Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Has She Gone Too Far?

Last week, Alley Grazer was seen on Monastery Beach near Carmel stuffing seaweed into black garbage bags. When questioned, she admitted it was for her sister-in-law, Catherine's compost pile. Catherine was ecstatic with the beach grazing which will fill up her composter, the giant rolling barrel named Konan. Probably a first for that Dollar Rent a Car to have a trunk full of sea vegetables. A good time was had by all.

So this proves that the sky is the limit with respect to grazing. The fantastic abundance of mother nature, whether for palate, for composting, basket making, (or in the case of my oldest friend whose wedding I was attending there), pine boughs for the wedding display.

On the property where the couple lived and wedding was to take place, there was a huge stump where Christie placed these pine boughs we loaded into the rental car. Then the morning of the wedding, she plucked scarlet geranium blossoms which were growing in wild profusion nearby and placed them on the boughs. Can you just see it? A spectacular 3 foot horizontal wreath formed a vivid backdrop
for the minister and the betrothed couple.

I was only there a week, but the 'grazing' opportunities were endless. In addition to the seaweed gathering, I transplanted some wild daisies from the bottom of Bill and Catherine's driveway up to the flower bed; also, grazing on miners lettuce and chickweed, and the wedding preparations. Today while I was getting my tires changed at Les Schwab, I walked up to the water tank with my dog and discovered three wild flowers I had never seen before. This took me to library grazing where I found a couple wildflower books to help me identify them.

Finding surprises right in the neighborhood like that is so exciting. We walk by things everyday without noticing: flowers, wild edibles, tiny creatures, and even people who would be good to know!
In my immediate neighborhood and all over town, I find walnut shells. There is one walnut tree across the road from me, but no others. Yet I find shells all over a 6-10 block area. It's starting to feel like a cosmic joke, especially since there are no squirrels in this part of town. At my feet, over by the side of the road, even downtown, I see them, just one or two at a time. Sometimes just a half shell or a rotted fragment. Who are the clandestine distributors of these hulls and shells?? Or is it a totem, some sign from the gods?

Being a compulsive alley grazer, I also notice cast off appliances, lumber, barrels, buckets, cinder blocks, mechanical parts, bed frames, vehicles, lawnmowers, fencing, firewood, landscaping timbers...well, I could go on. A virtual infinity of discarded items in the alleys of my town.

In another week, it will be time to harvest the lambs quarters, one
of my favorites. Sometimes, they are coming up in and around people's rusting car parts or lawn furniture. Fortunately, I have a wonderful soap that is good for making sure there is no extra stuff on the wild edibles. But it is important not to harvest anywhere spray is suspected. I have noticed that I can sometimes tell by the way plants grow-uncharacteristic shape or size makes me suspicious. Also, homeowners tend to spray certain margins. So I watch out for that.

The beauty of grazing (watch horses, goats, cows and sheep for the ambient frame of mind), is the directionless, goal-free meandering, like the breeze, like the clouds, like the sweeping arc of my eyes taking it all in. That moment of recognition when a flower appears like a familiar friend. Oh, there you are. Or the artistry of green vines scaling a washer tub, the spray of grass clippings along a weathered board, maple flowers blanketing the pavement like a coat of neon paint, lavender blossoms ganged up on stems, about to explode, multicolored tulip buds...what an amazing show. Don't miss it. Alleys are the best part of any town, like people when they kick their shoes off, take off the tie and power suit, lean back in the recliner and become themselves again. Laid back...weedy and wonderful.