Tuesday 22 May 2012


Life is so fast. I've really started to think about this recently.
On Friday I was sitting in a lay-by on the edge of the A38, a busy dual carriageway in Devon at peak time..around 6pm.
While I waited for Hugh to fiddle around with the surfboard he had strapped on to the roof, I just kind of gazed out at the traffic in an unfocussed sort of way and suddenly I felt as if I was in some sort of Dr Who style parallel universe. Its hard to explain. When I glanced at the road ahead and the cars moving away from me, everything seemed pretty normal, but when I looked out the side window at the cars moving directly past, things started to get scarey. Maybe its because I live in a wood where things are kinda slow, but suddenly the speed was terrifying. Try it sometime. Stand at the edge of a busy road and don't look left or right, just let the vehicles run past your eyes, and you get a true impression of just how quickly we drive.

Humans aren't actually meant to move that fast.

 I knew that already, but I hadn't felt it before. We're really not. We can run, and walk and stroll and creep and swim and skip and dance, but cars, they just make us go faster than we should. It makes us do things we don't need to, just because we can. Like just nipping somewhere unnecessary, like taking a job with a long commute just because we can....
Sitting there in the lay-by, it didn't seem possible that there were living, breathing, feeling human beings in these metal boxes shooting past. Of course, five minutes later when Hugh had finally finished adjusting his surfboard, we launched ourselves back onto the road at 70 miles an hour dashing down to Cornwall, and we were still feeling sentient beings, and yet.....There is something very dehumanising and frankly odd about this daily strapping ourselves into fast, isolating containers and hurtling around. The thing is, it's so easy not to think about it because it's just become part of our daily routine
 Our lives are so fast and each day we cram more and more in until we feel burnt out, stressed, irritable and conscious of an uneasy feeling that things were not really meant to be that way.
Are we happy with them being that way?
Are you happy? I know I'm not.
For thousands of years horses have been as fast as we've moved .

The wind on our skin, the scents of spring on the air, the colour of a butterfly's wing and the voice of our friends on the path, the blood pumping through our hearts.
 Not in a car.
When I was 15 a friend pointed out that once you get behind a car window it feels ok to stare at people, to criticise people we see, to shout at them for some perceived driving weakness. The glass screen makes it ok. Them and us.
Oh dear I'm about to run out of battery and I'm rushing to finish this post..rush rush rush rush.

I feel a bit odd writing this as we have a car, which one or both of us uses most days. I guess we're all on a journey `to do the best we can and awareness of the problem is the first step.
We're moving towards the second step.......but that involves some information I can't divulge for a little while longer.
 Until then I'm planning to walk when I can.
Stop when I can.
Breathe when I can....well actually all the time.
Be still when I can.

How about you? Do you thrive on speed or yearn for slow? 

Friday 11 May 2012

squirrel and lime leaf sandwiches

No really. Veggies read no further...

It was a fresh road kill that Tansy wandered in with a couple of days ago cradled in her arms (with her dad...she's not quite old enough for solo foraging expeditions!) and it was the day after Hugh flourished a beautiful duck at me when he came in at ten at night.
We mourned the loss of two lives, the soft grey fur, the beautiful iridescent feathers and webbed feet, and blessed them and gave thanks for the fact that they would not be wasted.

We eat meat about once a week usually, and only organic and that feels right. Local, wild, killed anyway meat seems even righter. I regret not taking any pictures but we were so caught up in the moment that it didn't even cross my mind.

A cold east wind blew up the valley so we plucked and gutted the duck inside in a flurry of feathers. Tansy and Leo chose beautiful feathers to keep and helped to pluck the downy breast feathers. They saw the scarlet, spongy lungs and the burgundy liver and heart, they saw the blood wash away, and the transformation between a soft feathered bird and an oven ready piece of meat.
 I was glad they could see that.
 They know in their bones what meat is. They know how to prepare it. They know it can be a creature that flies and runs and feels pain and has babies, and looks very cute when it sits in the trees outside and nibbles a nut held between its paws or dabbles upside down in the pond.

They are connected to the meat and there is something very special about that.


We roasted the duck for Sunday lunch and later I made a risotto with the bones and the pickings of a foraging expedition around the wood.
Ground ivy, Herb Robert, Primrose, Dandelion, Lime leaves, Hawthorn, Ransoms, Bitter cress, Sorrel, Nettle, Water mint, Beech leaves, Violet leaves, Yellow archangel. It was a vibrant meal, I could feel the wild energy zinging around my taste buds.

These plant have strong tastes. Tastes that make a lettuce leaf seem like a soggy rich tea biscuit. They have grown in the rich nutritious soil of the woodland,  small and concentrated parcels of wild vitality and vibrations. Their potency and energy are palpable..a little goes a long way. That meal, it felt as if we were ingesting a little bit of the wild wood into our bodies and souls, the duck, the herbs...a special meal.

Hugh pan fried the squirrel the next night and actually, I lied, there wasn't really enough left for sandwiches the next day but it made a good title and we did consider it (It was humous and Lime leaf really..try Lime leaves if you're not used to wild foods, they're mild tasting pleasant introduction to the world of foraging! Lovely in sandwiches or salads.) Leo was going to bed at the time of the pan frying and was quite upset at missing out, so we kept him a leg and he ate it after his porridge the next morning. I have never eaten squirrel and it was delicious, like a rich, dark, woody chicken.

Leo and Hugh skinned the squirrel  and are curing the hide, Leo wants it as a carpet for his Sylvanian sheep I think.

Now we are more settled, I have the energy and time to stop buying herbal tea bags and make my own tea. How crazy to buy boxed, bagged cut herbs when I can come back with  a basketful yards from my door!
I realised that last weekend.

Tansy had a high temperature and was glassy eyed on the sofa all day while I ransacked my herbal jars for fever brews. Lemon water tick, Echinacea, tick....hmm and old jar of last years Meadowsweet still humming with honey scented energy... Peppermint and rosemary in the garden, and Ground ivy in the wood. This was a new discovery for me. I knew the little plant well, quietly pretty with its small purple flowers yet so easily overlooked or mistaken for Self heal or Bugle, and I knew that it was sold in bundles on the streets of London in bygone days as a remedy for 'clearing the blood'  Well it makes delicious tea too!
I bundled it into Tansy's fever brew.. (the only time she raised a smile all day!) and had a sip. Mmm! Nibbling the leaf and wincing slightly at its strength gave me no indication of its potential as a beverage herb. I had been missing green tea, but that slightly astringent bitter taste is readily available all over the wood.
It's Ground Ivy every morning now!

Even if there isn't squirrel for breakfast!