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Foraging Wild Food – Quality food at a low cost

Foraging Wild Food – Quality food at a low cost

Foraging Wild Food

After morning chores are finished and before it gets too hot I’m foraging wild food. I pack a half-bushel basket, a paring knife, cold water to drink, berry boxes and measuring cups with handles, a camera and a pair of tall boots in case I have to cross a small stream to get to the mushrooms. We’re going to pick one of my favorite mushrooms, Chanterelles. If I were to buy them, these mushrooms would cost $26 a pound, more than we can afford to pay considering how many pounds we like to put up for a year. Picking 20 pounds will fill our needs but this year that’s unlikely because it’s too dry. Fortunately, we do find a small patch in my favorite spot. They’re on both sides of the stream, tucked in near hemlock trees. Keep that in mind. If you’re looking for Chanterelles, look near hemlock trees.

I carefully choose two-thirds of the best mushrooms, cutting each stem just above the ground, and leave the rest. By leaving some I know there will be more; maybe not this year if it stays dry but next year.  Nobody else has followed the trail along the stream to this spot. Lobster mushrooms are starting to come up.  They are the dirtiest mushrooms we pick, covered in duff from the forest floor, but washable because of their density. These mushrooms are a great base for cream of mushroom soup.

foraging wild food, chanterelle mushrooms, sautee
Sauteed wild mushrooms with chives and Italian seasoning

Wild Blackberries

I haven’t seen blackberries this abundant in 32 years. I remember it well because it was horribly hot that summer and I was hugely pregnant. We picked five quarts on August 8, the first ripe berries. Next week I’ll be counting gallons, not quarts. I’ll make jam and jelly, wine, tarts and maybe even ice cream.
foraging wild foods, wild blackberriesI’m blessed with an abundance of wild foods and the freedom to pick them. The timber investment companies that own the hundreds of thousands of acres that surround my home don’t care about this food. Raspberries are almost over, blackberries almost in full swing, and I think blueberries are about ready to pick now. I’ll be looking for blueberries next week.

Wild Apples

foraging wild food, wild applesApple trees are either loaded or bare this year. It looked like there would be more than last year’s huge harvest but pollination must have been a little off as a lot of the small apples fell. Picking up dropped apples on country roads is similar to gleaning in agricultural fields.

I will fill freezers and jars by foraging wild food. By the time the ground has frozen we’ll have harvested wild foods throughout the growing season, from fiddleheads and Japanese knotweed gathered in spring, to berries and mushrooms picked into fall. This foraging wild food thing…you should give it a try if you don’t already. What do you forage? And how do you use what you find?

 

What Do Homesteaders Do? Glad you asked.

What Do Homesteaders Do? Glad you asked.

What do homesteaders do?

“What do homesteaders do?” That question was asked of me many times last Friday and Saturday. I can’t speak for all homesteaders but here’s a list of what we do here on our 45 acres as well as on other land and on the water.

Homestead Food Production

We grow most of our own vegetables, about 95%. Corn, beans, peas, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, spinach, turnip, rutabaga, pumpkins, squash, Swiss chard, beets garlic and others. Dill, oregano, lemon balm, chives, basil and sage are my main herbs. I’m working on expanding the perennial herb garden.

In addition to the garden we have an orchard. There are 40+ apple trees that start as seedlings and end in highly productive trees that provide more apples than we can use, and last year more apples than the wildlife could eat before they spoiled. We also have plum, pear and peach trees, strawberry and rhubarb, and hazelnuts in varying stages of production. Chestnut and oak trees are saplings that I hope produce in my lifetime. I’d like to use some of the chestnuts. The oak are for wildlife.

wild apples, homesteadersWe have ducks and chickens year round for eggs, use some of the ducks for meat, and raise chickens yearly and sometimes turkeys and pigs for meat. We buy or barter pork and beef. We avoid factory farmed animals as much as possible but we aren’t purists. There are rare occasions that we eat that meat, and we give Ava her epilepsy medications in that hamburger.

Fishing provides some of our meat as well as a source of fun. We love to fish for bass, salmon, trout, perch and pickerel, though we seldom eat pickerel.

But...what do homesteaders DO? It's a big question. Click To Tweet

We hunt. Hunting is a traditional method of putting food on the table used by homesteaders since the first person discovered meat. Long before man domesticated animals he hunted them. We hunt turkey, partridge, bear, deer and snowshoe hare, and we hope to hunt moose. Moose requires a permit that’s given out in a lottery.

homesteaders, turkey huntingWild Harvest & Forage

Wild harvesting plays a big roll in feeding ourselves. In addition to hunting and fishing we pick raspberries, blackberries, apples, strawberries, mushrooms, fiddleheads and other wild plants. There are wild choke cherry trees galore that I don’t use, and wild elderberry I should use more than I do. I’ll be writing about this in more detail as we go through 2016.

Food Preservation

The work continues after the garden is grown, birds raised, fish caught and animals hunted. It all has to be “put up.” I make bacon and sausage, and all of the meat is frozen. All of the vegetables are frozen, canned, dehydrated or stored in the cold cellar. Pickles, jams and jellies line the cupboard shelves. These are things I’ll write about in more detail over time.

Firewood

We heat with wood. We do have a small propane furnace for backup in case we’re gone longer than the fire lasts. The winter of 2014/15 was brutal. More than 200″ of snow fell and the temps dipped and stayed below 0° for long stretches. We used six cords of wood and sometimes ran the furnace to warm up the basement. The duct work loses a lot of heat to the cold basement, a problem if we depended on it to heat the house but useful when we have to keep the space above freezing. The old part of the foundation is a stone wall cellar with a dirt floor, hard to keep warm. During the mild winter of 2016 we used four cords of firewood. The furnace hasn’t been turned on in well over a year.

firewood, homesteaders

Livestock

Other than poultry and dogs we don’t have anything with feet and faces. We’ve had horses, pigs, cattle (meat and milk), goats and rabbits. It was what I’d been told “real” homesteaders do so we did. A woman who worked at the feed store said “you’ll get over it.” She was right. I love OPA – other people’s animals. As long as we can buy and barter for meat locally we’ll stick to chickens, ducks and turkeys.

Paying the Bills

“But how do you live? You know. How do you pay the bills and buy stuff?” Steve’s career pays our bills. We aren’t “poor homesteaders,” something someone asked me about. We aren’t off grid. I stay home to take care of the majority of our food rather than going to work to earn the money to pay someone to provide (grocery stores) it for us. Being an introvert, I’m not cut out for working with the public or being around people all the time. I’m good for temporary stints like writing retreats.

Any questions? I’m happy to answer!