James is keeping it simple – Microadventuring

Hungry for adventure, my colleague and I hatched a plan, changed the plan, modified the plan and then just did it.

We planned to do a simple 6pm – 8am microadventure which was simple and fun. We are fortunate enough to work in the middle of Ditchling Common Country Park but rarely get much opportunity, or rarely create much opportunity to get out in it and enjoy it.

Knowing that the Common was a Site of Special Scientific Interest we needed to plan carefully and be very subtle about what we were doing as I didn’t fancy having to justify what we were doing to a dog walker, policeman, forestry worker,or security guard from the nearby retirement village… yep, this needed some thought.

I was initially keen to head north towards Wivelsfield and ‘Jacobs Post’. Jacobs Post would have been an interesting place to go as the story behind it is quite interesting…

I had heard the history of Jacobs Post when the Royal Oak was recently re-opened (before it more recently closed down!) and looked it up to learn more hoping it would provide a ‘fun’ backdrop to our evening out.

The story goes like this;

On 26 May 1734, a horrified passer-by found landlord Richard Miles lying by The Royal Oak’s stable with his throat sliced. His wife was found in bed and her throat had been slashed, too. The third victim was an unnamed maid, who had rushed to her boss’s aid. The pub had been ransacked.

Before he died Miles muttered the name of his attacker: Jacob Harris, a local peddler Harris had spent the previous night at The Royal Oak in Wivelsfield, Sussex, and heard Miles boast of rising profits. It sparked his plan for the murderous robbery.

Laden with valuables stolen from The Oak, Harris fled, only stopping to rest once he’d reached The Cat Inn, some 15 miles away. But as he drank, a posse descended. Harris managed to slip up the chimney, but unluckily, the fire was lit and his choking alerted his pursuers. It was lit innocently, but Harris may have thought one of The Cat’s punters had betrayed him. Harris was hanged soon afterwards. His chained, rotting body was left dangling on a post outside The Oak – a grisly warning to others with murder in mind.

The Royal Oak - The murder scene. Jacob was mounted on a post out front to rot.

The Royal Oak – The murder scene. Jacob was mounted on a post out front to rot.

My colleague Stuart who loves a bit of drama and a good story was surprising up for it and liked the idea so we both studied Google Maps to pick our spot.

As we looked all we could see was open land, a few trees and bridle paths. Not great for providing the cover we were after. I didn’t fancy sharing my microadventure with passers-by with either two or four legs and to have to make small talk with dog walkers, wasn’t part of the plan. It was about being out in the quiet of nature and enjoying the outdoors.

We changed our tack, Jacob would have to wait for another time. We scrolled our mouse over other parts of the 188 acres and found a good area worth exploring. Six o’clock came, we changed, grabbed our bags and set off to find home for the night.

After a 25 minute walk we eventually found an area that wasn’t covered by bluebells and looked like a natural spot to make camp.

Campsite

   Beyond the bluebells was a small clearing.

With the simplest of tarp set ups our shelter was sorted so it was onto the cooking – nothing better than cooking and eating outdoors with a rustic and simple style.

We decided to treat ourselves and so brought a couple of fat rib-eye steaks earlier in the day from town and also some stir fry veg. I wanted a third ingredient (always prefer ingredients in odd numbers!) and so brought some duck eggs. I cooked up the stir fry and put it in a small tray to keep hot in the ashes and then used the pan to fry up the marbled bad boys. I seasoned with salt and pepper and also a little curry powder to give it an edge. Once I was happy that the meat was nicely seared and suitably cooked I removed to the stir fry tray and cracked the large white eggs for a quick fry. The end result was mouth-watering and the taste rewarded you for the time and money you invested in the ingredients and cooking. Yes we could have had beans on toast, but treating yourself to nice food is always worth it when having an adventure.

You don't eat with your eyes at this time of night!You don’t eat with your eyes at this time of night! It didn’t look pretty because on this occasion it was ALL about the taste.

A mutual friend Nigel joined us and we talked into the evening and drank beers. I started a little whittling project making a fire blow pipe which a Forest School Instructor from Sussex Wildlife Trust showed me. I felt inspired so as I had my bow saw and an Elder tree close by, I was soon busy and finished it off with some sandpaper only a couple of days later.

Elder 'Fire Blow Pipe'

Elder ‘Fire Blow Pipe’

We slept well and woke to the sun shining through the trees and birds saying hello, in the way birds do. I quickly got out for a stretch and wanted to get the bacon on. I was keen for Stuart to get a bacon and egg sarnie as soon as possible as he had to open up at work at 8am. I had a further hours grace…

IMG_0988

Nigel had a more rustic camp set up and seems to be able to rough it more than I would ever even consider. He had some tent canvass draped over a fallen, yet suspended log and slept underneath. I am not sure that he had anything under him other than bluebells… Nigel never ceases to surprise me! He was cheery enough when he woke, but I don’t know how… respect to him!

We sent Stuart on his way, cleared up and ensured that the place was spotless as is was a great place to maybe return to. Leave no trace right?

As we neared the edge of the wood we passed a man taking photos of the bluebells in the morning light. A nice way to spend your morning I guess. Lovely that the wood provides pleasure for so many people in so many ways.

It felt a little weird going to work with rucksacks, saucepans and a bow saw in hand, but as the sound of bird song was replaced with traffic noise and time started to become important I reflected on the peace and respite I had enjoyed and was surprised at how refreshed I was. That said it just amplified the stark reality of normal life I was returning to… and on that cheery note…!

Until the next time.

Posted in Camping, Eating Out, Mini Adventure | Tagged , | 2 Comments

James is Learning The Hard Way

Thursday night my lovely wife and I planned our agenda for the following day. We were keen to ensure all was in good order and timely.  It was simple;

– 6pm finish work
– 6.15pm Collect Mother-in-Law for babysitting
– 6.25pm (or so) Polish my wifes shoes (as promised everyday for last 3 nights) and sort kids
– 6.40pm I get suited and leave for Christmas dinner in Hurstpierpoint (20 minutes away)
– 6.45pm Wife leaves for her Christmas party
Easy….

I went to work on Friday and the day passed fairly uneventfully until about 4.30pm when I got a tweet from a friend of mine;

@Jungledon large dead deer by side of A272 between Ansty & Bolney if you r interested! #roadkill

Interested? – Possibility of high quality fresh food for free, and chance to practice my skills…? Yeah, of course I was interested!!!

I finished work on time and despite another tweet that cast some doubt if the deer was still there, I figured there wouldn’t be much harm in doing a ‘quick’ 7 mile detour to Ansty to see if there was any evidence.

Despite the darkness of night and lack of any moonlight I instantly saw the deer. I felt the surge of adrenaline run through my veins and the hair stand up on my neck (although this could have just been the cold).  I decked out my boot with a tarp that I carry for these exact occasions where I happen to pass small or large roadkill (I was a scout – think positive and be prepared).

I stood over this beast of an animal and had a look for obvious signs of damage.  Cars started to slow as they passed me and I began to wondering how this all looked. I could almost feel the bemused eyes of the passengers and hear the “Look at this guy! What the hell is he doing with that…that… is that a deer?”.

IMG_0165[1]

I grabbed hold of the antlers and dragged the animal to the boot of my car. The fact that it had been raining meant the fur and ground were wet which helped but it wasn’t the easiest thing to move about. When I got to the car I had a similar realisation to the guy from ‘Jaws’ but I wasn’t in need of a bigger boat, just much bigger biceps! I was totally incapable of lifting this mass of meat into my boot. This needed a strategy. I pondered. I spent ages trying every which way to get it in the car, it was like a tantruming child that didn’t want to be put in their car seat (some of you know exactly what I am sayin’!). The harder I tried the less likely it was gonna happen. It was just too big. It was at this moment my phone rang…

As I pulled the phone from my pocket, I saw it was my wife calling.

Suddenly the carefully organised plan from last night re-entered my conscious with the speed of a bullet. Oh dear (no pun intended) I am a dead man.

I gingerly answered the phone but wanted to sound natural… “Hey babe, you alright?” The rest of the conversation cannot be documented here as I don’t want to upset those easily offended. Let’s say that my wife quickly got to the bottom of where I was, and what I was doing. The conversation ended a few short words after.

I said I would be on my way directly

The damage was in the main done. My wife couldn’t leave until I got back and had missed the start of her party, I had shown myself to be a massive fool and was cross that I had made the mistake in coming out at all. I should have gone home. This wasn’t working out… at all.

I knew I had to head home but as I looked at the deer I just felt I wanted to give it one last try. I had literally come this far… Beautiful fresh meat (with lovely antlers) – what a waste! I took a moment and considered my options which didn’t take long as I didn’t have many options to consider… I had one hope. It was a long shot, a real long shot but worth a try.

A call to my wild food buddy Dave (@foragesussex) was my last ditch attempt to rescue something from this terrible situation that was a spiraling nightmare.

“Dave it’s James, listen mate I need your help. I need you to come to Ansty (from Ardingly – another 7 miles away) NOW. Can you do it?”

Dave is a top guy and although I knew such a request would be simply out of the question for most (understandably so), I knew that if Dave could – he would. I held my breath waiting for his response.

“Er, yeah I was just doing some work, but, er, I guess I could come….. OK mate I am on my way.” – YOU LEGEND DAVE.

True to his word Dave hopped into his car immediately, but time passed soooo slowly. Out of desperation I called him two or three times checking how far away he was. I was meant to be home by now. The pressure I felt was growing to unbearable levels.

After another 10 minutes and at least 80 more cars having passed by (slowly) Dave pulled up and jumped out the car. With nothing more than a brief greeting he grabbed the ‘other end’ and the deer was manhandled into the boot. I shouted my thanks as I stepped on the accelerator and drove babysitter bound.

The car stank. Not of ‘dead animal’ smell, I am used to that, this was a musty smell, a strong whiff that was a mix of wet dog smell and a sweaty 15 year old boys bedroom. You’ll know what I mean if you have a dog and a 15 year boy in your house. It really was stinky, but there was a lot of deer to smell…. down the windows went, all of them.

As I rounded the corner of the Mother-in-Law’s house I closed the windows and sprayed a little air freshener to mask the overpowering whiff. It was lame effort; the smell good or bad wouldn’t hide the fact I had a boot full of hooves, antlers and a carcass the size of a Shetland pony.

As I opened the door for my Mother-in-Law I could sense without difficulty that my 45 minute ‘delay’ had been noted. Before driving off I again tried to play it cool and fumbled for the radio control to find something Christmassy to listen to. Driving in silence only makes the silence louder.

As soon as I got home I knew what I had to do. Despite lack of time to prepare I think I delivered the best, most sincere, heartfelt apology that I could. Having brushed her boots Mrs G left me with a few things to consider and left for her party. The apology didn’t have the effect I hoped, but it had the one I expected.

I washed my hands and face, and then washed my hands again (the smell wouldn’t go). I threw on a shirt and jacket and rushed out to my Christmas dinner with the car windows open. The deer still had its face pressed up against the tailgate and legs clearly visible to any following traffic… I felt my family car, complete with children’s car seats and a large dead wet animal in the boot gave out a mixed message, but no time to dwell on that.

download

When I arrived at my party I was hoping to keep the reasons for my delay on ‘the download’ however as soon as I sat down I was questioned about the deer. What? Had the stories of my stupidity reached my party before me? Unbelievable!  Turns out the initial tweets about the deer were read by more than just me and adding 2 and 2 together clearly made 4. These guys knew what I was like.

On another day I will conclude the story on the deer, but it is another blog post in itself. The second part is more about bad luck rather than more bad decisions, but again it was another nightmare. This deer was never meant to be…

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Before I sign off I gotta say;

Firstly thank you sticking with another long post. Frankly I don’t blame you if you just scrolled to the end. I had to tell it as it was, and be honest about it.

Secondly I want to thank my wife for putting up with me. I amazed everyone including myself with this display of selfishness, inconsideration, irresponsibilty (the list goes on). Thanks to Dave for his help and formal apologies to my Mother-in-Law, Mrs G’s party friends, and the hosts and attendees at my party.

I still do not know why I did what I did, I think my enthusiasm for hunting and gathering just boiled over and Elma Fudd took over my body and mind. I still shake my head in disbelief as I type this. What a fool. “It wont happen again”. That is a true statement, but it’s also what my wife has made me tattoo on my face.

elmer-fudd-300x225

 

Posted in Deer, Road Kill | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

James is Sharing A Meal

 


http://www.lindfieldlife.co.uk

By Emma Tingley
I’m not exaggerating when I say that it really has to be one of the most memorable
evenings I’ve had in a long time. Even now when I close my eyes and breathe in deeply, I
can recapture the atmosphere and aromas of the night. Some things have an amazing
ability to inspire you but my evening with James and his friend Charlotte down on her
allotment turned out to be one of those moments. I’m not sure how James would
describe himself, but to me he’s a modern hunter-gatherer. He seems more at home
outdoors than in and has an incredible knowledge and passion for creating food from
foraging. And Charlotte, a professional gardener, welcomed me on to her allotment as
if welcoming me into her home. For this evening, I traded the usual comforts of my sofa
for a log seat and an open fire, with a hearty meal in fantastic company under the stars
– an allotment dinner.
The evening really began before we’d arrived at the allotment just outside of Lewes.
Our first stop en route to the allotment was to a local game store on a farm to collect
the meat for our supper. As we drove down the narrow lanes of Barcombe, James
began pointing out plants that I must have seen hundreds of times but never given a
second thought to. Meadowsweet, a tall plant with small white flowers, can be used to
make wine and has medicinal properties. As nature’s aspirin it has anti-inflammatory
properties and is an excellent digestive remedy. To the Druids it was one of their three
most sacred herbs and it gets a mention in Chaucer’s ‘Knight’s Tale’ as one of fifty
ingredients that made a drink called ‘Save’.
I have to admit that I’ve never been on an allotment before but Charlotte’s was
just a short stroll from the road. Already at work digging new potatoes, she paused
to welcome us to her plot. I’ve always liked the idea of having an allotment, but close
up I could see how much hard work is involved! The vegetable beds, the rabbit-proof
fencing, the constant battle with other pests, let alone all that nature throws at it. It’s
not been an easy year for her allotment, the slugs have been busy and many of her
usual crops haven’t faired as well this year. But she’s still proud of her patch!
Getting to work straight away James begins chopping wood for the fire.
As the guest I get to sit on a log stool and am offered a welcome drink –
nettle beer or elderflower champagne – both homemade of course from
ingredients sourced from foraging expeditions. Naturally I had to try both!
With the wood chopped and ready, time to light the fire using traditional
fire sticks. When struck together the steels produce sparks of up to
3000oC, which when land on the tinder (a bit of cotton wool or tissue)
spark the fire into life. James is obviously an expert and it takes just one
strike for the fire to catch.
Tonight’s menu is a three-course feast. With the fire going well, the
first job is to prepare the starter – wood pigeon. James gives me a quick lesson in how
to pluck and prepare a pigeon. Identifiable as a wood pigeon by the white collar around
its neck, this one is as fresh as it comes. Tonight it is pan-fried over the open fire and
served on a bed of baby salad leaves. Just before handing them round, Charlotte
disappears into the shed and returns with a bottle of balsamic vinegar to finish it off.

I’ve never had pigeon before, but it was amazing. A succulent dark meat, more steak-
like than I could have imagined. Delicious!

For the main course it’s a rabbit stew, made with celery, carrots and herbs served
with new potatoes. With an estimated 40 million wild rabbits in the UK, they are an
excellent source of protein, low in fat and cholesterol and are a great alternative to
chicken or turkey. Within a year a female rabbit can be responsible for the production
of up to 1000 others, so it’s easy to see where the phrase ‘breeding like rabbits’ comes
from. A well-known pest for farmers, rabbits cause an estimated £100 million of
damage to crops each year in the UK.

So as the stew is cooking over the fire and the potatoes are boiling, there’s time
to relax over a drink. Charlotte is a wealth of information on the plants and growing
seasons and I discover that she hosts a weekly radio show for a community station
in Brighton. Her enthusiasm for the outdoors is admirable. If she’s not at work as a
gardener, she’s tending her allotment or hosting her gardening show! It just seems
so obvious to her that we grow food to eat it and I realise how much I take for granted
the food that I buy and eat. I’ve always been a supporter of shopping local, but I really
do feel that I’ve caught a new enthusiasm from her and appreciation of what goes into
producing the food we eat. It makes me think about the food we waste too. Other than
the meat, all the produce we’re eating tonight has travelled all of two metres from the
ground to pot to plate. And the meat hasn’t come from much more than 3 miles away.
It doesn’t get much better than that!

By the time the main course is ready, the night is drawing in. It’s not the balmy
summer evening we’d all been hoping for, but somehow it seems more appropriate
to be wrapped in a blanket, sitting close to the fire for warmth. I’m not the most
adventurous of diners so would not have chosen rabbit stew, but, I have to admit, was
delicious. For dessert we’re treated to Charlotte’s delicious stewed rhubarb, served
with custard (practically the only thing on the menu from a shop!).

It was such a privilege to be a part of one of James and Charlotte’s allotment
dinners. By the time the fire was dying down, we’d had a superb evening of food
and friendship. By torchlight we finished the evening by leaving no trace of our
presence, other than the message I left on the inside of the shed door along with the
complements of previous allotment dinner guests.

September 2012

Posted in Eating Out, Food, Pigeon, Rabbit | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Stingers and the Flowers

The Winter sucks. It’s not all bad but by the time I am finished at work it is very dark, weekends are here one minute and then literally gone the next… generally I feel starved of being outdoors.

The Spring months are great. With longer warmer days the life cycle is starting over. The lambs, the daff’s the Easter eggs all signify new life and with that the first of natures crop is ready for harvesting; Birch sap.

This year I collected a couple of litres, drank half of that and had no idea really what to do with the rest so it sadly went to waste. I felt bad for the tree I ‘stole’ it from. I hate unnecessary waste.

This lost opportunity made me determined to succeed with my next wild beverages – nettle beer and elderflower wine.

My first batch of nettle beer failed due to yeast not working. It wasnt stored in a warm place. It turned out as a nettle syrup. Nice for a moment, then overpoweringly sickly sweet. Lesson learnt, but gutted.

Second time around, keen to follow the recipe to the letter resulted in an awesome brew. It had fizz of champagne proportions and if you were too quick to remove the cap, then the rest of the beer followed the cap skywards and you were lucky to have a sip left. You have to treat each bottle like a motion triggered bomb. One false move and your garden / kitchen / lounge is going to be wearing the drink.

It tasted / tastes beautiful. On reflection; next time I might try using more nettle tops for a stronger flavour. I can easily drink one and truly enjoy it, but because it is still a little sweet I couldn’t go 2 or 3 pints.

Bottles of every size accommodating my precious produce.

Alcohol content is unknown. I am just a beginner so yet to get into the hydrometers, dipping and the exact science of it all. I’d put it at a few percent, but it is far from ‘powerful’.

The elderflower wine is looking real good and very pleasurable to make. Collecting a bag full of elderflowers beats a bag full of nettles any day but both have a lovely smell.

Last year I produced a good non-alcoholic (possibly some small levels) elderflower ‘wine’ which was better than anything you can buy. I was so proud. This time I want to give it an alcohol kick so I am hoping things go to plan.

I have added some wine yeast to ensure there is the required science in motion and if Freecycle comes goodwith some plastic bottles then I hope to bottle it end of this week.Just in time for my birthday on Sunday.I have held back some nettle beer, 2 litres of last years elderflower (good as a mixer) and hopefully will have some ‘proper’ elderflower to offer my guests at my woodland birthday gathering. I am cooking a leg of venison and hope that my local hedgerow offerings will be the cherry on top.

Andy Hamilton’s has a good recipy for both nettles and elderflower so check them out on the links below, but I also recommend his book; Booze for Free – Amazon £6.60. http://www.selfsufficientish.com/main/2009/10/nettle-beer-andy-hamilton/http://www.theotherandyhamilton.com/tag/elderflower-champagne/
Posted in Family Adventures, Food, Kids | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

James is Thinking about Microadventures

When I felt the urge to create this blog post I feared it could appear to be a bit of a ‘blog filler’. A post without my own interesting facts, clever humour, fascinating details and fully researched topic’s might be a bitter disappointment to my many readers(!). Well once you’ve finished watching and reading I am sure you’ll forgive me as I got some real inspirational content right here… it should be entitled “WARNING: This post is going to kick your ass.” The essence of what Adventurer Al Humphreys is saying is brilliantly challenging and I love the ethos behind what he does.

Al was clearly a fan of the children’s TV show “Why Don’t You?” or also known as “Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?”. Popular in the 1970’s and 80’s; (by the time it was the 90’s the kids had moved onto games consoles) this show challenged you to do new things and simply get out and get involved. This is exactly what microadventures is about, but for families and grown-ups.

Al coined the term; ‘Microadventures’ which is, well I’ll leave it to him to explain what it is about;

Adventure is only a state of mind.

Microadventures are about removing excuses. No time? No money? No skills? Don’t live somewhere picturesque? None of those are valid excuses not to pack a bivvy bag and sleep under the stars for the first time! Stop being a wimp and sheltering behind your lame excuses! Microadventures are simple expeditions and challenges which are close to home, affordable and easy to organise. Ideas designed to encourage ordinary people to get Out There and Do Stuff for themselves, even in these tightened financial times.

Al’s challenge is to get up, get out and don’t concentrate on what you can’t do, rather what you can. I love this idea. Some of my previous posts have been microadventures of one sort or other and I continue to seek more challenges and push normal boundaries (they don’t all have to involve a bivvy bag!).

Here are a few short videos of microadventures that inspire me particularly. You’ll find a way of doing something if you really want to.

So as I am sure you’ll agree, this ‘filler post’ is actually quite confrontational in asking the question; what is stopping you from doing something? Why don’t you turn off Eastenders, Top Gear or Peter Andre (my wife’s favourite) and pack a bag and GET OUT!?! Make your spare time count.

On a final note, if you’re quick you could still video your microadventure and send it in to Al Humphreys for his presentation at the Microadventure Film Festival. Deadline is on July 1st. You can see more details on;

www.alastairhumphreys.com/2012/04/microadventure-film-festival

I feel I have been over familiar with ‘Al’ as I don’t know him yet throughout I have referred to him as if we were old mates from university.

To clarify; We are not old mates and I didn’t go to university. Furthermore I have no proof that he watched or is even aware of the programme “Why Don’t You?”.

Posted in Family Adventures, Mini Adventure, Something New | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

James is Shrimping

I got a message via the usual social network from my friend Ash asking if I fancied a days course on the coast collecting shrimps and doing a bit of plant ID. I had seen a similar course on the Bushcraft UK website which I thought was interesting but I didn’t give it much further thought.

Being the type of bloke that I am I always prefer to go with a friend to such courses because it is great to share an experience and at some of these bushcraft type events you can get strange, sometimes competitive and often macho types whose overpowering character is as bad as their body odour and it is nice to know you will have at least one conversation partner that is on ‘your level’. I gladly signed up and as the course was £35 it was a no brainer.
We headed off relatively early for Dungeoness in Kent where we met Steve, John, Carol, and Catherine. Steve was the course leader and he also runs a highly regarded magazine called Bush We were immediately offered a hot freshly made cup of tea or coffee from the stove that was already on and heating water for a brew.
We were joined by Chiz and his partner who had driven down from Yorkshire the night before to attend the course. Steve the course leader, offers free camping at his farm for people who need accommodation before or after a course and had provided a venue for the Yorkshire couple to stay. Steve is very accommodating and generous in knowledge so I knew it was going to be a good day.
As we waited for the tide to go right out we went for a walk along the beach with buckets in hand. I tried and failed to suppress the childish excitement that I had surging through me. It took me right back to foraging with my dad for muscles, cockles and winkles. I have a memory that he ‘made’ me eat a raw muscle, but as I think that through and how inadvisable that is, I struggle to believe it actually happened, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I think I’d like to find out actually!
As we continued along the beach there was silly amounts of good-sized cockles laid out in front of us. Even Steve and John had to conceded that they hadn’t seen such a bumper amount of cockles for sometime. Amazing to see such a bounty of easily available wild food. Can it get any easier?!
We were shown how the sand looks when a cockle has snuggled just below the surface waiting for the return of the sea. I likened it to a big ‘drip’ like mark on the surface. With a couple of fingers you can easily scoop the little fella out of the sand. That said; it obvious to collect the big old boys sitting on the sand not yet submerged.
After 6 buckets of cockles between us we rinsed them in clean water and then filled up each bucket to allow the cockles to purge themselves and spit out the sand. No-one likes a gritty mouthful right?
Leaving the cockles to do their thing we were each given a shrimping push net. This type of net has been used for hundreds of years and the simple design hasn’t needed any update. We walked off toward the sea which was someway out and I am pleased to say that the water was as warm as I could have hoped. Despite walking quite far into the sea it was still only calf-knee deep. Confident I was in a good spot I dropped the net and starting pushing. After 10 minutes or so it was the moment I had been waiting for (for at least the last 10 minutes or so) and whilst maintaining a forward motion (so everything doesn’t flow out of your net) I raised the whole net out of the water and inspected what the sea had offered me.
The short answer is not as much as I would have liked. A baby crab, sea ‘rubbish’, a Rockling fish (cute) and some, but not many shrimps. I could tell I was going to have to play the long game on this one so collecting the good in my bucket and discarding everything else I dropped my net and carried on pushing.
It was so much fun that I lost track of time but I reckon after an hour we headed back to the cars with a huge amount shrimp. We all did good, and there was loads of shrimp and I even caught a fat prawn.
We handed the now purged cockles and shrimp over to Carol and Catherine and then after a cuppa we went for a wonder along the beach, this time above the high tide mark looking for vegetation.
From where we parked the car we could see a massive Sea Kale plant and as we  walked over for a closer look a dog ran in front of us and pee’d on it. We decided to move on…
Sea Kale was apparently massively popular in the 1700’s but has now fallen out of fashion which as great as far as I am concerned as it feels like a secret that I am now in on. The root is apparently very nutritious and you can eat it raw if you like, but I reckon it’s got to be fairly tough.
Back at base we handed over a bag full of Sea Kale and Sea Beet and we ate. We ate and we ate some more. Freshly cooked shrimps, the cockles and various other dishes that the ladies had pre-prepared such as a beautiful creamy seafood pasta dish, potted shrimp and a selection of pickles, pies, and breads. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.
Truth be known, I was a pig. I was a seafood eating machine. I ate cockles by the handful, literally both hands full and I had to ask the person next to me to grind some black pepper on top. I ate three or four times this volume in shrimp. I removed the head and ate the rest, the legs barely visible through a mass of juicy eggs – amazing. There was a lot of good food and I was very pleased a help out re-homing it.
We finished the day with another cup of coffee, and a couple of take away bites of food for the journey home.
Big thanks to all the Bushcraft Magazine guys for a great day. I’ll be back next year for sure.
Posted in Eating Out, Food, Something New | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

James is Watching the float

Fishing for my Simple Carp Dinner

I arranged to go fishing for some Carp with my young buddy Jordi which I was really looking forward to. On arrival at Jordi’s house he decided that instead of bringing a rod, he’d bring his camera. It seemed that since we had last been fishing some years ago he had a new love – filming. He loves airplanes and I was surprised to see the number of hits on his You Tube account (1.5 million!). This guy is talented for 15 years old. Check Jordi’s work here.

I wasn’t sure what content Jordi was hoping for so we just messed about and what you see below is an ad-hoc film taken with zero prep, zero thought, and no real purpose… it’s only Jordi’s editing that makes it watchable!

As I said on the film, the condition of fishing in the pond was that I had to remove, not return any fish caught due to the volume of fish in the pond. This was no bad thing as I was keen to cook and eat a Carp as I had heard both good and bad things.

I gutted it where I caught it and took it home. I seized the opportunity while my (not so keen on all this -) wife was out and I went to town de-scaling and filleting it.

De-scaling was a bit of a mission and I wanted to ensure that none were left. I reckon a fish scale in a mouthful of food isn’t the end of the world, but certainly first time round I wanted the experience to be spot on. I removed the meat from the bones and cut around the tougher fin areas.

It wasn’t long before I had two nice little fillets.

A week later I got the chance to eat my fish supper so once thawed I sliced it into strips.

I covered the fish in milk, flour and then breadcrumb and seasoned with salt and pepper. Over some hot coals from the fire I heated some oil and dropped the chunks in. I love the angry reaction of the hot oil as you add food to it… Shallow frying them turned each piece a lovely golden crispy brown. So, at last, dinner time…. the moment of truth. How bad can it be?

It was beautiful. Not just ‘OK’, not ‘alright but I wont do it again’… it was delicious! No muddy taste, no bones, no aftertaste… just crunchy tasty fish.

I do encourage you to consider giving it a go if you can. Obviously don’t rob a fishery, but it shouldn’t be too hard to get one legit.  It’s so easy and rewarding.

Carp did not feature on this years Christmas table, but who knows, it might next year.

Related links.

The Czech Christmas Carp Feast

An example of Carp preparation (with music you’ll want to end your life to)

Bit of Carp background

Commercially available organic Carp and associated courses

Why carp may return to Britain’s tables

Why don’t we consider eating more fresh water fish?

Posted in Eating Out, Fishing, Food, Something New | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

James is Lovin’ Roadkill

I had just attended a very sad funeral in Barcombe, the village I grew up in and on the journey home by Scaynes Hill Cricket ground I noticed something big and still…. A surge of excitement ran through my body as I quickly indicated to pull over. The one animal that had alluded me (partly because I hadn’t really been able to pursue it) was deer.

Oddly (and illegally) I had a knife in the car from an Allotment Dinner I had the day before and so I grabbed it and rushed back to the dead carcass which was a Roe deer! Whooo-hoo!

Have you seen how expensive venison is?!?!

I stood over the  body sizing up what fleshy goodness would be good to eat. I then realised I hadn’t actually thought this though and actually a suited man holding a largish knife on a busy road standing over a dead deer at half three in the afternoon was not a great idea, and possibly a bit stupid. I quickly folded the knife away and tried to act natural. Difficult.

My mind raced. I couldn’t set about chopping it up where it was because I didn’t know how, and I didn’t want to terrorise kids returning from school (seeing me sticking a knife into Bambi). Removing the whole deer was my only option. I returned to my car and backed it up so I could lift the deer into the boot. As I opened the boot and worried over what evidence I was going to have to hide so that my wife would not know what I had done, I realised there was a woman walking down the grassy verge toward me. I appreciated that a suited man wrestling with a dead deer may have looked a little strange but I wasn’t doing anything wrong.  Having lived in the country for so many years I have noticed that more people are less engaged with what you might call country ways and furthermore may object. My paranoid mind told me that she looked like an ‘objector’; perhaps she might think a dead deer is best left undisturbed or it’s soul will be destroyed. As you can see; I suffer from an over active imagination which leads to all sorts of problems at times!

Holding the front and back feet in each hand I struggled to lift the deer into the boot and winced as I saw the blood trickle out of the deers mouth and down the bumper. In my mind I was working out if I had enough wet wipes to clean up this early evidence. I could hear the foot steps of the woman behind me and a rush of adrenalin came over me which helped with the extra effort to get the deer in the boot. By the time I was reaching up for the boot lid a rather old woman with lots of white hair was at my side looking into the back of the car. I laughed nervously and turned to her smiling and said “Well, waste not want not…eh?!” and I braced myself for a possible hostile response, but she replied with vigor “GOOD FOR YOU, yes, good for you!” and she carried on her way. Phew… I didn’t hang about and carried on home.

Once home I quickly changed and pulled the animal from the boot and without the adrenalin I had before I struggled to move it. Luckily I had been showing my kids a couple of my skateboard tricks and so my ‘deck’ was close at hand to use as a trolley. Once I got to the end of the garden and the deer was tied up by it’s front legs I then once again realised that I didnt know where to start. I understood that gut, shattered bone and feces are all things to be avoided when trying to harvest easy meat. I got my hands on the deer and felt around the body trying to understand where the impact with the car (I presumed) had occurred and it was clearly evident on one side as the ribs were clearly fragmented and instead of being firm actually felt like a bag of marbles.

The legs looked good and much of my ‘deer fantasy’ involved cooking a whole leg in a similar way to Ray Mears when he cooked a leg of deer with some Gurkhas (series 1) by fire pit. I had seen a deer skinned at The Wilderness Gathering with Nick Weston and Ash Ross and was happy about peeling back the furry skin and go about trying as best I could to get the legs off. Having taken legs of smaller game in the past I was content that I had some idea what to do although I was pleased to have no-one watching me. Admittedly my stabbing motion probably wasn’t the right or correct way to go about it, but I eventually removed one hind and then the other.

I trimmed up the legs and hung them up. I am so pleased to see two haunches there ready for chompin’.

I looked back at the deer thinking a) well, without rear legs that’s one weird looking animal and b) what more can I take? I knew I needed some words of advice so I called up my friend Ash and he said that I had to get the backstrap (the long meat section that runs along both sides of the spine) so he gave me a couple of pointers and off I went… These backstrap cuts were absolutely amazing. Two long tender-looking juicy pieces nearly the length of my arm! As Alan Partridge would say “Back of the net!”.

Alan Partridge

Once I had taken the meat from the well mutilated body I was saddened that I couldn’t make better use of what remained. Perhaps next time, with more time, daylight and experience….

Thinking about when the daylight returns; I reckoned my neighbours wouldn’t want to see this beast in the middle of my garden as they looked out of their bedroom the following morning. I dragged the two legged lump up by my shed although this was more ‘tidied away’ than hidden from view. I decided the short winter days might buy me a couple of days to work out what to do with the remains. I kind of hoped that the foxes were hungry and might kindly finish off the deer, but to be fair it would have been a big meal for the Sussex Puma.

Eventually, two days later and with the deer having been munched a little by something and with a musty smell surrounding it I pulled it out, wrapped it in a plastic sheet and then I dumped it in a skip at work. I appreciate there may be reasons why this was the wrong thing to do, and I wont repeat it, but I was out of options and had to get the body out of there fast whilst I had the chance.

I gave one leg away due to lack of freezer space, I have another leg in a mates freezer, have one section of backstrap left and I ate the other piece with my friend Charlotte at Christmas…. it was better than I could have hoped. Wrapped in bacon sealed in a hot pan, and then cut into thick slices and served very pink. We ended up using this cooking method as we run out of time and the weather turned bad so we had to adapt.

My wife although annoyed at my antics has no real reason for complaint as there is very little evidence of what occurred in the car or garden.

Ray Mears and his pit cooking.  (3mins 30sec in)  –  SADLY REMOVED BY USER…

but check this out! They used a tractor!

A video that I will refer to next time.

Posted in Deer, Food, Road Kill, Something New | 2 Comments

James is…Still Thinning! ITV Follow up

It’s over.

My experience with ITV and Satura Rosta / Pro has come to an end. If you haven’t seen the introduction to this click here.

It has been an interesting few months. It was real good fun to start with, and then I soon realised that the five (if that) minutes of fame had a  price tag.

The Treatment

The treatment involved putting a unique combination of natural oils in my hair and then massaging the oils into my scalp. Next part of the treatment was the electric comb. This mains powered comb conducted electricity into my scalp through it’s teeth/prongs and although it was slightly uncomfortable it was a necessary part of the treatment so I just got on with it. No pain no gain eh? After the combing I put a disposable shower cap on my head and on top of that a wool hat to keep the heat in and allow the magic to happen. Only problem was that I had to wear the wool hat with shower cap combo for 5 HOURS! Yep, your reading right, 5 hours!

At least one treatment per week was due to take place in London by the people behind the product and the others at home. The clinic that they rented space from in Covent Garden folded a couple of months into the process (nothing to do with Satura people) and so we were left with no city venue to continue treatments. After some discussion it was decided that the remaining treatments would be done from home. By me myself and I.

I was instructed to every treatment in front of a webcam so that using Skype the Satura people could monitor my technique, ensure I was doing it, and for the necessary period of time; which was fair enough. This was a major hassle as I would return from work, say a quick ‘hi’ to my family and leaving my wife to handle bath, story and bed time, get out the laptop go into the front room (the smell of the treatment oils was quite strong). I’d hook up to Skype with all necessary equipment including a massive amount of hand towel to mop up the excess oil from my hands and neck. There was lots of ‘excess’.

Five hours would often expire between midnight to one in the morning. I then rinsed my hair, washed and washed again. The oil didn’t leave willingly.

Going out socially with oil in my hair (with hat on) was not great and meant that I had to explain my reason for wearing the wool hat in record summer temperatures, or other occasions like sitting at the table at a dinner party. I believe our friends shared in the comedy aspect of this venture but the fun for me was now wearing thin (no pun intended). I was committed to seeing the process through purely as I like to be true to my word, but it did become tiresome.

I had an agreement with Satura that I wouldn’t cut my hair without authorisation, and by this stage my hair was looking kinda crazy. Long or longish hair had not been a good look for me for some years and I wasn’t pleased to see it back. Volume or density is good, length not so.

I wanted assurance that the treatment was going to be concluded. The time when we expected to return to studio for the follow up come and went and then could hardly be seen in the distance… ITV were hard to get a response from.

ITV were fairly slack from the start with their communication. I’d be lucky to get a phone answered and getting an email response was a waiting process. Month four came and went with no word. After many attempts I contacted the Assistant Producer to enquire what was happening and eventually he organised a return to the studios on November 2nd. He asked me some general questions about the process and what I thought about the result, I answered as best I could and looked forward to the experience being concluded.

It was arranged that we would travel to London the night before and be ready to go to the studio early the next day. With some careful organisation we were all set. I packed a few things on the morning we were due to head up to aid a quick departure from home. At 4.30pm I got a voicemail message from the Assistant Producer saying it had been cancelled. Cancelled!?!…. I  was just about to leave work, collect the mother-in-law (babysitter during our absence), change, grab my bag and dash with my wife for the train! I called him back as he requested however he simply said that for reasons that couldn’t be discussed at the moment; the feature had been pulled.

I pushed him for some more information and he said that it rarely happens, but from time to time when for example a VIP wants to come on the show which short notice, a feature has to be cut.

Twenty three days after the scheduled return to the studio I received this email from a senior producer.

Subject: Balbusters

Hi –

Thanks so much for all your patience in getting a response from us and thank you so much for taking part in our Bald Busters item. As you know we have decided against showing this item again for the moment. Sadly this does happen from time to time on a live show and things change around all the time.

It was a great item and I hope that you are both happy with treatments.  We obviously care about our contributors and as you know it’s our viewers that make This Morning so special, so it’s really important that you are not out of pocket as we agreed to pay your expenses. Please could you get in contact with the Assistant Producer and send him your recipes and we’ll get it sorted out in time for Christmas.

Thank you so much and I’m sorry it’s taken a while to sort out so like I said we really do appreciate your patience.

Shirley

Umm… thanks for that honest, straight speaking explanation Shirley. Why does she want my recipes?

So what was the result?!

Did the Satura treatment work? No not really. My wife says it has improved a little, but I don’t think so… Certainly nothing that makes me say ‘wow’.

Would it work better for you? Maybe. Different people, different hair types, different application style… who can tell?

My Conclusion: I wouldn’t spend £3000+ on the treatment, but then I don’t have £3000. If you do have the money and are up for trying something new – go for it. Don’t expect changes right away. Possibly don’t expect a lot at all. You may be surprised, you could turn into Brian May over night, but I doubt it.

Being that there is life after hair loss, why not hold on to your money. Instead maybe spend your £3,000 or your lady (or man), go crazy and get your car serviced… go on a foraging course, buy a gun… well that would be my choice.

Well in the main it was fun. Onto the next adventure…!

I just found this (below). This is not what I experienced?!

http://vimeo.com/i6644 – Satura Promo. Looks fancy!

Posted in Something New | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

James is At Lindfield Bonfire

So Bonfire night has been and gone with nothing to show for it other than scorched grass, discarded spent sparklers and the occasional rocket stick.

We went to Lindfield Bonfire which always celebrates on the 5th just as Lewes Bonfire societies do. There are some key differences between the two events however a friend summed it up well on Twitter saying, ‘Lindfield is like Lewes except there are more families and Barbour coats’ – too true.

I was staggered to hear that there had been so many injuries at Lewes and with 60,000 people it sounds as full on as it has always been. When I went I never found it enjoyable having to defend your spot on the pavement and ensure that some 15-year-old doesn’t burn you with their fag or spill their Diamond White down your trousers. I appreciate I was 15 once, but I am sure I was more respectful and less inclined to drink overtly.

(Above: why I don’t attend Lewes)

Just to be clear; I love fireworks and during my stupid years I came close to losing fingers playing inappropriately with them and got up to all sorts. The joys of blowing up bottles, dead fish and the like was brilliant, but 20 years later the draw of a wee dram and a hot dog (as well as ensuring the comfort and protect of my family) now means; I just cannot be arsed. Apparently they call it maturity…

Another friend walked up a hill near Plumpton with a few friends and enjoyed the views from all around as the various bonfire societies in the villages and small towns had their respective firework displays. A simple tarp set up with some hot chocolate and cookies is all you need. The smell and sounds of young teenagers (fag smoke combined with what must be a whole can of Lynx and bad language) is not something you have to put up with.  Ideal.

I think Lindfield may have had its casulties, perhaps some damaged their pride (trying to light the wrong end of a sparkler), possibly a minor fall, and at worse someone may have suffered a bruise from balancing on a walking stick/seat combo (you know the ones!). I enjoy watching St John’s Ambulance  staff taking their role incredibly seriously, keen to be on hand for anything that may require a plaster. In all seriousness without those volunteers such events would be unable to be staged, so big respect to those people who give up their time.

No doubt next year I will be back at Lindfield with my kids again buying overpriced glowing bracelets and eating hot dogs at my friend’s house opposite the common. You know what you’re going to get at Lindfield, and they never fail to deliver.

Posted in Family Adventures, Kids | Tagged , , | Leave a comment