Alder Catkins

This spring I gathered quite a few gallons of alder catkins this spring and experimented around with them. During the early spring when nothing else is out to eat I used to grab a few to chew on here and there, but never tried to save any for year round. They probably have allot of nutrients like anything full of pollen, but I can’t imagine they have much energy in them, so they’re best as a spice.

I tried just gathering them and saving them, but it turns out there’s allot more moisture in them than it seems, so I had to roast them in a pan over he woodstove and they released allot of steam. After that I picked out al the burnt pieces and could rub them between my palms to get all the ‘kernals’ off, and they’re allot more palatable that way.

When picking them make sure to take the earliest ones you can get, the most yellow. They have the most pollen. Avoid the ones that are fully or partially closed, there’s a little insect that burrows in them (I have yet to see what the insect is, just the holes it makes). These unopened catkins seem to cause allot of the mold and burn easier and don’t have any pollen in them anyways.

Here’s what I ended up with:
20140530_194856
I’ve been adding a handful to soups and such. I imagine it something like adding bee pollen. I’m definitely going to be doing this each year from now on.

Advertisements

20130807_171519

I was gathering mushrooms for supper a couple days ago when I came across this little girl. She was just sitting curled up under a spruce like little rabbits do, barely even moved when I scooped her up. I brought her inside and sat her down on my bed to take this picture, and she’s been living in my cabin since. I was planning on cooking her up with the mushrooms, but then I thought I’d give a try to taming her. It’s always fun to have wild animals that are friendly with you living nearby, you know? And even if you come to know the raven that always comes for your fish carcasses or the ermine that periodically clears out the family of shrews under your cabin (these are some of my neighbours), it’s a little different when they come up to you asking to be petted. Provided I can keep the dogs away from her once she’s back outside, that is. She does look awfully tasty though, mmm, snowshoe hare.

20130809_120313
I come across bones regiliarly while I’m out in the woods. I bring them back home to have them handy for various projects like sewing needles, knitting needles, or fishing hooks (I go through allot of fishing hooks). From left to right it’s piles of vertebrae, ribs, miscellanious jaws shoulder blades and hip bones, and leg bones. These all come from moose. Last night I found a very old carcass from a young calf killed by coyotes, which is what made me think to even take a picture of my bone pile in the first place. It’s just an everyday ordinary thing to me, I don’t usually realise how unusual that must be for people in the city.

20130809_123601
A sewing needle I made yesterday from my bone pile, for example. It’s wedge-shaped in its length because if you try to make them the same width all along their shaft they break much more often.

20130809_120531
A couple japanese knotweed containers. Very simple to make. I needed to make some more small things containers since I didn’t have anything to stick the hawthorn thorns I collected into, and those are the ones sticking out of the top container. Hawthorn thorns are all around generally useful. I usually use them as toothpicks, but they also make suitable awls or emergency sewing needles. My next project is to make a comb using dulled hawthorn thorns. I’ll post about it when I finish it. Speaking of dental hygeine though, hawthorn twigs also make an acceptable chewing stick, so I replenished my supply some at the same time.

20130809_120923
Blue bead lily berries, which supposedly make a blue dye. I’ve never seen them as plentiful as this year, so I decided to gather a pile for a friend to test out. Although, it could be that I’ve never seen them this plentiful because I’ve not really looked. The berries are inedible and have no other uses as far as I know, and the edible leaves have far gone by by the time the berries are out. On the right is a small handful of goldenthread rhizomes, which are a powerful antibiotic containing the same chemical as goldenseal. Goldenthread is much more common though. It also makes a bright yellow dye, or so I’ve heard. Need to get my friend to test this one too.

-mouse

I just got back from a course on canoeing at a local survival school. It was wicked fun, and I learned an awful lot, but it was so expensive there’s no way I’ll be able to go back any time soon. Poling canoes is real fun, I’m going to be doing allot of that on my own to get to some of the more remote gathering spots. The teacher also was willing to teach about survival skills not directly related to the course, like flintknapping. I found out there’s a source of chert nearby, too. There’s also a source of greenstone, which the local indians used to use to grind axe heads. Being able to make my own greenstone axe and chert knife will go a long ways towards being entirely self-sufficient. My most immediate project is to get a big bunch of birch bark though. That way I’ll be able to cover the wigwam I’m living in this Summer with that instead of the tarp I’m currently using. I had been using balsam fir boughs thatched over the roof, but they leaked in heavy rains, and recently the needles started falling out so I took them down and switched to the tarp.

After I went back home yesterday I went to go visit some friends and we decided to eat some junebugs, it was pretty delicious, but not nearly enough meat on them to make it worth it. May have been the way we cooked them though, since they sort of collapsed when we fried them. They tasted a bit like sardines.

-mouse

Foraging: An introduction

Here at the Nomadic Village we think it is important that everyone know the importance of foraging . This is a skill that not only can increase food independence but can increase all the yield of all sorts of all sorts of resources year round.  Important resources that can be used in dyeing fabric, making medicines, and even used in the manufacture of clothing.  Furthermore, foraging is a lot more than just merely scoping out and picking up valuable plants, with proper training one can go out and find all sorts of interesting things from fungi to plant products, to lichens to pollen.

Let us begin with the benefits with foraging for food.  Many already know the benefits of hunting for a portion of ones overall caloric intake, and depending on the environment meat can be a very important part of any diet.  Hunting alone, however, cannot provide all of the nutrients required to sustain a health life. Furthermore, meat preservation can be difficult in certain environments and climates and therefore can be dubious.  It is essential then to develop the skills to pull more nutrients from the environment.  This is conducted through the action of foraging.  Foodstuffs such as nuts, berries, leafy greens, and succlent fruits can be collected and eaten on the spot during any foray.  In fact, in some areas you dont have to look very hard at all to harvest some nutrient rich foods.  For instance, if you go for a quick stroll down any roadside, you may find a bounty of delicious dandelions, purslane

Purslane, regarded by some as a garden pest, but seen by others as a nutrient rich treat!

Purslane, regarded by some as a garden pest, but seen by others as a nutrient rich treat!

or red clover right at your feet and ready to eat.  If you take a walk through nearly any meadow the the late spring or early summer you can find a growth of the Great Burdock plant, which can be boiled down in two changes of water for a leafy green.  Burdock root is also used in several different ways as a medicinal plant.  This are just a few examples of the bounty that many may perceive  as just ordinary weeds or even garden pests.

There are other powerful  important plants that foodstuffs can be derived.  For instance, the simple cattail pollen can be collected and baked into a  delicious bread.  The yeast to bake such  bread could be derived from the outer bark of the Aspen tree.  This knowledge isn’t some sort of esoteric cult knowledge, no instead it is generated over years of experience of the natural world. In Europe during the Middle Ages, people would collect all plants that were known not to be poisonous and cook them together in soups.  This sort of trial and error in terms of plants was done for centuries including observing what foods animals avoid.  Now a days it is easy to get info about foraging with manuals such as   The Foragers Harvest    .  More information about the book can be found by clicking the link above.

Plants, however, are not just for eating.  They can be used to stock up your own natural pharmacy. This sort of gathering of medicinal herbs is an important skill set but one that should could after some experience identifying and preparing plants in the field.  There are literally thousands of medicinal plants that can be used to cure nearly any disease.  Furthermore, there are other important organisms by which medicines can be derived.  Fungi for instance can be harvested for a whole array of medicinal properties.  The Fungal Pharmacy is comprehensive volume written about the subject which also goes into some detail about the use of mushrooms beyond medicine as well.  If mushrooms are something of an interest, one with a well trained eye and a penchant for the hunt of an elusive fungi can truly enjoy making a meal out of these nutrient rich organisms.

These Yellow Morrels are a rare find but are considered a delicacy.

These Yellow Morels are a rare find but are considered a delicacy.

Expect a large treatise at some point expounding upon the numerous uses of fungi in terms of food, medicine, and various other interesting purposes soon.

There is another important element to foraging and that is the gathering of resources used in natural dyecrafting.  Many people may wonder what the purpose of gathering plants for later use for dyeing cloth when one can purchase so many different varities and colors of predyed fabrics and materials from nearly any well supplied yarn shop or fabric store.  The answer is simple.  There is a depth of color that is unavailible with modern synthetic dyes and furthermore, the chemical processes to create such dyes can be harmful to the environment and lastly, it promotes a culture that promotes largescale and perhaps unattainable textile creation that at some level has to put someone to work in a mill.  This isnt always bad but it certainly is something to be mindful of when setting about thinking about garments.  Certainly however it is important to understand the depth of color and the spectacular ability of the natural world to produce dyes for fabric.  On a historical note, dyeing fabric used to be at the heart of the world economy with certain components to dyes being worth more than gold.  Certain species of lichens were used to create a beautiful purple dye (purple by the way was considered one of the most difficult dyes to create). No matter what your prefrance to color is there is a deep array of oppertunity waiting just beneath your feet. This mushroom guide and The Art and Natural Dyeing  are two good starting points.

This shows how from various plants, a wide array of colors is born

This shows how from various plants, a wide array of colors is born

Overall these are just three small parts of the important art of foraging.  Look forward to seeing more articles outlining further various topics discussed here.  If there is one in particular that  is of interest please comment below and we will try to get you more info or post upon it sooner.

Ink made from black walnuts!

Ink made from black walnuts!

 

Paper made of mushrooms!

Paper made of mushrooms!

Link

Fungi Perfecti

Check this site out for all of your fungi needs.  It provides several kits for various mushroom growing projects.  They are an inexpensive way to bolster at home food production and it requires only a small bit of effort.  They are perfect for the urban homesteader with limited time and space to be grown in an apartment or even a wandering nomad who just leaves the kit to grow in a secluded rock outcrop.  Either way its a cheap and fun way to grow delicious mushrooms!

 

-Civil Savage

The problem of problem solving

One important thing to consider about our group is that we do have some views that may oppose those of the “modern or western” world.  This however is not exactly the case.  In fact the only reason this might appear the case is because of perhaps of the axiom we occasionally subscribe to, “If something appears to be broken, or if there is something happening that you disagree with, do not complain, but work towards solving the problem”. The idea is to become active in attaining a solution.

In practice this means learning about many differing sets of skills and becoming used to the idea that sometimes what appears to be an easy quick fix (such as using a power drill or purchasing all of ones food) is actually a short cut that will lead to just more problems down the road. For example, food is an essential for any human and completely needed for survival.  For much of the world food is actually quite sparse at least in terms of what modern agriculture provides to these people. Agriculture however has propped up populations in these areas far beyond what is should be.  In some cases perhaps modern agriculture is the only reason people can survive in certain areas at all. This problem tends to compound upon itself very easily, as I will show. First and foremost, having abundant food will lead to population growth at least in the short term( as small as one generation). This will then extend population beyond which could have been provided if the land was just hunted and gathered upon, small scale subsistence farmed, or even types of nomadic pastoralism.  Then if these people have began a certain type of food gathering method, it may limit the knowledge of other methods from the society.  For example if food being supplied to these people in the form of food being delivered and sold in local markets, they are then more dependent on not merely the food being delivered but all the problems associated in maintainable such a system.  Thus compounding potential problems.  This coupled with the inability or at least limited capacity to get the food from the land and the larger population created by the food network can lead to potential devastating consequences.  This does not have to follow such a slippery doomsayer sort of lay out but it is just used to illustrate the point that interdependent networks that require a knowledge, skill, and resource base that is not possessed by those who require the effects of the network can be limited by changes in this network.  Thereby, it become more difficult for individuals to act as they are limited by agents who seek control to maintain the delicate balance that has been struck.  The Earth does hold abundant resources however and the human capacity for learning and adapting is quite high so fortunately we are able to subsist.

images

The Ryup aim however is to have a society that is based off of as few of these tenuous networks as possible. One that is hyper adaptable, sustainable and maintains its own skill and knowledge base.  This sometimes seems to conflict with the goals of other groups, however it is not pertinent to object to or even actively fight these groups, what is important is developing the skills,the knowledge, and the resources to a live within these limits even if they are self imposed to attempt to maximize sustainability, adaptability, and ultimately survivability. If you are interested in more of this sort of thinking perhaps you could read Garett Hardin’s Living Within Limits   or contribute to this blog or our upcoming wiki site which will include skill manuals and other related information.