In the last blog I covered what it means to be what I have come to call a “Locally Grown Foreigner”. If You missed that last blog post I suggest you go back and read Part One before proceeding on. So I have laid out that our profound disconnection with our land has led us to the edge of being like aliens on the very land we call home. The next logical step that many people will want to take, is to do whatever possible to reconnect with their land. I would never in my life say that I am an expert.in the art of reconnecting people, however I have spent the past 15ish years trying to reconnect myself and I feel very strongly that I have some good guidance for the willing listener.
First and Foremost on my mind is that people that fall into the category of a Locally Grown Foreigner are very often people that spend almost no time outside. No matter the weather, if you wish to regain natural citizenship with your land, you must spend time outside. This is usually a very easy thing for the majority of us to accomplish in the warmer months, but this becomes a giant ask when you live in a place where the weather goes down below freezing. Unfortunately for the heat loving among you, building a connection to your land requires that you not hide away from it 4-6 months of the year. What’s more is that once you start the journey of cold immersion, your body can acclimate to the change of temperature in as little as a few weeks.
Cold immersion is something that I could easily write an entire blog on, but for now I will urge you to instead go and look up any and all information on Wim Hof that you can find. Wim Hof has shown over and over again that the human body can withstand much more than we commonly think. Ultimately many readers will say that they are not built for the cold, and that they could not possibly do this part of reconnection, but I urge you to try anyway. A woman in my life that was once an always-frozen-vegan a few years back now happily walks trails with me looking for Chaga in the dead of winter. Cold adaptation takes a while but the payoff in your connection with your land is worth the effort. What may have once seemed an insurmountable task becomes easy. Winter hikes through the woods are great fun, and you can spend time acquainting yourself with animal tracks that are usually in great abundance. Learning to utilize the snow to understand what animals live in your region is absolutely necessary to becoming a part of your land.
Cold immersion is a very important aspect of what I am talking about here, but ultimately you need to be able to live in the weather in your area no matter the time of year or the reading on the thermometer. That means spring when one day its in the 70’s and the next it is snowing. Staying inside all year round is an excellent way to make yourself unfamiliar with the plant and animal life around you, but also it makes your body unfamiliar with temperatures outside of 72 degrees. Our ancestors traversed the entire globe before central heat or air were ever invented. When Lewis and Clarke crossed what is now the United States, they met many Plains people that would routinely stay out on the plains while hunting in -30F weather wearing only a buffalo robe. Being adapted to the weather outside your comfortable home is like having a cheat code for life in the modern age. What was once common, is now superhuman.
You really think
that this guy spends his evenings Netflixing and Chilling?
BEGIN YOUR QUEST TO LEARN THE WILD EDIBLES THAT SURROUND YOU.
Paramount in this adventure will be the knowledge of how to feed yourself from the plants and animals around you. This little tiny step can cause a tremendous amount of good in your life. Foraging for food can be as simple as picking a few greens to as complex as picking and processing acorns to last your family all winter long. Wild edibles are a gateway drug into an entire world of sustainable living that you never knew existed. Over and above every other aspect of this quest for a tangible connection to your land, eating what the earth provides should be the first thing on your list. Partaking of this step will make you unintentionally partake of the first step above.
Foraging began for me as a logical next step from dumpster diving and taking home the free food restaurants were going to throw away. I began slowly to accumulate books and knowledge on the plants and mushrooms around me in my quest to eat freely. The benefit that I was not noticing was the connection to and the adoration of the land that I walk on. The place that you acquire your food from becomes the place that you trust in. If you eat thanks to Walmart, your love and attention go to Walmart. Consequently, having your attention on Walmart necessitates that your attention not be on the land. Foragers eat from the Earth, and as a result they see the Earth as being forever giving and sharing. The Earth is something to be grateful for.
Beginning your journey into wild foods can be as simple as eating the dandelion greens that grow in your yard. That one simple task can set off an entire avalanche of desire for more wild foods. You can go as fast or as slow as you desire. Over the years of teaching wild edibles I have met many people that have wanted to take their journey slowly, and many more still that have wanted to jump right in and learn it all. Neither step is better than the other. But both steps are necessary for this journey.
Learn to recognize the other inhabitants of the land you live on.
Birding, tracking, fishing and hunting all put your head into the space of knowing the other inhabitants of your land. This step is very important because it brings your awareness to the other-than-human elements of our world. It is fairly easy to assume that this world is a whole lot of people and the occasional squirrel or robin. It is easy if you do not pay attention. Our world is teeming with life. Even in the major urban centers there are animals that have made their lives function there. I believe that you should start with birding, then move on from there, but really any of these steps are a good start. Many of you will not wish to hunt and I don’t think that this is a requirement for you, but it is something that I believe brings one a very deep connection to their land.
On any given day, because of the diligence that I have put into learning bird sounds, I will unintentionally hear birds and recognize who made the noise. Whether this be standing outside my house listening to the Redwing Blackbirds in the spring, or hearing a Raven while working on a construction project. I have spent many years training my ears to hear the birds around me. The birds speak and relay information for the attentive listener. It is entirely possible to learn a small vocabulary of words and thus gain an understanding of what things may or may not be happening around you. Many hunters would be wise to learn when the birds have called them out and sit down because proceeding further is folly. There is much information to be learned in regards to “Bird Language”. I urge you to take up this wonderful study.
Of course tracking the animals around you allows you to understand the movements and habits of animals that are not currently in front of you. This basic task of looking down on the ground extracting meaning has far reaching roots into deep history. Some have argued that tracking animals was one of the catalysts for our extensive intellect. I’ll not delve into this subject today, but I will say that you should get a good book on animal tracks and begin studying. Teach your kids if you have any. They are quick learners and are prone to developing a lifelong love of reading the signs.
Fishing and Hunting are among the most expedient of ways to gain a love of the land around you, because when you partake of these activities you are taking life from the land, and that is not a light endeavor. Taking plant and tree life is just as serious in my mind, but to the majority of the population a thing that walks and makes sounds is higher on the hierarchy as far as killing goes. The corresponding gratefulness that one feels after a successful fishing trip or hunting trip is unmatched. I’ll not drone on but I urge you to at least try having an open mind about these two activities.
When I began the first blog I did not realize that I would have so much to say, and now I am feeling that there is even yet more to write about. Look out for Part 3 of this blog in a week or so. Thank you all for checking out my latest blog. I have been really working hard on studying to bring you all of this content, and new content to come. That being said I now have a Patreon account and I am happy have any and all of the support that can be offered up my way so that I can continue to spread the good news about foraging and sustainable living. Support me here. If donation is not your thing, and I understand completely, then think about clicking through any of my Amazon Portals on this website. Every time you click through one of these links and continue on to do your normal purchasing on Amazon, I get a percent of what you bought and the best part is that it costs you nothing! Merci!