It sure is beginning to feel like autumn and my homesteader brain (which I sometimes think is the amygdala-basic survival brain) kicks into squirrel mode. Gather and store, gather and store, is my mantra. Last month I was flat out doing the preservation-shuffle, which is a much “tamer” version of the squirrel, putting up things I’ve grown and nurtured all summer. The squirrel is the scavenger; why work all summer when you can just gather and glean.
This year for the first time we have enough of our own delicious apples and pears but in years past scavenging was the way to go. We would visit “old tree friends” in abandoned fields and pastures. A knock on the door usually elicits the reply, “sure take what you want but those old trees haven’t been sprayed in 20 years.” YES! my type exactly. They may not be pretty but they are great in cider and sauce. Keep your eyes open for bounty going unused. In fact it’s best to watch for those potential opportunities throughout the year so you can know where to go harvest when the time is right. Remember to gather for any of your animals too. Our chickens love apples, pears and other fruit.
We stock up on cranberries from local wild bogs; don’t ask me to reveal my hidden spots. A beautiful tradition: schlepping through knee-deep water to get into the bog. Then sinking ten inches or more into sphagnum moss and mud with each step while picking the delicious berries (It’s incredible how much better they taste than the sprayed grocery store version). The swamp maples and other bog bushes are brilliantly hued and it makes me glad to be alive. My brother now comes to visit from Louisiana so he can enjoy this adventure too.
Another “free” food out there are the wild mushrooms. I’m not a mushroom fan, I only like the Sulfur Shelf, but there are many other safe ones to gather; but do get a good identification book as we can’t afford to loose any NOFA members.
The wild grapes can be located by following your nose. They smell so enticing and will lead you right to their hiding place, but you’ll have to beat the foxes and other wild animals to their bounty.
If you want to gather more tamed fruits and veggies, contact your local organic/sustainable grower and see if they allow gleaning. In the past we’ve gathered potatoes, winter squash, tomatoes and other “imperfect” non-salable items.
So, yes, life is busy but being my own boss allows me to take an afternoon to pick cranberries (gather my vitamin c) and still make it a holiday. Or like today to take a walk through the beauty and enjoy the falling leaves before the coming rain. Nourishing my spirit. To be sure, I was also on the lookout for mushrooms or nuts. Work combined with play, play with work!
Don’t forget in all of this squirreling to give thanks. We don’t wait for Thanksgiving but give thanks by making a special meal for the first harvest or gather of any fruit or veggie: like the first green beans or corn or strawberry, or wild cranberries. Think of all the extra holidays you can create and enjoy with your family and friends!