Jul 29, 2010


Determined to find some small moment or project each day to help me appreciate Summer despite the sweltering heat, I decided that I would go sage picking this morning.

I live in an area that is partially lakes, vineyards and mountains, and part arid desert.  The desert areas are where the sagebrush grows wild and spreads as far as you can see.  I drove out to one of these areas today, and picked a good bucket of sage to dry for loose smudge and to try my hand at some bundles.

There are some people who don't believe you should ever remove any plant from the wild, and I respect that view, but politely maintain that wildcrafting when done properly, can be a very rewarding experience. 

Some important tips about wildcrafting:

~ Be sure that you know a bit about the plant you are harvesting.  If it is rare or endangered (or poisonous) please don't pick it!  Carry a good plant identification book with you.  Lone Pine is one of many great publishers that feature resource books that I love and use.

~ Look around you.  What is in the immediate area?  Are you beside a highway that may be exposing the plants to exhaust fumes?  Are you near an orchard or farm that sprays its crops with pesticides?  Think about what these plants may have been exposed to.

~ Are there many specimens of your desired plant to be found in this area?  I always make sure I'm picking in a place where the plant in question is abundant so as not to remove pieces of the last plant of its kind in the area.

~ Use clean, sharp garden snips or scissors to gather your plant materials.  Not only is one, clean snip a nicer way to gather rather than tearing a branch off a plant, but plants can be subject to disease, rusts or pests riding on your old, unclean garden tools.

~ Only take one or two branches/ flowers/stems from each plant.  You want to leave as much of the healthy plant behind as possible so it may continue to grow well (and possibly provide for you next year.)

~ Leave behind an offering.  On the way out to pick, I ask that I be led to the plants/bushes that are willing to give a bit of themselves for my purpose.  I feel that it's only fair and respectful to leave something (natural/organic) behind.  I alternate between leaving ceremonial tobacco leaves or herbs I've grown and spring water.

~ Leave the land better than you found it.  If there is trash on the ground - pick it up.

My little picking adventure was a great way to start the day.  I highly recommend getting out and seeing what your area has to offer in the way of plant life.  If not for harvesting, then just for appreciating! 


Kathy said...

Excellent suggestions and timely, too. My husband and I are going to explore parts of our state and I want to take pictures and look for various bits and bobs that the Goddess has set aside for me. I'm going to print out your suggestions and laminate them and keep them in my crane bag (that has yet to be knitted.)


Knickertwist said...

I've been thinking a lot about wild harvesting lately too. Everyday I walk to my mailbox the yarrow and soapwort call to me "pick me! pick me!"

Mary said...

Not a bad idea, Rue. It sounds as though you really enjoy your morning foray's in the 'wild'. The photo of the sage brush is terrific. I hope the day treats you well. Blessings...Mary

Susan Erickson said...

What a wonderful day and being respectful is always appreciated by our mother. Sage bundles are so comforting. Burning them in winter brings summer back to mind.....

Linda in New Mexico said...

I have never read a more thoughful nor realistic wild harvest post. Thanks for your common sense, respect and insights. I make a plum jam every year from wild plums. It is not all that easy to get the "little guys" to cooperate in the picking. We always take our offering, lunch and make a day of it. The birds, the snakes and the critters all have blessed us with their presence from time to time. All of natural family has gathered...sometimes us in the car and the beasties guarding their territory. hee hee Lovely post, thanks

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I picked sage one summer down in southern Alberta near Writing-on-Stone provincial park. I discovered that ants love sage and a lot came along for the ride! Who knew?

the wild magnolia said...

Splendid post on gathering sages and wild crafting!

I love the scent of sage! So clean and fresh.

Happy smudging!

The Frog Queen said...

Excellent post! I always pick up trash on my outings...remove the plastic from the beatutiful landscape.

Thanks for sharing.


Wendy the (Very) Good Witch said...

Lovely post and a great way to commune with the summer months! Have a great weekend Rue!

Bogaman said...

I think desert areas are "cool". Wish I lived closer to one. X.

Mother's Moon's Message said...

I miss my huge sage plant that I ended up killing out of ignorance... what a way to learn...I think as you that wildcrafting has its place and as you said can be quite rewarding. I often go out in search of wild flower seeds during the summer... and yes I always stand by your steps... for receiving a gift we should always leave one in return.

Dede said...

A great post Rue! Trying to teach the younger ones to pick up and leave an offering isn't so easy to do. Wishing you a blessed Lammas!


girlichef said...

I agree 100%!! Lammas blessings to you, Rue =)

Jules@OneBookShy said...

Lovely post and photo. I always try to have a bag with me when I go out on my walks so I can pick up other people's trash. Amazing what they toss out there!

Have a great rest of the weekend.