Following The Berries
Life has been pretty low-key around here this last week, as we settle back in from the Olympic Peninsula trip and brace for the dry summer here in the Inland Northwest, which has been felt making its entrance the past few days, dust & heat on its shirttails.
I'll just cut straight to the chase and tell you: summer is my least favorite season. Heat, in general, any temperature over 70 degrees F, takes from me. It plays out like a legitimate mathematic formula, where every increase in degree removes a percentage more energy and creativity from my spirit. I blame it on northern European DNA, an ancestral lineage of northern coastal people, but I don't recall being so put off by heat until my mid-20s so it could just be hormonal. (Isn't everything?)
Give me snow, cold, overcast, mist and fog any day. Which is one of the main reasons I moved to the Northwest in the first place, but Inland Northwest summers are scorchers. The interesting bit, and how summer days here do differ so much from the Kentucky summers I grew up in, is the humidity factor.
Humidity is typically so low here in the summer months, meaning UV rays are the real culprit. If you can get out of the direct path of the sun, the temperature drops significantly because the air around you isn't full of moisture to hold the heat. I know firsthand that in a place with humid hot summers, like Kentucky's, there is no escaping the heat. It consumes you. No shade tree will change things. But here, nights and days are drastically different. Many nights, sleeping with windows open, I wake chilled and snuggle ever closer to my furnace of a husband for comfort, and most mornings call for long sleeves, pants, and socks until roughly 10AM. From there, until about 7PM, ick. Give me shaded forests, cold mountain lakes, indoor tinkering, and Breathe oil on everything. But thank goodness for the evening respite.
I guess I write all that in a state of mild dread, since our local forecast shows this being the last mild and overcast day in the foreseeable future. So, here we go! The rest of July, August, and most of September will be hot, dry, and if anything like last summer - smoky. Then back into misty and overcast for a month or two, and finally - full on winter. Winters here are very predictable: snow begins falling in December and keeps falling until March or April. No melting happens during that time - what falls turns to snowpack and it's not unsual to measure snow on the ground in feet, not inches. And we love it! This winter I'm planning to start cross-country skiing through the forests, and I have some ideas brewing that revolve around proper hibernating in an inspiring way... stay tuned.
Despite not liking heat, I do love summer, because summer means blossoms and pollination and fruition. We plant people can hardly stand ourselves - planting seeds like lunatics (I don't have an actual garden this year while we exist in this transitional phase, but my container gardening situation is turning out to be more fulfilling than expected) and foraging all our spare hours away.
Last night began the huckleberry frenzy. If you've never tasted wild huckleberries, I'd tell you to imagine the tastiest blueberry you've ever had, and then add an extra note of deep purpley grapeness on top. That's how a huckleberry tastes. When it comes to foraging sugars off the landscape, they're my favorite - hands down. And with a husband who eats a giant bowl of berries (usually blue) after dinner each night, the more berries we can gather, the better off we are.
During huckleberry season, we can be found in the forest almost every evening, hunkered over with a basket beside us, beginning at the lower elevations and moving higher as the season progresses, following the berries.
From the daily bounty, we'll each have a bowl full with yogurt, and then freeze the rest.
It feels really good, dare I say natural, to forage nourishment from the land you live with, but I have to say you do forage a lot more than that, my favorite: quiet contemplation. Gathering huckleberries seems to build space for inward reflection and housekeeping of the psyche to unfold. A space that feels different somehow from the quiet moments found inherently in day to day life. I think there is something to be said about interacting with nature in this way. Beyond just taking a hike through a landscape, when you forage you are included in the landscape. As humans were for hundreds of thousands of years, until just recently. For my own life, these interactions are vital for a kind of growth and inward expansion that I haven't been able to mimic in books or conversation.
I've just begun a book that expands on this notion, I believe, so hopefully I'll be better suited to write more on it later.
Other projects happening around here this week: attempting to make my own wild sourdough starter, making a small batch of sauerkraut until I manage to unearth my big proper crock out of storage, more and more and more broccoli sprouts of course, planted more zinnias, lavender, and tomatoes, still on the hunt for wild elderflowers, finishing up an embroidered folk banner and pondering how I want to go about displaying it on the wall, and of course my usual work. Oh, and quarts upon quarts of nettle, jasmine, and peppermint tea - my favorite summer teas. Served cold.
What are you up to?
My husband and I are working to build a Nordic-inspired homestead in the Washington wilderness slowly with cash and no debt. You can follow the journey here!
I write about:
our homestead journey
health & wellness
wild food foraging
DIY & craft projects
making a living online from home (or anywhere)
my own recipes from scratch
and much more