skunk cabbage teachings

little man and i went for a walk alongside what later turns into the mint and milkweed patch.  behind this is the spring fed swamp and then the creek.  we noticed the skunk cabbage have begun popping up in the swamp.  this led to a talk about our friend, who wants some skunk cabbage for her wetwater garden, so little man tried digging one out with a stick.  he found it impossible.  he ran off and some minutes later returned with a pitchfork, declaring that this ought to get under its roots.  so he worked away at the same plant, which was growing on a wet, leafy embankment.  after he had pitchforked it from all four sides, wiggling it as he worked, he tried pulling it out.  the leaves came off, but no root.

now we thought we’d try up higher, on a dry sandy spot.  the pitchfork refused to penetrate the soil.  we looked at the cabbages growing right in the muck.  before we could talk about it, he  had tromped right in and was working a plant, vigorously, slushily.  after a while::::  come on mom, he called, you have to pull it out now!!  i had slippers on my feet, as when i stepped out of the house i had no intentions of doing anything other than walk.  i looked at the swamp and muck, then i looked at little man’s glowing face.  his mud covered clothes, his exuberance, and i thought what the heck!  so i’ll get muddy too.  woot woot.  in i went, squelch, mud seeped right over and around my feet.  i stuck my hands in, under the cabbage, and pulled, and pulled.  it wouldn’t budge.  but we both saw the roots, a tentacley looking mass that went down and around, joining up with roots from nearby plants.

we must have heard the same voice because moments later we were looking for small, baby plants growing away from other bigger ones, in the water.  little man found one and began working at loosening the roots from underneath, coming at it from all four sides.  he had some slicing technique he was using too.  it wasn’t long before i was in there, hands detangling the roots from below, and wallah!  it came out easy!!  we did this five times and were rewarded with five baby skunk cabbages, ready to move to our friend’s garden, where hopefully they will flourish with the abandon they do here.

on our way back up to the house and while we potted them, he was wondering if they’d make good medicine?  could we tincture the roots?  would they loosen things up in our bodies that are stuck fast? it’s eaten by bears during sparse winters, so is it bear medicine?  our lesson with skunk cabbage continued . . . . so mom, he asks as we track mud through the house, when can we dig up some roots to tincture??  we got around to it a week or so later.  we washed the roots in the creek, rubbing them on the rocks, before putting them up to dry. once they’re thoroughly dry, i’ll chop them and fill a jar with them, then completely cover with 100 proof vodka, and put away for six weeks . . . . . or longer . . . . like they said to do.

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