After last weeks frightful encounter with chiggers or something akin to such a scourge, I ventured back into the swamp today with my friend Savannah. This time I was smart enough to prevent bug infestation by covering our skin with Yarrow and Lavender spray (a natural repellant that I make).
The Cattail swamp was perhaps a harsh way to introduce a newbie to the ways of the wild for it was raining hard. And once we were lost in the middle of the vastness of the cattail swamp Savannah was promptly stung by a bee. Twice. I decided to be heartless and forage on for we had a mission to collect enough green cobs to serve for each camper at the wild foods workshop and culminating feast I am teaching on Tuesday at a camp in Tennessee.
It was a slow beginning. Many Cattails in the inbetween stage between young tasty cucumbery shoots and the corn on the cob green female heads. And many in the ‘hot dog on a stick’ phase.. Linda Runyon claims that it takes 10 ripe brown cobs to make a loaf of bread. I haven’t tried that yet but I will. For today the green cobs were my focus and there just were not that many of them to be found. Poor Savannah bravely trudged after me in her leather boots (they were nice when we started), her throbbing thigh and drenched body carefully trying to keep the muck from sucking her boots off her feet.
It’s really hard to explain what it’s like in the thick of a Cattail maze. There are really millions of these stately plants, some looming well over our heads, the stream fingers it’s way into the swamps core making firm footing challenging. Several times, while focusing on my objective of gathering the green cobs, my foot slipped into a hole. Mud and water would slosh over the top of my rubber boots filling them. Once we were thoroughly drenched it really became more fun as we didn’t care about staying dry or clean! Still only 4 or 5 green cobs ripe enough to gather for dinner. We trudged on. Doubling back a different route towards the main stream we had better luck. Staying close but going our separate ways we filled up our buckets with choice green cobs and a few brown ones. We collected the golden pollen from the male cob above the green female part as well. Linda says that this golden pollen is highly nutritive and has recipes for it in her fabulous book, The Essential Wild Food’s Survival Guide.
On the way home, Savannah read Linda’s poignant story of Life in a Cattail Pond in every season. A must read for every Cattail lover.
Across the road we stopped at the Llama farm to gather Peppermint which grows there in abundant profusion and some Milkweed flower buds.
Back home we took hot showers, Savannah put a Plantain poultice on her bee stings and I taught her how to prepare each wild gift for storage till they are eaten. We ate the Milkweed buds cooked in raw milk with organic butter, sea salt and melted cheddar cheese. Delicious!
Later that evening Titus returned from a run with a water moccasin snake. It’s head between Titus’ fingers keeping it’s mouth shut it’s body coiled around his hand and arm. He excitedly showed me it’s beautiful markings and it’s white ‘cotton mouth’. We pried it’s mouth open to reveal it’s fangs and poison glands. Titus keeps surprising me with his savvy for the things of the wild. Common sense I guess for a born and raised mountain man!
A wildly fun day. I think that Savannah has been bit with the wild bug. I hope she joins me for further forays into nature’s stores.
Just checked my email and Savannah had sent me her journal entry for yesterday. She is a journaler and a photographer and she said she had a really good time wildcrafting with me. It was fun to read her thoughts, so I share them with you.
Rain was pouring down, everything was muddy, and there were two crazy wild ladies who were about to go look for cattails in it! Holly and I had our arms full of buckets, jackets, and scissors ready to set out. I was excited about this adventure!
When we got to the pond the rain was still coming down pretty hard, but you know a silly thing like that wasn’t about to stop us. Rain only made the experience all the more exciting. We put on our coats and got right into what looked like a sea of cattails. We were looking for green ones, they are the female part of the plant, and at the time it looked like there was a short supply of them. We found a few at first, but it still wasn’t enough. Of course, we would be happy with whatever we could find, but we were shooting for more than a couple of them.
Around thirty –to- forty minutes into our search we were soaking wet, boots were filled with water, and I was thinking that I’d never take the grocery store for granted again! Just when we thought we wouldn’t find anymore, we spotted a group of perfect cattails and the whole ordeal was worth it. There is something great about the feeling you get when you search for something and find it! It also makes the joy of finding it all the better if there was a struggle at first.
I was able to realize a “spiritual truth” through this. Sometimes it feels like God isn’t there. That He has just left and no matter how hard you look or search you can’t find Him. But when you do find Him, you realize He was actually there all along, you just didn’t know it!
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29: 13