Archive for the ‘Fishing and Foraging’ Category

Daisy awaits her first egg.

Well, it took about 5 months, but my cute, fuzzy, peeping baby chicks are now large, ravenous birds, mercilessly tearing apart every living thing in their paths.  I’m still totally in love with them – the way they look and move, the noises they make, how serious and comical they seem all at the same time. 

But dang those girls can eat!  Five full grown chickens cut loose on an urban backyard will clean out the green in no time.   One day a few weeks ago, I went out to forage in the backyard for random edible weeds to add to a salad I was making.  And there were none.  At all.  No chickweed, no wild lettuces, no sorrels, no yellow dock, not even any of that annoying Florida betony.  My girls had cleaned me out.

I took a good look around my yard.  I was so happy to have these birds roaming free in the backyard that I hadn’t noticed them staging a quiet revolution right under my nose.  First of all, there is chicken poop everywhere.  Second, all the raked and mulched pine straw had been spread across the yard, with little hen wallow nests scratched into it here and there.  The compost piles have been scratched down to little hills.

On top of the devastation these delicious birds have wrought upon my yard, they’ve learned to roost on the top of the chain link fence.  So many times I drive up into the carport to see all five of them innocently roosting by the carport garden, none of them realizing they’re three feet from freedom.  Or I’ll glance out the window to five lumpy shapes on the back gate, perched on the purgatory between yard and back lane.  In that case I’ve got to run all the way around the neighbor’s house to the back lane and shove them (bock bu-GOCK!) back into the yard.  Naughty girls!

Mavis flaunts her ability to fly.

So the Herban Cowboy and I agreed that the yard needed dividing.  We needed a garden/human area and a chicken/poop area.  It’s taken several weekends of here and there tackling, but we finally strung some chicken wire across half the yard or so, around some trees.  They still occasionally find their way out, and we’ll keep improving it over the next few weeks.  But so far, so good.

Hazel enjoys a few moments of freedom on "The Other Side."

The other chicken related news is that they’re just about mature enough to start laying.  They’re about 5 ½ months old now, and they’re all just about as big as they’re gonna get.  They “sing” in these funny creaking voices and they all like to huddle together and practice nesting.  We switched them to big girl chicken feed as well.  BIG update when we find the first egg I promise.

Once again it was the Herban Cowboy to the rescue.  He built a quick nest box out of plywood, we filled it with wood shavings from the garden mulch, put a golf ball in it (for inspiration) and set it in the coop.  There’s another nest box in the making, but hopefully one will be enough for now.  I hope they get the idea and don’t start laying eggs in the bushes. 

Pictured: Chicken Inspiration (Chickinspiration?)

So we’re deep into the cool Savannah autumn here.  The live oaks and the pines remain dark green and lovely, but all the other trees are showing off their colors before they shed their leaves.  The Virginia creeper is a brilliant red and some of the sweetgums are actually going for purple.  The pale winter sun hangs lower and lower in the sky each day.  I’m afraid my cool weather gardens won’t get enough sun.  I’ve been neglecting my gardens since the chickens took over my yard.

I guess the next project is to clean up devastation my girls visited upon the now chicken-free zone.  Rake the pinestraw.  Compost the dead stuff.  Visit the neglected turnips, check on the puny carrots and broccoli.  There might be enough lettuce for a salad.

Thank goodness I don’t have to live off this homestead.

Just sitting around, waiting for something besides poop to come out her butt.


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i’m so glad that daisy posted about the second world project.  this will make this post easier to understand.  i am nose-deep in culture shock, and only because i’m am standing on my tippiest-tippy toes.  i feel extremely lost.

this great wardrobe of skirts and scarves that i felt so at home in gets the weirdest stares.  but, i’m the only one who feels comfortable.  seriously, it is HOT and i see women wearing full make-up, hair all done up, long pants, or HOSE, and these stuffy fake-satin shirts that reflect  florescent lighting but refuse the passage of oxygen through the holes in its tight false weave.  the big boy and i go places and seem to be the only family that is actually happy to be around each other.  we laugh, tease, make jokes, and, alright, we argue, but it’s real, y’all.

i really, really like food.  here is what food is:  1)  food has no ingredients (susun weed) 2) food has no advertising campaign (i think this is michael pollan) and 3)  food is something that your great-great-great grandmother would recognize as food.  so, since i left the homestead i have seen food twice.  what?!?, you say.  oh, i’ve eaten.  there have been restaurants, grocery stores (i did find some organic cherries and they sure count as food, so did a fresh salad in a pricey little french-inspired cafe.)  i have seen lots, and i do mean LOTS of food-inspired products.  there have been blocks and blocks of places completely dedicated to food “stuff”.  this is a veritable wasteland for anyone who is committed to actually eating real food.  so a person who only believes that one should eat real food will actually starve to death.

of course, i can identify some edible plant life as an alternative survival mechanism.  other than lawn and some random “pretty” hybrid bush-tree thingies, all the weeds (the yummiest) have been eradicated.

so why is everyone so, so, so obese?

also, i wanted to camp here.  but, i can’t.  not my idea of camping, anyway.  there are large r.v.s with t.v.s and s.u.v.s and humvees and does anyone remember that 80’s show called “v” about the takeover of the planet by lizard aliens that wore our skins?

back to the camping….i am really, really comfortable in nature.  but, dear nature?  where ARE you?

dear readers, i’m neck deep in the first world.

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Daisy Struggles to Bring Forth Food From Her Yard

It’s been slow going with the garden part of Green Goddess Gardens.  I’ve had some successes, but even the plants that are producing fruit are kind of puny.  I get a handful of green beans at a time, or a cucumber every week.  While tasty, this is hardly the bounty I imagined, bursting forth from my back yard to eat fresh and give to neighbors and preserve the rest of it for future consumption.

More cucumbers, please.

I have to say, though, the yin yang beans finally started to ripen and DANG are they cool looking.  Now I’ve got to look up how to store and cook them.  According to the seed catalogs, these beans are a bush type.  I thought this meant that they wouldn’t need staking, but these girls just lay on the pine straw and complain about the heat.  Quite a few of the “bush type” seeds I ordered are like that, reaching out desperate curling tendrils to any plants nearby.

Yin Yang Beans!!

It's, like, harmony man.

I almost bought bamboo stakes at Home Depot yesterday when I realized I would be stupid to buy stakes for my plants when young bamboo grows along the fenceline behind my yard.  I went home and got devoured by tiny mosquitoes while collecting shoots for my meandering beans and droopy tomatoes.  Then I cut strips from an old T-shirt to tie the plants to the stakes.  There you have it folks.  White trash gardening.  I didn’t spend a dime.

Bamboo stake and T-shirt tie

Another problem I’ve had on my cucumbers and squash are these cute little yellow bugs with black fuzzies on them.  I think they’re eating the leaves.  So far I just smash all the ones I find.  Maybe I’ll figure out what they are and make a spray of some kind.  Maybe.  Or I’ll just keep smashing the little boogers.  I’ve also found a few wormy things in the stalks of the squash plants.  I just pick the dead leaves off and smash those guys, too.  With an evil chuckle of course.

My adorable nemesis

My squash plants have also been bothering me because the yellow ones fruit and start to grow little babies, but then they wither and mold before they mature.  The cocozelle squash flowers all over the place, but has never fruited.  Poor barren sister.

Will they make it? Come on girls!

The bell peppers finally have flower buds on them.  The tomatoes are taking FOREVER but look promising.  The okra and eggplant are just sitting there, not growing at all, and the melons have yet to flower.  Thank goodness I don’t have to live off what my homestead produces.  Yet.  We get closer each season.

Tomatoes, oregano and Thai basil

I think my biggest problem is that I don’t have raised beds for the veggies.  These plants are sitting on the acidic soil of the backyard, competing with crape myrtles and giant pine trees for water and nutrients.  Of course they’re screwed.

I didn’t have the resources or the time to make raised beds when I planted all that’s there now.  I don’t have those excuses anymore.  In August it will be time to plant cool season plants again:  lettuces and greens, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, radishes and maybe some onions and garlic.  Mmm…  So I’ve got 2 months to start some raised beds.

And as for resources, on our last dumpster diving excursion, Aida and I discovered a recycling center where bricks and cinder blocks are in piles, free to the public for carting away (AND free mulch — SCORE!!).  It may take a few trips out there to collect all I need, but I’ve got an idea…  Stay tuned…

Gap toothed grin

Have you ever seen scrappier sunflowers?

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Daisy Explains it All

Those of you following closely will realize that we skipped Aida’s post yesterday.  Fear not, gentle readers, Aida will be back next week with pictures and stories and fresh insight and inspiration.  This week, however, she is apprenticing with Wise Woman Herbalist Corinna Wood.  It’s one of those woman-centered, goddessy, outdoorsy experiences.

I did one of these in 2004 in upstate New York with Susun Weed.  The Green Goddess Apprenticeship (I know, right?).  Susun Weed lives in a small farm house on 300+ acres of mountain woods.  For a week I camped on a hill in the woods, peed outside, herded goats, ate wild food outside, swam naked, hiked, chanted (yes I totally did), gathered wild mushrooms, and listened and asked questions of a truly wild woman.  I came home lit up from the inside.

The herbalism that these women practice and teach is a bit different from mainstream herbalism in style, outlook, and execution.  Most modern herbals list hundreds of plants both local and foreign.  Liscensed naturopathic doctors usually prescribe herbs in pill form, using standardized extracts.  Many herbs in combination are used together, and the formulas can be quite expensive.  There are tables of correspondences that list which herbs are used for which ailments.

This just ain’t what the Herban Cowgirls do.

Women like Susan Weed and Corinna Wood (and Aida and I as well as thousands of others) practice a different kind of herbal craft.  Susun calls it the Wise Woman Way and says it’s the oldest way of healing on the planet.  Most of its practitioners are women, because most of the world’s heathcare is provided by women:  mothers to sick children, daughters to aging parents, sisters and aunts and cousins taking care of their families.

The Wise Woman Way includes all remedies and therapies that work, from doing nothing to pills and surgery.  There is nothing wrong with your sick body.  You are already whole and perfect, even in your pain and illness.  Problems that arise bring gifts of change.  Replace habits that drain your energy with habits that nourish your health.  Herbs are used as whole plants, grown locally and made into medicine with oil, alcohol, vinegar, or water.  A Wise Woman herbalist doesn’t have a cursory knowledge of 879 plants, but has an intense and deep relationship with a dozen or so plants.  She knows how they grow and where and when.  She knows when to harvest what and how to make it into food and medicine.

It is a different perspective of human health.  Knowing these plants personally and developing “relationships” with them over the years has been a fascinating journey that just snowballs bigger and bigger with every season.  My plantain oil soothed Little Boy’s diaper rash when he was a baby, as well as cuts, scrapes, bites and stings.  My elder tincture has brought down more than one high fever within an hour.  My burdock tincture relieved my Aunt’s diverticulitis pain.  Passionflower (that I gathered from a fence behind Lowe’s) helps me sleep when I need it.  I use cleavers and chickweed for all kinds of infections.  Yarrow tincture stings like hell but stops bleeding.  And mimosa helps me chase away my blues.

This is folk medicine.  People’s medicine.  I am the primary health care provider for my family.  We consult a doctor when we need to, but most of our problems and ailments are taken care of at home.  There’s more to all of it, obviously.  I’ve posted a few links for those who are interested in learning more.

I can’t wait to hear about Aida’s adventures when she comes home.





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Daisy Brings Us Up To Date

You should have been reading this before 10am, but there was some serious family time happening at the Green Goddess Gardens this morning.  My mother kept Little Boy last night and brought him back this morning.  So instead of blogging, I was drinking coffee with my mom, listening to Little Boy tell me about swimming lessons at Grandma’s, and eating scrambled eggs and toast cooked up by my Herban Cowboy.  It’s a good thing I’m not spoiled.

Home from Grandma's and playing with his best friend...

Well, Grandma went back home, and the boys went to the library for fresh books, so I finally have my brain to myself for an hour or two.  So here I am to update the blog.

What’s been happening?  If you’ve been reading along, you know that in the last two months we have planted seeds, started a batch of wine, bragged about making homemade bread, strung clotheslines, made laundry detergent, foraged for wild plants for medicinal purposes, went fishing, rigged a hammock, and made stock from fish heads and chicken bones.  We’ve mused about the simple life and Possum Living.  Also, we had a contest and named our houses.

So how’s all that going?

The gardens are puttering along.  They are not as lush and bountiful as I had envisioned.  I think here at Xanadu the soil is too acidic, there isn’t quite enough sun, and I planted things a few weeks too late.  All I’ve harvested so far are the bush beans.  I’ve got yin yang beans growing, but they’re not mature yet.  Baby cucumbers and yellow squash are swelling on the vines, and tiny green tomatoes are working their way slowly to red.  Over at Lakou, Aida planted late as well, but despite that has melons going like crazy, and her own crop of young tomatoes to watch.

My mulberry wine is waiting for the July 4th weekend to be racked (whatever that means – I have until then to figure it out). 

I haven’t made bread in weeks, but have been buying it from the grocery store.  We’ve had a bug problem here that we’ve yet to completely resolve, and I’ve just felt too uncomfortable with leaving dough out to rise.  In a few weeks, the bug guy will return for a follow up application of chemical death.  As soon as the nasty bug thing is over I am baking up some bread, y’all.

I LOVE my laundry detergent and clothesline.  The detergent doesn’t suds up in the washer or leave an odor on the clothes.  They just come out smelling like fabric.  I have used the dryer about 3 times since I strung the clothesline, and that’s because of the early summer thunderstorms.

Foraging for wild plants and making vodka tinctures has been fun.  We have to do this in season, as the plants are available.  They have to macerate for at least 6 weeks, so right now the jars of elder, mimosa, and cherry bark are hidden away in my witch’s pantry, waiting to be ready for straining (that will happen in a few weeks).

Fishing has been a gloriously relaxing failure so far.  We go, we cast, we sit.  We collect advice from the regulars.  So much time and we’ve only caught one crab, one small fish and two froggy looking bottom feeders.  Thank goodness we don’t have to live off what we catch.  I don’t know if our problem is bait, location, or time of day, but I really want to figure this out. 

I still love my hammock I made.  It’s easy to put up and take down, and it’s so stable and comfortable.  I nap out there whenever schedule permits.  Last night I watched the sunset as I lay in my hammock and drank a glass of (non-homemade) wine.  I do still want to make a better looking one, and I’ve been keeping my eye out at the thrift stores for curtains or bedspreads that are large and sturdy enough for the project.

I did make some of Aida’s stock, but with chicken bones, not fish heads.  It tastes delicious, and I’ve got a bunch of jars of it in the freezer, but I haven’t actually cooked anything with it yet.  I blame the bugs yet again.  I miss my kitchen.  I’ve been doing less cooking and more cleaning in it.  It looks better than ever, but I’m not making food like I should.

So this post is not as funny or fascinating as some we’ve done, but we thought it was time to look back at what we’ve done and gauge our progress a bit.  Talk about our successes and failures, what’s working and what’s not.

So what can you be looking forward to from the Herban Cowgirls in the weeks to come?  More from the gardens, and summer recipes including wild food.  Making a chicken tractor.  Removing a crape myrtle tree.  Building raised vegetable beds.  Networking for freebies.  Making a summer wardrobe out of old T-shirts.  Noise and pollution free yard work.  And best of all, for most of the summer, Aida and the Big Boy will be in Haiti.   

Come play with us this summer as the Herban Cowgirls go international, bringing you stories from tropical, sun-drenched Haiti, as well as gorgeous but sweltering Savannah.  And don’t forget to share your stories in the comments.  You know how we love them.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in the hammock...

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in the same way that food is everywhere if you know where to look, so is medicine.  daisy and i made some on sunday.  we’ve been watching the blooming of the elder and the mimosa trees.  if we would have waited one more week, though, we’d have missed our chance.

here are the things that come in handy when you’re out foraging for medicine:

1. a leveling rake (this helps you pull hard to reach branches to you and acts like a third hand)

2. clean jars

3. scissors

4. a rehearsed story for the authorities (try: this is for a class project)

5. vodka, 100 proof (but of course, no homestead should be without this)

so, here we go.  join us for this FLIPPIN’ AWESOME and very empowering adventure.

the elder patch that we've been watching is ready for us

daisy cleverly uses the rake to pull the elder branches to us

daisy cleverly uses the rake to pull the elder branches to us (note: the tree was off the side of the road and over six feet of brush separated us from it)

get your clean jar ready

using the scissors, snip off the flowering parts and place them in the jar

fill the jar completely but loosely. having a toddler along gives you the excuse to say "it should feel like a fairy mattress"

ah, mimosa! the tree of a thousand happinesses!

see? i'm smiling already!

you want to pull the completely flowered fuzzy pompom parts and put those in a jar (yes, that is the technical terminology)

the jars of elder and mimosa at the back at the homestead

the jars of elder and mimosa back at the homestead

pour the vodka over the flowers, filling the jar completely.

label them well. trust me! just a day later, it is not as easy to tell the difference! those little fairy lushes have taken all the pink from the mimosa.

we’ll be keeping these jars in a cool place for 6 weeks.  a couple days in, check the jars again.  those fairies, laying around on those mattresses, suckin’ up all the pink, do like to drink.  the vodka level may need to be topped off.

meet the plants:

Sambucus nigra

Elder: Sambucus nigra is a wonderful plant.  it’s been used for thousands of years.  it grows like a weed here in savannah and also in haiti.  the flowers are used to help bring down fevers.  daisy made nearly twice as much medicine as i did.  with a little boy in the house, fevers happen.  we’ll be revisiting this awesome tree when the flowers become berries for more medicine.

Albizzia julibrissen

Mimosa: Albizzia julibrissen:  in chinese medicine, this plant is known as the tree of a thousand happinesses.  i use this a lot in the winter time to help with the crazy.  this tree just looks like summer and sunshine and joy to me.  it is great to have a little bottle of it when everything is gray and cold.  according to michael tierra, taking a dose of this medicine every hour on the hour on your darkest days will lift you right up and prevent any negative thoughts.

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gone fishin’

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