Challenging Habitat Blog

Cornwall has moved into Covid-19 Tier 3 today, 31 December 2020, and as a result, we’ve cancelled our plans for New Year’s Eve celebrations at short notice.

Instead, we made good use of the sunny weather and headed for an uplifting walk along the shore.

On the way home, we encountered the pheasant shoot of a nearby country estate in full swing: beaters with dogs, pickers-up gathering dead birds off the public highway, game keepers, shooters with guns…all mixing merrily in tweeds and flat caps, their SUVs parked up by the side of the road.

According to the organisation GunsOnPegs (don’t ask, it’s a website through which you can find shoots and all that goes with it), organising and taking part in commercial shoots is permitted in Tier 3 and group shooting activities are not subject to the limits of the ‘rule of six’. However, taking part in recreational shooting is not a reasonable excuse to leave a Tier 4 area.

So, what’s wrong with that?

Let’s start with the obvious:

  • the principle of rearing and releasing some 60 million non-native birds (pheasants and partridges) every year to support the ‘sport’ of shooting in the UK, in spite of the fact that pheasants are classified as species that imperil UK wildlife,
  • the fact that most of the pheasants that are shot will be buried in large pits, rather than taken home by shooters or sold and processed into food or pet food,
  • the morals of killing for fun, rather than for food or culling for conservation
  • the intimidating stance of some members of such shooting parties:
    a few days ago, I was travelling on the public highway and one of the shoot’s organisers threatend to kick my car while another foul-mouthed me, even though I had slowed down to less than 10 mph while approaching an S-bend in the road that was occupied by about a dozen people with assorted dogs. I’m a dog owner and have no intention to run one over a canine or human member of any shooting party…
  • …I’m sure I’ve forgotten something here…

In my mind, wrong is also the message this activity conveys during a global pandemic: “we do this because we can (afford it) and we don’t care about what the local population are thinking about where we travelled from, nor whether we bring the virus with us”.

What we encountered today was legal, as long as people didn’t travel from Tier 4 to join.

The whole thing just grated a little with me…which will not come as a surprise to those who have followed my previous posts on the matter:
Outdoor Daily from 4 April 2020
Outdoor Daily from 1 July 2020
Rewilding Britain from 14 October 2020
Pheasant shoot and SUVs from 30 October 2020

The season of lemons has started a couple of weeks early this year and is promising abundance until March.

Autumn brings into sharper focus that nature wastes nothing and the laws of thermodynamics.

A fallen tree:

Surface for epiphytes
Substrate for fungi
Food for bacteria
Habitat for invertebrates

Matter and energy.

Life cycles. Upcycling. Recycling. Reuse. Circular economy.

Nothing new to nature, just to our society of STUFF.

Careless domestic waste management.

The season on abundance in citrus fruit has started in our greenhouse with a special little lemon called Meyer’s.

It’s a little pink inside and has a very pleasant flavour.

A happy glow under glossy leaves!

I see mushroom risotto for dinner!

I’ll add a little saffron and the colour will be golden instead of ‘mud’.

The Hard Tack bake off competition is captured here – including a ‘painful’ ttest tasting. Rather Rohan than me!

It is an extraordinary year for fruit.

After four weeks of feasting on wild cherries, our apricot harvest promises to be great, too!

Abundance, gratitude and sharing!

You’ll find lots of recipes for Rumtopf on the internet and I’m not quite sure why I am adding another one, other than to ‘spread the love’.

Rumtopf is just another way of bottling the abundance of summer fruit and preserve them for winter. The twist is: preservation is achieved with 54% rum, rather than boiling and sealing.

Making Rumtopf is a long process: it starts with the first of the summer fruit and finishes with the harvest of late plums, raspberries and blackberries.

You need a large kilner jar (2-3 L), sugar and rum (preferably 54%, but 40% will do), and seasonal fruit.

Do this

Carefully clean the jar and rubber seal, rinse with very hot water and dry.

Start with the earliest soft fruit, in the UK that’ll probably be strawberries. As the season progresses, add red currants, black currents, apricots, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, plums…

For each layer of fruit, take only firm, best quality fruit that is ripe, but not overly ripe.

Weigh the fruit and weigh out half the weight of the fruit in sugar. Mix fruit and sugar and let stand for an hour.

Add the fruit/sugar mix to the jar and add enough rum to cover the fruit completely – adding about a finger breadth on top.

Keep doing this with more fruit and sugar until you filled the jar, then leave to stand in a dark, cool place for several weeks.

Eat and drink on its own. Enjoy it over ice cream, with some creme fraiche or yoghurt.

Rote Grütze is a northern German summer pudding that my dad introduced me to when he lived in Bremen. It is usually served in a showy glass bowl with a layer of pouring cream infused with bourbon vanilla floating over it. Delicious!

Use any of the fruit that’s in season: ripe (I really mean ripe!) gooseberry, black and redcurrent, sweet or sour cherry, plum, apricot, peach, jostaberry, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry…a mixture of several works well.

You also need sugar and, if you want to use it, some alcohol (e.g. brandy, rum, Cointreau).

Remove stones and chop the larger fruit into bite-size pieces. Add all the fruit, except the soft fruit (rasp- and strawberries) into a pan with sugar and a little fluid (water or alcohol) and stew lightly with the lid on.

How much sugar you add depends on your taste and how sour the combination of fruit is you used. I guess you could use different sweeteners, including honey, but I’ve not tried that.

Once the fruit has drawn some liquid, take some off and thicken it with your favourite thickener (gelatine or a vegan alternative). Use no more than what would set 1/3 of the total final volume – the result should be creamy in consistency, not set solid.

Take the fruit off the heat when it is slightly softened and add the thickened juice to it. Allow to cool and refrigerate for several hours.

Infuse vanilla seeds in pouring cream a while and serve with the Rote Grütze. If you must, it also goes well with vanilla ice cream.

Fruit-Meringue-Almond Tart

There is no English name for this recipe, which is a variation on my mum’s Johannisbeertorte, which means ‘redcurrent tart’. But it’s more than that, and it is really easy!

You can use any sour summer fruit for this, such as red- or black currents, sour cherries, jostaberries or gooseberries.

Now, I’ve got a thing about gooseberries in the UK. In the shops, they are usually pale and hard as bullets. That means that they are not ripe and they are horrid. Rant over: you know what to do.

Shortcrust Pastry

My favourite pastry is a little indulgent, but hey, that’s what cake is all about, no?

Combine 8 oz of flour with 5 oz butter and two tablespoons of sugar (or honey). The butter should be at room temperature, not cold. You can replace some of the flower (an ounce or two) with ground almond. A teaspoon of ground cinnamon is good in there, too. Add an egg and quickly let it come together as pastry. Set aside to rest in a cool place for 30 minutes.

Line a buttered metal tart dish with the pastry.

Now you have two options:
1) either blind-bake the pastry for 10 minutes in a pre-heated oven (180°C)
2) or roll out a wafer thin (around 1 mm) layer of marzipan and line the pastry with it.
The second option adds extra depth to the flavour and complements the sour fruit very well.

Fruit-meringue-almond filling

Meanwhile, combine about 500 g fruit with 3 egg yolks and 150 g ground almond. Add some vanilla if you like.

Whisk the egg white until stiff, then gradually add 100 g caster sugar and continue whisking until you can cut it with a knife.

Gently combine the egg white in three separate portions with the fruit mix and fill it into the pastry. Smooth the top and bake until at 180°C for around 45 minutes.

I like it just as it comes, but some prefer it with cream.

Today’s walk in the Tamar Valley brought so many delights, it’s difficult to choose just one to write about.

Post-Midsummer announced itself with an abundance of hazelnuts cradled in their sheaths, ready to ripen later.

New wild flowers appear still, in shades of purple and cream.

There was a reminder that we are stronger as a team with a common purpose, than alone: thousands of tiny goosegrass flowers conspire to fill the air with a delicate scent to attract pollinators.

On the topic of scent, nothing quite beats meadowsweet at this time of the year.

And just when I thought I should have taken a drink with me, I came across an abundance of ripe raspberries to quench my thirst.

Abundance in the garden!

Beautiful as jewels, diversity of colour and texture.

Health sustaining minerals, fiber and vitamins.

Little explosions of flavour in my mouth.

Enjoyment and gratitude.

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