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Foraging, Spring 2014

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Spring is decidedly here, as evidenced by temperatures creeping up and up, days of rain, snow and ice now taking the form of streams, buds on the trees and our favorite spring greens popping up everywhere.

In our yard, I’m greeted by Corn Speedwell, Red Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum), Bedstraw (Galium triflorum), Plantain (Plantago major), Curly Dock (Rumex crispus), Chickweed (Stellaria media), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Chicory (Cichorium intybus) Burdock (Arctium lappa), and the beginnings of Violet (Viola sororia), all uncultivated. In the woods, ramps and garlic mustard are springing up in abundance, signaling the beginning of morel season.

With all of these foraging options, today I chose to focus on a wild food that could have, and perhaps should has, been harvested last fall after the first frost: Rose Hips. High in Vitamin C, rose hips are said to be a general health and wellness staple. The fruit of both cultivated and wild roses occurs after the blooms have died, sending nutrients to a round red-orange fruit, containing the seeds, just behind the rose blossom. Embarrassingly, I’ve not tried them myself. Knowing that they are often dried to be used in teas or herbal infusions, I could not ignore the glut of large hips still present on the bushes in our next door neighbor’s front yard.

Darren and I headed out for a twelve foot hike, scissors and buckets in hand.

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With no instruction from me, he chose an effective method to harvest: snip the ends with scissors held in one hand, while your other hand holds a bucket just below to catch the hip as it falls.

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We’ll pick through these to remove any that are mushy instead of sun-dried.

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Happy foraging!

The homesteading backslide

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Through a series of unfortunate events, upon which I don’t care to expound, we have come to a point of urban homesteading that I have feared reaching – the backslide. As renters, I have always known we were at the mercy of our landlord when it came to our homesteading exploits. When our permission to keep backyard chickens was recently revoked in order for our landlords to address a property issue, I felt a bit deflated. Ok, more than a bit.

Fortunately, we have a close community of like-minded folks, so our options were numerous when considering a new home (or a swift end of life) for our trusty hens, procured just seven months ago from one of our favorite places – City Folk’s. Betty, Batgirl, Austra, Beyoncé and Pippin are now efficiently tilling the earth for our friends over at Harmonious Homestead, helping them prepare for expanded planting in 2014.

This experience has focused me even acutely on saving money to buy a modest homestead of our own as soon as possible. I would love to have our girls back in our own yard, doing work for us, turning scraps to nutrient-rich fertilizer and healthy eggs and entertaining us with their chicken ways. It was a moment of homesteading bliss cut too short.

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(These photos and links seem glitchy, so I’ll likely be back to fix them tomorrow.)

Plantain and a canning accident.

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Today I had a canning adventure with a friend. You can read Rachel’s account of the situation over at Harmonious Homestead.

Preserving is fun to do with friends: the workload is shared, more can be accomplished in less time, and it is a great bonding experience. Matching canning burns aren’t usually part of the equation for most, but that’s certainly the part of today that will be most memorable for Rachel and I, and likely for our kids and husbands that witnessed the immediate aftermath.

In short, as I was tightening* the Tattler lid on a quart of tomato purée after pulling it from its 85-minute hot water bath processing, the lid exploded forcefully off of the jar instead of fastening down tighter as I turned the canning jar ring with one towel-laden hand and held the searing-hot jar with the other. Boiling tomato purée shot out, clinging to everything in its path – my hand and arm, Rachel’s arm and clothing, the fridge, the cupboards and up to 8 feet away all over the floor. Rachel claims it looked like a stabbing scene.

She and I immediately ran to sinks to cool our skin. My next stop was out Rachel’s back door for plaintain, (the plant, not the banana-like fruit) to apply a quick poultice of the chewed leaves. I pressed the juicy leaves onto my skin, covering as much of the burn as I could without the oozy pulp falling off of my arm, and stayed outside for quite a few minutes. Upon returning to my home a short while later, I repeated the treatment, holding the poultice to the worst spots with bandaids and larger dressings.

I must admit, when I took the bandages off to check on the progress just minutes ago, I was quite impressed. I’ve used this plant before to dress burns, but they’ve only been very small injuries. In fact, I’ve never experienced a burn like this before. Some spots that earlier appeared as though they would be a larger area of blistering have settled right down, and I’ve ended up with only two very slightly raised blisters, each much smaller than the eraser of a pencil.

I obviously don’t have a control for this crude experiment, but I call it an early success. The pain of the fairly serious burn was gone in about 4 hours, and the swelling is remarkably nearly absent already. I’m glad to know plantain.

After a 20-minute application of plantain (note the swelling):
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After a 5-hour application of plantain (swelling nearly gone, the green splotch is from the plantain juice):
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*The tightening step is one that is particular to the reusable Tattler lids, which have given me delight over multiple canning seasons. I will not hesitate to use these lids in the future, as I believe this was mostly operator error on my part. In the future, though, I will use one-use Ball canning lids for tomato purée.

Local Foods Week 2013

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The annual coming-together of the Columbus community to embrace our local food producers is nearly upon us. Spearheaded by Local Matters, the event runs from August 10 until August 18. Instead of rehashing the details, I’ll refer you directly to the Local Matters site and get straight to the events that I’m most looking forward to.

    Saturday, August 10

400 Farmer’s Market
Part spectacle, part food, part wares, the twice-monthly market is a short bike ride from my house. We’ll head over near the start for something to snack on and to say hello to some friends.

    Tuesday, August 13

Fermenting class at City Folk’s Farm Shop
If my schedule allowed, I would attend this class. Fermenting is all the rage, and Andy of Crazy Kraut brings a wealth of knowledge and boundless enthusiasm to the topic.

    Wednesday, August 14

Midohio Food Bank’s Share Your Harvest donation event
I’m excited that our community engages in activities such as these. Sharing the harvest is one of the most rewarding aspects of growing your own food.

    Thursday, August 15

Mid-Summer Foraging Workshop
I’d be remiss to not mention my own event here. Bring along a few suspected edibles from your own yard, and we’ll identify them together. The last foraging workshop filled up to capacity, so sign up soon!

    Sunday, August 18

Veggieland & The Annual Local Foods Week Kids’ Cook-off Challenge
Darren is too young to participate in the cooking challenge, but I hope he’ll draw inspiration from watching young chef-in-the-making prepare delicious food.

Perhaps we’ll run into each other as we celebrate local foods. Which events are your favorites?

holding our breath.

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I have discovered a few things during the last month. They might not actually be newsworthy – I’ve had an inkling all along – but they’ve certainly been affirmed.

1. I like being in control.

2. I am not tolerant of incompetence when it stands between me and a goal I need to achieve.

3. When “the immovable object” is placed in my path, I don’t like to waste time trying to move it. I’m content to recalibrate and move on.

These self-discoveries are brought to you by: We are trying to open a business by November 1.

The idea is great; a co-working space for music lessons. Dennis will be joined by a handful of experienced instructors to make up our founding membership, with room for a number of additional teachers to join. I have so many more details to share in the next few months.

For now, people are meddling in ways that make me feel great amounts of stress. As I’m trying to wade through the process of starting a business, obtaining a commercial lease, etc etc etc, I keep running into “the immovable object” of above. But this time, I can’t take a different approach. I have to just sit still and it run its course.

I have come to the recent conclusion that the stress-inducer really might be trying to help. But I don’t need help in the way they’re trying to provide it. I need to be part of the conversation, not someone who receives the information second hand during a one-minute side conversation someone has with my husband a week later.

We’re taking about opening a business in three months.

Three months.

There are things I need to do to get this ready. And there are more things I need to do if the business doesn’t happen.

“Waiting for people” is not on the agenda that I made.

In conclusion, I’m excited about our potential business. And my creative energy is nearly spent. So I haven’t been blogging, and I haven’t been foraging. But I have been collecting furniture and hoping for the best.

Home Ec June recap

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On June 24th, a small but mighty group gathered for the first Home Ec since our location shift to City Folk’s Farm Shop.

Of the gatherings so far, this spread was the most impressive. Somehow the gods conspired and we ended up with a potluck that was perfectly suited to the theme, Picnic, and made a complete, homemade gourmet meal.

It was certainly not to miss.

These photos from Rachel capture a bit of the ambiance.

We started off with a boozy cherry punch.

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After we spent a few minutes chatting and gazing longingly at the spread of perfectly-seasoned chilled salmon with wilted cherry tomatoes, marmalade-glazed bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, herbed watermelon, colorful potato salad and plain ol’ buttered popcorn, we happily piled our plates high and sat a long table to chat even more.

While Dennis provided a backdrop of solo guitar, we shared stories of gardening and life, made new friends and topped off our feast with a delectable icebox cake which must have been devoured too quickly to get any fitting photographic evidence.

As if the evening could get any more sublime, we all left with our arms full of plants looking for homes.

It was the most terrific of times, and we do hope you will be able to join us July 29th at City Folk’s for the next Home Ec.

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Garden update: June 20, 2013

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To pick myself up, I’m trying to spend as much time as the heat and sun allow out in our urban yard today. With a cup of Chemex-brewed coffee in hand, I trudged out the back door earlier today with Darren to corral the chickens into our portable chicken pen, a place where they can spend some time foraging for bugs and greens that they don’t have access to in their secure run.

Our garden is coming along nicely this year. The well-spaced rain storms we’ve had in the last two weeks have made for little need to hand water and lush, green growth.

This morning, I harvested the first of our beans for the year. So far they’re thriving, all climbing higher than the supports I’ve made for them. They’re showing no signs of whatever disease took them all out last year, so I remain hopeful.

We have planted over a dozen tomato this year. I was delighted to see, upon returning from Michigan a few days ago, some already setting fruit. Most of the rest are in flower, but we do have some with horribly stunted growth. Tomorrow I’ll stop by City Folk’s for some organic plant food for the stragglers.

Yesterday, I ate the first squash of the season. I thought it was a summer squash, but I neglected to diagram the garden as I squeezed plants in just about everywhere, so I realized while slicing it up that it may have been an immature winter squash. Regardless, it was delicious sautéed in butter with some garlic, onions, cayenne, dill and salt!

On the pest front, I thankfully have little to report. There have been no signs of our urban groundhog; perhaps the trap scared him off? And the squash bugs have not yet shown themselves. I’ve seen lots of bees, ants, ladybugs and praying mantis babies, so we’re at least starting off on the right foot.

That sunflower at the top of this post? A happy surprise that grew in the middle of the beets. I decided to leave it and its three friends growing among the radishes. They’re a lovely addition to my otherwise vegetable-heavy gardens.

As the season progresses, I plan to pop back in with updates. Stay tuned for another foraging report in the next two days!

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