All posts by Stephen Barstow

Redwings are back

I was in the garden this morning and heard the contact call of the (European) redwing (rødvingetrost), described as a thin, drawn and sharp “sreee”. It’s always a joy to hear the first one each spring. 10th April is the average arrival time here, so this is right on schedule.  A little later I heard a snatch of song too. With snow on the ground this morning redwings that had arrived before northerly winds set in were forced down to near the fjord where there’s less snow. I made a little video of one bird close to the house before the flock (6 birds) flew off.



Pinkfeet fly-past

Large fly-past by pinkfeet (kortnebbgjess) yesterday. I noted 9 flocks in total and 6 flocks of in total 900 birds between 14:15 and 15:30. The map showing all reports of geese yesterday shows clearly the migration path first over the Oslo area and then north along the Gudbrandsdal valley to Trondheim along the Trondheimsfjord to the rich pastures near the fjord further north (northernmost dots).

Japanese Sansai in March

Almost exactly 5 years ago this week I was on a study tour to Japan to look at Sansai production. I’m doing a webinar talk about the trip for Norwegian Seed Savers (KVANN) on 18th April. Although it’s open for all it will be in Norwegian. If there is interest for it I could repeat in English at some stage, but probably not before next winter. If anyone would like to organise it, please let me know. Otherwise, I may just organise it as the first Edimentals talk!  See https://www.facebook.com/events/1333421547030675
Sansai (meaning mountain vegetables, mostly perennials) are what are essentially previously wild foraged vegetables which are now produced on farms in the lowlands around the cities in Japan, often in greenhouses for all year production – roots are often frozen until they are needed). 
With a little planning one can extend the season for some of the best sansai vegetables by digging up roots in the autumn and planting them in soil in buckets which are stored in my cold cellar (just above 0C this winter), and ready to be brought up into the living room for forcing in winter / spring (they could also be left outside, protected by piling leaves or similar around them – the roots are more exposed to cold in a bucket). For blanching I use a second upturned bucket on top. I’ve now harvested three important sansai veggies which were forced (it took a couple of weeks);
Udo (Aralia cordata): peeled and sliced and eaten as a salad in a sesame oil and soy sauce with roasted sesame seed dressing
Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris): steamed for 10 minutes
Urui (Hosta sieboldiana): The blanched shoots are deliciously crispy and mild tasting, perfect with a dipping sauce (sesame oil, roasted sesame seeds and soy sauce)
The sansai were served with fried veggie beetroot burgers (aka blood burgers) which are cooked and grated beetroot mixed with egg and wholegrain emmer flour (with grated onion, garlic, chili, salt and pepper).




 

Forced March Perennial Greens

In order to lengthen the season for harvesting of perennial vegetables, I dig up roots of a selection in the autumn and plant them in garden soil in large buckets (which I have a surplus of through my Allium project, now moved to the botanical gardens). As I explain in the video, all of these can be stored outside exposed to the cold as they are very hardy (minimum about -20C here), but some get a head start by moving into my cold cellar where they start growing slowly in the dark. Welcome to my living room:

These were the forced veggies used one day last week, from top left and across – Heracleum sibiricum (hogweed / bjørnekjeks); Campanula latifolia (giant bellflower / storklokke); Myrrhis odorata (sweet cicely / spansk kjørvel);  Taraxacum officinale (dandelion / løvetann); (bottom row): Allium angulosum; Ficaria verna (lesser celandine / vårkål); Allium flavescens and Armoracia rusticana (horseradish / pepperrot); (centre right): wild buckwheat / vill bokhvete shoots – Fagopyrum tataricum)

Shelducks return

Nice to see a pair of shelduck (gravand) back in the bay this morning, the first time I’ve seen them in the bay since spring 2015. Before that they appeared most years and probably bred locally (there are spread breeding pairs along the fjord). Oystercatchers (tjeld) have also been back for about a week now. A bad long distance (on the other side of the bay) picture of the shelducks to illustrate:




Suddenly it’s spring

With the huge shift in temperature this week, spring is suddenly here and several bird species are now singing in the garden: blue tit (blåmeis), great tit (kjøttmeis), greenfinch (grønnfink) and, down in the bay about 20 goldeneyes (kvinand) have been displaying. Yesterday, for the first time, I heard singing woodpigeon, bullfinch and this great spotted woodpecker (flaggspett) drumming on the metal cap of the electricity pole:

..and this nuthatch (spettmeis) was inpecting what I have in offer for nesting sites. The oldest painted bird boxes predate my time here and were put up for starlings (stær) originally.