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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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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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Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the Air

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It was a beautiful frosty morning, the sun glinting off thawing raindrops.  I love this time of year when it’s just warm enough – and hopefully dry enough – to get out in the garden but not much is growing yet, so you can catch up with clearing up the vegetable patch.

It’s a rare ‘window of opportunity’;  time to get rid of all the perennial weeds like docks, nettles, buttercups and the perennial grasses.  I give the weeds to the hens – they love scratching though them looking for worms.  By the beginning of February there’s a sort of hopefulness in the air, the birds are singing, showing off their bright spring feathers and busily looking for nesting places and the air is alive with the promise of things to come.  It’s exhilarating just getting outside and living and breathing – and becoming part of – Spring.

 

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