Determined to find some small moment or project each day to help me appreciate Summer despite the sweltering heat, I decided that I would go sage picking this morning.
I live in an area that is partially lakes, vineyards and mountains, and part arid desert. The desert areas are where the sagebrush grows wild and spreads as far as you can see. I drove out to one of these areas today, and picked a good bucket of sage to dry for loose smudge and to try my hand at some bundles.
There are some people who don't believe you should ever remove any plant from the wild, and I respect that view, but politely maintain that wildcrafting when done properly, can be a very rewarding experience.
Some important tips about wildcrafting:
~ Be sure that you know a bit about the plant you are harvesting. If it is rare or endangered (or poisonous) please don't pick it! Carry a good plant identification book with you. Lone Pine is one of many great publishers that feature resource books that I love and use.
~ Look around you. What is in the immediate area? Are you beside a highway that may be exposing the plants to exhaust fumes? Are you near an orchard or farm that sprays its crops with pesticides? Think about what these plants may have been exposed to.
~ Are there many specimens of your desired plant to be found in this area? I always make sure I'm picking in a place where the plant in question is abundant so as not to remove pieces of the last plant of its kind in the area.
~ Use clean, sharp garden snips or scissors to gather your plant materials. Not only is one, clean snip a nicer way to gather rather than tearing a branch off a plant, but plants can be subject to disease, rusts or pests riding on your old, unclean garden tools.
~ Only take one or two branches/ flowers/stems from each plant. You want to leave as much of the healthy plant behind as possible so it may continue to grow well (and possibly provide for you next year.)
~ Leave behind an offering. On the way out to pick, I ask that I be led to the plants/bushes that are willing to give a bit of themselves for my purpose. I feel that it's only fair and respectful to leave something (natural/organic) behind. I alternate between leaving ceremonial tobacco leaves or herbs I've grown and spring water.
~ Leave the land better than you found it. If there is trash on the ground - pick it up.
My little picking adventure was a great way to start the day. I highly recommend getting out and seeing what your area has to offer in the way of plant life. If not for harvesting, then just for appreciating!