We have a brand spanking new website at:
Please drop by and check out who we are, what we do and our epic courses for 2013!
We have a brand spanking new website at:
Please drop by and check out who we are, what we do and our epic courses for 2013!
Posted at 11:46 AM in Adventures, Curing & Preserving, Fish & Fishing, France: A Year in Providence, Homebrewing, Meat & Game , Mushrooms, Press, Recipes, The Treehouse Diaries, Useful Products, Vegetables, Wild Berries, Wild Camping, Wild Greens | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
No longer are the men of today content with the “Prague, Tits & Beer” of the past, stag do’s are becoming more sophisticated (sort of…), paintball and go-karting don’t quite cut the mustard like they used to. Men want to be men and do manly stuff, collectively they want to unleash their inner caveman once unchained from the desk: they want to eat meat off the bone, they want to make fire, they want to sup a few ales and roar with laughter at each others expense. So where better to go than a Hunter-Gatherer School to let it all out?
In reality it seems that man has changed little over the last 10,000 years when it comes to the basics, some things just remain the same…
Being based only an hour from London and 20 minutes from Brighton, HGC HQ is ideally placed for those looking to experience a bit of outdoor adventure during the day and then head off to the bright lights of the city for a bit a bit of nocturnal revelry. No Stag group is the same, some have headed to Brighton, some to Eastbourne and quite a few to Lewes for some serious Ale tasting in the shadow of Lewes Cathedral (also known as the Harveys Brewery).
So what can you expect from a HGC Stag do?
Without further ado and not wanting to give the game away (a little smoke & mirrors never hurts…) here we go:
Come and join us in the woods to celebrate your staggy with a day of time-honoured manliness:
Deer butchery and Cook off
Wild food wander
Bush tucker trial
Based on the South Downs near Brighton, expect a day of great banter and hands on outdoor action. The stag will receive a special gift from the HGC team as a ‘stagmento’ from his time in the woods.
Arriving At HGC HQ at 10am for a run through the order of play: The day is designed for your group to learn the basics of self-sufficiency and put them to the test!
We begin at HQ where you will learn how to skin and butcher an entire deer for your lunch using flint tools, then skewer up the meat to cook over the fire with a selection of HGC marinades and wild taster dishes. During lunch there will be a spot of cider tasting (we provide 5 gallons of cider for the day), then it is off into the wild to identify & taste some of Mother Nature’s bounty from the hedgerows. We can also provide supper, consisting of pit roast Haunch of Venison and all the trimmings.
After walking off the deer, you will embark on a tutorial of basic fire lighting, trapping and shelter building before the bush tucker trial where the stag will have to eat his way through insects, squirrel cock, deer testicle and fish bits.
Then it is time for the HGC challenge, which only the best man (or men) are allowed to know about…
Hunter Gather Cook will unleash the hunter-gatherer within and ensure you pick up plenty of tips for your next adventure into the wild!
If you are interested in booking a Stag do with us, please get in touch and send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, prices and available dates.
‘Staggy staggy stag stag.’
I recently did a feature on Truffle hunting for the Independent, thought I would share it with you here and throw in some of my own pictures. My Guide for all things Truffles was Melissa Waddingham- if you want to get your mutt transformed into a Truffle hound or even head to the woods for a spot of 'shrooming- contact her here.
My first ever encounter with a truffle occurred age six, somewhere in the Jura Mountains of France. My brother and I had pooled our pocket money to buy my father a birthday present. We settled upon a small Périgord truffle in oil, sealed in a shot glass. I had no idea what a truffle was, but understood this: they weren't cheap. Quite why we had paid 25 francs for something that resembled an oversized, warty bogey in a jam jar was beyond our comprehension, but my mother assured us it was worth it for the exquisite taste, a flavour I would have to wait quite a few years to see if it really was worth it's weight in gold.
Now, while looking for mushrooms above ground can be difficult even when you're bang in the middle of a good cep season, trying to root out a subterranean fungus, relying on only a few pointers and perhaps the assistance of a creature with a keener sense of smell than you or I, is a completely different kettle of fish altogether. I had always disregarded truffles as something I was never going to find in the UK, until last autumn when I began to hear mutterings in and around Sussex of the South Downs having a rich history of truffle hunting, though sadly many of these fellows in the know have died and taken their knowledge and locations of the wild-truffle orchard with them.
Of the three truffles regularly sought after, only two are highly prized: The white truffle (Tuber magnatum), which hails from the Piedmont region of northern Italy, most famously the countryside surrounding the city of Alba and the black truffle or Périgord truffle (Tuber melanosporum) named after the region where it is found in France. The white truffle, with its pungent aroma, is perhaps the most valuable with the largest specimen to date, with a 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) beast, being auctioned for £165,000 in December 2007. The black truffle has a more refined, earthy scent with notes of umami capable of filling a room almost instantly. It is perhaps more affordable than its cousin at around £1,500 per kilo.
It might surprise (or disappoint) you to know that the third, the summer truffle (Tuber aestivum), with its milder aroma, is the only one we are likely to find in the UK and fetches a modest £180 per kilo.
Over the past couple of months my desire to harvest a truffle from the South Downs has become fanatical. When you find yourself in a library looking at soil maps of the local area, you have to have a word with yourself, so I decided to track someone down who might be able to help me on my quest.
If Indiana Jones had been into truffle hunting and had been a woman, then he would have been called Melissa Waddingham and would have lived in Horsham, West Sussex, with an excitable Labrador called Zebedee. I managed to track down Melissa on the internet through our mutual love of all things foraging. She agreed to take me on a hunt. Melissa has been chasing all members of the fungal world for the past seven years and trains dogs to become "trufflers", takes guided fungi walks and is even considering cultivating truffles. Her background in woodland management clearly helped her find her first jackpot some time ago.
By following a series of natural indicators, unaided I might add, she unearthed 13 fine specimens of Tuber aestivum. A good start. Being an avid forager myself, who regularly practises and teaches the ancient art at my Hunter: Gather: Cook school in Sussex, I know only too well how productive areas are kept schtum, not so much with plants, but definitely fungi, and if you're talking truffles, well, I was expecting to be blindfolded and have the phone with built-in GPS taken away.
As it happened, there were no such cloak-and-dagger shenanigans and we met on a glorious September morning on top of the Downs at one of Melissa's closely guarded wild truffle orchards. It soon became evident that it didn't really matter if I knew the location, since I didn't possess a well-trained truffle hound to sniff out the goods and Melissa knew it. It was apparent that when it comes to truffle hunting, knowledge and some sort of creature with a good snout aren't everything – look can be just as important, and I felt woefully underdressed for the occasion compared to my expedition leader in all her finery. I knew I was in good hands.
As we entered the wood, a mixture of ash, hazel and hawthorn, which looked just like any other woodland I had ever rummaged around, Melissa explained to me that having a truffle hound such as Zebedee is only the half the battle: you need to get into the ballpark first before sending out your star player. So I was put through my paces on how to locate a wild-truffle orchard.
"Firstly, you need to be on calcareous [limestone or, in our case, chalk] soil. This is why the South Downs are perfect. Next is having the right species of tree."
Melissa went on to explain that the mycelia of truffles (the fine white strands found in decomposing leaf litter- fungi roots if you like) form a symbiotic relationship with certain trees, predominantly hazel, beech and oak. Truffles help the trees by "fixing" the nitrogen and extracting and breaking down chemicals in poorly drained soils such as chalk. Although this is all going on below the surface, naked to the human eye, there is a tell-tale sign on the surface: truffles are alleopathic, which means they chemically inhibit the growth of any vegetation around them, and this is quite visible on the surface. "What we're looking for is a 'brûlée' or 'burnt area', devoid of any vegetation," Melissa explains.
As we wandered through the hazel, ankle-deep in dog's mercury, a common woodland plant that's quite poisonous, we eventually came to what I would have thought was simply a clearing, but was in fact a brûlée. Looking around, it must have been a good 30ft (9m) in diameter, with a smattering of hazel stands and, compared to the rest of the wood, an eerily perfect circle, devoid of any greenery.
"The next indicator within the brûlée is evidence of any digging or activity by woodland animals," Melissa says. She went on to explain that the truffle's method of reproduction and spore dispersal relies on animals attracted by the scent to dig them up, scoff them and deposit the remains elsewhere. No doubt humans could do the same – a quick pit stop in Hyde Park on the way back from a top London restaurant could prove lucrative in the future. Simply put, any kind of surface disturbance is a key feature.
This is where the ever excitable Zebedee or Zeb stopped picking up sticks twice his length and went to work. Melissa didn't have to do much to get him in the mood: a bottle of truffle oil was produced, sniffed and along with some encouragement and frequent use of the word "working", Zeb was off. It was a complete transformation of character: one minute he was childish and playful, next a serious MI6 snoop on the case. He snaked around the brûlée, snuffling the ground and showing particular interest in a patch of soil at which point I was handed a trowel and put to work.
As with any type of foraging, sustainability and respect for the environment cannot be stressed enough. Under Melissa's guidance, I was shown how deep to take back the leaf litter and how to replace it in order that the mycelium (fungi roots) should not be harmed. Also, she added, so that no one else in the know might recognise it as a truffle stronghold.
What we did find was a false truffle. Close, but not close enough. The rest of the day continued with the same practice, moving from brûlée to brûlée, but unfortunately it wasn't our day. Just like fishing or even looking for mushrooms, if they aren't there, they aren't there. As luck would have it, Melissa had come prepared and brought four large truffles from her last foray the week before. Now it was time to indulge. Truffles took me a while to appreciate. At first, I couldn't understand why this fungus that Plutarch believed was born out of thunderbolts striking the earth, was so highly regarded: to an amateur, it smells of wet dog and old socks. But then, I used to think beer was horrible.
What they are is something quite special. Truffles are as much about aromatherapy as they are taste, and because 70 to 75 per cent of what we perceive as taste is actually smell, then you begin to understand how the truffle works as an ingredient. You can't simply bite into a truffle as if it were an apple: to get the most out of it you have to use a mandolin to get thin, almost translucent slivers of truffle, which then reveals its intricate marbled flesh. Rarely cooked as this can compromise and reduce the flavour, the slivers are best sprinkled over a warm dish, such as the classic scrambled egg or wild mushroom risotto, through which the intense earthy perfume of the truffle, its very soul, will waft up to your senses and infuse every mouthful. That is why the truffle is so sought after (coupled with the prospect that they are about as easy to spot as sardine among a gang of pilchards).
We headed off the Downs to my local pub, the Rainbow, where head chef Dan Baker had agreed to cook up a few taster dishes using our summer truffles. After supping a well-earnt pint of Harveys, Melissa and I talked a bit about "black diamonds" and examined the ones she had brought with her: they had a heady aroma that was both earthy and quite nutty, these were mature truffles, ready to release their spores. Typically, truffle season is between September and May, and immature truffles picked before this will have little aroma or flavour. On asking the best way to store them, I was quite surprised, well, shocked actually, that most truffle oil isn't even made with actual truffles but with an organic compound called 2,4-Dithiapentane, derived from a petroleum base and infused with olive oil. Most truffle oil is fake? Yes. That explains why it is possible to buy a small bottle at a reasonable price.
We were invited into the kitchen to watch Dan in action. First up was a sweetcorn veloute made from nothing but fresh ears of corn stripped and blitzed into a sweet creamy consistency and warmed through. As Dan began to grate thin slivers of summer truffle I asked him how it would work with this particular dish: "The sweetness of the corn will tease out the sweetness of the truffle and the warmth from the soup will pass through the truffle and enhance the aroma," he said.
Next was a wild mushroom risotto followed by skate wing with a caper sauce and Provençal vegetables. In each case the truffles were used in the same way, to help accentuate certain aspects of the dish.
There is no doubt that truffles are a luxury ingredient, for the very reason that they have a rich taste and intoxicating aroma. They are not, as I found out, all that easy to find – it is this scarcity that holds their market value: plans in France to mass produce cultivated truffles has caused uproar as it would drive down the value of the elusive truffle. Truffles are not something you are going to use every day – that is why when you do get your hands on a "black diamond" keep it simple and use it wisely. My search is still not over, with or without a snout to help me, there is gold in them thar hills and I mean to have it, hold it, sniff it and then grate it all over my scrambled eggs.
Secret ingredient: the lure and lore of truffles
Finely sliced, raw truffles work especially well with chicken, veal, fish, omelettes, soufflés, pasta and rice.
For an exquisite roast chicken, insert thin wedges of truffle under the skin of the chicken 24hrs before roasting.
Truffle aroma also has the ability to penetrate eggshells, so pop a truffle in a bowl of eggs overnight in the fridge for the tastiest scrambled eggs ever.
Preserve truffles by storing them in good quality olive oil.
The reason pigs, especially sows, make such fine trufflers is because the pungent odour of the truffle is very similar to that of a male wild pig.
Truffle production has declined over the past century. In 1900, France produced around 100 tons, now it produces around 20 tons, 80 per cent of which are from specially planted truffle fields.
As with most ingredients that have a hefty price tag, truffles are also considered an aphrodisiac...
As of two days ago, after a soul destroying 12 hour drive, become French! And made it down just in time to put together a surprise party on the Beach for the Mrs (see above). Although I will be back next spring to get HGC school up and running again with a whole new exciting course structure, specialist days, banquets and even staff members! Expect plenty of French food adventures over the coming months...at last the year in Providence has begun!
Au Revoir. Weston Out.
By gad...what a week! I haven't stopped for little more than food (not sure that anyone says 'by gad' anymore- I certainly don't, but I'm taking back!). Since coming back from France its been non-stop: Building a tree house for the Times Home Section in two days (I'd recommend building one in four), It was a superb weekend with James and his family all getting involved- never seen a 4 year old using a power drill! Also been doing the build at Safari Britain, where I managed to receive a double blow to the head from a pair of ash rafters dropping out of the crown whilst setting up the yurt...not recommended.
Things are moving along nicely at moving along at HGC Headquarters. I have been lining up some interesting posts to follow, but with so much on at the moment just a quick update...pictorially.
The clay oven has come along nicely- a bit of a step up from the my last effort whilst tree- dwelling, I just have to do a bit of nip and tuck on the entrance. Thankfully I had the help of some fine instructions from this lad: Simon Brookes guide to building a clay oven.
Knowland's wood- where the HGC headquarters resides is looking beautiful, wood anemones first followed by the delightful onslaught of the bluebells. My new landlord very kindly helped me out with some timber for the HQ, we spent a morning cutting some oak trunks from the wood- so far everything in the off-grid HQ has come from the wood- making me feel particularly smug about my carbon footprint! (save all the fires I will be burning throughout the summer...)
Hope you are enjoying spring and the gradual transition to summer, if you fancy a day or even an overnight course in becoming a 21st century hunter-gatherer- get in touch!
Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places, looking back I think mine was stumbled upon at the Giant’s Cup in the Southern Drakensburg, South Africa. Granted the place itself could quite easily be inspiration enough: the flat topped, jutting peaks and the grassy plains full of howling baboons echo exploits of Hemingway- especially striking out in a boat in search of Trout, the great white hunter lives on….
But it was not so much place, but a person. Wolf Avni the proprietor of our breath-taking surroundings was a fisherman foremost and writer second. His eccentricity was only matched by his wit, and it was only after getting a copy of his book “A Mean-Mouthed, Hook-Jawed, Bad-News Son-of-a Fish” that I realized this chap spoke like he wrote- bizarre perhaps, but certainly unique. His prose was magical- Shakespeare meets Izaak Walton and then goes on a bender with Bill Hicks and a couple of Trout. I liked it a lot- I wanted to write…big time.
My brother and I spent plenty of time flogging the water chasing the fish- from the enormous lake to the pleasant trickle of the Umzimkulawana River; we had three days of wonderful South African landscape, but very little bite. The Trout of the Southern Hemisphere were too cunning for my liking. It wasn’t until sometime afterwards that I noticed Wolf had added a brief inscription in the front of his book that said:
“For Nick. Nil Illigitimi Carborundum.”
Now whether it was a reference to our fishing or a valuable lesson for life, the common Latin phrase translates as “Don’t let the Bastards grind you down”. And I think it was then that my life began to take a more alternative route that I wasn’t entirely prepared for and quite frankly never will be. But such is the rich tapestry of life!
So after living on a desert island, a Tree house and a cow barn, this year is all about two things: Hunter:Gather:Cook HQ and the Frenchies and their food. Bouncing between two countries is perhaps not the most settled of living arrangements, but with a ‘river cottege-esque’ pad in rural Sussex and an apartment and fiancée on the beach in Southern France- I can hardly complain.
Heavy- Serious Cable laying plant.
This weekend saw not only the start of the great British summer, but also a flurry of activity in a small corner of Sussex woodland. Starting a business is not easy- as many will no doubt agree, but in this case a weekend frolicking in the woods building your office is a perk to say the least. Having just finished a rather regal composting Thunder box for a private client it was time to begin work on my own grand design.
Trying to define exactly what Hunter:Gather:Cook is all about ain’t easy. First and foremost it is a foraging and cookery school, dedicated to educating participants in the rich variety of food that exists around us in the wild, but I wanted it to be so much more than that. It’s about lifestyle: wild food isn’t just about plants, fruits and fungi, its about protein and how to catch it, its about cooking it and how to create and utilize fire for more than just a BBQ. It’s about understanding the landscape you are in and how to create a comfortable existence within it in the most simplistic of ways. And that, ladies & gentleman, is what Hunter:Gather:Cook is all about- sometimes its useful to look to the past in order to see where you are going and our Hunter-gatherer ancestors have led the way. This is about learning to live off the land and how to live with it.
Here we go! This year Hunter Gather Cook goes from being a blog to a bespoke outdoor experience centered around wild food and cooking. This is not your run-of-the-mill foraging experience: expect off-grid kitchens, underground ovens, hunting & trapping lessons, home brewing and how to use the landscape to your advantage. Not quite bushcraft, not just foraging. After a day spent at the school you will go home laden with goodies you have made yourself from the freshest wild ingredients Sussex has on offer: jarred, potted and bottled and a little closer to being the ultimate 21st century Hunter-gatherer.
The day course covers a huge range of plant Identification, but the focus is on the how you can use them with everyday standard ingredients and add that little bit extra to every meal. Protein is just as important as plants, so you could be cooking anything from squirrels, rabbits and pigeon to perch, chub and pike. This course is extremely hands-on even down to taking apart the animals yourself!
Many of the regular followers of the blog will know all about my days of Tree house dwelling? Essentially, this is what the school is about: creating a comfortable existence and feeling at home in the great outdoors- this is NOT about survival.
The first dates for Spring are available below and all courses are based in Mid-Sussex:
The cost for the day (9am-6pm) is £75.00 per person (max 12 people per group- discounts on group bookings). I do still run exclusive courses and overnighters for a more personal touch (max 3 people).
Saturday 30th April
Wednesday 4th May
Wednesday 11th May- places available
Saturday 14th May: (Wild food Supper club @ the Underground Restaurant- Londinium)
Wednesday 18th May- places available
Saturday 21st May- full
Wednesday 25th May- full
Many more course dates are to be confirmed for Summer and Autumn, do please get in touch if you are interested- Look forward to seeing you out in the woods soon!
This weekend I will be signing books and doing treehouse workshops at Parham House Autumn and foraging day: I was there last year and it was a super day out packed with all sorts of country shenanigans, I might even show you how to make my potent Nettle brew...
"Nick Weston, Hunter, Gatherer and Cook will be on hand to relate his experiences of living for a year in a tree-house in a Sussex woodland. If you fancy having a go and building one yourself, he will be holding a tree house workshop aimed at teaching children (and even adults) the mechanics by building a mini replica of his own tree house! He will also be promoting and signing copies of his book, The Tree House Diaries, as well as doing a home brew demonstration of nettle beer."
Considering I had a month to get a manuscript of 80000 words in, the book has come to finally come to fruition! What better time to release it than time for time- while I was building my arboreal dwelling this time last year. The book is packed full of seasonal wild food recipes and identification notes, how to build a wood burning stove, a composting toilet, a coracle, a clay oven and...of course, a treehouse. The publishers, Anova, have done an amazing job of bringing the book to life (a format like Adrian Mole in the woods, without the geeky teenage angst!). I have always thought that, although descriptiveness is a wonderful thing, a picture paints a thousand words and I have insisted that this whole escapade is heavily plastered with day-to-day images of life in the woods. Why not give it a try?
If any of you are in London on Tuesday the 25th May (this tuesday coming), do please pop into the Prince Albert Pub in Battersea (upstairs) from 6.30pm onwards (just by Prince Albert Bridge) have a shot or two of my nettle beer and pick up a signed copy of the book from me, myself and I. Apologies for the shameless plugging, but I have since learn't that as an author...it IS part of the job description!
Hope to see you there!
Wild Garlic, Sussex, May 2010.
What a weekend. After attending an engagement do on Friday night on a rare visit to the big smoke, I found myself feeling a little delicate the following day, flicking through the Mail on Saturday in a sun kissed corner of Battersea park, when I came across this…WHOA!
Shameless plugging must begin somewhere, what better place than here?!
Later that day the online version was glanced at and the comments caused much hilarity and mirth, especially those that love to hate…but what do expect from those on the inside on a computer on such a wonderful spring day? I wasn’t…I used the i-phone (I notice I referenced that in the last post- I must hasten to add I am not pimping a product, honest).
So, why the press? Well, last week I got my hands on the first copy of the ‘super advance’. The book is due to hit the shelf on the 17th May (not the 4th as was suggested by the Mail). I was a little shocked to be holding a weighty hardback tome that had my name on it and my ugly mug on the front: it was all quite overwhelming. Sad thing is, I didn’t read it…I already know what happens and how it ends, but I hope to one day.
The book is so chunky, I could have done with it when I was living in the woods, if not as a chopping board then for slaying hapless fur & feather. The Publishers have done an astounding job in bringing my 6 months in the woods alive and presented it in true 'diary' style: it is packed with pictures, recipes and step by step instructions on how to do the whole thing yourself...could certainly have used it this time last year!
Now begins all the stressful personal interrogation as to the books future, but its ok, you must really back yourself if you don’t bring out the Spanish inquisition. So what’s it look like on the inside? Well why not see for yourself:
I will try to deliver a more original blog post shortly, hopefully over the weekend, spring is kicking off (although 3 weeks late this year…climate change?), I have gallons of nettle beer to make for the book launch as well as a bunch of other foraged delicacies and there are some rather tasty goodies appearing in the wild larder, ripe for scoffing and writing about. Quite a lot in the pipeline at the moment, one very fine idea, that could top the tree house and could go either way, but its all about getting out of the comfort zone…watch this space. If you have any thoughts on what the next project would make for a good blog/ book combination please send a SAE to the comments box below. Thanks!
Ps- Alex @ Just cook it, congratulations on getting down to the final three in Masterchef, shame you didn’t make the treehouse, but they have to film the show sometime! Look forward to seeing the goods…meanwhile a small tribute to you that I had for supper the other night: Lamb sweetbreads with steamed hop shoots, wild garlic mash and elderberry wine reduction. Well done!
The Internet has given everyone a chance to have their say. Blogs are the ultimate self-publication tool and allows anyone to put themselves out there. It has been said that everyone has at least one book in them, I’ve just finished slaving over mine…time to work on the blog I feel I have neglected.
Last week I was part of Al Humphreys' Adventure night for the charity Hope and homes for children. The basic idea of a Pecha Kucha talk (a Japanese concept), is that you provide 20 slides and each one plays for 20 seconds...you have absolutely no control! Cue a bit too much 'Ummm...' It was certainly a challenge to try to deliver a concise talk in 6 minutes 40 seconds, much harder than doing pulling off the 40 minute long talks I am used to. Twas a fantastic evening filled with yarns from many an adventurer: A man who took a flew a car to Mali, the youngest Briton to climb everest, Polar explorers, jungle trippers and even a pair who walked around the M25.
The night managed to raise just over £5k and I hope to be part of the next adventure night to try and raise a few more pennies for such a wonderful charity...some lucky beggar managed to win my last bottle of Elderflower champers in the raffle, oh well not long till spring.
Check out my bumbling effort below...at least I got some laughs! If you would like a treehouse talk at your school, event etc, please do email me: email@example.com
I do apologise for my complete lack of blogging of late, it's rubbish. Just because my treehouse existence has come to an end doesn't mean this blog is! It is simply because I am on an extremely tight deadline with writing the book so all typing and computer related things are being directed towards that.
I have a good'un for you coming up, a signature dish involving beef, the rump to be exact, and I will post as soon as I get the chance.
Oh how I wish I was still doing this.............
Finally, I have mastered how to attach videos! After reading up on URL and embedding codes and other technical nonsense, turns out there is a simple video tab button and they do the rest for you. Do you think I have been in a tree too long? See for yourself:
I took on the massive responsibility of doing all the photography for my forthcoming book about my time in a tree…a daunting prospect indeed. Most of the time it is only me down here, so I (at the mercy of Nikon’s terms) have become a bona fide master of the self timer…sort of.
Whilst perusing through the photo library to get rid of any dead wood, I came across these shots. Now some are due to fish misbehaving (slippery buggers) and others are taken in that moment you know it is too late for suitable posing, so inevitably you do something stupid…perhaps these are the pictures that were never meant to be posted, but the self timer has become a large part of Treehouse living and its only fair to show a few!
I apologise for the blatant humanity and lewdness of some...but such is life!
You can guess at the use of profanity here after dropping a large pike that was reluctant to have it's picture taken.
It seems Treehouses have become all the rage this year, I for one can see/ have felt the attraction, so when the Sunday Times asked if they could pop down, The last thing I expected was to be on the front cover of the home section…
Although it happened some time ago now, I have debated over whether or not it would be considered vulgar to post it on the blog. Mainly because my ugly mug is in the foreground! For me the Treehouse is the star of this show and without it, I would have no roof over my head.
I have added the article for those of you who wish to have a read, but then if you have been following the blog…you already know what life in the trees has been like!
As I approach my final month in the woods and the seasons begin to turn, I am filled sadness at having to leave my arboreal home…what will become of it? I have a few ideas…we shall see.
Telling people of your present circumstances is always going to provoke a barrage of questions if you happen to be living in a treehouse. I have had a huge variety, some serious, some hilarious and some confused, from the camo-wrapped survival geek, the overenthusiastic Radio DJ to the mum with three kids: all have surprised me, shocked me and in some cases I have been the one furrowing my brow and scratching my head.
The bulk of the interrogation has come from Safari Britain, where I have been teaching foraging over the summer. A lot of the campers are families from London and naturally large groups of energetic, enthusiastic city kids, suddenly unrestrained from the confines of London parks. Showing said children the fine art of gutting and jointing a rabbit or peeling a squirrel give the children plenty of gore factor to take home, as well as various parts of animal anatomy.
“Can I have the head?”
It’s been rather a strange week. Tuesday began like any other day, except a bit earlier- I was off to teach Foraging on the South downs, so after making a fire and heating up water for a shower I went on my merry way. I was aware that an article on my treehouse life had been written and was due to be published in the Evening Standard later that day- by 10am the phone wouldn’t stop ringing with allsorts of media types getting “on it”.
After teaching I had to race home to meet a BBC crew so they could film a bit of my treehouse life and then do a live feed. Sattelite trucks, cars, vans and cables where waiting for me when I returned- what was this! It was great fun having them down and explain what and why I was doing this, but most of all seeing how the news is made and brought to us and the ridiculous deadline they have to edit, set up etc! Following the Standard was the London Paper, London Lite, BBC Radio Kent, ITV meridian and most amusing of all the Mail online which with incredible accuracy and attention to detail, penned me as a “city highflyer” and a “Businessman”- Quite frankly the only business I have ever done has been in the confines of a bathroom, but anyway….
If you would like to see the BBC news video of their visit to the treehouse and get a better idea of my crib- please click here.
This week brought the rain. It was inevitable, a good stretch of close, hazy summer days was bound to end with a bang. That bang began with the pitter-patter of raindrops on my tin roof as I sat by the stove updating my diary. A flash followed by a low rumble and the drumming began, I had felt rather cosy in my dry arboreal dwelling, the corrugated iron roof was holding up well to the downpour. Iron roof…big tree tall tree running through house…lightening! Shit!
Despite putting on the thickest rubber soled shoes I had on (reef shoes) and going to sit under the treehouse while the storm passed and count the seconds between flashing and rumbling, I was in the middle of a wood with plenty of other trees. Perhaps more desirable, isolated objects would be better targets?
I received an email last week from one of my readers; it was concerning the picking of wild garlic bulbs and the legality of such activities. The email got me thinking about just what the law does allow Hunter-gatherers to do and just how we should be looking after our chosen foraging environments.
In the email it was mentioned that it is illegal to pick the bulbs of wild garlic. This is not strictly true, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is illegal to dig up a plant by the root, however common it is, unless it is on your own land or you have the landowner’s permission. My favoured wild garlic harvesting spot is on a Friend’s farm and there is more of it than you could shake a stick at.
The other point that was raised was how essential it is to set good sustainable standards where our wild foods are concerned. Quite, I couldn’t agree more. So what are the rules of engagement when it comes to foraging?
Its not every day you get to see yourself, something about you or something you’ve written on the pages of a magazine. In my relatively short time on this planet I have had a few appearances that I have been pleased with…others not so much- Shipwrecked coverage in the likes of More/Heat magazine were amusing to say the least, I even once made the press board outside the village shop in my early 20’s (not for the right reasons I can assure you…), So here are a few of the clips for your perusal, just click on the picture of the scanned in pages and you can zoom in and have a read.
My latest appearance in this months Reader’s Digest is one I am proud of and represents something I feel more of us should be doing, especially considering the present state of the economy. This Summer I might be doing a little survival/foraging/cooking bits at Safari Britain, a wonderful yurt and bell tent setup deep in the Sussex downs. They run weekends and various country-style activities, well worth booking yourself into for a brief stint.
Eloquently titled “Extreme Camping”, the RD article involved me taking a writer- Rebecca Tyrell, her 11 year-old son, one of his friends and a photographer on a survival packed weekend of wild camping on Dartmoor. We had amazing weather on the first day, the fickle Devon weather took a turn for the worse and we had two days of torrential rain...nice.
I have since learnt, I somehow turned Louis, the writer’s son, into something resembling the love child of Ray Mears and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Foraging has become one of his favourite activities as well as dealing with his finds back in the kitchen. I wonder whether his father, Matthew Norman- the food critic for the Gaurdian, may have less enthusiasm for the sway of his son’s palate?
After a brief stint working at Olive magazine, I had a handy bit of publicity for the blog in the magazine and was shocked by the difference it made and has made since in daily hits. Despite their unhinged admiration for everything “foodie”, I can’t thank them enough.
Enough of this self-absorbed twaddle, the next post will be much more informative I promise! This last picture has little to do with this post at all, I did notice a fellow blogger Alex-the author of just cook it, recently got some Kittens- this ones for you mate, our cat did something stupid, make sure they don't jump off anything too high....
After reading a rubbish article in the equally rubbish London Paper (what else can you do on public transport if you forget a book?), I found myself eager to try out this new twitter craze that is sweeping the world. I'm not to sure about all the 'tw' that is added to the start of sentances but, hey ho. I heard about some one called the twitchhiker who plans to travel as far as possible in 30 days relying on the goodwill of twitter users, well good luck to him.
This is just a quick note to all of you that drop in to my corner of the ‘Net’. Thank you very much for all of your lovely comments and appreciation of the blog. Whilst sifting through it the other day I had a horrible feeling half were missing!
Fear not, at the bottom of each page (as in how far you can scroll down) there is a small blue ‘>>’ which is quite hard to make out, I would urge you to click on this especially with the “wild” section to see earlier escapades (the wild weekend is one of my favourites!).
As some of you may be aware I spent three months last year in the Cook islands as the “Survival Expert” for Shipwrecked 2008, a UK program for Channel 4. It was a brilliant experience for me, how often do you get a desert island to do what you want with?!
If you would like to see episode 1 (there are 14 25 minute episodes!) starring yours truly please go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLX_zoGcbbM
All episodes are on you tube.
Please also see a friend of mines Website: http://www.maketravelfair.co.uk/2008/11/06/shipwrecked-surviving-the-cook-islands/
Make Travel Fair was established at the end of 2006 as an online platform to communicate some of the global issues associated with travel, to encourage education amongst travellers and to encourage travel as a means of education.
Thanks again everyone, next post coming over the weekend!
Foodie: a word that should never be used.
1984 was a dark year. A year in which a book was released, written by Paul Levy, Ann Barr and Mat Sloan called “The official foodie handbook.” It was due to these people alone that the term “foodie” was first coined. I loathe the word, I hate it so much that I would rather drink turpentine and piss on a bonfire than utter it out loud. So, as you can imagine writing this is no easy task for me, but it has to be done. The word is so offensive that as I type it up it is the only word underlined in red!
There was a time I found particularly hard when I did a brief stint at Olive magazine where the word was banded around the office more than a tennis ball at Wimbledon. Understandable if you read the magazine which is packed full of foodie this and foodie that, what is more interesting, from the impression I got, is that not many of the people who worked on the magazine were not very fond of the F-word either.
The dictionary defines the F-word as someone who; has an ardent or refined interest in food. Very nice. So gourmand, gourmet and gastronome are words that describe the same thing but are considered too snobbish in this day and age, hence the reason “foodie” was invented. I can happily stand tall and say that I am certainly not the only person who harbours contempt for this word. The general consensus amongst us who do have interest in food terminology is that it is a bad word. For example I don’t believe people are branded “shoppies” if they have an interest in shopping often a simple ‘aholic’ is sufficient to back the word used to describe someone who avidly pursues a certain pastime or subject: shop-a-holic, alcoholic, chocaholic etc. It seems as though our official foodie handbook writers felt it sounded right- damn them!
It seems evident that new words for old things are always being invented to make them sound more professional like calling a cocktail barman a ‘mixologist’ are they really? Or are they still cocktail barmen. I believe in America they now call them “bar-chefs”. How pretentious is that!
It doesn’t often happen but occasionally someone on hearing I write a food blog and enjoy my food they make the enormous mistake of saying to me “so you’re a bit of a foodie then?” er…..no, the rest of the conversation never usually happens. The f-word is meant to describe amateurs that have an avid interested in everything to do with food. I don’t mean to blow my own, but I am a fairly good self-taught cook, does that make me a chef? It has got to a point I feel that the word itself invokes the same snobbery that people thought gourmand and gastronome did. Its people such as Tom Parker-Bowles who I think love the word and his book “a year of eating dangerously”, all be it a thoroughly enjoyable read certainly adheres to this kind of F-word behaviour. People do think they are ‘foodies’ if they hold a big interest in it. Considering food is something so essential to keep us alive as well as something our hunter-gatherer ancestors lives revolved around, should we call them the ultimate foodies? They were always looking for new ingredients, new ways of cooking their catch etc. It pains me to say it but one person who has always inspired me- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, is also guilty of using the word more times than he should have.
Maybe times are changing and we have to adapt to these new terms, but I say never. Not that word. I hate it now and I always will. I was relieved to have a flick through my copy of Larousse Gastronomique, not even mentioned! Oh hang on, Ken Holm has to stain the back cover with; ‘for foodies, Larousse is perfect bedtime reading’. Well all I can say is that I have never read it in bed. Why would you, it’s a dictionary of food. I like food and most things associated with it do interest me, that does not make me a foodie or anyone else who follows the same pattern.
Unfortunately like ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘Emmerdale’ it is something that has been engrained into British society, which we may never be rid of. People who call themselves foodies are in fact in the same boat of snobs that they thought gastronomes were. In fact they really believe they are an elite group above the heathens, the same type who go and spend hundreds of orange and purple beer slips in Borough market and whole foods every weekend. If you like food, you like food, it is as simple as that.
Lets step up people, stop using the word, its ridiculous!