Wild Blessing’s Final Fling – Plantasia

Who am I? Beautiful even in death. Job well done, seeds spread at my feet, standing tall to point to my babies in Spring and then… I return to the earth to nourish still…

Nature’s wave has retreated into the earth, silenced by the snow and ice but still very much alive in it’s apparent slumber.

Leaves danced to the forest floor for their final curtain call and the cold frosts forced the energy back into the roots…stored for reawakening and the joy of Spring.

As I type this 20 inches of snow blanket my beloved mountains.

The white backdrop accentuate last year’s seed stalks as silhouetted skeletons and place holders for the next generation.

There are gifts in every season and it is wise follow the flow so as to get in sync with nature and it’s offerings. This post is a summary of 2018 year Wild Blessing adventures, our Final Fling…Plantasia.  I invite you to join us.

Teaching Tuesdays are free. We meet together from 11-12 at the Todd Mercantile.

Teaching Tuesdays

…we meet on the porch of the cozy Todd Mercantile to befriend one another, to befriend the plants and compose plant poems to share. The things we have learned about each other have been inspiring and sometimes surprising.  With that same questioning twist I introduce each featured plant.

My teaching rhythm begins with the question of the day, a related quote or Scripture, preceding an introduction to a new green friend to appreciate….exploring it’s nicknames, lore & history, observing it’s characteristics using all of the senses, and expounding on it’s many gifts: Edible, Medicinal, Useful, Beautiful and Spiritual and even Questionable 😉

Foraging Fridays

…we follow the energy from roots to fruits: learning together, shopping in a variety of wild grocery stores, sitting still and quiet in various settings just to listen to nature’s hum, garbling our catch, making a glorious mess as we cook wild recipes in my kitchen, crafting with nature’s scraps, and sharing our wild repass around the table together.

Relationships with the plants are deepened and relationships with one another are forged.

Wild Blessings Final Fling

Everything culminates at the Final Fling held early in November. Our big event begins with an Organoleptic exam (sight, touch, smell, taste, hear), a wild potluck, and then a time of sharing green offerings from the heart. The gifts from the heart included dance, theatrics, songs, crafts, prayers, poems, prose, preaching and pictures of our year together.

I was and still am in awe….remarkable talent and such passion in every single offering. I am humbled for the privilege of leading such a diverse and passionate group of nature lovers in the appreciation of Wild Blessings.

My offering to my wild students for Plantasia was to compile many of the photos of our year surfing nature’s wave together. So many adventures, so many plants, so much FOOD, great times together with those I love. It was hard to cut it short enough to make it more viewer friendly but I kept thinking…’Oh gotta have that one and remember the SNAKE!?’ A rich year of learning and loving together. Thankful.  The slideshow I compiled of our 2018 Wild Blessings adventures is here.

Enjoy the fun vicariously and next year perhaps you’ll join us to surf Nature’s Wave together.

Organoleptics Quiz

I had so much fun selecting things from nature to quiz my wild students on. Plants to identify by sight, touch, taste, smell and even hearing.

The winner, who identified the most items, received a copy of my mentor Linda Runyon’s must have book, “The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide”

Our sensory test all set up and waiting for the wildness to begin!

It is joyful to experience nature with all of our senses.

Sight is usually the first frontier of learning about plants: observing closely the stem arrangement, the changes as the plant evolves through its stages of growth…

Close your eyes and feel the velvety softness of a wisteria seed pod, or the prickles of a Chestnut seedpod burr, or the glassiness of a castor bean…can you tell the difference between a Chestnut and a Buckeye with just your fingers, can you tell what leaf you are holding by its venation and margins?

Using only your sense of smell can you tell what plant you are relating to?

Wild tastes are subtle and wildly nutritious, if you had a line up of wild teas could you tell the difference between Lemonbalm, Linden, BeeBalm, Elderberry or Goldenrod tea? what about the medicines made from these same plants, can you taste a tincture and say “that is Plantain”

The depth of understanding and experience with plants can go deep and wide. I want to know every plant in all its stages of growth: by its physical characteristics, its smell, its feel, its taste raw or cooked, the way it sounds when the wind blows by or the way the seeds rattle in its pod.

And this takes personal experience. No one can teach you these things it is acquired by those who want to know and reclaim all the Creator’s gifts of food and medicine and beauty.

Having fun ‘herbing around’

Our Wild Potluck

Everyone brought food to share made with wild edible plants they had harvested and preserved throughout Nature’s Wave. We had dishes made with Chickweed, Burdock stems and roots, jelly made with Queen Anne’s Lace, Black Walnut cake, Pumpkin Cheesecake with Acorn Ginger crust, Lambsquarter cheese pies (tiropitas), a wide variety of wild teas and kefirs and wild seed crackers and salads.

Everything was delicious and it was so rewarding to have my students bring wild food THEY had prepared to share with me. Felt like I had passed on the wild chef baton!

Lumini Merced marinated Burdock stems to perfection for this completely wild offering. Super delicious! She also made these cookies with Evening Primrose and Plantian seeds, gluten free of course.

I made a Pumpkin Cheesecake with an acorn crust. My favorite acorns to forage for are Chestnut Oak acorns. They are the easiest to leach of the tannins and the tastiest!

Amy made her grandmother’s Black Walnut cake

I froze Lambsquarters when they were tender and young in early Summer and have that stash to use throughout the Winter for a spinach substitute. I made the tiropitas for Kacey Brown, her favorite!

Sweet and sour Burdock root: we have made Burdock root into BURGERS, MUSHROOMS, PEPPERONI. A most versatile and wildly nutritious and delicious edible root!

Plantasia: plant offerings from the heart

Many mornings I hike to my sit spot and watch to watch the sun rise or just sit and be still in God’s presence and observe His wonders. The morning of our Wild Fling Finale these verses popped out at me as I read in my Bible. We began our sharing time with these fitting Psalms.

“Your wondrous works declare that Your Name is near

and they who invoke Your Name rehearse Your wonders…

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;

make known His deeds among the peoples.

Speak of all His wonders.” Psalms 75 and 105

Brook Brown’s offering

Twelve new treasures revealed to me this season
American Chestnut, Beautyberry, Lambsquarters, Cornflower, Burdock,
Comfrey, Elder, Milkweed, Mullein, Knotweed, Self Heal, Poke

A rainbow of colors popping out from the hazy curtain of green that I used to look past
Learning your formal name as well as your nicknames
Your family characteristics, origin, history. Where you like to live
Observing your physical appearance as well as your quirks and oddities

I love to use my senses to learn more about you
How to eat you, the medicine you are for me, How useful you are, Or what to be wary of

My favorite about this past season has been the chance
to write about you each week
and share with other wild friends

A wildfire started by Holly Joy and then fanned by kindred spirits
We are all on this wild adventure together
Cheering one another on as we learn more
How, through plants, the Creator, shows His never ending love for us

Laura Weant’s Offering

Laura is not only a plant lover but she is the pastor of Bethany Lutheran church in Todd. She sang to us For the Beauty of the Earth and All Things Bright & Beautiful and then led us as we sang the verses together. I took this picture from the loft. Truly blessed. Thank you Laura!

You just never know what talents are hiding within your friends. Laura is a poetry genius and also has a beautiful voice.

All Things Bright and Beautiful – Cecil Alexander 1848

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Amy Todd Paine’s offering

Amy attended Teaching Tuesdays a handful of times but whenever she did it was such a delight to listen to her read her resulting poem. A gifted writer she hopes to compile a book of flora and fauna in the Appalachian mountains. She is off to a great start, her poems that she wrote on Mullein, Goldenrod, Purslane are among my favorites. I will definitely be buying her book when it is published and link to it on my blog! Amy is not surprisingly an English teacher and is a Shakespeare fanatic, her offering was to expound on the plants referred to by William Shakespeare in his many plays.

Amy is so in love with this poet and writer that she celebrates Shakespeare’s birthday every year!

Aurora Randolph’s offering

Only 15 and going on 38 Aurora has an active imagination and is creative beyond measure. She is a costume designer, Girl Scout leader, homeschooler and an authentic wild child. Here is her plant offering.

Aurora shares Amy’s obsession with Shakespeare, she even goes to a Shakespeare camp every summer. 🙂

All the Woods a Stage
All the woods a stage, the trees, shrubs, and flowers the players
They have their blooming Springs and shedding Winters
and one plant in its time plays many parts
it’s acts being seven ages

The first is the same for plants of all kinds
The seed is where it all begins
Then a sapling, with its small size growing strong for its full life ahead
And then the bloom, from green trees to colorful flowers,
this performance is a sight to see.
Then fully grown ready for what the Lord has in store

And then, if by chance, it is eaten by a forest creature
or used by a human for food or medicine….
It becomes part of them and continues there
And so it plays its part

The sixth age shifts into a rest that it, like everything else,
slips into when our time has come
The last scene of them all, is not an end pre se, more of a new chapter
It becomes one with the Earth from which it came
And that’s how the play goes on the regal stage of the forest

Tracey Terry’s offering

Tracey is a scrapbooker extraordinaire. She shared a scrapbook page that she had designed and decorated with Dandelion seed puffs blowing across the page. Hidden in a pocket behind a photo of her son and Emily was a letter she had written to her future daughter in law expressing her love for her and comparing her thoughts in nature analogies. Wow, Emily is going to be blessed. We sure were.

Lynn Maxwell’s offering

Lynn Maxwell always takes pictures of every Teaching Tuesday and Foraging Friday and so I don’t usually have to think about chronicling our adventures since she has my back. Lynn has attended more events than anyone and has learned so much that she often cooks wild for neighborhood potlucks and is always sharing her knowledge when hiking with her hiking club members. Lynn’s poems are usually fun or funny and often rhyme. She shared a prayer that used to be said at the turn of the century and which we will use from now on when in our Gratitude circle before we partake of our wild food feasts. Thank you Lynn for all that you do and for being you!

Lumini Merced’s offering

Lumini was a dancer in New York City in her twenties. This hidden talent was not all that hidden because her demeanor and mannerisms are always graceful. What she shared with us left everyone speechless, no one even dared breathe. The video I took with my phone was pitiful and I hope she will preform this dance again for perhaps a talk I give next year at the library or at a church on Wild Foods and Nature’s Wave. This gift of love and life touched us all to the core. Thank you Lumini!  Her offering is calls Plants as Teachers and it is the most beautiful depiction of Nature’s Wave I have ever seen.  Enjoy it on the video.  I will feature the written text in a blog on Nature’s Wave.

Maggie Russel’s Offering

Maggie had been downloaded a message from the Creator on anointing and she shared it with us. Maggie’s beautiful spirit and capable hands craft so many beautiful things often resembling or using gifts from nature. She sells her creations at craft shows and on main street in Blowing Rock at Bless Your Heart. I hope next year Maggie can join our Teaching Tuesday class more often.

Loretta Sable’s offering

Loretta is a nutritionist and shared a poem she wrote about eating real food. Amazing how many lives she has changed with her message of nutrition and wellness. I so appreciate her wisdom. She is a once and awhile Wild Blessings student! Loretta is a wild blessing!

Lynn, Loretta and Susan spreading Milkweed seeds just for fun!

My heart overflows with love and gratitude to our loving Creator, to creation’s wonders and to the ones that adventure with me into the wild, into the stillness…reclaiming together our heritage and wild riches. Who is up for another year of surfing nature’s wave and adventuring forth into the wild?

“Oh Lord, how many and varied are Your works.
In wisdom You have made them all.
The whole earth is full of Your riches.”
Psalms 104:24

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and sing praises to His name
for You oh Lord have made me glad by what You have done.
I will sing for JOY at the work of Your Hands.”
Psalms 95:1,4

Foraging in April

I foraged for Dandelion after class and got this haul in less than a half hour of digging. Dandelion crown pickles, Dandelion wine with the blossoms, Dandelion Bud stir fry, Dandelion root coffee, Dandelion leaf salads and stir fries…. The nutrition on my table is off the charts!

Welcome Wild Foodies I am here to help you ride Nature’s Wave and learn about the free groceries in The Creator’s wild pantry.  I love teaching about the free provision, how to ride Nature’s Wave, the important ‘TIONS; of Foraging, and introducing others to  the edible wild plants that are ‘on sale’ at any time of year along with their poisonous look-a-likes.

It always amazes me that the barrenness of Winter evolves into the bounty of Spring.  Nature’s Wave is a circular pattern of life and death that follows the energy of the plants from roots to shoots, early leaves, flower buds, flowers, seed pods, seeds, fruits, nuts and then after the first good frost of Fall the energy retreats back into the roots to store up nutrition for the cycle to begin again in the Spring.  Even in the Winter the Creator has hidden many marvels and miracles for our wellbeing but now as pregnant leaf casings are burgeoning with leaves ready to unfurl, roots are shooting up stalks and tender leaves, the old is being replaced with the new at an awesome rate of transformation.

“We look to You to give us our food, in due season, You give to us, we gather it up, You open Your hand we are satisfied, You send forth Your Spirit and we are created, and You renew the face of the ground”

Psalms 104:27-30

My current Sit Spot with my faithful terrier, Max.

Sit Spot Stillness

Foraging is finding a rhythm with nature that brings the gatherer into a dance with the One who offers these gifts.  To really appreciate the nuances of the beauty, marvels and mysteries of the plant kingdom I assigned as homework finding a Sit Spot to commune with nature by using the 5 senses to observe without distraction.  15 minutes a day in the same place next to the same tree or plants can open a world of wonder.  Choosing the same place for a season is a powerful way to see Nature’s Wave gather speed and change the scenery. In our fast paced world so much disfunction can be reversed if we just took time to smell the roses!   I have many sit spots on my mountain but the one I am currently committed to is on a mountainside next to a Hawthorn tree overlooking our valley.  So many marvels on my hike to my ‘spot’ have captivated my attention and each day the changes I see in the landscape as the green creeps up the mountainsides and the vibrant life replaces the dried seed stalks of last Fall…I am in awe.

April 18 Fabulous Free Five:

Ramps and their poisonous look-a-likes Helibores

Mayapples (only the fruit is edible)

Spruce nibs (tender new growth on the ends of branches)

Chickweed

Poke leaves

Suggested personal foraging assignments for April 25 

  1. Find a Sit Spot to commune with nature, spend 15 minutes a day there just observing with your 5 senses (journal if you wish
  2. Discover the plants we talked about on Tuesday (Poke, Ramps, *Helibores, *Mayapples, Spruce nibs, Chickweed, *Groundsel)
  3. Eat something wild everyday (keep a journal)
  4. Start a Nature Bucket List (such as, finding a MOREL patch this Spring or watching a Buckeye leaf casing extend it’s five fingers into freedom, making bread from Cattail root, or starting an edible weed garden at your house…. use your handout on Holly’s foraging favorites to help you create your list)

Holly home from shopping after Teaching Tuesday on April 18

Dandelion blossoms are actually a composite of up to 150 individual flowers..each producing a tiny seed with parachutes to send them adrift to a new location to begin life again 🙂

Foraging Friday plans April 21 (c0st $40 per person)

Shopping List: Poke, Dandelion, Chickweed, Cleavers, Ramps, Redbud flowers

Preparations: Dandelion Water Kefir, Dandelion Bud Stir Fry, Wild Salad, Steamed Poke with Bernaise sauce, Chickweed Hummus, Cleavers infused vinegar

Cost for Foraging Friday’s is $40 a person.  RSVP requested.  (Bring a sack lunch as the wild food we will make together is for sampling only and may not be enough)

We meet at the porch at the Todd Mercantile at 9am.  Wear appropriate clothing and shoes.  Label your stuff for ease of identification.

COME AND BE BLESSED!


Teaching Tuesdays April 25

Teaching

Homework

Sit Spots checked in with my wild peeps to see how many have chosen a Sit Spot and were checking out of the fast lane to just Sit & Be for 20 minutes at a stretch (for starters)  Lynn Maxwell has camped herself beside a Sugar Maple tree and is watching it’s tender leaves burst forth from the constraints of their leaf casings as her place of solitude.  Susan Beck sits on a bench besides a fast flowing stream lined with hardwood trees and closely observes the sights and sounds of Spring burgeoning before her eyes.  Lynn and Susan will be the richer for this discipline.  And for all that is good and sacred LEAVE turn your cell phone off if you must have it with you for this time. 🙂

Nature Bucket List  there is an intentionality about having a bucket list, it opens up possibilities and awareness that oft times is easily ignored and goes unnoticed.  One of my bucket list items is to find a woods FULL of Morels…. and another is to beat the squirrels to Mayapples so I can make jelly this year…my bucket list is rather long and grows the more I take time to just be quite and be.

ITEMIZE

Green Deane, is a a favorite fellow forager and wild edible educator, his webite “Eat The Weeds” is exhaustive and fascinating.  His way of ITEMIZING each plant begins with the acronym I.T.E.M.  I taught my wild students how to identify a plant and analysis it’s characteristics in a botanical manner.

I stands for Identification (a key aspect of foraging!)  always look at and study these character traits for each plant.

Plant shape: is it a clump, a stalk, a vine, basal rosette

Mosiac: are the leaves alternate or opposite or whorled

Leaf Shape: it is fascinating to observe all the varieties of leaf shapes: heart shaped (so many of plants have heart shaped leaves), compound, simple,

Leaf Margin: this is the edge of the leaf and is very telling in identifying species, there are many correct botanical terms for these edges (margins) but I’m good with simple terms like (entire or smooth, jagged or serrated, scalloped, wavy, toothed or dentate…)

Leaf Venation: this is how the veins within the leaf are displayed, most common are: parallel, pinnate, palmate (think of the creases in your palm or your fingers extending from your palm)…again there is much more detail for true botanical geeks to master

T stands for Time of Year (to harvest) each part of the plants wild edible offerings

E stands for Environment you’ll most likely find said plant

M stands for Method of Preparation (tea, saute, steam, bake, dry, infuse in oil or vinegar)  this method of preparation applies to how to prepare for food and also how to prepare as medicine to benefit from the plants healing constituents.

 

April 25 Fabulous Free Five:

Review last week’s plants (Ramps, Spruce, Mayapples, Chickweed and Poke)

Garlic Mustard

Wild Mustard

Shepherd’s Purse

Violet

After class we found a patch of Cleavers and decorated Logan in some greenery with it’s sticky leaves.

 

Foraging Friday plans April 28 (c0st $25 per person)

Shopping List: Garlic Mustard, Dandelion (whole plant), Chickweed, Violet (leaves), Violet (flowers), Redbud flowers, Burdock leaves, Ramps, Wild Ginger, Cleavers  ALWAYS keep an eye open for what else there is to ‘buy for free’ and an eye for preview of what is going to be on sale SOON.

Preparations: Dandelion Water Kefir, Asian wild salad, Fried Wild Wantons with Wild dipping sauce, Cleavers infused vinegar, Violet Chocolate Terrine (for dessert), Dandelion Root coffee, Spruce Nib tea, Violet Leaf infusion

Cost for Foraging Friday’s is $25 a person.  RSVP requested.  (Bring a sack lunch as the wild food we will make together is for sampling only and may not be enough)

We meet at the porch at the Todd Mercantile at 9am.  Wear appropriate clothing and shoes.  Label your stuff for ease of identification.

COME AND BE BLESSED!