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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Foragers diary ; easy mistake to make 2

Common and Giant hogweed

Christian Fischer [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons The leaves of common hogweed 
The leaves of the giant hogweed are much more deeply 'toothed' and aggressively serrated, and just generally larger. 

To put the size difference between giant and common hogweed into perspective this is my watch around a giant hogweed stem, now look below at the full stem to get an idea of the full scale of it. 
These plants might grow to five meters tall

You can tell just by the size of the hairs compared to the stem that this common hogweed stem is much smaller than it's giant relative. The stem of the common hogweed has much less red colouration, in terms of actual dimensions the common hogweed stem might reach two or three centimetres, maybe up to five at the extreme end. Whereas the giant hogweed will have stems of between 5 and 10 centimetres and grow to up to five meters tall.

The problem is that many people assume common hogweed is giant hogweed as it may grow to 2 meters, which is fairly big, but once you have compared the two there really is no doubt which is which. Just make sure you get the right one, because the common hogwied will yield delicious seeds, wild greens, edible flowers, buds and stems which the giant hogweed is certainly not edible and has sap which is extremely phototoxic meaning that if you get it on your skin it will react with sunlight and burn you. It also maintains this toxic property for some time so it may continue to burn every time you expose the affected area to sunlight for weeks and months to come. DON'T CONFUSE THESE TWO.


Monday, 29 June 2015

Reaseheath College Experimental Archaeology and Bushcraft Course

Places on Reaseheath Colleges Experimental Archaeology and Bushcraft course are going fast; have a look at some of Reaseheath Colleges resources here and sign up TODAY. 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

foragers diary; easy mistake to make 1

This new mini-series will introduce a few edible plants and their inedible or poisonous doppelgängers.

The first are similar in name rather than nature; greater and lesser celandine

Lesser Celandine - - 1218804
Lesser Celandine; Chris Reynolds [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Greater Celandine 

Greater celandine also distinguished it'self by having bright yellow, fairly noxious looking sap. It grows fairly tall, almost to a meter and sometimes more rather than the squat ground hugging lesser celandine and rather than the small, shiny slightly variegated arrow shaped leaves it has much larger lobed leaves. The flowers themselves are another distinguishing feature, only four petals on the giant celandine compared to much more on the lesser.

So don't mistake the two the roots of lesser celandine are edible once cooked but the greater celandine is poisonous, as fun as foraging is BE CAREFUL.

check back next week for common and giant hogweed.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

A Recent Deer Stalking and Wildlife Watching Trip

Bank Holiday Monday means no regular work, just shed loads of non-routine tasks which are likely to be even tougher than my day job!

I was right, at 03-30, even my body groans when the alarm goes off but 30 minutes later I’m cursing my decision not to have set it for 03-00. Everything was neatly laid out where I could get it without waking the whole household  although the gun cupboard door does need some oil to make that a little quieter. 

I’m on my way by 04-00, knowing for sure that there will be sufficient light to shoot way before I get to the farm. Not far down the very quiet and bumpy fen road, a Hare came spinning out from under a car, obviously dead but not smashed to bits so that has to go in the carcass tray before I proceed, the loins and haunches were in good shape and will make a respectable meal for 4 and what is left over will bait the camera trap to see how many foxes we have in the locality.

On reaching the farm, I eased the door open quietly to realise I had wandered inadvertently in to a Cuckoo convention, I could here 6 to 10 of them competing with each other at all ranges from 100 yards away to about a mile I should think, the sound is a quintessentially British Spring sound but I’m not that excited about it as each one spells disaster for multiple nests full of Reed Warblers or similar host birds. It’s just not right to have children and abandon them for someone else to raise, especially when it means certain death for the offspring of the host bird, just not on…..listen up Cuckoos!

I set off on the lookout for Muntjac or a Roe Buck, everything else being out of season but of course I saw neither of the 2 species I really wanted but did see a Roe Doe and a lovely Chinese Water Deer Buck which I staked from about 600 yards down to 10, it was so close that I even filmed it on my phone, which is not noted for film quality or range but does demonstrate that if you can use the wind direction and cover to disguise your approach and presence, you can get pretty close to dinner, I mean wildlife.

The rest of my outing I spend walking, watching, listening and noting what I saw and where ready for the change in season. Yellow Hammers, Reed Buntings, Reed Warblers, Linnets, White Throats, Buzzard and Kestrel, Jays and a lot of live Hares, to name but a few of my companions on this beautiful morning. I know where there are a whole lot of plums to harvest much later in the year, I know where the Elder Flowers will come from for Cordial making, I saw the May Blossom blowing in the wind like confetti and filling up the wheel ruts and cleat marks. 

Go on, get out there, what else is there to do at 3-30 on a summers morning?


Tuesday, 23 June 2015

BushScience: Smartphone scientists


a device that combines a cell phone with a hand-held computer, typically offering Internet access, data storage, email capability etc (

a cellular phone that is not only more intelligent and productive than its' owner but would also be rescued from a flood before the owners' mother-in-law (Urban dictionary).

See also: Smartphone Drone / Zombie

A person that is constantly focussed on his / her smartphone, ignoring the environment and especially other people (Urban Dictionary)

Regardless where you personally stand on smartphones (and I realise there are some who would love to take that last sentence literally) I think its probably fair to say they are here to stay. For starters...

"Hi, my name is Richard and I have a smartphone..."

I use it everyday and have exactly the same issues with them that many other people do: short battery life, no signal when you really need it, doesn't fit in my pocket etc etc.

I use it for taking pictures (although NEVER 'selfies'!)
I use it for Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Linked in and various other 'apps' of that sort.
I use the maps and GPS / Sat Nav functions.
I use the internet.
I text.
I even (really pushing the boat out here) use it to make phone calls!

To me, and I'm sure to many others, it is more than just a personal toy or electronic brain transplant:
I use it to receive and send e-mails regarding work.
A lot of the social media applications I use are work related; the @Riddywood twitter account, the
Bushcraft Education facebook account, this Bushcraft Education blog etc.
Many of the photo's on this blog are taken using smartphones.

They really can be effective tools as well as toys for teenagers and twenty-somethings.
I want to tell you how they can be used as a tool in real world scientific study and monitoring, and how you can be a smartphone scientist!

My Masters degree dissertation was titled "Utilisation of carrion by Silphidae (Coleoptera) in lowland heathland, UK". I know - a thrilling title if ever there was one, loosely translated I was studying how one family of predominantly carrion feeding beetles in heathland environments colonised dead stuff. I enjoyed it anyway, but I also relied on my phone extensively to gather my results.

A map of my study site overlaid with
position of 'dead stuff'' as recorded
on my phone.
It entailed placing loads of dead rabbits under shopping baskets (to stop the larger scavengers such as foxes or crows getting there first) on an area of heathland and catching beetles which came to visit using pitfall traps (plastic cups dug into the ground). A very complicated experiment - not! Below are some thoughts I had then and since oh how smart phones can be used in real world conservation science!

1 - It was essential that I was able to find my dead rabbits again - there were 32 of them in total in an area the size of over 120 football pitches (88 hectares), most of which was covered in vegetation. Remembering exactly where they all were would have been a challenge to say the least so I logged the precise co-ordinates of each location with the GPS on my phone.

2 - During my time on the heathland I saw several species that I did not recognise, by taking pictures on my smart phone I was able to identify these species when I got back to where I was staying where I had access to ID guides - remember to set your phone to geo-tag your photos, that way you won't have to remember exactly where you saw it!

For most people this is going to be the most useful or most widely used tool, to illustrate just how easy it is to get decent images from smart phones have a look at the images to the right, all of these were taken using a smart phone and provide sufficient detail to make an ID to family level at least and to species for most (ID's at bottom).

3 - But even by doing this I had missed a couple of tricks:
There are numerous apps you can download which provide ID tips for a wide range of plant and animal species, including tracks and signs.

4 - As it turned out there weren't any at that time for the species I was trying to identify but if I had known in advance what I was going to be trying to identify I could have searched for pdf ID guides, available from various websites, and saved them to my phone for viewing later using a pdf viewer like Adobe Acrobat.

5 - If getting a correct ID isn't time restrained there are apps and online communities which will assist - iSpot being perhaps one of the biggest that I am aware of. With these you can upload a photo direct from your phone and other users can help to get a correct ID. A very useful resource and one I have used many times.

6 - For some groups there are also species recording apps which feed into national recording databases - the BTO's Bird Track is a good example.

7 - During my project I noted down my observations and numbers the old fashioned way - paper and pencil. I could (if my battery life had been a bit better - take note Smart Phone manufacturers!!) entered these figures onto my phone and then transferred them to my computer to allow me to compile and analyse the data. If a more simple analysis had been appropriate I could of used a spreadsheet app like Google's Sheets and done the entire project on the phone!

This is just a short run down on how our smart phones, so often under utilised, but over used (if you understand my meaning) can be put to use in real world scientific monitoring and recording - and I really have only just scratched the surface, largely because I'm not aware myself of all the features my own smart phone has! You don't need to be an expert to use any of these features, just take a picture and upload it to where experts can see them. If you set your phone to geo-tag your photos then the job is done. Between the species record (image), location (provided by the geo-tag) and time and date (saved with the image info) a complete record can be made. Easy!

Every app I have mentioned is free to download and often there are multiple choices which will do the same job so you can choose your favourite. IOS or Android, Windows or whatever other operating system your phone runs - all have a suite of apps that will enable you to contribute as a 'citizen scientist'. And if you want to go the whole hog, there are equally as many more detailed ID apps which you can purchase, replacing the need (to some extent) for bird books or wildflower guides.

Link a range of these apps with a water-proof and / or drop proof case (and a back up battery!) and you really are set! Some of the newest phones are water proof these days which is brilliant.

When you get out there being smart phone scientists send us examples of your pictures or species you have recorded via our Facebook page or the Riddy Wood Project Twitter account @Riddywood so we can see to! Enjoy!


 Photo descriptions: Top to bottom - Red-headed Cardinal Beetle, Lesser Stag Beetle, Ant Beetle, Wasp Beetle, Rufous-Shouldered Long-Horn Beetle, Large Red Damselfly, Angle Shades Moth. 

For more pictures and more species records check out our Biodiversity pages on the Riddy Wood website.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Bad Hare Day? Never!

To those who know me and are sniggering because I don’t have enough hair for it to go bad, I say this; Your time will come!

I speak of the Great British Hare, of ‘Mad March’ variety of course, I have watched them for many a happy hour, often from a high seat and because they don’t look up very often, I have looked down on them from very close quarters, their enormous feet give them phenomenally sure ‘road holding’ and massive acceleration but they are very noisy walking about in wooded areas with a lot of leaf under foot.

Mad March Hare - - 712029
The Brown Hare (Lepus europaeusGordon Hatton [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
When the truly Mad March Hares are around, their ‘boxing matches’ are a marvellous spectacle, you can see fur flying on the breeze and hear them thump in to each other with significant force, they knock each other flying on occasion and also leap high in the air, I’ve seen them 3 feet in the air on many occasions. Whilst I have never seen a Hare blinded by their ‘boxing matches’ I believe some must be, as the focus of the opposing Hare is often at face level and looks very fierce indeed.
The lop eared and big footed Hares, especially young ones can be dangerously inattentive at times, I have often had one come bounding up to me when standing still and quiet, really close, a few feet, not even yards until they realise their error and bound off. They give the impression of a toddler in his dad’s boots and appear comically clumsy at times but then they have a phenomenal turn of speed when they realise they need to be somewhere else!

The Hare will watch you very attentively from a distance if they think you may be a threat but not until you get closer. Many years ago, I was told by an elderly neighbour who had farmed on the edge of Romney Marsh for many decades and through both world wars, ploughing with both horses and steam engines, that if you saw a Hare watching you, you could hang your coat on the fence and it would watch your coat while you crept around behind it, he was right! I tried it many years ago and bagged the odd Hare using his method.

Whichever way you want to watch, photograph or shoot Hares, they are a thing of beauty and amazement, comical, fast and yes…just mad sometimes but also very tasty.

So let’s assume for a moment that you have acquired a Hare, road casualty, shot or bought in the farmers market, what do you do with it? Let’s also assume that it has no guts and you can get it out of its fur.

There is very little meat on the front legs and shoulders of this mini greyhound of a creature so unless you boil everything off the bone and use it to make a stew or casserole, they are of little use except to make stock or gravy. The loins and hind quarters on the other hand are plentiful in rich dark meat, fit for the plates of royalty! Casserole with something red, I use grape juice but as for my pigeon recipe, many use wine, juniper and cranberries, rough cut vegetables and seasoning to taste, all equals slow cooker magic. The meat will fall off of the bone and serve with home-made crusty bread to soak up all the gravy, truly a dish fit for a King, Queen, Prince(s), Nobleman……….you get the idea, really good grub!

Now if you wanted to try something a little more exotic for a special guest, including the aforementioned royalty, here are 2 more ideas, both utilising the loins. The loin is that long strip of meat either side of the spine (usually from the hip / pelvis down to the front shoulder area) and sometimes referred to as the back strap. At some future point I’ll explain the Tender Loin but for now let’s just stick to Loin. The loins can usually be removed just with the hand once a sharp knife has been run down the spine and across the pelvis / hip end of it, this meat is super tender! It will likely have a very thin layer of muscle / sinew on the outside which just has to come off! Lay the loin, inside up on a cutting board, with a sharp knife cut almost all the way though then pull the meat away from the knife and hey presto, sinew and meat separated! The loin tapers towards the front, so as its dimension reduces, just fold it double to ensure you have the same thickness of meat to deal with from the front and back of the loin.

Choice one is to slice the loin into medallions about 5 mm thick and flash them in a wok and add to any other stir fry ingredients you fancy, easy as falling off a log!

Choice two is a little creation of my own and it’s absolutely superb but of course I would say that wouldn't I?
Take a piece of loin about 2 to 3 inches long and fry it in a wok or frying pan with a little seasoned oil and a few onions which have been in the oil long enough to soften. The loin only needs a couple of minutes max, as soon as it’s close to done (a little on the rare side) get it out of the oil pronto and let it rest, no particular reason for resting it, just lets it cool down enough so that you don’t get third degree burns doing the next bit with your fingers! Take the loin and wrap it in a rasher of fat bacon (smoked or otherwise to taste) and put it under the grill until the bacon is done how you like it, serve with anything you fancy but I’d suggest honey roast root vegetables and butter-nut squash, you can’t go wrong with that.



Friday, 12 June 2015

Adapt and Improvise; Super light weight bivi kit

It's easy to spend an awful lot on light weight shelter solutions, light weight tents are an option and it seems that nowadays the bushcrafters staple shelter option is the tarp and hammock combination, and the army surplus 58 pattern poncho doesn't seem to cut it any more everyone want's supper light weight nylon branded tarps. That's taking things a long way from the original meaning of the work tarpaulin; which was basically a tarred pall (or cloth, normally made of canvas) used to cover things you wanted to keep dry.   

My solution to a light weight shelter solution is this;

This light weight set up all fits in the bottom compartment of a 65 litre rucksac, this means I can carry all sorts of other kit as well, this was important while I was in Italy recently as I had to carry a weeks worth of clothes and all the material for the workshops I ran at the eee conference. 

In fact this set up takes up so little space that I could carry a jumper and flight bag in the same compartment.  

From left to right; three quarter length inflatable sleeping pad, fly sheet from a £8 dome tent from Tesco, walking pole from Aldi, home made bivi bag, sleeping bag in a dry bag.  

That set up can be erected like this using the walking pole as a central pole and arranging the fly sheet around it tipi style, a few tent pegs are required here as well. 

Home Sweet Home, it may not be true improvisation as all the stuff I show here was originally designed with shelter in mind but perhaps not in quite the same way I use it. 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Work goes forward...

As most people who follow us regularly will already be aware, we are now a limited company and are setting up The Riddy Wood Project to facilitate our goals as a company - providing environmental education and engagement opportunities.

As WE are increasingly aware, setting up a project of this nature is not a 5 minute job! This week has been our first opportunity alongside the other commitments we both have to start putting together the infrastructure required to make our goals a reality. We both worked there yesterday, and Geoff is still on site today (Tuesday 9th June) with a group of students from Reaseheath College Countryside department doing various job, not least among them installing the first few accommodation units and making room for a 'class room'.

We arrived Sunday evening and needed to get basic accommodation set up to spend the night, we got the front wall of the first shelter block up but lost the light before the rear wall could be finished, so we improvised and just parked the car back there to allow us to hang the tarp - that's what I call a MPV! Meanwhile the students set up tents - some people!

Our camp early on Monday morning.
By the time I had to leave on Monday evening the basic structure and roof of the first accommodation unit was finished and solid - we still needed to create walls, probably hurdle walls using coppiced hazel much like we used in our initial shelter which we put up back in February while we were coppicing.

The camp site on Monday evening - the next shelter has been started to the far right, although none of the posts are upright in this picture. We are hoping to carve the fallen tree in the back ground into a feature bench. Our 'classroom' is likely to be behind the car on the left. When we arrived on Sunday evening this entire area was 6 foot deep in nettles - quite a change. We also removed a few small trees, including one which had been damaged in recent high winds.  

I'll be getting an update from Geoff later today or tomorrow about how much work they have been able to do today. Next week we'll be back there again, this time I'll be there for a bit longer. We are really excited that soon we'll be able to have visitors in to see how we are getting along and take part in our courses and activities.

A big job for us over the summer is to get some additional surveys done to record what sort of biodiversity we have on site. We are hoping that we'll have some specialist help in this as, despite my background as a ecologist, I only have experience in surveying and identifying a small proportion of the species groups we want to document. As our records grow we will be adding them to the Biodiversity pages on the Riddy Wood Website.

A Red Headed Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis) found while working yesterday.
We look forward to adding more pictures of both common and rare species as we find them.
We'll post more updates on how the work in Riddy Wood is progressing as we do it and look forward to welcoming the first groups there, hopefully in just a few months!


Monday, 8 June 2015


The Bushcraft Education Team are very pleased to announce that Bushcraft Education is no longer just a blog;

On the 20th May 2015 Bushcraft Education Ltd. was formed.

The company was formed with Geoff as the Director of education and Richard as Director of Conservation. 

The Bushcraft Education blog was always about using bushcraft to teach, not necessarily teaching bushcraft, rather using the fact that bushcraft is a very engaging topic to teach about other things, such as science. This is still a major aim now that we are Bushcraft Education Ltd. and has become an even bigger feature of the blog through the 'applied bushcraft' series. 

We hope to promote opportunities for environmental education and engagement (where environmental can be taken to mean any education or engagement activity which relates to, or is undertaken in, an outdoor or natural environment, including but not limited to 'Bushcraft', Ecology, Conservation, Natural Science, Sustainable Land Management, Traditional Skills, Wild Food sources and others).

Our current flagship enterprise is The Riddy Wood project which Richard is leading, and which aims to restore areas of ancient woodland and to facilitate research and the delivery of environmental education. 

We are looking forward to inviting volunteers from Reaseheath College into Riddy Wood next week to help us with some of the work which needs to be carried out to make the place ready for our first formal courses a little later in the year. 

We hope that soon we will be able to invite you to come come and attend some of our courses and workshops and look forward to sharing our passion for the outdoors and particularly bushcraft with many people over the years to come.  

Friday, 5 June 2015

BushScience: Why woodland isn't just woodland (NVC Classifications)

Geoff wrote a month or so ago about ancient woodland indicator plants, and the usefulness of plant identification (an essential Bushcraft skill) in other areas, including ecology and conservation. He specifically mentioned the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) as a means of describing woodland habitats more specifically, and asked me to write a bit about how they are used in ‘real world’ settings.

NVC was first proposed in the 1980’s and formalised in the early 1990's as a more detailed way of describing particular types of habitat based on the species of vegetation found there. For any sort of meaningful management or monitoring to take place a more specific description than just ‘woodland’ or ‘grassland’ is essential. Comparing lists of plant species and soil data between sites was too long winded so a method was needed to describing common, and rare, types of habitat. What emerged was the NVC, essentially a list of different habitat codes, each describing a slightly different community of plant species which could be assigned to an area to give ecologists or other site managers an idea of what could be found there and the most appropriate way to manage and conserve, or in some circumstances change, those conditions. These species compositions are affected by environmental variables such as geographical location, topography, moisture levels, soil type, stage of succession, historical management influences and  climatic variables, but the codes are assigned purely on the observed species. This is known as a ‘phytosociological’ classification, i.e. the observed ‘plant society’.

In this picture from Riddy Wood we can see at least
3 species of tree (Oak, Elm & Ash) and a wide variety
of ground flora including at least Bluebell, Greater
Stitchwort, Dogs Mercury and others. This is just
one example of a woodland plant community.
The NVC works by splitting each broad habitat type (e.g. woodland) into distinct communities and sub-communities, with each having a alpha-numeric code and a name (usually consisting of the scientific names of the dominant species in that community). So for example W8 (Woodland type 8) describes Fraxinus excelsior - Acer campestre - Mercurialis perennis woodland (Ash - Field Maple - Dogs Mercury), but there are 7 sub-communities which are described as W8a, W8b etc. down to W8g.

In total there are 12 broad habitat types, divided into 286 total communities, some of which are further split into sub-communities. So it takes a bit of getting used to! For further information on the in’s and out’s of the NVC see this page from the Joint Nature Conservation Council (JNCC).

It is not a perfect system, in the real world nature doesn’t compartmentalise itself or stick to rigid boundaries, not very often anyway, so these communities will often grade into each other with no clear boundary. Not do plants familiarize themselves with the other species they are ‘supposed’ to associate with. It is this limitation which prevents the NVC being as widely used as you might suspect. Nevertheless it remains a very useful and widely used descriptive tool for habitat management.

In scientific research, an area where they may seem very useful, these classifications are not widely used: this is largely due to the need for very specific data to allow comparative statistical analysis to be meaningful. While these classifications offer a far more specific description than broad habitat types, there is still variation within classifications which for a scientific approach is too general for reliable and meaningful comparison.

They are widely used by ecologists working in development and planning. In-depth habitat surveys, sometimes referred to as Extended Phase 1 Habitat surveys are commonly conducted when an area of land is to be disturbed or affected in some way by building or other development work - these are normally carried out by ecological consultants who advise companies on planning applications. An in depth knowledge of what is present is required for decisions to be made - the decision may be that the area is of sufficient value or conservation concern that the development is not allowed to go ahead, or can only do so with alterations to leave the highest value areas undisturbed. A ‘lesser quality’ or more common habitat may be allowed to be developed, but a mitigation, or biodiversity offsetting, plan be required which dictates a habitat has to be replaced or created elsewhere. In these cases knowing precisely what was destroyed or damaged is essential if you are to try and recreate it elsewhere. There are also of course situations where an area is deemed sufficiently unimportant biologically that no conditions are placed on its development. This is probably the most common use of NVC classifications in real world industry.

In conservation they are sometimes used as a target - a goal to be reached in the restoration or recreation of habitats. A hypothetical example may be a newly acquired nature reserve which was formerly heathland but had been intensively managed as pastoral farmland. The years of management, including planting different grass species, the application of fertiliser and other agricultural chemicals will have fundamentally altered not only the species composition but also the soil conditions which hosted the plant community. A target may be set to return the area to a more typical heathland plant community e.g. H1 Calluna vulgaris - Festuca ovina (Heather - Sheeps Fescue) heath, a type of lowland dry heath. The management actions which would be written into the habitat management plan would then all work together to do whatever it took to restore that community which could include actions such as soil profile inversion or soil stripping, efforts to reduce soil nutrient levels and sowing seed mixes to restore the correct species. If you think that sounds like a long winded process, your right, but there are rarely effective short-cuts in landscape scale habitat management! 

An area of lowland dry heathland in Suffolk where I conducted some
research on Beetles last summer. The Heather is of course a dominant
and iconic heathland plant but I noticed that another one, Common Gorse,
was missing. When I spoke to the site manager (from Suffolk Wildlife
Trust) he confirmed that there is a lot less than they would expect, that it
found in much higher densities nearby, and that they are not sure why
exactly it isn't so common on this site. They have even tried to increase
the quantities by sowing seed but with very limited success. Goes to
show nature can't always be fitted neatly into a box! 

We’ll be conducting some more in depth vegetation surveys as part of The Riddy Wood Project this summer and will likely be using the NVC as a starting point for describing what we have got to work with. Catch up with us on the new Riddy Wood website to see how those surveys are progressing and follow us on Twitter @Riddywood to get instant info on some of the new species we discover as the work goes forward.

Hope this has been useful or interesting, or even both!


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Foragers Diary; Venison Salami

This is a story of team work between regular contributor and deer manager Martin Guy and Simon Caserta, who took some diced venison and diced pork fat and turned it into fantastic Salami.

Ingredients: · 
  • Pig/lamb intestine casing from local butcher always fresh and washed out. 
  • 25 grams of table salt per 1kg of meat or a mixture of curing salt and table salt. 
  • Venison and pork fat around 80/20% split of meat to fat – you can substitute the meat for various different varieties but the fat must be used (shoulder fat is always good)
  • Spices like pepper/chilli/fennel which ever are preferred can be added. This first experimental batch was made with black pepper corns and fennel. 


First shoot yourself a deer, here I have a large Chinese Water Deer Buck, for more on deer stalking read Geoff's article in the January 2015 issue of Bushcraft and Survival Skills Magazine or check out my earlier post on stalking.

Next butcher and joint your animal, for more details of the gralloching and butchering process see the guest blog post that Geoff and I did for Buzzard Bushcraft a couple of years ago. 

You need to fine mince the fat into the meat using any type of grinder I prefer a hand grinder

 Grind until you have a course slurry of meat and fat.
Stuff the meat into a sausage gun or electric gun and fill the casings until desired length then tie of ends with string, make sure the meat is tightly packed with no air pockets. · Stab sausages with toothpick or the like to get out last few air pockets. · Hang sausages in ventilated room with heat of about 10-12C and humidity of about 60-75%, these will now dry out and loose about 30% weight over a good few weeks 2-4.

Once firm and ready, store in container under oil to stop the drying process


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