Tag Archives: fertiliser

Butterflies and Nettle Soup

I’ve just been having a look through some old photos. It’s amazing how many I have kept over the years, though they are a  random, unsorted and generally useless bunch of images.

The one I used as a “featured image” is one of my favourites. When you consider how early a crocus blooms, it’s unusual to photograph a butterfly on one.  Strangely, it was very active, despite the time of year, and flew off after I’d managed to get just two shots. That is typical butterfly behaviour.

MY relationship with butterflies started when I was very young – it was the summer before my sister was born, which would make me just over two years old. In those days they were as big as my hand. Like so many other things, they became less impressive as I grew older. About eight years later, I became interested in them again, learnt more about them and pursued them with a net. It was not my finest hour but times were different then. After that, I didn’t pay them more than a passing interest until we started the Quercus project on the farm. Butterflies are easier to observe and photograph when you have a group of people behind you.

Nettle soup, as you may guess from the title, is also one of my favourites. I haven’t made it for a few years but, having cleared the back fence, I now have  a thriving nettle bed. This promises a good harvest, and a good food source for butterflies. I will have to manage it properly, as we don’t want masses of nettles when we com to sell the house, but I’m looking forward to several years of butterflies and nettle soup. Red admiral, peacock, small tortoiseshell and comma caterpillars all eat nettles. I’ve never seen a comma in the garden, but I have seen the other three so we could be on for a good year.

Nettle Soup

Nettle Soup is also, sometimes misleadingly, the name given to the solution that develops if you steep nettles in water .It’s also known as nettle tea. You can also put nettles in a cup, pour boiling water on them and drink them like a tea.

There are many recipes on the internet for nettle soup (some more complicated than others) and nearly as many for the fertiliser.  have a poke round and see what you can find. Fertiliser is easy – let nettles rot in water. Compost the nettles and dilute the resulting liquid a the rate of about 10:1 to water on a s a plant food. Warning: it may be a bit smelly. I’ve never been bothered by it but some people do bang on about it in their recipes.

My personal favourite recipe for the green (edible) soup is very simple – just onions, nettles, stock and a blender, as I recall – no potatoes, no rice. And definitely no carrot, celery or cream. One recipe even tells you that you can often find bunches of nettles on Farmers’ Markets in spring.

Buy nettles? Words fail me…


Entering the modern era

Yes, I’ve finally done it, after being let down twice in a week I’ve drafted the letter about non-returnable deposits.

One of them was a no-show, so we’d bought materials and planned the day, putting several hours of effort in. The second was the day before, but I was away that day and only checked my email this morning, by which time I’d spent several hours planning, bought materials and ingredients and generally psyched myself up.

So we’re now in the grasping, lecturing, materialistic modern world and have a document detailing our deposit requirements and defining “14 days”. I haven’t moaned, I’ve just pointed out that we can’t keep incurring costs and suffering late cancellations.

I’m reasonably happy with it but I’m sure that the management committee will have a go at mangling it.

Coming, as it did, the day after the lady at Brierlow Book Shop taught me how to pay contactlessly. I’m really feeling like a child of the 21st century. She says she can also pay with her phone and her watch. I still think anything other than cash is a bit suspect, but I suppose I’m one of a dying breed.

The keets are all happy, though I’m not sure what we’re feeding them on. It looks a bit floury and the mill we use to grind wheat for school visits seems to be full of pig pellets. Call me suspicious but  if there was such a thing as an Olympics for cutting corners we would be weighed down with medals and people would call on us to commentate at the Christmas Scrooge Championships and the Tightwad Derby.

I’ve got the new feeder up, though I can’t afford a big one like the bookshop has. Nor could I afford to fill it. I’ve also put the window feeder up, but so far nobody has found it. I thought that if it works it’s worth a fiver, and if it doesn’t I’ll give it a wash and give it somebody for Christmas.

The old feeders all have a new feature – an elastic band over the top. It’s not pretty but I’m hoping it might work. The plan is that even if they do get mugged by jackdaws the tops should stay on. If the jackdaws can’t get to the contents they may stop wrecking them. How many times have I said that?

One of the goats escaped, but it’s now captured and penned again. I’d have left it to get in by itself (they do when they get bored) but someone called and asked for help.

He caught me at a bad time – I was just contemplating allowing the three guinea fowl in the allotment to escape from their pen. A moment later and I may have been spotted. I’ll do it tomorrow.

The pigs seem happy too, but in the absence of foresight I suppose they would, They may be the 4th most intelligent mammal, behind men, apes and dolphins, but they have never really concerned themselves with the meaning of life.This is probably a good thing.

Given food, friends and the occasional scratch behind the ears they seem content.

Added later – can anybody tell me if the plant still standing near the pigs (the only thing they have left standing, is hemlock? The main picture isn’t as clear as it could be – do these help?

Meanwhile the cereal trial is confusing me – the plots with chemicals seem greener, and have fewer weeds, but the ones without chemicals seem just as tall and productive, though a bit paler, or even yellow round the edges. The chemicals must help by providing all the nutrients the grain needs, but I’m wondering whether they are cost effective.

The Moving Finger

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward FitzGerald

Yes, I know it can be read as a bit of a miserable quotation, and I admit I do always get a bit gloomy at New Year. For the first few days it’s always a case of remembering what I haven’t done in the last year, though I gradually build up a good head of steam and start to look forward to the new stuff.

Things are already moving on for next year – we had a booking for a Yoga Retreat yesterday and a local college emailed to confirm five more dates to come and do its animal care course. This morning we had another email as one of our regular schools booked to bring three classes round to look at lambing and do some cooking. That’s a good start to the year.

I’ve also been writing a list of things to do. That in itself is enough to cause depression as it’s a bit like building a mountain for yourself to climb. However, I just mutter the short version of the above quote (The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on:) and get on with it. That’s what New Year is about for me, doing things and moving on.

This year we will be building up the butterfly garden and recording butterfly sightings in a more systematic manner.  We will also be doing more observing and recording of insects and birds. We’ll never be as good as the people at eakringbirds.com but that’s no reason not to try.

As usual the garden is the site of many of our good intentions, and as usual we’re already falling behind with it.

I’ve been doing some reading over Christmas so I have a few new notes to add to the cookery demonstrations. I’ve also dusted down my old guano notes as I’m feeling the time is right for more talk of manure. And dung, compost, fertiliser, nitrates, personal liquid waste (as Bob Flowerdew calls it), comfrey, nettle tea and anything else that rots, festers or smells.

I need something to replace the “Is it wrong to eat people?” presentation as this didn’t go down terribly well with the parent helpers or my wife. This will, for the moment, join the notes about eating guinea pigs as a subject that needs a little polishing before being used again.

It’s also the time for finalising all the special days – either traditional ones like Lammas or the modern manufactured ones. I keep meaning to do National Carrot Day just because it’s so unlikely, and because we could make carrot lollies just like World War 2, National Nettle Week is a definite for this year because it ties in with the butterflies and making people eat weeds. There are others I’m looking at too, though I’ll be giving National Chip Week a miss and National Mango Week is just taking the mickey.

So there you go – 2015 and it’s all to play for.