Wild in the City: Foraging Fridays 2012

Did you heart do a little pitter patter at seeing the title? ME TOO! It’s that time again…Foraging Fridays are back!

I’m starting earlier this year than I usually do. With the unusually warm winter we’ve had, spring is bouncing into action as we speak. As Fern and I go about the city, our conversation is peppered with exclamations of “Pink tree!”. Seemingly around every corner is another Japanese Maple, offering glimpses of the ecstatic, soft pink blooms inviting the heart to open. I would doubt my perception that it is, indeed, spring, if it wasn’t for the saucy and sexy behavior of birds. On walks in the Presidio, I can’t hear myself think for the chorus of love songs being sung on high. The miner’s lettuce is lush, nettle patches are up, the chickweed is enthusiastic and I am nagged by the urge to stick my hands in the dirt, to propagate, nurture, collect.

Sometimes a foraging expedition does not go as planned, and this year I will be bringing more transparency into my posts. Foraging Fridays will be about the collection of experiences, even if the excursion does not amount to a bounty of wild greens or street fruit.

For 2012, I wanted to begin these Friday posts by reorienting us to the native scape. San Francisco is full of wildness, both plant and animal. What at first seems non-existant or invisible becomes obvious with eyes that know how to see, and where to look. San Francisco resident Janet Kessler has dedicated her blog to raising awareness about our wild cohabitants, especially coyotes. I own a copy of her lovely little book Myca of Twin Peaks, which contains photographs of a coyote she frequently encountered on morning walks with her dog. Since then, she has documented other creatures on her strolls, and if you don’t believe me about the biodiversity in our urban world, these pictures ought to set you right.

Kessler’s photographs are also on display at The Randall Museum, where Fern and I spent a grey Tuesday morning. The museum’s focus is on teaching about urban ecosystems, as well as wildlife rehabilitation. They have many animal residents, all formerly wild, all currently unable to survive on their own.

Right now, Fern is into foraging for flowers and sticks. Her biggest obsession is “Sar Gass” (sour grass or Oxalis) and every yellow flower is examined for potential. I took this picture right as we approached the museum and she was suddenly unsure of it all…

And then realized we were about to do something totally awesome…

Upon entrance, the visitor is greeted by a “neighborhood”, complete with the animals one could meet.

Each “animal” had a button to push, playing the voice of that species.

The chittering of the racoons were her favorite.

Then it was on into the animal room.

Our city’s tidal zones are full of subtle beauty.

Purple shore crab. If you gently turn over rocks at the beach, you will see mini versions go scurrying.

Sea Star tube feet.

I was delighted by Fern’s interest, and also surprised. I expected her to swoon over the chickens and rabbits that like to be held, but instead she fell in love with a grounded and steady fellow.

Her other favorite was no surprise at all.

She also found affection for a blue bird, but was totally non-plussed by the Harris Hawk, Barn Owl and Ravens. This poor Great Horned was trying his best to nap, despite the squeals of delight. I like the way his head sinks back into his body, feathery shoulders as his pillow.

Located in the geographic center of the city, the museum is nestled into a hillside. Outside the grounds are trails, views and a chance to encounter wildness in person.

A member of the wood sorrel family, and an “invasive” weed, Oxalis or sour grass is robust in these early spring days.

Oxalis. I like to nibble on the shamrock type leaves and Fern likes to pluck the flowers and suck at the ends. Oxalis does contain oxalic acid, which can strip calcium out of your body if you eat a pound of it every day. So just take it easy, will ya?

You can see a bouquet in her hands.

We traipsed around the hill, stopping to pluck and shoot plantain flowers. We smelled the Coastal Sage and put bits of it in our pockets for perfume. We stood on our oasis as city life bustled below us, and the quieter business of birds and plants went on all around us. Like the illusory separation of self and other, it was hard to tell where “nature” began and ended. From our vantage point, it was easy to remember our connection to all things, California Towhees bursting from the cypress above us, Sharp-Shinned Hawk coming in to roost, Gulls crying far off on the horizon, a boisterous school yard below, the succulent earth under our feet.

Have a good weekend!

7 thoughts on “Wild in the City: Foraging Fridays 2012

  1. I savoured this post. It is so full of promise…of new life in Spring, of education to awareness, and natural beautification of a suburban landscape. It lifts my heart to know that our children are being taught to appreciate what is still living with us…and what has already been lost. It will make a difference. I’ve been completely inspired by your walks with Fern, and took my babes out in the rain the other day, we went very slowly, took our time and collected Cicada shells (so very late this year and only a few where normally they are so LOUD and shelling everywhere), examined some Moth coccoons on the trees, stopped at the local stream for a look, and even found a little pansy growing through a crack in the concrete of the gutter. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Enjoyed this post so much, seeing Fern exploring the world of plants and animals. Lovely for a Grandma to experience from the other coast. Love and kisses.

  3. Yay! To foraging fridays, which I quite like and miss. To your girl, who brings a smile to my face with her cherubic glow. And to your lovely outings. As an unschooling-homeschooling-whatever-you-wanna-call-it mama to another, you have such a natural ability, as evidenced through your sharing on your blog, for sharing the joys and beauties of life and the world with your little one. I keep thinking about your mind-wandering on that topic a few months ago and can’t help but think you’re a natural for that world of lifelong living (otherwise known as lifelong learning).

  4. Really enjoyed reading, and dropping by always brings me something wonderful to learn to share. You are generous Mary with your days, both to us and to Fern. This looks like a wonderful museum, and I would love one like it close to me. Its that time of year again, where those scents of the earth call you to make and create. I am holding back a bit, with other things that need my attention, and with a new space t live in I am wondering where and how to grow stuff here.
    Big Love to you and your days. I speak to M now about little Fern, she is so intrigued and is so delighted by her name, as am I: )
    Always look forward to your adventures and to your writing. Night Night x

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