Finally! A use for brambles besides blackberries. Zed spent the autumn chopping them down along the fence. They’re lying next to the Lisbon house, Quinta Blackberry, in the lane that goes nowhere waiting to be burned or shredded and composted. It’s been a cool, wet week. A week to sit by the fire at night and watch the golden glow, toasting marshmallows. Yum.
I loved wandering round the orchard in England collecting fallen apple and walnut twigs for kindling then back to a roaring fire, hot chocolate, throwing branches onto the flames. In France I pottered around ancient forests with the dog, coming back after every walk with a bag of twigs.
In Castelo Branco there were pine cones in abundance lying by the side of footpaths. Pine cones. To tell you the truth before coming to Portugal I’d never thought to use pine cones as kindling before. We had a few dusty ones from summer holidays abroad that we stuck up in the attic with the Christmas stuff every year. But make fabulous kindling they do and sell for about 2.50 euros a sack here.
However in this region of Lisbon predominated by evergreens there are few deciduous trees with twigs to fall, no ancient beech or oak trees nearby. Just acres of pine trees keeping the winter green. With pine cones a saleable commodity there aren’t any lying around on our regular walks. Indeed the pine trees have already been cut down to be sold for winter fuel, changing the landscape considerably. Our new garden has no old trees from which twigs fall in the wind. We have palm trees, a few small fruit trees and many olive trees, none of which yield fallen branches. Probably a good thing for the olives. But we have seasoned brambles by the dozen lying unwanted in heaps.
I’ve been burning them in the fireplace for the last two days. They burn easily and make quite a flame, lighting the bigger wood. It’s satisfying, that sense of foraging, making use of what’s available. Like making jam. Back to nature and all that. If a little prickly.
Today the novelty’s worn off. Though I wear thick gloves to pick up the brambles my hands are still scratched and my clothes snagged. I’m done with foraging for the fire. I’m off to the supermarket to buy pine cones.