Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Harvest time in the Sky Islands

It's harvest time in the desert! The prickly pear fruits are ruby wine color and beaconing from their spiky perches, the mesquite pods are golden and dry, hanging from the trees and falling to the ground.
I made my way up into the high mountains for the first time since moving back to Arizona, to scope out a trail for my herb walk next weekend. It's harvest time up there too! The late summer and fall flowers are in full bloom, fruits are ripening, and I came home with bagfuls of medicinal and edible plants today!

Look what I found first off this morning!

My first delight of the day, when I stopped to harvest the blooming Evening Primroses and more grape leaves for brining, was an amazing find of a lone Peach tree! I have been to this very spot at least 5 or 6 times this season, and many countless times in years past, and have never once noticed this tree. It never ceases to delight me how the plants choose when, where and to whom to reveal themselves...I could hardly believe my eyes, as I was wandering amongst the primroses, the flowering Monarda Pectinata, grape leaves, walnut trees and the creek full of water, "Is that a peach tree? It can't be, but.." I wandered over and crushed a handful of leaves to my nose. Sure nough! It's a peachy tree! There were no fruits to be had, but plenty of fragrant leaves!

This must have sprouted from a picnicker's peach pit tossed out years ago...I can't imagine how else it might have arrived at this unlikely place. But truly an exciting moment, as I'm coming to love the peach leaf medicine quite a lot these days.

The grapes are starting to ripen on the vines too, and in a few weeks I'll be back there for the grapes, and the flowering Lemmon's Marigold , which is just starting to bud out.

Further up the mountain, I visited a favorite trail where I've spent many a summer afternoon, napping underneath the ponderosa pines, grieving, celebrating, loving and being. I know the trail well, and was pleased to find all of the plant friends I expected, including raspberry, strawberry, goldenrod, yarrow, violets and valerian (among MANY others). Even the elder trees have proliferated since I had last visited and I saw several new baby elders downhill from the larger ones. I got quite a lot of elderberries too, perfectly ripe, which I've turned into Elderberry Elixir.

I went specifically looking for the yarrow, as I've totally run out of dried yarrow, though I'm well stocked on tincture and oil. The goldenrod was in full bloom interspersed with the yarrow, and I got some of that as well to make infused goldenrod oil for sore muscles and sprains.

Shortly after the above picture was taken, I packed up my things, sang a song of gratitude to the plants and the earth, and was promptly gifted with a downpour. I had noticed a grey cloud sort of hanging over the mountain tops, but didn't think much of it. Until it started to rain on me, in my skimpy cotton tank top. I should have known better, in early September we are still under the influence of the monsoon rains, and I hardly ever go out in the summer without a raincoat, or something.
There I was, huddling under the driest spot under a pine tree I could find, watching as the rain came down in torrents, followed by small hail. Silly me! I waited awhile thinking, it can't rain for too long, these monsoons come and go quickly, but after 30 min of waiting, with the rain only getting worse, I decided I was better off walking back up the trail, and getting wet, yet staying warm, than staying put and shivering under the tree. I was maybe a mile and half away from the trailhead, and didn't feel in real danger of hypothermia, as long as I was moving and getting closer to the car, but I was cold, and wet. After a while the rain let up a bit, and dallied to pick some violets and raspberry leaf, but when a very LOUD crack of thunder reverberated around the mountains, I picked up the pace again, and none to soon as the rain began to fall harder.

But alas, as our storms do, it petered out just about the time I got back to the car, and I passed three or four people just venturing out after the rainstorm, my pack full of plant goodness to last the whole year through!


Anonymous said...

howdy darcey...

not that being wet is necessarily a drag (though it can be if you've got to get back into a car and drive for any length of time), but here's an old tip attributable to a sufi dervish.

When the rain starts, simply take off as much clothing as you can get away with, bundle it up tight, and sit on top of it on a rock or log or something similar. Or you can put a something (rock, bark, ect) on top of it. Enjoy the downpour, and then dress when it passes.

Got some strange looks once at the Michigan State University Botanical Gardens, but I ended up far drier than the folks hudled under the maples...

Darcey Blue said...

You know Jim, the thought DID cross my mind ( though hail was a bit of deterrent since it stung the skin) to take off at least the top since wet cotton is very cold indeed.
Maybe next time! Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how plants do that? Hide and then reveal when you least expect it? I've been visiting the same spot for three years, and I didn't know we had apple trees or an elder bush until this year. I think poke was camouflaging the elder in past years, but what's my excuse for not noticing the apple trees?? Lol!

Anonymous said...

wow!!! what a trove of medicine you have here...m mm, I can almost smell all those plants, wet from the rain... thanks for a great "armchair vacation" to your bioregion! (:
p.s. I have been experimenting with Peach Leaf too, and I'm in LOVE! how amazing that the tree revealed herself to you!!!

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~