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Is eating no meat actually doing more harm than good?

Is eating no meat actually doing more harm than good?

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“People are trying to eat more sustainably but my worry is that they are turning to diets such as veganism that are not necessarily as sustainable, nor as healthy as they imagine.”

I have always believed that, to be truly sustainable, crop rotation should include a fallow field grazed with animals – and the ideal diet should include some meat.  To me, it makes much more sense to use animals to manure grassland.  If you drink milk, then, on average, for every calf born there is a male calf that is killed at birth – how much more sensible would it be to raise these calves for meat?  Try and buy veal from a butcher’s shop in Britain and you will find it’s practically impossible – although you can buy rosé veal online from Shropshire based www.alternativemeats.co.uk  This is, I am told, because we believe it is cruel to raise calves for white veal – but rosé veal is from calves that are raised and killed humanely.

So I was very pleased to read this guest post on the Farmdrop website from Patrick Holden, Dairy Farmer and Founding Director of the Sustainable Food Trust which works to accelerate the transition to more sustainable food and farming systems.

He says:  “I am growing increasingly concerned about the large number of people turning to diets that may not necessarily be either healthy or sustainable.

“A healthy diet should work backwards from the most sustainable way to farm, and that ideally means eating the foods produced by mixed farms using crop rotations which include a fertility building phase, usually of grass and clover grazed by cows and sheep, but also pastured pigs and poultry.”

https://www.foodandfarmingfutures.co.uk/Library/content/Detail.aspx?ctID=ZWVhNzBlY2QtZWJjNi00YWZiLWE1MTAtNWExOTFiMjJjOWU1&rID=MTM1MjI=&sID=MQ==&bckToL=VHJ1ZQ==&qcf=&ph=VHJ1ZQ==

Some years ago, I went to a talk by Charlotte Hollins at Fordhall Organic Farm www.fordhallfarm.com  – and she was asked a question about the higher price of organic meat.   Her answer has stayed with me.  She said:  “Organic meat is better for you – and it also tastes so much better.”  She suggested that replacing some meat with vegetables at each meal, and having a vegetarian meal once a week would even out the cost, so for the same budget you could include organic meat.  So that’s what we do – I now have a selection of dried and tinned beans which I add to dishes like spaghetti bolognese  and lasagne, replacing some of the meat – and, amazingly, the family are quite happy with the result – and it’s better for us.

My crop rotation doesn’t include sheep, pigs, cows or goats but it does include hens, ducks and rabbits – and the manure they produce enriches my compost bin, replenishes my soil with nutrients, and grows wonderful pumpkins.  This year I have allocated a fallow patch for clover – which the rabbits love to eat –and I am leaving some to flower for the bees when I dig the rest in ready to plant cabbages.

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Coltsfoot – little dots of sunshine decorating the path

Coltsfoot – it’s name comes from the hoof-shaped leaves.

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Every spring, as soon as the daffodils start to come out, I start to look for coltsfoot flowers – then suddenly one morning, there they are, little yellow stars, dots of sunshine, decorating the path – the stems seem quite invisible until the flowers come out.

Like Butterbur, the flowers appear before the leaves.  In fact, Pliny and many of the older botanists thought that the Coltsfoot plant grew without leaves.  Rabbits like coltsfoot leaves but they will have to wait awhile for the foliage to appear.

Coltsfoot is a well-known herbal remedy for irritating coughs and respiratory disorders and Coltsfoot tea sweetened with honey will help soothe a dry cough.

The leaves were formerly smoked to relieve coughing and are even today included in herbal tobacco.

The seeds are crowned with a tuft of silky hairs which goldfinches like for lining their nests.

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The Nasturtium Fairy

The Song of The Nasturtium Fairy

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Nasturtium the jolly,
O ho, O ho!
He holds up his brolly
Just so, just so!
(A shelter from showers,
A shade from the sun;)
‘Mid flame-coloured flowers
He grins at the fun.
Up fences he scrambles,
Sing hey, sing hey!
All summer he rambles
So gay, so gay –
Till the night-frost strikes chilly,
And Autumn leaves fall,
And he’s gone, willy-nilly,
Umbrella and all.

From ‘A Flower Fairy alphabet’ by Cicely Mary Barker

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Poppies in November

Poppies in November

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It’s time for bonfire night but I’m still picking sweet peas, the nasturtiums are going strong – and the poppies are still in full flower, brightening up the garden on these musty, misty mornings.  It’s just as well we had an Indian summer as the runner beans were planted so late, due to a very cold and wet May, that I doubted we would be picking any beans at all.  So maybe the seasons are moving – and we should plan summer holidays in September next year?

Whatever, I have really enjoyed picking sweet peas right through October.  I put some in the lounge where I sit in the evenings but also some on the window ledge near the sink – where I seem to spend an awful lot of my time.  I do really enjoy cooking vegetables I have grown myself – they taste much better and they are so much fresher – but it is more time consuming than preparing clean, bug-free supermarket varieties.

The rabbits are also enjoying the long season as they get a nasturtium leaf (and sometimes a flower) every day.  As the Nasturtium Flower Fairy says, as soon as the frosts come, the nasturtiums are “… gone willy-nilly, umbrellas and all”.

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Nasturtiums in November

The Song of The Nasturtium Fairy is from ‘A Flower Fairy alphabet’ by Cicely Mary Barker

 

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New Zealand White Rabbits

This is Cowslips latest litter, 5 weeks old.

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Baby rabbits must be some of the most adorable babies – once they have all their fur and their eyes are open.  They are born blind and deaf and pink-skinned but by 3 weeks old they are miniature versions of their mum hopping about their pen.

By 5 weeks old, the babies always scramble for a bit of their mum’s green food – this time of year it’s Shepherd’s Purse, rocket, spinach, dandelions, clover and the occasional nasturtium leaf (they love nasturtiums but they are quite strong so one leaf a day is enough).

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Spring plants that rabbits like

There are lots of spring plants that rabbits like and, fed in moderation, they are really good for them – too much green stuff can upset their digestion – but a few leaves of a few different plants  every day is fine – and they really enjoy them.

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Comfrey leaves and flowers are a favourite – not to be confused with foxglove which has the same shape leaves.  Comfrey is very easy to distinguish at this time of year as it’s in flower and foxglove is just leaves.

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Foxglove is digitalis and very poisonous so make sure you pick comfrey plants with flowers.

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Rabbits like most herbs, these are chives which have a slightly onion smell.

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Another spring weed in garlic mustard, or Jack-by-the-hedge which has a mild garlic scent – rabbits like flowers and leaves – smaller plants are most tender.

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And of course the dandelion, just leaves and again in moderation – just two or three leaves a day.

I like to give each rabbit a choice of leaves and see which they eat first – they don’t all choose the same ones first.  Dandelion likes comfrey and Fiver likes chives.

Every day I get real pleasure from picking a few choice titbits and watching the rabbits enjoy eating them – the hens like some plants too, particularly the brassicas, but their favourite is always bread and they come running when they see me carrying a basket.

 

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New Zealand White Rabbits like Chives

New Zealand White Rabbits like Chives

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Eny’s babies are 4 weeks old now and they are hopping about happily.

Chives are growing quite well in the garden and the rabbits love them – just a few stalks each day along with their piece of apple.

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The original Easter Bunny was the Hare.  The Anglo Saxon’s believed that the hare laid eggs in its form to signify the imminence of the year’s rebirth.  However, the church changed the hare into a ‘bunny’ in order to lead the people away from pagan stories and ways.  The Spring Goddess was often depicted as a woman’s body with the head of a hare.

 

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The first signs of Spring

The first signs of spring, tiny snowdrops peeping through frosty leaves.  The days are getting longer, the birds are singing and Spring is on the way!

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New Zealand White Rabbits

New Zealand White Rabbits

New Zealand White Rabbits

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Rabbits form an integral part of my recycling programme as they like the plants my hens and ducks do not like so I can recycle nearly all the weeds in my vegetable garden and the peelings (eg apple) and trimmings (eg spring onion tops). Also any surplus vegetables provide food – my hens love courgettes – and marrows if I’ve missed one! And the ducks and hens love slugs and snails – and caterpillars and other insects that damage my plants.

Every day I get real pleasure from digging up some choice titbits for the hens, ducks and rabbits and watching them enjoy them along with their regular food.

Food plants that rabbits like: * feed in moderation
*Apple – whole fruit, peelings,
Twigs and leaves of most fruit trees including hawthorn
Borage – young leaves and flowers
*Brassicas – broccoli, sprouts, cabbage,cauliflower, kale – feed sparingly to avoid urinary problems
Carrot tops and thinnings (contrary to popular belief, rabbits are not keen on carrot roots but they do love carrot tops)
*Celery
Chickweed (although I find hens prefer this – particularly chicks – hence the name!)
Chives
Clover (they love Clover)
Coltsfoot
Comfrey
*Dandelion
Grass
*Groundsel
Jerusalem Artichoke
Kohl Rabi
Leek
*Lettuce
Marsh mallow
*Nasturtiums
*Parsnip tops
*Parsley (useful tonic)
Plantain – young leaves only – avoid roots and seeds
Raspberry – young leaves – good for pregnant does (as we humans have raspberry tea when birth is imminent!)
Salad burnet
Sage – young leaves useful for digestive upsets – in moderation
Shepherd’s purse – also useful for digestive upsets – ad lib
*Sorrel
*Spring onion and onion – green tops
Sow thistle (not common or creeping thistle)
*Spinach thinnings or young leaves
*Strawberry – young leaves