Tuesday, 22 September 2009


Whether it is the turn in the wheel the change in the seasons I have felt very emotional today, and very tired. As though it is the end of another phase in my life and the beginning of another. However it has not been an unhappy day, but happy memories have come flooding up to the surface, tinged with sadness because some loved ones are no longer with us. But the memories they were special to me, even though some of the events were unremarkable. They are part of what I am, what I represent and what I stand for.

When I was 11 years old Sue our golden labrador came into our lives as a cheeky bouncy young pup. We used to walk her every evening along the riverbank come rain or shine but for the first six months or so she only had one boss; we weren't allowed to tell her what to do or anything. Dad believed that it got too confusing with many people telling them what to do, and it proved right. We had a lot of fun with her and she lived until she was 191/2 years of age which is old in dog years.

My brother and I used to walk everywhere with our Dad, who taught us so much about the countryside on our walks, we were taught from an early age to recognise the good berries from the bad, and also an interminable amount about nature and its habitat and how to recognise different animal tracks etc. We used to go newting, and tiddling and used to have a lot of fun; armed with our jam jars and butterfly nets we were invincible. The catch was always put back before we left for home. But sadly these activities are no longer politically correct as times and perceptions have changed.

We also used to go on family foraging trips for blackberries, and nettles in the spring for making nettle wine. A picnic would be packed and an event would be made out of what we were doing. Cheap and cheerful but it was a win win situation. Loads of blackberries for jam and jelly and nettles for the wine; there were other things as well. And we children used to get exercised without realising it, and it was a signature theme of the passing seasons. Its something I have carried on in later life, and indeed used to do when the step children were at home. A family that plays together stays together.

When walking with Dad, and the dog, come this time of year there was a field that had the cattle in and we would invariably find large patches of field mushrooms which we used to gather and bring home for tea, they were lovely cooked in butter, with thin chipolata sausages, tinned tomatoes and a fried egg and a big wedge of home made bread. I can taste that meal now. We were so fortunate and pleasure can be measured in simplicity.

Its been many years since I have been on a mushroom hunt - I was taught the difference, some of which knowledge because of lack of use has been forgotten, and sadly my father is no longer here to help. I would really love to be able to go on foraging session but don't know of anywhere locally that does this. It would be good to learn from someone who knows the difference between those which are edible and which are good to eat and those which should be left. Does anyone know of anywhere within the Peterborough area that runs such walks or events.

I am a bit of a foodie! Its never far from my mind and I do try and make the best of what comes my way, I am always looking, plotting and planning and I try and remember where I see bushes of this or that and mark the spot in my memory to go back to when the fruit or whatever is in season. I think it is a throw back to when times were hard and the family worked together to survive the winter months with a well stocked larder; and used to collect tinder for lighting the fire in the form of twigs and dried grasses. Times are hard again, what with the credit crunch, and people are going back to basics and looking for ways to live more cost effectively but get the maximum amount of return.We have had times of plenty too much choice, its time to get back to basics and tighten the belts a little and to re-learn in some instances forgotten skills. But what an opportunity to grow and to learn is there for the taking if you are "hungry enough".

This time of year was also apple picking time. We used to descend on my grandparents for the weekend to pick the apples, to store them, to make produce with them. We would be up the trees, picking the apples, working methodically from tree to tree. In younger years the geese had to be locked up otherwise they would end up chasing and herding us round the garden. It defined the season, going to Nan's to harvest and pick the apples.

When Nan passed so did a way of life as the cottage was sold and the person who bought it chopped most of the trees down, demolished the copper beech hedge and the espalier pears and chopped the hawthorn hedges that were the boundary hedges down. Their only thought has to be to make money out of the land, not for what it stood for. But they cannot kill my memories that are held within my mind and heart - they are still there.

There are a couple of magazines which I quite like to have each month. The first is the Country kitchen. I have been particularly fascinated with the articles by Fergus Drennan on the foraging theme and unusual ideas of how to use the wild larder. The second is the Home Farmer Magazine, lots of practical information for having a go at doing things yourself and also lots of good practical recipes and inspiration.

Its good to make use of the wild larder too - although you have to do is invest a little time and effort in the collecting of the produce and then processing it afterwards. I learnt from being taught good basic cooking skills at school and at home, although I wasn't taught everything. Those areas where I was lacking in I have read up on then had a go. Yes there have been mistakes, but that is how you learn, and next time you do something you remember where it went wrong, so the next attempt is better and so on. Its good to play.

And welcome to Autumn and a change in the seasons.


  1. What a wonderful lot of memories of your childhood, so many lessons learnt and carried on today in your daily life.

    I love the aurumn too, memories of my great uncles garden where we picked apples, plums and pears off the trees, we always came home with bags full which were bottled against the lack of fruit in the winter.

    In my teen years we lived in town, the garden was never really made proper use of, all we grew were kidney beans and I rememebr a horseradish plant, my grandmother used to sit and grate the horseradish and make haorseradish cream, boy was it strong, made your eyes water!!! It could have been so much more productive.

  2. They were happy days and yes I do carry many lessons learned in those days, with me today as we all do. Yesterday was a day for looking backwards and reviewing tomorrow will be different altogether. I think though in retrospect we have lost a lot over the passing of time, becuase those days although hard and not at all easy had a gentleness and quality that is very difficult to find today.

    Take care - hope you hav enjoyed your house sitting




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