Foragers’ fumbles and fails

Crab apple
Crab apples are a firm favourite with all foragers and are readily found in our countryside

FORAGERS are always enthusiastically looking for new wild foods and recipes to try out and share. Usually, we get to celebrate our successes…. but what about our failures?

Living in a part of the Irish countryside that’s rich with native plants, my family has had great fun finding and cooking all sorts of wild fruits and plants for almost a decade.

On the other hand, we’ve also had one explosion, a frantic weekend product recall and a jelly that refused to set. And for every fumble, I hope that an important lesson has been logged and learned! Continue reading “Foragers’ fumbles and fails”

Herald a new day with the Dawn Chorus

dawn chorus
RTÉ and BBC Radio Ulster are putting the Dawn Chorus on the airwaves (Pic sourced on Pixabay)

EARLY risers are no strangers to morning birdsong but everyone’s being invited to take part in the 2017 International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday May 7.

BBC Radio Ulster and RTÉ Radio 1 are joining forces again this year with broadcasters in Europe and India to bring the sounds of our native birds to listeners.

And in our house, at least two of us are planning a camp-out to make sure we don’t miss out on this ornithological cacophony of sound! Continue reading “Herald a new day with the Dawn Chorus”

Help needed to record call of the cuckoo

The cuckoo is becoming increasingly elusive

THE PUBLIC’S help is being sought in recording the call of the increasingly elusive cuckoo this spring.

More often heard than seen, there is concern for the common cuckoo’s future since it became red-listed as a bird of conservation concern in the UK in 2009.

In Ireland, the cuckoo narrowly makes the Green-list. According to the report Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 2014-2019  the Irish population trend narrowly falls outside the Amber-listing threshold”.

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When crawlies are not so creepy – the hidden benefits of earthworms

Getting your hands dirty saving earthworms has more benefits than some parents might think!


WATCHING my daughter Becca (8) rescue earthworms while I dug the garden got me thinking about the benefits of allowing children to get mucky.

As she scrambled around to protect the worms from our hens, Becca was being exposed to what I consider healthy bugs. She was running her own conservation mission while chatting to me about why she loved earthworms.

Continue reading “When crawlies are not so creepy – the hidden benefits of earthworms”

Barn owl sighting like winning lottery

Barn Owl
The barn owl is a Red-listed bird because of plummeting numbers (pic from Pixabay)















A BARN OWL sighting close to our home one Thursday evening provided what I like to think of as a shared ‘super-buzz’ moment for me and our daughter Becca.

This was the first time we had ever seen a barn owl in the wild – but 8-year-old Becca didn’t have to wait quite as long as me for the experience of a lifetime!

The following morning her 84-year-old grandfather told me he hadn’t seen a barn owl for many years – probably not since his youth. Our conversation got me thinking about how lucky Becca had been, and how much I hoped she would have many more opportunities to see this snowy-faced, enigmatic bird.

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Forest litterbugs hit our pockets

Illegal dumping
Illegal dumping in forests causes environmental damage but also hits taxpayers’ pockets

FORESTS provide a valuable space for anyone seeking ways to find fitness, mindfulness or a free amenity for energetic kids, but they’re also easy targets for sneaky, illegal dumping.

There are three very good reasons to be angry at those responsible for fly-tipping or illegal dumping. Dumpers damage the environment, they are too lazy and/or cheap to legally dispose of items that are often recyclable and they cost the rest of us money!

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Nature’s role in Christmas traditions

The robin is one of Mother Nature’s most popular contributions to our Christmas celebrations!

THE YULETIDE season may send most of us into a shopping frenzy but Nature and Christmas have gone hand-in-hand from the very beginning.

The early Christians were a savvy bunch, recognising the need to adapt existing Pagan customs to help ease the transition for converts adopting a new set of beliefs. And that’s why there’s so much greenery in our homes at this time of year!

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Foragers’ favourite homemade liqueurs

Sloe gin
Sloe berries from the blackthorn tree make a delicious liqueur when added to your favourite gin

HOMEMADE LIQUEURS are an easy and fast way for foragers to use wild fruits that are often ignored, like sloe berries, or an interesting way to use traditional favourites, like blackberries.

We’ve just made a bottle each of sloe gin and blackberry whiskey which, if I can control my thirst, are scheduled for consumption in Christmas 2017.

Continue reading “Foragers’ favourite homemade liqueurs”

Crab apple jelly with a hint of spice

crab apple jelly
Crab apples are found in the wild and make a delicious jelly that can be used with bread or meat

CRAB APPLES are one of those wild-growing fruits that often remain untouched on the tree but they actually make a delicious jelly that bridges the gap between savoury and sweet.

The apples we grow or buy are descendants of wild crab apples, which are usually found along hedgerows or in woods and untouched spaces. A handy tip is that if there are rowan trees in an area it’s likely that you will find a crab apple tree nearby.

We’ve made crab apple jelly on a couple of occasions but this year we decided to adapt our usual recipe by adding cloves to give it just a hint of spice. We like the jelly on bread or scones, but it can also be used with meats like pork or turkey, depending on your personal taste.

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Rosehip syrup is a wartime favourite that still packs a Vit C punch

Rosehip syrup
Rosehip syrup packs a punch with Vitamins C, A and D and helped keep wartime children healthy

ROSEHIP syrup is a recipe with an interesting history and tastes good over all sorts of foods, including icecream and pancakes!

The great advantage of rosehip syrup is that while the process of making it is a little bit finicky the tiny red hips of the wild rose are readily available for free on hedgerows and in many gardens throughout the country.

These tiny red fruits look a little bit like elongated apples, which is no coincidence as they belong to the same family as crab apples and apples.

However, rosehips pack a real punch when it comes to their health-giving credentials, containing Vitamins A and D but also 50% more Vitamin C than oranges! And one of the best ways to get your rosehip Vit C hit is through a homemade syrup.

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