Summer 2010 part 4: The giving land


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Summer 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 everywhere....

Wet day at Borth

The previous week I had watched an impressive storm system work its way across the bay, but this time the convection was distinctly messy:

Showers brewing from Borth beach

In my vicinity, about the most interesting thing that occurred, however, was this briefly-lived cloud resembling a fish-tail!

Fish-tail cloud!

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 is!

Distant thunderstorms over Ireland from Borth

With that 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 fish.


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....

Parasol mushroom on clifftops

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!


With 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:

Yacht in Bardsey Sound

I followed its progress past the Island, here leaving behind its steep eastern face that plunges down unhindered into the deep clear waters:

Yacht, Bardsey Sound

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...


The average 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.....

Comma butterfly

The Echinacea 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 year!


 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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