B Boozy Botanists

Fill This

Part of the fun of being able to identify plants as you walk by them in the forest is knowing which ones might poison you and which ones are mighty tasty prepared in a mixed drink over ice or fermented and bottled.

Last year the ladies got really interested in squishing fruit. They combed the neighborhood and delivered letters to our especially fruity neighbors inviting them to some free labor. In exchange for cleaning up around their fruit trees, we’d bring home a few large buckets of apples, pears, persimmons and muscadines. Over the course of several weeks during harvest season we accumulated many “carboys” (large glass containers) full of squeezings. They’re naturally doing their thing and now we have lots of bottles to fill. Pretty tasty pear wine, honey wine, cyser, mead, and more, I’m sure. I’m trying to stay at arm’s length. (Yes, with a glass in hand, though.)

Identifying the plants while you’re walking next to them is pretty impressive, but what really wowed me was driving around, even on the highway, hearing, “Pear! Apple! Persimmon!” Red2 identified a pear tree hiding in front of a grocery store. She’s 9, kiddos.

Their mom and I did share. It wasn’t all booze. We had persimmon cake, apple and pear butter, and pear preserves using as recipe from the tree owner who feels like she’s all done making preserves herself. She was very happy to have some help.

The last thought here is about where this all leads. The natural ingredients that used to be found in things like Maraschino cherries and grenadine. Amy Stewart’s book, The Drunken Botanist, is good read full of stories about what’s really supposed to be in the bottles. Read the labels, folks. Red1 wants a field trip to a liquor store to find real grenadine made with pomegranates, not colored up corn syrups. I think she’ll have to wait a bit for that. Do you think the shop keepers will let us in to read the labels?

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A – Atlatl Girls. Primitive skills for kids.

The atlatl (AT-ul-AT-ul) is just a sliver of wood with a spike or a hook at the end of it used by folks to hunt a bazillion years ago. You put a little wooden dart in the hole and sling it forward from behind you and over your head. Red1 has made a few and is getting quite good at making them and slinging the darts. Watch out, it doesn’t take much effort or power in the throw to shoot the dart deep into it’s target.

Sling Me
atlatl by Red1

But why is she making these things? Red1 and Red2 are my daughters and they homeschooled. They get to travel with their mom who goes to primitive skill share events around the southeast between quilting and sewing expos.

{Respond to one question with another questionable answer?} Yes! That’s us. So what’s a primitive skill share? It’s not a survivalist, Hunger Games, end-of-the-world cult family reunion, right? Right. 

The cool-factor: She met Andy Hemmings, and just hung out. Just from this link alone, to the article about the underwater archeology expedition for NOAA, he sounds pretty cool, right?

People gather to trade skills that our culture is almost too eager to leave behind. Botanists take them on nature hikes where they identify edible plants. They’re learning recipes for healthy teas and safe cleaning solutions. They made some homemade deodorant that smells better than anything I’ve ever bought in the store, but it also eliminated, not masked, eliminated all actual odors that were coming from me. They insist that I’m not that smelly to begin with, which is very polite of them, but I know it’s working great.

The ladies are currently fascinated by these things that people have started to forget about. Making cool primitive weapons, spoons, tanning, making meads and fermented foods. For thousands of years people preserved their harvests without refrigeration and created amazing beverages from the pounds and pounds of fruit in their trees. They grew and shared their vegetables and pickled them. Wait, tanning hides? Yes. They’re picking up dead things–carefully–to craft something from the hides. This summer we had a fox in our freezer for while before taking it to a friend to be de-furred. Poor little guy had a beautiful coat and will make a unique hand bag.

This June, they may be going to Firefly, http://www.fireflygathering.org, where they’ll trade hand-dyed recycled yarn and homemade ciders for leather purses, flutes, spoons and perhaps another atlatl.
April is the A-to-Z Challenge, and my theme for this challenge is explore the world my family has been swooped up in since they started homeschooling. While I’ve been at work, instead of becoming super computer geniuses, they’ve been out in the woods gathering herbs to make a few tinctures. 
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