Sunday, 22 November 2009

حياتك منورة بالحب

Photo: CH

The title might give you a little clue as to what I have been up to these last few months! It is an Arabic translation of our live in light with love and it literally says, may your life be lit by love.

Where the hell have I been lately? These last few months have zoomed by - I can't believe it is almost the END of November! Has your Autumn flown by in a whirlwind too? I am in Edinburgh sitting in my flat on a very cold and wet evening, there is a gale outside and no heating inside but I just wanted to say hello and that I had not forgotten you!

I have started my Masters in has thrown my life upside down completely. I yo-yo constantly between frustration and satisfaction; there are not enough hours in the day for me to learn the vocab or perfect my 'ghain' sound. I have had no time to do anything but work these last few weeks - squeezing in visits to friends in St Andrews and London were worthwhile challenges - but I started to lose grip on the things that I loved so much. Exercise came down to yoga once a week, cooking became a rotation of chickpea salads, fishcakes and deconstructed pesto pasta. No baking, no blogging, no me really.

But I am clawing my way back. I honestly did not think I would make it this far with Arabic. Every weekend is a relief to get to, every monday brings more challenges but I am here and still going...and that is the most important thing. I am not happy if one element in my life takes over...I have struggled to balance everything and Arabic certainly became the only focus. But little by little the creativity is creeping back; pottery painting, repairing my jumper, guess-ta-maker baking and I am back at the blog. I know I need to have time off from the learning so I am going to get on the hunt for an evening art class starting after Christmas. I have even got myself a job at the most brilliant local restaurant. Jacs, you and I would spend many an evening there with a glass of wine. Food sourced locally, fairtrade, organic yumminess.

Here is a little peek in to what I have been up places, new faces and a new chapter.

Some Arabic classmates...Claire, Char, Tamami, Steve, Ben C, Ben Wahid, Chris....

Steve, Christine, Char, Sus, Ruw, Claire, Chris and Tamami....

Suzannah, Char, Chris, Tamami

I have been introduced to some amazing things recently...



Waltz with Bashir

Nile Valley
The Mosque Kitchen
Real Foods

The wonders of skype will never cease to amaze me! I went to see Bat for Lashes in concert recently and she was supported by the Yeasayers! I felt very close to Jacs!

I have been making my own pack-lunch every day so I have become resident expert on all things travel friendly! Much much more later this week...

I am back... with love,

P.S....sorry for the lack of photos...I can't fine my camera cord! xx

Thank you to Chris for the Arabic Masterboard Photo....x

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Meatless Monday: Solving the Carnivore's Dilemma

Dudes I though I would post this great op-ed from the New York Times about meat, the environment and settling the score on personal preferences. I do not think it is urging people to go veg or not, I think it asks you to think about how your diet affects the environment. This means how far does your food travel to get to your plate?

Also check out the movement: Meatless Monday

...and this lovely helpful conservation over consumption website: retrovore

The Carnivore’s Dilemma

October 31, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor

Bolinas, Calif.

Is eating a hamburger the global warming equivalent of driving a Hummer? This week an article in The Times of London carried a headline that blared: “Give Up Meat to Save the Planet.” Former Vice President Al Gore, who has made climate change his signature issue, has even been assailed for omnivorous eating by animal rights activists.

It’s true that food production is an important contributor to climate change. And the claim that meat (especially beef) is closely linked to global warming has received some credible backing, including by the United Nations and University of Chicago. Both institutions have issued reports that have been widely summarized as condemning meat-eating.

But that’s an overly simplistic conclusion to draw from the research. To a rancher like me, who raises cattle, goats and turkeys the traditional way (on grass), the studies show only that the prevailing methods of producing meat — that is, crowding animals together in factory farms, storing their waste in giant lagoons and cutting down forests to grow crops to feed them — cause substantial greenhouse gases. It could be, in fact, that a conscientious meat eater may have a more environmentally friendly diet than your average vegetarian.

So what is the real story of meat’s connection to global warming? Answering the question requires examining the individual greenhouse gases involved: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides.

Carbon dioxide makes up the majority of agriculture-related greenhouse emissions. In American farming, most carbon dioxide emissions come from fuel burned to operate vehicles and equipment. World agricultural carbon emissions, on the other hand, result primarily from the clearing of woods for crop growing and livestock grazing. During the 1990s, tropical deforestation in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Sudan and other developing countries caused 15 percent to 35 percent of annual global fossil fuel emissions.

Much Brazilian deforestation is connected to soybean cultivation. As much as 70 percent of areas newly cleared for agriculture in Mato Grosso State in Brazil is being used to grow soybeans. Over half of Brazil’s soy harvest is controlled by a handful of international agribusiness companies, which ship it all over the world for animal feed and food products, causing emissions in the process.

Meat and dairy eaters need not be part of this. Many smaller, traditional farms and ranches in the United States have scant connection to carbon dioxide emissions because they keep their animals outdoors on pasture and make little use of machinery. Moreover, those farmers generally use less soy than industrial operations do, and those who do often grow their own, so there are no emissions from long-distance transport and zero chance their farms contributed to deforestation in the developing world.

In contrast to traditional farms, industrial livestock and poultry facilities keep animals in buildings with mechanized systems for feeding, lighting, sewage flushing, ventilation, heating and cooling, all of which generate emissions. These factory farms are also soy guzzlers and acquire much of their feed overseas. You can reduce your contribution to carbon dioxide emissions by avoiding industrially produced meat and dairy products.

Unfortunately for vegetarians who rely on it for protein, avoiding soy from deforested croplands may be more difficult: as the Organic Consumers Association notes, Brazilian soy is common (and unlabeled) in tofu and soymilk sold in American supermarkets.

Methane is agriculture’s second-largest greenhouse gas. Wetland rice fields alone account for as much 29 percent of the world’s human-generated methane. In animal farming, much of the methane comes from lagoons of liquefied manure at industrial facilities, which are as nauseating as they sound.

This isn’t a problem at traditional farms. “Before the 1970s, methane emissions from manure were minimal because the majority of livestock farms in the U.S. were small operations where animals deposited manure in pastures and corrals,” the Environmental Protection Agency says. The E.P.A. found that with the rapid rise of factory farms, liquefied manure systems became the norm and methane emissions skyrocketed. You can reduce your methane emissions by seeking out meat from animals raised outdoors on traditional farms.

CRITICS of meat-eating often point out that cattle are prime culprits in methane production. Fortunately, the cause of these methane emissions is understood, and their production can be reduced.

Much of the problem arises when livestock eat poor quality forages, throwing their digestive systems out of balance. Livestock nutrition experts have demonstrated that by making minor improvements in animal diets (like providing nutrient-laden salt licks) they can cut enteric methane by half. Other practices, like adding certain proteins to ruminant diets, can reduce methane production per unit of milk or meat by a factor of six, according to research at Australia’s University of New England. Enteric methane emissions can also be substantially reduced when cattle are regularly rotated onto fresh pastures, researchers at University of Louisiana have confirmed.

Finally, livestock farming plays a role in nitrous oxide emissions, which make up around 5 percent of this country’s total greenhouse gases. More than three-quarters of farming’s nitrous oxide emissions result from manmade fertilizers. Thus, you can reduce nitrous oxide emissions by buying meat and dairy products from animals that were not fed fertilized crops — in other words, from animals raised on grass or raised organically.

In contrast to factory farming, well-managed, non-industrialized animal farming minimizes greenhouse gases and can even benefit the environment. For example, properly timed cattle grazing can increase vegetation by as much as 45 percent, North Dakota State University researchers have found. And grazing by large herbivores (including cattle) is essential for well-functioning prairie ecosystems, research at Kansas State University has determined.

Additionally, several recent studies show that pasture and grassland areas used for livestock reduce global warming by acting as carbon sinks. Converting croplands to pasture, which reduces erosion, effectively sequesters significant amounts of carbon. One analysis published in the journal Global Change Biology showed a 19 percent increase in soil carbon after land changed from cropland to pasture. What’s more, animal grazing reduces the need for the fertilizers and fuel used by farm machinery in crop cultivation, things that aggravate climate change.

Livestock grazing has other noteworthy environmental benefits as well. Compared to cropland, perennial pastures used for grazing can decrease soil erosion by 80 percent and markedly improve water quality, Minnesota’s Land Stewardship Project research has found. Even the United Nations report acknowledges, “There is growing evidence that both cattle ranching and pastoralism can have positive impacts on biodiversity.”

As the contrast between the environmental impact of traditional farming and industrial farming shows, efforts to minimize greenhouse gases need to be much more sophisticated than just making blanket condemnations of certain foods. Farming methods vary tremendously, leading to widely variable global warming contributions for every food we eat. Recent research in Sweden shows that, depending on how and where a food is produced, its carbon dioxide emissions vary by a factor of 10.

And it should also be noted that farmers bear only a portion of the blame for greenhouse gas emissions in the food system. Only about one-fifth of the food system’s energy use is farm-related, according to University of Wisconsin research. And the Soil Association in Britain estimates that only half of food’s total greenhouse impact has any connection to farms. The rest comes from processing, transportation, storage, retailing and food preparation. The seemingly innocent potato chip, for instance, turns out to be a dreadfully climate-hostile food. Foods that are minimally processed, in season and locally grown, like those available at farmers’ markets and backyard gardens, are generally the most climate-friendly.

Rampant waste at the processing, retail and household stages compounds the problem. About half of the food produced in the United States is thrown away, according to University of Arizona research. Thus, a consumer could measurably reduce personal global warming impact simply by more judicious grocery purchasing and use.

None of us, whether we are vegan or omnivore, can entirely avoid foods that play a role in global warming. Singling out meat is misleading and unhelpful, especially since few people are likely to entirely abandon animal-based foods. Mr. Gore, for one, apparently has no intention of going vegan. The 90 percent of Americans who eat meat and dairy are likely to respond the same way.

Still, there are numerous reasonable ways to reduce our individual contributions to climate change through our food choices. Because it takes more resources to produce meat and dairy than, say, fresh locally grown carrots, it’s sensible to cut back on consumption of animal-based foods. More important, all eaters can lower their global warming contribution by following these simple rules: avoid processed foods and those from industrialized farms; reduce food waste; and buy local and in season.

Nicolette Hahn Niman, a lawyer and livestock rancher, is the author of “Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Keep Reading!

p.s on that note check out The Daily Table's wonderfully detailed breakdown of antibiotics and the prevalence of them in our meat today!

Becoming an Urban Homesteader?

So apparently it does not take much work to find ways to urban homstead. Finding a free Greenthumb-sponsored canning event to frequent on a Tuesday night with fellow urban homesteaders (wink wink Will and Cameron) and infamous local food activists (Classie) will make you quickly realize it's actually not that hard at all to homestead in a city. It's even kind of social. It helps local shops, restaurants and institutions like these down below thrive, because instead of buying big you make a choice to support the small.

The Brooklyn Kitchen/ The Brooklyn Labs/ The Meat Hook

Urban Rustic NYC

Brooklyn Flea

Rooftops (of course)

New Amsterdam Market

Greenpoint Food Market

People like her

and Matthew at SCRATCHbread

his supporters at Get Fresh Market and Table and Brooklyn Larder

and busy bees like these dudes and backyard gardeners like her --> coming soon

Maybe the idea of homesteading has become more than a local movement?

"Almost 700 people from 93 countries, many of whom are small-scale food producers, have gathered outside the U.N. summit. They are there in behalf of the People’s Food Sovereignty Forum, and they are pushing for small-scale, organic, sustainable food-sovereignty and food-security programs, as opposed to large-scale agribusiness with its dependence on genetically modified organisms and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Michelle Obama said last March when planting the White House’s organic kitchen garden, “It is so important for them [children] to get regular fruits and vegetables in their diets, because it does have nutrients, it does make you strong, it is all brain food.” The first lady of the U.S. made the point that a homegrown, organic garden is a sustainable and affordable way to strengthen family food security." (From Hungering For a True Thanksgiving)

teach the kids yo!

and don't forget to visit the farms


Act: Thanksgiving Challenge

[image borrowed from google]

(Opps) I went to the New Amsterdam Market in October and forgot to blog about it, yes I know blogging has been weak, but I am picking up in it....and GOOD news the Market is coming up again - November 22nd- with a Thanksgiving theme. The Market is where I am picking up my turkey, which was slaughtered just today. Yes I really just blogged about my turkey.

It is/was a pastured raised heritage turkey from McEnroe Farms. For only $68 bucks I got me a 15 pound pastured raised organic turkey- I'd say that is a good deal. I am in the midst of planning 'the meal menu,' which will be extra special because Pete and his family are coming over. This meal is going to be completely local and farm market fresh. I am getting serious about my 100-mile diet (Pete and I are going to go full force when he gets over here); I thought the harvest celebration was a beautiful way to start.

Anyway I am challenging you guys (yes as you have noticed there is a new Act section of the blog) to be as local as you can when planning, shopping for, and cooking your Thanksgiving meal. Guess what? I have a feeling it will all taste better if you do!

Quickly here some obvious but resourceful tools/sites/magazines to check out when Thanksgiving planning...

Bon Apetit
Food Network

CENYC (for market info)
New Amsterdam Market (shopping)


Save Bed-Stuy Farms Yo!

[borrowed from google]

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Farm and The Farm

Farm members bring in the cane during sorghum harvest, 1972.
[images borrowed from Vanity Fair online]

Suffering from insomnia lately has me up reading all sorts of things. I googled 'The Farm' to get the address of the restaurant my friends and I are going to for my birthday and up popped this crazy hippie commune- well naturally I had to check it out. As I clicked through the pretty disorganized website I started to loose hope, but then I found a link to this Vanity Fair article written about the farm or The Farm. Now this is where I started getting really interested.

This 'coincidence' all ties into to my recent and amazing visit to a few pretty impressive Hudson Valley Farms this weekend (Ronny's, Billiam's, Pete and Rory's, and Severine's). I also wicked visited an anarchist commune in Germantown. I watched and even helped a little as a dear was butchered in a true homstead style. It was such an amazing weekend, and most of all it enlightened this City kid to the fact that all this back-to-the-land reading and chating has a purpose. There is a possibility of people doing this 'stuff.' Screw that, it (a.k.a homesteading) is actually happening, people are moving back to the land, they are turning it to it not only for food and function but for guidance and a new (or shall I say old) way of life.

Check out these communal workers and horse-plow farming techniques.

Farm members build a home, circa 1972.
Plowing in the fields.

Is this not the most amazing picture of a family farming together?

Chief gardener Cliff Davis, March 2007.

I love this clip from the article, because well it sums up EXACTLY how I feel:

Jim, who became an activist while majoring in engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, picks up the conversational thread: "Personally, I needed a break from American pop culture. It's The Grand Distraction—capital T, capital G, capital D. I'm tired of being part of some millionaire's game."

Even more true is the last paragraph of the article:

Albert Bates, now a tribal elder, has to laugh when he hears the hot talk of the rising Farmies. "Those kids are bringing in a lot of energy," he says. "As hippies of the 60s and 70s, we endowed our kids with this meta-program of peace, love, and ecology, and now they're holding our feet to the fire and saying, 'O.K., let's see it.' It's like we sent a reminder to ourselves down through time."