THE ART OF FORAGING
Just at the turn of summer into autumn, my husband and I celebrated our 2-year anniversary this October up at his family’s cottage in Northern Michigan. The robust lakeshore forests were rusting into their array of ruddy crimson, amber, and bronze, and heavy storm clouds brought a textured fleece of moods over the lake. A lot of cozy fires and hygge activities went down. One afternoon between storms I went for a walk with my snips in the mood to make.
Setting out to forage has become something I actually love, especially when I’ve spotted an aspect of the natural surrounds that piques my senses and inspires me—but I didn’t always feel that way! Read below for my list of recommendations when navigating the art of foraging along with a view into what emerged from my foraging excursion that day:
TAKE YOUR MINIMALIST KIT: You need your snips (any clippers or a pair floral sheers will do), a bit of bind-wire, and a basket. That’s your basic tool box for a foraging adventure.
FIND NO-MAN’S-LAND: I was utterly petrified to forage early-on for fear I’d get busted, someone would yell at me, or somehow a cop would appear wherever I was with handcuffs and a siren to arrest me. I dreamed up all kinds of excuses and even seriously considered buying one of those reflective vests running stores sell to wear so that I would look like some kind of landscape maintenance professional. In truth, all you need to do is scout for no-man’s-lands, where it’s not a groomed park or a nature preserve or someone’s yard. Notice the in-between spaces, especially the side-of-the-road or the overgrown.
PRUNE THOUGHTFULLY: When you forage, be careful of (and good to) the plants you trim. In some ways, if you prune thoughtfully, you help plants grow by giving them a hair cut, so to speak. When snipping branches, always cut above the “node,” the place where a leaf meets a stem or a branch meets a main branch. Consider cutting excess lower growth sprouting from the trunk, which can help the tree.
RESPECT “LEAVE NO TRACE”: I grew up with parents who prescribed heavily to this ideal. Once while hiking I wanted to pick a flower, but my dad wisely asked me, “What if everyone who walked down this path took one of these flowers?” I mention this because it’s important to not take the rarest of finds. Respect the places you forage, and take only when there is a real bounty. True story, I almost exclusively forage for foliages, not blooms.
SEIZE UPON FOUND TREASURE: On this day in Michigan I walked by a pile of gorgeous vines and geranium clippings cut and discarded by landscapers from the row of nearby cottages and left in a heap to be picked up by waste management. Here was a BOUNTY as well as material already cut and otherwise to be trashed. They were beautiful, so I strung a line of wire between two trees and used the vines to create a base that I embellished with the colorful geranium leaves. A simple, lovely, foraged installation emerged.
ORGANIZE THE GOODIES: For the wreath, when I got home, I spread out the lovely foliages and berries I’d found along the lake shore in no-man’s-land. I like to organize by color before I start building. I have always been this way. As a child, I was lucky enough to grow up with a very creative mother who made time for us regularly to color and create. To begin, I had to line up all of the markers or colored pencils into a spectrum, which prepared my tools and materials (and creative mind) to start. I also find it inspiring to organize beauty with the materials we use to craft more beauty. I made this wreath free-form with no base by weaving branches together and layering in the smaller elements.