Monday, September 30, 2013

Lake Superior

The Great Gitche Gume. The largest of the great lakes.  31,700 square miles of blue. Shiny pebbles along the shore, the calming sound of the waves, and wild grapes!

September comes to a close. October brings colder weather, red leaves, people coming and going out my life, children growing and changing before my eyes, and myself changing and growing in more subtle ways.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wild Plant Harvests on the Lake

A friend and I did some some exploring yesterday on Hiles Mill Lake. We were looking for a section of mountain maple trees located above a floating bog. We wanted to go out there to gather seeds for edibility tests. We paddled for about 1 1/2 miles, and then waded into the bog. What's neat about the floating bog is that it's bouncy. It reminded me of being on a moon bounce when I was a kid. What's a little scary/exciting is that it is difficult to see how far you will sink in until you step down. I fell into a deep spot a couple times when I wasn't being completely aware of where I was stepping. Once we made it through the bog, we climbed up a path of fallen trees into the mountain maple forest. It was a really beautiful day, and we collected a couple bags of seeds.

This whole area is surrounded by lakes. Almost every time we go out to gather wild edible plants, we explore a different lake. I'm enjoying the opportunities to get in a canoe. I'm getting better at canoeing, and I'm getting stronger. I really like being out in the sunlight, and on the water, with a view of all the colors of the fall trees.

The cranberries are also ripe right now, growing wild alongside the edges of the lakes. A few days ago we canoed onto a different lake, and explored a couple different islands that had cranberries growing along the shore. We took the kids with us, and they really brightened up the day, running around the islands, and making conversation while we gathered. We spent the whole day on the lake, stopping to crack nuts as a snack, and drink water. 

Our biggest wild food staple has been the wild rice. We were on the lake for a couple weeks this year, and, we gathered 600 pounds.

some of the rice we gathered, unhusked, drying on a tarp
 The Ojibwe are the native tribe of this area, and they call the wild rice manoomin. There's a long history of manoonmin being gathered by the Ojibwe, and lots of interesting stories.
"Traditionally, its harvest promoted social interaction in late summer each year. In August our people moved to their manoomin camps for harvest. Once manoomin ripened most energy was focused on harvesting. Manoomin was our main food source.
Manoomin is an aquatic grain, or a cereal. A truly healthy natural food, uncooked wild rice contains more than 12 percent protein and is richer in protein than white rice and most other grains.

Real Wild Rice vs. Paddy Wild Rice
Many consumers confuse paddy-grown wild rice with the true wild rice, hand-harvested from northern lakes and rivers. Frequently, the wild rice offered for sale in local grocery stores or at roadside markets is paddy-grown rice – a different product than the true wild rice taken from naturally growing stands of manoomin. Paddy grown rice has larger, darker (almost black) kernels, takes longer to cook and lacks the distinguishing nutty flavor and fragrance found in native wild rice. Paddy rice is farmed in large rice paddies and mechanically harvested. Commercially grown, paddy wild rice comes mostly from large paddy fields in Minnesota and California."

The above is from

Next week, we will start gathering black walnuts!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ricing Moon and the Healing Circle

Alex and I spent the whole day today canoeing and gathering wild rice from the lake. I've been ricing for about two weeks now, and it looks like today was probably the last day. The stalks are browning, and the rice falls light. The wind was coming in heavily from the north, blowing white caps on the water that chopped at the canoe. We used all our strength to paddle against it, and once we got to the shore, the wind lay low, blocked by a stand of trees. I looked around and noticed the color of the trees. Yellows and browns spotted the coast, and a few specks of red maple leaves showed their fall colors. I felt chilled. I wished I had brought an extra sweater. Fall is here already! It's beautiful...

Photos from last weeks wild rice harvest:

The long Wisconsin winter

Fall gives a reminder of the incoming white season. The snow will start falling in October, and continue until April. Sometimes it snows in May or June. In the middle of winter, the temperature will drop down to -20 at night. I’m afraid of feeling cold. I want to make peace with the cold, but I’m not sure how.
Maybe this winter will be an experiment, to see how well I can acclimate to change and discomfort.

winter camp at Teaching Drum. photo credit:

The moon lit the way to my bed tonight. When I started my walk, I noticed that the light was shining on the woods much more brightly than the night before. I looked up to see that the moon was waxing, and a few stars took shape within my eyesight. I had stumbled through the darkness the past few nights before.

Each night, I slowly make my way on a path compressed down by many people. I feel the ground under my feet, and try to recall the direction and amount of steps to my bed. The subtle shadows of the trees against the night sky guide my way, too. About halfway to my destination, a tree leans against another, and when I am almost there, a precarious branch sticks straight up out of the ground. I’ve tripped over it, in the dark, many times. Every night since I’ve been here, the same animal sings next to same tree. I think it is a toad or a frog. The name doesn’t matter. I’d like to see it during the daytime, but I only hear it in the evening when I make this walk.

I feel comforted and calm within the quiet subtleties of the woods. If I am feeling anxious, I'll take a walk or run in the woods, and then return to the circle with a clearer head.

After the walks, my mind doesn’t spin off into fearful thoughts. I'm not worried about the future, or questioning my self worth. I am worthy just because I am alive, and I am working on accepting that change is a part of being alive.

I've been listening to the song "Far, Far," by Yael Naim a lot these days. It feels appropriate for how I've been feeling lately.