Inflammation Detox…

An accidental experiment yesterday revealed the true power of inflammation and the fundamental reason why as a race, humanity is so ill from the inside out.

I’ve been known in the past for being self-righteous and it’s a trait I’d like to think I no longer have, but last nights meal out with some old friends hit home just how much what we consume wreaks havoc on our often quite fragile internal mechanics, so this post is a guide to all on the evils of certain food and drinks, not me being a smug bastard or a paragon of health.

I’ve been off the “inflammatories” for the best part of two months now and during that time, I have seen my weight come down to my target, my BMI likewise following suit, and the general lethargy and bloated feelings disappear completely.

Whilst Wim Hof (not that I’ve read thus far) doesn’t share any real nutrition advice to his acolytes, other than to eat a more plant-based diet, he does hit home on the impact inflammation has on the body, and the amount of deaths that are directly (actually covertly) attributed to inflammation. Think about that for a second, there are over sixty million deaths per year associated to inflammation, the main causes are heart attacks, stokes, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, all of which account for the number one cause of death in the West.

Perhaps controversially, put that against the one million Covid deaths, and to paraphrase the late and great Bill Hicks “where is my commercial, where is my war on food and alcohol, where is my lockdown”.

It’s also clear that those with high levels of inflammation have perhaps passed away more often from Covid than those without, and I have friends and colleagues who have seen this pattern and have gone on to develop dietary and exercise plans to reduce the risk of severe illness or even death.

As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, Dr Jacob Bronowski first brought inflammation to my attention with his book and series The Ascent of Man. During his life, he studied the evolution of Homo Sapiens closely, and shared the stark fact that our bodies are not built to withstand the barrage of inflammatory foods we gorge on each day. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers for a reason, what they could grab, kill and eat sustained their bodies, and that happened rather well for hundreds of thousands of years, until a chance interbreeding of grasses in the Middle East created the first wheats, the first breads, the first crops, the first farms, the first towns, the list goes on and on until we get to where we are today, technologically advanced yet evolutionally retarded.

The Wim Hof Method teaches us to reduce the inflammation in our bodies via breath work, increasing oxygen levels and supercharging our system reduce the acidity and increase the alkalinity of the body, the key to a more healthy lifestyle. The cold therapy (via cold showers or ice baths) also helps to flush out inflammatory toxins from the internal organs. If we go beyond the practice and reduce or omit the amount of inflammatory food and drink in our diet, then not only does that put us closer to the lifestyle of our ancient ancestors, but it gives us all a better chance of longevity, and with that, as Wim says, we become “happier, stronger, healthier”.

So just what are the things we should avoid, what are the things we should include.

Well for me, there is no better article than the one I found via a random Duck search (to Duck Duck Go is to Google, without the sharing of personal data to Big Tech!).

The missive on Dr Jockers website clearly articulates what inflammation is and the why and the how we should avoid it.

Without asking for permission (the link to his website and an acknowledgement of how awesome the article is here should avoid any litigation), I’ve included the great “info-graphics” from the article here, as an at-a-glance guide on the dangers of inflammation and what we can do to avoid it.

Like I said, this is not me being self-righteous because I do most of these things already, it is simply a guide for others to consider because I am really seeing the benefits of this approach.

Last night I fell off the inflammation wagon. I went for a meal with two old friends, our table was a vast sharing platter, a communal smorgasbord of Western loveliness. Still avoiding meat, I took bread, I took grains, I took fried potatoes and tempura vegetables, all washed down with alcohol-free beer (which still contains hops). I left the bar so bloated that by the time I “fork-lifted” myself into bed a couple of hours later, I felt awful. I woke up this morning feeling crap, my stomach distended still from last nights overload.

OK I had a great night catching up with my old buddies, but today my system is screaming at me, telling me stay on the right path and ditch the bad stuff. I told it in no uncertain terms to pipe down a little as we still need to have fun, right?!

It’s not an easy path to take either, our brains have been hard-wired to crave sugar, to crave advertised fast-food, to opt for the brightly coloured and wonderfully packaged processed supermarket foods over the grey, boring and time consuming preparations from our vegetable racks, but if we can gain the power back over our minds and turn off the razzmatazz generated by highly-paid marketing consultants who want us to buy more and consume more, then maybe we can truly be happy, healthy and strong…

Detox complete…

I started a science experiment last week to remove all processed sugars from my diet to see whether it was my food intake that was causing me several problems (including broken sleep, inflammation, fatigue, irritability and of course weight gain).

Little did I realise the truly negative impact processed foods and sugars has on ones overall well-being (mind, body and soul).

I ended up cutting short this two week test period, as by the end of Day Ten (yesterday), all of my goals were complete, my hypothesis validated.

As my (rather lengthy) last post detailed, I wanted to regain control of me, by shopping at the local farm, dairy and butchers in an effort to lose a little weight, get my BMI back into the green zone, give myself an energy boost and restore my ailing cognitive abilities, especially at work.

The Green Zone…

So by the end of Day Ten, I had lost 3.1kg, got to my green zone target of 24.9 BMI (any lower than that and I start to look skinny), felt great throughout each day, and came up with some really inspiring and innovative thinking in work.

Eating the healthy and more plant-based options really helped. After the inevitable body crash, things got better very quickly, I stopped getting hungry and got to the stage where I no longer opened the treat drawer to see what was inside (which I used to do several times a day).

Detox Food…

My mindset has also changed due to the sugar detox. Boycotting the supermarket and their exploitative marketing of bad-for-you products helps. Buying local produce helps from a sustainability perspective and keeps family businesses afloat, diverting funds away from big farmer and food corporations. Getting out to exercise everyday, even if it’s just a walk (with or without the pooch), allows body parts to move for this office-worker and gives the mind a chance to wander, ponder and reflect on things, a meditation if you will.

So I can’t recommend highly enough to experiment yourselves to see if a sugar detox works for you, clearly it has for me…

Sugar: A cereal killer…

It may or may not be a surprise to some that the biggest killer on the planet may actually be sugar.

The vast majority of people have a good understanding that those processed and great tasting foods are generally quite bad for us and as a result, too much of them can attribute to weight gain. We have all been there.

A Convenience Truth…

My recent experiment in an effort to reduce my raging tinnitus by stacking several “mushroom-based supplements” (not including psilocybin!) and juicing celery every morning failed. After one whole month of fastidiously sticking to my early morning regime, I came to a few conclusions.

Firstly, it didn’t work. Secondly, if it didn’t work, the outcome and especially the cost made no sense in carrying on. Lastly, and probably most importantly, my general dietary intake hadn’t changed. I had fallen back into old ways of convenience eating and snacking, eating processed / sugary foods, drinking booze too often and having many take-aways. I of course blame boredom and the Covid lockdown, and there is some truth in that.

As a result I felt bloated, my weight had escalated back up to unacceptable digits as had my BMI, and the overhang of the belly made it a bit more difficult to see my “lovebone” when I looked straight down in the shower.

With the advent of the allotment and thinking more seriously about my organic future, I came to the conclusion that it could well be the influence of sugar that was the root cause of my problems.

A brief sojourn through YouTube last weekend gave me the reaffirmation that refined sugar was bad for us, and the two videos below, a science one and an influencer one gave me the extra kick to kick sugar.

The Science…
The Experiment…

It’s not through a lack of education that piles on the pounds, it’s a lack of focus. My brain has been conditioned over the years that in times of melancholy or stress, the resolution to that temporary negative state of mind is either sugar or alcohol. The serotonin /dopamine hit it gives me boosts my mood and makes me forget, albeit for a fleeting moment and the reason why I reached into the cookie jar / beer fridge in the first place. Gets me every time. That very behaviour is the dictionary definition of addiction and sugar is the drug.

There is no argument in my mind that sugar is the biggest cause of death on Planet Earth. If we take a look at the UK and the USA, then the obesity and diabetes rates (amongst the major nations) are right up their at the top of the league tables. Map those two counties against the Covid death rates and there is a similar view. There is also a link between obesity, diabetes and dementia / Alzheimer’s. It appears that if heart disease through ones lifestyle choices doesn’t get you, then your twilight years may not be worth living anyway (sadly my father in law suffered the latter, a decade of dementia purgatory).

The case for healthy living is a strong one, the real difficulties, as the influencer video above calls out, advertising, convenience and the ubiquity of sugar-powered food, you can’t get away from it. Go into the supermarket and just look at the labels. I was surprised (but not shocked) to find that even “Free From”, “Low Cal” and “Fat Free” are saturated with sugars. Shockingly so. Subliminal food advertising is a real scandal, but that’s what make the big bucks for “Big Farmer” (and I was interested to see the billionaires Bezos and Gates are buying up vast expanses of land in the US, I wonder why)…

Shocking advertising, always read the label (which sugars)…

So with that information in mind, it was time for real and direct action.

I wanted to remove all processed sugar from my diet, not overly concerned by whether it’s plant-based, meat-based or that nutrients are delivered via paleo or keto methodologies.

I wanted to test scientifically whether in just one week, I could notice the difference. Well, that’s an understatement!

I set up a non-calorie-counting routine, boring perhaps for some to follow and maybe more difficult in the long term, but I wanted to see what effects and outcomes having zero processed sugars had.

Day One was fine, eager to go and regimented.

Day Two was a kick in the testicles, I felt like a Trainspotting Ewan McGregor lying in his crack den bed whilst a baby crawled across the ceiling, a migraine literally splitting my brain into a further two hemispheres.

Day Three was much better, as if my headache had purged all of the badness in one awful twenty four hour cold turkey period.

Day Four I felt lighter and less bloated, and noticed I had a full nights sleep and felt better for it.

Day Five and I felt my cognitive ability improve in work by quite some way, and my mind, body and soul sang a common chorus.

Day Six was the dreaded weekend but surprisingly, there was no “reach-in” to the snack store, just a reach-up to my secret stack of no-processed-sugar fruit bars (my saviour throughout the week!).

Day Seven was again plain sailing, helped mostly by my tornado tear-out of all sugared products in the cupboards and fridge.

During the seven days, I lost 1.7kg and 0.5 BMI, improved my sleep, energy levels and cognitive abilities, and due to the lack of stress, my tinnitus didn’t seem as bad.

My wife knows all of the above and is now sold on the idea of sugar-free living. She admits she is totally addicted to sugar and I will do all that I can to free her from those deeply ingrained hooks she has. That will be a challenge, as will migrating my thirteen year old daughter to our new processed-free-pantry.

Weekly tracker below:

Day 1

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = 86.5kg 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Apple 🟢

Lunch = Egg/Salmon/Asparagus 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Shrooms 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Moderate Pain 🟠

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 2

Sleep = Broken 🟠

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Apple 🟢

Lunch = Egg/Salmon/Asparagus 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Shrooms 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = None 🔴

Mind = Average IQ 🟠

Body = Chronic Pain 🔴

Soul = Purgatory 🟠

Day 3

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Satsuma 🟢

Lunch = Egg/Salmon/Asparagus 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Broccoli 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 4

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Satsuma 🟢

Lunch = Carrot Soup 🟢

Dinner = Vegetable/Nut Stir Fry 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = None 🔴

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 5

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Paleo Bar 🟢

Lunch = Carrot Soup 🟢

Dinner = Vegetable Fajitas 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = None 🟢

Exercise = Gardening 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 6

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Home Fruit Juice 🟢

Lunch = Roast Chicken Breast 🟢

Dinner = Low Carb Lamb Roast 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 7

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = 84.9kg 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Home Fruit Juice 🟢

Lunch = Home Broccoli Soup 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Shrooms 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

On reflection, I think the real problem we have here is convenience-store-capitalism, we all need food to live and on that basis if big companies can make that food look better, smell better, taste better, feel better and sound better (via advertising), then they attack all five senses at once, not many things in life have that ability.

We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, and then we eat the seed…

We received our first organic farm produce today, and have already welcomed back our old milkmen with open arms after he delivered his first pint of fresh milk this morning. So it’s up yours Morrisons

Stay strong. Stay focused. Stay away from sugar…

We, sow the seed…

As soon as the affirmation was received that I had acquired my “in” for the communal allotment last week, my initial thoughts amusingly turned to the 1980’s sit-com, The Young Ones.

Vegetable rights and peace!

There is an episode called Sick, and part way through the anarchistic character Ryk (played by the wonderful and gone-too-soon Rik Mayall) kills Neil the Hippy (Nigel Planer) because Neil keeps repeating the phrase “We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, and then we eat the seed”, and after several minutes Ryk whacks him with the spade. He then buries the body under a load of horse manure which had been recently dumped in their back garden, only to find that ironically he has cultivated three Neils, who return in the middle of the night to taunt and haunt him. Classic.

My sister is also keen to get involved in the venture and armed with gloves, hat and wellingtons, she joined me and my wife to visit the plot today. The weather this week had been been awful, and the rain and howling winds have wrecked a lot of the hard work in laying down the cardboard “runway” prior to the dumping of the compost next week to get our no-dig operation off the ground.

Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, and we agreed that the cardboard matting and composting needs to go hand-in-hand and not in isolation.

We started work on collecting “free timber” in the form of disused pallets and will, over the course of the next few weeks, create borders and raised beds, recycled and upcycled, costing us just a few pence in nails.

After we had stockpiled around twenty pallets, the weather turned gnarly so we headed to the garden centre next door to buy some multi-purpose compost, small seeding trays and pots (the latter which we got for free).

So today I started off with broad beans, sowing eighteen pots, and under the advice of the nice lady at the garden centre, wrapped them in a plastic bag and put them by the window to germinate.

We, sow the seed…
Nature grows the seed…
Pre-fill…
Post-fill…
Multi-sowing in action, double the fun…
All potted and watered…
It’s in the bag…

Tomorrow I’ll experiment with peas in my smart garden, no idea if it will work but it will be fun finding out.

The days of stage diving and crowd surfing at Obituary/ Napalm Death gigs seems like a lifetime ago, but in the immortal words of both John Tardy and James Hetfield (of Metallica), “the memory remains”.

On reflection, I think that is life is like a car ride, get in, learn how to drive, start slow, speed up, go fast, slow down, reach your destination and eventually stop. Looking back at my life to date, I’ve certainly done that, and even though I’m starting the slow down phase which will inevitably lead to the stop phase, I’m still far away from my final destination and I’m enjoying the ride…

Detox…

As with most other Earthly inhabitants, and as with most years, January is always a month of reflection, reflecting on the events of last year and the plans and anticipation for the year to come, along with the perennial screaming pleas from the weighing machine to “get the f*ck off me!”

I spent sixteen days off over the Yuletide period with the family, with good quality time alongside everyone that was allowed to be around the table, around the table. As is customary, we ate too much, drank in moderation but often and put on the inevitable hip inches. It’s allowed.

Now that the festivities are well and truly behind me, I instantly turned to my rack of well-being books, naturally gravitating to the paleo and meat-free tomes as a way to start shredding the excess pounds. As I did that though, my higher-self seemed to stop me dead in my tracks, as my lower-self was sending a very loud and clear message that other things needed to be considered this time.

My material body is in pain, as penned my times before over the years and in my last post, my tinnitus is absolutely raging at the moment and my recent venture into “mushroom stacking” wasn’t the only thing required to abate my invisible and subjective malady.

As the first few days in January are quiet, I took to the internet and discussions with my hippy friends to see whether other things may be needed. Commence Operation Detox!

Research and chatter has revealed that tinnitus is thought to be an inflammation of the inner ear (among other things) so a diet avoiding items that inflame to body (wheat being a classic example, our ancestral DNA was never meant to take it from the beginning, the agricultural revolution really does have a lot to answer for!) and to take items that are rich in anti-oxidants was the way to go. Not only that, but sodium also has a part to play in the downfall of our well oiled meat machine, too much salt can also play unwanted tin whistle tunes inside the head it seems.

Why didn’t I take the blue pill…

Not only am I now taking a variety of supplements as outlined above (left stack of Lion’s Mane and Niacin for tinnitus – right stack of vitamin D3 and zinc for Covid prevention – yes it’s a thing!), my mind-body-soul coach “L” suggested that I get onto Anthony William (aka the Medical Medium), who has an interesting backstory of contacting “the other side” to provide nutritional advice to his clients and the general public. One of the main approaches in the morning is to kick start the detox process by consuming a flagon of celery juice. Let’s see what state the guts are in over the coming weeks, clean and gurgle-free I hope.

Juice Dalek…

So here we are at the start of the New Year, regressing to a well established, free to all (no subscription required) and age old lifestyle and optimized way of life. Ladies and gentlemen, let me re-introduce you to The Mediterranean Diet!

Before launching into what that entails, two things spring to mind. Firstly, my wife lived in Sicily for a number of years before we met and recalled this morning that her diet / lifestyle whilst there was great and her joie de vive was never better (youth playing its part of course!). Secondly, I reminded myself to watch the video below, which was a Ted Talk I saw a few years back which gave some insights into several studies completed from various parts of the world, including Sardinia which for the geographically challenged is an island slap bang in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Whether we actually want to live to one hundred is a moot point, the take-aways from the talk are well worth taking note of:

The Mediterranean Lifestyle

Whilst the focus on the below is a scientific approach to food and drink, lifestyle choices do go beyond diet. As Dan mentions above, exercise (especially the use of natural techniques and not putting the body under too much strain/pressure), mindfulness (in whatever form of that suits) and community (traditional ways of exchanging ideas and information via verbal dialogue and body language, not via technology) all play their part too in the enjoyment and fulfillment of life as a whole.

Live well, live longer…

The Mediterranean Diet:

A diet that is high in healthy plant foods and relatively low in animal foods (although eating fish and seafood is recommended at least twice a week) is a good rule of thumb to bring optimized nutrition. The following outlines the basic principles of what to eat and what to avoid:

Eat Often: Vegetables (tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots,, sprouts, cucumbers, fruits (apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches), nuts & seeds (almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds), legumes (beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas), tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams), whole grains (Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta), herbs & spices (garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper), fish & seafood (salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels), healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil), water & wine (red wine – one glass maximum per day) and tea (herbal or black tea without milk or sugar).

Eat Moderately: Poultry (chicken, duck, turkey), eggs (chicken, quail and duck eggs), cheese & yogurt (cheese, Greek yogurt).

Eat Rarely: Red meat (beef, pork, lamb, venison).

Never Eat: Sugar-sweetened food and beverages (incl. table sugar), processed meats (sausages, hot dogs), refined grains (white bread, pasta made with refined wheat), refined oils (Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and others) and other highly processed foods (incl. those marked “low-fat” or “diet”, butter/margarine and various processed foods.

Low-Sodium Diet

A low-sodium diet limits foods that are high in sodium (salt). Following a low-sodium diet will reduce the likelihood of high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart failure and hopefully in my case, tinnitus. We still need sodium in our diets for the salts lost during exercises and trips to the toilet, but moderating our in take is something to consider.

Salt – not worth its – well salt…

The recommended daily limit of sodium will vary depend on factors like gender and age, but generally speaking the daily recommendation is between 1.5g – 2g per day.

Nowadays, food labels tend to display the sodium they contain and a quick walk down the aisles at Morrison’s this morning revealed the same so it does become easier to calculate and regulate should you wish to be scientific about it.

Foods that have less than 5% of the daily limit of sodium are considered low in salt. Foods that have 20% or more of the daily limit of sodium are considered high in salt, and the following lists which food to avoid:

Processed Foods: Mixes for bread, biscuits, cake, and pudding, ready meals.

Instant Foods: Packet mash, cereals, noodles, and rice.

Packaged Foods: Stuffing, rice and pasta mixes, snack dip mixes, and macaroni and cheese.

Canned Foods: Canned vegetables, soups, broths, sauces, and vegetable or tomato juice.

Snack Food: Potato chips, popcorn, pretzels, pork scratchings, salted crackers, and salted nuts

Frozen Food: Ready meals, entrees, vegetables with sauces, and breaded meats
Meats / Cheeses: Smoked or cured meat, such as corned beef, bacon, ham, hot dogs, and sausage, canned meats or spreads, such as potted meats, sardines, anchovies, and imitation seafood, delicatessen or lunch meats, such as bologna, ham, turkey, and roast beef, processed cheese spreads

Condiments & Seasonings: Limit use of salt, such as such as garlic salt, celery salt, onion salt, and table salt salt. Regular soy sauce, barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, flavored vinegars, ketchiup and especially monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Bread and cereal: Choose breads with less than 80 mg of sodium per serving.

To keep the flavours up during cooking, replace salt with herbs and spices to foods instead of salt during cooking. No one wants to eat bland food, else the mind will wander quite easily over to the cookie jar (though if the above is put in practice, then it would be fine as it will be empty!).

Time will of course tell whether the above actions yield the positive outcomes and planned noise reductions inside my noggin, if at first you don’t succeed…

My Mycelium…

One of the big takeaways from my inaugural foraging trip last year was just how incredible mushrooms are.

Not only do they possess their own kingdom (neither animal, vegetable nor mineral) which is impressive in itself, but, when the right ones are consumed (and there are plenty of poisonous ones out there to be avoided), they provide many benefits, including mind (neurogenesis creating/repairing neural pathways), body (nutritional boosts via vitamins and anti-oxidants) and soul (altered states of consciousness leading to an improved human experience).

Whilst I’ll come back to the mycelium later, stoned ape theory and psychedelics in future posts, it’s clear that my friends and family have cottoned on to the fact that I’m looking to grow more of my own produce more this year.

As a result, I received not one but two “grow-your-own-mushrooms” kits, one which cultivates oyster mushrooms via old/used coffee grounds, and a second which grows the standard breakfast white mushrooms via mycelium soaked wood chippings.

I decided to start off with the white mushrooms and got quite excited to unbox it and get mushrooming.

Arch-Duc White Mushroom Kit (£15.99 on Amazon)…
Don’t’ eat the orange one…
Instructions for the polyglot…
First peak inside…
Step-by-step guide to fungi food…
The substrate, mycelium-based wood clippings…
Small bag of peat…
Operation Pete completed…
100ml of misted water…
Plastification…
Safely ensconced on top of the kitchen cupboard…

I have become patient in terms of waiting to harvest the fruits (and vegetables/herbs) of my cultivation activities (apropos my smart garden) so will do the same for the mushrooms.

Can’t wait to taste them in twenty-three days from now.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have suffered from tinnitus for almost three decades now and from time to time, spikes over a period of several weeks can negatively influence my mood, stress and sleep patterns.

I have habituated this well over time (on the basis that I had no other option as there is no cure for tinnitus) but was interested to find that mushrooms may be the answer.

Known as the ‘Mushroom of Immortality’, Lion’s Mane mushroom is one of the most important Chinese herbs and is a symbol of success, power and longevity.

Its benefits allegedly include the stimulation of nerve growth (reparation and new), especially in the brain, and as tinnitus is likely to be the noise generated by misfiring neurons connected to the synapses in the ears, and if damaged neural pathways can be repaired, then in theory the noises in side my head (excluding the voices, that’s a different topic altogether!) can diminished or be silenced.

There is also the notion that vitamin D3 can be stacked with the Lion’s Mane too and I have started taking this too today.

The final part of the stack is the micro-dosing of psilocybin mushrooms, which in small quantities again may also have curative powers, re-wiring the brain and improving perception of the five (and possibly sixth) senses. Clearly the untaxable and criminalised acquisition of such mushrooms is illegal in the UK (and most of the world), so my stack may just contain a double not a treble…

The Infinity Garden…

Living even more sustainably in Twenty-Twenty-One is one of my primary goals (beyond surviving the impact of Covid-19 of course).

I made significant in-roads into reducing my own, my families and my colleagues carbon footprint (via a Sustainability Cook Book I released to the masses in late December). Some of it by my own volition and some of it as a consequence of this year’s limitations on travel and consumerism.

In the book “How Bad Are Bananas” by Mike Berners-Lee, it proposes that we should all try to live a 5 tonnes lifestyle (less where possible), and after doing the official UN carbon footprint calculation, my families overall tonnage was twenty-four tonnes, 6 tonnes per head, not bad when you look at the average in say Australia is twenty tonnes per head.

So a few further tweaks to the family processes next year (switching to hybrid car, off-boarding one of the children to his own house and eating a plant/fish-based diet with minimal red meat) will help reduce it to four tonnes per head. Phase One complete, Phase Two being the long term plan of setting up an off-grid small holding.

My foray into techno-agriculture (Blade Runner 2049 larva farm on standby) was met with some success. Growing my own produce (albeit in micro-quantities) gave me some insights to cultivating edibles and The Infinity Garden is currently performing admirably…

The Infinity Garden v1.0
“We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, and we eat the seed” – Neil The Hippy

I have been impressed with the quality of the growth, I had heard mixed reviews on the outputs, but I must say everything that has churned out thus far has been very “Cuprinol”.

Basil…
Chilli Peppers…
Coriander…
Lavender…
Mini Tomatoes…
Sweet Peppers…

With an addition of not one, but two grow-your-own mushroom kits and a book of the greatest and best Indian Street Food recipes from one of the best (if not the best), restaurants in Liverpool (Mowgli), I feel more armed with organic opportunities already for the coming year.

A friend of mine “I”, who is also part of the eco-retreat build starting soon, has also just acquired nine allotment plots and is keeping an eye out for me so that I can join the collective, putting to bed my vision for a vertical garden in the confined space behind my house.

I would not have thought twelve months ago that I would be that much more in-tune with nature and the universe in general, but it just goes to show that even in chaos, opportunities for positive change are there, one just needs to take a breath, focus and do…

Smart Garden: First Crop

They say that there is nothing like the taste of your own produce, and if the biltong produced recently had anything to go by, then those first lettuce and basil leaves would be equally as sweet.

I have been very impressed so far with the output from the Smart Garden. Incredibly easy (although expensive) to set up with zero maintenance, just plant the pods, fill the reservoir, turn it on, click back and whittle some whilst watching stuff grow.

Of the three plants planted, the lettuce was by far the fastest to sprout and bloom into edibles, closely followed by the basil. The tomato plant however has taken longer to get off the ground but the guide advised this in advance so not quite ready for my first BLT.

So today I took the lettuce and basil with some mozzarella cheese and salsa, and I must say it was great. Clearly the amount of produce that the smart garden generates isn’t going to allow one to go off-grid, but what it has done is given me an appetite (in more ways than one!) to install my vertical garden on the patio and come spring, start growing my own vegetables, herbs and plants.

Clearly pre-prepped soil pockets, water, light, heat and a total lack of bugs has allowed Crop 1.0 to flourish, I’m sure outside gardening will be a whole different ball-game but looking forward to the challenge.

Biltong 2.0…

Many lessons were learned during the processing of the first batch of biltong.

The box needed some upgrades. First was to close off all open holes, the mesh at the back of the unit was too wide and one gnat did manage to make its grubby way in to v1.0, so some cheap fly mesh was acquired and secured.

The small holes too on the side of the box (which house the dowels) were plugged by a handy box of washers I purchased decades ago that I’d never used (who would have thought a small box of plastic tap circles would have ended up on a caveman’s kiln years later).

Next up was the velcro for the door and top hatch, this was upgraded to magnetic strips (different polarisations) which both lock down everything, nothing is getting in, hermetically sealed (like a presidential Covid cavalcade…)

In terms of the fan, that worked perfectly in v1.0 so no changes were required there.

For heating however, I couldn’t find an old fashioned filament bulb so I needed to replace the LED one as it gave off no heat, and in a moment of clarity, my aged brain came up with the idea of a vivarium bulb. So after looking at various heat lamps (avoiding those bulbs in “Roxanne Red” – not the look you want in the spare bedroom!), I found a 50w ceramic bulb, which had the bonus of no light emission. Tried it out, burned my finger, so that worked!

Finally, I dug out an old dehumidifier my son used to use and plugged that in to take the moisture out of the room which would likely condensate and mold up the office.

In terms of the meat, I went to the local butchers this time. What a difference! As I cut the slabs, there was neither a vein nor a sinew in sight, marvelous!

I also changed the preparation mode too. I left the meat to chill for 12 hours in the fridge after applying the vinegar and dry rub, could not believe the amount of moisture that came out overnight.

So after wringing the last of the moisture out over the sink and via hand toweling, I applied one more layer of course salt and hooked them up (placing a metal tray in the bottom this time to prevent seepage on to the unit).

I think I will leave the meat longer this time, at least 7 days (SEVEN – one day for every Aston Villa goal last weekend against our arch nemesis), so that it becomes as dry as it can be to extend its lifespan. I’ll also use my new vacuum sealer straight away.

As for the smell, well there’s not too much I can do about that except to keep the office door shut and open the windows when I’m not in there, it is getting chilly outside now.

The whole of next batch will come with us to our off-grid cottage in Cornwall week after next, lock-down permitting. I’m not confident any will be returning with us!

It’s a jungle out there…

Well I’m starting to get quite excited about eating my first crop of BLT (Basil, Lettuce and Tomato).

It’s been just four days and already the seeds are starting to germinate in my new smart garden (well the Basil and Lettuce is, not sure what is going on with the Toms yet)…

I’m surprised I’ve not had a knock on the door from the plod yet, as the garden sits on the windowsill of the office, it does look like I’m growing my own weed through a hydroponics system from the pavement outside.

Maybe next crop…