Thursday, 23 April 2015

April foraging expedition in Bath UK

Today was a foraging day on the edge of Bath, UK with a couple of friends.  We found nettles, wild garlic, garlic mustard, dandelion leaves and flowers, daisy leaves, plantain and bramble shoots.  Some images from our expedition;
Jo and Yvonne harvesting wild food on the canal
path in Bath
Jo gathering wild garlic leaves
and flowers for making pesto, soup
and adding to salads
We found garlic mustard.  The leaves
can be eaten in salads, made into a
pesto or cooked like spinach.

I found comfrey plants on the edge of a field

Close up of comfrey leaves.  They can be coated
in a batter and deep fried

Bramble shoots can be soaked in boiling water
and drunk as a refreshing tea

Dandelion flowers are sweet and crunchy when
 eaten raw or they can be breaded and deep fried or made
 into dandelion wine



Sunday, 19 April 2015

Inspirational project - Westfield Farm, UK

While here in the UK I visited a permaculture inspired project not far from Bath where there is a fledgling forest garden, orchards, biofuel willow and beekeeping.  Some images from the visit:

The owner Bryony explains how
she is developing the forest garden

Chickens and ducks have a little wooden cabin and
pond and are let out to roam around the forest
garden from time to time
This is a young forest garden
that has been planted with
fruit trees, some fruit bushes and
then inter-planted with perennials.

Forest garden - mulched areas between
perennial vegetables

Forest garden: fruit bushes with perennial vegetables

Another view of the forest garden
The orchard with grazing sheep

Workshop/teaching space for courses on beekeeping,
willow weaving, forest gardening ......

Foraging - wild garlic (ail des ours)

Common name:  Wild Garlic or ail des ours

Latin name: Allium ursinum

I discovered carpets of wild garlic in a woodland on the edge of Bath .... I have not found any in the area where I am living in Normandy.  So far we have made a fantastic pesto with the leaves and am planning to do a soup ....

Wild garlic covers the woodland floor
I harvest the wild garlic leaves

Probably one of my favorite plants-
with its architectural leaves and
white flowers
The woodland thick with wild garlic

Wild Garlic leaves and flower buds

Some Wild Garlic Recipes

Wild Garlic Pesto 1 large bunch of wild garlic, washed

1 small bunch of curly parsley, washed

60gms pine nuts, toasted

60gms parmesan cheese

150mls olive oil (I mixed half extra virgin, half normal)

squeeze of lemon juice

salt and pepper

Place all the ingredients into a food processor apart from the olive oil and blitz for a minute or two then slowly pour in the olive oil until blended. Use for pasta, mash, dipping etc etc
Wild Garlic Soup


  • 2 tbsp oil for frying
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 600g potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 1.2l veg stock
  • 50g wild garlic leaves, shredded
  • crème fraîche or double cream, to serve
  • wild garlic flowers (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and fry on a low heat for 8 minutes, until softened without colouring.
  2. Add the potatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
  3. Add the wild garlic leaves, reserving a few shreds for garnishing the soup.
  4. Blitz in a blender or food processor until smooth, with flecks of wild garlic leaves. Reheat in the pan, seasoning to taste.
  5. Serve with a swirl of crème fraîche or double cream, a few shreds of wild garlic and a few wild garlic flowers, if you have them.


Inspirational project - Cherry Wood UK

While visiting friends in Bath, UK this week I dropped in to see how Tim Gatfield's project is progressing ... he has been here around 10 years now, living in a yurt complex in a woodland just outside Bath.  He runs green woodwork courses and takes on apprentices to manage his woodland and learn bodging skills.  I was impressed to see that since my last visit a few years ago, he has constructed a cob roundhouse and is in the process of building another straw bale roundhouse ... all with the assistance of a host of willing volunteers ... some images from my visit:


One of the yurts where Tim lives with his family
Solar power for the yurt complex

The chicken and duck home

Part of the forest garden
A row of shaving horses for the
green woodwork courses
One of the dry toilet cabins
One of the log cabins
Volunteers working on the cob roundhouse
Two volunteers working on the cob
fireplace inside the roundhouse
A current project: to be a straw bale round house
made with wood from the forest
Part of the woodland has been planted with hazel
which is coppiced every seven years.  Volunteers
sort the branches according to size
Volunteers on their well earned lunch break

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Recycling - some woodwork projects

Thanks to the workshop created by off grid John and help ex John Golle flast year and my assortment of woodwork tools, I have been able to do a number of woodwork projects using wood found in the barns here as well as wood that was in the house - there is a lot of chestnut ... and in particular plenty of barrel top planks:

Three cold frames constructed with wood and bits
and pieces found on the land here

Off grid John came round to fell
an old pear tree that was half dead

John rigs up a tripod and rope to
try to lift the trunk which we
are going to transform into
a spiral staircase for the house

I use a drawknife to take off the bark

I have lined the bath with old chestnut planks that
were partitions in the house - lots of work to clean off
the old glue and paper with an angle grinder!!

I am using old barrel top wood to make units for
the bathroom

I cut the planks to length, biscuited and glued them
together with clamps to hold them

The start of the sink unit in the bathroom
showing the barrel top planks

Willow planting

I have just been donated load of yellow willow by a local nursery.  I've chopped the branches up into 20cm lengths and planted them in the forest garden in various locations.  They will be useful in the future for basket making projects and/or fence weaving and sculptures.

I chopped the willow branches up into batons
Last years willow bed was planted
through landscape fabric and is
doing well

This years addition to the willow bed -
the batons are pushed into the earth and
will hopefully start sprouting soon

Inspirational project - La Maison Autonome

Before buying La Mariais I visited Patrick Baronnet's project 'La Maison Autonome' between Rennes and Nantes.  Patrick is a charismatic and highly energetic individual who has over a period of 20 years or so created an ecological site with an emphasis on promoting ecological living and autonomy - he is particularly keen to promote the idea that it is possible to build an ecological house yourself for a lot less than 'a traditional house' .... he has built a 'Maison Autonome' as an example of a passive house built with natural materials and harnessing sun and wind power .... he has also constructed a 'zome' where he hosts conferences and talks and more recently a 'Maison yurt' - a straw bale round house with the help of volunteers.

To read more about his project/association the website:

During my second visit, I helped with a conference for those interested in creating eco-projects or 'oases en tout lieux' - an association inspired by the writer/poet/agriculturalist Pierre Rhabbi.  Existing projects include a couple who have created ecological gardens where they host people with mental health challenges, a community living in ker terre constructions in Brittany (earth and lime round houses) and a couple who run organic growing and healthy eating courses.  Visitors helped work on the straw bale round house project.  Some images from the conference day:

Chantier participatif: making earth renders

Chantier participatif:  Sieving earth in preparation
for making earth renders
Chantier participatif:  Applying the 'gobetis' - the
first coat of earth renders on a straw bale wall
Patrick Baronnet addressing a group about his
approach to ecology and autonomy

Pierre Rhabbi addressing an audience about the
association 'Oases en tout lieux'
Group participants explaining their eco-project ideas

Participants pooling ideas for eco-community projects
A stall of an existing 'Oases en tout lieux' - they run
courses on organic growing and healthy cooking

A workshop on different types
of  DIY rocket stoves for cooking and