Adventures with our new Apprentices
Saturday April 29th
First weekend of Wild Plants Apprenticeship
The first moments of the morning of April 29th were filled with energy. The sun was shining and a cool breeze was blowing by as we packed up our ID books and trowels. People were arriving car by car as we prepared for a beautiful day learning and meeting new people. Some quick introductions were made before we started on the Bruce trail to find a spot for our opening circle.
We found a beautiful spot under some Black Cherry trees, beside a pasture of horses, and sat ourselves down to start our journey with plants together. We spent some time discussing our goals and what we were most excited about for the coming months.
After going over some more logistical items for the course Alexis pointed out that there were some Black Cherry branches on the ground around us. There had been a storm a few months before that had caused these branches to break. We took this opportunity to do a little learning about these trees as well as harvest some of the inner bark for medicinal use.
We continued on our walk along the Bruce Trail, stopping along the way to check out the trees and plants that caught our attention. We came across a Manitoba maple bursting with hundreds of male flowers, we discussed monoecious and diecious plants noting that some species of plants have both sexes on one plant and some species have separate plants with each sex. As we continued on our walk, up and down and along pastures, we came a cross a line of coniferous trees. We took this opportunity to discuss each individually, learning and sharing more about the White Pine, Tamarack, Red Pine, Scots Pine and Jack Pine.
After walking to the top of a hill, we found a breezy spot in the sun to sit and enjoy lunch, we looked out upon the valley and took this time to re-energize ourselves and enjoy the view. People ate and lay in the sun while getting to know some new people and catching up with some of the people they already knew. It was beautiful.
Our afternoon took us down into the valley where we entered into a forested area. Lots of hemlock and birch trees surrounded us as we made our way through. Springs were running underneath our feet as we crossed streams, we even found a large patch of watercress and all stopped to try some. As we were walking through the deer trail in the woods, we came across an owl pellet and just couldn’t resist taking in apart! Inside we found some teeth, a couple bones and lots of fur, after a few minutes of deliberation we decided that it was a cottontail that had been eaten by this particular owl. As we continued through the woods, we found a fallen Yellow Birch that hadn’t made it to the ground and was being held up at an angle by the trees surrounding it. The sap was leaking out of the tree which was the perfect opportunity for us to stand underneath with our mouths open to try and catch the delicious droplets, this proved to be difficult but with teamwork, we managed to taste the sweet sap. While we were spending time with the tree we also harvested some small twigs and experienced the wintergreen like taste that they have while chewing on them.
We finally made it out of the woods and into a clearing where there was a beautiful stream running through, we all took the time to act childlike and we had a competition of who could keep their hand in the frigid water the longest, this was definitely a great way to get closer to one another! After the competition we moved just into the trees where we used our Newcomb’s wildflower guides for the first time to identify the Trout Lily, as we moved into the space we found that the area under the trees was carpeted with Blue Cohosh and as we looked up towards the Southern facing hill in front of us, we noticed that it was covered in Wild Leeks. After discussing these plants, we took a little time for reflection and we did a little bit of a sit spot.
After spending some time reflecting on the morning and sitting quietly, we decided that it was time to head back to finish up our day. As we walked back through the forested deer trail, we passed some Reishi mushrooms on a felled Hemlock tree, we drank from a spring and came across some Coyote fur along with some bones. We walked out of the forest and back up to where we started the day. We all sat down and ended our day with some gratitude. When the circle was over we made our way to our cars, said our goodbyes and the excitement began to build for what the next day of our weekend together would hold.