We hadn't intended to do much today so we just went for a little wander. I was thirsty first thing and decided to have some of my elderflower cordial, so I opened a bottle and it sprayed everywhere, seems I had inadvertantly made elderflower champagne, there must have been a lot of natural yeast on the plant when I picked them..
The place we went to was full of cherry trees and they had lots of fruit on them
But they were still green, so we'll be back in a fortnight with the picking stick!!
It has been raining a lot lately and the ground is very wet so we elevated the fire base and used our favourite birch bark
We lit the fire with a slow match of pure cotton cord soaked in a saltpeter solution
Davy cooked up some of his delicious stew
And the best part of the day, as we were going home we found a wild blackcurrant bush, not a great lot of fruit on it be we did manage about a pound, soon be jam making time!!
Making the bush candles a while back got me thinking about other forms of lighting used by our forefathers and of course the obvious rush lights spring to mind so I had a go making a few
I cut some rushes and peeled them leaving only about 1/6th of the skin for strength, then dipped some in melted candlewax and some in beef dripping
Both worked very well, the beef dripping one giving off a little more smoke and the candlewax one made the rushes very brittle and easily broke when it hardened, still it worked well although burn time was less than 7 minutes, the beef one is shown above.
We went for a little mooch to the shore again today.The weather was looking promising but as the day wore on we started to get a little rain, none the less we were looking for other plants that maybe we hadn't noticed during our spring forage and found a few..
Red Valerian, unbelievably common at the moment, it's all over the roadsides and down to the foreshore, the young leaves are edible but I wasn't that keen on there bitterish taste.
Sea Beet, I quite liked this one, quite a green flavour straight off the plant but does taste spinachy when cooked with a little butter
Sea Radish, this is edible but I can't comment as I didn't try any of it, I'll keep that for another post
Chamomile, we brought back some of this to dry and make tea from as that's how it has been used for centuries, so I'll update once it's been dried, made and supped!!
Spear leaved orache, this doesn't taste great when eaten raw and I didn't bring any home as I've eaten it before, it's a little cabbagey,kaley,spinachy in taste very high in vitamin C and was used a vegetable in the past, and a nice find for us.
The terns were also diving for fry all around us and performing incredible acrobatics in the air and just before they hit the water, fantastic to watch they are one of my favourite sea birds but as you can imagine rather difficult to photograph because of their speed
June always says elderflower to me and it's become a bit of a tradition to gather elderflowers at this time of year to make cordial that we can use as a pleasant beverage over the summer months. It's a very simple process
Basic ingredients, citrus fruits of your choice, sugar and of course Eldeflowers
Mix all the ingredients in a stock pot with 3 litres of boiling water and leave to infuse
and the finished result, ready to be diluted to make one of the most delicious drinks there is and infinitely better than shop bought varieties.
After a recent overnighter we got to discussing various "natural candles" that could be utilised for light, now the obvious birch bark ones and pine/spruce resin jobbies aside we figured the next best thing would be a cattail, so..
we took 5 specimens of lesser reedmace (couldn't find any greater reedmace/cattail near here)
and liberally coated 4 of them with combustible substances and one was left out as the control
We used, bacon fat, meths, goose grease and beef dripping, then lit them and watched what would happen.
The meths burnt very quickly and with little light, the bacon fat was ok, but kept going out every 5 minutes or so, the control just hardly worked, so the test was between the goose grease and the beef dripping, goose grease in the pic above.
But by far and away the best was the beef dripping. The fat was melted and the bulrush held near the fire to heat it then dipped in the fat, allowed to cool slightly then lit, burned very steadily and with a decent flame and was even hard to blow out! Burn time on this small bulrush was about 30 mins..
So many people sing the praises of Bannock and while it's a handy little bread to make I find sourdough has a very distinct flavour and a great tradition amongst pioneers that gives it a great appeal. I can make it very successfully at home but have never tried to out in the field so that is a challenge for sometime soon. In the mean time here's a simple way to make it..
First thing you need is a starter, add some flour and warm water to a container then feed it with the same ingredients for 4 days, after which the natural yeast in the air will start causing it too rise, this is one of the reasons sourdough is prized because it tastes different from different places in the world because of the different natural yeasts found there.
Next you make your sponge, add the starter to a bowl with two cups of flour and 2 cups of warm water, leave for a few hours for the starter to work it's magic
Once the sponge is frothy and smelling like beer I transfer it to another bowl that has enough flour in it to make a dough, you can also add a little sugar, salt and oil, but I prefer to leave it "pioneer plain"..Leave for 6 hours to rise, knead it then leave it again, put it in a bread tin and in the oven for about 45mins at 180 degrees
Remove from the bread tin and allow to cool. This bread forms a very hard crust and is lovely with a sour after tang.
Forms quite a dense bread that is great with Chilli or stew and is very filling, a great source of carbs if you need them. Move over bannock, you have some competition!
I had a little walk around my neck of the woods today to see what was about. Just out for a bimble although I did have it in mind to cut some hazel sticks if I came across any nice ones..
Carex pendula, a usefull to know sedge as it can be eaten.
There is a little swampy bit where an underground spring comes up and there were plenty of Yellow Iris in bloom, they are a lovely sight! In Irish mythology yellow iris is a symbol of beauty.
Lots and lots of woodruff, this was usually spread on the floor or in between the linen to give a pleasant aroma. The leaves were dried and used in a tea to be used against colds and fevers in the Scottish highlands.
Lots and lots of Lady's mantle. Large drops of dew can collect in the base of the leaves and this was supposed to have magical properties in warding off the evil eye. The name also suggests another use, in medieval times it was used as a cure for certain ladies problems!!
I could feel myself being watched the whole way up and back down the hill, and the little people that do this have a tendency to fade away back into the foliage without being seen, although if you do find them peeking at you from behind a tree they often have the ability to instantly take on the form of something more common, but they don't fool me!