Greetings, feral homesteaders and those of the land!
Since the last check in, abundance is being created, the plants are overgrowing our gazes, mushrooms are sprouting, and its been raining, a lot… kind of like Norway or the Rainforest. This day we are awed by the rare solar event of the full eclipse, and I think of my ancestors, and the collective ancestors of everyone, and their relationship with the sun in the past. I think about we take for granted the sun as a society today and how we truly are out of tune with its cycles and its effect on crops, our circadian rhythms and moods, the quality of our water, our internal biology, and so many other things. People used to worship the sun, and many sun cults are the primordial forms of early religions. During a full solar eclipse, our planet is blacked out of the cosmos for an ephemeral but remarkable time, and it gives us a chance to contemplate our own worth and importance in this universe. I think about all the mythologies that have grown out of our connection with the sun or sun(s), as in some cultures, and I find it a life event, a kind of primordial nexus point that connects me to all other beings, through the suns energy and the sheer existence of it, this is also a night with ‘no moon’ or the new moon, and thus a very dark day worthy of constellate star gazing if you are so inclined, I hope you are somewhere without too much city light pollution.
There’s lots in season now, and I have been trying my hardest to forage, harvest and reap as much as I can, and process, or consume it while it lasts. Black thimbleberries, autumn olive, blackberries, ever bearing strawberries, sea buckthorn, raspberries, sumac, chokecherry and wild grapes are all in various stages of fruit. As a denizen of this land, in this part of the Carolinian bioregion, I like to get to know what is at hand at any one time, to make the most use of the available natural plunder. I’ve been out with our foraging baskets more than once, and love the feeling of coming back with a full pack. It means we are more connected to our food, and retain that food sovereignty, over relying on the corporate food supply chain. Most of the food that makes it to our table is either picked fresh from our gardens, scavenged from the wilds, fished from local watersheds, liberated from organic market waste bins, or traded with nearby organic farms, the rest comes from farmers markets, country stores, and the odd product from commercial retailers like butter or goats milk. I am looking for a connection to get raw goats milk, but non-homo water buffalo or sheep milk is the closest I can find to raw so far. As the seasons flourish, it is berry season, I am anticipating the pawpaws, persimmons, pears, and apples later on, and the last of our domestic vegetables and tobacco in our garden. I forage because it connects me to the seasons, my ancestors, and the source of my food. Last week I made some fruit leather from seaberry and homemade maple syrup, which went over well, and started a kombucha mother, with a strain of cacao orange tea. I am interested to see how a stimulant like cacao will come out after the fermentation process.
Last time I mentioned that I was beginning the process of tanning and curing a pelt, This is a highland cattle pelt, acquired within the family that I have now shaped, removing any rotten and dreaded fur, combed with a metal brush and clean with dr. bronners magic soaps, it is now racked and tightened to a frame awaiting scraping, this will have to wait until I get back home from the maritimes of Canada with my partner to resume. I am definitely no master at this, and have only dabbled with furs in the past of various small animals like raccoon, squirrel, sheep and opossum, usually already damaged fur found on railways and roads, but last year I had a change to work on a really large bull hide in Guatemala. It is definitely a labor of love. Once, brain tanning and curing was an entire career, taught in a guild fashion and passed down usually by men, to their sons, and their sons, and occupied several decades of a growing mans life, as his craft improved with each new skin. Something else I have been exploring is mycology and how mushrooms can be cultivated locally with quite a high sense of control and yielding abundance. We have some inoculated logs near a creek bed on our property, and with the balmy 30 degree+ climate during the days and the torrential waterfalls of rain in the evenings and nights, the ecological conditions for growing the fantastic extra-terrestrials is ideal. I like to knock the logs with a stick mallet to shake of the spores inside, and find it effective to grow larger caps. So far we have turkey tail, and shiitake mushrooms that have already sporulated and grown to epic proportions. Wild mushrooms have also chosen to colonize our cultivated dens like the puffball mushrooms. I check periodically on the shrooms and pick them when needed, which make great patties for burgers, or eaten alone soaked in butter, garlic, cheese and herbs. Mycology is an avenue for the average person to engage themselves with this kingdom of food, and with the price of mushrooms now, I am diving in to this alternative.
As a steward of the land, I see the importance of conscious action, and sustainable practices to ensure that all life can thrive here, not only my own. This extends deeply into whatever I do to the land, including the tools I use, and I wanted to make a point to mention a few of the tools I use and why. In the day to day practice I tend to use a small spade adapted to plant young tree seedlings. I used this to plant over a hundred thousand trees in western Canada, and find it extremely effective in the young gardens here, or for transplanting various small herbs and crops. I also use a sickle and scythe regularly to clear weeds. I have heard of using blowtorches as a way to destroy unwanted weeds, but there are some problems I see with this, one being the damage it does to the soil, as it can destroy the humus layer, where as a scythe or sickle merely distributes it or tills it lightly if at all. I enjoy learning the proper techniques for both of these tools and find that they are more kin-esthetically beneficial for our bodies. These tools were passed down through the generations and have acquired character and age. I find the machete useful for larger stalks and trail breaking, and have used a chainsaw for cording wood to ready for chopping with a maul. I think there is a sentiment and accuracy that comes with hand tools that can not be rendered by power tools, that being said, there are two workshops on the neighboring farm that we have access to, and I think I will be learning some new tools in the future.
During these longer ‘dog days’, sometimes I just want to take a siesta, and find some place on the grass to relax, or come back to the nest and take a nap. This is something western culture doesn’t really embrace, because we are made to think we should always be awake during the day, to work, and be somewhere for something important. When you start working for yourself, you start to realize though how essential sleep is, and how it is like a practice in itself. I tend to enjoy a siesta now and then, having traveled extensively in Mexico and Guatemala, where this is a normal part of the day, to sleep during high sun, and revitalize oneself, then continue a few hours of work into the early evening. Now we have obligatory coffee and cigarette breaks, but it is clearly not a substantiate for what a mid-day rest can offer the body. It also gets us out of the sun during the hotter hours of the day, and thus not depleting our energy stores unnecessarily. Here is my favorite spot on the land, until next full moon.