“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
The fields are star spangled with buttercups. Hovering in a sunny haze as far as I can see. In Scotland last week the gorse was like a thick river of butter marking out fields and smudging the hills but here the hedges tumble with pink campion, cow parsley, bugles and vetches often making each walk a navigational hazard. The Small Hound returns not only ‘clarted’ in cow pats thanks to the dairy industry but red with mud and sometimes snaking cleavers.
It comes to me that we do not need to garden. ( well not much!) The land lives through us. Celebrating its abundance by foraging is a magical way forward… Not necessarily to be taken up full time in the north east of Scotland but in sunny Somerset…well? There are certainly delicious alternatives to buying ageing salad in a vacuum bag.
Offspring Two has been walking me through the verdant landscape of Sussex and reminding me of the bounty right there, here, under my nose! To name but a few that are available in May….
Alexanders, Bistort, Burdock Leaves, Carragheen, Chives, Common Comfrey, Dandelion Flowers, Fairy Ring Champignon, Fat Hen, Good King Henry, Goosegrass, Gorse Flowers, Hawthorn Leaves, Hop Shoots, Lime Leaves, Lobster, Milk Thistle, Morel, Nettle, Pollack, Ramsons, Rock Samphire, Sea Beet, Sea Purslane, Silverweed, St George’s Mushroom, Sorrel, Sweet Cicely, Sweet Violet, Tansy Leaves, Watercress, Wild Chicory, Wild Fennel, Wild Mint, Wild Rocket Leaves,
Jack by the Hedge is so delicious and just pouring out out of the hedgerows in Somerset; a salad as you walk! Maybe we could take up grazing as a way of sustainable living….’ Pick as you go’!
Cleavers are so enthusiastic to be lightly steamed with butter that they volunteer to come home with us as The Small Hound has discovered. Hawthorn leaves beg to be pulled as you pass and wild sorrel carpets the woods.
Wild garlic and nettle are a bit tough now but had their time, but can make do with plantain and good king henry, fabulous alternatives.
So, death by the sword to country folk who darken the chill cabinets of supermarkets for their greens!
The Small Hound is on lead arrest. She has been so well trained to scatter cats from my garden back home that old habits die hard….. She has voluntarily taken charge of the task for everyones garden in our little row… a full time job and not popular. There is a cat on every wall, and another peering round every corner. If they didn’t run things would be different! No more the frantic scratch of nails on the path as she tears past.
Notice has been posted of the demolition of the abandoned houses across the green space in front of our house. Once a garden it is studded with apple trees but will soon be a car park. We will be enclosed by a tide of new bungalows and social housing. I do not fancy living on a building site so the swallow will migrate again at the end of the summer.
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”