My best and most accurate botanical drawing thus far (giant hogweed is so seriously evil).

This is a thoroughly accurate representation of giant hogweed for my page on the evil parsley family. Such a pretty flower.

Giant Hogsweed

Advertisements

Dangerous plants. Also, dandelions. But not in that order.

So today, when I was watering my not-so-awesome looking patch of weeds, I noticed that the seeds I put down have been coming up. I wasn’t sure that’s what they were at first, but I noticed some of the edges have tiny little points on them so I googled, and sure enough I’ve got a nice crop coming in. Now maybe in a few weeks my foraged and transplanted plants won’t look like they’re in a trashy mudpuddle.

Dandelion Seedlings

In the meantime, I went ahead and published my poison ivy page, even though I was going to do that when I finished my hemlock page and publish those together. But, since for the hemlock page I’m actually covering several plants in the family and I decided the drawings were a pain in the butt, I can’t seem to manage to get back around to finishing them. I thought maybe publishing part of the project would help me get to the rest of it, even though lately I’ve been working on a large project that seems to be eating up my free time. Hopefully I’ll get to a stopping point in that soon and get the hemlock page up.

Totally scored a garden. I’m going to fill it with weeds.

Now that the weather is warming up, I’m spending a lot less time indoors, so it seems it may be difficult to post too frequently. My backpack is now stocked with a trowel, digital camera, pruning shears, and all kinds of bags to bring home wild plants in. I’ve scored garden space, and someone to loan me tools as well. Now I’ve got the beginnings of a better indoor garden that should be vastly improved by the end of the year (I hope), an outdoor place to plant weeds that I find in relatively clean places, and an idea to microgarden foraged seeds.  Combine that with my art, my meditative exercises, and my cooking and I’m starting to wonder if I’ll even have time to read much for a while.

 

Starting my weed garden. Wild violets, clover, dandelions, plantain, and chickweed.

So I’m going to do this garden thing with no investment. I only own a trowel and pruning shears, and I can barely manage to keep myself stocked in potting soil for my indoor plants. I’ll have to get resourceful on this (like marking it as a garden with sticks). I’m starting off with dandelions and clover in the middle of the garden, with a wild violet and plantain edging, and a little chickweed here and there. My neighbor (who loaned me the tools) gave me three nasturtium seeds for it, and I might get some sand for it (we have a lot of clay), but other than that I want to see how well I can improve it with things I have found or used from my kitchen. Right now it looks an absolute mess. My neighbor says it looks great. She’s insane.

I’m going to edge the garden with things that I forage and want to grow, the majority of the garden will be clover and dandelions. Clover is a nitrogen fixer, therefore a great green manure. Dandelion has a deep taproot that reclaims nutrients the rain has pushed deeper into the earth. When it decays, it releases these nutrients back into the topsoil, making it a great green manure as well. So, I’ll fill the garden up with these as much as I can, foraging them and bringing them home until not an inch remains. In the fall, I’ll lift out the edge plants and till everything under, then replace the edge plants. This will mean dandelion roots will be broken apart to turn into new plants in the spring, but since I want them to be my main crop that’s just fine. I’ll let the clover come back too, I’ll just likely throw a few more plants into the mix in the middle.

I might put some of my more treasured plants in containers (reused kitchen packaging, most likely) so their roots won’t be disturbed in the fall. This will also allow me to put better soil around the prize finds (if I find prizes) while I improve the soil that’s already there. It could be the prize finds end up being plants grown from kitchen scraps. And if I get something that sprawls and takes over, like mint or (please universe, let me find some) mugwort.

I want to make a cloth worm bin to use with my bird’s cage newspaper and kitchen scraps. This can be worked into the soil in the fall, along with the sand and green manures. Add some shredded leaves to the mix, and next year’s soil should be much better. Plus, I’ll be making fertilizer from egg shells, kitchen scraps, some fish emulsion I have on hand, a tad of milk and blackstrap molasses (these stimulate soil bacteria and microbes), and powdered banana peels.

Actually I got quite a nice thing going with bananas. I’ve found that they sweeten the kefir smoothies I’ve been giving to my son in the morning before school. He doesn’t like kefir plain (I love it) but the bananas help me make them free of refined sugar. So I get a ton of them, let them ripen to the point of being spotty (the most sugars have developed at this point), and then I slice and freeze them. I take all the peels and slice and dry them, then run them through my coffee grinder into a powder. I can use them in my houseplant water, in face masks (it’s an emollient that is said to reduce dark under circles on eyes, but so far I can’t tell how well it works), and now I can sprinkle it on my garden right before a rain.

Well, I thought I’d drop a quick line on why my free time isn’t so much in front of the computer researching and complaining my finds for a few weeks. My free time isn’t going to be much blogging, but I’ll be checking in every now and again. I’m still hoping to finish a few pages soon, especially on things that may go into my garden. It just might take me a while to finish them.

If you have any tips on zero-budget gardening on permaculture principles, let me know!

It’s time to start watching the ground when I walk.

And sometimes, the trees.

I have been interested in wild foods since I was a very young girl. It absolutely amazes me that I feel like I don’t know more about the subject, by now I’ve certainly had enough time to become an expert. True, a lot of the time I can look down and point out one or two things around me that I can eat or use for medicine, but I know exactly how much there is that I don’t know. There are so many commonly mentioned wild foods and medicines that I have never tried, even though I know they are all around me.

I know part of the problem is that when I pick up a book on the subject and begin reading, I become overwhelmed with information. And I won’t put a wild food in my mouth until I’ve read several sources about it. So, a couple of years ago I decided I would learn one or two plants a season. This means looking in detail at look-alikes, growth patters, and ways to prepare the plant for medicine, food, and other uses. So instead of learning a little about a lot of plants, I have started learning a lot about a one or two at a time. This has helped.

Know what’s helped even more? Drawing them. Okay, yeah, I already knew that would help. I’ve already sketched several plants in my life. But this blog? The feeling of an invisible audience (even when it’s a very tiny one on this brand new speck of a blog), that puts the pressure on to start churning out some quality material. Know what I just now learned how to identify for an upcoming page? Poison ivy. I should have learned that years ago, given the amount of time I’ve spent running about in wild to wildish places. I just kept away from funny looking vines and left it at that.

Now I’m focusing on something that I wanted to try years ago, but never did. Pine. I was too worried that I might not correctly identify an edible species and was unsure what the risks were, so instead of looking it up I just kept putting it off. But now, at the tail end of a way too long winter, I’m getting itchy for dandelion season to begin but it’s slow to start. I want something, anything, to forage. Well, pine is forageable all year long, so it’s time to figure it out.

I keep seeing Pascal Baudar’s photos in the facebook group Wild Fermentation. He’s working on a book that uses a lot of wild foods and wild fermentation, ever since I’ve seen his photos of a pine/fir wild soda I’ve really been into the idea. Yet I don’t even know how to tell you the difference between pine and fir, or how a spruce or cedar might be different. I have no clue. How can I have been eating spring lawn greens every year without really “branching out”. Heh. Anyway, this urban chickie with a wild heart is going to start tackling more woodsy and less “park across the street” stuff soon.

Anyway, my dandelion page is finally up, and the grass is starting to look green. I’ve got more pages in progress, but more importantly I have a plan for this spring. If I can keep the mice and birds out of my indoor plants, I want to forage for seeds whenever I can. I’m thinking that in order for me to get to an area where I don’t have to worry about city pollution on my food, I have to ride my bike for several miles. In the meantime, if I gather seeds for microgreens (especially dandelions), I should have a relatively tiny amount of contaminants. I already sprout, so I’m hoping this year works well.

By the way, I had kefir ice cream after dinner. With cacao powder, orange zest, banana, allspice, and blackstrap molasses. My new ice cream maker is so cool. I’m also playing around with cheese molds and stumbling through developing a few new recipes.

Quick Safety Warning: Jelly Jar Glasses

Okay, so on this corner of the web we all prefer to buy things in packaging we can reuse, right? I’m going to say avoid this brand of jelly jar.

The bottom keeps falling off of my jelly jar.

This is the second time this has happened to me in just the last couple of months. I had two drinking glasses from this brand of jelly jar, and the bottom just fell right off. The first time I was doing the dishes, I think there was a mug involved, I’m not sure what happened, but the bottom became separated from the glass in a nice clean cut.

Last night, I was filling it with water. That’s all. I have no recollection of any banging against a counter or being dropped and put back in the cabinet. Both of these glasses are about a year old, I’m starting to think this brand may have something wrong in the design in the bottom where it doesn’t hold up very long, or if it’s knocked at just the right angle…

Thankfully I’ve already switched to something with a handle on it because the lids screw on and look more like I might be able to do a smoothie on the go or something with it.

Save the Ocean: Wear Natural Fibers

Synthetic fibers in your laundry may be polluting the water stream.

Personally, I’ve always thought I was doing a good thing in my clothing purchases, from both a social and an environmental perspective. I mean, when I was growing up and became aware of things like slave labor, or pollutants that were produced in the manufacturing of clothing, I kind of felt overwhelmed and at a loss on how to help. Was I supposed to research every clothing manufacturer on the face of the planet before purchasing their products? That seemed like an awful lot of work, and the cost of purchasing from companies that were demonstrated to be ethical is frequently financially out of my reach. Especially when I was a teenage girl clothes shopping on an allowance.

So, I came up with a solution. Instead of obsessing over where my clothes came from and keeping track of everyone I was supposed to boycott, I simply shopped at thrift stores. Besides getting a large amount of clothing for my money, I also didn’t have to worry about giving my “voting dollars” to sweat shops or unethical environmental practices. Instead, I was giving my money to a charity of my choice. Plus, I was reusing. Happy hippie all around.

So now I’m hearing that I need to be more careful about what I choose at those thrift stores. I never really worried about synthetics, as my reusing them was keeping them out of landfills and preventing more from being manufactured. Unfortunately, careful and ethical decision was still leaking plastic wastes into the ocean. So, I’ll be checking those labels for more than sizes from now on.

Thankfully, thrift stores do indeed have a surprising variety of natural fibers. I’ve found quite a selection of treasures, ranging from pure silk business shirts to cashmere knit cardigans. My current favorite is a knit silk tank top, in a nice light brown with pure silk yarn. It doesn’t fit, but I can’t wait to make it into a teddy bear, one of these days.

Ahh yes. I was going to take my change from household goods down there this month, to look for sheets to put under the birdie play areas and for some sewing projects. Thanks for reminding me :).