Posts Tagged ‘foraging’

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For a number of reasons not directly related, I was put in the position to start Quit Money Day a bit early. Not a bad thing per-say, but I certainly would have wished to be more prepared and have a better game-plan. Alas there were many interesting as well as awe-inspiring experiences I am delighted to share with you all. All things happen for a reason as they say, and what better of a reason then to REALLY try my knowledge and capacity?

By tracking where the sun was setting in reference to where I stood, I made my way on foot to Downtown Mesa. My thinking was if anyone knew of where a squat or tent city was for me to lay low in general safety for the night, street folks that walk free near sun-set could point me in the right direction. Both unfortunately and fortunately I did not find such tour-guides.

I am ever-grateful for the valuable information Ian shared with me before beginning his journey out of state. I learned at least 4 edible, Foragable “weeds” or native plants that are abundant in our urban settings. I found much prickly lettuce (http://www.survival.org.au/bf_lactuca_serriola.php) all over. This plant is not the most tasty of the foragable native foods in urban settings, but it does satiate the appetite quite well! It tastes a bit like dandelion, but not nearly as strong and pungent however. I found one of the best places to find this plant and other edibles is in abandon business lots away from the street. Be sure to look for PH burns caused by dogs or humans urinating on plants, which will look like dried half-dead sections mainly near the base. Avoid foraging in or near streets or in those super-manicured yards. Unless of course you love toxic chemicals! Also do you research before eating a plant you are unfamiliar with, and test the juices of the plant on your wrist or neck and let it sit for 10 or so minutes before consuming it. It is not a full-proof technique, but just because something may be fine for human consumption does not mean that your body is not allergic to it.

DISCLAIMER: The spot test should only be done on plants you have research and are pretty sure are fine for human consumption, but wish to aid you in finding out the easy way if you are allergic to it or not. It is not for deciding if a plant new to you is fine for consumption.

Also do keep in mind that cops tend to make their rounds and shine their spot-lights in abandoned lots exactly because they are useful locations for vagabonds and free-spirits. Be aware of your surroundings and most importantly know your rights! The ACLU has great resources on “how to talk to cops” and other materials on your rights when confronted by law enforcement. I am very glad to report that during my entire adventure I did not have to speak to a single officer. Don’t want them to protect and serve the sh*t out of me! Luckily I have dealt with cops on many occasions and have it down to a science. I spoke with them in the past not because of crimes, but their assumptions that a free person is a criminal. Not all whom wander are lost.

Once again I was ill -prepared, and security was the base I had not covered at all, and knew I would have to spend some money to cover in my present position. Worry not! I spent this money last night, not today (Quit Money Day). Dollar store, purchase amounting just under $5.00. Utility knife, LED mini clip light, and a set of pantyhose. The utility knife/box cutter I knew I would need for cutting, and in a pressing situation to protect myself. The LED mini clip light is pretty self-explanatory. However the pantyhose probably has you all scratching your heads!

When asleep on the streets or in secluded locations remember your guard is down, making easy work for pick-picketers. Because I did not have my neck wallet on me I had to make one. If you are unfamiliar with them, you really should consider getting one especially for travel or if you are like me and carry large sums of cash on you at occasionally. Cash can be much more secure then using a card if you know how to protect yourself and think ahead of the curve.

So about the neck-pouch, I acquired the needle and thread to make the pouch the same way my Apache ancestors did. Ask permission and give a gift to a blue agave plant, pull the dark tip of the succulents leaf downward to pull out a bundle of threads. It takes a bit of practice to get it just right. No need to string these durable fibers, as the sharp tip makes a fantastic needle which is already attached. You will have to pound out most of the meat of the plant to produce solid thin fibers, and do know that it would seem the juices from raw blue agave is a slight skin irritant. The gift I gave was a few strands of hair pulled from my scalp to acknowledge the suffering the plant endures, and a few genuine words of thanks and hope for it’s future longevity.

Using the blue agave fibers I was able to craft a pouch, which was moderately functional. Ironically the fibers were too durable for the flimsy pantyhose materiel I was stitching into, but it was a temporary fix. With this pouch I attached some more fibers which tied around my neck to have the pouch tucked under my shirt. Inside the pouch I placed my cards, I.D. photographs, and anything from my wallet I would need or miss if it were to get stolen. All else I left in my wallet and placed it where it usually goes. This gave me a much higher sense of security as well as anonymity.

If there is one major lesson I learned (or was able to re-confirm) from this whole adventure it is that the universe provides. On my walk down Main Street I came across two large boxes full of an assortment of sliced sandwich bread in great condition, and several bottles of water. With this experiment I knew I would be consuming mostly raw foraged plants, so I didn’t really need or intend on consuming the bread. However I did grab two loafs to give to street-folks I ran across. I also only grabbed one bottle of water, as it was all I desired to carry, and I felt I would be better off finding water then most. My intention is to give back to others and the earth more then I take. Oh how great it feels to be walking my talk! I practice gratitude and humility and left a short “Thank-you” note for the owners of the small church, which I sled under the door. Clearly they intended for this large box of bread and water to be consumed by those that need it most. Proof the gift economy does exist. It may be gasping for air, but if enough gratitude goes back to those practicing it, we may be able to resurrect it.

Another important lesson to learn from the universe is abundance is everywhere. You just have to know where to find it. Throughout my whole journey I would find myself asking for something I needed at the time, and it would either smack me in the face or take just a little searching. I never felt any severe hunger-pains, suffered from mild dehydration, had to sleep on a park-bench, or shivered. On the contrary through my scouting I found a number of locations I could settle down at with a number of options to making it happen. As exciting as the abundance was, I had to keep in mind that I had to be sensible and carry only what was easy to carry and that which is hardest to find. Again the universe provides to those deserving, so why horde? I found I need very little to thrive on my own, even in situations where I had little or no pre-planning.

A great find was a small stuffed-animal dolphin liberated from the edges of a trash compacter behind a thrift store. This served as an excellent pillow. One thing that was a bit difficult to find was something to cover my body with. I went to a few smaller hotels asking for sheets, and finally at the 4th location they were kind enough to give this street person in need a large towel. I will tell you, when the young woman handed me the rough hotel towel I teared up a bit while thanking her from the bottom of my heart. It was interesting to feel such gratitude for something as “simple” as a towel. Did you know small hotels don’t even own their sheets and towels? The Laundromat they pay to also clean the sheets has full ownership over them… A small family living the “American Dream” can’t even own their own towels? Please tell me I am not over-reacting.

We take so much for granted in this society that picks the haves from the have-nots so discriminately. A night on the street will set anyone straight about wants vs. needs really quick! In due time I feel each and every one of us is going to have to decide if we want to live on what we need and give others what we can with no limits, or live for what we want and take away what others need. Don’t just talk about love and compassion, practice and live it.

Now for my second crafts project. I realized real quickly that without a backpack carrying the towel, bread, bottle of water, and stuffed animal by hand was not working. Thus I crafted an old-school over-the-shoulder travelers pack! Using the blue agave thread I put the line through a few points, and tied it to itself. Next I pulled some palm frawn leaf near the top/neck of the bundle. Palm is also native (mostly), abundant, and makes for a great cording or tie. With my utility knife I carved a notch all the way around the circumference of the tip of a strong stick, and used the palm cording to tie the towel bag to the stick. There were a few sharp points along the stick where smaller branches were, so instead of dulling my blade more and cutting them off I found rough surfaces around the city such as the asphalt and brick to rub the notches out or to dull bumps. This can be done by taking any wood and rubbing it back and forth repeatedly against the rough surface. I call it urban sand-paper. A favorite technique of mine is to bring the stick down to the asphalt or sidewalk and apply pressure while walking. This made for a nice smooth end to the handle of my scavenged and wildcrafted travelers pack, and sharp points can also be made in this way when using the appropriate angle. I may create a tutorial and diagrams on how to make it in the future.

When sleeping anywhere, and especially in the desert it is important to plan ahead. The earth wants to suck the life out of you by absorbing your body-heat and giving you its cold. Therefore it is wise to have a surface between you and the ground. Also critters like to explore surfaces that are on the ground, as well as bodies that lay close to the ground. If you sleep on say a pallet instead of the raw-earth, you decrease the probability of critters such as say scorpions from visiting you as you sleep. If you also lay cardboard on-top of the pallet, it makes for another surface bugs have to crawl up to get to you. This does little for flying bugs, but do keep in mind that flying bugs will pick you out easier if you eat unhealthy/unnatural foods and wear a lot of chemicals on or in your skin. It is oh so worth it, as nothing beats sleeping under the stars surrounded by so much life!

As far as the location to sleep, it depends on what you are looking for. Personally I prefer to be under the stars and am not afraid of the wild, so a little hideaway between lots works well for me on the fly. Other options include squats or tent-cities. As unpleasant as squatting may sound, there are specific ways to make squatting like living anywhere else… without the rent bill. Even legal in some states, but sadly it is hard to do in Arizona. Tent cities (hidden-away homeless camp-grounds) can potentially be dangerous, but so is sleeping on a park or bus stop bench. In any case be aware of No Trespassing signs, and decide for yourself what risks you are and are not willing to take. I don’t know about you, but staking ownership and sole-rights to land is a hypocrisy and causes far more turmoil then the chaos it is intended to prevent. Just another way to keep us walking, talking, thinking, and writing on the lines and making it that much easier to oppress those in need. Again to each their own.

I did not sleep too much, as this environment was new to me and I knew I would have to wake just before sunrise anyways to tidy up and get clear of my location before attracting too much attention to myself. I also knew I had a lot of walking to do, as my desired destination is a computer lab open to the community in downtown Chandler. Yes, a very long distance on foot.

Practicing humility I realized in order to be here now typing to all of you at this lab, I needed to ask for help from others. Ideally a sign to aid me in hitch-hiking. Although I knew it already, this process proved yet again AZ is atop the list of least hitching friendly states. I could have asked for cardboard and bold black marker from say a convenience store, but I want to practice what I preach and let my wild-child out! Therefore I found a nice mellow place to start a small fire, and burned a few sticks and small boards which would serve as my marker. Needless to say abandoned cardboard is also an abundant resource. I did save one of the burnt stick, as this is likely to aid me in the future.

It took a while, but after a few hours of walking backwards with my thumb erect and travelers pack slung over my shoulder I was able to get a ride. A nice gentlemen that also hitched and was a free spirit when he was younger. Granted his motivations was to indulge his addictions through pan-handling and not have a job all the while, but as I have said before to each their own. Who am I to judge. We had a fantastic conversation about how the universe provides as long as you give to others. I shared my philosophy of giving money to anyone that should ask for it, even if food is a better options and I have no idea how they will spend “my” dollar or two. Who am I to dictate lifestyle choices on others? If someone is suffering and medicates in ways I don’t like, that is their prerogative. If I walk around with a stick up my rear and a better-then-thou view of myself I am not likely to be experiencing the abundance I am now. My new friend agreed. I didn’t get homicidal on him, and he didn’t kill me either. Me and my new friend also agreed most Americans watch far too much T.V.

During my walk to Gangplank I did have to ask for directions when I needed to, took naps when my body asked it of me, and foraged only for what I needed at the time and only kept a small inventory in my cargo pants for the lesser-seen foods. In addition to the prickly lettuce I ate cactus buds, oranges, and figs right off the tree. Granted both the fruits could use another month or two, but scrumptious food with price-tags attached to it are wants. Not needs.

As worrisome as I knew it would make those that care most about me to not have my phone on, I knew it would be better to conserve energy in my battery when I have a cell-phone without the charger. In order to see all the abundance the world has to offer, feel the generosity of others, walk delicately and with purpose, and stay safe in the process one must always be aware of the immediate surroundings. Hard to do that with a techno-gadget attached to the ear. Once again I apologize to those I scared. My life’s calling is my life’s calling. I have been ignoring this call for far too long.

Thank you again to all my readers for your interest and support. Remember my intention is to work and make positive change on this journey, not leach off of the generosity of others. With that said please keep reading my “notes” which are linked near the top of this page. In which you will find the many ways you can help me, and I may help you in return. I can do this without the help of others and by taking what I need when I can (while compromising my ethics), but I would much rather work cooperatively with all of those near, dear, and distant alike. The only catch is when it comes to “payment” for my labor we will have to get creative. I will not be accepting Federal Reserve Notes, as they were worthless to me.

Used and fed-up no more!!!