Food has been very much on my mind today. I’ve been listening to more of “”The Omnivore’s Dilemma“” by Michael Pollan. A very good book. If you’re short on time, just read the section about Polyface Farm (that is how it sounds, excuse me if misspelled). It is a beautiful example of how human and beast and land can co-exist harmoniously to the benefit of all. Well, the chickens and pigs and cows and rabbits end up in the pot, but they have happy, natural lives up until shortly before that.

But seriously, do read it. I learned a LOT about how natural systems work, from soil to grass to trees to grazers to manure. I now have a new appreciation for the lowly blade of grass, which plays an essential part in the intricate and interrelated system of converting sunshine into food. By using intelligence rather than chemicals, it is perfectly possible for humans (at least in farmer-friendly climates) to feed ourselves without trashing the Earth.

The farm reminded me of a retreat Mum and I went on over Christmas a couple of years ago, at the Gaia Partnership in Herefordshire in England. Elaine Brooke has organized her home and her two acres to maximum eco-efficiency. Nothing goes to waste, the house benefits from passive solar energy, and she grows most of her own food. There is a composting toilet and male guests are encouraged to pee on the compost heap. She has demonstrated that you don’t need a whole farm to be just about self-sufficient in food. And the more I learn about agribusiness, the more I would like to know exactly where my food is coming from.

Speaking of where my food is coming from – food has also been on my mind in a more immediate way today. I’m not too concerned yet, but I’ve taken an inventory of what food I have on board. This voyage is taking longer than expected, and there was some spoilage due to those leaking lockers. So I’ve figured out what I can eat each day from now on. I should be okay, but I need to be a little careful. Or it will be out with the fishing line….

Other Stuff:

Speaking of food, during my reorganization yesterday I got out my trusty little electric kettle (see photo). It guzzles electricity like nobody’s business, and takes nearly half an hour to come to a boil, but when I have oodles of sunshine it’s a handy alternative to the Jetboil. I also got out my second Jetboil stove, as the igniter on the first one had long since ceased to work. The igniter on the second Jetboil worked once. And then stopped. Pathetic. A shame that such a great bit of kit is let down by this one substandard component.

Made better progress today. The wind rose, and although it’s not from the ideal direction, it is giving me a bit of a helping hand across the current.

There is an interview I did with the Ocean Conservancy, now online here. It is also highlighted on the homepage of their Keep the Coast Clear website (which focuses on marine debris):

Quote for the day, dedicated to any readers of this blog who think I am too idealistic: “Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.” (John Galsworthy) – which entitles me to be very idealistic indeed!

Sponsored Miles:
Diane Freeman, Shana Bagley, David Cameron, Nick Perdiew, Simon and Eve Ringsmuth, Jeffrey Green, Cynthia Ford. Many thanks for your support in this venture.


  • Greetings Roz, throw out the fishing line now. Keep the food stocks you have on board in reserve. You might not have any luck fishing when you need it. On the Jetboil, send the units back to the factory for failure analysis when you get back on dry land.

    Fair winds and following seas,

  • Roz, it is Polyface Farm.  Thank you for writing about it!
    I found which references Pollan’s piece in Mother Jones about the project.  It is a fun read.

    Here is just one example from 

    Joel, who describes himself as a “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic farmer,” speaks of his farming as his “ministry,” and certainly his 1,000 or so regular customers hear plenty of preaching. Each spring he sends out a long, feisty, single-spaced letter that could convince even a fast-food junkie that buying a pastured broiler from Polyface Farm qualifies as an act of social, environmental, nutritional, and political redemption.

    “Greetings from the non-bar code people,” began one recent missive, before launching into a high-flying jeremiad against our disconnected “multi-national global corporate techno-glitzy food system” with its “industrial fecal factory concentration camp farms.”

    With a little more searching, I found what I believe is the section from Pollan’s book that you mention. It’s at starting on page 123 in Chapter II

    I cannot fathom how you remember all the tid bits you post here, but thank you for regurgitating them for us to digest ;-D

    Row nourishingly, Roz!

    • Hi Aimee, not much posting activity today.  I have been reading the section in “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and feel compelled to share the following with any who might be reading. (Please use your digression whether to include in today’s email to Roz, as she has already read it).

      I found this very informative:

      2. THE GENIUS OF THE PLACE (pages 125-127)

      Polyface Farm raises chicken, beef, turkeys, eggs, rabbits, and pigs, plus tomatoes, sweet corn, and berries on one hundred acres of pasture patchworked into another 450 acres of forest, but if you ask Joel Salatin what he does for a living (Is he foremost a cattle rancher? A chicken farmer?) he’ll tell you in no uncertain terms, “I’m a grass farmer.”  The first time I hear this designation, I didn’t get it at all — hay seemed the least (and least edible) of his many crops, and he brought none of it to market.  But undergirding the “farm of many faces,” as he calls it, is a single plant — or rather that whole community of plants for which the word “grass” is shorthand.

      Though it was only the third week of June, the pasture beneath me had already seen several rotational turns.  Before being cut earlier in the week for they day that would feed the farm’s animals throughout the winter, it had been grazed twice by beef cattle, which after each day-long stay had been succeeded by several hundred laying hens.  Because that’s how it works in nature,” Salatin explained.   “Birds follow and clean up after herbivores.”  And so during their turn in the pasture, the hens had performed several ecological services for the cattle as wells as the grass:  They’d pick the tasty grubs and fly larvae out of the cowpats, in the process spreading the manure and eliminating parasites. … And while they were at it, nibbling on the short cattle-clipped grasses they like best, the chickens applied a few thousand pounds of nitrogen to the pasture — and producing several thousand uncommonly rich and tasty eggs.

      By the end of the season Salitin’s grasses will have been transformed by his animals into some 25,000 pounds of beef, 50,000 pounds of pork, 12,000 broilers, 800 turkeys, 500 rabbits, and 30,000 dozen eggs.  This is an astounding cornucopia of food to draw from a hundred acres of pasture, yet what is perhaps still more astounding is the fact that this pasture will be in no way diminished by the process — in fact, it will be better for it, lusher, more fertile, even springier underfoot (this thanks to the increase earthworm traffic).


  • Interesting blog. I’ve ordered the book.

    There’s no greater lesson in the value of food and resources than growing your own. If you’ve had to make compost and dig a plot or find firewood and saw logs to be fed and warm, it brings it home how energy sapping supplying just these fundamental needs is and therefore how wasteful and fatuous the material wants of the modern western world are.

  • I tie a fishing line to a winch and let a spinner out. When I think of it, I reel it in, many times there is a tasty fish for dinner on the line!

  • Your stove, jet boil- from their website.
    “My Jetboil isn’t lighting well. What can I do?

    The intensity of the piezoelectric spark is highly dependent on its
    position over the burner. Adjusting the position of the piezo wire to
    maximize the intensity of the spark usually corrects the problem; the
    optimal distance between the wire and the burner head is approximately
    one-quarter inch. If, after attempting an adjustment, you still have
    problems lighting, carry a lighter or matches.” Added by bill- with this much salty environment , the tip of the igniter ( closets to the flame jet)  might need cleaned? Like a car battery terminal, the slightest bit of foreign film can prevent ignition. Sorry to read this news.
    Thank you for sharing your many inner and global thoughts each day Roz. Hope Rita is mending well?
    I agree with Jerry- fish before you need to. Sharped your hooks and have what tools you need, at the ready to finish the moment . Plenty of calories to go yet.

  • Roz, if it hasn’t already crossed your path, author Barbara Kingsolver wrote a book about the year her family moved back to southern Appalachia after many years in Arizona, and determined to live off the land for a year. The book is called “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” and it’s rich with commentary on the present state of agriculture in the U.S., recipes, and anecdotes from their first year as locavores. I am not in any way a gardener, but I love Kingsolver’s other books and found this one, though different, to be equally engaging and well-written.

  • Good news for the world’s hungry:
    July 11, 2011

    Robin Buell of Michigan State University.

    An international consortium of scientists has produced a new map of the potato genome that may lead to the development of an ultra-nutritious potato that could help feed the world’s hungry.
    By sequencing and identifying genes in the genome of the potato, the
    consortium has, for the first time, tied specific potato genes to their
    functions. Resulting insights into the growth and development of
    potatoes may enable scientists and breeders to produce potatoes that are more nutritious, more disease resistant and less dependent on
    pesticides than conventional potatoes.
    The potato is the world’s number one non-grain food commodity, and serves as a primary source of energy for many poor people in developing countries. What’s more, the popularity of the potato is expected to increase as the world’s population soars. Therefore, by improving the nutritional value of potato crops and making potatoes easier to grow, scientists will increase the nutritional intake of a large and expanding population.

  • One of the hurdles that must be overcome to transform agriculture in the USA (and elsewhere) is easing the transition for the farmers. Presently for most farmers it would mean a substantial income cut to change over production to the “Polyface” method.  In many areas of the country (USA) there are not even markets within a reasonable distance to sell the crops and production they would raised in this manner at a price that recovers costs.

    It is an idea with great merit but it cannot be done unilaterally.  Farmers and consumers all have to get together on this.  If I turned around and changed my farm over suddenly I would see a very large drop in my income to the degree I would quickly be insolvent.  As much as I would want to adopt those methods I can’t afford it financially.  Organic is another option I’ve considered but the problem is the transportation cost to the nearest elevators that take organic grains.  They are just too far away with the result that the higher price we would be paid for an organic product is wiped out (and then some) by the transportation costs.  Of course none of this even considers the other costs such as the additional carbon pollution emitted due to transporting the crop further.

    Having said that tho’, we have transitioned to “no till” farming where the stubble from the recently harvested crop is left standing as the ground lies fallow until the next crop is planted.  The new crop is seeded through the stubble without plowing the soil open.  This leads to greatly increased organic residue, increased moisture retention, and reduced need for chemicals.  For fertilization we soil test and only apply those nutrients that are deficient, often in dry form, rather than simply dousing the ground with nitrogen (often in the form of anhydrous ammonia).  The longer we do “no till” the easier weed control becomes because the stubble covered crust is more resistant to the establishment of weeds.  Organic residue in the soil continues to build up making for a healthier soil profile.

    I keep investigating . . . and hope that someday I can find a way to make my operation work better and more sustainably–right now not all the pieces are in place to make it work.

    • Thank you, Cynthia, for a realistic point of view. Too many people make “what we should do” statements without any understanding of what is actually involved and what the unintended outcomes of their proposals would be.

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