I am calm and at peace on the water - more so than I have been in months. In the cave of the boat we are living in, I feel held, protected, safe. It is a much more simple life. We have no reception, so the temptation to check news, weather and other shouting media is absent. We have a woodburner on which we cook soups and stews, and a gas cooker. Life is reduced to bare essentials and it is perfect. We have all we need.
We are closer to nature, here, separated by a thin skin of the boat. Sitting on the roof, we watch blue jays build a nest and a squirrel acrobat as it strips sycamore flowers, the excess falling into the canal below. We are told if we are quiet, we may see otters. Jamie saw a spotted woodpecker this morning.
Across the tow path an elder is flowering, which makes a very yellow tea indeed, sweet and rich. Elderflower has anti inflammatory properties - perfect for cold mornings and woodsmoke which irritates my lungs and sinuses. It's also a diuretic, so I only have it in the morning, usually as I practice yin yoga n the early quiet. It's a beautiful flower and smells gorgeous. Many make sugary cordial and champagne from it - I prefer the tea. Last night I made a super strong infusion out of it that I added to a date porridge.
I make soup from wild greens collected by the Avon. The name Avon is derived from an ancient name for river, so I cannot call it River River, though that tickles me. The wild garlic is flowering and in some places seeding, but all parts of the plant can be eaten, and we pick loads of it for meals. Today it is spiced lentil soup, seasoned with spices bought back from India and knobs of ginger.
To the pot I also add handfuls of nettles, rich in nutrients. I don't consume them more than a couple of days in a row, as any wild plant should be eaten in moderation, but my body knows when it is needed, if I listen. Goosegrass or cleavers are added for good measure and a few young bistort leaves.
We found bistort flowering yesterday - a stunning flower. The root is the best and most powerful astringent on this island, and dried and pulverized to a powder, it was traditionally used for wounds and any kind of bleeding such as UTI, gums, or anal fissures and, if I was to stay in England longer, I would definitely collect the roots for my medicine cabinet. However, the young leaves are also a medicinal pot herb, so they too are added to the stew. I also find lots of broad leaf plantain here which makes a great spinach substitute, and if I had a blender, I'd consider a plantain and wild garlic palak paneer. Instead I might try a kitcheree. I make mental lists of all the wild delights I could make - green pesto, bhaji, pakora, sweet elderflower fritters. In my simple kitchen it is easier just to make soups and teas. Oh - and fried mushrooms with wild garlic for breakfast is pretty amazing too. I could not want for more.
Maybe that is a little lie. I wish I could find wild chicken of the woods mushrooms - I see people finding them online all the time, but maybe we are too far south. But I'm happy enough with the wild edibles I do find - they nourish me, and pull me closer to the earth.