Spring has sprung, and left a spring Chick on my doorstep to help me in my garden. Charlie, a young lady I met last summer at the London Permaculture Festival, e-mailed me a while back, to ask if I could recommend any good WWOOF hosts. Willing Workers On Organic Farms, is an organisation set up to match organic farms and smallholdings, with people who want to volunteer. The idea is that you work in exchange for your room and food. I spent 6 months in New Zealand, many many moons ago, hitch hiking around and being a “WWOOFer” on various Permaculture projects. It was an amazing experience, and one that I would recommend to anyone. So with Charlie e-mailing me right before I was planning to move to a new home with a big garden that needed to be Permaculturified, (can I coin that?) I suggested she should come and stay with me.
Charlie arrived on Monday, and we have spent the week sifting through compost, digging up turf, and planning my hen run, as my name is on a list to adopt some ex-battery hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust, in a few weeks time. I’ve made a design for my garden, although it still needs some tweaking. I’ve decided to place the hen-house right by my kitchen door, for easy access to eggs, with the run going along the full length of the garden. I found someone on freecycle, who wanted the copious amounts of gravel that made unnecessarily large pathways in my garden, and a neighbour wanted the gravel that was in my greenhouse. Another neighbour had bricks to donate to the walls of my new raised beds in the making. He smiled at me, and told me I was a bit of a magpie….I liked the compliment! I’ve been carrying home pallets from the market to build a compost bin, and have found the local mechanic who can donate a few old car tyres for my new wormery.
On Saturday morning I joined Tidy Tavy, and was adorned with a beautiful yellow florescent top to advertise my volunteer status. I spent a couple of hours picking up litter with a healthy sized group of local do-gooders, and found it really therapeutic. I am that person who picks up others people’s rubbish as I walk down a path, but I’ve never taken a bin liner and gotten down and dirty in the brambles, to try to get it all out. You find one bit, and then once you start pushing the leaves away, you find more, and more and more….I found myself sliding down the banks of the river, and jackpot! I found a pound coin…….No no no. That was nothing. As I picked up a muddy chocolate wrapper, I happened to glance over at the Wild Garlic! Real jackpot! I decided to go back for it as I was pretty filthy by this stage….
So today, Charlie and I went for a Spring hike, with a basket and a few extra bags. We filled them with Wild garlic (Allium Ursinum), Goosegrass (Galium Aparine), Nettles (Urtica Dioica), Sorrel (Rumex Acetosa), Pennywort (Umbilicus Rupestris), and some Dandelions (Taraxicum Officinale). No Dandelion roots though – we overdosed on them the other day, when we dug up and washed enough to fill a large roasting tin. We roasted dandelion roots and parsnips for dinner. It was great at first, but we definitely had to force down the last few bitter roots! Next time I think I’ll make lots of humus to mask the flavour. Or maybe I’ll just stick to the flowers unless I have a particular problem with my liver and feel the need to treat it with roots. Apparently if you eat enough bitter foods, your pallet will get used to it. I’m not quite there yet!
We were only out for a few hours, but when we got home we made enough pesto to feed an army. It was fantastically good. I literally just added raw peanuts, olive oil, a spoon of sugar and a dash of salt. We kept the Pennywort aside to have it as a salad with our pesto risotto. I feel fully nourished, and blessed to have such a lovely friend staying with me, helping me, and appreciating the spring abundance with me.