- Homesteading — the kind that involved living in tents and no machinery — was terribly difficult. I’m sure of it. Of course I already knew this, camping merely drove that point home in a new way. Simple tasks take longer, requiring more planning.
Who wants tea? Well, first you’ve got to make a fire. This might require collecting wood. It will also require making flames first thing in the morning when you are still half asleep. Then you’ve got to wait an eternity for that fire to get hot. Then you’ve got to wait another absurd length of time for the water to heat up. You will probably give up and settle for a lukewarm beverage, if you can wait that long. If there is one thing I hate to go without it is my morning genmaicha. Some campers look forward to that first indulgent post-camping meal. My favorite post-camping experience came the next morning when I got up to make my morning tea. The whole thing was accomplished in minutes with a mere flick of a button. No dangerous half-asleep fire starting required.
- Here’s something you should know before setting out to camp in the wilderness. There are these little insects called Deer Flies. They look an awful lot like regular flies with one exception: regular flies are annoying but basically harmless, while deer flies slice off chunks of your flesh using their special slicing mouth parts. I am convinced that they are collecting human meat for Satan. There is no other explanation. After suffering through five days of their menace, mosquitoes are beginning to look downright civil, polite even. Sure they leave a bump that itches for days and days but by god deer flies have left an indelible scar on my psyche that no ointment will ever heal.
- Note for the future: Do not allow me to camp with small children. Not because camping is hard (except that it is) but because when faced with legions of biting insects, strong winds, and four hours of arm-breaking canoing I am unable to prevent the steady stream of elaborate cursing that will inevitably come pouring from my mouth. Please, think of the children.
The best way to learn what makes a plant tick is to see it growing in the wild. I consistently glean a lot of knowledge from these experiences. This trip taught me tons about blackberries and blueberries. Both were in season and both were easily found just about anywhere we went. Blackberries were always fully exposed, growing where the sun shone brightly and the soil was poor or non-existent. Sometimes it grew in the sand right at the water’s edge or in open meadows sitting alongside wetlands. Blueberries tended to be underneath the shade of larger coniferous trees or just on the edge of forests. They were always found among the low, sprawling juniper bushes.
Blackberries growing out of a rock.
Check out the view behind me.
Wild Blueberries. Tasty and FREE! Foraging makes me feel like I’ve scored the most awesome deal in town. Sure I have to do the work but still…. FREE. Picking them by hand has given me a whole new appreciation for the price of a pint of wild blueberries.
Picking Blueberries. Note the coniferous trees both big and small. The ground was basically granite and pine needles.
- Here’s a tasty camp dessert that I made up on the spot utilizing our foraged berries and provisions we had on hand. Add some sugar and fruit juice to a bowl of wild berries. Break up a few slices of bread into small chunks and add to the mix. Set it aside for 30 minutes or so allowing the bread to soak up the juices. Wrap it all up in foil and set over the fire to cook for about 15 minutes. Enjoy. Go ahead and lick the foil but try to avoid cutting your tongue.
Making foraged wild berry dessert. I look high here but I promise you the only thing I inhaled on this trip was fresh, super oxygenated air. And a lot of campfire smoke. I like to make fires so fire-starter was my self-appointed role.
- Camping in the rain is another kind of tricky. Have to go to the bathroom outdoors in the rain? Try to hold it in. That’s all I have to say about that.
- I have a lot to learn about plants. And mushrooms… forget about it. Better to assume they are all poisonous.
- Camping is a reminder of how easy we have it, a demonstration in the excesses in our modern lives that we can probably do without. I learned that baking soda really is the miracle powder. You can use it to scrub dishes, wash hair, brush teeth, and remedy bee stings. It really doesn’t taste that bad when used as toothpaste.
- I can tolerate all manner of dry, bland food when forced. Being surrounded by beautiful landscape makes everything go down easier.
We’re going camping! I haven’t been really, truly camping since I was a kid. As a non-driver I’ve never been able to get my feet wet in the world of tent pitching in the wilderness since getting out of the city into the great outdoors is a bit of a jaunt without a car. Sure we could take a bus and then hike it out into the forest or take an epic bike ride to the outer regions but I can’t say that any of those possibilities have ever entered my mind as options. I’m enthusiastic, just not THAT enthusiastic.
Anyways, we’re very excited about this trip and have been frantically preparing for it for the last two months. The very first thing I did was pull out “Let’s Get Primitive” by Heather Menicucci a book I blurbed a year or so back. Reading Heather’s book the first time ignited a spark in me to rekindle a childhood love of camping and the book really proved to be exceptionally handy as a second time read now that we’re really going to do it. Even my partner Davin gave it a read-through, taking notes along the way of items we might need, proving that books with “girl” in the title are useful for those of the male persuasion as well. I think he also liked that it gave him an excuse to indulge in his insatiable love for M.E.C. He’s always looking for an excuse to go in and browse or pick up some such piece of equipment for this or that, primarily bike-related. All I have to say is that we had better become avid campers after this because we’ve got a whole lot of gear and nowhere to store it. I have a feeling that we’re going to be sharing the living room with a tent, sleeping bags, and self-inflating sleeping mats for the next two months. Yes, we have self-inflating sleeping mats. We don’t have proper rain gear during the rainiest summer on record, but by god our backs will be “cushioned” on a pad that inflates itself with air. Unfortunately the mat does not deflate itself. Or generate heat. Or keep biting insects away. For that I plan to employ three brands of herbal bug spray simultaneously.
Of course as a gardener and plant lover I am most excited about the plants. I have already packed my Edible Wild Plants book and am considering creating space for a wild flowers field guide. A bug book might be handy too. And another that covers trees. Davin is packing a bird field guide. That should just about cover it.
We’ll be four or five days without internet access. I have set some photos and posts to go live while I’m gone. However, if you don’t hear from me by next Friday then all I ask is that someone water the plants.
“What that kind of attitude and approach is saying over and over again is that gardening is not for you; you don’t belong here.”
I met up with Teresa Cheng a few weeks ago for lunch at my favourite long-time local eatery, Cafe Bernate for an in-person interview to talk about urban gardening, growing food, and sustainability. We popped back to my place after the interview to take some quick snaps and of course I sent her off with some extra tomato and anise-hyssop seedlings I had kicking around. I have a tendency to unload plants or herbs onto visitors. I may be a terrible sales person but I know how to “sell” a plant.
The result of that conversation can be found on the Taste T.O site, Talking the Green Revolution with Gayla Trail.
I was recently profiled in Ascent Magazine’s sustainability issue. This article is the result of one of the best interviews/conversations I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in. I kind of wish we could read the interview although I’d imagine it would be a hard one to follow given how much I hemmed and hawed over language.
Ascent is a yoga magazine that is published by an ashram, so it naturally has a strong bend towards the religious side of yoga. I have haphazardly “practiced” hatha yoga on and off since I found a book for a quarter in a used bookstore cheap bin back in 1991 but I am not a religious person and have always kept that side of yoga at a distance. So I have to admit that when I was first approached by the magazine I was a wee bit timid about where things might go and how my thoughts might be framed. We did talk about “spirituality” as it relates to the garden but the writer, Roseanne Harvey, understood my need to choose my words carefully. The interview was more eye opening than I’d like to admit because I was able to see where our perspectives cross over but are separated only by semantics. Many gardeners experience a sense of awe and connectivity in the garden however where a religious person might call it god, I prefer to call it wonder. Most likely a very similar experience, just a different way of framing it. I’m not saying that my beliefs have changed, merely that I am a little more open to where others are coming from when they talk about religious experience in relation to the garden.
While I’m talking about the magazine I want to mention an interesting article about environmental activist Derrick Jensen called “The Complexities of Hope.” What drew me to the article wasn’t as much about his perspective on where we are headed environmentally (although that is interesting too) but in how closely the ideas in the article connected to thoughts that have been swimming around in my head for the last few years. In my recounting of the most recent garden incident I spoke a lot about hope and being able to feel everything no matter what. So I was interested to read about Jensen and the way he willingly breaks a cultural taboo by expressing the hopelessness and despair he feels while also turning that around and rethinking our cultural definition for hope as “a wish without agency” into something we can be actively engaged in achieving.
“There’s this idea that if you really recognize how bad things are you have to go around being miserable all the time. But the truth is I’m really happy, and I am full of rage and sorrow and joy and happiness and contentment and discontent. I’m full of all those things. It’s okay to feel more than one thing at the same time.”
… especially when it is initiated by plant loss. To be clear these plants will not be living in THAT garden. They are for my community plot and the roof.
I spent $18.99 plus federal and provincial taxes of my hard-earned dollars on this plant, an Echeveria ‘Black Prince.’ I think we can all agree this trumps the $7.99 sempervivum. I have never seen such a thing and when I saw them sitting in a small cluster at the store I had to have one regardless of the outrageous price. They had more at the store that were in bloom. The flowers are red unlike the familar blue/grey Echeveria that has orange flowers. I actually walked around the entire garden centre twice silently contemplating the madness of this purchase before giving in, an act that I think shows some attempt at thoughtful restraint and impulse control.