I learned from the Floating Classroom folks that it isn’t summer in Cayuga Lake until the blue-green algae move to the forefront. Likewise on land, for me the season shifts from late spring to early summer with a taste of the first wild strawberries.
This morning I ate three, as I walked back along the top of the Fall Creek Gorge on the Cayuga Trail after dropping my car off for an oil change in Varna. The berries were not fully ripe, and thus a bit tart, but their wild red berry flavor loosed a flood of 45 year old memories of picking them by the small bucketful in fields filled with grasses and flowers and young white pines, now converted into a lawn, parking lot and business building. Also of the astonishing luxury of mashing a handful of ripe wild strawberries just enough to release the juice, and spreading them on white bread for a quick treat.
As this slow, cool spring has progressed, I have been watching the many areas in my yard and in nearby long-grass pastures for the small white strawberry blossoms that shine out briefly in the grass and then fade, replaced by ripening small berries. I am ready to seek a real harvest this year, moving beyond the tantalizing few berries to the many, so that maybe at least once this season I will get “enough.”
Meanwhile, promise of harvests to come are seen in the wild grapevines flourishing along field edges and in shady and sunny roadside tangles, and in numerous other fruits and edibles that are flourishing as the seasons relentlessly carry us forward.
From March onward to now in mid-June, I have had several felicitous encounters with wild foods as they emerged after the winter, and enjoyed the company of those who manage and harvest them. However I have foolishly but understandably (seeing as how I am working full-time or more) not allowed myself the time to write about each one fully.
Thus a series of regrettably brief summaries will follow, in order that I at least record some part of my enjoyment and explorations from this just-past spring. Topics covered will be (though perhaps not in this order): Nancy’s grape juice, maple syrup and ramps, new plantings for future harvests (raspberry bushes, apple trees and hops), making dandelion wine (“Front Yard” label), violets and nasturtiums, one small peach tree planted by the Cayuga Indians to begin to reverse a 200-plus year old genocide; and the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute’s sustainable harvest workshops, from which I brought back a small log inoculated with shiitake mushroom spores.
Then I will be able to write about the wonderful early June evening that I and Deb Grantham spent monitoring bats via a Bat Detector on the roof of my car, driving in the full moon’s light across high wild places around Ithaca. Bats are in very bad trouble due to White Nose Syndrome, and this was a small step we could take, helping with a statewide bat census.
And meanwhile we must feel fully confident that it is the right thing to do, to firmly say no to bullying cell tower companies, bullying land developers, and bullying rapacious shale blasting and drilling energy companies and their shady ex-government overlords. It is time to turn that tide back toward what we are for: love of the land, water and air; time to again be unashamedly pro-environment, and to get our excellent environmental laws working once again.