A Day Of Wandering

Hello Friends! Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Dogwood Tree 102120a” and is available for purchase by clicking the thumbnail and reaching out to me on the contact page.

The green fields have begun to fade into a golden tan as the broomsedge claims it’s seasons. Sometimes I think that if we could see the wind that it would be the color of broomsedge. I’ve always associated it with cold windy days. But for now it’s only beginning to appear. The little Dogwood Tree still proudly shows off its handsome maroon attire for the fall splendor so beloved in my mountains. Rolling hills beckons me back to a simpler place in time when the warm fall days were a welcomed chance to roam freely with no expectations of when to be done exploring. The greatest tragedy of adulthood is loss of opportunities to wander through hills and valleys. Sometimes I’d follow a stream through a field like this and continue on into the deep woods on a quest to find the spring that birthed the creek. A fallen branch of Dogwood often served as a staff to push aside the thorns and tangled vegetation or lift a rock to see if anything lived underneath. I never made it to the source of the stream but I would mark my stopping point by tying a knot in the limber twigs of the smaller trees. Sometimes I’d find a cluster of small hemlock trees and braid three of them together so that the next explorer would know the someone had already found that spot. And if I was lucky it would be hundreds of years in the future when the trees were timber sized and fused together. I would always walk back while snickering over the looks on their faces when they laid eyes on the braided trees. The call of a blue jay brings me back to the present as I snap the image of the Dogwood Tree and I wonder if some day in future a small boy will pick up a dead branch from it and head off into the woods on a quest of his own. I hope that he finds one of my braided trees and knows that he’s not alone.

Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.

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Forage Friday #32 The Dogwood family.

Hello friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Dogwood Berries 91519” and was taken specifically for this article. All of the photos found on my blog are my original work and are available for purchase by the instructions at the bottom of the article.

Note to new readers. I’m pretty lose with my definition of foraging and often include uses for a plant that are not food or medicine. Tonight’s article is no exception.

One of my favorite trees is the Dogwood. Maybe that’s because it’s one of the first trees that I learnedto identify. Maybe it’s the heartwarming bloom that I get to enjoy in the Spring. The interesting texture of the bark, the crooked limbs and the bright red berries all things that I love about it. Aside from the beauty that Dogwood brings into our lives it does have some usefulness. The wood is normally gnarled and twisted making it unsuitable for construction but awesome for novelties. The wood has a reddish hue when treated properly. It’s strong and tight grained and rot resistant. When a Dogwood tree dies in the forest it can remain standing for decades and will be strong enough to make a heavy but strong hiking staff. The rot is usually localized at ground level and the dead tree can easily be felled by simply leaning into it. I have made several walking sticks by pushing over a dead Dogwood that’s only an inch or two think. Before I was allowed to have things like axes I’d wedge the small dead Dogwood between two large trees and be able to break it to the right length by pushing and pulling until it broke in just the right spot.

The wood and bark will yield a purple dye when soaked in water and when working with fresh Dogwood wood this watercolor can be used to stain the wood itself to give you colorful stock to work with. In my experience the bark yields the best color and you might have to boil it down a bit to get a strong tone.

The curing the wood for tool handles and walking sticks is pretty simple. Cut it a little longer than your finished product and coat the ends with wax. Then hang it in a dark but dry place. This technique is pretty much the same for any small stock. The hanging time will vary depending on the thickness of the wood and how dry or damp your local environment is. The slower the wood cures the more stable it will be and that’s why we coat the ends with wax. It only takes a thin coating. I have also made walking sticks with relatively green Dogwood by giving it a couple of coats of polyurethane with no major problems.

Traditionally Dogwood twigs are used to make chewing sticks. Because of the way the fibers are bundled in a green Dogwood twig a natural toothbrush was made by macerating one end until it formed a brush. The origin of this is said to be either slaves or Native Americans but I’ve seen it cited as both. Either way, the trick is still taught in survival schools today.

Now for the berries. The native Dogwood berries are edible but they are drupes. They have a single large seed in the center that’s nearly as large as the berry itself. That means that there’s a lot of seed and very little fruit for the effort it takes to consume them but they are edible. A better option that’s still a Dogwood is the Cornelian Cherry. Cornelian Cherry is native to southern Europe and Southwest Asia but it was brought to North America as an ornamental and has escaped in some places. The berries are large enough to make them worth the effort to eat but you still have watch out the rock hard seed in the center. The texture is kinda like a grape and the flesh of the fruit is sour but tastes pretty good when fully ripe. Traditionally it’s used in making sauces and jams. If you have access to Cornelian Cherry it might be worth an internet search for a recipe. Wikipedia mentions that oranges are used in the preparation. At the time that I had access to Cornelian Cherry I was only interested in the survival food aspects of the berries and never progressed beyond nibbling a handful of the sour fruits but when I became aware of the concept of edible landscapes it was one of the first trees that came to mind.

During the American Civil War a strong tea made from the roots of the flowing Dogwood was used as a quinine substitute for treating malaria. (I’m not a doctor or certified herbalist and cannot endorse the medical value of any plant. Reference to the medicinal qualities of any plant is strictly to further the conversation and spur interest in the subject. Please seek out a professional for any medical conditions.) Peterson’s Field Guide also makes references to members of the Dogwood family as being used for external ulcers and that the berries were soaked in brandy for digestive issues.

Of course with this being posted deep in the fall I should also mention the color of the fall leaves. Each tree is a little different depending on genetics, soil type and lighting conditions but the Dogwood tree out on the edge of the parking lot of my day job has the most beautiful leaves that I have seen. They are almost purple.

The deep red Dogwood leaves are awesome this year.

So if you’re looking at that bare spot out by the fence and wanting something that will provide both beauty and usefulness you might want to consider a Dogwood tree.

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Dogwood, A True Mountain Beauty

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Dogwood in Spring 2019” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

I think that nothing says Appalachian Spring quite like a dogwood tree in full bloom. It’s something that I look forward to so much that I start watching the buds (called “biscuits”) in mid February.

Close up of the Dogwood “biscuits” on February 16th.

I’d be lax in my duties as a representative of Appalachia if I neglected to mention the legend of the Dogwood and it’s relationship with Christian culture in Appalachia.

The legend isn’t biblical and most likely originated in the Eastern United States however it is used to tell the story of the crucifixion of Christ and because the tree is in bloom close to passion week it works well.

Although twisted and knotted dogwood is strong wood and it is dense. It’s wood can have reddish hue which makes for a beautiful walking stick.

A natural purple dye can be made from the bark and wood shavings.

A European cousin to the Dogwood is the cornelian cherry which has a somewhat tart but edible berry that’s much larger than the American dogwood.

Sadly, the beautiful bloom lasts for only a few weeks and even then it’s often beaten and bruised by hard rain in late April and Early May. Some years it’s lost to a killing frost. But while we have it the Dogwood bloom is one of the most wonderful things in the Appalachian Mountains.

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https://youtu.be/FDcrY6w8oY8

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I’m now using Zazzle to fulfil orders. What this means for you is a secure way to place an order, discount codes & a broader product selection! Simply message me on Facebook oruse the contact form on my websiteand tell me which image you want and I’ll reply with a direct link to where you can place the order.

Clicking on the photo takes you tohttps://www.zazzle.com/lloydslensphotos?rf=238248269630914251

Lastly, all of the photos and writings are my original work unless otherwise specified and are not to be copied or reproduced without expressed written permission from the photographer.

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Thinking about Springtime

West Virginia is still a few weeks from Spring. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the bursts of color and the sound of tweeting birds. At the end of February, I start looking at the buds on the trees for signs of life. The Dogwood is one of the first to wake up. I began to get excited just thinking about it. The long cold nights have been giving way to earlier sunrises and later sunsets every day. Soon it will be time to plant gardens and gather the dead wood from the lawn for the fire pit. In the past few days I’ve started hearing the frogs sing and the hatchling fish have been spotted in the stream that runs through my property. Life is returning to the mountains once more.