Sunday, August 27, 2006

Better luck on the mushroom front!

What a difference a few days can make. A local foray produced a basket full of lovely bay boletes, a large orange birch bolete and lots of oyster mushrooms. Some of the bays went towards a pasta sauce, and the rest went into the dehydrator along with the birch bolete. I dried some strawberries and mango earlier in the week, and experimented with some blueberries and blackberries - I'm not too confident about the chances of success for these. Some blackberries and more apples went towards some fruit crumbles for the freezer, and today was spent slaving over a hot preserving pan using some of our glut of plums to make a plum sauce, which is delicious. HP eat your heart out. I just hope it keeps.

Last week, I went for a walk with my mother. She told me about a man who kept going into the nature reserve office to ask about the bench he had ordered in memory of his wife. On our walk we saw what was clearly a newly installed bench. The inscription told us that the lady in question was now at peace with beloved dog; Sam. I don't mind if no one bothers to erect a bench to my memory, but if they do, please do not let me go to my final rest badly punctuated!

I shall be off for a bit of culture in Amsterdam next week, as well as a sentimental journey to Groningen where I spent a very happy year in the 70's. After that, it's back to work, so anyone reading this can expect my blog to take a decidedly odd turn. You will read "sentences you thought you would never hear", and other musings from a motley assortment of people who ought to know better.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Assessment rant

Today in the Observer was a headline about raising standards in schools in English and Maths by making the exams harder! How does this work? Do highjumpers get better if you raise the bar? Why can't the government see that there is a huge difference between measuring attainment and raising it? In fact, many of the ways in which we measure attainment are actually counter-productive because the results are high stakes matters and when this happens, people "cheat" to try to achieve. "Cheat" is a harsh word, but the recent furor about coursework proves the point. Teaching to tests is also a result of this high stakes culture. Many secondary teachers complain that the SATS results they get from primary schools do not represent the real ability of the pupils, but then they do the exactly the same for KS3 SATS and GCSE. This is entirely understandable in this high stakes culture. There is pressure on the school managers to improve results, which they pass on to the teachers. There is pressure on the pupils to be seen as high attainers, so the teachers do everything they can to ensure the pupils get good results (they call this "spoonfeeding"), but then they complain that pupils are not capable of independent learning. But teaching methods do not encourage pupils to become independent learners. Why? Because teachers spoonfeed pupils so they will get good test results. Attainment is being inaccurately measured, NOT raised. The government talk about their support for personalised learning and assessment for learning but singularly fail to back it up with actions. I was delighted to read that Dylan William has returned to us from the US. Can he persuade the powers that be that things need to change direction? Rant terminates.

Mushrooms - not so galore

My first Blog! One thing I want to record here is my mushrooming activities - hence the name. Today, I made an optimistic trip out to Derbyshire. The weather has been coolish and wet for the last few weeks and I have been getting reports of sightings, so I thought it was worth a try. Saw quite a few things but nothing much in the way of edible fungi.

On the harvesting for the winter front, I used the dehydrator to dry some windfall cooking apples. That seems to have been successful.