February 2009 – been a long winter

Snow on the ground and what seems to be a very long winter. We have scraped a few winter fungi on occasion from the woods – the Winter Mushroom (Flammulina velutipes) stood us in good stead on several occasions in December and January, but there weren’t as many as last year, and mushrooms have had to be bought. Right now, we are rounding up some Jews Ear Fungi (Auricula auricularia-judae) from elder trees (which are already breaking bud despite the extreme cold). They are jelly-like, capable of freezing and thawing which is handy, and taste excellent cooked slowly in butter or milk and butter for 20 minutes or so. Make sure you put a well-fitting lid on the pan because the Ears tend to blow up else! But what’s left now are getting a bit dry and shrivelled, and most of our foraging now is about bringing home rucksacks of firewood and kindling from the forest floor.

A CHALLENGE FOR LENT

I’m not very religious at all, but it’s a sort of tradition in my family to give something up for Lent. It’s never made that much difference till last time, when I gave up supermarkets. That really made me think! This year I’ve decided to go one further and give up buying food at all……

Given the snow, the protracted winter and no sign of green shoots whatever, I shall be reliant on stored and saved wild food and frozen home grown stuff to begin with. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday (25th Feb) and finishes on Easter Sunday, 40 days later. Nearer Easter I hope for fresh greens – nettles, salads, shoots and stems. Protein won’t be a problem as I have stored hazelnuts, my chickens and ducks lay eggs, and there are bits of ex-cockerel in the freezer too. No fish – I ate them all, but maybe some rocky shores will yield some shellfish. The real challenge will be carbohydrate. We’ve eaten all last years tatties; nothing made with flour is permitted, nor rice etc, which I’ve never managed to grow in Scotland, strangely! There are Jerusalem artichokes and Sweet Cicely roots for the digging, though. No tea or coffee! I’ve already gone “cold turkey” on caffeine (nasty it was too), but will miss my cuppa anyway. No milk……

What I think will happen is I’ll become more aware of the areas where we could become more self-sufficient, and just how reliant we are on imported goods. I think I shall be even more adventurous in trying wild foods, too, maybe out of boredom with my diet! I am looking for sponsors too, and the money raised will be given to the new community church in Bankfoot who (as well as being hooked to renewable energy and full of environment – friendly features – see www.bankfootchurch.org.uk  ) are establishing gardens and a community orchard on the site – so hopefully everyone in the village will get the chance to scrump and enjoy home-grown and local produce by next year.

I’ll keep a log on my progress and what I’m eating through the course of Lent; meanwhile looking for  some warmer weather now to get those spring greens up through the permafrost!

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