Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Teaching This Old Dog New Tricks

Every other Wednesday for the month of April, my family went to this amazing farm where we attended a series of classes called The Earth is Our Home with these amazing people.

The first week was pre-cambrian maple sap boiling (that is, using smokin' hot rocks *not from a river* to boil sap in a wooden bowl). It was very interesting to us, in particular, because it happened to coincide perfectly with our own maple sugaring here at home.

The second week was making buckskin pouches. That day was a lot of fun, and in addition to learning to sew buckskin, we also learned some skills to help us be more observant.

Today's class, and the one I was actually most anticipating, was Wild Greens Day. Today, we foraged in the woods, and we ate what we gathered. It was amazing, and there is an amazing amount of food out there.

Chris said that he and Ashirah forage about 50% of their diet this time of year.

Talk about local ... and sustainable!

As a thank you to John and Stacy (the stewards of Broadturn Road Farm), we all helped them plant their potato crop - seven rows of potatoes, probably the length of a football field. That's a lot of potatoes!

I had the opportunity to talk a bit with Stacy. I asked her if they hand plant all of their crops. The answer was yes, and so I started telling her about my meager, little potato patch (all 16 sq feet of it), and she said she dreamed of something like mine. I thought it ironic, because I dream of something like what she has.

After a day outside in the woods, learning about foraging wild greens, and planting a (much larger) potato crop (than I'll ever plant here), I feel exhilarated, and incredibly tired ... but in a very good way.

And what did I learn?

It doesn't matter how the potato goes into the ground (although I'd heard it should be planted eyes up).

Japanese knotweed (which is an incredibly invasive, non-native species here) makes a great pie filling when mixed with maple syrup ... it's kind of like rhubarb.

A mess of dandelion greens tastes pretty, freakin' awesome sauted with a bit of butter and cheese crumbles.

And I can make a pretty decent pie crust out in the woods with a bit of flour, some butter, and a little water.


  1. I'm so jealous! Wes and I were walking our small bit of woods today and found some fiddleheads but honestly we have no earthly idea what's edible out there and I really need a class like what you just took. It looked like fun!

  2. That sounds like the most amazing experience! I would love to find something like that here.

  3. Oh I am envious! I would love to have taken part in such a thing!!!

    We just don't have such things here.

  4. Oooh! sounds like such a wonderful day. I am glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Oh man, I've got potato envy!!!!

    It is taking every fiber of my being not to start harvesting the dandelion flowers in the park across the street from my office. I don't want to eat them though--I want to dye yarn with them!

  6. *Grin* The class sounds like a total blast!!! Glad y'all are having fun with it. I'm looking forward to getting my potato plants going here soon (if the weather continues to be as incredibly warm as it has been May "may be the 'new' June" so to speak. Yep..... Firm believer in Climate shift!!! *wink* Can't say I'm totally minding though, because last night we were sitting out on the deck till 9 pm in shorts & t-shirts, with temps in the mid to high 70's, enjoying the last of the day's sunshine.

    I'd love to hear more about this class as you continue on in it. It really sounds fabulous!

  7. Unfortunately, Kati, the class was just for the month of April, although there has been talk by some of the folks in the group about trying to organize something for this summer ... or a regular thing in the fall with a core group of people who will pre-pay and plan to regularly attend. We're not the only ones who found the lessons incredibly useful :).

    Deus Ex Machina and I are planning to attend the Open House at the Knapp's house/school on May 9. If anyone is going to be near Temple Maine on that Saturday, I'd encourage you to go. It sounds like it's going to be a great day!

    Also, regarding this type of class in other parts of the country - certainly, Chris and Ashirah are one of a kind ;), but that said, there are only eleven states in the US that do not have at least one "survival school", and the thing about this class is that Chris and Ashirah didn't say, "Hey, we're gonna come on down - two hours out of our way - and teach this class for you great people." *Someone* in our homeschool community approached them about teaching the class down here and found them a place to teach the class. In short, someone down here organized the whole thing, and Chris and Ashirah just showed up with their tools and knowledge.

    My guess is that if people are really interested in survival skills classes, and there are enough other people in their area who are interested, and they can find a place to hold the classes (Stacy and John were kind enough to offer their land for our April classes, but the class we took in early winter woods survival last December was on a different host's land), the people who teach the class would be willing to travel. The Knapps came to us, because there are enough of us who are interested in learning the skills they can teach (and willing/able to pay their fees).

    This website and this website have a list of schools in various states.

    The only states that have no schools listed are Hawaii, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. But with the exception of Hawaii, all of them border several states where there are similar schools.

    And, not all of the schools are listed - at least Deus Ex Machina and I know of a couple here in Maine that didn't make the list ... yet.

    Do some digging, and I'll bet you'd discover there *are* classes like this "in your area", and if there aren't, my guess is you could find an expert who'd be willing to come to you and teach it, if you have a place and enough people.

  8. I just noticed that Broadturn farm will have a cheese CSA this year...Cool..

  9. 2 things: I picked up one of those fire-starter-sticks you mentioned. It was 7.99 at my local sporting-goods store. So, just one for now. The other thing, I've done a bit of a review on an Outdoors survival show that you may be interested in. It's over at my blog.

    Hope you're having a GREAT weekend!

  10. Very nice! We forage this time of year, mostly dandelions and maple blossoms, which we put in everything, even bread, but we have a lot of both, so we try to be imaginative ...