Bit Bit

And just like that, after painting Wood Duck last month, two have returned to the pond to paddle.  Not for long though, as our dog flushes them out and they wing up through cloudy skies, circling round and round to see whether we’re gone.  Every year they come from wherever they’ve been to shape a nest in the woods to lay eggs in; once hatched we’ll see the whole family paddling, ducklings behind mama and papa until dog gives chase and with a flap and a flurry, into the trees they go.


Is it winter as yet?  Sure smells, tastes, and feels like spring.  Three days of rain and the creek flows clearly sweet, burbling and gurgling.  The different sounds water makes as it meanders along is lovely; burbling and bouncing down over rocks, a trickle here, a gush there with a plop or two mixed into watersong.  These warm mornings we’ve been outside by the creek just looking at the water and listening, until a cackle of crows flies overhead and we look up to watch them go caaw caaw caawing, counting crows, and then it’s squatting on a rock over watery ripples.

Today, while the moon is still new and moving from the constellation of The Fish into The Ram, we had a second session sowing seeds in flats of soil.  Drew lines in crumbly dark soil with our fingers and pressed tiny rounds that’ll become cabbage, flat white grains holding tomatoes within, and gnarly knotty squarish bits pregnant with chard into the ‘rows’ and covered them up.  They germinate and grow slower than the kales and lettuces, zinnias and napas that’ll be sown later.  Outside, the first skunk cabbages are peeking out from under the leaves, mosses cover damp logs, and there’s blue green usnea on branches knocked down by rain.  Chickadees and juncos seem to like them, reminding us to gather carefully our medicine as it’s more than medicine for feathered folk, a delicate balance.

Watching what squirrels, chipmunks, birds, deer, and rabbit eat, amongst other woodland creatures, teaches a whole lot about the plant world, which while it’s readily available is also daily sustenance for more than us humans.  These mountains were once filled with ginseng, whose roots were part of chipmunks and squirrels diets, but have long since become a rarity from over harvesting . . . as it’s told, each of the ginseng hunters thought they were harvesting a little, but then they also thought they were the only ones to do so in ‘secret’ spots, until there’s now only a few plants remaining; slow growing as they are it’s to be seen whether they’ll ‘comeback’.  Same with mushrooms, often time it’s people from town who come hunting up the mountain where the lushness suggests enormous abundance.  They come and gather sacksfull, which they call a little bit, generously disclosing the locations of these bounty full places to their friends . . . in the ocean of so much, a sackful may be perceived as merely a little . . . open to interpretation, what one man calls ethical foraging may look like reckless hunting to another.

Often the eyes don’t perceive all the creatures that eat these foraged foods, easy to miss when gathering on a visit to spaces that aren’t home, but are home to others out of sight.  It’s kind of like going through a neighbourhood in another town, walking uninvited through someone’s garden who isn’t around, and digging out potato or echinacea, helping oneself to basil, mint, or cucumbers, just because, well they’re abundant and available and fill-in-the-blank as to the all-natural health benefits.  Of course we don’t do that on private property in neighbourhoods, yet in the absence of ownership and possession, we treat the wilderness as though it’s not also a neighbourhood to non-human residents who wander, scamper, and roam; as though it’s here, a free for all, for human pickings above all else.  It’s a funny paradox, the animal loving vegetarian who harvests sacksful of animal food for human consumption and resale without digging deeply into considering what impact this’ll have on the animals loved and the places of inhabitance.

There are the finest of threads in the forest reaching out in all directions, connecting above and below ground, extending and withdrawing, dropping, sticking, releasing, tip to tip, root to root, everything purposed, a symphony conducted by an invisible hand that is inclusive and inviting.  It welcomes and calls, come and be here too, sit, stand, skip, wander, gather, hunt, forage, pick, stay a while, refresh, rejuvenate, restore, sing along, the wilderness neighbourhood is open to all, only:: come with awareness, come with respect, come as a participant, come as a guest, don’t hold back, be free, come as children do, move rocks, branches, leaves, come and play  . . . while conducting in accord and resonance with place, and then, just like that everything falls into place.  Bit by bit.



smilacina and solomon

i won’t play you false

this is not solomons seal,

though the ripened ruby berries taste deliciously maple

this is not solomons seal:

it’s a pretender


davids harps’ blossoms dangle,

though the elegant berries have blue blood they’re toxic

solomons seal marks the roots

tonic medicine


we’ve been working, learning, and playing with color with the growth in the garden over the past month.  were immersed in Red during this strawberry moon::clover, roses, and juicy sweet burgundy cherries.

red clover took over the garden during our month out westwardly, ran right over and through the strawberries so the few we find are a burst-in-the-mouth delight!  as a result we got to pick and dry and eat, drink, and be merry with clover right here at our homestead (instead of long forays wildcrafting in meadows off the backroads like years of yore), thank you clover for being Here with us this year 🙂  new way to enjoy::clover blended with rose petals and strawberries in a second ferment for kombucha . . Yes!! the full moon’s come and gone and she asked that we leave her be, she’ll share the rest of her juicy abundance with the bees . . . . . so we gather with her and watch the bees, smell the air around her, and occasionally pop a blossom in our mouths as a thirst quencher.

the rose bushes we’re gathering already fallen petals from (as freshly dropped as possible) with the hopes that this will bring in more hips in the fall than in the past, we’ll see later. . . in the meantime the magenta petals float atop our daily water, are steeped with clover, hibiscus, and hawthorn for a good HeartTea to sip on, have been infused in oil for salves and we’re going to make rose beads once more. in kombucha: fresh rose petals and fresh mint with vanilla bean steeped in a simple syrup, blended to as paste and then dolloped into the bottles make a curiousity peaking 2nd ferment 🙂

as for the cherries: they came and we baked pies, tarts, brandied them with cardamom, vanilla bean, and cocoa nibs, skewered them, smoothied them, ate them, thoroughly enjoyed them, and froze as much as we could stand to put away for later, now they’re gone (thank you cherries, we’ll remember Jasper reaching out to pick his first ever fruit, alive off your branches, his eyes round face stained stretching to join in the picking for a long time to come yet!!).

the energy is shifting to orange in our immediate exploration of the color wheel . . .  though the full rainbow is presently growing out of the earth (and as we track the growth i have a feeling that we’ll see it always does this); for now it’s strongly represented by yellow evening primrose, dill, cornflowers, blueberries, and comfrey flowers shining forth, but back to orange:::the daylilies are budding, blooming and unfurling everywhere, so fine, as well as peaches on the trees we planted 4 years ago.

Layla and i amused ourselves with a poetic foray that came from her playing secretary to my dictation; she wrote what i bespoke as my hands were holding a sleeping/nursing baby . . .. she was very much tickled by my lofty tofty words (such as augment and augur and capricious) and proceeded to elocute my ditties in such haughty high falluten tones that we were both in stitches and quietened down lest we wake up the baby, we like him getting a good restful nap.  that’s when she started playing around with my poetic verse and wrote this poem i’ve posted (with her permission, she said only as long as i posted one of my high falluten high-koos too  😉 . . . . i didn’t previously know she wrote ‘shakesparean’ as she calls it, and as it turns out so does Aamee, neither of them could track back how they came about this kind of speech, but they can chitter this way for a while! as it also turns out, isha and anousheh went out to take pictures of daylilies while we poetized, so we all played together, learning something new in joy, enjoy!

Mariam’s Haiku

daylily come be

a caduceus for me

clarity delights



Layla’s Poem

day lily,

dost thou unfold?

i beg of thee,

come, be bold!

reveal thy beauty before my eyes

your speckled flowers charm the skies.

skunk cabbage::black and white # 4

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I find myself turning to skunk cabbage for today’s pictures, she holds potent medicine for me yet, along with a smell seductive to the flies that heed her call to pollinate.  This is the only time I see her in bud form, tight burgundy splotched with yellowy green, and I only find her like this in water rich places where springs trickle out constantly overflowing, making mush out of leaf and mud.  In dry land, devoid of water, she pops out like a curled up hosta-looking plant without the burgundy hood, and opens up into a hostaish-cabbagy plant with far less to smell.  She’s more he-like in those places, and far less frequent in presence, making good medicine for different conditions than what calls me to her neck of the woods . . . .

Where you see her here, she unfolds with her skunky fetid smell wafting everywhere, billowing in the clear spring air, and to sit with her for a bit is to be immersed in dampness that’s clear.  She is a work horse, her roots filter the spring water in tentacaly mass and she takes this substance and grows from it.  You can literally taste and smell what she has cleared from the water :::: sharp pungent oxalic acid biting::  and made use of for her own survival, which also benefits the water as it flows on toward the creek where it tastes sweet oh sweet!  Here the mint and nettles and other beings that grow alongside and gain and give nourishment from the sweetwater are as they are for the skunk cabbage has done the work necessary to their relationship to be successful. I love this plant and have enjoyed being with her again, thank you skunk cabbage 🙂

Woodland Gnome in Virginia keeps a blog that I follow, for her keen eye pairs images and quotes in a way that I find inspiring and she also writes about gardening, which is another activity that I love.  Be sure to take a look around her site when you visit, it holds treasures in unexpected ways and places, such as this yummy post 😉 She invited me to join this black and white 5 day photo challenge and her 4th day can be enjoyed here where she shares pictures of her perennial starts.

I am inviting Ady of Color PaletteofAdy to join the black and white photo challenge today. Ady is in India and not only does she take lovely pictures showing the sights where she lives, she has another blog where she has writings that I’ve enjoyed as well. If you cannot go to India, take a little peek of the gardens there over here.  I hope Ady will join the challenge!

The rules are quite simple:

  1. On 5 consecutive days, create a post using either a past or recent photo in black and white.
  2. Each day invite another blogging friend to join in the fun.
perfume to lure
perfume to lure


roots, shoots, and dirty boots

work in progress


wort::::meaning root and cunnery::to ken, be cany . . . . wortcunnery::to know from the root, to ken from the source

I came to the plant world with a desire to scatter seeds and dance in the rain afterward, rhim jhim rhim jhim, skirts twirling and scarf whirling around while the seeds were soaked and soon to sprout . . . . surely.  So, with a hand trowel and a packet of seeds I walked down barefoot to a space by an overgrown field behind a pole house we were renting in 1998 that looked promising.   It was September.  I scraped off grass and for my efforts was rewarded by a sandy gravelly patch about 3 x 3 that I scattered the cucumber seeds over, then I began dancing and twirling, stomping seeds into the earth while waiting for the rain.  It didn’t come.  The grass grew back, the cucumber seeds did not.  Over the autumn, I set out to the library and returned with a mountain of gardening books that I poured over and learned a few things, such as when to plant and how. I tried again the next year, peeled off the sod, dug up the earth and turned it over, sprinkled cucumber seeds into a trench and covered them, watered, and waited for the rain to come while I danced.  It was June.  The cucumber seeds sprouted and grew, I was thrilled!  I watered them, sometimes it rained, I danced and twirled, rhim jhim rhim jhim; they sprawled and got tangled and flowered, even gave a little fruit. These grew fat and yellow where they lay on the soil, some tasted delicious some did not, but I was overjoyed having now grown cucumbers!  I couldn’t wait to do it again, grow other plants, maybe tomatoes, peppers, basil!  A world of plants beckoned, come hither come hither!

Thus began what turned into a journey with plants leading from domesticated plants and scouring books and questions for all my gardening friends eventually to herbs, container gardening, forays into community gardening, weed walking, compost talking, raised beds rich with worms and hummus to the heart of the wild, to lymes, to microbes and microorganisms and fungus on forest floors, where eventually the plants got a hold of me and led me a merry dance, shaking me up and rattling my bones, they taught me how to listen to the wilderways of the wilderun: this is my story of how I came to wortcunnery before I knew such a word existed.  I’m still on the path . ..  though sometimes it takes movement to be still 😉 . . . .  learning as the plants whisper or sing their songs in chorus or solo from within a whole ecosystem that changes from year to year, in the meantime I’ve slipped over the hedge where you might find me or you might not, it all depends on how you look and where  . . . ..

Tickle me silly with some Neddy Buttercup walking backward right side up . . .. about 6 years ago on a fall day my Michael pointed to a cluster of stark red berries upon a tall stalk and said Go, find those, they’re ginseng, Sam Cash told me so. He took the kids to town and I took myself off for a hike, hot on the trail of the magical ginseng root. Once I got moving and my eyes tuned in to the golden understory there were red berries on stalks ‘everywhere’, I couldn’t believe it!! These woods were covered in ginseng! Plastered in ginseng!! Singing gin-sssaaaaaanggg!! We were rolling deep in ‘sang! I followed the plants for hours back into the forest until eventually I took a break by where the creek was gurgling and just sat there for a while before finding a digging stick to harvest a few roots with.

Well, the ‘roots’ turned out to be oddly garlicy/daffodil bulbish looking, not carrot-rooty at all. But :: Sam Cash had told Michael these were ginseng and I had found what I’d been shown above ground, so I shrugged off the little voice that was saying, “something’s not quite right here sister”, and dug out a few of these roots from densely populated patches. Again alarm bells were going off as somewhere I was feeling like this wasn’t right, not at all, but what did I know, after all Sam Cash had said that these plants were ginseng, and Sam Cash was an expert on such matters. Why Sam Cash was born and raised here and his whole family had settled the mountain top, giving it the name Painter Mountain (Irish/Scots for ‘panther’ in dialect) dating back to the 1700’s, they’d given the road and creek its name: “Irish Creek Road”, they knew these woods inside and out and what did little ol’ me know?! . . . how happily  I handed over my knowing to the knowing of some other more authoritarian voice!  It happens . . . .

Suffice it to say when I got back home I was marvelously energized and couldn’t wait to tell about the copious prolific abundance of ginseng I had found! Michael and the kids came home and were like, well? And I was beaming and bursting with the fullness of my find, with some bulbousy rooty’s to show too. Now from what Sam Cash had said, the roots were going to taste earthy, so together the two of us took a nibble off a ‘root’ and we were instantly horridly BITTEN by the oxalic acid sharpness slivering on our tongues leaving it numb for a few hours afterward. It was then that I decided to put the books in our bookroom to use (after all they’re good for something right?):: took out some pictorial reference guides and Maude Grieves Modern Herbal and was positively certain that this was NOT ginseng no matter what Sam Cash had said!! It didn’t take me long to find that it was bethroot, birthroot, or trillium and it had gotten a hold of me and given me a good run around and a lesson to boot: ) Technically the roots are rhizomes though  the imprint on my muscular memory from that day likes to perceive them more bulbishly than rhizomatic, the semantics of words don’t change my *knowing* of the plant only the communication of this knowing to another person . . . .  but that would be a different post eh, or not.

To this day when I need a good dose of lightening up or contrary sideways talking tricksterishness or even a reminder that I Know, I only have to think of my teacher, Beth, and I get a good chuckle at myself amongst other things. In the painting that you see, which is a longer work in progress, I planted seeds symbolicked as garlicy bulbs for Bethroot as she’s how I came at long last to the cauldron of wortcunnery where bark, seeds, leaf, and root get crushed under the pestle into essence; and Sam Cash, well Sam Cash got a mighty good laugh when he heard about my mighty long ginseng hunt and if you’re in need of some ticklish times, I hope you get a chuckle too  . . . . laughter is good medicine 🙂