Friday, December 26, 2014

The Day After Christmas

Dawn found me waking to a rust colored light cast on the section of Franklin Mountain I can see from my bedroom window. There on my desk is a stack of topographical maps of all these mountains which surround and protect me. They entice me and fascinate me. They intimidate me and feed me. I have more maps now than ever- ridges and valleys and watersheds and roads. Forests and rivers and settlements. Lifetimes' worth of territory to study and explore. May my knees and back, hips and lungs stay strong for so many years to come.

Our bellies are full from backyard venison rump and casseroles and sauces crafted from garden bounty. It was a gorgeous garden year- darn near to perfect. The sun shone at the right times, and the perfect amount of rain fell. The soil was generous, and we enjoyed good health and energy to tend our stuff. The deer were well fed as well, which made our Christmas dinner all the more enjoyable. Mom cooked the roast to perfection.

The year lies before me like a map to be written. The cardinal directions are marked, and there are some key landmarks set in stone, concrete, and blood. The words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart* and the labor of my wrinkling hands will fill in the rest.

Let trust be my compass and humor my faithful companion.


* God bless Pop-a-top rock and all the makeovers it has endured in this year 2014. For my part, I hope it finds it way back to Psalm 19:14 (with possibly the 4 in 14 backward again), the perfect verse for us to ponder on the windy stretch home...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

In between times

Day of the Dead offered us a special, spooky gift from the Otherworld this year- a perfect 12 inches of pure, white snow to cloak our world and allow us a window of time outside of time. Every surface was covered, and for the first day, the sky itself seemed to follow the sentiment. It was white on white on white, a perfect canvas; a magical mirror into the Day and into our hearts.

When the snow is blowing and the wind threatens death by treefall, us mortals retreat to the safety of our hearths, and often, subsequently, into the enigmas of our hearts. Day of the Dead. The in between time. The start of a new season, and, according to some, a new year. Can I still myself enough, by the warmth and safety of my hearth, to listen to the whispers of my heart?

12 inches of freshly fallen snow bequeaths to us a blank canvas, upon which both Life and Death imprint their marks. The bright coal red glow of freshly fallen maple leaves, the gold which is hickory leaves, the sassafras mittens- they all rest upon the white canvas, then slowly melt into it. Their gentle and impermanent imprints are reflective of the very nature of Life itself, making its mark for a brief moment of time, then returning to the the earth and its collective pool of Life-sustaining ingredients. The deer and coyotes leave their tracks, wandering here and there, in search for food and Life. Death begets Life. Hopey uncovers a bloody, half eaten rabbit from the snow on the ridge on Sapling Mountain. I carefully retrace my own imprints when the light lengthens and the wind feels colder and I can feel the beckon of the hearth. A young bear head rots in the snow, skull partially exposed.

Tomorrow the snow will finish melting, and autumn will pick up where it left off when a special kind of Winter intercepted it two nights ago. Tonight the moon rises over the great white blanket and its cold, long glow through the shadowy tree fingers will leave an impression upon our hearts.


Sassafras

Monday, October 27, 2014

The end of a season

The brilliant gold of the hickory leaves against the clear Carolina blue sky this time of year is about one of the most beautiful things I have seen. I walk through the woods, gazing up, gazing all around, with "Hickory Winds" playing in my mind as a soundtrack. Please enjoy.


New wood closet, stocked and ready

Bluff Mountain out there

Friday, October 3, 2014

Good night, turkeys

October 3, 2014
7:05-7:20 Turkeys fly to roost on the ridge above the garden; sounds like a lot of them.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 16

Dang gui seed head silhouettes against dusky sky, smell of honey, cool breeze harbinger of autumn, crickets singing a lullaby

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fall Squash Harvest, Phase 1

Neck pumpkin, candy roaster, butternut, sugar baby. More to come.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Conditioning

It's September 1st, and that tells me it's time for some cardio-conditioning. I'm talking about a sustained heart rate of at least 160 beats per minute for 20 or more minutes. Walking up mountains. Working out. Why? Because everything is better when the heart is healthy, strong and active. Life is more vibrant. Work is less effort. And you never know when you are going to need to run from something, or to something for that matter.

A sister's got to stay fit.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Iconic


Calories hoarded for winter's keeping
fire and ice
tassels and silk
Sun to leaf
Seed to mouth
Ritual


Friday, July 25, 2014

Water

There is a visceral sinking, a drop out in the gut, that hits the moment I realize the water system is down. This week it occurred in the form of a morning phone call from two of the World's Best Neighbors, informing me that their tank was empty and inquiring about the status of mine. They get my overflow. I had been tinkering with my ram pump system the previous week, replacing the weak link again. (The weak link is the only plastic part in the system, a check valve between the pump and the delivery line. The plastic casing keeps cracking under all the pressure. I'm going to try to get a metal one custom made in the local factory.) Skipping over the tedious details of the troubleshooting steps of repairing the system, I will focus here on the sensation I experienced when I hiked up to my reservoir, and, upon opening the lid, discovered it to be nearly empty. For me it was like a quick sinking, not dissimilar to the feeling when you drop down hill on a roller coaster. Accompanying the physical gut drop, there was some sort of cerebral switch-over that occurred with equal swiftness. I can best describe this mental shift as turning a dial from a setting that is called "Post-Industrial Modern Brain" to a setting entitled something along the lines of "Lizard Brain." Something old and animal and basic kicked in. All other pending tasks and plans melted into a descending blur down the priority list as all of my mental, physical, and hormonal resources immediately mobilized into a charged and focused mission of securing usable water. Survival instincts kicked in. And it felt like, as my dear neighbor so poignantly put it, "a punch in the gut." 

Don't get me wrong here. I live in what is sometimes referred to as a borderline temperate rain forest. Water is an abundant resource in this nook of the southern Appalachians. I personally live in a private little watershed, where a bowl shape of hills and coves collects and cleans water, conveniently dispensing it into a continuous flow of cold, clean, accessible spring water year round. I am at no eminent risk of being without water. But I find it awesome, especially with all that being said, how quickly and efficiently the body switches gears when it perceives a decline in access to basic elemental needs. I can only begin to ponder the psychological and physiological state of humans living in drought-stricken parts of the earth. 

Skip the details of fixing the system, which was relatively easy when I think of the on-going benefits and convenience that the system provides, pumping water around the clock, night and day, with no additional power inputs other than water and gravity- supplying 3 households with clean, cold life-blood straight from the teat of the Mother herself.  The feeling of buoyancy endowed to the person who realizes she has an ample reservoir of water with more flowing is the instant antidote to the previously described gut-drop fear of the empty tank. Amazing. Light. Free. My list of things to do ascends back to my awareness, but this time everything seems easier.  A shift in perception. We have water.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each element is affiliated with a major organ system in the body as well as an emotion, time of day, and time of year. Water governs the kidneys, and is associated with winter time and fear. I think I can experience this most readily when I am confronted with situations involving too much or too little water. A dry tank. A flash flood. The fear is instant, primal, real. Elemental. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Evening Devotion

One thing I love about the woods is this: the moment needs to be nothing other than the moment. No expectations or judgments.

The hooded warbler sings a song, then a portion of a song. Soon he will start to fly south. This moment he sings here in the angled golden sunlight. The sunlight casts mottled gold through the trees and leaves; it both brightens and darkens the forest, simultaneously.

Caterpillars crunch leaves above. A black-throated green warbler sings.

Hopey sits in a spot of sunlight. She is aging and will die. This moment she sits quietly with me. There are blackberries that could be picked. They hang ripe on the brambles.

The earth turns and the sunlight is shifted.

This moment is heartbreakingly beautiful. And it is just a moment.

Friday, June 27, 2014

On Guns and the Bypass (for Rosemoon)

I gave a very old man a ride to Asheville once the day after Thanksgiving in my old doo-doo brown 1979 Pontiac Catalina. He was hobbling down 25/70 very slowly in the rain on the bypass. I couldn't bear to see it, so I pulled over and asked him where he needed to go. Asheville. I was going anyways. He had his hand inside his coat holding something which I couldn't see, presumably to protect it from the rain. I said to the man, "sir are you armed?" He squinted, rain in his face, and loudly replied, "What?" I repeated myself one or two times, very loudly. He said, "no ma'am, I ain't armed," to which I politely informed him that before I would give him a ride to Asheville, I needed to see what he was holding inside his coat. 
He pulled his hand out to reveal a light bulb. "I found it on the road. It's still good" he told me. 

I told the man I would give him a ride to Asheville, but then he would need to find another ride home.

During the ride, I asked him how his Thanksgiving was. I gathered that it hadn't been much of a to-do, what with his wife being old and bed ridden. I couldn't verify if he celebrated Thanksgiving at all. When we got to Asheville I asked him where he wanted to be dropped off. He told me he needed to go to the Sheriff's station downtown to get his gun back. As I dropped him and his light bulb off, he attempted to insist that I take $5 from him for gas. I refused thinking he might need that later. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Saint Johns Day update, small scale

I was awakened last night by a beetle trying to crawl through my ample head of hair. At least it was not a wood roach, of which I occasionally find a few in the house. At least it was not a cockroach, which thank the god of all things nasty we don't have here. At least it was not a wolf spider spinning a web in my hair like what happened to RM a couple summers ago. Just a small beetle, trying to get somewhere.

I am on a food growing kick for some reason. I can't stop planting more and more seeds. It's really scratching an itch.

I am putting together samples of the Xiao Yao San tincture with an official letter explaining my philosophy and methodology for the process of making this formula, which includes cultivating some of the ingredients. These samples will be distributed to acupuncture clinics in Asheville. I am hoping that local practitioners will want to use this locally produced product to meet their Xiao Yao San needs.

I saw a man walking on 25/70 yesterday on the Marshall by-pass. He was walking rather briskly and was carrying 5 or 6 rifles over his shoulder.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mowing on Thor's Day (just when you thought the Thor tributes were on summer vacay...)

This evening, as I mowed through the jungle which is also called my yard between rain showers , I stopped after a time to refuel. As the engine quieted I heard the rumble of Thor. I couldn't tell if it was the deeply wild and prehistoric sounding beating of turkey wings flying to roost up in the woods, or the thundering rumble of another storm over beyond Franklin Mountain. It was both. I remembered it was Thor's Day. Glory. The frogs sang extra loudly, and the wet heavy smell that hung in the evening air permeated all of me like a memory. The perfume of the woods in June.
Poppies in foreground overlooking garden stretching up into cove. Thor has been good to us this year. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dang gui

This is dang gui (Angelica sinensis) thriving in my garden. The dang gui root is harvested after the second year of growth, dried, soaked in yellow rice wine, and then cooked in a wok over an open flame. It is then combined with 7 other herbs to make the Xiao Yao San traditional Chinese herbal formula. The cultivation and production of this formula is my primary project on the land here.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Apparition

This week, an apparition.
Story starts in Year 2000. I was fresh out of college, renting a house in Swannanoa with friends and working as an assistant at the Chinese Acupuncture Clinic in Asheville. Deeply interested in the medicine, and particularly the herbal parts, I endured what clearly was not a good employment fit for as long as possible just to be around the medicine and soak up as much information as possible. My favorite place was the herb room, which contained over 300 large jars of various dried roots, barks, leaves, resins, minerals, and animal parts, categorized by their effect on the human system. Clears heat. Tonifies qi. Moves blood. Yang tonic. And so forth. I tried to memorize the names, smells, tastes and functions of as many as I could. I also enjoyed providing direct care and body work to the patients- massage, cupping, moxabustion, electrical stimulation to needles, etc. I was fascinated by the dramatic effectiveness of the the treatments. However, my sense of humor got me in trouble. I just couldn't resist the frequent opportunity to crack a joke or play a prank. My antics were harmless, and (I believed) provided some balance to the overall mood of the workplace, but I was causing too much laughter and disruption in the clinic and after a few months was moved outside to the garden and lawn. As much as I love gardening, I was disappointed. I didn't get a job there to garden or mow the grass. But that was my first exposure to the cultivation of Chinese herbs. They had a small display garden with some of the medicines growing. I don't think they had Bupleurum chinense (chai hu) growing (I could be wrong), but that was one of the herbs that had captivated me in the herb room, and I decided that year that someday I wanted to grow that herb. I didn't last long in that job because a special opportunity to travel came forth, but the seed had been planted.

Flash forward to Year 2014. It is late May, and this week the time came for me to plant out my first lot of Bupleurum chinense (chai hu), which, as it turns out, is a main ingredient of the formula Xiao Yao San (Free and Easy Wanderer) that I am producing here. I planted the seeds a year ago, and waited patiently for their delayed and very spotty germination all season long. As they germinated, I carefully transplanted the seedlings into small pots, then stepped them up as they grew in the greenhouse nursery. I allowed the plants to overwinter in the nursery, and waited until blackberry winter seemed to be over before I planted them out.

It was Monday. I had a wheelbarrow full of chai hu plants and was about to wheel them up the hill to the south facing terrace I had prepared for them, as they like well-drained, sunny to part shade, drier conditions. Hopey was resting in the grass near me. From the corner of my eye I detected something white and moving to my right. I looked down to witness a miniature white poodle, shaved and groomed, trotting right by me with cool  and utter confidence. It had emerged from the woods behind me and trotted right on through, between Hopey and me, without looking at us, acknowledging our existence or stopping. Hopey did not growl or bark, which those of you who know her can attest is unheard of. The poodle trotted right on out the driveway and was gone as quickly as it had appeared. It was clearly the strangest animal sighting since I have lived here, and appeared at a most auspicious moment. I live in a very tucked away place, surround by lots of woods, and nowhere near a poodle.

Word travels in a rural community. Dave called Todd who called Greg who called the Mechos and me. I don't know who called Dave. There was an elder woman down on 212 close to Delmus's old store who was pining for her 14 yr old missing poodle and distressed for its safety. Luckily, by the end of the night, the poodle has returned home safely, and the lady was very relieved. I am quick certain that poodle was wore slap out after its lengthy romp around. And somehow, I am quite certain that the apparition bestowed a blessing of some strange sort upon my first crop of Bupleurum.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Blackberry Winter

The brambling wild blackberries behind the house that I tried unsuccessfully over the winter to knock back to a reasonable distance of encroachment are in full, humbly majestic bloom. This morning's temperatures are just this side of frosty, and we all are finding ourselves re-lighting our wood stoves to temper the chilly blow of blackberry winter. I am kicking myself for prematurely setting out my peppers and squash. Yawn, yawn. Who cares?
Despite this cold snap, spring is well underway here at the big spring. The 2014 maypole was wrapped two weeks ago on a perfect spring evening, nestled in a lovely cove amidst banks of sunny Senecio blooms and elusive and blatant wild turkey courtship activity.




Jeff Ashton, modern Wild Man extraordinaire, helped us summon the Blue Man this year. He emerged from the woods, and from the depths of our collective psyches, and danced around the maypole dancers, offering us a reminder of our wild selves. Adorned with furs, feathers, moss and one surprising horn, he wielded garden tools made of wood, bone and leather, summoning visions of the special period of time of human ancestry when people first discovered cultivation. What a trip! Once the ribbons were wrapped and tied off, and it was time to feast, a certain young maypole regular pushed the Blue Man back into the woods, where he retreated into the shadows until we summon him again next year.


The Blue Man is pushed back into the woods
Some children cried, because the Blue Man is a little scary. But he's not too scary. He's the kind of awe-inspiring character who can be intimidating, but alluring all the same. Thanks Jeff, for helping us summon him this year!
Beautiful strawberry cake by Rachel Brownlee, decorated with ribbons by my sweet sister in law Angie for the occasion

Other spring news- The first 2014 reishi mushroom (Ganoderma tsugae) has been harvested here by me. There are more getting ready. Double extractions with alcohol and spring water will be made.

The indigo buntings and phoebes are noisily trying to raise families just near my house. This means early morning wake up calls daily, like it or not. Other close-by summer residents who I assume are nesting here too include hooded warblers, black throated green warblers, and blue grey gnatcatchers. The parulas must have just passed through this year. Pileated woodpeckers' population is healthy.

This place has been enjoying a gentle increase in human activity since winter melted. The maypole welcomed a large group of celebrators, and just this week Julie brought the twins and baby Daisy for a 3 day visit. We played with toads, bug hunted, went for a walk and found a black snake, cut some bamboo and made a trellis in the garden, and played with some other kids in Spring Creek in Hot Springs. It was a blast!

Forest and Lily getting silly at the bamboo trellis project
Chinese herbs are growing. Dang gui angelica  and bo he mint are thriving, peonies are looking good, even the licorice is chugging along in it's third year. I have a nursery of good looking bupleurum (chai hu) that is about to go in the ground. Wish me luck! I'm trying to germinate some Atractylodes (bai zhu). Red rooted sage, ballonflower and Chinese skullcap are doing good. I'm also doing ashwagandha again. 

This concludes the blackberry winter update. Thank you for your time. 


Monday, April 28, 2014

Signs of the Season


Asparagus with three Maypoles, the middle being this year's


Friday, April 25, 2014

For Siena

For the newest member of the family, Siena Cirillo Talbot:

All has been consecrated.
The creatures in the forest know this,
The earth does, the seas do, the clouds know
as does the heart
full of love.

Strange a priest would rob us of this knowledge
and then empower himself with the ability
to make holy
what already is.

                              -St. Catherine of Siena

Monday, April 7, 2014

That's How Daddy Spanks 'Em

Someone had to say "yes" when asked to be bingo caller for the fundraiser chili supper and bingo in Hot Springs March 28.
Someone had to slap on some blue eye shadow and feather earrings and yell those numbers out loudly and clearly.
"B-12! B-12!"
Someone had to say "yes" to cornbread and "no" to kidney beans and then "yes" again to BINGO Ingles cake.
Someone had to give it her all. Low ceilings. Flourescent lighting. Folding tables.
"N-36! N-36!"
Someone had to say "yes" to Mary B, who after winning two prizes and before stepping out into the springtime night, leaned in close and asked, voice low, eyebrows raised, "You want to know what earrings I was gonna wear tonight?"
"Yes!"
Raccoon penis bone earrings.
Went out dancing with a friend and her 8 month old pet monkey.
Monkey says "yes" to slow dancing. Monkey says "yes" to fast dancing.
Monkey tries desperately to grab raccoon penis bone earrings during fast dance.
Mary B says "no" and puts raccoon penis bone earrings in purse. Raccoon penis bone earrings are forgotten about. Temporarily. Boys used to trap raccoons for furs. Man at trade show made earrings.
Them things was this big (show of pinky finger).
That's how daddy spanks 'em.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Keeping Your Forest Healthy, a presentation by Kesi Stoneking

Preface: I had the opportunity to attend last weekend's Organic Growers' School in Asheville as a volunteer blog writer. The deal was, I got to attend a full day of classes (4 sessions) free of charge in exchange for writing summaries of 2 of the classes for the school's future promotional material. I chose to attend a full day of classes in the "Forestry" track, thereby sitting in the same chair in the same classroom all day. Each of the four classes covered a unique aspect of the very broad category of "Forestry" and offered me a variety of perspectives and new ways to think about being a forest land owner. I walked away with a sense of overwhelm at the responsibilities and possibilities of my sweet 20-acre primarily forested homestead, as well as some specific ideas of additions to the "things to do" list.



Keeping Your Forest Healthy, a presentation by Kesi Stoneking
Saturday, March 8 2:00



This Power Point presentation, delivered by the sensible, knowledgeable and down-to earth Haywood Community College Forestry instructor Kesi Stoneking, was not for the faint of heart! A far cry from the feel-good, heart chakra-massaging nature love circles that were no doubt simultaneously occurring elsewhere at the School, Kesi's talk dove straight into some of the real stresses, threats and killers of our native forests, particularly those who are caused by human activity. She particularly focused on the identity, prevention and control of the most destructive tree diseases, forest insects and invasive exotic plants. To be blount, it was a bit of a dismal lecture, but I agree with the words of Ms Stoneking herself: "Knowledge is a good thing."

To start with, Kesi defined a healthy forest, some of the key features being: the presence of tree and plant species suitable to the site and area, biological and structural diversity, and the following well-functioning ecological processes: water cycle, carbon cycle, nutrient cycle and soil formation. She then moved into a brief discourse of natural and unnatural forest disturbances, defining the different in function of disturbances such as dead trees, fire, wind, ice and native pests and diseases versus pollution, soil erosion and degradation, non-native insects and diseases and invasive exotic plants. In a nutshell, the natural disturbances create regeneration, provide habitats and "edge" environments and renew old forests, while the unnatural (human caused) disturbances disrupt the balance by diminishing diversity, quickly killing off key species and causing wider spread destruction.

The meat of the lecture was the section in which Kesi outlined the most destructive threats to our WNC forests and, when applicable, discussed prevention and control measures. Her selections of top forest destroyers? Here's the moment you've been waiting for. The winners are...


Diseases: Dogwood Antracose, Thousand Canker Disease (on black walnuts)- high threat
               Laurel Wilt, Sudden Oak Death- some threat

Non-Native Insect Pests: Gypsy moth, Emeral Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, Balsam Wooly
     Adelgid

Invasive Exotic Plants: lots! but her top two evils were Oriental Bittersweet and Japanese Stilt Grass  
     (Microstegium)


Each of her examples was accompanied with an explanation of the history of the problem, a breakdown of how the disease or insect or invasive exotic plants thrives and destroys, and breath-taking photographs of destruction. In all cases, the species was introduced by humans, either intentionally or unintentionally, and able to thrive due to lack of natural predatorial or competitive stress, thereby leaving huge swaths of destruction to native forests and some of their key species. In general, there seems to be little that we as landowner and forest lovers can do to affect the problems on the large scale that they are occurring. Scientists and forestry professionals are seeking biological controls to introduce on large scales to combat some of the insect infestations, and preventative and mechanical approaches are used to slow the destruction.

Want more information? You'll have to take a class. Or perhaps you could read one of the books Kesi recommended on the topic: Insects and Diseases of Trees in the South and A Field Guide for Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests, by Jim Miller and associates. Both are free books available through the Forest Service.

As a landowner, I walked away with a couple of tangible and manageable things that I can do in the face of very large problems which are far beyond any reach of my control.

1. I can get a Forest Management Plan. A trained forester can come to my property, look at all factors, study the history of the use of the land, and spell out a long-term plan for the use of the land, focusing on the health of the forest. This will also give me a tax break.

2. I can bump up controlling the invasive exotic species on my land on my priority list. I do have patches of both Oriental Bittersweet and Japanese Stilt Grass here, and now I have some knowledge and strategy for slowing their spread, and hopefully ultimately eliminating them. Sounds like it might be time for a work party...

Kesi's lectures was not uplifting, or really even inspiring. But someone needs to be the bearer of bad news. And Kesi did it well, even gracefully.

Wild Nuts by Osker Brown

Wild Nuts, by Osker Brown
Saturday, March 8 4:00


"Honestly, I have had ecstatic experiences crawling around the forest floor collecting acorns."
                                                                                                     -Osker Brown

Osker Brown is bonkers over wild nuts. And I don't blame him. Come the fall of the year, I, too find myself growing rather excited with the possibilities of so much protein, fat, caloric value and flavor at my fingertips- free of charge! This past fall I picked every hazelnut my fingers could reach, and I also collected storage tubs of what surely was a bumper crop of black walnuts. In years past I have hoarded Chinese chestnuts to roast and enjoy with winter company, and growing up in the piedmont, I munched on my fair share of pecans foraged from the row of pecan trees growing in the median of the main street in our neighborhood.

My amateur wild nut eating efforts just got schooled and are ready to kick it up a few notches come next fall! Osker Brown, the same guy who blisses out on crawling around in the ground looking for acorns, presented a very organized, well-informed, thorough and cohesive lecture about the logistics of foraging, preparing and eating wild nuts on a serious scale. He and his family live on some wooded acreage in the Mars Hill area which they have named Glorious Forest Farm and apparently are well on their way to figuring out the art of subsisting on a diet largely comprised of wild foods, particularly nuts. He presented the key players to us in order of subsistence importance to him and delivered practical information about identification, nutrition, habitat, harvesting, processing, storage and use of four main types of nuts found in abundance in the Southern Appalachian forests. His selections were: American hazelnut (Corylus americana), acorns (Quercus spp.), hickory (Carya spp.), and walnuts/butternuts (Juglans nigra, J. cinerea).
From roasting and salting, to grinding for flour, to blending for nut milk and pressing for oil, the gamut of uses for these humble nuts is vast and glorious. Osker's talk served to fill in the gaps of missing information about wild nut foraging and preparing needed to make that leap from theoretically cool to tangibly awesome!

With so many of us realizing the joy and importance of procuring our own food supplies, often the whole world of natural fat and protein can seem intimidating, controversial and sometimes unattainable. Even if we are animal eaters, we don't always have the ability to get our teeth into some good, clean wild or well-raised meat. The meat of our native nuts is, in my opinion, an excellent addition to the staples of our clean home-grown veggie staples, for both omnivores and vegetarians alike. For those of us with land, Osker urged us to start planting these native species near the home for future ease of harvest. For the rest, he suggests getting out there into public spaces and finding or creating your own nutty honey-holes from which to collect the collective bounty. I was also proud to hear him suggest dabbling in the enjoyment of some squirrel meat now and then if the nut-collecting competition ever gets a little too steep...

I have pages of precious detailed notes which I can consult later in the year, after the frenzied months of gardening, freezing, canning, and swimming has muddied my memory of that Saturday in March. Come next fall I will be much better equipped to get out there and get my nut on! If you are the least bit interested in nut eating, I suggest you take a gander over to the Glorious Forest Farm website, and sign up to take his class at next year's OGS. In the meantime, you can keep yourself busy with Osker's selected reading: Nature's Garden by Samuel Thayer and Wildflower and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont by Timothy P. Spira. And if you're out and about in the next couple weeks, look for the roadside lovemaking endeavors of the American hazelnuts in all their catkin glory!

American hazelnut with catkins (photo from Glorious Forest Farm website)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thor's whimsy

Thor must have been in a special mood this morning for he dished us out a most delectable February thunderstorm, washing away the final remnants of last week's biggy snow storm and subsequent ice. "Enough," I imagine Thor thinking upon rising just before dawn this morning in Valhalla, "Let them see the ground and remember me."
The thunder rumbled graciously, followed by a most magnificent crepescular light show, the striking of Thor's hammer creating a peculiar pink glow of electricity reflecting off of the blanket of snow. Pink flashes in the darkness lighting up a pre-dawn half-winter/half-spring scenario is what I am talking to you about, people. It rocked.
Thor, if my speculations of your morning are grossly off-base, please have mercy on my mortal soul. And thanks for the storm. Like I told the people...it rocked! And I drove the driveway this afternoon- ice free!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Harbinger

Still eating last season's pumpkins, only looky what my eyes beheld upon cutting into one of these bad boys last Sunday:



Spring is upon us. The seeds don't lie. Neither does the sun, finding its way higher and higher in the sky as the month rolls on. The screech owls don't lie, their nightly ghost-like whinny increasing in frequency. Nor do the daffodils, their little erect tips reaching out of the thawing earth toward the sky. Yin is beginning to yield to yang. Their perfect balance will smile for a picture soon, on the vernal equinox.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Haiku for a friend

Lady riding hood
Toting more than just cookies
through the woods to Gram's

A song, a story,
Generosity displayed.
Tea party legacy.

A snow white quilt,
A pink veil, a red ruby.
Mother and daughter.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Neighbors

Today has been frigid. The thermometer read zero upon my rising this morning, and I believe it didn't get much out of the teens this afternoon. Tonight was cold enough that my walk home (from the blacktop-the driveway being too icy to drive) caused my face to sting and feel frozen still into a serious face expression. Lately my existence here at home has seemed very solitary, what with my week of self-quarantine with the flu and the snowy and icy weather that inhibits ease of comings and goings to the house. When I am holed up inside, cozying up to the woodstove next to the snoring hound dog, it is all too quickly that I lose perspective about my place in the scheme of things out here in this sweet little tucked away watershed.
I need simply to step outside to fetch another armload of logs for my reminder that I am very much not alone here.
Last night on my walk home I was startled by the white flash of a deer's tail, immediately followed by the scurrying crunch of hooves in the snow.
This morning, when it was zero, I was greeted by the sweet four-toned melody of one brave chickadee. It sounded like springtime, and the heart was warmed.
Tonight my lullaby is a handful of coyotes howling under the cold, clear starry display of night sky- their cries like souls from the Otherworld, a perfect soundtrack for mid-winter dreaming.

Here directly I will feed the fire one last time and head up to slumber, grateful for all my neighbors. I hope they stay warm enough tonight.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Epiphany

ephiphany: 1. Epiphany- A Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus of the Gentiles as represented by the Magi, traditionally observed on January 6. 2. A revelatory manifestation of a divine being. 3a. A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something. b. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization.

                                    (American Heritage College Dictionary)

Midnight approaches on this day of the Epiphany. According to my thermometer, the record low for Janury 6th has been reached. As I go to bed it is -1 (F). I spent the weekend creating worst-case scenario plans for my family for severe winter weather and brutal cold. I will not lie; there were some above-average anxiety levels involved. However, as RM so eloquently put it today, perhaps anxiety in the face of dangerous weather is an example of anxiety serving its best purpose. Maybe the marriage of my primal animal instincts and my human ability to plan complex strategies is a beautiful thing, and, more importantly, could be highly useful if the power were to go out when the temperatures are below zero and the wind is raging. Maybe there is a fine line between neurotic thinking and smart thinking.

Today, I spent the "warm" hours of the day getting the pipes and the plant nursery ready for the burly night. When all plants were tucked in the greenhouse and the crawl space was closed up and heated and there was a beefy supply of firewood stacked on the porch and all the necessary hollerhood faucets were trickling, I retired to my delightfully warm, wood-heated house and revelled in the comfort. Believing all the bases were covered, my mind was free to wander back through my small but potent memory bank of the handful of other times I have met zero or sub-zero temperatures. Extreme weather experiences form colonies of vivid memories which perhaps dwell in the part of the brain reserved for personal epiphanies... ...Hearts awakening. Lungs pierced by the clear sharpness of the cold. Legs running. Sparks flying when steel hits steel. Full moon casting ethereal tones of blue and white over Shenandoah mountains and valleys. Somewhere in middle America a fire burns a tipi to the ground. Hearts breaking. Horses drawing a carriage face the New England wind. Red sun ascends like our Lord rising over Swiss Alps, its light casting red glowing diamonds over a sea of ice. Sleepless eyes enlivened. A scintilla of hope finds its way through the phone lines.