An important aspect of hygge is being outdoors and enjoying nature. For every hygge challenge that I do, I make sure to include outdoor activities.
This morning I randomly selected this folded slip of paper:
Go on a Nature Walk and Collect Treasures
Walking in Nature
I selected the river path, in Wildcat Park south of Joplin, as my destination late this afternoon. A stroll along the river, on this warm day, was inviting even if it wasn’t any cooler by the water. Hearing the gurgle of the river as I walked was soothing and grounding.
I carried a canvas bag, brought home from Edinburgh, Scotland, to collect treasures in. I was open to finding seeds, nuts, leaves, twigs, rocks and feathers.
Instead of bagging them, I collected treasures through my iPhone camera.
In spite of the heat, there were hints of fall evident. Leaves littered the path, grasses waved their tassels, and acorn pieces were scattered in the grass. The squirrels were busy feasting and gathering.
The river was one of my companions as I walked. Greg was the other.
Wildflowers are still in bloom.
These Canadian geese have not headed south yet.
A golden afternoon.
The sunbathing turtle proved skittish, but this water snake continued to bask in the sun. He’s non poisonous.
The trees along the path were festooned with delicate webs. Fat brown spiders patiently waited.
This huge old sycamore tree stood as a sentinel at the head of the path.
Leaving Nature Where It Is
By the end of my nature walk I had placed two treasures in my canvas bag…a nut and a small odd piece of metal that was half buried in the ground. Greg pried it loose for me. I fancied the rectangle of metal and I convinced myself that I likely prevented someone from tripping over it.
Instead of carting items home, I chose to leave nature where it was, outdoors, so that others could appreciate its beauty. I have my photos.
Day 2 of the 7 day fall hygge challenge is finished. I am enriched by the stroll through nature and by the treasures I collected in my heart.
Today’s simple post is a follow-up to yesterday’s story about foraging in my own backyard. I identified 18 edible plants in my yard, available now or that will reappear next spring. Today I was eager to pick something from the yard to eat or brew into a tea. White clover blossoms dotted the lawn. I decided to pick the flowers and brew a tea.
White clover is a very common North American plant, found most often in yards and along roads. The plant originated from Europe and Central Asia and was introduced here as a yard crop. The flowers are white with a pinkish tint and slightly sweet aroma, making them a favorite of bees.
Clover contains protein, minerals and vitamins A, B and C.
Medicinally, white clover has many uses. It can be made into an eyewash, into a tonic for treating fevers, coughs and colds, and it makes a great expectorant. A tincture of the clover leaves is used to treat gout. A tea made from the flowers has analgesic properties, making it helpful for arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatism. White clover is also considered a good tonic for the blood and cleansing for all the systems of the body.
As a culinary treat, the entire plant is edible although the flowers are used most frequently. The shamrock shaped leaves can be added to salads and soups. The are most flavorful when picked before the plant blooms.
The freshly plucked white blossoms can be added to salads or dried and ground up to make a flour. The flowers, fresh or dried, can be used to make tea. The tiny seeds can be ground up as well, making a flour.
I gathered a handful of white clover blossoms, dropped them into a 16 ounce mason jar, and filled the jar with boiling water. I covered the jar and let the tea steep for 15 minutes.
The finished tea was a delicate green color. I strained the tea, because bugs are always a possibility with foraged food, and returned the tea to the mason jar. It was hot outside today, with the heat lingering well into the evening. I opted for iced white clover tea.
I let the tea chill while I prepared dinner. By the time my veggie bowl was ready, my tea was cooled down. I added ice and enjoyed sipping on my foraged tea as I ate dinner. The taste was light, slightly sweet and refreshing. I like teas unsweetened, however raw organic honey could be added.
Creating tea from the clover in my backyard was fun for me. Trying anything new has become a creative form of play…discovery play because I learn things I did not know before, about the world and about myself.
With my awareness turned toward the outdoors this month, three topics of interest came up for me, that I am curious about. All involve being in nature or at least, outside. I love following my curiosity, to see where it leads me.
Today, I learned about foraging.
Foraging is defined as “searching for food or provisions”. Although we can search for food at the grocery store, foraging is the practice of gathering edible plants, flowers, leaves, roots, seeds and nuts in the wild. In this case, the wild may mean right outside your back door. Many of the plants that are called weeds can actually be served up for a meal.
I’ve gathered dandelion leaves and flowers from my yard and used them in salads and teas. I wondered what else was growing in the garden and yard that I could eat. I brought home two books from the library to serve as my guides.
Dandelion leaves are great added to salads or steamed with veggies.
I learned a few basics about foraging.
Know the plants. Identification is very important. Eating an unidentified or misidentified plant or the wrong part of a plant can cause serious and negative reactions. Which is why I picked up the books. The internet has photos and descriptions of edible plants as well. Learning to identify the correct plants is crucial.
Watch for soil contamination. Know the land and how it has been impacted, environmentally. Since I am foraging in the city, for now, my own backyard is the only area I completely trust. My yard was remediated after the 2011 tornado. I know my soil is free from lead, pollutants and debris. I would not forage on vacant lots in my neighborhood because the soil is contaminated. Be aware of the impact of pollutants, run offs, streams that are polluted, herbicides and pesticides on the land. A field is not a safe foraging place, unless the history of the land is known.
Introduce new foods in small amounts. It’s always a good idea to try something new in small amounts, to see how the body reacts.
For this first foraging adventure, I simply walked around my yard and garden, looking at and seeking to identify plants and weeds. I located 18 edible plants, although some of those are herbs I’ve intentionally planted.
Those edible plants include bee balm, pictured above, lemon balm, catnip, honeysuckle, mint and surprisingly, the spring flowers from my redbud tree and lilac bush can also be eaten.
I also identified dock, nettle, plantain, violets, white clover, wild lettuce and tangy wood sorrel. I used to chew on that plant as a child. It has a sour citrusy flavor.
The leaves and flowers of the wild violet are edible.
The leaves of the plantain are edible, as are the brown seeds when they appear.
Using the books, I was able to identify four other plants that are edible, that appear in my yard in early spring only. I pull up handfuls of chickweed every spring and toss them in my weed bucket. I didn’t know this bright green plant makes a great addition to salads, smoothies or pesto.
Other edibles that show up in my yard in the spring. The orange day lilies come in later. I’ve tried to get rid of them, without success. Perhaps I’ll just eat them!
I chewed on wood sorrel as I walked thoughtfully around the yard, looking at plants. I’ve wondered about the white clover in the yard. Now I know it makes a great tea, just like red clover.
I think changing my diet to plant based has created this interest in wild foods. Food truly has become my medicine, and I have a deep appreciation for the healing benefits found in plants, herbs and flowers. I like the idea of supplementing my diet with these wild cousins of foods I purchase at the market. They are growing in the earth. As I pick them and use them in my teas and meals, the powerful nutrients will go straight into my cells, nourishing me.
I have more to learn. I want to be very confident about what I am picking and eating. I’m excited, however, to forage and include my finds in my meals. Greg inspected his veggie bowl that I prepared for dinner, and recognized everything. He wondered aloud if he would know what he was eating tomorrow night!
The gorgeousness of the evening lured me outdoors. Which was perfect, since this is National Great Outdoors Month. I only intended to pull some weeds in the garden. However, the temperature was too perfect, the yard too beautiful, the breeze too inviting. I wanted to linger.
For some, a great night out includes dinner and a movie…or shopping at the mall…or having drinks with friends. There’s nothing wrong with any of those activities. They just didn’t appeal to me tonight. My idea of a great night out was simply to be out, as in outdoors.
I prepared a healthy meal…gluten free brown rice pasta and marinara sauce with organic veggies. The green pepper in the sauce came from my garden. I sautéed it along with an onion, garlic and a yellow squash.
While the pasta cooked and the sauce simmered, I used my campfire girl skills to start a fire in the fire pit. This was the first one this season. I knew I was headed in the right direction, idea wise, when I found a feather on the fire pit. The feather quill is my symbol this year, and I’ve been collecting feathers, signs of Divine guidance and synchronicities. Greg, who played golf today out of town, brought me a handful of feathers that he found.
We carried our pasta bowls out to the brick patio, or brickio as we call it, and enjoyed dinner al fresco before a cheerful, crackling fire. Staring into dancing flames has the same peace inducing effect as sitting near the ocean or listening to a gurgling creek. The fire mesmerizes and soothes. I can stare into one for hours.
I enjoyed my night out, seated amid the beauty of flowers and grasses and herbs. The invitation to dine in the garden, and start a fire in the pit, was so easy to accept. It’s great indeed, being outdoors.
Earlier today, on my way across the yard to the car, my attention was caught by my redbud tree. I love that tree. I glance at it often. And yet, I had not noticed until this afternoon that the branches on the south side curved gracefully to the ground, creating a leafy curtain.
I was captivated. More accurately, my inner child jumped for joy. The space of lawn beneath that green canopy was exactly the sort of place that I used to seek out as a child.
I thought about that inviting space all afternoon. When I returned home, the child in me wanted to grab a quilt and camp out under the redbud. My adult side wondered what the neighbors would think, if they saw me lying on the ground beneath the tree. When I heard myself telling Greg “…if that tree was in the backyard, I’d be out there in a second…” my decision was made. Have I not been freeing myself, for years, from concern about what people think? And then, as if I needed further encouragement, I discovered something. Suddenly my perspective broadened beyond just getting outside for a few minutes.
June is National Great Outdoors Month. That’s 30 days dedicated to escaping the indoors and enjoying the great outdoors. I grabbed a quilt and headed outside, to begin celebrating this month long holiday immediately.
National Great Outdoors Month is designed to get people outside and enjoying nature. There are so many ways to experience the outdoors. Here are a few ideas, along with the dates set aside during June, for special celebrations.
June 3 National Trails Day – the purpose of this day is to encourage people to discover and hike one of the many trails in their areas. I had the opportunity, during my 30 Day Walking Challenge last fall, to walk along many trails in the southwest Missouri/northwest Arkansas area. My intention tomorrow is to celebrate the day by hiking a local trail.
June 2 – 10 National Fishing and Boating Week – There are many ways to enjoy being on the water. If fishing isn’t your thing…it’s no longer something I would enjoy…then hit the waterways in a boat, a canoe, an inner tube or a kayak. Use standard safety equipment and cautions…and have fun making a splash.
June 9 National Get Outdoors Day – also known as GO Day, this is THE day in June to get outside and have fun. Ride a bike, canoe down the river, hike a trail, walk in a park or throw down a blanket somewhere and have a picnic. There are all kinds of games and sports that can be played outdoors. Or find a park sponsoring a movie or concert outside. I will be participating in this day for sure, in some fun way!
June 13 Great Outdoors Month National Day of Service – this is a day dedicated to being of service in parks and outdoor projects across the US. I’ll be doing research to see if there are any scheduled service days in my area. If not, simply walking a trail or circling the park and picking up trash would be a great service project.
June 22 Great American Campout – this day is sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, with the intention of getting kids outside and exploring nature. Of course, adults can participate too. I have not been camping in five years. I would love to celebrate this day by camping out and trying some plant based campfire recipes!
Even if it’s just sitting on a quilt under a tree, getting outside is so beneficial. Sunshine delivers vitamin D and energy to the body. Walking barefoot in the grass grounds the body, bringing earth energy in through the sensitive meridians in the soles of the feet. The breeze invigorates and cools the skin, water restores the soul and reduces stress, and hearing birds, catching the scents of flowers, grasses and herbs, and observing nature’s rhythms all soothe the body while igniting the imagination.
All three of my cats found me under the tree and took turns lying across my lap before settling down near me. And yes, the neighbors noticed me. Three spoke to me or called out a greeting. One asked me realtor advice. And I scared another as he walked by. He didn’t see me under the tree at first. None of them made fun. In fact, they said I looked like I was having a great time relaxing on my quilt.
And I did. I enjoyed being outside, listening, watching, daydreaming, and ultimately writing my blog post. I’m excited about escaping the indoors every day this month and exploring the great outdoors. Join me!