Wild Wanderings: Ramps

I will probably reflect many more times than once how every time that it comes for me to become connected to a new plant friend it shows up in droves.  This story is of my meeting with Ramps, the wild allium that brightly, if not pungently, welcomes the growing season in the springtime.

To be clear I’m not a professional forager (does that even exist?,) or a plant biologist; I’m just a layperson who has been introducing herself to plants for years.  All I do is walk in the woods and fields that surround my day-to-day and introduce myself to the landscape and the things that live there.  Sometimes I sing to them, and sometimes have conversations.  The conversations can be aloud musings or subtly energetic exchanges of awareness and information.  Over time I’ve become friends with various plants along the way and in return they freely offer me sustenance I can not buy in the grocery store.

This past spring was the spring of the ramps.  I’ve wanted to harvest them for years, but even with guide books didn’t feel confident enough with this one.  Of course with what I know now its easy, but then they say hindsight is 20/20. Continue reading “Wild Wanderings: Ramps”

Buried Treasure

This year Halloween falls the day after a new moon: the darkest point of the month and the prime time to set intentions to root down into the Earth new intentions for transformation.  What a perfect time to bury a golden treasure!

The treasure I chose to bury has a lot to do with one of my pastimes, herbal medicine, although it is more akin to the Hippocrates quote ‘Let food be thy medicine.’  Have you guessed yet?   Continue reading “Buried Treasure”

Getting in the (Gardening) Zone

Every year sometime between when the sap starts to flow, or before, and when the first tree leaves have burst from their buds to encase the natural world in a layer of pollen and chartreuse leaflets I begin to feel the stirring in my blood.  It must be the same inner sense that tells the skunk cabbage to start blossoming, emitting massive amounts of heat and becoming the first food available  to bears as they come out of hibernation because it certainly isn’t the temperature or a massive amount of daylight.  The days are getting longer its true, but that isn’t what makes me reach for the box of seeds stored for the long winter in the basement. Continue reading “Getting in the (Gardening) Zone”

Battle: Black Walnut

The battle has begun.

After being away for most of the summer in Colorado I missed most of the food preservation that I could do to prepare for the winter.  So in addition to trading time for a share of a wild prepared food CSA, I began to hunt for opportunities to enjoy nature and gather food.

My first find was Turkey Tail mushroom, followed by Shagbark Hickory nuts, but the best find was someone who offered their Black Walnuts up for grabs.

While I realize that we did each other a favor I cleaned up all the menacing nuts from the yard, and she provided me with a new experience that I will be eating and using as medicine this winter, I am completely grateful.

First I’ve had the opportunity to deal with it.  You know those projects.  The big hairy ugly ones that you end up avoiding so long that they become obsolete or impossible so that you can ignore them and move on?  Well this had the potential to become one of those.  In fact it almost has at least once.  I’m determined however to make this work.

First I went to pick up the nuts.  Orange sized with a yellow-green color (I thought they smelled lemon like) the nuts plus their husk and hull got scooped up into bags.   All in all 29 FULL 4 gallon bags.  I had to use smaller bags in order to be able to carry them.  I’m guessing that each bag was between 2 & 3 1/2 gallons so I picked up ~58 – 87 gallons of nuts.  All in all the first part of the battle left me tired, in a good way, having enjoyed the outdoors for the better part of 4 hours.

Bags of Black walnuts on the back stairs.
Can't leave 'em outside or the animals will eat 'em before I can. What better place?

The next part of the battle began in a counter attack when my husband went to move some of the bags (that I hadn’t yet touched, dealt with, or even figured out what to do with) and let me know that we now had worms in our car.   Gross (and if you can imagine also the point at which I thought about giving up.)  Fortunately he didn’t blink, unloaded the car and got it vacuumed out for me.  What a guy.  So that meant that I was going to have to deal with them that day, because I’m not bringing a pile of rotting walnuts with worms into the house.

Sitting down outside to remove the husks (hulls?) began the next phase of my plan. I happily stomped on the walnuts to loosen this chartreuse and black somewhat soft exterior, all the while using rubber gloves to keep my hands from getting stained.  I’m not quite sure what my neighbors think of me.  Perhaps this is more normal than brewing beer during a blizzard, perhaps not…  Anyway 3 hours later and there was no light left in the sky, my fingers were freezing (November can get cold quickly,) and there were still three bags of nuts to hull.  I was also done with my patience at this point.  So I stopped for the night.  My efforts had consolidated three bag with-hulls down to one without and now I have a mere 8 bags of nuts (eventually 9) to crack.

The hulls can’t just be composted either, something in Black Walnuts inhibits plant growth… not something you want if you are growing soil.  But perfect for keeping down the vegetation at the edges of the fencing around my yard (I hope.)

Don’t ask how they’re being cracked, I don’t know.  Also, I hear you can turn the shell into medicine, which I’d love to do but have no idea how.  Battle: Black Walnut is by no means complete however  After putting in nearly 8 hours I’m not giving up (yes I’m saying this to bolster courage.)

Stay tuned here for updates.

Vacation Nightmares Reversed

-or- How to save your community garden plot after time away.

So you went on vacation or perhaps to a conference this summer and come back to find your garden a jungle. Things flourished while you were away, which is good because you can now easily feed a family of 16, unfortunately the other things that are doing well are the weeds…

Don’t fret! Your garden can depart from its current status of being in a shambles without backbreaking, sweat-running-into-your-eyes work. Here are a few tips to get back in shape before the next round of inspections without losing your mind or hurting yourself. Continue reading “Vacation Nightmares Reversed”

Deep Winter Eats

While Deep Winter is typically a time of rest, especially for local foods, this year I’ve seen an increase in activity. Many local food CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) have stepped up to creating a local food system by offering Deep Winter Shares, some going as far as freezing the bounty of the harvest for winter distribution. Various local communities (Greenfield, Northampton, Amherst, Springfield, etc.) have sponsored Winter Fairs to connect growers with the community.

My household gets our Deep Winter CSA from Red Fire Farm every two weeks and we’ve been thrilled with the offerings. To be fair, everyone I know, whether they are getting their winter share from Enterprise, Mountain View, or another local farm, has been happy with what they’ve gotten. I personally appreciate Red Fire’s variety; while we might have sweet potatoes each share they are various types and offer different flavors to the palate as well as increasing (or at least maintaining a little piece of) bio-diversity of our ecosystem. Continue reading “Deep Winter Eats”