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Issue #35 The Misc Adventures Digest
A small bilberry harvest, pondering pollinators and why we’re taking a break.
Hello there! This will be the last Misc Adventures Digest you receive from us for a while as we take a break for the summer holidays. As much as I enjoy writing these weekly digests, I sometimes feel myself falling prey to the pressure of having to get something written in time for publication day, and of harbouring negative feelings when a piece of writing I’m proud of isn’t popular or our growth stagnates - over the summer holidays I just want to focus on our adventures together and be fully present without the nagging feeling that I should be creating something. I think it’s a good time to reflect on the future of The Digest too. What it means to us, how it makes us feel and how we can use it as a force for good.
We will keep going with Nature Happenings once a fortnight however, because we don’t want you to miss out on any of Nature’s spectacles over the summer! We may also post on Notes from time to time, so check us out there if you haven’t already.
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I don’t know about the weather where you are, but it’s been decidedly un-summery here. We had planned a big walk for the weekend just passed, but with thunderstorms and torrential rain forecast we shelved our plans for something slower and gentler. It is bilberry collecting season, and we were keen to stock up on our favourite foraging treat. These tiny little gems, hidden amongst the lush green carpet of low bilberry bushes are a true seasonal delight - sharp, slightly sweet and bursting with goodness. The search is part of the pleasure - at first it can be hard to spot them, but once you get your eye in it’s possible to gather them in abundance, depending on the year.
We headed to a patch we had visited earlier in the year, when the bilberry bushes were all studded with tiny flowers, hanging pendulously like tiny lanterns. A bountiful harvest seemed guaranteed when the time came.
The path wound up through oak woods along a steep track, the sun now bright after a series of heavy showers which we waited out in the van. With each breath of wind, plump droplets shaken down from the canopy were lit up from behind making it rain with diamonds. The becks were in full flow, frothing and racing their way downhill in a hurry. It’s good to see and hear water flowing again after a period of drought, I feel rehydrated and refreshed and soak up the energy, like a sponge absorbing water through its pores until full.
Bracken soon gave way to bilberry bushes, but there were not as many berries as we were expecting. Was this due to the dry spell of weather in early summer I wonder? Or due to a lack of pollinators? Unless pollinated by insects, the flowers will of course not become fruits. There were certainly a lot more flowers in the early summer than there are fruits now. Does this represent a trend across all insect pollinated flowers and their subsequent fruits as insect populations crash? No doubt ecological collapse has greater consequences than this, but the thought of a future bereft of the joys of picking berries in summer fills me with deep sorrow.
It’s a shame we can’t even indulge in the simplest of pleasures without facing existentialist thoughts these days.
Scrambling up steep banks, we did start to find the tiny blue treasures we were seeking. The three of us worked quietly away, heads down, fingers poised like pincers ready to pounce upon their juicy prey. Mindful of the needs of other wild creatures, we kept our harvest intentionally small and settled on the idea of collecting just enough to add to our pancakes the following morning. It’s possible we may have eaten a few along the way too.
This was our first outing with our new bilberry collecting basket, made by our friend Lorna. We have a few of Lorna’s baskets (including a beautiful oak swill basket that Benji used to sleep in when he was a baby) and I think this is my favourite, although I can’t quite place why. Big grey clouds started to gather and it looked like another downpour was on the way.
We left with our basket nowhere near full, but we were brimming with Nature’s goodness.
The next morning we made pancakes for breakfast with bilberries added to the mix, topped with maple syrup. We saved a few to take with us as snacks on a hike to one of our favourite spots to watch the river raging. And raging it was - see video below!
Well, that’s all for this week, and the next few weeks. We hope that whatever your plans, you make time for revelling in the variety and abundance that is Nature in summer and that your adventures are many and fruitful!
Let us know what you’re up to in the comments below.
With warm wishes,
Andrew, Emma and Benji