Wild Ruins

Wild Ruins Kickstarter Campaign

Over the next six months Dave Hamilton is searching the UK to put together a unique guide to the most hidden and romantic ruins of Britain. From ruined mines, churches, ironworks and deserted villages to abandoned farm houses, hunting lodges, manor houses and even airbases the book will cover the most diverse range of ruins possible.

 

Without a book such as this, much of our history will remain uncharted, unloved and unvisited.  It also encourages travel within the UK, helping with local economies and hopefully cutting much of the carbon emissions associated with long haul flights.

Visiting and photographing anything between 150 and 280 of these buildings, traveling the length and breadth of the UK doesn’t come cheap – even in Dave’s little fuel efficient car! On top of this he will need navigation equipment, photographic equipment, pay for places to stay and of course pay for his time whilst embarking on the project (the bills don’t pay themselves!).

church bristol This is where you come in by backing Dave’s kickstarter project.

There are rewards for all backers including; signed prints from the book, signed 1st editions of the book, a personalised wild food walk and even the chance to have the book dedicated to you.

Click here for more info

 

Elderflower Cordial 2

Elderflower Cordial 2 An easy recipe for bulk amounts

There are countless recipes for elderflower cordial. Here is one for making bulk amounts taught to me by a Swedish girl. We do have a recipe for making a smaller amount.

Elderflower bloom

A spray of elderflower

• Place a layer of elder flowers in the bottom of a bucket and cover it with a layer of sugar

• Repeat this until the bucket is full (a bag of sugar won’t go very far so make sure you have a lot in!)

-Stir and dissolve in citric acid if using – use about 35g per kilo of sugar

• Cover the bucket’s contents with boiling water and leave overnight.

• Strain and bottle the contents of the bottle.

The classic self-sufficient writer John Seymour claims the secret of good cordial is, ‘never put too many in your brew’ and ‘harvest on a sunny day when the fragrance and nectar are at their height’.

It’s very cheap to make, with sugar being the most expensive ingredient, so it is worth experimenting with until you perfect your own recipe. You could try adding spices, such as cinnamon for an unique flavour.  The sugar content may seem on the high side but, as with jams the sugar acts as a preservative. Citric acid and lemon juice both also help with the preservation of the cordial.

Citric acid can be found in many places such as chemists, some ethnic supermarkets and health food shops. It is worth having a little bag in the kitchen, as it is an antioxidant and will increase the shelf life of many foods.

 

Elderflower Cordial, elderflower champagne and elderflower wine – Andy Hamilton

Although we already have an elderflower cordial recipe on our elder article it is one for making it in bulk. I decide that as I have just made a smaller batch of elderflower cordial, some elder flower champagne and our forum is buzzing with talk of elderflower wine it would be good to put up a few recipes here. Elderflower cordialElderflower ChampagneElderflower wine

For any problems with elderflower champagne please see Andy’s other site.

Elderflower Cordial

An easy to make drink that can be frozen in plastic bottles, leaving room for expansion, so it can be enjoyed all year round. It will keep for almost a month if just bottled, although is best to drink within 2 weeks. To ensure no mould, it is better that you freeze elderflower cordial and it can be enjoyed as a christmas drink.

Ingredients

20 elderflower heads
1 sliced lemon
2 tsp of citric acid (ask at your chemist)
1.5 kg (3.5 lbs) of sugar
1.2 ltr (2.5 pints) boiling water

Method

Boil a kettle for the water.

Fill a bowl or small bucket with all the other ingredients.

Pour the water over the other ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Skin the surface of the water to get rid of the scum that can arise. Cover with a cloth (mine has a pillow case over it).

Stir twice a day for five days.

Strain though a fine sieve though a fine sieve or through muslin cloth and decant into sterile screw topped bottles. Refrigerate.

As with other cordials dilute with 5 parts water to serve . Experiment with it and add it to some of your favourite spirits. It is really nice as a gin mixer.

Elderflower Champagne

Similar to elderflower presse and another delicious summer drink

Ingredients

8 litres (2 gallons) water
1.25 kg (2.5 lbs/5 cups) sugar
8 large elderflower heads
4 Lemons
4 tablespoons mild white wine vinegar

Method

Boil the water and pour of the sugar to dissolve it.

Cool and add the elderflowers, juice of the two lemons, slices of the other two and the vinegar.

Cover with a cloth and leave for a day.

Strain with a fine sieve or muslin cloth, squeezing the flowers as you do to release more flavour.

Store in screw top bottles.

It will be ready in about 10 days to a fortnight and should be drunk within a month.

Elderflower wine

Ingredients

Grated rind of one lemon
500mls (1 pint) of elderflowers – to obtain this pick or shake of the elderflowers
and place into a measuring jug. Don’t push them down but do shake them down. Be careful not to add any of the bitter green stems.
3.5 litres (8 pints) of boiling water
1.3kg (3 lbs) sugar Juice of one lemon
25g (Half an ounce) yeast

Method

Put lemon rind with the elderflowers and pour over boiling water
Allow to stand for 4 days, stirring occasionally.

Strain through a fine sieve or muslin cloth
Stir in sugar, lemon juice and yeast
Keep at room temperature to ferment, try not to let it go down to 18c (65f)
When you are sure all the bubbling has ceased, stir the wine and allow to settle for 3 days
Strain again carefully
Put in a demijohn (not bottles)
After 3 months maturing, put into bottles

For more recipes read Andy’s Book ‘Booze for free’.

Jobs to be done in May

Here’s another very old article I’ve decided to resurrect, some of the links go to the old website and may look a little dated now!

The garden in May can be a busy time for the organic grower. A word of warning do think before you plant out those tender vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers; there is still the threat that it will get cold especially in Northern regions. If you do happen to get caught out, water you plants with ice cold water at first light. This might just save them!

Read more

In Memory of Nick Gooderham

Dave, 01 May 2014, No comments
Categories: Uncategorized

Nick GooderhamLast year I lost a very good friend, Nick Gooderham, to pancreatic cancer.  Nick ran a salad, vegetable and cut flower farm in Dartington, close to Totnes in Devon UK (pictured left).

He  was an instantly likeable man, kind and generous and humble with his knowledge. One of the things I liked about Nick was his sense of humor, he managed to be very sharp, yet very corny at the same time. At times I would find myself laughing out loud to a ridiculous comment he had made the day before.

I wrote the following obituary for Nick (see below) which appeared in the Totnes Times in the Autumn of last year.

There is a Just Giving page for Nick which you can donate money to Pancreatic Cancer UK or for residents of Devon (or those willing to travel) there will be a fund raising dinner on the 17th May in aid of the same charity.

In Memory of Nick Gooderham

Down a pot-holed lane, just down from Foxhole on the Dartington estate there lies a row of aging glasshouses and a well-tended market garden. Until recently, you’d often find the smiling face of Nicholas Gooderham happily going about his business amongst the flowers and vegetables.

Nick was the first to move back into School Farm and in 2007 he began the process of breathing life back into what had become neglected corner of the Dartington estate. In the Autumn of 2009 Schumacher college teamed up with the Duchy college in Cornwall to use Nick’s farm and expertise on their level 2 course in sustainable horticulture. It was here, like many others since, I first came across Nick when I was a student on the course. He was an excellent teacher, not once did I even hear him raise his voice, and there was never a hint of superiority as he imparted his deep, rich knowledge of plants and horticulture (if anything the reverse was true!).

Nick worked in horticulture for most of his life, by the time I had met him he’d done everything from a jobbing gardener and groundsman to a nurseryman and trials manager at Sutton seeds. Perhaps this history of working outdoors led him to be a man in tune with the rhythms of the natural world. Every year I knew him, he would wait in anticipation, as a child does for Christmas, for the swallows to arrive back from their winter in Africa. Sadly, this year was to be the last time he was to see them arrive as in February Nick had the tragic news that his pancreatic cancer had returned. On hearing the news, Nick decided do what he always wanted to do and travel. He did so on a handful of separate holidays with his long-term partner Deena and then with his daughter India. By the end of the summer, Deena had become Nick’s wife and as the swallow took flight to return to Africa, on the 29th September, Nick passed away peacefully in his own bed.

Nick was a kind and giving man, gladly helping anyone he saw in need, often at his own expense. He had a gentle humour saw the light side of any situation; when rabbits constantly confounded his efforts to keep them out of his vegetables he would joke that they had mastered the Fosbury flop and were high jumping over the fence.

School farm is still thriving as he has left a legacy of horticultural businesses; a Community Supported Agriculture scheme now runs from the site (School Farm CSA) along with School Farm Cut Flowers and Sarah Coates’ business selling salads and vegetable plants.

It is perhaps testament to how hard Nick worked and how skilled a horticulturist he was that three businesses have moved in to take the place of this one man.

Nick was a one off; he will be missed deeply by many in Totnes and elsewhere in the world.

 

 

Nettle Beer

This is an easy recipe to follow and creates a delightful, if not usual tasting beer. It is very cheap to make and follows a traditionally english recipe. Before hops were widely used in the 17th century all sorts of plant were used to flavor the ale including nettles.(Urtica dioica). It was also thought to help alleviate rheumatic pain, gout and asthma. Nettle beer has become more popular in recent years (we would like to think we helped influence that!). However, at the time this article was first published it could only be bought in the Czech republic and in the north of England where it is brewed with hops and is called internettle

Ingredients

900grams (2lb) young nettle tops
3.8lts (1 gallon) of water
230 grams (8oz) of sugar, brown or demarrara sugar works best.
7.5 grams (0.25oz) of fresh yeast
small piece of toast
7.5 grams (0.25oz) of ground ginger

Method

Boil the nettle tops in the water for half an hour (you will need a very large pan for this or preferably a cauldron).

Keeping the mixture, strain and add sugar, stirring to dissolve. I mentioned keeping the mixture as the first time I did this I strained it and poured the liquid down the sink, so had to go out and pick more nettles. Also stir in the ginger. Pour mixture into a sterile container, ask at most home brew shops for details, if you don’t have a home brew shop near you then a big branch of Boots should offer a Brewers bucket.

Spread the yeast onto the toast and float on the surface of the nettle liquid. Cover and leave for about 3 days at room temperature, do not allow the temperature to fluctuate too much as this will ruin the fermentation process.

Strain again and put into clean, strong screw top beer bottles, or sealable wine bottles (I used plastic bottles and it still worked). This can be drunk after about 2 days. Still not sure how alcoholic this beer is I have never drank more than one pint in a go, it does taste like it should be though.

Growing in Small Spaces part 1

Shelves on a balcony

Growing in a small space tests even the greenest of fingers. Part of the problem could be the light or lack of it. Another problem with growing in a small space could be the lack of any available soil! I had this problem in a maisonette I once lived in and found the easiest way to cram a lot of plants into a small space is to grow them in pots on weather-proof garden shelves.

False Economy

Cheap(ish) plastic garden shelving can now be bought from major retailers. However, in my experience these are a false economy as they only have a limited life span – the plastic doesn’t seem to hold up to extremes in temperature and in time they become brittle and start to break.  This is no doubt a ploy by the manufacturers to get us to invest in a new set when they start to deteriorate!

Small Space and small budget

For a very similar price you can buy metal shelving units or if you are a regular visitor to a recycling centre/tip/dump, like me, you may come across metal shelving units for as little as £2 ($3 US, $3.40 AUS). The shelves should allow some air circulation and water to drip down from one tray to the next. Mine contain large perforations (a number of holes punched at regular intervals) but slated shelving should also do the trick.  The shelves also need either tying in place and/or weighed down by placing heavy objects on the bottom shelf.  Clay pots full of soil are sometimes adequate or if the bottom shelf is used for storing heavy items such as bags of potting compost.

Plastic covering

Using UV stable plastic covering on your shelves is a perfect way to avoid seedling becoming etiolated (long and leggy) as they reach for the sun on a windowsill.  I’ve found (again) the cheaper shelving units with plastic covering to have a short life span as the zips break and they tend to shrink.  Finding scrap clear plastic from damaged poly-tunnels or again at recycling centres can be a cost effective way to cover your shelving.

As I don’t currently have a plastic covering for my shelving, I use them early in the season to harden off my seedlings slowly swapping them for pot grown summer crops in the warmer months (tomatoes, summer salads, herbs) and winter salads (rocket, mini iceberg lettuces, land-cress) later in the year.

South facing?

If the shelves are south facing all the crops should get enough sunlight but it might be worth placing tall sun-loving plants on the top shelf (tomatoes, aubergines etc) and shade tolerant plants such as lettuce, parsley and salad greens lower down.  You may find that lower plants do struggle a little but you can always move them up and down in much the same way you would a Sunday roast in the oven.

Winter foraging – Dave Hamilton

Winter foraging may seem a bit of a waste of time, surely nothing grows during the dark, wet days of winter.  It’s true that there is a lot less than at other times of the year but even on the coldest days something can be found, you just might have to look that little bit harder.The Depths of Winter

Unlike other times of year I’ve found it best to keep an open mind about what I might want to pick that day. So, rather than go out with the idea to pick just mushrooms, just berries or just leaves I will see what’s about, especially if it is in unfamiliar surroundings.

Below is a little guide to some of the things you may find from December-March

Mushrooms

Once the main mushroom season is over there really isn’t much around that you would pick for flavour alone.  A way round this would be to pick more autumn mushrooms than you need and dry them. Then come winter you can re-hydrate them and mix with the less abundant winter foraged mushrooms. A Couple of small ceps, some blewits or chanterelle mushrooms will be enough to impart a little flavour into the slightly bland oyster or velvet shank mushroom.  If you are reading this in the depths of winter and didn’t pick in the autumn don’t despair, spices, herbs and dairy products (especially cream) all have their place in flavouring fungi and any good recipe book should give you plenty of ideas (including our book the selfsufficienish bible)

There are three main winter mushrooms Oyster, Wood Ear (or Jelly/Jew’s Ear) and Velvet shank.

Oyster mushrooms are perhaps the easiest to identify as they sell them many greengrocers and supermarkets.  Oyster Mushroom It might be worth buying a small amount of them just so you can familiarize yourself with the mushroom and identify it correctly whilst out foraging.

Wood Ear is another easy one to identify as it looks like a misshapen brown ear! It grows mainly on Elder trees and can grow in quite abundance.  Pick only the larger pieces as the very small (size Wood Earof a fingernail) when left will grow in a matter of weeks (or even days) ensuring a constant supply from the same tree.  Some find the texture of this fungus a little off-putting and as a result it can be somewhat of an acquired taste.  Try it in a Thai mixed vegetable stir-fry, flavoured with chilli, coriander and lime as this might get you used to the gelatinous texture. I sometimes mix a small amount into a mushroom pate but unless it is pureed properly it can be a little like chewing on gristle.  It is a very poplar mushroom in Chinese cookery where it might be called wood ear or jelly ear.  I’ve had it served up to me in a back street Chinese in Paris with broccoli and noodles and it was delicious.

 

Velvet shank is quite easy to identify but it can look like Galerina marginata, a particularly nasty mushroom. The toxins in Galerina margina (or Galerina autumnalis) are known as amatoxins give you bloody diarrhea and make you vomit about a day after ingestion. Then after a little bit of time you start to feel better so most hospitals will discharge you. During this brief respite your organs collapse causing a certain and very painful death. Needless to say I made darn sure I had he right mushroom before I ate them. A spore print is essential; look at the mushroom expert for more details.

Leaves

Often you will find it is the more fiery salad leaves that survive into the winter.  These fiery tasting compounds ward off predators that may be tempted to have a little nibble.  For example Winter-Cress or American Land Cress can have an extremely powerful kick to it and can be found growing all year round even in the depths of winter.  Winter-cress generally grows in clumps and looks a lot like watercress. If you are unsure check on google images, a good foraging book or look up American Landcress in a gardening book.  I grow American Landcress on my allotment and can identify it at ever stage of its lifespan as a result.

Sorrel is another all year round favourite.  It is at it’s best in spring and summer but little clumps of it can be found all year round. It looks a little like dock but has leaves are shaped more like an arrowhead, it is also lighter green and has a very distinctive lemony flavour.  Try not to over pick as it is an important winter food for rabbits and other small mammals. Note in early spring or late winter the first leaves of Lords and Ladies can be found, these can be mistaken for sorrel by the first time forager and are highly toxic, so try to familiarize yourself with this plant before picking.

Sticky Weed, Galium, Cleavers

The first shoots of this common weed are edible. You have to pick it before it becomes ‘sticky’ or grows those irritable hairs. It is quite pleasant as a little snack, tasting not to dissimilar to peas.

Jack-by-the-hedge (Garlic Mustard) is a bi-annual it first pokes its head up in the early spring and once it sets seed it can have a second growth that lasts through the winter. Unfortunately this winter growth can be a little on the bitter side compared with the lighter spring leaf so it is best used in moderation in salads or in a cooked dish.

Coast - If you are lucky enough to live by the coast, Sea beet and Wild Cabbage both continue to grow in the depths of winter.  I’ve picked both in the middle of January cooking them like spinach and Savoy cabbage respectively. Sea cabbage is a little on the bitter side so it is really best to not have it as a focus of a dish (if at all!). If you have grown beet spinach in the past then you shouldn’t have a problem identifying Sea Beet but again a good field guide should set you straight.

Note: Try not to over pick any wild food as they are important winter food for small mammals, birds and insects.


 

Growing in Small Spaces 1 – Garden Shelves

The easiest way to cram a lot of plants into a small space is to grow them in pots on weather-proof shelves.  Cheap(ish) plastic garden shelving can now be bought from major retailers. However, in my experience these are a false economy as they only have a limited life span – the plastic doesn’t seem to hold up to extremes in temperature and in time they become brittle and start to break.  This is no doubt a ploy by the manufacturers to get us to invest in a new set when they start to deteriorate!

For a very similar price you can buy metal shelving units or if you are a regular visitor to a recycling centre/tip/dump, like me, you may come across metal shelving units for as little as £2 ($3 US, $3.40 AUS). The shelves should allow some air circulation and water to drip down from one tray to the next. Mine contain large perforations (a number of holes punched at regular intervals) but slated shelving should also do the trick.  The shelves also need either tying in place and/or weighed down by placing heavy objects on the bottom shelf.  Clay pots full of soil are sometimes adequate or if the bottom shelf is used for storing heavy items such as bags of potting compost.

Using UV stable plastic covering on your shelves is a perfect way to avoid seedling becoming etiolated (long and leggy) as they reach for the sun on a windowsill.  I’ve found (again) the cheaper shelving units with plastic covering to have a short life span as the zips break and they tend to shrink.  Finding scrap clear plastic from damaged poly-tunnels or again at recycling centres can be a cost effective way to cover your shelving.

As I don’t currently have a plastic covering for my shelving, I use them early in the season to harden off my seedlings slowly swapping them for pot grown summer crops in the warmer months (tomatoes, summer salads, herbs) and winter salads (rocket, mini iceberg lettuces, land-cress) later in the year.

If the shelves are south facing all the crops should get enough sunlight but it might be worth placing tall sun-loving plants on the top shelf (tomatoes, aubergines etc) and shade tolerant plants such as lettuce, parsley and salad greens lower down.  You may find that lower plants do struggle a little but you can always move them up and down in much the same way you would a Sunday roast in the oven.

Vegetarian Paella – Dave Hamilton

I first came across a version of this recipe not far from the Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. After a number of visits to Spain I think it is safe to say the Spanish are not really known for their vegetarian food. However, many bars and resturants will serve a vegetarian Paella and it is well worth a try.

I’ve tried to recreate this traditional recipe with allotment produce which should be in season towards the end of the summer holiday season when many may be returning back from Spain.

Ingredients

300g Paella Rice (Can use risotto rice)

1 Medium Courgette

4 Cloves of Garlic

1 Onion

1 Chilli

Large Handful of Beans – Pods Removed

2 x Corn on the cob

1.2 Litres/ 2 Pints of stock

Pinch of turmeric or if you’re posh saffron

Pinch of Paprika

2 Beef Steak tomatoes

Juice of 1/2 lemon

A little oil for cooking

Method

  1. Fry the onion garlic and chilli in the oil, once the onion has browned and softened add the courgette
  2. Once the courgette has softened a little add the rice and stir it around a bit
  3. Pour half the stock over the rice and add the turmeric (or saffron if you’ve not been crunched by the credit crunch)
  4. Bring to the boil – keep stirring
  5. Remove the corn kernels from the cob with a sharp knife
  6. Add them to the mix with the beans and chopped tomato
  7. Slowly add the stock a little at a time as the rice soaks it up
  8. After about 10-15 minutes of doing this add the lemon juice, stir and serve

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