August 2015: Wild Food Foraging III-A

Click the photo to link to the class description page.

Click the photo to link to the class description page.

Most people know there are wild foods in the meadows and woods, but they don’t know how to identify them.  Even fewer know how to harvest and use them.  Some are even afraid of them.  According to David Arora, author of Mushrooms Demystified: “There are few things that strike as much fear in your average [person] as the mere mention of wild mushrooms . . . [But] once you know what to look for, it’s about as difficult to tell a deadly Amanita from a savory chanterelle as it is a lima bean from an artichoke.”  This applies to wild plants, as well.  If you know what to look for, Nature provides abundantly and the Maritime provinces are blessed with a surfeit of wild edible foods.  In fact, our family resides on a semi-remote wooded homestead and as much as 25% of our food is foraged from the wild meadows and forests.  And this is a skill you can learn, too.

Join us this August for our fourth wild food foraging class of the season and learn about the late season edibles: fruits, seeds, mature vegetable stages, and some of Nova Scotia’s delicious edible mushrooms.

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American Federal Government Moves to Ban State Labeling of GMOs & Origin Country of Meat

In this website of the biotech industry, they happily note the federal ban on labeling GMOs.  (Click link to view.)

In this website of the biotech industry, they happily note the federal ban on labeling GMOs. (Click link to view.)

Though it saddens me greatly to report this, in the USA the House over the past two weeks has betrayed the American people by passing two bills. One is a bill that bans states from passing laws to make it mandatory to label GMOs. The other is a bill to ban the labeling of the origin of meat. Meat shipped to the USA from China and other questionable sources will no longer be labeled.

The House also voted to ban labeling the source country of meat sold in the USA.

The House also voted to ban labeling the source country of meat sold in the USA.

The banning of labeling GMOs was voted for on the basis that the House didn’t feel GMOs represented a risk, and it was passed despite surveys showing 92% of US citizens want GMOs labeled. Similar data indicates the vast majority of Americans want to know where their food comes from. In essence, the government is now acting contrary to the will of the American people and the very principles of democracy and majority rule, overtly favoring corporate interests, and justifying it on the basis of “father knows best”.

Welcome to the dystopian future. It did not come through nuclear war, zombie holocaust or alien invasion, as dramatic movies had envisioned. It came quietly on cat’s paws, enabled by ignorance, greed and apathy.

The only question now is, what will you do about it? Election time is coming. It is time for a political reset in the USA.

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52,056 Out of 52,059 Scientists Agree On Anthropogenic Climate Change

Singapore skyline at sunset and cracked earth

Singapore skyline at sunset and cracked earth

Powell said, “If someone says that 97 percent of publishing climate scientists accept anthropogenic [human-caused] global warming, your natural inference is that 3 percent reject it. But I found only 0.006 percent who reject it. That is a difference of 500 times.  [That’s one in every 17,352 scientists.]”  (Source article linked in photo.)

Which is to say that 99.994% of climate scientists accept anthropogenic climate change.  Often, when organizations host climate science debates, they will place a panel of one to three climate scientists on one side, and one to three climate science deniers on the other, which gives the impression that climate science deniers have equal clout.  But to have a statistically representative debate, you’d have to have 52,056 climate scientists on one side and three climate science deniers on the other.

I have found that, in general, only the determinedly ignorant, usually driven by deep conservative and/or religious motivations, and those in the fossil fuel, Big Industry and Big Ag sectors, are profoundly committed to climate science denial, often going so far as to set up pseudo-science front organizations such as the Heartland Institute and the so-called International Climate Science Coalition (“im still wondering what actual scientists are a part of this “coalition”).  These organizations tend to be very secretive about their funders and memberships.  Yet transparency is a key issue in all forms of science, and there is no real science done without transparency.  Moreover, these organizations are typically headed by persons misrepresenting themselves as scientists, such as the head of ICSC, Tom Harris, who is, in fact, an engineer and not a scientist.

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Into the Old Wood Together

Daphne is a a great hiker, but tends to be constantly distracted by every lovely flower.  Here, she examines a thick patch of bunchberry.

Daphne is a a great hiker, but tends to be constantly distracted by every lovely flower. Here, she examines a thick patch of bunchberry.

Daphne accompanies me to the Old Wood to check the progress of hidden groves of beaked hazelnut. The hazelnuts look to be 3 to 6 weeks from harvest, but Daphne was finding herself distracted by carpets of bunchberry on sphagnum moss.

Serviceberries are rare in the highland forest, so it was delightful to find this tree.  I will return in two weeks to harvest.  We'll eat some, but many of the berries will be planted in pots and spread around our homestead as they mature.

Serviceberries are rare in the highland forest, so it was delightful to find this tree. I will return in two weeks to harvest. We’ll eat some, but many of the berries will be planted in pots and spread around our homestead as they mature.

Trekking through the woodlands, we found service berries nearly ripe at a break in the forest. They are duly noted and I’ll return in a fortnight to harvest, and some will be reseeded onto Twa Corbies Hollow land. Thornberries should be about ripe by that time, too.

A good size black bear sow, right forepaw, and traveling along with her was a single cub.  We got close, but alas my Daphne gave our position away when she happily yet loudly exclaimed she had found a large patch of beaked hazelnut growing nearby, laden with young nuts.

A good size black bear sow, right forepaw, and traveling along with her was a single cub. We got close, but alas my Daphne gave our position away when she happily yet loudly exclaimed she had found a large patch of beaked hazelnut growing nearby, laden with young nuts, and the bears, just a few hundred yards ahead, heard us and rapidly departed.

Deep in the Old Wood, I picked up the trail of a black bear sow with a cub and thought to trail them and catch up. I trailed them two miles when Daphne was delighted to espy an especially large patch of hazelnut and loudly declared, “I bet we can fill a whole sack from those trees.” I found steaming piles of bear dung only a few hundred yards up where it had overheard her and taken fright and set off at a lope. Alas, two miles of tracking for naught.  Oh well, we still had a blast.

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Modern Industrial Agriculture “Discovers” Compost

Daphne was reading the Maritime agriculture journal called Farm Focus. She looked puzzled and said, “Cliff, they said that new science indicates it might be best to grow potatoes on soil prepared with compost.”

The Potato Patch, enlarged by about 50% since this photo was taken, is enriched by compost and produces all the potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes our family of four needs in a year.

The Potato Patch, enlarged by about 50% since this photo was taken, is enriched by compost and produces all the potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes our family of four needs in a year.

“You don’t say,” I said.

She read on and said, “They are right now doing a research project to see if potatoes can be grown more productively on soil that has been enriched with compost, and they hypothesize that it will take three years to do the study.”

I said, “Hmm, that’s odd, because on my website and in my last book I wrote that it takes just about three years to prepare ground and maximize harvest using organic methods and compost..”

Daphne read on. “They’re suggesting that farmers can get higher yields with compost-prepared soil.”

“Well,” I told her, “I have written many times that we get about 1500 lbs of food annually from the 3000 square feet of soil we use to grow potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. Do they have any other original science that seems to be plagiarized from my last book, website, and the magazines, books and websites of just about every organic and permaculture farmer on the planet?”

***   ***   ***

And what does a couple tons of compost, and nothing but compost, direct from our livestock, kitchen and last year's garden detritus, do for our gardens?  See for yourself?  And the harvest is even better! You might also note that we do not use an ounce of pesticide.  We let the local insects and birds eat any pests and everything is fine.

And what does a couple tons of compost, and nothing but compost, direct from our livestock, kitchen and last year’s garden detritus, do for our gardens? See for yourself? And the harvest is even better!
You might also note that we do not use an ounce of pesticide. We let the local insects and birds eat any pests and everything is fine.

What is really interesting is now industrial/battery farming is acting as if returning to these very old, very successful models of farming is something new and radical.

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Don’t Waste Those Lilacs–Eat Them!

Lilacs come in white and various hues.

Lilacs come in white and various hues.

It’s lilac season. Don’t let them go to waste! Cut a few blossom clusters and let them sit on your table for a couple hours so any insects evacuate. Then immerse them in liter jars of tepid water for a couple days and let them slowly steep. After, add a little honey and maybe a bit of lemon juice (I prefer a bit of tart forest shamrock or sheep or meadow sorrel) for a fragrant, floral beverage. (Also blends nicely with black tea, chaga tea and sumac-ade.)

Another nice thing for lilacs: make a thick sugar syrup and dip them and let them dry on wax paper for candied lilacs (nice on pancakes).

Or you might make a light batter and dip and fry the clusters, then dip in honey like Mexican sopaipapillas or use powdered sugar for a treat like English elderflower pastries.

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Don’t Use That App to Forage

Four people taken to hospital after using phone app to identify mushrooms.  Click to read the article.

Four people taken to hospital after using phone app to identify mushrooms. Click to read the article.

Last weekend at our foraging class, the question came up: Can I use one of those new phone apps to identify forageables?

I cautioned against it. The fact is identifying plants and mushrooms is a whole-sense process. Some plants, like dandelions are very obvious, but wild lettuce has an uncannily similar appearance to dandelion. Fortunately, if you confuse them, it won’t kill you. But deadly nightshade has blossom bunches vaguely reminiscent of wild carrot, and it will kill you if you confuse them. But you can always tell them because deadly nightshade smells nothing like carrot.  Boletes may look delicious, or they may turn blue if you bruise or cut them, and you don’t know if they’re edible or will give you terrible cramps til you see.

And the fact is, even experts often have great difficult identifying individual plant and mushroom species; how can an app possibly do it with a photo?  What if a bird snipped off a petal of that blossom?  What if that particular plant just grew a bit unusual, i.e., a four leaf instead of three leaf clover?

A photo cannot tell you what the plant looked like at different stages of growth, nor what it smells like, feels like, tastes like. Nor can it tell you what’s under the dirt of a mushroom fruiting body, or what the spores of a mushroom are shaped like, nor if that agaricus smells phenolic or cuts yellow.

There are no shortcuts to learning to forage. DO NOT use an app to identify plants and mushrooms.

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The Wildwood Way–Coming Soon to Your Local Bookstore

In your bookstore this November.

In your bookstore this November.

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Wild Food Is Good Food

curly dockDinner is free range chicken (real free range, as in raised in meadows and woods Twa Corbies chickens), served with potatoes and steamed young curly dock and a salad of dandelion greens, wild chives and sheep sorrel served with bacon grease and bits. We don’t eat like other folk in the Hollow, but we usually eat better because most of what we eat is wild or all but.

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July: Wild Food Foraging Class II-A

Daphne takes a break while foraging in the forest.

Daphne takes a break while foraging spring beauties in the forest.

Due to the immense popularity of the Wild Food Foraging Courses, which have been booked out almost since they were offered, we are offering at least one additional foraging course in July. Details are located here. Message me if interested. Because the demand for these classes is so high, a small deposit of $25 is required to hold your place.

Click the photo to jump to the course description.

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