Ancient Soul Reawakening 


Scraped knees. Leaves in my hair. Rocks and shells in my wool coat pockets. It never failed. Leave the house in a dress, tights and patent leather shoes ready for what the world would teach me. The slender, freckled, straight bangs, brown headed child that would carry robin eggs in her pockets to “keep them warm”. Rolling down the grassy hill and stopping at the bottom, looking up at the spinning clouds. Wild. Happy. Wild and happy because I was aloud to be. Of course I had a mother who would dress us up in lovely coats and dresses, curlers in our hair the night before and all. But I was raised in the late 80s early 90s, in a small neighborhood town and given freedom and trust. 

Memories of playing in the woods across the street from my childhood home was a world of wonder. A world of imagination and free exploration. A world of problem solving and independent learning. A world where a red wooden bridge would lead us into a landscape surrounded by life and lessons that flourished all around us. The overgrown summer paths of thorn bushes ran along hundreds of years of old farm stone walls. The seasons would change and all that surrounded would turn into a colorful autumn mosaic of leaves forming a painting. The winter approached with a whisper and a foreign landscape would bare newly dormant trees covered in green shaded lichen, wet from a winter snowfall. It all brings a nostalgia that lives so vividly in my mind today.

I learned at an early age about this world growing around me in our own yards and the woods across the road. With my siblings and the neighborhood children, we lived. We explored. We let the natural world around us become our playground. I thank them now, because as I have reconnected more with nature deeper these past few years, memories that have been locked away waiting for me to find them again have emerged. The way we called stinging nettles “meadow flower” and ran as fast as we could with our arms up in the summer sun as they stung our legs below. To the skunk cabbage games, where we would try not to step on the newly emerging leaves and flowers because if we did the we would lose “the game”. The pungent smell would send us running from the stench. 

We learned at a very young age about how to identify poison ivy. Were we good at it? Not the best, but we knew what to look for. The problem wasn’t the identification, but the actual awareness of looking while playing I suppose. It could be a vine slowly reaching upward to the top of a tree. Or a colorful shiny three leafed plant creeping slowly along the stonewalls we hopped over while playing Man Hunt in the fall. We learned from the older children and sometimes a parent. There wasn’t a time in the summer that one of us didn’t get a rash. But we grinned and bared it and back into the woods we would go. 

Wild mulberries covered the street like small paint blotches. We would sit on the side of the road near the woods and eat the uncrushed ones off the cement. Even hitting the high branches with a tennis racket or sitting on eachothers shoulders to gather them. The crab apple tree that was right next to the mulberry gave us delight. Daring who would take a bite out of the tart apple that sometimes had critters living inside. 

We sat for hours on our driveway that had daylilies and japanese knotweed bordering it. In those hours we would dissect our findings all in the manner of playing house. Nibbling, peeling, and drinking the water out of the knotweed which we called bamboo. Tasting the pollen stigmas of the Day Lily and and weaving the long leaves. We went about gathering yew berries that we added to our “Little House on The Prarie” imaginary meals. We knew what not to put in our mouths. Not only from of our parents but mostly our older siblings who were with us. They then continued the cycle in teaching us. It was as if we had our own ancient ancestral teaching system right in our own neighborhood. A system that has gone dormant in many of today’s modern neighborhoods. 

These memories were mostly unstructured play. There were no helicopter parents hovering over our backs to make sure we were being nice to one another. They were working or inside tending to other things, with a check in every once and awhile. It was a community of siblings and children of all ages that helped us learn about ourselves and the world around us. Again, a community that is missing in child development and in many communities today. There is a need for freedom. A need for trust. A need to take risks and explore.

As I grew older, I remember everything from the salt on my lips from a swim in the ocean, to the constant buzz of the cicada awaking me on a summer morning; I carried a certain awareness with me. An awareness I wasn’t sure how to embrace. I was attuned to wildlife, birds, and plants. Quizzing myself in my father’s birding book. Even enjoyed having a job at 14 at my uncle’s plant nursery. As I grew I noticed certain plants would show themselves more and it wasn’t the cultivated ones for my Uncle’s nursery. It was the wild ones. 

One summer, while vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard when I was 14, I was at the bookstore and was drawn to a section on plants, herbalism, alchemy, and paganism. I used my saved money from babysitting and I read. I read about plants I couldn’t pronounce. I read about cures for illnesses I had never heard of. As I read, one plant that was in every book let herself be known. Yarrow She stood out. I was curious. She was a herb that was used for so much for hundreds, even thousands of years. I wanted to find her. But with no guidance on identification, I wouldn’t find her for another 8 years. My husband and I were living on a farm property in New Hampshire. 125 acres to run free and explore. It was an amazing place to live while my husband was working towards his Masters degree. There she was again. Growing in an old overgrown wild flower garden. I asked my husband on the identification. He was not positive on an ID but went on to explain the caution that should be used with the apiaceae and asteraceae family if one is not familiar. 

Back of the brain yarrow would go again for another 8 years until we bought our first home. Another overgrown wildflower garden graced me with her presence. I knew it was her. I always knew it was her. My husband cautioned again, so I researched. Then,

I jumped. 

I jumped down the rabbit hole of plant knowledge. Each new spring brought me peace in identifying and learning about the green life that grew around my home. How could I work with these plants? How could I use these forms of life to help my own family? It brings me a peace. But also this peace comes with learning, creating and teaching. With not only plants but all of the life that lives around our home. 

We have reached a point in this society where people have become disconnected from the natural world that is living and growing all around them. While I continue to learn daily, I hope to teach or inspire those willing to be reawaken. It is in all of us. Every human on this Earth shares a love for some form of nature. Unlocking it, becoming aware and expanding the appreciation and knowledge is the key. We owe this appreciation to our children and our children’s children. We owe it to our Earth.

This awareness has always been inside me. But it has also always been within yourself. You don’t have to be a botanist, herbalist or wildlife biologist to feel connected to the Earth. You can work that 9-5 job everyday to provide for your family. You don’t have to have an social media account with thousands of followers to feel connected. You just have to be aware on how to feel it. To open your mind and find your inner ancient soul. I hope as you read this post you unlocked memories of your childhood submersed in a world of nature. Memories you once forgot about but now remember bring a smile to your face. Use those memories. Get outside. Slow down. Open your eyes. Be aware. Learn what is growing in your backyard and gain knowledge on how it can be appreciated within your family’s lifestyle.

Do it for you.
Be well. Be Wild.🌿💚

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Winter Roasting Herb Blend


When the winter months set in. The days are shorter. Darkness creeps on us at the earlier hour. I find myself with an inner need to create even more. Blending plants and spices is rewarding for the soul. (Just ask my mother, I would drive her bat sh*t crazy sneaking into her spice cabinet to make “potions”). Not only is it rewarding in a creative way, but in a primitive way. Gathering, drying, blending, awakens a part of me that feels I’ve known “this way” before. Using native, and non native plants, either wild or home grown with a knowledge, love and respect; makes this journey even more satisfying.
So I share this lovely blend. 

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), ground juniper “berries”, ground acorn meal, turmeric, ground coriander, ground black pepper and sea salt. It is delicous added to those turkey left overs, soups, venison, chicken and pork. 
I wish there was a smell button. But there is not. But this winter, when the air is cold, the sun dull, and your body feels tired; dive into your spice cabinet (or your mother’s lol). Open, smell, blend, learn and be reawakend.
Be well.💚🌿

A Forgotten Wild Edible; Pine Bark Flour


Bark pealing was a traditional practice amongst the Sami people of northern Scandinavia and of many different indigenous tribes of North America. Some researchers argue if the bark was used as a common food in their diet or just used in a dire starvation survival situations. One can even find visual evidence of the bark peeling practice in old growth forests in Europe and North America. Many different species of pines were used in harvesting. The cambium layer in pine bark contains carbohydrates, minerals and vitamin C. 


With a recent storm that blew through, the top half of one the pines that shares our land broke off. Thanking the tree for not falling on our house, I wanted to think up ways to respect it. Lately, with all the learning and research of the plants that grow around my home, I want to make sure that we are respecting them and using them in a sustainably way. What a perfect opportunity to learn about eastern white pine bark flour making. Also a great time to harvest some needles, and resin for medicine. 

Always appreciate the pine. It offers so much. Food, medicine, shelter, fire and tools. From the floors you walk on in your home, and maybe to the table you gather around with your friends and family near. All the ancestors who lived these lands before us knew the great pine and appreciated it well. 

The Peeling and Drying Process
 



Log after log I would scrap the resin into a tiny glass jar (infuse in olive oil for salve). Peal the bark away with a butter knife and separate the Cambium layer from the outer bark. Don’t forget to save some bark for medicinal teas. I tied the bark into bundles to hang dry and wait to few day. It dries out pretty fast. One can also use the oven on a very low temp checking for dryness every 10 to 15 minutes. This makes your house smell amazing.

   

Oven Drying Pine Bark

The Flour Process


Bark strips should be brittle. Break in half easily. Break into small pieces and grind with a mortar and pestle or use the blender. A blender will save you time. Make sure that the bark is ground into a powder consistency. Or when consuming you may get a rough piece of bark to chew through. Keep in a container or mason jar for later use. 
You can add the bark flour into any baking recipes of choice. Just make sure you still use flour of your choice. It will give your breads, cookies and cakes a hint of pine flavor for sure. As I experiment more I will add more and update recipes.
Pine Bark Honey Shortbread


1 Cup Butter 

2 Cups All-Purpose Flour 

1/2 Cup Pine Bark Flour 

1/3 Cup Honey 

¾ Cup Ground Acorn 1 tsp. Vanilla (optional) 

Mix butter and honey and vanilla until fluffy

Add flour, a little at a time, add in the acorn 

Press dough into shortbread mold or ungreased cast iron skillet.

Bake in preheated 300F oven 35 to 40 minutes.

Enjoy warm

Letting Go of “The Rush”

It was one of those days that have become almost “every days”. I rush. I rush to get showered, rush to get the kids ready for the day, rush to eat breakfast, rush drinking my tea, rush the kids out and into the car, rush to preschool then daycare, rush to work, rush at work, rush to the car to pick up the kids, rush rush rush rushhhhhhhh. Rush to get the kids home before it gets dark so we can play in the woods. Rush. I’m tired of rushing. Im tired of the rat race. I want to give this modern “have everything” society the middle finger. Quit my job, sell the house and all the materialistic crap that is unnecessary and go live in the woods.


Then while the kids are wrestling in a pile of leaves my mind flips a switch. I’m at ease. At peace. My senses are aware and heighten. I’m happy. I yearn to create, working with the land that grows and slumbers all around me. Then I realize, tonight it’s going to get cold. With kale, Swiss chard and nubby carrots still growing in the garden, now was their time to shine. It is the end the autumn. The kids love pulling carrots. It’s quite comical. Also quite comical is that I am awful at growing carrots. “Nubby” is the variety I seem to grow. 

Today, my nubby carrots wouldn’t cut it for dinner. Sometimes when the garden comes up short, the wild plants give. They offer so much if one knows where to look. So I explore with my wildlings to our wild flower garden covered in first year biennial evening primerose growth. This time of year, the roots of the first year young plants have a root that looks like a parsnip with a mushroom texture and earthy taste when cooked. 
I roasted some garlic and shallots, chopped my nubby carrot greens into a pesto with olive oil. Added it to some Bob’s Red Mill Coos coos with a pork english style bacon from a pig 3 that lived miles away. 

As we sat there and talked about what we were eating. What plants and animals gave their life for us to be strong and healthy over a candle light in the middle of the table, I was at peace. I realized the moment I got outside in the backwoods with the kids, the rushing stopped. I could enjoy my children, enjoy our space in the backyard, enjoy the living plants and wildlife living around us. I could enjoy the dinner we created with the nubby carrots. I could breathe.
Society is freaking exhausting these days. It has us so trapped into rushing. Telling us that our happiness can only be found through a screen, money or “likes” on a post. So trapped into making us think it knows what we want, what we need next, what materialisic type thing needs to be bought next. Everyone is a freaking expert at everything and feels the need to comment on the media crap that gets thrown in our face everyday.

 I’m done with rushing.
I am no expert. But I do enjoy and love this life my husband and I have created for our family. But most of all, I am falling in love with the woman I am becoming. 

Slow down. Reflect. Search for your inner self. And remember that it’s okay to think about yourself for a change. 

Now get out there. Learn. Create. Share.

Be Well.🌿💚

The Acorn Harvest

“You can eat acorns?! 

Many people have been asking me this question these past few weeks as we have been processing up some squrriel loving food from our back woods. But like any wild edible food one must do their research. From multiple sources. The knowledge is out there. A knowledge that has been almost lost and forgotten. Today, chain food stores and corporate farming give us instant ways of accessing food. Why would you harvest a small nut and take on a process that can take hours, even days to do?
Nothing feels more liberating and satisfying than harvesting a sustainable food source from your own backyard, local park or woodland. Acorns are high in carbohydrates, and a good source of fiber and protein. Give me free, nutritional, sustainable food and ancestral knowledge any day.


Harvesting

There are many different species of oaks that produce acorns. A mature oak will start producing around 20 years of age. We are blessed enough to have a handful of white oaks in our back woods. Try to be in tuned to when the tree begins to drop it acorns. A breezy day helps. The kids find it so exciting as the acorns drop into the leaf debris around us. As they yell ”thank you oak tree!” And giggle as they inspect each one they find for weevial holes. If there is a hole, no good. If it still has a cap, probably no good. Most of the acorns we found had started to spout. Those worked out just fine.



Processing 

There are so many methods out there. Every person does it a little different. This is what worked for us. I suggest as you learn and do what works well for you. I’m sure we will adapt our process as we learn more. 

First let your acorns dry up. Anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks or more. I just dump our gathered acorns into a wooden wine box in my dinning room. But be warned those lovely wormy weevils may come out of their food bearing homes onto your dinning room floor. (Hey chicken food I guess!) If you’re not into the occasional escaped weevil, opt for the garage or basement. Cool and dry. Stir them around daily. Watch for mold.

Next, float test a bowl full of acorns. The ones that float to the surface of the water usual have or had a weevil. (We compost those and the shells or save for canvas or deer-hide tanning). Remove acorns from water and pat dry. Use a sharp knife. Towel underneath and cut them into quarters. Depending on how dry they are, sometimes I cut the “crown” off then the sprout and make a slit down the middle. Then peel. If they are still sticking to the shell try putting them into a very low temp oven to help them separate. You don’t want to cook them so a very low temperture is the key. Throw some into a bowl or Tupperware container with a cover and shake. Some come free themselves. Others you pick from the shell making sure the papery dark brown sheath is removed. It can make your batch very bitter. Put the quartered acorns through a grinder or chop them up. Just note that during this process the meat can oxidize outside of the shell. It turns brown like a cut apple would sitting out. I didn’t mind, but if you’re looking in making a light colored acorn flour place the acorn meat in water to help out with this.



Leaching

Some oaks are more bitter than others. Here in New England, white oaks produce acorns that are less bitter than red oaks. What causes their bitterness is a naturally occurring polyphenal called tannins. Tannins are naturally found in plant leaves, seeds, bark, wood and fruit skins. It is important to remove a bulk of the tannins (not good for the kidneys in high amounts). 

The funny thing people don’t realize is squrriels do this naturally by burying their acorns over the winter snow and melt. There are two types of leaching. Cold leaching and hot leaching. Tannins are water soluble. Deciding on what you will use your acorns for dictates what leaching method you use. If you’re making acorn flour, cold leaching is needed because you don’t want to cook out the starch (binding agent). 

Cold leaching can be more time consuming but worth it for making acorn flour. There are so many ways to do it. It can be done by soaking the shelled chopped acorn meat in cold water changing the water many times until the color of the soaking water becomes almost clear. I use a old t shirt and colander. Letting it soak and strain itself. Some people use a large bucket, strain and repeat. The most import thing is the color of the water. Taste test will tell you when they are no longer bitter but nutty.

Hot leaching is used if you are using the “meal” as nut add in. Boil shelled acorns for 30 minutes, strain, fill pot with hot water (not cold this will lock the bitterness into the acorn.) Boil for 30 minutes again, repeat process until you’re acorns are nutty and buttery in flavor and the bitterness is gone. You can use right away or dehydrate it, even grind it up more to a consistancy to your liking. Add it into burgers, meatloaf, mash potatoes, salad toppings, even use in pemmican. 


I know it seems like a lot of work. IT IS!  But it’s a sustainable food that can be appreciated. Next time you step on an acorn, remember that this small nut helped the ancestors that lived before us get through winters. And maybe one day, it will become a sustainable food that all can enjoy.
Now go thank an oak tree. 

Goldenrod and its Treasures

Goldenrod flowers and leaf tea


This time of year these vibrant yellow towers come into bloom. Their flower tops so bright and lovely that they look like they are screaming at the world, trying to be heard. Trying to share their truth and their amazing properties. Also, this time of year many people complain about their seasonal allergies. Every year people tell me that goldenrod is the blame. This is a common misconception. Don’t be deceived. Its pollen is considered “heavy or sticky” and not air born, therefore most likely not the curprit for allergies. 

Goldenrod Harvest


Common ragweed, on the other hand may be making you sneeze. At the same time goldenrod is flowering, so is ragweed. It is a weed that, understandably why, gets a bad reputation also. When combined with CO2 and combustible fuels it can get pretty nasty if you’re someone who suffers seasonal allergies. Its powdery pollen dances though the air leaving 10-20% of people sneezing. Now before you start hating on this Native plant, it too has benifits. But that is for another blog entry.

Dry some up, make a wreath


Goldenrod is loved by many different pollenators. It is a shame people cut it and remove it from their yards thinking it causes them or family problems. Our bees love it. We know that once the goldenrod has passed, it’s time to start feeding our beehive again. It’s some of the last flowering plants to bloom before the weather starts cooling and the leaves begin to change. I try to enjoy it and appreciate it as much as I can before the colors of summer leave the landscape. We harvest it not only for it’s beauty (wreath making) but also for its full goodness both medicinal and food wise.
Medicinal Uses

Hang gathered bunches out of direct sunlight or in a dark place. I use my basement stairway. Easy to access and dark. Goldenrod makes great tea with honey and a lovely infused oil to be used for topical uses like salves. I use both leaves and flowers. It’s an anti inflammatory, antifungal and good for the kidneys as well (diuretic). Also it helps pollen allergies, fevers, colds, sore throats and flu symptoms. 

Drying goldenrod, pearly everlasting, yarrow


Edible Uses

“What!? You want me to eat it?!” Yes. The modern man’s diet these days consist of sugary, salty, foods. Once our body has it. We want more. I’m not going to lie, I love salt. (To the point I look forward in licking it off my face after going to the beach. Don’t judge.) But what if you could harvest a majority of your greens from plants in your yard you never had to plant, never had to water, never had to weed? Try it. (Obviously know your identification). You will be surprised how your body feels after eating medicinal plants. Like it’s telling you, “I like this!”. 

One can saute up older leaves with olive oil and choice spices or with other veggies like kale. Younger leaves can be added to salads. The roots can be harvested and dried in early spring then ground into a powder to add to soups. It’s flowers make a lovely garnish and are airy and delicious lightly roasted in olive oil. 

Goldenrod leaf, evening primrose leaf, sausage, cheese, stuffed shells


As I go farther down the “rabbit hole” in my journey of learning about new plants and skills, I felt a need to write this. Share with the world that goldenrod has so much to share with us. . Next time you see some hanging out together, yelling to the world about trying to be understood, tell someone about them. They will appreciate it and may just let you enjoy their treasures.

Goldenrod Pizza with Smartweed Leaves

Backyard Rewilding can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Bunchberries and Moosehead Woodland Beer 

When my family and I were up exploring the great north woods of Maine last week, we stumbled upon many different wild edibles and medicinals growing around us. There was this young northern white cedar outside the door of our cabin bursting with small green cones weighing down its branches. There was a rocky ledge point that jutted out into the lake we explored countless times. It was covered in bunchberry, wild low bush blueberry, mountain cranberry and sweet gale. The edges of the long miles of logging roads were covered with lovely wild flowers and medicinals that every time I identified one, I wanted to stop and gather. But with two young children in tow to regulate, time foraging is short and I only wanted to take what I would use. 

So we gathered what we could, teaching our children along the way. Watching. When it comes to berries, young children just want to try them all especially my just turned two year old. We call him Wreckless. His favorite was the bunchberry. 
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) is a small, close to the ground umbrella shaped plant. It has a woody stem and four to seven leaves in a whorled pattern that spreads by underground rhizomes. In the spring it produces tiny flowers sounded by four white bracts (look like petals). The red berries emerge in the late summer and the leaves turn burgundy in the fall. 

After eating blueberries, bunchberry will taste bland. This was my first encounter trying them. A jelly like fruit surrounding a small seed. This was not my husbands first encounter with the mysterious red berry. He had tried them numerous times and was excited about the size of the patch we found. He told me to really try to enjoy the subtle flavor. I noticed my 2 year old excited and wildly gobbling them off my husband’s hand. He loved them. His new developing taste buds savored it’s faint sweetness. We gathered a waterbottle full of them and made pancakes the next morning. I also winged up some bunchberry syrup/sauce. Just a few hand fulls or berries, water and honey in a pot. Boiled it down and jarred. Smelled amazing.


Now back to the beer.  
My previous blog post about The Backyard Gruit Beer came along with us on our trip. It was a hit. Refreshing with a hint of a sour malt taste. So with what we gathered up north came home and brewed a lovely smelling gruit that is fermenting on my counter as I type this. Again, foraging and using plants that you are familiar with is important in creating a gruit. If you are not experienced, that’s okay too. Just use herbs and fruit from your local farmer or store. Many of the measuring I eye balled. I usually go by smell when boiling and adjust. 


1 gallon water 

2 1/2 cups brown sugar or maple syrup 

3 tbsp sweet gale leave and nutlets (Myrica gale)

1 cup Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

1/2 cup Eastern White Cedar green cones and sprigs (Thuja occidentalis)

3 tbsps Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

6 flower tops of Yarrow with some top growth leaves (Achillea millefolium)

1/2 cup Common yellow wood sorrel (sour lemon apple flavor)

Couple hand fulls of bunchberies (cornus canadensis with a few blueberries mixed in)

1 packet of ale yeast (or wild, still learning on the yeast front)

Boil for about 30 minutes, cool (I wait until it’s 92 degree F), strain into glass ferment jug, add yeast. Ferment for 10 days. Finish with bottling, priming, capping and rest for 2 weeks.
Enjoy. I’m still amazed how simple it is to enjoy your own homemade beer, with your own gathered ingredients. 

Backyard Rewilding can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally or as a food source.