Tag Archives: foraging

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…



I’ve just written 289 words about what is happening to Julia at work. A lot of it comes under the heading of “least said, soonest mended” as I mentioned yesterday but she’s just given up over half her day off to a staff meeting and telephone calls with clients, so I wrote my thoughts on the matter.

Then I decided I’d better not publish them. So I won’t. I’ll just show you some photos from yesterday.


Sugar Skulls and Succulents

I don’t know why we seem to have so many sugar skulls around these days, they just seem to be fashionable, despite having nothing to do with the UK. THey don’t even seem to have anything to do with the USA or Australia, which is where we seem to draw a lot of our cultural references from these days. It’s a mystery. Julia doesn’t even know who brought them to the gardens and left them.


Three LIttle Birds and Origami

What with the Three Little Birdsreference and the origami, we seem to have added Reggae and Japanese Paper Folding to or international  themes.


Inside the Polytunnel

Virtually everything you see here has been scrounged from skips. Only the polytunnel was purchased brand new, as the chance of finding a discarded polytunnel in a skip is small.

It is now set up to allow twelve people to eat and work in here (I use ‘work’ loosely) and still maintain a semblance of social distancing.

Everything in these pictures is edible. Yes, everything. I’m quite fond of apples and grapes, but have to admit the fat hen and sedum aren’t too bad either.

In fact, with fat hen being used as spinach in Mediaeval times and sedum tasting a little like avocado they can be quite pleasant.

I did have a picture of what I think is ground ivy but it may be purple dead nettle or henbit – they are all edible but as it’s important to be accurate when you are foraging.

I’m going to start doing more foraging again as my interest has been rekindled by a few things I’ve seen recently.

Some flowers from the garden. I have now caught up with yesterday…

Foraging, Fear and Eating Flowers

I note that on the internet coronavirus is being linked to the Book of Revelation and the Prophesies of Nostradamus. I won’t add links to any of the relevant sites because I came away from browsing them with the impression that my IQ had been decreased.

For the sake of historical perspective – northern Italy is in lockdown, the third person died of coronavirus in the UK today and in Canada an American tourist booked out of a hotel in Toronto today, telling my son that he wasn’t happy at staying somewhere that allowed an oriental man to stay and to use the same glasses as everyone else in the bar.

This isn’t unique to Americans – people of oriental descent have been abused in the UK by people who believe that looking Chinese means that you are carrier of coronavirus.

The situation is currently showing up the deficiencies in health services, supply chains and stock markets across the world, but it’s also clearly showing that racism and stupidity are close to the surface when people feel under pressure.

In TESCO today, doing my normal weekly shop, I was faced with empty shelves and notices telling customers that we were limited to five packs of pasta per person. I bought one pack of the dozen remaining because we are having pasta bake later this week. There were only a dozen or so packs left on the shelf, but I didn’t feel the need to buy four more. The rice shelves were the same, though there was no notice on them.

It shows how far we have come as a nation. In my younger days we mainly encountered rice and pasta (in the form of macaroni) in milk puddings. Curries and pasta dishes were uncommon and pizza virtually unheard of.

I will go now, as I’ve been avoiding work all day and still have a presentation to finish.

I was happy and calm this morning, with just a bit of printing to do and a few facts to check. As the day wore on I remained unworried.

Now, as the dark closes in and doubts start to surface, the panic is starting to return and I am remembering all the things I need to do…

The header picture is a salad of edible weeds and flowers I made years ago when we had a school visit – it reminds me that we can eat weeds if all else fails, and that if I can face a class of eight-year-olds and persuade them to eat weeds I can do anything.


Pride, a fall and more gingerbread

I was very pleased with myself last week after the gingerbread baking session.

Obviously I should have known better, pride going before a fall, and all that. Or, Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18) for those of you who prefer your quotes accurate.

To put it another way, whilst having a second go to make sure the recipe works, I had a bit of a problem and the biscuits were not as good this time. I won’t bore you with details, but I will have a bit of a rethink.

Then I tried making Grantham Gingerbread. They are a traditional biscuit, first produced by accident in 1740, and not really like a gingerbread at all, being light in colour and sweet in taste, with not much ginger flavour. That will be something that changes before the next batch.

Mine turned out looking suitably cracked, but rather flat, at which point I remembered that I should have used self-raising flour rather than using the plain flour I had just used in the gingerbread men.

Even so, some had risen and had honeycomb centres, so they weren’t too bad.

Based on a post in Pies and Prejudice (a fine food blog, though modesty prevents me mentioning who writes it) I had an unusual salad with my lunch today – nasturtium leaves and flowers, feral rocket and a cultivated sorrel leaf.


Foraged nasturtium salad

Julia and the girls started to assemble the poppy project ready for November, using the poppies made by using the bases of plastic bottles.

We had enquiries about Men in Sheds, an educational visit for next spring, renting the room, apple pressing and a forthcoming visit (the teacher wants to know what we have planned – I’m not sure she is expecting the answer “nothing” so I’d better get thinking).

At the end of the day, we had unexpected visitors, which was pleasant, and gave me a chance to offload some biscuits.

That’s about it.

I’ll be going soon, just need to get down on my hands and knees to find out what is jamming the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.

There’s always something…




Two Birthdays and a Pizza

When you look at my titles you can see why Richard Curtis is considerably more successful than me, can’t you?

We had a school come out for an enhancement day  so just a short post.- working with livestock, making pizza and eating a foraged salad.  I’m hoping they felt suitably enhanced by the end, though I’m a little  concerned that a couple of them looked slightly shell-shocked by the end.

At lunchtime we had a party for Emma, then after filling the incubator, we went across to visit Margaret, the Farmer’s mother. She was 80 today. We had tea and cake. Then it was time to clean up, wash, change and go to the other party – the one with the canapes and cheese board. We finally left there as dark fell.

All in all it was a good day, but I’m tired and full now (possibly even replete) so just a short post. More tomorrow.

Sheep, doves and teddy bears

A couple of hours before I took the teddy bear picture that bear was just an idea and a ball of cotton yarn. Compared to my day (writing minutes, avoiding goosegrass, answering emails, wrestling with camera manuals and stalking birds on feeders) it seems a good use of time. When you think that the collared dove and robin pictured above were the best shots of the day you can see I’m not going to set the world of nature photography on fire.

I should have known the moth photo in the previous post was too good to be true.

After much heart-searching we’ve finally cleared out the old bus shelter in preparation for demolition. It’s just too rotten to merit the work we would have to do to restore it, particularly as someone has donated a very serviceable second hand shed.

As you may have guessed from my comment, I didn’t get round to cooking goosegrass. In truth, I’m not that inspired and, having been a bit rushed this week, I have procrastinated. I am leaving it till Friday, and hope to have found some decent recipes by then. So far the ones I have found suggest tossing it in butter, putting it in a stew or using it to stuff a mattress. I know someone who juices it, but instead of inspiring me it just fills me with dread.

Frankly, I don’t trust green juice. It may be full of goodness, and it must be character-forming, but I’ve never felt the need to drink anything that wasn’t red, orange or yellow.



Infamous delay

At thirty, man suspects himself a fool;
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves; then dies the same.

Night Thoughts, by Edward Young 1683-1765

You’ll know by now that I love a good quote, and whilst searching for one, I found this instead. I’m somewhat past 50 now but am definitely chiding my infamous delay, particularly at this soul-searching time of year. It’s nice to know that I’m not on my own in this, and that there have been others doing it through history.

I’ve reached that time of life when I’m starting to notice that a lot of people younger than me are falling off the perch, though I’m trying to balance this with the fact my family tends to live into their mid-8os. There have been a few exceptions, with several living into their 90s and another group (young men born in the 1890s) who died young, though that was more to do with Germans rather than genetics. I’m not that bothered about living to be 90 (though I reserve the right to change my mind at the age of 89) and I’m already too old to die young.

Anyway, on to things that I can change, rather than things I can’t.

I’m going to give up procrastinating. I have given up many things over the years, including smoking and biting my nails so how difficult can it be to give up procrastination?

Well, as I have just written 250 words getting to this point, and used a quote I found whilst looking for Young’s more famous quote “Procrastination is the thief of time” it could be tricky.

I’ve also spent time this morning making tea, answering emails and registering for the Big Farmland Bird Count next month, and drifted off for ten minutes on ParrotNet checking sightings of the Ring-Necked Parakeet in this area. We had one that used to visit regularly in 2014, though it could have been a local escapee rather than one of the general population.

Before going (I have tools to sort for tomorrow and a shopping list to write) I’ll leave you with this list “22 Foods to Avoid with Diabetes”

I’d say they were 22 foods to eat sparingly at any point in your life. Chips, pies, pastries, pizzas – they are not health foods by any stretch of the imagination. Home made pizza appears to be OK, which is good, as it allows me to use one of my stock of food photographs.

That’s pumpkin soup with chilli and ginger, a foraged salad of garden weeds and edible flowers and home made vegetarian pizza.

The Joy of Lists

There just seem to be too many Fridays in my life.

At this point I ought to add that I don’t want to relinquish any of my remaining days, just that it would be nice to slow things down a little.

That’s why I’m spending some of my precious time writing plans. Things tend to get done when you write them down, whilst things in your head tend to slip by. Things like the Wild Food page, which has been dismally neglected of late.

I’ve now started a catalogue of plants to be foraged, as I want to eat more wild food next year and run more sessions about foraging. The result is that I find I know about a lot more plants than the ones I normally talk about, but I’ve also discovered a new plant in the garden. What I had thought was just another colour of dead nettle is in fact ground ivy. I’m pretty sure, looking at the pictures, that we also have henbit around the place. I really need to pay more attention.


Ground Ivy

In this case it doesn’t make much difference, they are just three more sets of small salad leaves with a few medicinal uses, though if you ate a lot of ground ivy it may prove toxic. Like so many things “a lot” is probably more than you’re likely to eat, like the toxic dose of chickweed, which I’ve seen listed as “several kilos”. I would have trouble eating several kilos of anything, even bananas, so I should imagine that if you manage to eat that amount of garden weeds you have more problems than poisoning.

I’ve also found some more wood sorrel. I think it’s the purple variety of creeping wood sorrel – Oxalis corniculata var. atropurpurea – as we foragers say. I tried some that was growing in a pot in the polytunnel earlier in the year and it is remarkably clean and lemony in taste. If only all foraged leaves were as nice.


Creeping wood sorrel – purple variety

After two days of making sure I work on my foraging knowledge for a couple of hours a day I already feel like I’ve accomplished as much in two days as I did in the preceding two weeks.

I’m going to be making a list of recipes to try too, so the Recipe page should start being more active too.

And before anyone says it, yes “typical man” and his lists.

Wednesday (Part 2)

I’ve now added another piece of foraged food to the list (and will be writing it up in the Wild Food section shortly. Day lily buds. We don’t have many lilies but after watching several school groups grab pieces for their nature bling activity I decided that I may as well have one.

It was quite good. Fresh-tasting, a touch of onion and a flavour of something else I can’t quite place. I would, I thought, be happy to eat them again, particularly sauteed in butter or tempura style as often recommended. However, when I sat down to look at some websites I noticed as phenomenon I’d seen before.

Before you eat something all the websites are glowing, positive and eager to tell you there’s no possibility of misidentification.

After you eat it they are all more cautious. It’s a story much like the dahlia story – there are so many cultivars people are no longer sure what is edible and what isn’t – though in the case of dahlias this revolves around taste rather than possible side effects.

The general feeling is that they want somebody to sit down and eat all the available cultivars, making notes as they go. Sounds like my dream job – eating stuff in an attempt to cause illness and not being paid for it. I wonder why nobody is doing it as we speak…

I’ll cover this more in the Wild Food section

We’re now bottle-feeding a kid. It won’t take a bottle so we’re using a tube at the moment. It seems to be perking up but I’ve learnt never to expect too much from these situations. That’s the best bit of being on the farm without being part of it so we can take the benefit of cute animals without the emotional investment of sitting up all night feeding them. I say “we” but I am absolutely brilliant at delegating. Or lazy, as my wife would have it. She still hasn’t forgiven me for the dik-dik incident.




I spotted this unusual sprig of variegated mint while I was walking round with the camera. Can’t make up my mind whether to try and breed from it (in case anyone wants to grow anaemic mint in the garden) or leave it. So far I’ve left it. In due course I will probably read about a plantsman who is running an Aston Martin on the proceeds of breeding “Ghost Mint”. Then again, perhaps not.


Pigs in chamomile

We’ve also viewed piglets, spotted butterflies, captured a mint moth and evicted it from the kitchen and, finally, given Tim (the Xmas Elf) his going-away card. He’s off to work in Europe, though at the moment he’s finishing cleaning up the bee equipment. This involves flame, scrapers and a cloud of wasps.

The cloud of wasps isn’t strictly necessary but it came along anyway.

A tale, told by an idiot

Well, it’s been an interesting day.

One of our co-workers had a fit of tidying before we arrived and all sorts of things were randomly repositioned to fit her mental map of “tidiness”.

Still, there’s no point being downhearted, even if you are locked into a turf war about a second-hand desk, and the devil makes work for idle hands.

Having taken delivery of a number of potato sacks from Thompson and Morgan we quite clearly had to hold a sack race. Well, “clearly” is probably overstating things, but it seemed like a good idea. As you can see from the photo the race was fast and furious and finished without injury.  With the T&M sign looking like a sponsorship logo I’m thinking of putting a bid together to see if they fancy sponsoring a semi-pro sack racing league.


Speed blur!


Winner and not winner, but I’m not saying which is which…

Then we had a man knock on the door with a couple of members of his family and ask if they could use the toilet. I said yes, though I was slightly perplexed at why we’ve suddenly become a noted public toilet. It seems that they had been travelling from the Midlands to Skegness and needed a toilet – reference to the internet had produced us a solution. Then I found that it wasn’t just his family but two minibuses of people with special needs and their helpers – 38 in all. Try explaining the workings of a waterless toilet to 38 people who aren’t listening because they have their legs crossed!

When I went to take a picture of the “accidental permaculture bed” to use on the Wild Food page I found that the Fat Hen has disappeared from the bed, leaving just rocket and beans. We can cancel the foraged fat Hen soup I was going to make tomorrow as I won’t be able to find enough. I suspect somebody pointed out it was a weed at the weekend and that was the same as a death sentence the way things are around here at the moment.

I have a picture of the desolate former accidental permaculture bed, but it’s too depressing. Instead I’ll ask if anyone can help me identify the red-bottomed bumble bee in the top image. We have a nest of them somewhere on the farm – can’t say where as it might go the same way as the permaculture bed.

If anyone knows what the moth in the picture is I’d be grateful if you can tell me. Sorry it isn’t a better photograph.


Mystery moth

Finally we had a run-in with the newly repaired alarm. Five attempts!

And that’s how we get to the title – It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Would make a good title for the film of my life.