The forest is part of the land, and the land is part of the forest.
The land is the text by which we learn to live. Her secrets represent everything we need to know about applying life’s foundation. Nature provides us with a code, which unlocks an ancient wisdom that exists within each of us
This ancient wisdom is Gaia, and the greatest connection we have to her spirit is our role as the steward of Gaia’s ideas about herself. The gift she gives us to create compositions; a song, a painting, a poem or a tapestry, demonstrates our dance with her two lovers, nature and the cosmos.
I am a wildcrafter and “natural” farmer. I plant, nurture and harvest plants in a wild landscape for food and medicines. When I propagate a particular species of plant I let nature grow around it, I feed the plant with a compost tea so that the roots will be become strong and established and then I prune back the surrounding competing plants so that it has space to grow.
The little help that I give the plant allows it to strengthen as it competes to survive. Eventually its competitors become companions as they provide protection, shade and shelter and even a canopy that holds moisture and contributes nutrients.
The plant that I nurtured has now become part of a community of biodiversity, which it has strengthened, so much so, that I am no longer required. In exchange for my efforts I carefully harvest a little bit from that community and offer it protection from certain kinds of predators.
In this process, the plant has become special in many ways just like its companions. Because it competed in its own unique conditions, its properties have become influenced by its local surroundings. The plant has a sense of that place and the entire local process has then given it unique attributes or talents that benefits humans such as taste, aroma, texture and medicinal strength; all of it defined by its local influence, which makes the plant slightly different than the same species of plant a few meters away; and different again from a plant that was not nurtured a kilometer away.
It took several generations for that plant to strengthen to the point where it became sustainable within its local environment. I helped, fed and nurtured it for a few years, but it decided what it wanted to do; it decided how it wanted to become strong and how it would become a companion to the other plants.
Today it thrives and spreads, and it contributes to the larger ecosystem by being part of a community. I am part of it too; and when I make food or medicine, the strength of that plant is then experienced by many people.
That plant is indeed something completely local, that does good for the larger world.
What I create from this living landscape becomes a composition that is in fact a dance with Gaia. It is a process that begins with dreams and ideas of something that eventually becomes a form, and within this transformation I dance with nature. I consider all of this a great gift and a treasure. We humans are fantastic and at the same time we are blessed as we dance with the embodiment of the cosmos and with Mother Earth.
Each of us has within us our ancestral memory that has been connected to a place on Earth. A place that we dwelled upon for hundreds of thousands of years. Some of us were nomadic, others less so. But within our tribes, wherever they were on this planet, we all shared a common sense of place. We nourished ourselves from that place. In this place, the land, water and sustenance constructed our DNA. The human experience and this place became one, as a single living organism. Each of us became perfect.
Eons later, we moved from that original place, ate differently, lived differently causing our bodies and metabolisms to weaken as those differences consumed our perfection. Today, many of us struggle with health issues; we require an infusion of ancestral diet and memory so that we may become healthy and renewed again.
Seeking to understand our ancient selves helps us to understand our present being.
There are not a lot of wild tea blenders on planet Earth, which is why I believe that I am blessed. I have walked a path so that I could be prepared to take on this task. What I have come to understand is that this occupation is less about making tea, and more about capturing the ancient spirit of alchemy that encourages plants and places to speak and share their intentions – as the old Druids understood. My work is similar to the Fire Keeper within a Medicine Wheel. The Fire Keeper tends to a fire on the eastern direction of the wheel. They help the fire create the smoke that captures the energies from around the wheel; the good energies are carried around the sacred circle and shared but the Fire Keeper separates the bad energies from the good and with the help of herbs and sacred feathers the keeper whisks those bad energies out of the circle so that they can depart and be dispersed in nature so that they may become healed.
Blending wild drink is equally as powerful – as energies and nature come together with sacred intention and ceremony.
Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting and using wild materials for food, medicine, construction and craft. The kinds of things people might find are mushrooms, driftwood, flowers, feathers, rocks, shells, grains, saps, quills, clay, wicker, burls, seaweed, weeds, nuts, food, herbs, berries, seeds, cones, roots, bark, dye, antlers, fur, bones, leather, teeth, mosses and ferns and so on. Wildcrafting is the art of using 'found' materials while propagating the wild so that it may offer us a surplus that we may use.
In wildcrafting we are gleaning the bounty of the Earth and doing so with humility and thankfulness, the harvesting mantras are many because they become an art within themselves, but a mantra goes something like this:
Be the steward first and love the land,
soil and living things more than you love yourself,
Take only what you need,
Ask first and plant in return;
Perform a ritual of thanks
Use caution in your harvesting so as to not hurt the plants,
Respect the boundaries of your harvest,
Never take ALL of everything; collect in swatches or spirals.
Don't take the best; leave the best seed stock for the future,
Help the patch to grow; spread seed in the vicinity.
Harvest natural stands; bring some to cultivation.
Enhance natural stands; get seeds from as close as possible.
Wildcrafting in today's landscape
“Wildcrafting” has many dimensions and within our contemporary teachings we share an understanding about historical and spiritual aspects to the art. We explain the building blocks of ancient wisdom for constructing a contemporary model, which can be used as an alternative to the present industrial approach to forest management, wellness, planning and lifestyle. Today, both government and industry state that wildcrafted products are the same as "non-timber forest products" - this label makes no sense at all because it separates timber from everything else and applies two different management formulas within a single forest - a recipe for failure. Also we might be called a type of "agroforestry" which attempts to fit us into an industrial agriculture model, which suggests, yes a plantation of sorts - but this is not the nature of wildcrafting. Then finally, we are described as "foragers". Yes there are foragers, but they tend to pick and harvest without an element of stewardship. Wildcrafting is about applied stewardship within a “place” even if there is no harvest available. Wildcrafting removes the notion that the value of the forest is solely commodity-based and instead places the primary value as being “experiential” within a context of biodiversity.
For example in the marketplace, an industrial company harvesting timber from a forest may sell their product as being “straight grained” and of accurate dimension. The lion’s share of their marketing narrative would be about the quality and reasonable price of that product - and in order for the price to be low, harvesting volumes would have to be high.
Conversely, wildcrafting takes a much different market approach. Our narrative connects the product to the "place". We tell a story about the biodiversity of the place that grew the product and we add value by explaining the layers of consciousness that exists in nature, in order for that product to be available for consumption - in very finite amounts. This accepts that our harvesting volumes are intentionally limited and this means that our price points are much higher, but of great value. This model presents a form of “terroir”.
Finally, wildcrafting goes beyond the forest. It can be applied to design, including political and community design. It is the new “tangible” deep ecology that will soon play an important role in the global and local vision of “sustainability”.
Wildcrafting has within it a strong sense of activism because it encourages the long view and the need to have a 300 or 500-year plan. It elevates the need to understand "Shadow Biodiversity" which refers to the elements of life or ecosystems that we have no knowledge of. These elements present part of the "great mystery". Everyday with our actions we risk losing a key element of life, before we have even realized that it had existed.
Wildcrafting is the “new” environmental movement and a pillar of bioregionalism.
Questioning authority and making a difference, creates beauty.
Like casting a stone into a pond.