There is something about shopping in the wild for food. Eating for free, my father used to call it. From a young age he taught me how to survive on food from the hedgerows. I often wonder if what I ate was meant to be eaten! But here I am to tell the tale.
Quite often we would sit by a fire outdoors, upon which a saucepan sat with something or another boiling away, usually nettles or rosehips. This was often followed by a bowlful of blackberries and the leaves (quite edible) or gorse flowers, red clover flowers and sticky grass. Sometimes we'de boil up cleavers, goose grass (galium aparine) which were also quite appetising.
My father would catch a fish or collect cockles, prawns and shrimps and we would have a feast, all for free, and cooked in the fresh air.
Looking back on those carefree days of eating for free whist my head was permanently in a book full of adventure, there is no wonder I turned out a free spirit. I can hardly resist anything growing wild that is edible and a stories full of mystery! But one should invest in a good reference book if you’re not sure of what it is that you can eat. Take for example mushrooms. These can vary enormously, from toadstools to the delicious girolles (yellow-orange mushrooms) so be careful what you eat.
During the summer months, my father would make a salad of hawthorn leaves, hedge sorrel and hedge mustard, sprinkled with the gorse flowers and marigolds. I can’t say that I liked everything he gave me, and sometimes I would fill my pockets with leaves I couldn’t eat, not to disappoint him. He made such an effort to teach me how to survive in the world.
And so it is, that I am happiest roaming through woods or along the beach near our home for waifs and strays.
Although I enjoy living by the sea, I am happiest when wondering through the woods around our home for waifs and strays. Just closing my eyes and thinking about trees can bring my blood pressure down to below normal. I can see the roots, anchored to the ground and the tree stretching upwards as if holding up the sky. Everything connected! And I am always amazed that some have the strength to live for thousands of years. Incredible! I cannot help but feel emotional as I walk through the oak woods of Wales. This brings to mind the words of William Blake....
"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and
deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself."
- William Blake, 1799, The Letters
If you look at the picture, you will see the trees I stumbled upon after a storm. The earth had been washed away, leaving the knotted and twisted roots exposed. But still determined to survive! And they will, for a long time to come!
‘God is a fine artist,’ my father once told me. I was always thought that this was a strange thing for an atheist to say. But, I never said anything, of course, for I knew that deep down, his love and respect for all animals and nature was God enough for him.
All kinds of birds fly through the great oaks of Wales. But for me, I love to hear the owl at nightfall, when the torch is out and we sit beside a campfire and smell the damp air in silence.
In West Africa, the Oubangui people plant a tree each time a child is born. As the tree grows, so does the child but they believe that same child’s health will be at risk if the tree ceases to thrive. From time to time, gifts are left by the tree and when the child becomes adult and dies, the Oubangui people believe that their spirit lives on in the tree.
I think, just like the Oubangui people think, that I too would not thrive without trees....nobody would!
Just like the tale of A Chicken called Sandwich over on my ‘small page’, we once had a sheep called Sandwich.
I found Sandwich (named because there was more meat in a sandwich than on the poor lamb) in a field, close to death. It was obvious that he couldn’t walk though he did try to stand. I went to tell the farmer, but was told he had died that morning. The family informed me that they would see to the lamb straight away. I trusted this would happen, but a gut feeling told me to check on this the following day. Sandwich was still there and still suffering.
So I went to the farm again and told them about the lamb.
‘I will take the lamb myself if that would help you!’ I said to the obviously grieving family.
‘Take it!’ was the reply and so that’s exactly what I did.
Without even consulting my kind and unassuming husband, I carefully laid the tiny lamb on the front seat of my car and drove home. I didn’t stop to consider what I would do with it, apart from taking it to the vets for a check up.
Back at our home for waifs and strays, we were greeted by three fat cats and a curious husband.
‘I have something on my front seat that is very precious,’ I said seriously, ‘and there was nothing I could do but to bring it home.’
My kind and unassuming husband opened the door and stared at the little lamb sleeping contentedly on my coat. He picked him up gently and without questions, carried him into the house.
‘We have to take him to the vet,’ I said, so I went inside and called him.
With the help and advice from the vet on the phone, Sandwich soon had a bottle of proper lamb’s milk and a lot of love. He looked at us and bleated whilst his woolly tail wagged. He couldn’t walk but I took it that he was feeling a lot better.
But later that day the vet x-rayed poor Sandwich and we learnt that his back was broken, probably hit by a car. We decided to let Sandwich stay in this world until the following morning, with the help of pain relief, so that he would know what love and kindness was before being put to sleep.
Although Sandwich lived such a short while, even the daffodils lived longer, he died peacefully, knowing someone cared.
This is a blog I discovered from last year and made me smile as I went to harvest more crops earlier today. Despite everything, I hope our little visitor returns this winter!
I was surprised to see that almost all the vegetables we grew last year had been eaten up by myself, my kind and unassuming husband and some nameless little creature. This wasn’t particularly strange, but it was rather odd that the dark store shed was littered with bits of straw from the boxes.
It isn’t easy growing lots of vegetables, enough to store through the winter, but it is so rewarding. We often leave the carrots and swedes in the ground, protected by a layer of straw. And I love the smell of the sleeping apples and drooling onions in the shed. There is such an earthiness about the whole thing. However, I do moan about it at times.
I recently asked my kind and unassuming husband what he would like for lunch and he frowned before disappearing down the garden path. How odd, I thought, but he soon returned, with a handful of vegetables, looking and smelling as fresh as when we picked them months ago. He said he would like nothing better than homemade soup and some seeded bread, also homemade. So I set about cooking. There weren’t enough onions, so I strolled over to the store shed, which was just as well!
How on earth he managed to stay all this time without being traced, I will never know. But a rather full hedgehog slept peacefully on a small pile of hay in a corner. I will keep a careful eye on him!
Thank heavens our garden for waifs and strays has many safe houses for the amount of visitors that arrive, often un-noticed. But I do wish they would tidy up after themselves!
The soup and the bread were delicious! Just as well I made enough for an army, as we had more visitors (the two legged kind) and a wonderful afternoon followed.
DIGGING by Edward Thomas,
To-day I think
Only with scents, - scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot's seed,
And the square mustard field;
Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the root of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;
The smoke's smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.
It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth."
For those of my readers who have never been to Wales, where I live with my kind and unassuming husband, let me tell you a little secret, it is outstandingly beautiful but extremely WET!
There are all forms of rain in Wales! Fat rain (big wet blobs), lazy rain (rain that would rather go through you than around you), drizzle, pelting, misty, graupel (German name)a soft hail or snow pellets, and snow of course. All this rain is the reason we have such a lush green country.
I guess the shape of our landscape with mountains and long stretches of coastline can cause the weather to change dramatically one hour to the next. We are also close to the Atlantic ocean and the Irish sea.
But we also have stunning sunsets and sunny days to crawl into and savour. Take today for example, it began with rain, ordinary straight rain which was warm, nevertheless. Then sunshine by lunchtime and a mixture at the time of writing, but as usual, the golden hour is upon us and the colour is magical. I wouldn’t swap Wales for anywhere else on earth!
However, I would like to add that it is a struggle in our allotment garden where the corn on the cobs are over a metre tall and were forced to the ground by the fat rain and a wicked wind yesterday. My kind and unassuming husband and I struggled for an hour to tether each plant to a pole (broken branches) so that they could all have a chance of survival. I have to say that they are all looking good today. Well done Mr Kind and Unassuming Husband!