Foraging, Fishing and Feeding

Weather: This has been wildly variable from storm-force winds and heavy rain, ensuring that the ferries are unable to operate to beautiful, still days with wonderful clouds and light.

Even though the weather has been turbulent at times, and yesterday managed to blow over a friend of mine, this is the season for foraging and fishing to begin.

Firstly ‘Mytilus edulis’ is to be our quarry.

Collecting mussels requires:

1 Rubber Gloves

2 Bags for collecting them in

3 Wellington Boots

4 Over-trousers

5 Suitable outer wear

6 A pen knife

Finding a spot: Low tide where there are rocks in silty ground covered in bladder-wrack- found clinging to the rocks and a place covered in suspect broken and bird-opened old mussel shells. In order to obtain the mussels you need to get ‘down and dirty’ amongst the seaweed and rocks. This is very muddy work and good clothes are not recommended (too late!). We gathered enough for two carrier bags in less than an hour.

JK Mussels

Cleaning: Put in a colander and run under cold-water (do not store in fresh water – this will kill them). Whist running mussels under tap water, scrub them with a stiff brush. Remove their beards and scrape off the barnacles. Discard any open ones. They are now ready for the pot. Mussels can be stored in the fridge in a bowl with a damp cloth over them, they must be consumed in 24 hours.

Recipe: Prepare and chop 2 onions and two globes of fennel. Gently fry in olive oil in a large pan until soft – do not burn. Add ¾ of a bottle of white wine – bring to the boil. And the mussels and put a lid on the pan. Poach and steam for 3 -4 minutes, check the mussels have now opened and Voila! serve with hot salted fried potato chips and mayonnaise. Followed by frozen summer berries and white chocolate sauce.

Flushed with the success of this enterprise, we decided to collect some cockles (Cerastoderma edule) whilst on a walk to the Island, Vallay (Bhalaigh as it is called in Gaelic). This legendary Island is accessible only at low tide and the cockles can be found on the surface of the sand or visible slightly under it. A rake (I have been informed) is useful for those sub-surface cockles. Cockles are relatively easy to collect but to prepare for the pot – they require ‘purging’ in cold salted water for several hours. We left them to purge for two hours.

Cleaning: Scrub with a stiff brush and purge…

After preparing them in a similar way to the mussels, involving lemon juice, garlic, fennel and chillies, we served them with wholemeal pasta.

Alas – they were completely inedible, as they were still full of sand. Possibly they need to purge for rather longer… perhaps overnight and the next day.

Previously the majority of my photography has used sheet and roll film. Courtesy of FujiFilm I am now able to experiment with a medium format digital camera. The walk to Vallay provided an excellent opportunity to start this photographic journey.

It is a little early in the year for fishing and although I have been out a couple of times for a several hours fly fishing for trout and spinning for Pollack, nothing has been forthcoming.

Obtaining live bait to fish in the sea is not straightforward. the usual suspect (Mackerel) has not arrived in the seas around the Hebrides and there are none for sale in the shops. For several weeks I have been eying up the substantial worm casts on the low tide beaches, but when I attempted to dig for the lugworms, the worms were unfortunately very deep and of poor quality. I have abandoned this for now and am considering using some of the collected mussels instead. I have also bought some Spam which might be worth a try. Meanwhile I will await the appropriate tides and weather to experiment…

Angelo, our white cat has a special property, his fur, usually a problem, is so thick and heavy, ticks do not penetrate it. Instead they hang on his fur so whenever he returns from his wanderings and rat patrol, we need to do a necessary tick check to remove them and stop them from entering our domain.

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