October 11th 2019.
A few weeks back I posted an OFFER on the EDUCYCLE: OFFER - Workshops on Autumn Wildcrafting - WOLFVILLE.
Today is the first session. NatureChick helped me facilitate it.
When the Market shut down at 2pm we gathered together in Willow Park. I ended up with a group of 12 people who all wanted to learn about wildcrafting.
I started off by telling a bit about my experience. I told the story of wildcrafting pennycress (aka stinkweed - its like pepper!) as a child and bringing my harvest home to my mom who freaked out and called the doctor, sure I'd need my stomach pumped. I told them about my anxiety in the city as a university student and how wildcrafting helped centre me and make me feel a part of the world around me. I told them about meeting and working with Susun Weed at workshops and about the Wise Woman Traditions and philosophy we shared. I introduced NatureChick and she told them about growing up with my guidance and TRUST in her ability to find plants that had nutritional value. She talked a bit about how much time she spent as a child exploring fields and stream beds on her own.
We went around the circle and everyone introduced themselves and told us a bit of their experience and why they were there. There was a young vegan couple with a homestead in a box who were squatting in the woods on the South Mountain, a few people - city kids - who'd come from away to attend Acadia in environmental science and were fast realizing that theory doesn't equal practical knowledge in a field - and they meant standing in a field. There were a few people specifically interested in medicinal herbs, and a few others who just wanted a free lunch - good for them.
I started off by addressing why they were there. The homesteaders were going to have to come out of the woods if they wanted to eat off the land - forests do not support vegetarians this far north, really the land doesn't do that good a job with vegans either unless you were ready and able to spend a lot of money on food through the winter. I praised the students for their interest in learning about the plants around them and told them they should start with the already familiar but overlooked city weeds. For the medicinal herbs hunters I mentioned the value of focussing on the nutritious preventative herbs and I mentioned the importance of responsible wildcrafting and the 70/30 rule - leave 70% of any wild stand you find, never take more than 30% and leave a marker if you have harvested from a stand of threatened plants so others know not to touch what is left. It was with the hungry ones we started with though.
I started my "lesson" by pulling out my dogearred paperback field guides. Nature Chick pulled out her cellphone and showed them how to access online field guides and how she used the GPS to mark stands of plants to go back to. Then she put it back in her pocket and said she hardly every used it, that this was easier than all that.
Sit down on the ground and examine the green before you, what do you see? Taste something, take a leaf and chew it well before swallowing. If it tastes GOOD it is most definitely edible. If it is bitter but still palatable it probably also has some medicinal value. If it feels like it is drying out your mouth it's good for first aid - stopping bleeding. If it makes you want to gag it is likely toxic, don't swallow it! From here you can start identifying plants using a field guide. Always start with the green, from there move to berries and roots. Take your time getting to know the common plants around you on a lawn, poking up between cracks in the sidewalk, then tackle the dykes and barren fields then stream beds and the beaches then finally tackle the woods. Nature Chick and Papa Pan know their way around mushrooms but I stick to really obvious identifiable ones and I simply warned my group that even experts poison themselves with mushrooms at times. That is not an issue with most wild plants though.
We have a party trick we always pull out when I give an introductory workshop this size. I mention a dozen common edible/medicinal plants and discuss a bit about their uses and without getting up NatureChick finds them in the circle around her.
We do try to pick our spot for the circle based on this, but it is sure to impress and empower. Acorns, bedstraw, chickweed, dandelion, wild carrot, plantain, dock, ground ivy, goat's beard, red clover, lamb's quarters, and yarrow. Everyone did a weed crawl together, helping each other find and identify some of these basic weeds.
From there we talked a bit about the different life cycles of plants and the importance of remembering where something grows from year to year with biennials and perennials.
Then we went on a walk and I pointed out the sumac, mullein, black walnut, spicebush and of course the weeping willow growing in the park.
I finished up under the oaks and told them how to process their acorns into flour and we shared a loaf of acorn quick bread.
I agreed to host another workshop in two weeks on how to put up wild plants, drying, tincturing, canning.
I should remember to post my WANT - I WANT a beekeeper to mentor me through getting started with our own bees.