THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Mar11

Eco-friendly Animals

The question of which animal you should keep as a pet, if you want to tread lightly on the earth, cropped up this week. It is a great question, another part of Modern Living that needs to be questioned and thought through, and was inspired by watching the elaborate and bonkers dog show Crufts.

For those of you who don’t know what Crufts is, it is a dog show that allows breeders and handlers to bring their animals together to show off how they look. They get rewarded for being the epitomy of what it is thought the breed should look like (and some of the dogs were magnificent animals, we must say.

But…

If you look at the alsatian dog it has lower back legs than front. It looks odd, almost like a frog. But this look is considered a good standard for the breed. If you look at photos of alsatian dogs from the 1920’s they are all straight backed. We belive they bred them to have lower back legs so that they looked scarier, as if always ready to be leaping up at you. If that is true that is crazy – the straight-backed animals from the photos in the 1920’s look noble, dignified… and definitely not something to be messed with.

Which means it is important to make your own mind up about what is beautiful, what is not. We all have different standards and tastes – in our garden design work, one client will often love and appreciate a flower another client hates. Neither is wrong.)

While Crufts and the dogs taking part run around showing off to the judges, representatives from the pet food and toy industries sell their wares – we saw a dog kennel with its own treadmill and a plasma screen TV. Not cool, not eco-friendly, not worth a penny. We could get a bit down-hearted, feeling silly that we are trying to sell something interesting and that benefits the planet (like Seedballs) when around us people are using animals to convince you to part with your cash for a ridiculous reason.

But…

We don’t. We love what we do, what we offer. We couldn’t live any other way.

If you are choosing a pet then, to fit in with your earth-friendly philosophy, what do you look for?

Dogs and cats are out, as is anything else that is popular enough to have a huge range of associated products available for it that you ‘must just buy’. Though if you can stop yourself getting some of these ludicrous objects then you reduce the waste your animal would otherwise cause.

Keeping bees must be high up the list. They require little effort (please put us right on that if you are a beekeeper!) little equipment and they do a brilliant job helping to pollinate flowers. They produce honey, which is of great value. And here is the problem – honey is so valuable that another industry has grown-up around it, leading to the bees being factory-farmed in order for them to produce enough honey for us to eat. For more information please visit the Natural Beekeeping Trust.

Pets that recycle waste must be earth-friendly animals to keep. Worms do this. Pigs too. Though keeping pigs may not be all it seems…

Agricultural animals are a beneficial part of a farm system, as they produce manure which can be used to help grow food and other plants. But in areas of the US, where there are so many pig farms, they create such huge amounts of waste that it contaminates and pollutes rivers (the creation and removal of waste – it crops up again and again as a foundation issue of our lives.) We do wonder where all the pigs in the UK are kept – the only place we have seen them is in a field opposite Stonehenge. Where are the others? Are they kept indoors? Hmmm…

Indulge our fantasy for a moment please, before pointing out all the ways it wouldn’t work:

An architect designing a new urban residential area decides on adding space for a number of local shops, a park, a pond. They also line the streets with fruit-bearing trees. Then they add enough space to keep a pig or two (or three.) These animals become the neighbourhood food waste disposal units, looked after by the locals, enjoyed by the children. It is a lovely system that the architect could design. And just imagine the bacon shared around the houses…

We can’t think of any other pet that has a low impact on the earth. Alpacas? Fish? Parrots? A vulture? (They do a fantastic job of clearing up rotten carcasses in India. Why pay the bin man when a large bird can do it for free?)

It is difficult to see how we can sustain the number of people on earth. How can we cope with the number of pets and livestock (which has grown hugely since the 1950’s) too? Perhaps keeping animals will become a thing of the past, and the creation of environments where animals can survive and thrive will become the norm? How about enjoying the romance of a feral animal, and remind yourself humans are a part of the food chain too?

Mar19

Wasting Water

Well worth a read in the BBC today – a note on how wasting water in the UK “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby.” Read the report here. I have written a talk about how we use water in the  garden. It was written when I moved from Hampshire to Essex and found out for myself just how dry this area of the UK is. It completely changed the way I garden. The lack of such a precious resource as water made me question what we can do to save it, store it and …

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Mar14

The Foie Gras That Tastes Like Nature

Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?   Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can… We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives… “They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s …

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Mar04

Hardy Orchids Via James Wong

Hardy orchids – here is a subject I would love to know more about – so lo and behold, James Wong has written about it in the Guardian! Read the article about hardy orchids here. I love having orchids in the house, just your usual run of the mill buy them in any shop orchids, but it is a pleasure to read about the plants that will grow outside and cope with this weather. (This insane weather! From the hottest days of February on record to Storm Freya, all within a week. Weather is always such a factor in gardening, but …

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