Tofu: This vegan food staple is damaging the planet | The Tab

Source: Tofu: This vegan food staple is damaging the planet

Some things just make you shake your head. Vegetarians, and especially vegans, tend to get on their self-righteous high-horse about how they’re “saving the planet” by declining to eat meat, and how plant-based diets are both more ecologically and ethically sound than that nasty meat. Turns out – surprise, surprise! – that this may not actually be the case.

“A new study by Dr. Graham McAuliffe has revealed tofu could be more harmful to the planet than chicken, beef and pork. Speaking at the National Farmers Union Dr. Graham McAuliffe of the Rothamsted Institute said after researching  tofu, he’d concluded it potentially causes more environmental damage because of the production to make the processed protein source.

“He said: ‘But if you look at tofu, which is processed so there is more energy going into its production, when you correct for the fact that the protein in it is not as digestible compared to the meat-based products, you can see that it could actually have a higher global warming potential than any of the mono gastric animals. To get the same amount of protein, tofu is worse.'”

Nor is tofu the only staple of vegetarian / vegan diets at which this article takes aim: almond milk, coconut, palm oil, cashews, avacados, and quinoa are among the foods in the cross-hairs. The article is written in a UK publication, for a UK audience, but it’s just as applicable to those of us here in the US.

Bottom line? As Barry Commoner put it in his Fourth Law of Ecology, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

There are trade-offs in everything; and it is sustainable agricultural techniques – that is to say, a move away from industrial, commodity-based agriculture to smaller-scale, more local and natural methods – that are our best bet for ecologically- and ethically-beneficial sourcing of foodstuffs, not replacing animal protein with plant-based (and often highly-processed) substitutes.

 

How to lay a hedge | Gardens Illustrated

Learn how to lay a hedge using traditional craftsmanship and hedge laying skills.

“Interested in the centuries-old skill of hedge laying? Follow our guide on how to lay a hedge and learn about the traditional ways to lay a hedge.”

Source: How to lay a hedge – Gardens Illustrated

“Hedge laying is a seasonal job carried out between October and March when trees and shrubs are dormant, and birds have finished nesting in the hedges…”

Ever wondered how to “lay a hedge” in classic English style (or even what that term meant)? Here’s an excellent starting point! No reason it couldn’t be done here in the U.S., for those with the land and resources to do so! I’ve often wished I could have a place where I could recreate an English cottage garden, including / incorporating a traditional hedge.

 

“They’re Trying to Wipe Us Off the Map” – Small American Farmers Are Nearing Extinction | TIME

Mary Rieckmann with her son Russell tending to their cows on Nov. 20, 2019.

A perfect storm of factors has lead to the biggest crisis for American farmers in decades. Here’s what it’s like to be an American farmer in 2019.

Source: American Farmers Are in Crisis. Here’s Why | Time

Read this article. It’s important. Yes, it’s filtered through the requisite anti-Trumpism and climate alarmism of the mainstream media. But the reality it describes, for small family farms in America, is one which needs to be understood:

“In the American imagination, at least, the family farm still exists as it does on holiday greeting cards: as a picturesque, modestly prosperous expanse that wholesomely fills the space between the urban centers where most of us live.

“But it has been declining for generations, and the closing days of 2019 find small farms pummeled from every side: a trade war, severe weather associated with climate change, tanking commodity prices related to globalization, political polarization, and corporate farming defined not by a silo and a red barn but technology and the efficiencies of scale. It is the worst crisis in decades.

“Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies were up 12 percent in the Midwest from July of 2018 to June of 2019; they’re up 50 percent in the Northwest. Tens of thousands have simply stopped farming, knowing that reorganization through bankruptcy won’t save them. The nation lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018; 12,000 of those between 2017 and 2018 alone.”

That is dismaying, to put it mildly. Indeed, for those of us who can see past the surface numbers to understand the implications, it is deeply frightening.

While there are a number of factors contributing to this crisis, I believe that the threatened demise of American small farms is at base an attack – and I would argue that it is in large measure a concerted and intentional one, by an unholy alliance of convenience between Big Government and Big Corporatism – on food sovereignty.

Every single one of the factors listed in the article – “a trade war, severe weather associated with climate change, tanking commodity prices related to globalization, political polarization, and corporate farming defined not by a silo and a red barn but technology and the efficiencies of scale” – can be traced directly to one of the two entities mentioned above, in some cases both.

So, where does food sovereignty come in – and what is it, anyway, and why does it matter?

Well, food sovereignty is defined as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally-appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” It is in its essence localized and dispersed, rooted in family farms and local communities.

Big corporations hate this because it interferes with their profits, and big government hates it because it interferes with their control – thus the alliance-of-convenience mentioned above.

And yes, some of the factors that affect small farms are (presumably) unintended consequences of other issues – but the responses, the proposed “solutions,” by government and corporate interests alike, are always in the direction of greater centralization (“get big or get out,” or variations on the theme), greater industrialization and automation, more control, less human input and contact with the land, less local sovereignty.

The underlying reality is that food sovereignty is the basis of sovereignty, period. It doesn’t matter what your system of government is – capitalistic, communistic, or anything in between – you are not sovereign if you cannot control your own food supply: if you have to rely on someone else, state or corporation, to provide your food and to control what food is provided, and when, and how.

Now, obviously, most of us (by choice or necessity) are willing to trade a little sovereignty for convenience – we are no longer (for better or for worse) a nation of farmers. But the further we get from local agriculture, rooted in small family farms that are closely tied in with their local communities, the less sovereignty we all enjoy, and the more we are at the mercy of Someone Somewhere Else turning off the tap.

In other words, the demise of small, local, family farms is not just a shame – although it is! very much so – and it’s not just less healthy for consumers, communities, and the environment, although that is also true. It’s also dangerous, for our rights and freedoms, for liberty, sovereignty, independence.

Who controls the food, controls those who rely on it for survival. That’s the bottom line.

London’s last working shire horses revive centuries-old tradition of cutting rare hay meadows | Daily Mail Online

Ham House head gardener Rosie Fyles said: 'There's something really special about witnessing the sights and sounds of this centuries-old rural tradition in the heart of London today. We know these flood meadows have been part of the London landscape since the 17th Century and would have been used for grazing and ploughed for hay and feed'

London’s last working shire horses are reviving the centuries-old tradition of cutting rare hay meadows without heavy machinery to encourage the return of wild flowers.

Source: London’s last working shire horses revive centuries-old tradition of cutting rare hay meadows | Daily Mail Online

There are some things draft horses – or “heavy horses,” as they’re known in England – can do better than any tractor, and one of those is protecting the ecosystem that they’re working:

Despite weighing up to a tonne, the heavy horses are still lighter than tractors and compact the soil less as they plod the fields, which helps plants and wildlife to flourish…

The National Trust said it decided to return to the traditional method of managing the land because of its many benefits for nature. The horses are a throwback to a bygone era of farming, before the invention of the internal combustion engine. Their remarkable stamina also mean they can work well into their 20s and can mow an average of 10 acres of grass in one day.”

And of course, the “exhaust” they produce fertilizes the land, rather than polluting the air; and unlike tractors, they can breed their own replacements!

Heavy horses back at work in London, even if it is only on one select site… Perhaps Jethro Tull (the band, not the 18th-century agriculturalist) was prophetic:

In these dark towns folk lie sleeping
As the heavy horses thunder by,
To wake the dying city
With the living horseman’s cry.
At once the old hands quicken,
Bring pick and wisp and curry comb:
Thrill to the sound of all
The heavy horses coming home…

— Jethro Tull, “Heavy Horses

Jethro Tull – Heavy Horses

Believe it or not, though I have liked Jethro Tull for many years (and passionately loved their album Songs from the Wood, which has been one of my favorites since late high school / early college days), I just listened seriously to this one, and read the lyrics, for the first time the night before last. Wow! I did not know what I was missing:

Let me find you a filly for your proud stallion seed
to keep the old line going.
And we’ll stand you abreast at the back of the wood
behind the young trees growing
To hide you from eyes that mock at your girth,
and your eighteen hands at the shoulder
And one day when the oil barons have all dripped dry
and the nights are seen to draw colder
They’ll beg for your strength, your gentle power
your noble grace and your bearing
And you’ll strain once again to the sound of the gulls
in the wake of the deep plough, sharing.

Standing like tanks on the brow of the hill
Up into the cold wind facing
In stiff battle harness, chained to the world
Against the low sun racing
Bring me a wheel of oaken wood
A rein of polished leather
A Heavy Horse and a tumbling sky
Brewing heavy weather.

Again, wow. Lifts the hair on the back of my neck! For someone who loves the great draft horses as I do, this is a deeply moving song. Magnificent!

horse
A much younger Anglophilic Anglican, ground-driving a Percheron mare, at a draft horse driving workshop at the Carroll County Farm Museum, c. 2000-2001.

 

The Medieval Garden | Dave’s Garden

Tofts&Crofts – Medieval Garden

Today we purchase most of our food from a supermarket; our pharmaceuticals and cleansers are largely synthetic. Many of us tend purely ornamental flower borders. We are far removed from medieval times when gardens were essential for survival, and plants grown for food, medicine and enjoyment were often one and the same.

Source: The Medieval Garden | Dave’s Garden

Two of my greatest loves are the Middle Ages and gardening – herbal and vegetable gardening, in particular. Indeed, one of the reasons I love herbalism so much is that it combines my love of nature and the outdoors with my love of history!

Humans have had gardens for at least as long as we have been a largely settled people; that is to say, probably pretty much since the neolithic period. But a remarkable number of our gardening and agricultural practices – I am speaking of traditional ones, mind you, not industrial agriculture! – may be traced back to the medieval period, and particularly to monastic farms and gardens.

These include double-digging and marling, crop rotation (e.g., letting fields lie fallow for a time), and the use of “manure” (as used in earlier ages, a mixture of animal dung with other types of what we would now call compostable materials).

Many of us may be familiar with Ellis Peters’ superb “Chronicles of Brother Cadfael” serious of medieval crime fiction, in which the lead character, Brother Cadfael himself, was Benedictine monk-herbalist (and former Crusader) in 12th century Shrewsbury. His primary occupation in the monastery was growing herbs and keeping an herbal apothecary, from which he assisted both brothers of the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul and also local townsfolk with their various ills and injuries, but in the usual manner of literary detectives, crimes and mysteries in need of solutions kept finding him!

Image result for brother cadfael's herb garden

The Brother Cadfael chronicles are works of fiction, of course; but Edith Pargeter (whose pen name was Ellis Peters) was an academically-trained medievalist, and her research was solid. Medieval monks really were avid gardeners and farmers; they had to be, to support their foundations.

The Rule of St. Benedict required that monks support themselves by their own labours – ora et labora (prayer and work) was a major axiom of the Benedictine Rule. And of course, in an agrarian society like the Middle Ages, that largely meant farming, although of course monks also did many other things, in addition (manuscript-making, running hospitals and guest-houses, bread-baking, and beer-brewing, to name just a few). Notably, all of these (including manuscript-making, as medieval manuscripts were scriven on vellum or parchment, made from specially-prepared animal skins) were also closely linked with gardening and/or farming.

At any rate, for a variety of reasons – whether a love of history, especially medieval history, a desire to recapture and practice traditional arts and crafts, or as a hedge against a possible crisis which would require greater self-sufficiency, among others – some of us might want to consider recreating a medieval garden, or elements thereof, as our circumstances allow.

The above-linked article by Gwen Bruno provides an excellent general history of the medieval garden, and thus inspiration for the endeavor. For additional inspiration, as well as helpful hints and suggestions on how to do it, and a variety of useful resources and instructions on historical gardening in general, I recommend Designing a Medieval Garden, on the Wyrtig blog. If your goal is primarily medicinal, you might also want to consult English Heritage‘s “What to Grow in a Medieval Garden,” which lists nine of the most commonly-grown medieval medicinal herbs.

The Glories of the West: Viehscheid im Allgäu

More from those “culture-less” Europeans! A traditional celebration of transhumance, the Viehscheid (cattle drive) in Allgäu (also celebrated elsewhere in Bavaria and throughout the Alps, including Austria and Switzerland) is a centuries-old tradition that celebrates the ceremonial return of the cattle (and their herders), in the Autumn, from the mountain pastures where they have spent the summer months, grazing on the rich grass of the Alpine meadows.

Transhumance, form of semi-nomadic pastoralism, is organized around the migration of livestock (such as cattle, goats, or sheep) between mountain pastures in warm seasons and lower altitudes the rest of the year. The herd-folk, who accompany their cattle to higher elevations during the warm season, typically have permanent homes, and families, in the valleys. The return of the cattle and their herders is therefore an occasion of great celebration, both for those who have been away all summer, and those who have been anxiously awaiting their return in the valleys below!

In the Allgäu region, no less than 30,000 cows and calves spend their summer in the mountains, before being driven down into the valley with great ceremony and celebration in the Autumn. It is time when all dress in their best trachten (traditional clothing, in its original form dating to the mid-to-late 1800s, and nowadays typically worn on festive occasions), and even the cattle are bedecked with bells, flowers, and greenery to celebrate the occasion!

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing, mountain, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, plant, tree, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: shoes, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

 


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