Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast – the weekly English show where we speak about everything under the sun. The major goal of this show is to help you improve your English, and of course, learn something new. My name’s Katya, I’m your host, and today with me…
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Probably John would like to give us a start.
Well, farming, let’s see. People have been farming doing presumably for about, what, ten thousand years I think. It’s to produce food. And we need food to eat. Before we farmed, we were hunters and gatherers, we would wonder around the wilderness, looking for things to kill and eat, and things to pick off trees to eat.
But it was a lot more, should we say, easier, to capture animals, domesticate them, keep them in one place, protect them from predators, breed them, kill them and eat them, and grow stuff. That meant that we could produce more food, have more reliable supply of food, and that meant that the human population could grow.
And without farming we wouldn’t be where we are today. Farming, of course, has changed over the last ten thousand years out of all recognition. And there’s also different types of farming now – you can… When I was at school learning geography, you could divide it into, in England, extensive farming or intensive farming.
Well, you have to elaborate on that for us.
Extensive farming means lots of land, you don’t throw much in the way of chemicals or that sort of thing at it. You farm sort of pretty naturally. But you’re using a huge space to produce a moderate among of output. Intensive farming is small amount of space with lots of inputs of labor, chemicals, capital equipment, energy et cetera.
So I you like you can compare to a system in Holland - intensive farming, small country, large population, or high population density. Produces a lot of crops, particularly like tomatoes, flowers, vegetables et cetera by putting in a lot of labor, a lot of capital equipment, a lot of fertilizers.
A lot of glass houses. Compare that with the, say, farming in, well, Canada for instance. Great plains where huge fields, plowed up, plant wheat or something…. It’s too far north for corn. Plant wheat – throw the seed it, leave it, harvest it – this is where you get flour for your bread from. The difference between extensive and intensive farming.
Well, to be honest, to me, neither of those sounded like small scale farming. So this…
So this is something you can only do as…
Well, you wanted to know what the definition of farming was – it’s to produce food.
So, farming – it can be only plants, or it can be plants and animals then? So, I am as far from farming as you can imagine.
Yeah, I mean, to add to what he said, talking about the history of farming. I just have discovered that humans have been lazy for a long time, so instead of them going out in the forest or in the wild to look for berries and pick up things and harvest whatever – they decided to keep it very close to them, you know. Just having them at the back of their house or the hut where they lived.
Well, it’s not necessarily about them being lazy, but them being safe.
Or smart! That is another word that we use for a person, you know, being lazy. Smart. Alright, well, that was just a joke. I mean, basically farming is just putting a seed or some branches, I don’t know, some roots into the ground and letting it grow.
And having it as a food. So that is basically. In Nigeria for example, I’ve seen here – usually people farm without ridges. So in Nigeria we do have to make big ridges. So ridges, like, when you gather sand together, so you make a heap of sand, and you make rows with it.
Then you put the seed inside. We do that because we have a lot of rain. It’s a tropical country, it rains a lot. If you do not make ridges to protect the seed or whatever.
Yeah, it’s gonna wash off. You know, it protects it from the birds too before the seeds germinate and start growing up, so it protects it from the birds and all that. So we make huge ridges, we make huge ridges to protect. It’s a little bit difficult to farm in Nigeria.
So, what’s your experience? Tell me about your experience!
You’ve never farmed before!
Well, I wasn’t a farmer as such.
Kate asked about small-scale farming. As a reaction to the commercial production of food, as I mentioned in both systems, some people have tried to be, shall I say, self-sufficient, to grow their own stuff. People have done in one way or the other in all countries over the world for a long time.
If you got a bit of land, try to grow a bit of food. The most productive parts of the soviet systems food productions was people’s patches of land near their dachas as opposed to the collective farms which weren’t particularly efficient.
In Britain people have always grown vegetables and fruit in their back gardens. But these days a few people have gone to what’s called small holding. That is – you have a house, you have a bit of land, maybe even an acre or so. And you can grow vegetables, you can grow fruit, and you eat it, and you can even have a little bit of livestock.
A lot of people these days keep their own chickens. That’s as a reaction to battery farming -that is eggs produced by chickens kept in cages. People keep their own chickens now, you can feed them on scraps, a few chickens in your back garden, then you have fresh eggs, very fresh eggs.
And that’s the sort of, if you like, small-scale farming that I’ve done. I kept chickens, sheep, and even a few pigs, and for two years – never to be repeated – turkeys. No, never.
No, they’re just a lot of work. They’re real pain.
I used to see some wild turkeys in Boston and they were very aggressive. They were just wandering around.
I mean, that’s my association with turkeys.
Exactly! I don’t trust them. I was always trying to avoid them.
I never found them aggressive, I just found them difficult to look after. Unlike chickens. Chickens, when the sun goes down, will go into their coop, into their house of their own. Just shut the door behind them and they’re safe. Turkeys will not. Turkeys go and find the highest place they can to roost. So they’ll go up a tree.
They can flutter a bit. Yeah…
To get up the tree. The trouble is when the sun comes up they’ll come down from the tree, and if you’re trying to, you know…
Exactly. The fox will be waiting.
So I try to put them away at night. Of course what they do is they get on top of the highest… If there is a tree, they go up it, so I gotta go up the tree, trying to get them down. And they’re quite big.
So they’re in a big netted cage if you like. But even then they get on top of their house and you try to get them off the house and try to put them in, inside the house, so the fox wouldn’t get them. And every night wrestling with four turkeys is no fun at all.
What a way kind of farming, yeah.
Now we understand why you’ll never again have turkeys. So you’ve had sheep, chickens…
Pigs, turkeys. And what have you grown? Cause you said that you had some veggies.
Yes. Everything. I never grew cereal crops. But vegetables like, you know, Potatoes, carrots, onions, peas, beans, what else? I tried watermelons once and polyethylene, but it didn’t work. I have grown melons in England, but that was not that successful.
My dad grew watermelons this summer.
In Siberia. They’re not too big, I think it was around 5 kilos, but it was sweet, it was nice.
A friend of mine showed photos too, she grew watermelon and melon.
Where there is a wish, there is a way to grow anything in Siberia.
Were they actually outside?
No, they were in the greenhouse.
In the greenhouse. Excellent.
Cause outside they would just freeze.
No no no, that’s not possible.
Alright, so my turn, right? I actually… It was very very interesting experience. So I went to a primary school, in our primary school we had farms. Yeah. So all school, the whole school was being grouped into houses, and each houses had farms.
So we compete in everything – we compete intellectually, we compete on the farms, we compete, you know, in sports games too. You know, all through the year. I don’t remember what day of the week right now, but on a certain day of the week they tell everybody – go to your farm and do some work, yeah.
I was in primary school, I was very little, so basically we just do the dropping of the seed, weeding, yeah, when it’s just time to weed, and then harvesting.
Very convenient! So you tell children, like – okay, that’s a competition! Then, you know, there you go – free labor!
Exactly, exactly. But, I mean, we eat our food.
What did you grow? What crops?
Yeah, we grew just basically corn, what else? I remember corn very well. Yeah, because in Nigeria we have a lot of corn, yeah. So we grew corn, just the idea f it is to give children the experience of it. It was a British school actually.
So the idea was just to give kids experience of growing food and being, you know, self-sufficient and all that. So that was essence, because when we take our harvest home, my mother used to – so, what do we do with all this? We need to go and give it to our neighbors around, like, so that was my experience of like farming, you know, basically.
Cause I live in the center of the city, you know, we didn’t even have a pinch of land for nothing. We just had some flowers in the pots, but that’s not farming. But we had some spare rooms in the house, so we kept some animals too. I kept birds, I kept broilers, if I’m not mistaken.
Yeah. But we had some spare rooms, it’s quite a huge house, so there were some spare rooms somewhere in like the store, so we kept some chickens. What else did I keep in my life? I kept rabbits, I had guinea pigs.
Okay, so, guinea pigs I guess is just like a pet. But what about rabbits?
No, guinea pigs are for eating.
Yeah, really really big ones, they could be big ones. I didn’t eat my guinea pigs, but I ate my rabbits. No, no no no, they could be as big as that.
Oh my goodness! So wait, you kept all those animals, and then you killed them to eat them in the house?
You know, I’m imagining a picture like from Dexter show, you know, like with a lot of, you know, that plastic, so that there’s no blood on the walls.
Oh come on. It’s so easy! You just lay them, you know, put the knife onto their neck, hold them down till the… Because they’re gonna be struggling, so you hold them down, keep them calm and the blood is not gonna…
We need to put the content warning for this podcast.
I used to slaughter my own chicken, but I was a little bit more humane than that. Chickens were shot into the back of their head with an air rifle, so they didn’t know what was happening. But they were outside when I did that, cause there would be blood flying around a bit. But…
Wow, Michael, you’re surprising us.
That was okay, that was okay, you just hold them down by the leg, and they’re not gonna move a lot. Blood is not gonna splash everywhere.
But, at home, in the center of the city. Wait, so do many people farm in Nigeria?
Yeah, that’s what I’m saying, like, if a lot of people keep some birds, yeah, basically, you know, chickens. Not a lot, because we do have some store somewhere in the house, and you can just keep them. Like he said, chickens are very easy to keep, you know.
Yeah. So, yeah, so we do have that basically, that’s what people do in the city. Then of course in the villages or whatever, or in the suburbs, some people do keep more- they have a place for them, they keep some goats or whatever.
But, basically, in the city people don’t farm at all. Yeah. But grow things – food to eat, veggies, no no no.
You can farm in the city. A little bit, get a window box.
Well, I tried growing tomatoes this year in my window box in Siberia.
Yeah, I remember there was an episode of the podcast about that. Growing vegetables on your balcony.
I think it boils down to interest. Nigerians are not interested in that. I mean, one thing about the Nigerians – you just sit right in front of your house, and you see people hawking these vegetables around.
You know, yeah, they’re just going around, they’re fresh, they’re brand new. So why would you? So people have no interest in that. People just pick them up any time, fruits, veggies, you know. They’re hawking them around, they’re very cheap.
What kind of problems can you have if you’re farming? I mean, cause you mentioned, John mentioned foxes. So is that a common problem in, let’s say, in Britain when you farm?
Foxes, yeah – if you have chickens, you’ve got a problem with foxes.
Foxes are everywhere. I mean, they’ve got to eat too. And I have lost quite a lot of chickens to foxes over the years. It was just down to me not building good enough chicken house, or sometimes you might forget to lock them in at night.
It does happen. But yeah, they’re the main predator if you like in the Southern England. I imagine there are others in Nigeria, aren’t there?
Yeah, in Nigeria they’re gonna be snakes.
Yeah. It’s a tropical country, there are snakes everywhere.
What other problems can there be? Michael, you have mentioned rain. Like, it can wash away the seeds.
Yeah, we have strong rains, windy, and all that.
What about England? What problems can you have with the weather?
Well, when you’re trying to grow certain crops, you have to watch out for the frost. So, like, tomatoes, or potatoes, for instance – just take potatoes. So it’s traditionally said you sow potatoes on St Patrick’s day, 17th of March. But that can be a little be early.
If the shoots of the potatoes come up and there is a frost, it’ll kill the shoots off. And they can recover, but you have to watch out to cover them up with something, if you’re gonna get frost so early. Maybe delay sowing potatoes, or shall I say planting potatoes, till a month later if you live further North of England.
Just as an example. Water locking if you have too much rain. That happened to me a couple if times – I lost my entire potato crop cause there was so much rain. They were sitting in water and they just rot. What else? With crops – yeah, the cabbage white butterfly.
I know what that is! My parents have a dacha, so they’re growing a lot of stuff, well, not a lot, but some stuff. So I was helping them a lot this week, oh, not week, sorry, this summer. And I learned so many things about insects, crops, weather.
What you need to do with the tomatoes, what you don’t need to do with the tomatoes. How to water things. Things I had never thought I would learn, honestly.
There’s so much technicalities in farming, in, you know, in Europe or somewhere. In Nigeria it’s quite easy – drop the seed, weed it.
If it survives, it survives.
Just weed it, you just have to take the weeds, they’re gonna kill it. But that’s all. It’s really very fertile land. Just drop the seed – anywhere you drop it, it’s gonna start growing.
Michael, a question for you – these snakes, do they come into the house after the chickens?
Yeah, they come after the chickens, I mean, whatever, you know. They’re predators.
Yeah, in Nigeria we do eat snakes. So if the farmer…
Yeah, so if the farmer gets this traitor, so…
So you can actually use a chicken as the prey and then you catch snakes and then you eat them. Very convenient!
Yeah, farming and hunting at the same time.
And snake tastes like chicken, doesn’t it?
I don’t know, I’ve never tried it before.
Oh really? I have, it tastes like chicken.
My mom told me she tried it once.
Wow. It’s interesting to hear – so, John, you usually plant things in March, you said?
Well, potatoes go traditionally in March, but other things I sow, say, tomato seeds in January, but inside the house. They wouldn’t go out into the greenhouse till April.
Different crops – different times of the year for sowing them. You can sow brown beans in November hopefully over winter you lose a few. But you’d better sow them in February or March. Parsnip – let’s see, it says on the packet of seed to sow them in February, waste of time! Different… A lot of things I sow in the greenhouse to start with, and then you take them outside, and then you plant them on.
Some things, like red beans, or French beans, you can sow them outside, but it’s a hidden mess, you’re better off growing them indoors, then transplanting the plant outside, but the risk then is the slugs.
There’s always a risk of some kind.
Pests, the pests, as Michael mentioned. Snakes are eating his chickens, slugs are eating my cabbages and lettuces. And you can’t eat slugs unlike snakes.
But, cause it’s interesting, in Russia most people start planting on the first of May. Well, because we usually have very long weekend in May, at the beginning of May. Sometimes even from the first till the ninth, so most people go to their dacha…
So and then they see, depending on the weather what they can actually plant.
Sure, sure, sure. Exactly. I mean, it becomes warmer and they want to do something productive. And talking about food, like farming and whatever, I forgot to mention that people do have trees, you know. We do grow trees.
Well, we don’t have apples in Nigeria.
Yeah, but we do have trees around. If you’ve got a house in the suburb or even in the city somewhere, I mean we’ve got the trees, they’re meant to be around. At times could be fruits tree like mango tree, you can find just in front of houses in the center of the city. And they do produce, you know, mangoes, so you can just go and get it.
What other fruit, apart from mango?
Yeah, so we do have mango, guava, watermelon, so high, so difficult. A lot of people don’t’ have that. Banana – people try not to have banana, because the leaves grow a lot, you know, it creates a lot of mess. Oranges, oranges are not orange in color, they’re greenish. Really really, very juicy and very sweet.
Then pineapple. Pineapple is so high.
We don’t’ really like pineapple that much actually. Because we have a lot of fruits and all that, I mean, we know what happens if you eat them too much. So if you eat pineapples too much, it’s gonna affect your tooth.
Oh, because it’s so acidic.
Then if you eat too much of guavas, you’re gonna have… What is it called again? Appendicis…
Yeah, yeah. If you eat too much of it. If you eat too much of sweet mangoes, you’re gonna have diarrhea or dysentery, you’re gonna have to go…
Well I guess the main idea is that everything is good in moderation.
And we… I mean, in England it’s obviously not oranges and mangoes, it’s apples, pears, plums. A walnut tree, a hazelnut tree, which produce… Well, the walnut trees produces not that I get many, the squirrels get most of it.
Yeah, they’re a lot quicker. We have apples and plums. I grew apples, a lot of them for the pigs. Pig food. And the sheep too.
I was dying to have apples in Nigeria.
Well this is one things that grows in Russia that you have of in Russia, and in Siberia. But these are not like big apples, but those tiny tiny tiny ones, and they’re usually sour and not sweet.
What do you use those for then?
Pies. Well, if you like sour things, then you can just eat them. Pies, jam. We make some juice.
My mom made like a hundred jars with it this year.
Even though we had a huge problem, which is because of the rapid change in temperature at some point, all… Well, a lot of apples – they started to rot. And you know there was this smell, very specific smell of like alcohol.
They’re not rotting, they’re fermenting.
You’ve got cider on the way.
But I mean, when I was picking them up, a lot of them were just rotten, so that’s… And it’s funny to see the birds just flying, you know, picking those that started to ferment,
I’m like, they’re gonna get drunk!
Yeah, they do! I’ve seen videos of animals getting drunk. I’ve forgotten the name of the fruit – so they go to the forest, all of them go there. That’s the only time they’re friends together. They all go there together when the fruit are fermented, they eat the fruits, and yeah, they had a lot of problems in their way back. Falling, you know, stumbling and all that. It was funny!
Yeah. Well, let’s say, we, I mean, my family, we have only one apple tree. And we still made 20 jars of jam, a hundred jars of this juice and we also had to just cut them and freeze them so we can use them for the pie filling in the winter.
And it was a lot of work, a lot! And while we were doing that, I was so happy that we don’t have a huge potato field cause that would also mean a lot of work. At least, with one apple tree we can handle.
That’s what I used to do in the autumn. Apples would.. We bought an apple press, a smal one. So, some of the apples would be chopped up and put in this press and squeezed to get the juice out. Some of them would be stored as juice, frozen. And some I tried making into cider.
Moderately. It was drinkable just.
Certainly not sellable, no. It was certainly strong. But the waste, the pulp afterwards – pig food. They loved it.
It’s just like the rabbits, you know – after like peeling off beans, or corn – the chaffs, give it to the rabbits, they like it a lot.
I feel like it’s a very eco-friendly way. I mean, cause you don’t throw away things, you can either compost it, feed it to the animals or something like that.
Yeah, exactly. I think, a very effective small-scale farming would be to have both plants, one or two, and kinds of animals that could actually consume, you know, these remnants.
Animals don’t only consume your waste, vegetables, your peelings, but they in turn produce fertilizer. And let’s get down to the nitty-gritty now, different type of animal fertilizer. Now, a lot of people on England, if they see a horse, they will go, they’ll run outside and try to collect the horse droppings, and sprinkle it around their rose bushes.
It’s a tradition, and it’s still done. However, horse manure is quite strong and needs to be rotted for at least a year before you use it on vegetables or crops. But sheep muck you can use straight away – fantastic stuff.
No, cow has to be composted for a year.
I don’t know what the difference is, but sheep muck could be used. Lump a sheep poo in a hole and stick a tomato plant on top – perfect!
I’m not sure I’m gonna use this advice.
Yeah, sure. We have a fertilizer.
But that’s the point, so you’re not using chemicals.
Do you need a lot of food to feed the sheep?
Well, they eat mainly grass, so what you need is land. They need a space.
Fair enough, fair enough.
The idea is that, you know, one ram and three breeding use. In summer I have more than enough grass, about an acre. Winter I run out of grass and I have to moose them around to the parts of the garden where you wouldn’t really normally go to. You have to feed them, buying food for them. There have been time in winter when I got not quite enough. But, it worked, just about.
And what do you usually do with the wool? I mean, what did you personally do with the wool?
Now, yes, sheep have to be shorn for health reasons, otherwise… See, the wool can get mucky, particularly their back ends, and they can then be attacked by flies, or lay their eggs which will turn into maggots, which later will eat the sheep.
So you have to shear them, take the wool off. But unfortunately, these days, fleece has very little value. When you think that 700 years ago the British wealth was built on sheep farming, wool, speaker of the House of Common sits on a woolsack.
That’s how important wool was to the British economy. Now, when the chap would come around to shear my sheep, he would take fleeces away. If I could sell them, he would get something like 10p, which is something like 10 rubles for a fleece. Just think about it – what wool things do you wear?
So then you have somebody else do it for you, shear the sheep?
Yeah. Sheep-shearing, shearing sheep is a skill in itself. I mean, turning a sheep over and snipping the dirty bits on its back ends is one thing, that’s difficult enough. Holding one down while you’re taking the entire coat off it without cutting the poor creature is quite an art.
I also have a question to John, again. So, I once heard that a lot of people in Britain would like to have some kind of greenhouses, but they don’t have land or they can’t afford it, so they can rent a piece of land, or they can rent a greenhouse – is that true?
Yes, there’s the Allotment Act of, I think, 1906 or something like that, which is the law passed by the Parliament that said that all local authority should provide allotments, which is a portion of land which people could rent at a very low rate to grow vegetables. And that act is still in force.
Unfortunately, during the last war, everyone had an allotment, everyone was growing food, because we had rationing, we didn’t have so much food. We were running out of stuff. Since then, the supermarkets came – oh, we cannot be bothered, let’s just buy at the supermarket.
So a lot of allotments left became big patches of weeds, and the local authorities started selling them off to housing. There’s only a rising demand for allotments again, but the land is not there. The local authorities aren’t providing – the land’s expensive. Developers want to build houses now. And it’s a problem.
Cause I was thinking about it, if that’s true, then what about housing? Cause Britain has a lot of people and not that much land.
Interesting. Cause I was wondering if that’s a common practice to rent some land to grow something on it.
There are some people who’ve gotten allotment, but PEOPLE who want it are often on a waiting list that is like a couple of years.
I would definitely just stop caring about it in a couple of years.
Well, I think this virus thing has meant that people are more, even more interested in leaving the cities. Or, if they can’t leave the city, then getting a patch of land, because during the virus some of the shops ran out of food.
People are becoming more concerned about what they eat, will they be able to eat? The continuity of supply and they really are interested in what goes on their plate. Is it full of chemicals or not?
That’s true. People have become more health-conscious I would say.
Yeah, definitely. And conservative.
I have a question to both of you. What is the most unusual thing you have grown? For your climate.
I don’t really remember. I mean, in Nigeria we do have our culture science, a subject at school. So we do have practicals, so at times we do have to grow some plants, you know, and bring it to the class and experiment how they grow and all that.
Yeah, so. But we grew just basically like normal things, like beans, corn, so things that could grow in very little container that everybody could see and experiment and look at. So yeah, that’s about everything.
I tried growing sweet potatoes.
Ah, we have a lot of them in Nigeria.
Not really viable in England. I grew them inside a polyethylene inside a compost in a tub. They were okay. They were not as good as the things you can buy in the supermarket, that’s obviously. But it worked. A lot of effort though for very little.
Not worth the effort. But I did grow crystal apple cucumbers. They grew outside quite well. They are little round cucumbers sort of the size of your bitter apples, but they’re actually cucumber.
Oh! I have never seen anything like that,
Absolutely. When he was describing, I was like googling in my brain.
Trying to picture it. It’s just the reason why I asked this question’s because this year my parents decided to try something new, so the planted Brussel sprouts.
I love Brussel sprouts! They are my favorite!
I love them! But so, you know, we were planning on harvesting it in September, maybe the end of August, cause we didn’t know. And only after we noticed that there are not that many, you know, Brussel sprouts themselves, we googled that, and it turned out that you have to harvest it in October, when the temperature is around -5.
Yeah, that’s when it grows.
And it was so surprising, like, whaat?
But it’s growing and it’s so fun!
Yeah, Brussel sprout. In England they do say you should wait to pick your first sprout until you’ve had the first frost. Cause the frost will make them slightly sweeter. I’m interested to see how your Brussel sprouts last through Siberian winter. In England you can carry on picking sprouts right through the winter, right through until March.
Yeah, I don’t think that can be done in Siberia.
Yeah, -30 will probably kill them off.
I am sure. Alright, and that was about growing food, but what about making our own food? Well, I see a lot of trends these days – people make their own cheese, milk, oat milk, nut milk, what else? Cottage cheese. So, a lot of things. So, what do you think about it? And have you ever made any type of food like that?
Yeah, I think it’s really really vey good. It’s way for people to relax together, you know, like a family, or like family and friends and all that. And to do, I mean, to go through the process, you know, it’s kinda like educational too as well. So and all that.
And I think that’s really very good. I like cooking, so I think that’s really really very god for every individual to have such an experience. But way back if I think about my family, I don’t remember I was really doing anything. Apart from cooking or whatever, we don’t really make food, we don’t marinate nothing. Basically.
So, not your thing, you’ve never done.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, we just get some fruits at times, make some juice, yeah. But I think that’s not what you’re talking about.
Well, I mean, whatever you can make.
Yeah, just juice I remember. Ah, we made soya beans.
Both John and I look puzzled.
So, we get soya, soya cheese or whatever. So we get soya beans, they’re being processed. Then somehow somehow it turns into a cheese later.
Very detailed process, description.
It’s a long time, I don’t remember. I wish my mom was here.
Alright. John, what about you? Have you ever made anything?
Well, I would’ve liked to have a go at making cheese. Unfortunately, you need a dairy animal for that. So, you can get milk from a sheep, I have milked a sheep once, but you don’t’ get much out of it. And it’s a nuisance I would say. Goats.
I considered goats, they’re not bad dairy animals. I considered small-scale production, but they’re destructive. The cow is out of the question, but that’s what you really need – a dairy animal that produce milk.
To make cheese, you need milk and you need thing called the rennet, which is usually taken from the inside of a calf’s stomach. What it does it separates the milk from the solids to the liquids. The curds and way. You can buy a chemical now instead of using the actual rennet form a calf’s stomach.
We can use leaves in Nigeria. They have some special plants to use, so that.,
Okay, that’s good. Anyway, having done that, the solid stuff, when you strain the liquid out of it, is… What’s that Russian cheese you buy here…
Tvorog. That is essentially what curds are. And what you do after that is what makes the hard cheeses that you see all across the world, from Stilton to Camembert to Cheddar. All start as… What’s it again, Michael?
Tvorog. So you squeeze it and press it, add a few other things and that’s how you get cheese cheese.
I would have liked to try that, but never had a dairy animal. But I have made sausages. And bacon.
I wonder why… Maybe because you had pigs?
I mean, if you hadn’t done that, that would’ve been a waste of very nice pig.
Yeah. Well, pigs are the most efficient animals when turning into meat. Something like 60 or 70% of the pig can be turned into one form or another of food. That’s a much greater percentage than, say a cow.
You should talk to some Russians, they will say 90%, trust me.
I mean, cause I know that some people… So you can use the bones and whatnot, boil them for a long time and whatnot and then you make this meat jelly.
Oh yeah, I’ve heard of this stuff.
Oh yeah, in Nigeria usually the bones are dried up, then they’re being crushed. And they’re used for dog food like a dog pudding or whatever. And they love it.
So, what about, let’s say, bread and pasta? Have you ever done that? Cause I know some people they try to buy as little as possible in the shop, and they try to make as much as they can.
Yeah, I’ve made bread, tried bread-making.
I’ve never done it. But I have a student, she used to bring freshly-baked bread every Friday to one of our classes that she would make, like you know, in the morning the same day. And we would have the smell of rosemary. Ah, I loved it! But I have never done that myself. I want to, though.
We’ve never tried that too before.
You know, I follow the page on some social media of Jamie Oliver, who’s a British chef. And I love his position about how he also tries not to buy a lot of things at a supermarket, but to grow everything and to make everything from scratch.
I love that! I love that idea! But also he has a garden, a big house, greenhouses, so he can do that. Probably not, well, an easy thing to do when you’re living in a small apartment in Siberia. So.
I think it’s really very important to do things yourself, because it’s kinda, like, resets the mind, you know, it brings you down to understanding how food is very important for people. How food is important for everyone.
Without food we’re nothing. So, yeah, when you try to do the stuff like that, it kinda resets your mind. It teaches you to be probably, to be concerned about healthy food and all that.
I can see a lot of people nowadays to be concerned, let’s sway, about health. And I can see a lot of people making their own food, choosing organic food, you know, promoting all that ethical farming.
Do you think it’s just a trend? Or why is there suddenly such a popularity of all this organic food? Is it just a trend? Is it just companies trying to use that?
No, I think there’s genuinely concern about what goes in to producing food and therefore what you eat. Let me think. Even example – carrots, for instance, simple plain old vegetable, carrots. Now have you ever bought a carrot that’s got little black pits in it?
That’s carrot root fly, that’s the larvae of the carrot root fly. How do you get rid of that? Well, we used to use in Europe a thing called the derris dust. Which is a powder you sprinkle into the ground as you sow the seeds, and that kills the larvae of the carrot root fly.
So you get perfect nice carrots. However, the carrot must absorb some of this chemical. So derris dust is being banned. But how do you prevent the carrot root fly getting in your carrot? It’s quite difficult to be honest.
But that is part of the reason for the organic movement is people are prepared to pay more, so they don’t eat a bit of derris dust with their carrots. And the same goes for all other vegetables, but the price of course means that a lot of people can’t afford it, don’t want to.
It makes things a hell of a lot more difficult trying to produce things organically. I’ve tried, you know, I really have. And the GM crops thing frightens people I think. It’s so hard to avoid, so hard to.
For instance, my pigs were raised as I thought quite organically, but unfortunately the pig food I would have to buy to supplement the apples and the cabbages I grow for them was GM. Came from America.
So, but is GM food always a bad thing?
Don’t know, I don’t know.
Well ,I mean, talking about the movements and the hype and everything, some people overreact, or do it for commercial reason. But I agree with John – I think it’s new, it’s to create awareness for people, you know, to be healthy and have a healthy way of life. Like a saying goes -you are what you eat.
So, and talking about GM – I don’t know if I’m gonna be sued or I’m afraid for BigApple, if BigApple is gonna be sued, but I’m against GM, genetically modified food. I’m from Nigeria where food, I mean, we eat, you know, practically 100% natural food, organic food.
So GM for me is really really irritating. I got used to it, living in Europe for more than 13 years. But yeah, I know the difference and the difference is so clear. I think people deserve to eat organic food. We have enough in our planet. And we can improve that, so people up there, whatever, should be concerned.
People have been modifying animas genetically for centuries. That’s why the sheep that were farmed in England 500 years are about half the size that there are now. They were just selectively bred, that’s genetic modification, but it’s not fiddling with the actual genomes.
It’s only doing the same thing, but more slowly. So interfering with how things are grown has been going on for centuries. Carrots, for instance, going back to carrots. Carrots were actually purple.
They originate from Afghanistan and they’re purple. The reason they’re all orange is because when the Dutch got hold of them back in the 16th or 17th century, they selectively bred them to be orange, because the House of Royal Family is the House of Orange.
Hence, their football team plays in orange, everything is orange in Holland. And carrots are now generally speaking orange. You can buy packets of seeds with purple and yellow ones in them.
Yeah, like I told you how oranges in Nigeria are green. Greenish, yeah. When I show people the pictures, they’re like what is this? I don’t know, is that an orange? They’re like really? But if you taste it, you will never go back to the ones that are orange.
Is there that big a difference?
Yeah. I mean a couple of years ago when we went there with my wife and she tired it, then we came back and she saw the orange one, she was like something spooky, whaaat! That was the reaction, really.
So that’s about GM food and what about animals? Cause I know that there are industrial farms and ethical farms there?
So, what’s the difference?
Big difference. One of the reasons why I embarked upon keeping livestock – I’m not a vegetarian, I never will be.
Let’s not start that debate.
But I do care about animals a lot, and I was horrified when I’ve discovered about some of the farming practices that go on to produce cheap food for our table, for our plates. And I thought – well, do something practical, raise your own pigs, your own chickens.
In that way, they’ll have a much more natural, a much pleasant a life. I’m still gonna kill them and eat them, but at least while they’re alive they won’t be…. Chickens, for instance, chickens I would imagine here, across the United States, are all raised in great big sheds.
Millions of them packed together underneath big lights, pumped full of antibiotics, cause being so close together they get diseases. This has a negative effect on us, because using antibiotics in animals routinely means that we will gradually become, or should we say diseases will become immune to antibiotics.
So we won’t be able to use them for ourselves. These poor animals are supposed to be outside, pecking and scratching, that’s what chickens do.
Pigs is even worse. Pigs, the minimum standard for pig keeping in Britain is on slats, which is a big room with floorboards with gaps in the floor, so that the poo falls through. But at least they can move around and socialize.
Whereas unfortunately industrial farming usually involves what’s called sour crates where the female pig is kept in a sort of pen where it can’t move at all. It’s fed at the front end, the poo is collected at the back, and the piglets are delivered, and it stays there for the 8 years of its miserable life until it’s slaughtered and turned into sausages.
Whereas pig should be outside, rooting around in the ground, eating naturally. That’s what I believe.
Enjoying life. That’s how my pigs lived. Whereas unfortunately Danish bacon and Dutch bacon and most of what’s produced in Europe is produced in sour crates. It’s a lot cheaper, of course, a lot cheaper. But it’s not really fair on the pig I’m afraid. And I’m totally against that sort of farming.
That’s why… I saw, when I was buying eggs, I saw just eggs and then there were free-range eggs, so the chickens were running.
In England now the pressure builds up so much that almost all eggs are sold now as free-range.
Okay. Like, how much can we believe when we see a certain label?
Almost all sold in shops are free-range. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of eggs from battery hens that are used in Britain, but they are imported and used in catering industry. So, when you buy a cake from a supermarket, it’s been made in a factory where they buy cheapest eggs they can get and they quite often are from battery hens, which are often produced abroad in places like Greece, Spain.
The EU was supposed to have sorted all this out, but of course the EU does not enforce its own rules. The battery crates were banned all across Europe but they’re not. I mean, they are banned, they’re still being used. Same with battery hens. They’re not supposed to be used, but they’re not enforcing their own rules.
Let’s move to something more positive. I don’t want to end on this sad note.
We’re not gonna get to the roots of that.
So, what if you had no, well, let’s say, limitless finance, you had as much land as you want, what would be your perfect farm be like?
Oh come on, it is my dream, even without the limitless or whatever, it’s my dream in the future to have a ranch. I don’t know how big it is gonna be, but I wanna have a ranch.
So what do you wanna have there? Do you wanna have cows, sheep, horses?
Yeah, I’m gonna have basically all domestic animals, you know. So one or two horses, just for going around, you know my vast ranch. Then I’m gonna have birds, like chickens. I’m not sure I’m gonna keep turkey after what John said. But I would like to have an ostrich. Yeah, in Nigeria we have ostrich farms. Yeah.
There’s actually people who tried to do ostrich farming in Britain – it didn’t work too well.
So your dream farm is in Nigeria then?
Yeah, yeah, definitely in Nigeria. I mean, because I need to have, I mean, it’s cheaper for me. I can produce more because of the weather, the land is very fertile, so. And it takes just a couple of hours to come to Russia.
Michael, have you eaten ostrich?
I’ve not tried it before.
Yeah, I’m not really sure, I went somewhere to have an ostrich, probably some… Because there are a lot of other options and stuff like that, so…
Surprise-surprise, it tastes like chicken.
Really? So many things in the world taste like chicken. Like, what?
Has the texture of beef though.
I heard crocodile even tastes like chicken.
Yeah, they do. Alligators taste like chicken.
And John said he cares a lot about animals.
Yeah, frogs I haven’t tried.
Yeah, frogs legs taste like chicken.
So, John, what about your perfect farm? Your dream farm?
Well, I sort of had it. I would have l had, if I had the time, it’s not about the money, it’s the time really – another acre and a bit more time, I would have had a couple of Dexter cows. They’re small, hardy breed of cows that should live outside all year. You can milk them, and you can eat them, so they are dual purpose.
In order to produce milk of course, a cow has to have a calf which you then eat, so that you can have the milk rather than the calf. So, the realities of farming I’m afraid.
Yeah, too many sad realities there are to farming. Alright, interesting. Thank you so much.
Alright guys, that was the BigAppleSchool podcast, and today we discussed small-scale farming. And we learned so many things – well, I think you are just like me, you know, not a big farming person.
So we defined farming, we talked about farming in Nigeria and farming in England, we talked about the culture of dachas in Russia, and producing our own food – cheese, plant-based milk, bread. We talked about that being a trend or not trend.
We briefly mentioned ethical farming versus industrial farming, and Michael and John described their perfect dream farms. Thank you for listening and remember – if you struggle to understand our conversation, you’re always welcome to our website, which is BigAppleSchool.com/podcast.
You can listen to the podcast and read the script at the same time. So, very helpful! Also, if you want to get more content which will help you learn English, you can follow us on social media, such as Instagram, VK, YouTube, Telegram – basically, every single social media. Just, again, search our name which is BigAppleSchool. That was Katya, and my guests for today were…
Stay tuned and we’ll see you around!