Monday, 28 November 2016

Apples in the snow

When the snow hit, I just wasn't emotionally ready for it, not even close. In fact, I broke my own personal record for days spent indoors - 6 of them! - and it felt wonderful. I stayed plenty busy, it's not like I was sitting on the couch eating bon-bons (although there were some brownies ..) but I didn't even stick my nose out. Not once.

But by the 6th day, I was getting a teeny bit pale. So the husband put his foot down and dragged me out. Of course that took some cajoling. I had to be bribed with just the right destination.

My favourite swamp.

It seems I don't have a non-snowy picture taken from the same angle to compare that to. Here is one taken from the path coming through the trees you see on your right in the above shot.

See? Purty.
This has become one of my favourite foraging grounds. The open area around the picnic table has patches of lance-leaf plantain, a much milder and sweeter version of an old favourite that's palatable enough for teas.

And like any swamp, there's a ton of alder. I've made tincture and infused oil from the male & female cones of alder this year. I haven't used it, and I may never need to, but if either of us is threatened by a nasty bacterial something or other, then alder would be the thing to call on, according to Kiva Rose and others.

Next summer I hope to get to know boneset, gravel root and other interesting edge-of-the-water plants.

How I choose which plants to work with next doesn't follow any set course. I read a lot, but most of the time what I read doesn't have much bearing on what goes into my basket, I only gather what calls me to gather it. Alder called me this summer. Funny thing is, I've discovered that the cones are much easier to see and to get to in the winter. Is the medicine as good as when they're fresh and green? It might be better, as most herbalists use them dried, and drying on the bush has to be as good as, if not better, than drying in the herb room. All I know is, whether I need the physical medicine of the alder or not, hanging out with alder feels right just now, so on that day pictured above, I had a really good stomp through the almost knee-deep snow and spent some time with an alder bush at the water's edge, listening to the Silence.

That's something I recommend everyone should learn to do, listen to the Silence. Silence is always there, after all.

You know, the stars are always 'up there' in the sky, even when the sun is shining, you just can't see them. If you bring your awareness to that, it changes how you feel about life here on the planet, doesn't it? I'll let you mull on that for a moment. There is starlight mixed in with sunlight.

Well, silence is the same (sorta). It is there, under all the sound. If you bring your awareness to it, you can hear it.

If I was to teach exercises for sensing with the heart, that's something I would teach. When we use the heart, our senses are just .. different. Deeper. We notice what's been there all along, what's just not obvious to the 'civilized' mind. See, the mind is trained to tune things out, which is a good thing in (ha!) civilized society, ie the city, which would be overwhelming if we couldn't tune most of it out most of the time. But the heart expands our awareness, and when you're standing by a snowy swamp, you want that. Sensing the silence can be done anywhere, anytime, once you get good at it. You should try it.

It's within that silence, I suppose, that you would feel the pull or hear the call or however you want to phrase it, of the plants and trees. I have always been this way, so it is only recently I have started to try to consciously sort out how it works. It's very, very difficult to put it into words.

But this post was titled "apples in the snow", so here they are, spotted on the way to the swamp and stopped at on the way back.

Notice the snow all churned up around the tree by the deer.

Wow, eh?

Of course we tasted them. They were both bitter AND mealy, real 'spitters'. But I ate (most of) one anyway, because I need wild food to feel like me. With everything I gather and store (squirrel like) for winter, I can just about manage a morsel of something wild every day. But it is still a Big Deal to come across something fresh like this. The skin slipped off easily (too bitter to eat) and the inside was, yeah, mealy, but if I just scraped it with my teeth, the juice ran free, so I sucked on it more than I actually ate it I suppose. I bet if it was analyzed in a lab it would have contained all manner of wild bacteria and yeasts, some good, some not so good for humans, but the wildness, oh that wildness, fed the Me of me.

Yeah. That's what it's all about.


  1. I enjoyed this read, my foraging friend!

  2. I liked the description of silence. How it's always there. With four young children, sometimes (almost always?) it doesn't feel there! The swamp is beautiful! The wild food sounds, well, not tasty, but delectable all the same when viewed from your view point.