Proper Priorities

Foraging bittersweet with friends Elaine and Sue (left to right)
“I’d rather gather acorns with my kids any day than clean house,” said a fellow young mother forty-six years ago. I couldn’t relate to her then, but sure do now.
           To think I could’ve lived my entire life as a diehard neat-nick had we not found our country plot twenty-nine years ago. Nature is alluring, colorful and fecund with native flowers, shrubs, and trees unknown to me back then. Bloodroot. Elderberry. Linden.
Our first spring here, my younger daughters and I trekked down the open field into the forest. We found yellow trout lily, white trillium, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Then wild geraniums dazzled us along the roadsides.
My late mother said Grandpa Floyd could name everything that grew in the Appalachian Mountains. Whenever I meet a plant person like him, my jaw falls in awe. After many tangles with poison ivy, you’d think I could at least identify her nasty three leaves. You have to grow up with plant life to truly know it.
To honor the acorn mother’s proper priorities, I’ve established the ritual of picking up the first three acorns in my path come fall. I place them on my kitchen windowsill where I admire them through winter.
Some twelve falls ago, I stepped off the road to inspect red patches in the foliage. Bittersweet—invasive vines with clustered berries turning from gold to orange to red. I harvested arms full and gave sprigs to friends, decorated my house with a Thanksgiving wreath. Nature’s menopausal hot flash is a bit messy, but worth it.
Fond of bittersweet, my friend Elaine would rather forage and arrange the vines any day than clean house. So we met at my neighbor’s place.
“You caught me cleaning my stove,” Sue said when she answered the door. “Please, take all the bittersweet you want. And don’t pet the cows. The electric fence is on. ”
Sue guided Elaine and me on a hunt for bamboo, Sweet Annie, Sea Oats, and lilies with seedpods. We made our way to the bittersweet and each gleaned a trunk load.
Katy, Sue’s older daughter, carried a basket of beautiful fresh eggs. “We lost six of our ten rescued buff orpingtons to raccoons.” She offered to save my five old girls from my hatchet for her rescue called Henny’s New Home.
Elated, I said, “My husband’s going to be very happy about this.”
“Would you like some tea before you go?” Sue asked.
Sitting around her table, Elaine and I learned what began as Katy’s dream two years ago is now a family farm of two generations living under one roof, an affectionate revival of the ancient vocation of growing your own food.
Sue’s husband Jerry is the soil expert and builder. Katy’s husband Jason is the nutrition expert and Jerry’s end man.
Dear Reader, Katy sat her vintage set of Foxfire Books before me, unaware those stories recorded in the sixties about resourceful mountain folk could’ve been my grandparents.
I’d rather gather with kindred spirits any day than clean my house.