Saturday, May 30, 2009

me learning about edible wild plants

today we went for a walk not far from where we live. after getting over a fight about where to park the car, we enjoyed the rest of the hike thoroughly.

i've been doing quite a bit of browsing in books about edible wild plants. but i'm terrible at retaining information. so i get very excited if i make an identification of any plant. a while ago, i spotted a stinging nettle growing at the side of the path down by the river. i even rubbed the leaf on my thumb and was strangely elated to feel the sting that lingered for the rest of the day.

i've learned that if you cook nettles, their stinging goes away, and they are a very nutritious green to add to a soup or other dish. i haven't tried this yet. i got a little discouraged when i read that the leaves are best gathered earlier in the spring before they become more tough and bitter.

the other very interesting use for nettles is as an alternative to rennet. i understand that in the making of cheese, a substance from the stomach of a young cow is used to digest the milk. this is called rennet. however, nettles can be used to make an vegetarian alternative to rennet. so cool!

anyway, back to today's hike. i was eager to try to identify more plants, even though i forgot to bring the books with me. before too long, i saw nettles growing by the river. i didn't sting myself this time.

most of the hike i looked at plants and observed their details more closely, figuring i could look them up when i got home. i think i may have successfully identified curled or yellow dock as well. i thought it was amaranth, looked it up, and realized it wasn't. then a few pages over in the book i realized maybe that it was dock. i'm pretty sure it's right.

the interesting thing is that if you touch nettles and are stung, you can often find dock growing near by. by crushing the dock leaves in your hands, (maybe even spit on it to add some moisture), you can create a salve that will ease the stinging. (I read this in Euell Gibbon's book, Stalking the Healthful Herbs.)

[i was just looking for a picture of dock online and am now starting to doubt whether i actually found dock. never mind. i'll find it eventually.]

finally: dandelion greens. well, we took our bowls of food outside to eat on the grass, and afterwards, i realized we were sitting on some. adam tried some, and said these are bitter! and they were. but we picked a bowlful anyway, and i washed and boiled them. apparently, you can still eat them as the season progresses, but you compensate by boiling them and changing the water they are boiled in. i cooked them for 5 minutes, changed the water, then 10 more minutes (in very little water), and drained them. with a little butter i thought they were quite good. adam didn't think they were that exciting, but the fact that they weren't gross is exciting to me. i think next time i'll pick more and actually include them in a dish. or maybe with our eggs in the morning.

p.s. we saw so many different animals today! lots of turtles swimming and sunning by the river. a snake in the weeds by the path. minnows, and an enormous fish. probably 4 feet long and almost a foot in diameter--it appeared only momentarily as we sat and snacked by the river. i watched for a long time for it to reappear but it didn't. but wow! later, a snake swimming on the surface, but when it saw us it disappeared into the depths. a groundhog grazing by the road. a swarm of ants on our sidewalk. a solitary little rabbit munching in the grass. and finally a racoon raiding a dumpster. and blackbirds swearing at him and divebombing him.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

more photos

two things have really made me feel inclined to take more pictures lately.

i got back my old camera, which actually holds a charge for weeks at a time. the one i'd been using for some reason needed me to recharge the batteries pretty much every day. there's nothing like having to stop and recharge the batteries to stop you from documenting a plate of food when you really just want to eat it.

also, i downloaded picasa to this laptop. now i can go through, edit, and organize so much more quickly.

i can't believe the months ticking by since august 1, 2008 when we were married. i guess i want to have a record of what our daily life looks like. who knows, maybe it will be very different next year.

one question for you please, though. is there any problem with me posting these photos in large format? i like how they look but am curious. thank you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

excerpt from Lloyd Alexander's "The Black Cauldron"

The other day I remembered the books by Lloyd Alexander that our teacher read to us in grade school. The series begins with "The Book of Three" and is followed by "The Black Cauldron". I believe there are six in all.

They are kids books, but I recently checked the first two out of the library and lost myself in them. The author researched and based his writing on Welsh mythology. The books are beautifully written, full of depth and human struggle and growth.

These are the types of books I would love to read to my children one day. The characters in these books struggle with self doubt and difficult people as well as true villains. Self-discipline and integrity are not just values of the "nice guys" but are traits of the heroes that you admire and love.

here's a little excerpt.

"I am troubled," [Taran] said in a low voice, "and I wonder now if we should not turn back. I fear you have kept something from me, and had I known what it was, I would have chosen otherwise."

If Adaon shared Taran's doubts, he showed no sign. In the saddle, he rode unbowed, as though he had gained new strength and the weariness of the journey could no longer touch him. On his face was a look Taran had never seen before and could not fathom. In it was pride, yet more than that; for it held, as well, a light that seemed almost joyous.

After a long pause Adaon said, "There is a destiny laid on us to do what we must do, though it is not always given to us to see it."

I think there's an important attitude in books like these and maybe also the Lord of the Rings books/movies. I'm not sure if I can put my finger on it entirely but maybe it's that they show that goodness isn't just boring and nice. The battle of good against evil is a very difficult struggle, and only the most valiant and brave can truly succeed, and then only with the help and love of their friends and their family.

I think lots of today's stories take a really disturbing approach towards evil. They are fascinated with bad people, or laugh along at them. And at the same time, those who concern themselves with the challenge to be good and true are never taken very seriously.

But the quest to be honest to yourself, to be loving and generous, to be faithful to those you love--this quest is a long and difficult one of mindful self examination and committment to truth. The end result of such a life is not dramatic until you look more closely and see a deep peace and trust that can only be built over many years.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

beets, spinach, sunflower seeds, etc.

i never used to be very into salads but adam makes very good ones with garlicy dressings that give us very strong breath.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

tall trees

we went to some woods on a very windy day.