Election Ink or Berries?

July 21, 2013


This is my thumb after picking and eating three different berries:  Black raspberry or Rubus occidentalis, Gooseberry or Ribes hirtellum, and Mulberry or Morus (unsure which species).  We managed to get ahead of our mouths enough to bring Mulberries home where they found their way into corn mufffins, pictured below.


Milkweed, Doe, Fawn

June 13, 2013


Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.  This is the unidentified plant from my last post.  It looks quite different denuded of its leaves.


This doe was nursing her fawn close enough to the road that I could snap a distant photo.  The fawn is just ahead of her.  When I stepped out of my truck, the doe ran, but the fawn dropped and froze.  So I walked carefully and took this photo a couple of paces away.  One more step and the fawn knew she was no longer invisible and jumped up and ran like a deer.


I’m Still Foraging

May 31, 2013


I’ve known plenty of doctors and lawyers who want to be farmers.  I’m the only farmer I know who wants to be a hunter-gatherer.

I’m still foraging, but haven’t written about it lately because I haven’t added any new plants to my diet.  It’s intimidating and takes time to learn and harvest and try a new plant.  Sam Thayer says learning four of five new ones a year is a manageable goal.

The plants above took only fifteen minutes to harvest and prepare.  The greens on the left will be eaten in a salad.  The stems on the right will be diced and cooked with hamburger.

For the thrill of guessing, no prizes this time, what are the plants pictured above and the main one pictured below?  These wild edibles usually grow so profusely, they make our gardens look like a wasteland.


Apples in Rented Pasture

August 16, 2012

I was fortunate to rent a pasture this year, close to my farm.  I had a vet preg-check my sixteen fall-calving cows this spring, then vaccinated and fly tagged the twelve which were bred, and put them in the pasture May 1st.

They have done really well, even in the drought, because  I under-stocked the pasture.  I wanted some experience grazing the pasture before I put too many animals in and then had to feed hay or destock.

Now they’re enjoying the wild apples which grow in the woods and in the open.  The cows have a route they walk everyday, checking for down fruit.

The tree above is strange.  Half of it has no apples, the other half is loaded with apples.

I usually eat a few every time I check the cows.  Each tree’s apples taste different, but they’re all good in their own way.

Seeing is a Muscle, Newly Moulted Dragonfly

July 10, 2011

Shepherd and I found this newly moulted Dragonfly while picking BlackCap Raspberries.

It was nearly invisible and we probably wouldn’t have seen it, if it wasn’t sitting on a ripe raspberry.

You never know what you’ll find if you go outside, but if you don’t go, you won’t find it.

Alternate Pollinators

July 5, 2011

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)  flower.

If you click on the picture above, and blow it up, check out the winged pollinator flying in for a meal in the upper right corner.  The picture below shows a closeup of the flies.

This got me to thinking about alternate pollinators.  I shouldn’t even call them “alternate”, but that shows my thinking before I researched.  There are an estimated 200,000 wild pollinators, mostly insects, not one of them considers itself an alternate.

Everyone gives a lot of credit to honey bees, and the media was in an uproar over “Colony Collapse Disorder,” CCD, but I found out bees are not native to North America.  There are no native plants which require bees for pollination.

Bees are valuable for agriculture.  Some crops are highly dependent upon bees for pollination.  Some beekeepers are paid more to place their hives in Almond orchards than they receive for the honey produced.

A beekeeper friend of mine thought CCD was overblown.  He said, “Get the government to stop allowing the Chinese to import corn syrup mixed with honey, and the price of pure honey will go up, and beekeepers will find a way to combat CCD.  I for one don’t truck my hives all over the country chasing big dollars.  You know the bees mix with other hives and they come back home with every disease known to bees.”

The media turned a human economic problem into an environmental disaster.  The only real problem is to large-scale agriculture.  Plants will be pollinated, fruit will grow, some bees will survive.  To quote Jurassic Park, “Life will find a way.”

Milkweed and Monarch Caterpillar

August 1, 2010

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) pod.

Milkweed is an incredible plant.  According to Sam Thayer, there are six vegetables available from Milkweed, (shoots, leafy tops, flower buds, flowers, immature pods, and white).  I’ve only eaten shoots, flower buds, flowers, and pods.  It’s fun to mark the summer season as one part of the plant goes out, and another comes in.

It’s also fun to look for monarch caterpillars (Danaus plexippus).  Look at the little guy in the picture below.

What an amazing life he is going to have.  All he does now is eat and poop.  Pretty soon he’ll form a chrysalis and take a nap for a fortnight.  Then he’ll crawl out and wait for the new things on his back to dry.  Then… fly!

Opportunistic Plants

July 13, 2010

Amaranthus retroflexus

We used the hydraulic trailer to load hogs to take to the butcher today.  There is a flat piece of metal on each side of the trailer that collects manure.  I was amazed to see plants growing in the shallow manure.  And not just any plants, but the plants I wrote about yesterday: Amaranthus retroflexus and Chenopodium album.

I love living here.

Chenopodium album

Lamb’s Quarters? Pigweed? Scientific Names, Please!

July 11, 2010

Lamb’s Quarters in hand, Pigweed on right.  Or is it the other way around?  It may be, depending on where you live.

I took Shepherd and Gameboy to the Johnson Public Library and signed them up for library cards.  Serendipity helped me find “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” by Euell Gibbons, in the used book pile.  I quickly gave the librarian a dollar for this wild food foraging classic from the 1960’s.

I turned to the chapter on Pigweed, because Citygirlfriend has been sautéing Pigweed, lately.  But I was confused because the picture looked like the plant I call Lamb’s Quarters.  As I read further, I realized I need to start using scientific names.  Euell explains why, with reasoning that resonates.

“Years ago, I was very impatient with anyone using a long Latin name to designate a common, ordinary plant.  I considered the use of these tongue-twisting titles to be an affectation, designed to show off the knowledge of the user.  Why couldn’t these high-brows use the common name, which everyone understood?

I think it was the Pigweed, more than anything else, that cured me of this attitude.  Pigweeds are among the commonest of the unwanted plants in fields, gardens and barnyards in Pennsylvania.  Therefore, I was not surprised to find that pigweeds were also common in Indiana, when I traveled there.  I learned that farmers in Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, California and even Hawaii were troubled with pigweeds.  Obviously these farmers should get together and learn some way of controlling this troublesome weed.  The only difficulty with this procedure was that, in each of these localities, the “pigweed” was a different kind of plant.  To complicate matters even more, ‘Chenopodium album’, the pigweed of Pennsylvania, also grew in all these other places.  In some sections it was called Lamb’s Quarters, in some Goosefoot and in still other it was referred to as Wild Spinach.

I began to see why the botanical classification was necessary.  Many totally different plants are called pigweed in some parts of the world.  The plant I call pigweed is known by dozens of other common or folk names in different places.  Therefore any attempt to use the common name in distant places would only lead to confusion.  But I can say ‘Chenopodium album’ and a trained botanist from any part of the world would instantly know the precise plant meant.  Far from confounding the confusion, these Latin names greatly simplify the task of communication in this area.

More than that, the botanical name can tell me more about the plant in question than even the most descriptive common name ever could.  If I had never seen this particular plant, the name ‘Chenopodium’ should tell me that this weed is a member of the same family to which garden beets and spinach belong.  If I don’t have this knowledge at my fingertips, I can easily look it up in any botanical manual.  About this time I’ll begin to suspect this plant might be good to eat.”

Well said, Euell!  So I’m using scientific names now.  The plant in my hand  is Chenopodium album, and the plant on the right is Amaranthus retroflexus.  Both are wild edibles enjoyed at our table.

Blackcap Pickin’

June 27, 2010

(Rubus occidentalis)

Come along with me we’re goin’ blackcap pickin’,
Put on long pants so you can push through the thicket.

Pick out all the black ones better leave all the red ones,
The red ones pretty sour, but the black ones are heaven.

Purple mouth and fingers, lets ’em know what we been doin’,
If they wanna get some, we can show ’em where we goin’.

If you got a bowl then you can fill it in a moment,
If you wait ’till next week, then you wait another year.