Strawberries in December

When I was a child, autumn half term was called ‘Blackberry Week’, or often by my Nana ‘Tattie Week’, harking back to Octobers when the hedgerows were full of brambles and the potato harvest was to be gathered in. One of my earliest memories of ‘foraging’ was when I was about six years old and my sister and I journeyed to a field just a little too far from our house to be strictly allowed to raid the hedgerows. We must have eaten a fair few brambles that afternoon but we wanted to take some home and in the absence of any kind of useful receptacle, one of my dad’s large white hankies would have to do the job. The berries burst their purple ripeness into dad’s hanky and, as we were to discover, made an indelible stain. We buried the ‘evidence’ under the gravel on the drive but our berry stained fingers and mouths gave us away and mum had something to say about our adventure!

In recent years there seems to have been a growing trend for foraging, being outdoors, rewilding, getting back to nature but I don’t really think that most children today have the kinds of wild adventures my sister and I had.

It was connecting to something of that childhood experience that led to Colin and I spending our time in the early years of our marriage getting out of Glasgow, heading for the hills with our dogs and if we were lucky gathering some fat sloe berries to marinade in gin for a midwinter tipple.

Our love of food and cooking grew year on year and we would take our River Café books to Umbria with us on holidays loving nothing more than browsing in the wonderful outdoor markets and taking the best seasonal produce back to the villa to cook simply and eat al fresco.

Meanwhile, back in Glasgow, we had reached the top of the allotment waiting list after just seven years (!) and our growing began in earnest.

There were many things that inspired our ‘move to the country’, our childhood memories of fields and farms and open spaces, a love of animals, ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ (yes, the TV series based on the James Herriot books), a romantic notion of self-sufficiency, the ‘Good Life’ (yes, the TV series with Richard Briars and Felicity Kendal), and a growing, gnawing awareness of our beautiful planet’s dwindling resources and a desire to find way of living more simply.

After a couple of years of searching for our ‘dream home’ we were lucky to find The Lint Mill. We are really blessed to have some land to rear animals and to grow our own food and these days we even have fresh milk from Eva, our lovely Golden Guernsey goat. Of course we still have to go to the supermarket for loo roll and other essentials but we do as much as we can here at The Lint Mill and what we can’t do, we try to go without – who wants strawberries in December anyway?

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