Keeping it Simple

Keeping it Simple

Since the beginning of the year we have removed car loads of junk and ‘stuff’ either to the tip or to the charity shop. This consisted of (amongst other things):

Magazine supplements going back over 10 years

Clothes that have not been worn for decades

Old newspapers

Kitchen stuff like plates, bowls, old mugs, etc. that either have never or will never be used

Old wires, bits of wood, plastic bags, tins of paint

Drawers full of bits and pieces – bent screws, plastic tops, old paintbrushes

Carrier bags (!)

Old vcrs, tape machines, amps and various electrical equipment that were broken

This list could go on and on and on…

For quite a while we were at the local dump every Sunday, joining a never-ending procession of people pulling up in their cars and getting rid of ‘stuff’. Mountains of it. Accumulating in the vast skips labelled ‘wood’, ‘hard plastic’, ‘glass’, ‘magazines’, ‘electrical.’ Each of these skips a testament to our consumption. On these trips we would sit and wait, looking at the ever-increasing heaps as people walked back and forth from their cars with junk and wondering just how we all managed to consume and accumulate so much; imagining this same scenario taking place at dumps all over the country, and then widening this out to think about the sheer amount of stuff that humans produce and discard – often with the most detrimental effects to the planet. It is mind-boggling.

What brought this on? Why were we not doing something more relaxing on a Sunday instead of sitting at the tip and mulling over our contribution to the world’s pollution problems?

The answer to that is this film.: Minimalism.

Minimalism: a documentary about the important things in life – if you haven’t heard of it yet – is an extremely thought-provoking documentary about the stuff that we accumulate in our lives and the profound affect that it has upon us as we place value on things that are ultimately meaningless. In the film, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists) tell their story of transitioning from poor and volatile backgrounds to successful corporate careers, setting them both on a treadmill of rabid consumerism as they sought to add value and meaning to their lives by acquiring more and more stuff. It was Joshua who first became intrigued by a minimalist lifestyle after the death of his mother and the realisation that the things that he had once though important were actually insignificant. The order of things was turned upside down. It was the very things that he had previously taken for granted (or may have even neglected) that were important…

I will stop there with the description of the film as it really is a ‘must-watch’. Of course this is an issue that has been tackled by other people in many different ways and of course this is not the first time that we have thought about the impact of our consumerism, but for some reason the message in this film seems to resonate so strongly and really tap into something. I was struck immediately about the relationship of the minimalism philosophy to an ancestral health or traditional lifestyle. The overwhelming message of minimalism is one of simplicity and focus upon those things that add value to our life. Stripping away the superfluous until we are able to see what really matters – possessions, activities, thoughts, actions – allows us to concentrate on things that equip us to live a more meaningful and less stressful life. When we begin to do this, we are able to think more clearly about the purchases we make, how we spend our time, the people that we surround ourselves with and the work that we do.

Over the last century, we have increasingly allowed ourselves to be defined as ‘Consumers’.  The pervasive nature of advertising, along with the rise of social media and other technologies means that we are potentially subjected to a 24/7 onslaught, pushing us  to consume in larger and larger quantities. Only simplification can potentially reduce this cycle of consumption. Many people are looking for alternatives.

Adopting a process of simplification with food leads to the quest for simplification in areas of health and general lifestyle. Over the years, learning to look at many things through an traditional lens has pared things down; helping to focus judgement and see what is really important. Even down to thinking about the food choices and behaviour of the animals that we eat, what could be simpler than cows eating only pasture or large groups of animals moving from one place to another as they did millennia ago, regenerating the land underfoot? Some problems require complex solutions, but for many problems the solution is elegantly simple, it just might take a bit of work to get us there.

We obviously live in a completely different world to our hunter gatherer ancestors, and to our more recent ancestral/traditional communities.. We have all the benefits and advances in science, technology and medicine that we often take for granted. However, physiologically and psychologically we are not very different from our distant relations. It is no wonder that the 24/7 media and consumer-driven culture that we live in sends many of us spinning. We are still trying to adapt and paying a heavy price in the process. Looking at how our ancestors lived and thinking about what may have been important for them – shelter, food, a shared spirituality, social bonds, being in nature, creativity – pares things down to the essentials and helps us to reflect upon the necessities of these things to own lives.

Minimalism is not about discarding all our possessions. It is about increasing the things that add value to our lives and decreasing the things that don’t. The particular things that do this may be different for each of us. I love books and music so I am hardly about to throw out my book collection but what I have found is that by getting rid of piles of additional magazines and other rubbish I am able to organise and focus on my books more, which brings me more enjoyment. This is applicable not just to material things but to how we spend our time, who we choose to be around, how we work… Freeing up time and energy allows us to contribute more, to interact more with people that are dear to us or that we can help. This is an essential part of the Minimalism message.

The Minimalist movement has taken some criticism – you can hear more about this here. People say that we are in an extremely privileged position to be able to discard possessions that others living in abject poverty may only dream of. This is true, but it doesn’t detract from the validity of the approach. We are consuming and wasting the earth’s resources as never before. The hedonic treadmill that results in more and more purchases – an insatiable drive to accumulate ‘things’ and thus to find ‘happiness’ – keeps us tied to the very behaviour that is harmful to both ourselves and the planet. In the condemnation that Minimalism has received in some parts of the media, there is an element of overlooking the message to criticise the messenger. To dismiss a philosophy that we truly believe is beneficial to us and the wider world around us just because some people have issues with those who espouse it is sad. I listened to an interview with Matthieu Ricard (Buddhist monk and humanitarian) in which he talked about our value systems and the importance we place upon possessions. Whether it comes from relatively wealthy people or Buddhist monks, it’s the message that counts and this message is gathering pace.

“I’m simply asking the critics to consider whether they’re just being defensive, or if they’re arguing from an honest place with rational objections.” blogpost answering critics from Leo Babuata, Zen Habits

I believe that the ancestral health community is naturally in tune with a minimalist philosophy and I was so excited to see that the Minimalism film was being shown at this year’s Paleof(x). The attention to careful and conscious choices regarding lifestyle as well as the issue of personal responsibility  leads us to question how the choices we make affect not only our own health and wellbeing but that of the planet. Getting rid of our junk and questioning further purchases is only a tiny part of the Minimalism message and only the beginning of the journey. Widening this out to look at our value systems in general and helping us to really decide what is important is the real (and increasing) power behind both these movements.



For a list of Paleo-friendly suppliers and products see the Resources and Suppliers page.

Paleof(x) 2017

Paleof(x) 2017

It’s that time again! The biggest and the best Paleo conference this weekend with a fantastic line-up of speakers. Wish I was there but looking forward to catching some of the presentations via the LIVESTREAM

Check out the SCHEDULE.

The following sessions look particularly good:

Art De Vaney on The Paleo Model of Longevity

Chris Kresser on Too Much Junk in the Trunk: The Growing Role of Environmental Toxins in Human Disease

Marc Angelo Coppola on Building Movements: How Sustainable Farming and an Education Based Revolution Will Change Our World

Kevin Johnson on Time In The Void: Flotation Tank – I have tried flotation sessions many times and can totally recommend them.

Trina Felber on Skincare. Cancer-Care. Sick-Care. Do YOU-CARE What’s in Your Beauty-Care?

Panel on How to Achieve Permaculture in the Digital Age


For a list of Paleo-friendly suppliers and products see the Resources and Suppliers page.

Wild Celebration

Wild Celebration

We do not have a large deer population in Wales have certainly increased over the last few years and continue to do so (although the Wye Forest populations are large). Of our native species, Fallow Deer are the most common in Wales (introduced in the 11th or 12th Century. Roe Deer migrated into Wales in the 1970’s from the borders and are particularly at home in woodland areas. There are a small number of Red Deer in the Beacons (Wales’ largest native land mammal) that apparently originated from a deer farm in the 1980’s. Non-native Sica and Muntjac Deer are present in small numbers and the Chinese Water Deer are yet to become established in Wales. Obviously these increasing deer numbers have to be sustainably managed as they have no natural predators. Venison is a wonderful by-product of this management. The meat has an excellent Omega 3:6 ratio as the deer feed on their natural diet of grass and vegetation. It also has the highest amount of iron in any red meat.

I use diced venison in a casserole with chestnuts and mushrooms and it was absolutely delicious. It had a very strong ‘gamey’ flavour which I love and was melt-in-the-mouth soft. For more information on game see the following excellent websites:

Taste of Game – fantastic recipes, news and information on this site. They are also promoting Great British Game Week. Check it out!

Game to Eat – Countryside Alliance campaign dedicated to increasing the eating and enjoyment of British wild game with lots of game facts, recipes, news and events.

The Wild Meat Company – mail order game birds and meat from Suffolk.

Wild Harvest Table: a US-based resource for game and fish recipes, nutrition information, and preparation techniques. Founders Moira Tidball and Dr. Keith G. Tidball also call for more research into the following:

1) Determining the importance of wild fish and game consumption to food security in local NYS communities;

2) Evaluating why people are motivated to eat, or not eat, wild fish and game;

3) Examining the importance or “legibility” of nutritional analysis for wild fish and game, and the way labelling influences consumer choices; and,

4) Determining how people learn about processing and preparing wild fish and game, and barriers to finding and adopting this information.

Check out Jeff Shaw’s Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog for a huge resource of game recipes and videos.

Wild Diced Venison

 We are now in the run-up to Great British Game Week which takes place 22nd- 29th November and celebrates all that is good about game. Game meat is increasing in popularity and from an ancestral health perspective, game must surely represent one of the best choices if we wish to eat as closely as possible to a hunter-gatherer/traditional template. Choosing our meat sources wisely and taking into account the ethical and sustainable factors in its production is crucial. It is sometimes easy to forget about including game in our diets and it is great to see it promoted as a healthy, seasonal, locally sourced and sustainable food (along with 100% pasture raised meat).

I was surprised to see that one of my local supermarkets is now selling wild venison (Fallow Deer) from The Wild Meat Company based in Suffolk and formed in 1999. It is quite tricky to get hold of wild venison locally unless we are lucky enough to buy some from our friends (although farmed venison is easily available). The Wild Meat Company also sell directly to the consumer via mail order and offer a range of game meats and birds.


For a list of Paleo-friendly suppliers and products see the Resources and Suppliers page.

Abergavenny Food Festival

Abergavenny Food Festival

We had a great day out at Abergavenny Food Festival at the weekend. The sun was shining and there was a fantastic atmosphere with huge crowds at this increasingly popular foodie festival. The event has been running since 1999 and having not visited for quite a few years, we were surprised at just how big it has become. Set in the spectacular scenery of Abergavenny, the festival showcases some of the best producers in the UK and is a must for anyone interested in good food.

We each paid £12 for a day ticket and although I had reservations about paying that much, on reflection I really think it was worth it. The festival was split over several sites and there was just so much to see (and taste) that it would definitely be a real treat to get a weekend ticket in future. We didn’t know if we could attend until the night before so if we visit again next year I would like to plan the day a bit better and make sure that I saw everything that we wanted. There are also lots of special events and demonstrations throughout the weekend but these are at additional cost. It looks wise to book as soon as possible as so many were sold out, especially if it is a ‘big name’.

Monmouthshire Turkeys
Trealy farm
The Forest Pig
The Forest Pig
The Charcutier

Great to meet Juliet from Monmouthshire Turkeys. We purchased one of their organic, free range Bronze turkeys for the first time last Christmas. After much research and a ton of questions to various different producers regarding the welfare of their birds, we happily settled on Monmouthshire Turkeys. Founder Caroline explained exactly how the birds are kept and fed and was clearly passionate about her product.  We were not disappointed to say the least. We shall definitely be putting another order in this year and as always, it is a pleasure to meet and chat with the people that raise our food.

Some very exciting charcuterie producers were at the festival, including the excellent Trealy Farm. We bought some fantastic Fennel Salami, Spicy Chorizo Salami and Wild Boar and Pork Salami. Their cooking Chorizo sausages are just gorgeous. Also The Forest Pig had a lovely stall. I tasted some of their produce at the Green Café in Ludlow a while back and it was very good. (The Green Cafe was such a great find and well worth a visit if you are in the area; using lots of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients to produce delicious meals – but be sure to book though). There was also Charcutier Ltd, another artisan producer selling across South Wales with a great blog that I have just discovered and look forward to reading more about. Founder Illtud Llyr Dunsford is so clearly passionate about charcuterie and pigs. 

Big Horn Biltong
Paul's Organic Veg
Riverford Organics
Paul's Organic Veg
Riverford Organics
The Garlic Farm

We tasted some really lovely biltong from Big Horn Biltong – no sugar or any nasty stuff and terrific value for money compared to some of the other biltong we have seen around. It is interestingly the first UK product to be certified via the Paleo Foundation. Great ‘ranting session’ from founder Simon Kennedy (see more on these below) .

There were lovely displays of fruit and vegetables from Paul’s Organic Veg from Mitchel Troy near Monmouth and also from Riverford Organics

Great to see The Garlic Farm there. We bought some seed garlic to plant out; a mixture of Red Czech, Mikulov, Siberian Wight and Solent White.

Entry to the Fish Area
Market Hall Area
Great display in the Market Hall!
Nick Barnard of Rude Health
Bill King Local and Great Blog
Arin Kapil of Green Saffron
Rosie Sage of Hurdlebrook Dairy
Jacques Cop from Coco Caravan
Simon Kennedy from Big Horn Biltong

Be sure to visit the Rude Health ranting sessions if you visit next year. As I mentioned we did not plan our day but thanks to a tip-off from Simon at Big Horn Biltong we were able to catch a few.

A great rant on the benefits of ghee from Nick Barnard of Rude Health (complete with some lovely samples of ghee). Good to see the flag being flown for healthy fats.

Rosie Sage of Hurdlebrook Dairy talked about additives and why we should avoid any ingredients that our grandmother would not recognise. She stressed the importance of avoiding ‘low-fat’ products that have had all the good fat removed and replaced with carbs (sugar).

Bill King of Local and Great gave a very entertaining rant on why there should be no vegetarian options on menus. He explained that this is often an excuse for lazy and uninventive cooking, when really there should just be well thought out, exciting meat-free dishes without having to make a point of labelling them vegetarian. 

Jacques Cop from Coco Caravan talked eloquently about his raw cacao products, something that he is clearly so proud of and which he enjoys immensely – a really thoughtful and impassioned rant. Apparently 75% of antioxidants are destroyed when cacao is roasted and roasting also affects the quantity of ‘happy hormones’ as well as destroying Vitamin C (see here for more). I had no idea about this. Jacques also explained that Coco Caravan uses coconut blossom nectar (a natural sugar that I saw used in products at Paleo Fx last year), which has a glycemic index score of 35 – relatively low compared to other sweeteners.

Arin Kapil of Green Saffron gave a superb talk on spices. We really loved this enthusiastic rant – what a speaker! Arin explained about the importance of using the best quality, freshest spices to get the maximum flavour. Spices are imported whole from their native lands (aiming for a maximum of 8 weeks from partner farms in India to Green Saffron where they are blended or sold whole). As Arin said, we would not grate a lemon, put it in a jar and then use it six months or a year later so why do we do the same with spices?

Simon Kennedy from Big Horn Biltong gave a great rant on the importance of sourcing quality ingredients to ensure quality products. A big-up for Paleo too! Snacks like this need to be in pubs across the land.

I wished we could have stayed for more rants but we had to leave. We also missed the earlier session of the day with a rant by James Swift of Trealy Farm but look forward to seeing them next year!


All in all a fantastic day! Thoroughly enjoyed it and realised how lucky we are to have such wonderful and passionate food producers here in the UK. We definitely won’t leave it this long again before visiting the festival …

What a view!
What a car! The Chase Distillery wagon.

For a list of Paleo-friendly suppliers and products see the Resources and Suppliers page.

Marvellous Mutton

Marvellous Mutton

We tried a leg of mutton yesterday for Sunday lunch from John and Patsy Price over at Bryn Belted Galloway Beef and it was fantastic.

It was the first time we have cooked roast mutton and have been eager to try it. The flavour is more developed and stronger than lamb with a firmer texture, but definitely not tough at all.  The fat also tasted wonderful.

Mutton is from a sheep over two years old, while Hogget (also very nice!) is from sheep between 1 and 2 years of age. Mutton is a beautiful dark red meat and is often cooked on a lower temperature for longer (thus suited to slow cookers).

Prince Charles has been an avid campaigner for mutton – see the Mutton Renaissance website. Also, check out Bob Kennard’s Much Ado About Mutton website (he has recently published a book by the same name). On both websites there are tips on choosing and cooking mutton as well as some historical facts about this much-underused meat. There is also a new campaign just launched called Make More of Mutton, so hopefully demand for mutton will increase.

I was interested to hear Helen Pickersgill from Weobley Ash Farm in Herefordshire talk about mutton on a recent episode of Countryfile (hat tip to Make More of Mutton for the link). Helen explained that research has shown mutton from a pasture-raised animal around 5-7 years old has an even better Omega 3:6 profile (around an ideal 1:1) than that of younger sheep (the profile increases favourably with age).

We prepared our joint by making small cuts in the skin and stuffing in garlic and fresh rosemary. We then seasoned it and placed the joint in a slightly oiled roasting dish with some small onions from the garden cut in half.

We gave the joint a 15 minute sizzle on around 220 degrees before lowering the temperature to around 180 and cooking for 25 minutes per pound, basting frequently. We then covered and rested it for 20 minutes while making a gravy with the juices and onions. We served it with swiss chard from the garden and roast squash.

I noticed that the roast mutton recipe on Much Ado About Mutton favours a much longer cooking time (150 degrees for 2-3 hours covered in foil). Although ours came out very succulent and not at all tough, we will try the slower method next for comparison.

We will definitely be cooking more of this lovely meat!

Marvellous Mutton 1
Marvellous Mutton 3
Marvellous Mutton 2
Marvellous Mutton 4