Book Review: The Family That Forages Together Stays Together

When I picked up this book, I was looking for practical information on foraging for food in an urban environment.

I like to garden and (frankly) would prefer to live in the country on a little hobby farm, but I work in IT Security, so my job keeps me city-bound. Identifying and using wild plants is something I’ve had a long-standing interest in, but was never able to pursue, so I started poking around different blogs and forums, looking for information on plant-identification classes and nature hikes. That was when I stumbled across this book.

The family lives in a suburban environment. Midwestern cities tend to look very suburban, even in the inner city – this is not universal, of course, but as a general rule, we have a lot more green space than people in much more densely populated areas (particularly along the coasts). Therefore, this book describes a living situation that is very close to my own.

If you are living in the inner city (a truly urban environment) you will probably find this book equal parts interesting, entertaining and not-entirely-useful.

The book is filled with hands-on practical advice, but the facts are provided through the medium of the journey of discovery this family experienced during a year of living off of what they could forage. Every family member had been involved in learning these skills – and they clearly had a wonderful time playing outside together as they pursued this interest. So, the decision to attempt living off of their foraging for an entire year was a natural and logical progression of this pursuit.

Personally, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was fascinating and eye-opening from the perspective of what is possible, even within a suburban (or urban) environment. There are several points where they decide to collect apples, berries or rose hips off of public land (e.g.: the decorative bushes planted in the medium in the middle of a road or an apple tree in a public park) and find themselves asking – or being asked – if that was even allowed. Of course, the next question was always – who’s going to stop us? After all, there aren’t any official apple-protecting-police-officers assigned to the park.

There are also a lot of really good tips and commentary on raising a family. The beneficial aspects to simply setting a goal and pursuing it together, as a family and as a team, are beautifully illustrated by this book.

It’s an excellent read. I strongly recommend taking a look.

Quotes from this book can be found HERE.

Browsing Nature’s Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Wendy Brown and Eric Brown

We Need What We Fear

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“If the lion, in all its dark, nocturnal otherness, in all its light, internal sameness, does not exist for future generations, if we destroy its habitat, or call open season on it, what could we possibly find to replace it? It is precisely because we fear large predators that we need them. They hold within them so many things we have lost, or are on the verge of losing, personally and collectively, permanently and forever. If we sacrifice the fear, we also sacrifice the strength, the wildness, the beauty, the awe.”

Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food by BK Loren

Extraordinary Moose

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It is an extraordinary experience to find yourself face-to-face in the woods with a wild animal that is very much larger than you. You know these things are out there, of course, but you never expect at any particular moment to encounter one, certainly not up close—and this one was close enough that I could see the haze of flealike insects floating in circles about its head.”

No less pertinent is that there is just something deeply and unquestionably wrong about killing an animal that is so sweetly and dopily unassuming as a moose. I could have slain this one with a slingshot, with a rock or stick—with a folded newspaper, I’d almost bet—and all it wanted was a drink of water. You might as well hunt cows.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (Official Guides to the Appalachian Trail) by Bill Bryson

Karmic Hunting

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“None of my college friends had ever hunted; that alone made Roy romantically cool in their eyes. They may have been living some version of the American Dream, but Roy was living the American Myth—the one of cowboys and guns, of a lot of action and not a lot of talk.”

“I told a friend about you, and he’s taken up hunting,” I said to Roy once, grappling for some common ground. “There’s this trend going on right now. People want to pay their karmic debt for eating meat, and this guy’s into it. Cool, huh?”

“Guy wants to hunt he should hunt,” said Roy. “Guy wants to pay his karmic debt he should take on a few long shifts at a slaughterhouse.”

Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food by BK Loren

The Real Winnie The Pooh

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Like most people, I grew up watching cartoons and reading stories about Winnie The Pooh. Pooh bear is still very much a part of the Disney landscape and, therefore, popular culture.

What I did not know, was that Winnie was an actual bear who served time with the Canadian military (yes, she was actually a part of the military!) during WWI. Harry Colebourn, a military veterinarian (they were still using horses in combat during WWI) rescued the bear at a Canadian train station and named her Winnie, which is short for Winnipeg. Winnie tagged along with Harry all the way to Europe, until the war made it impossible to properly care for the bear and forced him to find a better home – at the London Zoo.

Winnie remained at the zoo for the remainder of her life, which is how she met the real-life Christopher Robin, who was the son of Alan Alexander Milne, the author of the original Winnie The Pooh stories.

As an adult, I read this story thinking…um…really?…Wow! All of these years of seeing Pooh Bear in television, movies and storybooks and I had absolutely no idea! It’s amazing what you can learn when you visit the local library. 🙂

Quote:

“In 1919, just before Harry returned to Winnipeg, he made another hard decision. He decided that Winnie would stay at the London Zoo permanently. Harry was sad, but he knew Winnie would be happiest in the home she knew best.”

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who inspired Winnie-The-Pooh, written by Sally M Walker and Illustrated by Jonathan D Voss

Finding Family and Identity

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“How can we be so different and feel so much alike?” mused Flitter.

“And how can we feel so different and be so much alike?” wondered Pip.

“I think this is quite a mystery,” Flap chirped.

“I agree,” said Stellaluna. “But we’re friends. And that’s a fact.”

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Life Changed

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“In those few seconds when I was in the presence of the lion, I did not say to myself, “You must change your life.” I knew, right then and there, that my life had been changed. A piece of something necessary had clicked into place inside me. I had become more aware, more intimate with my own fear and my own possibilities. I remembered what it was like to be humbled by awe. I became more compassionate. I became a better person.”

Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food by BK Loren

Mongolian Wolf Spirit

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Amazon.com

“…We believe the wolf is the wisest and most spiritual of animals. Look how cunning they are, how they survive in such tough conditions. To see a wolf, in our belief, is a good omen. It means you will inherit some of its wisdom.”

“Perhaps most important for nomads was the belief in the symbiosis that existed between wolf and humans on the steppe. Wolves were an integral part of keeping the balance of nature, ensuring that plagues of rabbits and rodents didn’t break out, which in turn protected the all-important pasture for the nomads’ herds.”

“Reflective of the deep sense of gratitude and respect Mongolians reserved for wolves, there was a belief that only through wolves could the spirit of a deceased human be set free to go to heaven. ”

“Over time I would come to believe that to dismiss the wolf as a bloodthirsty enemy would be akin to labeling nomads in the same ignorant way that Europeans had done for centuries.”

-On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads by Tim Cope

A description of the journey from the beginning of the book:

The world expanded with every new challenge, from frostbitten toes to the dark clouds of mosquitoes that came with summer in Siberia. But most of all it was the people who left an impression on me….I found it astonishing that in the midst of an adventure I experienced more comradeship and connection with many of these people than with those where I had grown up in Australia.

Death By Sphincter

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Amazon.com

Up to that moment it had not occurred to me that bears might prowl in parties. What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paper streamers you get at children’s parties—I daresay it would even give a merry toot—and bleed to a messy death in my sleeping bag.”

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (Official Guides to the Appalachian Trail) by Bill Bryson