Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I think this story about the Hemloft is fascinating, and I love the tiny, egg-shaped dwelling in the trees.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

You Light up my Life

I read about this ultra-simple, DIY oil lamp over at Root Simple recently and immediately made one. It's awesome. I brought it to the yurt I stayed in last weekend with a couple of friends. It works really well, and just like the post says, it's a great way to use up stale or off herb-infused oils.

It makes we want to break out into song.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sometimes it Happens

Sometimes it happens like this.

You have something else in mind for the afternoon, like gathering stinging nettle, and you're biking along the path when a carpet of purple catches your eye. The violets are blooming! You slow down just enough to get a sense of size and readiness and suddenly you are enveloped in sweet, heady perfume. Yes, without a doubt it's violet season. Your heart sings and your brain effortlessly switches gears to process this new information.

Ok, the nettles will stand being picked first and do just fine waiting in the bike basket. The delicate violet flowers definitely need to be picked last and returned home as quickly as possible. This decision gets made in a split second. The bike carries you on, you haven't stopped. You gather the nettles and are mildly relieved to see they haven't grown as much as you thought since your last visit, due to lack of rain. There is still a long season to harvest ahead of you yet. At the same time, you worry a little and hope the forecast for rain the next day comes to pass.

Then it's back to the violet patch. You fold your body down onto the ground in the middle of them all, inhale the scent deeply and happily settle to your task of gently plucking the cheerful, little flowers. You become aware of the sound of the wind in the trees, various birds calling, squirrels chirruping. You vaguely register other people passing by. You feel the space where your thighs rest on the cool, damp earth. You watch a bee stop to gather nectar. You slip into a state of utter relaxation and peace. You think, "I am so content right now."

And sometimes it happens like this.

You take the way home through the woods and see a carpet of trout lilies. And there through the trees a patch of ramps, and another over there. And there, the trilliums are up but not yet blooming, and are those...? Yes, in amongst the trout lilies the spring beauties are in full bloom. You don't harvest a single thing. Instead you take it all in and admire the diversity of this fragile, forest eco-system in the middle of the city. The sun comes out from behind a cloud washing everything in a late afternoon glow and you think, "I am so grateful that this place is here and that I am a witness to it."

And sometimes it happens like this.

You take an early morning walk along the edge of a lake. The first thing you notice is that you can't hear the sound of single vehicle. Something inside of you relaxes a little. You feel the warmth of the sun on your back as you make your way along the narrow path. You watch the wind send ripples across the water, a bird circles overhead riding an updraft. You come to a stand of alders growing right up near the water's edge. Drawn to them you approach carefully, picking your way over the sodden ground. You notice both the male and female flowers, the catkins having already released their pollen. You see the beginning leaf buds and pluck one. Tasting the bud you think, 'Bitter. Cooling. Maybe stimulating too.' You have been wanting to work with the medicine of this tree for a while now and wonder if this is the right time. You reach out and place a hand on a slender trunk, close your eyes and ask a silent question. The answer is 'no'. Respectfully you move along the the next tree. This time the answer is 'yes'. You gratefully take out your trusty leatherman tool and start making clean cuts of the smaller side growth, snipping the twigs right at the growing node. You move through the stand asking, leaving some, gathering from others. The sun climbs. This being the first time getting to know the tree, you only take a small amount. Just enough to make a half-pint each of tincture and oil. You take comfort in the fact that this is just the beginning of a relationship that will hopefully last for many, long years. You retrace your steps along the edge of the lake deeply relaxed, at peace and filled with gratitude.

And sometimes it happens like this.

The world outside is dark. The light shines out of your window into the night. Inside is warm and cosy. Dinner dishes dry next to the sink. Music plays. You choose two jars, clear a space on the counter and spread out the alder twigs onto the cutting board. Using a pair of scissors you meditatively cut up the twigs into small pieces that fill the jars. Into one jar you pour in olive oil, into the other 90% alcohol. As you are doing all this, sometimes singing along to the music, you realise that a growing feeling of joy is filling you up until you're practically bursting with it. You let the feeling wash over you as the reddish brown twigs pass from your hands into the jars, trying not to think too hard about what makes this moment different from all the other moments of you standing in the same spot with plants in your hands. You understand that this is not a moment for thinking, but for quietly observing and experiencing, simply being. For one fleeting instant you move beyond thought and knowing, language leaves, time stops.

Your new favourite song comes on, you put lids on the jars, label them and think, "There is sunshine and lake water and joy in this medicine." You fill up the kettle for tea.

This is how it happens, sometimes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter Lilies

One of the bonuses to visiting family is the opportunity to forage in different environments. I visited this patch of daylilies on my dad's property last weekend and harvested some bulbs and shoots.
Later in the day, my dad took me to his ramps patch. They are growing on a sold lot in a new housing development area and are probably going to get destroyed when construction begins.
My dad has been digging them up and transplanting them into his bush as well as collecting seeds. And of course we gathered some to eat too.
The patch was full of trout lilies, so I harvested a handful while there.
And stopped to admire the blue cohosh in bloom.

The flowers, though small. Are stunning. My dad is going to try and transplant some of these as well.

In the kitchen I set to cleaning and preparing the day's harvest.

And lightly sauteed everything in olive oil, seasoned with just a touch of salt and pepper. My dad, step-mom and I enjoyed a tasty dish of wild, lily family plants!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tales from the Dirt Side

I love this book! I'd had it on hold at the library for some time and it came available just in time for the long hours I logged travelling to visit family for the holiday weekend.

It is sooo good. It's the tale of three women who each run their own successful, organic farms on Vancouver Island and together own and operate Saanich Organics which distributes local, organic food through a box delivery program and to restaurants and grocery stores.

The book literally gives the reader "all the dirt" on how they do it. There is a chapter written by each woman, devoted to their own farm enterprises, how they started out, what they learned along the way, mistakes they made and rewards they reaped. Rather than being repetitive, these chapters reflect the individual personalities and styles of the women, and their unique approach to how they farm. Chapter four is a discussion of organic farming in general and why they are so passionate about it. Chapter 5 covers the details of their co-owned business.

This book is incredibly rich and full of so much invaluable information, but it's not at all a dry nuts and bolts manual. It is alive with personal stories, humour, blood, sweat and tears. It feels almost as if you are an apprentice on one of their farms, working along beside them while they share their wisdom and experience with you.

I love how open and forthcoming they are with all that they know. There is no hoarding of proprietary knowledge or trade secrets. They genuinely want to see more farmers growing healthy, organic food and make a decent living from it and they are happy to support the movement every way that they can.

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in small-scale, organic agriculture. Even if that is not your plan, it's still a great read for learning about organic farming, getting good gardening tips or just to be inspired by three beautiful, strong, smart ladies who are doing amazing work in the world.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wes and Wendell

Early morning yoga by candlelight + a conversation between Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson = a blissed out way to start the day!

Some particularly blissful gems:

"We have to look to nature to learn how to farm."

"If we can begin to think about running agriculture on contemporary sunlight with no soil erosion, I think we have the basis for a new set of metaphors and we can begin to think about the end of economic growth."

"We are the environment. We are embodiments of the environment...We take our measures of the work we do...from the place we're in."

"We are embedded in a structure that gave rise to us. We didn't give rise to it."

"The only safeguard of abundance is temperance."

Two great minds there. Verily.

Image Source

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Plants are Animals Too! Wait. Huh?

Check out this great Nature of Things episode that explores the oft unseen world of plant behaviour. Behaviour that is so complex, it is almost animal-like.

From the highly sensitive parasitic dodder that can sniff out its preferred host, to the wild nicotine plant that gives munching caterpillars the slip with their ability to attract a completely different pollinator, to the amazing community connections between firs and fungi, this episode is a fascinating look into the plant world. You might even find yourself sitting alone on the couch saying things to your laptop like, "Whoa, no way!" "Ha! That's awesome." "Plants are so the coolest."

And that's ok. I'm here to tell you this is a totally normal response.


Monday, April 2, 2012

In the Garden

Here are some of the herbs and wild plants coming up in my garden.

Yellow dock (Rumex crispus)

Mullein and catnip (Verbascum thapsus, Nepeta cataria)

Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)

I love how raindrops sit on the leaves, sparkling like jewels.

Wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris)

Look at this cutey! I think it is a wood frog.

The nettles are up too. (Urtica dioica) Yum!

Bloody dock (Rumex sanguineus) This is a new edition to the garden, just added last summer.

So much was up that I was able to gather my first wild greens harvest of the year with the dock, nettle, wintercress, dandelion and daylily shoots. Hurray for fresh, free, local greens! I declare the 2012 foraging season officially open. :)