Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Once Upon a Snow Day...

Dear Friends,

We've been having lots of fun playing in the snow this past week, with all the winter storms bearing in on us; we almost feel like we're back in Idaho (but we know it will melt before April)!

The birds have been grateful for all the seeds we've been putting out, and we hope that many more people are doing the same.

There have been a few extra "snow birds" hanging around, as well!

We hope that you are staying warm and dry, dear friends, whatever the weather may bring you. Here's to the treasures of the snow!



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count


Dear Friends,

Did you participate in Cornell University's Bird Count this year? This was our third year of counting, and it's always fun to keep tabs of just how many different birds visit our yard. We thought we'd do something different on Monday, so instead of just counting the birds around the place, we decided to go to Swope Park and count there. We didn't see many more birds than at home, but it was a lovely outing, crunching through the oak leaves and resting by the lime stone outcrops that are so common around here. Winter time is especially nice to be out in the woods, since there are no ticks, chiggers, or poison ivy to watch out for!

Let's see what we found~ Audrey took the following pictures, which she hopes you enjoy~

Common Teasel (which is known for destroying the organism behind Lyme Disease)

Mile Marker 11 looked like a smiley face to us!

Beavers cut down this tree, but it stuck on another tree, so they didn't get to use it (I bet they were disappointed!)

Treasures from the Woods; we discovered Kentucky Coffee Trees and Bladder Nuts from our finds~

One of many geese who hoped we had some treats for them~

This ring-billed gull flew over and over until he found the perfect fish~

Lake of the Woods

We didn't know there were snails this large here; we're still not sure what kind it is~

The Blue River's Warning Sign~

Dreaming of canoeing the Blue (and hoping to see a Kingfisher)~

The ground near this log was carpeted with chickweed; we could've harvested a bushelful~

Turkey Tail mushrooms (which have been shown to heal breast and other cancers)~ A true gift of the woods!

Thank you for coming along with us; there's always something new to explore and learn!



Monday, February 11, 2013

More on Wild Edibles


Dear Friends,

I was asked to do a blog post on how I came to learn so much about wild edibles and foraging. I guess you could say it's in the blood! From the time I can remember, I've been nibbling things growing around the yard. When I was small a favorite comfort food was comfrey leaves pureed with apricots in the blender; so fresh and green. When apricots weren't in season, comfrey leaves were rolled into a ball to make the hairs less prickly, and then popped into the mouths (some folks believe that comfrey is harmful to the liver, so use at your own discretion).

Comfrey in bloom (it tastes better before blooming)~

We called the fruits of mallow "belly buttons" and peeled off the calyxes to eat just the round fruit. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only the calyxes, but the leaves themselves have the same wonderful "fresh pea" taste.

A mix of lambsquarters, strawberry leaves, dandelions, viola, raspberry leaves, and a mystery plant in the backyard in Idaho~
Shepherd's Purse was known to us as "wild cabbage", and we would eat it whenever we found it, as a nibble while playing in the yard.

When I was 12 we moved away from our small town "homestead," and to a larger city that seemed a lot bigger than it actually is. I lost touch with all those wonderful green treats, and did not rekindle a taste for them until I was waiting for my second child Audrey to be born.

My husband and I were living in Utah at the time, and my mother came down to be present at the birth. She and I took walks around our city neighborhood, and a few drives out to Utah Lake, where huge patches of lambsquarters were growing. She told me that my father used to love cooking them as greens, and we picked a mess to steam, then eat with olive oil and vinegar (we didn't have the traditional bacon grease at the time). I remember tasting them and  thinking, "Why didn't anyone ever tell me this before?" ~ I had flashbacks of seeing lambsquarters and other similar plants growing along the trails we used to hike around Pocatello.

Lambsquarters and Purple Mustard, first coming up in spring~
The following year we moved the family to Idaho, and my oldest brother gave me a copy of Euell Gibbons' "Stalking the Good Life." He told me that Euell was our father's hero, and since I have very few memories of my father I soaked up the book with great gusto, feeling his presence with me as I read. Euell Gibbons can make a convert out of anyone with his mouth-watering descriptions of all sorts of wild foods, and I was truly hooked! I was also taking correspondence courses from The School of Natural Healing at the time, learning many useful, common plants such as plantain, dock, and nettles, which are edible as well as medicinal. With a growing number of mouths to feed, and a garden that was a yearly disaster, using the vitamin and mineral-rich foods growing right under foot started to make a lot of sense.

A beautiful stand of nettles growing in Wolverine Canyon, Idaho~

My knowledge has been gained plant by plant (I still remember the "aha" moment when realizing just how common the plantain that I hadn't been able to recognize really is, and being elated when stung for the first time by a real, life stinging nettle), and I have sought out many nature-loving people whom I hoped would be lovers of edible plants as well, only to realize that this knowledge was mostly to be found through books and Divine Guidance. If YouTube had been around back then, just think how much quicker I would have gained the knowledge I have! I am glad that I've had to struggle, though, because I have special memories of discovering each plant, and it gives me joy to be able to share that knowledge with others (especially my own children).

Although I still dream of a garden bountiful enough to supply all of our needs, I shall always be a reverent user of wild foods and the One who placed such treasures quite literally at our feet, free for the taking. My dream is that more and more people will awaken to these same treasures, since I believe that the more we learn to consciously use what God has provided, the more we will wish to conserve those resources for the generations that follow in our footsteps.



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Winter Wild Edibles

Dear Friends,

Happy February to you! We had a cold snap after our warm spell, but now we're heading back up into the 50s, making it a perfect time to go for a walk to see what's coming up that we can nibble on. I've put together a video with a few of the things we found in the woods next door; I hope you enjoy it~