Monday, 24 May 2010

Stinging Nettles and Seaweed Continued.....

We've had another weekend at the cabin, with both myself and my husband looking forward to lots of work.

I of course was looking forward to gathering dandelions for my soap. But alas, on Saturday morning I woke up to this:

Lots of rain. I don't know why I was so surprised. The weather forcast I said it was going to rain over all of Hordaland (the county/province of Norway where we live and have our cabin), but I had been optimistically assuming that the clouds would roll over us and drop their rain in Bergen as they often do.

Not this time however.

On the other hand, the cherry tree is in bloom. This is not something that we usually get a chance to see. Usually Nature and Us do not work so well together and we miss it. So even though it was raining, it was a nice treat.

Another good look at our tree..... it could be a few years before I get another picture like this.

And down on the grass there are lots of wild flowers growing here as well.
But it's time to get to work.

I pull out a bag of nettles that I picked last weekend, dried and froze to get rid of their stinging and burning qualities. And I have with me a couple of sharp objects to help me complete my task.

After the nettles have been dried and frozen, they are so nice to work with. Soft to the touch and no nastiness involved whatsoever.

But before things get too messy, I remember that I cannot do any sort of decent work without good coffee and good music. Last Christmas I received a new Walkman cellphone from my husband. The instruction booklet said that the phone is capable of holding up to 8 000 songs..... but I'm no where near that number. I don't think I'll ever have enough money to download so many songs.
The music is a collection I've downloaded mostly from Itunes, and the coffee is actually imported from Denmark. Don't get me wrong, I love living in Norway.... but there is not a brand of good Norwegian coffee to be found here. After 10 years of really trying hard to like the most popular brands, I simply admitted defeat and have been importing ever since.

So I move myself to the only semi-solid structre we have outside: an old bench. Even our picnic table moves and wobbles so much that I would not trust working on it with sharp objects.

Some basic, course chopping the first time around......

And then switching over to fine chopping, Jamie Oliver style.... though I have to admit I've never seen him use a clever.

And after the nettles are chopped finely enough, they go into a nice, big ziplock bag where they will wait patiently for me to use them in soap.

For those who are wondering why I don't dry my herbs completely, it's because on the west coast of Norway we get so much rain, and it is so damp that except for 2-3 weeks in the summer (if we're lucky!) it's impossible to dry anything naturally. Smoke houses have been used for centuries for both fish and meat, but it seemed that smoking herbs was perhaps not the end goal for me.

After the nettles are packed away, it's time to work on the seaweed. This has been hanging here the last week or so, semi-drying. It wasn't perfectly dry, but I had planned to put it in the freezer along with my other gathered herbs.

I start off with a little bit and begin to chop.....

It's really hard work because as it dries, seaweed becomes more leather like. This little bit above took me almost 15 minutes to chop. And I'm starting to wonder if my time/profit cost ratio is worth it in the end.

I go back and cut some more seaweed down from it's drying rack. I'm using the sheep shearing scissors that my husband's grandfather used.... and it is questionable if he was the first to use them himself.

So I was struggling, on the second little helping of seaweed. Even with my sharpest tools it's a struggle. It was at this point my husband took a coffee break and came to see what I was doing.

Now I do have to admit that I did marry my husband because he was the smartest man I ever met, both with IQ intelligence as well as practicle intelligence. After watching me for a bit he asked me if it was possible to grind the seaweed in the meat grinder we have.

Now what a great idea that was! I had not thought of using my meat grinder as I have not used it myself for almost 4 years. I use it when I/we catch lots of fish. If the fish is fileted and then ground, it can later be used for making fishcakes, gratain or fish puddings (like meatloaf). And, as long as you have all white fish, you can mix it together. But we have not been on any big fishing trips in a long time. Any fish that is caught is usually eaten for dinner that very day.

So we got the meat grinder out, set it up on the edge of the balcony and put it to work. It worked like a charm!

It was grinding up the seaweed better than I could ever chop it and I'm glad that my hubby and I make a good team. BUT! It really started to downpour at this point and this particular balcony railing was not a good place to have the grinder. So both of us decided to call it a day for these activities, and spend some time with the kids.
The next day it was starting to clear up. There were rain clouds in the sky, but luckily they were going over us.

And always in the distance we could see some blue sky.

So I set up my meat grinder on the other balcony... the one that had the much nicer view looking out to sea.

And here I started my work.

It's still pretty tough work and today (two days later) I've still got some sore muscles in my right arm.... but it is definitely much easier and much more time efficient than using the chopping method.

And I like the idea that I'm using human power instead of electricity - the ultimate eco-friendly way of getting the job done.

And when it's all ground up.......

Into the antique bowl with the large crack on the side it goes.

When it became clear that my arm was getting sore a bit too quickly, I needed to figure out a way to turn the grinder around without having the risk of breaking dishes that would fall several meters down to the ground. A nail and a plastic lid saved the day. (Although both hubby and I agree that we need to stop in at IKEA on our next trip and find better and bigger tools for me. Perhaps even a bucket that can hang under the grinder..... we'll perfect the technique before summer ends!)

And slowly the cracked antique bowl fills......

And after a short hour it is completely full and I'm out of seaweed. This too has gone into plastic ziplock bags (which can be washed and reused!) and is in the freezer waiting for me to make soap out of it.

Stay tuned for the next harvesting adventure!


Anonymous said...

wow, what an impressive process.
am excited to see yr new products with them.

BHB Kidstyle said...

I love that your place and bits and pieces has an ancient history, old, used and re-used.
Stunning view and cherry tree even in the rain!
Great place you have there!

LeelaBijou said...

This is so cool! Thanks for sharing this process!! :)

Vilt à la Kim said...

It is great finding new purposes to old tools!! Loads of works you have before actually making the soaps!!

Dawn of LaTouchables said...

Exciting to see your process! Let's see some seaweed soap--I'll be shopping!

Lucie said...

Wow!Thank you for sharing these working moments! I love the way you worked and I agree with you : old tools are often more efficient than the newest robot ;D
I'm looking forward the soaps you're gonna cook!