Friday, June 20, 2008

Wildcrafting with Ella

We've been blessed with some really nice, warm summer-like weather at last this week. While passing through on our driveway yesterday afternoon, Drew noticed the wild blackberries (Rubus ursinus) had ripe fruit on them! So this morning, I thought Ella might want to help me pick some yummy wild treats. After sunscreening up, putting our shoes on the wrong feet intentionally, and finding our berry-picking basket, we set off down the road.

Our first stop was for "sides in da gass, mama" (sides is what Ella calls nursing), so we sat, and I found us in a patch of wild oats (Avena sativa). Call it obsessive, but I like picking apart the ripe seed pods to extract a very sweet, tiny oat groat. Fresh with it's own oat milk, they are delicious. I carefully dissected one for Ella, who, once she finished eating it, said "mooore". So we ate wild oats for a while, and harvested some in the basket to take home.

Finally, I reminded my small companion that we were on our way to find blackberries, so on we walked, finding deer tracks in the dusty dirt of the the driveway. At last we arrived at the patch, and there were a surprising number of ripe berries. Wild blackberry is rather fickle, seeming to require specific conditions for fruit that often are not satisfied in most of the places the plants grow. The berries are small and tart compared to the Himalaya Blackberry, but their flavor has its own advantages, and is worth seeking out. We carefully extracted about a cup of berries from thorns and poison oak, snacking and putting aside as we went.

We walked along the creek at the bottom of the hill, and had a detour at the gravel pile by the old, haunted, yellow ranch house. Ella picked out some favorites and added them to our basket. At last, we headed home across the pasture. Near some of the old, old oak trees, we found a half of a turkey egg shell. I hope that it represents a hatched turkey, but it could be the spoils of a wayward raven. Another 50 yards farther brought us to the native hazelnut (Coryulus cornuta) tree, which is also fruiting right now. Small nuts in pairs with red, rough paper covering are sparse, but yummy. I suspect that with a bit more management with fire or coppicing they would produce far more nuts each year. For now, they are a rare and yummy treat with unique flavor.

At last we complete our walk, and arrive home with our spoils. We eat, share with daddy, and enjoy. What a lovely summer morning. On days like these, I think to myself that we will all be just fine, peak oil or not...

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