There is a flourishing of life around us as we step into spring. It’s a time when energy rises, like sap swelling from the roots of trees, and we, like the plants around us, begin to blossom. This is a powerful season for the homesteader, for our garden projects can finally sprout in soil.
At Wild Abundance, a permaculture and primitive skills school in Barnardsville, North Carolina, this season is symbolized by the seed. For Frank Salzano, a partner at Wild Abundance, the spring, on the medicine wheel, represents the east, the beginning, the spark of life. In our daily lives, east is the morning. In our lifetime, east is our infancy, our childhood.
“Spring is a seed sprout," says Salzano. "In temperate climates there are flowers and buds on trees: the earth is waking. It’s a time [rich with] pagan rituals, and [a time to honor] Jesus' reincarnation.” Spring, as Salzano describes, brings with it a deep existential experience, a coming back to life with the plants and animals around us.
"When spring comes, we explode with growth," says Natalie Bogwalker (pictured below in her garden), the founder of Wild Abundance and the Firefly Gathering. "Any project that happens in the spring, happens so quickly.” To help guide homesteaders through the season — and more specifically the month of April — Bogwalker, with contributions from Chloe Lieberman and Zev Friedman, has created a guide to homesteading projects perfect for the first flush of spring.
Keep in mind that this list of activities was created with the Southern Appalachian landscape in mind.
• Plant potatoes
• Sow chard, spinach, parsnips, beets, carrots, endives, chicories, and kale (if you don’t have too many pests) directly into your garden beds
• Plant cilantro (in the ground, since it doesn’t like to be transplanted)
• Cut cover-crops in tomato and squash beds, choose to leave them or enrich the soil as needed and cover with mulch
• Plant spring oats, a fantastic cover crop and magical medicine
• Transplant onion starts/sets into garden
• Gather ramps (being careful only to gather whole bulbs/roots from a small number of plants; cut leaves from a more ample plants and leave bulb/roots for regrowth in coming years)
• Harvest poke shoots when they are less than knee-high. Cook the shoots in boiling water (change the water 2-or 3 times) for delicious/ nutritious treat
• Gather sapling poles for trellising tomatoes and beans in coming months
• Eat salads of ramps, chickweed, basswood leaves, greenbrier tips, oxeye daisy greens, and redbud flowers
• Continue harvesting stinging nettles and woods nettles too, dry, make teas, and eat cooked.
• Pluck hemlock tips (bright green part from the hemlock tree, not the poisonous carrot family member) and eat in salad or infuse into tea, make sure to not harvest from trees treated with pesticide
• Gather redbud flowers; eat in salad
• Harvest oxeye daisy buds/flowers; eat in salads or pickle
• Pick some elder flowers (leaving plenty for the bushes to make berries), bread and cook as fritters or make mead or liquor
• Prune those suckers!
• Dry or sauté and freeze ramps
• Make pesto with your own creative mixtures of wild greens
• Freeze prepared cooked poke
• Make redbud blossom and elderflower mead
• Saute and freeze or dry ramp bulbs/roots
• Dry nettles
• Add oxeye daisy buds/blossoms into kim chee, or pickle them in vinegar like you would artichoke hearts
• Make time to walk in the woods and observe the amazing spring ephemerals
• Inoculate shiitake logs and oyster logs/woodchip beds
• Smell blossoms and lay in the sun!
Wild Abundance will be hosting a number of weekend and weeklong events this spring and summer, including a Wild Foods Adventure, an Ancestral Cooking Class, Women’s Basic Carpentry, and Permaculture Design for Land Stewards.
Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt is a writer, homesteader, and organic beekeeper in Asheville, North Carolina. She is currently a student with Wild Abundance working toward her Permaculture Design Certification. Read her other articles for MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
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