Thursday 7 December 2023

The canary in the coal mine ...

Day 158 #365DaysWild

Nature and the quality of the food we eat are, in my opinion, inextricably linked.

Organically grown fruit

Healthy, nutrient-rich food cannot be grown in over-ploughed ground that is drenched in artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. 'The canary in the coal mine' is biodiversity. Where soil and food production are healthy and in sympathy with nature, wildlife will be able to flourish and the food produced will have greater health benefits. I refer you to the excellent science shared in the Zoe podcast 'The truth about organic food' in which they discuss the risks to health of eating food that is not grown organically.

Yesterday, Sam Knowlton (Agronomy Consultant)

drew attention to an article in the journal 'Nature' published on 30 November 2023 on the deterioration in the food quality of rice and wheat over a fifty year period.

I quote:

'Rice and wheat, two of the most crucial food staples worldwide, have experienced a significant decline in nutritional quality over the past 50 years. 

The essential mineral concentration in rice has decreased by 36%, while in wheat, it has dropped by 57%.

At the same time, toxic elements like aluminum have increased by as much as 78%.

This deficiency in nutritional quality, coupled with elevated concentrations of toxic elements, lies at the heart of the overfed yet undernourished paradox.

Home grown green beans
This is the result of high-yielding cultivars bred during the green revolution which led to an increase in synthetic NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) fertiliser use'.

As I write, a significant proportion of the nation faces a cost of living crisis. Simply keeping warm and providing enough food for themselves and their families consumes every waking hour for far too many people.

This situation is the result of political decision-taking. For example, our leaders have chosen not to support a national home-insulation programme which would have cut domestic heating bills and reduced our reliance on fossil fuels. Skewing the economics of food production towards high-input, nature-degraded agriculture is also a political decision. In both cases, the effectiveness of non-elected pressure groups has subverted democracy in favour of vested interests.

Growing our own organic food
is better for us and better for nature

Producing healthy, regenerative food that people can afford is achievable with sufficient political will. The potential beneficial impact on health and quality of life have been demonstrated. The long-term benefits to the NHS in preventing food-related health conditions could be significant.

For our health and for nature we must change course urgently.

Wednesday 6 December 2023


Day 157 #365DaysWild

Turkish sage (phlomis Russeliana) now in what garden designer Piet Oudolf described as ‘the fifth season’ - a celebration of plants in their ‘dead’ stage. On frosty days, the structures of the seed heads are especially interesting.

When we were first developing our prairie beds, it was Turkish sage which best exemplified the kind of planting and effect we wanted to achieve.

Although the perennials have retreated beneath the frosty ground, their stems, dried leaves and seed heads still provide food and protection for birds and invertebrates.

Goldfinches probe the seed heads for food.
We leave the dead tops of the plants during winter,
‘Dead hedges’ are built up using twigs, sticks and branches and the arisings from perennials in the beds and meadows. They provide ideal places for invertebrates, mammals, birds and herpetofauna.

removing everything to our dead hedges before spring growth, helping wildlife and removing the need for smoky bonfires.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Stripped oak

Day 156 #365DaysWild

Out and home before dawn. 
Walk entirely torch lit. 
The woods darkened paths difficult to follow, squelched mud and leaves. 
Oaks stripped.

Drizzle throughout.
Coat, boots hat and trousers now hanging to dry..
But so enriching to feel the sweep of the seasons on my skin.

Monday 4 December 2023


Day 155 #365DaysWild

Rain has cleared the snow.

Drive to Southwell today. Field ditches churned cocoa colour. Oxton village flooded again. Engulfing bow-waves from lorries. Huge chunks of tarmac erupted as water boiled out into the road.

In Bestwood Country Park, footpaths are impassable.

“Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice is record low. It’s a deafening cacophony of broken records,” WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Proper snow

Day 154 #365DaysWild

Proper snow.

Saturday 2 December 2023


Day 153 #365DaysWild

Frost persists. The dusting of snow is now hard.

Garden a fairyland.

Friday 1 December 2023

House sparrows

Day 152 # 365DaysWild

Thanks to everyone for their amazing support this morning as we sited the house sparrow boxes.
Almost all boxes up - a few people out so their boxes still to go.

A great team effort from my brother-in-law Roger, RSPB Officer Carl and Friends of Bestwood Country Park amazing naturalist Hayley.

Now the long wait till spring!!!!

Photos by Hayley.

Thursday 30 November 2023


Day 151 #365DaysWild

A dusting of snow across the park.

A single snatch of song from a song thrush. 

Acid green siskin and blood orange lesser redpolls in the birch tops.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Air frost

Day 151 #365DaysWild.

Air frost this morning.

Pond frozen.

First group booking for National Garden Scheme taken for July. Summer feels a long way away this morning..

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Full moon waning

Day 150 #365DaysWild

The full moon now waning above the trees in the the north west.

The sun molten on the eastern horizon.

Migrant voices across the wet fields lifting rhubarb roots in the soggy ground.

A solitary raven big and cronking.

Monday 27 November 2023

Rich winter vegetable soup

Day 149 #365DaysWild

Into the dark days now. Walking before sunset.

A busy week ahead with lunch guests most days!

But plenty of home-grown vegetables available for …

Rich & spiced winter vegetable soup for two*

Onion chopped.
Leek washed and chopped
Olive oil

Stir onions & leeks into oil on moderate heat and cover. Stir regularly until slightly caramelised.

Grind dessert spoons of coriander and cumin and add.

Add crushed garlic cloves 

Stir for a few minutes.

Add diced squash, kale, potato and carrot.

Stir for a few minutes.

Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, a couple of dried bay leaves and the rind a Parmesan.

Stir for a few minutes.

Add stock.

Simmer or use slow cooker until all vegetables softened then remove Parmesan and bay leaves.

Mash or whizz. I don’t completely blitz till smooth but try to leave some pieces of vegetable. Your choice.

Taste. At this point I usually add a teaspoon or two of ginger paste and also chilli powder to taste.

Now in with a tin of cannellini beans.

A final taste and seasoning 

…. et voila..

Serve with home made bread.

* as I’m making ‘a pancheon**’ of soup I multiply this up.

** A dialect family word for a large pot from the Notts/Derbys border

Sunday 26 November 2023


Day 148 #365DaysWild

A magnificence of oaks! 

Each morning these majestic trees accompany me on my walk.


Saturday 25 November 2023


Day 147 #365DaysWild

Bestwood Country Park for another of our popular bird walks with the Friends of Bestwood Country Park this morning.

Glorious autumn day.

Pink-footed geese high overhead. Overwintering chiffchaff. Stonechat.

Excellent work by the group monitoring water quality in the River Leen in partnership with the Environment Agency.

Friday 24 November 2023

Soft halo

Day 146 #365DaysWild

The first clear night of the winter. Light pollution from the city like a soft halo around the horizon.

We’re not down to zero yet but winter has arrived. 

After dinner we talk together of how privileged we consider ourselves to be in this house we’ve built. So well-insulated. Using energy we’ve generated on the roof. Heat generated from cold air.

During a cost of living crisis with UK homes amongst the worst insulated in Europe, our home is uniformly warm. And so air-tight there aren’t draughts.

The chance to build our own home was given to us by my sister Judith and husband Roger. It had always been Rogers dream to build his home. After visiting the Hockerton eco-home project in Nottinghamshire, our out-of-reach dream was to have our own eco-home.This came together when we bought the site of our two homes in 2010.

To be able to achieve that eco-home goal in 2013 when we finally moved in was massive for us. Although we currently rely on the grid for electricity during the dark months, we are 60% self-powered. Cabling infrastructure prevents us increasing power generation on site.

When I return from a pre-breakfast walk each morning the warm air that greets me feels like a warm bath.

And my old mum next door is cosy too with her room thermostat set on a sweltering ‘sub-tropical’….

Our home defines us. Our personal commitment to combatting the climate crisis is clear.

Not complacent or showing off. But proud of it.

Thursday 23 November 2023

Forever wonder..

Day 145 #365DaysWild

The grey sky pressed down during the afternoon.

Almost there weeding vegetable garden beds and paths.

Three big loads of fresh chippings delivered by arborists. As a thank you gave one Jill’s prize bottle of red wine by mistake. We’ll leave the chip as long as possible before using it but we’re heavy users. On cold mornings the piles steam like mini-volcanoes. We need chip for paths and mulch. It benefits soil fungi, invertebrates, mammals and birds as well as suppressing weeds. It needs to be rotted before going on the soil.

This morning I sat in the car with window down to better see and hear around 70 starlings in an oak.

A skein of around 60 pink-footed geese overhead today in two trailing V’s. Flying east.

Yesterday four large birds flying east. Bigger than geese with a more slender appearance. My attention was drawn by their unusual call. I’ll forever wonder whether they were common cranes.

New bird table being sited in the evergreen shrubs by the lane hedge. Sparrows especially welcome.

By night a wood mouse clears the bird table by the kitchen window. It’s eyes balls of sun in the nighttime camera.