C-19 time to blog again

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Like many people the enforced ‘time out’ caused by the coronavirus pandemic has given me a chance to stop, think and reflect.  The total cessation of all my planned workshops, talks and events took a bit of adjusting to.

Back in 2013 I was fortunate to visit Nepal, a trip that had a profound effect on me and was the catalyst for fundamental changes in my life including starting More than Willow.

This man epitomised my visit to Nepal. In a remote tea house in Langtang he produced the most delicious vegetable fried rice cooked on a clay stove using a few locally grown and freshly picked ingredients but prepared with care and served with a smile. It made me think about the need to produce rather than consume, to be content rather than strive.

Shortly after my return home I started to write a blog to share my thoughts on food, plants and life in general and so the free ranging blog was born. For the next three years I shared my random thoughts until More than Willow got established.

This covid-19 enforced isolation has given me once again the opportunity to think about what is really important  to me – contentment, valuing and taking joy in our natural world and treading with as light a footprint as I can as I journey through life.

So I thought it is perhaps time to share a few of my old free ranging thoughts and some new ones too.  It may be of interest to some or it may just be good for me to write but I hope  others will enjoy this random collection too..

Clarity of light and the beauty of winter colours

I am not sure whether the light this year has really been any different to previous years or whether I have just been more aware of it but one thing is for sure is that today was stunning.  The day started with a crisp clear sunrise with the sheep in the back field standing Christmas card like to welcome the new day.

As the sun rose in the sky became a wonderful clear blue a perfect backdrop for winter trees and the recent frost shave heightened and deepened the colour of so many trees and shrubs.  The frost gives seed heads from summer flowers a magical outline and spiders’ webs glisten in the early morning light.

I spent the morning cutting willow of many colours. My labours were interrupted frequently as I was distracted by the sheer beauty of the day and of nature.  The delicate spindle berries with their orange seed cased in a delicate pink fruit which looks like it should be in an exotic garden rather than a Shropshire hedgerow.  The long tailed tits with their pink tinged feathers flitting and twittering in the dark willow – their delicate colours complementing the emerging pussy willows.  Flocks of Redwing passed to and fro stopping to feast in the ancient field hedges with their fine array of different fruits and seeds – spindle, rosehip, haw, alder buckthorn and sloe.

Rose hips and willow in the winter sunshine  20161201_132259

 

 

 

 

 

As I reluctantly decided to head homeward y three swans flew over – the bright sunlight behind them meant that I couldn’t tell whether they were Whooper or Bewick but I like to think they were Whooper.

How lucky I a20161201_175102m to have spent a morning enjoying  the beauty of nature and to spend the afternoon working with the freshly cut willow.

 

Lovely lemon verbena

I have growing lemon verbena for years, have read numerous recipes but never quite got round to using it until by chance I came across Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for Verbena Lemonade made with crushed leaves of lemon verbena infused in hot water with a couple of tablespoons of sugar. I gave it a go and it has quickly become a favourite – really quick and easy to make and delicious to drink.  Once made it can be stored in the fridge for about a week or you could freeze it to bring a taste of summer to mid winter.

To drink squeeze lemon or lime juice and add to lemon verbena infusion – I find 2 lemons or limes add the right level of zing for a litre. Not being contented with drinking it  I have also used it to make lovely light summery jellies  served with a skim of pouring cream on the top, a few berries on the side and some shortbread. If you are feeling really organised adding  lemon or lime zest to the shortbread complements the jellies.

And the final use of this easy to make drink is to add a dash of gin for a summer evening tipple or for a sparkling version  pour a little lemon verbena infusion (without the lemon or lime juice) into a glass and top up with prosecco – enjoy!

 

 

The positive side of a challenge

Last weekend we headed south to act as  support team for eldest son who was taking part in Race to the Stones (http://www.racetothestones.com) a 100km journey along the ancient Ridgeway Path from just north of High Wycombe to Avebury Stone Circle.

Preparation for the event began in January and there was a bit of blow about four weeks ago when an injury meant no more running. But he rose to the challenge and decided that despite shin splints he still had to take part even if it meant walking rather than running.

It’s a part of the country I don’t know very well. It was really enjoyable discovering the area with its rolling views and learning a bit about its ancient history even if there was a bit of pressure navigating along busy roads and tiny lanes to get to the next crossing point ready to cheer and encourage participants including son number one.

As we clapped and cheered as people passed by it was an uplifting experience to see how a bit of human encouragement can ease the weary step and bring a cheery smile to what a minute or two before had been drooping shoulders and an air of despondency. We saw the warm side of human nature with one being giving another support, encouragement and help – whether fellow participants or spectators.

I have consciously avoided using the word competitor as there seemed to be so much cooperation and the only competitiveness was personal. It was the individual’s sheer will power and drive to push themselves to finish not to ‘beat’ another participant.

But what made the event even more special was the area that it passed through – a path walked by generations of people absolutely steeped in history and mysticism. Hill forts, castle mounds and amazing places like the white horse at Uffington and the stone circle at Avebury are found along the route.

We arrived at Avebury just as the sun was setting over the dry golden landscape and there was an area of peace and tranquillity around the stones. The race finish was just up the road where we watched glowing head torches bob down the hill to the finish line as all around people clapped, cheered and welcomed home those who had followed in ancient footsteps to complete the route.

At the finishing point there were scenes of jubilation, relief and pain but the overriding feeling was the sense of pride that a challenge had been met and a journey completed no matter how blistered the feet  or how sore the legs.

Our forebears worked together to create the amazing landmarks, like the stone circles, which have survived and on Saturday the spirit of cooperation continued with all involved whether watching, taking part or organising the event. If only that spirit of cooperation and human warmth and support could be evident in all walks of life and in all parts of the world.