Without a Word (Wednesday)

August 4, 2013 - Mushroom


Blue and Saskatoon

I keep meaning to post an article, especially when we come back home from a weekend at Muddy Road.  There is more to tell than what I’ve been sharing, it’s just that there are plenty of other things that have been occupying my time so the stories turn out hurried or non-existent.  Today will be no different because some tussah silk on the drop spindle and season 1, episode 4 of Game of Thrones awaits me.  Sorry about that.

We had some friends out at Muddy Road last weekend.  Our first time squeezing a group into the shack.  It was messy and overrun by kids the entire time, but fun.  There were a few pleasantries in the berry department too.

First, Dad told me about a decent patch of wild strawberries that probably started a few years ago by the generator shack.  He hasn’t mowed the lawn that far down in at least that amount of time.  A couple of weekends ago, I mowed in the areas that used to be maintained when I was younger but are now left to their own devices.  In front of the log cabin, beside the greenhouse, at the horseshoe pit, and near the generator shack.  I guess Dad wanted to outshine me so he decided to clear all the way down to Claire’s property.  And so he stumbled across the strawberries.  Good for him for having cleared lawn.  And good for us for having access to strawberries for breakfast without having to drive the ATV.  I hope this patch grows far and wide!

Some of the blueberries are now ready for harvest!  If there’s one sure step I can make in transitioning to self-reliance and wild, it’s gathering enough berries to last us until next year.  We got our hands on a small chest freezer a few months ago, and it’s ready to be filled!  The berries were far and few last summer, it was so dry, but this year seems promising.  I snuck away Sunday morning to check out one of my regular spots (twenty-ish feet away from the shack) and didn’t stop picking until a couple of hours later.  One of the containers:
July 21, 2013 - Blueberries

Fortunately nobody showed much interest in eating them for breakfast (though I did show up at the table only near the end), which means I was able to overpack our 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator this morning!  It smells like blueberry pie in here!  It’s a decent start, I feel until our holiday next weekend, where I will pluck those plants dry (and collect some leaves and perhaps even roots, too).

The absolute highlight is the discovery of what I believe are two giant saskatoon berry trees!  Also known as serviceberry.  There is still plenty of research to do on the matter, so don’t quote me on this, but if it’s true, this will go down as one of the most exciting additions to Harvest 2013.  We have a few bushes of a smaller variety on the property that we’ve been nibbling from these past few years, it’s that what they actually are.  Dad only knew them as plum berries and I had never bothered to learn the proper name.  After giving the kids the grand tour of where the bushes could be found, the last one being behind the log cabin, I looked near the end of the driveway and spotted a much larger tree with the same coloured berries.  Now this is where the non-responsible harvester in me took over (we all have those sides to us, don’t we?).  With a small bowl in hand, I picked and taste-tested (I know).  Picked and taste-tested (I know, I know.).

Although the smaller bushes’ fruit have more of an oval shape, the larger variety berries are rounder (like the images shown on Google).  The veins on the leaves also differ.  The crown bottoms on both fruit varieties are the same though, and not only do they taste almost the same, but also both have the same kind of pits inside (I KNOW!).  Safety first, we didn’t end up serving them for Saturday morning breakfast.  I guess it’s a good thing, because although it’s mentioned in “Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada” that the plants were eaten fresh, there happens to also be a warning about the leaves and pits containing “poisonous cyanide compounds” that only cooking or drying can destroy.

June 20, 2013 - Saskatoon Berries

My guides aren’t very helpful and I wonder what these toxicity precautions are all about?  Not that I mind making jams, pies, and muffins if need be but I would like the added option of on-the-spot fresh.  Worse case scenario, personal experience confirms that the consumption of 50ish fresh berries is perfectly safe for me, anyway.