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Foraging Future

From 2013 to early this year I had invested a huge amount of time and finances on bringing to commerciality a conifer syrup that originated from a recipe my husband’s father made from the pine cones and fir tips he collected whilst walking the local mountains. He was a mountain man – both in his attitude and physique – wiry, and weather-browned.

It was painful letting this business go. Family members were not as supportive as they should be, something a lot of families fail to learn and are the weaker for it, and without that fundamental support [afterall our raw material relied on their participation], the dream was over.

But I learned a few things. I learnt more about business across European boarders. I learnt about logistics of transporting and the fickleness of distributors and the lack of entrepreneurism of retailers and artisan shopkeepers who should know better, having themselves struggled to build their local businesses.

We still get enquiries about the syrup, it’s only available in the USA and Austria/Germany and the market for foraged products is on the climb.

Now in France Tony and me feel we have healed enough to contemplate foraging again in our area to re-create the syrup for our own use initially. If in a few years, with French premises registered and money put aside, who knows we may be making a pine or fir syrup for the French market.

As it stands we have some stock with us for our use. Unfortunately the other stock is held far away in Romania and I have no means to transport such heavy loads without putting aside over a thousand pounds. It will have to stay in its cellar for now.

But where does that leave us? Looking at our websites it seemed a shame to close them down. They are a tangible record of what we loved and now exploring my second passion – cheese, I thought the food articles and photography could act as a portfolio for me, and example of what I can do with a camera and food, and build from there.

Ion Syrup Blog recipes

Call it sentimental, it’s my baby and I can’t let it go, so have a look and enjoy Ion Syrup.

Our area is bursting with wild plants, pine forests, lakes and meadows. Our aim moving here has always been to be self-sufficient and try and use what we pick in the wild or grow at home to make oils, cordials, herb butters and similar. Today, not autumn setting in fast and the first frosts, the thyme and rosemary must be picked. The aroma is strong and I have 5 huge bottles of olive oil to warm infuse the herbs to keep us through winter.


We still have bottles of elderflower cordial made from the two shrubs we have, and we picked mint from the roadside back in July. Now dried it is a heady menthol and will be great for stuffy noses when the colds arrive. The summer camomile was picked for teas and helps make an afternoon snooze even snoozier.

Judi Castille Camomile

Next year the herb garden should produce copious quantities of herbs and neighbours will be able to help themselves as there will be a glut for us. Yesterday I swapped herbs with Madame R. She had bay leaves and I had rosemary. I have tied a few bunches with jute string and hung in our kitchen – the smell is heavenly.

The mushrooms in our lawn, sprung up in just a week, are apparently poisonous. I wore two pairs of disposable gloves to cut them from the lawn before the spores burst, and checked with Madame R. Yes poisonous and no good for my stomach given the hospital visits!! She took them gingerly from my hand, with no gloves. The locals are far less wimpy than me it seems. Wash your hands I say – phwaar – no problem, she replies, as she flips them into the bin.


The other mushroom IS supposed to be edible – but I cannot confidently identify this and still worried to pick them anyway. If anyone can identify – please send me a comment. Me and mushrooms are not a match made in culinary heaven. I like my raw. Can’t bare them cooked and slimy, sloppy. Today the round head had burst and turned almost upside down. Its fellow mushroom had fallen over – probably knocked by the local hedgehog looking for a hibernation patch. So for this year they can feed the earth and I will leave well alone.


Now the frost is coming, the garden will be put to bed. The tomatoes are being cut down and composted, and the manure pile was spread yesterday. I am not digging deep – but using the “No-Dig” method. Nature knows well how to break down cow manure, leaves and garden matter and the few cold months ahead will allow the worms to be busy in time for March veggie planting.

The old compost heap has turned into fine, dark brown, rich loam. Instead of humping this by hand to the other beds, we are going to simple close the front and create a long, low lying bed, where I will probably grow cut-flowers for the house. A home should have copious flowers in bowls, jugs and hung from beams. Bringing the outside in.

My favourites are:

Aliums, Lavender, Lupins, Cornflowers, Strawflowers, Verbena, Sweet Williams, Foxgloves, Anaphalis, Hydrangeas, Jasmin, Daisies, Globe Thistles and very seventies -Teasels.

Oh and the ubiquitous marigold – which did sterling work all summer, keeping the bugs off my tomatoes and potatoes – well done!!


Coming to France enable me to finally concentrate on a few of my favourite things – gardening and composting [yes the latter is an all-consuming love and I could bore you for hours on this subject], photography, writing and illustration [I am writing stories for children and have about nine on the go at the moment] and home-making [sewing, cooking, being self-sufficient]. All these I hope will build into a natural business for me in time, to get an income and tie all the loose ends of all my projects that either never materialized or had to be boxed up and put away on high shelves out of sight.

Dusting off those shelves feels good. The boxes are opening and I am enjoying bringing the contents back out into the sunshine. Life feels good.

The herbs are photographed on paper naturally died with saffron petals. The petals ended up too soggy and had to be composted, but the dye gave these lovely washed colours and a perfect background for the herbs. I tried some beetroot ones too. These are currently drying and I pull put up on the blog shortly.

17 thoughts on “Foraging Future

  1. The paper is absolutely beautiful and doubtless the compost will benefit from the saffron petals. I will spend some time on your Ion Website when I have the time to focus properly but in the meantime, yes the mushroom is definitely edible. It’s a coulemelle, if I’m not very much mistaken and they are quite delicious. don’t listen to those that tell you you must stew the older ones, they are tender and delicious and I am sure you could eat them raw. Here’s a piece I wrote three years ago which might inspire you …. And your dreams will come true if you never stop dreaming, don’t let les b**ards grind you down and learn well the gaelic shrug of indifference to those that can’t be bothered to be supportive. I sense wounds and I am sorry. But you are well equiped to self-administer well-foraged or home-grown balms. Bon courage – all shall be weller than you can possibly imagine x


  2. You paper has turned out so beautifully and I am sure the fail-to-dry saffron petals will enhance the compost too. I will take time out to explore the Ion blog when I have time to properly devote to it. Meanwhile, that mushroom is certainly edible. It’s a coulemelle and they are absolutely delicious. Don’t listen when they tell you you must stew them, they are actually very delicate and I am sure would work well raw. I wrote a post about them about three years ago which might amuse you … most of all though: your dreams will come true and some in France. Learn the gaelic shrug and use it to offload the woes that those who failed to deliver your expectations have wounded you with. France heals quite magically if you let her and you will have no shortage of foraged and home-grown splendour with which to make balms to help the process. All shall be better than well – all shall be magically transformed in your life. I am certain it shall.


    1. Isn’t that typical – the only book I have on French mushrooms, and this does not seem to appear!! I will have a look at your link – I like the title. Somewhere hidden in my box mountain is a good book of home made balms, soaps etc. The book is a real treasure trove of ideas and we have the space now, so no excuses going forward. I found a good supplier of Marseilles soap and cant wait to add oatmeal and oils to this. Many years ago I worked in London near Jermyn Street. There was a quaint perfumery – still there I believe, that sold hand-cut oatmeal soap. it was creamy, long-lasting and had a soft, homey aroma. Left your skin feeling loved.

      I am so happy with the papers, and got messy with beetroot juice too. The sad old beets had been sitting uneaten for months as I wanted to avoid the “blood-bath” of chopping them up. But this week I braved it and the papers came out a very pretty pink [obviously], and the beetroots tasted good too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so sorry … I commented on my Mac and it reliably informed me the comment hadn’t posted. Please feel free to delete one lest I look entirely greedy and egocentric or suffering from a doubling it up personality disorder, to your readers! Now. The soap. I worked in St James’s Place for a couple of years before I moved to France (simply the most civilized part of London to be in, by a mile) . .. I imagine you mean Floris but maybe its another I never discovered. But Floris is gorgeous nonetheless. I am smitten before you’ve even started by your soaps. I hope you will be selling them? I adore beets. I generally roast them and ignore the pinkened hands because I never remember to done gloves. I’ll bet the paper is adorable. In fact I’d wager some money on it!!


      2. Isn’t that fuinny, yesterday Worpress informed me my Foraging Post didn’t exist, exist, hadto type the damn thing twice!!! God knows where the first one vanished. Small world. I used to speak to an IFA at St James Place back 2006 onwards. I worked way back in the late 90’s in Pall Mall at a Private bank and used to potter round Jermyn Street a lot. It’s a lovely area and we are visiting for a month Dec to Jan as I still have a few areas of London I want to explore Dalston and Primrose Hill. Did you live in London or commute in via the cattle truck trains?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’ve been a bit under the wire this week but in answer to your questions … I worked for SJP ((St James’s Place) at Spencer House. The Corporate HQ is in Cirencester but they keep offices at Spencer HOuse on account of the fact that Lord Jacob Rothschild was one of the founding fathers of the business. I worked for the CFO who was based there, he will become CEO at the end of the year. Small world, non? I lived in London in the 80s and moved out (taking over Wells Stores, the Cheese Shop) in 88. When I worked for SJP I commuted from Oxford. I stopped in September 2013 and moved here to France. So in answer – I’ve been both cattle and resident in my time. I love London (my eldest daughter and husband and numerous of my friends live there) but I could never live there again.


      4. My this is so similar – we could have stood at the same train station or bus stop!! I worked in International Banking from 1989 to 1994, then working in accountancy, mainly distribution and manufacturing plants – steel, paper, engineering parts, till 2006, when I went freelance to work on tax – private clients. I missed London, my family coming from Bayswater and Stepney Green – its in the blood so to speak, and me and Tony moved to the centre, Lambeth and Peckham in 2012, when I divorced my first husband after 25 years! The in 2015 we bought the barn here in Creuse, and this year made it permanent. In that time I worked at the cheese factory, which I loved and hence why cheese interests me a lot and the Curtain Exchange – selling second hand curtains to the well-healed [ I have just written about the Paris fabric centre in The Good Life France – to be published soon]. I adore London, but its changing, so Paris has been the replacement and far, far better. But like you I could never go back to live in England – painful memories. France I have travelled to many, many times and always loved it here – so it made sense to make her my home.


      5. Oh and yes friends I have left behind and its been a mixed bag of feelings as some have stayed very much in contact and have been supporting and others I just have not heard from at all – as I had disappeared to another planet, than just across the water. But “C’est la vie”. I have moved on and very much want to make my life here. The French have been more than friendly and I couldn’t ask for more than that – its enough to make this move the right choice. And chatting with you and the other bloggers – in the here and now – that’s the most important thing.


      6. My husband – ex one – worked on the restoration of the Rothschild’s English chateau – Waddesdon Manor, a few years back. Sumptuous place. He absolutely adored working on the building and commuted from Kent every day. It beats hands down the job on M25 – Clacket Lane motorway services!

        By the way – how is the new apartment – settling down?

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I know Waddesdon very well – my Grandmother lived very close by and much later my son-in-law’s best friend who we affectionately refer to as Gordon Ramsey-Tom did his chef training at Waddesdon (and then went to work for Ramsey hence the monicker). Thé appartement is lovely. I should write some more really but am occupied with another project at the moment.


  3. Your blog is lovely, thank you for the continued inspiration! I am just starting a blog myself and appreciate your honesty and creativity! Keep up the good work and adventures!


    1. Hi, thanks for your lovely comment. Glad your blogging too. It is difficult to decide how personal you go with blogging, but I love posts when the blogger gives a little of their emotion, struggles, humour. Looking forward to hearing about your veggie patch in 2018. Mine is being de-weeded and prepped through winter ready for spring seeds and planting – we can compare carrots and cabbages!


  4. Beautiful photos and I just love how you value nature’s bounty ♡ I couldn’t make it to the Ion Syrup page as I get a message saying “the site cannot be reached”
    It’s a shame that you didn’t have the support you needed from family when it counted. Never the less, I am inspired!! You reminded me how I must find elderberry!

    Liked by 1 person

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