Category Archives: Projects

On H&S or When you’re Officially Grown Up

Our 14 year old teenager got himself a big 58” frame bike: he and the bike are very tall – runs in the paternal side of the family. Being tall I mean.

Becoming a new owner to a second hand Boardman bike was a bit of palaver. Since Saturday he managed to strangely lock in a chain into a wheel (professional repair required) and got super puncture in the (puncture proof) kevlar tyre. We start to think he should play a lottery with his peculiar luck!

Having learn to repair punctures for a good while now and doing that for the whole family already, he went off on foot (no bike) tagging along his younger brother, to the nearest Halford shop to purchase a repair kit. We already ran out of tube patches for this month – that luck again!

Halford sells tube repair patches, we all know it. Well, Big Son returned home empty handed: I thought they were out of tube repair kits as well, what a bummer!

“The kit contains a solvent, Mommy, and they didn’t sell it to me because I’m too young”. Apart from him being obviously vexed and still with no bike to ride, I was gobsmacked. “What??” I asked.  True: because the kit contains a solvent, he was not allowed to buy it. Too dangerous. Yup, repairing the tube puncture is dangerous business, you parents!

I am, really; when did we allow some ridiculous regulations to take over the commons sense instead?!

I was once quite baffled by a notice in a local gymnastics club’s kitchen: no under 16s are allowed to make themselves a cup of tea from a hot water machine. Most of teenagers are quite capable of doing it without suffering any burns. I found it silly: being overly protective and treating nearly adults like babies.

Shaking my head. Making our task of bringing up independent and responsible young men, who are learning life skills, like small DIY jobs, so much more difficult.

Am I alone in thinking that it is one absurd rule?!

 

Back Home to the Watery Skies of England…

It is been a few weeks since the last post because we were away in France and we experienced technical troubles. Anyway, holidays is the time to let things loose, to unwind and let stories unravel. We returned enriched by experiences, nicely bleached by sea, sun and wind, and brought along plenty of memos to rejoice when the weather turns skies grey.

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Although I am hankering to feel a sea breeze again, I am thrilled with the most exciting thing we brought back: we met with a couple of local French salt producers. Moreover, we secured our first batch of the fleur de sel de Guerande along with the sea salt called Sel Gris. The boxes of salts travelled back with us to the UK and are ready to get posted to the connoisseurs of salt. How wicked is that?!

At the moment we are gearing up towards an opening of our online shop, and in the free time I am flipping through the photos, sorting out the treasure trove of sea shells and glass shards, and recalling even more precious gems: stories and people we came across there. It was a privilege, pleasure and such an inspiration to meet welcoming French, Breton and German Paludiers for a good measure. There is not a bad memory I have came away with and that unique wild piece of coast of Brittany definitely get a hold of my heart. I shall be back soon!

I am anxious to see how things will unfold while I am planning and working on the new ideas. You could never guess where one chance visit and discovery could lead you. We spent a week in Sarzeau a couple years ago and definitely wanted to return. The house was a new house with all the mod cons but unfortunately that was taken off the rental market. That though turned out to be a turn of luck.

Michel Roux Jr presented the Craftman’s Dinner series and in it highlighted a smoked salmon that was done with Fleur de Sel de Guerande. When we researched the area it turned out to be just down the road from Sarzeau and houses were available for short term rentals. We took a beautiful place right on the cliff top and spent the first vacation there getting to know the rugged coast and enjoying the taste of the local natural salt in almost everything from pastries to watermelons.

When we tried it on scrambled eggs, we were hooked. Scrambled eggs never tasted so good. Since then we have been cooking with that initial stock we brought back and for a few lucky friends, the taste of food salted with Fleur de Sel is now a must-have.

This year we returned for more and plan to bring this extraordinary taste back to the UK for more friends and hopefully new customers.

Merci Beaucoup Cote Sauvage, Batz sur Mer et Guerande! Tres tres belle presquile!

In Pursuit of a Sourdough Starter

Couple of years ago, I had that craving for a traditional rye sourdough bread that I remember devouring, still hot, smeared with a slash of butter. That bread came from our local bakery and the baker was known in the area for doing bread the traditional way with his own sourdough starter. In the bakery, you could buy a borsch starter as well. That was back in the day in Poland, in my childhood.

Since then, buying a good bread even in Poland is a task. Here in the UK, breads are different, made with processed and fortified flour, quite light and without a substantial crust. I stopped eating mass produced breads for a good while now and I feel better for it.

Although craving for childhood treats did not go away. Therefore, I sourced some rye flour, scoured the internet for a rye bread recipe and I made a starter. I nursed it and fussed over the bread dough. The result was a disappointment to say the least. The bread rose, then it sunk and remained raw inside. I was gutted and discouraged from taking on bread baking for a while. I went back to baking quick breads with yeast in the bread machine every now and then.

Since then, artisan breads and bakeries are cropping up and I thought again of sourdough rye bread. I needed a good starter recipe, so I asked around and few people knew roughly how to do itS but it was quite superficial knowledge and each person giving me sometimes contradictory tips. I went online, there is such an abundance of recipes that it could be dizzyingly confusing.

I went through a few and I decided to follow two to see which works better. I used one recipe for wholemeal rye flour and another for all purpose flour but I preferred the mentioned rye flour.
I found organic wholemeal rye flour in a local Polish shop. The wholemeal rye flour is known in Poland as “razowa” flour, meaning it was milled only once and it contains whole grains providing all minerals and vitamins from a grain. It is the best source of yeasts for your starter, as yeasts live freely on grains.

Both recipes were following a similar method, you need to mix roughly the same amount of flour and filtered water with a wooden spoon, leave it to stand for 24 hours covered with a kitchen towel in the stable room temperature. Temperature is important, because when it is too cold the process slows down and when it gets too hot your wild yeasts most likely will produce more alcohol, making the starter unsuitable for a bread making.

It is wise to start with a small amount of a starter, if anything goes wrong, you simply discard a batch and start over again. Once the starter is well established, you can keep it in a fridge and feed it a bit more before a planned bread baking. Do remember to retain a small batch of starter after each baking for future use. Simply, you store it in a fridge and feed it every couple of days. In case it fermented too much, discard most of it and feed the starter as that should fix the issue.

The idea sounds simple, so why most people cannot be bothered or if they are bothered, why do things go wrong? Starter is a living animal, reacting to humidity and temperature. It needs wholemeal flour, rye is the best as rye grains are populated with natural wild yeasts and that promotes a good growth. Besides, breads made with such a starter have a taste and quality that baker’s yeasts breads are unable to provide. Baker’s yeasts speed up the process while dough made with a starter needs time to grow. It rewards your patience and perseverance with that unique flavour – I love to open the cupboard and smell that sourish yeasty aroma from the bread. Additionally, sourdough breads keep fresh for longer.

The wholemeal rye flour is the best source of yeast and bacteria to make your starter do the job. The rye flour makes it easy to maintain a starter in between bakings as well – it requires feeding every couple of days and extra feeding ahead baking. Yeasts live on the outside of a grain so the white rye flour might not do as good job as the whole grain. Its smell is pleasant and it stirs easily.

It is important to keep your station clean, use clean utensils and glass jars, wooden spoons preferably and handle things with clean hands. In case you introduced unfriendly bacterias into your starter, you will notice a strong, rancid smell or change in a colour. In such case, you will have to discard all the starter and start all over again.

Returning to my starter palaver, on the second day I noticed few air bubbles in one of the starters, though it did not double as it was mentioned in the recipe. Still, I fed both of them. You feed it equal amount of water and rye flour, stir with wooden spoon and leave it it to rest on your counter, away from direct sun. I give it about 40 grams of water and flour respectively. In case, the starter goes berserk, you will not lose too much ingredients and at the beginning you will be throwing away some of it before feeding it anyway. Besides it is easy to make extra more starter if you plan on baking more breads.

The following day, I saw more action, but starters were still kind of slow, so I discarded about half of each starter and fed them again and I repeated the process the next day. I think a reason behind them being slow, was unusually cold days. You just need to be patient with your “baby” at times.
After six days, it was time for starters to be well established, but the starter which was the most promising, started to produce too much alcohol, so I discarded about 3/4 of it and fed it again. Unfortunately, the next day there was no improvement. However, the other starter matured and became quite lovely with musky smell and plenty of air bubbles. I still tried to save the ailing starter, but the next day I had to discard it. The starter which was slow to begin with, proved to be a winner.

My starter seems to be doing better and better with each baking. I guess I’ve learnt a lot from the whole process too: you cannot follow every recipe to the letter and panic too early. The climate and environment you are able to provide is very important. The whole sourdough business is a slow process and requires planning ahead, perseverance and patience.

Whole rye flour is highly recommended, as it keeps starter well out of trouble even if you forget to feed it for a couple of days: just discard most of it and feed it to give it a boost. Other vital ingredients is filtered water, so no tap water as it could contain chlorine.

When you are setting up a new starter, feeding or some call it refreshing, is an important step to establish healthy starter colony. You will need to throw away a half or 3/4 of a starter before each feeding. This way yeasts will get extra boost to multiply and it also dilutes any alcohol and acid which is byproduct of a fermentation process so the yeasts will not get killed off by it.

You can store the starter in a fridge, just feed it each week, leave it on a counter for few hours or overnight before returning to a fridge. If you keep a starter on a counter, feed it more often. Keep it more thick-paste like, as it slows the process, more water speeds it up.

Last but not least, have fun baking and sampling breads. Do not shy away from experimenting with different flours and recipes. It is very homely to smell a fresh sourdough bread. The flavours it gives away are the ultimate reward for the time and patience it requires.

 

To make a starter you will need:

  • 40g wholemeal rye flour
  • 40ml filtered or bottled water
  • Clean glass jar and kitchen towel to cover
  • Combine water and flour together with a wooden spoon. Leave the jar on the counter away from the sun, in a place with a stable temperature.
  • On a second day, discard a half of mixture and feed the starter again with 40 g of flour and 40 ml of water.
  • Repeat these steps on the 3rd day. You should notice air bubbles in the starter already. You will need to repeat these steps for next 3 to 4 days until you will see your starter alive and well with plenty of air bubbles and smelling musky. It should be ready by then to use in baking.

The next stage is to bake a bread with it, a rye sourdough bread episode will follow shortly…

Printemps est ici!

I am glad for Winter to be over and the more sun and warm days that have arrived. Again we said our goodbyes with Marzanna and let her take the Winter away down the river waters.

I am excited to see young nettle shoots, I admire this stingy plant for it is so versatile: a herb, a cooking ingredient and source of fibres for fabrics. I am definitely itching to try cooking with them soon, I would like to try a nettle soup and a nettle bread. I happened to find a recipe for a nettle beer, olden days beverage as well. Now I need to put gloves on and go gathering.

I tried my hand at baking sourdough breads and embarked on making my own starter. I am still learning, we got very encouraging results: a rye bread was pretty close to breads I remember from my childhood in Poland with thick crunchy skin, moist dark inside, very aromatic and very moreish. One thing is sure: it requires patience and understanding that a sourdough bread is quite a temperamental creature. I will keep you posted shortly with a journal of our bread journey so far.

Spring is bringing our garden to life – herbs are ready for picking, alpine strawberries are already flowering, though it is too cold to expect any fruits as yet. Bees are busy with lobelia and apple trees are in the bloom as well, even rosemary bush is flowering.

In the autumn, Big Son and I started learning French at a weekly class and I am hoping to be able to speak more while in France over the summer.  The incentive of being able to strike a chat at a market is helping with birthing pains experienced. The feeling of excitement mixed with nervousness, as French holidays are approaching fast. But the class is fun, though work is serious if you want to make a progress.

Easter came and went, this year it was a low profile affair. We did not cook or bake too much as we planned to too see the World Endurance Championship in Silverstone. The race came to Britain to give us a glimpse into the historical 24 hours race that takes place every year in Le Mans, France. Silverstone’s race was six hours only, though even that was feeling long. I enjoyed the start, the roar of all cars taking off together and quickly the cars got split making it not easy to follow the race.

After spending some time on stands right opposite the pitstops, we took on leisurely walk along the track. Weather was kind enough, but hats and gloves were a must. Following the track allows you to experience the race and view the cars in all different angles and turns. While a radio commentary was constantly being broken by cars racing past, we saw many fans turned amateur photographers staking out vantage points to take photos. The day was good, but we cut it short to return home in time to tune into F1 race live broadcast from Bahrain. Lewis did not win this time.

As I said, we took this Easter easy in terms of food extravaganza. We planned and executed a plan of getting Alban Buns form St Albans Cathedral. We meant to try them for some time, but it was so popular that in past years, we were usually left empty handed. As you could see, this hunt was successful and we returned home loaded. Alban buns are said to be the predecessor of hot cross buns, created in the middle ages by the 14th century monk. The recipe is kept secret and every year during Lent until Easter Monday, buns are available at the Cathedral (if you are lucky). Each year different local bakery prepares the buns. These buns are spicy in a very good way, enriched with cardamons and currants and the cross is made with a knife without piping. Serve it warm with butter, it is very filling indeed.

April is the month to go on a bluebells hunt and we did exactly that in our old neck of woods in Hitchwood Lane. The place is fully blue and air is filled with scents of flowers. It is a very magical time of a year and passes quickly, so remember to make time to experience it. The English bluebell is a native species that is being threatened by the Spanish garden bluebells and it is illegal to collect them for sale. Enjoy the spring guys!

Buy a Bitcoin

Finally we got around to buying a Bitcoin.

Now it seems like the time lost was money lost too. When the idea was first floated the price of one coin was less than £600, two months later, it’s above £800. Hesitate and lose.

Saying that, I am not going to put the house on Bitcoin. I think of it as a speculative spend and also the best way to get into cryptocurrency.

BigSon did his research and Coinbase came out as the best choice as a place to buy Bitcoins. He registered an account about a week ago. We hit a snag on the ID verification step because neither from the browser application, which we accessed on a Mac and on a PC, nor the mobile app, were we able to upload an ID photo.

I wrote to Support but no reply to date. A search revealed that the ID Verification on Coinbase is an issue and lots of people have gone to other sites as a result. Count us in.

We went back to the drawing board and came up with BitPanda and set about registering an account. It went smoothly. I got Google Authenticator which worked easily on the secure login process. Bitpanda can sell you Bitcoins and also store the record of all your account transactions in what is called a wallet.

Before buying the coin I got advise that it is best to keep a hardware wallet which gives you, the owner, more security than the one kept online by BitPanda or whichever seller you choose. So there was a delay while I ordered a Ledger Nano S from France. It got here after four days and by that time we were ready to buy our first Bitcoin.

Although we had an account registered with BitPanda, we weren’t able to purchase a Bitcoin until the ID Verification was done. BitPanda uses IDnow who get in touch with you via Skype and take photos of you and your ID during the call. We set an appointment time and on the dot, they called us. That did not take long and soon we were able to make the purchase.

Google Authenticator is needed again to verify the Bitcoin buyer. When we tried to pay, the transaction kept failing and the notice on BitPanda is in German. These days that is not so much a problem as you can easily do a search and get a translation so it was more of a laugh than a full stop. We had no clue why it was failing and soon gave up for the evening. Turns out there was a SMS on my phone from my bank asking if I am aware of such a transaction to another country and all I needed to do was reply YES or NO.

Back on the trail that same night, we finally were able to get the Bitcoin. From the BitPanda account you can see the value of the purchase as a credit.

We immediately plugged in the Nano S and transferred that value to the stick which acts as an account in itself. It is plugged into a computer and you can see the details of the account on the screen while navigating the page through buttons on the side of the memory stick.

After a while you can see the value has been transferred to your hardware wallet and when you check back in Bitpanda, the balance is now zero. It acts exactly like a transfer from one account to another. You get to secure your accounts on a private memory stick which is not only in your possession but is also secured with access credentials set by you.

It has been a long winded process with a lot of what looks like a palaver especially for a newbie. Everything looks like a step to undo what you have previously done. Thankfully BigSon was involved and for him this is as easy as a TV remote control.

Bitcoin

BigSon and I went to recent Hackathon at the University of Bedfordshire. It was a well organised event to showcase the new IBM LinuxOne which is a blockchain computational platform. We came away from that event enthused about the idea of blockchains and the most famous application to date, Bitcoin. Below is his write up on the cryptocurrency after reading Mastering Bitcoin by .

What is Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a digital currency that is decentralised (no governing body) that is built upon the blockchain and uses a proof of work system called mining. Bitcoin can be used to buy anything from anyone that has a Bitcoin wallet and address. There is a set number of Bitcoins that will ever be in circulation (about 21 million) that is embedded in the software so it can never be exceeded.

History of Bitcoin

The idea for Bitcoin came from an unknown person by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto (not real name). He posted the idea on a popular digital currency blog. It was launched in 2009 and became very popular partly thanks to the bank crisis. The largest Bitcoin transaction ever was worth 150 million dollars.

Getting Started

To get a Bitcoin wallet you must download an application from the Bitcoin website and install it. There are different Bitcoin wallets, the main ones are phone and desktop wallet. Phone wallets are for small transactions and do not contain the full blockchain and for purchases using small amounts of money. Desktop wallets usually contain the full blockchain and can process small and large payments. They are safer to use. To get your first Bitcoin you can get some from a friend or buy some from a Bitcoin coin seller.

Bitcoin Transactions

Bitcoin transactions are made through the internet on a peer-to-peer system, which means that there are no middle men. The payment is made to the address of the receiver. After the payment is made it is put in unconfirmed transaction pool. The privacy of both participants is kept by encrypting their address and keys. The smallest possible payment is 1 Satoshi (1 millionth of a Bitcoin). It is impossible to get a smaller transaction because it is the smallest Bitcoin unit.

Bitcoin Mining

Bitcoin mining is an essential part of Bitcoin; it is a way of verifying transactions by putting them in blocks and then into the blockchain. To mine Bitcoin you need a powerful mining computing device like ASICS. The device first groups all the transactions possible into the new candidate block. The first transaction it puts in is the miner’s reward which is about 12.5 Bitcoin in 2016. It will then put in the most important transactions determined by how old and how much is the transaction. After it has made the candidate block it must find a hash that is lower than the target, the set of numbers that identifies the block. If it finds the right hash it will post the block to the network and all the nodes (wallets) will verify it and it will become a valid block. After it is verified the nodes will add it to their blockchain, if it is invalid it will be rejected and the network will wait for a valid block to arrive.

Bitcoin Blocks

Bitcoin blocks contain a list of transactions that were processed through the network. Once the transaction has been made the money is sent to the receiver but it is not confirmed. It is confirmed when the transaction is put in a block that is then verified. For large transactions, it is advised to wait for at least 6 blocks to be confirmed before considering your transaction valid. For very large transactions you should wait at least a day before considering it valid.

Blockchain

The blockchain is a public ledger in Bitcoin that keeps all the transactions ever made. The transactions are kept in blocks that are kept in chronological order. The blockchain goes back all the way to the first ever Bitcoin transaction, the Genesis block created by Satoshi Nakamoto. Inside the Genesis block there are no transactions but an encrypted message from Satoshi Nakamoto “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”. Satoshi Nakamoto put this text in the place of the transactions that usually contains the miners reward. Blockchain is not unique to Bitcoin, it is used in other currencies and applications.

Bitcoin security

Security in Bitcoin is kept by encrypting the user keys and addresses. Security is also kept because there is no central bank or government at the centre keeping all the users’ money.  A government or bank is a point of failure because all the money is in one place which makes it easy to steal. With Bitcoin, the user’s Bitcoins are kept in their wallet with a public ledger of all the transactions ever made. This makes it harder for hackers to steal the money, because they would need to hack individual accounts which is not always fruitful. The way a user keeps the keys to their account is by keeping them in cold storage (see below) or online hardware wallets, data files. Hardware wallets are tamper proof and are a relatively safe way of keeping your Bitcoins and keys. Data files are not the best way to keep Bitcoin keys because they can be lost in computer crashes and full reboots and never be recovered. Cold storage is keeping your encrypted Bitcoin keys on pieces of paper in a safe or hidden place. Cold storage is one of the safest ways of keeping your Bitcoin keys.

There are two different types of Bitcoin keys: private keys and public keys. Private keys are kept in cold storage and are only kept by the wallet owner. Private keys are usually encrypted for safety and then put on cold storage. Public keys are derived from the encrypted versions of private keys. The public key is generated by encrypting the encrypted private key again. The public key is what is visible to all users of Bitcoin and is what the money is sent to.

Because we are newbies to this technologies and are willing to learn as much as we can about it, we are happy to take comments on what is written above. We welcome corrections and also questions which will guide our learning.

Thanks for reading and again, feel free to comment.

Długa Historia Tkaniny z Pokrzywy

Tkaniny z pokrzywy były od dawna produkowane przez ludzi, którzy odkryli, że jest to świetne źródło włókien już tysiące lat temu. Ale historia pokrzywy nie jest tak odległa jak by się mogło wydawać, ponieważ tkaniny z włókien pokrzywy robimy aż do dzisiaj. Ta bardzo parząca roślina znów wychodzi z zakamarków historii jako ekologiczne i odnawialne źródło włókien do produkcji tkanin.

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Już starożytni Egipcjanie zawijali mumie w tkaninę ramie, która należy do tej samej rodziny co pokrzywa. Pokrzywa występująca w Europie (Uriotica Dioica), była wykorzystywana przez Wikingów i plemiona Słowian w Centralnej Europie. W pochówku mężczyzny z Epoki Brązu, który został odkryty w Danii, archeolodzy znaleźli liczącą 3000 lat tkaninę z pokrzywy. Prochy mężczyzny zostały zawinięte w pokrzywową tkaninę przed umieszczeniem w urnie z brązu. Co jest interesujące, pokrzywa nie jest rośliną występującą naturalnie na tych obszarach Danii i po dalszych analizach naukowcy ustalili, że pokrzywa z której zrobiono tkaninę pochodziła z terenów dzisiejszej Austrii. Potwierdza to teorię, ze tkaniny z pokrzywy była szczególnym i cennym materiałem, który był przedmiotem wymiany handlowej a nawet symbolem statusu.

Odkrycie tak pradawnej tkaniny jest bardzo rzadkie, bowiem by tkaniny mogły zostać zachowane przez wieki, wymagają one specjalnych warunków, jak na przykład: środowisko wodne czy zwęglenie. To unikalne znalezisko z Danii, dało dowód na to, że pomimo tego iż ludzie uprawiali już len na ubrania, wciąż bardzo cenili i wykorzystywali dziko rosnącą pokrzywę.  Być może dlatego, że z pokrzywy można pozyskać włókna prawie tak delikatne jak czysty jedwab, więc był to materiał dość luksusowy.

Poza luksusowymi właściwościami tkaniny z pokrzywy, trzeba też pamiętać o innym, bardzo ważnym dla naszych przodków, atrybucie tej rośliny. Słowianie i Wikingowie wierzyli, że pokrzywa ma właściwości magiczne. W Letnie Przesilenie, Słowianie wieszali kępy pokrzywy we wejściach, aby chroniła ich i plony przed złymi mocami. Wierzono też, że pokrzywa ma moc rozganiania burz, wiec była ona palona na polach, aby jej dym rozpędził burzowe chmury. Wobec tego nie dziwi, że tkanina z pokrzywy była wtedy wyjątkowym, szczególnego przeznaczenia materiałem.

Pokrzywa oczywiście była też znana jako roślina lecznicza. Przykładowo pokrzywa była stosowana przy krwawieniach czy zainfekowanych ranach, by wspomnieć tylko kilka zastosowań (za Hipokratesem). Jak widać jest to roślina o wielu zastosowaniach, więc nasi przodkowie sprytnie korzystali z pokrzywy która rośnie tak swobodnie i obficie prawie wszędzie. Włókna pokrzywy były używane też przez rybaków, którzy pletli z niej sieci i liny. Jej włókna są bowiem bardzo mocne, wodoodporne i nie gniją tak szybko jak sieci z innych włókien. Na Kamczatce, na przykład, włókna pokrzywowe były cenione przez rybaków ze względu na lekkość i wodoodporność – pokrzywa była jedynym źródłem takich włókien dostępnym dla ludności na tych terenach. Inny przykład: na dawnych terenach Polski z włókien pokrzywy wyplatano sita do przesiewania mąki czy przecedzania miodu.

Na rynku można obecnie znaleźć włókna i materiały wytworzone z pokrzywy pozyskiwanej w Himalajach, w Nepalu (Girardinia diversifolia), która rośnie do wysokości nawet 3 metrów. Nasza pokrzywa europejska była popularna aż do czasu wyparcia przez tańszą bawełnę i jedwab. Ale w Polsce, tkaniny z pokrzywy były powszechnie używane aż do XVII wieku – od  XII wieku najwiecej tkanin wyrabiano właśnie z pokrzywy. Fakt, że tkanina z pokrzywy jest o wiele delikatniejsza w dotyku niż len czy konopie, sprawił że z takiej tkaniny chętniej szyto koszule czy bieliznę. Istotne było też to, że pokrzywa była o wiele tańsza od jedwabiu, na który stać było tylko ludzi zamożnych.

Już wcześniej wspomniałam, że włókna pokrzywy były też popularne w Skandynawii, włókna pokrzywy znaleziono we wraku statku Wikingów, być może stosowano ją do wyplatania sieci. W XVIII w Skandynawii nastąpił duży powrót pokrzywy jako surowca włókienniczego. Z włókien lokalnej pokrzywy jak i importowanego ramie, tkano luksusowe tkaniny na suknie. Udało mi się znaleźć bardzo interesujący zapis z 1813 roku, o kobiecie z Feyn w Danii, która z tkaniny z pokrzywy uszyła 21 łokci obrusów i tkaniny obiciowej. W kolejnym roku, z 2 kamieni pokrzywy (wagowo około 12kg) udało jej się zrobić 12 chusteczek, 20 metrów tkaniny obrusowej i 14 metrów tkaniny obiciowej. Jest to prawdziwy i dość imponujący zapis tego jak wiele można wytworzyć z naszej skromnej pokrzywy.

camira nettleW Wielkiej Brytanii znany jest termin “Scotch cloth” – tkanina szkocka, pod tą nazwą kryje się tkanina pokrzywowa. Włókna z pokrzywy były popularne w Szkocji przez stulecia. XIX-wieczny szkocki poeta Thomas Campbell pisał: “In Scotland, I have eaten nettles, I have slept on nettle sheets, and I have dined off a nettle tablecloth. The stalks of the old nettle are as good as flax for making cloth. I have heard my mother say that she thought the nettle cloth more durable than any other species of linen”. Co pozwoliłam sobie przetłumaczyć na potrzeby artykułu: “W Szkocji jadałem pokrzywy, spałem na pokrzywach i jadałem na obrusach z pokrzywy. Łodygi pokrzywy są równie dobrym źródłem włókien na tkaniny jak len. Moja matka mówiła, że pokrzywa jest bardziej wytrzymała niż jakiekolwiek inne włókna lniane”. To bardzo piękny i miły hołd dla tej parzącej, niby zwyczajnej rośliny.

Jest też więcej interesujących dowodów na to, ze pokrzywa była uważana za roślinę niezwyczajną. Być może pamiętacie starą baśń tak pięknie opisaną przez Jana Christiana Andersena, Dzikie Łabędzie, o dziewczynie która utkała koszule z parzącej pokrzywy by uratować swoich 11 braci przemienionych w łabędzie. Całkiem naturalne wydaje się, że ludzie nazywali magią to, że tak parząca roślina jak pokrzywa potrafi dawać tak miękkie i jedwabiste włókna.

Wróćmy jednak do rzeczywistości i zajrzyjmy do nie tak odległej historii. Tkanina z europejskiej pokrzywy powróciła w czasie Pierwszej Wojny Światowej w Niemczech. Zapasy bawełny się  skończyły a ze względu na to że Wielka Brytania dominowała na morzach, sprowadzenie bawełny było prawie niemożliwe, więc Niemcy zmuszeni byli znaleźć inne dostępne źródło materiałów odpowiednich do uszycia mundurów. Według dostępnych informacji, Niemcy wykorzystali włókna pokrzywy nie tylko do produkcji mundurów, ale rownież do szycia worków na piasek. Wspomina się również, że Niemcy wykorzystywali tez barwnik pozyskiwany z pokrzywy.

IMG_20160102_124400Sprzedawane w sklepach włókna z pokrzywy to  wyłącznie włókna z pokrzywy himalajskiej. Włókno tej pokrzywy nazywane jest przez miejscową ludność Allo. Włókno i tkanina z Allo są produkowane metodami tradycyjnymi przez miejscową ludność, wspieraną przez ruch Fair Trade. Prowadzone są badania nad uprawą pokrzywy europejskiej pod produkcję włókien i tkanin, ale do dziś nie mam informacji o żadnym producencie włókien z naszej pokrzywy. Oczywiście, wyzwaniem jest uprawa na polach i zbiór pokrzywy na wiekszą skalę, aby takie przedsięwzięcie miało również sens ekonomiczny. Ze względu na rosnące zainteresowanie odnawialnymi źródłami włókien, do tego pozyskiwanymi lokalnie, w przeciwieństwie do bawełny, która jest rośliną bardzo obciążającą środowisko naturalne, uważam że już niedługo nasza europejska pokrzywa powróci do nas jako tkanina, a nie tylko pospolity a jak niezwykły chwast.