Pick-Your-Own

Freshly frozen redcurrants, blackcurrants and tayberries.

Freshly frozen redcurrants, blackcurrants and tayberries from a local pick-your-own farm.

Having munched their way through the blackcurrants growing in their own tiny back garden, Mr and Mrs Everybody decided to go foraging at a local Pick-your-Own.  As usual, Mrs Everybody likes to relate our behaviour to our evolution.

For the last 2.5 million years human ancestors have collected plant foods, including seeds, flowers, leaves, roots, bark, algae, as well as animals and insects. Hunter-gatherers tend to feast on foods as they become ripe in the season, as well as to a limited extent collect food for preservation for the lean winter months. Since our ancestors began to use fire some 1.7 million years ago, low tech preservation techniques such as drying and smoking were undoubtedly practised. Food could also be sun dried or frozen where the climate allows, and these preservation techniques can also occur naturally as well. Berries and nuts have always remained an important winter food because they are easy to preserve and they are classed among the super foods.

For us urban dwellers, who must for the most part content ourselves with foraging in shops, 90% of the fresh berries we buy are imported, although they easily grow in the UK through the summer and autumn. While the berries in supermarkets may look remarkably fresh after their several thousand mile air journey, they may have been treated with radiation, gasses and other undeclared mystery ingredients and packaging such as MAP – modified atmosphere packaging, to retain the appearance of freshness.

Once a fruit is picked it continues to respire as it still lives. The idea is that the tasty and wholesome fruit containing the living seed is eaten by a hungry animal. The little seeds pass through the intestinal tract more or less intact. The fruit eater effectively transports the seed in their body away from the parent plant, and eventually the still living seed may have a chance to grow into a new plant elsewhere. In this respect, fruit eaters and fruiting plants have evolved a symbiotic relationship. The fruits provide nutrition and the fruit eater helps the plant to spread through the habitat.

Seeds will not germinate easily nor grow well from irradiated foods, because many of the enzymes and vitamins are destroyed. Although irradiated food looks fresh, it has the impoverished nutritional value of cooked food. By eating irradiated foods we are breaking our deal with nature and robbing ourselves of nutrition.

Plants should be eaten while they are still truly fresh and alive and while they are in season, or naturally preserved. With so much information placed on food packaging, it is still surprising that fresh produce is not labelled with something useful – such as the date it was harvested and with the post harvest treatment processes. This would allow the consumer to make sensible choices about the real freshness and authenticity of that food.

When you pick-your-own, you know that the fruit is ripe, fresh and untreated, although I have not been able to locate an organic pick-your-own around here. By picking your own berries you can save about 75% on the cost of the supermarket prices, gathering enough fruit to enjoy straight away and some to store for later use. While berries are for most of us considered a luxury, in the past they were recognised as an essential food.

We have already frozen about 5kg of red currants, blackcurrant and tayberries, giving a 100g serving for 50 days. This will provide a real boon across the darkest winter months, when fortunately the oranges will also be in season. It was easy to freeze and bag 5 kilos of fruit on the same day as we picked them.

Fitting in with our evolution, berries should be part of our minimum 5-a-day. As fresh berries are available in the UK from June to October, we will need to store a lot more for the winter – raspberries, tayberries, blackberries and field strawberries will be available through August and we will definitely fulfil our foraging needs again next month. Unfortunately my freezer is pretty full already and I don’t own a chest freezer, so we won’t be able to store all the fresh fruit we would like. As I write, millions of berries are dangling on trees waiting to be picked and eaten.

Going to do pick-you-own for the first time? First find a local pick-your-own. This website is a good starting point. Go on click it! http://www.pickyourownfarms.org.uk/

  •  Telephone the pick-your-own site beforehand to check what is in season, opening hours, regulations etc.
  • Take your family, especially children and friends – in the past foraging was a collective activity.
  • Wear sensible shoes because the ground is uneven and either old clothes, or dark clothes to prevent staining.
  • At some pick-your-owns you can take your own containers, if not you will need to buy some empty punnets at the site. The containers should not be too deep or the delicate fruits will be squashed.
  • While it is normally regarded as acceptable to taste one or two fruits while picking, please don’t feast in the fields. Pay for everything you pick first.
  • Be prepared to process your fruit once you arrive home. Either eat the fruit straight away, or freeze it, sun dry it, or use it in recipes while the fruit is at its optimum freshness.
  • Take some volcanically formed alum crystal with you. If you get bitten by an insect or scratched by thorns, wet the affected area with saliva and rub the crystal around and over the area for a minute or so to kill microbes and help the area to return to normal sooner. Click here to buy 3 alum crystals.
  • Make plans to return later in the year as new produce becomes available.
  • Be prepared for changes in the weather.
  • Your tips for novice gatherers?

Downshifting: Mrs Everybody’s Tiny Garden

Tiny Gardens for Birds & Bees?

Mrs Everybody has been in her tiny front garden. She is not the only visitor. Passing bees hum around the flowers and birds stop to lie down, eat or just stand around here… It is a green, flowery and fragrant oasis.  Sadly it is one of the very few little green refuges along a car lined,barren, treeless street, hemmed in by paving slabs and concreted front gardens. A neighbour tells me that she has seen just one bird on the street in the last seven years. She should visit Mrs Everybody’s tiny garden, a few houses down more often. At the moment the bees are enjoying the hyacinth flowers, and few days ago a pair of blackbirds came visiting at the same time.

Mrs Everybody has been getting lost in thoughts in her tiny front garden. Mrs Everybody what have you been thinking?
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Primrose and grape hyacinth These plants are looking a bit friendly. I hope that they don’t hybridize. The grape hyacinth grows wild in East Anglia, this region. They have the most gorgeous, intense scent.

Primrose and grape hyacinth These plants are looking a bit friendly. I hope that they don’t hybridize. The grape hyacinth grows wild in East Anglia, this region. They have the most gorgeous, intense scent.

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‘My front garden is just over 9m2. That’s pretty tiny. Reduce it further by a path, space for two recycling boxes and a water butt. Make sure in your mental image you leave room to swing the garden gate and step inside. They you have it, a table-cloth-sized, oh, and north facing front garden. Yet this little patch of ground is always green in the winter, and in the spring, cottage flowers, some British natives, so beloved of the village gardens, hedgerows and verges of my childhood are encouraged to run amok. I want to breathe the scent of the flowers and shrink down to their size to be among them. When other creatures and people pass by, I am happy for them to enjoy it in their own way.’

Imagine if every front garden was planted with native species all up and down the terrace rows in cities and towns. Surely planting a wild garden for bees must help avert the immediate threat to their survival? I am sure this is not a new idea. With International Down Shifting Week 18th-24th April, why not get organised, take up those slabs, bring in some topsoil and compost and go native? Just think of all those packets of British wildlife seeds on shelves, and spring plants in pots waiting to live and be nurtured!

Tip: While gardening, Mrs Everybody protects her hands with gloves. She washes her hands in soothing rhassoul clay and applies argan oil to her hands and nails afterwards! You can view the offer the rhassoul clay and argan oil offer if you like.

Recommendations: Give life back to a front garden (may be yours) this Downshifting week!

Other ideas for joining in the fun (and seriousness) of International Downshifting Week can be found here. Mrs Everybody would like to show you some plants from her tiny garden, all of which are much loved by bees. You can get many more ideas for bee friendly plants from this link at the Royal Horticultural Society.

More images:

Coltsfoot The coltsfoot, a British native herb appeared in the garden on its own and has naturalised. It is a truly weird plant. The flowers look a bit uptight in this picture, but I will get some more flattering photos of them!

Bleeding Heart I spotted this plant growing up the road in a 97 year old man’s garden, then found it in a pound shop. This plant is also truly weird and beautiful. Even the name is peculiar when you think about it a bit. What will they think of next?

Hyacinth and Cyclamen The hyacinths reflect light so intensely that they appear over-exposed compared to the cyclamen. The pink hyacinth seems awfully brazen. No wonder they act as magnets for birds and bees.

Cowslip and Hyacinth The cowslips are just beginning to flower!

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Would you like visit Mrs Everybody’s tiny front garden later on in the year to see what the plants, birds and bees have been up to?

STOP PRESS: Just as Mrs Everybody was making the final preparations to the blog, Mr Everybody called Mrs Everybody into the front room. ‘Listen,’ he whispered, ‘listen to the birdsong’ Unbelievable. A blackbird sat on Mrs Everybodys tiny garden wall and sang through the twighlight. He resolutely remained on the wall and sang for the evening as people, cars and cyclists passed. We hope that he comes again soon.

The videos and photos of this beautiful blackbird are a bit shaky and don’t do it justice, and the sound recordings aren’t much good. Lucky the blackbird left some other evidence!

The videos and photos of this beautiful blackbird are a bit shaky and don’t do it justice, and the sound recordings aren’t much good. Lucky the blackbird left some other evidence!


Welcome to the Everybody’s Blog!

Mr and Mrs Everybody.

Mr and Mrs Everybody laughing at something.

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Hello World, Welcome to the Everybody’s Blog.

Let me introduce you to the Everybody family. Mrs Everybody runs Natural Spa Supplies, a company which encourages people to take up Green, Prehistoric or Tribal washing (hence our pen name). Mrs Everybody believes that many of the world’s best Green Living solutions have already been invented thousands of years ago and she wants to help people to rediscover them. Mrs Everybody uses the Archaeology and Anthropology bits in her education as her excuse for continuous research into traditional living. If you subscribe to this blog you may one day find yourself washing in clay!

Mr Everybody is an architect and builds eco-friendly houses. At least this is what he does when he is not helping Mrs Everybody. Oh, I nearly forgot. There is also the cat, who only has a first name, Boudi. She likes to help with the packing, especially when string is involved. Boudi has also been helping test some of the horn combs and she is desperate to tell you about them. However she is asleep at the moment. In the meantime we will publish the next blog about a very eco-friendly personal washing technique. We think everybody should know about it.

We hope that you will enjoy reading the blog and that you will make comments, subscribe to the RSS feeds (please don’t ask me to explain how they work to you) and share the ideas and links with your friends.

My thanks to Mrs Green of http://myzerowaste.com/ for her inspiration!

Yours truely,

Mrs Everybody (and Mr Everybody)