Palm Oil confusion

I have been doing more research on Palm Oil since the Iceland’s banned Christmas Advert. Have a look if you haven’t already…..

Apparently we use 66 million tons of palm oil annually and it is currently used in approximately half of all supermarket products. That is a big addiction to break. I think the Iceland’s advert is a good thing to make people aware but the real problem with palm oil isn’t being addressed…..

Palm Oil is in high demand. Most folk are aware that it has resulted in destruction of habitats (not just for the Orangutans) but also other species and the displacement of native people. The high demand has resulted in heaps of awful consequences that we DO need to address. BUT Palm Oil is surprisingly a good option. Why? It’s semisolid at room temp, a vegetarian alternative to animals fats. There are currently no good alternatives to this semi-solid fat that we require in an astounding number of products. There’s currently nothing that will produce an equal amount of oil using the same resources. We’d still need an oil of some sort, but we’d need to use at least 3x the amount of another oil-producing crop to replace all the palm oil, which would require three times the amount of land….shit.

So  what can we do?

To be honest I don’t know…. The more I progress with this blog, which makes me read and research, the more disheartened I feel. Should we all just give up and accept doom?? NO, I’m going to keep trying for now at least!

So I suggest support sustainable Palm Oil practises and ideally just produce your own everything. I think a lot of our problems in this day and age is the lack of community and family. If everyone had their own plot of land to grow stuff and space to experiment in storing produce and making their own hygiene products and then we could all swap the things we had made, i think the world would be a better place. Is travel advances and communication leading to the doom of humanity? ….probably.

A bit later on Thursday…

So apparently the blue plastic sock thing is standard at swimming pools. They give them out in order to stop you dragging mud through their changing room floor. The only reason I can think of that I have never encountered such a thing is that I just stomp right through in my farmyard rigger boots and no one dares questions me! They can just follow me through with a hose…..



I haven’t written for a while but I have been doing good!

My lovely friend Rachael taught me how to crochet. I’m not very good! I did make a dishcloth out of hemp cord. Thankfully it is not important if a dishcloth is aesthetically pleasing. I was trying to do a basic square but it ended up more like a triangle (no idea why) so instead of going up and down the same line I decided to go around and around to try and even it all out. It looks like this…


I’m going to test it out tomorrow and see how it does.

I also emailed the Co-op where I regularly shop and asked them if they really need to package leeks and cauliflower and other veg in plastic and I received this reply:

”Hi Rowena,

Thank you for contacting the Co-op about the amount and type of packaging used for our products.

Reducing the amount of packaging we use, and making what is used easier to recycle, has been a long term part of what we do at the Co-op (in 2005 we were the first retailer to successfully run a packaging reduction trial, removing the box from our own brand tomato puree, saving 8.5 tonnes of card a year) and we’re going to carry on working to meet our goal of 100% of our food packaging being easy to recycle.

In 2017 Co-op Members voted at our AGM to commit us to increasing the percentage from 45% to 80% by 2020. Right now we are at 71%, you can read more about what we have done on our blog:

Perishable goods last longer in packaging, so our packaging not only keeps products fresh but ultimately cuts down on food waste. That being said, we are always looking for ways to improve the packaging used, such as recently changing the trays on our Irresistible tomatoes from plastic to cardboard.

Selling loose fruit and vegetables would be such a great way to sell produce, and would be so beneficial to the environment. I will definitely be passing this suggestion onto our packaging team.

If I can do anything else to help, please let me know.



Member & Customer Services”

Seems pretty reasonable reply to me. I will follow it up in a few months and see if they have made any progress. I did also see that the co-op are going to start only giving out biodegradable carrier bags too which is great. Although the bag use in the UK has dramatically gone down since the introduction of 5p per bag thing it has also meant that the bag recycling points at larger supermarkets have vanished which is unfortunate as I no longer know what to do with my ‘bag for life’ when it dies and also a lot of food packaging says ‘recycle with plastic bags at larger stores’ and this no longer exists….. I think all recycling info needs to be updated on packaging. A surprising amount of stuff has no info at all. It is probably irrelevant anyway considering the UK exports most of its recycling and now that both China and Malaysia have closed their borders to our waste we need to man(or women) up to the reality of it and deal with our waste, whether recyclable or not, ourselves.

I also inspired a friend to try and go plastic free for a week. A great challenge I think. She hasn’t been doing brilliantly so far, it is super hard! She bought a bin to organise her new recycling regime but unfortunately that bin was plastic. Bought cardboard advent calendars for the kids…yay! BUT they were wrapped in plastic, And she was chatting about blue plastic socks at the swimming pool which I have no idea what she is talking about as I have never in all my days witnessed such a thing. BUT anyway, the first step is recognising your impact which I think Katie’s week of trying to go plastic free has done for her whether successful or not it was a step in the right direction…You should all try it yourselves.  And please leave me some comments so I don’t feel like im rabberling on to a plastic wall!





This topic is hard for me to deal with. I was brought up like many of us on milk, cheese, cream all that. And it tastes really good!

In principle I don’t actually think it is that bad if it was managed correctly. If you had your own cows/goats and the whole milking thing could be done nicely and respectfully, without talking a calf away and letting the cow be in a suitable and humane environment, I don’t really think there is anything wrong with that….there is a wee bit of me that feels a little weirded out by drinking the milk from another beast but that’s not the point in this ramble. The trouble is that dairy farms (or actually most farms whether it is beef, eggs, game) are not nice places.

The farm that I live on changed hands recently from a quiet organic farm with one old bumbling farmer upon his decrepid tractor, to a busy industrial beef farm. People come to visit us and say ”what a beautiful spot” but they haven’t witnessed all of the electric fences going up, the Rooks being shot whilst I’m trying to get the kids to sleep, the dead moles that now hang on the barbed fence next to our house, the pheasant pens and shoots, the trees that have been cut down because they encroach on a wall or fence. And worst of all was, in the spring, witnessing the cows in the barn next to our house waist deep in their own filth and were expected to calve (and several did) in that environment. The SSPCA came round eventually. I feel like I am living in a fishbowl surrounded by a world of destruction…… I was diverging from my point of milk just then but its good to have it out. I know another family who do live on a dairy farm and they use tasers to herd their cattle.

Cattle are thought to be one of the first animals to be domesticated about 10,000 years ago. So consuming dairy (and meat) is ingrained in our society. Since then dairy cows have been selectively bred to produce more and more milk per cow. In order to produce milk the cow needs to have a calf which is then typically separated within the first week of being born and then the mother’s milk can be used for human consumption. Sometimes the calf is separated immediately and the colostrum is milked from the mother and given to the calf through a bottle. This separation is distressing for the calf and mother. The calf is then fed from either a bucket or nipple feeder which is a cheaper and easier alternative to its mothers milk…. The whole milking process always reminds me of that scene in Mad Max, do I need to go any further or is it ingrained in your memory as much as mine?

Then there is the housing and treatment of cows. Farms are different and some a lot worse than others but if I buy milk from Tescos whether organic or not, I still do not have a clue where that milk actually comes from, probably multiple farms with all different kinds of treatment to their animals. Even if I wrote to every store that I bought any dairy products from and asked them about their sources, I’m certain they would reply with a generic letter stating that all their products abide by EU standards, blablabla. And then you could go and visit every farm and see what it is like, but you would probably need to seek permission to do this and then everyone would obviously be on their best behaviour. The only true way to learn about farming practices is to live in the sticks and witness what is going on around you… It is brutal.

SO. To the point….. I stupidly gave my eldest daughter cows milk when weaning her at 2years old. Half milk, half hot water and a tiny bit of honey. It became habit for us all. With my second daughter I was determined not to let this happen again (we are still in the weaning process at 25mnths). After trying Almond milk, Soya, Oat, Hemp (I love hemp milk but no one else in the family seems to), nothing seemed to fill the absence of cows milk for my family until….. Oatly brought out a new oat milk, the Barista Edition in a grey package. It is aimed at Baristas to make amazing lattés BUT it is soooo creamy and my whole family loves it! HOORAY! no more cows milk in horrible plastic containers with the wee film bit on top which you are never sure is actually recyclable or not.

Oatly Barista is not organic though and so I have to question one what am I putting into my families bodies and two the impact of growing the oats to make this product has on the environment. All those insects and bees being sprayed with pesticides and the chemical shit getting into the water and rivers…. I should definitely email Oatly and ask them to sort this out….

And now on to trying to find suitable cheese alternatives. Any suggestions?


Beech Nut failure

Today I had a rare child-free morning. Bliss! I walked the dogs without any direction and came across some beautiful beech trees. So I collected a grand total of 123 beech nuts and brought them home. After some research I discovered that you should put them in a glass of water to see if they float or not. Sinkers are good and floaters are bad, similar to  the witch test of the 16th & 17th centuries! All of my seeds floated except one…. Feeling like this planting tree business might be harder than I imagined!

I planted the sinker in a pre-used vegeware cup and I think i will plant the others in a big seed tray and see if any germinate. I can’t quite believe that all 122 are duds but I am prepared to give them a chance. Maybe it is too late in the year already to collect beech nuts? Learning on the job!


Offsetting your Carbon Footprint.

You can work out an estimate of your Carbon Footprint on the WWF Website:

Or this website seems to be more detailed and would probably provide a more accurate result but I didn’t know all of the answers:                                         

As I expected, my travel contributes to most of my carbon footprint and my total annual Carbon Emissions (as a family of 4) is 9.4 tonnes. This seems heaps but apparently lower than average.

carbon footprint

To offset my carbon footprint I have looked into how many trees I need to plant. According to:  if you plant a native tree in the Highlands of Scotland one native tree will fix around 0.16 tonnes of CO2 and approximately six trees will fix 1 tonne of CO2 over a hundred year period. Some trees will not survive from the start and others will not make it to 100 years so it is probably best to over-estimate trees to plant. BUT it is not actually looking too bad for me and my family. If we maintain our Carbon Footprint as 9.4 tonnes we need to plant 56.4 trees minimum a year.

I’m actually quite relieved by the outcome as I was expecting it to be some horrendously unachievable number in which case I would be tempted to just cry and give up on saving the world. But no, you should be inspired too.

If you are interested in helping you can donate to Trees for Life:

Or you can do as I plan to and just collect seeds and put them in a pot of compost and see how they do. We have grown a couple of trees this way and it is nice to get to know them and nurture them and then finally plant them out in the wildness somewhere (I think you are probably supposed to ask the landowners permission). I reckon we can all collect 60 – 80 tree seeds a year and stick them in pots of compost and see how they do??? It is probably best not to think about the grand scale of it all and just make a start and see how many seeds you can collect tomorrow….I’ll keep you posted on how I do.



Plastic, Palm Oil and Pollution

I’ve been trying to be aware of my environmental impact today and it’s not great.

Plastics Problem….

My toothbrush is plastic, the sponge I did the dishes with is plastic, the new glasses I was prescribed are plastic and I stood on a plastic children’s toy which broke and is now in the bin (Shhh, don’t tell them).

Plastic Steps to Solution?!…

Get a bamboo toothbrush when I next need one and make some art out of old brushes or use old brush for cleaning muddy treasure that is found mainly by the children? Google bamboo toothbrushes (although don’t actually use google as they are massively avoiding paying their fair share of tax, use Ecosia ( as they plant trees when you search) and loads of options come up for earth-friendly varieties of toothbrush.

Can you crochet? I can’t…yet. But I am prepared to learn because you can crochet your own dishcloth and it is washable, brilliant!

I might have to whittle my own glasses frames to avoid buying plastic glasses. I’m OK at whittling, I’ve made a fair few spoons and unicorn horns but I’m not sure my skills would stretch to glasses. Someone can do it though, or a machine (renewable energy powered obviously!)

Never get plastic toys for the children again. This is hard as birthdays and Christmas comes up but I’m going to ask my family to resist buying plastic toys. Also I have found that on long car journeys I resort to buying a shitty children’s magazine as I refuse to get them Ipads. Shitty children’s magazines are gender stereotyped and come with cheap and very breakable plastic tat, but there are alternatives if you are organised..

Magazines for 3-7yr olds:

Magazines for 7-11yr olds:


Palm Oil Problem…

I just found out that children’s crayons contain palm oil. Who would have thought? It seems to be in EVERYTHING!

Palm Oil Solution….

I’m actually working on a separate project now to help people become more aware of the palm oil issue, what products contain it and the damage it is causing. But that is for another day. I’ll let you know. In the mean time, check all of your food and other things (like crayons!) ingredients and avoid palm oil at all costs. I mean that. Lidl is one of the cheapest supermarkets around but as far as I’m aware they don’t stock any brand of oat cake without palm oil. AND sign the petition below

To ban the sale of products containing unsustainably sourced palm oil in the UK:     


Pollution Problem…

On this front I would say as a family we are terrible. We live in the middle of nowhere and so driving is almost a necessity.  We have a 7 seater car and an ancient diesel LDV. Both me and my partner (Glen) work 2 days each and whoever is working takes the van 15mins over the hill and back. Glen was working today so I drove the car to the opticians and back and the then drove my eldest daughter to gymnastics and back and then Glen took the car to drive to basketball and back… That is quite a lot of driving for one day.

There is an irregular and expensive bus which takes 10mins to walk to the stop or 45 mins with two children and its downhill on the way there, getting back home up hill with 2 wee’uns could take until midnight!

Pollution Solution…

I have always liked the idea of getting a horse, but Glen laughs at me. I think it would be good as we could collect all of our firewood much easier than with the wheelbarrow. Also whoever’s work day it is could ride over the rugged moors and mountains to work. We could take the horse on the brief shopping trips to the local co-op although I should probably check what parking facilities the co-op has for horses!

As much as I would like a horse, or two and a cart, and ditch the vehicles it would take me months to visit any of the festivals we go to in the summer months and I just don’t think we can afford to take that much time off work. We home-educate our children (2 and 5yrs) and so we have agreed to share work and parenting. Miraculously we manage to live off a 24hour working week between us. Well, that is our normal working week. Now and again Glen gets extra work as an artist and I run an organic herbal tea business rather halfheartedly because I’ve been told that I am not allowed to use the word ‘organic’. But because we home-educate I feel doing all of the extra activities are super important…Gymnastics, swimming, rock climbing, highland dancing. Aside from that I set up a Home-Educating group and a forest school group. All these things we have to travel to. I would never be able to get from one thing to another in time with a horse and cart…. Maybe we should all slow our pace of life down? The journey is the experience?

Ideally I want to save up enough money to buy land that I can live on and create an ideal learning environment. Not like the ‘flexi-schooling’ that main stream schools offer which is the least flexible thing that I have ever heard of. Really you should not be allowed to use the word ‘flexible’ for anything as rigid as every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A flexible school should allow you to turn up at whatever time suits you and take every sunny day off if you please. I understand that this might be hard in the main stream school set up but it is possible. You just need space and several bases, whether that is yurts, cob houses, outdoor shelters, the river, the woods… and in each base set up a different learning environment which has adult supervision and can guide children (or adults) if they choose to come to that base and find out about it. You would have a pottery, a library, a workshop, an IT space, science lab, greenhouse, art studio, gymnasium, whatever you can dream up…….. Anyway, if I could create this space I wouldn’t need to travel nearly so much…. Oh to dream!

The pollution solution is clearly going to take some more time and planning than learning to crochet.

In the mean time I’m going to work out my carbon footprint and try to counteract it by planting trees.  It is a good time of year to collect seeds and plant them and fun to do with the children.

Happy rest of Monday and bring on Tuesday!