Tag Archives: animals

Bonfire time

First burn in the new incinerator

We’re right in the middle of the time of year when bonfires are most used – by me too – so they seemed a good topic, especially as I remember very clearly how tentative I was when I first started burning some of my garden waste. Wood ash is great spread over the garden, of course, that’s why we burn it – to look after your soil is common sense as a prepper. And in doing that, you’re using something of value that would otherwise be wasted. Win-win.

Before you start

Are there any local bye-laws about when you can get one going, or allotment regulations if that’s where you’re siting it?

Will you inconvenience any neighbours? Ash all over a set of washing will not make you popular.

Is your bonfire material dry enough? Has it been raining heavily in the last few days? Stacking your branches upright, as opposed to letting them lay on the ground, will help, but if they’re soaking wet, it still won’t be an easy bonfire to get going.

Is your bonfire material old enough? Using prunings that are only a couple of days old just isn’t good enough to get a good fire going, they need some ageing, just like wood for a stove. Wood that’s comparatively dry means the fire will be less smoky, and will burn more efficiently

Don’t leave your bonfire material stacked in place, under any circumstances. Wildlife, especially hedgehogs, will creep in and use it as shelter. You do need to stack your material, of course – just burn it in a different spot, that’s all.

Not everything is suitable for burning, even if it’s natural wood: cherry laurel leaves have an appreciable percentage of cyanide. The thicker branches should be fine, but the leaves, in any big concentration, are not.

MDF, and painted and/or treated wood, of course, are not suitable for burning, not least because they’ll add toxins to your soil when you spread the ash.

Stack of wood ready for burning

Incinerator

For me, the tipping point came when I realised I didn’t want to build a bonfire directly on the ground, because of the potential for damage to my few-and-far-between worms – and any other healthy insects and bacteria scattered around, come to that. Several friends have assured me that worms go deep, in the cold and if they sense a bonfire’s heat, but for me, it made sense to have an incinerator, to do away with the problem altogether. It also does away with the problem of where to site it: in my tiny little 35 foot garden, with wood stacked here, there and everywnere waiting for me to get my bonfire act together, it just got too difficult.

Bonfire structure

So I used an incinerator. I have a bed in the bottom of scrunched up paper – plain brown parcel paper, paper bags, newspaper, things like that. No colour pages, nothing shiny – the additives are toxic in soil.

On the bed of paper,. I lay, or more accurately dump, twigs – as many handfuls as seem right at the time, one of my biggest discoveries is that this really isn’t a science, it’s an art form. On top of that, a personal choice: I have woollen rugs, and I have long hair, and the leavings from both of those things go on top of the twiglets. You’d be surprised how that builds up, and they act as the initial tinder, for the flames to first catch.

On top of that – there are small twiglets – not the snack! But instead, very thin twigs, quite small, just scattered over the bottom layers.

And filling up about half of the remainder, I lodge slightly bigger twigs, almost small branches, but I put those in vertically – these are starting to be the real fuel of the real bonfire, not just the starter elements.

Standing by, for when the flames are going well, are much bigger branches. I don’t bother sawing them ready, I just have them put by and when I want to use them, and hold them and stand on them to break them into the kind of size I want for the incinerator.

Of course, big branches like this could be used inside a multi-fuel stove indoors, and even in an emergency, it might feel good to gather around a bonfire. We do it every 5th November, after all.

Not using an incinerator?

And most people don’t, after all.   It’s especially important to watch over the burn, and see that when it spreads, you rake it back in to a pile, maybe with a rake or a garden fork.

You’ll almost certainly burn more than I’m able to burn in my incinerator, so the cool-down period will be correspondingly longer. If you can handle the ashes with your bare hands, then it’s fine to move them.

Accelerant

Now we get to it!   You need this, especially I confess, at first I used shop-bought firelighters. I’d bought them about a thousand years ago, and decided I might as well use them as keep them. Once they were gone, I experimented with dunking a few twigs in vaseline, and then with squirting hand gel onto a few. The vaseline seems to work, I have a lot and I don’t use it for anything else, so that’s what I use now, if I need it at all.

The light itself, I just use matches – no lighters, no flints, no batteries or bow drills. I have all of those things, but I have matches too, and they’re my go-to choice. It can take a while to catch, but when it does, it’s a steady job to keep it fed.

While a bonfire is alight

You keep an eye on it, first and foremost. Partly for safety – local animals, both tame and domestic, should be kept safe from it. If half burnt branches fall or pop out of it, you need to rake them back in. If sparks fly and ignite something they shouldn’t, you need to put out unwanted flames. You certainly don’t want your crops going up in smoke.

With such a small incinerator as I have, the bonfire needs constant feeding – I don’t have a huge monster of a firepit that means I put tree stumps on there to gradually burn down. Once I’ve worked on getting it going, I want to do as much as I can in one go. And it always amazes me how much I can burn before it gets full, and how small is the amount of ash.

If you’ve taken a break, and the fire has almost died down, it’s very simple – you put some of the smaller twigs on, even more twists of newspaper. There are no rules – a bonfire is just a way to get this material into a state that can be used in the garden.

Dying down

Let it die, basically – let it take its time to use every scrap of material that can be burned, and then let it cool down in it’s own time. It doesn’t matter if it’s rained on, just let it happen. Even for my little incinerator, this usually takes a whole day. I don’t distribute the ash into the garden after each bonfire. I “stack” it in a corner, along with crushed, roasted eggshells and the contents of used teabags. This lets it age slightly, which I think is a good thing, and also lets me dose a good-sized portion of the garden in one go.

And one more thing

A countrywoman for whom I have massive respect told me a great way to use a bonfire that’s lit on the ground: burning off handles of old tools, handles that are full of woodworm and can’t be saved. It needs a little delicacy, to learn to put the handle into the edge of the fire, and not the tool itself, so the metal tempering isn’t harmed.

Bonfires.  You have to love them.  I absolutely do.

Keeping your body cool. Pets’ bodies too.

Lovely summer day, own photo

So, part two – keeping your body cool, keeping your pets cool, and keeping your food cool.

Like anything else, there are occasions that feel like emergencies, or when you simply want something to happen fast. So, for immediate relief:

  • stash wetwipes in the freezer, use as needed.

  • hold your wrists under cold running water.   Maybe use a bowl, since it’s also important to conserve water if you can.

  • soak a flannel with cold water, use it as a cold compress for your face and your head.

  • have a cool bath or shower. Even just splashing will help.

  • if you’re very short for time and severely overheated, stick your head under the cold tap!

Keep bottles of water in the fridge, or even the freezer, make some of the ones in the fridge the shop-bought fizzy ones for a treat.

Fill “hot” water bottles with water, and put them in the fridge, ready for you to take to bed.

Use loosely-plaited paracord, or even hair scrunchies, around the wrists, well-soaked to keep you cool as the water evaporates.

Have a tepid shower or strip wash before going to bed. Don’t towel yourself down. Evaporating water is key.

Know your own body, your own symptomatology – what does heat do to you in particular? Balance problems and migraines can be worse in heat, even though aches and pains can feel temporarily better.

Carry a parasol or umbrella to use as a sunshade.

Clothing and bedding

Wear loose, lightweight, light-coloured clothing, made of natural fibres, indoors and out. Cotton is best. Cover up your skin as much as possible.

Use a cotton top sheet and a light weight cotton blanket to pull on and off. Dampen the sheet with ice water, or use it before it’s dried after washing.

Don’t bother wearing underwear, if you can get away with it! If you can’t, wear cotton – it’s more absorbent. In any case, wear as little as possible on your own property.

Wear a wide brimmed hat when out and about. This protects you from sunburn, but also provides valuable shade from the heat, of course.

Footwear is crucial to comfort! Wear comfortable open flat sandals to prevent swelling feet if you have to walk anywhere.

Eating and drinking

Fill empty bottles with water and keep them in the fridge to use on their own or with a few frozen berries, a wedge of citrus or any of your favourite fruits. Make sure you have plenty of ice cubes.

Food for hot weather: salads and curries! I don’t do the curry thing myself in hot weather, but plenty of people do, and it originates in hot countries, so … more power to your elbow.

If you’re going to cook, do it in the most efficient way possible, so that you heat the house up as little as possible: cooking early in the day, using the microwave or slow cooker, using a steamer on top of a pan you’re using to cook something else, that kind of thing.

Bits of food that can be easily assembled seem to be really popular in the heat: sausages, cold meats, quiche, flan, tinned fish, cheese, hard boiled eggs, with salad or kidney beans, coleslaw and lengths of celery. Carbohydrates that can be eaten cold: potatoes, pasta, and bread and wraps of course!

Some soups are best used cold: gazpacho and ajo blanco, for example.

If you have desserts in your house: choc ices, tinned fruit, ice cream, soy sauce or evaporated milk, some yogurt, chopped bananas. Putting bananas in the freezer and turning them into smoothies is usually a hit.

Pets

Don’t forget your pets. Be aware of overheating for all species, especially furry ones.

Don’t leave dogs in cars.

Walk the dogs first thing in the morning then after the sun goes down in the evening Make sure they have access to shade if they’re outdoors.

For other pets, especially rabbits, put a bowl of ice cubes in their cages.

You might use old fashioned stoneware hot water bottles that can be picked up at car boot sales and fill them with crushed ice and cold water. They can be put in with the small pets or food animals – rabbits and guinea pigs, they lie up against them and sleep. Dogs too!

Consider cutting your dogs’ hair shorter than usual, especially the long-haired types.

Cooling coats for dogs.

I’m very doubtful about this, but the fact is that breeds of dogs meant for Scandinavia and the Arctic live in this country, and they may need help to do so, as well as new breeds of dog that are bigger, heavier and hairier than older breeds. So they may well need help too.

Looking at what’s on offer, it would be easy to simply drape a big wet cloth or chammy leather over your dog, that still makes use of evaporation! Or you could put freezer bricks in the dog bed, or even (and I’m letting my imagination run away with me here) make a little set of saddlebags for your dog so they can carry the freezer bricks around with them.  Either of those tactics would certainly do well enough for a very sudden hot spell.

Stay safe, and cool, and enjoy what you have.

 

Dangerous animals in the UK: Part Two.

So, I’m finally publishing Part Two of the blog about staying safe from animals. All of it applies during a country walk on a Sunday just as much as it applies during some emergency that forces you to try to walk home under your own steam.

Badgers, although their jaws and claws look fearsome, are very, very rarely a problem. They’ve been hunted for hundreds of years, so they’re wary, but if you come across one, or one comes across you when you’re taking a breather, they’ll just avoid you. The only badgers that are a problem are ones that have been raised with humans, so losing their fear and becoming less likely to react with avoidance, or badgers that have been injured or feel trapped: they may well become aggressive, as any animal would.

Deer: in the USA, more than a hundred people are killed every year – but that’s when people accidentally run into deer on the road, and are killed in the resulting crash, sadly. Direct attacks – as with any animal, I’d say not to get between a deer and it’s calf, but there’s something else to consider with deer: rutting season. And there’s an interesting little article about the Royal Parks, from October 2011, which is bang on the rutting season, apparently. I’ve also checked a few American sites, and here’s the advice:

  • don’t be there in the rutting season!
  • move away when you see deer, before there’s any chance of entanglement. Retreat before it becomes necessary.
  • if you have no choice but to be there at that time, and you get chased, climb a tree. Staying still, curling up on the ground, those tactics are useless when faced with a rutting stag.
  • and here’s a scary piece of advice from wirelessdeerfence.com: “if you’re attacked by a stag, try to protect your head and face. If possible, grab the antlers or front legs”. Needless to say, that’s the least attractive option. And given how big stags can be, it sounds almost as likely to be lethal as being gored. The link is to a resource list about dangers rather than the specific one quoted.
Vipera berus by Benny Trapp, Wikimedia Commons

Snakes are feared by many, many people. I have my own share of fears, but snakes don’t worry me at all, I’m much more likely to go “aaaahhh” then “eewwww”. The only one in the UK to be at all worrisome is the adder, as most people know, and it seems to be really difficult to get bitten by one, quite frankly. I’ve seen one in the wild, while I was walking on Dartmoor, and it was sunbathing on a rock as I walked by. Very nice encounter.

Unusually, the NHS has a page on snakebites, with plenty of links. There’s a lot on that page, as well as walking websites, but these are the basics:

  • don’t rush or panic, that will increase your rate of circulation and let the venom cause more cell damage.
  • rest as much as possible, for 4 or 5 days.
  • get to a doctor as soon as you reasonably can. Treatment is usually anti-histamines, to control the swellings, and antibiotics for secondary infections. Anti-venom is rarely prescribed because the side effects are usually worse.
  • try to identify what bit you – take a photo on your camera or your phone. Remember the shape, size and colour.
  • remove jewellery and watches from the bitten limb, in case it swells quickly.

There’s an interesting blog from a veterinarian practice in Warwickshire, about animals getting snakebites, which hadn’t occurred to me: but if you’re taking your dog into “snake country”, then of course it could happen.

And if you’re with someone who’s been bitten (this is from the NHS) here’s a list of what not to do:

  • don’t try to suck the venom out of the bite like they do in films.
  • don’t cut the bite area to make it bleed.
  • don’t rub anything into the wound, or apply ice or heat.
  • don’t use a tourniquet.
  • don’t try to catch or kill the snake.

My personal experience of being chased by animals is restricted to heifers, goats and geese. Very lively experiences:

  • the heifers, I was running up a slope near a tourist town, to get a better view of the whole area to take a quick photo, when I surprised them, they were just over the top of the slope so I hadn’t seen them previously. My fault. They startled and ran at me. I turned tail and ran for the stile I’d just used. No problem, fortunately, except that I was breathless with laughter.
  • the goats. Same sort of thing. I used an old gate, thinking I was still on a public footpath. I wasn’t, and the two goats sitting peaceably in their little field charged me. I didn’t have time to use the gate, they were too quick, so I jumped over the low fence just by the gate. My fault.
  • the geese, that really wasn’t my fault. I was visiting a friend who lived on a very rural farm, where the geese had free reign in the farmyard, and they didn’t know my face or my smell, and they ran at me, squawking and flapping. My friend stepped in, and they subsided immediately, didn’t bother me again.

If any rural prepper is thinking of having guard animals that also have other uses, I’d seriously recommend goats and geese.

So that’s it. In the UK, danger from animals isn’t about bears, or wild boar, or mountain cats – it’s often some of the most familiar animals we have, and the rest of the problems are from small animals or insects (those are another post, this is quite long enough). Any animal should be treated with respect: even domestic cats can bite and cause damage. Try moving a sleeping cat from your bed waking up a sleeping cat while you’re moving it from the centre of your bed when you want to go to sleep (yes, this is something else I have experience with) and see how charming and friendly it isn’t.

A few things to think about.

Dangerous animals in the UK: Part One.

Cows, dogs, foxes, and horses, with more to come in Part Two.

The death and injury rates are tiny, of course; I just like the headline. I’ve been slowly preparing for a second edition of my book, Getting Home In An Emergency, which I’m assuming will be free to people who’ve already purchased the first edition. Plus I’m doing a lot more travelling up and down the country recently, visiting here there and everywhere. So when I saw a headline from last year in The Independent, “Cows officially the most deadly large animals in Britain”, I had to have another look. Any long journey will include rural areas, and it’s basic preparedness to be aware of the potential dangers posed by farm, domestic and wildlife.

There isn’t any advice in that Independent article, though we can take a few implications from the stats presented:

  • don’t get near a calf, and most certainly don’t get between a mother and it’s calf.
  • if you have a dog in a field containing cows, keep the dog close to you.
  • groups of people seem not to be vulnerable at all, so if you have any concerns about a particularly frisky herd, try to cross the field in a group of people.

Dogs are the next most deadly animal. Heartbreakingly, of course, it’s often babies and toddlers in the news, who are killed by a pet. To pre-empt that situation, personally, I would never, ever allow such a young child in the same room as a dog that hasn’t had extensive obedience training, and has a proven character. And even then, I’d be keeping an eagle eye out. Taking a risk with the life of a child in your care; it mustn’t be done.

In the course of our daily travels around the country, however, there are different issues. So here’s what I’ve learned:

  • don’t panic! This isn’t lifted from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but it’s very true. Not only do you need to avoid the appearance of panicking, you need to calm down your physical responses – dogs can smell our emotions, so to speak, our pheromones and hormones, plus agitation may actually trigger the dog’s aggression.
  • stay still, and keep your hands at your sides. I had personal experience of this one, in Spain: I was leaving the Cortijo where I was staying, heading onto a dusty trackway, and a local dog bounded up, barking furiously. I’m not afraid of dogs, but my companion was, so I said “No”, very loudly, just once, and shook my finger at the dog simultaneously. It stopped in it’s tracks, yes, but it also went for my finger. I pulled back at the speed of light and was unharmed, and I learned a valuable lesson that day.
  • don’t face the dog – stand sideways on, it’s less threatening. Avoid eye contact too. The dog may actually sniff you, but will still choose not to bite you.  Probably.
  • don’t run! You’re acting as a prey animal if you do that, and you can’t outrun a dog.
  • distract it, if you can and if it seems right, by giving it something to chew on. Your water bottle (have a spare in your pack!) a glove, anything. If you know you might face a dog on your route, it could even be worth carrying something like a toy, or a ball, to use in this scenario. I wouldn’t carry dog treats, as I’ve seen suggested – they’re more likely to attract dogs in the first place.

Foxes are also known to attack babies and toddlers, even when they’re sleeping in their cots upstairs, though I have come across one incident when a fox attacked a sleeping cat and then the adult cat owners who rushed to the cat’s defence. The incidents seem to have been exclusively in urban areas, so if you’re walking in the countryside, whether for pleasure or during an emergency, you’re extremely unlikely to be bothered by a fox. The RSPCA has a great page on foxes, which contains some valuable links as well as further information in a pdf at the bottom of the page, I highly recommend it.

Horses are big enough to be intimidating to people who don’t know them or understand them, but injuries caused by horses are overwhelmingly likely to be from horseriding accidents, and from other interactions started by the human. The lesson is, if you’re out walking, for leisure or during an emergency, don’t approach a horse: looking at it, trying to stroke it, trying to get up on it, and most especially getting between a horse and it’s foal. It’s a prey animal, it will run if it can, but if it feels it can’t run from you, it will attack, and it’s big enough to kill you. Additionally, stallions could be more confrontational if they feel you’re threatening their mares, and a herd, if frightened by you, could stampede and cause real damage. Weirdly, this happened in High Barnet in north west London, just last month, October 2016. There were no human injuries, fortunately, but two horses had to be put down.

I took the pictures below at an urban riding school a while back, and they show how easy it might be to get into problems. This foal is six days old, and very, very wobbly. In the second picture, she’s trotting happily after her mum, but she’s so uncertain on her feet she could easily fall behind, and a human could then easily get in between them without realising. It can happen very fast, which is why it’s best to stay on the alert when there are animals nearby.

Six day old foal with mother
Six day old foal with mother
Foal is off for a trot with mother
Foal is off for a trot with mother

The focus here is entirely on staying safe around animals.  I do think we can turn all this around to train guard animals – not just dogs, but goats and geese, maybe even swans, will give you advance warning of people on your property.   More about that in part two.

 

Front garden prepping

I was taking a walk the other day around a leafy garden suburb close by where I live, and started thinking about how big the front gardens were, and how they could be used to help support the people who live there.  This is the sort of thing I mean: SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The pavement is the tarmac track on the left – so all these houses have a lot of land to the front that just provides a nice open space to the homeowner and everyone else as well, and not much more.

Front gardens are difficult in relation to prepping: you probably don’t want to be too different from your neighbours and maybe drawing unwanted attention; there may be covenants that are legally binding about fences and so on, there could be problems with theft, and you may not have much space anyway. But, as in the picture I’ve shown, you might have a big enough area that you really want to use it for something, anything, rather than have it just sitting there, needing to be mown every so often.

There are always exceptions, of course, like this one below, which has a water butt, plant supports galore, and a scarecrow, as well as vacuum tubes in the roof to help provide hot water.   Interestingly, it’s right by a community college that has an agricultural bias.  Right in the middle of this little commuter town are cows, pigs and sheep. I wonder if this guy used to teach there? Or he’s a dedicated good-lifer (I’ve seen the person tending this plot, I know its a “he”).

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So, if you do have any sort of space, and you don’t want to stand out like the guy who has this garden, there are some things you can do that can help you a little bit in your prepping – over an average year, that might be very little, perhaps an extra day of fuel, or of food – but that’s still worth having, isn’t it? Especially when these are things you can just set up and leave. If supplies were having to be helicoptered in to your area because of prolonged snowstorms, you’d be glad of an extra day’s supply.

And I like the principle of supplying my own needs from my own land – no food miles, that’s for sure!

There is one important warning, though: ALLERGIES! If you eat something new from your garden that you’ve never eaten before, taste test it thoroughly before eating. In fact, that’s such an important idea, I’ll do a separate post on it soon, because I love the idea of foraging, and thats where taste-testing really comes into it’s own.

Anyway, the first thing about prepping in your front garden is to look at what you’ve got and see how you’re presently using it. Then to look at how you can improve on that. Food, herbal medicine, fuel, security, insect pollination, even a little cash income, these can all be helped along by your front garden prepping. And guess what, you’re still allowed to have plants in there that you love! I love scabious and I’m quite partial to forget-me-not (bees like both of them too, but I liked them before I knew that).

Do you have a good quality garden wall and gate at the front (and sides, if appropriate)? That’s good security. A padlock ready to be used on the gate in times of trouble, and an automatic security light, would both go down well. Do you have a pinhole viewer in the front door? That’s really beyond the scope of this article, but the person will be standing in your front garden by that stage, which just illustrates how open and vulnerable the fronts of our houses usually are.

What ground surfaces do you have? Is it all laid to hardstanding, for the car? Do you have a lawn? A hedge? A little pond? Flowerbeds? If you don’t, do you want to instal any of those things? Any and all of them can be really useful in terms of prepping.

Hard standing and storage

Except maybe hardstanding … you can’t really use the front of the house to store many goods, it’s much too likely to be pinched by a passerby, eventually. Unless you’re way, way out in the countryside, in which case, I doubt you need to read this post for yourself, but I’d appreciate your comments to help the rest of us. The only thing people do store at the front, actually, is tree branches curing to be used as firewood, often right next to the house under the eaves. Or you could rent out the space for parking: moneysavingexpert did a review of this in August 2015, though it’s a tricky enough situation that they put a legal disclaimer on the page, which is very, very unusual for them. So, do it at your own risk, and do your research first.

Money you earn can be ploughed back into your preps, of course! After telling the taxman and all that.

One final note on storage, actually: collecting leafmould each year is a helpful thing to do for the garden – adding organic matter, if not huge amounts of goodness. Whether you put it in black bags with holes poked in them, or in a little enclosure made of chicken wire, it can be stored at the front, in space you’re not using. Preferably on some bare earth, so as many bacteria and insects as possible can get to the leaves, and in a year or so, you’ll have some lovely mulch.

Grassy Areas

With some care, grassy areas can be very useful. They can’t always be turned over to growing vegetables, and you might not want that in the front garden anyway, but there can be so much square footage taken up with a lawn, I think it’s a mistake not to at least think it through.

Saffron is a hugely expensive spice, derived from the Crocus sativus plant, a pretty crocus. Once they’re in, they don’t particularly need nurturing, just like any bulb, and you could use the crop yourself, or help the plants reproduce and grow on enough to be a useful little cash crop once a year, sold at a local fair or to people at work, or as part of a foodie hamper to family for Christmas!

There are many, many plants that nearly always seem to make it into people’s lawns: dandelions, daisies and plantains among them.

Dandelions are great, the buds can be pickled, the flowers can be made into a jam of sorts, the seedheads can be used as tinder, the leaves can be used in salads or as part of a pesto.

With daisies, the leaves and flowers are edible, and in the past were used medicinally; best do a lot more research there. But realistically, they’re so tiny, and take so long to gather, I think it would be hard to do yourself harm with something that’s known to be edible.

Plantain is edible (usually when blanched) and it seems to be worryingly effective medically. There are serious warnings on WebMD about a fall in blood pressure, though it’s apparently useful for stopping blood flow from a wound. Like many of these plants, if you eat it, it seems that it should only be used in conjunction with other greens, so that not too many of any one sort are eaten at once.

There are other plants that take root in a lawn that bees love: clover, rarely classed as edible, is one of these; selfheal, buttercups and birds foot trefoil are others. Many garden centres will have mixes of seeds to be sown into your lawn, for exactly this purpose. How is that prepping? I don’t think the death of the local ecology will help your prepping: and some of your own food plants will need to be fertilised by bees and insects. And let’s face it, bees are beautiful.

Some very low-growing plants that can gradually be introduced into a monoculture lawn to make it more relevant to prepping, such as hairy bittercress, creeping mint or ground ivy. They’re not our first choice of food, but just to have them on the premises is a good backup. And they go well in a pesto or salsa.

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Mushrooms, of course, often grow within a grassy area, especially on damp ground. I’ve seen a lot locally – like the ones above this paragraph, which are more or less in a classic fairy ring. But I have no idea about safety and edibility in mushrooms, none at all, and I’ve never made them a priority to research. But I know they can be edible. If you like them, I urge you to go for it, go on a foraging course – and let me know the results. Any mushroom growers out there who want to write something?

The grass itself can be useful, naturally. If it doesn’t have seeds or roots in, it can be used in the compost heap.  It can be used even more directly, by being laid directly onto the ground as mulch, once it’s dried out a little.

Longer grass can be used to feed your rabbits or hens, or even dried out and used as their bedding, but note that you must cut grass manually, with shears, if you’re going to use it as feed.  If it’s cut with a lawnmower, the cuts cause the grass to begin fermenting. Drunk rabbits, or rabbits with stomach ache, that’s not going to work. And rabbits are sensitive to the mineral oils and fuel left on the grass by mowers: the results can be fatal, in all seriousness. Again, do your research – this is just an overview of possibilities.

There are dozens of websites to go to, but these are some of the most authoritative:

WebMD

Plants for a Future

Botanical

Eat Weeds

Garden Organic

Mother Earth News

Royal Horticultural Society

Herbal Haven

British Beekeepers Association

This is longer than I thought, so I’ll stop there, and take up hedges and ponds and whatnot next week, then taste testing after that.. Hope this is helpful!