Thursday, July 21, 2016

How I Harvest Wild Plants for Food and Remedies

Fireweed, clover, and yarrow on our
property in Southcentral Alaska
Many resources (books and online) that encourage readers to collect wild plants for food, medicine, and other purposes, neglect to describe WHEN and HOW to harvest, dry, and store them.  This deterred me for several years.  Then I met a delightful woman who has become my mentor - the go-to person anytime a cartoon-like “Huh?” forms above my head.   By trial and error, year by year, I am learning about the bounty in my midst.  My new enthusiasm combines elements of botany, gardening, wandering, observation, research, and cooking.  It is increasing my independence as well as my respect for Mother Nature.

Below, I answer FAQs that may help other novices who want to get started on simple preparations of plants they recognize as safe and not sprayed by pesticides.  The questions are sequenced from plant harvest to storage through preparation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bees and Wasps: Hives, Stings, and Remedies

Because we are beekeepers in a remote, wooded area of Alaska, I have become much more attentive to all the pollinators on my plants.  For each of the last eight years we have cleared patches and paths in our  thickly wooded property, I have gotten “up close and personal” with a number of other stinging insects, too.  In fact, my husband, who was wearing Kevlar chaps while chainsawing recently, was stung multiple times just above the top of the chaps - near his groin!  Ouch!  He came bolting out of the woods like Forrest Gump ("Run, Forrest, run").

This experience, plus a “bad year” for bees and wasps here, prompted further research. (Informative insect information can be found at, and

The two most interesting factoids I have learned are about the venom (bee and wasp venom have different pHs) and the hives.  Both may help me (as well as readers) respond better to future trans-species altercations.

Yellow Jacket
All stinging insects are far less dangerous, even benign, when they are out and about on their own, pollinating (bees) or predating (wasps). However, they can be scary and dangerous if you disturb their nests/hives.  Not only may one sting you, it will emit a pheromone that triggers a warrior response to attract others to sting you, too!  Withdrawal is the better part of valor, followed by washing the clothes that may be imprinted with the pheromones. My husband washes his bee suit after every hive check.