“i have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusion between moments of valid inspiration”-steve martin
my name is traci, and i am a forage-a-holic. i think i was born foraging, but i still remember my 2 biggest pushers. the first was roseanne, a tiny elderly lady with the biggest fluffiest ragmop of black hair you can imagine. she probably weighed 90 pounds and dwelled amongst piles of gowns and woolens in the basement of her lavender-shuttered suburban ranch house. basically, you could go into the basement and rifle through the bags, boxes and hangers to find vintage treasure and she would bag it up, name a ridiculously low price, and throw in free nude nylons and polka-dotty scarves to make sure you could bring it all together. i still cherish a ridiculous rhinestone-studded mother-in-law number i found there 20 years ago. she has passed the mantle on to her daughters who run it as a thrift store combined with a head shop and wigs….it’s not the same. she taught me to look under, over, around and through.
i was born to forage. the knowledge that one will, eventually, uncover buried treasure-it is very tempting. i love bottle dumps. i love library book sales. beachcombing. free boxes.
one day this proclivity of mine met an edible mushroom. i still remember the day. 6 years ago this fall. i was at a communal farm and 2 foragers presented me with a pan of fungi. rafter and andy, they had boxes of extraterrestrial grifola frondosa. i was coaxed into trying a bite of the buttery bits…and something clicked in my brain. oh, yeah. angels trumpeted, suns rose, moons spun stars into silver drops of dust.
i became a mushroom forager.
a love of foraging can be encouraged, but not taught. it is innate. all 3 of my kids forage, but one is really really good. we all have a basic foraging ability. we are animals. but we are wasting our ability on freaking bejeweled blitz and wheel of fortune. the desire must be activated! i find foraging satisfying to my primal side, which i didn’t realize existed until i ate that bite of fungi.
and activation is really what i am talking about here. i am an herbalist, and what that means to me is i match people and plants. i introduce people to plant medicines and get the hell out of the way. because it is not about me, it is about YOU forming a relationship of your own with plants. a lot of what i do is help you awaken with my flava. whether it is awakening your spirit with rose or awakening your gall bladder with turmeric or awakening your saliva with bitters the taste of my plant medicines, made with love, say more than this blog ever will. (thank goodness, really.) this is why i offer apothecary tastings, maintain a large bag of testers and always offer to taste tinctures and plant materials at my classes.
smell and taste access places in our brain and history that no written or spoken word have the ability to go, and may not be understood until later. tasting medicinal herbs/foods/fungi is like putting money in the bank of emotional knowledge to withdraw later when you need it.
it is exciting to have another voice with which to communicate with. and flavor is that voice.
just kidding, welcome to my nerdy photo gallery of late summer fungi! i am going to avoid naming the fungi because i do not think using some random person’s blog to identify mushrooms is reasonable and i do not want to be responsible if you snort a destroying angel and your liver implodes. get a book, or a stack of books, or go ask a slug.
just one day in mid-june…
i did not realize how much i missed the green until it reappeared. oh, so that was the source of my general malaise….winter sure does have its place, rebuilding, hibernating…rebuilding! and time to press all the tinctures and oils i’ve put up, time to make salves and put labels on and read books and do consults. but holy crap do i love the bursting forth, the honeybees, the flowering. it just hits a primal spot, the reawakening.i spent the weekend filled with the joy of spring foraging amidst stinky ramps, the ever-invigorating stinging nettles, battling bees for honeysuckle flowers, luscious violets, oh hello return of my friends!
spring is honeybee time, liver tonic time, planting 100 onions time. dew on leaves time! peas and cilantro and lettuce and pigeons mating and compost turning and seed starting and sproutsshootscooleveningair….but don’t blink because it is gone and tomatoes are ripe. it’s gone and you are sweating and swimming and ohmygod did someone say harvest? ok, so get your ass out there.
no, you don’t have to engage in the vital and primal dance with plant and animal energies that is going outside right now. i hear there is a real good episode of “F YOU” on tv tonight. and folks will be talking about that in the office tomorrow. but i can think of nothing NOTHING more important than the dirt and it’s dance with seeds and plants going on all around us….let it in.
when you think of survivalists, what spring into your mind? a bunch of dudes squeezed into camo shooting up pabst cans in a sand pit? home-armored suvs driving roughshod over precious native plants? weirdos stockpiling weapons, burying MREs and walkie-talkies in the backyard and prancing about in grease paint and boots?
ok, extremists are out there. but the reality is, most of us don’t carry about a flashlight or a length of rope, couldn’t climb a tree or fence if our life depended on it, can probably id one plant in our whole yard and would just lay down and wait to die if teh lights went out. why is that? having the good sense and practical knowledge to get oneself through a natural or unnatural disaster is not a treasured value in much of our current society. many of us are lucky to have a few band-aids and a butter knife on hand. and that is problematic. the basic skills we all need are available to everyone with a little effort and a pocket knife.
all too often the hunters and fisherpersons i’ve met couldn’t id a dandelion. and some herbalists can’t tie a knot or row a boat if their life depended on it. don’t get me wrong-i’m no the-world-is-going-soft drill sergeant. but why this false seperation? why can’t some dude in a trailer kill staph with herbs, and why can’t some new age purple-robed weirdo wear practical footwear and be skilled in self-defense? often we humans put ourselves and others into mutually exclusive (false!)categories and never shall we find common ground…
one of my main life’s mission is to be a bridge between many worlds, both tangible and non, class and gender, my background reflects both colonizer and colonized, i am a modern woman who contains multitudes. my love is not confined to democrat or republican. i share my information with carnivores and herbivores and all in between. you do not need to be sane to know plants. you do not need to be an american citizen to know plants. you do not need to be young, or old, or even embodied.
the ancient and vital skills of foraging for natural and unnatural objects, the ability to pack a fabulous first aid kit, to stop moderate bleeding and find an appropriate anti-spasmodic, the knowledge of edible fungi and how to take a crap in the woods are not luxuries. they are a vital part of human-ness which many many of us right now are completely and utterly out of touch with. we are not connecting to soil, plants, animals or the sea. but we can. just because you have not until now been doing what you long to do, does not mean you can not start. just because you are confused or frightened of dirt and forest does not mean it is a permanent state. any habit can be changed. and emotional state can evolve. anything closed can be opened.my apothecary and my knowledge are not just for the wealthy, or the comfortable. i do not teach plant id only to hippies or only to current herbalists. if you are interested in plants or herbs or foraging, but you are scared of being judged or overwhelmed i urge you to reconsider. i am not here to judge. i do not care where you are at on your journey. i am merely a lifelong student. i am here to share. you learn form me, i learn from you. it is a beautiful thing. we work together. foraging and botany and healing and medicine-making can even be fun! we just need to allow the knowledge and the joy in.or at the very least, stop kicking it out.
for once i don’t have that much to say–because these plants speak for themselves, they are compeltely sensual and a joy to be around.
how delightful that food and medicine are literally all around us.
there are 3 types of mulberries that i know of-black, more like dark purple, white, and a hybrid which is kinda lavender.
the fruit does not last long at all so must be eaten as quickly as possible, which many kids don’t mind.
something about foraging is like scratching a millienium-old itch which is just not being addressed by our current lifestyle.
yes, these trees grew in-gasp-city soil. i would not say i am completely not worried about contamination in food. however, i am much more worried about the food in price rite than the mulberries in my neighborhhood. actually, i am much more worried about war, nuclear meltdowns, pcbs, pharmaceuticals, poverty and crap air quality than a little something that may be on this mulberry. especially since fruits are not major metal accumulators.
additionally, we have been enjoying standing beneath lindens-a very common providence street tree-with honeybees buzzing all around, the smell and the flowerness somehow both stimulating and soothing.
*Some do not wish to grow plants in the city. They prefer their herbs live in some kind of country retreat, grow in ‘good’ soil. But what is “good soil” anyway? Most of our land has been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and othercides. The mountains are being mined, much farmland is mono cropped. Shit is flowing like a toxic sludge-flood into the waterways and oceans. Humans have covered large amounts of our land with poison in order to kill stuff. At least the city soil is a known quantity-yeah, it sucks. But please, we must get rid of the idea of acres of idyllic farmland where cheerful wild and domesticated animals run free together and plants grow happily in fluffy un-amended soil….it may happen but it is not the norm. Most plants don’t care. They grow. Don’t worry too much about it.
*We can often find what we need to be well…or some of it. It’s outside. Go look for it, and if you don’t find it, maybe the looking was what you needed!
*Plants want to grow. Plant a seed, or fill a bucket with dirt and wait for a seed to find you. Do not worry, do not fear failure. Noone cares if you don’t do a “Good” job in your relationship with plants. Just start! in fact, it as already started. Join!
*Seeds which have been planted by a human hand do not have more value than those which have not. All plants have the same value in the universe, as all people do.
*As we are breaking the land, plants are fixing it. Through bioremediation. Or by fixing nitrogen. Merely providing cover. Nursing soil back to health. Making oxygen. Giving their own bodies back to the land, building up organic matter. Preventing erosion. And habitat for bugs! Feeding birds. Giving, building, healing. Plants are giving to you, have been all your life.
*Plants are sending us messages all the time. What message? Maybe not words. The medium is the message. What I mean is, their example is a message to us. Grow. Expand. Make pollen. Wherever you are. Perhaps you have not noticed. Perhaps now you will.
*Plants do not discriminate on the basis of class, race, gender, religion, sexuality, marital status, age, ass size, iq, political affiliations. Plants do not care where you are from. Plants do not care what you did last night, how many facebook friends you have, whether you’d like fries with that.
*Everywhere I look, plants are growing in a teaspoon of soil. They are not being watered, fertilized or coddled in any way. They break up the pavement in order to make a home, or find cracks which already exist and exploit them. Cracks in the sidewalk, the road, gutters and stumps and stone walls. Perhaps there are some cracks in your pavement? Perhaps you were thinking you should patch up your cracks? Perhaps you shouldn’t. Perhaps you will let plants in, let them bust you up and crack your walls a little more, and a little more until you are more crack than wall, and you forget where the cracks used to be, and can no longer discern where the pavement ends and where the plants begin…..
In light of recent natural and unnatural disasters I have been thinking about emergency preparedness. I dreamed that the water was rising and I had to pack up my ONE bag(quickly) and get the heck out!! Ah, and it’s not such a dream at all….as many of us know this happens time and again, we get complacent, feel safe, it won’t happen to me–it just might! Shit happens. In this family we value preparedness quite highly, and it has served us well so far.
I encourage all people to build a first aid kit and an emergency stash of supplies. What you put in there varies wildly according to your personal needs, where you live and how much of an anal retentive freak you are. For example, some of us constantly run out of tp and maybe have like one Band-aid in the whole house. Others have 2 years worth of food for themselves and their little militia buried in the backyard along with a tidy backstock of sewing needles, birth control and bayonets a la Ragnar Benson….good barter, he alleges.
Somewhere in the middle feels right to me. One could indeed obsess over all the things you MIGHT want to have handy if the entire East Coast is wiped out but- maybe set some limits. Personally, I would like a bag with one full change of clothes including wool socks, underpants and brassiere, flashlight/headlamp and batteries, water vessel and purifier, a small amount of non-perishable food, tp, a toothbrush, copies of my most important documents, a basic sewing kit, and a multi-tool with knife, scissors, pliers, etc. Some type of feminine protection is a bonus for the ladies -reusable such as the Diva cup may be more useful in some situations. A baby may need diapers. A dog may need meat and a leash. Basically, it is important that each member of the family has some stuff in a bag including children and pets. Additionally, I’d include a sturdy spork and bowl, matches and an extensive first aid kit.
As a mother and care provider as well as a semi-responsible community member it is very important to me to be able to treat myself and others with herbal and conventional first aid in the case of an emergency. A basic rundown of my emergency first aid kit is as follows:
Basic purchased 1st aid kit supplies such as bandaids, tape, gauze pads, etc.
Tweezers(splinters, ticks, etc.)
Any prescription medication or medical device you or your family needs to survive(ie insulin, inhaler, etc)
Children and adult benadryl and epi-pen(if you have potentially fatal allergies)
Raw honey(burns, wound dressing, food)
Milk thistle seeds and activated charcoal caps(poisoning)
Tissues, cotton swabs, alcohol swabs
Propolis-raw, tincture(highly protective, healing, use for tooth issues, wounds, sore throat and mold allergy)
Twine, paracord, rope-like units.
Swiss army knife
Lip balm, oil(windburn)
Rosewater spray, aloe gel(sunburn)
Pine resin-raw, tincture and salve(drawing, highly protective, lung medicine)
Tinctures-it is hard to narrow this down! Cause I am a “tincture person”. Personally I would prioritize Wild Rose, Ginger, Yarrow, Bitters blend, Nervine blend(Scullcap-based), Arnica(external use), Comfrey(external use), St. john’s Wort, Usnea or another local lichen, Barberry or Oregon Grape, Elecampane-mullein blend, Alder-Monarda blend, Lobelia-Black Haw liniment, and Mugwort or a local Artemisia. Were I to have time to pack and a way to transport I would also add Turmeric, Goldenrod, Burdock, Dandelion, Aspen, Sweet Annie, Solomon’s Seal and Fennel-Catnip. But, you know, who is gonna carry all of that.
Salves. An all-purpose pain salve such as Cottonwood bud, Pine and Birch is a must for me as well as an Arnica/Goldenrod combo.
I would also pack up some powdered Goldenseal, a bit of dry Usnea, Linden and some Nettles and Sage.
Random useful items include in first aid kits are a whistle, some clay to make a drawing poultice, dried or candied Ginger, Angelica stem, and Licorice sticks to chew, Vitamins like B and D, iodine tablets, and a few empty waste bags.
Ultimately, the most important item one can bring in an emergency is skills. Easy to carry but timely to acquire those special skills that will serve us well through life are priceless. Identifying wild (and not-so-wild)edibles and medicinals, hunting, fishing, processing and preparing real food items with no electricity or running water, and the all-important waste management skill–including how to build a safe composting or other type of toilet! Communicating is a skill too-with all types of persons including total psychos, those who are freaking out and those who are injured.
So much the better if you never need to use your sturdy well-stocked emergency bag. But don’t be caught with your first aid pants down and no way to get the absolute basics if you and your community are evacuated, washed away or lost on a desert island. Plan now for an emergency and you will be prepared-as much as one can be.