Saturday, June 03, 2006

It's Nettle Time Again

I began this blog a year ago at nettle time. One of my first posts was about gathering nettles at my friend Liz's house last May. Here I am again! Last weekend I went to Liz's to get some more nettles.

Don't they look lovely and healthy? And nettle tea helps keep me healthy. I knelt down in the grass to meditate and communicate gratitude to the plants. I gave them a pinch of tobacco. I felt a little self-conscious, since Liz stood nearby, and I know she doesn't share my view of plants. But even so, I felt the plants' particular energy. Having drunk nettle tea all year, it was easier to tune in to their beauty.

As I gathered them I wore gloves, but my arms were bare. Liz was surprised that I wasn't bothered by the stings. I got a few on my wrists and forearms, but they were mostly just itchy to me, like mosquito bites. I guess to her they are very painful.

She shook her head at me as I went about my work. I showed her (again) how the dock plants growing nearby can be used to stop the nettle stings. She commented that she was always trying to get rid of the dock and how hard it is because it has such deep roots. I told her that the young dock greens could be cooked for food and how the roots could be tinctured. I told her they were nutritious and excellent for building iron in the blood. Her son, Joel, who is 8 stood nearby. He said: "Those are weeds. We don't eat weeds". I could tell that was Liz's view too.

On the other hand, Joel seemed interested in my little ritual, and asked if he could give the plants a pinch of tobacco too, so I showed him how. Despite his declaration about the "weeds" maybe he will see another perspective later on.

I asked Liz if she had tried eating any of the nettles last year, or making tea out of them. She said no, and told me that after I left, her husband would mow down this patch with a weed wacker. I was kind of upset by that, but she said "Oh don't worry, they grow back. That's prob. why these are so healthy, they get mowed all the time!" And I guess I can understand that she doesn't want them to spread, since her kids play in the yard.

Then we went inside to make some mint tea (apparently a "weed" that makes acceptable tea!) and brought it outside to drink under the tall lilac bushes. We observed a little bird going in and out and discovered 2 nests in the bush. I don't know what kind of bird it was, maybe a flycatcher? It was too quick for me to get a picture. We also watched a swallowtail butterfly in the lilacs. Our kids played together. We had a nice visit.

I like Liz, and I like her land. I do appreciate her sharing it with me. I hunt there in the fall too. We've known each other since High School. We used to always talk about having a farm. We both have big vegetable gardens. Liz studied sustainable agriculture in college. She worked with the Heifer Project in Africa.

But I feel sort of bad sometimes when I realize that she probably thinks I'm a little crazy. Well, I suppose I am. But not as crazy as I may seem. The things I do are things our ancestors did, it's only recently (in span of human existance) that we don't do these things anymore and we find them strange.

While I keep a garden, I guess I am also incorporating a kind of hunter-gatherer spirituality in my life that seems alien to most people in our culture. Maybe she thinks it's phony or something. It's not phony to me, though. It seems like the most natural thing in the world to me. The more I express my true feelings and self, the more strange I must appear to others. Even those who I thought would understand.

Oh well, I guess that's part of getting older. Things that are in us just have to come out eventually, whether or not other people find them odd.

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Blogger Nova said...

I know so little about gardening, agriculture and eating naturally: I have to admit that I felt kind of ignorant as I read this post.

I think it's bloody cool that you drink nettle tea (I never even knew such a tea existed!), and that you're so in tune with nature.

What does the tobacco do for the plants?

I'll have to start taking classes from you!!!

7:23 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Hi Nova! :-) Thank you Honey.

The tobacco is just a symbolic thing. Like, a thank you.

7:31 AM  
Blogger PFG said...

Hi Kate,
It's funny how people will act like you're superstitious when you engage in a ritual like that but think nothing of the practice of attending church on Sunday, celebrating Easter or Christmas or Passover, etc.

Is dock burdock?
And how do you make nettle tea?
And are you doing lots of tick checks? This year is a bumper crop it seems. Be careful out there!

12:32 PM  
Blogger ticharu said...

I guess 'sustainable agriculture' doesn't include the food that just grows wild. How can that be?

We are surrounded by food out here. Dandilion, burdock, violets, cat tails just to name a very few.

It's a little work but I can't buy enough fresh vegies for a week or better before I get back into town, so we live off the land.
Quite a few plants from our garden last year naturalised. The trick is realizing what you're seeing.

'Hey, that's food!'

Nutritionally superior as well!

6:09 AM  
Blogger Jenny G said...

I think it's great that you are in tune with the earth and use what the land has to offer. You take time to smell the roses (or drink the nettle tea); not many people do that, myself included.

5:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this post. And I don't think you're crazy at all; in fact you're cool as hell! If more people were in tune with nature, or cared about nature, maybe they'd think twice about GMO foods, pesticide use, overuse of antibiotics in commercial livestock, toxic ingredients in processed foods, etc. I learn a lot from reading your blog. And, hey, we all have our rituals and beliefs. They're what we do to make us feel a little more at peace in this chaotic world. - Colleen

10:17 AM  
Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Kate you are amazing! I do so love living in the country and make it my busines to visit folks that live there. I really enjoyed this post.

I will bet you that Liz like you just as much, no matter how strange you seem to her --- you seem like my grandmother to me. She loved nature and introducing us to strage "weeds" as you put it.

Blessings and much love to ya!

12:14 PM  
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