Nature’s Pantry

As we approach the first quarter of March, it is time to start thinking of the spring gardens. Winter seems at its worst now, with snow chest high on the slopes and thigh high in the meadows, icy wind spilling out of the north and the cold biting through the walls. Yet, spring is as inevitable as winter and the time has come to contemplate what to sow.

One thing that became evident to Daphne and I last autumn was we now know so many edible wild plants and mushrooms of the Maritimes that we do not need to plant as much in the way of vegetables. In fact, if we wanted, we could probably subsist just about entirely from Nature’s bounty. We are still enjoying last year’s lamb’s quarter, sumac horns, dried boletes, wild cherry preserves, and so much other wild food. Roughly half our food came from the forest and meadows last year. And compared to relatively fragile garden vegetables and fruit that need constant nurturing, wild foods are very hardy and begin to become available before the last snow melts and persists until the ground is covered with the next snow. I don’t want to plant less, but we should change what we plant. We need a lot less domestic vegetables, so we may plant more tasty, unusual but less productive vegetables.

Natalia harvests ostrich fern fiddle heads by the sackful.

Natalia harvests ostrich fern fiddle heads by the sackful.

You know, before civilization saved the human species with cable TV, text messages the petty drama of actors and a ceaseless torrent of great and small wars, and gave us a purpose in the form of paying bills and taxes, the human species suffered the tyranny of lives enmeshed in Nature where we had lots of free time to devote to arts and spiritual things, and family and friends. Only a few decades ago, anthropologists thought that life in prehistory was brutish and short. They now know that subsistence lifestyles required in general only a couple hours work per day, except at times of peak harvest. It is true, and Daphne and I are living it. If you know how to live well with Nature, she really does provide all one needs.

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