Jul 192017

For my recent birthday, Rhiannon and I headed straight up into the mountains to find our favorite sort of haven – cool, wet, boggy, and wild. Here in the Southwest, that often means looking for un upper elevation ciénega. These alkaline moist meadows that sometimes verge into swamps are rare, and incredibly important, refuges for a plethora of wildlife, including these two water loving changelings.

Our seasonal monsoons have gotten something of a late start but now seem to be finally taking hold. The day of our journey, clouds hung low and dark in the sky, casting peculiar shadows across the landscape as we wandered along creeksides and the edges of a burned out forest. At 9,000 feet in the air and only 60 degrees, we felt as if we’d left the muggy Summer heat far behind….

Meadow wildflowers are just beginning to bloom, replenished by the much needed rain in this seemingly endless drought. This year the Owl’s Claws, Hymenoxys hoopesii, seems especially prolific, turning the roadsides and meadows gold with their brilliant flowers. Normally, I would gather at least a few for oils and salves to soothe musco-skeletal aches and pains, but right now I’m halfway through an exhausting (and exhilarating) pregnancy, and am reserving all my energy for the medicines I most need for the coming year.

One of those medicines is our native Saint John’s Wort, Hypericum scouleri, which I’ve been making frequent use of for the nerve pain that has accompanied both my pregnancies. I’m excited that the Hypericum scouleri seems fairly abundant this year, as I prefer it to the more common H. perforatum, but will only harvest it during seasons in which it is plentiful and I can gather it without making any visible impact on the local population.

I also gathered a bit of Yarrow since it’s been scarce in the lower elevations this year. The Violet leaves seem especially aromatic and plentiful so Rhiannon and I spent a good long while crawling around beside the creek filling our basket with their bountiful green goodness.

Rhiannon is nearly 17, my darling goblin girl. She not only helped me wildcraft the herbs I needed but also assisted in preparing our birthday picnic, and baked me an amazing Rose-Pistachio Cake!

Here’s one of our ramekins of shepherd’s pie, made with lamb, mushrooms, beet greens, leeks, turnips, and topped with herbed chevre and a Checkermallow flower.

Here’s the amazing cake Rhiannon made for me! Redolent of rosewater, with Icelandic skyr icing  and topped with ground pistachios, rose petals and buds, and marzipan. This has to be one of the prettiest birthday cakes I’ve ever seen.

Gratuitous closeup of the Roses.

Yes, we do like to eat our cake off of leaves!

Rhiannon adores the lush beauty of moist meadows and couldn’t resist rolling in the sweet, soft grass.

Sniffing a bit of Oshá/Loveroot leaf, Ligusitcum porteri. I didn’t harvest any even though it was very abundant in this area. Partly because of my low energy levels, but also because this plant is a strong uterine stimulant/emmenagogue. I couldn’t resist that sniff though, as Oshá leaves are one of my favorite cooking herbs!

If I can’t harvest it right now, I can at least admire it!

Back home again, Rhiannon and I prepared a quick but nourishing soup with just gathered Sheep Sorrel leaves, Wild Onions, Crimini mushrooms, Leeks, and lamb. Tired but satisfied, we ate our soup while still regaling each other with the beauty and fun of our picnic feast!


In the spirit of our celebration, here’s a bit of music for you. Waldkauz is a German band playing Medieval inspired music in the pagan folk genre. If you enjoy Faun, you’re very likely to love this album as well.

  2 Responses to “9,000 Feet In The Air: My Birthday Feast and Ciénega Plant Ramblings”

  1. What a wonderful birthday celebration! Happy Birthday!

  2. I loved seeing, reading, and hearing. Wonderful post, and I send all good wishes from afar (afar being Pennsylvania).

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