Archive for Outdoor Common Sense


Free Food!

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As some of you may know, I am also an Urban Forager and lead wild edible walks in the city neighborhoods. This is the time of year when all sorts of lovely spring greens are available for picking. Gathering the greens for dinner used to be considered part of the walk home from work, and included dandelions, dock, lambs quarters, and various flowers. Depending on the location, other herbs and ‘weeds’ were also available.

As kids we knew about eating the greens we found as we roamed. Slip the thin grass blades of timothy, wild oats, and rye grass from their stems and chew the ends to get some energy.  Nibble on ‘sour grass’ or ‘pickle plant’ (Oxalis acetosa)  for a lemony taste; use wild mint to add a good flavor to the mouth and aid the stomach. As time passed, we lost touch with the delicious goodness of these wild treats, somehow relegating them to a category of awful pests and weeds to be eliminated. I have a better suggestion: eat these nutritious little goodies after you pull them out of the garden!

One I am particularly fond of is purslane. It looks like a low-growing jade plant, spreading itself over the ground around the plants. I use it as a mulch to retain moisture on my sandy soil, and when there is too much nothing could be simpler to pull than this shallow rooted plant. It contains more omega 3 fatty acids than any other plant I’ve heard of, more than most fish, and can be used so many different ways: raw, sauteed, stewed, stir-fried, pickled, and if you have backyard chickens this is a great way to increase the omega 3 content in their eggs.

Many other cultures use purslane as a vegetable and sell it at the farmers market. I did find it in Ojai, CA at their farmers market! Maybe the local markets will have it soon along with dandelion greens and burdock roots. But why pay for these little goodies? They are there for the taking.

Just be aware and conscious of where you pick them! Make sure the area has not been sprayed with herbicide. You can tell if it has been sprayed if there is a mono-culture (only one type of plant), if the dandelions look stunted, strangely shaped, weirdly wilted, or there are those little flags present. Also, ASK! Don’t pick next to a busy street or thruway. Don’t pick where nothing much is growing, in old parking lots, or in industrial areas.

Also only use the wild edibles for less than half of a salad or cooked dish since they are generally much stronger than the veggies you buy at the store. They won’t hurt you but the idea is to enjoy them, not be overwhelmed by their exotic taste. These plants also will help you detoxify your body, and you want that to be gentle as well. Most of all, have a good time examining these tasty treats, add them to your diet slowly, learn your likes and dislikes, and NEVER eat any plant you do not know!! The library is a valuable resource and has many books on wild edibles. Now there are people like myself in most cities that will teach you about your sources and varieties of free food!


Elder Wisdom

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Looking back over the last 50-60 years I am astonished by all the deep changes in the way we live. The information available from us older folks on how to do simple everyday things is encyclopedic and in fact foreign to most of our current Western urban/suburban society. All the people that live in a place where electricity goes out for a week at a time will still know most of this. Most of the rest of us may not have the skills we need to be fine under those circumstances. This leads me to suggest dusting off some old skills and hooking up with people who do know how to live well unplugged.

Moving to a farm as a child gave me the basic experiences of doing it all at home. The farm still had an outhouse, a wood burning cook stove, a parlor stove, a hand pump, a dug well, and a smoke house (the tightest building on the place). Even though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, this was one of the most profound times of basic learning I experienced. Those lessons don’t go away. They are in my body as physical memories. When ever I am placed in a situation where I need to access this information, it is there. Sometimes I can’t remember it in my head, but when asked about it or placed in a similar situation, I am triggered into total recall. This rises from my body, not my mind…like riding a bike.

This knowledge is safety and security. When you know how to prepare food from scratch, sew on a button or make a garment, create a shelter, tell time with a compass or tell direction with a watch, gather food and build a fire, you feel safer in the world. Knowing that each basic item we have can help make something else is useful. The old game of “What would you want to take with you to have on a deserted island?” is a good thought experiment! Actual hands on experience is even more valuable.

Here’s a suggestion for this year and all the years to come: learn something basic every month. If you had one match, how do you make sure you could start a fire? What are the basic skills, the rock bottom ideas that could sustain you if you were tossed out into this world naked? Interesting thought! What would you put in a backpack if you had to leave your home in 10 minutes and never go back?

My first idea? Look for others. Then comes: Trust Life, trust Spirit, be in the moment and remain aware. Allow your instincts to lead you, and when all else seems too weird to manage, make food. “Stone Soup” really works! When you follow the thread of  ‘OK, what’s next?’ everything will flow from that. Staying present and in the moment keeps all the ‘What If’s’ at bay.

In these Change Times the idea of only focusing on what’s next and putting all your energy in that moment by moment experience will free you and keep all the negative worry thoughts out of the picture. You are only responsible for NOW, so just make that the very best possible now, and keep on keeping on. In tough times the only thing you have total control over is your attitude. Make it a good one! I start my day with five excellent words such as : Love, Joy, Abundance, Gratitude, and Peace. I refer to these every time I get into downer thoughts. Believe it or not, this improves my life day by day. It just takes willingness to turn your thoughts to something else! And this is also the very basics of living well –  no matter what!

If nothing else comes to mind, sing a good old song that lifts you up and connects you to others. “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream…”


Basking In The Sun

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Cats in the Spring time basking in the sun; tulips and daffodils basking in the sun; and the dark, damp earth also basking, warming, sometimes steaming in the sunshine. Me, too. I can feel myself relaxing deep into my bones as the chill of winter easily slips away. Practicing Yoga, sitting in silence, grinning from ear to ear I bask in the Spring sun. As often as possible. Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h

From Grandmother and Grandfather on down the line,  I have watched my family greet the new day, especially in Spring. Some sniffed the breeze, turning to face the flow and catch all the fragrances in the air. Others gazed at the sky first, wanting to see in all directions, gauging the flow of the day by reading the clouds (or lack of) including color, shape, size, movement and the color of the sky as well. How the animals acted, how the air looked and felt, and how sound changed and carried through it. All of this was done with delight!  All of this was part of starting the day and ending it as well.

All of my Grandmothers and Aunts and Mother knew how to ‘bliss out’ in the sunshine, some just sitting on a bench or a wall or a rock in the garden. And some in a rocking chair with a bit of handwork in their lap forgotten in the bliss of basking in the sun. It is amazing how much good it does to relax into a moment like that – instantly ‘NOW’. Um-m-m-m-mm

It occurs to me how much I learn just by smelling the wind. I’ve wondered how much was actually passed on to my children since we were not on a farm anymore. Then when I moved to Denver, my youngest daughter (who had lived here a decade) told me that when I smell cow manure it’s Greely and it’s going to snow.

 The more awareness you can bring to each moment, the more Nature speaks to you. Listen, taste, touch, smell, feel and sense your environment and yourself. Whatever piece of Earth you live on, urban, suburban or rural, She loves to be greeted and ‘read’. There is so much information held there and it’s never the same any more than you can dip your hand in the same river twice.

There is deep wisdom in basking in the sun, smelling the breezes, looking at the sky and being aware of the phrases of the moon. When all other communications are messed up, there is truth in it. If all the animals are running for high ground, go with them as fast as you can. Know where the closest piece of open ground is, especially in a city. Go stand there and grow roots once in a while.