Saturday, May 27, 2017

The First Herb Walk of the Season aka of Dogs, Coltsfoot and Wild Woods

Back home again and straight ahead to what I love the most - my dogs, the wild nature of the Great North and herbs!

What is even better yet is that I can combine all of the above at once - grab couple of the fur kids and head into the woods and highlands for a day trip of hiking, wild crafting and simply being where our hearts reside.

My timing of my trip abroad for workshops and lectures was perfect this time, I returned precisely at the time of the very first spring herb beginning to bloom - my favorite Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).

Magpie and Mouse were super excited about the hike, chilling in the creek and pond, and about all the one-on-one attention.

Coltsfoot isn´t actually the only plant blooming right now - this (poisonous) beauty is in its prime as well. I love its purple flowers that are very similar to lilacs, and the very unique shape and structure this bush has - similarly as Coltsfoot, when it comes to blossoms coming before the leaves.
Its botanical name is Daphne mezereum, known as February Daphne or Paradise Plant.

Coltsfoot is one of my big favorites and a powerful, dependable ally when treating kennel cough in my and my clients´dogs as well as when nasty bronchitis strikes our home.
There is no herb like Coltsfoot when it comes to effective help in expelling mucus, promoting the coughing out and at the same time soothing when the cough is just too painful.

And besides its medicinal properties and health benefits, it is such a beautiful, fragile yet powerful flower, with a heavenly aroma, that reminds me of honey. Look how pretty it looks, decorating Magpie´s ear :)

I have written about Coltsfoot in the past and will be writing more about this herb, so let´s just enjoy the beauty of this foraging herb and husky walk :)

How beautiful it is to walk in short sleeves again, with sun shining and waking up all the plants and trees, while the snow still lays in the more shady places!

Coltsfoot loves moist and dampness, while exposing its pretty and healing flowers to the sun.

You will find it growing alongside roads in ditches and on creek sides, where it can have both - the water and the sun.

In my herbal studies I have often learned or come across many interesting stories and facts about plants. Many of them actually "draw" out of the ailing body of an animal or person what they seek as a plant, while growing in the nature.
And Coltsfoot is a perfect example of such a flower. It loves the moist and what it excels at is drawing it out of the body (expectorant), helping us get rid of infectious mucus from our respiratory system.

While foraging for Coltsfoot herb, we found another "foot" in the soil - a foot print of a moose, who walked alongside this trail not that long ago.

The medicine of Coltsfoot can be found it its typical yellow flowers or, later in the year, in the leaves, which come after the flowers had finished blossoming, which is very typical for this herb.
When picking Coltsfoot, gently clip or nip the blossom from the stem, making sure you don´t pull the entire herb out of the soil, damaging it. Always be gentle and ethical.

After collecting nearly a basket full of Coltsfoot, and climbing up the hills, we reached the "bonus" - a little pond, where we took the girls for a refreshment.

This is one of my favorite spots in the woods that surround our home. The views of the still intact forests and the tranquility are a medicine for the soul. I could not help myself but ponder on how unique life we lead, and how technology allows us to do so many things today - such as getting on a plane and being in another country within hours, sharing my herbal knowledge on workshops thousands of miles away from home, and then, just like that, be back in the wilderness again :)

But back to the Coltsfoot and herb wildcrafting. My students who attend my workshops, lectures or seminars know, that the rule that applies when wild crafting is not to pick any closer to a road than 15 meters. So you might be shaking your head when looking at this picture, right? :) 

With Coltsfoot, this is a bit tricky, as you won´t find this herb anywhere else, BUT roadsides, ditches and creek sides. But there is of course a solution. Find a "road" like this one - it used to be made for timber trucks and staff to reach the forest harvest areas. Now they serve as trails - for us, when we train our dog teams, for hunters during the moose hunt season, and the (very) occasional tourist or camper who might stumble upon them.

These trails are basically "abandoned" by motorized traffic and the most traffic on them would be moose, bears, foxes and other wildlife. So perfectly safe for our foraging purpose :)

When it comes to how much to pick - there is another ethical rule: only about 10% of the population of a patch should be harvested. Thank the herb for her help, tell her what you need her help for, and how are you going to make medicine with her help. Ask her for permission to take what you need.
These rules may sound silly and childish and new-agey to you, but trust me when I say that they are one of the first priorities and principles we learn about as herbalists, when learning at herbal schools, courses, from herbalist mentors and other programs.

A wild-crafting walk like this is not only practical, but it is amazingly energizing and grounding as well.

When we were done with our herb and husky walk, we wanted to enjoy a meal prepared on open fire, before heading back home, to the comfort of our house.
I searched my mind for the best possible spot for such an occasion and came to the conclusion that we "must" go to the Russvattnet lakeside. OOPS! I did not realize, that this high up and so far in the backcountry, the end of May is just the beginning of the snow melting season.... :)

After driving almost 20 miles into the wilderness, this was the end of the road for us!

So we opted for a river bank instead, after turning the car around and driving back on a tricky, quicksand-like gravel.

Here we admired the construction work of Mr.Beaver and Co. 

... and the gorgeous reflections in the pristine water.

The moment I laid my backpack on the ground and Jachym brought some dry branches and twigs to build the fire, the dogs immediately settled for camping mode :) 
It is a skill well learned through many of our camping trips with our dog teams, when preparing for the long distance races. The dogs are so smart and know how to conserve and regain energy the most effective way!

And after a good hike and time spent together on this beautiful day, the reward in form of grilled camembert cheese, home made sausage and vegetables, with a sweet (and not so healthy) treat in form of grilled marshmellow, was a perfect ending of our adventure.

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