Monday, 30 March 2015

The fitness fantasy - Fit vs Fiction

btw Fit vs Fiction is already a website and I stole their name for that so check it out.
I am now pretty much working full time as part gardener/ part urban farmer. This means on most days I am out and about pruning things, weeding, digging, planting - generally hanging out with plants and sometimes animals.  I have had quite a few responses to my new line of work but a really common and really annoying one is..... 'You must get SO FIT'.
And why should I be annoyed about this? Isn't it good Talia to be fit because doesn't that mean I am healthy? Isn't that part of the anti-obesity campaign? Except fitness in this day and age no longer just means 'healthy' and everyone knows it including gyms and the multi-billion dollar fitness industry that doesn't use fit, healthy models to promote their products; it uses slim, toned, lithe i.e. thin 'toned' models with glossy hair, perfect makeup and botoxed foreheads.

In actual fact, what the fitness industry does not say is that you can be super fit and shock horror above your BMI. That's right - not just not thin but bigger than western ideals of 'health' would have you believe.  This little fact is super underplayed because in reality the fitness corporations thrive off the same multi-billion dollar industry the weightloss companies thrive off- Bodyshaming;  that racist, sexist, horrendous, twisted, oppressive subjugation of women and men all over the shop to fit in to a generally white, extremely specific body shape which is anyway created by computer graphics or a shit ton of money (plastic surgery, gyms, specific clothes, toning shoes, injections, weightloss pills, steroids, speed, insanity...) 
Now I know that when people of the world say to me 'you must get so fit gardening', what they want me to do is get involved with them and the big fitness marketing vampires and collude in the idea that fit is the kind of fit that boys used to call girls when I was a teenager, i.e. Jessica Alba. They are expressing a bit of envy that my job will get me the body of my dreams, even if they are doing it subconsciously. But it wont be the body of my dreams, because 1: my dream is to love the body I have and 2: because fitness does not mean what you think it means! Yes I will be fit and yes I might be able to squat longer than the average joe due to excessive weeding but that is about it because unless you train 10 hours a day and stick to a spinach diet, that body you are dreaming of is Unattainable! Saying the 'fit' comment to me reminds me of the pressure I fight and sometimes lose to everyday that I need to fit the stereotype, that there are bits of my body I have been made to hate by lies. Saying it to me makes me feel I need to work even harder so that when we hit the beech I have met everyone's expectations of all of a sudden rocking the athlete figure.

I only too well understand the pressure to fit the body stereotype. I know what it is like to lie to myself over and over again about the idea of getting 'fit' in order to be 'healthy' when really I just want some more abs definition.  I know so incredibly well how easy it is to fool yourself into trying (And often failing) to lose weight for 'health' reasons by exercising or cutting out food groups. Once I went through a whole stage of pretty much only eating cantaloupe - a specific melon....and I struggle with fighting the media and making myself ok with my body every single day and have done for years and years and years.  I can and I will win in the bid to be happy in my skin but it is really, really hard for me to do it when others expect me to collude with them in the world's fitness fantasy. 

I just want to say that do whatever you like, diet, don't diet, jog, don't jog, gym everyday, gym never, feel like you need to exercise because you sit at a desk all day so take up the triathlon, or exercise because you think you need to change your body, do what you gotta do at this moment in time but don't get me involved. Don't make me agree 'yeah, it is so good to do spin class because I really feel the health benefits' when what you are trying to say is I want to be healthy but also have a super hot bod for the summer. No, I just do not want to talk to you about it. And maybe it isn't clear cut because guidelines on what is a healthy weight is so complex.  Being over your BMI decreases your chances of osteoporosis (little known because Osteoporosis is not a a huge corporate machine so can't get advertising space like weight loss can) and in case you get ill it is often good to have a bit of so called 'extra' and depending on how much over your BMI you are and what your general body shape is, it has absolutely no health problems whatsoever - so yes it is complicated and yes maybe it is a bit of both, fit, healthy, slim. whev. I don't really want to talk about it. Unless you want to have a good old rant about how body shaming oppresses people everywhere and you want to get together and plot about how we can throw the shackles of body oppression from the media, food industries, all adverts, internet, tv off our backs and kill it for good - then I am the person for that and let's rant away. 

This post doesn't even begin to cover the moral judgements we put on people with different weights! (how eating certain foods is bad and naughty and how we judge people of all weights all the time)  that is for next time, but I do want to quickly bring up eating disorders - something probably 60% of the people I know have dealt with in their lifetimes, maybe more.  When you talk about your fitness and eating regimes, you may not realise the effect they have on people with eating disorders and LOTS of people have eating disorders that you would never ever know about so just be sensitive when you decide to get in to details about how and why you eat and exercise how you do. There is more info on how to be an ally to people with eating disorders here - some of these rules you should just use with all people because you do not know their history.

And another cool article I just found on this topic
Loads of the image are from this place which is a great facebook page!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Why you should buy vintage/ethical and how to do it

by Sarah Kendal
Creative Director at
During our daily commute, lives, and concerns over what to cook for dinner and how we can get a job/partner/dress that truly fulfils me, occasional sustainable living references will interrupt our musings and conversations. Whether it is in a bleak advert on the underground that screams scare tactics about the imminent flooding we will all face from the ice caps which we have killed or by a vegan friend who only buys vegetables locally coming to dinner or by a collapsing factory full of innocent exploited workers creating fast fashion.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

That time I decided to propose…Lol

Followed closely by that time that I had 4 months to get my wedding body on.  The wedding body is similar to the bikini body, basically instead of just walking around and doing things in your body, you refer to your body according to your activity. I can only understand this phenomena as some sort of way you tell your friends what you are doing. Instead of saying I am going to the Cinema, you answer the question ‘where are you going tonight’ with ‘check out my Cinema body’. So I am working on my wedding bod – i.e. getting married and finding a bad ass dress to clothe myself in (I don’t think my Mum would be happy with a nudist wedding). 
My and my body in a wedding dress

There are literally countless things about weddings that make me so angry that I think my head will explode in some crazy flame, firework display with brains everywhere (actually I just cry a bit). However I don’t hate – in fact I love  - :
  1. 1.       The idea of being married for ever and eternity to my bestest friend Josh :)
  2. 2.       Hanging out with all my best friends and family in the same room
  3. 3.       Having some great, and some cheesy, tunes to dance to in a super cool room
  4. 4.       Eating some delicious food with the above people
  5. 5.       Generally throwing a FABULOUS party – something I have always loved doing
  6. 6.       Making my mum and all my family happy

I wish I was made of armor and I could just ignore all the other stuff but I have to say, it is proving WAY HARDER than I thought it would. Firstly, the wedding industry THRIVES on body shaming. Body shaming is one of those blights on society that tries to subjugate all women by convincing them to buy shit to make them look ‘beautiful’ alongside starving ourselves and exercising like crazy. (Please no one give me the - 'I just want to be healthy' - argument)

Lord knows I have been trying to get my 7 year old self telling me to go on a diet out of me head since ... since I was a dieting 7 year old.  And I have given in... countless times, I have dieted and exercised for body image.  Nonetheless, just like many other women, I fight every day to put that behind me, to understand that beauty does not define, to realise that I want more out of life than to be….(I can’t quite bring myself to say thin).  

I read that on average, women think about their bodies 13 times a day. If they are going on holiday, or getting ready for a day where absolutely everything is about looking at and photographing you, it is a whole lot more.  

They tell brides ‘all brides are beautiful!’ but to me that is not the point.  I want a fabulous dress because the originality of style, the uniqueness of fashion is transformative for me (not for everyone) but style and beauty are two VERY different things.  The pressure on women to fit into mainstream beauty is something we all know about, from hearing about how all the images in magazines are bad for our confidence, to seeing them and knowing ourselves that we all feel insecure about our bodies sometimes (or all the time). Brides get this really bad – which I hadn’t really considered until I saw some pretty awful comments on bride forums (I know I was on a couple of bride forums, ha ha!) They go like this:
“I felt and feel ugly in all our pictures and have no desire to look at any with me in them.”
“I felt fat and plain, and had the misfortune to overhear people comparing me to my blondre bridesmaid and saying she was gorgeous and should have been the bride.”
“GREAT JOB on the wieght loss!” (to another bride)
“I consume over being hideous on my wedding day.”

And this goes on and on and on. Women too afraid to look at their own wedding photos! To make it clear - this is not their fault. You could tell them ‘don’t care what people think’ ‘this is your day!’ etc but they are bombarded with the message that what we value about a bride is their beauty above all else!  

I suddenly realised after reading all of this that (not including all the other horrendously sexist, hetero-normative, generally exclusive things that I was willing to put up with for reasons of fun listed above) I was propagating bride body shaming!!! I was getting married, and going to have to accept all the beauty focused bridely compliments with ‘grace’!  Now don’t get me wrong, I kind of like beauty, in nature, in poetry, in art for the sake of it, but what I do not value above everything else is fitting in to anyone else's image of a beautiful bride.  I will not be some ethereal fairy like little thing in white, pure, beautiful and fading into nothingness. I will be FLESH with big hair, with the same body I wear in the winter, summer, spring, as a farmer, as sometimes a bit of a hipster, as someone who rages, and loves and lives. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

My Shmitah year

 I pulled, pushed, yanked, lugged, kicked the 13 kg bag of compost out of my car and up 5 flights of stairs onto my little balcony. It wouldn’t have been so hard if it hadn’t been raining so the plastic, completely smooth with no handle, as impractical to carry as possible, wet, compost bag just slipped out of my arms.  

I know Shmitah year hasn’t quite started yet but pre-gaming is always my favourite bit so here I am, resigning from my job, leaving the safety and hipster fun that is East London fashion tech, saying goodbye to my amazing colleagues and instead, trying with difficulty, to create a mini bed of veggies I made out of a converted pallet on my little London balcony.

I have just come home from the ‘transformative experience’ of the Adamah farm in Connecticut (that’s what I told the guy filming a promotional video for the farm anyway), to the realisation I have found what I wanted  - but where was it? Where was the Jewish farm in the UK? Or in Europe for that matter? Where was the community who cared about their environment, who thought of kashrut as an opportunity to look carefully at the food we eat, who included the suffering of animals, tzaar baalei chaim as an important law?

I looked around and saw I was surrounded by like-minded people who I just hadn’t spoken to yet. At all levels of Orthodoxy, there is a community who come together in a commitment to sustainability; a community who understand that as part of Tikkun Olam, being a nation that is beneficial to society, we have a social responsibility to purchase food from places that do not exploit labor laws and natural habitats; a community who is dedicated to the idea that we have a responsibility not just to keep up with the fast changing sustainable food movement, but to be at the forefront. 

What do I plan to bring to this community?  A Jewish Food and Farm movement which will eventually culminate in a little paradise somewhere not too far from the city.   A place for summer camps, veg boxes, interfaith, movement work and an escape for Jews everywhere to come and reconnect to the land, a concept so important in Judaism. Perhaps most importantly for me, a space where I can be a farmer and still look forward to a great Shabbat!

My Shmitah year will therefore, and perhaps ironically, be spent farming and learning farm skills in order to create this paradise.  I will be organising Jewish farming events, part Jewish learning and part gardening to connect those who share my interests and those who want to learn why working in sustainability and food has always been an innate part of Judaism.

There is a famous story where Honi the Circle Maker asks an old man why he is planting a Carob tree when surely it will take seventy years to grow. The old man replies that he is planting it for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren - as his ancestors did for him. 

Though many of us have planted trees in Israel, learnt about the conservation of water there and many other environmental necessities to do with the land of Israel, we have ignored the environmental concerns of our current home for too long. The Jewish communities of Europe need to start planting trees for their great grandchildren and creating a Jewish farm will give us the opportunity to do just that.   

Spot the Kale, Rosemary, Basil, Aubergine, Brussel Sprout, Tomato .....reminds me of the cereal advert where a ton of people try and fit into a photobooth...

Me in the future

Thursday, 12 June 2014

That time Talia left ….. and taught a bunch of Americans how to play baseball - I mean Rounders!

Once upon a time I left the city to face my fears.  My fears about Poirot style murderers living in the woods, my fears about working in the elements whether rain or sun, my fears about leaving my dresses and home comforts for rough hands, insects that terrify me and mosquito bites, my fears that I wasn’t strong enough, fast enough, brave enough and my fears of being lonely, missing my familyand friends, bezzers, having no group, leaving Josh….

Sitting in the airport here I am leaving again. Though I am obviously so excited to go back to the arms of my bezzers, I am going home and facing new fears.  Fears about sitting in an office all day, fears about staying vegan without support and sticking to my values in the city. Fears about loving my clothes again and remembering how to wear mascara. Fears about how I will wake up without goats, without getting my hands in the soil, without the lake, without being part of the food I eat, without my beloved farm friends who have become a part of me?

Well enough of me pouring out my emotions to the internet – this is what the farm has done to me! On to the Rounders bit…
There are some solar panels on the farm that power the main office. There is a little bed - of I think peppers? – down there. My work schedule which I get every Friday said there was to be a solar panel dedication with Tsuf (Janna and Arthur’s baby) on Sunday which I of course didn’t question. Why wouldn’t there be a solar panel dedication with Tsuf named as the leader? Well after a bit of an emotional afternoon of packing where I mostly just sat surrounded by all my things and moved bits of scattered collage pieces around the floor, trying to work out how I would get my 5 ft collage into my suitcase, I rode down there on my bike.  There all my friends stood, under the huge maple tree and they ushered me, the last person to arrive, into a circle where we all had to huddle up and do a bit of singing and swaying – also a usual activity.  All of a sudden they parted and there it was – a picnic table laid to the nines with Twinings English Breakfast Tea, Vegan Spinach Filo Pastry bites, Sourdough and a whole china tea set.  After some odd squealing for about ten minutes where I kept trying to say something but high pitched type yelps kept coming out instead… things started to come together.
I remembered that time during lunch where Meredith had asked which kind of tea did I drink at home? And I went on an hour kind of soliloquy where I explained about all different types of tea, posh tea vs builders tea, the difference between tea-cups and mugs etc. I mean I went ON and she didn’t stop me! 
I remembered that time I was hand weeding next to Janna for the afternoon when she asked me what kind of parties I liked. It was like nothing could stop me talking, I described Dad’s Moroccan party, Mum’s 1920’s party, the Alice in Wonderland party, various tea parties etc. I mean I thought she wanted ideas to throw a party – maybe for Arthur? So I just kept throwing out the ideas till it sounded like the Chain family were some kind of party fiends!

After I calmed down enough to speak, we drank lots of tea, ate a bunch and then sat in a circle where I got more and more embarrassed as everyone went round, gave me a special stone and said - like - really, really nice things to me.  Can’t talk about that bit too much – still a bit embarrassed in a good way - I am English afterall…
We then played Rounders – a game which we had had so much chat about on the field. They even found the right bat and set up 'posts'. Is it like Baseball? NO OBVIOUSLY! This was proven by an epic game which I filmed a bit below... – though much of it was just me shouting rules which were probably a bit wrong... The tea party was beyond brilliant and I think it was the first time Rounder’s had ever been played at Adamah.

A bit more leaving…
I threw another leaving party Tuesday night (maybe we are party fiends) which of course was also fabulous with a loud/exciting game of salad bowl, some gin and tonic and vegan cake where everyone wrote me nice messages which I read on the cab on the way here because I couldn’t wait for the plane….
I stayed last night at Marisa and Eitan and crashed the second week of their marriage – thanks for the welcome guys!
This morning, though I was half an hour late having wondered around Union Square with all my baggage and my goldfish sense of direction I finally met up with Danny and Yemi at the Coffee Shop and had brunch - a great send off! 

Time to go - they are calling my flight!

A note to my dearest Adamah friends - it has been an honor to know you all, you have taught me so much and shown me there is another way to live that I can align with my values. Though I go home to face new things, you have made me brave.
Please come and visit! 

Remember the picture of building this? Look at those Tomatoes

          Tea party pics!


Sunday, 8 June 2014

That time Talia chased a goat wearing a tutu and went Contra Dancing in Cornwall....

Goat Roadtrip

So this Rabbi goes up to Meredith and says "how do you usually take the goats around?" Rabbi! Did it look like we usually transport goats when we rocked up with 6 goats in a - I want to call it a van but at most it was a car with a kind of large boot - with a hole in it covered up with a bit of wire so the goats didn't climb out and an electric fence we couldn't plug in to create a two hour makeshift pen at a synagogue?

At one point, Meredith turned to the 25 kids in this tiny pen with 6 goats and said in a whisper in all seriousness "sshhhh, don't tell the goats it isn't plugged in!"
Child: "can they understand?!"
Meredith: "I don't know - maybe?!" Not telling the goats about the electric fence was all we were going on that they wouldn't run for the nearest tasty bush - across the highway or into someone's garden.

To be honest, the road trip couldn't have gone smoother considering how unpredictable goats are. You just never know what their next move might be! I mean if you are taking 6 genius goats for a 2 hour drive where the first stop is to set up a pen at a synagogue for kids to pet goats while we simultaneously run a cheese workshop, then pack up and drive them up to their final destination, summer camp, then you need to be ready for unpredictability.  Luckily all the mishaps happened before we left the farm (the goats got into the 50 pound bag of grain before we left because they are Derren Brown Goats, 4 bags of 50lb grain don't stack - they fall onto the person already squished in a tiny back seat - me, and a few more minor things).

It took many hours and there were many crazy moments - especially when you turn around in the car and see Baclava the Goat staring back at you wide eyed - but we were victorious!

The Goat Parade - the next day!

On the festival of Shavuot, the harvest festival, at the Isabella Freedman Centre, the goats get dressed up - of course - in tutus, event staff shirts, bandanas etc, for their big day and walk at the front of a parade of people wearing white, singing, carrying a chupah and lots of offerings of first fruits, vegetables, grains from the farm.
Goats' favourite thing in the whole word is grass, weeds, other green things on the ground so when given the option between following even their most beloved human, Meredith, into a crowd of jubilant, singing people or the woods..... it isn't really a choice.
The songs of praise coming from the mouths of the children of Israel stop as they hold up their offerings. They wait for the holy goat herder to open the gates for the goats and to lead them up the mountain (tiny hill) in a parade of joy and song to the entrance of the feasting tent.

Mama and Baby Goats (who are now more like teenage goats) are let out of the barnyard and ... run straight to the nearest greens. There is now a mad rush where some staff run after them, some grab their collars and manage to start walking, half following, half trying to get in front of the crowd of Israelites who have started on their way, while others have to stay behind chasing the rest of the goats around the woods.  I managed to grab my favourite goat, Talia, and we get in front of the crowd though Talia has to stop every 5 feet to eat everything along the way. We walk the circuit though the crowd who have now fallen a while behind and have a few minutes of peaceful walking before heading back to the barnyard and trying to get all the goats back in.

And this was just a little bit of it! All in all, an exhausting but amazing and emotional few goat days of mama and baby separations and general goat madness.

Also I went Contra Dancing - because I am a farmer in New England - in Cornwall!

Me hilling potatoes with a hoe

goats getting out of the car 

eating dinner next to our car and little goat pen when all the kids had gone inside

there wasn't a lot of room....


The goats - happy as Larry at summer camp

Saturday Brunch under a maple tree


The town hall in Cornwall

Us Contra Dancers

Talia the goat

Potato plants 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

That time Talia was put in a boxing ring with animals

Spider vs Talia
Talia was milking in the parlour when the Chief and Space Master of Goats Meredith spotted a GIGANTIC SPIDER THE SIZE OF MY FACE on the wall.  Meredith has the strength of Atlas both inside and out but spiders are still not really her thing.  It was time for Talia (world renown spider hater who once nearly missed dinner (nothing separates her from food) because she couldn’t come down from her bunk bed because there was a little spider on the floor) to step to the center of the ring.  She grabbed the broom and took a strong, clean sweep at the MONSTER SPIDER. She didn’t freak out when it was on the end of her broom but she calmly put the broom outside and let the spider crawl to freedom.
Everyone wins!

Big Baby Snow goat vs Talia
Background: I was picking up the biggest of Ruach Mama goat’s twins to let him nurse as Ruach’s udders had been worrying us and we were letting the twins nurse instead of collecting her milk. 

Big baby snow (which is the name in my head for him) was in Talia’s arms like a cat with two hooves over her shoulder.  Talia looked like she had a tight grip against BBS’s struggling until… wait! Talia has been head-butted in the eye by the rock hard skull of BBS and she is staggering around murmuring! She is confused but knows if she lets go the goat could run off into the wild! Meredith saves her just before she goes down and puts BBS back into the yard.
One might say the goat gave the winning strike but it was Talia’s tight grip that never faltered in the face of -not-quite-concussion!

Bee vs Talia

Talia leans down to put a charger in the socket when BOOM – a searing pain stabs her in the arm. She looks everywhere for the mysterious cause and sees a bee stumbling around on the cables.
 “Mother F*********** Shechiyanu! I have never been stung by a bee!”. Talia surprises Jeremy with her loud and semi-religious exclamation.
Bee dies so Talia wins by default but though she kind of feels some revenge-satisfaction for her pain, she is sad she killed a really important animal which is becoming part of a steadily declining species.

Mini animal interactions:
I held two earthworms in my hand
I killed a (different) spider but I was just trying to put it outside
I squished a cucumber-eating beetle with a (nearly) bare hand
Winning with love – Me and Zola the goat played Peek-a-boo in the milking parlor

p.s. spiders still gross me out but I think they might eat mosquitos

                                My new housemates and adamahchicks!!! Jeremy and Maddy – BA family


How I feel about eating animal products by Khalil Gibran

Talia and Molly with tools



killer weeding

Aaron and Sonia

We went to milkshakes after work - the Diner is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so we had to make do with a cafe.