After what has felt like an age of rain and mud we finally saw a break in the weather over the weekend and Monday dawned bright, dry and beautifully warm. The perfect day to go foraging!
One of our homeschool friends had arranged a wonderful outing to meet Amber Westfall, a foraging expert and enthusiast. We met at a local community garden (I love those places!) but it was the bounty of the hedgerows that we were exploring rather than the veg patch, and what a bounty it was.
It was wonderful to explore the powerful medicine locked within these oft maligned plants; the magical milk in a dandelion that can heal a wart, the immediate healing brought by a burdock leaf or the cleansing strength of a cup of nettle tea.
Since I left my home in England I’ve often felt sad at my lack plant recognition, my knowledge of the wild hedgerows I grew up in has been replaced by uncertainty and a little sadness. To know the plants of a place is to know the place itself, to fully belong to it and it to you. After an hour with Amber (and with plans to attend her wild walks in the future) I feel that a little piece of that has been restored to me.
As we explored the simple boundaries of the public pathways criss crossing a beautiful urban oasis, we used all our senses to connect to nature. Amber invited us to taste, touch, smell and learn as we came to know the names and properties of what are often called weeds and destroyed without thought. She gave us suggestions for making a plantain salve or a burdock coffee, stung herself with nettles and then healed herself with burdock. She made it all seem mundane and magical at the same time, the everyday magic that surrounds us without us knowing it.
The next morning, after breakfast, Stephen challenged the boys to find 5 different kinds of flowers from the field outside, they bolted out and soon returned with hands full of their wild harvest. It filled me with joy to be able to identify many of the plants and we spend half an hour looking up the ones we didn’t recognise.
As I walked Winnie that afternoon I noticed more than I have before, I saw plants that I could now name and that have uses in my mind. I mulled over the possibility of a roll on plantian tincture and rejoiced when I confirmed that the patch of nettles growing over the burned out barn are indeed the most nutritious and edible kind.
I had always planned to spend the summer exploring and journalling our land with the boys but now there is an added dimension of excitement, knowing that there is a wild harvest just waiting to be discovered, waiting to be used. It’s such a pleasure to know more about this place we live and to feel even more connected to the land, this bountiful place we call home.