|Summer 2010 part 4: The
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2010 seems to have settled into the pattern that we have seen these
past few years - a warm very dry start morphing into a cool, cloudy,
breezy and occasionally wet July and August. This is not all bad news
as it's kept the veg-garden happy, but it's tough for the kids who have
to watch the sunshine from indoors only to be faced with poor
conditions at holiday-time. Having said which, despite the lack of
heatwaves again this year, I don't think anybody in their right mind
would be envious of those living in Central Russia at the moment with
40C temperatures and dense smog from the fires.
Something else happens by mid-July most years which I always look
forward to - the land begins to freely give up food. More on that just
below - I'll just start with some images from Wednesday 21st July, when
the second chance of a storm-intercept this year got me back down to
Borth - this is as far as I can afford to go in these austere times but
its beauty more than compensates for that.
The rainfall radar had indicated plenty of activity round and about. On
arrival, a distinctly Bank Holiday scene greeted me, brollies
The previous week I had watched an impressive storm system work its way
across the bay, but this time the convection was distinctly messy:
In my vicinity, about the most interesting thing that occurred,
however, was this briefly-lived cloud resembling a fish-tail!
The better storms were over the channel, in southern Ireland, their
solid anvils forming a line visible through the rather hazy skies. With
cloud-tops in the high 20,000s of feet, this is what the Himalayas
would look like from the Welsh coast if they were situated where Dublin
random musing, the day was done! Onto things food-related.
July sees Marsh Samphire ready for a gentle harvest. There are odd
patches of it here and there in local estuaries and a couple of times
every summer I treat myself to a bit. The trick is to not uproot the
plants - which is downright vandalistic - but to lightly trim off a few
bits from the most robust ones. It takes a while to get a picking, but
done that way a second picking can be had a few weeks later. I give it
a good rinse and then steam it with a bit of butter - delicious with
On the coastal dunes and cliffs, Parasol Mushrooms pop up in late
summer. An acquired taste - some love them, others not - I like them
fried with a bit of bacon. This one I found on the Lleyn Peninsula when
on a trip to get some mackerel, having heard they were there in good
numbers at last....
They were indeed - on my first cast I had
five, and in an hour or two I had 27 - plenty for eating straight away
and for the freezer. There is no better eating fish than a
freshly-caught mackerel - or at least, if there is I haven't tasted it!
the rest of the day to idle away and enough fish in the rucksack to
make the climb back up hard-going, I stopped fishing and wandered along
the rocky outcrops that fall away to the cliffs below, the ground in
between their lichen-crusted contortions ablaze with heather and gorse.
The distinctive call of Choughs could be heard and I almost got within
range of one, but it was a little too far for the modest telephoto lens
I use - this is quite heavily cropped:
This was a more typical
view. They only let you get so close before the alarm-calls are raised
and the small flocks become airborne. Always a joy to see, though....
In the channel below, low tide was approaching. Slack water is the time
most craft make the passage through the otherwise overfall-ridden
riptides of Bardsey Sound. I propped myself against a rock and watched
for dolphins, which were elsewhere, but this yacht made an interesting
subject in the soft, almost milky light:
I followed its progress past the Island, here leaving behind its steep
eastern face that plunges down unhindered into the deep clear waters:
On the homeward journey, I stopped to check
a couple of places that I have up my sleeve and was rewarded with the
first chanterelles of the year:
Chanterelles are one of my favourite mushrooms, but it is essential
before you start picking and eating brightly coloured fungi to be
absolutely certain of their identification. My advice is to learn to
identify all the dodgy ones at a glance before getting too far down
this path. There are far more edible wild mushrooms than poisonous
ones, but most are pretty uninteresting. Having tried a lot of them
over the years, I stick to just half a dozen species now, with the
chanterelle high on the list.
Over at the veg-garden, everything has been growing well since the
arrival of the rains and the end of July saw the annual
shallot-harvest. The variety is Red Sun - one of several I tried last
year - and it is so suited to the conditions here that I shall
concentrate on it exclusively from now on. These are huge shallots!
Each small set I planted produced up to six of these monsters...
size was well up on last year....
Here is the whole harvest. Once I had them home, I stacked them in more
of the blue mushroom-trays in single layers, in front of my fireplace
where there is always a draught. This is to dry the bases of the stems
prior to storage into the autumn and winter months.
Although a dry day, conditions were again cloudy and the butterflies
normally filling the air were not apparent, until I spotted this Comma
sat on one of my potato plants.....
gave a brilliant starburst of colour with its flowers though even in
such dull light. Last year it was razed to the ground by rabbit and
slug activity, so I have been delighted with its vigorous recovery this
I'm now getting the first runner-beans and have sown turnips,
chard and kale to provide fresh veg through Autumn into Winter - the
aim is to be self-sufficient in a variety of veg all year round, which
is challenging in the planning but in my unemployed state - which I
seriously hope won't go on for more than a few weeks - maintaining a
good diet on an extremely low income is key to staying fit and - most
importantly - does not take up an inordinate amount of time needed to
chase possible work opportunities. Anyone need a website or
interpretation sign or some graphics doing? I can do all the research,
text, graphics, web design, construction, search engine optimisation
and pretty much anything else, and it can be bilingual if that is
required. Please take a look at:
There must be work out there somewhere!
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