Just a few words

This isn’t much of a blog post to start the week but there are two reasons for that.

Last week I was under the weather for a few days, nothing serious, although being a man I assumed that I was dying, although again, being a man I didn’t do anything dramatic like asking a doctor, but I obviously wasn’t dying, at least not at any rate much faster than I am anyway, because I’m still here. But I am now in the phase of ‘having felt a bit rough I now feel really good, ‘cos I’m not feeling rough anymore’.

Yesterday morning was the fourth Sunday in a row when a quick foray out produced a 2-litre ice-cream container full of blackberries – we are having to eat things from the freezer to make space for the blackberries not consumed as stewed blackberries and apple through the week. What a bucolic life!

bberry

Seriously, in rural east Northants it’s a pretty good year for blackberries – there are lots more left on the bushes even though the devil is about to spit or pee on them (depending on which calendar you are keeping).  I went blackberry picking with my parents every year, but I also remember doing so with each of my grandmothers too.  I  rarely see other peo-ple picking blackberrries – is this a tradition which is dying out? Will this generation of children have the same memories?

image

Our two apple trees have been quite prolific too. Unfortunately, the better one has shed most of its fruit on the ground recently, when I was feeling a bit rough, and so there are lots of bruised and rotting apples on the ground, but there are still a few on the tree which I will collect tomorrow, I hope.  And the second tree, once thought to be dead, has blossomed under my regime of neglect and produced almost its first apples in c15 years – and they taste quite good.

Blackberrying yesterday produced Red Admirals, Commas (one of which landed on my hand in mid-blackberry-pluck) and Speckled Woods, and casting an eye over our apples produced five Red Admirals too.

But the other reason for this being an insubstantial blog is that I am quite busy corresponding with many of you over your letters to and from your MPs, and I am drafting the evidence I will submit to the evidence session of the House of Commons Petitions Committee Inquiry by the 5 October for the 18 October.  More on this subject through the week.

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28 Replies to “Just a few words”

  1. There's nothing insubstantial about a good crop of blackberries and apples! Free food, fresh air and the opportunity to engage with yet more wildlife... good call. Not to mention enthusing the next generation or two with an appreciation of Nature. Glad to hear you're on the mend.

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  2. Having just spent a weekend on the Black Isle, and being a very keen wildlife photographer, this is the 3rd time in the last year I have visited. I can confirm that the area is #raptorsterile not one raptor was seen. The red kite Center are only feeding single numbers it is falling dramatically year on year! This area is seeing raptors persecuted to almost extinction, and the Trough of Bowland is very close behind. This has to be stopped with better policing and tougher sentences for anyone caught interfering with them.

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  3. Food for thought, given the gravity of the flooding threat at Hebden Bridge how about giving it a serious shot of publicity by engaging Panorama:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5srnn91SY0N9QKFK6dk7Hk0/contact-us

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    1. Damned fine idea PD.

      It might even coincide with the parliamentary debate if focused on the one angle that will get the Great British voting public (you know the one body that politicians "care" about) to sit up and take note - flooding!

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    2. PD - you know you may be onto something here. Panorama attracts between 3 to 4 million viewers for subjects that matter to the wider public whereas Parliament TV will get at best 123,075. Must be worth giving it a go. If you don't ask ......

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  4. My crab apple tree was well laden with fruit this year. Spent yesterday making crab apple jelly - very tasty on my toast this morning.

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  5. I went blackberrying last weekend and was blown away by the number and variety of insects feeding from the ivy flowers just opening right next to one of the blackberry bushes. There are also some apple trees in the hedgerows nearby, so free fresh fruit for our blackberry and apple crumble that evening.

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    1. That reminds me to look at the hedge ivy.
      Google ivy bee; arrived 2001
      If you have a boring wooden fence ivy will climb up it and make a well behaved hedge of much more ecological value. It stops when it reaches the top and flowers: great for insects inc bees at this time of year. (also pigeons)
      Did I first hear about ivy bees here? very good blog Mark

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      1. I remember your photo of an ivy full of flowers, Mark, and we have similar, going mad all over.

        Before I had one, I would never have believed the strange little flowers would attract so many bees and other insects, as mentioned above.

        Ivy, like so many living beings, has an undeservedly bad press, which I always try to counter.

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        1. Marian - my ivy is full of flies and bees at the moment (although it is just about to rain). And looking out of the bathroom window at it, a good viewpoint, it's fun to try and spot the Red Admirals scattered about the ivy (up to three earlier today - often more).

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  6. Being a fully paid up member of The Royal Society for Hypochondriacs I think I know how you felt.

    You mentioned ‘bucolic life’. Is it contagious?

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  7. We have been awash with damsons, plums and blackberries over here, it's been an excellent year. Several litres of damson vodka and sloe gin have already been put away, hopefully for drinking in two years time. This year I've been fortunate to discover a source of 'wild damsons', so I'm looking forward to comparing those with the normal ones found in the garden.
    I must have raised a few eyebrows on Sunday morning whilst queuing in Tesco with nothing but 6 bottles of cheap vodka, 3 bottles of even cheaper gin and several bags of sugar in the trolley. Not helped by having two small children in tow...one of which had jettisoned her sandals and was, unbeknown to me, bare foot. It must have looked like a scene from 'Britain's Broken Families'...

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      1. We still have plenty left from 2014..

        Both damson vodka and sloe gin are so much better when left for over a year. I find ageing properly means that you can use half the amount of sugar than is usually recommended, and the resultant liquid doesn't have that syrupy cough medicine type consistency to it.

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  8. Ah, that would explain it, thought it was something I said, glad you're feeling better!

    Well we did the same yesterday, friends down from Yorkshire ( now avid HH converts) picking Blackberries & Slo's, they're already soaking in Gin so should be ready for Christmas treats! I too used to take my son out every year, I don't think he does it now but am sure he will take up the tradition if & when he has his own kids.

    Our apple trees are producing an incredible amount of apples this year, we can't possibly eat all the windfalls, but my 4 pigs soon get through the rest, they're munching there way through 35lbs of apples per day at the moment, and that's just there evening meal 🙂 (don't think I can post a pic here?)

    Eagerly awaiting some 2nd round Firm Briefing advice. Let them have it with all barrels on the 18th - good luck!!

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    1. Andrew - well, if it is, I wouldn't worry about it if I were you. But I guess you are worried that it won't be and are just being rude here because it makes you feel better about yourself. Would that be right?

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  9. Nothing insubstantial about this blog Mark, I enjoyed it very much. Glad you're feeling better.

    How is the buddleia in your garden getting on? A few weeks ago I had a go at cutting off some of the old flowers off mine once they'd finished to see if it would encourage a second set of flowers. It does seem to have done the trick. I can't quite be sure that it's not just the lack of old flowers making the new ones more prominent or it genuinely is more flowers but I think it is the latter - there seem to be new shoots growing more strongly from where I trimmed off the old ones. I've been rewarded with a few bees and butterflies and I'm quite pleased with the result.

    Had a lovely view of a red admiral sunning itself on ivy in one of the local parks on Saturday - it kept it's wings still for ages.

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    1. MK - their are c20 big buddleia flowers on it. They were being used by red Admirals over the weekend but now it's drizzling.

      Many thanks!

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  10. I had a couple of hours birding in Overscourt community wood which Fc planted in 1998. Lots and lots of lovely blackberries - and no one should underrate what good food they are, nor the lifting of the spirits collecting such delicious real food. The environment that has developed in under 20 years is fantastic - and unrecognisable - it really shows how things can get better, and why everyone should have that sort of environment on their doorstep - but the quantity of blackberries did tell the story of how few people go blackberrying these days.

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  11. We made a bottle of sloe gin many years ago. We spent several hours gathering the sloes, bought a bottle of half decent gin, pricked the berries and then marinaded them for about 3 months. We looked forward to enjoying a drink..... Then, one day, the bottle disappeared, none of our three sons admitted liability.

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    1. Chris - great story! It must have been good otherwise it would have been topped up and replaced after the first taste.

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    2. Personally, I find sloe gin reminiscent of cough mixture so I wouldn't have mourned the loss myself but I can feel for your frustration at being denied the fruits of your efforts!

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  12. In the Cevennes we've picked about 20lb of blackberries so far in September and I reckon that we have two or three weeks still to go. Bramble jelly is wonderful. It has been dry so we've only managed enough bilberries to make one (excellent) pie. In the garden there are few quinces, pears, apples but the figs are wonderful. It's all rather unpredictable and that's part of the fun. Of course everyone around here will be after mushrooms in a week or so, I don't see any let-up in that particular foraging. This year we might even gather chestnuts, there's a new transformation végétale place up the road.

    Glad you are feeling better Mark.

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