Progress by Recoil
"THE time is not a century distant," wrote King in 1910, "when, throughout the world, a fuller, better development must take place along the lines of these far-reaching and fundamental practices so long and so effectively followed by the Mongolian races in China, Korea and Japan."
We have never had the long tradition of agriculture that we have just described. When England lived only from her land her population was small. It was but five million. There was much land which gave provision for hunting and sport and a plentiful supply of animal food.
We therefore have to recoil, not so much to the ways of our small-peopled country, which was never civilized agriculturally in the full sense, but to countries of longer experience and also of better health.
King frequently inserts into his pages the cheerful, vigorous and healthy appearance of the Chinese lower classes, the Shanghai coolies, "fully the equal of large Americans in frame, but without surplus flesh"; "their great endurance," "both sexes are agile, wiry, and strong" (Hongkong); "lithe, sinewy forms, bright eyes and cheerful faces, particularly among the women, young and old" (Canton); "everywhere we went in China the labouring people appeared healthy and contented, and showed clearly that they were well-nourished." Cheerfulness is, indeed, common to those peasantries who follow the old agricultural ways. Then there is the outstanding example of the Hunza; cheerfulness, however arduous the toil by our measures, however strained the endurance.
The physique and endurance of the Hunza are at present far beyond us as a people, but they are not beyond us by fate. Our genes, our hereditary and eternal capacities, have not been permanently injured and debased. We can recover.
We can recover by knowledge, not by instinct. Our instinct is no more healthy than we are. But of knowledge we now possess the world in its present and past in a way in which our ancestors never shared or dreamed. So to recover we must recoil; go back to traditions which have been the associates of the food of crowded man for many centuries. This recoil must at present necessarily be fragmental and largely individual. We cannot expect a great agricultural reform movement. Our food fails to figure in our national and political programme in any sufficient, radical and primary way for this to be more than a distant possibility. We have fallen into the way of fragmentation, and by fragmentation, by electicism we must recover. But that fragmentation shall be founded upon the agricultural facts of human people, and not upon those of the laboratory. The laboratory must be ancillary only.
I shall divide the recoil work in this final chapter into its two aspects, general and individual. The general aspect is that of a change or re-adaptation of agricultural methods; the individual aspect deals with what the individual can do for him or herself now to gain better health and physique on the lines indicated by the very healthy people we have studied.
The most important fragment of recoil-work at present occurring in England is one founded upon King's treatise, Farmers of Forty Centuries, and first worked out in India at the Institute of Plant Industry, Indore, by the Director, Sir Albert Howard.
Howard and his chief assistant, Mr. Yeshwant D. Wad, in The Waste Products of Agriculture (1931), begin their description of their work with the principle that the fertility of the soil is steadily lost by crop production, and must be restored. They review the western, and particularly the dominant New World methods, then pass on to the Far East, quoting freely from Mr. King's book. "In China, fertility has for centuries been maintained at a high level without the importation of artificial manures ... In China and Japan, not only the method of soil management, but also the great attention that is paid to systematic preparation, outside the field, of food materials for the crop from all kinds of vegetable and animal wastes, compelled the admiration of one of the most brilliant of the agricultural investigators of the last generation. The results are set out by King in his unfinished work -- Farmers of Forty Centuries -- which should be prescribed as a text-book in every agricultural college in the world."
Howard and Wad collected all the organic materials of the farm except the night soil, which, however, has recently been brought into use from the urban neighbourhood; they put them into compost pits, turning and mixing them at regular intervals for aeration as decay proceeded. The Indore process was carried out on a larger scale and with a greater outlay of capital and appliances than the Chinese farmers are able to employ. It was also watched scientifically. But essentially it was the same, a thorough rotting and mixing of organic matter until it was a rich concentrated mixture ready for the new cycle of life.
It is interesting to read amongst the list of the dead waste things that once more become living, in addition to animal manure: cotton stalks, sann hemp (green or dried), pea stalks, sugar-cane stalks, ashes, weeds, and leaves in good quantity; in moderate quantity, dead grass, stumps of millet, sugar-cane and ground-nut, nut husks, wheat straw, and damaged silage; and lastly, these curiosities in small quantities: waste paper, packing material, shavings, sawdust, old gunny bags, old canvas, old uniforms, and old leather belting.
There is in England some land that has the flat surfaces and many water-ways suitable for the older garden-agriculture. Such land is that nearby the Wash; land with a profusion of canals, and such as is richly cultivated by garden-culture in the delta plains of the great Chinese rivers.
At Surfleet, nearby the Wash, in 1935, Captain R. G. M. Wilson changed the method of plant-feeding on his farm of three hundred acres to that of Sir Albert Howard. The results in this Surfleet experiment of but two years' duration have surprised those who have watched it. The vegetables not only have a richer flavour; not only have they a robuster appearance and their leaves a deeper green; not only do they keep better in storage like to that used by the Chinese and Hunza; but in their vegetable health they have attained a new standard. In a paper read by Howard to the Farmers' Club in February 1937 he spoke of the marked improvement in yield and quality of the vegetables, the better tilth and the increased earth-worm population (the Chinese are careful not to injure earth-worms or leave them uncovered by digging). The most striking feature was the general healthiness of the crops and the absence of insect and fungous pests. No chemical sprays have to be called into use. The plants themselves need no such doctoring.
Baron de Rutzen, at the same meeting, related that eighteen months previously he had gone to Holland to observe a similar process. There he had noted "the extraordinary improvement of plant life in quality and in resistance to disease which apparently can be effected by this sort of method," as compared with sprays and other precautionary methods, with which "we had gone to the most absurd lengths."
Mr. Christopher Tumor similarly described his experience in Germany gained from visits paid in the previous two years. The farmers were building up the humus in the soil and abandoning the use of artificial manures.
In Sind, in Rajputana, in the United Provinces, in Assam, the Punjab, in Bihar and Orissa, in Hyderabad, in Travancore, in Ceylon, in Kenya, and in Tanganyika, there are farms and estates in which the Indore methods have proved the same increased health of plants.
All of these experiments are very recent, but it must be remembered that they are not laboratory experiments, but a recoil to principles which have the backing of four thousand years of experience. This is a very different matter from a new discovery. As King says, the Western scientists discover things which the farmers of the immemorial East have known in practice for forty centuries.
Howard's work in India, in its recoil to primary things, presents a striking parallel to that of McCarrison, or, more accurately speaking, as Howard was the prior worker in the field, McCarrison's work presents the parallel to Howard's. Howard left the conventional way of research and sought for the causes of health in farm vegetables and animals as a whole. He found diseases to be the indicators of faults due to man himself. McCarrison similarly left the ways of convention and concentrated on the health of the best physical people he could observe. He found diseases to be the indicators of faults due to man himself. In both cases the faults were departures from the primary position of food.
Soon after McCarrison was made Surgeon to the Gilgit Agency Howard was sent out to India as the Imperial Economic Botanist to the Government of India. He held the post for twenty years, 1905-1924. He then became Director of the Institute of Plant Industry, Indore, 1924-31.
He had had, of course, a very thorough training in England before being given such an important post. He had already been a research worker in agriculture for six years, but though he had had a laboratory he had never had a farm of his own. In India, at Pusa, he was allotted one of seventy-five acres, "on which I could grow crops in my own way and study their reaction to insect and fungous pests and other things. My real education in agriculture then began."
Pusa was to Howard what Coonoor later became to McCarrison, a place where he had the opportunity and authority of freedom "to try out an idea, namely, to observe what happened when insect and fungous diseases were left alone and allowed to develop unchecked, and where indirect methods only, such as improved cultivation, were employed to prevent attacks."
It is not possible here to describe more fully than has been done these indirect methods. The story of their widening use in vegetable culture, fruit, grains, plantations, and, with the use of clover also in the manner of the Chinese as described by King, in grass pastures for grazing animals, is one of absorbing fascination, which will, it is hoped, soon be put before the public. As an early part of the story which concerns us here it was in Quetta that Howard was given an extra experimental station, 1910-18, and Quetta belongs to the Vavilov area of north-western India, which was described in the last chapter. So it was in Quetta that Howard observed perfect health in fruit trees and their fruits, provided their cultivators carried out the terraced agriculture with thoroughness. As in the case of McCarrison, so also in that of Howard, it was in northwestern India that Western observation and Eastern tradition met, and little by little, amongst other principles, emerged the Indore process of compost.
In these years of practical work there was a continuous improvement in the health of Howard's plants and crops. So bold, indeed, did he become in his assurance that by right soil-feeding he had overcome the danger of disease that he offered to import "a supply of the various cotton boll-worms and boll-weevils from America, and the letting of these loose among my cultures. I am pretty certain that they would have found my cotton cultures very indifferent nourishment ... at Indore during the seven years I was there, I cannot recall a single case of insect or fungous attack."
And what is of the same vital importance as this health of plant life, the animals at Pusa, Quetta and Indore which were fed on the healthy plant-life seemed to take upon themselves the character of the plants. "For twenty-one years (1910-1931)," Howard writes, in "The Role of Insects and Fungi in Agriculture" (The Empire Cotton Growing Review, Vol. xiii), "I was able to study the reaction of well-fed animals to epidemic diseases, such as rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease, septicaemia, and so forth, which frequently devastated the countryside. None of my animals was segregated; none was inoculated; they frequently came in contact with diseased stock. No case of infectious disease occurred. The reward of well-nourished protoplasm was a very high degree of disease resistance, which might even be described as immunity." It will be noted by experts that the resistance covered diseases caused by filter-passing viruses, as well as those due to microbes.
Howard's two principal conclusions in this paper are so important that I have presumed to interpolate some italics. The two conclusions are:
- "Insects and fungi are not the real cause of plant diseases, and only attack unsuitable varieties or crops improperly grown. Their true role in agriculture is that of censors for pointing out the crops which are imperfectly nourished. Disease resistance seems to be the natural reward of healthy and well-nourished protoplasm. The first step is to make the soil live by seeing that the supply of humus is maintained.
- "The policy of protecting crops from pests by means of sprays, powders and so forth is thoroughly unscientific and radically unsound; even when successful, this procedure merely preserves material hardly worth saving. The annihilation or avoidance of a pest involves the destruction of the real problem; such methods constitute no scientific solution of the trouble, but are mere evasions."
These words, especially those italicized, vividly express, not only the vegetable, but also the animal problem, and not only the animal, but the human.
The secondary conventional causes of disease are not the real causes of disease. Diseases only attack those whose outer circumstances, particularly food, are faulty. The genes of heredity are sound and eternally faithful to healthy life. It is not they who are the givers of disease and of susceptibility to disease, for "disease resistance seems to be the natural reward of well-nourished protoplasm." It is outer causes, not the inwardness of nature, that produce disease. Man is the author of his own destiny.
The prevention and banishment of disease are primarily matters of food; secondarily, of suitable conditions of environment. Antiseptics, medicaments, inoculations, and extirpating operations evade the real problem. Disease is the censor pointing out the humans, animals and plants who are imperfectly nourished. Its continuance and its increase are proofs that the methods used obscure, they do not attack, the radical problem.
Howard transferred the health of the soil to that of the vegetable, and that of the vegetable to that of the animal, and those of the vegetable and animal back again to the soil.
Transference, transference, transference -- three transferences, that is the secret of health. These three transferences -- soil to vegetable, vegetable to animal, animal and vegetable back to the soil -- form the eternal wheel of health.
We leave this as a fragment of recoil of the utmost importance to our theme of health and physique.
A second recoil is to a part of our own ancestry. Our ancestry of the wealthier classes were great meat eaters and ate few vegetables. The peasants ate grains and vegetables. It was not until Elizabeth's time that melons, gourds, cucumbers, radishes, parsnips, carrots, turnips, and salad herbs, the foods of the "poor commons" came to the tables of delicate gentlemen and the nobility. Much meat food, then as now, was the sign of wealth, and it was the peasantry who followed the principle of "direct to the plant without intermediary," though they, too, fared more richly than the "poor commons" of to-day, having, as small landholders, good bread, brawn pudding, sauce, beef, mutton, shred pies, pig, veal, goose, capon, game, cheese, apples, and nuts.
Their food was raised by means of the open-field system. Of this in England at this day there is but one notable remnant, that of the Isle of Axholme, to which, in 1627, Charles I invited Dutch farmers to drain its marshes and make the land fit for tillage. Their descendants and those influenced by them are the last defence of this ancient system of agriculture. I am not concerned here with the arguments for and against the system of enclosed land which destroyed the open field system, but only with my description.
The Isle of Axholme is flat and hedgeless. Much of the land lies below the level of the tidal rivers, and this low level is used to spread over the land a virgin soil of silt. "In the Isle of Axholme," wrote the late Mr. Rider Haggard, in Rural England (1906), "the floods are let on to the land to be treated, which must, of course, lie beneath the high-water level at the rise of the tide, and withdraw themselves through the sluices, leaving behind them a deposit of the thickness and appearance of a sheet of brown paper ... A small portion which lies above the water level has actually been warped (as the process is called) by hand, the mud being let on to it with carts at a great expense from some convenient tidal pool. This, however, was done in the palmy days of agriculture; now no one would dream of incurring such expense."
The result is given by Haggard: "On all the warp lands and some others the crops looked splendid in 1901, especially the wheat and potatoes." Mr. Gilbert Slater, in The Making of Modern England, adds this testimony: "Instead of the miserable cultivation for which writers on the subject had prepared me, I saw heavier crops than I had ever seen anywhere else." And in another passage: "Not only are the open fields of the Isle of Axholme exceptionally well cultivated at the present time, but the island also serves as a training-ground in practical and effective farming, and men who begin as labourers there frequently become large farmers elsewhere."
So in the Isle of Axholme there is the spreading of silt, both that suspended in the water and that from the bottom of a water-course, as used by Chinese farmers in their canal districts. The results are excellent. Whether these vegetables also are disease-resistant I have not found out.
A third recoil to be seen in England is the increase of garden-culture seen in the spread of allotments and market-gardening near towns.
Here great opportunities lie. Firstly, these small plots of land could be served by compost-making factories on the model of Howard and Wad's factory at Indore, which supplied such beneficial manure to Indian ryots. This would need a system of co-operation, and co-operation is unfortunately not a habit of English people who work upon the land. It would need co-operation, because the compost itself would have to be compounded from the waste products of allotments, market-gardens and farms, and eventually the towns, and the workers on the land would have to be inspired -- there is no other word -- by the divine truth that everything that once was living can be returned to the living by the will of man. The result would be to bring a freshness to the vegetable and to the animal food of both the growers and the townsfolk of their neighbourhood, a freshness and flavour which are the witnesses of health.
There is the further problem of the wisdom of the flatness of field surfaces that the compost may be evenly spread. On a question of such engineering magnitude I do not feel it is easy to speak. It clearly needs much understanding and labour on the part of men. It would require much more employment on the land than the land at present provides.
I can only here record briefly how the Hunza solves this problem. The description is one kindly sent to me by Col. Schomberg.
When a Hunza decides to bring a slope of land into cultivation he first digs a ditch horizontally across the slope near the foot of the land to be terraced. He then throws all the stones on the slope, and more, which he transports if need be, to the foot of the slope itself. On this foundation the earth from the trench or hürt is laid. He will then dig another ditch or hürt higher up, also horizontally across the slope, and level the ground in the same manner. When the small fields are level he floods them with irrigation water and silt. The hürt carries off the surplus water, and any leakage which occurs is detected and stopped up, until with further flooding the irrigation-water is held. The cultivator has then succeeded in making a small flat field which holds the water and silt of irrigation.
That brings to an end the general aspect of recoil in England.
We now have to consider the individual aspect. Can the individual in England as it is gain any advantages in health and physique by his practical knowledge of Hunza foods? The answer is undoubtedly that he can do so. A great deal can be done by attention and application of food methods of exceptionally healthy people.
Firstly, it is necessary to convince the individual of its necessity, or at least its desirability. Any man is at liberty, unfortunately, to live a C3 life without any effort to better it. There are so many C3 lives in a C3 nation that this low level is accepted very largely as normal. Let us, therefore, take the picture of a modern man, as drawn by a vivid medical writer, and see if it is at all like what man is intended or could desire to be.
The picture is from the pen of Professor Martin Sihle, Director of the University Medical Clinic of Riga.
He begins with an account of the general undeniable improvements of certain factors or fragments of public health, such as drainage, ventilation, public squares in towns, public baths, heating of public buildings, isolation in the case of infectious diseases, antisepsis, asepsis, and so on.
It would accordingly be natural to expect that: "the health of the people (and in particular of those who actually benefit by the hygienic measures) would have reached a height not previously attained. But that is by no means the case. Vainly should we seek evidence that the generation of the last century, i.e. that generation which lived under the protection of the hygienic measures enumerated above, had actually become healthier and more efficient, although hygienic statistics afford conclusive proof of reduced mortality.
"The death-rate has thus diminished, but this fact, as we shall see, has its definite and understandable cause. But morbidity increases in such proportions as to cause the utmost apprehension ... On the average man attains an unquestionably greater age than formerly, but marked by a more or less pronounced state of ill-health.
"The normal type of a healthy and strong man is embodied in the statues of classical antiquity, in particular among the Greeks, who in great measure succeeded in approximating to the ideal of health. In order to compare himself with the Greek statues, let anyone stand naked before a mirror and attentively observe his mortal frame. He will be horrified to realise how far removed he is from the proportions of the normal type. The glass reveals to him a flat, frequently concave, chest, protruding stomach, especially under the navel, humped drooping back, the upper portion of which is bent, with crooked, misplaced neck and head, falling away shoulders, with prominent shoulder blades, knees with knock-kneed legs, etc ...
"Even when we consider the sense organs of our patients, deviation into pathological functioning frequently strikes us. One person is short-sighted, another hears badly, a third has a so-called chronic cold, and cannot breathe properly through the nose, because he is troubled with polypus and swellings. Inadequacies in the functioning of our internal organs play a substantial part. Lungs and heart may be mentioned first. In many people the lung apices function badly; they are anaemic because they are badly ventilated, since, owing to weakness of breathing, the muscles of the chest do not sufficiently rise and fall. Catarrhal symptoms of the bronchial tubes and blocks in the region of the lower lung are also common. At every step one comes upon defective functioning of the heart. The heart is often enlarged and dyspnoea frequently supervenes.
"And the organs of digestion? Few men have them in complete working order. One has too much stomach acidity, another too little. The wall of the stomach is either slack or displays a tendency to painful spasms. One person cannot digest this dish, another that. Pressure in the neighbourhood of the stomach, heart-burn, eructations occur alternately. The functioning of the bowels is for the most part inactive. Besides constipation, swollen stomach, haemorrhoid troubles are freely complained of. Congestion of the portal vein and swelling of the liver are of daily occurrence; the organs of the stomach are sunken and aggravate the morbid symptoms.
"On the top of these come, finally, the great host of so-called nervous-psychic complaints, hysteria and neurosis. Sleeplessness, migraine, neuralgia, low spirits, all kinds of depression complete the deplorable picture of civilized man."
That is indeed a deplorable picture of the impoverishment of modern civilized man, but one which we know is not untrue.
It is but the final picture of the impoverishment of our soils, an impoverishment forced upon us because we did not possess the almost unimaginable foresight that was needed to feed the rapidly growing urban populations of the industrial era.
Here is a picture of a soil and animal impoverishment from one of the most distant providers of London and other big towns of England. It is taken from Sir John Orr's excellent treatise On Minerals in Pastures.
"Munro reports that in the Falkland Islands sheep have been reared and exported for forty years without any return to the soil to replace the minerals removed. During the last twenty years it has become increasingly difficult to rear lambs. The other animals are also deteriorating." The sheep are exported to the United Kingdom, and with them goes the mineral food of the soil which they represent.
This is a typical instance of what is a widespread loss due to the same causes. "The process of depletion," Orr writes, "and the resulting deterioration which shows itself in decreased rate of growth and production, and in extreme cases by the appearance of disease, is proceeding on all pastures from which milk, carcases or other animal products are taken off without a corresponding replacement being made. Accompanying the visible movement of milk and beef, there is a slow invisible flow of fertility. Every cargo of beef or milk products, every shipload of bones, leaves the exporting country so much the poorer. In many of the grazing grounds of the world this depletion has become a serious economic problem. In Scotland, for example, generation after generation of sheep have been taken off the hills with little compensatory returns. Accompanying the resulting deterioration of the pasture, the stocks tend to be reduced in the rough hill grazings ... This process of depletion of the Scotch hills has been going on with increasing rapidity since the time when the produce of the animals, instead of being consumed on the land and therefore returned to the soil, began to be driven off to be consumed in the industrial areas. There are now districts in the Highlands which could not support populations which once lived there, even though the people were willing to accept the standard of living of their ancestors.
"Richardson has recently called attention to the effects of depletion in Victoria. He has estimated that the soil of Victoria has been depleted to the extent of about 360,000 tons of phosphoric acid during the last sixty years, through the removal of phosphates in the exported meat, meal and other animal products, and that nearly 2,000,000 tons of super-phosphate would need to be added to the pasturelands to restore them to the condition they were in about 1860. He attributes malnutrition in stock to the resulting deficiency of phosphorus in the pastures.
"In our own country this process of depletion has been going on for many years, especially in hill pastures, and it is probable that the recognized decrease in the value of hill pastures in certain areas, owing to the increase in the diseases and mortality of sheep, is associated with the gradual process of the impoverishment of the pasture and its soil.
"There is evidence that the same process of depletion has taken place in India. During the years 1920-25 over 520,000 tons of bones have been exported without any compensating return to the soil. The evidence presented before the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India shows that there has been in recent years a marked deterioration in cattle."
McCarrison himself was an emphatic witness to this deterioration, and the need of co-ordination of all forms of research, nutritional, medical, veterinary, and agricultural.
The waste of western civilization is summed up by King in these words: "On the basis of the data of Wolff, Kellner, and Carpenter, or of Hall, the people of the United States and of Europe are pouring into the sea, lakes or rivers, and into underground waters from 5,794,300 to 12,000,000 pounds of nitrogen, 1,881,900 to 4,151,000 pounds of potassium, and 777,200 to 3,057,600 pounds of phosphorus per million of adult population annually, and this waste we esteem one of the achievements of our civilization."
This waste shows some of the impoverishment of the soil, which is the canvas on which Sihle painted the poor picture of modern man. The picture is framed in a golden frame. Modern man's achievements in the increase of wealth have been wonderful, but all the while Nature quietly has been revealing the divine laws of life by his physical impoverishment. We hear in these days the cliché of poverty in the midst of plenty, that poverty has become an anachronism. Meanwhile a greater and more radical poverty continually steals upon us and is accepted.
Sufficient has been said, it is hoped, to show that there is a desirability for the individual westerner to pay heed to the food-methods of a people who "still in great measure succeed in approximating to the ideal of health."
The Hunza food comes straight from the garden-field or the hillside. Its freshness is its excellence. In this we can imitate them by using locally-grown or garden vegetables and fruits. If this is impossible we can ask for vegetables from storage in cool cellars. We can ask for them from farms, where their health has been proved as those of Surfleet have been proved in the last two years. We can ask. We shall often get no satisfactory reply. On the other hand, we may get our vegetables from proper storage and we may learn something about the farm or farms from which we get them. It will be a beginning of knowledge useful to us, but which we have mostly ignored.
Secondly, we can eat young, fresh vegetable food when we have opportunity. Scientists know that it is then that it is richest in minerals. It is then also that it is preferred by the Hunza, and, indeed, by many peoples, as shown with us by our fondness for new potatoes, young lettuces and carrots.
The most valuable form of young green life that the Hunza, in common with so many Orientals, eat, is sprouting gram. This is not hard to make, but again there is need of individual trouble for individual gain. Orientals in London usually get their gram (cicer arietinum) from Egypt or India. They soak it for some hours in water, pour off the water, and put it in damp sand in a warm place for twenty-four to forty-eight hours, when the sprouts will appear. They eat it raw without allowing it to dry, with a little powdered ginger or other condiment. The smaller grams are preferred, for the larger gram is hard, so that sometimes the gram and sprout are quickly boiled to soften them, and part of the freshness lost. Wheat and other grains may be used. The sprouting beans of the Chinese emporium in Soho and the several Chinese restaurants in London are already becoming popular. The sprouts are particularly valuable in winter and early spring, when fresh vegetables and fruits are hard to obtain. It is, for instance, then that they and sprouting onions are sold freely in Oriental bazaars.
As regards bread, the wholemeal bread must be taken. It is not always easy to get, but always can be got with a little trouble. Most people who eat it come to prefer it to white bread. They find more "body" in it.
The Hunza drink milk, especially butter-milk, and in hot weather, when it perishes, they ferment it. Enough has been said about city pasteurized milk to show that one has to take trouble over one's milk-drinking. The same must be said about many of the commercial forms of fermented milk. It is best to ferment it oneself by Metchnikoff's method, with lactic ferment tablets, which can be procured at any chemist. The milk is fermented daily. A little is transferred to fresh or quickly boiled milk for further fermentation, and the rest drunk. In this way one goes on making the milk in a thermos flask or in the warm kitchen, and tablets do not often have to be used. In the country adults drink fresh raw milk.
Like the Hunza, we can drink the water and juices in which our vegetables are cooked. The vegetables can be served to children in bowls with their juice and water. We, inheriting unfortunately a meat-eating tradition, eat off plates, which waste the juices. People do not always want vegetable soup. The cooking in small quantities of water and adding a little more as it gets used, which is the way of the Hunza, makes the quantity of liquid to be taken less.
Vegetables should not be soaked, and so lose their minerals, nor scraped with too much vigour. Some can be taken raw, especially when young. Salads scarcely need any commendation in these days.
As I said above, we inherit a hunter's and pastoral dietary. Our ancestors lived in an island too large for them, which provided plenty of game. The game ate the vegetation, and our ancestors ate the game. "The tables of the thirteenth century were literally loaded with flesh, fish, and fowl; vegetables were so scarce that it was customary to salt them for keeping," writes Mr. Synge, in a History of Social Life in England (1906), and he gives a list of the meats at a small mediaeval dinner, which shows that our ancestors were sportsmen, as well as breeders -- boar, swan, rabbit, mallard, pheasant, pig, teal, woodcock, snipe. With this, as part compensation to excessive meat, our ancestors were great drinkers of old ale and other fermented drinks.
From our ancestors, then, we inherit our liking for meat and for sport, and are not such good vegetarians. We could not put up with the meat once in ten or more days of the Hunza. Nor perhaps would the Hunza, could they get more meat, without foregoing their milk, butter, and curd-cheese. They, too, were and are great shikaris or hunters of the ibex and other mountain game, but with the modern firearm there is now little left to shoot. So the Hunza meat ration is on low, and he makes up for it by the milk and cheese his animals give him in place of their flesh. I do not think that the English will look upon meat once in ten days as desirable. Their tradition against it is too strong.
As regards fruit and its freshness, we are all of us as one with the Hunza. Our ancestors neglected vegetables, but not fruit. They cultivated a great variety of fruits. The peculiarity of the Hunza use of fruit is the large amount they dry in the sun and eat pounded up in water as chamus almost daily throughout the year. Dried fruits, dates, figs, and raisins, dried mulberries and apricots, are all highly nutritious, but I can find no report on whether sun-drying, to which many are subjected, adds to their virtue. Dried fruits are easy to get and should be eaten when fresh fruits are scarce.
The Hunza crack the apricot kernels and eat them. So they get nutty food.
The Hunza eat any foods to be eaten at one meal. As we have seen, they stew meat, wheat, and vegetables in one pot. They, of course, do not have the varied dishes which often make up our meals. Their meals are far more repetitive. But they do not follow the rule of another very healthy people, the islanders of Tristan da Cunha, namely, one meal one food.
Lastly there is the Hunza wine. There is a greater virtue in fresh home-made wine like the Hunza than in bottled or fortified wine and spirits, but home-brewed wine and old English ale are scarcely procurable.
To sum up, if individually we wish to get some extra health and physique like that of the Hunza, we should remember the following twelve points:
- See that the vegetables eaten have the repute of healthiness; do not skin them and waste the skins, and do not throw away the juices and water in which they are cooked. (79 per cent of the green vegetables and 99 per cent of the potatoes eaten in Britain are homegrown.)
- Eat garden vegetables and fruit, if procurable, as soon as possible after gathering them, so as to get the peculiar value of freshness.
- Eat salads and palatable well-stored raw root vegetables.
- Drink more milk, buttermilk, skimmed milk, and, if palatable, sour milk. (The fresh milk drunk in Britain is exclusively home-produced.)
- Eat less meat, if grain, vegetables, milk, and cheese are taken; eat animal organs and skin as well as the flesh.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit when in season.
- At other times, take dried fruits, preferably sun-dried.
- Take germinated gram, grain, or beans, especially in winter and early spring.
- Eat wholemeal bread; to get the health of a food, eat the whole of it as far as possible.
- Eat butter and cheese.
- Drink fresh wine when there is opportunity, or old English ale, if procurable.
- Do not eat too many different foods or dishes at one meal; simplify.
From these twelve maxims one may choose as the central essentials: wholemeal bread, sprouted gram in the winter and spring, milk products freely, green-leafed and root vegetables, plenty of fruit, and not much meat. That which divides modern people from them is chiefly one thing -- ignorance.
They do not know that wholemeal bread is so much more healthful than white bread, yet they are anxious for health. They do not know that sprouted gram is one of the most widespread foods in the world in the winter and early spring, the chief period of sickness, yet they are anxious for health. They do not know the great additional health which can be procured by the free use of milk and its products. They still go on with a little milk in their tea. Yet they are anxious for health. They do not know that there is a good protein in wheat, milk, cheese and vegetables, and that meat is not its only source. They hold, by tradition, that meat is the essential food for strength, and they believe eating it in plenty is a part of human wisdom. For they are anxious for health.
Valuable as these deductions from the Hunza are, they are nevertheless fragmentary. The whole meaning of this people is something much greater. It is none less than that the perfect physique and health, which we have grown accustomed to regard as the privilege of the wild, and, with rare exceptions, beyond the attainment of civilized man, is not unattainable. It is attainable, if we give the same devoted service to our soil, its health and the health of its production, as for centuries this remarkable people have given to theirs.
An Entire Experiment
THE individual application of the principles of a very healthy people has been given in the last chapter. It is possible, however, to proceed further and apply the principles to a group of people in England, Holland, or some other western country.
The principles may be considered twofold, namely the manufacture and use of humus, and secondly the avoidance of erosion or loss of the soil.
As regards the second principle, the Hunza depend on levelled fields and controlled water supply. Their valley has a little rain and snow, but irrigation constitutes the principal form of the watering of the soil. By its means water gently percolates through the soil and does not wash it away to such a degree that the silt brought is not sufficient to replenish it.
In England, Holland and other countries there are flat fields, and canals in addition to the rainfall. There are also terraced fields in certain mountainous areas of the west. In the United States, "hanging" and level terraces are constructed by means of special instruments as a measure against erosion. A description of "Farm Terracing," by Mr. C. E. Ramser, will be found in the Farmers' Bulletin, No. 1669, of the United States Department of Agriculture.
The prevention of erosion throughout a group-experiment is necessary. No form of soil, however carefully fed, can furnish the substance of the experiment if it is liable to erosion.
The meaning of erosion was succinctly given by Mr. T. C. Chamberlin, geologist of the University of Chicago, at the White House in 1908. The report is from Circular 33 of the U.S.A. Department of Agriculture.
Mr. Chamberlin estimated that the mean rate of the formation of soil from rock was not greater than about a foot in 10,000 years. Yet in a part of Missouri there had been found a rate of erosion which would remove seven inches of tilled soil in twenty-four years. Under grass that amount of erosion would have taken 3,500 or more years.
Mr. C. E. Ramser, in advocating "Farm Terracing" in the United States, wrote of erosion: "It is estimated that erosion removes not less than 126,000,000,000 pounds of plant-food material from the fields and pastures of the United States every year. This is more than twenty-one times the amount removed by crops (5,900,000,000 pounds), according to an estimate of the National Conference Board."
It is, then, essential that the experiment should be carried out upon flat fields protected against erosion.
The Hunza use humus, and, according to the writers of the Farmers' Bulletin, No. 22, of the Department of Agriculture of Canada, humus itself is suspect. "Contrary to general opinion," are the writer's words, "humus in a soil appears to facilitate drifting ... it tends to prevent the soil from forming into clods that are so effective in checking wind action."
Yet the Hunza and the Chinese use humus, but their soils do not suffer from erosion. One way in which they prevent it is the use of silt from their irrigation channels and canals. The other is by keeping an almost continuous cover of plant growth. This cover protects the soil from erosion due to sun, wind, and rain-storm, as the grass protects the soil of the unploughed prairie.
"In China," writes King, "it is very common to see three crops growing upon the same field at one time, but in different stages of maturity -- one nearly ready for harvest, one just coming up, and a third at the stage when it is drawing heavily upon the soil." Thus, as in a kitchen garden, the older and higher crops protect the younger. Mulching with straw is also used by the Chinese, as in kitchen gardens.
As regards the cover of crops, which the soil receives through the succession of seasons, King wrote: "Two crops of rice are commonly grown each year in Southern China, and during the winter and early spring, grain, cabbage, rape, peas, beans, leeks, and ginger may occupy the fields as a third or even fourth crop, making the total year's product very large," and he adds elsewhere: "even the narrow ridges which retain the water are bearing a heavy crop of soya beans."
In this way the very fertility brought by humus protects the soil against erosion by a cover of vegetation comparable to that which humus brings to primeval land.
The Indore compost, made only with the excreta of animals, but otherwise similar to that made by the Hunza, is already in use at Surfleet, in the flat land near the Wash, and on high but level fields at Farleigh Wallop, Hampshire. A similar type of compost is also used in the flat land near Flushing, in Holland. The results, as previously stated, have already been so uniformly good that one can confidently state that the first ingredients of the experiment, namely, the type of agriculture and the healthy soil leading to healthy plant and animal, are now in being in two western countries.
There remains the human ingredient, the final essential factor of the experiment.
What is wanted is a group of families willing to live upon the products of this particular agriculture, eaten, prepared, or stored in the ways already indicated.
In England it would be impossible to impose such a regimen on any group of peoples, so an experiment ordered by authority cannot be considered. The experiment must be voluntary.
There are no doubt families so interested in the problem of health as to be willing to submit themselves to a reasonable experiment, but the experiment is a prolonged one in its wholeness, and though such families could well adopt these foods, they would not form the stable human element required.
The most suitable group would be one composed of families, members of which worked upon land where this agriculture was being practiced. They would see the good health of the crops and animals which they themselves helped to rear, and this would give them the necessary faith for submitting to what would have to be an observed experiment. It would be a long one, for it takes its true start at the conception of a being in the womb of a mother fed upon these foods. But its effect upon those not so conceived would quickly be observable, and if notably beneficial, would be of great importance to the present generation and the question of their health.
The experiment must not be too rigid. However desirable, it would be a mistake to make the experiment too rigid. Certain customary foods, imported into every village, could not be excluded. The demand for them, one expects, would lessen by degrees, owing to the growing appreciation of the quality and value of the home-grown products.
No particular "balancing" of meals, prescribing of diets, attention to vitamins, or other fragmentation would be required. The families would depend upon the completeness and health of the foods they eat, according to their needs and choice.
An experiment with practical results will always arouse interest. If the anticipated success were attained it would stir the talk and observation of neighbouring cultivators.
Though sharing the usual prejudices of mankind, farmers are practical men, eager for good results. Friendly interest might come tardily, but come it would if results were notably good. So also, when mothers found that their children were unusually healthy, they would talk to their neighbours. Through contact the method would spread locally. It would reach the local authorities, and in time they would co-operate by sending parish or municipal refuse to be composted. Thus a practical farming success with its attendant health of soil, plant, animal and man, would spread. The good health of children born into and reared upon the land's products would come later, and the prolongation of the benefit throughout life yet later.
In this re-introduction of old methods many other aspects -- financial, political, social, domestic, and so on -- would eventually arise. Important as these will be, it is not practical to discuss them now. All that I wish to stress is that the elements of the experiments are at hand and that a beginning has already been made in rural England.
If my essay succeeds it will draw the attention of my readers to this vital work; it will also, I hope, persuade them that a much-needed research is one directed to very healthy people, however remote they may be and however different from ourselves they may seem, if the question of health is to be adequately answered.
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