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Saturday 17 December 2022

A Million Views

 Just a quick post to thank every single person who has dropped by over the years. This week we hit a million views, and for a wee blog like this I feel thats a good achievement. However it could not have been done without each and every one of you, so to everyone who had ever visited, thankyou and we salute you. 

Sunday 4 December 2022

Making Artists charcoal

 Most artists know that the best drawing charcoal is made from willow, so having a few artists in the buzzard family we decided to make some for them.

First thing we did was cut and debark the willow 

We then found a suitable size tin and cut the willow to size to take up as much room as possible inside

The thickness of the willow is also imperative, it needs to be the right diameter to make the correct size of charcoal

Tin filled as much as possible then the lid with a small hole punctured in the top to allow moisture and gases to escape. Once that's done it's placed in the campfire.

The charcoal formed nicely with only one issue, it curved badly. This I believe was due to the fact that we didn't rotate the tin in the fire and one side heated faster and longer thus causing the curvature. Still, the charcoal worked brilliantly and little pieces put into elder twigs make great pencils. The artists were very happy.

Thursday 24 November 2022

Traditional ink from natural substances

 To go along with the quills and Reed pens that we made recently we've also been trying out various traditional recipes for natural ink, or rather ink that can be made from nature. Some of these recipes are from the middle ages, some are more recent but as the experiments continue it'll be interesting to see how they develop.

We will keep you updated as we progress with our project. 

Saturday 5 November 2022

How to make a feather writing quill

 These writing quills have been used for centuries and they're not too difficult to make. Gather a few different size diameter quills, in this instance we used goose quills.

Strip them of their vanes

At this stage they are too soft to write with so they'll need to be tempered in hot sand

Keep them on a low heat for just a few minutes, you'll know when they're ready as they turn hard and slightly translucent, a bit like a finger nail.

Once you have them at the correct temper carve them into the shape you prefer for writing, this is a very personal thing and you might need to experiment to get the right nib shape for you. Luckily you can re-carve the quill quite a few times before you need to make a new one. 

Flatbow fun in the Forest

 I haven't had my American longbow/flatbow out in a while so I recently decided to let fly a few feathers and see how my form was.

20 yards and for a first round it's ok, though definitely not where I want to put my arrows

50 or so arrows later and the groups are a little tighter. One or two arrows seem to be renegades so I'll drop them, 2 or 3 others fly like a lazer.

And another dozen or so and the groups are getting nice and tight. This is what I want shooting instinctive barebow at 20 yards

There's no alternative to practice and I really need to do it more, there is something beautiful about the flight of an arrow.  


Wednesday 31 August 2022

Linden chocolate - does it work?

 So I've been hearing about this for a long time and usually I dismiss it as fantasy, but that's silly of me without the experience of having tried it, so here it goes..

200g of linden seeds, green and straight from the tree. Destalked and roasted for 40 mins until golden brown, no smell at this stage and having crunched one no noticible taste either..

Finely ground up to as fine a consistency as we could get, still no noticeable scent at this stage and certainly no chocolate flavour , then the experimentation began! Various quantities of oil, coconut oil, sugar, honey, and anything else we're added to the roasted powder all to no avail...

The closest we got was simply sunflower oil and powdered sugar which ended up giving a taste somewhat like well done sweet popcorn but definitely nothing at all like chocolate! I should have went with my first gut instinct! 


Sunday 14 August 2022

Cowberry (lingonberry)

 Not a particularly common edible found in Northern Ireland, as a matter of fact I've only found it once before, but this time while buzzard was away on a fishing expedition I came across quite a few of these tasty berries.

I'm sure we've all seen these berries associated with scandinavian countries but they are to be found in Ireland if you know where to look. 

They go by many different names but over here wild cranberry is probably the most common term used. They are sharp and tart tasting, absolutely delicious and if you gether enough make a delicious pudding or jam.

The folklore behind them is that long ago foxes used to have silver fur, but in times of starvation they would resort to eating these berries turning their fur red!

Pick the berries and enjoy, but be careful of the leaves, they are poisonous. 

Friday 1 July 2022

Chicory - chicorium intybus

 Really quite a rare find in ulster these days, this beautiful sky blue plant often comes up along disturbed ground or road side verges. Although usually growing to about 5 ft tall this particular plant was closer to 10ft!! 

The whole plant is edible even though it's incredibly bitter, however this makes it useful as a tea for digestive problems and to quell stomach issues.

Speaking of drinks, one of the most common uses of the plant is as a coffee substitute made from the roasted and ground root, it tastes appalling !!

The beautiful flower was said in lore to have been originally white, but a knight going off to the crusades reached up to the sky and took a piece of it and upon touching the flower it turned blue, he gave it to his true love saying whenever she saw the flower or the sky she was to remember him. He never came home and his love died from a broken heart, and the plant which was once sweet to the taste turned bitter thereafter.

Monday 23 May 2022

Crimson Clover - trifolium incarnatum

 This incredibly vivid member of the clover family was seen growing near a road beside the hills on Belfast. What a distinctive and pretty flower it is, along with the regular members of the clover family we find here it also is edible, shoots, leaves and flowers and the seeds can be ground into flour. It's almost too pretty to eat.

It is said that this plant got its striking colour when the Roman soldier who pierced  Christ's side withdrew his spear and a drop of the saviours blood fell upon a white clover flower staining it blood red.

Tuesday 12 April 2022

Oncorhynchus mykiss (blue) the Blue Trout

 I've caught many rainbows in my time but last weekend I caught a rare genetic mutation of a rainbow trout, a Blue trout. Its said that for every 3 million trout eggs that hatch only 30 of them will be blues. The photos don't do it justice but it had the most vivid Blue back I have even seen and it's sides where the silveriest silver I've ever seen ! There was virtually no pink on it at all.


As I said the pics don't show it very well but the top is the blue the bottom one is a regular rainbow

Again it's hard to make out the colouration but if you zoom in around the eyes and head the blue is very noticible. This fish fought better than any rainbow I've caught before and was an aerial ballerina, incredibly impressed with its colouration and fighting capabilities, I hope I am lucky enough to catch another !

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Hoary plantain

 Of the six types of plantain found in the UK this is the last of the land grown varieties, hoary plantain.

Easily recognised due to its downy leaves its usually found on limestone and chalky areas.

Its edible and has been used as a food source in Britain since early roman times 

It's also a medicinal in the same way the other plantains are but rarely used due to its relative scarcity in ulster. 

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Stagshorn plantain , plantago coronopus

 A lot of people are familiar with the 'regular' plantains we often find, that is ribwort plantain and broadleaf plantain, but a lot of people aren't so familiar with the other species of plantain that can be found in the UK, and this is one of them. Stagshorn or bucks-horn plantain, so called because its leaves look a little like deer antlers, tends to be a coastal plant though it can grow inland when roads or path ways are regularly salted.

Though not as medicinal as the aforementioned plantains, this one is slightly more palatable. Books say it tastes like parsley which I dont find at all,  I find it slightly bitter and salty though not as bitter as ribwort, it has a succulent texture and isn't the worst wild edible I've tried and I suppose would be fine mixed with other salad plants rather than just on its own. It has been used as a salad leaf and there are now commercially grown varieties used for salads. I haven't tried any of these commercial varieties but there must be some demand for them if they are now farmed for food. 

Tuesday 18 January 2022

The search for samphire

 Although not the time of year to forage for this tasty coastal delicacy we needed to find an area that supports an abundant amount. However the areas in which this salty sea vegetable grows are salt marsh and mud flat and are quite rare around the northern Irish coast. However after some research and a day of travelling we did find what we were after. Dead and dried plants were easily identifiable from last years crop and the young shoots were showing ready to be harvested later in the year. Its quite difficult to identify simply from its dried remains but not if you know what to look for !