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Today as I dressed for our morning walk, I made sure to wear rubber boots, long pants, a wide brimmed hat and a light mosquito-netting jacket. I generously applied natural insect repellant, packed the camera and grabbed my little basket. I was going berry picking.

I was excited to get started as last night on our evening walk I had discovered a little wild gooseberry shrub. I had also found one recently on our land and was now familiar with this plant’s unique foliage. I was so excited to find another gooseberry plant out on the trail as H loves tart foods and likes to eat the gooseberries while they are still young and green. I picked a few of the riper gooseberries for myself, a beautiful plum color with a mildly tart flavor, and promised to return the next morning with my basket.

Fully armed against pesky mosquitoes (did I mention that I also have been eating at least three cloves of raw garlic each day?) I was able to walk at a more leisurely pace while my eyes scanned the forest for any telltale signs of ‘berry readiness’. For my patience, I was rewarded with gifts of little strawberries, bright red dewberries, red currants, and yes… gooseberries. In fact, now that I knew what to look for, I began to find gooseberry shrubs everywhere.

Lucy is the ideal foraging companion. She stays nearby and keeps busy chasing mice and dragonflies and sniffing out recent animal trails. If another person is approaching (a very rare occurrence) she will bark to alert me to this. She will also bark at skunks and porcupines while keeping a safe distance. Once she saw a pheasant in a tree and froze. She just watched it until I finally caught up and clued in to what she was trying to show me. Only then did she bark and the pheasant flew away. She often watches me when I’m picking or photographing something but never barges in. This is especially appreciated when photographing delicate fungi. If I sit down somewhere to be still for a while, she also sits or quietly sniffs around close by, never interrupting or demanding that we move on.

As I hiked home, happily carrying my little basket of treasure, I spotted a few other natural delights, including a White Admiral butterfly…

…a Gem-Studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum) – my first one!

…and a beautiful yellow wildflower, also growing on our land near the garden. If anyone can tell me what this is, please let me know. In the meantime, I’ll keep hunting in my books and online and fill you in later.

 It was a beautiful and enjoyable morning. Each day that I spend time in nature, I am amazed at the abundance all around me. Not too long ago, when I looked around, all I saw was forest, wilderness, and bush; a canvas of green that I found comforting and peaceful. Now, since learning about wild plants and mushrooms, everywhere I look I see individual herbs, flowers, berries, roots, bark, fungi, moss, lichen, individual trees and much, much more. Not to mention the four-leggeds, insects and winged ones that also live here. The more I learn about the many uses of these plants that greet me here each day, the more I feel that the earth is truly a place of great abundance and diversity. Everything we need for living a good life is right here in our backyards… and always has been.