Thursday 12 August 2010

The good life!

I had a very quiet and enjoyable weekend with just me and Poppy crewing the boat. All of our best intentions for the weekend came to very little. In the main because the Memsahib or supervisor was away again in Birmingham. We had a couple of visits from friends, John, Tracy and a bit later Phil and his lady friend also dropped by, so I was playing mien host for some of the time.

I am currently reading a book by Geoffrey Lewis called "Strangers" which is in itself has quite a good detective story line. However, as the book is targeted at those interested in the "nuvo canal" genre. It is somewhat spoilt and the storyline is strained by some very tenuous links to the canal and narrow-boats. The canal being used to set the scene as a backdrop. It is more of a canal location name dropping list, than part of the real meat underpinning the storyline. But it is worth a read.

Later, I did a bit of shopping and then me and Pop's had a good walk along the cut. Poppy is only interested (fixated) in playing fetch with a ball. Which makes it very easy to give her a good workout. However, I also managed at the same time to collect several pounds of very succulent looking blackberries or brambles to turn into jam. I also picked a few pounds of windfall wild plums as well.

I like to forage for waterside food. Foraging is not only tasty but is a great way of obtaining free food that is commonly found on even the most urban of canals. There are a few do’s and don’ts but as long as you only eat things that you can easily identify and you wash them beforehand you’re set for a satisfying visit to the canal. Remember to leave some of the plant to grow back and you can go back for seconds at a later date. For more hints and tips on foraging safely, visit wild man wild food.

We all know that when it comes to picking mushrooms, knowing what you’re doing is a matter of life and death - there are poisonous varieties. However, mushrooms are amazing. You can use them in so many dishes, from a modest but very tasty mushroom soup, to mushroom bread, mushroom salad and mushroom jam.

It is a bit early in the season for the fruits to be at their best, however it looks like its going to be a bumper crop of wild fruits. With Elderberry, Sloe, Blackberry, Cherry, Pear, Figs and Crab Apple as well as Hazelnut all available along the towpath. I have not even started to look in earnest yet.

This started me musing about how self sufficient it is possible to be. A sort of "the good life" (Richard Briars - Felicity Kendal - Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington) comes to a canal near you. One could become, a bit more frugal from savings made from along the canal bank. Foraging for wood for the log burner stove as well as collecting fungi, fruit and berries certainly spring to mind. But what other opportunities are there available to test ones ingenuity. Certainly one, I have in mind is an idea based on a self pump out system for the onboard toilet holding tank. Which would go some way to us becoming a little more self sufficient.
The addition of Solar panels, Wind turbines, Biodiesel, Solar heating and Growing your own in the form of herbs in plant pots all seem to be viable ways of becoming - just a bit more green and a bit more environmentally friendly.

However, my pet subject at the moment is solar energy harnessed for providing heating. Rather than solar panels providing electrical power. Anyone who has spent some time abroad will have seen solar heating panels used to raise the water temperature for showering and washing purposes. Whilst the weather regime in the UK may not lend itself to heating large amounts of water for domestic purposes. This may not be so on board a boat where heating a small amount of water could be good, because we tend to practice water conservation.

There are a number of useful websites on the Tinterwebby that specialise in solar water heating. There are some good ideas available that just might lend themselves to being used aboard our boat. Plus, deriving heat from the sun is incredibly low-tech and much more efficient than creating electrical energy. On a sunny day the roof of your boat or car can become uncomfortably hot. So, what can we do to get the suns heat and to store it away for later use.

A good place to start is here on the homepower website. Solar heating. This is a very good primer on understanding solar heating as opposed to solar electrical generation issues.

PS. The first batch (2.5 litres) of home made Towpath Blackberry Jam tastes absolutely wonderful - I had some for "testing purposes only" on my toast this morning. As well as a sprinkling of fresh picked Blackberries on my cornflakes.

It really is the Good Life!


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