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

Wednesday 1 January 2020

Egrets ('I've had a few', as Simon Drew said), and berries. Squashes. Plus possibly the best thing you can do for the planet. Go on, try it

‘I haven't seen the egret all wint–’  I’m in the middle of saying to TM, when said bird flaps up not three yards away, between the brook and the big oak. We have between one and three little egrets who come upstream on this tributary of a tributary of the Dart most years through some winter months to fish and roost. Driving over the tidal Taw in North Devon at the weekend (my ancient campervan didn’t make it back under its own combustion engine that night, but on the back of a breakdown truck – I have told it sternly that its days are numbered) I see there’s a colony of a dozen or fifteen little egrets in the watermeadows.

I had the last tiny wild strawberry at the beginning of December – the sweetest of the lot. And I’ve already seen a single small leaf of wild garlic. Climate change, of course, though it has always been mild here in the southwest.

Here in the valley the spindle and holly trees and berry bushes have been ablaze with fruit that the local and migrant thrushes, blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares have been appreciating – not necessarily a sign of a coming hard winter, as the old folk tales have it, but more the result of a lush and productive spring and summer (or maybe those two things are interconnected?).

Speaking of productive summers, we still have about twenty of our little tennis-ball-sized pomme d’or squashes to use up, along with a few potimarrons not-quite-deliquescing on the pew in the lobby – normally just the right size for two or three of us, but this last summer double that*. So I’ve been thinking up ways to use excess squash in addition to the usual roast squash or squash, lentil and coconut soup. My daughter tells me that the to-date-rather-tasteless pommes d’or are nice baked and eaten with butter, cinnamon and salt (I imagine lime and chilli would be good additions); as a vegan, I haven’t discovered any way of making them anything other than merely palatable (and barely that). *Neither is in the photo, btw.

But the dogs (non-vegans) love them. So I’ve invented some vegan dog treats, having found the idea of incorporating squash online – healthy, and our dogs are nuts about them. Like me, the dogs don’t have gluteny grains, but do well with gram (chickpea) flour and some pulses.

Mash half a cup of cooked squash, pumpkin or carrot with half a cup of peanut butter (being not true nuts, peanuts are fine for dogs) and a tablespoon of grated apple. (You could also ad a few frozen peas.)

Stir in half a teaspoon of turmeric (optional), one tablespoon desiccated coconut, and one cup gram flour added tablespoon by tablespoon and mix by hand until you have a dough. 

Knead it a bit then tear it into about six balls, roll each on a gram-floured board into a sausage and put half in the freezer for another day and half in the fridge for an hour or more.

Slice the sausages into little rounds, place close together on a couple of lightly-oiled baking sheets, and cook at about 160º (fan oven) for around 20 minutes. Once cooled, keep in the fridge after baking.

It's Veganuary
. In the years since 2014, more than half a million people have signed up for this Vegan January initiative, and I’m bumping into a number of ‘ordinary’ people now who, for one reason or another, have decided to cut meat and dairy from their diet. Why not try it?

One great thing to come out of all the disasters we’re inflicting on the world is an awareness that we simply cannot, in the West, keep eating the quantities of meat and dairy we do. It’s not just a luxury we can’t afford, but it also seems a barbaric way to relate to animals, to me. 

  • It takes between ten and fourteen times more land to feed people animal protein than it would if humans ate the primary protein grown in the form of grains and pulses, so there are clearly implications for world hunger, let alone the associated climate change, involving unreliable weather systems, deforestation, soil erosion, resultant flooding, and habitat loss 
(the supposedly unproductive upland areas could reforest)
  • It also involves an utterly unthinkable and unjustifiable amount of suffering in our animal kin (‘in Britain alone, Veganuary 2019 saved over 3.6 million animals in just 6 months’) 

  • And then there’s the health issue – there’s much evidence to suggest that a vegan diet is better for you, and there are quite a number of vegan professional athletes, so you don’t have to be pale, wan and weedy

  • Try growing your own: there is nothing like harvesting your own veg to bring to the table, nor the time outdoors in all weathers and the general sense of fitness and wellbeing.
I’ve been saying for years that our way forward as a species is at least to tend towards veganism, and to compensate animal farmers for switching to growing veg crops, preferably as permaculture or forest gardens, the only truly sustainable ways of growing food; and for rewilding and setaside for wildlife habitat, and planting broadleaf forest.

George Monbiot has said the same thing, more publicly.

And when an ex-DEFRA employee, scientist Professor Sir Ian Boyd, goes veggie himself and then publicly advocates a diet that is much lower in animal products, you know that the mainstream is really coming aboard.

‘Boyd said the public were subsidising the livestock industry to produce huge environmental damage. The professor spent seven years at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs before stepping down in August. Half of farmland, mostly uplands and pasture, produces just 20% of the UK’s food and would be better for used other public goods, he said.

‘Boyd, who became vegetarian during his time in Defra, said farmers were potentially “sitting on a goldmine” in terms of the payments they could receive for growing trees and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere...’ 

We have to make different choices. It’s our only hope now. If we as a species get wiped out, that’s one thing. Taking other species down with us is unforgivable.

We need to mend this broken planet that we have so blithely taken for granted and wantonly destroyed. So I don’t apologise for starting this new year with an injunction to at least try veganism, maybe a day a week, or try the whole month with Veganuary and then see where you’re at. There are so many tasty dishes (and some of you will know that ‘in the queue’ of my own writing projects is a book on veganism and an associated green life).

I maintain an embryonic vegan website. exists to inform and educate, so if you are interested and need more info on the nutritional aspects, do visit.

Meantime, here’s a recipe for humans, for North African flatbreads. It’s gluten-free, and I’m very pleased with it. Try the version with squash – delicious.

It’s soft, rather like naan bread. You can eat it in the way you’d eat any bread; it’s also very good with combinations of sautéed veg like tomatoes, onions, aubergines and mushrooms; also with bean or lentil patés. In European avocado season I mash those up with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a little smoked paprika.

Mix together in a large bowl:

150 gms of gram or buckwheat flour
(I use half and half)
1 heaped tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp seasalt
1 tsp cumin seed
pinch mustard seed
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)

Stir in:
130 gms vegan yogurt (I use yogurt made from coconuts as I avoid soya, but soya tastes good in this) OR you can use 65 gms cooked squash and 65 gms yogurt

When it’s holding together, knead briefly (a minute or two). You may need to add more flour. Make a ball and put in fridge for an hour. Tear into 6 or so small balls, flatten and roll out on a floured board, and cook gently in a little hottish oil for 2 or 3 minutes each side, until they brown but don’t char.

Happy January.


  1. I'm so heartened to read about Prof Boyd. Thank you. When is the European avocado season? Bx

  2. Right now, Belinda - a blast of something other than root veg and greens that are seasonal veg in GB! (Plus so nutritious.) They ripen between about November and May in Spain.



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