peas (frozen), Mango, Pineapple, Sweetcorn (frozen), Avocado, Onion.

Update

I haven’t written a blog for ages as I’ve mostly been getting the hang of making yogurt and sourdough bread every couple of days. I have to say it must be a fine art as I’ve had variable results but so far everything has been enjoyable to eat in it’s own way. Check out the flattest sourdough ever!

Rubbish for sandwiches but perfect for soldiers. I also made Homemade hotcross buns and crumpets following a recipe from the Bread Matters book written by the wonderful Andrew Whitely, founder of the Real Bread Campaign. A real treat- I’ve made the buns twice and the crumpets three times!

Here is a quick update on what I’ll be making and doing this week. (pictures to follow)

Oh and I’m hosting the first Swansea Organic Food Co-op on Thursday night. A pretty busy week for me- but that’s how I  like it!