I feel my best when I’m outside, among the trees, in a meadow, or beside a stream. Where I can see the sun shining, feel the wind blowing, and hear the birds singing.
Add some wild edibles or medicinal plants to harvest and I’m in heaven.
Yesterday we picked Queen Anne’s Lace, also known as wild carrot, latin name: Daucus carota.
There was a wild apple tree along the edge of the field and we picked a few that were within our reach.
I pulled out my grandfather’s Kabar and sliced one for us to eat right there beneath the tree. I can still see him doing this, removing the knife from his pocket whenever the need arose and peeling the blade out. Preparedness goes a long way in this life.
Once home, we placed the flower heads out to let the critters wander away and then steeped the blossoms in boiled water.
We chopped the little apples into chunks and placed them in water to boil.
We combined the juice and the wild carrot tea, added some sugar and reluctantly, some pectin and our yield is 6 half pints of Queen Anne’s Lace and wild apple jelly.
And we’ll think of those fragrant apples warming in the sun and the field of seemingly endless white blossoms when we slather this jelly on toast or biscuits.
Get outside and find something wild.
This week we noticed the mornings have been cooler. It’s mid-August and the thought of autumn is in the back of all our minds.
But the leaves of witch hazel trees are still vibrant green.
And kids are still on summer vacation.
Sunflowers are still bright yellow.
The shade of the forest is still a welcome relief.
But the corn stalks are tall.
And catnip plants have flowered.
The world is bountiful.
A small turkey tail and reishi harvest will mean hot tea tonight.
And meal planning for the coming week.
Summer may be on its way out but after canning these peaches, we’ll have a little taste of summer in the winter!
Plants nourish our bodies and our minds. They feed us and heal us.
Once you start to identify the different species of plants, that “wall of green” disappears.
Jeruselem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
Black cherry (Prunus serotina)
Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
Blue vervain (Verbena hastata)
During a short walk down the road from us, we harvested black elderberry, boneset, purple loosestrife, and blue vervain. We’ll dry these and use them for medicine.
This elderberry tincture will provide us with a preventative medicine for flu and colds in the winter months.
These herbs (parsley, chives, holy basil, basil and thyme) were collected from the little garden in our front yard.
We used the herbs to make omelets and served them with home baked bread, toasted, and slathered with lots of butter.
Getting out into nature and learning to identify and utilize the plants around you can positively effect your life in so many ways. The more we understand, connect to and appreciate the world around us, the more we are willing to protect it.
Strawberry season for us in New England is a few weeks away.
There really is something about sitting in a field full of strawberry plants, the sun shining down on your face, the birds singing and the smell of life in the air.
I’ve always loved quiet moments, those moments you smile to yourself because you just know they’re special. Like when the sun shines down at a certain angle and you swear you see angels coming down from heaven.
Or when you smell lilacs in the air or when you hear waves lapping on the shore, those simple pleasures in life that so many of us take for granted.
Do me a favor and go strawberry picking this year. Go when there’s not a lot of people, when your family will have a row to yourselves. Sit or squat down among the berries. Feel the warmth of the sun and listen to the birds up above, watch the wind blow the leaves all around and pick those bright red juicy strawberries.
Maybe try one of these recipes with your bounty:
May brings morning rain on rosa multiflora.
And morning light on made beds.
May brings awakening wild food.
And blooming forest floors.
The colorful copper birch leaves emerge.
Violets come into view.
May is when we gather the petals.
Simple syrup will sweeten drinks for weeks to come.
May brings soft breezes through open windows.
And May brings wishes.
We all have or have had one. The woman who gave birth to us and/or took care of us, whether we appreciate her or resent her, she helped us grow into the people we are today, good or bad.
I hope that you are in contact with your mother if you can be. I hope you have put aside squabbles and have forgiven her for what she should or shouldn’t have done according to your own standards.
Mothers don’t have all the answers, I know because I am one. I do the best I can do, as did my mother. Even at the age of 33, I still held onto resentment for my mother and then she suddenly died. I felt so much guilt about it. But that is life. We need someone to blame for our misgivings and mothers are perfect targets. I am okay with being that target for my own child. And I’m sure my mother was okay with it too.
When I was a kid, my mom was the best friend type of mom, but I didn’t want her to be my best friend. She wanted to be the cool mom, but I didn’t think she was cool.
Now, I want to call her and tell her about my day. I want to make her feel loved and happy and full of pride for what she accomplished in life. But I can’t. Because she’s gone.
If your mom is alive, call her. If your mom is down the road, go visit her.
Mother’s Day. It’s a good day to forgive.
Bike tires on dirt roads
The wind whipping past my ears
Listening for frogs
Jumping in the babbling brooks along the way
To The Farm
Red Barn, yellow house
Tall grass in need of mowing
Steps made out of granite, framed by Brown-eyed Susans
Two old rocking chairs adorn the porch, strewn with fire wood and kindling
A black cast-iron wood-burning stove in the kitchen
Window above the sink
A view of the clothes line, yellowing pillow cases waving in the warm breeze
Floorboards creak, rugs heavy with dirt
Outside, crumbling rock walls section off meadows
Meadows dotted with tiny yellow and orange hawkweed flowers
Sheep to sheer and hay to haul
Wood to chop and birds to watch
This is summer in Gilmanton
March in New England is a fickle beast.
Temperatures in the 60’s with sunshine one week and 18 inches of wet, heavy snow the next, (great book reading weather!)
I just finished a great little novel by Jenna Woginrich. The $4.99 ebook is called Birchthorn. It’s suspenseful with great characters and plot twists. There’s a scene in it where one of the characters, Eli, has a pot of potato soup on the stove.
Now, I have potato soup on the brain.
Since every great soup has to have a great accompaniment, we will start with bread.
Milk, honey and a little butter are warmed and yeast is added.
This mixture is combined with flour and salt.
While Marcy sleeps next to the radiator, I work the dough in a bowl with a wooden spoon.
It’s then covered with a towel and placed in a warm place to rise.
Next, potatoes are peeled and cubed.
We add just enough water to cover the spuds and season with a bit of salt and pepper.
Then, comes the bacon…
Listen to those three halved pieces of glorious bacon sizzle.
Every potato soup needs a gorgeous little purple onion.
After an hour, the dough has risen and we are ready to knead.
It only takes a few flicks of the wrist to get a smooth soft ball of dough.
That ball of dough is placed in a cast iron skillet and allowed to rise again while the oven comes up to 350 degrees.
Once the potatoes are done, they are lightly mashed along with the water that didn’t evaporate.
A couple tablespoons of butter, the bacon-fat-sauteed chopped onion and that glorious bacon are added to the pot of potatoes.
All that’s left to do is add a little more salt and pepper and place the pot over low heat, stirring every now and then.
A warm loaf fresh out of the oven.
And a hearty meal.
Take that March, you fickle beast.
Place milk, butter and honey in a microwave safe bowl or glass measuring cup and heat for 90 seconds. Sprinkle yeast over top and let sit for 5 minutes or until bubbly.
Stir flour and salt together in a medium sized bowl. Pour milk and honey mixture over top and mix with a wooden spoon and fully combined.
Place a tea towel over top of the bowl and let rise until double in size, about an hour.
Once risen, on a floured surface, knead dough until smooth, about a minute.
Preheat oven to 350F. Place the ball of dough in a cast iron skillet and make a cross on top to let the fairies escape. Place the tea towel over top to let the dough rest while the oven comes up to temperature.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Slice/ break and serve.
Place peeled and cubed potatoes into a medium sized pot and cover with water just to the top of the potatoes. Add some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, turn burner down to medium-high and let simmer until soft.
Meanwhile, cook bacon slices in a skillet until crispy. Cut into pieces. Place diced onion into bacon grease left in the skillet. Saute on medium-low until translucent.
Mash cooked potatoes with remaining water, leaving some chunks. Add milk, butter, bacon and onions to the pot. Stir to combine and place back on the burner set to low, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, if you like.
Serve with shredded cheddar and warm bread.
The three of us picked acorns last fall under the thinning leaves of a red oak. We made sure to leave behind the ones with holes, cracks or stains.
We placed them on a tray in a single layer by the woodstove to dry. And even though we were careful with our selection, a few wiggly acorn weevil larvae still found their way home with us. We looked through the acorns on the trays for holes and threw out the ones that the larvae had wiggled out of. After a couple days of drying we processed a few cups for pancakes and cookies. We stored the remainder in a bucket for later use.
Properly dried acorns can be stored for years.
About a week ago, we started on another batch.
We use a slab of wood and a stone to crack them open.
We check each one for quality, even though we did a great job when collecting, we still find a couple of the nut meats with sign of weevil infestation.
Using a hand crank mill, we ground down the nuts.
This is what one pass through will give you. We grind it at least 2x for a finer flour.
Then we wait. We soak the ground acorns in cold water to leach out the tannin, changing the water morning and night, until it no longer tastes bitter or astringent. The chaff will float to the top and can be poured out. The finer the grind, the faster the leach. This batch took nine days.
This morning, we placed the leached acorn flour in a towel over a strainer.
And working in small batches, we wrung out as much moisture as possible.
We will keep the acorn flour in the refrigerator since we will be using it over the next few days.
Acorn imparts a nutty flavor and a great texture to waffles. They are light and airy.
Acorns are nutrient dense, containing complete protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Preheat waffle maker.
Whisk flours with baking powder, salt and sugar. Add milk, egg and oil and whisk just until incorporated. Lumps are okay.
Pour about a half cup of batter onto waffle iron (amount is dependent on your waffle iron).
Cook until done. Enjoy with pure maple syrup or peanut butter and bananas.
For more information on acorn processing, check out Arthur Haines’ website: http://www.arthurhaines.com/