Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall Fruit


If you've been wandering the roads of Block Island, you've probably noticed the apple trees are full of fruit, much of it fallen on the ground. Most people just drive over the apples or leave them to rot on the ground, but I was encouraged to hear that some friends of mine foraged bucketloads and pressed their own cider, and are in the process of brewing some hard cider as well.

This is a good time to gather and preserve herbs like mullein and goldenrod to use as medicinal plants over the winter. You can look up various ways of preserving them on-line. I just like to dry them and brew them as tea when needed. I love the soft leaves of mullein. There is a wonderful poem by H.D. that mentions mullein:

THE MOON IN YOUR HANDS



If you take the moon in your hands

and turn it round

(heavy, slightly tarnished platter)

you're there;


if you pull dry sea-weed from the sand

and turn it round

and wonder at the underside's bright amber,

your eyes


look out as they did here,

(you don't remember)

when my soul turned round,

perceiving the other-side of everything,

mullein-leaf, dogwood-leaf, moth-wing

and dandelion-seed under the ground.



How can you not stop and caress them when you pass them blooming out of a stonewall?
 
And last, in honor of tonight's full moon, this photo taken at the Hodge Property a couple of weeks ago.
 


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Pear or Two

Just when I think no one is reading this blog, someone tells me they were moved to tears by reading this blog this past weekend. Not that it should matter, but I do have a strong desire to connect with others on so many levels. It's not just about sharing information about foraging for me, it's about sharing my heart--my love for Block Island and for the bounty which the island provides--and the role foraging has played in opening my heart to my own personal wounds and the wounds of the earth we have inflicted on her as we have grown disconnected from the simple desires of our bodies to feel loved and safe.

Those of you who know the island know how blown out most of us are by the end of the summer. Granted, I don't work as hard as other people out here, but I am still sensitive to the energy. I don't see it as chance that a hurricane threatened us Labor Day weekend, causing most of the tourists to leave. Though the hurricane did not arrive on the island's shores in full force, the surf was intense and huge making it impossible for me to gather seaweed. I have some great pictures of my normally placid tidepools down at Black Rock covered in whitewater, but can't publish them due to all sorts of technical difficulties with every form of technology I come in contact with these days. Even the chain on my bike broke, so I had to walk for a day until my friend fixed it for me. I heard the ocean's message--take a break, let the seaweed rejuvenate. I struggle with this a lot--making money off something the earth is giving me. Ideally I would like to live without  money, simply, bartering with other like-minded folks for our needs. I feel trapped between the world of money and the world of my dreams. It is a very uncomfortable place, but one that is leading me to take a deep look inside myself at the unconscious patterns and beliefs that stop me from living this life that I long for, and this time this is not an intellectual process, I am actually feeling the pain of separation and loss, and though this is a dark place to be in, it doesn't feel desperate like it has in the past. Maybe because someone came up to me last weekend and said my words made them cry. Maybe because a friend and I filled our scarves with so many fallen pears we couldn't even think of all the things we could do with them. Pear tarts, jelly, juice, cake. I'll keep  you updated.

There's a deer who forages right outside my window most evenings. She always seems to know when I am looking at her. She never runs away like some deer do. She twitches her ears, somewhat nervous, lets me look at her for as long as I wish. I am always the first to turn away. Maybe I will leave her a pear or two just over the stonewall today.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Revolution is On!

Two years ago I had to convince people at the Farmers Market that they weren't going to keel over if they ate my seaweed. Now I can't keep up with the demand!

I am so excited that the consciousness around wild foods and foraging has shifted so quickly. People are really getting it. I am even more excited that I am inspiring others to forage for themselves. I just got an email from a woman who bought me seaweed last weekend who foraged her own rockweed when she got home, and another woman told me she began foraging seaweed back home in California after tasting mine two summers ago.

Also, Pippa Jack at Rhode Island Monthly blo. gged about me on the RI Monthly website. Thanks Pippa!

The other exciting news in my foraging world (besides the bounty of blackberries--ahhhh!) is that the Atlantic Inn has my roasted rockweed on their menu as a garnish on their salmon dish. They just upped their order to 20 bags a week from five, so I am quite busy! Thanks to chef Aaron,,  who thinks I could get picked up by Newport Specialty Foods and distributed on the mainland. Not sure if I am going to follow this as I would need a much bigger bike, but it's nice to have the support and enthusiasm of the chef at one of the best restaurants on the island. Thanks also to Glen Pence at Three Sisters for being open to wild foods. Glen bought some glasswort from me that he served as a garnish on his grilled tuna. Dinner at Three Sisters is amazing! Stop by Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturday when I am working.

Sorry, no photos today. I had to move out of my house for eleven days and my technological capabilities are a little constrained. Not a bad thing--more time to clamber down the bluffs and wade into tidepools. I am heading out now to pick sea lettuce. This time of the year the stuff on the surface is pretty bleached out, so I have to dive below the surface, head first into little caves in the jetty where it is still deep, emerald green. I keep fearing I am going to come face to face with a conger eel, but so far they have let me be. Sweet dreams conger eels! I promise I won't stick my hands in your holes after dark when you slip out to see what's happening in the wider ocean.

Oh wait, I do have a photo on my computer to share. This is laver, the seaweed that is processed into nori, for all you sushi lovers. It is very mild tasting. I roast it with a little sesame oil and sell it at Farmers' Market. It's season is almost past, so if you want some, show up soon!

Happy foraging everyone!! Thanks for sharing your stories with me.     ~~~Whitewave

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fringe Benefits

I was at Andy's Way foraging glasswort this evening. It's one of the ingredients in my seaweed salad. It's a succulent and grows abundantly in the mudflats as can be seen above. It is delicious raw or sauteed in oil or butter. It is quite salty and is also sometimes called sea pickle.
.
Andy's Way is one of those magical in-between places. I remember loving it when I was a kid. My brother and I used to scavenge the shore for baby horseshoe crab shells. We thought they were the most marvelous thing in all of existence. I found one tonight, and it was just as marvelous as I remembered, maybe even more so since I find myself regaining a great sense of wonder at the beauty of the world that I hadn't even realized I'd lost. That's one of the good things about spending the winter in Providence. I loved Block Island so much more after living somewhere that wasn't quite as beautiful as Peru and Hawaii, where I spent the past two previous winters. It is so easy to lose sight of this beauty, even when it is all around us here on Block Island. We get so busy, caught up in our dramas, some of which are real and worthy of our attention they generally indicate a place where we need to grow. But if we don't grow we run the risk of circling in the same stories instead of entering a new one where we will learn the next set of lessons our soul needs to evolve.

I am in the process of shifting into a new story. It is quite painful. I am doing my best not to intellectualize it. Foraging gets me out of my mind, into the moment, calms my emotions. It is a great gift. Tonight, kneeling on the mudflats picking the most succulent stalks of glasswort, it was easy to imagine myself a Manissean woman doing just the same thousands of years ago. My cousin tells me my Uncle Herman says of me with derision, "she eats weeds."

Of course I eat weeds! What sane person wouldn't? The insanity is buying food from the grocery store. Of course I still do. I spent eight dollars on a carton of coconut water tonight, something I could have foraged if I was still living in Hawaii. I don't regret it, but I do feel a little guilty. If I could never drink it again, I'll admit, I would miss it. I would long for a fresh, green coconut and wish myself back in Hawaii where they fall from the trees. It would be possible to live alone on wild foods, but it would be a mighty task to complete on one's own. The British forager Fergus Drennan who originally inspired me to get out in the fields and on the rocks tried it, (his goal was to live on wild foods only for a year), but found it too difficult to do while still  paying rent, etc., while still living in a money economy.  You can read about his attempt at http://www.wildmanwildfood.com/.

 I remember writing him and telling him how much I admired his attempt, and telling him not to see himself as a failure. Foraging, living off the land, works best as a collective enterprise. It needs a tribe and lots of time. The pressures of modern day life are not conducive to the practice of wildness. I am doing my best to hold the energy of wild Block Island in the midst of the summer mayhem, but it's hard a lot of the time. I, too, live half-in half-out of the money economy, mostly because I have to. I get tired of riding my bike around. It's been quite exhausting in the heat. Tired of hauling thirty pounds of seaweed up cliffs and in my bike basket back into town. However, if I had the choice, if there was a tribe who wanted to do it with me, I think I  would do it. I think I am ready to slip out of the money economy into the tribal world, rather like an otter. We'd have a lot more time to play on the banks of the river. A lot more time to enjoy sunsets like the one I saw at Andy's Way tonight foraging glasswort. What a fringe benefit. What a bonus. Thank you sun. Thank you oystercatchers who flew over me. Thank you gentle, warm waves of the Great Salt Pond. May you be given back a thousandfold all that you give to us.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Office




I was chatting with an attorney on the porch of Juice 'n Java yesterday. He was young, probably much younger than me, but already quite disgruntled and dissatisfied with his chosen profession. He mentioned that he'd been down at Black Rock earlier that morning trying to learn how to surf. I told him that was where I went to get the majority of my seaweed.

What do you do for a living? he asked.

I'm a professional forager, I answered, not at all ironically.

Above is a photo of my "office." My favorite tidepool at Black Rock. I like it best for many reasons-- it is accessible even at high tide, and it is very remote. Hardly anyone goes there. I ride my bike through Rodman's Hollow and slide down a little canyon in the bluffs to reach it. There are no strange, nude men with creepy and desperate intentions.

On the way back I clamber up the clay, loaded down with rockweed. I usually see a deer or two nibbling grass off to the side, always in the same places. I like that I know where the deer will be. This feeling of intimacy with the land and ocean is what sustains me. I may not be getting rich like that young attorney, but I know I am wealthy in the ways that truly matter. Lots of people are always telling me I should get my seaweed in stores on the mainland, rake in the big bucks, etc. I laugh, tell them that it's not so easy--I would require a much bigger bike to get all I need, but the real reason I don't want to mass produce, even if it were possible, is because I want to keep my operation slow, small, and simple. I don't want to feel pressured for time. I don't want to feel like I don't have time to lie in a tidepool and take a nap, belly down, on the beach. I let my office tell me what to do. The answer is always the same: swim, then sleep. The world is moving so quickly--but there are tidepools at Black Rock which--if you can reach them--will show you a long, slow view of yourself, a turtle's view, moving slowly through the warm, salty water toward the light.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Problem With Foraging

The problem with foraging is it takes away all desire to have a job. Not that I had that much desire for a job in the first place. However, I do want to be sustainable--to support myself and not be dependent on others. I feel the wrongness of those words as I right them, but I write them anyway, because I am socialized enough still to want approval, and approval in my world means being self-sustaining. Last year, due to my illness, I was not. My body took over and I had no choice but to receive help.

Really, I believe we are all meant to receive from each other, but we have gotten to a point where for many, to receive help is shameful. I know I am one of those people on some days, but more and more I am opening myself up to receiving as the roots of my shame become more exposed and I start to look around in wonder at how beautiful the earth is--especially Block Island in the summertime when the waves are huge and the flowers heady.

What it all comes down to, is that if we are ashamed of ourselves on any level, we believe we are unworthy--unworthy of loving relationships, material abundance, or even surviving at the most basic level. Unworthy of a place on the earth. We struggle to survive and believe there is not enough for us. So many of us are victims to a money economy. Money itself is not evil, it's just a form of energy exchange, but the way it is controlled in our society has created a system where most of us sell our souls and damage our bodies in order to survive. Foraging pulls me out of this system. I can find my own food, and the process of doing this feeds my soul in a way that going to the grocery store does not, or even buying locally grown vegetables at the Farmers' Market. Foraged food is wild. When you eat foraged food you become wild. You lose your shoes, your hair gets tangled, you have dirt under your fingernails and a dreamy look in your eyes from staring into tidepools. There is a constant ringing in your ears of the ocean. You find yourself constantly scanning the sides of the roads for dock, cow parsnips, mallow, jewelweed, clover. You know how to reach through brambles to the first ripe blackberries hidden in the shadows of poison ivy leaves. You know to go slow so you don't get poison ivy. You remember to say thank you. You eat those berries on the path. They are delicious. Even the ones that are not quite ripe and are a little bitter.

Farmers' Market was rained out today, my attempt at commercializing my passion for foraging, foiled. At first I was stressed out because I don't exactly have a lot of money in my river right now, but I took the few dollars I had and headed over to Juice 'N Java, drank some tea, laughed with friends, laid on the beach and swam in the huge southeast swell pounding the shores of the island right now. I let the island support me. I let my soul receive what it needed most. In return, I gave it great praise, for it is beautiful. Wild, mysterious, so powerful I am afraid of it sometimes when I forget myself. But when I remember who I am, when I am ducking under waves, coming up to laugh in the white seafoam, I know I am home.

wild carrot in bloom

Friday, July 9, 2010

Introducing


Wild spinach, another lovely friend that grows right in the dunes like sea rocket. I am hoping to get over to Dorie's Cove today where there are usually a lot of wild spinach plants growing along the edge of the low bluffs that always feel so ancient to me. I imagine the Manisseans ate this plant, women picking leaves as they walked along the shore with their children. I see them out of the corner of my eye whenever I do the same. Do you see them? There are so many layers of time co-existing all around us. As time acceleration speeds up, this becomes more and more clear. I wonder what's going to happen when we reach the end/beginning point? What I know for sure is that I am being called to heal all of my unprocessed traumas so that the earth can be in a clear place, unburdened by my emotions, as she prepares to rebirth into galactic consciousness. I also know that foraging is part of my path in doing this. When I touch the plants, I touch the part of myself that remembers who I am, why I came to this planet, and what I have to do in the simplest and most complex way: wander, look closely, let my body lead me, enjoy the physical, express gratitude, and bless all that comes my way.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Friends in Flower

I am friends with all the plants I forage. I am more intimate with them than I am with people. I gaze deep into their petals or the undersides of their leaves. I touch them more than I touch people, digging their roots, snapping their stalks, plucking flowerheads, running my hands along leaves for pleasure. And most intimate of all-I eat them. I take them into my body and they become part of me that has not been possible for me with humans. This is something I long for--human connection. As this summer unfolds, I can see the ways trauma and shame have shaped my ability to connect with people. These are not easy discoveries to make, as you may know. I am grateful to all the plants for the bane they provide to soothe my nerves and body. I trust them in a way that I don't trust people. I know where to find them, year after year. Right now, many of the plants that are at their most delectable in spring are flowering, like this wild carrot, which you probably know as Queen Anne's Lace, by the side of Corn Neck Rd. I thought I would provide a few identifying photos of plants in flower now.

A flowering plant is easy to notice--young shoots or roots, not so easy. If you pay attention to the plants flowering around you now, it becomes easier to find them next spring when they are rising up from the ground, ready to be touched, eaten, to become part of you.

wild lettuce


One of my favorite spring greens, curly dock is easy to recognize by its brown flowers seen by roadsides all over the island right now.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cool as an Emerald



Here is a photo of mystically swirling sea lettuce to cool you down on this HOT day on Block Island. It, along with sea rocket, is the primary ingredient in my succulent seaweed salad. Stop by the Farmers' Market tomorrow morning if you want some. Sea lettuce spoils quickly. I will be out diving tonight to gather it, and if you see me wandering the dunes on the Neck, I am picking sea rocket, also orach, or wild spinach, which is up now.

Stay cool everyone! I strongly suggest that everyone get in the water, preferably with a mask and snorkel. You will be amazed at the underwater delights off the shores of Block Island. In the immortal words of Monkfish, president of Sea Squad, the BI Snorkelling Club, "You don't know unless you go."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Born Free: Milkweed

I am saving my words for my poetry, choosing carefully. My body is tired from biking and clambering down bluffs, swimming and diving, and dancing, oh yes, there were hours of dancing yesterday. For me, the 4th of July is the day I declare my own independence and encourage others to remember that we are all born free.

Like milkweed. Born free, flourishing in fields all over the island right now. Here is a photo of the young shoots last May. They are delicious to eat, but must be boiled in two changes of water for eight minutes each so as to nullify the toxic white sap that spurts from them when you slice the stalk with the tiny knife in your pocket.


And here is a photo of the salad I made from milkweed flowers last week.


And here is a poem by James Wright that beautifully expresses the delicacy and allure of this Queen of the Meadows.

Milkweed

While I stood here, in the open, lost in myself,
I must have looked a long time
Down the corn rows, beyond grass,
The small house,
White walls, animals lumbering toward the barn.
I look down now. It is all changed.
Whatever it was I lost, whatever I wept for
Was a wild, gentle thing, the small dark eyes
Loving me in secret.
It is here. At the touch of my hand,
The air fills with delicate creatures
From the other world.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer!!

It is full summer, just a week or so after the solstice. The sun is waning, though you'd never know it. It is light until almost 9 and the ocean is very warm for this time of the year. I've been busy foraging, not so attached to my computer, which actually broke for a few days and really forced me to get out in the field. Thanks to my cousin Brian for fixing my power cord and getting me back on-line. I think I learned my lesson and can be trusted not not to be too attached to being "on-line," because that's not the way the world is, right? Hardly anything, when allowed its natural course runs in a straight line. Water meanders, hills flow up and down, trees bend in the wind. It is seaweed time. I've been spending a lot of time in tidepools gathering rockweed, clinging to rocks to forage laver, and snorkelling so I can get the deepest green sea lettuce for my seaweed salad. The sea lettuce that is closer to the surface gets bleached by the sun. I like the fronds that look like emeralds. I like to dive down deep and stick my hands into crevices where there might be a conger eel. I saw one once, sliding out at dusk from a crack in the jetty. It was truly terrifying, much more so than a shark, fat and undulating underneath me as the ocean grew dark. I swam quickly back to shore that evening, glad for my friends and the fire that awaited me.

Here are a couple of photos of my bread and butter, rockweed, known medicinally as rockweed. Along with Irish moss, it is the most common seaweed in Block Island waters. It pretty much grows on every rock around the island, in the ocean and in the Great Salt Pond. Some spots are better than others for foraging. I think the best comes from the tidepools between Vaill Beach and Black Rock, and from the pools  between Black Rock and Southwest Point. It's a long bike ride to reach them, and quite a hike down the bluffs, but once I'm there I always stay hours, wandering from pool to pool, sliding across the slick weeds that adorns the rock like the long, lustrous hair of mermaids.

There are many varieties of bladderwrack, some better than others for roasting. The photo directly below showing rockweed with flat fronds is the best. Knotted wrack, in the second photo, does not roast at all well so I never pick it. It turns hard as a toothpick and is not at all pleasant to chew on. Also, I am careful to forage sustainably. I do my best not to pull the roots of the plant off the rock so that it grows back. This takes some time, but I love the way the slippery weed feels between my fingers. If you want some roasted rockweed, find me at The Farmers' Market where I will be happily pontificating on the health benefits of seaweed and the pleasures of foraging. Ah, summer is sweet, don't you agree?

This bladderwrack above is best for roasting. Make sure to pick off the periwinkles, although they are edible if you want to eat them. 

This is knotted wrack, not so good for roasting, but pleasant to look at and touch. There are large beds of this in the Garden, one of Sea Squad's favorite snorkeling spots, right across from the Beachhead.

See you in the water friends!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Into the Weeds



I threw my Cape Cod weeder into the weeds on the other side of this stone wall today. I didn't mean to. For those of you in the know, a Cape Cod weeder is the absolutely best weeding tool in the world. Only a fool would throw theirs over a stone wall into the weeds because the small company who made them no longer does. So, you are probably wondering right now, is Whitewave trying to tell us she is a fool? Perhaps I am, but I also think this impulsive, unconscious act may be a sign of the innate wisdom of my body rising up through the soles of my bare feet into my arm which flung that weeder over those ancient stones into that very tangled thicket.

As a permaculturist, I am opposed to weeding. As a forager, I know that weeds are only plants that are not socially acceptable. Weeds are food and medicine, teachers and healers. However, I occasionally violate my code of ethics and pull them up, usually when my physical sustenance is at stake. I don't say survival, because that was not the case at all, but I do like having a roof over my head, and right now that roof is a very comfortable one. After a  few years of boats, buses and basements I was happy to pull up a few weeds in exchange for a bathtub and a kitchen and a stunning view of the ocean with a private path to the beach.

So there I was weeding around the edge of the house today, tossing the unwanted plants over the wall to be swallowed by the thicket. Felco pruners in one hand, I guess the Cape Cod weeder was in the other--the one which also held the weeds. With one toss all was gone. At first I couldn't believe what I had done. I loved that Cape Cod weeder. It has been through years of hard work with me. It even spent two winters outdoors since there were two winter I left it outside on the grass at my last gardening jobs of the season. I went back in the spring and sheepishly asked the homeowners if they'd seen it. It always came back to me, good as ever.

For a moment I was dismayed at what I'd lost. I climbed up on the stone wall and gazed down into the thicket. No poison ivy, but the bittersweet, Virginia Creeper, multiflora roses, and blackberries were an intimidating sight. I wasn't going in there. Who knows where the ground was beneath that tangle. For all I knew I would step into it and end up down the rabbit hole or be dragged under the hill by some gnomes. For those of you who know me, you might think I would find these prospects appealing, but since I have recently committed myself to making a go at being a fully grounded human, I stepped down from the wall, gave the weeds a salute, and laughed inside at how they were teaching me in ways I'd never expected when I began my adventures as a forager.

No more weeding allowed. That's the message I heard. I promise I will do my best, my friends. In exchange, will you give me the strength of your roots?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Feverish Spice Plants By the Sea


Ah, sea rocket, succulent and spicy, perhaps my favorite of all the plants I forage. Sea rocket is truly mysterious. It roots right in the sand where there is no water unless you dig down almost all the way to China, but its leaves are thick and juicy. Sea rocket is related to arugula, and tastes like its domesticated relative, but is even spicier. I love to wander the edge of the dunes and pick it, eating some raw, taking some home with me to saute with olive oil, garlic, and sundried tomatoes. I wondered today, as I was picking it, if it was Lorca's "feverish spice bush of the sea," he summons in his poem "Malaguena."

   Death
is entering and leaving
the tavern.

   Black horses and sinister
people are riding
over the deep roads
of the guitar.

   There is an odor of salt
and the blood of women
in the feverish spice-plants
by the sea.

   Death
is entering and leaving
the tavern,
death
leaving and entering.


A feverish plant! A plant that gives one fevers that burn so hot one must run into the sea. I bet Lorca knew this plant well, or one like it. I will be at the Farmers' Market with a bushel-ful if you dare to try it yourselves.









Friday, June 11, 2010

Heart Tracks


I forgot to mention what I discovered right after I saw the poison ivy last evening: deer tracks, heart-shaped, leading toward the east where the sun rises, even though it was just about to set as I began this journey. Deer tracks in the sand heading toward the beach. I've never seen a deer on the beach, but I find their tracks sometimes. When I do, I always know that I am headed in the right direction. Notice how there are two tracks here, two hearts, notice how if you are open, even solitude is filled with many heartbeats. Notice what I forgot to write about last night: two hearts guiding me. That's all right. I needed to feel lonely. All emotions are our teachers. I am grateful to the surf that roared all night that helped me shift that loneliness so I could remember this photo: what I left out. What was already there and always will be.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Great Mother

I returned a few day's ago from the gathering of my tribe--Robert Bly's Great Mother Conference. Robert missed it last year because of a broken hip, and I did, too, as I was in the hospital for the second time trying to figure out if I wanted to stick around on earth. I am glad my soul chose to stay. It was overwhelming and so humbling to be back at the Conference last year, surrounded by love and every other wonderful human feeling, light and dark, I adore them all. Right now, back on Block Island, I am feeling gratitude, sadness, grief, joy, willingness, and most of all, longing, and behind that in a secret chamber that as I write this is secret no more--shame at my longing. The shame comes from feeling vulnerable. Surrounded by so much love, I could barely stand it and ran away to my tent, the farthest away of all. I'm serious, every year my tent is the farthest from the camp. I thought it was because I liked solitude, but I can see now that it's really because I am scared of love. I know this feeling could change, just as I know it's wisest not to hold onto the feelings I experienced at the conference when I was able to connect to people because that takes me out of the moment and makes me unable to be present with whatever is happening in the now, but the temptation is strong. My life on Block Island is very solitary. This may seem odd to those who know the island, as it is a very social place. It can take an hour to get across the 200 yards of town, but I am talking about my authentic life--when I am most myself, and that doesn't happen for me with people on Block Island, which makes me very sad as I long for a village to come home to where I can be accepted for my true self. What I do have here, is a blissful connection with other creature beings who share this island: plants and stones and waves, deer and striped bass, seaweeds of all colors and shapes, periwinkles in tide pools. I got back to foraging today and I forgot my sadness for awhile, and my longing, though I can feel it again right now. Must be the sound of the surf coming in the windows. I don't have to explain it or excuse it. You know the feeling, I'm sure.

One of the first things I'd like to share is a photo of Japanese Knotweed. If you live in the northeast you probably know this plant, labelled "invasive," as it takes over other plants. While at the GMC I learned from visionary activist astrologer Caroline Casey (http://www.coyotenetworknews.com/) is that Japanese knotweed is moving into places that have a high incidence of lyme disease. Well, Block Island has the highest incidence of lyme in the country, and Knotweed is everywhere on the island. Here's what it looks like:


So for all of you worried about contracting lyme disease, or for those who have already been exposed, I recommend picking some knotweed in early May. You want to pick it early, before the stalks get over two feet tall. I usually stew it with some apples and cinnamon. It is tart, rather like rhubarb and makes a nice, old-fashioned dessert or breakfast. I don't eat grains, but I imagine it would be a fine accompaniment to oatmeal. I also know that knotweed is good for the heart. I fed some to my friend Joya when she was suffering from tachichardia. I believe she's doing much better now. So pay attention to what plants are growing around your house--the volunteers, not the ones you chose, although there is no "coincidence" about those either. The plants that choose to be near you could have a message for you about the state of your body, mind, or soul, as plants operate on all these levels.

I sort of drifted through the day today. I was supposed to work on a stone wall with Paul down Snake Hole Road, but ended up helping Brigid at Three Sisters instead. (Brigid--goddess of fire, healing, and POETRY!) After work I was restless-big waves make me so, as well as the medication I am still taking. I decided to walk toward the water and see what I could forage. The first stop was right in the garden in front of my house: wild carrots. I pulled up about a half dozen and tossed them on the front porch. A few steps later I discovered that the day lilies had started to bloom. Day lilies, pictured below, are named because they bloom for a day only. Their shoots are edible and quite savory. I feel bad sometimes when I pick them because that means they won't get to be a flower, but maybe they flower inside me. Have you ever thought about what the world would be like if we never ate meat and only ate flowers? Even wild meat like the fish I used to spear--just flowers--what kind of creatures would be? I imagine we would be more sensitive to our feelings and more tuned into those of others, also, that we would be intoxicated with light, dizzy with our beauty, that we would weep when the rain kissed our petals. Would we be sad when the time came for us to wilt? Would we compete to survive or ask the wind to blow our seeds somewhere in need of our own particular beauty?




Look at that pollen!

There was lots of sheep sorrel mixed in with some yarrow and mint I foraged from other people's gardens and transplanted in this little patch when I lived in this house years ago. It was lovely to seem them thriving. No one had weeded since I'd moved out! After a quick run back up the stairs to stash away my greens in the fridge, I finally made it to the path to the beach, hoping to find sea rocket. What I first discovered was this:


Poison Ivy!! Watch out! Poison ivy likes to weave its way around the most tempting plants like blackberries, and in this case, bayberry. For your information, you can pick the bay leaves and use them just like the ones you buy in a glass jar at the store, and the tiny berries, clustering now on the stalks, are what the famed bayberry candles are made of. I admire the fortitude of anyone who has picked enough berries to make even one candle as they are very small. Some day I will, but not today, even if they were ripe. I had sea rocket on my mind, and much to my delight it was flourishing in the dunes. I filled my sack and continued onto the beach, very rocky for this time of year. Big waves, flotsam and jetsam, one moonsnail, a big strand of kelp I tossed up onto the rocks to retrieve on my way back. I didn't toss it high enough, when I returned it was gone, but my hands were full with driftwood.

I drifted down to Jerry' Point and found a rock to sit on to watch the surf. There was a mother with a tiny infant asleep, strapped to her chest, and a little wild boy who ran around me shrieking. We smiled, but didn't say hello. I stretched out on the rock and disappeared for awhile. The boy kept shrieking, then became quiet. When I looked up he was drawing in the sand with a stick.



Slowly, slowly, I made my way home, over the rocks, dropping my driftwood to say hello to a wild rose, looking directly at the sun which I could see behind the clouds. It didn't hurt. For a moment, there was almost a rainbow. The pebbles were glistening with raindrops and salt spray, every flower was in love with me and ready to be seduced.



I cleaned my carrots on the porch, popped them in the oven with some olive oil. Since they're so tiny, they only take about fifteen minutes to roast. I sauteed some sea rocket in coconut oil and added some yellow lentil dal. When these were hot I decorated my plate with sorrel, some raw rocket, and six or so peppery day lily shoots. I ate a bowl-ful of sunshine for dinner, and the whole time I was not sad I was eating it by myself.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

House of the Rose


Beach roses are in full bloom right now. Here's a shot of them in the dunes in front of my friend Rosalee's old house.

 

There really aren't a lot of words needed in the presence of roses. Here's a poem by Lorca.

Casida of The Rose

The rose
was not searching for the sunrise:
almost eternal on its branch,
it was searching for something else.

The rose
was not searching for darkness or science:
borderline of flesh and dream,
it was searching for something else.

The rose
was not searching for the rose.
Motionless in the sky
it was searching for something else.


When I'm foraging, I stop searching for anything beyond the searching.


Early morning rose tea.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What I Ate For Dinner


Curried orange lentils with curly dock leaves and wood sorrel. Isn't it gorgeous! I feel like I am getting wilder and wilder every day. Today I had an encounter with this ancient creature.




She had just laid a clutch of eggs. Snapping turtles come out of the ponds this time of the year to lay their eggs on dry ground. I could see the bare spot in the grass she had scraped out with her considerable claws. I think she was very tired from her exertions. I was clearing brush with Paul and walked past her about 50 times carrying chokecherry branches I was throwing on the brush pile. She did not seem agitated at all.

Normally I would not face a snapping turtle head on like this. They are known to lunge quite a distance. I have seen this. But today I felt safe to approach her head on. I kept a respectful distance and she let me take this photo. I felt so honored. I gave her a little reiki. Her neck pulsed. I thought about what it would feel like to literally have a hard shell.

After work I rode my bike along the dunes gathering rose hip buds and petals. I plan to bathe in the petals and dry the buds for tea. I don't think there is a better smell in the world than beach roses. I am also happy to report that I found my first patch of sea rocket in the dunes. Sea rocket is one of the most delectable vegetables. I will be writing much more about it in the future. One of my customers' at Farmers' Market told me they even sell it at Dean & Deluca in New York City!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Holy Cow Parsnip



This here is cow parsnip. I've been biking by it for years, and I must admit the only reason I haven't dug it up is because it is on private property on a very public stretch of Corn Neck Rd. I've lusted after it for years. I haven't seen it anywhere else on the island and I've never tried it. I can feel it tempting me to give in to my darker impulses every time I pedal by, though so far I have resisted. I, did, however, hop the wall yesterday to take these photos.

It is a quite extraordinary plant. I really did feel spellbound as I was gazing at its leaves and the tiny white petals which make up one flower head. Especially mesmerizing, were the flowers which were just beginning to open. I was astonished when I got home and saw the photos. I was clearly connecting with an intelligence that was looking back at me, no doubt in my mind. I was kind of glad I didn't dig it up and eat it, although I read in Wildman Steve Brill's guide that the flower stalks which have not yet flowered are delicious to eat, too, not just the root, which would involve digging, and explaining why I was digging if I was caught. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that Cow Parsnip has cast a spell on me. I can't stop looking at it or at these photos. Hope you enjoy them. Hope I resist my dark impulses. I won't let you know if I don't.





Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Fairy Realm


I know whenever goldfinches cross my path as I ride to work in the morning that the fairies are calling me. Today I felt them very close as I planted some pansies under a shady tree amongst the wood sorrel that was already growing there. You may recognize this plant as the legendary shamrock which leprechauns sport in their lapels. I do believe in leprechauns, though I'm not sure they were three-piece suits and top hats. I think they may be a little more wild than that. If they wear anything at all, I imagine they were moleskin breeches and robin feather cloaks. I bet they lace their boots with mouse whiskers and wear acorn caps. I bet they use shamrocks as umbrellas, and since it's been raining a lot lately I left these sorrel plants in the company of the pansies  to provide them with some shelter. I like to mix the wild with the tame. Wood sorrel is very delicate. When you put it in your mouth you feel like you are absorbing the essence of green. I pick it for salads sometimes, but mostly I just pick it and eat it wherever I find it. It reminds me there is magic everywhere. And I always remember to wink at the fairies.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sleepin' in a Ditch, or I Never Thought Things Could Be So Good

If you live on Block Island, chances are you know this tune. It was written by my brother Stevie Lightnin.' It's about a down and out fellow who wakes up in a ditch to find a beautiful lady there with him. As you all know, the quest for housing can be quite a struggle sometimes so it might not be quite as much a surprise to find someone sleeping in a ditch on Block Island than it would be on the mainland. Only kidding! Although I bet a few folks over the years have ended up sleeping in ditches after a night out at one of the local watering holes. All I can say is if you're going to stumble into a ditch, make sure you do it on foot and not in a car. I was biking to work yesterday and noticed a stonewall that had been knocked over. Lo and behold, there in the marsh beyond was a car that had rolled a good 100 yards. Heard whoever was driving was fine physically, thank goodness. I don't really want to go on about what I think about alcohol abuse because that would be a whole other blog and you are reading this one because it's about foraging, so I'll just say that I hope the highest and greatest good occurs for everyone on this island, drunk or sober. We are all connected. In a place as small as this, surrounded by the ocean, this can be more obvious than on the mainland. It is easier to see our connections here and to realize that we are co-creating lessons for the benefit of our souls' growth together so I encourage anyone reading this who lives on Block Island to consider what our collective field is and determine if it is one you feel good about creating. For example, the housing struggle and alcohol abuse are two collective fields we have created. They are not inevitable. We choose together to make them "set in stone," some of us playing the role of victim, some of perpetrator, when really these are just the roles we adopt in order to evolve.

On a lighter note, I've been building walls with the extraordinary Paul Cunningham and I told him maybe we could get some work out of this incident. His reply was maybe we should offer kickbacks to people crashing into walls. I do love an occasional dose of black humor, of which my brother Lightnin' is a master. I think someone in that ditch was cookin' bacon.


This ditch in the photo above is on Chapel St. and it is loaded with edibles. In the photo on the right, curly dock and jewelweed can be seen. I absolutely love curly dock. According to urban forager Steve Brill, whose guide Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places I highly recommend, curly, sometimes referred to as yellow dock because of its deep yellow roots, is a nutritional and medicinal powerhouse. Not to get down on spinach, but curly dock has a third more protein, iron, calcium, potassium, beta carotene and phosphorous, and more than double the Vitamin C. According to Steve it was an important vegetable during the Depression in the 30s when people were forced to turn to the wild for food. I don't wish a Depression on us, by any means, but it's good to know that the earth will provide for us even if we don't have money to buy food. The root is decocted and used medicinally to treat anemia and liver disorders.

This is the time to gather this green, before the flower stalk shoots up and the leaves get very tough and bitter. Its flavor is deliciously sour. I usually steam the leaves, although the other night I threw them into an omelet, and tonight I branched out and roasted them with some olive oil to make curly dock chips. I got the idea from my mom who sent me a recipe for this using kale. Here's a photo. They were delicious. Thanks for inspiring me Mom, if you read this.
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I've only eaten jewelweed once and it was by mistake. It was in my formative days as a forager. I was at Cooneymus Spring looking for watercress, which I had picked there in the past. I thought the cress looked kind of spindly, but picked it anyway, which I boiled into a soup. I think I thought it tasted ok at the time, although I do recall it sort of fell apart and wasn't quite as spicy as I expected watercress to be.  I've sinced learned it was jewelweed, which grows in damp places like watercress. Jewelweed is officially edible, but it is as a medicinal plant where it shines. Block Island is loaded with poison ivy. The next time you notice you've brushed against some, crush a stalk (remember to say thank you) and rub some juice on the affected area and you most likely will not get a rash. You can do the same for insect bites, too. I get poison ivy pretty bad and jewelweed has worked for me. My friend Johanna Ross  who is an herbalist makes a product called Poison Ivy Relief containing locally foraged jewelweed if you want to have some on hand for accidents. Her website is http://www.islandmistnaturalproducts.com/.

Here's a photo of broad-leaf dock, mallow and jewelweed sharing space in this ditch. (and one bright and sunny dandelion, also good for eating, but a little tough once the flowers blossom!) Broad-leaf dock is not quite as tasty as curly, though edible, but mallow greens are. Eat them raw, they cook down to almost nothing. I wonder if they find the drunks who stumble down Chapel St. when the bars close amusing or if they're annoyed because they can't sleep. I suppose, like all of us, they chose this busy byway to be their home because it was the best place for them to grow. Sadly, the dock I enjoyed for my dinner tonight was not from this ditch. I have noticed many times as I've biked by that the water in it is coated in an iridescent oil slick that must be run-off from the nearby mechanic's machine shop. I still love riding by it, though. It is such a lush patch of wild and delicious goodness right in town!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lawn Salad

Ever wander across your lawn for dinner? Here in North American w  tend to be obsessed with eradicating weeds from our lawns. I say North Americans, because this didn't seem to be the tendency from what I saw in South America, where things seem to be left just to grow, except for at Macchu Picchu, where the grass in the ruins was lush and green! I wondered if the Incas were into lush lawns when I visited. The llamas seemed to be enjoying it, and it is soothing to the eyes and soft to lie on, but it really makes no sense to kill all these wonderful edible and medicinal plants that are offering themselves up right in our yards!

Anyway, my point is that there is good eating out there in your lawn, so don't curse those weeds, and especially don't kill them with chemicals which filter down into our drinking water. I do recommend rinsing anything you pick from your lawn in case it has been sprayed, not only because of chemicals, it might have been sprayed by a dog as well. Hope this doesn't turn you off foraging. I think a lot worse goes on in factory farms and produce packing plants all over the world than a little dog pee, if that makes you feel any better.



Another great place to look for salad greens is cracks in the sidewalk or along the edge of buildings. I visited my friend Rosalee in Newport last week and scanned her street for edibles. There was a lot to eat and it was fun to point them out to Rosalee. One of the things I love about foraging is the wonder in people's eyes when I point out something they've passed by a million times is a delicious, nutritious treat! We are so conditioned to buying our food that most of us have forgotten that the earth really does provide for all our needs.

I do believe that reciprocity should be involved in our interactions with plant life--energy should be exchanged--but the energy does not have to be in the form of money to be valuable. Gratitude, for example, is a wonderful gift to give the plants you pick and eat. I always ask the plant if it is ok to pick it and I never pick a plant if there is only one or two around. I read once that the Native North Americans always walked by the first of any plant they saw and gathered the next one. I think we too often feel helpless  if we don't have money. I know I've felt this way, but when I go out foraging I feel powerfully connected to the earth and powerful in my ability to support myself. It is a grand feeling. I am so grateful to have adopted this path.

As for feeling disempowered by lack of money, this can be shifted easily by recognizing that money is simply the primary form of energy exchange in our culture. It is not evil. It doesn not corrupt. It is the desire for control that corrupts and the abuse carried out by those who desire power and control more than anything that has tainted our primary form of energy exchange. The way I see it, is those of us who desire to be part of a more just and exquitable exchange are just as powerful, especially when we come together and use our abilities to focus intention on our goals. In my world, the spirit realm comes first, then the material. If we visualize in the spiritual, we create the possibility for our desire to manifest in the physical. I call this spiritual activism and I have been practicing it on Block Island for the past several years. I don't have a lot of money to donate to The Block Island Conservancy to buy land, but my thoughts and emotions are a powerful tool to assist in the preservation of Block Island. So the next time you are feeling despair about seeing your favorite open space destroyed, send prayers its way. Send prayers also that everyone involved and connected with that land will act from their hearts for the highest good of creation. The shamanic way involves knowing from direct experience. Try it and see what happens. We are no longer living in a time where we have to take anything on faith. We are all being given the opportunity to claim our power to consciously co-create our reality. We've been doing it unconsciously for a long time and the poverty-consciousness and fear that has dominated our emotional spectrum can be witnessed in our creations. I say let's make Block Island an experiment in co-creating a new Eden! We can all run around in fig leaves!

Just kidding, I won't decree that citizens of the new Eden have to run around naked. I've seen too many weirdos down at Block Rock to believe that we don't have to do a little more healing around body and sexuality issues before that is part of our constitution. In the meantime, there is plenty of gazing at the ground to do, grazing the lawn for dainty wild greens like violet leaves, sheep sorrel, chickweed, purslane, plantain, dandelions, and maybe even a wild carrot or two, dug up with a thank you, thank you, thank you--for all this wild and wonderful life.

Here are those pictures to help you identify. First row: plantain and chickweed. Second row: sheep sorrel and wild violets. Leaves and flowers are both edible. Mmmm-I love eating flowers. Someday I want to exist on a diet of flowers alone! Now that will be some amazing energy to exchange!








Sunday, May 16, 2010

Saved in the Nick of Time!

Look what I saved from the bulldozers!! Wild carrots in my front yard. We're getting a new septic system and the gentlemen operating the heavy equipment had no idea what treasures they were about to decimate until I ran out with my Cape Cod weeder and pulled these up. Notice the color--wild carrots do not contain beta-carotene which gives domestic carrots their orange hue. Many of you probably know this plant as Queen Anne's lace which sends up its delicate white lace crowns in a few weeks. Now, before the flowers bloom, is the time to eat the roots. They can be eaten after that, but they are rather tough. This batch was in fact, rather tough, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. In the past I have roasted them, but these were tossed into a pot with a few domestic carrots, some ginger, onion, turmeric, and water to become a soup. After the soup was cooked I pureed it with a handful of soaked raw almonds so it was nice and creamy. I served it with a dash of toasted sesame oil and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. It was simple and delicious. Of course, nibbling them raw is fun, too, sitting right on the lawn while the bulldozers roar away.
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