Berry Season Has Arrived! Finally!

Yes, finally!  We now have Oregon grape gracing our wild salads and it has been SO missed!  This week, we began bringing home chokecherry, a month later than it’s supposed to show up.  In fact, many trees still haven’t ripened yet.  We have two strains of chokecherry in the valley, picked one strain for the first time this week and it makes a very dark-coloured juice after boiling.  At first, I thought I’d boiled it way too long, but all that did was concentrate the flavour.  The second batch from that picking got boiled last night for the proper 5 minutes, and it was still that colour.

Black ChokecherryI like to use chokecherry in making vinegar for salads, pancake syrop, and using the leaves, dried crushed berries, and bark in teas and hot cocoa.  Chokecherry really adds to the richness of cocoa!  We don’t drink coffee, but when my daughter added some of the concentrate to a friend’s cup of coffee, supposedly it tasted really good.

While I was boiling the chokecherry last night, I paid a trip to the baking soda box as well, saving myself roughly $10 off grocery store pricing for toothpaste and facial scrub.  I also made another batch of anti-bacterial hand soap.  I have a jar of herbal infused vinegar in a corner of the counter for my next batch of vinegar hair rinse.  That will save another $3 roughly.  So all totaled, I’ve saved an estimated $15-$17 because of last night’s efforts.

We have half a turkey roaster filled with dried purslane to pound up, as well as more dried nettle to crush as well.  My daughter brought in more Mountain Sage to dry and we finally crushed our first round of dried narrow plantain leaf this week.  Broadleaf plantain is growing well finally!  Looking forward to gathering their seeds later this fall.  Gathering salsify roots to do more test boils.  See how the stringiness changes as the plants die.  Got three more on a hike a few days ago.  So foraging is slowly picking up steam.  Not a good year so far, but we’ll see what we can lay aside for the winter this year.  If the roots soften up decently, we’ll have a root veggie this winter, and if the false Solomon’s Seal berries thaw out nicely, we’ll have wild peas for dinners as well.  I need to test that theory now that we have a decent handful in the freezer.

Serving up a Buffet of Savings Today

From food to clothes to summer electrolyte boosting, today’s blog post is a little bit of everything.

First up, foraging this summer continues to show just how badly the wet and windy Okanagan spring affected local flora and fauna.  Our favourite chokecherry trees are slim pickings this year in the usual haunts.  We’ll have to go up further into the local woods to get even close to what we harvested last year, and we’d vowed to get more than that this year. . . not sure if that’s doable now.  Our usual plantain harvest is slow to get going as well, although we finally got some decent narrow plantain leaves for drying in our medicinal cabinet.  Oregon grape is growing well however, and I gathered some more Salsify roots from dead plants to boil up and see how their taste and texture changed from when they were alive.  False Solomon’s Seal berries taste just like raw snap peas!!!  Who knew?!  So we’re gathering those and freezing them for a winter vegetable this year.  I should take a picture of those at some point. . . forgot to do that before they went into the freezer.

Salads this year are largely legume oriented with a healthy helping of thistle/dandelion/chicory leaves and false solomon’s seal.  We’re adding broadleaf plantain whenever we can.

On the money-saving front, my daughter has discovered an infusion of plants and berries that not only act as an electrolyte, but also a brain and stamina booster as well.  She’s nicknamed it her “Stamina Potion” and anyone she’s given a taste to loves it.  Some even say she should sell it.  She usually buys Powerade or Gaterade or similar products to get her through the summer at her job, but not this year.  She’s probably already saved herself at least $10 by making this infusion instead.

Also on the money-saving front, I’ve been given over 24 pieces of high-end clothing, sized Small or Extra Small that I need to sell to help pay a few bills that piled up this Spring.  If you are interested in any of these, drop me a line to author@fa-ct.com.  Send payment via e-transfer to songdove@fa-ct.com along with a note containing which item you are buying, the password to accept the transfer and the address to mail it to.  All pricing is half off the original in keeping with my goals here on this blog, and some pieces are priced less than that.  Brand names are given where possible so you can look them up to verify price ranges of new clothing.  If you are like me, you’ll see those new prices and gag.  If you regularly buy high-end clothing, the sticker-shock won’t be so bad.

Now I know some people will read my blog and be more interested in how they can maintain a personal or household budget more than the foraging, so let me share a way to potentially save money on food and clothing items from a new site I’ve joined recently.  The site is called “Tripleclicks”, and they feature sellers based in countries all over the world selling their local wares to the international community.  Some are selling used goods while clearing out their closets.  Others are selling hand-crafted goods you won’t find anywhere else, while still others are selling commercial goods from their own businesses.  Check out these links to discover what might fit into your budget a bit better.

Becoming a shopping member earns you member reward points that make things even cheaper as you can apply those points to the cost of the purchase instead.  You’ll earn T-Credits as well, which can be used to enter auctions for items, further reducing the final cost of what you wish to buy.  Put the two together and there might be occasions when all you paid was shipping, assuming it wasn’t an item where free-shipping was also being offered.  So yeah, give these links a look-see and check it out for yourself.

Grocery Shopping:  https://www.tripleclicks.com/collection?id=51746

Clothing (what appealed to me, there are tons more): https://www.tripleclicks.com/collection?id=51398

Yard and Gardening: https://www.tripleclicks.com/collection?id=51399

Computer-related: https://www.tripleclicks.com/collection?id=51397

Foraging and Friends: The Wild Adventure Continues. . .

Lovage leaves drying on the deckForaging in my part of the world has received quite the setback thanks to a very wet spring. The plantain plants are only now in enough abundance to start harvesting. Wild strawberries are several weeks behind as well. Domestically, we were blessed with a huge amount of Lovage, a cousin to the celery only stronger in flavour. I managed to dry and crush most of the leaves to make a very nice celery spice! After being given some salt, I intend to take some of it and turn it into Lovage celery salt.

RhubarbWe were also given some very nice Rhubarb that has already made one beautiful batch of pancake syrup and seen entrance into batches of scones and pancakes themselves. I plan to make several more batches of the syrup as that will save money having to buy it at the store. Not only will it save money at the store, it will cut down on the chemicals and preservatives being ingested as well.

Sometimes doing things yourself is not always a money-saver, healthier perhaps, but sometimes more expensive. Around this house, we are about both saving money AND eating healthier! So being able to make celery salt without the additives and make syrop without the extra ingredients as well, hits the best of both worlds.  Some of my readers might laugh, but I’ve decided to ensure I have enough sugar for baking, cereals, pancake syrop and a pine needle syrop intended for lung ailments.  I therefore divided up my current sugar stores into several containers!

Wild ParsleyWe have wild parsley growing up in the hills and have made two harvests so far. One has been nicely crushed into just under half a usual spice bottle. The other harvest still needs to be washed, dried, and crushed. It is currently in the back of the fridge freezing. Gotta love it when fridges do that, not merely their freezer boxes.

Wild Parley, Prairie Sage, Crushed Juniper BerriesWe also found Prairie Sage growing on the property where we live. It is a milder smelling sage than what is bought at the store, but still a pleasant smell. It’s first use has been in a bottle of home-made fly spray for the two horses.

That third bottle there on the counter is crushed juniper berries! When crushed and stored like that, it emits a very strong scent when the container is opened. I’ve already learned the hard way that when seasoning meat with it, a little goes a VERY long way! I look forward to experimenting a little bit this coming Canada Day as we cook up some lamb ribs we were given, and creating a stew-like sauce to go with them featuring elements such as diced lovage, wild parsley, crushed juniper among the usual onions and garlic. Yes, the foraging lifestyle has its own unique flavours.

Purslane HarvestOur dinner salads have finally come back full swing. Plantain, dandelion, false solomon’s seal, purslane, and finally chickweed and a ground vine for good measure. I need to make more chokecherry vinaigrette, but that won’t happen till we are harvesting those berries this summer. One major thing we learned over the winter months was that we hadn’t harvested nearly enough chokecherry to get us through till the next harvest season! We hope to change that sad state of affairs this summer!  Nor had we harvested enough purslane!  Needless to say when my daughter was asked to weed a garden at her place of work, she came home with a huge haul of both purslane AND chickweed!  Both have been divided in half for either immediate consumption or drying and crushing for use in teas, baking and medicine.

Chickweed in the Salad SpinnerNear our home and up a logging road, there are many chokecherry stands, so we hope to overrun the house with them until they are either boiled, frozen, or dried. Those same harvesting areas are also crawling in oregon grape, kinnickinnick, and surprisingly the wild strawberry as well. Our home could be very interesting as we end up with stuff drying all over the place at various times in the season.

Drying Nettle leavesAlready, we’ve harvested, dried, and begun putting to use the nettle in our area. Nettle gets used in baking, tea, shampoo, conditioner, and its seeds are also a wild seasoning. Again, we almost didn’t have enough once I began using it in crackers and more teas, so we need to get far more this year to last through until next Spring.

Yes, there were some lessons learned over the winter regarding how much we did or did not store up for ourselves! Hopefully this year we display learned behaviour on that front. It isn’t enough to pick only for one week. We are now picking such that we split each week’s harvest in half thanks to our salad fixings also being used for teas, medicines, baking, and hygiene products. So we take each salad harvest and dry half of it for current and future use.

By now, the rough estimate in savings is somewhere around $500 since last August. We have only bought dried cranberries and apple sauce this spring because our windfall apple harvest ran out in April and our berry vinaigrette ran out around March. If we do things correctly this year, we’ll reduce those store purchases even more next year.

Wild Adventures Part 8: A new foraging season has begun!

Spring has finally sprung in the Okanagan after a long cold winter that lasted through to the end of March.  It took awhile for the plants to get going as a result, but once they did, this household made a major surprise discovery!

Crown Land - creekLast November, we had to move yet again, for the second time in two years.  When we were house-hunting,  we reached a stage where it became humanly impossible to find a place to live.  We made up an impossible list of needs and preferences, then laid that before God.  Included in that prayer was the request to be near foraging grounds so we could continue our wild adventures.  FrontcounterBC had shown us that our new location was near crown land and when the snows began to recede, we began exploring.  That crown land is going to be a treasure trove of berries by the time June rolls around!  Its crawling with Oregon Grape, Kinnickinnick and Chokecherry!  We took a couple treks out to our old stomping grounds near the regional park and came home with one evening’s salad roughly.  But those weren’t the biggest surprise.

Salad greensThe grasses and hillside around our rental property began to grow and lo and behold. . . we are LIVING in the middle of a foraging ground!  Yarrow is growing in droves up on the hillside above us, along with barley (read quack) grasses and Arrowleaf Balsam Root.  However, down around our portion of the yard we didn’t give the horses, we have dandelion, chicory, alfalfa, and another salad leaf I am still trying to identify, growing in such abundance that we can have several days’ worth of mixed green salads in maybe 10 minutes of picking!  The alfalfa is blow-overs from the hay field below us.  As we are up on a hillside now, the dandelions are slower in getting their flowering heads up, but I saw one today.

If we want plantain, purslane, Solomon’s Seal and chickweed in our salads, we’ll still have to go elsewhere, but it was such a surprise to find so many salad greens growing right where we live!  We’ve already discovered that Yarrow leaves add to the flavour of salsa, prompting my daughter to think about making our own salsa in the future with Yarrow leaves added to it.  When you look up DIY and natural personal hygiene products, Yarrow comes up as often as chamomile, so I look forward to seeing what I can do with all those plants above our property!

Mixed wild salad greensIt’s nice to have the salads again as we discovered that winter salad teas, while they may have a similar nutrition count, are not as filling and were missing the phytochemicals that we need.

We estimate now, that between what I’ve spent preparing to make this lifestyle change, and what my daughter has spent preparing her horse for foraging, we have still saved ourselves over $300 since last August!  Thanks to the Okanagan being commercial orchard country, shopping in the woods may get us away from many of the chemicals found on foods in the grocery store, but not 100%.  It feels good to have better health without having to buy pills to get it, however.

Our wild adventures have resumed!

Wild Adventures Part 7: Drinkable Salads

They come in all shapes and sizes.  Some come with attitude, some come placidly.  But ALL are at the mercy of critters, birds, and now US!  Yes, the wild adventures continue as we realize summer is turning to fall in our neck of the woods, and we have to consider how we’ll continue trying to save money as plants wind down for the year.

The idea of drinking our salads came up in conversation and research turned to things that grow nearby that can be turned into tea with a bit of honey.  So far, we have three tea blends.  According to a book on edible plants of Canada, evergreen needles can be used in teas, just not every single day, particularly for one species of Pine.  It was interesting to see how this book spoke positively about Ponderosa Pine, while everyone else spoke negatively.  The only negative is that if you want to have kids, don’t ingest Ponderosa pine while pregnant, it contains an element that will abort the child.  Otherwise, all warnings seemed to pertain to various tanins.  Tea in general has tanins as well, with green tea having more tanin in it than black tea believe it or not, and the reason most teas are black is precisely because of the tanins in the water.  However you don’t see tanin warnings on boxes or bags of store-bought tea.

Thanks to schedules being what they’ve been lately, we haven’t had time to forage for our usual salad fixings, but one outing did give us a fair bit of tea fixings.  So we’ve been drinking our salads for the past week.

Two teas that have gone over well so far have the following ingredients:

You will need:

To serve in mugs for four or more people
Use two quart jars or of similar size

Tea #1

Add:
two or three juniper berries per jar
handful of fresh chopped apple per jar (half that for dried)
a couple pinches of mint per jar
three large pinches of crushed nettle
three or four large pinches of crushed chokecherry leaves
handful of fresh halved rosehips split between two jars (half that for dried)

Tea #2
two pinches of fir per jar
one clump of dried apple per jar
two small pinches of nettle per jar
one clump of dried kinnikinnick per jar
a few rose hips per jar
two or three pinches of chokecherry leaves per jar
a teaspoon or less of crushed dried chokecherries

Add the above ingredients to each jar.  Heat up your kettle.  Pour into jars and let steep while you start dinner, or pour into jars and let steep all night ahead of tomorrow’s dinner.

Simply add honey to taste.

Even a third tea recipe, and the first one we tried being a carbon copy of tea #1 above but with pine instead of mint, tasted not too bad.  All three of these combinations tasted better when the emptied jar’s tea components were dumped into the second partially-emptied jar’s water and allowed to steep in the fridge over night.  Dividing up the difference and adding hot water to melt the honey, gave the tea a mellower texture and allowed the flavours to infuse better.

We still plan on having our wild salads if we can get a few more foraging days in for green leafy additions.  But we’ve just entered the season for Juniper berries here, and will be foraging for more of those soon!

In other non-shopping news, the boxes of windfall apples we gathered awhile back are slowly getting processed.  We have four pie packets and three cobbler packets in the freezer.  We have several month’s worth of apple sauce in the freezer as well, and have begun drying chopped apple for use in tea, gerbil food, and my daughter’s pemmican experiments.

Yes, my daughter is making pemmican and made her third batch this week.  Apparently this third batch was the best so far.  She used a flour mix of coconut, acorn, chokecherry, and ground dried apple to toss with the ground up stew beef she cooked.  She threw in ground up dried purslane as well.  I think personally, that this will be the recipe she goes for in the future.

Preparing the Kinnikinnick for drying was an exercise in amusement!  I couldn’t help taking pictures and posting the following homemade meme to Facebook!

What looks, cores, bruises, and tastes like an apple but is NOT an apple?!After posting that meme, I turned on the oven the next day to actually dry them, then went to get my daughter from work.  Upon entering the house, she promptly declared the place smelled like apple pie!  I had neither seasoned, nor made apple pie, only dried the bearberries in the oven!  So not only do these little things look, taste, bruise, and core like miniature apples, they also smell like them!

We also managed to find more Oregon grape that hasn’t shriveled up yet.  Hopefully we’ll be able to harvest way more next year, but we didn’t know these were edible till late in the season.  We have a decent amount to keep us from buying dried cranberries for a little while, but not for the entire winter season sadly.

Another plant we need to keep bringing more home of before they die off for the year, is nettle!  That stuff, while a pain to harvest if you’re not careful, has so many uses in our hygiene and dietary requirements!  Both it and dandelion!  I haven’t mastered how to cook burdock leaves and flowers yet to add those to our salads or sauces, but apparently after cooking they taste like artichoke.   We’ll have to experiment more with that next spring.

Our own garden is slowly releasing stuff for us.  We are regularly harvesting basil and mint and those plants are making their way indoors.  Our purslane dirt bag has largely taken, though a few in the middle appear to have died.  The potatoe plants look almost ready for harvesting as well.  Attempts to grow comfrey plants from seed took half the year, but we now have tiny seedlings.  Comfrey will be used for medical purposes once it grows big enough.  We may also try growing our own kinnikinnick over the winter and see how that experiment turns out.

Shopping in the woods has led to the discovery that not everything about a given plant is known by everyone, and we are having to piece information together.  Eventually I need to start recording what I know of each plant and making posts about those, then updating them as I learn new things.  Needless to say, these wild adventures aren’t ending anytime soon.

Wild Adventures Part 6: Processing Continued. . .

Home tea blendI sit here tonight drinking a test cup of nettle, dandelion, chokecherry leaves, semi-crushed dried berries and stems, and homegrown mint leaves and stems.  I mixed one part dandelion to two parts of everything else more or less, and one part mint roughly.  The resulting tea had a very grassy taste with a decidedly nettle scent, but with a bit of honey, tastes very mellow.  Not bad as it grows on you.  That mix of tea is now in a little labelled container up in the tea cupboard.  There’s enough chokecherry crushed to make tea for a long time this winter!  Nettle has a decent amount in the cupboard too, but I only had enough dandelion root for the blend I put together this evening.

infused shampooThe first bottle of infused shampoo is in the shower now as well, along with infused facial scrub and leave-in conditioner.  We also made more of the chokecherry vinegar as well, meaning I need to pay back the VISA for yet more buckets of salad mix and salad dressing.  I also need to pay back the VISA for a second bottle of shampoo as shortly, all of us will be using the same shampoo instead of different bottles.  I’m looking forward to updating that spreadsheet needless to say!

The flour attempt with dried rice pulp resulted in very fine almost salt-like granules coming out of the grain mill.  Trying to crack dried chokecherries with the hand grain mill threatened to tear up the countertop, so we resorted to pounding in the mortar instead.  Eventually I was able to use the mill to break the berries down further, but only got them so far.  Using a metal strainer, we managed to get maybe half a cup or more of chokecherry flour to date.

The first batch along with the rice made about one cup that I threw into the breadmaker using the basic white loaf recipe.  The resulting loaf proved dense, meaning I probably should have chosen the whole wheat bread recipe instead, but otherwise, the loaf did not taste much different than normal.  I’ll be testing again soon.  The second reason for denseness may be due to the fact the chokecherry flour has no gluten in it.  We’ll see how the next loaf goes.  We have lots of dried berries to crack and grind now!  We’ll have to see how much flour we actually get out of it.  Rumour has it this flour can be used in place of corn starch for thickening soups and sauces.  I’ll have to try that out soon too.

infused facial cleanser and conditionerFacial cleanser, shampoo, conditioner, tooth paste, window cleaner, bathroom cleaner, tea, salad dressing, salad greens. . . all a mix of foraging, vinegar, baking soda, and more liquid glycerin soap than I thought I’d end up making. . . eucalyptus oil thrown in here and there for good measure. . . eventually I’ll be able to clean both the house and myself using far fewer chemicals!  The wild salads have more nutrition in them than what we were doing before as well.  Add to that saving money on those aspects of grocery shopping, and it’s a win, win, win situation.

Wild Adventures Part 5: Chokecherry Escapades!

The wild adventures continue!  This past week, my daughter and I brought home quite a bit more chokecherry than we’d originally planned!  The original plan was to get nettle, and it took several days even before THAT came home.  But the day we intended to get nettle, we realized a huge stand of chokecherries in the same spot, were literally loaded with ripe, dark purple berries!  We still had to finish picking the berries off the leaves and twigs in the bag from the past weekend, so we sat down to see exactly how much had come home!

The previous weekend’s haul was laid out on trays to dry.  The second haul filled two medium mixing bowls, or one ice cream pail!  The picture above shows a larger bowl on the left, which was laid out to dry on cookie sheets, and the two medium bowls that filled the ice cream pail later that night.  Those bowls of leaves and twigs are being pounded down for use in loose-leaf tea.  Not all the twigs can be used, but smaller ones are kept in the mix.  Those bowls are still drying as we speak.  I crushed some into the storage bag already, but most of it is still drying out.

I decided to try my hand at making grape-chokecherry jelly, following instructions for chokecherry jelly.  I almost made candy instead!  I have a jar of very solid jelly that nearly broke a butter knife when I tried to get some out of the jar after it cooled!  I’m now thinking of warming it up to hopefully either “water it down” or add eucalyptus powder to it and drop it onto plastic wrap to make my own “soft” lozenges.

Nettle leavesWe did eventually get the nettle, bringing home a full grocery bag’s worth of leaves and stalks.  Taking care to pick them clean of the stalks resulted in filling a salad spinner!  The wet leaves didn’t take up much room, but as the leaves were spun dry, they fluffed out to fill the entire thing!  I’m looking forward to making some infusions with the nettle, one of which I will try drinking as a way of assisting my adrenal health, hair, etc.  We’ll see how it goes.  I don’t know if we picked enough for the full experiment, or if it will be “as supplies allow”, but we’ll see.

This picture was after one of my cookie trays came available and I took some of the leaves to spread out to dry.  I’ll spread out more as more of my sheets come available.  I was reminded of a few trays I forgot I’d hidden in the laundry room, so need to pull those out and press them into action.

My attempt to soak a burdock tuber did NOT soften the bark.  I had let it soak for at least two maybe three weeks, but all I succeeded in doing was drawing out the oils in the root, and infusing the water.  So I threw out the root and poured the water into a jug for use in some of the other products we plan to make around the house.  The other two roots as a result may end up going the same way.

We’re doing a lot of “play it by ear” right now.  It seems as I’ve read various blogs on foraging and processing, that every single blogger out there has gone down the same path in some fashion.  Figure out what you want, find what you need to make what you want, locate recipes or create your own, find out what works and what doesn’t, stick with what works and move on.

We are still quite near the beginning of this path.  Some stuff has worked out already, some stuff still has to be created and tested.  Some stuff has been tried and worked while others have failed.  The jelly idea being one of the failures.

We will be entering fall soon.  I’m not sure how much money will be saved over the winter months this year, but as the saying goes, the adventure continues. . .

Wild Adventures Part 4: Ingredients and Preparation!

Going wild takes preparation.  Ingredients necessary to make various things you’d normally buy at the store must first be prepared before the item can be created.  In the last post, I shared a picture of drying greens, another of an oil infusion simmering away on the stove, etc.  Yesterday, those steps continued.

liquid glycerin hand soapBacking up to the previous night, I took a jar of old glycerin soaps my kids had made at camp as kids, chopped them up, and made liquid hand soap out of them.  The recipe called for 6 cups of water to every half cup of chopped soap.  I ended up with a full cup, resulting in 12 cups of water in a soup pot.  The soaps had been coloured various shades of blue, green, yellow, clear, red, etc, so as they melted, the water began to take on an aqua-marine colour.  Once everything had melted and the pot had come to a simmering boil, I was to remove the pot from the heat and allow it to sit for up to twelve hours, 24 if necessary, or longer if the soap needed more time to set.

Hardly four hours later, the hand soap had thickened up considerably, gone from translucent to opaque, and taken on a very light aqua-marine colouring.  Yesterday morning I decided to pour it into a container as it was doing just fine.  This step was necessary for various skincare recipes calling for a liquid glycerin or castille soap.  Many such recipes call for the Castile, then also call for the glycerin, so I figure, just replace the castille with the liquid glycerin soap and be done with it.  Whenever this almost 3 litres of liquid soap finally runs out, we’ll have to find more, but for now, this works great!

The shampoo and conditioner recipes call for water.  One of them instructs you to add herbs to boiling water and let steep for over 4 hours.  When I saw that the second recipe didn’t call for this step but still called for water, I went to a list of herbs that help hair in either shampoo or conditioner or both, and decided to make a water infusion for it as well.  I now have two containers sitting on the counter, labelled for which recipe they’ll be going in once the first family member runs out of that item in the shower.  I also have a vinegar infusion prepared that will take up to 6 weeks before it can be used in the shower as a hair rinse.

These infusions required dried, crushed herbs.  The day’s temperatures here in the Okanagan were up in the high 20’s.  Two dandelion plants that we dug up in the morning were thankfully fully dried by late afternoon, allowing me to crush what was needed for the above recipes.

Saddle-bags fitted to BellaThe saddlebags my daughter was working on were fitted to her horse yesterday as well, and they do indeed fit.  The mare also didn’t seem phased whenever Ashley demonstrated going into the bags to fetch or return full water bottles.  This means that the two can now go trail riding and bring home food when they’re done.

The one product I did get made yesterday used some of the oil infusion from the night before to make a facial cleanser/scrub.  It’s been put into a squeeze bottle, but it separates, so it will either need stirring with a tool to reach to the bottom, or flipping on it’s head every now and then to keep the oil filtering through the baking soda.  We’ll see how it goes.  But it was the first complete product to make using one of the prepared ingredients.

EDIT:  The above had to receive minor editing because it is being posted a day AFTER it was written!  As well, more math has been done, and a sheet in my wild greens comparison spreadsheet is now created to track expenses and recouped costs.  So far, expenses involved in this little endeavor have totaled almost $94.  The facial cleanser, wild salad greens, chokecherry salad dressing, and shortly the shampoo and conditioner will have totaled almost $26 in recouped costs so far.  All expenses and recouped costs so far have been for the month of August.  This means I should be paying my VISA that $26 as soon as I am able.  Good to see these numbers so soon!

Wild Adventures Part 3 – Getting Real, Seeing $avings!

The transition has begun!  We are eating wild salad greens at dinner each day. We’re seeing roughly $4.69 in savings two or three times a month buying spinach.  This is somewhat offset by the gas being spent to make three foraging runs so far.  However, the gas being spent has already been paid for several times over.  We are using chokecherry vinegar salad dressing instead of the applesauce, offering reasonable savings off the cost of toppings offering both Vitamin C and Iron.  Vinegar still costs money, but nowhere near the cost of even no-name applesauce.

In addition, we have leaves and berries drying and a grain mill similar to the one pictured here, on order.  Being newbies to all of this, we thought we found several antique grain mills at a local thrift store.  Turns out they were antique meat grinders instead.  All is not lost however on that discovery, because there are times when a tray of chuck or utility steak is cheaper than hamburger.  In the past, I’d merely spend a fair bit of time chopping that steak into tiny cubes.  The next time such a sale is on, I’ll try out one of these meat grinders.

Antique meat grinders I don’t need all three however, so if you want one, send me $30 via paypal and I’ll ship it off to you.  Only two of you can take advantage of this deal.  Most of that $30 will go into Canadian shipping costs, as these are heavy little units!  If shipping ended up being more than $25, I’ll ask you to cover the rest via paypal again ASAP.  $5 each is what I paid for them at the thrift store, although they look like they could sit in a museum case somewhere!  The middle grinder is not for sale!  That one is mine!

When our grain mill arrives, we’ll be grinding up a batch of rice flour I attempted to make and see how that turns out.  We’ll be grinding up dried chokeberry into flour as well, and when a couple sprigs of plantain seeds dry, we’ll try grinding those into flour too.  Grinding dandelion root turns it into a powder suitable for coffee substitutes or for use in baking and skincare or haircare products.

Nettle leaves dryingSpeaking of which, we have leaves drying for use in a shampoo and for use in a water infusion that I’ll use when making the leave-in conditioner as well.  Dried herbs are also useful in making an infused vinegar hair rinse.

Oil InfusionI have an oil infusion gently boiling on the stove.  The result will go into a facial cleanser/scrub. A pot of liquid glycerin soap is cooling on a back burner on the stove as well.  It will be used in little amounts for shampoos, anti-bacterial hand soaps, and similar products.

Grinding the herbs required buying a mortar and pestal.  We picked up one at Home Sense a bit larger and less flashy than the one pictured here.  It wasn’t cheap, but hopefully the uses we’ve bought it for will have it paying for itself over time.

We didn’t have to buy the glycerin soaps, as those had been kicking around in the bathroom cupboard for years!  Whenever we finally run out of the 2+liters of liquid soap I’ve just made, we’ll have to get more glycerin soap then.  But for now, that step hasn’t cost us anything.

Once the necessary herbs for the water infusion are dried and crushed, I’ll be able to make the shampoo and vinegar rinse and leave-in conditioner.  We are including Nettle in these infusions because of nettle’s reported hair strengthening, dandruff treating, and scalp healing properties, among others people have listed around the DIY hair care community.

Not buying shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser/scrub and hand soap for awhile will see savings of at least $60 – $100 over the next year just on personal hygiene!  That will definitely pay for the mortar and pestal and grain mill, just in our first year of making the switch to wild produce!

We brought home more burdock root, so we have enough now to soften and remove the bark, then cook to see what everyone thinks of them.  The effort needed to dig up a root is worse than trying to dig up potatoes, I have to say.  We bought a $20 folding shovel from Canadian Tire almost exactly like this one pictured here, to help with the task of getting roots, and was I ever glad we did!  This shovel stores nicely in a backpack and it’s carrying case has a belt loop to attach it to camping gear or a utility belt.

If everyone likes burdock root as a vegetable (and there are well over 200 ways of cooking it apparently!), then hopefully the number of roots we find to dig up will pay for the shovel as well.

Nettle rashLifestyle changes are rarely free of charge.  We had to buy garden gloves, because to this point we had never owned any other than those my daughter took to work all the time.  The garden gloves are to allow us to pick stinging nettle for use in our hygiene products.  Apparently you can eat nettle, but when I was out with my daughter gathering the other night, this is how I came home!

The lesson??? Don’t go foraging for nettle unless your legs and arms are protected!  My hands were fine, my arms were fine thanks to how I was reaching around plants, but my legs were rubbing on smaller ones near my feet!

So we’ve had to buy a grain mill, a folding shovel, a mortar and pestal, and garden gloves so far.  Somehow between the two foraging runs this past week, I’ve lost my rose cutting sheers.  I hope I find them before eventually having to buy those again.  They’re handy for snipping stems and thick leaves off plants rather than try to snap or tear them off.

So salads, root vegetables, shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, facial cleanser, even recipes for skin toner and toothpaste (been making the toothpaste for awhile now already) will not only produce savings on our grocery bill, but through the removing of more chemicals and the adding of unprocessed nutrition, make us all healthier as well.  We’re looking forward to seeing how this all turns out.

Speed Foraging! Video-game Style!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go out onto Crown Land and gather as much salad material as you can before the clock runs out!  Should you be late, your vehicle will be impounded for 9 hours.  Your only tool is a small shovel.  You are given five bags, one each for plantain, dandelion, burdock, chickweed, and purslane.  Foraging for any other items does not count toward completion of this mission.

Welcome to:  SPEED FORAGING!

You won’t be on horseback for this particular quest so send Bella back to the stable.  Your assistant will hold your bags and tools but will not slow down.  You must gather what you can ahead of them and only place in the bags what you were able to acquire before they reach your stopping point.  Remember to get back to your launch point before one hour is up!

Click the title of this mission to begin!  May your trails be blessed, and avoid the mosquitoes!

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Parts of a local walking trail following a large, popular creek in town, are classified as Crown Lands according to FrontCounterBC’s Crown Land Discovery Tool.  When overlaid on Google Earth, this tool shows various land uses and land interests.  This means that occasionally, lands designated as Crown Land overlap other uses or interests such as school district properties, regional parks, Aboriginal regions, etc.  So it was with pleasant surprise that we discovered this one portion of this local trail is both not on Aboriginal land, nor overlapping other key uses or interests.  We set out to explore and hopefully bring home salad fixings, late Wednesday this week.

We had to walk out past a certain km marker before entering the portion of the trail on Crown Land.  This walk took roughly half an hour with a few side trails being explored along the way.  As we reached the designated marker, the mosquitoes came out in full force!  I’d sprayed myself down with OFF, including my clothing, but my daughter hadn’t, relying on her job as a stable hand to confuse the little flying annoyances.  The designated marker had an info booth with a map on it, so we marked out where we’d be going next.  Part of the trail was marked off as closed due to the potential for falling rock and other hazards, so we dutifully took the higher trail, straining knees on multiple stairs in the process.  This portion of the trail could certainly give another popular park across the lake a run for it’s money!  That one has stairs too, but I’m not sure it has as many. . .

Burdock tuber, leaves and topsAt the top, we found scrub everywhere and very little of the items we’d come to find.  Eventually, we spotted a small burdock specimen and decided to pull out our plastic gardening spade to see if we could get at the root.  When documentation you read says it looks carrot-like, they aren’t kidding!  When they say the root could go down 2 to 3 feet, they aren’t kidding!  What many sources fail to say however, is that the first almost foot’s worth is quite fat!  My daughter dug down just below this tuber then used our tiny rose sheers to snip her way through the inch-thick root (the part the Japanese harvest to sell and cook) to remove the tuber.  This took a bit of time when we realized we should head back before they close the parking lot gate where we left the van.

Dandelion greensWe got back down to our marker when Ashley discovered a whole stand of chokecherry!  She began picking a number of sprigs as quickly as she could.  As we speed-walked back to the van, I told her that anything she spotted ahead that she could grab before I got there, would go in the bag.  So off she went!  You might wonder why this article was started as if beginning a quest in a video game.  Ashley kept remarking as we speedwalked back to the van, that she felt as if she was doing in real life what her characters did in her MMO’s (short for MMPORG or Massive Multiplayer Role Playing Game).  Dandelion rootsApparently in her games, characters can be given quests where they need to gather materials before they can make things.  Some games call these recipes, others call them schematics, etc.  The character has to run around (and they literally run around, not walk) and when the player sees an item they need, they use in-game commands to tell the character to pick up the item.  For some games, you select the item, for others, you choose a tool, then click on the item, for others, you merely come into range and the character picks up the item.  So there was my daughter, running ahead of me, picking up what she could along the path, snapping up this and that on our list.  Before we knew it, we saw the parking lot up ahead!  Somehow, we made the trek back to the van in less than 25 minutes!

Narrow-leaf PlantainWe had a good handful of narrow-leaf plantain, dandelion leaves and a couple roots, chokecherry, a burdock root, a couple burdock leaves and a couple small burdock heads.  Ashley had grabbed a few clover heads along the way as well.  We didn’t spot any chickweed or purslane, and cattails don’t grow along that trail either it seems.  So we drove home with what we had.

Chokecherry leaves and twigsUpon arrival at home, it was time to clean the greens, clean the roots, and learn what to do with the chokecherries.  They literally look like tiny cherries WITH pits!  I did some research and bookmarked a couple sites that shared recipes for chokecherry juice, jams, jellies, bread, muffins, etc.  I need to get my hands on a hand mill of some type because dried chokecherry flour can be added to baking!  I learned that you don’t eat this berry raw due to cayonogenic properties.  You need to sun-dry or boil them to kill these properties.  Our first foray into chokecherry processing then, became an infused vinegar salad dressing.  The chokecherries ended up boiled twice as a result, first to mash them, second to make the salad dressing as the vinegar needed boiling.  The leaves and bark make a nice tea according to some sources, so we kept the leaves and twigs to dry for that purpose.

We’ll have to soften up the burdock root to get the outside bark peeled off.  Trying to attack it with a paring knife cold was met with quite a bit of resistance.  It is possible that we found a 2nd year growth, as those apparently are quite woody compared to first year growth.  I also need to read up more on the use of the green tops and leaves, as apparently they can taste similar to artichoke.  I’ve never eaten artichoke outside of the dip, so I don’t know what to expect raw, but a mature leaf has a very SHARP immediate taste with quite the bitter aftertaste!  May try wilting the leaves in a frying pan and see what happens then.  Maybe that’s the stage at which it tastes more like the veggies in the dip.  Supposedly the flowers taste this way too.  Need more research on that one.

We hoped to come across stinging nettle as well, because of it’s ability to help with dandruff in shampoo.

Our first foray into the world of foraging is done!  Ashley estimates we brought home enough greens for a couple week’s worth of salads.  All we spent was gas to get to the parking lot.  Lifestyle changes aimed at both saving money and eating healthier are not easy and the first step is always the hardest.  That step is now done, and it’s on to the next outing, which will hopefully happen this weekend!