Thursday 5 July 2012

Life is Roses... sometimes

This is my first post on the new self-organising This Low Carbon Life. My aim is to publish something each Thursday with the underlying theme of well-being, exploring what this means at a time when as a society we're seeing record levels of anxiety, stress and depression in people of all ages. What can we as groups and individuals do to keep sane and well in the face of mass insecurity and a future of constrained energy and financial resources (at least for a great many of us)?

Some of the posts will be my own and some I'll crosspost from other bloggers exploring the same question.

Here to begin is a story of roses, of connecting with transition in Spain and of spending an afternoon with friends from Dark Mountain Norwich on the best day of the summer so far this year. Oh, and a recipe for a lemon balm and rose herbal refresher.

Just as I was about to publish this post I went into the garden and found a flower on the wild rose outside our door - the first since it seeded itself there several years ago.

And then our first raspberries (another rose family member) appeared today, too.

This year the roses are everywhere abundant and blooming, wild and cultivated, from the briar rose with its apple-scented leaf to the sweet red roses in the hedges in our lane to the bushes in the nearby industrial park.

And talking of roses, on Sunday on the Transition Network Social Reporting Project we published our first post from a non-English speaking country - Roses and Tomatoes (Rosas y Tomates) by Fernando ValdepeƱas from Transition Aranjuez in Spain. Fernando's moving account of facing personal and global crises, forming a transition initiative and setting up a Sustainability Centre, and learning to see life in all its colors, is direct and at the same time has great depth. I enjoyed (and related to) the piece more and more as I helped prepare the English translation. If you click the link above you get to the English version (with the original Spanish text following on from it).

One of my favourite things to do in summer is make fresh herbal drinks from plants in the garden. I recently made a summer solstice one with 47 herbs. Our garden is a mix of wild and cultivated with areas left untouched for birds, frogs, snakes, newts and insects and a few beds for vegetables and herbs, so I can put plantain and yarrow leaf in the drinks along with Swiss peppermint and lemon balm.

Yesterday, Kevin, Diana and Jeppe from the Dark Mountain group in Norwich visited us for our July meeting. So it was the perfect opportunity for another herbal refresher. This time I was more restrained with the plants. Having been inspired at the Sustainable Bungay Newsletter production day last week by the fab salad Josiah prepared to go with those fava bean falafels, I based the drink on Rose and Lemon Balm. Here's what I did:

Makes 1 litre

Bunch of lemon balm
One fragrant rose bloom
Small sprig of lemon verbena
Small sprig of mugwort
One sprig of Swiss peppermint ('Ricola')
Juice of half an orange (I'd run out of lemons)
Dash of grapefruit juice (organic)
Local honey to taste
Fairtrade demarara sugar to taste

- Boil water, let stand for a minute or two. Put lemon balm, rose and mugwort into teapot and pour on water.
- After some minutes add lemon verbena
- Steep about fifteen minutes (I sometimes let it stand longer)
- Strain
- Add the honey, sugar, lemon/orange/grapefruit juice slowly, stirring and tasting until it's just right. Don't overdo the sugar/honey, you want to be able to taste the subtlety of the flowers.

- When cool enough pour into litre bottle, pop in the peppermint, put in fridge and serve later to friends and fellows be they dark mountaineers, transitioners or friendly neighbours.

The drink was a great accompaniment to Diana's polenta bake, Charlotte's hummus made with, you guessed it, great British fava beans (I'm not putting another link there!) and Kevin's salad of broad beans from his garden. And along with the boiled new potatoes from Malcolm, this was a delicious lunch on the first day that has felt like a 'real' summer this year in this place.

Later on we visited the beach and three of us had our first sea swim of the year. The water was warm and the tide was friendly. We revisited plans we'd made earlier in the year for a creative Dark Mountain Norwich/East Anglia 'happening' and discussed the upcoming UNCIVILISATION festival in August, which Jeppe, Charlotte, Kevin and Ava are going to. Get your ticket now whilst stocks last!

Sitting in Kevin's VW campervan in the late afternoon with the marshes behind us, we opened a bottle of Nick's (Sustainable Bungay) homemade raspberry wine, and finished the rest of the birthday cake Gemma made for me at the beginning of May. Two months in the freezer had not diminished any of its dense chocolate intensity and with the local gooseberries from Norman down the lane, it was a delicious dessert.

And the best close to the most relaxed day I've enjoyed in a long time.

Pics: first wild rose outside the back door; roses from the Rosas y Tomates project, Aranjuez Sustainablility Centre, Spain; Rose and Lemon Balm herbal refresher preparation; Dark Mountain in East Anglia in the beach (all by MW except Rosas y Tomates which is by Aranjuez Sustainability Centre)

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