Tag Archives: climate change

Sea cabbage and the politics of foraging.

Sea cabbage Brassica oleracea

Not sure if this is a lucky accident or deliberate but useful having such a lush green veg by the back door.

Went for my first coastal forage of the year on Saturday armed with everything I’d need to collect a large haul of shellfish, so I was a little disappointed when I couldn’t find a single mussel. Tried a beach Ive never been to before, Staithes then walking along the beach to Port Mulgrave and back along the cliff tops. Its a beautiful place just a little further up the coast from Whitby.

However even though I was without protein I was delighted to find Sea Cabbage in abundance, for a plant which is quite rare it was everywhere. With such a profusion of plants I thought it would be fine to take a couple of handfuls but there lies the problem, not can I take but should I take? The media recently seem to be focusing in on the ‘gangs’ of foragers stripping the countryside of it’s native plants and fungi. Recently 15 people were in court for collecting fungi from Epping forest.

For those people who collect commercially I have no sympathy, nothing is going to give foragers a bad name more than people who turn a resource into a commodity. Like most wild food collectors I take what I need and only when I can see it in abundance not stripping a solitary plant or picking every fruit from a bush. Even if you take out the ethics and conservation issues it makes little sense destroying a harvest for the future, making sure there is enough to set seed or keep on producing means you can keep coming back to it, surely that’s the whole point of foraging? tapping into a resource not destroying it.

I think that as a forager you feel a sense of stewardship for an area, the life of the insects and birds etc which rely and have always relied on that patch are all part of it. Considering the bigger picture is important for me, I don’t need to pick and gather from the wild, I want to, I need to remember that I’m sharing this resource and it’s not just there for my benefit. Pick mindfully.

A few of the rare wild greens.

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Suburban fuel foraging


The gas bill arrived today and for the first time I didn’t tut, it was in fact cheaper than last year, partly to do with a so called ‘reduction’ in prices but the exact amount of gas we’ve used is half! from 5625 kWh to 2509 kWh. I put this down to two things, 1 we didn’t use the central heating until November and 2 we’ve been using the wood burner more than last year. Using the stove not only to heat the house but cook on has made a massive difference.

Having a wood stove is seen by some as a middle class toy or only for those lucky few who live in the countryside but if you care about your environment and want to save money I’d say you can’t go wrong. After the initial cost of instillation your next issue is fuel cost, there’s no point saving on gas if your spending hundreds of pounds on fuel, that’s when they become a toy.

I used to think that the only way to be totally self-sufficient in fuel was to live in the countryside because where else did wood come from? However having spent a year living in a small hamlet I realize the country mouse is not always better off than his townie cousin. If you live in a house surrounded by fields it might be beautiful but your access to fuel is limited to your nearest woodland, which may or my not be private or even someone’s livelihood, on the other hand living in the town opens up a mass of free fuel opportunities.

You don’t have to walk far in the suburbs to find a skip, these are the suburban foragers friends the trick is to see whatever’s inside as a potential fuel. As long as it’s not MDF or chipboard it’s free warm for you. I used to walk past skips that didn’t have pallets in but now a broken chair, carpenters off cuts, anything wooden gets brought home and chopped up.

Pallets are an obvious one and many places are more than happy for you to take them off their hands, just remember to ask first some companies reuse them. It’s surprising how a few pallets can heat your house for an evening. Another place to look is charity, junk and auction houses they often have things which are unsellable or broken, most places will happily give you something that’s destined for the tip.

Last year a neighbours tree blew down in a storm so I offered to saw it up for them if I could keep the wood he was only too happy and we ended up with about a weeks worth of fuel. Every time we go out for a walk in a park or in the woods around the city I make sure I at least pick up one piece of wood however small, if you do it all year you’ll soon have a ready supply. I’m going to have to get a trailer for my bike or perhaps a trolley so that I don’t miss out next time I leave the house, having set my foragers eye for fuel as well as food has made me realize I should never need buy fuel again.


Next years fuel is stacking up nicely we are aiming to fill this by the end of the year.

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economy drive day 4

I would not say that we have got the hang of it but apart from £1:70 travel today was another relatively cash free day. lunch prepared and dinner leftover stew and baked potatoes with enough food in cupboards and the freezer to make numerous meals.

Ive really been taking stock ‘literally’ of the food we have and without giving a list it contains one large cupboard filled with preserves many from 2010, pickles, jams, chutneys mainly. Loads of dry food, rice, pasta, noodles, beans. What seems like endless half bags of different flour and sugars, daily supplies of eggs and best of all fresh winter greens. I start to wonder where the money goes? Meat, fish, cheese, milk etc are the obvious answer but it still doesn’t seem to add up to food bills of £70/80 + a week.

A drink in the evening obviously adds up during the week, I guess this is one of the tough ones, we don’t go out much so having a drink in the evening some nights and religiously on a friday as if it were set in stone, is a welcome treat, not essential but thats probably the problem. Much of what we buy at the supermarket is a treat rather than a meal. We are used to treating ourselves, we deserve it don’t we? but when did snacks become the way we treat ourselves?

99% of the time we cook from scratch creating food we love together, it’s a pleasure and we all enjoy it, so why do I still reach for quick snacks? Does it really save time? it certainly doesn’t save me money. Its just laziness i admit it, things must change.

I do really like Kettle crisps and Fentamens Curiosity Cola though.

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bleary winter where?

Who says that winters all dead with no colour to inspire? Well me normally but while out doing a site survey on Ilkley Moore on Tuesday my winter procrastinations were silenced.

The cow and calf rocks, well I can’t see it either but it gave the pub it’s title and a pub has beer so there you are.

Just look at this, go on, beautifully natural and brimming with colour and texture, eat your heart out Piet Ouldolf.


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international downshifting week 19 – 25 april

“If you are looking for a little help to slow down your pace and enjoy life more, this is the place for you!

Our campaign was formerly known as ‘National’ Downshifting Week. This year, as a result of the strong support we’ve received from around the globe asking if other countries can officially ‘join in’, we’ve simply decided to rename it
‘InterNational Downshifting Week’!

Now everybody can get involved and form a united and global movement that supports living and working more sustainably and strives for a proper work / life balance!

Our campaign remains packed full of really simple ideas that will help you ‘slow down and green up’ and it’s almost time for her 4th outing. I cannot wait to get my teeth into it and this year I’ll be working hard to keep my carbon footprint down to a minimum. I hope to enthuse you with ideas on the many ways you can slow down and green up in your home, community, business and school.

So keep an eye on our website and Green Family Blog for further details and good luck with your own personal downshift!”

Tracey Smith

Creator of InterNational Downshifting Week

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