Monday, January 30, 2012

Looking forward, Looking back - Sow Thistle

Sow Thistle

healthy patch, with all stages of growth

Well it's winter now- almost spring, so we'll take some time to post some articles that we didn't get to last year, some of th' family favorites. First, let's take a look at Sow Thistle, sonchus genus, if you're latin savy. 
This plant grows all over where we live, and probably where you live too, but rarely gets noticed due to it's flower's close resemblance to the dandelion. I must've passed it up a thousand times till i realized what, and how good, it really was, now i see it everywhere. Here's a close up of th' flower, and the unopened buds too.

flower and buds, both yummy

There's a few different types of Sow Thistle around here, one with lots of spines that seems to get bitter quick- but this one here i ate from may till september. That's a long growing season for any salad green. Usually i would just pick some in th' morning on my way to work, from th' many patches i've found. With such a large selection, and constant selective picking, i was always able to find some new growth, and unopened buds, which i just ate plain as a salad for my lunch everyday. Th' stalk is good too. If you keep picking th' new growth, it'll be better tasting than most greens in a salad mix from th' farmers market or grocery store. Here's what it looks like when young.

young sow thistle
And here's some good tasting leaves on a mature plant.

mature but tasty leaves
That white clover in th' background would liven up a salad too, though they are a bit more fibrous than most greens. Add it to fresh water for a great summer cooler.
One of th' neat things about sow thistle, and a good way to help identify it, is that when it gets wet, th' water beads up on th' leaves and sits there for a long time. Looks really nice.

wet sow thistle leaves

with beaded water
These plants had already gone to seed, but they were growing in a very shady and moist location, and th' leaves never got too bitter to eat. I ate them till th' frosts came and th' plants died, mid to late september. I also transplanted quite a few of them to our garden and yard, so we'll see if they come up again next year. They are annuals, but they made a lot of seeds.

Here's a late summer wild salad with sow thistle, purslane, mallow leaves and fruits, and a diced walla walla onion from Native Hill Farm. A touch of olive oil and apple cider vinegar makes it perfect.

wild salad.
If you eat a lot of salad, sow thistle makes a great addition or base. If picked at th' right time it's flavor is not only agreeable, it's down right delicious. It's free, and probably not too far from your house. It's even considered an invasive weed in some states, so you'd be doing them a favor by helping yourself to a plate full every day. And it keeps in th' fridge for a long time, at least as long as can be expected of any green. So if you can't pick it every day, pick yourself a bag full and eat it through out th' week. This should be coming up again around here about late spring, early summer. Happy hunting.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Robert Burns Night

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine
We've wander'd mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn
Frae mornin' sun til dine
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne


Aye and surely ye'll be your pint-stoup
And surely I'll be mine
And we'll tak a right-guid-willy-waught
For auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my jo
For auld lang syne
We'll tak a cup for kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Happy Burns Night, everybody!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

More Cattail, Milkweed adventures

Here's a leather pillow stuffed with two of our favorite wild foods, cattail and milkweed. It's made from an old leather couch, and sewn together with Irish shoemakers linen. It has a suede side and a smooth side, and is very nice to sleep on, and pretty easy to make too. I made this pillow with about a half and half mix of cattail down and milkweed silks.


I used four different stitches on here, to see which one i liked best- so far, this one's th' winner. It loops through itself and holds nicely.

Cattails spread by rhizomes, so i just collected what i needed of their corn dog looking fluff, and didn't worry much about taking too many.
With th' milkweed however, i was a little more cautious. I took only th' fluffy silk, scattering th' seeds where th' plants grew. I remember reading in one of Euell Gibbons books of essays about him figuring out a good way to separate th' silk from th' seed. It didn't make much sense till i actually tried it. His two essay collections, Stalking the Good Life and Stalking the Faraway places i found on amazon for about a dollar, best dollar i ever spent by th' way. 
What i did was collect th' pods in th' fall, after they had cracked open, but not fully opened up. Once they're open and spreading silk, it gets much more difficult to harvest it.

milkweed pod

and here's that split-perfect time to harvest silk
Once you open th' pod all th' way, th' silk lays flat, and it looks kinda like a fish.

milkweed seeds
Hold it by th' silk, just like in th' photo above, then just rub th' seeds off. You'll lose a little bit of th' silk too, but not much. Th' silk can then be placed in a bag, where it will expand and want to fly all over th' place.

seeds partially rubbed off
milkweed silks

Inside there's a little membrane that you'll want to get out, then just stuff your bag till it's full. 
In th' past milkweed silks were used to stuff lifevests, and it must be one of th' most insulating fibers on th' planet. You can literally feel your hand warming up when you stick it inside a bag of milkweed silk. There's potential here. Something that floats, is waterproof, and very warm. What could we do with that?

If you'd like to see more of our crafts creations, click here.

And, just to get you in a sleepy mood, here's some pictures of th' sunset outside my workshop. Good night.


sunset outside my shop (garage)


Monday, January 02, 2012

Acorn Nuppa

"When the people woke up and looked upon the world they found it good. They learned by watching the animals what articles were good to eat. From the grizzly bear they learned that the acorn was food. From the crane they learned to catch and eat fish. The cougar taught them that the meat of the deer, the elk, and the antelope was to be eaten. They gained wisdom from experience, by observing how the animals and birds and bugs lived...they were happy, and worshipped the Great Spirit, who had given them life..."

From It Will Live Forever, by Beverly R. Ortiz, as told by Julia Parker

Acorn Nuppa, with Sumac spoon

Imagine, just over 200 years ago there were entire societies living without trash, police, jails, banks, money. They had no pollution. They could drink from th' same rivers they swam in. And they would still be living this way today if they had th' choice. But others made th' choice for them, and it's hard to go back.
There are many fabulous recipes for and things to do with acorns. But eating the traditional "nuppa," what some misleadingly call "mush" is one way to show that we recognize the goodness, the healthiness of their lifestyle. It's a porridge that has sustained people since th' dawn of time. And it's delicious.
Here's some with a touch of butter and maple syrup, cooked just like stone ground oats. Yumm.
For more pictures of spoons and other crafts, you can see our crafts blog here. It's still a baby, but growing slowly and steadily.