Tag Archives: environmental art

Seasonal Update: Book Announcement!

It’s almost here!

 

~The Cycle of Foraging – A Book of Days~

The book I’ve been writing since the end of the Wild Foods Garden project is basically done, there’s just some last minute touches that need to happen and then some final editing, but then it’s off to the printers.

Here is a quick sneak peek inside at what it will look like:

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There are about 50 different species covered, all arranged according to when they appear throughout the year. They are organized by month and seasons; details for each include seasonality, identification, habitat preference, propagation methods as well as uses. I’m publishing it through CreateSpace, on Amazon, so it will be available online for any kindle readers, as well as in print form.

In addition to hundreds of full color photographs, the book is also filled with dozens of original paintings and beautiful illustrations. These have been added to highlight important details of different species and to give a better picture of how the world changes from one season to another.

Foraging, for my family, truly is a cycle. We mark our calendars for when the dewberries will come into season. We celebrate the ripening of the wild grapes at every Midsummer, and spend all year waiting for the beautyberry harvest to come again. Learning about and coming to enjoy and look forward to all the different wild foods available in our environment naturally connects you to a deeper cycle of Life; a different world. The world we are all born into, but for which many have lost sight of. This book is my attempt to share that world with you. To show how our natural resources can improve our lives, improve our communities and provide a more sustainable and secure future.

Over the next month I will be posting updates on when the book will become available, but it will hopefully be before the end of March. I have several events planned for the next couple of months, and I hope to have hard copies available for anyone wanting to attend. This weekend I will be at Ave Alegre’s Feast in the Forest fundraiser and next month I will be hosting a wild foods potluck, and then gearing up for Earth Day 2018!

In between all of these events, I will doubtlessly be sharing what wild edibles are currently coming into season, and any unique and delicious recipes my family creates with them. Over the next month, we are avidly waiting for the cattail shoots to emerge. We had a fluke burst of them at the end of last year and the opportunity gave us some inspiration for when we meet them again. HINT HINT: noodles…..

To stay up to date with progress on the book or what events I have coming up, follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

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Art Update

I’ve been working on finishing this portfolio for what feels like an eternity. At last I am nearing the end; the final five paintings I’m working on are almost complete.

Once they’re finished, we’ll take them to a local professional to have them scanned. After that,  print copies of them available here on the website.

Once these paintings are all finished, I’m looking forward to taking some time off. Time to relax and enjoy the coming Spring.

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But also to begin some extraordinary projects I’ve been dreaming about for some time….

In addition to my paintings, I’ve been working with a lot of locally sourced materials to develop some unique 3-dimensional pieces. I’ve also been experimenting with developing paints out of natural pigments found here in the Brazos valley.

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Spending more time in these pursuits, I think, will be more tactile and kinesthetic, and perhaps therapeutic, after the focused precision of painting.

Lacie and I are also looking to work more in our Wild Garden this Spring and Summer, as well as develop (and eat!) more Wild Food recipes, and maybe one or two other outdoor projects….

 

 

Like a portable Cob oven. But I’ll keep y’all updated on that.

Recipe: Spring Chicken Stir fry

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Stir fry has to be one of the most versatile methods of eating odd arrays of different ingredients. As such, it probably comes across as rather lazy most of the time. However, when the right ingredients are specifically chosen to compliment and enhance each other, a good stir fry can be a work of art.

Or perhaps I’m foolish enough to think so. Either way, here is a recipe for my own Spring Chicken! Especially during the early Spring, you can put together an amazing compliment of flavors and ingredients. So often, people assume wild greens will all taste bitter. While some do, there are a many that taste more mild and some that even taste sweet or tart!

This dish uses both rich starches and more citric tasting greens and flowers. The perfect dish to welcome back Spring!

Chicken breast

Wood sorrel (Oxalis spp.)

Wild lettuce (Lactuca spp.)

Canna roots (Canna indica)

sliced Wine cup roots – outer skin removed (Callirhoe involucrata)

Red bud flowers (Cercis canadensis)

cooking oil

soy sauce

salt, pepper, other seasonings to taste

Yes, there is such a thing as wild lettuce, and believe it or not, it is native to North America. It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals though and has a somewhat bitter taste as a result. However, wood sorrel balances that perfectly with a lemony, almost tart flavor that you’ll never forget. Both of these plants can be found in early to mid Spring in moist woodlands, usually along the edges (or just inside) where bursts of sunlight still reach through.

Red bud is a special tree. Its flowers have a subtle, sweet flavor that makes them amazing as a garnish for many dishes or added to salads. It’s actually the state tree of Oklahoma, and like the dogwood, one of the first trees to come back into bloom in the Spring. You can usually glimpse it driving down wooded highways in late February or early March; its red blossoms a stark contrast to the barren limbs all around them. You can also find them commonly planted in city parks or commercial areas as an ornamental, and these are the easiest trees to gather from.

Canna lily is usually found growing in peoples’ gardens but, being a native, can also be seen returned feral to the local environment quite often. Its rhizomes have one of the highest starch contents in the world and it is a delicious vegetable similar to water chestnuts. Wine cups are a rather unknown phenomenon, however. To be sure, many gardeners have struggled with removing their spidery tendrils, and some may have even noticed their large, central tap roots. Few will have ever thought to try eating them however! With their brown outer skin removed, they have a rich, bland, fresh crunch that has a mildly nutty after taste.

In a medium sized skillet, pour the cooking oil, soy sauce, canna roots and cut up chicken breasts. Add a dash of salt and pepper or any other seasonings you prefer at this point. Once the chicken begins to cook thoroughly, lower the temperature and add all the leafy greens. Saute the chicken, canna roots and greens until the greens begin to wilt and add the sliced wine cup roots, then turn the stove off. Finally, add the red bud flowers as a garnish while residual heat is still present.

Enjoy!

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Garden Update: Rewilding

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So it’s been a while since I updated about our wild garden. When I’d last mentioned it, we’d run into a set-back, but this past Summer has seen it really take off.

For wild plants and seeds, the process of over-wintering is a crucial step in preparing them for germination in the Spring. Additionally, we found that, by far the easiest step to take, was to work with wild volunteers that were already appearing in our garden! Curled dock (Rumex crispus), wild amaranth (Amaranthus spp.), mustang grape (Vitis mustangensis), and blackberry (Rubus spp.) have all shown up and we’ve nurtured and encouraged them as best we can.

We have had a lot of success this past year seeing a lot of things started from seed or transplantings as well! We found some purslane (Portulaca oleracea) growing, and since it’s such a wonderful, delicious vegetable, we took a couple cuttings and stuck them in, of all places, an old wicker papasan chair we had found, and it went bananas!

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Purslane is a succulent, and can be readily propagated by taking cuttings during its growing season, similar to cacti. It loves to thrive in heat and humidity, when all other plants, wild or domestic, are wilting into Fall.

We were also able to extend the amount of time we had with the amaranth this Summer, simply because we kept introducing its seed into new places! Turns out amaranth seed, like many wild seeds, don’t need much encouragement, if anything. We also grew a rather prolonged crop of tomatoes, wild basil, and even managed to have some chocolate mint for a time.

The effect restoring all these native species has had on the rest of the ecosystem around us has been inspiring to see as well! From tree frogs, fireflies, garden spiders and butterflies to skinks, opossums, bats and mourning doves; we’ve really enjoyed seeing the positive impact we’re having on the world around us!

 

Even though native plants don’t need much TLC, it’s been hard working restoring and reintroducing all these different species to our yard. For that, we’ve been really grateful to have the help of the hardest working grub in the garden.

I feel really happy about the experiences our Luna is getting to have here, because it’s those kind of experiences which can really make a difference in a kid’s life. Seeing where their food really comes from, seeing and touching the earth and the land around them, learning how things change and grow; seeing Life. All too often kids don’t get those kind of lessons today, but that’s something we can change. Wild plants are available all around us, even in a large city like Houston or Dallas. Even if we live in apartments or duplexes, people are learning how they can bring some plants, some greenery, some Nature back into their lives.

No, we can’t change the world overnight, but we can make a difference each day, with each seed, each plant, each child. And, we’re finding, that’s all it takes.

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News and Update; an end to inertia….

So it has been entirely too long since I have posted on here, and I can’t exactly say it’s been because I’ve been working so hard on any particular project. I’m still trudging along with the two paintings I’ve currently got in the works, and I’ve also got two carvings that I’m now committed to doing for people. But I can’t shake the feeling that, in the main, I have been woefully lax in my efforts to be creatively productive these past months. I’ve been in a funk, been distracted, been too busy wasting time thinking and worrying and not enough time forcing myself into action. I’ve been suffering a lack of impetus. But not a lack of motivation, I think.

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Work in Progress

For anyone who lives in Texas, the past week has, timidly, been the first time in a while we’ve seen sunlight. There have still been wild days of crashing storms and floods, but this day, at least, seems to be a beautiful break in the rains. Perhaps that’s all I needed. I love the rain storms, but you really can’t get anything done during them. Even indoors, you’re compelled to just sit and watch and wait it out.

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boating season….

Back before the floods started, Lacie, Luna and I had made an effort of gathering as much of the young cattail flowers and then the wonderful, magical cattail pollen as we possibly could. This stuff has got be some kind of sacred manna; if you’ve never tried cattail pollen, you are missing out. I’ve been making a habit of taking different things Lacie and I make at home to share with our friends at my work, and it’s been really inspiring to see and hear their responses. Last night we made acorn flatbread sandwiches, with black forest ham and cattail flowers, slathered in mesquite-jalapeno jelly. I could not tell you how amazing they were; they only thing that would make them better, would be using thick cut bacon instead of the deli ham.

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The past month has seen a lot of plants and seeds ripening and now that the sun is starting to break through the clouds, all the wild grapes will start ripening quickly in the lead up to Midsummer. Amazingly, I even saw a couple passion flowers blooming around the woods the other day! I could have also sworn I saw fireflies out in the garden the other night, and as we’re in this transitional period of tons of water lying around and warmer, sunlit days, we’ll probably see more of them during this happy time of year.

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I am actually looking forward to getting down to the waters myself now that the floods are giving us a break. I’ve got a new, smaller cast net and long pole, and my favorite fishing spots are calling to me in my dreams. We’ll actually be going down to the coast before too long, and I’m hoping to catch the blue crabs down there when the moon is full and they are wont to dance in the moonlight. Last year we timed it perfectly and ended up with more than we expected! I also still have buckets of wave polished shells of almost every color that I haven’t gotten around to playing with yet. That’s another thing I’m hoping to get around to soon; so many sculpture projects that I’ve kept on hiatus while I finished this past slew of paintings.

Speaking of which, I do have a giant debt of gratitude to repay to someone I’ve met in these past months. A strange form of luck allowed me to meet Cyd Cassone at work one day several months ago, and it was clear we had a lot of the same passions. Cyd is a musician and currently works at the Creekside Wellness Center in Bryan. They focus on holistic approaches to medicine and naturopathy. After spending some time talking about some of our shared ideas, they offered to host some of my paintings in their office! I couldn’t think of a better place to show these pieces since so many of the messages in them are reflected in the work Cyd and her partners are doing.

I’m really so glad to have met them and many others this past Spring, and Nature willing, I’m hoping the clearer days are a sign leading to more great things happening in the near future and an end to inertia.

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Flying Swan necklace

Just a quick add I wanted to post of a necklace I recently finished for someone special during the holidays.

Flying Swan; mother of pearl and bone
Flying Swan; mother of pearl and bone

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The body is carved out of bone and the wings are carved from mother of pearl.

The bone I used was from a deer we were thankful to eat last winter and the shells used to carve the wings were the discards of some generous raccoon at a local watering hole….

Truly, there is treasure everywhere.

 

One Year

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It’s been one year since I’ve started this site. That’s one year since I’ve become serious about what I want to try to do with myself.

It was just after Halloween last year that I posted the first entry on this website, detailing my perspective on wild foods and the impact this resource can have in our lives.

Additionally, one year ago I began developing a new artistic portfolio to try and illustrate the positive relationship humans, and indeed all life, have with their environment. Amazingly, I have almost finished this.

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I can honestly say that I have not worked so hard nor turned out so many pieces since art school, and even then, nothing this authentic. I’m not tooting my horn here, knocking out these paintings has been a slug-fest at times. Trying to keep true to the vision while also just completing the work is a ceaseless balancing act between the clarity of mind and the strain of your back.

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Despite all this, over the last several months, I have had the real pleasure of working with an organization that shares this passion for reconnecting people with Nature. The Urban Interface is a local non-profit here is the Brazos valley that focuses on educating and introducing kids to the amazing wildlife species which share our home with us.

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We do interactive, educational programs free of charge at schools in both Bryan and College Station (and occasionally elsewhere!) that bring kids face-to-face with local wildlife. Many of the people we talk to are always amazed to learn just how many different species of wildlife live here. Our goal is to both teach and inspire kids to connect with their environment in a way they may have never thought possible before.

It’s been through working with this organization that I’ve started to see real hope for change. There is a better way to live, an easier, more healthful way to live together. I’m a romantic, but this isn’t really about aesthetics, it’s about efficiency and what works best. Nature works. It just also happens to be breath-taking.

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Over the next year, hopefully, I’ll see these pieces I’ve been working so hard on allowed in some galleries here and, hopefully, they’ll inspire people. I do also intend to get them photographed and to sell prints, either directly from this website or from the Facebook page. Believe it or not, I am looking forward to getting these done with because there is a bunch more that I have in mind to work on….

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