Month: December 2015

Wild Food Foraging In Semi-Urban Area

20151228_103959Yes! Wild food still exists, even in today’s urbanized areas. There is a piece of land near where I live that is semi wild, there is a dirt road and some houses nearby but there is also a lot of forest and small animals. In fact sometimes I will be quietly sitting meditating when all of a sudden a little buck will come bounding past and scare me half to death! One day I was walking and I saw these small red berries. Now I will advise you to never eat food you don’t know but I have always been a bit stupid when it comes to risk taking and I took a berry and ate it. As you can see, I am still alive and the berry was delicious! Since then, I eat a few berries whenever I walk past that area. I will try to find out the name of this plant and update the article when I do.

Wild food foraging is immensely satisfying. There is something about finding little edible treats in nature that is so much fun. And of course it is organic too! Not only organic, but the plant’s genetic material is superb as it has been self-propagating for who knows how long. Many of our current food plants can’t boast that same feat – try growing your store bought tomato seeds past 2 or 3 generations and you will see what I mean.

I plan on creating an organic seed bank and taking a percentage and sowing it in the wild. My aim is to try and increase the amount of “wild food” in areas like these and see how these plants fare. If the experiment goes well, more “food forests” can be created, growing on their own as Nature intended. I think that destitute and homeless people should at least be able to forage for food. Living off Nature is essential to feeling safe and secure in this world when you have absolutely nothing to call your own.

How Much Water Does Oregano Really Need?

In this article I will compare two sets of leaves, one set was grown during a time when the plant’s soil frequently went dry, and the other set was grown when the soil hardly went dry and remained relatively moist.

I frequently research information about herbs, particularly their light and water requirements, because I want them to grow optimally. Not only for the highest yield possible, but also because I save seed and to get the best seed you need strong healthy plants. There is a plethora of information out there – much of it conflicting advice. Many websites said that oregano liked to go a bit dry, that it enhanced the flavour of the herb, and that most herbs don’t like to be overwatered. Overwatering is quite dangerous, more dangerous than underwatering, and is actually the most common cause of death in potted plants. This is why many websites say let the top of the soil dry out before watering again, because they know many people overwater. Overwatering is more dangerous than its opposite because plants can store water for those dry spells that occur in nature, but if their roots are constantly waterlogged the roots will die and the plant will struggle.

For optimal growth and the healthiest plant, you don’t want the plant to go too long without water and getting the water requirements right for your plant is almost an art form. It is a very good skill to have. Oregano definitely does not like to go dry and I advise people to treat it like mint, but a full sun version of mint. That means that it likes sun and the soil should be moist. Oregano should NOT be treated like lavender for example. Both are herbs, but lavender doesn’t mind really hot dry conditions and will survive quite well. Do the same to oregano and you have a poor specimen of plant.20151229_073219

The first photo shows healthy oregano leaves. These leaves were grown in conditions of what I call half sun. This means that the plant received about 5 hours of direct sun, maybe even less, and the plant was watered almost daily. This is because the plant is quite large and in a pot, so watering needs to be done carefully because the plant cannot grow roots in search of deeper water sources. The plant would appreciate more sun, but because it is in a pot I can’t risk it going dry from sitting in the sun all day so I have placed it in a place where it gets shade, to conserve water. It grows just fine. Of course, I hate potting up plants and prefer them to grow in the garden but sometimes it is just not feasible.

 

The second picture shows leaves that were grown in full sun of about 8 hours per day, in the hottest p20151117_152404art of the garden, and the soil frequently went dry. This photo is of the plant after I moved it to another garden, and then it still wasn’t doing well so I potted it so that I could shade it more. So this is a bit worse than how it normally was but still quite accurate. You can see a marked difference. The leaves have become PERMANENTLY curled. I say permanently because oregano leaves curl a little when conditions are dry, to conserve water, but this is now a permanent feature. I noticed this about this plant when it was younger – I thought oregano leaves were normally a little curled, but after a very misty morning one day I saw that the leaves were flat, not curled. This explained why my oregano never looked the same as in photos on the internet! And also, I watered the plant almost every day but it wasn’t enough evidently. So as you can see, this poor plant really had dry conditions – so much so that the leaves have now become permanently curled inwards.

In a factory farm, this little baby will be taken away from his mother immediately and put into a crate where he can't move much so that he fattens up a bit before being slaughtered. The sounds of distress from mother and child are too much for most humane people to bear.
In a factory farm, this little baby will be taken away from his mother immediately and put into a crate where he can’t move much so that he fattens up a bit before being slaughtered. The sounds of distress from mother and child are too much for most humane people to bear.

 

The dairy industry is the subject of many attacks by vegans, in fact it is called the “rape and murder” industry. This is because females are impregnated using artificial insemination and the babies are taken from their mothers after birth so that the milk goes to people. However, ethical dairy farming is much more animal friendly and everyone should switch if they are not vegan.

Below is an excerpt taken from the Society for the Advancement of Animal Wellbeing website:

In modern times, to obtain high yields of milk at low cost and optimal efficiency, the cow has been turned into a piece of machinery, whose sole purpose in life is to produce milk.

Let’s look now at the dairy industry’s standard for milk production, bearing in mind that this is a factual account of the agricultural process and not a presentation of isolated incidents.

To produce milk a female cow must be made pregnant so as to lactate to feed her offspring. Thus at the tender age of 15 months female dairy cows are forced into pregnancy through artificial insemination. This process is extremely painful for the animals, as inexperienced farm workers often restrain the animals in a “rape rack” as it is known in the industry and use a metal rod to forcefully inseminate them.

An even more painful method of inducing pregnancy that has become increasingly popular is embryo implantation, in which embryos are grown in one cow and physically implanted in another.

A cow’s gestation period is nine months, the same as that of humans. After a calf is born, if it is female, she is raised as a dairy cow; if it is male he may be slaughtered on site with a sledgehammer and then its blood is drained or it is taken away to be turned into veal. The separation of mother and calf is extremely distressing to both; cries are often heard as mother and child call after one another.

Milk, anyone?

The lactating mother cow is then chained by its neck and kept in a confined shed that allows it virtually no movement. There is no grazing on green grass, but instead these natural herbivores are fed high-protein pellet mixtures containing material from other dead animals including cows. So not only are dairy cows turned into carnivores but cannibals as well. This roughage-free and pathogen-filled diet often causes cows to become malnourished and can cause brain-rotting diseases such as mad-cow disease or BSE.

Young dairy cows then have vacuum machines attached to their teats or udders, and their milk is painfully sucked out. Dairy cows are milked 365 days a year, and in order to get Holstein dairy cows to lactate year round they are continually kept pregnant, meaning that two to three months after giving birth they are painfully impregnated again and this process continues for the rest of their short lives.

To boost production further, the cows are also injected with bovine growth hormone, which could cause birth defects and even various cancers in humans. Current methods mean that Holsteins produce ten times as much milk as they would normally, or approximately 100 pounds per day. This inappropriately high level of milk production and the methods of obtaining it leave the animals extremely sick and prone to both bacterial and viral infections.

Other conditions that these poor creatures often suffer from are milk fever caused by a lack of calcium, which also leads to osteoporosis, meaning that the cows often suffer from broken bones just from walking or slipping. The most common affliction affecting 50% of all dairy herds is chronic mastitis, a painful, sore infection of the udder. However, the cows are still milked, causing blood and pus from their infections to end up in the milk consumed by humans.

Up to 750-million pus cells per liter have been measured in milk products. To try to reduce this condition, the cows are pumped full of antibiotics. Also, the udders of dairy cows get so disproportionately large that their hind legs are permanently spread, causing lameness. The animals are continuously prodded with electrical rods in order to get them to move back to urinate and excrete in gutters.

Thus dairy cows’ living conditions are extremely unhygienic and cause foot rot and other diseases. The natural life span of a dairy cow is 25 years under normal conditions but under current factory-farming methods this span is reduced to three to five years. So what happens when a dairy cow is no longer useful? The answer is, it is turned into ground beef for burgers and other such reconstituted meat products.

As you can see, the modern dairy industry is animal cruelty which is allowed because it is very profitable and people LOVE milk and cheese, ice cream, cappuccinos, etc. But the dairy industry doesn’t have to be cruel and the dairy farmers listed on www.ethicalsuppliers.co.za/shop are carefully selected and represent the most ethical farming practices possible.

Firstly, artificial insemination is not used. Reproduction takes place the way Nature intended. All the animals are allowed to graze freely in grassy pastures in sunlight and shade and fresh air. Nothing like the filthy pens (or sterile concrete uncomfortable cubicles) that factory farmed dairy cows have to endure.

The calves are not immediately separated on birth but are allowed to suckle from their mothers. After a few months they are weaned using temporary nose rings that DO NOT require the nose to be pierced. More information supplied by the Spirited Rose Homestead Dairy:

WHY IS SUCKING BAD?
  • First, non-milking animals have a natural plug in each teat. Sucking softens the tissue and causes the teat to unplug, allowing in potentially pathogenic bacteria.
  • Second, sucking on another heifer’s teats or udder area (also referred to as “udder promise”) can lead to tissue damage or mastitis.
    • Tissue damage is often not noticeable, until the heifer calves and becomes a cow. Severe tissue damage creates a “blind quarter” – which is a quarter that creates no milk ever. It usually looks much smaller, because it does not stretch out with milk secreting tissue (hence the name “blind”). Less severe damage may result in odd lumps, reduced production, etc.
    • Mastitis will often tend to be noticeable (redness, heat, swelling, hardness) and can occur to bred or unbred, milking or dry animals. If noticed in a non-milking animal, mastitis should still be properly treated and milked out to flush out the infected material.

So the rings are used to either wean the calves or to prevent damage to the other cows who are perhaps ill, too young, old or in an otherwise non-milking state. The ring does not hurt the calf but makes it uncomfortable for the cow being suckled so the cow will move away from the calf.

This may not be perfect for most vegans, but it is much much better than the usual way of dairy farming. And the preferred supplier for the JHB region, Moira Hampson Dairy, only charges R10 per litre so the price is not much higher than the cruelly farmed milk found in the shops. To buy ethically produced dairy products visit this link: http://www.ethicalsuppliers.co.za/product-category/gauteng-suppliers/organic-groceries/organic-dairy-products/