Sunday, August 17, 2014

Foraging Sundays - Weeks 11 and 12

This week has been an incredibly abundant week, but I need to fill you in on the very short story of last week first.

Last week, I cancelled Foraging Sunday.  It was with a very heavy heart and considerable self-flagellation.  It seems that on Week 10 ... rather after foraging on Week 10 ... I found a new friend ... poison sumac.  It was not during my forays into the woods for food, but while cutting vines to make a basket for gathering the hazelnuts I have been anticipating.

The new neighbor was tucked neatly into the vines.  Now, I can not honestly say that I didn't see it ... I did ... I just didn't really pay it too much mind.  I tend to be a little cavalier about nature ... if I am respectful and open about my activities, no bad will come.  I saw the plant ... I didn't recognize it ... I didn't research it ... I IGNORED it!

I did not know I came in contact with anything until the next afternoon when the contact dermatitis rash started to appear.  Of course, by then it was too late to really assess the full extent of the exposure.  I do not like taking medicine and turned, as I often do, first to herbal remedies.  I started vigorously scouring jewelweed into the rash.  I broke open all of the now obvious blisters, rubbing my skin raw.  I tried to relieve the itch and rash for a few days to no avail.  By day 3 or 4, I stopped treating at all, figuring that the worst was past.  By day 5, the swelling started.  By day 7, Wendy was panicked enough that I reluctantly agreed to visit the local quick care clinic.  I had a hard time arguing while unable to bend my right arm or leg, yellow crusty streaks coursing down my legs.

I do strive to impress.  The nurse noted that normally people do not show up with cases as bad as mine.  Really, I thought 15% coverage was a small number.  Normal people come in when the rashes are the size of a computer mice.  Did I mention that I don't really like to go to the doctor?

Regardless, the next stop was the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions for Prednisone and antibiotics.  I started the Prednisone immediately.  The antibiotics ... not so much.  Instead, I used garlic.  I ate 4 raw cloves of garlic a day for the next 5 days, after which point I didn't really think I had any sort of infection.

After the trip to the clinic and Wendy's apparently convincing argument to give me a note to stay home for the next two work days, I conceded defeat and cancelled Foraging Sunday Week 11.  I am so sorry to disappoint you all.

Yesterday, 7 days into the 12 days of Prednisone, feeling good and much less swollen, although just as itchy, I started looking for food for this week.  I started with the hazelnuts.  I noticed the husks were starting to turn yellow and decided to pick.  In all of the rest of years of my life, I have probably gathered a total of 25 hazelnuts ... small, little, tiny nuts.  The squirrels, chipmunks, and others always seemed to beat me to them.  Yesterday, I gathered 5 pounds of hazelnuts, and I have not even visited all of the 50 bushes I identified this spring.  Call me silly, but I was reluctant to go dashing off in the woods willy-nilly in shorts and a tee-shirt while still battling the current itchy affliction.  I will visit them next week, most likely cautiously clad in full length pants and shirt that will be removed and placed in the washier immediately upon my return.

In the afternoon, the girls and I took our bikes and went out to see what we could find.  I told them to be on the look out for hazelnuts, berries, mushrooms, and such.  We did manage to find a small number of chanterelle mushrooms, thanks to the recent rains.  We also discovered (about 1 week late) a nice patch of black trumpet mushrooms that were too old to eat, but worth noting for later in the year.

Upon returning home, I suggested the girls gather some of the feral apples that were dropping in the neighbors yard.  Hey, it's my sandbox ... I make the rules ... feral apple trees are forage!  They left without so much as a grumble and returned a short while later with 8.5 pounds of small, gnarly, splotchy apples.

This brings us to Week 11.  Today, we started out with a lovely applesauce.  I took 1/3 of the apples and cut them into small pieces.  These pieces, still sporting bits of peel, were boiled in water to mush.  I was worried that I had placed too much water in the pan (maybe I did, but it boiled off quickly enough).  The contents were then strained through a food mill, which took all of the peels out and let through a nicely textured sauce.  I returned it to the pan ... remember, too much water.  Then, I added a bit of sugar and some cinnamon.  I would have used maple syrup, but I fear we will not have enough for the coming winter.

Voila!  Breakfast!


After breakfast, I needed to run the girls to the dance school.  I figured I would stop at a few stops along the way home afterwards in between the errands I needed to run.  That all changed when ....

On the way, I noticed a roadkill Whistle Pig (it's just another name for a groundhog).  It was fresh within 24 hours.  It was not there yesterday and it was now.  Marmots (I am full of names for them), are diurnal, so it was hit late in the afternoon yesterday or this morning.

I immediately picked up the phone.  It would seem that I am truly a DOG person ... I tend to bring home dead things.  I asked, "how would you feel about me bringing home a roadkill woodchuck?"  Wendy was hesitant, but, after admonishing me several times about not eating(or bringing it in the house) it if it smelled bad, agreed.  Funny, she sniffed it after I was done cleaning it!

With a new focus, I finished running the days chores and even stopped to look for more chanterelle.  Instead, I found a handful of milkweed pods small enough to eat this week as a lasagna (right, Wendy?).

Dinner was a lovely soup made with Whistle Pig, chanterelle mushrooms, dehydrated wild greens, feral apples, jerusalem artichoke flour, mint and chives.  Oh, and we had some of the 1.5 pints of applesauce left over from breakfast.


I still have 1 quart of soup and 1 pint of applesauce for lunch tomorrow.  By now, I think my co-workers expect strange foods to be in my lunch bag.  I just wonder what they'll think tomorrow.

The weekend has been filled with such an abundance of food.  We are blessed to be able to learn the  things and to grow.  This has been our most successful week yet!  Here is to more to come.

As for the Sumac, I take this as a lesson.  Be aware!  Pay attention and be curious!

Poison sumac, for the reminder, I am honored that you chose to be my teacher in this.  Please, accept my humblest (and itchiest) apologies for slighting you.  I  recognize your power and your right to be.  You are truly a unique, unassuming being.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Foraging Sundays - Weeks 7-10

In spite of the hectic pace of our modern lives, Wendy and I have continued to challenge ourselves with foraging all of our food on Sundays.  We are learning quite a bit, perhaps more about modern life than about foraging, but there are certainly some incredible moments.  For instance, one lesson that echos very clear each week is that one must have the time to actually go out and find food, unless one knows where it is and when it will be there.  The native people in this are had such knowledge and the time to gather the foods and store them for the coming winter.  We, on the other hand, are still learning and growing.  We follow along the best we can.

Three of the last four weekends have been consumed with my participation in a local production of the Full Monty.  It was fun ... I love theater ... but it is incredibly time consuming.  This often meant having only an hour to go find food on Sunday before leaving for the show.  And, try as we might, we could not seem to find the time to plan ahead.  Thankfully, we have been given many fish throughout this adventure.

In keeping with the spirit of the challenge, we are trying to learn to fish, we are learning new plants, and we are checking new areas (or old areas) with our newly found skills.  I am brushing up on hunting skills and paying attention to what is growing (or moving) in the areas I visit.  We are storing extras when we can, like the 1.5 lbs of blueberries we picked this past weekend.

So, without further ado, here are the meals we have eaten.

Week 7
Wood sorrel soup with blueberries

Week 8
Chanterelle, jerusalem artichoke, purslane stir fry with blueberries.

Week 9
 Blueberry and jerusalem artichoke cobbler

 Blue gill fillets, purslane stir fry, with blueberries

Week 10
Blueberry, chanterelle, purslane stir fry with spicy wood sorrel soup

As you can see, we have relied on the blueberries and greens with every meal.  We have added them to stir-fry, we have eaten them raw, and we have baked them into a pie with Jerusalem Artichoke flour crust!  Our staples have been chanterelle mushrooms, blueberries, purslane, dandelion greens, wood sorrel, and jerusalem artichokes.

While we are not eating nearly as much as we would normally on Sunday, we are getting enough.  It has shown us that we don't need so much.  Most Sundays, we have been satisfied even with only a single meal. That is not to say that we will not be trying harder to fish and find new foods.  We know that the blueberries will be around for another week, the raspberries are ripe, and that the blackberries are coming soon.  There is food.  We have even stored up some dehydrated blueberries for the winter to come.  We will not starve, but we are watching ... hunting season opens in a month.

Next week, Saturday is currently open ... no weddings, shows, and such ... we hope to spend more time fishing and gathering.  Maybe, we'll be able to scrounge together 2 full meals!

We are truly blessed to receive what we have.  The Universe has so much to offer!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Foraging Sunday - Weeks 5 and 6

Wow!  It has been six weeks.

I watched, with amusement, this evening as a chipmunk enjoyed some of the scrap I gave to the chickens.  The irony was not lost on me ... I am trying to learn to find food in the wild, while he was learning to find food away from his nature environment.  He lives, everyday, in the wild, eating, breathing, living.  I live, everyday, in an artificial, alien place, which attempts to convince me that the natural world is there to be exploited, reviled, and abhorred.  Silly really.  I guess we are both just looking to find a way to be at peace with out lots in life.

Wendy and I have been following along with the challenge.  Week 5 was a little sparse.  We have a decided lack of skill in the time between greens and berries.  I am sure there is plenty to eat, and we could have gone out for more periwinkles, but we did not.  Instead, we stretched out skills a bit and foraged flowers.  There were many options ... milkweed, clover, rose, etc.  We also took advantage of a gray area - abandoned plants, which took the form of a massive grapevine that has been feral for several years.  With these, Wendy whipped up a nice flower soup with a butter base and some stuffed grape leaves (stuffed with flowers).  And, thankfully, we were given an 18" pickerel, which I learned to clean (it was significantly less work than cleaning a rabbit).


There was only one meal, but it left us satisfied.

This week, I was concerned.  Wendy is away with the girls.  I was left to my own devices.  Saturday, I took a stroll with the dogs to an area I haven't visited for a few years.  I knew that I had learned a lot and wanted to see what I had missed in earlier visits.  All I can say is ... Yee Haw!


I took the dogs, who were a significant impediment, but I still succeeded.  We walked for a couple of hours.  In that time, I marked, with the GPS, several more Hazelnut bushes.  I also spied a fresh mushroom growing near some old one on a broken off tree (which I misidentified).  I was fairly certain that I knew what they were and so I picked them.

In "Browsing Nature's Aisles", we emphasize using at least sources for identification of things you do not know well.  I was able to search the internet and find pictures (resource 1), I looked through a mushroom book (resource 2), I posted a photo on a Facebook Mushroom group local to my area (resource 3), and I used an on-line identification key (resource 4 - BONUS) to verify that it was indeed an Oyster Mushroom (Pleutorus populinus)!


And, in addition, I found a new blueberry patch with newly ripening fruit.  Of course, the dogs were done and I didn't have a container for berries.  I returned on Sunday in the morning without the dogs, who seemed relieved to be able to stay home instead of accompanying me.  In a short time, I picked 1.5 pints of lovely blueberries. for my meals.  I was a little concerned that this would not be sufficient to squelch my hunger.


Sunday was a very busy day.  I am acting in a local production of "The Full Monty" and we were running the technical aspects of the show prior to the opening this week.  It meant that I would be out of the house for 9 hours or so ... no time to find more food.

It turned out that the mushrooms, sauteed in butter and garlic and a pint of blueberries were enough for the day.  I still have half a pint in the fridge.

Even in the face of everyday problems, like a roof that needs repairs and more bills than money, I am in awe of the abundance that the Universe offers - the gifts, the lessons, the love.  Oh, as is my custom, I asked for a message or lesson while I was out.  The response was a pair of hawks swooping into a nearby tree, calling to each other, playing in the branches.  They allowed me to see them before darting away again, leaving me grinning.

It is officially berry season.  Foraging Sundays have just gotten a lot easier.  I am still trying to learn to fish for myself, but I know now that I will eat.

With gratitude and love, I continue to learn and grow.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Memorial Day Give-Away ... And The Winners Are ....

We have chosen the winners in our Memorial Day Give-Away!  Winners, in order of those drawn, may choose the book of their choice.  Please, respond with your choice (if you are first or second place), and an address for shipping.  Comments moderation has been turned on.



  1. This Self Sufficient Life
  2. Sharon R
  3. Unknown
Congratulations to all.  Winners will have one week to reply.  After this, new winners will be drawn as necessary.

For those who did not win this time, keep following along because we might just do another give-away soon. 

Or, purchase one or more of them.
  • "Browsing Nature's Aisles" here, using the link on the left.  
  • "Surviving The Apocalypse In The Suburbs" can be purchased from Wendy's blog, Surviving The Suburbs.
  • "Botany In A Day" can be purchased from Tom Elpel's site, HopsPress.com.
Have a fantastic day.  Enjoy, and enhance, your independence.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Foraging Sundays - Week 4

This week might be more appropriately named Seafood Sunday.  People have been very supportive of our project.  Some have given us fish.  Some have taken us out to learn to fish ... or ... harvest periwinkles.  I am careful to tell everyone that one of the points of the exercise is to stretch our limits and expand our foraging ability.

The fact is that we live in Maine.  While writing "Browsing Nature's Aisles" (which can be purchased by clicking the link on the left side of this page), Wendy and I recognized the importance of this source of support.  We did make an effort to learn to dig clams ... read the book ... but that was pretty much the extent of it.  We do not know much about the various foods available ... seaweeds, shellfish, fish, etc.

This week, we focused much of the effort on the bounty of the sea.  It started early in the week, when we were given the fillet meat of a 21" Striped Bass.  We were also offered the opportunity to go an harvest periwinkles.  And, later in the week, we decided that we should try our hand at ocean fishing.

Saturday, in advance of Foraging Sunday, which the girls have nicknamed Starving Sunday, I planned to meet a friend at the beach to harvest Periwinkles.  We are getting better about planning ahead.  Maine law allows the collection of 2 quarts per day per person.  So, two girls in tow, I ventured forth to meet with someone who knew a little something and was willing to share (thanks, Mike).  After a brief introductory tutorial, I was off and a little over an hour later, I had gathered about 6 quarts of wrinkles.  The girls were off gathering their own treasures ... something about a saltwater fish tank.  I tossed in some seaweed, too - Wild Atlantic Nori, some Bladderwrack, and some Wild Atlantic Kombu.  Of course, we had to run off to pick up a clamming fork and basket (lesson learned).


Sunday, Big Little Sister (check out her fishing outfit) and I got up and left to go fishing.  In spite of the two hours we spent without a nibble, we were rewarded with some cool things, like the shrimp and the Lion's Mane Jellyfish we saw.



But, alas ... there was work to do.  We needed to dash off to pick up some firewood for the coming winter (yes, I know it is only just summer).  We ran home to eat a quick meal of Striped Bass, which was fabulous with blackberries laced with maple syrup.  And, we were off.


After a couple of trips for wood, we then decided late in the afternoon that we should eat again.  Wendy rushed off to cook, while the girls and I continued to unload the trailer.  She sauteed the periwinkles in Peach wine that we bottled just recently and garlic grown in our garden (spices don't count).  She is a Wiz in the kitchen.  Now, if you ask me, I will tell you that I do not like seafood, but ... all I could do was moan in delight as I devoured the tasty little snails.  Oh, the bonus ... Wendy found a bag of frozen Hen of The Woods mushrooms, that I had found while wandering the wood line a year ago, in the back of the freezer.  These, she sauteed in butter and spices.  Oh my!


Wendy pointed out that our fanciest meal in a long time was free.

The greens are now getting too big to eat as salad, but we are still gathering them to dry and use in soups over winter.  The seaweeds are drying to, for the same purpose.  I have been watching the brambles though, and if our black raspberry bushes are any indication ... we are in for a banner berry year!  Bring on the blueberries!

Once again, we thank the Earth for providing such an incredible abundance of foods all around us!

Please, if you are playing along, let us know how you are doing.  And, don't forget to enter our giveaway!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Foraging Sundays - Weeks 2 and 3

In spite of the lack of a post last week, we did continue the project.  It was a little tough given our schedules, but we found that a little advance preparation goes a long way toward success.

Wendy began foraging a day early.  So, even with a schedule full of dance photos and rehearsals, we managed to feed ourselves from the land.  For breakfast, we ate sauteed greens with chive flowers and blackberry jam we made with foraged berries last year.

That was where the advanced searching ended/  We weren't sure what dinner would be, but we trusted that it would.  I found a break in the schedule and took the opportunity to visit a public land trust for the first time since we started foraging.

Precious and I spent an hour walking its fields and wooded paths.  As we walked the fields, I noticed plenty of milkweed, which was to become part of the meal.  The most incredible find, however, was a couple of small Reishi mushrooms.  This was the first time I had found these gems.  I was not even sure of the ID when I found them, but knew they looked familiar, so I took checked the stump and noticed that there were many more fruit popping out, so I took a couple of small fruit bodies.  I was giddy.  In all honesty, with my limited mushrooming experience, I believed, at the time, that I had found Chicken of the Woods.

That is often the way it is with us.  Something calls to us, we answer, and then we try to figure out what we have.  In this case, a quick check in "Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada by local author, David Spahr showed that this was not what we thought.  I thumbed through the book (a photo of the mushroom was on the cover so I knew it was in there) and stumbled upon the ID.  Then, as we describe in "Browsing Nature's Aisles" (which you can buy here by clicking on the link on the left), we sought out more 2 more resources.  The first was a quick internet search, and the second was confirmation on a Facebook group for mushroom ID.

Reishi!  I have heard all about the amazing health benefits of eating this and using it as an anti-tumor medicine.  Fortunately, none of the clan here has cancer, or other major health issues, but we still wanted to honor the spirit of the being, who spoke to me.

Wendy searched for a recipe and came up with this idea ... Reishi soup.  She cubed the tender pieces of the mushroom and boiled them, adding greens and spices.  It was delicious.  The balance of the harvest was dehydrated to be used in a more traditional way.


Which brings us to this week ... bear in mind, the girls had dance rehearsals each night of the week until 20:00 or so, ahead of their dance recital.  Planning ahead was not really an option, but we figured with the recital out of the way, we could spend Sunday fishing and foraging our meal ... until ....

Our son, his wife, and two children made an unannounced, unexpected visit from Kentucky.  They drove the many hours to be here for the final nigh of the girls' recital.  It was a complete surprise to my girls.

On a side note, driving down the road to the recital (at 50+ MPH) I spotted some mushrooms on a tree on the side of the road - I am fairly certain they are the Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus) I have been seeking.  Of course, once I have them in hand, I might sing a different song.

How does that change anything you ask ... well, they are coming over this morning for Father's day breakfast.  So, the project will be put on hold for good reason.  We will take a rain check and make up the date another time.

We are so grateful for the experiences and bounty that the Earth and Great Spirit offer us each day.

Don't forget to enter our give-away for some great books, and don't forget to share your stories.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Foraging Sundays

Wendy and I have been learning and growing over the last few years.  I have bemoaned the fact on many occasions that progress is slow and finding time to go out and see what is happening is difficult.  So, we decided (well, I decided and Wendy agreed to tag along ... the girls have opted out) that we would eat only foraged foods every Sunday for the summer.

I don't normally like to participate in "challenges", but Wendy does.  She seems to thrive on them.  As such, she kept asking me about the "rules".  For me it was simple ... only foraged food, but she wanted to know about cooking fats, spices, drinks, etc.  So, here are the three rules we've agreed upon.

  1. Beverages are exempt.  This means that if we are drinking it, it does not have to be foraged.  So, we can have coffee, store bought teas, milk (only as a drink not added to food), etc.
  2. Dressings, spices, and cooking oils are exempt.
  3. Everything else must be foraged - food we grow does not satisfy this requirement.
Our initial intent was to begin last weekend, but we did not remember until half way through the afternoon. So, today we began.  While Wendy fixed breakfast for the girls and their sleepover friends, I took a stroll to gather a brunch salad.  I did not venture far and that which I gathered provided only a smallish salad for each of us.  It included dandelion leaves and flowers, common blue violet leaves and flowers, plantain leaves, dock leaves, jewelweed leaves, and  a few bits of wood sorrel.  I ate my salad dry ... no additional dressing. Wendy chose a lavender vinegar that she made last fall to top hers.  We both expected to be very hungry before dinner ... and we were.


Thankfully, our son-in-law had delivered some trout to our freezer a few weeks back.  We planned this for dinner.  For sides, we decided that we would have steamed stinging nettles and japanese knotweed.  We figured we might also add some more salad if need be.

By 17:00 or so, after a busy day, we were both very hungry.  Before I dashed off into the woods, Wendy pulled some frozen blackberries from the freezer.  I have never been so happy that we had put up food.  She drizzled a bit of maple syrup over the berries and handed me a spoonful.  Whoa!  I needed that.  Then, I was off into the woods for some nettles.

I picked a bit ... enough for us to have for dinner ... and then, I got distracted.  I noticed some bittersweet vines nearby.  I picked a few from the trees, initially thinking to protect the trees from the choking vines, but ....

After a few minutes, I found myself starting a vine basket.  This is my second attempt ever, but quickly found myself engrossed in the task.  Seeking more vines.  Weaving the ends.  It is only a small basket.



About 10 minutes into it, I heard some rustling in the dry leaves on the ground.  I turned to see a gray fox walking toward me.  It did not see me immediately and got to within 10 yards (meters) or so.  It was then that it came to an abrupt stop and swiveled its head in my direction ... panic was the only message in its posture.  I spoke reassuring words, which must have sounded like "blah, blah, blah, I am human and you'd better run", although I was trying to allay any fear it had of me.  As as quickly as it appeared, it turned and fled, my eyes following the arrow straight path.

At this point, I figured that I should go home so that we could cook dinner.  I must point out that I was no longer thinking of my hunger.  Upon my return, I lit the gas grill.  Wendy and I wrapped the fish in foil with butter and lemon balm leaves and put them on the grill.  Wendy them blanched the nettles and turned them into a wonderful soup ... butter, water, nettles, salt, pepper, and some chives.

When everything was ready, we sat at the table and feasted, rounding out the meal with more sweetened blackberries.



So ends our first Foraging Sunday.  While we do not expect others to follow suit, we are quite satisfied with this and are eager to see what the summer holds.  Be sure to check back next week to see how we did and, if you chose to play along, be sure to share your stories.

Thank you, Earth Mother, for the beasts and plants to sustain me.  Thank you, Great Spirit, for guiding my feet on the path to wisdom.  Thank you, Friends, for helping me to learn and grow and supporting me through both.

Don't forget to go enter our give-away and to share it with your friends and family.