Alice And I’s Interview: A Wild Taste Of Fame!

wildsaladThe sun beat down on us as we walked through the field, sun hats bobbing, hands trailing through the long grass. We stopped every now and then to point and then set off at a quicker pace towards what we’d spotted. Then we’d stop and begin to harvest, sometimes crouching down and sometimes reaching up. Our chatter floated away on the slight breeze.

The salad we were planning to make was a picture of summer colour. With thirteen different flowers of red, orange, yellow, purple, blue, pink, white and cream and five types of leafy greens, this was going to be a work of art.

We set up in the shade outside Clarabella, our vintage train carriage. We laid out three pretty china plates and three elegant silver forks. Then three glass mugs, one with a sprig of self heal, one with a floret of meadowsweet and the other with a few creeping thistle flowers.

But there was two of us, Alice and I, who was the third person?

I laid out a sheet of dirty white paper on the wooden table and then put all of my specimens out on it. Then, in my neatest, black , loopy handwriting I labeled them with all of their beautiful names.

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Soon our mystery guest joined us, Rebecca from the Viva Magazine. Viva is local to Brighton and Lewes. She was here to interview me and Alice.

In the interview I made sure I was bold and enthusiastic, as I wanted to make the most of this great opportunity and not ruin it by being shy.

The first thing Rebecca asked me was: what is your job? I replied that I was Alice’s student and that she taught me everything she knew about foraging and herbal medicine.

While Alice went to get the hot water for the three different teas for our journalist to try, Rebecca quizzed me on how I thought each of them tasted. I told her that meadowsweet is vanilla-y, creeping thistle has a gentle and honey like flavour so is soothing and self heal tastes green, bit like green tea.

Alice arrived with the water, smiling her usual wide smile. Rebecca liked self heal best.

Then we ventured out of the shade and into the baking heat again. We walked around the field again showing the reporter the plants growing in the wild. All the while Rebecca snapped away with her big, black, fancy camera. Photos of the sunshine, of me holding the creeping thistle tea by the creeping thistle, of the creamy meadowsweet flowers and the delicate yet prickly thistle flowers.

When we got back I read out the whole list of ingredients for the salad and together me and Alice told Rebecca a bit more about each plant, its medicinal properties, how to identify it, along other useful facts.  Rebecca scribbled it all down in her notebook, me glancing over at her trying to make sense of her shorthand.

Then, after a load more photos, we tucked in. The salad was like a rainbow of tastes, from hot and spicy nasturtiums to cooling, cucumber-y mullein flowers. The array of textures, mucilaginous to crunchy. With a drizzle of sweet, pre-prepared by Alice, blackberry vinegar, the salad was just what we all needed on a summer’s day.

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Overall, the interview went really well and I’m grateful to Alice for inviting me along to help out. Rebecca was friendly and keen to learn and I think she enjoyed herself. I can’t wait to read a certain article in the August issue of Viva Magazine.

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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

Malala Yousafzai: A Real Light In The Darkness

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A long time ago, in a country called Afghanistan, there was a battle. The battle was between Afghanistan and England.  Afghanistan was losing.  Amongst the masses of slain soldiers, sat an Afghan girl. She looked up and saw her people running away. Slowly she rose to her feet, she climbed to the top of the highest mountain. Here she spoke up, the words poured out of her mouth, loud and clear and brave. ” It is better to live for one day as a lion, than to live for a hundred years as a coward”.  The people were encouraged and they turned to face the English. The girl stood at the head, holding the flag.  Her words had made the men of Afghanistan strong and they won a great victory that day, but as the English went to ride away, a man looked back over his shoulder. He pulled out his pistol and aimed. The girl fell, dead. Her name?  Malala.

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Over a hundred years later, in a small village in the Swat valley (Pakistan), a baby girl was born. Her father was a teacher and a wise and good man. When his daughter was born he knew he had found his soul mate. She would grow up to be an incredible girl, ordinary yet extraordinary. Her father knew it, he named her Malala.

Malala is seventeen now and has become one of the world’s greatest and most amazing young women. She has campaigned for girl’s education all over the world.  She has met with world leaders, written a book and produced and starred in her very own film ( Which I have just seen and it actually inspired me to write this blog) and won the nobel peace prize. All of this was to work towards her goal: every child shall get an education.

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Malala was just an ordinary girl, but her love for education and her determination has made her extraordinary. But how has she got here? What and who has made her who she is? What has been her journey?

The Taliban said that she and no other girl should go to school. Then they said that it was against Islam and that no girl will go to school and if you do then they will kill you. Even at eleven years old, Malala believed this was wrong. She argues that girls and boys are equal. “In the Qur’an,” Malala says ” the first word means ‘read’. Nowhere does it say ‘only to be read by men’. It simply says ‘read’.”

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Malala and her father spoke out against the unjust laws of the Taliban. They put their lives in danger. Malala’s father said ” I would rather die than live another day in silence”. They were brave and they did what was right.

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Malala when she was no older than me!

But Malala paid dearly. One day, in the school bus, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban, along with two of her friends. The other two girls where not too badly injured, but Malala was. No one thought she would live, but everyone prayed for her. Praying the hardest, were all the girls she had stood up for.

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She was taken to hospital in Birmingham and here she made a long, slow, but miraculous recovery. But Malala was sad, never again would she see the valleys of her home land. If she returned, the Taliban would kill her.

Malala has inspired me a lot. She is what I want to be: A light in the darkness.  Malala is a girl who was passionate about something and look how far she has come! From a small child living in a remote village to a nobel peace prize winning activist! She first started speaking and standing up when she was just eleven years old. I am almost twelve.

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Malala is living proof that children can make a difference. She says that you should not doubt yourself and think you are uncapable of achieving great things because of your age. Children are powerful, they can be lights in the darkness. I struggle with being a light sometimes, it isn’t easy, but watching Malala’s film and hearing her story has made me more determined than ever. Even though I am a child, it does not make me any less able to make a difference than an adult. Malala needs all of us children to stand up for what is right.

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My favourite speech that Malala has made was when she stood up in front of many important world leaders and said:

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A few helpful tips and points from Andy

Today I was sitting in the manor house kitchen, sipping yannoh and chatting, when Andy came in.  “Hey Gracie,” he says, ” I’ve just read your blog.”  ” Is it all correct?” asks Mum, ” I mean all of the facts and figures?”  ” Well,” Andy answers ” I’ve made a few notes of things you could change, add or include.  Do you wanna come up to the office now?  We could discuss it, you can make some notes of your own”.  ” Sure.” I reply and I follow him up the creaky wooden staircase to what all of us call the ‘Top Office’.

The next hour or so was spent in a comfy chair, with a view out onto the wheat field, discussing extra information concerning wheat, illnesses, spelling mistakes, varieties, questions and so on.  I learned a lot in this short period of time, these are the main points that Andy talked about.

Now for Summer Harvest! Part 2.

 Why Do We Grow Heritage Wheat?

Heritage wheat is taller than modern wheat.  The reason why our ancestors grew tall wheat is because it grew higher than the weeds and so cast a shadow over them.  Obviously no plant can live without sunlight, so, simple as, the weeds died.

Now farmers want to put chemical fertilizer on, if they put it on the tall varieties of wheat they’d get super huge and topple over.  Therefore they have to create a small type of wheat so that when they put the fertilizer on the wheat grows to the right height.  But the weeds can grow easily in short wheat, so now what do we do?  Easy, we spray the field with weed killer!  Ah, but what if you’re an organic farm, like us?

Now you’ve covered your wheat field in weed killer,all the weeds are gone.  In most fields of modern wheat it’s all the same variety, unlike a lot of heritage wheat where it’s lots of different types.  Without the weeds the illness just passes from plant to plant to plant.  Whereas if there were weeds the disease would hit one and stop because that species isn’t affected by it.  Because all the plants are identical the illness spreads mega fast. So?  We can easily spray the plants with fungicides to stop diseases.  Oh no!  The organic problem has just popped up again. Eeeeeeeeeeek! Here come some pests, ahhhhhhhhhhhh, what can we do?  DON’T PANIC, we’ll just put some pesticides on. Grrrr, why does that same old prob keep ruining everything?!

So you see how many chemicals and horrible, disgusting, artificial substances are in the bread that you eat?  If we all just grew heritage wheat, all these things wouldn’t be needed.

Thanks Andy for your advice.

If you want to learn more about heritage wheat visit Andy’s wesite:

http://brockwell-bake.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Harvest!

Harvest weekend is here at last!

Harvest weekend is here at last!

Imagine this:  a field of beautifully  golden wheat, it’s perfectly ripe and sways gently in the warm, humid, summer breeze.  Harvest  weekend has finally arrived!

Where I live, on a farm in Sussex, the harvest is a big deal for everyone, men, women and children alike.  Everyone  has to muck in and pull their weight.

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Tiger enjoying herself.

Tiger enjoying herself.

Loading up the trailer

Loading up the trailer

Long ago scythes and sickles were the only means of harvesting, but recently they have been forgotten because of modern technology such as combine harvesters.  Not only do combine harvesters do the job in a very short amount of time, they also save a vast quantity of human sweat.

Working in the early evening sun

Working in the early evening sun

Everyone helps out.

Everyone helps out.

Andy, our chief baker here on the farm, is incredibly knowledgeable about all sorts of grains, baking and the whole process from grain to loaf.  People say that he is one of the most learned people about wheat.  He specialises in something called heritage wheat.

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Heritage wheat is very old wheat.  Wheat that you might say is not used by any farmers anymore, except growers of this heritage grain.  It’s Andy’s passion to reintroduce these old varieties back into use.  You may wonder how he gets hold of the grains, well, that’s simple enough.  There are two different ways.  Number one is a seed bank, there are usually one each country.  For every type of grain that is ever cultivated, they save about 180g.  People can get it from the bank in tiny quantities. Number two is more romantic, but probably less used.  It’s  where you visit an old mill and with special permission, take up the floorboards and gather the ancient grains that have fallen through over hundreds of years.  The absolute maximum age that you can still grow wheat at is around 40 years old.

The main reason why types of wheat get wiped out, is because of illnesses.  Most types last 8-9 years before an illness that can take them over forms.

Once you have the grains, maybe fifty or so of them, you sow them.  Then when you harvest them, you find that each head has say fifteen grains in it.  Again you sow all of these seeds and the numbers keep multiplying.  Soon you have a whole field of heritage wheat.

Anyhow, because we were harvesting heritage wheat, it seemed only proper that we did it traditionally.  Plus we were all wanting to do it with scythes and sickles.

We must get it in before tommorrow, because it is due to rain.

We must get it in before tommorrow, because it is due to rain.

Before the harvest Andy worked extremely hard, sowing, reaping, sowing again, reaping once again, he’d been nurturing this wheat for 7 long years.  We just came to help with the cherry on the cake.

All weekend long us workers harvested, sometimes having breaks to sit in the shade and sip cool icy water or run down to the river and have a refreshing swim.  Our wide-brimmed straw hats bobbed among the long yellow stems, as we waded through, collecting the heads of the Orange Devon Blue Rough Chaff, which is dark and furry and leaving the tall, light, velvetty Old Ken Hoary.  Us kids would run up to the taps and fill jug after jug of cold water, then pour it into cups with a splash of ginger cordial for the other workers.  We’d cut sheaths of a certain type of wheat and tie it with tape, writing its name, whether Welsh Hen Gymro or Chidham Red.  We separated the weed from the wheat, all the while munching on crunchy grains.  Each tastes a little different, Old Kent Hoary is slightly spicy, ODBRC is more sweet.

Evan working hard

Evan working hard

Chewing grains of wheat

Chewing grains of wheat

where's Irys?

where’s Irys?

Ah! There she is!

Ah! There she is!

At noon we all walked down to the manor house for a delicious and totally traditional lunch of pickles, cheese and , of course, bread! We all talked pleasantly and discussed the afternoon’s work.  The puddings were all made by me, they included flapjacks and rhubarb & plum crumble. In the evening there was music, meat, a campfire and beer.

Yum!

Yum!

The grand finale of the harvest weekend was when we loaded all of the sheaths onto the tractor trailer and followed it up to the bakery were we unloaded and had a team photo taken on the trailer.  Then we all rode back to the field to do it again!

Such a wonderful photo, full of beauty

Such a wonderful photo, full of beauty

Daddy!

Daddy!

Tiger looks like a proper country girl here!

Tiger looks like a proper country girl here!

This is Andy proudly showing off his the product of his hard work

This is Andy proudly showing off his the product of his hard work

 

Lulu waiting to catch the sheaf that is about to be thrown down to her.

Lulu waiting to catch the sheaf that is about to be thrown down to her.

Well done!

Well done!

Overall I loved doing the harvest, getting a feel of how it used to be for people in the books I read, like Laura out of Little House on the Prairie, and learning so much.  This weekend has been part of my homeschool life education.

 AwesomeTeam photo!

AwesomeTeam photo!

ME!

ME!

Lulu, Evan, Tiger, Irys, Dad and Me

Lulu, Evan, Tiger, Irys, Dad and Me

Tiger and Ev on the trailer

Tiger and Ev on the trailer

 

A good view!

A good view!

Children, Unite!

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Children are 27% of the world’s people BUT 100% of the world’s future

We are the world’s future parents, teachers, prime ministers, farmers, bankers, builders, bakers, activists, scientists, ecologists, religious leaders, lawyers, pop stars, scout leaders, and most importantly, we are tomorrow’s peacemakers.

Across the world 58 million children aren’t getting the chance to go to school.

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FIRST NEWS, the weekly newspaper for young people, have launched Children United, a charity that is trying to help uneducated children all over the world to go to school.  They say their desire is to give kids a window on the world from wherever they are sitting right now.  It will help them to hear different points of view and understand different cultures.

They talk about all the different reasons why kids cannot and do not go to school.

They believe that all children have the right to education and have released a song , performed by Alesha Dixon and children from around the world, to share their message.  Check the song out it’s beautiful, emotional and full of passionate children.

http://www.childrenunited.com/song

I think the reason why children should go to school is because it gives them hope, a brighter future and a way to provide for their family.  If children are taught at home or are learning a practical skill like farming, then they should have the right to not go to school, but some for kids it’s a chance.

You may wonder why I, a home educated kid, am encouraging others to go to school.  Education is essential wherever you learn. Some kids can have a future that is promising and fruitful without going to school, but for others it is very important and an opportunity to seize because it can change their lives.

Children United want children to come together to raise their voices to say that they want their fellows to be educated.  They have written a petition, #UpForSchool, its aim is to gather millions of signatures demanding education for all, a message that no world leader can ignore.

When the petition is signed by loads of people then it will be delivered by Gordon Brown (The UN Special Envoy for Education) to some very important world leaders in the hope that they will make a special effort to make sure all kids that want to go to school, go to school!

#UpForSchool petition reads:

” We, the world’s youth, teachers, parents and global citizens, appeal to our government to keep their promise, made at the United Nations in 2ooo, to ensure that all out-of-school children gain their right to education before the end of 2015. We are standing up to bring an end to barriers preventing girls and boys from going to school, including forced work and early marriage, conflict and attacks on schools, exploitation and discrimination. All children deserve the opportunity to learn and achieve their potential.”

I encourage everyone to sign this petition.  It will make the future so much better for so many people, it will go a long way to ensuring that kids achieve their potential, their hopes and their dreams.

You can sign the petition at:  http://www.childrenunited.com/petition

Thank You!

 

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The Child’s Elephant

Recently I read an amazingly deep and moving book called The Child’s Elephant. It’s by Rachael Campbell Johnston and although she may not be the most famous and well-known of authors, she is truly talented and a wonderful writer.

I wrote a book review on it. At first I was stuck for words, which is a very unusual situation for me to be in, it’s just one of those few books that take your breath away and  leave you lost and with your brain swirling round and round with ideas, emotions and long adjectives.

Eventually I found the words that would best describe this book and the way I felt about it.

THE CHILD’S ELEPHANT, by Rachael Campbell Johnston

This book made me want to cry with sadness, shout with anger, sigh with relief and be speechless with wonder all at the same time. I think the reason it’s like this is because it expresses the feelings of the character in such a way that it makes you feel it too. The book is very emotive. It plays with people’s different emotions, setting different ones off at different times.

The Child’s Elephant is very real, it tackles issues such as drunkenness, poaching, moral dilemmas, bullying and child soldiers.

My favourite part of the book is actually the bit that I found hardest to read.  It’s when children no older than myself are captured from remote villages in Africa and are forced to hurt their families and fight as soldiers.
The ordeals the kids have to go through are tremendous, yet they’re tough and they keep on going.  They believe in hope and try to keep their spirits up, but they try harder than anything not to give up.  Maybe it’s fear that keeps them going, maybe it’s hope.  I don’t know how they do it.

A bit of the book that is nice and wonderful is the bit about elephants. It’s about the relationship between a boy who rescued an orphaned calf and that calf as she grows to become a matriarch of the herd and have calves herself. Elephants have understandings far greater than humans ever have had. They know when things are stormy or calm and can sense if someone is in need of help or sick and dying.  A quote from the book is, ” If elephants ruled our world instead of humans, it would be a better place to live.  No war, just peace, no child soldiers.”

This book overwhelmed me, inspired me to try to make peace in this world and totally moved me. I  love it and it’s by far the best book I’ve ever read in my 11 years and trust me, I’ve read a lot of books.

My Dad

This blog is for my Dad on his birthday.

I just wanted to tell him how special he is and that he’s the best Dad in the world.  I hope he enjoyed his birthday and all his treats around it.

Me & My Dad

Me & My Dad

My Dad is everything to me, he’s my inspiration, my advisor, my teacher, my leader, he’s everything a  Dad should be.

Dad helps me to understand the world we live in and encourages me to try and make a difference.   Some of our talks are a little heavy and hard for me to understand, but Dad tries to make it clear for me.  Dad helps me to be honest, make the right decisions and grow up.

He always does what’s best for his family and not himself.  He works hard to ensure that we’re all getting the life we need.

In our education we all have strong points and weaknesses.  Dad helps us with things we find hard and encourages our individuality.

Dad can be fun and funny though. He’s got a great sense of humour and is always joking and playing with us.  He’s a great supporter of adventure, so we all go off on adventures together.  We’ve been climbing mountains, living on a boat, living in a van and lots of other awesome things.  He challenges us to get out of our comfort zone.  It’s all part of growing up, apparently!!!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!!

 

The Sun and The Moon

my picture, I painted the whole paper black and then did the moon and light in white chalk.

my picture, I painted the whole paper black and then did the moon and light in white chalk.

Today I watched the solar eclipse live on television, we would have watched it outside, but it was really cloudy. It showed you live footage from the Faroe Islands. They were experiencing a total eclipse. It’s amazing, even on television. I learnt what a solar eclipse is, painted a picture of it and wrote a poem. Here it is:

THE SUN AND THE MOON,

A pale, silhouetted sun,
constantly she’s on the run.
The moon, a monster, dark and black,
he’ll gobble her up, if speed she does lack.

He creeps upon her, like a wolf stalking it’s prey,
gradually he gains on her, moment by moment, day by day.

It’s a beautiful sight,
the sun’s ever so bright
and the moon, that deathly dark,
but from out of the circle, comes a bright and fiery spark.

They call it a diamond ring,
all the birds cease to sing,
it’s so awe-inspiring,
no one even thinks of retiring, home.

Eventually the moon, he strikes,
he eats up what he likes,
sometimes he leaves a little crescent,
it can be seen in London, Brighton, Scotland or Cheshunt.

When the moon swallows the poor sun whole,
we’re plunged into darkness,
it touches people down in their very soul.

It’s a once in a lifetime chance,
to see the moon and the sun do their amazing dance.

 

my sister, Irys, is a natural artist. This is her masterpiece

my sister, Irys, is a natural artist. This is her masterpiece

This is my brother's picture. He likes to use bright, bold colours.

This is my brother’s picture. He likes to use bright, bold colours.