Going green – ish

Back on the Potwell Inn allotment, we’ve reached peak runner bean and courgette mountain time; not that I particularly mind because there’s no finer meal than a bowl of runner beans with a bit of grated cheese on top – Gruyere turns it into a gourmet meal but Cheddar works perfectly well. The courgette mountain can be very challenging because they have the gift of hiding under the foliage until they’re a foot long and almost unusable. We have several of them and I’m trying to figure out a suitable stuffing – vegetarian for preference because I’ve never seen what the point of putting sausage meat into a marrow might be. A strongly flavoured herby rice would work I think. But it’s miles better to harvest them young and full of flavour, before the seeds develop. I love them sautéd with a splash of lemon juice instead of salt. I’ve never liked the sprinkle of chopped parsley on top, it’s a herb and its place is in a side salad. Neither do I bother with all that salting and washing lark. Clearly there was a time (in the olden days?) when courgettes and aubergines were inclined to be bitter but not now, they’re much too well bred. If you want to stop them from turning into a mush, sauté them fast in blazingly hot oil and you get the brown edges as well as the full flavour and texture plus the excitement of setting off the smoke alarms – it’s a win-win.

So we are slowly turning green in several senses of the word. This is the time to become a vegetarian because you can eat a huge range of fresh, locally sourced and organically grown fruit and veg, and a lot less industrially produced meat. Good for us and good for the environment too. We’re not doctrinaire vegetarians here at all, but we eat less and less meat, and I can see a day coming soon when the minuses add up to a tipping point, but going a step further into veganism would be a much greater challenge, and intensive vegetable farming has its own ethical and ecological difficulties of a different kind and so we’re plodding down a middle path and hoping that sustainable, organic, high welfare mixed farming can provide milk, eggs and cheese alongside arable crops. But if the environmental crisis continues unabated then we may not have the luxury of that option any more and then my biggest fear is that the industrial food processing industry will seize the opportunity to flood the market with more expensive junk food.

Also on the allotment we’ve had loads of invertebrate visitors, two of them were butterflies, a gatekeeper and a speckled wood, that flew by yesterday and posed for me along with the whites, the red admirals and a tiny little shy one that flew away every time I got close – which didn’t. Previously I’d written about the suspected Jersey tiger (moth) that took a break on the kitchen window. I posted it on the Bath Natural History Society Facebook (Nature Watch) site and attracted a cluster of comments about whether I’d got the i/d right. It’s a bit rare in this part of the world, but it seems that as global heating increases it’s moving northwards.

However I’d underestimated the competitive instincts of (some) lepidopterists and was quite surprised at how hard I had to fight for my record. In the end, after a couple of heavyweights took my part it was allowed – or at least I’ll feel brave enough to send it to the County Recorder for verification and a puff of smoke up the gabled chimney. There’s no moral virtue in accidentally bumping into a rarity but somehow I felt as if I didn’t deserve to spot it! In the end, though, it was a very beautiful moth and after our discussion of minute details I reckon if it ever comes across my path again I’ll be able to identify it at twenty paces, and since I thoroughly enjoyed the scrap too, a good time was had by all.

Today we added another part of the Skyline walk, which involved yet another stiff climb up the hill to the south of us. As ever the access to the route allowed us to shortcut along the canal, avoiding the city centre which is more crowded than it has been for months. We spotted the resident heron perched opposite – too far away for a decent picture but I took one anyway. Later we dropped in at Sham Castle, with fabulous views over the City and then looped around the top of the hill, through the University and down Widcombe hill – about seven and a half miles in all; a decent walk.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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