‘Gather some washed up cuttlefish bone the next time you hit the coast. Grind out the bone – it becomes powder – with a cut-throat razor. Forage some wild fennel seeds, and crush them using a mortar and pestle. Mix both together and you’ve got yourself a toothpaste that keeps your teeth clean, your breath fresh and your planet unpolluted.’
I did this…it was OK. I wasn’t sure I could convince my kids or partner to try it. I have grown soapwort( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jul/12/moneyless-man-soap-free-hygiene).too in an attempt to prepare myself to experiment with being moneyless and living with the earth…that’s what we’re here for huh?
And then, like something stuck in your teeth…it comes back, after a time of dormancy when life is tiring and complicated enough to worry over perceived small detail, that over-whelming feeling that can carve every corner of my path, to walk again more gently and take care of this earth…how can I take the right to have clean teeth in exchange for a dirty earth? It seems ludicrous, and it is!
You know how it is…things piece together, threads, tendrils, weave together, when you go in the Right direction for You. Resonating in my head is the pledge of Embercombe which I heard again at the winter solstice at Embercombe, sitting next to Mac, around the hearth of the fire. Pledging to not act in a way to harm this generation or 7 generations to come. And then the ‘wetheuncivilised’ film. Finally a friend, making small changes, but many of them and with pure integrity, to live without harm to our environment…and our souls. She is making a huge change, an inconvenient one and she (Mina) inspires me. So I have now converted to bamboo toothbrushes , and I will go collect more cuttlefish…just for me.
I always feel I have to write an amazing blog after a period of rest, but those are my expectations…so here is an average catch up.
Yesterday welcomed me after Imbolc into the awakening of the plants and abundance once again on our hedges at this time of year. Letting that feeling of urgency pass, that I must do so many things, and instead walking and breathing in the sunlight, taking the opportunity to slot in a ‘lesson’ on wild plants with my kids on the way. I repeatedly went over the dangers of getting sorrel and lords and ladies mixed up by showing them texture, shape, where it grew and how….. and pointing out the secret tell tale of the line that travels the outer edge of lords and ladies (Arum maculatum) of which the berries are poisonous, but the root a useful source of starch, although highly toxic if prepared incorrectly. We ate hedgerow pesto this evening from three-cornered garlic and sorrel (plus almond butter left over in the fridge, organic cashew nuts, lemons from the greenhouse, roasted squash from last years harvest and olives)…my boys ate it!!
Another great thing about now is hedge salad. I have been buying salad bags, and feeling a little nudge to my conscience each time….so, here is to more goodness, better connection and smiles whilst I pick and eat my wild salad bags from the land at WildGuernsey (alexander, cleavers, sea beet, rock samphire, nasturtium, rocket, fennel..oh and penny wort picked from the van window as we went don the track home).
We are preparing for another season of glamping and growing. Newly mulched no-dig beds for a new crop in October to harvest and sell with our seaweed condiment, and gathering bedding for guests who glamp on the land in our canvas tents (searching charity shops for bedding and beautiful bed blankets, preferring well loved ones rather than buying new…Oh the dilemma of ethical decisions on bedding!!!!). I just hope that guests excuse, or find it endearing that they may get a surprise floral hand embroidered pillow case, or old woolen blanket. The growing beds have seen loving effort from volunteers, both coming to stay from off Island to help tend to the land, and locals who took part in our community growing project. Now they take on fresh paths and directions. As we do at WildGuernsey with promises of fresh workshops, crafts to share around a fire, family stays with workshops and getting our feet wet with seeking more seaweeds.
Eating wild food doesn’t mean hours collecting, preparing and cooking for one meal. Wild Hedge veg and store cupboard condiments can help. I pulled over on the coast road the other day, late so a bit rushed and after buying hedge veg (vegetables sold in boxes on the side of the road) I needed something green and tasty to go with my veg for a soup we were to cook together with other families that morning. With one leg dangling over, a hand gripping a tuft of grass I picked the best leaves of a sea beet plant, leaving plenty for the plant. Then in this moment , I smiled because if I hadn’t stopped, I wouldn’t have felt the breeze, sun on my face, heard the herring gulls, sensed the soft forgiving grass under my knee, heard the crunch of the leaves. Back in the car again and a bit further on, I paused, hung out the door and grabbed a handful of three-cornered garlic, saying to my children that this is better than going to the shops. My son agreed and said that there is no cues, bustle of people, packaging! If we are lucky enough to live by something green and natural then there is something there to know and eat.
I have two young children and time is short sometimes so we gather wild food and sea vegetables, dry them and they are ready to use out of the store cupboard (we sell them too).
‘They who a great good thing would know, must first to the wild places go and if they eat of the wild food there a Revelation will occur, of the part that Nature asks people to play so that All can live happily forever and a day’.
This weekend we introduced a group of people here with Visit Guernsey to see what Guernsey has to offer others for our Heritage festival and Food festival (https://twitter.com/GuernseyFood/with_replies). The journalists sampled our condiments on roasted squash seeds, naked crisps with our Alexander black pepper, cheese straws with seaweed, and freshly cooked greens cooked on the beach. We spoke about connection with our food, our environment, our Island.
D’Arcy spent time with Neil Sowerby and here’s his article……
‘D’ARCY Brimson flickers a fire into life with a flint. We’re out on the rocks below Guernsey’s Fort Grey Shipwreck Museum on Roquaine Bay. All around is seaweed that forager D’Arcy and his partner Tara put to any number of culinary uses but our immediate aim is to boil up some rock samphire, drain and serve with a pat of that deep yellow butter that sings of the dairy riches of this beautiful Channel Island.
Food For Free was Richard Mabey’s groundbreaking 1972 book and it’s still the forager’s bible. Walking the couple’s organic farm we pluck yarrow and pennyroyal, wild fennel and plantain. Take yarrow. When young sons Hugo and Humphrey sting themselves on nettles (edible, too) they rub on yarrow – better than dock leaves. Ancient Greek hero Achilles used it to staunch the wounds of his troops.
There’s such lore aplenty if you book in for a course with the Brimsons’ Wild Guernsey project with ‘wild camping’ available on the farm in the summer months. You could get a taster at the first Guernsey International Food Festival, which runs from September 18-27. Among Wild Guernsey’s special offers is a ‘Fire and forage workshop’ for £20 for two hours per person (making a fire, finding wild food and sampling wild treats).’
Photo – Rosa rugosa, nettle, mint and lemon balm tea. You’ll see Rosa rugosa, or ramanas rose, growing all over the place. Used as hedging and with fruits that ripen late summer. I’ve found a flower bud here in my (budding!) Forest garden, soon to be Permablitz (An informal gathering involving a day on which a group of at least two people come together to create or add to edible gardens, share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living, build community and have fun) by our local permaculture group along with an intro into Forest Gardening (join the facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/groups/213117398867819/ if you are interested in Permculture in the Channel islands).
We started a ‘Growing Community’ group here at WildGuernsey where we’d meet around the wheel of the year and cycle of the sun (Solstice, Imbolc etc.), make no-dig beds, tend to seedlings, eat together, chat over weeds, grow food if we were lucky! After observing this group and interacting, I realised that it is not the growing of food that was binding us or needed most. It was pure people care of creating community, like-minded people to share time, ideas, skills. Leaving the glue of growing aside, I spoke to Stuart Ogier (Guernsey Permaculture Association on facebook) about getting a gathering together, feeling that there was a leak of energy happening in Guernsey and I personally felt more connections were needed to be able to design, or begin to, a self-sustaining system. Stuart had had similar thoughts about a gathering and already had put lots of effort in to get Permaculture understood, along with others that had already included Permaculture into their designs and lives. An amazing amount of knowledge and experience is here in Guernsey. ‘Permaculture provides a set of ethics at its core, principles to guide us, techniques that assist us, methodical steps in a design process to achieve our goals, and a call for action’ (words taken from Looby Macmanara in her book People and Permaculture).
After the 1st gathering at WildGuernsey, Simon and Lucy Harvey hosted the 2nd at their inspiring enchanting home. The day started with a ‘real’ needs and yields of our group, resulting in a rich collection of connections and ideas to take on to our next meet up, to start meeting them and building on our skills. Last time we used a ‘web of life’ to see and feel the strength gained from hypothetically meeting the needs of each other within our newly formed community. Then followed cooking up lunch with vegetables brought by folk, drumming, sauerkraut making and scything workshop. A communal lunch, music and cob oven workshop, weaving and a jamming session (music not preserves). Also a swapbox where I gained blackberries for an onion and herbs.
My reflections and conversations included dehydrators, using natural soaps (soapwort plant), gifting things on, using japenese knotweed to eat in a syrup and horsetail as pan scourers – seeing a weed as a need and resource, drumming
really is a meditative thing to do, beautiful music lifted me and wiggled my hips, communal eating feels good, fire centres us, my head is spinning with ideas and so many connections that I can’t keep up with them and hope that they store in my head and heart somewhere until I get time to catch up with them.
Discovering in the Forest Garden, untouched and slowly maturing, waiting for a little nurturing: ground cover of wild strawberries, sea kale, fennel, bramble and Rosa rugosa/Ramanas rose.
Exploring the field, once over ploughed and now supporting a diversity of plant and insect species.
Whilst D’Arcy foraged with guests staying on the land and I cleaned up after baking cheese straws with seaweed for the workshop, I finally found time to finish the details to sell our boat with Apollo duck (http://www.apolloduck.co.uk/feature.phtml?id=433954). She grabbed a persons attention last weekend when, after a meal at Beaucette Marina restaurant, he called to view her which started off the process of selling her on and looking on to her new adventures without us!
‘Well, we believe that the real measure of modern success is nothing to do with your bank balance or the size of your house, but instead, the amount of free time you have at your disposal. We think disposable time, as a resource to strive for and spend, counts for much more than disposable income.
You see, time is much more valuable than anything else, be it natural resources such as gold or diamonds, or a man-made commodity such as money. Time is the currency of life itself.
Time is also a great leveller that, unlike other commodities, brings a certain equality. Because regardless of who you are, time and tide stand still for no man, woman, or child.’
Words that reach deep inside to the depths of my gut. I wanted to share them in case, like us, this is what you strive for too. The article was passed on to me from a friend
Read Tim Meeks thoughts here where he takes to life in a caravan to gain back time http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32974131
A friend made a similar pesto, took it to work and her colleagues joked that it was ‘pissto’. The play on words referring to the addition of dog wee, often sprayed on wild food below the safe collecting zone! No hidden ingredients in this delicious hedge pesto we had for lunch. In fact as I write, my son (aged 18mths) has climbed up and has his finger in the very same pesto photographed. Goes down well with 4 year old and oldies. This time a blitzed three-cornered garlic, chickweed and sorrel from the hedge, rocket and coriander, along with sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, raw hard cheese, olive oil and 2 lemons (ours are sweet so some rind too), a sprinkle of seaweed condiment (A WildGuernsey product) and salt.