Friday, 11 July 2008

Musings and Ponderings

I was reading on the BBC this week about the issue of what is better big farms or small farms in Zambia. It is a tricky subject as sometimes the bigger farm do have the advantage of the economy of scale but at what cost to our environment? Bigger farms can at least invest in larger machinery and require less labour, and let's face it some of those labour intensive jobs were not always great jobs that everyone tackled with a smile, they could be back breaking and tedious. Small farms though can work well to provide for a family, can be versatile in what they grow and this is important for the environment. The greater the variety of foodstuffs grown the less problems with pests and diseases. The problem though with small farmers is lack of education and abuse by those in power. Oh if life was simple with simple solutions!

Another article that caught my attention is the elusive cash crop in Kenya. Coffee brought quick success back in the 70's but since then they haven't been able to find a crop that would produce such fast returns. The endless dilemma is to find something that will alleviate the poverty that is so prevalent in a reasonable time frame without actually making the situation more difficult in the long run. Get rich quick schemes are hardly ever any good as they tend to mean exploitation of someone or too many people cashing in together. 

What I would like to see in the West though is slow real growth or how about no growth! Why isn't that considered a good idea. What we see at the moment is big businesses getting all depressed - why? Because they won't increase their profit this year or because their profit is down from last year, has someone forgotten to look at the figures to see they are still making a profit and quite a healthy one at that. Okay so maybe this year it is only 1 bn something or other and not 1.6 bn like last year - so what! It is still more than the GDP of some small developing nations.

Well from pondering the state of the world's economy I needed to ponder on a more practical subject, that of making cornflour. I can get polenta but not the flour so out comes my Kitchen Aid mixer complete with milling attachment and voila - cornflour, yellow cornflour. I tried it with fish sauce and it certainly thickened the sauce but is still not quite what I wanted, cornflour has a quality that is not often found in many thickeners and not being able to find any is a little frustrating. After I ground up some cornflour I tried to grind up rice to make rice flour. It was fine at first but then I found out that it is the kind of job that is ideally done on a dry day, not on a damp day with nothing better to do than jam up my grinder with rice concrete. I had to take the whole thing apart and soak it for quite a while before it came off, and now my grinder has gone a little rusty. Oh boy! The things you learn.

Last week I mentioned the Storks that frequent our garden well this morning there were not just storks in the garden but a deer and her two fauns wandering about. Good job they went straight to the cover of the trees and not through our garden or even worse stopping for some food along the way. We also had some unwelcome guests to our garden this week, the Colorado Beetle. This is not something we brought across from Colorado, honest! In England it is a notifiable pest and if you spot one you have to inform the agricultural authorities as they can devastate the potato crop. Here in mainland Europe they are endemic and have natural predators so we need to keep an eye on them and get rid of them if we see them or their larvae but it is not such a big deal, or at least we hope so!!!!!!

Another thing that struck me this week (must keep a look out for all those low flying thoughts) was the variety of plants in the "grassed" area, something you don't often see in England or the States where weedkillers would be applied and the lawns kept to a couple of inches high. Some of the plants I have identified so far are plantains, clover, mallow, dead nettles, dandelions and vetch

This week we also spent a bit of time with our friend Steve who we met on our first ever visit to Latvia. 

He decided a few years ago to set up a camp in a box. The idea is to put a complete camp together and put it in a container. This does away with the need for high maintenance buildings but is better than a basic camp. This has been a work in progress for around 4 years and this year was the first time he has managed to get everything together and hold a camp. As you can see it is quite impressive and looks neat and tidy, everything is available even hot water on top and a beautifully laid out kitchen. 

The only big disadvantage was the enormous horse flies, I have only ever seen anything nearly as big that bites or stings and that was a hornet, they were scary, especially when I am quite allergic to their smaller cousins. 



  1. I have heard that Colorado pests are the hardest to get rid of ;)

  2. Definitely the worse sort :P

    I hear they even get up on the 14'ers.


I love to hear your comments and will always reply, so go ahead, ask a question or just say hi