Over the last number of years we have embarked on many a project to help build (to use the word favoured by Rob Hopkins and his Transition movement) resilience. And while some of these experiments have had dubious results, our foray into milking sheep has been a resounding success. In autumn 2009 we introduced Tess and Frieda, two crossbred Friesiand ewes to the island. They lambed at Easter and we began milking Tess immediately as her lamb died shortly after birth. While both Christophe and I had some previous experience milking (cows and goats for me, goats and a mare for Christophe) it took a bit of practice and concentration to accustom our hands and fingers to sheep udders and teats. But we soon got the hang of it and found ourselves self-sufficient in milk. For a period of seven months (including our very busy summer period) Tess and Frieda gave us two litres of milk each per day. From this we made the most delicious, creamy yoghurt as well as soft cheese and our first attempts at hard cheese. We used the milk raw for breakfast, for cooking and baking, eliminating our usual order of large quantities of organic milk and yoghurt from the mainland. Read more
It first occurred with samphire, this only-locally-known marshplucked food became haute-cuisine overnight, in fact timbales lain with samphire sprigs in chic London restaurants are now so commonplace they are nearly passé. Then nettles: not just in soups, but in gnocchi, in vinaigrettes, and before long, the likes of sautéed foie-gras and roasted veal sweetbreads were being served on a bed of wilted Dorset nettles. Then game: woodcock on toast, head still on, beak spiking through body, became the sexiest starter. Now, with the latest rustic DIY trends, nudging into foodspeak is lacto-fermentation. It may sound horribly Heston Blumenthal, but lacto-fermentation is not only simple, but a highly nutritious, tasty, ethical and low-energy way of preserving vegetables and dealing with autumnal garden gluts. Read more
Ever since I got bees, everyone has been giving me books on beekeeping as birthday or Christmas presents, but is was still a lucky coincidence that two books on natural beekeeping arrived on my desk around the same time last autumn.
The first one was written by a friend of mine, Tim Rowe, who keeps about 100 hives near Bantry and has been keeping bees since his teens. Recently self published by Tim, the book, entitled “The Rose Hive Method, Challenging conventional beekeeping”, explains Tim’s system of beekeeping, based on the “Rose hive”, which he devised. I was already somewhat familiar with this system, as I had gotten my bees from Tim, but I learnt a lot more about it while reading through this book. Read more