Sometimes, my MooseBoots wanderings are well planned and directed. Most times, they are not. This weekend was filled with many planned mundane tasks, with a few unplanned, and unplanned trips into the woods.
Saturday was marked on the calendar with a big, red "X" and the text "NO". Wendy keeps the calendar. I simply consult it to find what is in store. This particular entry had me a at a bit of a loss. I looked at it for a couple of days before asking what it meant. Wendy said that we have been crazy busy all summer with no down time ... Saturday was planned down time. Huh?
Wendy and I woke early and took two of the dogs for walks in the woods. They, the dogs, need more training and I need the forest bathing, so it worked out for all of us. While we worked, and walked, we looked around at the things that were growing. I noted the "Indian Pipes" were dead and that there were few mushrooms, because of the dry weather. I use Indian Pipes as an indicator that the conditions are beneficial for mushroom fruiting.
Later, in advance of a friend coming for dinner, we decided that we needed to replace our grill, which had been repaired several times, but was getting scary to light again. While at the home improvement store, we also picked up the wood that I needed to finish the floor project that I had started over a month ago. Originally, the project was planned to be a bit bigger, but tile is expensive and we are simply running out of time to finish projects before we head to Pennsylvania for the Mother Earth News Fair, which will require also quite a bit of preparation ... whoa, just over two weeks away!
Our friend called at the appointed time to let us know that he would not be able to make it because he had injured his back and could not move. We had also decided to go to the local theater to see "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee", which, while not terribly well attended, was a great fun show. The cast, and three hand picked audience members, did a great job.
Sunday turned out busy. We harvested four rabbits, disassembled the woodstove, and I finished the floor. Of course, with all of the other stuff going on, the only time I got outside was harvesting the rabbits. I was pleasantly surprised that I have become more proficient and found that I could remove the hides from the rabbits complete with the ears, tails, and noses intact. The hides have all been frozen, so I will have to wait to see how much more difficult it will be to scrape and tan the hides with faces. As busy as it was, it was nice to complete some projects.
Today began with more of the same, the floor completion triggered putting the house back into some semblance of order. I cleaned the woodstove, moved it back into place with Wendy's help, and put the first coat of paint on it to freshen it up. Then, I needed to tweak the bookshelves and secure them more firmly to the wall.
At 18:30 or so, I decided that it was time for a walk. I headed out with no particular destination in mind, but given the rain overnight and all day, I thought I might find some mushrooms. It was fairly gray and still overcast, but not raining. I must have had mushrooms on the brain, because no sooner had I walked out, I thought that I saw some on my Shiitake logs. After slogging my way through the waist high, dripping jewelweed, I found nothing, just some dead leaves on the waterlogged logs.
As I continued down the road, a turkey hen crossed the road in front of me. She was in no hurry, but sought concealment in the underbrush. She was still hunting and pecking though so she was not too difficult to watch for a few minutes. I bid her farewell and entered the woods. I hadn't taken two steps when I heard the rest of the rafter flying into the tree tops.
I walked toward the calls and singing wings. I found four of them in the tall White Pines. They called. I did my best to respond. This went on for a while and they would sometime flap from tree to tree to get a better look at me, or to get a little further away when they saw what I was. It was incredible to play with them.
I wandered along the ridge along the brook that was swollen with the torrential rains we have overnight and through the day. Then, I saw fresh Indian Pipes poking up through the leaf clutter. I was heartened to see them again. I did find a few mushrooms, but my repertoire is not terribly extensive and I did not recognize any of these.
As I wandered along off the path, I found a benchmark. Yes, a granite block stuck in the ground for marking property boundaries. I had never seen this here. I stopped and looked around, taking in the feel of the forest, the life around me. At this point, I expressed to the Universe that I was open to any lessons, or teachings, that it may have for me as I wandered in the growing dark.
I started back in the direction that I knew the path lay. When I reached it, I turned to follow it deeper into the trees, away from home. I had not taken more than a dozen steps when a gray fox, jumped from the underbrush and leaped across the path not more than 15 yards from me. It stopped behind some trees as if to say, "What Was That?" I followed in the direction it had gone, but I was no match for its stealth.
I turned back to the path and followed it to our foraging field. When I reached the field, the grass all matted from the rain, I went to the stinging nettles patch to find some young plants. I learned a few weeks ago that there were some very young plants growing under the cover of the much larger japanese knotweed. I sought them out to try out a new skill. I had watched several video on how to eat stinging nettles raw. Raw nettle are full of flavor and properly handled do not sting while being eaten.
I decided to go further through the field to try out another skill I had seen, making cordage from live stinging nettles. I did manage to strip the leaves and branchy parts without being stung by that plant. I did happen to brush into several others in my enthusiasm to try it. Thankfully, I don't mind the sting, which is why I don't wear gloves when I harvest them. I feel like it is a fair trade and really the only way to truly know the plant.
With all of my treasures in hand (turkey feather, fresh birch polypore mushroom, stinging nettle stem, and my knife), I turned toward the road to walk home. As I started, I was given a aerobatic show by a bat. He swooped close to my head as he hunted for his breakfast. I watched as he darted around in circles above me. Just as quickly, he was gone. Fulfilled, I walked home.
I shared the walk with Wendy, who rightfully pointed out that there was probably a lesson in the fox and bat sightings, as I had asked. I have yet to do the homework around this. I had in fact seen the shift change in the woods ... the day time turkeys going to roost, while the night time fox and bat began their work.
I decided that the time was probably right for me to finish the Jewelweed and Plaintain salves I had started a couple of weeks ago. As usual, I went a little overboard ... I have several large containers of salve and quite a bit of left over infused oil. I tried some of the plaitain oil on the stings I had received and found that it was effective a neutralizing the swelling, although I am not convinced it was nettles stings and not mosquito bites.
It is little gifts, like my experiences on my walk, that prove to me that I am on the right path. The Universe is clearly pleased with my progress, in spite of my frustration at the pace with which I walk along this MooseBoots journey. I am humbled and grateful.