Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spring 2012: Let the Foraging Begin!

I have so much I want to document, but I have so little time to myself. How so many mothers do it alone full time & year round without going mad is beyond me. I have been working diligently on Tennessee's "Spiritual Warfare" remediation. Somehow, I let it get out of hand -- I think I need to give myself a word count limit or something. I also have at least ten other projects in progress -- it is no wonder I cannot concentrate. 

This Thursday's prompt at Pagan Blog Prompts (a worthy project, but one in which I rarely get to participate) is "Foraging." Since I have wanted to write a bit about what we have been up to, I decided to preempt the remediation program (yet again) & write some notes on what the Wee Ones & I have been finding. 

In the "Dreaded 'Guru Board'" post I made this assertion about foraging: 
"As I learn more about food & foraging (& do more of it) I realize that the act of searching for & procuring food, for myself, for my family, for friends or for barter is a rich & deeply spiritual process. (The same applies to recreational fungi hunting.) It requires a shift in mindset, an opening up to your immediate surroundings in a way we don't generally do in the day-to-day. It requires an awareness -- a mindfulness similar to what we seek through meditation. Perhaps this is part of what I find so entrancing about it. It also requires a certain amount of magick & I am pleased to have found affirmation of this from another mycophile. In her book Mycophilia, Eugenia Bone has this to say about the foraging experience: '...I felt like finding mushrooms was a kind of conjuring: If I concentrated hard enough, if I longed to find one deeply enough, the mushroom would reveal itself to me...' Exactly."
As I wrote that passage, I realized how much I wanted to make foraging a more significant, year-round part of my life & also share it with my family. I wasn't sure how to begin here during the high desert's spring, especially since all my foraging activities up until now have revolved around Alaska's autumn season. I opted to set about with that which I know & is close to home.

Keeping it Simple & Close to Home: Dandelions, Dryland Fish & Devil's Eyelashes

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)

One of new favourite haunts is Forageporage's Blog. I think I might have found it in connection with my Now, Forager fetish. I really cannot begin to cover the scope of this blog here, so I suggest you just go see it yourself but I will give you a taste of her take on foraging:

"Foraging is work. It’s a lot of work. Foraging is fun work, dirty work, long, tiring work; albeit ultimately satisfying work. It will take you further than than you thought possible. Foraging is a time thief. Hours dissappear. Months fly by. It’s consuming and addictive! Foraging begins with a question; as in: 'Hey, what’s that weed?'" -- Forageporage

Sometimes just starting simply is best, especially when one has children in tow. When "Porage" offered up a tutorial & her recipe for Liquid Sunshine, I knew it was something that would work for all of us -- even The Changeling. 

Dandelion petals (Taraxacum officinale)
I don't think it is necessary to get into the details of dandelion foraging, health benefits, etc. here because it has been so beautifully done over at Forageporage's Blog. Why be redundant? However, I will mention that because dandelions are found close to home, aren't prickly, don't have poisonous parts & don't stain anything too terribly, they are great for foraging with kids. Also, like Amanita muscaria, they love schoolyards, so if you have an in with the groundskeeper like I do, you can convince him to delay mowing for a few days while you gather up your bounty. My other piece of advice is don't forget them in the car on a hot afternoon. I know this from experience. Saggy, shriveled, tragedy is what you'll get for all that time spent picking. 

Dried dandelion petals.
So far, we have filled & dried three baking dishes worth of petals & filled one old fashioned Mason jar with them -- we have yet to make the tea. It has been fun & we figured out a couple of tricks: 1) To quickly remove the petals from the bracts, pinch the base of the bract & roll it between your forefinger & thumb. If done properly, the petals should just fall out of the bract. 2) If you live in a dry area, a hot attic or black car (decrepit Volvos are nice for this) with the windows cracked will work wonders as a dehydrator. Since I began writing this, Porage has posted a recipe for Dandelion Rice Pudding, so more flower picking is clearly compulsory.

Dryland Fish (Morchella spp.)

"Dryland Fish" is a clever name for the Morel mushroom & it just happened to allow me to indulge in alliteration, a literary device I find simultaneously annoying & irresistible. The Morel is among the most beloved of mushrooms. I personally find them slightly unsettling, but I have yet to figure out why. Morels do whatever they want. They follow no rules. Just when you think you have them figured out, they appear in the last place you would ever expect to find them. For several years I have made trips up a certain canyon after the rainstorms to check burn sites for these beasties & have never, ever found any. But go check my lawn under the Siberian Elm trees & there you will find them. Are Morels known for loitering under such trees? Absolutely not.

Our surviving 2012 Morel (Morchella spp.)
In 2010, the first of these mushrooms arrived in our yard. Weird, I thought. But I did not expect them to return. In 2011, The Changeling arrived & I was unable to water. No Morels. This year, we got an irrigation share & I have watered like a maniac (comparatively speaking). Six Morels have seen fit to line up in a row in the lawn. Awesome. But before we realized it, the lawnmower crushed them. Not awesome. Is this foraging? I don't know. Can Morels be cultivated? Yes, but I didn't do this intentionally. So is it really cultivation, or very, very local foraging? 

2012 Morel (Morchella spp.)
Ready for some heat & pasture butter.
Last year, The Godfather took a trip up north & came back with an enormous bin of morels which he gave to me because he likes collecting, but hates mushrooms. Sadly, The Changeling weighed about 4 pounds & was attached to an oxygen tank & various monitors. There was no way in Helvella I could be cleaning & prepping those babies, so they shriveled & some even rotted. But I kept the bin because it was too painful to give up. Without much hope for results, we tossed them about the yard a few months ago in the hopes of seeing some opportunistically appear in the future. We shall see. I was encouraged by a recent post at the Mushroom Blog entitled, "Growing Morels by Accident":
"...morels spontaneously grow in the yard where he used to clean them. They just grow in the grass. There are lots of fruit trees in the yard, and more of them grow under a sugar pear tree than anywhere else, but I am not sure if that has to do with the tree or because that is the place he most often stood to clean them..."
Excellent. If it works, I won't call it "very, very local foraging" anymore, I'll call it incidental agriculture.  

Devil's Eyelashes (Tribulus terrestris)

If I was a believer, I would call these plants "Hellspawn." But since I am not, I call them "Goatsheads." (I used Devil's Eyelashes purely for the alliteration.) Other folks may call them Puncturevine, Tackweed, Devil's Thorn, among many other monikers. By any name, it is still a daemon in plantform.  

Goatshead plant & flower (Tribulus terrestris)
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
The Goatshead plant looks innocent enough & even produces diminutive, somewhat attractive flowers & fernlike leaves. What makes them so contemptible is their seeds, or "nutlets" which bear a remarkable resemblance to the heads of tiny, malevolent, sharp-horned, pointy-chinned creatures. The plants produce these nutlets in droves. Anywhere these seeds are present, all fleshy parts, inflated objects & anything capable of being impaled, are at risk. Kudzu is a menace, but this plant is downright mean. In our town, if you see a dog, cat, human, llama, or anyone else limping along the road, there is an easy explanation: Goatsheads. If you see someone picking at their feet, their dog's feet, a friend's feet, they are picking out Goatsheads. Folks with blowtorches on the right-of-way, in their yards, in their neighbor's yards? Goatsheads. Sudden bouts of profuse cursing among the bare & stocking-footed? Probably Goatsheads.

So why on Earth am I collecting these vile little nutlets? 

Goatsheads (Tribulus terrestris) nutlets
Well, I am not gathering them for the plant's traditional medicinal uses which generally revolve around increasing testosterone levels. Intrestingly, recent studies have shown that extracts from this plant administered to animal subjects do in fact effectively increase testosterone (& other related hormone levels) which in turn, produces aphrodisiacal effects. Interesting, but really not my angle.

I am collecting them for Sciento-Magick, of course. I have a theory I am working with which stems from the thoughts I wrote in the "Sciento-Magick: Re-thinking Correspondences I" post. It follows this reasoning:
"Authenticity of the present lore, symbolism & correspondences aside, I have been developing a different approach... by combining the discoveries from personal connection... with knowledge of its role in mythologies, its occurrence/importance throughout history & (here we get Sciento) the knowledge (as applicable) we have of its biology, physiology, chemistry, etc. combined with its role within ecological systems, we can develop a comprehensive set of associations that truly reflect a thing's rich, complex nature.
So I'm onto these punks & I think they can have a place in certain types of sympathetic magick

Besides, the fewer there are to germinate, the happier everyone in my neighborhood will be. Community service, right?

A Final Note: There is a fantastic professional forager's (how does one get that job?!?!) blog called Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager. I highly recommend it -- for a variety of reasons including its striking images, novel ideas & wonderful, innovative recipes.

1 comment:

Connie Mitan said...

What a lovely post! I would love to collect dandelions (I found a neat dandelion wine recipe I want to try), I just haven't made the time yet.
Goatsheads are truly evil, especially to the bike rider. We have them in abundance here as well, and I actually bought kevlar-lined tires for my bike so I wouldn't constantly get flats. It's nice to see you've got a plan for them.
Glad you could make it to PBP this week!

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