from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 27 May 2018

planting out the squash

I'm up early, digging and raking the squash bed, turning over the clods of kelp we gathered so backbreakingly back when it was winter and then hauling the 60 big sacks up the steep slope to our raised beds (built by TM and also very often requiring the transportation of 100s and 100s of sacks of compost, manure etc by hand).

It's been a long time since I felt I had the energy and desire to head up there for a spell of hard physical work so early in the morning. And I loved it. So far, I've kept my resolution to do a whole lot more gardening and spend a whole lot less time on the screen. It feels good, though I still don't know how I'm to address the ongoing pressing issue of fiscal poverty with the work I do. I'm planting intentions to change that with each squash and courgette I nudge into the warm soil. 

The broad beans, sown directly into the soil in April (they should have over-wintered by being sown in October) are doing well, and so far all the other beans, many of which we grow to freeze for winter protein, are thriving. The garlic is plumping out. 

This year the hawthorn, sacred to the month of May and the goddess/May Queen in the old calendar, is pink again. I still haven't found out why that happens some years: a combination of weather-conditions and mineral content of soil is my vague impression.

There's a great spotted woodpecker on the feeder, and a (small) charm of goldfinches. 'My' robin didn't appear for a day or so after I returned from Brittany, but when TM and I sat in the sunny courtyard with a cup of tea the other morning he – for it is a he, and feeding fledglings with his mate – heard my voice and flew over to perch on my hand. This means almost as much to me as publishing a new book. (Perhaps this is why I'm not making any money. Priorities.)

Also early in the morning a roe deer and a yearling head into our margin of woodland. I've seen a  cuckoo twice. By such things are the mornings blessed.


Last evening, I stood out in the rain shower, the first for weeks, pictured the beans and new squash plants soaking it up, breathed in the scent released from all the plants and flowers, listened to the blackbird in the oak – the rain song is quite different.  

Later, I loved being inside and hearing the thunder in the duskiness.


Next week, I'm heading off to my homeland of West Cornwall to take writers out to the ancient and sacred sites of this land.

The Land's Wild Magic is happening at Cape Cornwall; a venue where I hope to be offering both my Wellkeepers autumn course and a new one in September (still tba), focusing on memoir and nature-writing. 

If you are interested in writing that encompasses both mindfulness practice and time out on the land relating to the other-than-human, you might be interested in two more one-day workshops in the Devon lands. You can read more here.

I'm also delighted to announce an autumn writing retreat on Iona next year, in addition to the two spring ones. I've already had some bookings come in. Might I tempt you to join us? People come from all over the world.


How we relate to the other-than-human is more than a matter of pressing concern. For me, it's now the main focus of my life and work (inextricably intertwined, which is how I like it).

While it's not news, I was heartbroken the other day to read the report in the Guardian giving us specific data on our terrible powers of destruction as a species.

Did you know (well, you will if you've read the article by Damian Carrington) that only 4% of all land mammals are wild? Yes, 4%. 

36% of land mammals are humans. 

And the other 60%? Our prey, the livestock largely of course factory-farmed in appalling conditions, prisoners of our appetites and ignorance. 

And of birds, 70% are poultry, mainly chicken, also farmed for our appetites.

I know everyone's banging on about reducing meat-eating. As a vegan, obviously I'm in favour of it. More, though, this is something we can do that will allow us to make positive changes, not just for our species but for other species and the planet too. And it's not enough just to know it; we need to do something. This is what will empower us to feel something other than hopeless and helpless in the face of all the environmental horrors.

My mum used to talk of four categories of risk: the ones we can afford to take; the ones we can't afford to take; the ones we can afford not to take; the ones we can't afford not to take (with me??). Cutting our meat consumption is without doubt in the 4th category – we can't afford to carry on as we are. OK, if we disappear as a species, that's our doing. What's not justifiable morally is taking every other species down with us.
The professor carrying out the research that underpinned the Guardian article said (unnecessarily but I guess it bears repeating): 'Our dietary choices have a vast effect on habitats of animals and other organisms.' Well, yes. And not just on the habitats but on the animals we eat themselves. He has himself decided to reduce the amount of meat he's eating.

This, it seems to me, is the least we can do. How about making a life change that will have an enormous impact?

1-star is cutting out meat, fish, dairy, a day a week. Even this will make a huge difference, and I recognise that we all do what we can from our own starting point. 

2-star is going vegetarian. This will help a lot too, though there is still plenty of suffering and death associated with producing dairy and eggs, albeit a lot less than a carnivorous diet.

3-star is vegan. It's not an easy option, but yes, you can live a perfectly healthy life as a vegan – some would say more healthy, as meat and dairy consumption have both been linked with higher incidences of some cancers and heart disease. For nutritional info, see here. And there's no need to sacrifice taste and pleasure: have a look at this website. More and more food outlets are catering for this nowadays.

And know what? I actually can't stand the taste of milk in tea any more; it was giving up that selfish little pleasure that stopped me being vegan for decades: the idea of drinking milkless tea seemed unthinkable (in a minor trivial way). What's more surprising is that nor can TM, a dedicated lacto-veggie. He still eats some cheese although we share the cooking and he cooks vegan, but out of choice goes for soya milk now (I don't, as it's not good for menopausal women, but I love almond milk – sourced from Europe, btw, if like me you're a food-miles stickler and also concerned about the bee-racket in California).

And it feels so good to actually do something rather than moan and despair at the state of the world.


  1. A good one, Roselle (not that your usual ones aren't, of course!) Full of treats (eg Autumn Iona, day workshops in Devon).
    Morning energy is a good wake-up, isn't it, and I certainly find mornings the most productive of the day. Too much spent, though, and afternoons become wipe-outs.
    Like you, I've been spending more time in the garden this spring – too much for one person even if I'm limited to about 30 mins. All that bending and straightening plays havoc with my balance! Then I might do a bit more in the afternoon when the brain isn't so alert. This year I;'ve been reassured by the number of wild plants flying into our spaces and merging beautifully with the cultivated flowers to make the meadowy look we wanted.

    I'm becoming more and more vegan, only resorting to fish if my gut's playing up. Son Jeremy won't accept this and assures me that there are plenty of vegan alternatives. Like rice, I guess, which is always soothing and helped our dog in his final years.
    I love the challenge of vegan food, the latest experiment to make a mushroom and onion omelette with gram flour batter. It almost worked but needed to be lighter with even more herbs and spices than I used. Not very original, I know, but worth perfecting.

    Great to start the day with your blog. Thanks, as always.
    Miri xx

    1. Ah thank you dear Miri! The meadowy look sounds wonderful.

      Yes, indeed, well-cooked brown rice is the best of all for a sore gut.

      Your recipe sounds interesting? Oh and I have a lovely buckwheat crepe recipe I'll share on here some time.

      Thank you, and love (off to Cornwall tomorrow for The Land's Wild Magic)


  2. Just to let everyone know (many of you have emailed me over the last few weeks) it seems Blogger is no longer accepting OpenID comments. While I don't exactly know what that means, I do know that it means I no longer receive your comments on here. It's a shame – I love the sense of community they bring.

    I'll try to repost some myself if you feel inclined to email me with them.

    Thank you for reading and being part of this.

  3. FROM Jeff:

    'I like your mum’s four risks! When I was head of a school science department we had to assess risks using two scales: how dire the consequences of an event would be and how likely it was to happen. If the result would be serious but we adjudged it impossibly unlikely, we could ignore it; equally a very probable mishap could be overlooked if the outcome would be trivial. But a near-certain event and dreadful consequences required the most urgent efforts to avoid it.

    'I can’t help applying those ideas to the overheating of the planet which is happening daily, with the consequences we will all see to an increasing degree: floods, droughts, crop failures, starvation.

    'Going vegan is not only a moral stance from the standpoint of animal suffering; it is a near-vital contribution to slowing down temperature rise.

    'If only I didn’t love cheese!'


Blog Archive