Friday, 27 July 2012

Arthouse Cafe talk

A quick entry to thank everyone who turned up for the Arthouse Cafe for my talk about the Urbane Forager project. The talk was arranged through Transition Southampton.

It was a great night and very well attended; my children also enjoyed being involved and staying up past their normal bedtime.

If you want to be invited on future free events and fruit and nut based adventures, simply contact me with your email, either through this blog or via my community website and you will be informed of any activities.

Plump Plums - Help Yourself!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Plucking Plump Plums

Plums come in a rainbow of hues and when ripe, they will drop from the branch, into your hand with the merest of touches.
Each variety will also have a unique shape and taste; they are sweet, flavoursome and very bountiful at the moment.
Our Plum Picknik was a great success but it was almost rained off by a sudden and heavy downpour. 
Fortunately, those that braved the unpredictable weather were treated with a sweet, brightly coloured feast. As soon as an actual rainbow was visible we scrambled off to the trees and quickly gathered a pretty hoard to take home.
Once enough fruit had been picked, we had a quick game of football/frisbee with the gaggle of children who had come along.
Then we rewarded ourselves with some delicious home baked plum muffins and cracked open some elderflower champagne to celebrate the first fruit of the year (we brought some of our ginger beer for the kids).
The elderflower champagne exploded in a somewhat potent manner, blowing the ceramic top clean off the bottle, it still tasted great though.
My daughter also spotted (and gobbled up) the first ripe blackberry of the season, a real bonus.
There are still bucket loads of plums in this area, if anyone would like to collect some. I aim to bring a few samples along to my Arthouse Cafe talk (if they have not already been scoffed). - This event takes place this Thursday evening, at 7.30, just in case you had forgotten.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Bolton's Bench Apple Trees

We took a picnic to Bolton’s Bench, near Lyndhurst in the New Forest. It could have been hot and sunny or pouring with rain, according to the forecast. It did both.
As the kids and I went for a quick amble along the ridge path we started to notice some stunted crab apple trees. Several of the trees were covered in fruit and I often think we should make more use of this native species.
Further along we found a tree that looked like the fruit would develop into normal sized apples. The tree was absolutely laden.
We can’t tell yet whether they will be eaters or cookers but I’m sure that there will be plenty of them and it would be a lovely place to pick fruit on a hot autumn day.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Ginger Beer

I was wondering what to do with a young boy on a very rainy Saturday, when it suddenly occurred to me that we had not yet made our summer quota of Ginger Beer.
We dashed out to the local shops under the cover of an umbrella and then scrambled back home with lemons, too much root ginger and a bag of sugar. I already had yeast and cream of tartar from in my wine making equipment.
The next step was to clean the bottles, this kept my son busy while I sliced and squeezed the lemons. I also let him smash the root ginger up with the pestle and mortar.
The rest was boiling water and yeast preparation. Once bottled, we left the mixture for one night, and then we skimmed off the solids with a sieve and bottled it.

The next day we had lovely fizzy Ginger Beer with our tea plus enough to last us for a few weeks more.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Plum Picknik & Arthouse Talk

We are organising a foraging Cherry-Plum/Mirabelle Picknik in association with the Transition Network. We plan this for Avenue Park in Stoneham. Anyone who joins us can take in a simultaneous visit to the lovely First World War shrine in the park.

Yummy, Cherry Plums
This event is suitable for families or adults. The lovely plums here are plentiful, they taste great straight off the tree. The fruit is edible straight of the tree and would be great for jam, chutney, pies, wine etc.

Bring a suitable container if you want to take some fruit home with you.

This event will go ahead regardless of the weather ;-) Showers look likely so dress appropriately, bring a brolly or just come to see where the trees are and then come back during the sunny weekend.

Event Venue:   We will meet in the Cricket pitch car park, opposite the Cricketers pub, Chestnut Avenue, Eastleigh.
Date: Friday 20th July (the last day of school for many children)
Time: 6.00 pm (this Friday evening)
Cost:  Free!

An Oak Leaf, with a Droplet of Water on it

I am also delighted to say that I have been invited to give a talk on our, Fun & Family Friendly Foraging activities around Southampton at the lovely Arthouse Café on Southampton High Street.

In my guise as the Urbane Forager, I will give a short talk on practical foraging.  I will cover legalities, tree identification, health and safety, the objects of his project, the public free fruit map, my rather public Blackberry Ban spat, the campaign for a Community Orchard in Mansbridge, my free fruit for all manifesto and my hidden agenda, to bring back scrumping.

Hopefully, I will bring a selection of different plums or other fruit along for people to sample.  Please spread the news and bring lots of questions to help me along.

Event Venue:   Arthouse Café, High Street, Southampton. See the link on the left-hand side bar.
Date:  Thursday 26th July
Time:  7.30 pm
Cost:   Free!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Get Ready for the Rush

On a recent run about, I realised that Mother Nature had finally got around to bringing forth he bounty and (after waiting so long) it looks like it's going to arrive all at once. 
Elderflowers are still blossoming, which is quite late. My Elderflower Champagne is already going down a storm.
Some trees will have young, green Elderberries on them at the same time and flowers. I'm going to be making Elderberry Port again this year - it was/is lovely.
Cherries are still ripening on many trees, although some have already finished fruiting. A lot of cherry trees have shrivelled leaves and even mouldy cherries -  probably something to do with the persistent wet weather.
Cherry Plums
Plums are beginning to ripen nicely now and I have already picked and eaten some. I will soon be organising a plum Picknik, so don't touch that dial. There will be a real bounty of these tasty beauties so please register your interest asap, if you want to come along.
Yummy Plums
Hazelnuts are looking surprisingly early and some look like they might be ready by late July.

Blackberries are flowering and young fruit is already visible on some bushes. I might make more Blackberry Wine this year too.
Bramble Flowers

Walnuts are currently green and unripe, it’s too late now for picking them for pickled green walnuts or Vin de Noix, this is best done in June when the shells are not yet formed. I always think they are best ripe anyway.
Green Walnuts

Apples & Pears can now be seen on the trees, although they are far too small and unripe to eat, they give you an idea of the crop due to arrive in autumn.
Crab Apples

Chestnut trees are beginning to develop flowers and will soon be smothered in bunches of furry octopus like flowers.
Sloes are visible on the Blackthorn bushes now, they are green and will not ripen for months.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Busy Bees

During walk in Hedge End today I very nearly trod on a lovely frog. He was crouched in some grass and I stopped to photograph him. When I paused, I realised I could hear the background buzz of busy bees.
I saw a bank of blackberry bushes and wondered if it could be covered in bees looking for nectar. On closer inspection, there were a few but not enough to make the noise that I could hear.
I glanced around and spotted a large oak tree with a small (about 10cm) hole in it, there were one or two bees flying around the opening. It looked to me like an old woodpecker’s hole.
Then, I looked further up the trunk and there was another, similar hole… A huge mass of bees were swarming around the aperture, zooming in and out and crawling all over the entrance. It looked like a very safe place to have a nest and I think that these wise bees are going to keep all their honey.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Rustic Fruit Cage Completion

Ta Da!
The weather finally relented enough for us to get down to the allotment space that we are sharing with our friends. The main aim I had in mind was to complete the netting surrounding my rustic fruit cage, which I had constructed from coppiced hazel and also to see if the slugs had eaten all of my squash plants yet.
Muck Spreading
When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was how high the grass had grown; it was easy to lose the children, which was nice! Actually, in truth they were quite helpful weeding, sowing carrot seeds, planting strawberry runners and chopping down the grass.
Getting Planted
Stretching the netting over the cage was no mean feat and definitely a two person job. This was largely due to the wind, raspberries and the fact that it kept snagging on the rough hazel. Eventually we had it covered, as they say, with only a tiny scrap left over.
Taking Shape
Now, finally the project is completed, our raspberries, tayberries, blueberries and strawberries can now be left to ripen without being gobbled up by our feathered friends. We are looking forward to harvesting the soft fruits now that the hard work has been done.
Door Frame
The door works and even some of the hazel staves used to prop up the fruit buses are starting to grow. I even briefly entertained the thought that it might be possible to grow a fruit cage out of hazel; although, I suspect that this might be a bit too much of a quixotic idea, even for me...
Door Added
If you would enjoy the challenge of building a similar construction or simply read about our allotment activities, follow the sequence of links below…
Netting... Done!