Tag Archives: foraging

P.E.M.U. 0001 – Curly Dock (Rumex crispus)

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New to P.E.M.U.? Start here: https://bigpigblog.com/2015/03/20/p-e-m-u-project/ Do the work!! Use a good field guide for identification and start your journey. Items in “bold” are first hand experience.

This week’s featured plant is a favorite spring edible of mine and probably growing right in your yard or close to it.

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Curly Dock, Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

Buckwheat Family – Page 113 of Botany in a Day – Elpel

Identification – Page 85 of Wildflowers of Tennessee – Horn & Cathcart

  • Wavy leaf margins
  • Small green flowers

P – oisonous

  • Curly dock contains oxalic acid and should be eaten in limited quantities. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid it.

E – dible

  • Leaves (young) – raw, cooked, soup, or dried
  • Petioles – raw or cooked
  • Flower stalks – raw or cooked
  • Seeds – grain, sprouts, or coffee substitute

M – edicinal

  • Iron supplement
  • Bile stimulant
  • Anti-diarrheal
  • Laxative
  • Skin compress – psoriasis
  • Sting relief  for nettles

U – seful

  • Dye
  • Drinking straw

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While it’s sourness is a great addition to salads, cooked Curly Dock is outstanding with equal parts tomatoes and onions (recipe from Nyerge’s book).

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Strawberry Curly Dock pies…

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I got sidetracked from my PEMU project last week, but building the BUSAR team had to get done.

It may take me a few runs to figure out the format, citing, etc, and where I want to take the project. There are plenty of great foraging blogs and PFAF’s database is top shelf. For now, I think my role in the green kingdom is as a motivator to get out and actually try stuff. If I have tried it, it will be in bold letters.

“Do work!!” the motto of my old fight gym, pertains to foraging too, so read up in Thayer’s or Kallas’ book for great edible info and most herbal medicine books will have Curly Dock listed.

Use the PEMU template https://bigpigblog.com/2015/03/20/p-e-m-u-project/ to start your own journey and you will be amazed at the bounty that surrounds us.

Resources:

PFAF – http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Rumex+crispus

Eat The Weeds – http://www.eattheweeds.com/rumex-ruminations/

P.E.M.U. Project..

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With the first day of Spring, comes the birth of a new online project, to share my botanical adventures and a system that I have found helpful in my plant studies, P.E.M.U.

My journey started something like this..

  1. Buy plant books when I was a kid.. lots of them
  2. Go on plant identification walks.. lots of them
  3. Try to learn a bunch of plants.. lots of them
  4. Forget a bunch of plants.. lots of them

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And so my 30 year love affair with foraging finally reached a frustration point several years ago when I realized I needed a better way to learn.

What I had learned in all those years was that I never forgot a plant that I ate, used for medicine, or used for another purpose. Observing that the key to my understanding was experiencing, I set out on a new path of study, as I realized the best plant book is the one you write yourself.

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And so the P.E.M.U, Project was born and in the pages of my books, I would identify and document the plants around me with a simple system that follows.

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1. Identify the plant with the use of a good field guide and write the identifying characteristics down.

These are my two favorites for my region.

 http://www.amazon.com/Wildflowers-Tennessee-Valley-Southern-Appalachians/dp/1551059029/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426908635&sr=1-1&keywords=wildflowers+of+tennessee – Lone Pine is arranged by families and publishes field guides for other regions

http://www.amazon.com/Newcombs-Wildflower-Guide-Lawrence-Newcomb/dp/0316604429/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426908793&sr=1-1&keywords=newcombs+wildflower+guide

2. Using Tom Elpel’s “Botany in a Day” system, identify and write down the family characteristics.

http://www.amazon.com/Botany-Day-Patterns-Method-Identification/dp/1892784351/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426908980&sr=1-1&keywords=botany+in+a+day

3. Sketch the plant. Drawing really makes you focus on observation and old school naturalists knew this.

4. Research the following qualities in books or on the internet. (Listed in additional resources)

  • Poisonous- because I need to know this first
  • Edible – because I get hungry
  • Medicinal – because I may want to use if for medicine
  • Useful – because I like making fire, baskets, cordage, etc.

5. Make a checklist for discipline and integrity.

Example: I love groundnuts and have eaten them several ways, but I have never made flour out of them or baked them, so the next time I harvest some, I will be motivated to resist frying them up and try new stuff.

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The last thing I do is add a page number, the plant to the index, and mark in my field guide the corresponding volume.

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So starting next week, the  P.E.M.U. Project will be a regular feature of this blog as I continue my explorations of the botanical world.

Foraging Guidelines:

  • Don’t eat  anything unless you are 100% sure that you identified it correctly
  • Avoid gathering near roads or areas that are sprayed with herbicides
  • Foraging may not be permitted on some public lands
  • Obtain permission to forage on private land that you do not own
  • Avoid harvesting over 25% of the plants, unless they are invasive exotics

Additional resources:

Rite in Rain 330 – http://www.amazon.com/Rite-Rain-330F-Bound-Book/dp/B0046N1I9E/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1426910343&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=rite+in+rain+330

Online plant resources: the ones I use the most

Foraging books that I use the most –

I start herbal medicine school in April, but the books I have used the most up to this point are:

I received this photo after posting my P.E.M.U. 0001. It made my day. Way to go Ian and thumbs up to Dad for taking him out!!

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Chaga – Survival Mushroom Powerhouse…

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I got called out the other day..

I haven’t seen much on the blog lately other than Survival Weekly..” said my former field trainer in his subtle, passive aggressive way of telling me I have been sucking as a blogger.

I don’t know if you know this Turdis, but when you have a kid, your life changes..”  I replied in my best smartass tone.

Of course, as a father himself,  he knows that and  was one of the many that uttered that vague statement leading up to the birth of my son. Curtis, or as I affectionately call him “Turdis”, and I have a special relationship. Years ago, when he came onto the hoghunting crew, my partner and I poached his district in a friendly inter-crew rivalry, leaving a wasteland of empty hunts between our districts.

Karma played out years later when I reported to Big South Fork for field training and found out I would be subjected to his authority as my field trainer. He jokingly tormented me, I returned the favor on the wrestling mats, and the cycle continues.

A brother for life  that doesn’t hesitate to shoot me straight, Curtis is right, I have been slacking..

It’s not because I haven’t been getting out in the field, hunting, trapping, foraging, cutting wood, etc., but it’s been due to a bear problem.

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Well, not those bears, this one..

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While no one could ever really tell me how “your life will change”, I have been able to make some observations over the past couple months for first time dads:

  1. Plan on being late everywhere. If you tell you buddy you will be there at 9:00, it will really be 11:00 because of baby related ordeals
  2. You will get pee and poop on you. No way around it.
  3. Members on both sides of your family will lose their mind and forget you are an adult raising a child and not a child raising one
  4. Your years of purposely sucking at washing dishes is null and void now. Domestic duties now fall on you no matter how bad you suck at that stuff.
  5. Even if prompted, you may or may not choose to acknowledge how much your wife did before the baby as you marvel at how much dirt you sweep up every other day.
  6. You will eat like a bachelor again. If you aren’t a good cook, you will wish you were, so you could feed your wife and yourself something better than grilled cheese.
  7.  If you co-sleep, plan on being exiled. Even if you get a king sized bed, if won’t be big enough. Credit to Jake for telling me that, even though I didn’t believe him. He is still exiled with a one year old!!
  8. Stuff that was important or fun to you before, will melt away as playing with your boy and making him smile is more fulfilling
  9.  You will rank it at the top of the list as “the best thing that ever happened in your life”
  10. Your wife’s robe will become her second skin 🙂

And of course, writing blog posts will get pushed aside for other tasks. That is until Curtis calls you out..

All joking aside, we are coming up on the 4 month mark now and winning against some breastfeeding issues, pumping wars, and restless nights. I can now relax a bit and get back on track with some Chaga Power!!

That weird looking growth on the tree is actually a mushroom called Chaga or True Tinder Fungus (Inonotus obliquus) and grows on birch trees. It is coveted by bushcrafters for it’s firestarting prowess and by herbalists for it’s medicinal value.

Over the years I have gathered and used chaga in several ways:

1. It makes a good bug repelling incense and saved me from bug driven insanity on more than one occasion.

2. It is awesome natural tinder for flint and steel fires or great as a coal extender.

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3. It is a medicinal, anti-oxidant powerhouse. Wild claims abound of chaga having higher ORAC values than any thing on earth.

ORAC Results Fruits and Vegetables per 100g / 3.5oz  USDA & Tufts University (2003)

  • Chaga  Mushroom 3,655,700
  • Acai Berries  80,000
  • Goji Berries  40,000
  • Prunes  5,890
  • Pomegranates  3,370
  • Raisins 2,890
  • Blueberries  2,450

If that doesn’t get your attention, it is also claimed to be the highest in superoxide dismutase and loaded with betulinic acid, a known cancer fighter. Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-herpetic, anti-HIV, anti-diabetic, anti-aging… if you read the list of Chaga’s powers, you may wonder why Marvel comics hasn’t made it a superhero yet.

While a lot of the claims come from sellers of chaga products, there is a growing body of research coming out of overseas where it has been used for centuries. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=chaga

What interests me is it’s historical use in Siberia and an obscure study back in 1973 that focused on chaga for psoriasis treatment and gut health.  http://www.chagatrade.ru/images/PSORIASIS_chaga.pdf

Being that I have a strong interest in herbal medicine, a love for foraging, and the willingness to self-experiment, I started drinking 16 ounces of chaga tea everyday last week. I have a small patch of psoriasis on my thigh and I am interested in seeing what happens over the next few months of daily use.

There is much debate about extracting chaga’s potent medicine, but I choose the Siberian way (hot water) and easiest (chunks). The key is not to boil it, but keep it at 150-180 degrees for hours, so I use a crock pot.

Leaving it in chunks allows easy, no strain clean up and refreezing of the chunks for the next batch. These chunks are on their third run.

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This was from an overnight brew. The tea is dark and pleasant tasting. I add a little honey to sweeten it.

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After brewing, I bottle the surplus, freeze my stock, and sip away.

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While chaga may not have a role in a short term, wilderness emergency, it’s potential health benefits make it a long term “survival” prospect for everyday life.

Resources:

Chaga hunt…sleeping on the job.

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Fall P.E.M.U. recipes…

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We had great weather for a great class this past Saturday. Some people are interested in foraging for survival purposes, some for medicinal, and some for culinary. At BigPig Outdoors we try to cater to all the crowds, so we forage and cook over the fire and also dine on stuff I bring from the house.

Among the many plants from the field, we harvested hackberries, groundnut beans and tubers, jerusalem artichokes, hog peanuts, muscadines, wild grapes, black walnuts, cattail, watercress, and hickory nuts. We soothed fire ant bites with plant medicine, made cordage in the cattail swamp, tasted ground cherries, played with pitch glue, and crushed an iPhone.

Hickory nut milk simmering on the fire…

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From the kitchen we ate autumn olive fruit leather, papaw bread, persimmon bread, autumn olive juice, and beautyberry jelly. You may have missed the class, but you don’t have to miss the recipes..

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Papaw (or persimmon) bread – adapted from https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ksu-pawpaw/cooking.html#CAKES

Pawpaw Bread d
1 c. melted butter
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
2 c. pawpaw pulp
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 c. sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3 c. pecan pieces plus 16 pecan halves
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease two 9x4x2-inch loaf pans. Beat together butter, sugar, and eggs. Add and beat in the pawpaw pulp and lemon juice. Sift the flour and baking powder together, and stir them into the batter. Stir in the pecans and scrape the batter into the loaf pans. Garnish each loaf with 8 pecan halves, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The top corners of the loaf will burn, but that adds flavor and character.

Beautyberry jelly – https://bigpigblog.com/2013/10/02/beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-be-rry-holder/

1 ½ qts. of Beautyberries, washed and clean of green stems and leaves. Cover with 2 qts. water.Boil 20 minutes and strain to make infusion. Use 3 cups of the infusion, bring to boil, add 1 envelope Sure-Jell and 4 ½ cups sugar. Bring to second boil and boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until foam forms. Skim off foam, pour into sterilized jars, cap.

Interested in learning more about the plants around us? Check here for upcoming class dates: http://www.bigpigoutdoors.net/poisonous–edible–medicinal—-useful-plants.html

Mushrooms!!..

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My step-daughter, who is part hobbit most of the time and part orc when she wrestles, loves to quote her favorite movie when I find mushrooms. While foraging this week, I lucked out and found a patch of Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus).

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Almost 20 years ago, I was shown this mushroom on a week long ichthyology trip down the mighty Mississippi. While Dr. Etnier sipped on a cold one and discussed their identifying features, I shoved the Coldsteel Bushman onto a stick so we could cut them off the tree. 

To quote a previous post on shrooms:

In my opinion, it is all about risk vs. reward when it comes to mushrooms. In the calorie department, mushrooms don’t have a lot to offer, weighing in at around 20 kcal per cup. That same cup will offer some protein and vitamins/minerals.

The risk? If you misidentify a mushroom, it could be fatal. Your best plan of action is to take a class, get some good field guides, and make friends with some experienced mushroom hunters/experts. 

Risk = possible poisoning/death   vs.    Reward = A handful of calories, some nutrients, and a whole lot of taste

In a hypothetical survival situation, I would only eat mushrooms that I regularly dined upon. Dehydration, lack of sleep, and hunger could lead to poor decision making, so play it safe, study them now or don’t even go down that path.

Oyster mushrooms fall into the “safe” category as they are easy to recognize and have no poisonous look-a-likes.

Identification:

  1. Grows on wood
  2. Overlapping, oyster shaped, and cream colored. 
  3. Gills that run down the “stem”
  4. Smells like oyster mushrooms

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Since my wife is a human milk factory these days, I have been fending for myself more. That means lots of yogurt and the occasional pizza to top with the sauteed goodies. 

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The rest were dehydrated to save until the real talent returns to the kitchen.

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Summer P.E.M.U. recipes..

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As promised, here are the recipes from the Summer P.E.M.U. class for the treats not made in camp.

Everybody’s favorite was the Blackberry-Raspberry Crumble Bars which came from here: http://kristineskitchenblog.com/2013/07/02/blackberry-crumb-bars/ The only thing my wife did differently was add some honey to it and purple flowered raspberries.

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The Black Cherry syrup that we topped the bars with was just a 1:1 simple sugar syrup recipe.

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The kudzu pesto was olive oil, garlic, salt, pumpkin seeds, some pepper, parmesan cheese thrown into a food processor with young kudzu leaves, oxeye daisy greens, and some violet greens. I don’t have an exact recipe since I was taught to just eyeball it when we made it out of chickweed at one of Marc William’s classes.

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The spicebush muffins and dandelion jelly recipes can be found in Ila’s recipe book here: http://wildcrafting.com/

Sumacade and mountain mint tea…

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Digging for grounduts..

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Groundnuts that we later pan fried..

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Processing elderberries for tinctures..

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Class photo..

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A Week in the Life of a Wildlife Ranger – Part II…

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Wednesday

Same routine, except today it rains. I finish my chicken book, make a few calls, draw some plants, eat, and relax. Tonight I am headed to Doe Knob.

Two weeks ago, while working a problem bear at Birch Springs, I hunted up to Doe Knob. I was stalking a sow and a couple shoats when the wind shifted and I had to back off. Moments later, I watched through the thermal as three coyotes popped up onto the ridge, ran my hogs off, and ruined my hunt.

“Hogblocked” by coyotes, I don’t know if I should count them as allies or enemies. They migrated to the park naturally, so they do not suffer the same fate as the invasive hogs. That night, Doe Knob was theirs, but tonight I am returning to stake my claim.

Hunt, fish, trap, and forage.

When I created my list of desired activities for when I retired, those rose to the top. Not surprising, as when I am engaged in them, it feels right. Maybe it is the sense of freedom or self-reliance, maybe it is hardwired into my DNA, but I have chosen not to wait twenty years to pursue them. There is nothing natural about leaving meat lay on the ground, but hunting hogs is about as close to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle I can get and still get a paycheck. Maybe one day that will change, but for now I have been hitting a wall of federal restrictions on donating the meat.

Foraging in the park is also illegal, with the exception of berries and mushrooms, but I can still look at the menu. As I hunt west I take note of all the edible plants around. Wild cucumber, carrion flower, spring beauty, trout lily, violets, sheep sorrel, toothwort, branch lettuce, Turk’s Cap Lily, greenbrier tips, chaga mushroom, solomon’s seal, false solomon’s seal, blueberry bushes, beech trees, azalea galls, and a nice big patch of chicken of the woods.

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About a mile from camp I run into my bear again. He is just down off the hill munching on vegetation, so I slip by him unnoticed, making a mental note for later when I return in the dark. In another two weeks one of my co-workers, “Rambo” Ricky, has to shut down Campsite 13 because of this bad boy. He weighs about 200 now, but later this fall he will be pushing 300. He is the badass on this mountain and knows it. When Rick was camping at 13 to dart him, he said he just rolled in and acted liked he owned it.

I make it to Doe Knob right before dark, just in time to hear the coyotes start howling. If I could interpret coyote, I am pretty sure they are telling me to get lost and that this is still their turf. Damn.

I hunt through mostly old sign and cook my dinner on the back side of the knob. These days I carry a little twig stove that allows me to hike out from camp and set up my kitchen for dinner. I used to cook my dinner in camp before heading out, but some fool tore down my rock oven that allowed me to bake, boil, and grill, so I cook on trail now.

I ate many good meals from this kitchen, even though some Leave-No-Trace fans might object. The truth is, I favor fires and managed correctly, think they are more environmentally friendly. Maybe I leave a fire scar for one season before it fades, but I am pretty sure that the byproducts and industry associated with the production of fancy stoves and fuels are worse and last a whole lot longer.

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I hunt the two miles back to camp with no sightings of anything but mice. Glowing white hot in the thermal, the mice run up trees, jump, and disappear like watching some paranormal ghost hunting circus.

Pictured below are a couple deer seen through thermal to give you an idea how animals look. Adding to our effectiveness, night vision and thermal are also a huge safety boon to a program that once sported tractor lights and motorcycle batteries for the night work.

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Just before heading down to camp, I see a boar working his way up the hill. It has been windy all week and tonight is no exception, but I have a cross wind that favors me. I rotate the bezel on the Surefire Millenium to the IR mode, allowing me to illuminate the area, when seen through my NVG, but with no visible light for the hog to see. Although I can clearly see the hog in the thermal, the night vision tells me there is a wall of blackberries between us.

It’s almost two in the morning and I am on top of a ridge line eight miles from my duty station. The wild boar that I have been patiently watching through my thermal monocular for the last hour takes another step. I raise my rifle to look through the night vision, but all I see is a wall of vegetation, even though my quarry is less than 30 feet away. The dance continues.

After over an hour of watching patiently, he makes the fatal mistake of stepping into an open area. The heart of a hog is further forward than a deer, behind the front legs. A well placed shot to the heart can also break the shoulders preventing any tracking or trailing. I dispatch another 200 pounder and wonder why I hunted the four mile roundtrip out to Doe Knob, only to shoot one 100 yards from camp.

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Thursday

 

Same routine, but I today visit the gym, a tree on the bald, to do some pullups, elevated pushups, and planks. Fresh air and free membership.

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Early afternoon, I am visited down at the spring by a father and son camping in the area. Caught off guard by a bearded man drawing wildflowers with an assault rifle strapped to his back, my well rehearsed dialogue, badge, and park service hat assures them that I am not some crazy hillbilly. We make small talk and a couple hours later I see them again when I head to the Bald.

I try to call my wife, but my phone is dead. I bought a solar charger for the mountain back in April, but I only get a trickle of juice out of it. Back in the day before I had a cellphone, I could go a week without seeing or talking to anyone. It didn’t bother me, as I am just as comfortable alone or in a group setting, but it is nice to visit with my new neighbors. I eat my dinner on the Bald and chat with Paul and his son Cole about his time with the government, fatherhood, bears, and plants. My table has the best view.

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Before leaving the Bald, I listen to the weather channel on my radio about the storms headed my way and watch them roll through the mountains north of me. As I head west, the shift in thunder and the wind in my face causes me to hesitate. I don’t wan’t to hike too far from camp. Crossing the bald in a thunderstorm is not something I want to repeat, as I have learned my lesson before.

I turn around and head east as the thunder draws near. I make it across the bald and hear a hog in the beeches. I stalk closer, kneel down in the trail, and wait for it to cross the trail. It comes off the bank and stops with it’s head and shoulder behind a eight inch tree, effectively covering it’s vital areas at 25 yards. The thunder is right above me now, so I stand up and lean out to the side to get a shot in as tight behind the shoulder as I can.

She crashes through the brush and I hear another one just above me. It grunts, and I see the tops of the beeches ripple as it runs through them. It’s course bypasses the shooting lane I am watching, so I bail off the trail to track the first one down.

Tracking through acres of hog sign can sometimes be an exercise in frustration. A thick layer of subcutaneous fat can seal up a bullet hole leaving very little blood to trail, so here is some hard won advice. Before you shoot a game animal, take note of exactly where it was standing. Reference a tree, a rock, or something, because if you don’t drop it, you’ll be hunting for that trail.

With the threat of rain washing away the blood trail, I don’t waste any time. I pick up a good trail and find her about 80 yards down off the hill. The storm is right above me now. I forgo taking a blood sample and decide to double time it back to camp. As soon as I hit the trail, I run.

A half mile isn’t very far, but when you are on top of a mountain in a thunderstorm, it drags out. I make it under the tarp just as the downpour starts. Lightning is cracking off everywhere, so I spend the next hour squatting on a 1′ x 2′ piece of foam. Even though my chances of getting struck by lightning are about the same as winning the lottery, squatting on the foam at least makes me feel like I am doing something to improve my odds. Truth be told, falling limbs and trees are a greater hazard, but there is something about lightning that gets my attention. I ponder the physics of lightning and hammocks, life insurance, and my unborn son, as I wait for the storm to pass.

The storm moves on, but commo says another cell is to the west of me, so I stay in camp. My phone has 1% battery life, so I text my wife that I am okay, before calling her to tell her about the storm. With her ubiquitous carefree nature she asks me if  “was pretty”. I jokingly reply “Hell no!!” and my phone dies. The rain starts again, so I settle in for the night.

Friday

I wake up early. I have eaten all my food, so I break camp, collect my blood samples that I stored in the creek, and head out. It is foggy and right before the bald, I see a dark animal to the right. Bears and hogs are both black, and by the time my brain processes that the ears are pointy and not round, the hog has winded me and taken off.

I drop down into Campsite 13 and talk with Paul and his boy about the storm. I tell Cole that it was one of the worst I had been through up there and at least he has a pretty good story now. They are breaking camp and heading down the same trail, so I lead the way in case we run into any hogs, which we don’t. I point out a few plants and animal tracks on the way down and enjoy the company.

Back at the truck, I head to the station to process my blood samples and fill out some data forms for each hog. The Dragon’s Tail is littered with branches and broken trees, confirming the power of last night’s storm, and while charging my phone, I receive two texts from Thursday afternoon.

One from my old supervisor asking if I was available to run the boat on a rescue down on Fontana Lake and another one from my current boss that warned me of impending doom. Maybe it is time to start shopping for a new solar charger.

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My week is done and I reflect upon it as I head to the house. It may be hard for readers of this blog to believe, but we have had guys quit our crew because they hated camping on the mountain. I even know of one case where a hunter pretended he was up high by calling in and out of service from the station. The “mountain” is not for everyone, but for me it is a good fit.

Even though I am using modern tools, it gives me a glimpse into a primal lifestyle and a peace and relaxation that sings to my soul. An ancient song that is calling us all back…

 

Part I – https://bigpigblog.com/2014/06/18/a-week-in-the-life-of-a-wildlife-ranger-part-i/

The Finest Wildfood in North Carolina..

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After having a great time at last year’s West Virginia Wildfood Weekend,     https://bigpigblog.com/2013/09/25/west-virginia-wild-food-weekend/, I have decided to make visiting a regional wildfood festival an annual trip. My son is due somewhere in August, and being new to fatherhood, my wife politely informed me that post August is a “No-travel” time for us. No big deal as the North Carolina Wildfood Festival was this past weekend.     http://ncwildfoodsweekend.com/

 

This was the 39th year for the festival and both my wife and I felt it was very well organized and run. We were only able to attend the Saturday events and missed out on Sam Thayer’s 2-part presentation on Friday evening on making maple syrup, but got to hear some of his tips during his plant walk in the morning.

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There were six different leaders for the foraging walks, some with 38 years of attendance under their belt. After the morning foraging trip and lunch, all participants gathered into separate groups to process and prepare the evening meal. The simple rule is “You gotta work, if you want to eat.” and the leader of each group handed out a meal card after the prep time. My wife and I worked on the Vegetable crew, processing and cooking pokeweed, bamboo shoots, day lilies, chickweed, sheperd’s purse, and greenbrier tips.

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The other groups were Appetizers, Salads, Desserts, Beverages, Meats, and Breads, and I rolled around to each snapping pics when I could.

Daylily shoots being processed for stir-fry…

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Pokeweed, chickweed, sheep sorrel, and various flowers  being processed…

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Guest speaker and author, Leda Meredith hard at work…

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Ramp time…

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Thistle stalks before frying…

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Bamboo-pokeweed spring rolls…

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The meat brigade..

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The Wildfood Feast kicked off around 6:30 and saying it was impressive would be an understatement. Somewhere between round one and two, my phone must have got a little greasy.

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I made three trips through so I could try everything and was stuffed. My wife’s top pick was the Wildflower Scone and my sweet tooth picked the persimmon ice cream. Dinner wound down and the evening speaker was Leda Meredith, a well known forager and food preservation specialist. Her speech inspired my wife and I to start storing more of our harvest from foraging.

I walked away with her book, Northeast Foraging, http://www.amazon.com/Northeast-Foraging-flavorful-edibles-wineberries/dp/1604694173/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398736119&sr=8-1&keywords=leda+meredith, that I bought specifically for the preservation tips specific to each species. We also bought some spiles and a half gallon of maple syrup off the Thayers, learned a few new plants, but most importantly met some great new friends that we will be returning to visit with from here on out.

Thanks to all the organizers, leaders, and participants for a great event.

Real men like flowers…

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And they eat them too!!

If you are an average American male, you probably grew up under the same cultural conditioning as I did. Flowers are for girls, guns and hunting is for guys. If a guy photographs, sketches, studies, or even appreciates flowers, somewhere in our social programming it makes him less manly and I have weathered my share of jesting over the years from the high testosterone crowd.

I have killed wild boar with knives, tracked armed fugitives, and had a couple cage fights, so I feel I have enough “man points” built up to call bullshit. Time to break the shackles of societal conditioning and appreciate our photosynthetic brethren.

Flowers are for everyone, in fact, we depend on flowering plants to live. Roughly 90 percent of the world’s food energy intake comes from just 15 flowering plant crops and most of the meat we dine on was grown by animals munching on flowering plants or their grains.

Food is not the only way that flowering plants keep us alive, as nearly 40 percent of our pharmaceuticals contain constituents originally found in herbs (Elpel). From the wood we build our houses with, to the clothes we wear on our backs, to the fossil fuels that drive our world, our lives have an inseparable connection to the plants around us.

Flowering season is peaking in the Smokies right now and last week I attended and helped lead a few trips at the 64th Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage. http://www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org/ For those unaware, this annual event allows participant to go on guided hikes focusing on wildflower identification. It is not all flowers, all the time, as there are a few mushroom, birding, photography, and salamander trips as well.

I have been eating violet flowers for years, and I learned from my friend and guide  Ila, that they are full of rutin, a flavonoid that promotes capillary strength among other things.

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And what about the redbud flowers from the beginning of the post? Well, those were mixed into some pancake batter and topped with homemade hibiscus syrup made by my wife. Pancakes with a side of Vitamin C!!

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While I will readily admit that my interest in flowers comes from a selfish agenda of practical use, the more I study them, the more I appreciate the non-edible and non-medicinal ones as well.

So, grab a guide book, head outside, and start exploring the wildflower bloom. If Biff Tannen and his posse stroll by to start spewing some macho crap, casually eat your flowers, give them the ‘ole Marty McFly slip and head over to BigPig’s for some flower fueled backup.

 

Resources:

Plants for a Future – http://www.pfaf.org/user/default.aspx

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