Monday, May 31, 2010

No, We Didn't Have a Picnic

What we did have was a day off.  Completely.  To do with as we pleased. This is highly unusual.
So what did we do?
We helped a friend salvage an old metal glider from my daughter's back deck.  Pick-up trucks are handy for that.
We took a mid day siesta together in the living room.  Peter likes the recliner. I like the couch.
And I played in the kitchen when I woke up.
(Peter was snoring.  It happens.)

Which resulted in this (and some blanched greens for the freezer).
We have 4 jars of mint jelly, 6 jars of strawberry rhubarb jelly, and 3 gallons of chicken noodle soup.  We'll  only keep a quart or two of's for The Caring Place and Flint Hill.
Why didn't anyone ever tell me about the wonders of pectin before?  Hmmmm?  Do you KNOW how much mint I have?  Can you comprehend how much people love mint jelly?
Want some? :)
Now...another problem to be solved.  Why is it that when I try to use up the things in my freezer, and make consumable things from them, it results in even more things for my freezer?  I can't deplete it!  It's like the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
Except for shrimp.  And steak.
Go figure.
And why did we have a day off?  It's Memorial Day.  And as much as I hate war, I respect those that protect our freedom.. So, thank you veterans, for our freedom.  For your contributions to our way of life, sometimes your ultimate contribution.
My hope is that both the people and the government respect the sacrifices you make,
and doesn't use them trivially.
Thank you.
My mother is an immigrant, and I know how hard it was for her in a war-torn country, without the kind of freedom we enjoy here. So many of us have histories that transcend simple American roots...but we're all here because our parents or grandparents were looking for a better life.  We need to respect that, and live that life honorably.  Responsibly.  We have that choice to make.
I wish we could do it peacably, but we are volatile, irrational creatures. We haven't evolved to the point where we can just live together in harmony. I won't elaborate on that; there are so many issues.
Maybe we will resolve these things someday; a more perfect someday.  But in the meantime...
Thank you.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Engineer, Barber, Indian Chief

You see that smiling guy with the shaver in his hand?  I love that guy.

He helped out our friend Earl yesterday; Earl wanted to get cleaned up for the impending hot weather.  I had no idea where to begin, so I volunteered Peter, who accepted gracefully.

And he did a fabulous job.  I think he should consider a future career as a barber.

Or a counselor...

Or just a great friend.

At any rate, it was beautiful. When he was done, he asked Earl if he wanted to go for a ride with him in the convertible and cruise the circuit for chicks.

They didn't...but they had a good chuckle together on he way back to Earl's place by the Little Lehigh.
That's my gotta love him.
I sure do.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Herd Mentality...Yee HA!

Yesterday, as I was milking the herd, those wily does staged a mutiny and stormed the gate.  I was locked knee to horn with them for a good two minutes before they combined their body mass and multiple legs to push me aside like last year's kid. I had to extract 5 (count 'em, 5!) naughty nannies from the milking stands before I could collapse in a puddle of sweat and heartbeats and catch my breath.

As I said once (or twice a hundred times) before, goats can be boisterous.  You have to love them though; they're so honest.

What I haven't told you is that I'm going to be out of the milking biz for a little while this summer because of a little tune-up to the knee in question.  They're going to have someone else to push around then. (I'll miss my girls terribly, naughty or not!)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Some Colorful Culinary Tips

Based upon last night's clinical trials (performed in my highly professional staging area ...AKA my back yard, by three gourmet experts..AKA Peter, my good friend Stephanie and me), I have several culinary tips for the locavores in my life.  Here goes:

1. Homemade mint jelly is awesome with plain, local chevre

2. Home fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) is delicious, even when it's pink (I mixed red and green cabbage). It's especially good with brats. Pickling crocks can still be bought inexpensively at yard sales and the occasional thrift store.

3. Lettuce crudites picked straight from the garden are amazingly tasty.  Served with some of the chevre and snippets of fresh herbs, you can't go wrong.

4. Good company and cheap wine go well together.  They even cancel out hot and humid weather discomforts. Next time, we'll have homemade wine.  And I'm sure that will go together even better.

Life is good.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"You hear that Elizabeth? I'm coming to join you honey."

So, I was driving down Flint Hill Road in my pick-up truck, sweaty and dirty from milking the goats, when I spotted this old metal glider in front of someones house with a plywood sign that said "FREE" on it.  You know I stopped, right?

Now, I'm 52 years old and no athlete.  Thank goodness I was pumped up from goat-wrestling, because I hefted that green monster into the back of my truck all by my lonesome.  It came with two big, flat cushions that seemed solid enough to stay put, so once I had it wedged firmly into the soil and other debris in the back of my truck, I headed on down the road.

It's a sickness, this urge of mine to rescue junk; but in this case, the junk in question was a much coveted piece, one I had envisioned placing under the deck in the shade. I have wanted a place to nap outdoors ever since I left Easton 10 years ago.  I had a similar glider then, one that was given to me by my neighbor.  I spent many lazy afternoons asleep on that glider, and I missed the experience. It was a no-brainer.  It needed to come home with me.

So, there I was, doing my very best "Sanford and Son" imitation, tooling down the highway at a conservative 40 mph, when the top cushion blew off.  Onto the fast lane of a divided highway.  In the rain.

A mile and a U-turn later, you could find me running across said highway, running up the teensy little non-shoulder margin next to the barriers, looking for the exact spot the cushion landed.  Traffic was whipping past, and I was envisioning my obituary: "Local woman becomes road kill while salvaging junk".  Like I said, it's a sickness.  I glanced up when I got to the approximate spot and saw a police car go by.  Uh-oh; I grabbed that baby, ran back to the truck and shoved it into the passenger seat.  I high-tailed it out of there just in time; after I pulled into a dead-end cul-de-sac, I saw him drive slowly up the stretch of road I had just occupied.

Now, you might think I'm being overly dramatic when I tell you that this was an epic adventure, but I'm not quite finished yet.  As I turned the corner into the alley behind our home, I heard the most awful automotive sound imaginable.  I looked around to see who the poor schmuck was with the lousy car, only to find out that it was me.  The truck was absolutely screaming. I parked it behind the house and ran inside for Peter, who determined it was "a belt".  We haven't determined which belt yet, but that's a story for another day.  I had my glider. That belt held out until I got it home.

Two hours later, after moving a stack of tires filled with soil, two retro metal lawn chairs and a potting bench, and spending $113 on three new cushions (remember how hard I worked to retrieve the old one from the highway? BIG mistake!), Peter and I enjoyed a pretty sunset together from the new cozy corner. We watched a Netflix movie on my computer in the dark, sharing a set of ear-buds, eating popcorn for dinner.  It was heavenly. I had my first nap out there, with my feet in his lap.  Perfection. Sanford and Son had it right. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Laying-On of Chins

My Herd

There are peak moments in our lives when we know that something has profoundly changed; whether it's an understanding, a circumstance, or a glimpse of a larger truth, those moments stand larger than life, and take on a significance that transcends mundane reality.

I know I go on about the goats.  I love them; I'm thrilled to be able to interact with them, and I find them infinitely entertaining.  I've been with them through births and deaths, through cavorting in the grassy fields and huddling in the winter hay.  I know my goats.  Or I thought I did.

Yesterday, they brought me into the herd.  That's right.  THEY did it.

"Are you ready?"

Last year when we bred the does, a handful of them didn't conceive.  Though it was mainly the smaller, younger ones, my Nubian Faith was among them.  This little group watches the milkers come to the stands every day, and waits patiently until the last one is finished for their personal attention.  Yesterday, as I finished for the day, magic happened.  Goat magic.

I finally removed the plastic chain collars from the last two does, and had returned their full, fresh water buckets.  As I was standing among them, they began milling about, coming close and staying.  They were sniffing my legs, nuzzling me; though they do this individually, this was the first time that I was the focus of the small unbred herd.  I bent down so my face would be on level with theirs, and they came in close: sniffing, puffing back, lip-nibbling (no teeth) and looking in my eyes. They were uncharacteristically gentle.  Goats are a boisterous bunch, most days.  This day was different.

 I can't describe the feeling of the moment, except that it was transcendental; time stood  still, and we were one herd, one trusting group.  Faith stood back until the smaller does had welcomed me, tasted me, experienced me...then she stepped in and did the same, though with her it was different.  We had already bonded, Faith and I; she gave me a sniff and a nuzzle to say hello and welcome, then lifted her chin and laid her head on top of mine, holding me still for a moment.  It was a blessing, a goat-sacrament, nothing less.  The laying-on of chins. She was my godmother, my patroness, and I was one of them now. 

I have known these girls for over a year, and though I've tended to their needs and loved them daily, they waited and watched, through each season to claim me.  I'm theirs now.  My herd. Their human.

My "Goat Mother", Faith

Saturday, May 22, 2010

On the Seventh Day, They Rested. For One Hour. Then Back to Work.

Sunday mornings in the winter are often spent snuggled in blankets, nesting with cats and coffee in the sunroom; a good book, or an old movie, breakfast and a doze in the sun complete the picture. Birds fly in to eat at the feeders on the deck, and the hours ooze by in a sleepy blur.

Spring is NOT that way.

Don’t get me wrong; I adore spring, and the busy-ness of the season is largely self-imposed. There’s a large farm garden to plant (by choice), a smaller home garden to augment and maintain, goats to milk or help kid, and farm markets to visit. There are plants to gather and dry, cook or tincture, mowing (albeit brief) to do, hedges to trim. All of this must be squeezed into week days after 6:30 PM, or Saturdays before 3:30 Pm, or Sundays before 11:30 AM. There’s my weekly soup to make for The Caring Place (2 gallons of whatever I decide upon). And there’s housework to do, groceries to buy, bills to pay…you get the drift. Spring is dynamic.

Since my mother’s latest fall, I’ve been visiting her on Sundays to check in and spend a little time together. I enjoy these hours away. We run errands, eat lunch together, and sometimes do a little chore or two. She’s doing quite well, but the contact is good for us both. So my time at home on Sundays is limited right now; then it’s off to the farm, and the weekend is essentially over.

I started my Sunday with a much needed shower, then indulged myself with a slow putter in the kitchen. I spelunked in the fridge and came up with nearly enough vegetables to add to the already-cooked beef for a hearty soup. All I needed was corn and cabbage; that came later in the day. I set the soup to simmer in the largest stainless steel pot, then got dressed for work.

Peter and I shoveled for about an hour, first filling the planned areas: a tire stack for a tomato plant, three window boxes and several large pots. We topped off the planters in the garden and stored a few buckets of soil in the shed. We barely made a dent in the yard of soil in the S-10. And then my time was up; I washed up and hit the road. I made one stop on the way to Fleetwood, at the Emmaus Farmers’ market, where I bought asparagus and rye bread for my mother and a baguette with Portobello mushrooms and cheese for my breakfast. I was as hungry as those poor goats had been. That baguette took me from Emmaus to Hereford, and I got by with a salad for lunch, later. Yum.

Mom and I had lunch and a drive, then a short visit, and I left at about 3 PM…for the farm, of course. A stop at the grocery store first, then the hour’s drive back to my girls.

Things went smoothly until I got to the last three goats. I had two on the stands when the gate broke; the remaining three stormed the gate and charged the stands; they were hungry, and had just learned to come to the stands for their grain. So, like the overachieving kid in class who raises his hand for every question, those three precocious goats headed right for the stands, occupied or not. Now, Goat A and B were firmly wedged in the head gates, so when they were crowded over by goats C, D and E, they were in a precarious position. As soon as I’d pull one usurper off the stand another would replace her. I did this frantically for a few minutes until I admitted defeat, then stood my ground and yelled for help. Kathy came running and wielded a leaf rake like a sword, smiting the barbarians right back into the stall where they stood glowering at her. She later told me that I sounded like “Nell”, Dudley Do-Right’s main squeeze. Hey, you have to laugh.

Handy Peter fixed the gate in about an hour (he’s my right-hand man), and things returned to normal after a few more chores. We got home just before dusk; I reheated the soup and added the corn and chopped cabbage, got out the burgers and veggies, and had myself an hour or so of peace in the dark yard. Those rare hours are so delicious.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Crisis! (Last Week, Revisited)

Photos to follow...
19 full udders. 19 does waiting for the coveted grain that comes with milking. And the pump was broken.

Peter had to disassemble the entire pump to extract the milk that had overflowed into the mechanism during the morning shift a few days ago. The two young people who milk during the mornings were adjusting to the new routine, and the process took them longer than expected, so the milk was plentiful; too plentiful, as it turns out. They accidentally overflowed the pail and tainted the pump, which was the reason it was complaining for the past few days and finally gave up the ghost. The repair process took about two hours; I’m so glad Peter was there to help.

In the mean time, I unloaded the wooden stakes for the garden, put some useless items on the burn pile, fed and watered the goats, watered the herbs in the little greenhouse and laid a straw path. I checked my garden (it was still moist from the storms), then drove into town for a load of garden soil.

My home garden is small and mighty. I grow all the herbs I need for the summer (with some to spare) as well as salad greens and tomatoes. I’ve added some medicinal herbs this year, and some flowers for my soul. I have some wild plants started in the shade under the pear tree, and three logs inoculated with various mushroom spawn (oyster mushrooms, chicken of the woods, and reishi). I have perennial flowering plants for the bees and hummingbirds, perennial herbs and rhubarb, and several vines I’ve trained to soften the edges of an otherwise unattractive view. My little garden is a micro-paradise; verdant, lush, and fertile. I had plans to add a few large planters, and found that buying soil for gardening was much less expensive if you bought it by the cubic yard, so that’s what I did. A cubic yard of garden soil is HEAVY! My little S-10 struggled and shimmied under the weight on the way back to the farm.

Two hours later, after wrestling very-hungry goats and relieving very full udders, I drove home at a pregnant crawl in my heavily burdened truck. Though I had hoped to unload the truck that night, it was dark already and I was as hungry as the goats had been. Dinner (local, grass-fed chicken thighs, organic eggplant breaded with local egg-batter and baguette crumbs, and sautéed mixed wild greens) was soon cooking. Peter brought home our next box of grape mash for wine, and set things up in the basement while I seared the beef cubes and pot roast I intended to slow-cook overnight for Sunday’s soup; all this, and a pile of dishes later, and we once again fell into a sore and exhausted heap on the couch, where we ate our meal and dozed until bedtime. Whenever that was…I have no idea when we made it up the stairs.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stepping Up The Pace: May Days

I have had a very busy weekend. The weather was beautiful, which was a plus; low humidity, no rain (except for that freakish thunderstorm on Friday night; milking goats in a horse-trailer in a hailstorm is INTENSE!) That night, the milker malfunctioned, and Peter had to rescue us; as a result, we spent several hours at the farm, and the goats were frantic by the time I was able to milk them. Later, after driving in the thunder, lightning and hail, I was very happy to arrive home in one soggy, exhausted piece. Home has been a comfort after these long, long days, despite its never-ending list of unfinished chores. I usually find something for us to have for dinner, then have a glass of wine and fall asleep on the couch; my body simply checks out. Friday was no exception. Peter called me to bed at 1 AM, and I finished the night sleeping like a baby.

Sleeping With Whiffer

I have been sleeping quite well. Of course, I’m physically exhausted because of my time with the goats, but I also think the depth of my sleep is aided by the lavender sachet I keep in my pillowcase. The first few nights I used it, I was annoyed by the strong perfume of the herb, but it truly did (and does) promote a good night’s sleep. On those nights when I’ve been agitated, I’ve been taking a mixture of either valerian or passionflower extract in water; both are soothing and calming; my herbal course is teaching me so much.

On Saturday morning, my first order of business was preparing a meal for Earl; I completed this before Peter even rose from bed, and when he did, I was ready to leave. I had plans to gather stinging nettle while I was on the Parkway, and left with my gathering gear and Earl’s lunch in hand. When I arrived, I was shocked to find Earl fast asleep; since his stroke last fall, I’ve been afraid to find him in distress when I arrive, and this morning shocked me. I leaned in closer, to see if he was OK, and saw that he was breathing, and snoring quietly. His belongings were lined up neatly and deliberately in front of him. It occurred to me then that he had endured a night of torrential rain and thunder, and had most likely been awake for a good part of it, so I left his food by his side and left him to his dreams. I can’t imagine being an “outdoor man”, as Earl calls himself. I can imagine it in the best of times, but not during floods, or blizzards, or windstorms. I remember what Van Gogh wrote about the mistrals; the relentless sound of the wind had an effect on a person’s mind. I wonder how Earl copes with the extremities he chooses to endure. I know what he’d say: “I just don’t think about it.”
"Starry Night", Vincent van Gogh

I tiptoed off into the wild plants that line the stream bed, just west of Earl’s place under the bridge. I knew that the stinging nettle grew there from my previous foraging walks, and as I walked through the wet grasses that morning, I wasn’t disappointed. The infant nettles had grown into hip-high, bright green plants, and were abundant. As suggested in the wildcrafting lessons I’ve taken, I asked (internally) for permission before I cut them, and I only cut the tops, allowing the rest of the plant to produce more foliage and feed the root. Though I felt welcome to harvest a good basketful of the nettles, I felt strongly driven to leave certain shoots and take others; and when I had gathered a good bunch of them, I felt the permission withdrawn. As in previous gathering expeditions, I feel a definite communication with the plant world; it’s intuitive, sub-lingual, but strong, and (to me) real. Though I hesitate to discuss it, for fear of being judged unstable, I have always had a communion with Nature on this level. I speak to her in my mind as I wander or gather; I always have. I am only now learning to hear (and acknowledge) her responses.

Stinging Nettle

I didn’t suffer one sting from the nettle; I brought it home, and spread it on the picnic table to dry. I plan to share the dry herb with Kathy, who uses it for tea, and to save some for myself as it’s a good treatment for allergies which affect my entire family. It’s a good addition to my collection of natural supports.

Peter and I spent the day cleaning the shed, assessing our supply of potting materials, and sorting the things we no longer needed. We sorted into recyclables, trash and thrift store donations, and the things that were leaving the shed were put right into the bed of my truck. This was no small task. We stopped at about 3:30, with several items still out of place in the yard. The goats were calling, as they do every day, and I needed to attend them. Peter helped me unload a few items at the thrift store, then met me at the farm.

The "Million Dollar Cat", helping me feed the goats.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Goaty Updates

This drawing is finished...and promised.  Cory's hands; the hands of a future veterinarian.  This little buckling was born after his sibling was extracted from his mother; she (the doeling) had a twisted neck, and we lost her, and nearly lost them all.  After that terrible delivery, this little boy was delivered and breathed into life by Kathy. Cory was one of the three of us who assisted.  It was an intense and moving experience.  He's such a gentle soul.

And now, a riddle for you.  When is a horse-trailer NOT a horse trailer?

Any thoughts on the matter?

Need a hint?'s not a hint, it's an answer.  When it's a milking stall, of course.  You should hear it in a hail storm!  WOW!  But the girls are doing fine with their new digs.

Tomorrow, after I deliver breakfast to Earl, I'm planning on harvesting stinging nettle from the Parkway.  Wish me (and my hands!) luck!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm Busy.

We're in the process of weaning at the farm.  Poor babies are crying for their mothers; the does show both concern and relief; they're like good mommas who are very happy to give over the kids to grandma for a weekend.  All that nursing, and being climbed on; kids (literally) bouncing off the walls...and the incessant questions... (do you remember, human mothers?)  They'll all be fine.  The seasoned does go out to graze, come back in and hear the crying kids, give a bleat or two and nod off for the night.  The new moms are a little more distressed.

We all have to learn to let go.

In the mean time, I'm collecting gallons of milk.  The girls are producing like crazy.  Last year, we had a coccidia problem to deal with.  This year. we're on new pasture, and the does are healthy and happy.   The seasoned does jump right on the stand to be milked (and enjoy a private grain dinner); the new moms need some persuasion (aka lifting).  I have to laugh; my colleagues go to "Curves".  I press goats.

I spend at least two hours a night right now...AFTER teaching all day...with my goats.  I want to make art, clean my house, grow my garden, and cook good dinners.  And I want to help my mom and my daughter, and drink some wine with my husband and friends, and read.  I'm doing most of small doses.  EXCEPT for the cleaning part; and the dinners have been fancy salads  And the reading has been abbreviated...but summer will come, and I have a wonderful; young helper for the house (thank you, Jes!), and my husband has been busy too.  Life goes on.  I satisfied the art-making urge; the new header art is one of the results; I'm beginning a pastel unit with my drawing students.  That was my "demo".  Here's my in-process demo; I explain as I draw.

Such wonderful subject matter; the young man who was holding this kid (and who assisted along with me and Kathy in his delivery; he was a "miracle kid", born after a badly positioned kid who we lost; momma survived) will be a veterinarian someday.  If this drawing is successful, I'll give it to him when he graduates.  (That's a promise, Cory.)  There's such passion in animal husbandry.  I hope I express that in my drawing and blogs.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fruits of the Earth, May Edition

Ramps and Morels.  Need I say more?  I haven't found morels this year, but my good (exceptionally good) friends have.  Thank you, good friends.
Mmmmm.  A world of potential here.  Spring is such a time of abundance.

We have ramps and watercress...

...combined with peas for a PERFECT soup. 

...added to the morels, which glazed my prawns; fresh watercress salad, homegrown new purple potatoes; could anything be better?  Summer will come, and with her, cultivated vegetables.

I'm not sure they're better, but they ARE wonderful.  So I set them in the soil, and pray.  When you pray, how do you visualize your higher power?  Can you?  But I digress...
My peas and beans have bed springs to climb.  They'll shade my lettuce.  Mmmmmm.  South is at the top of the picture, here.  If you're a gardener, you need to know where SOUTH is.

These hooligans will make good soup for The Caring Place; cabbage is always a plus.  PLUS...I just bought a BIG crock to make sauerkraut.  Wish me luck!

Today, between teaching, goat-wrangling and trimming the hedge, I read about manifesting your own destiny.  Interesting quantum physics stuff.  I fell in love with the idea of quantum physics in the late 70's, when I worked at Rockwell International, growing silicon crystals.  There was a book published at the time entitled "The Dancing Wu Li Masters".  How intriguing it sounded!  Though I only understood a fraction of it (I'm an artist, not a physicist), I was intrigued by the ideas.  I still am.  More to follow, as it unfolds.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Milk

Today was the first day of the new milking season.  As usual, the elders were less confused than the new mothers, though even they needed remediation on hopping up on the stand and getting back to home base.  We left the kids in the stalls today; there are so many, and we prefer to wean them in steps; first a half-day for awhile, then completely.  The poor things were beside themselves when I arrived, and the does were lined up at the gate like kindergarten mothers at the bus-stop. The newest does (first time mothers) needed to be taught how to jump on the milking stand; after a day or two they'll be old pros.
I love milking time.  There's something so calming about the process.  The does love coming in for the feed, and the private time I give them.  I love their smell, and their warm breathing bodies calmly munching the coveted grain as I milk them.  Now that we milk so many, we use a machine, but I finish each one by hand, and massage them as they're being milked to promote a relaxed flow.  When they leave, they're usually calm and ready for bed; they put me at peace as well.

This is my second year with this herd.  We have had our losses (Bisque passed this year, as did two newborn kids and one sweet bottle-fed kid, named "Ellen", a favorite of Miss M., the Child Goat Whisperer), and so many new births; the cycle continues, and I am a facilitator, a cog in the wheel.  It's a beautiful thing.  I am privileged to be a part of their world. No one is as lucky as me.


I have spent every possible moment out in nature lately! I'm not surprised at this impulse; every spring, my heart actually yearns for the outdoors. I spend my free moments researching herbs and nature-related arts and crafts (I'm an artist and teacher as well as a budding (ha!) herbalist). This year, my indoor research topics have been the various plants I have encountered while on my walks, and how to use them.


Do the rest of you feel the communion with a higher energy that I feel when I'm in a forest? I feel...harmonious. Like I'm a part of everything, and everything is a part of me. I have internal conversations with the plants and the spirit of the place (or is it the place? Perhaps the "Spirit" is a larger energy), and I lose track of time. I'm never bored or lonely; as a matter of fact, I prefer these walks to be solitary, as my mind is so stimulated by everything I'm seeing, and my senses are engaged by the smells, sounds and textures of the living things around me. I almost feel as if I've stepped into a dream.

I imagine that our brain waves change naturally under these circumstances. I wonder if there have been studies done. I'm certain that my body becomes more relaxed in nature. A biofeedback study would be interesting, if only to promote the habit of communion with nature for those who need such proof. I'm content knowing that what I'm doing feels like "coming home".

On Sunday morning, on the way to my mother's home (an hour from my own) my husband and I stopped to do a little wildcrafting. It's full-on spring here in Pennsylvania, and now that kidding is done at the farm and my mother is recovering from her hospitalization, I've been able to take some healing time for myself. I asked him to join me on Saturday, as it's such an important part of my life, and he's my loving partner. I want him to have the joy that I feel, as well.

When I was a child, my father used to take me with him to collect minnows for fishing. He'd hold a big net on two wooden poles downstream from me, then he'd tell me to splash my way downstream toward him. The stream where we did this is fed by a spring, where people have been filling their water bottles for at least 50 years (I remember 45 of them!); the spring first drains into a marsh, and the marsh produces the best watercress I've ever eaten. I don't know why more people don't harvest it, but it's there year after year, and it’s wonderful. I've been there twice before already this spring, so my stop on Sunday was leaning toward the end of the season for the watercress, but stop I did, with peter in tow. He watched from the bank while I negotiated the crossed wood and tussocks that are strategically placed in a hidden, marshy path to the heart of the cress. I have a small gardening shear that I carry, and had two plastic bags that I filled with my bounty; one for us, one for my friend Stephanie, who has offered a trade for some morels today. I love collecting watercress; the peppery smell, the rampant growth, the cool, moist surroundings. I've been coming to this spot since I was on my own, not so long after my minnowing days. I have never been disappointed. Watercress is one of the blessings of spring.

Nearby, I have a favorite spot to collect ramps, a short walk from a country roadside, and a little hop over a sweet, crystal clear stream. Peter joined me there, and we dug two bags of ramps from a large sandbar, barely making a dent in the population. It was a warm, sunny morning, and the moist air had us perspiring despite the early hour. I thank the ramps as I take them, and I feel their willingness to come; whether it's that process or simply more experience, I don't know, but I harvested nearly twice the amount he did, but he enjoyed himself, and was a willing participant. I pointed out the trout lilies and skunk cabbage as we harvested; the poison ivy on the walk back, and the garlic mustard by the car. I showed him the mullein growing by the roadside, and the lamb's quarters alongside it. Just steps away, we found wild mustard and plantain; curly dock and burdock. What a wonderful place.

I breathe easier in nature. I find peace and spirituality there. As we were enjoying our morning in the sun, by the dancing stream and the dozing trees, my heart was lifted in something akin to prayer, and I felt, as always in nature, that I was exactly where I needed to be. My sanctuary, my sacred place. We are blessed.

Later, Peter described the experience to my mother, who just nodded her head. "She always did that", she said. It's true; but now, I'm learning more. What was always a part of me is becoming a studied path. I feel like I'm coming home.