I woke before the sun kissed the sky good morning. Picked the blueberry patch at first light. Deep blue bodies shrouded in a soft silvery veil covered the bushes. Raspberries ready to burst dangled on tall stems in wide rows barely hanging on. I willed them to wait until I finished the blueberry patch. Here and there an impatient branch bowed over the guide wire as if to say, “Pick me first, pick me now!” Dew drops heavy with wetness washed me with cool refreshment. Every other day for the last 8 weeks I’ve began my day in this patch to ponder thoughts. Any thought about anything that was ripe and ready to be picked.
This year’s berry harvest looks to be a bucket buster. Easy pick’n. As I gently fingered and freed the soft blue beads hiding among their Mother’s maze of twigs and leaves, gratitude ripened in me. Like the plump berries, gratitude has to be harvested, picked and plucked in an untroubled manner from our day to nourish our Spirit. It feeds our heart sweet juicy joy — a heart harvest.
My heart harvest is for…
my horses for feeding the earth what they could no longer use
a strong back bone to pile up what my horses piled up over the winter
the creepy crawlies that feasted on the compost transforming it into rich ground
all the natural elements for breaking down to build up
a strong backbone to haul the rich ground to the bushes
the magic of bees to turn blooms into berries
water living its life through all of us
hours of conversation shared between a Mother, the bushes and her almost 20 year old daughter—pure delight
the time spent with the Mother bushes to pick patches of thought to ponder
that Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake on the countertop
that taste of summer frozen in the basement freezer
Don’t let a patch of gratitude go to waste. Make your heart harvest a bucket buster.
It has been an unusually soggy summer here in Northeast Wisconsin. Both in rain and humidity. Instead of making 2nd or 3rd crop this time of year, most farmers are just getting off 1st crop. The worry that comes with the struggle to harvest hay was getting real. That was until a four day break in the weather was forecast two weeks ago. How quickly lack can turn into abundance if we are willing to cease the opportunity….even if it means a whole lot of hard work. The inspiration for this piece.
Bronze skin leather tough
Drenched in salty drops
I drink in the sky
Prayers pour out of my heart
Machinery and God be merciful
Long windrows lay ready to make perfect hay
Keep breakdowns and tears of dark clouds away
Bound tight with twine square bales bulge
Full wagons waddle over the bald field
Winter’s hunger aches for your green
As stars usher in night’s moist breath
I walk up to the house feeling spiritually quenched
Exhausted muscles and mind rest peacefully in gratitude’s joy
Hard work fears me
Summer is drowsy.
Fall wraps a colorful shawl over her shoulders.
apple fragrance perfumes the crisp air.
In the orchard, youth’s tang has mellowed.
Tart and hard surrender.
Wolf River. Prairie Spy. Lodi. Zestar.
Bashful pink blushes streak down each apple.
Voluptuous ornaments adorn the length of each and every limb.
Branches bow as gracefully as the necks of swans.
Sweet wood bares sweet fruit.
McIntosh. Cortland. Red Delicious. Granny Smith
Teeth crush down through flesh.
Taste the juicy ripeness of a season’s end.
Running sky blue clear.
Soul sweet deep.
Wipe your chin ready.
Gala. Sweet Tango. Empire. Honey Crisp
As I pick, the prominent creases in my palms fill with the deep purple, almost black, juice of the elderberries. The plastic fork I use to comb the berries from the stems, jabs and pokes the delicate skin, bursting the deepest flavored berries. I decide to use my fingers to coerce the berries from their stems. An effort to save as much of the precious juice as possible for the medicinal concoction I’ll be making. I relish the intimate hand labor to collect sustenance for my body. Ray Bradbury said it best when he described the art of doing things by hand as something that imbues actions with spirit and enduring significance.
Several years ago I discovered an enviable passion for the medicinal properties of Elderberries. Elderberry’s antioxidant capacity is one of the highest of all wild food sources. A tablespoon a day of elderberry syrup is enough to stave off the most arduous cold and flu season. As with many things, homemade is not only better but cheaper. So 15 years ago along a shallow ditch next to a wild space, I planted ten elderberry whips, a florescent ribbon marking their place in the wilderness. All I could do was let time pass.
The head-high bushes started producing at 10 years. Most harvests now produce enough to share with friends, family and a variety of bird species. The birds have spread the seeds by a method I lightheartedly refer to as “poop and plant”. Our property now has scatterings of elderberry bushes that are exclusively food for wildlife. The serendipitous way “passing it forward” occurred makes me wonder if nature had a plan for my relationship with the elderberry all along. The land has been waiting to welcome the elderberry. Evidenced by its proliferation into the hidden wild areas only a winged-one can reach.
With that thought, I would like to share my elderberry syrup recipe. I’m not really sure you can call it a recipe. It’s more of a creative adventure in food preservation. I hope during the process you feel the hand/heart connection … that your being is imbue with spirit, knowing the enduring significance this one action has on the health and well-being of all that surrounds you.
Ingredients: Elderberry juice (2-3 cups), 1 tsp Cinnamon, 3/4 tsp Ginger, Raw honey
Put clean elderberries into a pot with a good splash of water. Whatever you pick will be enough. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Crush berries in the pot. Let them cook at a simmer, crushing and mixing, for 5-10 minutes. A potato masher works well. Once you feel you have squeezed every last drop of juice from the berries, drain the liquid. I use a mesh strainer. To the liquid add the spices. Adjust amounts to your taste. The measurements I gave are a starting point. Add the raw honey at last, after the juice has cooled. Stir well. SYRUP MUST BE STORED IN THE REFRIGERATOR.
I take a tablespoon a day beginning in September. It’s yummy drizzled over yogurt or mixed into oatmeal.
I wasn’t sure if the cheeks facing me were on the smile end or the seat end of this caterpillar but it didn’t matter. Either way, she made me crack a smile. What a delight to see this amazing cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia) caterpillar in our apple orchard on this dewy fresh morning. She was nearly as big as my thumb!
With a wingspan of 5-6 inches, the cecropia moth is the largest North American moth. All winter will be spent in a 4-5 inch cocoon. In late May, the cercropia moths emerge from their cocoons. The female only lives about two weeks, just long enough to mate and lay eggs.
Because their skin doesn’t grow the cercropia caterpillar goes through several molting phases, each time attaching itself to a silken pad it has spun. When the new skin is fully developed it will literally walk out of its old skin. This cercropia caterpillar is in the fifth instar larvae stage.
If you have the good fortune to see an adult cercropia moth, I promise you will not be disappointed. Their spectacular color and size is something you will not soon forget. The cercropia moth is another example of nature’s marvelous metamorphosis; ever thing in sacred motion.
Moth medicine is that of inner knowing, determination, vulnerability and movement. I wish her well on her magnificent journey of transformation and hope we meet again in the May night, both of us with our wings.
Summer’s youth wanes,
each day riper with fullness,
Phlox’s bright eyes open wide.
A delightfully lovely fragrance,
once cradled in her bosomy blooms,
now billows gently in the breeze.
Hot pink petals aflame,
devour the green scenery,
burning off the heat’s heaviness.
A Sphinx Moth visits,
humming above nectar filled flowers,
long tongues dip into wells of sweetness.
The cool of the evening,
invites me back for a visit.
I sit enchanted by the tall aristocratic beauty.
Phlox, you are the queen of my garden empire.
I bow to you.
An excerpt from Sweet Wisdoms….
Tractor fumes mingle with the sweet scent of freshly turned hay. The sickle cut close to the earth. Tall proud stems and blades laid and dried by the breath of the sun. A steady parade of bulging squares marched out of the baler to be stacked in an orderly fashion on the hayrack, and following each, a cough of fine chafe that stuck to beads of sweat draped across my brow. Bald fields void of lush green begin again.
When the daylight is extinguished I’ll rest, my forearms speckled with tiny cuts from the stems of hay, my fingers swollen from plucking taut twine. To know that this labor keeps hunger from winter’s long reach and squeezes the throat of drought gives my soul temporary satisfaction.
Next summer, I’ll begin again like green fields.