One of the things that I want to instill into my children is a love of the outdoors and a real understanding of nature and the ability to identify plants and animals. For once, I am actually quite a good person to do this as I have had a real love of all things outdoors since I was little and have an enormous library of identification books. Compared to most people I have an encyclopedic knowledge. This is in part due to the fact that one of my university lecturers is Ray Mear’s mentor and that as an environmental archaeologist my training is really in ‘grass roots’ identification of things. I can identify most British trees, plants, insects and mammals, even from the slightest fragment of a bone. It’s a skill which I am grateful for and which has enriched my life no end.
Today I was wondering about what to do with the kids, when I suddenly remembered a blackberry hedge we had come across earlier on in the year. What better than a walk through the greenbelt that is very close to our house, a nice enough walk in itself, to get there. The sun was out, it was a tonic for me, there was a flock of pigeons with a few white doves flying about the field in formation. It was an awesome sight, and had all three of us transfixed.
The blackberries are out in force at the moment and we spent quite a while talking about all the different subspecies that were there, why they were there and what we might do with them. We discussed which ones to get and why and had fun running about and enjoying the moment. The funniest part was when Toddler Boy sat on one!
I’m keen that we only take what we need, so other people and animals can also benefit from natures bounty. We took enough so we could make some a crumble and a pie and have a tub to freeze, and left millions for others. Although we might go back at the weekend for a second harvest. On our travels, I found apples hanging over a fence and dropping onto a path- all going to waste. That seemed a shame so we might go and grab some later, we can cut off the bruised and split bits and stew them up. We also found some sweet chestnut trees, I know of an avenue of them which we go to each year, but these are nearer to our house. Can’t wait for those! Plenty of elderberries, I need to think about what to do with them and tons of other examples of free food. There’s a fantastic source of nutrition out there at the moment and this is a fab activity for pre-schoolers. Also, lets face it free things taste sweeter!