Saturday 22 December 2012

Why were we hearing about Mayans at all?

Due to technical problems, this post is appearing a few days later than planned. 

You don’t need to hear that the world didn’t end yesterday. You don’t need to hear that misrepresentations of the calendar of human-sacrifice enthusiasts a thousand years ago did not trump experts at NASA. None of us need another Facebook meme sneering at the now-disappointed believers, always easy to do when it’s someone else’s beliefs.

Scares like this, however, can be serious business; Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported a few weeks ago that “panic buying of candles and essentials has been reported in China and Russia, along with an explosion in sales of survival shelters in America. In France believers were preparing to converge on a mountain where they believe aliens will rescue them.” China might seem a strange place for the apocalypse idea to crop up, but the Telegraph said that “In China … a wave of paranoia about the apocalypse can be traced to the 2009 Hollywood blockbuster ‘2012.’ The film … was a smash hit in China, as viewers were seduced by a plot that saw the Chinese military building arks to save humanity.”

That callous $200 million steaming pile of emotional manipulation also seemed to popularise the 2012 myth here, and I suspect in most places. AsI wrote a couple of years ago, we might be able to forgive filmmakers for creating an overpriced package of ridiculous escapism like The Core or Volcano. Unlike those films, however, and like the fundamentalist Left Behind series, the film predicted horrifying tragedies happening to the real world shortly, invoking Albert Einstein for artificial legitimacy.

The filmmakers also drops the “Rapture” name for extra points among the mega-church crowd, both in the script and in the callous poster tag “Will You Be Left Behind?” The only difference is that the Left Behind authors seem to truly believe their dubious theology, whereas the filmmakers seem to be transparently capitalizing on people’s fears to make money.

Even if only one person in a thousand takes them seriously, scares like this cost real people their lives. David Morrison, an astronomer at NASA, told the Telegraph that “at least once a week I get a message from a young person, as young as 11, who says they are ill and/or contemplating suicide because of the coming doomsday. I think it's evil for people to propagate rumours on the internet to frighten children.”

Of course, apocalypse ideas crop up every so often, and for a highly readable history of their rises and disappointments, let me again recommend the prolific John Michael Greer. His book Apocalypse Not: Everything You Know About 2012, Nostradamus and theRapture is Wrong will likely lose some sales after today, but it deserves to be read and publicised as immunisation against the next 2012. He even delves into the origins of this particular myth in the New Age circles after the “Harmonic Convergence” of the 1980s.

One area Greer could have focused on more, perhaps, is “Why Mayans?” Why not Bavarians or Vietnamese, or any other group? The answer seems to be twofold; first, it’s easier to project any beliefs or ideology you like on a now-extinct group that can’t protest. There are some Mayans still left, who have rightly objected to their pop-culture co-opting, but poor Third-Worlders do not generally have the media influence of California New Age gurus.

The other reason has to do with the exalted place Native Americans hold in popular culture. No one denies that Native Americans were subjected to genocide by various European groups over a few hundred years, and that popular media in 19th and early 20th century USA portrayed them as inferior savages. The response of the Sixties counterculture, though, was insulting in a different direction, projecting onto Native tribes whatever ancient wisdom they wanted to hear. This was done mainly through the use of Italians and other Europeans pretending to be Natives, making up New Age teachings and passing them off as authentic.

As John Miller wrote in the National Review, “Between 1960 and 2000, the number of Americans claiming Indian ancestry on their census forms jumped by a factor of six. Neither birthrates nor counting methodologies can account for this explosive growth. Instead, the phenomenon arises in large part from the increasingly idealistic place Indians occupy in the popular imagination. Much of it is based on harmless sentiment mixed into a hash of unverifiable family legends and wishful thinking among folks who hang dreamcatchers from their rearview mirrors. But for a distinct subset, it’s all about personal profit. They’re professional imposters who have built entire careers by putting the sham into shaman.”

In some cases people just claim to be Native when they are not: author and provocateur Ward Churchill, actor “Iron Eyes” Cody, and so on. In others Europeans claim special insight into Native culture: Carlos Castaneda, for example, wrote his entire Don Juan series with supposed interviews based on a reclusive Yaqui Indian no one else had met, while Lynn Andrews did the same with her Medicine Woman series, based on supposed interviews with reclusive sages in Manitoba.

Some of these teachings are useful in their own right; “Grey Owl” was an admirable man who lived in the Canadian woods, wrote beautifully and became an early advocated for protecting nature from human exploitation, whether or not he was actually an Englishman named Archie Blayney. “The Education of Little Tree” is a lovely story, even if it turned out to be fiction written by a white segregationist.

Decades of such romanticising, though, means that followers of the Sixties counterculture treat Native teachings with a special reverence – even fake ones, and they usually are. I know a number of people who sneered at Harold Camping’s numerous Rapture predictions who seemed to take the Mayan claims seriously – at least, as seriously as anyone takes anything these days, forwarding Facebook memes while filtering any convictions through layers of hip irony.

The 2012 books I have leafed through also yank science-sounding terms into the discussion whenever possible, describing a “quantum leap” forward in human “evolutionary levels.” In invoking these scientific phrases the film-makers are being completely dishonest, using them for ideas that have nothing to do with science. Like the religious cult “scientology,” they steal bits of words from actual scientific research and using them to imbue their vague hokum with a bogus legitimacy.
These things tell us how the myth was formed, but to deal with how it spread –why people in China, Russia and Ireland are all talking about the same thing – we have to look at  modern technology. 

Throughout the 20th century, science and technology were supposed to make us less superstitious – from H.G. Wells’ Things to Come to the Star Trek series, decades of science fiction posited a future where we had outgrown such primitive traits. Instead, however, it has made us more susceptible to superstition.

Rather, I want to ask why this belief caught on in every globalised corner of the world at once, and what that says about us. As I wrote this, you see, I was sitting in the pub a few kilometres from my home in rural Ireland, surrounded by my neighbours at other tables, and some of these same people or their relatives might have been gathering here fifty or a hundred years ago – in other words, several apocalypse scares ago. When enthusiasts predicted the end of the world in the 1920s or 1980s, though, I doubt anyone around here noticed – at least, I have seen no evidence of it in interviews or records.

Ireland was affected by the world wars in Europe, of course, but even into the 1970s some of my wife’s neighbours lacked electricity, more lacked television, and most people knew more about their neighbours than about celebrities. Today, though, I’m listening to my neighbours talking about the Mayan apocalypse, the USA grade-school shootings, and the end of the world. We all get hundreds of television stations, and the news channel playing on the wall plays the same USA school-shooting clip that people might be watching in Singapore and South Africa.

Men and women fell for apocalyptic scares easily enough before the fossil-fuel era, but at least the slow speed of information filtered out such time-sensitive panics as this. Today, though, when we spend most of our time staring at glowing rectangles rather than living in the real world, it becomes easy to become isolated, paranoid, or trapped in a bubble of misinformation. When we spend most of our time moving pixels on a screen for a paycheque, it’s easy to fantasise about fighting zombies or some other more meaningful life.

And when people around the world spend much of their time online, a meme can appear and spread almost instantly. Instead of a dubious notion having to infect a critical mass of people in a town before spreading to the next town, a con or conspiracy theory can appear everywhere in the world – to a teenager in Saskatchewan, an old lady in Turkmenistan and an Irish farmer – simultaneously.

As fossil fuels decline and extreme weather events increase, I expect more people to grow poor and feel helpless, but I would also expect more people to spend more time online. I would expect there to be many more scares like this one in our lifetime, and there will be nowhere to go to escape them.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Forest hug

We're getting into the dark months now; as I've mentioned here before, we're less than a thousand miles from the Arctic Circle, and while the surrounding sea and Caribbean current keep Ireland above freezing, the winter months hover a few degrees above, wet and cold and very dark. Even the daylight hours bring only dim light, as though hesitating through several hours of twilight before plunging back into a night that consumes three quarters of the day.

This time of year Ireland's lush landscape grows denuded and stark, skeletal branches rattling in the fierce winds and everything turned grey, "like some cold glaucoma settling over the world," in the words of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. The winter is made far worse by our bizarre summer -- one of the wettest on record, when almost none of the familiar fruits or berries could be pollinated. Older people here, who grew up making jam and wine every fall, are at a loss this year.

In a few months, we'll be out of the darkness. This week, though, I will be using up my summer forest pictures.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Hayboxes and houses

Whether you grew up in Texas or Tasmania, Manitoba or Macedonia, you were probably raised in a modernised Western culture like me, with electricity and motorcars and other modern infrastructure. If so, you probably grew up blithely spending massive quantities of energy to do the simplest of tasks.

Instead of boiling water by lighting a fire and putting a kettle on the stove, for example, we might blow up the oldest mountains in the world to mine the remains of forests older than dinosaurs, set those old forests on fire to boil water, and then use the steam to turn turbines to send electricity through miles of cable to an outlet on your wall to power a kettle to boil water. The details might change depending on where you are, but most of us live this way – and so does my family, to an extent. It’s not easy to live any other way these days; one must deliberately and daily choose, on abstract grounds, a life of greater inconvenience, and slowly learn a different set of skills.  

We do this, of course, because we have so much energy at our disposal – the equivalent of 300 slaves by one common estimate, making each of us richer than medieval kings. Of course, we can’t keep doing this forever – there were only so many ancient forests to burn, and doing so has played with the knobs and dials of the world’s weather control panel. Thus, most discussions of the future focus on producing enough energy to meet our escalating needs -- escalating because each generation grows up with more comfort and convenience, and because there are more of us. 

The same is true in our personal lives; most of us fantasize about making more money, not about spending less, even though it amounts to the same thing, and even though your current spending might not be making you happy. Adverts and articles tout new and more fuel-efficient cars, not buying fewer or older cars and driving them more slowly.  A major magazine a few years back showed their concern for the future with an “eco-issue;” I showed mine by refusing to buy the magazine. Most discussions of energy, similarly, ignore the central and salient factor of how much we don't need.

Take, for example, the old technique of hay-box cooking, done by people here a few generations ago and by the British during the lean times of the Second World War. A hay box is just what it says, a box lined with hay or some other insulating material that will keep heated food hot and cooking for hours. Manufactured hay-boxes were built in the early part of the 20th century, and stores used to sell elegant and decorated models, but to make one at home all you need is a box – or in my case, two smaller boxes, one flipped upside-down and placed over the other – with blankets stuffed around the sides.

To use this method I started by making a few litres of lentil soup with vegetables from our garden, and brought it to a rolling boil. On the stove I would have to cook it for an hour or more until the lentils were soft, but here I only needed to bring it to the boil, take the pot off the stove and place it in the hay-box. I surrounded the pot with blankets in lieu of dry hay – people here make hay while the sun shines, so there hasn’t been much of either in Ireland this year – covered it over with more blankets, and went to bed. In the morning I took the cool pot of soup out of the box and found it had cooked perfectly, after using a fraction of the fuel.

Another example of using what you have comes in an even more unassuming package, the tea cozie. The Irish are among the most prolific tea-drinkers on Earth, and a “cuppa” is the standard greeting offered to family, friends and just passers-by. Boiling tea cools quickly, and if you like your tea strong – sitting in the pot a while – or want a second cup, you want to conserve the heat. The tea-cozie solves that by insulating the pot like the hay-box insulates tomorrow’s dinner, keeping it hot longer. A thermos does the same thing for a drink on the go.

The same logic applies to our houses; most of us in the modern world live in homes far larger than we need, and if many people heat their entire homes in winter while wearing summer clothes indoors. The UK-based Building Research Establishment reports that British homes in 1970 had an average temperature of 12 degrees in winter – 55 degrees – and I’m betting that in poorer and more traditional Ireland it was colder still. Yet people got by; they were more psychologically accustomed to colder temperatures, , they gathered in rooms together and allowed their body heat to raise the temperature, they remained physically active, they wore heavy clothes indoors, and they heated certain central rooms and let unused rooms provide insulation

As Kris De Decker notes in Low-Tech Magazine, “the reduction in energy use for space heating thanks to more efficient homes was less than 20 per cent from 1993 to 2005. Lowering the thermostat by 2° C (or 4°F) would thus result in energy reduction comparable to that. Turning down the thermostat from 22° to 18° C would initiate an energy savings of at least 35 per cent.”

DeDecker notes that insulating the body itself is the most efficient option, as there is so much less space to cover. Using American “clo” units, where one clo equals the thermal insulation required to keep one person comfortable at 21 degrees centigrade, he notes that briefs provide 0.05 clo, light socks 0.10 clo, a heavy shirt with long sleeves .25 clo, a sweater .30 clo, and long pants .30.
Someone wearing the ensemble described above would feel comfortable in a home heated to 21 degrees Centigrade – the level assumed for the modern USA by the standards company ASHRAE -- but in just a t-shirt would need 24 degrees. With long underwear they would only need the house to be heated to 17 degrees to feel the same comfort, which DeDecker reckons saves 50 to 70 per cent on heating costs compared to the t-shirt.

All of these are things we could change quickly in theory, but realistically, they will take time to grow used to – I hail from a hotter climate and am used to blasts of central heating in winter, and shifting away from that was slow and sometimes uncomfortable. In this, as in so many other areas, though, it helps to take the first steps in a different direction and keep going, and then one day you look behind you and realise how far you’ve travelled, and how little you needed after all. 

Saturday 24 November 2012

Not crossing that thing

.. said the horse to the rider across from our house. If you want to cross it, get off.

The laptop has been in the shop again, so posting has been more sporadic than usual.

Sunday 11 November 2012


In the countryside here, Halloween was the day to remember the dead, as the days grew dark again and the land grew gray and stark. It always felt appropriate to me, then, that it was so close to Remembrance Day -- Veterans Day in the USA -- when we remember the fallen. I also like that this day does not signify the triumphant nationalism I saw in my own country, but mourning for a tragedy.

Such rituals are not popular in our culture anymore. In the strange culture of the energy window, death is no longer the constant presence it was for our ancestors, so we have hidden it as we once hid sex, but behind veils less attractive than courtship. This age of inhuman speed and unlimited promise has removed our sense of passage, the sense that our uncommon lives are flowing to their common destination. Millions of us who grew up in this age, I think, will find themselves at the end, their busyness for nothing, wondering what happened to their lives, and unprepared for what happens next.

Saturday 3 November 2012


Most of my countrymen are shocked when they discover the disdain in which they are held around the world;  news media across Europe tend to regard US elections as a comedy programme, endlessly replaying the most egregious flubs of the most dubious political characters as though they represented the quintessence of my native land.

Yet the US election still dominates the headlines here, either because people fondly remember the America that was or simply because US military and economic disasters cause trouble for everyone else. As the resident North American accent in the pub, I have to field a lot of questions about the latest election news. I disappoint people by telling them that not only am I not following the campaign trail, but I've also done everything I can do avoid it.

It's not that I don't care. It's that my vote takes a few days of research, not a year of hearing gossip. Before I mail the absentee ballot, I make a list of the issues I care about and compared them to candidates’ campaign contribution and voting records — not the coverage, the records themselves — calculate my choice and move on.

I want to see the United States restore its rail system, for example, so any candidate that made some meager noises in that direction gets some meager points on my list. Period. I don't care about their race, their reproductive plumbing, their flamboyant piety or from what wacky character they are six degrees removed. I don't care about the teacup scandals that crawl across the bottom-screen news feed or the hall-of-mirrors news coverage of the coverage of the coverage. I don't want to know.

The mainstream media tends to treat an election as the Super Bowl, a New Top Model, an American Idol, the Oscars or an apocalyptic smackdown. In reality, it simply should be a job interview, and you are the employer.

Forget this idea that your candidates represent two opposite ideologies. The two major parties represent slightly different alliances of investors, smashed together by the accidents of history. There is no other reason that evangelicals, for example, should be in the same camp with libertarians, or neoliberals with conservationists.

Finally, remember that change mostly happens between elections in a hundred thousand living rooms and library basements and county halls and percolates into the halls of power under sustained pressure.

No election let women vote, or created the civil rights movement, or laws to protect our air and water. These things happened because neighbors met, organized, protested, ran local candidates, went to prison — and moved and moved and moved until they were a movement. America, and countries in general, get better when people get it into their heads that they should be the ones running the country, and cajole and intimidate elites until the elites back down.

This Tuesday, pick the guy you think will back down first.

This piece was adapted from an Opinion piece I wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2008. I put in the blog two years ago, but thought it appropriate at the moment.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Hallow's Eve

We first arrived in Ireland a few days before Samhain -- Hallowe'en -- when The Girl was still a baby. I didn't realise then that this was the day for setting off fireworks here, like Independence Day in the USA, New Year's Eve in Germany or Guy Fawkes night in the UK.

Let me tell you, there's nothing a jet-lagged baby loves more than artillery outside the window.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Forest road

The Girl knows that, only a brief time ago - in the thousands of years -- the whole world looked like the Serengeti does today, with massive animals everywhere and ancient trees. She knows that a short time ago islands near us had Giant Swans, that my native Missouri had sloths the size of elephants, and that the islands here once saw the Great Auk and the Irish elk.

She knows that almost all the great animals are gone now, killed by humans. She knows the Oldest Story, Gilgamesh, begins with the felling of the great trees, and that's why Gilgamesh's land is now a desert. She knows that there are only a few fragments of this World Gone By still alive, places where the soil has not been harvested away and the landscape has not been scoured. She knows we have to protect them from our own kind. 

"But there are so few of them left," she said the other night, "What happens if they go too?"

It will be sad for us, because we won't get to see them anymore, I said. But it won't be the end for the Creation; it has been remade many times before. We are part of its story, not the other way around. Our job is to become the heroes of the story.

Monday 8 October 2012

Too Much Magic

Almost eight years ago I interviewed author James Howard Kunstler for a magazine cover story, and the publisher didn’t want to run it; I had just written my own cover story on the peak and decline of the world’s oil supply six months earlier, and they didn’t want to go over the same ground again. I fought for and won the cover story, though, for I wanted to publicise issues like peak oil, climate change and other crises, yet struggled to concisely express the way they could build upon one another to undermine the basic life-support systems of modern society.

And then I read Kunstler’s book, with its haunting title: The Long Emergency.  

At the time, issues like peak oil were mainly relegated to arcane web sites that also featured alien abductions and September 11 conspiracies. Climate change was slightly better-known but still marginal in the USA. The rare writers who discussed these issues treated them in isolation, without considering how multiple crises would hit an indebted and unhealthy society from many directions at once. Finally, everyone tended to think of the result as a sudden apocalypse, and not something long.

Kunstler brought these issues together, and as close to the mainstream as they have ever come; only his cumudgeonly wit and avuncular charm could bring them to late-night chat shows and national radio networks. The very phrase “long emergency” has become a handy expression in preparedness circles, like “black swan” or “perfect storm,” even by those who don't know its origin.

Of course, mainstream culture has never been very receptive to such messages; images of “the future” usually come with the same flying cars and domed cities that have remained ten or twenty years away since the 1800s. The myth of progress has been deeply imprinted on us, and colours our view of history, culture, evolution, and any number of other fields. Mainstream culture remains invested in the belief that we are getting better, faster, and stronger every day, and that this trend will be endless, beneficial and inevitable.

My friends who are Christian traditionalists, social progressives, or libertarian conservatives have their own variations on the theme, but none have abandoned it. Some imagine progress to be a 20,000 Dow, others gay marriage and still others quantum computers, but everyone wants us to move further forward, whichever direction they imagine that to be. Any course change is assumed to be derailing our social and technological evolution, a call to get “back on track” and continue the transformation we saw in the 20th century. The Long Emergency has something to displease everyone.

I found in Kunstler a kindred spirit, and reading his books as I rocked my baby daughter to sleep, I wondered how much of the Long Emergency we would see before she was grown. I wrote in one early article that I doubted she would be hunting elk through an abandoned city, or that she would be flying a jetpack to work, or any of the other science-fiction scenarios that form the pillars of our mental architecture. I leaned towards Kunstler’s vision of economic crashes, escalating weather crises, wildly unpredictable fuel prices, agricultural failures, riots and violent revolutions – and so far, he’s been on the money. 

It’s strange to realise how much of our recent social landscape – Hurricane Katrina, the actual oil production peak, the economic crash – were still in the future when he was writing. He even hit the jackpot with some of his wilder claims – a return of open-ocean piracy, for example, or World Made By Hand’s posited “Mexican flu.”

The worst that can be said for Too Much Magic, James Howard Kunstler’s long-awaited follow-up, is that it delivers a reshuffled anagram of everything he has said in numerous books, articles, blogs, speeches, podcasts and interviews. The unconverted probably will not read it, and it’s not the best starting point anyway.

Kunstler seems aware of this, so Too Much Magic is, if anything, an even grumpier jeremiad than his previous works, as though directed more to the choir. He waxes thoughtful about the deeper cultural sickness evident in ghetto fashions and Disneyland’s landscape. He enjoys flaying his longtime nemeses – Ray Kurzweil and Amory Lovins – and takes special aim at utopian futures, the "magic" of the title.

He brings his usual adjectival pile-ups, like “hyper-patriotic pugnacious militarism.” He delivers his trademark bon mots, as when referring to Ronald Reagan’s “aw-shucks boobery,” or the belief that “the planet is a bonbon with a creamy nougat centre.” The chapter pages reveal his own interests, for he devotes far more pages to the shenanigans of stock market brokers as he does to the potentially greater disasters from climate change. Like so many others, he can be too eagerly dire at times, implying years for social changes that would probably take decades.

Such criticisms, of course, come from one who has followed his work for eight years; someone coming to these issues for the first time would probably see it very differently. My interview with Kunstler eight years ago baffled some readers, who felt indignant at even the notion of returning to a more baseline society. The few people who responded favourably tended to treat Kunstler as an apocalypse nut, associating him with 2012-style New Age prophecies.

Kunstler was and remains a prophet, but not in the modern sense of a guru with mystical visions. Old Testament prophets were the doomers of their day, warning of disaster if – there was always a conditional – the people did not mend their ways. They were not popular with the king’s yes-men, the mainstream media of the time; Ahab said of Micaiah, for example, that “I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favourable about me, but only disaster.”  Someone had to have listened, though, for Jeremiah’s words have spread through the world, and Ahab’s yes-men have been forgotten. 

Saturday 22 September 2012


Some families split over political parties or religious faith. Mine split over beets. Some relations insisted on having bowls of boiled beetroot at every major meal, while the beet-haters complained all the while. I joined the anti-beetroot faction in childhood after finding them bland and mealy, until in adulthood I discovered the many other things you could do with the vegetable.

Beets – or beetroots as they call them here – does very well in most temperate climates, growing large over the summer and often remaining intact and quite edible even through the winter. Every part of it is edible -- leaves, stalks and roots -- and it comes in many varieties beyond the familiar red: yellow, pink, even striped.  It makes good animal feed, sugar, wine, and a variety of dishes, including:

Savoury beetroot salad: In a large salad bowl, mix 20 ml of sesame oil and 20 ml of lemon juice, and add dashes of powdered ginger, cayenne pepper and light soy sauce. Chop up a fistful of chives, although scallions would also do – about 50g. Clean and grate a few medium-sized beetroots (500g) and add 100g of diced feta cheese. Mix the beetroot and cheese well and toss them with the sauce.

Beetroot leaves: Drizzle a bit of oil into a pan over medium heat, throw in a pat of butter and let it melt. Dice a large onion and stir it in. While the onion is sautéing, wash the leaves and chop them. 

When the onion pieces have turned golden brown, put the chopped leaves in the pan, pour in a cup of vegetable stock, and place a lid over the pan. Let it sautee for about five minutes or so and then check to see if it’s done. Add a sprinkling of lemon juice and a dash of paprika, or experiment with the spices you like. You could serve the leaves like spinach, as a side dish, or use it to fill a crepe or an omelette, or mix it with scrambled eggs.

Borscht: In this vegetarian version, first heat the oven to 250 degrees Centigrade. First peel about 500g of beetroots, slice them into cubes, drizzle a little olive oil over the cubes and toss them around until they are lightly coated in oil. Stretch aluminium foil over an oven tray, spread the cubed beetroot over the tray and put it in the oven for an hour.

While that is roasting, take a large pot and drizzle the bottom with oil and butter. Dice two large onions, put them in the pan and stir them around, and then do the same with about 100g of cabbage, three stalks of celery, two large carrots, and – just before the end – some garlic. Let them sautee until they are soft and lightly golden. Then pour in a litre of vegetable stock and add 10 ml of lemon juice, 10 ml of dark soy sauce and stir in. Finally, take the beetroots out of the oven and add them to the pot. 

I blitzed the soup with a mixer, but if you don’t have one you can just mash up the chunky bits. Then pour the borscht into bowls and put a dollop of sour cream in the middle, and sprinkle a bit of dill and chervil over the top.

There are all kinds of other possibilities. Try making beetroot chips instead of potato chips. Slice them thinly with a mandolin, cover them in oil, and set them on an oven pan until they become crisp, and then sprinkle them with seasoning and salt to make beetroot crisps.

You can make pink mashers by mixing beetroot mash with potatoes. You can cut your beetroots into cubes, put them around a chicken in a pan, and roast them in the oven. You can dry them in a dehydrator or solar oven, and keep in jars on the shelf until you need to make soup. Come up with your own possibilities and share them; beetroot makes a great crop for winter nights, and we should start using it to make things most people actually like.

Photo courtesy of Wikicommons,