Upcomming events, and an early spring.

Photo of bloodroot flower blooming.
Booldroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) flower blooming. Bloodroot is not edible, but is one of my favorite woodland flowers.

It is now officially spring, but as far as the plants are concerned, it has been spring for a while already. Before we get into that, let me mention some of the up coming events that will make this a really busy spring for us.

First, We will be attending our first permaculture class this Saturday March 24th (10am – 6pm). The class is called “Design Your Organic Home Garden Sustainably” and is being held at The Horn Farm Center and is presented by Susquehanna Farm School & The Rewilding School. I assume the class is full at this point, but check out the Susquehanna Farm School website for more upcoming classes and workshops.

Also on Saturday the 24th, I will be giving a talk called “Exploitation, Anarchy and God’s Ecology”. I will be discussing hunting, gathering, and Permaculture solutions to our ecological problems from a Biblical perspective, as well as demonstrating some simple Earth skills and tools. It starts at 7pm at
351 N. Mulberry St in Lancaster.

Then on Sunday the 25th, we will be going to the 2nd Susquehanna Permaculture meetup. It is from 2pm – 5pm at Chickies Day Use Area off of 441 on Long Lane. There will be child care available.

The next weekend we will be taking our hunting classes. Hopefully after that we can take some time to relax and go foraging and fishing.

Photo of part of a small colony of ramps (also known as wild leeks).
Part of a small colony of ramps/wild leeks (Allium tricoccum).

This past Saturday my wife, son, and I went to a workday with some friends who are doing pretty much what we want to do. We inoculated mushroom logs, toured the land they are farming, and did a little foraging in the woods.

Spring weather arrived so early this year that many plants are appearing about 3 weeks before they did last year. One of these plants is bloodroot, with it’s beautiful flower. We also got to try ramps for the first time.

Yesterday, we went to hang out with some other friends who live across town for super. The weather was warm so we cooked over a fire in their back yard. We had some excellent mountain pies, and also harvested and cooked a bunch of garlic mustard, curly dock, and garlic, with bacon.

What a wonderful time of year.

I will be announcing some more wild food and Permaculture classes and events in the near future, so stay tuned if you live in the area. If not, let me know, and I can try to help find people closer to you.


Bluegill Tempura: a first time fisherman’s delight.

A quick note to my vegan and vegetarian friends: While I am pretty excited about learning to fish, I promise this blog isn’t going to move away from mostly covering plant life, foraging, ecology, gardening, and art. Fishing to me is more about helping to feed my family, while my passion for plants is much more holistic and multifaceted.

That being said, here are some impressions from my first real foray into the world of fishing.

I have been wanting to go fishing for a while now, but the opportunity just never worked out. Last year, after reading Euell Gibbons’ classic Stalking the Wild Asparagus, I decided that I just needed to read as much as possible, get my license, and see what I could figure out.

After my experience pretend fishing with my son the other day, I was pretty sure that I could catch some panfish (not sure about the exact species, from here on I will call them bluegills until I get a firm identification) pretty easily on my homemade fishing pole. My pole is made from Norway maple, about six foot long, with a hollowed out walnut as a float, a bent pin for a hook, and is wood burned with simple designs and a verse from the Bible (as has become customary for me when making my primitivish hand tools).

Well, the easy part turned out not to be as true as I had thought. I started at the far end of the pond so my shadow wouldn’t be in the water. I placed some bread dough on my hook, cast my line, waited a short while, then pulled my rod back firmly at the first tug.

No fish and no bait.

After about twenty repetitions, I took a short break to reevaluate my technique. I decided to forget about my shadow and find a spot where I could get a better view of the fish. I found a spot with a less steep bank and good visibility. Now I could see them steeling my bait, and attempt to figure out why my hook wasn’t working.

I’m not sure how much I really figured out, but after losing my bait about ten more times, I pulled back on my rod right as a small bluegill bit down on the dough ball, and was surprised to to discover him flopping on the bank.

Photo of panfish, probably bluegill.
My first panfish, probably a bluegill.

I caught two more over the next twenty minutes or so, and headed back home to see if it really is possible to learn to fillet bluegills by reading a couple books and watching a bunch of videos on YouTube.

Apparently it is possible, even when the fish are only four or five inches long. I have decided that filleting isn’t an efficient enough use of such small ones, so in the future I will be trying other methods.

Photo of bluegill tempura in my pan.
Bluegill tempura sizzling in my pan.

Once I had all three filleted, I dipped them in tempura batter and fried them up. I used Euell Gibbon’s tempura recipe. Everyone agreed that it was wonderful and a great recipe for stretching tiny fillets. I can’t wait to try it with nearly whole fish stuffed with foraged herbs.

Photo of me cooking bluegill tempura.
Me frying up the bluegill tempura.

So overall I am pretty pleased with how things went. Next time I’m going to try using bread instead of dough balls, and not using the float. I think a squirrel must have stolen the float the other night anyway.

I was expecting to feel more regret and sadness, I am an animal lover who cares for all creatures. It isn’t that I didn’t feel for the fish, but other a little bit for the possible indignity of being caught by a novice, I didn’t feel any real reason why I should feel guilty. I probably caught and killed them more humanely than if I had happened to be an egret or a heron.

Fishing is really different from foraging. I’m not sure I can really put the difference into words yet, but the plant world definitely has more of a hold of me than fishing does at this point.

Thanks again for allowing me to share my adventures.


Spring is Here, and some fishing stories.

Spring is here, it is official. Not so much because the calendar says so, but for me at least, because the world around me says so. Everywhere I walk there are new faces and familiar friends emerging from the cool damp soil. There are daffodils blooming on the way to the library, leaf buds forming on the branches of spice bush, and an old man with a big white beard casting his line into the pond at the park.

The old man told us that he had caught a huge bass, but it had fallen off his hook and flopped back into the water. I was fairly skeptical about the veracity of his story, but much less so five minutes later when we saw (and heard) a real big one jumping and splashing near the opposite bank.

Speaking of fishing, I will share the details of me and my two and a half year old son’s first timid steps toward becoming fishermen. Before that however, are photos of some of the plants that are displaying signs of new life. I will discuss all these plants and their uses in further detail in future posts, but for now I just wanted to show them as they first appear.

Photo of spring beauty plant in the woods.
Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) in the woods (mixed in with various other plants).
Photo of spring beuaty plant in a pot.
A potted spring beauty.
Photo of honewort emerging.
First honewort (Cryptotaenia canadenis) leaf emerging next to last year's stalk.
Photo of new wineberry leaves.
New wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) leaves.
Photo of violet leaves emerging.
Violet (Viola species) leaves emerging.
Photo of my son playing with mullein.
My son playing with mullein (Verbascum thapsus).
Photo of my son holding his fishing rod over the pond.
My son (mr. jeremy fisher?).

So today started out rainy and not nearly as warm as is has been. I figured that my son and I would be stuck inside for most of the day. In the early afternoon, I realized that it had stopped raining, and decided that we needed to head out for a brief walk. I grabbed the fishing rod that I just finished making for him, and put him in his stroller. As we approached the edge of the yard, I told him that he could practice fishing while we walked. He had a different idea however. He said “Go to the park, Go to the park, Go to the park!”. So we walked to the pond at the park and went sort of fishing.

I say sort of because we didn’t actually have a hook on the end of the line, I just tied a little piece of bread to the end. I haven’t gone fishing since I was five years old (and swore that I would never go fishing again, It isn’t a pleasant story), so I might not be the best teacher. I was impressed with how little help he needed, and he got three bluegills to take the bait well enough that I’m sure we would have caught them if there was a hook on the line. We also manged to start a bluegill feeding frenzy, which turned out to be as interesting to him, so we switched over to just feeding the fish.

I’m going to get my license soon (sorry five year old Nate). Hopefully I will be catching some bluegills to put on our plates, but I’m still not sure if I want my son to have a hook on his line yet.

Thanks for reading,