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like bears

August 29, 2011

The wild harvest is on.

~acorns, to be shelled, roasted and ground~

~acorn biscuits with eggs and chokecherry syrup~

~elderberries from Jojo and Emily~

~chokecherry tree and brewing storm~

~Rose and Iris gathering osha leaves~

~osha leaves drying in the greenhouse~

~chopping rabbitbrush for a plant dye~

When Rose was a toddler, one of her very first joys was wobble-legging around the house gathering up flotsam and bits, purposefully stuffing them in purses. It was endearing and amusing and a little confusing. Is she shopping?

And at the risk of sounding all Anthropology 101, one day I realized that Rose’s propensity to gather sundry items and jam them in purses was likely vestigial. Somewhere in her modern brain was this very old storyline about weaving willow baskets and roaming around the forest, filling them with berries, seeds, leaves and roots.

And right now Rose is sitting on the floor shelling acorns and humming to herself. I’m hoping this harvesting and processing of plants can stave off pleas for trips to the shopping mall someday (or at least for a little while).

I love how kids harvest plants; they’re like bears, totally engaged and yet non-amazed. Dan and I become these awful poets – full of superlatives and exclamations – in a field of wild strawberries, while the kids are like, of course there’s a meadow full of delicious little strawberry gems, lets get to picking.

We had playgroup over at our house last week and I turned 14 kids loose on the garden, encouraging them to pick green beans, zucchini, tomatoes and gooseberries. They were so efficient and earnest; all these bright eyes and small hands reaching and plucking and kerplunking in baskets. Even Jordan, at 22 months, knew to just harvest the ripe tomatoes.

We went on a multi-family mushroom hunt yesterday. After walking a short distance, we settled in a clearing in the woods, and set up a “nursery group” just as the elk and bighorn sheep do. A couple parents stayed with the kids while the rest of the adults went off to foray for mushrooms, and then we’d switch. You could always hear the kids’ voices—reassuringly cheerful and boisterous—while scanning the ground for fungi.

~In other anthropological gender roles, Col and Cedar built this brush shelter~ 

We didn’t find many mushrooms but the bottle gentians were blooming (cue the exclamatory superlatives!)

What are you harvesting these days?

* Tomorrow is our first day of homeschool co-op! The children are gathering at our house to make some natural plant dyes; I’m excited and nervous like I’m going on a first date with four 6-year olds.

* Roasting acorns:

Shell the nuts, place on cookie sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes at 390F (which is Dan’s latest arbitrary oven setting. Just put it at 390F, he says, for the acorns and then the biscuits we make with the acorn meal). Let acorns cool for a few minutes. Grind in coffee grinder. Add to all your favorite recipes, 2:1 flour to acorn meal. So nutty-licious!

24 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2011 7:53 am

    I loved seeing all of the wonderful wild edibles you have been collecting and especially how you incorporate the children into these activities…made me smile.:) We are off to collect hawthorn berries today and in another week, with any luck, the elderberries will be ready too.

  2. August 29, 2011 8:38 am

    WOW! What an awesome bounty. We have not been able to go foraging as much this summer for all different reasons. I miss it. I have been dreaming of elderberries.

  3. August 29, 2011 10:19 am

    I just love reading about your gardening, harvesting, and your kids taking part in all of it. It is my dream to have a farm one day to raise my kids on, and seeing these pictures of your kids taking part in all you do just warms my heart and makes me hopeful that my future children can do things like that one day as well. Also, I had never thought to use ground acorns in recipes!

  4. August 29, 2011 10:38 am

    we are up to our elbows in blackberries at the moment, punctuated by the occasional dungeness crab. i spied some elderberries earlier in the season i need to go and check on… it’s a drive, but around here on the coast we only get the red ones, and i’m craving the blue/black less toxic variety. :) looking forward to hearing about your homeschool co-op adventures- very inspiring!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 29, 2011 4:16 pm

      Our native elderberries are also the red/toxic variety. My friends have a purple-fruited elderberry tree, which they share with us every year, yay! After getting chokecherry carpel tunnel from squeezing so much juice from seeds, I am envious of your blackberry harvests of the northwest.

      Growing children at 6512 feet:

  5. Audrey permalink
    August 29, 2011 4:25 pm

    We are doing our own brand of urban harvesting / gleaning, which mainly consists of going to the myriad birthday parties and sticking around (where most other parents drop-and-dash! Shocking to those of us “brought up” as parents in Durango) and surreptitiously casing the back yard for produce: “Oh! You have a lemon tree! Have you read that article about preserved lemons in the New York Times? I’d just love to try it!” and then we go home with three bags of lemons and some party favors, and send back two jars of preserves in exchange. Ryan just brought home a bagful of hard pears from the last party, with the promise of as many figs as we can carry when they ripen. Yay, California!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 29, 2011 4:34 pm

      “casing the backyard for produce…” Love it. Oh, the California bounty! And did you say figs? As in FRESH figs? I’ll trade you a jar of chokecherry jelly for fig preserves…

      • August 29, 2011 10:47 pm

        If Audrey won’t I will! I’ve always wanted to try chokecherry anything – and I have a huge fig tree… I also have black currant jelly. Let’s trade!! Fun post to read, and envious you can forage for osha!

  6. rose permalink
    August 29, 2011 6:17 pm

    yay for homeschooling! glad you’re taking the plunge. it sounds like you have an awesome community already. i wanted to share this website with you. maybe you’ll find it helpful…

    hope your summer ends slow and sweet.

  7. August 30, 2011 10:36 am

    I love this post and as per usual, am ambling back here after a much-too-long absence. Can’t wait to hear more about your homeschooling dye class! Loving that shelter and the thought of Rose humming while sorting acorns. Much to catch up on…xoxo

  8. August 30, 2011 12:48 pm

    Acorn flour. That’s genius. Genius.

  9. August 30, 2011 5:21 pm

    I always love visiting your blog and feeling all the joys that happen in your lives.
    I’ve never heard of those Osha leaves, what do you do with them once they are dried?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 30, 2011 7:58 pm

      Thanks Ginny. We’re going to dry them, powder them and then put them in smoothies. They’re full of vitamins, minerals and if they have any of the same properties as the root, may be anti-viral as well!

  10. August 30, 2011 5:59 pm

    The acorn roasting and grinding really sounds like something up my alley. I’ll have to tuck that idea away for a time when I have nut options that don’t begin with coco ;) I’m sure I’ll be tucking away many ideas and much inspiration from your homeschool co-op adventures as well. Making plant dyes sounds fantastic!

  11. linda permalink
    August 30, 2011 9:28 pm

    Okay, I had to look up vestigial. nice.
    My first instinct — “world moves on a women’s hips”
    Go Rose! following your mom is rockin’ cool….

  12. August 30, 2011 11:33 pm

    Holy smokes! Your harvest is absolutely inspirational. And now I’m trying to search around. Are tan oak acorns edible when roasted? What a perfect picture you shared with that.
    And can’t wait to hear more about your homeschooling journey. We’re doing our second year of it and I’m both excited and crazed at the moment. Crazed when I think about planning anything and overjoyed when we go with the flow and discover all there is to learn around us every moment.
    Cheers to you!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 31, 2011 6:42 am

      I know our species of oak has less tannins than many others, but I would assume that the indians in your area ate the local acorns. They may have leached the tannins out through roasting or soaking or boiling.

  13. August 31, 2011 12:26 am

    A homeschooling dye class?!? That is what wonderfulness happens when you are away from the ‘net most of the summer ;-)

    Welocme to the best way to live with your family (totaly biased, yes i am!). Hope it all rolls beautifully for you, really, it is clearly what you are already doing, you know!

  14. August 31, 2011 10:10 am

    I’m still balking at 14 kids at a playdate. But how wonderful that they enjoy a good harvest just as much as the adults do. You guys are a good influence.

  15. September 1, 2011 11:59 am

    God, I love reading about all of this.

    Okay, some remedial questions about acorns for the uninitiated:

    1. Are they ripe when they fall off the tree and you gather them from the ground? (Brown rather than green?)

    2. What’s involved in shelling them? Do the little berets on the top just pop off when they’re ready?

    I have my eye on a couple of oak trees over on the next block, but acorns are still on the trees and they are definitely green. xx

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      September 1, 2011 12:07 pm

      Okay, good that the acorns are still green, gives you time to rally your troops (AKA: kids). They are ripe when brown; we’ve gathered a lot off the ground, picking from trees also good. Little berets are easy to pull off; harder are the hard brown shells, which we crack with our teeth (good thing the kids still have their baby teeth). Roast after shelling, let rest for a few minutes, then into the coffee grinder! Store ground meal in freezer.

  16. September 2, 2011 12:47 am

    VESTIGIAL GATHERING!! *That’s* what my daughter is doing. Thank god. We thought she was becoming a hoarder. Except she hasn’t figured out the basket bit, still trying to carry most things in her arms. I am so excited to read more about your homeschool co-op. And, yes, catch up on all your summer posts!


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