Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Spring Snow Storms

I know very little about the distance between stars, or the motives of Pepys, but I can always smell the Summertime at the latest by early Spring. 
We are currently bracing ourselves for a big snow-storm, this morning it was -8 when I got on my bike to commute to work. There will be plenty of cold and frost yet to come but the signs are all there, among the flora and fauna.
Plum blossom is beginning to bloom on the branches and this is always my personal first sign of the approaching Spring.
This Winter I have been enjoying the occasional medicinal glass of last year's  Elderberry Port or Vin de Noix to stave of  any colds or other ills. 
The Cider is going down well too, although the Perry still needs a month or so more to age. The Mulberry Gin seems to be vanishing into the ether, evaporating my wife might suggest!
The Pear and Walnut Chutney, a huge personal favourite is still making a regular appearance in the fridge. It goes so well with cheese and perks up my lunchtime sandwiches a treat.
We still have bucket-loads of Hazelnuts and Walnuts left, despite my best efforts to nibble through our hoard during the chilly, dark evenings. So, I think we need to spend some time shelling a whole big load, and then make lots of flapjack and chocolate brownies. It shouldn't be too difficult to persuade the kids to help with that job...

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Winter and the Hope of Spring

Winter is always a lean time for foragers and this Winter has been an especially wet and stormy one here in the UK. I seems as if it has not stopped raining for the last 6 months! Obviously, this is not actually true but it has been unusually damp for a long time and many rivers are swollen.
However, a wise person once said, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!" We have still been out and about in the landscape, enjoying the weather regardless of what it chucks at us.
We visited Stonehenge for the Winter Solstice, which was fascinating particularly as this is one of the only times when the public are allowed in amongst the stones, which are normally fenced off. The clear advantage of the Winter Solstice over the Summer Solstice is that you don't have to get up quite so early because sunrise is around 8:00. Although it still proved difficult to arrive on time - despite leaving home at 6:00 - because parking is very limited and all the surrounding roads are designated tow away zones. However, after some improvisation, fence climbing and nocturnal navigating, we did reach the stones just in time.
We visited a storm-swept, yet somehow beautifully peaceful Devon in late December. We spent our time exploring the breathtaking beaches in wellies and waterproofs, and watching the waves smashing into the shoreline and breaching the breakwaters.
The New Forest is a short distance from our city, Southampton, and, while we love to find new places to visit and wander, there are a few favourite places that we frequently find ourselves walking through with friends. the whole of the forest is like one giant boggy mire at the moment, so suitable clothing and footwear is essential. Often we find ourselves delicately picking our way from tussock to tuft, trying to avoid sinking from sight like some poor character from the Hound of the Baskerville's. I would not be surprised to discover that some of the tales written by Conan Doyle, who is buried nearby in Minstead, were inspired by the seriously muddy New Forest environment.
Now the crocuses are out, shining like jewels amongst the mud and frost, Ransoms & wild Garlic is beginning to show itself and the daffodils, forcing their way out of the soaking ground will soon be trumpeting in the green shoots of Springtime.