Tag Archives: Bullace

The Ripening Hambrook Harvest

From Little Acorns....,Rocking Dog

From Little Acorns….

I escaped the kitchen and ALL that china for a brief while yesterday. I was surely succumbing to cabin fever or should that be soapy sud kitchen fever! Real Live Rocking Dog provides the perfect excuse to drop the tea towel and  get out on the Frome Valley walkways which hug our fortunate doorstep.

How lovely to walk in sunshine and have blue fluffy cloud skies as a gorgeous last day in July canopy. Along the walk there were burgeoning and ripening crops of sloes, bullace, elderberries and blackberries. I spied a particularly luscious crop of blackberries over a pennant stone wall. Alas, they were unattainable with the river a watery barrier. A host of birds and other wildlife will have a veritable feast with no humans able to access and pick this precarious crop. Other bird food is ripening ready for the colder less plentiful days of late autumn and winter. Haws, rosehip and holly will serve them well.

Family folklore suggests that my fathers maternal family may have been Huguenots. Have you ever witnessed how  many French folk behave on a beach, they are not sunbathing, they are not swimming .. they are foraging! They have pails and spades, nets and lines and going in search of lunch or to find bait to catch lunch! Mussels, whelks, coastal plants, shrimp and crab are simply not safe. I see ripening elderberries and think of their addition in a summer pudding, an apple pie or crumble, ice cube or stew. Sloes and bullace again are destined in my mind to immersion in vodka or gin. I love to use the bloated alcohol soaked berries in rocky road and in ice creams, sorbets and warming winter stews. Just maybe, yes maybe I indeed do have French foraging blood flowing in my veins!

I love the way the Italians celebrate and give thanks to every crop they harvest and every animal they hunt. There are ancient walled hilltop towns close to where we live in Umbria which annually celebrate the bread, the oil, the wine, the saffron, the wild boar, the sweet chestnut, and so on! In the spring we were treated to the most wonderful feast at the little village hall in “our” village. The valley was vibrantly yellow with Mimosa trees and so this tree was celebrated along with World Women’s Day. The men (with undoubtedly some help of the female kind in the background!) of the village cooked for the women. We sat down to plates of crostini followed by two pasta courses (one with a pork ragu sauce and the other a tomato sauce). Lamb, steak and locally produced sausages cooked on a wood fired brazier together with a delicious dressed salad came next. Finally a specially baked mimosa coloured iced cake was proudly bought out and served with Grappa. Throughout the meal we had bottles of very quaffable locally produced red wine and then it was time to dance. Bad dancing translates and is understood in whatever language you speak! The Macarena danced for the final time it was time to wearily and bloatedly stumble home. Each woman was presented with a branch of Mimosa as she left together with hugs and hearty “buona notte’s”. It was such a lovely multi generational community event and we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. We do not celebrate anything enough in this country and unfortunately unlike the Italians many British would not embrace a party encompassing all generations.

Back to walking along my favourite Hambrook walk (nicknamed “Mr Badger walk” because of an old sett along its route) the earth was littered with crops that hadn’t quite made it. Amongst the carpet of last years autumnal leaf fall there were conkers, beech masts and cobnuts lying like jewels. They had simply dropped before their time or had been slain by squirrels not willing to wait!

At the stile there was a solitary doe eyed cow with Bully the blooming big bull. I couldn’t help thinking “poor cow!” Perhaps she’ll have her very own harvest in the spring.

Very soon it was time to return to THAT china … but I felt so much better after a brief but wonderful nature filled sojourn.

 

Future Harvest,Rocking Dog

Future Harvest

Ditto!,Rocking Dog

Ditto!

Unattainable Harvest,Rocking Dog

Unattainable Harvest

Too Early....,Rocking Dog

Too Early….

...Too Late!,Rocking Dog

…Too Late!

One For The Pan,Rocking Dog

One For The Pan

Late Summer Harvest,Rocking Dog

Late Summer Harvest

Christmas Harvest,Rocking Dog

Christmas Harvest

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow,Rocking Dog

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow

A Rocking Dog Hedgerow Wreath

Rustic Wreath, Rocking Dog

Rustic Wreath

Summer is slowly turning to autumn with a plethora of ripening berries in the English hedgerows. Every year I like to deck the door with a simple autumnal wreath. It starts with a bog standard wire coat hanger and thin wire to secure the foraged booty. Ribbon, raffia, string or fabric strip can be added for a final flourish.

If you like your wreath to stay fresh looking, use a well soaked moss covered oasis wreath circle. I don’t mind mine drying and curling at the edges. I am ever hopeful birds and other wildlife will enjoy the spoils of my wreath. A frost covered cobweb would be magical running through the wreaths centre!

I collected bullace branches, laurel berries, haws, rose-hips, elder berries, blackberries along my usual down the rabbit hole walk with Real Live Rocking Dog. Nearly home, I picked teasels and cow parsley seed heads in the sun dappled field. Reddening Virginia creeper, Old Man’s Beard and copper beech would work well too. Avoid using holly, pine-cones and Ivy otherwise your wreath will look a little Christmassy! Sorry I just couldn’t help myself with that last link!

To make the wreath, I bent the coat hanger into a rough circle, leaving the hook in place (useful for hanging your finished wreath). I then took the branches laden with bullaces and engineered them around the wire circle. I secured them into place with small pieces of thin wire. Always use wire snips, I have damaged more pairs of scissors than I care to remember. I would have been quite happy to hang my wreath at this point- it looked simply lovely.

I added more of my foraged flora, again wiring it as I went. Uniformity has never really entered my world so I wasn’t concerned that one side had rose-hips and the other didn’t etc.. The kids always laugh when I tell them that I want “She liked nothing in straight lines” as my epitaph! Obviously if you want to take a more symmetrical approach that is absolutely fine.

I debated as to whether to use the teasels. Dried flowers and seed heads conjure up horrible memories of seedy Bed & Breakfasts and half baked tea rooms for me! How often have you had to endure dusty wicker baskets full of well past their sell by date dried niff naff ?! The memories are interjected with Bri Nylon sheets in vulgar 70’s colours, firework pattern carpets and Variety cereal packs. There are also memories of seaside craft shops with teasels made into creatures with mop caps and floral aprons! After deliberation the teasels did end up making the harsh selection process.

I finished my wreath with a vintage brown ribbon.. nah! a green gingham ribbon… nah!… and finally I settled for a tiny strip of frayed hessian.
A little bit of primping followed and Voila!

A seasonal wreath made for literally nothing.. and something to make your door and more importantly, your visitors feel loved and cherished!

Down The Rabbit Hole, Rocking Dog

Down The Rabbit Hole

Bird Food, Rocking Dog

Bird Food

Forage, Rocking Dog

Forage

Wreath Hardware, Rocking Dog

Wreath Hardware

Bullace Beauty, Rocking Dog

Bullace Beauty

Work In Progress, Rocking Dog

Work In Progress

The Bountiful Summer Harvest

Nature's Harvest, Rocking Dog

Nature’s Harvest

Hedgerow fruits are swiftly ripening. Blackberries are being foraged and picked for pies, crumbles, jams and wines. Sloes, Damsons and Bullaces are gaining their characteristic charcoal bloom. A little more ripening will be required before the picking begins, and then, a degree of patience whilst the fruits do their magic in their gin or vodka soak.

Meanwhile, squirrels are busy raiding the hedgerows for hazel and cobnuts. The remnants of their feast lie untidily discarded on the mossy well trodden pathways.

Haws, rose-hips and crab apples are gaining their rosy glow, giving welcome colour whilst we walk.

Sweet Chestnuts need to plumpen in their verdant spiny overcoats. They remind me of my fondness for sweetened chestnut puree. Folded through rum laced cream and sandwiched between hazelnut meringue layers it’s a decadent dinner party dessert.

A great book celebrating Britain’s harvest is Mark Hix’s British Seasonal Food. In particular I love his recipes for Gamekeepers Pie, Piccalilli and his simply delicious little Buttermilk Puddings.

Let’s rejoice the burgeoning summer harvest.

Sorry couldn’t resist the slightly cheesy summer song- almost forgot that it was used as the theme for a certain drinks brand!

Hedgerow Sloes, Rocking Dog

Hedgerow Sloes

Use For Those Sloes!, Rocket Dog

Use For Those Sloes!

Berry Recipes, Rocking Dog

Berry Recipes

Crab Apple Swotting, Rocking Dog

Crab Apple Swotting

Nature Bowl, Rocking Dog

Nature Bowl

Umbrian Apple Harvest, Rocking Dog

Umbrian Apple Harvest