Forage Friday #29 American Beech

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When I started doing the Forage Friday posts I was concerned about finding enough plants that qualified as something one might forage. What shouldn’t have been a surprise was just how bountiful the wilderness of Appalachia is. The mountains are absolutely loaded with the American Beech. And a mature beech tree is capable of producing a huge amount of beech nuts. A few years ago when bio- diesel was a hot topic there was a lot of concern about converting crops into fuel and what that might mean for the food supply. At the time, I remembered reading in a survival book about people in the past substituting beechnut oil for lamp oil and the idea hit me that with the vast amount of beech nuts in the forest that perhaps a program to convert it into a fuel crop would be beneficial. I never really perused the idea but I never forget it either. The amount of eeffort it would take to do this even if it were only supplying energy for one household would make it impractical. But still, a little bit of beechnut oil has some interesting potential. The nuts themselves are edible but it’s not really a good idea to eat them raw in larger quantities due to a mild toxin called fagin. Fagin is found in the skin of nut itself and it’s said that roasting them makes it easier to remove the skin. ( similar to the skin found on chestnuts. ) The nuts are also a little astringent. As a kid I remember hoping that they would be like eating a raw chestnut and bit into one. I was pretty disappointed. Enough so that I gave up on them and spit it out almost immediately. But the oil is said to be quite different. The fagin is not present in the oil and neither is the tannins that make the nut astringent and slightly bitter. ( Tannins are water soluble and are removed by leeching in water. )

Last Friday I talked to you about how there’s actually a commercial market for Tiger Nuts and after posting the article I saw that the top Google results for Tiger Nuts was around $13.00 Per pound and the average yield was about 300 pounds per acre. But beech nut oil’ s top Google results was only one supplier at a whopping $75.00 for an 8 ounce bottle of cold pressed beech nut oil. I didn’t find enough hits to give me an idea of market demand for it but I did find srveral websites proclaiming health benefits of beech nut oil which makes it worthy of more research.

The unripe bur waiting for just the right moment to drop from the tree.

The nuts are born in burs and each bur contains 3 triangle shaped nuts. The shape of nut reminds me a bodkin style arrowhead. The nuts are also tiny. About the size of a large sunflower seed. The ground beneath the tree in my parent’s yard was so full of beech nuts that it was like walking in the pebbles near the edge of river. That’s even with a horde of squirrles carrying the nuts away as fast as they can. Beech nut trees don’t really bear fruit until they are about 40 years old but by the time they’re 60 years old they really make up for lost time.

From a foraging point of view beech trees also offer a few other things. The buds are also edible in early Spring although the papery shealth makes them a little awkward to consume. I have also tried the new leaves which aren’t too bad. The guide books say that the inner bark is also edible but if it’s like some of the other inner barks it requires a lot of work to process.

The wood of beech is sold as Maple and often has a beautiful grain that shows a lot of ray fleck.

As you look out of windows and see the bright yellow yellow leaves this fall some of them are going to be beech. It just might be worth a trek out to mark the spot of this very useful tree.

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Ordinary Miracles

Hello friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Bumblebee And Blue Lobelia” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

Tonight I just have a single thought to share.

Take time to appreciate the daily blessings of life. It’s that simple. The busy bee is busy but doing what she loves. Each flower she visits is to her a wonderful gift from God. There’s no burden in that kind of busyness.

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On The Edge Of The Storm

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The sun hangs low in the sky and a cold damp chill sweeps through the Appalachian Mountains. In the distance I hear the frogs singing as they prepare to invade the newly formed puddles that sprawl across the old logging trails. It’s rained off and on most of day but the nightfall brings a downpour. We’re on the edge of a storm. I have been running about ten minutes ahead of front and that has kept me out of the high winds. Behind me the sky hangs in ragged tatters as the gathering clouds are ripped apart by the oncoming surge.

A quick snapshot of the oncoming storm as seen through my windshield

Yet in spite of the ominous signs of a major weather event the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains brings you sense of peace. Perhaps it’s the expectations that the mountains provide a degree of shelter. Or maybe it’s knowing that God has a way of working things out regardless of the storms.

I always feel more at ease once I pass by the old trestle bridge in Gauley Bridge. Not only does it mark the point where I’m almost home but it’s also the point where I enter the most sheltered terrain. We’ve had some bad storms in my area. In 2012 a straight line wind came through and did a lot of damage. Then there was the flooding in 2012. But through it all God took care of us. He never really promised that there wouldn’t be storms. He did promise that it would be okay.

As the big blue truck carried me deeper into the hills and mountains the storms were nipping at my heels. As I stepped into the house the rain finally caught up with me and the wind howled in the trees on the ridge line above. There will be the dead and broken branches in the yard to clean up and the odd piece of trim to replace but I thank God for the shelter of my mountains and that we’re all safe and warm.

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A Busy Day With The Honeybees

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The Jewelweed behind my house moves like the wind is blowing but there’s no wind in any other part of my yard. I decided to step outside to see what was going on and the hum could be heard at a distance. I knew at once that it was the swarm. The flowers teeming with thousands of little wings darting to and fro with ” saddlebags” full of pollen. At one point in my life this would have been a terrifying experience but since facing up to my fears and learning more about these little ladies it’s a joy to see them. It was almost miraculous to see such a large number of honeybees because this photo was taken when colony collapse disorder was in all the headlines. You see, almost all life on earth depends on the honeybees to pollinate flowers and grow food. Even the predators depend on the herbivores who depend on the propagation of the plants. Since gaining my confidence around the honeybees I’ve found that they react to my presence differently as well. They no longer dive bomb me in an effort to bluff me into leaving. Instead they either ignore me completely or on some occasions they seem to be trying to figure out who I am. One time last year a honeybee followed me into the house, buzzed around the living room and then waited by the door like a puppy waiting to go outside.

I’ve discovered that standing back a bit with a long lens that photographing bees in flight was a good way to practice action shots. They only slow down when they land and they never really stop. Instead of causing anxiety it now brings a strange sense of peace to watch them working.

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Primrose And Bees

It never really ceases to amaze me when I find out how detailed God’s creation is. All along the edges of my property I find Evening Primrose. The bright yellow bloom always makes me smile. But today I learned something new about the happy yellow flowers that just turned up one day and stayed. They can hear. Israeli scientists have discovered that the petals function like ears. When Primrose flowers “hear” the buzz of bees they actually release sweeter nectar to draw them in. They only react this way to the sounds of pollinators. Making the sweet nectar is biologically expensive and comes with other complications so the Primrose plant doesn’t produce it until it’s likely to be visited by a pollinator. I didn’t really see it mentioned in the article but I’m willing to bet that the bees will buzz the flowers in an effort to “wake them up “. If this is happening then I would expect to see the bee hover close to the flowers and then come back once it’s had time to produce the sweet treat.

Albert Einstein is credited with having said that God doesn’t play dice with the universe. When I think about the relationship between the Primrose plant and the bees I see this as evidence that not only does He not play dice with the universe but He’s designed a perfect system and that everything has it place and a roll to play in it. For those of us who desire a harmonious relationship with God let me ask if that should also mean a harmonious relationship with his natural world? I believe so. If we could just figured out the little details and pursue a simple lifestyle I believe that creation would respond to us the way the Primrose responds to the bee. In the garden of Eden God told Adam and Eve to subdue the Earth, not destroy it. (The word subdue implying gentle persuasion. )

I’m providing a Link to the full article in case you’re interested in reading it for yourself. As always links to my blog and Facebook page are provided below.

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A Winter’s Refreshing At Cathedral Falls

As the evening sun begins to retreat behind the mountains it grants one last gaze into the cove at the foot of Gauley Mountain. The soft light spreads through the forest floor as wood and stone are bathed in the cascade of Cathedral Falls. The oxygen charged air within the natural cathedral enhances the sense of peace as I cross the wooden footbridge. Time itself seems to slow to a halt as the elements of nature coalesce into my frame. It’s been said that God first set the word of His testimony into nature. I believe that is true because as I look at the beauty He created for us to live in his love for us is written on every stone, carved into every tree, bound into every drop of water and energized by every ray of light. With my spirit renewed in this natural sanctuary it’s time to replace the cap on my lens and return to the big blue truck and head home.

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Fire On The Mountain & Alone Time With God

They had been walking for a very long time. Everyone was exhausted and cranky. The children were crying and the old people just sighed with “that look” on there faces. Along the way there were miracles and even now all of there shoes looked like brand new but still the people complained. Moses lifted his eyes to see the fire settling down on top of the mountain.

One of the most important things in life is alone time with God. That’s actually a lot of the reason why I crave the moments of solitude and the quiet places. It always helps to get out and away from society and the distraction of various responsibilities and obligations. I like to sit down and talk to God just like I talk to anyone else in the room or on the trail. There may not be fire and smoke or the voice of a trumpet but He’s always there just the same.

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