Back when I had a BBC TV licence (Covid coverage was the death knell for me), I used to watch the programme Click, which as an IT nerd gave me some insights as to what gizmos and gadgets were making their way onto the scene.
One such gadget I recalled from last year was the concept of Smart Gardens, hi-tech hydroponic/LED systems which allowed one to grow small fruits, mini vegetables and herbs (with a “h”) from the comfort of their living room, kitchen or in my case, office.
Following on from our foraging foray a fortnight who, and following the wife’s recent membership to a “UK preppers” group on The Book of Face, we wholeheartedly concurred that from next Spring, we would start to grow our own fruits, vegetables and herbs (with a “h”) from our small patio garden.
The only downside of living where we do has always been garden space. We have never complained too much though as there are plenty of green spaces nearby and we can see both the sea and the beach from our daughters bedroom.
So whilst I draw up plans and schematics for our proposed vertical garden (raised beds for beets, onions, potatoes and carrots as well as wall planters for fruits and herbs), my mind switched back to the here and now, so after a trawl through Amazon I found the not-so-cheap Smart Garden 9, as advertised on the BeeB.
After humming and harring for a couple of days, I connivingly waited for the wife to drop into the hypnagogic zone and received her royal seal of approval to proceed with the purchase, albeit from the realm of slumber.
I woke up this morning quite excited for the delivery man, and as promised, the service level agreement was not breached and the goods arrived on time.
And so to the unboxing…
Rather amusing Chinese proverb on the inside box, who could argue with that logic, smart bloke that Confucius fella…
Outer cover off revealed the LED lighting system and the “free” pods, Basil, Lettuce, Tomatoes (vegan BLT)…
Who knew that the island of Hiiumaa off the coast of Estonia is one of the cleanest places on Earth. Who knew that the island of Hiiumaa even existed…
BLT in all of its plasticised glory. Shame that they couldn’t come in more biodegradable wrappings, everything else in the box was cardboard and 100% recyclable…
The main unit, which contains the water reservoir and nine empty micro-pods, ripe for the planting…
Did I say there was an instruction manual to begin with, as a bloke this was of course superfluous (until I got stuck)…
The main unit set up, LED attached to arms and mains adapter primed…
Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink (unless you are a plant). Four litres added to the reservoir and one of each of the BLT potted. I decided to do one of each at first rather than overload the unit, taking lessons from the first batch (much in the same way as I did for the biltong recently).
There she grows!
A cautionary note and lesson number one learned, fill the reservoir at the point of habituation not as I did on the dining room table on the floor beneath, I do hope I didn’t flood the pods with all of the swishing around.
Looking forward to seeing how the first batch grows, with the Mighty Cthulhu and the Ever Bubbly Bubblies of Shub Niggurath watching over them, I’m sure things will be just fine with a bit of cultist chanting.
There may come a time, perhaps not in my lifetime, and hopefully not in my children’s lifetime either, that society collapses completely.
Hollywood has played all of this out expertly in many films. The Omega Man and Planet of the Apes, lead by Charlton Heston, were some of the first movies I recall seeing which depicted dystopia and one mans struggle to exist in a completely different environment to what he was used to.
In The Omega Man, Heston resorted to a Hunter-Gatherer, albeit in disused shopping malls, foraging by day and hiding by night to stay away from the bad guys.
He had to take what resources he could to survive, and survive he did by knowing exactly where to look and what to look for.
A few weekends back, I booked my sister (for her birthday), the wife and I on a foraging course just outside of Ruthin, North Wales, in an effort do do something less ordinary, get away from the chaos of the news channels and back to nature, and to learn some new skills.
Armed with some preliminary toolkits (books, satchels, snappy bags and knives), our tribe for the day arrived at the mouth of a small wood in the small hamlet of Bontuchel, where our guides from Original Outdoors greeted us with warm smiles and hope. Good start.
We did the usual round of creeping death introductions and when it got to me, I boldly shared the fact that I was likely the bad guy of the group as I worked in the oil and gas industry. The smiley faces turned to frowns and even boos. Was I surprised by this, not really, I was prepared for that knowing that people who choose to go on foraging courses are more likely to be closer to nature and the industry I work in presently has a diabolic influence the fragile ecosystem we live in which is frowned upon by many.
I did go on to say however that the company I worked for was leading the way (according to Gartner’s latest magic quadrant) in terms of its journey towards carbon neutrality and that with oil prices staying lower for longer and Covid reducing the demand for product, they are taking very bold decisions to leave the black stuff in the ground, reshaping their business completely to pursue plans to migrate from an oil and gas major to a true energy company, investing heavily in renewables.
I also shared that I am working very closely with the company’s Sustainability Consultants to take a detailed look at how as individuals we can make a difference both in the work place and at home, creating as we do a gestalt/hive mindset that we can be greater than the sum of our parts if we all know what to do, how to do it and by when.
Clearly this lightened the mood and some words shared can start to paint a more positive light on an industry damned in all parts of society. Clearly we all have energy demands (everyone arrived by petrol/diesel cars for example), but we must all work together to realise our joint goal to save the planet before it’s too late.
“R” and “A” (our hosts for the day) took us through the woods over the next four hours, pointing out plants, wild herbs, fruits, berries and mushrooms that we could look out for in future bimbles.
Over the course of the day, we uncovered twenty different species, all of which are described briefly in note and picture form below:
1. Beech (Fagus Sylvatica)
Nut/Leaf. Good for mushrooms. Leaves good for gin. Small triangular nuts from the husks if the squirrels haven’t eaten them all. Only found one between the three of us, still hungry…
2. Chanterelle (Cantharellus Cibarius)
Mushroom. Grows on slopes and among beech trees is common. Very edible, didn’t take a sample as we only found a few minute ones. One for the foraging list though.
3. Earthball (Scleroderma Citrinum)
Mushroom. Black inside. Not edible.
4. Porcini (Boletus Edulis)
Mushroom. Huge and when dried out, expensive to buy. Found under beech or pine. Maggots can burrow, can cut off yellow layer. Slice then dry then fry. Took one for home. Very happy!
5. Bramble (Rubus Fruticosus)
Fruit. The ubiquitous blackberries. Can also eat stem and leaves too. Top bit of stem (end – youngest) like asparagus. Are several, very sweet, not tart at all. Nicest wild blackberries I’ve ever eaten.
6. Herb Robert (Geranium Robertianum)
Leaf. Also known as Stinky Bob. Good for herbs. All edible. Geranium family
7. Opposite Leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium)
Leaf. Good for salads (like cucumber).
8. Hedge woundwort (Stachys Sylvatica)
Leaf. Squidge leaves and insert into wounds. Smells like rotting flesh. Squeeze together taste better.
9. Pendulous Sedge (Carex Pendula)
Seed. Starchy carb. Seeds used. Green used. Brown chaff. Paste on stone dry cook for crackers. A lot of work for little reward when out in the field.
10. Hen of the woods (Grifola Frondosa)
Mushroom. Found on dead oak stump. Similar texture to chicken. Darker colour than Chicken of the Woods (which we didn’t find – gutted as this was top of my list for the day. Fry with butter and garlic. Eat in small quantities.
As we say off a while, we had a discussion about foraging rules, one of which being the carrying of knives, only three inch blades were allowed, else it’s classified as a weapon. The one I used to take a cutting of Hen of the Woods was a bushcrafting knife with fixed blade, illegal in the current scenario. At least I know for next time.
11. Wood Sorrel (Oxalis Acetosella)
Leaf. The odd flower in a salad. Toxic if too much consumed. Stuffed in fish and used in sorbet. Found in woodlands where there is sunlight (edges and clearings)
12. The Blusher (Amanita Rubescens)
Mushroom. Not worth it because of the toxicity.
One key nuggets though was that the best time to pick mushrooms is dry day after rain. Noted!
13. Jelly/Wood ear (Auricularia Auricula-Judae)
Mushroom. Also known as Jews ear, named after Judas Iscariot and only grows on dead elder tree (“R” was keen to point out that this term is no longer used). It’s a dry jerky-type of mushroom, nice and crispy.
14. Hawthorn (Crataegus Monogyna)
Fruit/Leaf. Leaves edible in May (May pudding). The berries are collected in autumn and the squeezed into a pulp. Put in muslin and pour hot water through it. Skin and stone stay in the middle – fleshy pulp comes through, after which it can be dried out and turned into fruit leather (nature’s wine gums which lasts forever if stored in parchment. Berries are everywhere, defiantly going to try this (Ray Mears Wild Foods has an episode on making this)
15. Elder (Sambucus Nigra)
Fruit/Flower. Contains cyanide, use only flowers and fruit. Flowers (only a few days sometimes) make Elderflower cordials etc. Berries poisonous if raw. Cook or ferment. Wine gin and vodka, and cordials.
16. Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa)
Fruit. Produces sloes. Gin and vodka or hedgerow jam. Sour raw, I ate one, ain’t that the truth! Wait until they are ripe, pick them, freeze them (bletting) which gets them juicing
17. Dandelion (Taraxacum sp)
Leaf . Raw and peppery. Like rocket on salad. No too much as it’s a diuretic.
18. Crab Apple (Malus Sylvestnis)
Fruit. Bitter when eaten from the tree. Best use as cooking apple for pies and sauces
19. Birch Polypore (Fomitopsis Betulina)
Mushroom. Non-edible – used for stropping knives or as a wound dressing
20. Burdock (Arctium sp.)
Root. Used as starchy fibre. Cannot uproot on public land, can take on provide land with landowners permission
All in a very educational day with lots of take aways, and a reminder just how beautiful Wales is. Looking back, over my shoulder (using Crowded House parlance) saw the ridge of Offas Dyke in all of its glory as the sun was beginning to set, Foel Fenli, Moel Famau and Moel Arthur seem from below instead of on high. Majestic.
I guess the moral to the foraging story is to make up a shopping list as you would do for the supermarket, and target the items you know will be there (taking into account the location, weather conditions and season) and foraging just what you need and use them or dry them when you get back home so they don’t end up as bin food. It’s essential to know your locations and what grows there, (e.g. oak and beech woods after rainfall increases the chances of acquiring a chicken of the woods).
Easily the most fascinating discussion I had on the day was a side conversation I had with “R” which centred around Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybin Cubensis), which we didn’t find on the day (they may have been there but he could hardly point them out!)
Back in my youth, I took the liberty caps once with some friends at home (with my parents and sister away on holiday). Although I took a relatively small dose (30-40 mushrooms in a Pot Noodle) the doors of perception did open, ever so slightly.
I recall initial giggles, the chess board motif of the linoleum flooring of the back kitchen began to twist and contort into weird swirling shapes. We took to our prostate positions in the living room and turned out all of the lights and put on an Ian Andersen (he of Jethro Tull fame) and tripped out. I recall laying with my back to the floor looking up at the ceiling, both of which soon became wall, with the window as the floor, the dimensions of the space around me changed. The only light source was the LED display of the video player, the heightened senses bringing the digits into full 8k high definition and bloated compared to their usual size. The digits then floated all around me, changing in shape and size. All in it was a very interesting experience, one I’ve never repeated but once the door is opened, reality is never really the same again.
“R” went on to say that there was a hypothesis that mushrooms were not of this earth, not part of the original evolutionary chain, and that some believed that they came in on a comet. A mushroom has its own kingdom (bringing with it a hidden blanket called the mycelium layer) and is neither animal, vegetable nor mineral. Fascinated, I agreed to take an action to research more into the world of the fungus, no doubt posting the findings here.
If that was enough to bake my noodle (not Pot Noodle), what he said next surely did.
“R” asked me if I’d ever heard of the Stoned Ape Theory by Terence McKenna. I said that I had not and he told me to go back home and look it up, but in essence what happened millions of years ago was that as the climate changed in Africa, primates came down from the trees as rainforests turned into grasslands and foraged for different food types.
As ancient bovines grazed and defecated, their patties gave homes to bugs and fungus, which as a source of protein our hairy ancestors ate.
McKenna’s theory goes that under such conditions, psilocybin mushrooms thrive and as a result of eating them, the doors of perception opened for apes and they looked at the world through different eyes and begin to think in a different way, so much so that new neurological pathways were created, new thoughts and ways of thinking allowed for the progression of tools and language and as such the brain began to evolve and grow bigger, until eventually we harnessed fire which gave rise to different diets and the further expansion of consciousness to make us what we are today.
So here we have a possible explanation for the missing link, thanks to the good old shroom!
What was to be a nice day out turned into a mind-bending, thought-provoking journey, not only through the eyes of the Palaeolithic people of Northern Europe, but an unexpected journey back to the dawn of man.
When I got back I dried out our days collection, and put the mushrooms in storage for a meal to come and retired for the evening, knackered.
So after 4 days of drying, the inaugural batch of biltong was ready.
Armed with a brand spanking new meat cleaver from our flat pack Swedish comrades at Ikea, I took to slicing up each of the slabs of meat, careful to slice as thin as possible. Initial taste test was positive.
One thing I noticed was the quality of the meat, or lack of. When one peruses the shopping aisles for the best looking cut, it’s easy to pick the one that looks the best on the outside, but peel back the layers (like an onion) and sometimes it will reveal not so good news on the inside, as was the case here.
My loss was my old faithfuls gain, on-hand to snuffle the off cuts that otherwise would have been eaten by the waste bin (its disappointed open mouth, pictured right…).
I’m not sure who is at fault here, the farmer for the feed he/she/they give the cow (does corn-fed or grass-fed make a difference?), the supermarket for buying inferior and mass-produced cuts, or me for not acquiring meat from the local butchers, opting instead for convenience as most of us do. Probably a mix of all three.
That said, the overall process worked well, and the taste was great. My eldest son is a big fan of biltong and he gave me a five star review (out of five not ten) for the first batch so I’m happy with that, and I wouldn’t disagree with him.
By far the best cuts were the ones which had dried out more and had more of the dry rub on them, less so the ones which were still relatively pink in the middle.
After a long day, the wood-burning stove went on and the wife and I settled down to watch a new drama about Dennis Nilsen, one of the UK’s most notorious serial killers, armed with our own selection of dismembered cuts of flesh and a glass of South African Pinotage (my favourite wine) to wash it down with.
Needless to say the supermarket limitation of 35g portions don’t apply when making ones own and we managed to snuffle quite a bit, very moreish.
I vacuum-sealed the rest in small bags, but I suspect they won’t last long either.
Outside sourcing better meat from the local butchers and not supermarkets, some tweaks to the drying box are required. Magnetic strips to replace the Velcro ones on the door and hatch will provide a tighter seal on the unit and improve airflow, a tighter mesh on the vent will prevent flies getting in, a metal tray inserted at the bottom of the unit instead of just tin foil will catch any juices and prevent a spoiling of the wooden base, a non-LED bulb will give off more heat (I can’t find old-school bulbs anywhere which is good for the environment of course so not complaining too much) and a place to dry the meat (garden shed as opposed to kitchen as the box is quite big) will prevent grumbles from the her-indoors.
All in all, a good experiment and one that yielded very positive results, not only in taste and cost savings, but in the knowledge that once we go off-grid, no off-cuts or left over meat will ever go to waste.
One of the more significant emotions following on from my paleo trials two weeks ago was a rekindling with my love affair for biltong. As mentioned in my last post, the price of biltong per gram is ridiculously high, the printer fluid of the meat world, mostly down to the time consuming process it takes to cure and dry the meats.
Naturally, if someone is making a significant profit in making such, it makes sense to consider making ones own to save money. I have the added incentive to move off-grid when I retire “soon” and as such I would not want to waste any resources.
So, armed with a cordless drill, bits of wood, screws, a perspex sheet, an old computer fan and a light-bulb, I spent a few hours yesterday creating my own “drying station”. The weather was nice and within minutes the form took shape, the quality of the end result surpassed my expectations and surprised the family too (me being an office worker).
With the box built, I took to the beef this morning, preparing the dry rub and the meat. Even the smell of the dry rub took my thoughts back to Cape Town, the mix of pepper, salt and coriander seeds instantly recognizable.
With the meat prepared, the only thing left to do was to hang it out to dry for 3-4 days in the box. After a rather heated discussion with the significant other on where I could store/dry it (on the basis that it may be a bit smelly), so for iteration one and the weather being good today and tomorrow, I’ll keep it outdoors and bring it in when the rains come in on Wednesday.
The proof is in the pudding of course, but it’s a good start and I have already picked up some probable improvements in terms of the preparations for next time (drying the meat out more).
The meat cost £16 for 2kgs, the equivalent biltong at the supermarket would cost £120, so with pepper, vinegar, salt and coriander seeds costing around £4, a cost saving of £100. Huge!
This time I used beef, but I’m off to the local butchers later to see if he can procure grass-fed beef and more importantly venison, which will be my meat of choice going forward.
My friend was totally shocked this weekend when I told him that I was thinking of taking up hunting, he thought it would be accompanied with a subscription to the Conservative Party. Allaying his fear, I advised him that a true hunter-gatherer needs to kill for food, never for sport. We have a gun club locally and hopefully next weekend will see the wife and I acquire some basic targeting skills.
We will of course need to find out where one can shoot deer and of course think about storage solutions, biltong box and freezer. Ethically its better (when comparing against mass produced meats), environmentally it’s better (when compared to the resources cows use and the waste products they produce in the process – not even close), cost wise its better (when compared to the equivalent meat at the butchers shop). The only real down side, of course, Walt Disney’s Bambi…
I’m a gemini, a true gemini, and as such there are multiple me’s living inside my head. Angels and daemons, Jekyll and Hyde, Dumb and Dumber. Friends and family have always said of me that I am always so passionate about everything I do, for about nine days…
The last few months, the first me thought it was a great idea to revert back to pescatarianism, the second me agreed. So both me’s felt better, less bloated more eco-friendly and generally happier with the diet element. After a while though, the second me (who had been doing a lot of research into off-grid living and pre-historic Britain) told the first me that it wasn’t enough, that the root of all evil was the agricultural revolution and that we should go back to basics, hunter-gatherer. The first me thought this was a most excellent idea (yes he just watched the new Bill & Teds film, sadly), tied up his woven shoelaces and stomped right in.
What they found was quite something. Clearly as a pair of idiots, they needed some guidelines to follow to see what food types and lifestyle changes they must follow in order to earn their Caveman badge, so it was only natural to purchase Living Paleo for Dummies.
The book itself is great, really easy to read and understand, gives the background to what paleo is and its origins from over 2.5 million years ago (when monkeys ate some funky mushrooms, saw Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and spawned the first truly cosmically conscious being), the do’s and don’ts of what one can and can’t eat and a remedial understanding of the science behind paleo and allegedly why it works so well as a lifestyle – not a diet.
Armed with some rudimentary knowledge, we set off on our week-long paleo trial to see what all the fuss was about. We kept a diary (as instructed in the book) to see what went well, not so well and how we felt before, during and after the process.
Weight = 87.5kg Breakfast = Banana, Apple Lunch = Eggs, Salmon Slices, Asparagus Dinner = Venison Steak, Mushrooms Drinks = Coffee, Lime Water Snacks = Pistachios, Peanuts Exercise = None Mood = Indifferent all day Fatigue = High
Notes = First day was a struggle, it didn’t help that we were on hangover day 2 after our trip away with the older kids camping trip Wales. Need to prioritise exercise and prepare / eat breakfast every day, no fail. Really enjoyed the venison again (same steaks that we cooked over the fire-pit on Saturday after the sun had descended behind the Clwydian hills), and the garlic mushrooms, although we need a better accompaniment than the crappy box salad from the supermarket, possibly cauliflower rice or greens. Coffee without sugar/stevia wasn’t too bad.
Weight = N/A Breakfast = Fruit and Spinach Smoothie Lunch = Eggs, Salmon Slices, Spinach Dinner = Venison Steak, Mushrooms, Cauliflower Rice Drinks = Coffee, Lime Water Snacks = Pumpkin seeds Exercise = Cross Trainer x 30 mins Mood = Good to Bad Fatigue = Medium
Notes = Loved the cross training session. Felt a bit full and sickly after eggs and salmon for lunch for the second day running, need to vary dinners as we’ll become bored of the same every day. Looked at soup recipes tonight. Felt like we wanted something sweet to drink most of the day, even cordials, but more like pop. Got tired in the evening but that was due to number crunching all day at work. Would have been nice to eat with the family but the missus threw a hissy fit when we wanted to also use the kitchen to cook cauliflower rice. That’s always the real struggle, not missing the food types, just the resistance of others. We get that we change our diet/lifestyle often (searching for methods and techniques that will provide better health, well-being and longevity), but constant criticism in what we choose to put in our own body is a real drag. Rounded the evening off nicely with a nostalgic trip down memory lane by playing Age of Empires, starting off as a stone age hunter-gatherer. A true paleo day!
Weight = N/A Breakfast = Fruit and Spinach Smoothie Lunch = Sweet Potato, Fennel and Coriander Soup Dinner = Huevos Gambas Rancheros Drinks = Coffee, Lime Water, Red Wine (small mouthful) Snacks = Nuts Exercise = None Mood = Good Fatigue = Medium
Notes = Woke up early and contemplated cross trainer again but legs still a little stiff so walked the dog instead. Worked out how to use the new soup maker and prepared breakfast and lunch. Very happy the way in which soup turned out, will be a paleo pal for sure! Gave us a mood boost, especially after a conflict in work. Soup was amazing, perhaps a little too spicy for the wife (chipotle chilli flakes) but we adored it. Felt like our insides are cleaner, two months of being a pescatarian has helped for sure. Have not felt bloated in a long time now (other than when on/after the beers). Probably need to eat more protein/meat, as we want to start pumping iron soon to put weight on our arms and shoulders. Dinner wasn’t that nice, added cocoa to it as per the recipe, too rich. Lot of post-meal gurgling. Gah. Got real tired in the evening, another “difference of opinion” with the wife over us eating something different even though after a full day in the office and us also cooking lunch and evening meal for everyone. Did pour ourselves a glass of red wine but only had a mouthful before pouring the rest down the sink.
Weight = N/A Breakfast = Eggs, Spinach, Tomatoes, Halloumi, Mushrooms, Guacamole Lunch = Sweet Potato, Fennel and Coriander Soup Dinner = Vegetable Stir Fry with Ginger, Cashews and Venison Strips Drinks = Honeydew/Rooibos Tea, Coffee Snacks = None Exercise = Cross Trainer x 30 mins Mood = Good Fatigue = Medium
Notes = Pee no longer smells of Sugar Puffs in the morning, but did have some minor cramping. Tinnitus is raging at the moment, no real root cause uncovered, not related to diet or kundalini yoga we think. Took the wife for breakfast (first paid trip out as a hunter-gatherer), we had a plate of vegetables but did have a slice of grilled halloumi (hangs heads in shame), we wondered if there was any paleo cheese, no. Cashew dip and paleo Doritos look nice though. Soup from yesterday still a resounding success. Same can’t be said for the blueberry muffins. Not a big fan of coconut and the coconut flour flavour we bought really came through, not to mention the lack of height and density of the “cakie”. Bin enjoyed it though. Had a wobble at dinner time, with the wife out with friends and our usual Thursday fatigue resorted in getting pizzas for the kids, sorely tempted to tuck in but didn’t, as we couldn’t cope with the laughter and sly remarks from the missus. We will be strong, we have willpower! Did read that some paleo folks do the 80/20 rule and allow non-paleo days which is something we may gravitate to (but still avoid anything processed).
Weight = N/A Breakfast = Fruit Smoothie Lunch = Broccoli and Fennel Soup Dinner = Broccoli and Fennel Soup, Almond Bread Drinks = Raspberry Tea, Coffee, Water Snacks = Veggie Sticks (Tomato & Kale) Exercise = Outdoor Run x20 mins Mood = Good Fatigue = Medium
Notes = Up early making Broccoli soup (rock n roll!). Another masterpiece, adore our “stolen” soup maker, makes it so easy, we say stolen (not as a nod to our Scouse lineage – but to explain before anyone calls the rozzers – during the lockdown, a kind Hermes delivery man (or woman) left a package on our doorstep with an address we’d never heard of. So we kept it in the hallway for 28 days to see if anyone would rightfully claim it, they didn’t so we acquired it for free, so not stolen, more “rehomed”). Another argument with the wife over evening meal, bored now, we may end up sticking to the paleo life just to spite her! Feel so cleansed inside and out, this is working. Tinnitus is still raging, keeping background sounds higher than normal to mask it, only just working. Went to Holland & Barrett for some provisions (almond flour mainly as the coconut flour isn’t good). Picked up some better soaps at a quarter of the price of Lush which should last four times as long by looking at the density. Came to the conclusion that there are so many amazing recipes out there one would never get bored of paleo, the only downside is the preparation and cooking time. As busy home office workers, we’ll need to get up earlier to prepare breakfast and lunch (but a vegetable soup should last us 2-3 days). Snacks are fine with fruit, biltong, nuts and seeds. May be that we use some weekend time to prepare food for the week ahead. Of course if we didn’t work we would have more time to invest, but we have six years to get this stuff off to a fine art. Picked up some cup measures so we don’t get caught out with US recipes as yesterday’s “muffins” were a disaster. Afternoon headache, so logged off early and caught some zeds. The Paleo for Dummies book did say that may happen with cutting out all sugar so it could be that. Made our first almond loaf with poppy seeds and it turned out great. A little dense and moist in the middle but we suspect we over-whisked and should have folded it instead. Will toast it lightly and that should do the trick. Could not be bothered cooking an evening meal so took the “bread” and soup. The bread was awful, just too sweet. Bread is meant to savory not sweet, but the coconut and almond flour cannot replace wheat flour for taste and consistency. On the basis that these are really the only big ingredients in paleo, baking really is off the menu for us. We guess if one was to live off the land in the UK, these items would not be available anyways so it’s no real loss. We do need to eat more though, one reflection on paleo is that it’s an easy lifestyle when working in the corporate domain, having a wife, three kids, energetic dog and having to cook everything from raw materials. Physical and mental fatigue is kicking in and we are in bed at 7:30pm on Friday night exhausted. One other thing is for sure, it ain’t cheap to live like a caveman either. We’ve also decided to hang up our running boots for good now. Few weeks back a brisk 5km left us with leg and joint pains for days, same already this afternoon, we’ll have to swap to the cross trainer and bike permanently now to avoid the impact damage. This week has been a challenge on many fronts both physically and mentally but will stick it out for the full week. We may have a blended diet/lifestyle going forward, taking the best bits from what we have learned over the seven days (which at the moment are fruit shakes for breakfast, vegetable soups for lunch, biltong, nuts and veggies sticks for snacks, plenty of water throughout the day, sugar free coffee, an evening meal that consists of meat/fish and two veg (all vegetables being on the menu not just some), the odd glass of red wine and avoiding all processed foods and sugars. On the physical front, walking, cycling, cross training, kayaking, weights and kundalini yoga will keep us on the straight and narrow, and meditation, meeting friends and blogging will keep our mind right. We’d say that would equate to around an 80% paleo lifestyle which is good enough to maintain a healthy mind, body and soul which ultimately promotes longevity which is why we really started this thing in the first place. Our aim is to set up a small holding in five years time, living as much off-grid as we can, so acquiring the right lifestyle diet and associated skills now is essential.
Weight = N/A Breakfast = Fruit Smoothie Lunch = Tuna & Egg Salad “Sandwiches” Dinner = Venison Burgers (Mushroom Buns) Drinks = Coffee, Red Wine (small) Snacks = Biltong Exercise = 10km Walk Mood = Great Fatigue = Low
Notes = Woke up at 5:30, no surprises going to bed so early. Took the pooch out early as he’s in a bad shape himself (flea infestation) and he enjoyed his early morning bimble on the beach. Long soak on the bath to unstiff the dead leg which worked. Morning trip to the grocery store for today’s paleo purchases. Tuna, egg sandwiches (Romain lettuce instead of bread) went down a treat, good change to the soup. Took the daughter around town for her birthday present run and found an amazing alternative food store in Liverpool, vegan and paleo heaven. Got some alternative pasta (vegetable-based penne and spaghetti) and crisps. The mushroom double decker venison burgers for evening meal were great, very full after eating two of them. Most food we’ve eaten in one day so far. Earned my small glass of red wine, and as Saturdays go this was a lean one. My eyesight was poor in the evening, probably to do with too much number crunching this week at work and the fact I haven’t had an eye test for a while. Checkup needed next week, don’t think it’s diet related. Excited for tomorrow – foraging course!
Notes = After our “morning manoeuvres”, we weighed in at 84.5kg, dropping exactly 3kg since the start of the week, putting us at our ideal weight. We didn’t start paleo to lose weight but it’s nice that it’s nudged us to our target quickly, which was probably down to the lack of processed crap we normally put into to our body and the increased and varied exercise regimes, which must now be maintained going forward. As our calorie intake has gone down, we need to boost it up to maintain our current weight. We love biltong and found an ethical producer in Sussex who purvey venison biltong so ordered a trial pack to see what they are like. Best biltong we’ve ever had was at a vineyard in Constantia, South Africa’s wine region just out side of Cape Town. A friend an us took the open-topped “red bus” and meandered our way through the many splendid vistas; Table Mountain, Cape Town’s marina/bay area, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and Groot Constantia vineyard. Each vineyard had its own food stalls and market area, and the biltong was amazing. We bought a huge bag full and planned to eat a little for the remainder of our trip. Needless to say after a few wines and an awesome bus trip home through the scenic Hout Bay and Camps Bay, the bag was empty by the time we got back. Those memories fired up our long lost love of biltong, so naturally as it’s so expensive, our thoughts turned to making our own. A 45g packet in Morrisons cost £3. That’s roughly £120 for 2kgs if our maths are right. As one can buy a 2kg joint of topside or silverside beef (grass-fed of course) for around £10-£15, it makes total sense to make ones own in bulk. After reviewing some of the expensive purpose-built drying machines on Amazon and the free make-your-own drying box on Wikihow (https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Biltong), we’ll get building next week (probably a wooden version) and store it in the “office” once our son buggers off back to University and we’ve had Rentokil in to defumigate his room. After watching the artsy animation movie Away with our daughter, we headed off to the beautiful Welsh countryside, just outside Ruthin, for our foraging course (full blog to follow) and munched our way through flora, fauna and fungi for four hours, collecting some fayre along the way for next weeks meals (Hen of the Woods and Pocini mushrooms look a delight!), the most enjoyable day out we’ve had for quite a while, very educational and inspiring. As we were late getting back and had to time to cook we had to go to the drive through and get fried chicken, not entirely paleo but we’re not going to beat ourselves up about it.
All in all we found the trial week very positive and educational. It gave us an insight into what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would consume which was of course easier for us due to technological advancement.
We’ve tried a great many diet over the years and have tried to select the best bits to keep the mind, body and soul maintained, falling foul as one does from time to time. One thing is for sure, we will continue to juice every morning and soup most afternoons and our evening meals will consist of mostly meat or fish and two veg. Most importantly, we will stay away from processed food as much as we can (including breads, pastries, sugar, rice and wheat products) and eat ethically. We will reintroduce all vegetables (potatoes, legumes etc) as if we do manage to set up an off-grid small holding in the future, we will be able to cultivate our own produce (we just wont set up our own fiscal-based community so that Humanity 2.0 doesn’t go the same way 1.0 went!). We will also make sure that we exercise every day, even if some days are lighter than others. We will maintain our course too for spiritual enlightenment, continuing our quest for knowledge and peace via yoga, meditation and cosmic discussions with like-minded individuals.
Reduced body weight Reduced bloating Reduced alcohol intake Reduced sugar intake Reduced toxicity Reduced fatigue Reduced cravings Reduced profits of “Big Corpa” Improved sustainability Improved culinary skills Improved exercise regimes Improved mental stability Improved willpower Improved vigour to live life differently Improved likelihood to live off-grid
Increased expenses Increased food preparation time Reduced food choices Negative attitude of others
The pros of paleo far outweigh the cons in our opinion and on that basis we would highly recommend paleo or paleo-lite (80/20 rule). Even if one did it for one or two weeks per month, the benefits are there in abundance. In the immortal words of Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys “Suck it and see, you never know”…