© 2010 Joshua Stark
...and I don't mean dumpster-diving, or continuing to click on the craigslist "free" category (I've already blogged about that one). I'm talking about foraging for things that don't make food, but provide other benefits.
Here in the California Delta, we are cursed with Arundo donax, giant river reed. This plant is highly invasive, and provides no habitat for our native fauna. It also poisons the ground around it, making for a negative habitat space, in effect. However, the gigantic reeds make for fine lattices and trellises. In my tiny town along the river, I grew up next door to master filipino gardeners, who made amazing-looking trellises in the form of five to six-foot tall lean-tos: the cucumbers and beans would hang straight down off of the roofs, where one could easily walk underneath and pick them at eye level.
We also have wild roses, whose shoots can make beautiful and sturdy arrows, and willows, with which one may make a chair, or a concoction for getting clippings to take root. And the abundant local tules and rushes had been used for centuries by native Californians for everything from houses to boats to duck decoys. Soon, I hope to gather some up and try my hand at making decoys, just to see if all the hype in the duck-hunting industry has been overblown.
The occasional walnut tree makes its presence, too, including one 65-foot monster in our back yard. Now, as the squirrels rain down our beautiful walnuts too early to eat, I hope to gather them up and boil down a concoction into walnut stain to make just about anything dark brown - wood, but also pants, hands, our porch. The stuff "works", that's for sure.
Have you ever foraged for things other than food? Often, our little out-of-the-way spots hold treasures that can save you some money, or contribute free loot to a new hobby.
Sapping, spaetzle, and an infestation
5 days ago