One of my little rituals while at the cabin is to fill three small vases with the blooms and greens I gather from my first walk. I grab my scissors and walk the yard, driveway and road ditches. I guess you could say I forage for flora. Flora is the plant life of a particular region, that naturally occurs without our help. Indigenous species—aka native plants. We are in a little pocket that touches Lake Superior’s south shore in northern Wisconsin. In fact our little town of Cornucopia’s claim to fame is its location at the northernmost point of Wisconsin. Bayfield, just 20 miles away has a whole drive dedicated to orchards and berry farms. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries are here for the picking. And of course the Apple Fest in early October is an invitation for visitors to celebrate the varieties of apples that grow here.
The Lake provides a perfect environment for growing apples and berries, and a magnificent variety of wildflowers. The Lake keeps the land cool in spring and extends warmth to delay the first frost of fall, making the growing season a little longer.
This time I find pale blue forget-me-nots at the edge of the woods, pussy toes in the yard, white narcissus along Thunder Bay Road and marsh marigolds next to the bridge over our drainage ditch. There are new discoveries– like the nodding trillium which I wouldn’t cut, but admire its delicate and hidden beauty. I like to study these gifts of nature that continually surprise me in their variety and numbers. At one point last summer I could identify more than 20 species blooming around us. The field guide Wildflowers of Wisconsin by Stan Tekiela is my reference.
Flowers are not the only thing to find. My neighbors tell me the Chanterelles are thick alongside our driveway, and Phil just brought home oyster mushrooms to try. There are rose hips for tea, violets, nettles, fiddleheads, and wild asparagus. I pick raspberries and thimbleberries from around the cabin, rhubarb for jam and chutney from the blushing plant in the garden. We cultivate a small herb garden with mint, chives and thyme to flavor our food. I haven’t ventured too far into collecting wild edibles, but the practice intrigues me. I am ready to explore and sample these abundant natural gifts.