Chestnut Harvest

My Chinese Chestnut tree is finally beginning to bear a good amount of nuts. After a few frosty nights, about half of the nuts have fallen to the ground; the other half is still clinging to the tree. I collected the ones that had fallen on the ground.
With a thick pair of leather gloves, I set out to open the spiny shells (technical term is cupule or burr) that are protecting the nuts. You really don’t want to touch them with unprotected hands.

Removing the hostile covering was a tedious process as few of the nuts were fully opened. Some of them needed to be pried open with a pair of scissors; others fell open with a little bit of pressure applied. As I was working with them, I became intrigued with the sensuous nature of chestnuts in their shell.

Doesn’t this one look like a baby crowning in the birth canal?

birth of a chestnut

birth of a chestnut

I quickly learned not to bother with the smaller, lighter burrs because they mostly held tiny, undeveloped chestnut babies, like these:

The larger, weightier ones held at least one, sometimes two, large chestnuts inside:

twin chestnuts

twin chestnuts

The luscious, lustrous brown nuts looked like pieces of chocolate to me:

chestnut "chocolates"

chestnut “chocolates”

or like large precious seeds lining up to be strung into a necklace:

line of chestnuts

line of chestnuts

Some of the emptied shells appeared like cocoons that had recently released their new life into the world:

empty chestnut shell

empty chestnut shell

A close-up of the hair-lined inner chamber in stark contrast to the sharp spines on the outside:

The chestnut mother tree knows exactly how to cradle her precious seed babies in a soft womb environment and how to protect them with fierceness against any intruders. Not much different from how we human mamas hold and protect and defend our babies.

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Spring Foraging

Some of the delights of spring are the many flowers, fresh greens, and herbs that Nature offers us for free. Over the last few days, I have moved into foraging mode and harvested black locust blossoms, red clover and lyre-leaf sage. You can read about it on my Emerald Mountain Sanctuary blog.

Emerald Mountain Sanctuary

Now, at the end of May, the air is fragrant with the delicate floral aroma of black locust blossoms.

Black locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) are well known for the durability of their wood; not everyone knows that their creamy white blossoms are edible. Eaten fresh, they have an unmistakable pea-like taste. I have made fritters with them in the past, and baked them into cakes or breads.

If you are lucky to come across some low-hanging blossoms, you can quickly harvest a substantial amount. Don’t they look playful and even a bit romantic?

Locust blossoms Locust blossoms

I make a hot tea by simmering the blossoms in hot water, then straining the blossoms out and adding honey or sugar. A soothing tea on cool, rainy evenings. The tea can also be chilled and enjoyed as a refreshing lemonade.

Locust blossom tea Locust blossom tea

Two other wild foods that required a bit more effort to…

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Snow: Co-Creating the Story

I was planning to spend today very differently, but it just kept snowing and snowing. By mid-afternoon, about 10 inches had completely transformed the landscape. Surrendering to the new shape of my day, I took my camera for a walk to capture the “story of snow” and how it defines lines and spaces, foregrounds and backgrounds.

This is what I found….think of how differently any of these scenes might have looked without the snow as a defining contributor and co-creator.

A patio table not quite ready for company:

Snow-covered table

The railing pickets shaped the snow on the edge of the deck:

snow against railing

snow against railing

Fence posts with white hats:

Here, the hat begins to slip a little:

Grasses catching handfuls of snow:

Smooth white defining an oval of wilderness:

The white background helps these Japanese Maple twigs flaunt their beautiful color:

The blue garden creature meditates under a snowy blanket:

And that is my snow story!

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Dots, Trance, and Magic – Aboriginal Paintings

Songs of a Secret Country

Last week, I visited the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia, the only museum in the United States dedicated to the exhibition and study of Australian Aboriginal Art.

I was the only visitor for much of the time I was there and wandered from one painting to another, undisturbed and in awed silence.

This painting was created by John John Bennett Tjapangati, and consists of dots arranged into connecting circles. When you look at this canvas long enough, the dots and circles seem to move and vibrate, coming alive.

Close-ups

A more colorful painting by Jennifer Mintaya Connelly symbolizes the story of the Seven Sisters. The U shapes and circles here are similar to the body paintings on women who participate in ceremonies involving the Seven Sisters story.

Sustaining Sisterhood

Sustaining Sisterhood

Details from the Sustaining Sisterhood painting:

This painting by Puntjina Monica Watson is dedicated to a sacred creation story associated with the snake ancestor.

Sweet Creation

Sweet Creation

Details from Sweet Creation:

These few paintings are a small sample of what the Kluge-Ruhe Collection has to offer. I hope it will give you a taste of the wondrous and magical art work that give us glimpses of the secret ceremonies and spirituality guarded so wisely by Aboriginal people

Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge:  Variations.

 

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Hidden Beauty Along the River

A bit of cabin fever….                               a drive along a West Virginia river….

thin ice

thin ice

After a brief warm period, ice was beginning to re-form along the calmer stretches of the river.

The thin edges of surface ice surprised with their delicate filigree

or crumbled tinfoil reflection

But the biggest surprises we found along the banks of the river, where branches and grasses touched the rushing water

rushing river

rushing river

There were bell shapes

light catchers

light catchers

bells and blobs

bells and blobs

an ice-flower bouquet

drips and icicles

drips

drips

chess pieces

chess pieces

icicles hanging from branch

icicles hanging from branch

“architectural” structures

covered entrance

covered entrance

melting cake frosting

Well worth the frozen fingers!

line of ice candles

line of ice candles

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