Monday, August 29, 2011

Wild Mountain Strawberry Hunt!

Happy Hunting Grounds

"When an Ojibway dies, his body is placed in a grave... facing the west... The soul is supposed to start immediately after death of the body, on a deep beaten path, which leads westward; the first object he comes to, in following this path, is the great Oda-e-min (Heart berry), or strawberry, which stands on the roadside like a huge rock, and from which he takes a handful and eats on his way... After camping out four nights, and travelling each day through a prairie country, the soul arrives in the land of spirits, where he finds his relatives accumulated since mankind was first created; all is rejoicing, singing and dancing; they live in a beautiful country interspersed with clear lakes and streams, forests and prairies, and abounding in fruit and game to repletion - in a word, aboundi
ng in all that the red man covets in this life..."

-William W. Warren

  I have lived most of my life in the embrace of the Rocky Mountains. I remember seeing wild strawberry plants, pretty often, growing beside trails, but i always thought they didn't make fruit. Until one July day, a couple years ago.
I was returning from the restroom at one of our favourite camp sites, aware that i was walking over a carpet of strawberry and kinnikinnik. All around were juniper bushes and aspen. I looked down at the strawberry leaves, and saw a few white flowers. I also saw some stems and leaves turning red. All over were what i thought were little red leaves. But when i looked closer, i noticed that at the end of a red stem was a tiny red strawberry! I ate it. It was amazing. What it lacked in size it made up for in flavour. Wild strawberries are not a replacement for commercial strawberries. Commercial strawberries are a replacement for wild strawberries. There is nothing else like them. I looked around and realised i was surrounded by thousands of tiny strawberries. This was like a miracle to me. It was a huge turning point in my life. I hastily ate a handful, and went & got Rico & Fynn and a friend who was camping with us. We sat Fynn down in the carpet of strawberries as we ate one after the other.
A couple weekends ago, we went up to see if we could find a few, thinking that the season was probably over. We sat in the same carpet, looking, and it seemed as if we were too late. But before we had given up, we saw a tiny red gem peeking out from beneath a leaf! And then another one. And then another one! Fynn had the biggest smile i had ever seen on him as he became the strawberry messenger- delivering 'one for mama, one for papa, and one for fynn!' I rarely see him so happy!
While we were looking for strawberries, we also harvested strawberry leaves and raspberry leaves to take home & dry for tea. Strawberry leaf tea has a lot of the same medicinal qualities as raspberry leaf. But it tastes more delicious- like a mountainside, which it is. It has more vitamin C than ANY FOOD known, and it is alkalizing and astringent... but that's just the beginning. We put some fresh leaves in our water and that made it DELICIOUS.
We have been drinking fresh strawberry leaf water for days on end and feel all the livelier for it. It's delicious- next July see if you can find some too! I want to give a quick warning about strawberry leaves. When they are fresh, they are safe, and when they are completely dry they are safe too. But never ever eat them or make tea from them when they have wilted. Once they have begun the drying process they contain a toxin that will make you very sick. Like i said, once they've dried completely, that toxin is no longer present. You can pick fresh leaves and put them in your water, or tea, but once they begin to look wilty throw them out or put them aside to dry. Unfortunately (or fortunately) i found out the hard way last summer and experienced an unnecessary trip to the emergency room. It wasn't until after that ridiculous ordeal that i read about the adverse effects of the wilted leaves. Thankfully i was able to experience this first hand, and that strengthens my love for & relationship with the strawberry!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sumac-ade for a sizzlin summer!

It gets hot in summer. A person can only drink so much water before th' body starts craving salt, and electrolytes. We used to squeeze a lime into some ice water and add a small pinch of sea salt, and sometimes we still do. But nowadays our thirst quencher of choice is sumac-ade. It looks and tastes surprisingly like pink lemonade, and if you didn't know what you were drinking you might not even realize it's not pink lemonade.

Add a sprig of fresh mint to it and you've got a drink "el fabuloso", and good for you too. Here's how we make it. First you find your sumac tree, one with new berries, often the old ones from last year will still be on th' tree, but these are dry and have no flavor left in them. Th' berries seem to be at their best when they're fully red, though i have found some pretty tart ones with a little white on their shady side. I taste th' berries before it pick them, to make sure i'm getting th' ones i want. Just stick one in your mouth and taste it, don't bite it, th' seed is bitter. If it makes you pucker, pick th' cluster. We pick enough to fill up a pitcher, or a pot, then take them home, put them in th' pitcher, and cover with cool filtered water. Then i reach my hand in there and squeeze 'em a little bit, or just mash them gently with a wooden spoon, then cover and let 'em sit overnight, stirring or squeezing occasionally. Then we put a cloth napkin in our colander and pour th' brew through to strain out all th' hairs and loose berries. Add a big sprig of fresh mint, and if you so desire a tiny pinch of sea salt. Pour over ice in your favorite cup and your a happy camper.

For some crafty ways to enjoy Sumac, see our crafts blog here!

sumac spoons and candle holder

Sumac-ade in pitcher.

sumac-ade with mint

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Dark Rivers - Black Sky

Dark river, black sky
Change is coming, don't cry ~Bill Miller

It's mid July and th' Poudre river is still dark and raging.
I get caught in a downpour on one of my usual night-time bike rides.
Caught? I never wanted to go inside again.
I'm taking a walk with my wife and son. A mess of crawdads offer themselves up to us.

We barely refrain from crying as we prepare them for dinner.
I spot a patch of wild mint and take a large bite. It tastes like a candy-cane.

I twist a string from th' crushed leaves of a yucca plant.
Bethra walks barefooted on th' side of a mountain.
A friend mentions th' building of an earth oven and my heart flutters.
A tipi spotted in th' distance draws our eyes like a magnet.
We find Fynn foraging for food at a friends house. (Alliteration anyone?)
Ancient textiles work their way into our lives, onto our bodies.
A picture of a birch bark canoe appears on our computer screen.
Thunder storms tug us away from car, house, phone.
The earth is drawing us. Calling us home. Has much to give.
I reach out a hand. It has changed us. Fed us. Loved us.
Life for us will never be th' same.
Everytime we eat wild food i get excited. I feel like a kid again.

Remember that? When you were young, and had no worries, and everyday was an adventure. What happened? Did we leave home too soon?
I don't know, but i'm going back. You can go home again.
Not to your parents house. To your place in creation.
Change is coming. The earth is calling. Come home. Come home.
I'm coming, i answer, i just have to pack my things.
No. Says the earth. I have everything you need. And i give freely.
Come home. I have planted a garden. I have food waiting for you.
And friends. And shelter. And clothing.
There is nothing left in this life that you live.
If you stay you will die. Come with me and live.
Th' Creator has made
it to be this way. Come home.