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  • iaindryden1

'plague of frogs and unborn babies'

In the bitting breeze falling over the cliff, soggy towels at their bared feet, their shivering limbs showed they’d braved the flat sea on this winter’s day. After they’d dressed, we waved, congratulating their bravery. He came over, teeth chattering, she, a little behind in dressing, soon followed. “We’ve wanted to swim in the English for years but never got round to it and today, waking to the rare sight of sun splashing the backs our of our Devon red cattle, we decided this was the morning for it!” Huddled into her jacket, she added, “I’m tingling all over with freshness!”

For half and hour our winter swimmers told us how they continued to ignore the mockery of surrounding farmers as over ten years they took their ancestral land back to early times. This means no chemicals or fertilisers, letting hedgerows expand, spreading cow poo on fields, planting to encourage plants insects, birds, mammals love. “We tell our neighbours that we are custodians first, businesses second.”

“This isn't our land,” my dear Kenyan friend’s words rang through my mind; watching elephants walk towards the swamp, she and her husband had turned their farm into a conservancy which has now become world famous.

This young Somerset couple farmed part of the week and spend the other part spreading the word to other farmers. She shook her head, “They think we’re crazy. Profit is what they’re seeking, not sustainability.”

He snorted, “Their hefty machinery compresses the soil, ruining it for years.”

She added, “And they’re indebted to the banks to pay for it!”

He nodded, “Sustainable farming is cheaper, less stressful, better for The Planet….”

“And more fun!” She laughed. “So sell to the public,” I added, “post-Brexit, it’ll be more profitable as people shop more locally.”

“Exactly what we tell everyone!” They laughed.

Camilla said, “People need to be educated that they don’t need so much meat* and that if once a month eating from grass-fed animals tastes better and is morally more satisfying.”

We walked above the cliffs to picnic and met the organic farmer whom we’ve know for years. Struggling, recovering from lyme’s diseases, he said, “I caught it from ticks off the deer. There’s too many, they’ve no predators, people think they’re cuddly but they need culling. They’re destroying the natural balance, spreading disease, spreading ticks, it’s a disaster.”

As we sat eating our food, a man said, “Make the most of it. A plague of frogs and unborn babies hails from the east!”

We laughed and chatted about the wet winter, about the virus, about hippies where he lives in Glastonbury who refuse to follow Covid advice, claiming it’s a world-wide status-quo conspiracy to cut our freedoms. I chuckled, “They’d freak if they knew how close they are in spirit to Trump’s lot!”

As the sun dipped, on that day before the third lockdown we headed home, wondering when Covid will allow us to walk beyond our little area again. A dear friend, a world respected environmentalist, mused that the coronavirus, is in a way nature’s response to our overcrowding…. We are lemmings, we multiply without concern**, we consume without thought* until there’s nothing left and then we plunge over the cliff. But we also have brains. Let’s use them to do what they’ve developed to do best - to solve seemingly unsolvable problems… Think of that young farming couple, we can each do our bit for future genrations.

* Occasionally eat meat, one a week or month, not every day. The process of producing 1kg of steak creates about 28 kilos of CO2; 1kg chicken =11kg of CO2; 1kg locally farmed salmon =8.9kg CO2. In contrast, 1kg rice/soya/lentils =1.5-2.5kg CO2 (+ transport); 1kg mussels =1.2kg CO2 (including transport); 1kg average local vegetable =0.8kg CO2.

** If 3, rather than the average 6 children were born to African & Asian families, that’d reduce CO@ emissions by 5%! Educated women have 2-3 babies.

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