Foraging And Herbal Medicine Day

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Alice, along with her friend and fellow herbalist Lucinda, has started running a home ed foraging and herbal medicine group.  On Wednesday I went to their first one. It was great! I like identifying plants and then finding out how you can use them to help you v, it’s really really interesting.  I love hanging out with Alice, she teaches me so many helpful bits of knowledge. I’ve certainly learnt a lot from her and I learnt even more yesterday.

In the morning we went on a walk around the farm, collecting all the wild herbs and plants as we went.

Together, Alice and Lucinda explained how to work out which family a specific plant is in.  The answer is that every family has a unique code. For example the mint family code is 554:  5 united sepals, 5 united petals,  (2 up, 3 down) and 4 stamens,  (2 long, 2 short).

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All mints also have a square stalk, opposite leaves and a very strong smell.  If you can tick off all these factors then you should be able to determine that your chosen specimen is in the mint family.  Did you know that most of the herbs we cook with are in the mint family?  These include rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme and marjoram.

We gathered a fresh and colourful spring harvest of daisies (poor man’s arnica, for bumps and bruises), dandelions (every part is edible), hawthorn shoots (tender and flavoursome in salad), ground-ivy (warming), red dead nettle (good on wounds), wild garlic (pungent and spicy), cleavers (like a natural pipecleaner), nettles (good for so many edible and medicinal uses), ladies smock (my favourite and in the mustard family), elder leaves (inedible but good for bruises) and much more!

Here's everything that we foraged laid out on display

Here’s everything that we foraged laid out on display

Wild garlic

Wild garlic

Nettles

Nettles

 

 

 

A mix of edible wild flowers and leaves

A mix of edible wild flowers and leaves

In the afternoon we got busy making! We made a herbal salad with the daisies, dandelions, wild garlic flowers, young hawthorn shoots, ground-ivy and a bit of spinach (to bulk it out a bit).  We made sauerkraut with nettles and dandelions as well as cabbage. We also prepared a spring tonic, an infused vinegar, a daisy and elder leaf ointment, nettle and wild garlic pesto and dandelion fritters.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut

Dandelion fritters

Dandelion fritters

 

 

The little yellow pellets are beeswax, when they melt you strain the plants out and leave the liquid to set. You've got ointment!

The little yellow pellets are beeswax, when they melt you strain the plants out and leave the liquid to set. You’ve got ointment!

Ointment and fritters

Ointment and fritters

 

 

Overall, I really enjoyed my day. Thanks to Alice and Lucinda for being so willing to share what they know, which is very valuable.  Next time I’m out and about and I cut myself I’ll be delighted because I’ll know what to do: Chew up some red dead nettle and apply it!

A close up of the ground ivy flower.

A close up of the ground ivy flower.

My cleavers juice

My cleavers juice

Tiger's enjoying herself

Tiger’s enjoying herself

The fire

The fire

The salad

The salad

Blackthorn flowers: delicious!

Blackthorn flowers: delicious!

Bumps & Bruises Balm made from Elder Leaves & Daisies

Bumps & Bruises Balm
made from Elder Leaves & Daisies

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Staff And Rachel’s Wedding

Staff and Rach

Staff and Rach

We were invited to our friends, Staff and Rachel’s, wedding. It was a lovely day, everything was perfect, exactly how they’d wanted it.

The whole room fell silent, I remember the silence ringing in my ears. Only the fairy lights twinkled from their places entwined over the wooden boughs of the ceiling. The atmosphere was expectant and people turned to look at the little doorway through which the bride would enter, causing a rustling of fascinators.

The curtain was drawn and the guests drew in their breaths, a bridesmaid stood there quietly.  She wore a navy blue dress and reminded me of an ancient greek goddess. Clinging onto her hand was little Charlotte.  She was wearing a white dress and the hair on her head was curled into sweet, wispy curls.  People smiled as she walked by, swinging a little wand of willow.  The next bridesmaid walked quickly and I could hear the hard clack clack of her heels on the shiny floor.  Her dress swayed softly as she went, her head bowed, her hands clasped together.

The curtain was drawn again and I looked over to Anna who was pulling a bow across the violin she held. Her eyes were closed and a smile much like the Mona Lisa’s played on her lips. Secretive, but happy, as if only she knew the secret to making such heavenly sounds. The music rose and fell. I turned back round to see the curtains opening.

Through the tiny gap, rapidly widening, I saw a swish of ivory. I watched as, slowly, a beautiful bride appeared. Her Father stood beside her, he was proud and smiling. She looked straight ahead to her future husband, a gentle happiness and eagerness in her face. Rachel’s dress was stunning. Dainty lace, a woven web of tiny flowers and leaves, covered her chest and arms. Silky ivory folds cascaded down her body and swirled around her feet, like a waterfall into a whirlpool.

She took her first few graceful steps. She held her head high, her golden hair pinned up. She reminded me of a swan, the way she glided down the aisle, her snowy train trailing behind her.

Staff stood waiting, his expression emotional, his eyes full of love and adoration. For a few moments all they saw was each other. Until the celebrant broke their trance.

Everyone present there that day could not help but be mesmerised by the sight of Rachel meeting her groom. They held hands and looked at each other with such fondness that it brought a wide smile to every guest’s face.

Photos!

Rachel and her Dad

Rachel and her Dad

 

Outside taking wedding photos. Staff and Rachel, Staff's parents in background.

Outside taking wedding photos. Staff and Rachel, Staff’s parents in background.

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Staff making his speech

Staff making his speech

 

 

 

All dressed up

All dressed up

Me, Evan and Irys

Me, Evan and Irys

 

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Lavender biscuits

Lavender biscuits

 

I thought this was really cool

I thought this was really cool

These showed us where to sit. Aren't they lovely?

These showed us where to sit. Aren’t they lovely?

Irys looking pretty

Irys looking pretty

Evan wearing a proper tie for the first time!

Evan wearing a proper tie for the first time!

Selfie with Dad

Selfie with Dad

 

Selfie with Irys and Mum

Selfie with Irys and Mum

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum and Dad in the photo booth

Mum and Dad in the photo booth

All having fun in the photo booth

All having fun in the photo booth

Dancing with Charlotte in after the ceremony.

Dancing with Charlotte  after the ceremony.

Pose!

Pose!

The delicious wedding cake. Four layers: red velvet, victoria sponge, chocolate and lemon drizzle. WE ate this whilst dancing along to a energetic folk band!

The delicious wedding cake. Four layers: red velvet, victoria sponge, chocolate and lemon drizzle. We ate this whilst dancing along to an energetic folk band!

Stepping Back In Time

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We visited the Weald And Downland Museum for Dad’s birthday. It’s a collection of old houses from all periods of history, furnished exactly as they would have been all those years ago. Here’s what I observed and learned whilst wandering around my favourite house.

I put my hand into the little worn groove on the wooden rail that ran along the landing-place. It felt smooth and cold. I glanced at the little sign by my side. “Pendean Farmhouse” I read ” Built in 1609, this is seventeenth century yeoman’s house, originally located in West Sussex. He would have lived here, in the countryside, on his little piece of land, with his family.” I wondered at all the other people who’ve put their hand on this spot and helped make this groove over four or five hundred years.

I let my imagination run wild for a moment and, upon closing my eyes, I heard the laughs and squeals of children playing and a woman’s voice calling them for dinner. They rushed past me, the boys in wide straw hats and neckties, the girls in long, plain, pleated gowns and little white sun bonnets. Their cheeks were flushed with healthy country air.

I followed them down the steep wooden stairs and into a small dimly lit room. A fire crackled in the hearth. This was largest room, and probably referred to as the ‘Hall’.

The children’s Father came in promptly. He was dressed simply yet smartly in a felt hat, buckled shoes, ruffs and cuffs, breeches and a doublet. He sat down at a low table and his wife hurried to serve him a vegetable stew with hunks of bread.

The children ate hungrily and soon left the table to go back upstairs. They went into one of the two bedrooms. The beds were just wooden frames with handmade woollen blankets draped over. There were but two beds and I counted eight children, not including the baby who the eldest girl carried in her arms. That must mean at least three in each bed.

I left the kids playing with wooden spinning tops and snuck into their parents room. The bed was larger and there was a little bed sticking out from underneath it. I looked more closely and saw that it was on wheels. I pulled and it rolled out.

I looked around the room a little more and discovered a large spinning wheel sitting in one corner. I also saw two big baskets full of coarsely combed wool. A sort of tool for doing this lay on the side. It was a small wooden board with lots and lots of nails sticking up. I guessed that you pull the wool through it.

I went down again and found the Mother baking bread. She lifted her uncooked loaves onto a peel, which is a sort of paddle, and put it into the oven. The oven was a traditional one with a fire underneath and a clay dome over the top.

I watched until the first loaf came out, piping hot and golden brown. I licked my lips and went off to explore the next room.

The dairy was tiny and very cold. Cheese, wrapped in paper, was stacked on shelves and a girl stood over one of the many butter churns. She pulled and plunged the plunger and I heard the milk sloshing around.

Time to move on. I walked to the end of the dairy where there was a kitchen. Dried herbs and onions hung from the ceiling and a great cooking pot sat on the fire, the remains of the stew bubbling and boiling away. I breathed in the scents of all thses wonderful things.

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I let myself out the back door and blinked the bright sunshine. It was so dark in there! I laughed to myself. I then turned around and waved back at the farmhouse, although I knew no one would be there to see.

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