The Straw Cottage

eco-accommodation and growing experiments on a small scale

Plants v animals


This is my reply to Jon re his comments on my last post about diet. There was probably a “reply to comment” button but I couldn’t see it! Oh, well………………..

Hi Jon. Many thanks for your kind words about my straw work. We have just got planning permission to build another straw house at Village Farm, so that is very exciting!
Also thanks for your thoughts on a plant based diet. I have many vegetarian friends and absolutely respect their choice. My main issue is from a resilient food production point of view – how much of a vegetarian diet can be grown in this country? If you could analyse your diet in terms of % potentially UK grown I’d be really interested.
I’ve just read a book called Grain Brain by Dr David Perlmutter. It is recently published and is written around new research which confirms that a high carb/low fat diet is definitely not going to help your heart and can in fact do an awful lot of damage to your nervous system. Our brain is made up of mostly fat and it is vital we eat plenty in our diet to keep it in good health – with animal fat being the best kind. The book also explores the huge amount of damage done to human health by sugar and gluten – whether you exhibit intestinal symptoms or not.
The best fats this country can produce are grass fed animal ones – beef and lamb primarily. Grass (but more especially herb rich meadows) produces meat high in omega 3’s and there are biodiversity bonuses too (which I will get to in a later blog). I’m thinking hens and ducks on grass will produce eggs and meat with good omega 3 levels too but I need to research this a bit more.
Animals have an important role in a growing system too. They can build fertility, recycle, control pests and do work. For example, we had three pigs this summer which happily ate all the fresh vegetables and fruit that us humans didn’t want. I’m thinking of having some more this summer to dig up the rest of the growing area. I don’t want to plough or spray chemicals to kill all the couch grass. I picked out an awful lot out of small vegetable beds by hand last summer but I don’t feel like rubbing 3 acres worth of soil through my hands to get out every last bit of couch root. I think some pigs will do a much better and quicker job of it and very much enjoy doing so.
If I ate a diet of meat and vegetables only I would easily maintain a healthy weight. My weakness is cake and puddings (homemade largely – although I do sometimes (often?) give in to confectionary from the shop). I know this is where the unnecessary calories (and other baddies) lie and I often wonder why I still eat them. Am I very weak willed? Is it because although I know excess weight will cause me health problems eventually, currently I feel fit and well and at 50 still have the energy to work a 12-14 hour day so I don’t see any urgency? Having two 500 calorie days a week is just an easy way to lose some weight while I get my head around other issues. There are health benefits to fasting too – see The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Mosley. It seems to make sense because we evolved in a time when a constant supply of food was not available. I think ultimately, I’m heading towards a paleo-ish diet with an added mantra of “everything in moderation”.


Author: Carol Atkinson

Farmer's wife, mother, straw bale builder, running two eco holiday cottages - now delving more into food production

3 thoughts on “Plants v animals

  1. I commented because I assumed that 500 calories a day was unpleasant and the Esselstyn diet – plants, including lots of unrefined starches – spuds and brown rice requires zero, ER, moderation. ; )

    But if it works for you, jolly good. We’re all different and, strangely (or not ; ) ), it’s not ‘one answer fit’s all’!

    Can’t reply in depth just now.

    In the US Empire the people are generally last to learn the truth about, well, anything, because vested interests make too much damn money from their copious lies. Hence the Muppet Stream Media (MSM).

    I include some details and links as a reference – may be useful for others who haven’t yet stumbled across the info. Don’t expect to convert anyone. Just as well, eh? “No chance!?” But if someone does the reading they might convert themselves. ; )

    The China Study by (biochemical) Dr. T. Colin Campbell has interesting information on pro-meat propaganda from the Weston A. Price foundation. Really – pro-meat propaganda – who would have thought it? That, and lies about dietary recommendations given to the US public by the government. No change there, then!?

    Esselstyn is very interesting explaining why his diet is useful. Where in the world do people not get heart disease? What diet do they follow? His book was ghost written and it’s a masterwork of its type – extraordinarily clear and concise containing the essentials that I found in perhaps six other books – and half of it is rather good recipes, which means his facts have to be very succinct – limited space. One can read a great deal of it via Amazon ‘look inside’ …

    Dr. John McDougall explains why ‘dieting’ doesn’t work long term which is interesting. Did wonder if he was a Seventh Day Adventist – hence pushing a vegetarian diet – or just worked in their hospital, north of San Francisco. The Mcdougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss, link previously. The two diet’s are almost identical.

    Caldwell Esselstyn’s son Rip has publicised a variant of his father’s diet for those who don’t (yet! ; ) ) have a medical reason to follow the father’s severer version. I noted a dig about the paleo diet that was fun – see Survey Says, page 45. See ‘look inside’ in the US version. It’s not in UK Amazon ‘look inside’ ! : ( –

    – ‘My Beef with Meat’, by Rip Esselstyn, published 2013 ––Plus/dp/1455509361/

    Some people (hopefully) discover these books when they receive a new diagnosis of heart disease. Is discerning truth from (nearly universal) lies about diet difficult then? Oh Yeah! But it _is_ certainly a considerable motivator. ; )

    Is it _more_ difficult for the (supposedly) healthy? Well, perhaps – their motivation may not be up to the mark. ; )

  2. Hi Carol,

    I’m sure that you have a lot of information, given that you are a farmer and a farmer’s wife and that you produced such a detailed report on straw bale building. So it’ll be very interesting for the rest of us to see what you might might put in a report on this.

    Here are a few notes. By ‘you’ I mean ‘the reader’. Saying ‘one’ repeatedly was so stuffy I took it out.

    – Johnny (occasionally?) Responsible

    Q. My main issue is from a resilient food production point of view – how much of a vegetarian diet can be grown in this country? If you could analyse your diet in terms of % potentially UK grown I’d be really interested.

    A. The 64,000 pound question? Don’t have the answers for any diet. Tied up at present, but hope to have a go in a few weeks.

    After watching Robert Hart on Forest Gardening, A Farm for the Future by Rebecca Hosking and Martin Crawford on Forest Gardening, you might assume that a forest garden was the way to go in the event of the (possible utter) demise of oil. Also Masanobu Fukuoka – One Straw Revolution – and Emilia Hazelip – late of the Merry Pranksters – ‘it’s the Sixties, man!’ Links below.

    There is a concept in psychology called Recency and Currency. (Or two concepts?? ; ) ). What you read most recently and what you read most frequently are what remain with you most strongly. Which might bias your conclusions.

    So recalling Recency and Currency one might be suspicious of that easy conclusion – without doing a great deal of reading – or visiting.

    If you had discovered the late German MP Hermann Scheer – the, ER, Solar Pope – and his four and more books on renewable energy, you might know that Germany was already far down the road to one hundred percent renewable energy, as a result of Hermann Scheer’s work. You might know that renewable energy and ppo – Pure plant oil – meant that conventional farming was not going to end because of a lack of (fossil) diesel. Fossil diesel might go away but hybrids and even one hundred percent biodiesel – or pop – vehicles would carry on. But because of a lack of fertilizer? No idea.

    From the film Who Killed the Electric Car and the work of Stan Ovshinsky you would know that electric vehicles could have been mass produced from 1996, but were suppressed by Chevron – “There’s a 100T (T as in Trillion) worth of business still to be done.” – Wally Rippel, quoted in the film.

    In oil in the ground at a hundred dollars a barrel. So one billion barrels of oil in the ground. So of course the oil industry didn’t want a natural switch to electric vehicles starting in 1996. Though they are getting it now. Albeit very slowly.

    Electric driving at one cent – or penny – a mile, versus twenty cents – or pennies – for the oil version. With the electricity from PV cells on one’s roof – amortized in three years by the money one would have spent on petrol, or diesel – and generating (nearly) ‘free’ electricity for another 27 years, or even more. Nearly free, at the maintenance cost of the PV array. See Doug Korthof on youtube.

    ‘Forest Gardening’ with Robert Hart – Youtube –

    ‘A Farm for the Future’ by Rebecca Hosking – Youtube –

    Martin Crawford’s Forest Garden, and on Youtube –

    Emilia Hazelip – now deceased. (*) – Youtube –

    (*) Why does Dr. Helen Caldicott says that she won’t eat food in Europe? Radiation from Chernobyl (and France?) How does she survive when she visits Europe, which she does? No idea. Is that relevant to Emilia Hazelip and food growing in south of France? Don’t know. Hope not. Is it relevant to others growing food in Europe. Given that Welsh sheep farmers still can’t market their lamb – at least at the time of Fukushima, says Helen Caldicott – very probably.

    • Thanks again Jon, for a very full response. I don’t buy the Recency/Currency concept. But maybe that’s because I read a wide variety of material – or maybe it’s because I’m old. If you were very young or very sheltered you may believe all you hear or read but surely there comes a point in most people’s lives when that simply isn’t the case – although we are all shaped to some degree by our life experiences. Conversely though – maybe because I am old and have read so much over the years, I can only remember the current stuff?!
      I like to read lots. Even if it is an author I completely disagree with, there will be some insight that had not occurred to me before – this will add a different line of enquiry to my list. If it is an author that I broadly agree with there will still be some doubtful, questionable, fanciful or just plain wrong stuff they write (in my opinion). Reading can go on forever though. At some point I need to actually DO something, because ultimately that is, for me anyway, the best way to learn. That is why I’m starting my vegetable research so that I have some real results to analyse. I’m still eating cake though – I might need a psychologist to help me with that one?
      I am familiar with the work of Robert Hart, Martin Crawford and Rebecca Hosking. I have not come across Emilia Hazelip (thanks for the link) but I have read a lot about Permaculture. I think all the people you list have interesting angles. Another author you might like in a similar vein is Colin Tudge. None of them talk about yield, however, and that is what I am trying to get a handle on. I’m not suggesting that my research will be of any use to anyone but myself – I just want to try to understand a bit more.

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