Late Summer Foraging and Plant ID

Officially, we are still at D4-Exceptional drought levels, but we did get some significant rain this last week. Depending on who you ask, we got somewhere between four and seven inches. Thank you Lord for that!

In my last post, I said that I had seen some different “weeds” this summer probably due to the drought. Maybe when the less drought tolerant plants don’t make it, room is left for these guys. Anyway, it’s always exciting to see new stuff.

Speaking of new stuff. Someone in the wild edible Facebook page I belong to, told me about this phone app called Picture This. When you come across a plant you don’t recognize, you can take take a picture of it, and the app will try to identify it. Most of the time, it gives you a few possibilities, with the first one most likely. If nothing else,  that means you have a place to start from. I’ve been having a great time playing with it!

This cannot be said often enough: If you do not know, with 100% certainty, what a plant is, don’t eat it! It could be fine, or it could kill you. By the way, all the pictures in this post were taken with either my camera or my phone.  With one exception, they were all taken somewhere on our place.

This is spurge. You DON’T want to eat it. It will give you a bad stomach ache and all the nasty stuff that goes along with that.

xs_1533764768413_resized

spurge

This however, is purslane, and it is good for you.

xs_1534437112912

purslane

Here is a very good blog post with some good pictures that can give you more detailed info about the two. For me, purslane leaves look shiny and rubbery like succulents. They often grow close together, so once you know the difference, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart. An interesting side note is that, often edible plants and their poisonous look alikes grow close together. Another look alike for spurge (and as far I know this isn’t edible either) is knot weed. This grows all over my yard. I think makes great ground cover. I would like it better if it was edible.

0904181033_resized

knot weed

When we got rid of the giant ragweed last spring, this came up in its place. It’s called “Lambs Quarters, or Pig Weed or Wild Spinach…anyway. You can eat it. It’s a cousin to amaranth. As a matter of fact, several years ago, when we lived in Independence, I planted some amaranth. When it came up, my ex-husband saw it and asked me why I planted pig weed.

IMG_0698

pig weed

Taking a walk with Ed the other day, we came across these. Yep. Elderberries. They are along the road, and I don’t know if they were sprayed (although they probably weren’t), so we didn’t pick any. You gotta be careful with roadside finds for that reason. Many places want to get rid of the “weeds” along the road, so they spray poison. You don’t want to eat that! We’ve lost some of our own elderberry bushes this summer, while others seem to be doing very well. It well be a few years before ours produce anything though.

IMG_0705

elderberries

This is sumac. No this isn’t the poison sumac. The berries and seeds are edible. Green Deane at Eat the Weeds has a great article about sumac. Going to have to play with this one if I can get to it. Taking the picture was kind of a challenge.

xs_1534855565259_resized (2)

Sumac bush. You can see a  cluster of fruit/seeds in the center of the picture and another one off to the right.

This is milk weed. Butterflies love it, but the leaves are poisonous for us. The Spruce  has some good information about milk weed, including the fact that caterpillars can eat the poisonous leaves and thrive, while becoming poisonous themselves to any potential predator.

IMG_0719

milk weed and guest

This is pepper grass. It’s growing out in front of our detached garage. I had to hold my camera down at ground level in order to get a decent picture. The leaves have a peppery taste, and the seeds can be ground and used like black pepper. Green Deane says the roots mixed with vinegar makes a great horseradish substitute. Ed and Bam Bam would love that. Chicken girl and I, not so much. You all know I’m going to have to play with it anyway, right?

0904181038a_resized (1)

pepper  grass growing in the gravel

This stuff is growing everywhere around the house. It’s called Hornbeam Copperleaf, and as of yet, I can find no good use for it. If you do, let me know.

xs_1534532469397_resized

hornbeam copperleaf

These were out in the dog pen. Don’t know enough about fungi to even venture a guess. I did ask about it, and couldn’t get a definitive answer, so we pulled them up and disposed of them. Don’t think the dogs would eat them, but you never know with Meeko. He eats ragweed leaves.

0824181730

Some kind of fungi. Notice the spurge at the bottom of the picture

This is…yes, it’s corn. We didn’t plant it. It’s out where the chicken pen was a few years ago, so we figure those were some seeds the chickens didn’t get. Don’t really expect it to do anything, but we’ll see. Morning glories are coming up around it. Talk about invasive! Morning glories are the worst! Even if they are pretty.

IMG_0699

Corn. See the morning glories kind of circled behind it?

This is called a hummingbird vine. Someone had to have planted it, because it originates in Mexico and South America.  It’s invasive too. It’s pretty, but it’s unruly. Good thing I like the wild look huh. Still if it gets too wild, I’ll have to cut it back.

xs_1536077803919_resized

hummingbird vine

The wild cherries are gone as far as I can tell, but the grapes are hanging in. xs_1534532720530_resized

We have a ton of juniper berries, but still don’t know what to do with them besides making gin and I’m not doing that.

IMG_0720

juniper berries

Of course we still have plantain, dandelion, chicory, mallow, and goldenrod.

0904181037_resized

goldenrod

Remember when we were talking about mint and I said that it’s super invasive and that’s why a lot of people don’t plant it directly in the ground? Well, I guess it doesn’t do well in drought, because I only have about three stalks of mint in my yard and they didn’t get very big. Maybe it will come back now that we have some water.

0904181114_resized

What’s left of my mint.

For the second year in a row, we have a volunteer pumpkin growing under the maple tree in the front yard. It starts so late that it won’t be big enough before it gets cold. At least it wasn’t last year.

0904181036_resized

volunteer pumpkin blooming

Next week, Ed we’ll be back to tell you more about our experience with the wild hive. It was awesome!

Hey, if you like our blog, please share the love with your friends!

Have a great week!

Connie

Advertisements

While We’re Waiting

While we’re waiting for Ed to figure out that washtub bass, I thought I would fill you in on our last year, and share some plans for upcoming posts.

Last August, we took our first ever family vacation. We went to Georgia to visit my dad, then to Charleston SC so Chicken Girl could see the ocean. From there we went to Greenville SC to visit Ed’s daughter, and on to North Carolina to visit Cherokee and see where Ed’s grandparents lived when he was a boy.  We put 2600 miles on my car and made some great memories. There will be more about that in later posts.

While we were gone, James was supposed to stay here and take care of the critters.  Well, that didn’t go quite as well as we had hoped.  To make a long, sad, story short, James was not able to fight his Meth addiction and surrendered his probation. The judge gave him nine years.  The blessing in that is that he is clean and sober.  We pray that this time he gets the tools (and the desire) he needs to stay that way.

In the meanwhile, Bam Bam’s life kind of fell apart too, and he is staying with us again, along with his two small dogs, Rex and Gracie. They have been with us since December. It’s been nice to have him home again, and he is a big help. The little dogs provide a lot of “entertainment” although the cats are less than impressed.

Kyle and dogs

Bam Bam with Rex (black) and Gracie (white)

The big dogs are doing ok. Some days, Libby really shows her age, but I think we’ve stopped her digging out. Meeko still climbs out, on occasion, comes to the back door and barks! I think he wants to play with the little dogs, who aren’t terribly sure that’s a good idea.

On a positive note, we have finished homeschooling and Chicken Girl graduated on June 3rd. She is now taking an online Voice Over class, since she wants to be a voice over artist.

20180603_143119

Chicken Girl at her graduation party

As for the chickens, with the exception of one hen we lost to illness (we’re not sure what), they are all doing fine. We get between one and two dozen eggs a week, which is more than enough for us.  We are working on rebuilding the coop (again), as well as some new chicken tractors.

IMG_0576

Sunny about ready to fly the coop!

This spring has been an exciting time with the bees. Currently we have four hives. One we bought as a nuc, two from a hive we split, and one we took from an old house. I know that Ed will want to tell you all about that, but I will say I have finally put on the bee suit and started helping him. Capturing that wild hive was amazing!

IMG_0491

The wild hive was behind this wall!

Weather wise, things have just been strange.  With the exception of about a week of frigid sub zero temperatures, last winter was mild and dry. We didn’t get much spring. It just went from cold to hot, and still very dry.  We finally got some rain yesterday, but we need more.  The grass is dry and crunchy, but the plantain is doing beautifully!

IMG_0590

All the green is plantain. The brown is grass

We bought some fruit trees as well as some elderberry bushes planning to create fruit tree guilds. Well, we didn’t get as far into that as we would have liked, but we did get all the trees in the ground and they are hanging on.

IMG_0587

An apricot tree with mulch inside the drip line. We plan to plant understory plants here later.

Ed and Bam Bam built me a basement greenhouse, so I was able to get some seeds started. The only problem was that when they were ready to go outside, the weather was still too cool, and then the tiller broke down and Ed wasn’t able to get everything tilled.   We improvised and got everything I started planted. Some things didn’t make it, but most are, like the trees, hanging on.

IMG_0593

The greenhouse

IMG_0581

Tomato plants in the garden

After three years,  the blackberries are producing! Then a few days ago, I discovered wild raspberries growing behind the barn. This must just be a good year for berries. The mulberry trees in the fence rows are full of fruit in varying degrees of ripeness. The wild grapes have taken off too.

IMG_0577

Blackberries!

IMG_0571

Wild raspberries behind the barn

Well, I think that is pretty much everything. Hopefully, Ed will have that bass built next week, and he’ll post about that and all the other ways you can make your own musical instruments.

Connie

 

 

 

Endangered Skill #6: Foraging

Foraging generally means finding food that is growing wild. In an emergency situation, being aware of what grows wild where you live, and how those things can be used for food and first aid could be a matter of life and death.  Even in everyday circumstances, that same knowledge can save you money on groceries. Usually you can find food growing wild your yard. You probably call it weeds.

My dad hates “greens” of any kind, because (he says) they had to eat so much of it when he was a kid. He grew up poor and his family ate wild greens a lot. He particularly detests dandelion greens. Yes, I have picked and eaten raw dandelion greens. To me, they don’t really taste any different than other greens that you might buy in the grocery store. I’ve also fried dandelion blossoms. Chicken Girl wasn’t impressed, but Ed and I liked them.  One note about wild greens: if you’re picking them to eat raw, the best time is early springs when the leaves are small and tender.

I think I may have told you this before, but several years ago, when we still lived in Independence, I had the opportunity to attend a Wild Edibles workshop at the Burr Oak Conservation Center. The ladies running the workshop called themselves the “Wild Ones”. I think the youngest of those ladies was probably in her 50’s, but the oldest was somewhere around 80 years old. Her name was Frances Matthews, and there is a great article in the Missouri Conservationist about her, the Wild Ones and wild edibles. You can read it here. The day I attended the workshop, they taught us about different kinds of wild edible plants, and we got to taste some things like dandelion jelly, wood sorrel tea and stuffed yucca  and daylily blossoms.  (Chicken Girl really likes daylilly blossoms. Be sure to remove the stamen, pistils etc, from the center of any blossom before eating.)

Since then, I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit about plants that grow in the wild, especially the ones that most of us call “weeds”, but I know that I still have a lot to learn. When I started working on this post, I remembered I had written a few other posts about foraging, so I decided to refresh my memory before I went any further. I’m glad I did. I had written more about it than I thought. If you want to see my other posts that have foraging info, find “Foraging” in the Categories list to your right. I have written about Goldenrod, Mallow, Mullein, Queen Anne’s Lace, Chicory, and my all time favorite, Plantain.

Over the last three years, I’ve learned about a few new plants found on our place. I showed you pictures of wild grapes a few weeks ago. Along the same fence row as the grape vines, we have wild roses. I noticed what looked like berries on the roses, did a little research and discovered rose hips.

Rose hips are the fruit of the rose plant. Most of the time we don’t see them because people dead head their roses. That means they pull off the spent blossoms, which encourages more flowers to grow. It also prevents hips from forming. From what I read, rose hips are harvested after the first frost of the fall, and then can be used either fresh or dried.

“Gather fruits (hips) as they ripen in autumn (after frost) or during winter, wash and remove dried persistent flower parts from top of hips, then split open and remove seeds. Eat pulpy portion fresh or in jellies or sauces. Dry whole or half cleaned fruits  for later use (soak overnight in warm water), or finely grate or grind dried hips to yeild a slightly fragrant powder rich in vitamin C and essential minerals. Sprinkle on hot cerials or use to make hot tea. Also wash young leaves, cut into small pieces and dry for hot rose tea. Flower petals can be used in candy, tea, and jellies, but fruits are more nutritious.” (“Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to over 200 Natural Foods” by Thomas Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, pp 220-221)

They’re supposed to be good for inflammation too.*

In the spring we had Pineapple Weed growing down the center of our driveway. I just noticed the other day that it’s gone for the year and I never did get any of it. It is so named because, when you crush the leaves, they really do smell like pineapple.

The flowers and leaves are edible. You can get more details about Pineapple Weed and many other wild edibles at Wild Edible food.com.

There are so many wild growing plants that are edible and/or have medicinal value, we have just barely scratched the surface. We haven’t even talked about wild mushrooms and other edible fungus, mainly because I don’t know enough about it to share. It’s on my “to learn” list though.

To pick up this “endangered skill”, you need to learn about the wild edibles in your area. There are all kinds of online resources, like this one , but be sure to get a good hard copy field guide like the one cited above too.  That way you have something to carry with you for those times when the internet is not available. Also, make sure the areas from which you gather have not been sprayed with chemicals designed to kill weeds.

Happy wild edible hunting!

Connie

*Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals. All the information posted here is for educational purposes only and is not intended as, or to replace medical advice.

The Results of the Poll

A few weeks ago, we took a poll asking what kind of posts you would like to see more of.

To the ten of you that voted: Thanks!

“Wild Herbs/Edibles” and “Faith Based”, were the top two choices, with three votes each. Then there were two votes for “Daily Experiences” and one each for “Animals/Farm Critters” and “DIY”

Ok, so my mind, working like it does, my first thought was faith based wild herbs and edibles? Well, ok, maybe not.

Let me ask you this: What do you all think of a weekly or maybe biweekly post about each of those things? Tell us what you think in the comments, use our “Contact us” page, or talk to us on facebook.

For now, let me say this. Every time I go out to forage, I am always amazed at how much God has given us that we don’t even recognize. Go for a walk in the woods, or in a meadow, or some place where wild things grow, and just look at the variety of plant life. Look along the side of the road, and see all the different wild flowers. Look at all the different types of trees!

Genesis 1: 11-13 says

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.”

It was good! It was ALL good! Do you realize what that means? Before Adam and Eve sinned, there were no poisonous plants! Poison ivy wasn’t! Stinging nettles didn’t! Still, even after the fall, God made a way, like he always does. There may be poisonous plants now, but there are also healing plants.

From what I’ve been told, jewel weed, which can be made into a salve for stings and itchy rashes, always grows close to poison ivy. The cure grows close to the poison! How cool is that?

Oh, and stinging nettles? Their “juice” can treat the stings of their own leaves! Not only that, but nettles are used to stop bleeding and have all kinds of other health benefits. You can read more about that here.

So, I guess I did write about faith based wild herbs and edibles, huh?

Connie

Writing 101: When I’m Not Writing

This was the Day 11 assignment from Writing 101:

What do you do when you’re not writing? How do you reset and return to this dashboard, refreshed? What do you need in your day-to-day life to maintain balance: Running? Yoga? Gardening? Painting? Cooking?

Today, publish your post in any form you wish, as long as you focus on one or all of these questions.”

What do I do when I’m not writing? Every thing else!

The most important thing I do is spend time with the Lord. I talk to Him. I read my Bible, and sometimes some other devotional material. I write down scriptures from my reading that speak to me that particular day, and sometimes I write down prayers, and other thoughts. The earlier in the day I can do that, the better.

Then, of course, is the work of the homestead: Cooking, cleaning and caring for critters. There is gardening and foraging. Look at this beautiful Goldenrod. I recently found out that tea made from the flowers can help with kidney trouble.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

Today, after we ran to town for groceries, Ed, Kat and I worked on expanding the chicken coop. Although Moonrise is much smaller than Sunrise; we’re pretty sure he is a rooster too. So, we will have to find some hens soon.

Sunrise and Moonrise

Sunrise and Moonrise

The almost done, expanded coop

The almost done, expanded coop

Then there is the homeschooling. I really like Charlotte Mason’s methods, but coordinating it all takes a lot of time and a lot of reading. The upside to that is that my daughter is getting a great education, and I’m improving on mine.

When I don’t have any of that to do, then I work on repurposing projects, practice piano and guitar, and try to learn new things for myself.

I try to check in with facebook at least once a day. I have a lot of family spread out across the country and that is the easiest way for us to stay in touch.

I really like Pinterest, but I could really waste a lot of time in there, and I can’t afford to do that right now.

At the end of the day, I try to come back and write it down to share with you. Sometimes I’m better off sleeping on it first.

Oh, and here are some pictures of a few other projects I’ve been working on.

My first refrigerator pickles. They were awesome!

Refrigerator Pickles

Refrigerator Pickles

Straining the mullein and plantain oil that I started in July. Now I can make plantain salve. I put some of the mullein oil in a recycled brown bottle with an eye dropper. That way, it will be ready should one of us have an ear ache.

plantain in oil

plantain in oil

straining the plantain

straining the plantain

mullein oil

mullein oil

Remember the day I was going to take pictures and it rained? Well, as promised here are some pictures of my painted junk. I’m thinking of planting clematis around the bike, and turning the baskets into fairy gardens. There are some rather sickly cone flowers (echinacea) between the pots.

painted junk

painted junk

Here is some of my not painted junk as well as some nice mums I bought at the flower shop here in town. You can see my tin man and some other stuff in the back ground.

Not painted junk and mums

Not painted junk and mums

This is my latest project. I got the idea from something I saw on Pinterest. Those are olive oil bottles that I coated on the inside with acrylic paint. You just pour some paint in and swish it around until it coats the bottle. I want to do my kitchen and dining room in these colors…someday.

painted bottle candle holders

painted bottle candle holders

Anyway, that is just some of what I do when I am not writing.

Connie

Let the Horror Begin!

That is what Katherine said as we started school this morning. Yeah, that was encouraging. Well, we made it through the day with only one meltdown. Although, I guess you could call it a double, because we both got pretty hot. Fifteen-year-olds with attitudes are so much fun. Yeah, right.

The rest of the week was just as busy as last week. I did get my herbs harvested, but haven’t done anything with them yet. I got the strawberry bed mulched, and cleaned out the mess in the driveway that runs into the basement/garage. We had stuff sitting out there covered with tarps, and the tarps were useless. The garbage man had a busy day. Oh well; it’s just stuff.

harvested sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil and mint.

harvested sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil and mint.

Katherine and I pulled out some old tires and an old bike we’re going to turn into yard art, and scrubbed them down with dish soap. Now, I just have to get the paint.

scrubbing the bike, tires, and other things.

scrubbing the bike, tires, and other things.

Speaking of paint: We have a ton of paint left by the previous owner. Most of it is interior latex paint. Any ideas about what to do with it? She and I have totally different tastes in color schemes. Most of it is pastels, except for a really bright “melon”. Not my thing at all.

I do want to share a few things with you that I’ve learned in the last few weeks. You know I can barely stand to throw anything away if I think I can do something with it. Well, I have been reading for years about things to do with toilet paper and paper towel tubes, and have a bunch in a bag. Last week I was fighting with two different glue guns and a glue pot, trying to untangle their cords. I was about to roll the cords around their respective owners when the bag of tubes caught my eye. Ok, it’s not pretty, but it really works! As for the pretty part. I covered coffee cans with scrap book paper and old dictionary pages to make tube collectors that sit on the back of the toilet.

cords in tubes

cords in tubes

tube can

tube can

Since I keep all glass jars and bottles, I have spent a lot of time trying to remove labels. Then a few weeks ago, I read this blog post. She is absolutely right. Wow that works! Only don’t leave them to soak over night. Your jars will be clean, but the cold washing soda will set up in the bottom of your sink around the drain plug. Using, vinegar, running water, a table knife, and about thirty minutes time, we finally got it out.

washing soda hard as rock in the sink

washing soda hard as rock in the sink

petrified washing soda

petrified washing soda

Some time over the last few weeks, and I honestly don’t remember where I read it, there was something that said you could spray a table spoon of Epsom Salts diluted in a gallon of water on your peppers and they would produce better. Since mine weren’t producing at all, what did I have to loose? So I sprayed them. Of course, it could be a coincidence, but my peppers are blooming like crazy and I actually have a few small peppers growing. I’ll keep you posted. I took some pictures, but you can’t tell what from what with all the green.

Oh, here is a picture of our pitiful potato crop. Our neighbor, Mr “A” says he doesn’t “fool with potatoes”, for that very reason.

pitiful potatoes

pitiful potatoes

The other day, I noticed something growing in front of the barn doors that I thought I should know. I had to wait for blooms to be sure, but it’s mallow! I’ll tell you about it in my next post, as well some info about preserving herbs.

Mallow!

Mallow!

Connie

Deception

As most of you already know, I have been taking WordPress’s Blogging 101 class. Yesterday’s assignment involved looking up the daily writing prompt and using it to write a blog post. The prompt had to do with being deceived by someone.

One might think that the art of deception is limited to human beings, but it isn’t. The natural world is full of deception too. I’m not going to go into my beliefs about how the earth is cursed because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, I”m just going to discuss some interesting ways that nature can be deceptive. Knowing many of them could save your life.

One of the most common deceptions is camouflage. Think of the chameleon that changes colors to match it’s environment, thereby protecting itself from predators. Many species of butterfly have markings that make them appear to be something else entirely. That “log” in the river just might be a crocodile.

Plants are deceptive too. Think of the Venus fly trap. When you start foraging and learning about wild edibles, and edible plants in general, it is extremely important to understand that not all berries are edible, no matter how tasty they look. Pretty is no guarantee for safety. Unless you absolutely know the identity of that plant; don’t eat it! When in doubt, leave it out!

Elderberries and mulberries are wonderful edible berries. Choke and pin cherries are edible, but you probably won’t want many of them. Poke berries will kill you. When in doubt, leave it out. I have everything on my property except Elderberries. I just may have to plant some.

Green Poke Berry

Green Poke Berry

Several wild edible plants have poisonous lookalikes. Wild Carrot, aka Queen Anne’s Lace, is edible. One lookalike is the wonderful medicinal plant, Yarrow. A second lookalike, Poison Hemlock, will kill you. To tell the truth, once you know for sure the differences between these plants, you won’t mix them up, but for a novice forager, the similarities are confusing. When in doubt, leave it out! I would love to find some yarrow on our property, but again, I will probably plant some next spring.

Hemlock that hasn't flowered yet.

Hemlock that hasn’t flowered yet.

Queen Anne's Lace. Notice the purple flower in the center

Queen Anne’s Lace. Notice the purple flower in the center

More Queen Anne's Lace

More Queen Anne’s Lace

It’s a good idea to get a book, or books, on the wild edibles located in your area. I have a little book called Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide To Over 200 Natural Foods. It’s available on Amazon here. (This is not an affiliate link). What I like about this book is that it lists poisonous lookalikes. The internet is a good source too. I belong to a facebook page that is devoted to wild edibles in Missouri. I am constantly impressed with the knowledge in that group. I bet you have one close to you too.

If you’re like me, and really need to see it, youtube videos, like this one, can be a great source as well. However you choose to find your information, I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing what you are eating BEFORE you eat it. Don’t be deceived. When in doubt, leave it out!

Connie

Chicory on the Homestead

Yes, I admit it; I spend entirely too much time exploring the net. Pinterest is one of my biggest downfalls, but email notifications from blogs I read can keep me going for days. I’ll see something, which will make me think of something else that I really need to look up, and suddenly the whole afternoon is gone.

A few weeks ago, during one of my exploration excursions into the world wide web, I saw pictures of chicory blossoms. A few days later, when I saw those pretty blue flowers on tall, spindly stalks, I was really hoping I had chicory growing outside my barn doors. I went online and looked at more pictures of chicory plants and blooms! Yes, it’s chicory! Chicory root can be dried and used for coffee! Yes!

One thing I have discovered about identifying plants; once you know what something is, you see it everywhere. We have a lot of chicory. I noticed some growing outside my back door. It had been cut off several times with the weed eater and lawnmower so it wasn’t in the best place for a long healthy life. I thought that would be a perfect place to dig up the roots.

Well, not quite. This first snag was the stones underneath a very thin layer of top soil. The roots grew down through the stones. Ok, well, I’ll just dig them up. I wasn’t expecting the larger layer of gravel underneath the stones. At that point, I knew that my little garden trowel was not going to help me. I did manage to break a few roots loose, but called it a day.

A week or so later, when Ed was off and it was too wet to mow, I asked him to help me get the chicory root by the barn. Ed really likes chicory so he was agreeable to the task. Well, guess what? Underneath a thin layer of top soil, he found gravel: dry, hard as a rock, gravel. He went to find the mattock. If you don’t know, a mattock is kind of like a pick ax.

Ed and  the mattock

Ed and the mattock

more rock

more rock

After breaking up the dirt and gravel, He alternated a couple of different sized shovels to dig up the gravel and expose the roots. It took him over an hour to get this.

Wheelbarrow full of chicory

Wheelbarrow full of chicory

Since I really hate to waste anything, I spent some time looking up alternate uses for the stalks and flowers, but didn’t find much. However, I did find out some things I didn’t know about dried chicory root.

For instance: while it’s true that chicory is often used as an additive to coffee, it actually has sedative properties. So I suppose if you drank enough of it by itself, it would put you to sleep. It also works to relieve constipation. When I told Ed, he said that he would hope that it wouldn’t do all that at the same time!

Since all I need are the roots, I tried to remove them with my garden shears, but that was not going to happen. I ended up getting the hatchet from the garage and chopping the roots off. Chicory blossoms open and close at the same time every day. It was fascinating the see rootless flowers continue to open and close for four days after the roots had been removed.

Anyway, my plan was to chop up the roots, roast them, and then grind them in my spice mill/coffee grinder. Chopping up the roots was a little harder than it looked, and to make an already long story short, I enlisted Ed’s help. Between him, I, and the food processor, we finally got it ready to roast.

washing the roots

washing the roots

all clean and ready to chop

all clean and ready to chop

chopping the root

chopping the root

Roasting chicory smells wonderful! Katherine asked if I had something chocolate in the oven. She was disappointed to learn it was the chicory. Once it cooled, I ground it in the spice mill and put it in a repurposed honey jar.

ground chicory

ground chicory

I made Katherine a cup of chicory tea, but she wasn’t impressed. She said it smells a lot better than it tastes. Out of curiosity, we made a pot of straight chicory in the coffee pot. It was ok, but not something I would want all the time. However, adding a tablespoon or so to a pot of regular coffee adds something that I can’t quite describe.

Yesterday morning, Ed noticed the chicory jar is nearly empty, and asked me if I was ready to go dig some more.

Did I mention Ed really likes chicory?

Connie

Gooseberries, Mulberries, and Cherries; Oh my! Or The Walk Around the Pasture

The rain stopped for a day or two, and the weather turned off hot! The good thing was that it gave us the opportunity to walk the pasture, look for wild edibles/medicinals and take pictures. The majority of our five acres is pasture. Since all we have, at present, is a push mower, the “hay” is already waist high. Any trip out there requires long pants and heavy shoes. Long pants to dissuade the chiggers and ticks lurking in the hay, and heavy shoes to traverse the swamp underneath.

Ed up to his waist in

Ed up to his waist in “hay”

The fence rows have been neglected long enough that large trees conceal the right hand fence, as well as the center fence between the back pastures. Between the trees, honey suckle, wild rose and wild grape vine grow; both separately and together. I was kind of hoping to find some wild black berries, but no such luck.

The right fence row

The right fence row

honeysuckle

honeysuckle

grape vine

grape vine

wild rose

wild rose

We usually start our “walkabout” between the barn and the dog pen, and walk up the right side of the right hand pasture. That is where I start counting mulberry trees. I never have got a good count, because something else will distract me and I will lose count. The closest I can figure is about 15, from little saplings to the monster just off the barn. If I can beat the birds and the rain, I plan on doing a LOT of mulberry harvesting. The birds are already dropping evidence that they have head start.

There are also several trees with large amounts of green berries. The biggest one looks to be about forty feet high. I thought it might be choke cherry, but my friends on the Missouri Wild Edibles facebook page think its pin or service cherry. I’ll do some more research and let you know what I find out.

mulberry

mulberry

the mysterious cherry

the mysterious cherry

In the back right corner is a gooseberry bush. Like a dragon protecting a treasure, poison ivy vines protect the bush from all but the most brave, or non allergic (like Ed). The berries are ripening, but the birds like them too, so it may be a matter of who braves the poison ivy first and best. I think the birds may win this round, but I have plans for propagating that plant a little closer to the house this fall.

Found several of these trees too. I was kind of hoping they were elderberry, but they appear to be a type of dogwood. They are pretty though

Ed, the gooseberry bush  and poison ivy

Ed, the gooseberry bush and poison ivy

mysterious dogwood

mysterious dogwood

We walk along the back fence and down the center. From this side you can see the mad over growth of honeysuckle (in the picture above), and grapevine, and the odd purple sweet rocket.

sweet rocket

sweet rocket

We make the turn at the barn to go up the other side of the fence. This is where the real fun is for me. More and more mulberries, and whatever cherries those are, wild roses and the other side of the honeysuckle covered tree. The over growth makes a canopy that I would have lived in as a child. Ed feels the same. It would make a perfect hide out. Between a rather large stand of wild rose and the hideout, is where we buried Marshmellow a few weeks ago. Ed will want to tell you about that when he’s ready.

From inside, you can see the massive trunk of the, as yet to be identified, tree. You can see where Ed cut off some of the branches last fall. Under the canopy, is another gooseberry bush, but this one doesn’t get much sun, so it isn’t doing as well.

Outside the hideout looking in.

Outside the hideout looking in.

Inside the hideout, looking out

Inside the hideout, looking out

The big tree trunk

The big tree trunk

the hideout gooseberry

the hideout gooseberry

Heading along the back fence and toward the left hand side of the left pasture, I started seeing these fuzzy plants, culminating with the large one on the other side of the fence. We went out to the road to get a better look. It is called Mullein and it does all kinds of stuff. It probably deserves it’s own post, so I’ll save it for another time.

mullein in the pasture

mullein in the pasture

the monster mullein

the monster mullein

The fence row behind the barn is more of the same mulberry, cherry, and other, yet to be identified, trees.

Did I mention, that about half way through the walk, Meeko joined us. He’s done it so many times now, that we just started letting him out to go with us. It saves time and aggravation. He stays right with us, so we don’t have to worry about catching him. Libby, however, is another matter entirely. If she gets to go, it’s on a leash.

Meeko on the back side of the hideout

Meeko on the back side of the hideout

Out in the dog’s area, amidst the poison hemlock are Indian strawberries. They also grow around the barn and a few other places on the property. They are stunning! They look like bright red gumdrops on a bed of dark green ground cover. They don’t taste like gumdrops, however…they don’t taste bad, they don’t taste good. They taste like…nothing. From what I understand, the leaves serve medicinal purposes, but the berries are all bang and no buck. They do make a pretty ground cover. Saw this thing out there too. Most of my wild edible friends think it’s either wild rhubarb or burdock. Of course, you already know about all the poison hemlock.

Indian strawberry

Indian strawberry

wild rhubarb

wild rhubarb or budock

Of course, in the pastures themselves red clover is prevalent, as is wild mustard, plantain, thistle and wild parsnip. Each one has its own use and, in the case of the parsnip, precaution.

purple clover

red clover

wild mustard

wild mustard

plantain

plantain and white clover

thistle

thistle

wild parsnip

wild parsnip

I told Ed that we could probably corner the market on plantain, if there was one, but its kind of like dandelion; everyone just sees it as a weed. That’s too bad. Don’t be surprised if you see a plantain post too. As a matter of fact, I may do an entire series on “weeds”.

Connie