Wild Things and Adventures
by Cate Loetscher
I had a simple enough goal this spring to wild craft herbs I like to use from local sources. My plan was simple and concise; contact my neighbors with photos of the plants (common mullein, yarrow, wild roses, Echinacea) I was interested in, have a map of the area, and permission to enter their land and gather the herbs, and get directions to known growing areas. This area is large and you (ok I) can easily get turned around and lost, so I also gave them an approximate time I’d be back. Yes my neighbors know I’m directionally challenged and they take pity on me. It was also for safety purposes.
So the big day came, I was ready to go collect my herbs. I had scissors, knife, pen and pencil, a note book, sacks and baggies, tape and string and was ready to go gather the herbs I knew I wanted and could use. The sun was shining but it was a bit weak, the breeze was only slightly blowing and the ground had not been recently rained on, so the fragile ground would not be hurt by my walking on it. My truck even had a full tank of gas and off I went photos and supplies all gathered and in hand.
I had no problem getting the mullein, yarrow and wild roses they seemed to be everywhere and other than a few bees, a tricky path, and my own directional challenges all went well. I found the herbs I wanted and left plenty for regrowth next year. I was very proud of myself for being a kind and successful wild crafter there would be hope for me.
That is until I went looking specifically for Echinacea. Let’s just say this part of the day had issues. First the picture I took was of my own Echinacea that I grew in my garden, so I knew what it is since I planted it. We’ll skip over the fact that not everyone knows what it looks like and or calls it the same name. I learned quickly that what some people called Echinacea and what I call or know to be Echinacea are not the same thing. I was told of “large stands of plants just over the hill and back just a bit by the old cottonwood tree”. First clue; this country doesn’t’ have large stands of Echinacea unless they are cultivated. Second, they forgot to tell me they cut the “old cottonwood” down about three years ago and there was nothing to be found really. I really love my neighbors but when you find yourself in a big huge pasture and you aren’t familiar with it at all don’t panic, retrace your steps and take lots of deep breaths then remind yourself next time you’ll take a guide. Because “land marks” can change, and you might not know the exact spot the old “cabin” was sitting on when it came down 40 years ago and while it is great fun to see all the countryside, it’s not fun to get lost or have a flat in the middle of nowhere. Wild crafting is an adventure with nature, don’t make it harder than it needs to be. I did find what I was looking for finally and resolved to grow a bigger patch of Echinacea next year for myself.
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