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Monday, 18 August 2014

Foragers Diary; 1st Post

This is an account of some of food I took from the land during the week of the 28th July 2014;

Monday 28th July; Today I picked up a wood pigeon squab which had fallen out of it's nest, not much of a meal on it's own but probably my favourite wild meat. 

Tuesday 29th July; I took my daughter for an early morning forage before breakfast we picked water cress, Himalayan balsam flowers, cherry plums and hogweed seeds. These ingredients went into a watercress and potato soup, hogweed biscuits and the cherry plums were given away.

Lillie was very happy with what we collected, all in about half an hour, it would have been possible to collect a lot more on a dedicated trip but half the fun of this was having Lillie with me, she loved holding the collecting bags open, picking flowers and collecting the low hanging fruit. 

The Himalayan balsam, sometimes also known as the false orchid. The flowers taste quite 'vegetably' (is that a word?) rather than the sweetness of most flowers.

You can see the grenade like seed pods of the balsam here, including one that has already gone off and scattered its seeds violently. As soon as those pods are mature any disturbance will cause them to curl up rapidly flinging their payload of seeds all over the place. 
Wednesday 30th; Went rabbit shooting with my Dad and got six rabbits between us; these weren't actually eaten but rather are being used in a piece of research by my brother to attract carrion feeding beetles.

Thursday 31st; Took my wife deer stalking (perhaps not a standard date) and we saw five roe deer and once Chinese water deer. The Chinese water deer are not in season until November and four of the five roe were either does (also not in season) or kids but one (the first that we saw actually, we saw the others quite a while later) was a buck which I see regularly in one of the woods I manage and which needed to be removed. I shot this one and it will provide enough meat for many, many meals.
Also during the day I picked a lot of redshank, fat hen and chickweed to make a simple quiche.

Friday 1st August;  I was helping out with the start of a fallow buck cull and immediately after being assigned my high seat stalked into a large group of bucks but they were so close to my seat that I couldn't actually get to it without alerting them. A high seat gives a safer shot as you can shoot down at the ground giving a good backstop for the bullet but from the ground even with a tall bipod or shooting sticks your options are more limited. So I had to find a safe backstop from the ground, the deer were stood on a slope and I was higher up than them, there was rising ground behind them but much of it was covered by mature trees and for all I knew there could be someone walking in there so I had to creep close so I could shoot almost strait downhill so I could see the ground that would be the backstop for the bullet. This meant getting to within about 50 yards, from that position I just had to wait until one of the bucks moved into that safe area, this meant I was sat completely silent hunched behind my rifle for about 20 minutes. This gave me a nice long time to watch these majestic creatures. Some older bucks of about three years old and up moved around confidently browsing from ground level plants and occasionally thrashing their velvet covered antlers through the tall thistle and ragwort stems. Among them moved the younger bucks, prickets, with their first set of small single pointed antlers. After a nice long time watching them it was almost a shame to actually shoot one but finally one of the mature bucks moved into my safe shot zone and I pulled the trigger. This animal was butchered and has already made several meals while the choicest joints have been sold or swapped,

Saturday 2nd August; Another session on the fallow cull and several hours in the high seat led to no further shots fired although I did see about fifteen does on my way to the seat but determined not to go home empty handed I managed to find some dryads saddle growing on a tree near to my high seat which I took home and had for lunch.    
Dryad's Saddle
A typical growth of dryads saddle, picture;
By Rosser1954 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This is an example of one weeks worth or foraged food, by no means do I do so much deer stalking every week and of course the plants (and animals) which can be harvested from the land are seasonal but I look forward to sharing some of my foraging activities with you, however before I do let me make two minor disclaimers; not only do I not accept any responsibility for the results of what you choose to forage and eat but I am also not really a cook, I can cook things which taste nice but I don't really do measurements so I will tend to refer to amounts in handfuls or show pictures of how much I used but maybe I should start measuring things? 

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