One of my favourite playgrounds this year has been a hammock strung in the tattered old willow tree that grows in the tiny scrap of woodland where we keep our chickens. Gently swaying as I watch the leaves above me shiver in the summer breeze is the fastest way I know to drop deeply into that state of harmonious bliss that for me is only achieved outside in nature.
Each day, in order to warrant my place among them, I bring my three retired egg farm hens a bunch of dock leaves, which they love. I can't call them ex-battery hens because their lives have never been that awful. They came from the organic egg farm just down the road and they have fortunately never known a life without green things to eat and the freedom to roam over a fairly large area. Watching them this morning my thoughts turned to food (as ever). That clever way in which a chicken turns a dock leaf into an egg!
My neighbours sheep will turn this grass, here cut for hay, into bigger sheep. If you eat meat then you are, in a roundabout way, eating grass. We do, all of us, human and non human, literally eat earth - in that absolutely everything that we consume has it's origin in the natural world and took is sustenance from something that grew in the soil, even if that soil is under the sea.
Those who spend their lives far above the ground, eat those who are smaller and live nearer to it, who in turn eat those who eat leaves, who in their turn drink up their nutrients and water from the soil.
These swallow fledglings provided a hilarious cacophony yesterday, sitting on the guttering at the front of the house.
They were a perfectly timed chorus line of youthful hunger shouting the urgent needs of their empty bellies to their hard working and obliging parents.
When we eat vegetables we eat something that has been grown in and nourished by earth. When we eat meat we eat a creature that was nourished by the plants that grow in the earth. When we drink wine we are consuming grapes grown on vines planted in earth, coffee beans, tea leaves... you get the idea. It's obvious. There is nothing to eat that is not earth.
Rosemary, nasturtiums, thyme and oregano are all rooted and earthen. When you reach for the jar to flavour your cooking, remember where they came from.
Elderflower and mint are rooted in earth,
You can even eat thistles, although personally I can see no good reason why you would.
You can't eat foxgloves, they can kill you in fact. But these are the basis of one of the most effective heart condition treatments western allopathic medicine has to offer.
Wolfs Bane, Monkshood, Aconite, is another plant that can kill, even the tiniest amount is potentially lethal, yet it is both a herbal and a homeopathic remedy. Magic.
St Johns Wort, not so good to eat but it certainly won't kill you; an effective herbal remedy for depression.
You can't eat sweet peas either, but they nourish the senses. If ever there was a need for a scratch and sniff blog it's now. If only you could smell the roses......
Or the honeysuckle, twisting it's way through every hedgerow for miles, filling the summer air with the heady scent of heaven.
I found a new word; it is Geophagia, also known as geophagy. This is the practice of eating earth or soil-like substrates such as clay or chalk. Apparently it can be good for your stomach lining in a similar way to bees wax.
I'd rather have flower salad.
How 'bout you?