Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cord Locks and Target T-shirts...

I like to wear sombrero's that I pick up from thrift stores to protect myself from the sun.  The major downside is that when a moderate wind comes hat becomes like a kite and wants to fly away.  Lame!  I tried just tying a knot in the chin rope on the sombrero...but found it uncomfortable to have it cinched up all the I decided to track down what are called "Cord Locks".  They are those little do-dads that are on your jackets...hats...sleeping bag compression sacks...etc.

They're such a handy little thing to have. might be able to fabricate something that would work OK...but why go through the trouble?  These work remarkably well...are pretty durable...and are inexpensive.

I picked up a bag of 50 of them for roughly $10 from the "scrubhatlady" on ebay.  With that many...I can have them around for my replace locks that are lost...and for whatever other do-it-yourself gear projects I might have.  Awesome.

Target T-shirts

From a reader of the blog...uncensored!

"Hi there, 

just an idea for your blog from a pale girl whose skin burns more than easily and refuses to ever tan.. white long sleeved tissue tees are on sale at Target right now... will keep the sun off of my arms, are cooler than regular tees and are thin and light and won't take too much space in my pack.  perfect for when sunblock will be scarce or non-existent and I cannot spend my days at my office computer in air conditioning but rather surviving heaven knows where in the 3 1/2 season tent my hubby bought for me as our "2nd home""

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Food Waste...Storing Raw Materials...and Orderliness...

We live in what has rightly been dubbed the "throw away generation".  I remember in one of my first jobs as a youth...I worked at a cafe' where I bussed tables.  I was shocked and appalled to see how much waste happened on a daily basis.  While I sweated to earn my minimum wage...people would come in...purchase a tasty sandwich that would have taken me a couple of hours to earn...take one bite and then leave it!  And it wasn't because the food was bad that they didn't finish...because they would come right back and order the same thing day after day!!  They were there to drink their coffee and have a snack...there was no real pressing need to finish their food.  The food was an expendable commodity.

At that same cafe' the management told the employees that we were allowed to purchase day old baked goods for a discount...but if we didn't want to buy them...then we had to throw them out!!  They threatened that we would lose our jobs if they found out that we saved the food or gave it away...because they were afraid of the liability of someone eating their old food and suing them frivolously.

While that was a couple of decades still is a problem...and it has gotten worse in CA and this nation.  Restaurants in California as well as grocery stores and farms continue to throw out obscene amounts of food.  This recently written...sobering article says that "State studies have found that more than six million tons of food products are dumped annually, enough to fill the Staples Center in Los Angeles 35 times over."  Imagine that!!!   That waste makes me ill!  While our government forcefully takes our money for socialist welfare in theory "feed the hungry" (which is not a rightful function of government but of charities)...all that food goes unconsumed.  While people in the US wonder how they are going to feed their families in these difficult economic times...endless truckloads of good food go to the dump.

Such actions as a well as a country are shameful and in direct contrast to the teachings of  the Lord who taught us to be good stewards and not waste.  We should make our voices heard...encouraging the restaurants we go to...stores that we shop at...and farms we get produce from to not waste.  It would also be good to participate in efforts to facilitate saving food...not by seeking to force them in any way...legislating them to obey...or using any other bullying tactic.  They should do it because it's the right thing to do.  Of course patronizing businesses that practice the morally right things to a great way to keep such business!

The best place to start is by controlling our own actions and influence our families to avoid food waste.  

Brigham Young said...

Such was the attitude held by many of those who went through the great depression.  I can remember eating at my grandmothers home who is from that era...and while she wasn't looking we would check the dates on the packages to see how old the food see if it was "safe" to eat.  She had a reputation for never throwing food out.  I can still taste the stale chips mixed with the good ones!  

My cousin once poured himself a bowl of "Honey nut cheerios" one morning before a day of skiing.  When he lifted it to his mouth he exclaimed "These are like tiny rubber tires!!@!!"  We looked on the box and saw a picture of the honey bee mascot...but it was like an old school line drawing we had never seen!  We looked at the date and it was like a decade old.  When my cousin protested about eating it my grandmother said sternly..."Then you're not going to ski!!"  He ate the honey nut cheerios.  That bowl of cereal would not be thrown away at my grandmas house!

A person who has never known real want may not understand why my grandmother wouldn't just throw that old food out.  They may not understand why getting an orange for Christmas was an absolute treasure!  Or why someone would save a broken toy to fix it...instead of tossing it out and buying a new one. Why would someone wash off tinfoil and use it again!!?  Why would someone sow clothing and quilts out of a flour or feed bag?!!

They might also look at my grandmothers closet of boxes and boxes and racks and racks of shoes...many or most that she had never worn and wonder what possessed her to purchase so many shoes.  Not realizing that she had once gone without shoes as a child...and when she became financially able...she swore she would never go without again...and as like an emotional backlash...filled her closet to overflowing.

And they may not understand until everything they now have is gone.  As Joni Mitchell wisely once sang..."Don't it always seem to go...that we don't know what we got till it's gone".

We don't have to wonder if that day "may" come...we know that it "will" come.  All the "stuff" that is so easily replaced now...won't be at some point in the the prophets have told us that...

" there will come a time when there isn't a store ."(Spencer W. Kimball,GC April 1974 Welfare Session)

and we have been counseled to...

“Take good care of your material possessions, for the day will come when they will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace.” (President Packer quoting the prophet)

and those are just a couple of many quotes that point to a future day of want.  Days where we will be inclined to “Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

Storing Raw Materials

Now in preparation for a day when there is no store...and when we may not be able to replace our material possessions...we have long been counseled to store not just food...but "stuff".

Everything from bolts of cloth...needles and thread...etc...etc...

While I could dig up the quotes and try to compile an exhaustive list...the Lord has recently reminded us of what is on that list when he told us to store "Every needful thing".  So what are you going to need?  How long will the need last?

This knowledge of a future day of want...and of the command to store various materials and supplies...has led my family to hold onto various things...that if we knew they could easily be replaced in the future...we would gladly not cumber our ground with them.  This has caused for my family to gain a "pack rat" sort of reputation.  Extended family often chides us for having too much "stuff".  

The old adage "One mans trash is another man's treasure" is so true!  I go to throw out old leather shoes with a bad sole and I think "That is some good leather...perhaps I could make a knife sheath out of that...or I could repair the soles if I had no other shoes to wear.  What a waste to throw it out!".  Whereas an onlooker might just say "What a piece of junk...throw it away!  Buy another pair of shoes!"  Such a person might come to my home and think "Look at all of the junk he keeps"...and I would go to that person's house and think "This person has no "stuff"!  He is going to be up the creek when they have no store to go and get the things they need!!"

I live with a "scarcity" mentality now...preparing for a future day of need...while they live with an "abundance" mentality...thinking the world is a cornucopia that will not stop giving it's goods.


Now...I am not advocating living in squalor.  Living a life...tripping over everything is no way to live.

Clean and organized is what I aspire for.  I'm not there...but slowly and surely we are getting there.  As the Lord's house is a "house of order" should ours be.  

The truth is...that if you have a lot of "stuff" that is won't be able to find it when you need it!!  Defeating the purpose for storing it.

One should also avoid cumbering their ground with actual junk!  Things that have no intrinsic value.  Such things should be purged to make room for what you really need.

Question what you throw away.  Store what you'll need or want.  Learn to store it orderly so you'll have it when you need it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Strong Physical Constitution...

A small flight of stairs...and you're winded.

Passing around a football for a while...and you're nursing aches and pains for days.

Helping a friend think your back will give out.

Too tired and weak to do much of anything.

The cushy life has made a lot of us soft.  The "manual" has been taken out of much of our manual labor.  We sit for long hours and eat a lot of junk.  We are as a nation...sickly people.  Of course those are broad generalizations...but the honest must concede that it's true for a bulk of Americans.

Some of us even go so far as to delude ourselves into thinking that we have the same physical prowess that we may have had when we were younger...when in reality we have been degenerating...and weakening.

As this wonderful article points out...

"There is a fundamental law that the tissue of the human body will waste away through idleness and disuse. Conversely, muscles and vessels that are stressed grow and increase in capacity. This same basic law also applies to man’s spiritual growth and his mental capacity, and progress and growth in either of these areas can be achieved only by continual nourishment and effort in day-to-day living."

Use it...or lose it!  Truer words are harder to find when it comes to physical fitness!

While there are all kinds of benefits to exercise...more energy...feeling good...better able to serve...etc...  another major reason to get physically fit is to prepare for days when you may have to be fit.

The daughters of Ishmael had such a situation.  They left their cushy life in live a harsh existence raising a family while traveling and camping and became "strong, yea, even like unto the men".  While this may not sound like the most flattering thing to say about their femininity or lack thereof...they became what they had to be to survive.  And of course gaining this strength was a process that wasn't without having to suffer and struggle.

I have heard many an LDS exclaim..."I could never be a pioneer!  It was too hard!"  If they only fully understood the reality that they may very well be thrust into a similar existence...even overnight...perhaps they would want to start now to get physically lessen the blow when it happens.

Are we physically prepared...

to wash our clothing by hand?

to travel long distances on foot if necessary?

to carry our most needed possessions?

to protect our families physically?

to chop and haul firewood?

I don't know all of the physical labors that may be ahead...but none of those are out of the realm of possibility.  Think about it though...are you ready for that kind of labor?

Now...I am fully aware that people have all kinds of adverse circumstances health-wise.  I'd recommend doing what you can to take care of yourself.  Watching what you eat...and exercising as you can.  Live the law of health known as the Word of Wisdom.  Look for ways that when days of want come...that you can work smart...more than hard.

My P90X Infomercial

I have been doing a program that you may have seen on TV called P90X.  It is no joke.  It will absolutely kick one's behind.  I love it.  I got it for half price from a guy on craigslist.  I never thought in my life that I would do a DVD workout...but man...I plan on doing this one over and over again.  It is a well balanced program...working out all areas of athleticism.  It is a program for people who are already active...and take things to the next level.  Worth waking up at 5:30 in the morning for!  5 stars out of 5!  Instead of my hashing out a more in depth review...check out the reviews from people on Amazon.  I wholeheartedly recommend it for people who want to get in the best shape they have ever been in.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Go Back and Read Old Articles...

If you are on my email may have just received some articles I wrote a while back.  For some reason there is a glitch with blogspot where from time to time it just randomly chooses and emails out articles!  Perhaps this is a good opportunity to let people who are newer to the blog know that older...but still good articles (IMHO) are still available to read.  Just scroll down and look at the bar on the left and you will find info on various topics.  Thank you for reading...Stephen

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ithuriel's Spear (Triteleia laxa)

All over the hills here in Northern California right now is a lovely flowering plant called "Ithuriel's Spear"...or Triteleia laxa.  The corms (underground root part) were used for food by natives.  Raw...they have a nice clean crisp waterchestnutty kind of texture and taste.  Yum!  I have yet to try them cooked as many of the tribes apparently preferred (according to Moerman).

For now...I would consider these more of a survival type food.  While I would love to go out and dig up baskets full of corms for dinner...there are gaps in the knowledge regarding how long it takes for them to reproduce.

I found a big and fancy scientific paper on Triteleia laxa that conceded...

"We do not know how long it takes in the
field for a seedling to produce a plant that
flowers, or for how many years a plant flowers or

Perhaps I will need to grow some myself at my home like this author suggests...and I will find as she did that they "Multiply easily".  Until I do...I will probably just enjoy the flowers in the wild...and maybe sample one if I am really hungry...and in an area with multitudes of the plant.

Here is a wonderful article on the US Forest services site that gives some great ID info...distribution maps...and fun information on the name.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ear Plugs...

One evening as you wind down for the day...a disaster strikes.  Your home is no longer safe...and so you quickly grab your emergency evacuation bags and walk out the front door.  Groups of people start to head towards a shelter that is being set up for your neighborhood.  Upon arrival you find that the place is packed with people...all making up beds for the night.  You find a place to lie down and are suddenly faced with the reality that... can be hard to sleep with a lot of people around!

Coughing...babies crying...moving and talking...aaaarrrrgh!!!!

In such a are probably going to be stressed out and irritable enough why exacerbate your problems by not getting good sleep?

Unless you are one of those people "Who can sleep through anything"...perhaps you should consider having some earplugs in your evacuation bag.

They block out most sound...are reusable...and not very expensive.  They weigh virtually nothing...and take up virtually no space...but can increase the quality of your life to a great degree.

They are generally made of a very soft urethane and are sold "corded" or "uncorded".  The cord is a long plastic string to hold them together.  Personally...I don't think the cord is necessary.  It can actually be a little annoying rubbing on your neck...or getting caught on things.  It's a preference thing.

Having worn many...many earplugs while in my construction years...I found that they are not all created equally.  Some aren't so "soft" and if worn for a length of time...will actually cause enough pressure on your ear canal that they will cause your ears to ache!  Some also do a better job of muffling sound than others...and retain their shape better for subsequent reuse.  

I have used "Howard Leight Laser Earplugs" and really liked them.  Some people swear by "Hearo's".  There are lot's of brands out there to try out that may work.

Other than online...they can also be picked up at your local drug or home improvement store...or perhaps even your standard grocery store.

You might purchase some and try them out before you buy them in the bulk...and generally that is where you will get your best buying them in the bulk.  With a bunch on hand you can put them all over the place to have ready to use.  Other than for may also use them for use with loud tools...for shooting practice...or even when Def Leppard comes to your State Fair!  LOL!!...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Acorn Muffin Recipe...

I was asked to share a recipe for some muffins that I made for a scouting event a while back.  Getting accurate recipes from me is always a hard I am kind of like the cajun cook...who just throws in a bit of this and a bit of that.  Here is what I remember from the recipe when my 4 year old daughter and I put it together...

The basic template for the recipe came from my favorite bread book..."Bread Winners" by Mel London.  Available used on Amazon for change and some shipping.

On page 246 is a recipe for whole wheat muffins...

2 Eggs beaten
1/3 cup yogurt
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

If memory serves me daughter and I did the recipe like above...only we subsituted Interior Live Oak (Quercus wislizeni) acorn flour for a little less than half of the wheat flour it calls for.  There are all kinds of places on the internet that give various ways to prepare such flour.

We also added

A handful of raisins
A handful of pine nuts
One of those hickory farms mini marmalade jars (my daughters idea)

We also used white wheat that we ground it was nice and fresh which I think makes a difference.

We mixed everything in a large bowl...poured batter into greased some muffin tins...and cooked at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

The finished muffins were really...really good.  At least we thought so.  They were a really dark in the photo (of someone else's muffins!!)...and were moist and sweet.  Warm with a little butter they were heavenly!  Mmmmm....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I've always loved watching various insects and animals...and how they have adapted to blend in with their environments or disguise what they truly are.  It is done as a way to deceive potential predators...or to be a more effective predator themselves...and ultimately survive!  They want to...

1.  be invisible to avoid detection.
2.  look like something undesirable.
3.  look like something dangerous when they are not.


4.  look like something safe...when really they are dangerous.

Of course...people use these sort of techniques as well.  I'm sure when many of us...when we think of "camouflage" the first thing we think of is the military in camouflage garb.  Or maybe we think of that scene from that Rambo movie where Rambo is being hunted...and as a bad guy steps in front of a mud wall...eyes appear in the mud...Rambo reaches out and puts a giant knife into his enemy!!!  Ouch!

While those are instances of "camouflage"...there are more applications I would like for you to consider regarding your preparedness.

Making Things of Value Look Like Junk

When I first went out as a missionary in the deep south all the new missionaries purchased brand new bikes.  I was thrilled to have my new showroom bike...ready to hit the streets.  When I arrived in my first area...I was surprised to see how junky the old missionaries bikes looked.  I came to find out that they would purposefully take their expensive new bikes...and cover them in duct tape and then roughen up the tape to make them look like junk!  They would mark them up in all sorts of ways to make them look worn and undesirable.  I soon found out why.  When we would go out into the "hood" and lock up our bikes to walk on foot to talk to people...we would come back to find our bikes surrounded by groups of children trying to figure out how to break the locks to steal our bikes!  In those poor neighborhoods...they would go to any length to steal valuable things.  We even had a brand new bike...yet to be made junky looking...stolen off of a second story balcony...where the thief had to climb up the side of the apartment complex to get it!

Now...this was during "good times".  How much theft do you think there will be when things are really bad!!??  There are people who now would never think to steal something...who when the pressure is on would be quick to justify their theft as a necessary evil for survival.  "It's my family or yours!!"  While having fancy things that look expensive may now stroke your vanity...they could one day make you and yours a target of a mugging or worse.  Driving down the street in your shiny newer SUV says to the world "I've got money...and stuff!"  Evacuating on foot during a disaster with all of your crisp clean matching REI gear...while others are covered in dirt...and wearing just the shirts on their backs...could make you a target.  In such a might behoove you to look a little more like a refugee...not like the Brady Bunch going on a family campout!  Black trash bags covering gear...non-flashy outer shells for clothing...duct tape stuck on things...stuff like that...could save your life.

I am not saying you shouldn't have good quality...clean gear right now.  Just that when dark days may need to be creative to make the valuable things that you have...look junky to predators.

Blending in...Hiding Your Identity

I saw an interview with a now famous actor who lived in Queens New York.  He described himself as "The only white guy in the neighborhood".  He landed a job across town that he would have to walk to.  His path would be full of gang members...thieves...basically lowlifes of every kind.  Realizing that he was destined to be mugged or killed in his his being the only white guy made him stick out like a sore thumb...he decided that he had better blend in.  Here's what he did.  As he walked he would "talk to himself" and "drool" and make erratic movements with his body.  When he got to work...the acting was over and he became himself again!  Then on the way back home he became crazy homeless man again.  As a one messed with him...and would actually get out of his way...because they thought he was one of the many mentally ill homeless people wandering the streets!

Like the caterpillar disguised to look like bird poop...he became undesirable as he shouldn't have much of real value...because he was homeless...and no one wanted to tangle with someone who was crazy!

Blending in may not mean "not being seen" a ninja wearing black in the may just mean not sticking out because you are in context for the environment.  Like the old saying..."The nail that sticks up...get's hammered in".  If your aim is to want your nail head the same as everyone else!  Like just another sheep in the you may pass through unnoticed.

I think about some survivalist people out there whose closets are filled with military and hunting camo.  If (or most assuredly when) Martial Law is declared...or the government starts to round up civilians (for their own safety of course)...probably the last thing you should be wearing is camouflage patterned clothing.  That is like carrying a billboard saying "I know how to use a gun and might now be armed...I know how to handle myself in a fight...I have a certain view of the world and might be trouble"!  Now if you live on a military base...or in Louisiana or another place where everyone wears camouflage all the would make perfect sense...but otherwise...not a good idea.  Camouflage clothing of that sort is suited for disappearing in the wilderness...not blending in with Joe public in an urban environment.

While I do like various camouflage clothing for wilderness wear.  I especially like gear that is dark green...brown...and other neutral...natural colors that serve a dual purpose as they can do a decent job of disappearing into the wild as well as the urban jungle.  If you want to have the ability to be seen when you to stay with family in a crowd...get yourself fluorescent bandanas that can be put away when not in use.

If hiding sounds in some way like an un-Christian might revisit the scriptures to find places where disguise was used by various representatives of the well as other methods of evasion from evil to preserve life.

Hiding Things of Value

A certain book is pulled from the bookcase...and suddenly a secret door opens!  Secret rooms and compartments like the one's in the movies are nothing new.  They have been used for thousands of years to prevent thieves or governments (often synonyms) from stealing valuable a place to hide people...provide privacy...etc.  I'd venture to say that most aren't super elaborate like the movie kind...but simply a bookcase or other such item...placed in front of a doorway...or a picture over a safe or other such easily assembled camouflage.  It was such an arrangement that saved the life of Anne Frank.  There are actually companies out there that specialize in designing and building the more complicated swinging bookcases..."safe rooms" that are like safes for people...and things like that.  A determined do-it-yourselfer could get some great ideas poking around on the internet...and build it themselves!

We all know about the spare key in the fake rock...or cash in the cookie jar.  Some thieves have come to expect such deceptions...and look for them.  The trick is to think of some they wouldn't!  I have seen where people put things like food storage in old paint cans...with paint down the side (cleaned out inside and sealed in mylar).  Spreading items of value to many places can also mitigate loss if thieves steal...or governments seize.  It may be wise to even have supplies stashed at places other than your home.  Some even bury buckets with food and clothing out on routes that they might evacuate on!

Disguised Self Defense

When an enemy thinks they have easily subdued their prey...they can become lax.  They may not notice the hot sauce you have put in your hand to smear into their eyes...or the walking stick smacking them in the head...or the chair being shoved into their chests...the salt and pepper shakers emptied into their face...etc...etc...  You get the idea.  In a pinch...weapons can me made out of all kinds of everyday objects.

There are also all kinds of weapons that are made to be concealed.  Knives in belts...tiny hide in your palm guns.  Be aware that many in that category are illegal and could get you in trouble with the man!  Dang.

I am a big proponent of pepper spray.  I think it should be in everyone's emergency  It doesn't require killing someone like a gun or other item in order to subdue the attacker.  It can subdue several people or more at a time...hopefully giving you enough time to flee the scene.  Many of the sprays are small enough to fit in your palm undetected.  They can also go on your it is always with you...or even look like benign lipstick!  It can be purched on most local sporting good stores and gun shops.  It may seem like overkill when there seemingly is no danger for long periods of time...but you will be grateful you've got it when you need it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sacred Garden School of Foraging...

Occasionally...I take groups out to ID native plants and discuss their uses for food...medicine...and tools.  I show how my family currently supplements the store bought foods that we eat.  I have done these walks enough times now...where I regularly have people asking me "When are you going to do that again!"..or they say "Let me know when you are going harvesting so I can go with you!"

So in response...I have created a project that I call "Sacred Garden School of Foraging".  The name is meant to remind that the worlds bounty is "Sacred" as it comes from God and should be observed and used with reverence...and it is a "Garden" that should be tended with care so that it produces good fruits continually.  As a "School" I will be providing the quality of instruction that I would want if I went on a foraging walk with another teacher!

My intent is to regularly (perhaps monthly depending on my schedule) take people out to help them correctly ID and use the "wild" plants in my region.  To help people have a good experience by harvesting the correct part of the the correct season.  To hopefully help them understand the many reasons why they ought to continue to forage.  Teaching information that is steeped in the knowledge of the Native Americans...modern foraging well as my own observations.

The Kinds of Classes

1.  Family and general plant info classes - I will do these by request if you contact me and set up a date and provide the group.  I ask that the class have no less than 5 people...and no more than 15.  The class will be an overview of many plants.

2.  Intensives - Adult only classes where we will study a plant or two at a time...IN REAL DEPTH. How to identify to harvest to prepare it...native uses for it...medicinal's history in the US...etc...etc.  This is the way that foraging skills should be learned...a plant at a time.  After the class...the students should be able to stand before a group of botanists and swear on their lives that they can correctly identify a plant and know how to use it!

The First Class

I will be doing the first intensive on...

May 1st from 9am-11am

We will meet at 7000 Baldwin Dam road in Folsom CA...
at the gravel parking lot below the "Hinkle Creek Nature Center".

We will be focusing on Curly Dock (Rumex crispus) and Thistles (Cirsium spp.)  They are quite good right now...and we should be able to still find some in good shape on the 1st.

What it will be like

We will walk along the “Hinkle Creek Nature Trail” and stop frequently to examine plants.  It is a lovely trail that meanders alongside a stream among beautiful oaks.  The path does have several hills that are fairly steep which require moderate physical health.  It is not a speed hike and there will be time to rest as 
we discuss plants.

You May Consider...

1. Wearing good walking shoes
2. Bringing gloves if you want to touch pokey things.
3. Plastic grocery bags stuffed in a pocket for samples
4. A notepad
5. A water bottle
6. Scissors or a knife for sample collection

Class Donation

I am aware of people's current financial struggles. I don't want for anyone to stay home that is interested because finances are an issue. Instead of setting a price for the class...I ask that you make a discreet money donation based on your circumstances...and what you feel the class is worth.  There is no amount too small or too big!  The money will help to pay for my preparedness gear habit (and bills)...and make my wife much more agreeable with letting her husband leave for several hours when he ought to be at home cleaning out the garage!!


Please contact me at to book your spot.

PS. I am still doing free classes for groups from my church...when they are set up by a Relief Society...Elders Quorum...Young Mens...etc.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

In conversations...people will ask me about my blog.  When I mention the name...their eyes glaze over because it is sooooo darned long.  Too long to remember.  Writing it out is an ordeal.

In an effort to make things easier for people...I purchased the domain name "" redirect to my blog.  Hope that helps!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Two Foraging Related Book Reviews and a Tip...

I am often asked when I take people on walks to ID native plants..."What one book would you recommend to have for emergencies?"  The implied question is that if the day came that they needed to rely on foraged food...what book will tell them everything they need to know to feed themselves.

While it is possible that a reference book could help in a pinch to find a few edible plants to use to supplement one's expect that a person is to learn all they need to know from one book that is needed to sustain life...without a depth of experiences that are borne over many seasons of working with many plants is unrealistic.

It's kind of like asking..."If the day comes that I have an opportunity to dance on can I become a professional dancer in one weekend?"  It is also like people that store garden seed for doomsday gardening...but don't currently garden...or purchase all of their plants large and healthy from a nursery.  The comfort that comes with being truly self-reliant with foraging as well as in most preparedness endeavors comes with the knowledge that comes from practice.

I own a library of foraging books...and when I am learning about a plant...I learn bits and pieces of a puzzle from many of them.  Some of the books have great harvesting info...but lame plant identification ...or they list off 100+ plants...but only a handful will be available in your region...etc...etc.  Trying to find one book that shows you all stages of the plants development...explains the qualities of a plant good for harvesting...and that doesn't leave out other important details is hard to find.  None really have been a complete resource...all by themselves.  I end up going on the internet and look up photos on calflora...or see if there are videos on youtube...etc...etc...  Then I observe the plant through the seasons to know what it looks like at all stages of development.  Some plants you want to eat when it is a tiny shoot...not when it is in full bloom like it shows in so many of the photos!

But the question arises..."Isn't there a book that contains at least the info for a handful of plants that one could learn without looking to other sources?"  Well...there are two that I can think of...and they are both written by Samuel Thayer.

His first book "The Foragers Harvest" is worth purchasing even if only a select amount of the plants that he covers are to be found where you live.  He is not an armchair forager.  Not someone regurgitating what another author has written.  He is telling you hands on how HE works with each plant.  The photographs are crisp...the quality of the materials of the book are superb...the descriptions are complete.  He provides a glossary...information on botanical terminology...really a complete reference.

His new book is a dream come true!  It is called "Natures Garden" and it is like a continuation of his first book.  This is book is 512 pages long vs. "The Foragers Harvest" which is 360 pages.  It has more plant lessons than "The Foragers Harvest" that are applicable to Western foragers.  "Natures Garden" is worth buying if just for his section on Acorn processing!

So...if you only had two foraging books to rely on...I'd choose for you "Nature's Garden"...followed by "The Foragers Harvest".  After that...I would point you to Steve Brills book that has wonderfully correct botanical drawings and great humored info...or Christopher Nyerges book that has great info especially with regards to nutritional values...but lame photos.

"Natures Garden" is available for pre-order from Amazon at the link above...or directly from Samuel Thayer.  He will even sign the book if you buy it from him!

"Tending the Wild" by M. Kat Andersen

One of the initial things that drew me to foraging was the concept of "Reaping where I did not sow".  After spending so much time prepping soil for my home garden foraging was bound to be inviting!  I saw with my naive eyes that the world of the Native Americans must be one of simply going around and filling up their "shopping baskets" with the bounties of nature.  I mean...that is what we were taught in school right?!  That the Native Americans were "Hunters and gatherers"!?

While they did hunt...and they did gather...they also were "Tending the wild".  This book extensively documents the practices of burning...weeding...coppicing...pruning...sowing...etc...that made the State of CA the abundant place that it was when the white man came.    These actions ensured that successive harvests would produce higher yields and superior quality. Native California was managed just like a modern farmer would manage a crop in rows...only their crop was "wild" to the untrained eye.  Hillsides of edible clover...large stands of evenly spaced oaks...fields of cereal grains.  They truly shaped the landscape of California into what it was...and we still are benefactors of their work to the extent that it hasn't been sullied.

This book also serves as a stinging rebuke to those "conservationists" who believe that the best kind of nature is nature that is untouched.   Management practices of the Native Americans such as burning increased crop yields...abated insects and disease...prevented larger fires...cleared brush...etc.  Man's hand can actually accentuate the positive by helping along processes that lead to a desired result.  For example...the author writes extensively about Dichelostemma capitatum or "Blue Dicks" or "Brodiaea".  

Here is a video of a person who has some foraging videos on youtube (many of which I have enjoyed).  In this video he recommends eating the stem and flower of Brodiaea...but leaving the corm.  He leaves the corm saying that it is the part that is "sustainable"...saying "It helps the plant to survive".  While it is true that the plant will continue to live if you leave the corm in the ground...if he were to dig it up...he would find that there would be more plants to harvest in successive years!  The corms have tiny "cormlets" that  detach and plant themselves when you dig them up!  It is this practice of not disturbing various plants that has led to their dwindling numbers and even extinction!

The book kind of felt like a fleshed out mini-version of Moerman's "Native American Ethnobotany".  Where Moerman would tell you that a certain species of plant was used for food in a short blurb....this book tells you about how it was harvested...propagated...stored...etc.  Many of this information comes by way of quotes from Native people telling their stories.  The author also uses the botanical names to avoid confusion which is greatly appreciated.

I recommend it to all people who are interested in it reminds us that we must give thought for the future of the plants we collect.  It reminds us that we are in "Natures Garden"...a garden that will produce every year...if we don't kill the golden goose.  I think that although so many of the species of plants discussed in the book are endemic to California...that it also will have direct applicability to similar species found in other states and is therefore still worthy of reading if you do not live in CA.

This book is a treasure.  I am in awe of the knowledge of the Native American people.  While much of the ethnobotanical information of the US has been is wonderful that M. Kat Andersen gave a chunk of her life to record a piece of it.

Cover Your Paperback Books

I checked out the paperback copy of "Tending the Wild" from the library.  It was obviously the first time the book had been the binding practically creaked when I opened it. By the time I finished the book...the edges were bending up and looking worn.  If this had been my own book...this never would have happened.  Right after I purchase a or used...before I start to read...I will cover the book with laminate.  I purchase the laminate in a 12" roll from Highsmith which is a library supply place.  This makes a paperback book...more like a glossy hardback book.  They will last a lot longer and stay nice just by taking a short time to give the book some TLC.  It's easy to do and takes me probably 5 minutes to cover one book.

I'm unsure if this is the same brand I purchased one roll lasts FOREVER and I have not finished the one roll I have purchased...but the 12" one on this page should be a good choice for most paperbacks.  Here are instructions on how to cover a book with laminate.