Monthly Archives: January 2013

Self-massage and barefooting

It is possible that if you feel pain somewhere in your body, that there are knots in your muscles that contribute in some way. Another name would be trigger points. In short, bands of muscle that are, and remain, contracted. The theory is that these trigger points do not hurt in themselves, but send their pain elsewhere in very predictable patterns. Pioneering work was done in this area by Drs Travell and Simons, culminating in their book Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction. The wikipedia page for trigger points.

Later, Clair Davies published a book called The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. This is the book that I bought, and used to help fix the pain I felt in my feet. I bought a tool called a Theracane and set about massaging the trigger points in my shins, calves, gluteals and beyond.  It wasn’t a magic cure and I still pay close attention to feelings of tightness and discomfort, then set aside time to self-massage. I’m particularly talking about my back and pelvis at the moment. My feet are basically fixed, to my satisfaction. Going barefoot helped more than I can possibly say, in helping to re-strengthen and re-train myself to walk gently. My toes spread, my arches and calves beefed up and my big toes took their rightful place again as the strongest toe, the one that will support most of the weight of your body. Mine had abdicated and left the next toe in line to take the (repetitive) strain. Part of the problem being that shoes had squeezed all the toes together, bunion style. A great link here:

The way I see trigger points is that I pay attention and self-massage.. but I use yoga, and postural self-awareness to try and prevent getting them in the first place.

The advantages to self-massage as I see it:

  • Much much cheaper than paying for a massage therapist.
  • You can use bio-feedback to zone in on the exact place to massage.
  • You can do it any time of day, whenever you feel pain, assuming you have somewhere private to do it.
  • It could empower you to fix your own problems with pain.
  • You needn’t buy the books, you could borrow them, whilst remembering that if your local library doesn’t have them, many will do inter-library loans (for a small fee).
  • You needn’t buy special tools. A branch of wood you’ve carved yourself, a knobbly household item such as a mobile phone, or your own body ie knees can massage the opposite calf, supported fingers can give a great head and face massage.

The disadvantages:

  • It won’t fix all pain. Your pain could be due to medical issues of which I claim no knowledge or expertise.
  • It won’t fix any problem instantly. There could be a wide range of things at play, from your head to your feet.
  • Potentially making the pain worse, even short term, with over-enthusiastic massage. The answer is knowledge about what you’re doing. Knowledge is Power. Research on the net, read books if you can and learn a little about anatomy. The location of nerves, major blood vessels and lymph nodes to name a few. Inform yourself, and be gentle!

What I would say in conclusion is that learning self-massage could help relieve some of the pain you feel, and that if you suffer from chronic pain, or even just annoying aches and pains, that you might like to do some research of your own in this area. I’ve provided links to everything I can find that might be useful, and I wish you all the best in finding the answers to your pain. I hope what i’ve given is a balanced perspective of trigger point therapy, and I welcome constructive feedback and your own stories.

Other resources i’ve found. The only massage one I can personally vouch for is the book by Clair Davies:

Self Massage for Athletes A Google Books link that allows you to read some of the book.

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies Google Books again. .. Sensible advice for aches, pains and injuries. Their words, not mine. Great for those interested in barefoot running, walking and being. Includes forums, FAQs, and many personal stories of improvements in well-being through choosing the barefoot path.



A couple of years ago I went wwoofing for the first time, and stayed with a lovely couple called Nick and Sarah in Lincolnshire, who have the distinction of being the first holding, small or otherwise, to be included in the LAND Network of the Permaculture Association (UK).

One thing in particular I took from my week with them was that Nick took notes of everything he did in the garden, how many hours he spent doing a task, observations, a diary essentially.  He impressed upon me the importance of being able to document and to review your observations in later years, to build a body of knowledge right? So I began taking notes of all the things I was foraging ‘in the wild’ ie. down the woods, weeds from the garden, walking on the moors etc.

That diary now tells me that on the 16th October a local farm in Marsden held an Apple Day at which I washed, chopped, ground and pressed a heck load of apples! (I didn’t weight them) I gathered them from 5 local trees in Marsden. It took me about a day gathering, then half a day processing. I ended up with about 8 demijohns of raw apple juice. The apples themself were pretty tart, not quite crab apples but not exactly dessert apples either – wildings. But let me tell you, the juice! So sweet.

So I gathered my demijohns, cleaned them up, bunged an airlock in each and fermented that apple juice into cider. I believe in the trade it’s known as hard cider, or maybe scrumpy?

So here we are in January 2013 and the story continues. I find myself making herring rollmops. You fillet the fish, brine them in 60g salt per 500ml water overnight, then pickle in a vinegar of at least 5% acidity. That last is crucial to the process, if you want to avoid the risk of botulism, and who doesn’t. A fatal illness brought on by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

So I find myself thinking hey! i’ve got some cider vinegar, 2011 vintage, but here’s the rub, I don’t know how strong the acid is. The standard advice is not to use homemade vinegar for rollmops because of this, but there is a way round it. I’ve purchased from a homebrew supply shop an acid titration kit. This explains more precisely for those interested.

For my first batch of rollmops I bought some 5% acidity cider vinegar, until I can give this process a go, and see if my vinegar is suitable for botulism killing duty. I’m not entirely sure to what extent it’s the salt, or the vinegar, or both, that kills the botulism. But there we go, that’s where i’m up to with it.

The cider itself, by the way, is delicious, but it sure packs a punch! At the moment I have about a 20/25 litre plastic keg full, maturing in my parent’s kitchen. If i’d known i’d have put it in a keg with a tap on the bottom. As it stands now, I need to open it when I know it’ll all get drunk. (Despite the rollmops I don’t have much call for the vinegar) You know what that means! I need to organise a big party. Well, for now it’ll be there, waiting and maturing.

Ahh, fermentation!

PS I said to fillet the fish, “but what about the heads and guts!”, I hear you cry. I chose to start a fish sauce, what is called in Thailand ‘nam pla’,  and by many other names throughout South East Asia, but more on that in another post…

Sauerkraut – lacto-fermented cabbage

As my first post I thought i’d introduce a really easy lacto-fermentation technique. The book that first got me interested in fermenting was ‘Wild Fermentation – the flavor, nutrition and craft of live-culture foods’ by Sandor Ellix Katz. It’s an empowering, inspiring read. He hosts a website and forum at

  1. ChopIMG_0019_zps03a2b7e6
  2. Salt and squeeze, to break open cells and bring the moisture out.th_IMG_0031_zps58bbfa04th_IMG_0035_zps2de8e9f3
  3. Pack it tightly into your container, again to break open cells and make sure the cabbage stays under the brine.
  4. th_IMG_0037_zpse9cc4a14When it’s full put your jar or bag of water on top to hold the cabbage under the brine. th_IMG_0039_zpsea161f27

I like to chop my cabbage quite finely, it pleases me that way but you can do it however you like. A head of white or red cabbage works best. Kale goes stinky. Add it to a mixing bowl and salt as you go. More salt keeps it crunchy, less allows it to go soft, both edible and delicious. A higher level of salt will preserve it for longer, especially if you make it in a heat-wave. Being winter I add 4 or 5 decent pinches of salt per head of cabbage. It’s intuitive and forgiving, which is why I love it! Just keep an eye on it as it develops.

Pack it down tightly in a ceramic, glass, stoneware or wooden container. Avoid metal as the acid will corrode it and contaminate your food. You can use your hands or a stick. You can then place something on top like a glass jar, or zip-lock bag filled with water to keep the cabbage below the level of the brine. As with all ferments pressure can build up if it’s airtight, as it gasses off carbon dioxide. Not as much as alcohol ferments, but some.

Let me know how it turns out if you fancy giving it a go. 🙂