Thursday 19 September 2013

A Dartmoor Harvest

We have been walking the late summer days. Picking and gathering, wandering across the ridges and clambering in the gullies,  sitting in the heather with a flask of tea, surrounded by pots and buckets and the quiet roar of a thousand bees.

The first harvest is the whortleberries. The earliest berries ripen on my husband's birthday, and we always head out across the moor then. I could have been a gleaner in earlier lives. I am happiest with the sun on my back, and my feet in the heather, picking whortles. It's a slow process, they are tiny and well hidden, but it soothes my soul like nothing else. It takes an afternoon to fill a basket, but it is immensely satisfying.
My children used to call them 'heatherberries', because they grow in amongst the heather bushes, purple flowers and dark blue berries together.
After the first week my children  lost all interest in picking them, and refused to come, but Steve and I and the Wolf spent many evenings alone gathering berries. It seems no-one does this any more. In all our time out there we have never met another person taking advantage of this incredible bounty.

Some were frozen, and some made into pies, and many have been dried for the winter, but the best use of all for them is to make fruit leather. I have cooked and dried sheets and sheets of it, sweetened with a tiny bit of heather honey, and then cut into strips and put in the cupboard. Perfect for a sweet treat, or pack lunches, and good for you too :)
We are part way through picking apples, and many of those are turned into dried apple rings (but the children eat these faster than I can make them if I don't hide them away!) . And we had a glut of yellow dwarf beans in the allotment, which weren't nearly as tasty as the wonderful Cosse Violette purple beans which I love best of all. So I experimented with a salty, chilli style of pickling, reminiscent of Japanese pickles. They are delicious, and disappearing fast!
Then came the blackberries. The ponies like to go blackberry picking too, and it's useful to be taller so you can reach the higher berries.

Piper ate as many herself as the owl daughter could pick.

And I gathered rowan berries. The hills are scarlet with rowan at the moment.

The children helped me thread the rowan berries into strings to dry.

They are hanging in my shed to dry. The owl daughter calls it the apothecary. I call it my dreaming space.

I have wood stored for a winter project. I have been gathering pieces all year, all labelled with provenance and put away till I have time to work on it.

I made the dried mugwort and sage into incense sticks.
I love the smell of mugwort.

And I have had deer on my mind, in many ways.
Painting, reading, dreaming.
I walked to a special place today, past the cloven stone, to the Deer Rock which looks over the valley.
 Thoughts and ideas are coming together and slowly a plan is forming.
In the meantime, there are still blackberries to pick, I have a deer mandala to paint, and I think I need a deer drum.

Here is an autumn addition to the 'Blessings' series.
You can find it HERE :)
And I realised it was time to make prints of the Deer Guardian too, which you can find here HERE


Kath said...

lots of lovely photos today. I always love to see the ponies, but I enjoyed reading about your ideas and plans too.

Em Parkinson said...

Hi Danielle, we pick the whortleberries but I've not seen so many this year. I love the look of your fruit leather - what a great idea!

Danielle Barlow said...

Thankyou Kath - I'll share them more when I have something to show!
Em, I hear the wolf boy has been taking extra 'leather' in daily to share with Origami Boy :D

Valerianna said...

Beautiful post, Danielle. Are those whortleberries like our blueberries I wonder? They look a lot the same. Such beauty and bounty there and you make good use of it. I love the poetry in your dreaming shed... and look forward to seeing what is born of it! Happy Harvest Moon from the forest.

Danielle Barlow said...

Thankyou, and Harvest blessings to yoy too Valerianna :) Whortles are like little blueberries - I think they may be the same as your huckleberries?

Gail H. Ragsdale said...

Your whortleberries look like our blueberries!
I am so envious of you and the wide open spaces. I love reading about your picking/canning. So many people no longer care to do such. Love the artwork always!

thelma said...

So many beautiful photos, it was like walking through a dream..loved the dried rowan berries, so pretty.

Ruthie Redden said...

Love your post on your harvesting adventures Danielle, so much goodness out there. Im' tempted to make the fruit leather, yum. I'm off out to collect the last of the rowan berries before the birds eat them all, they look beautiful when strung.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this idyll! I really enjoyed your art, too - and it seems we show at the same gallery in Hastings (where I live).

Rocky said...

I also like to travel in mountain with horse.

Unknown said...

Thankyou Kath - I'll share them more when I have something to show!
Em, I hear the wolf boy has been taking extra 'leather' in daily to share with Origami Boy :DJinekomasti

Yarrow said...

What a wonderful post. I've so missed reading your blog, but like so many others it doesn't show up on my blog feed! Never mind, I'm here now and happy to be :D

Hugs to you and your family, four footed and two :D

Dartford Warbler said...

I`m very late in catching up with your Harvest post, but I am glad I did! Beautiful photos.

I have happy memories of riding in the Forest at blackberry time. My old (late) pony knew the best bushes in our lane and would stop and wait for permission to help himself :-)


Related Posts with Thumbnails