Sunday, March 30, 2014

Marooned By Mud

Tuesday is April 1, opening day of trout fishing in brooks and streams. I’ve not missed an opening day for the 60-some years that I’ve been fishing. And if possible, I don’t plan on missing this one. But it’s going to be rough.

I’ve always boasted that it would take a lot to keep me from going fishing on this traditional date and now it looks as though nature has called my bluff. Specifically, I live one mile from the nearest paved road, on a strip of dead sand and mud called East Waldo Road. And as of yesterday, East Waldo Road is impassable to motor vehicles. I’m marooned at home.

It doesn’t appear as if the town can do anything about current road conditions, since rain is forecast for the rest of today and into Monday. Even if they wanted to, which I’m not certain they do, it doesn’t look as though a gravel truck could reach the worst parts of this miserable excuse for a road.

So Tuesday morning, I will have to try and walk from my house down to the paved section of road. My driveway, not exactly a great feat of engineering in and of itself (I built it) is pretty bad. A dammed-up seasonal stream has broken out from confinement and now runs like a river across my driveway. But I can probably ford it.

Walking on the main road, though, will be problematic. Ruts, some several feet deep, weave this way and that up and down the road. So pedestrians (me) will need to walk on top of the snowbanks on the roadside.

Walking one mile in summer would be a trifling matter, something accomplished without thought. But this is different. However, despite a winter pretty much stuck indoors because of ice and snow, I’m still in pretty good shape. I should make it.

One thing’s for sure. When I reach the end of the mud gauntlet, my buddy in his waiting van will be a welcome sight indeed.

Meanwhile, if anyone has access to a private helicopter, I could use supplies. Topping the list is broccoli, lettuce, potatoes and beer or ale. If the other stuff is unavailable, just send ale. Food for the spirit is more important at this point. Besides that, I’ve got lots of canned goosetongue, Swiss chard, dandelions and green beans to hold me over.

It’s going to be a long mud season, by the looks of it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Winter Has Lasted Way Too Long

Last January was warm enough for this orpine to begin growing
We all know someone who remains stuck in an earlier time. I knew someone who was stuck in the 1950s. He combed his hair, dressed and spoke as if it were 1958. His music, too, reflected that period of time. I haven’t seen this guy for many years and I wonder if he has ever seen fit to accept the passing of time and act accordingly.

Our climate lately reminds me of my good-time rock-‘n-roller friend. It’s stuck in January. The vernal equinox has come and gone and the sun has approximately the same strength that it exhibited in September. But these miserable arctic blasts, intrusions of super-chilled air from the north, keep bringing us January conditions in late March.

April 1 is the opening day of fishing in brooks and streams in Maine. This has no basis in practical fisheries management and is solely rooted in tradition; that’s how it’s always been.

I caught my first trout at age 4 and have been at it ever since. I have never, ever, missed an opening day of trout season. Some years I’ve had to contend with snow, other years just plain cold temperatures and sometimes rain. But never, ever, in my 62 years of fishing, have I seen prolonged cold such as what we are experiencing now.

As always, I’ve been doing my pre-season scouting. Usually, I am able to spot trout finning in bright, clear pools. But not this year. All the pools are frozen, locked in ice. Waterfalls are frozen. Everything is frozen, including the tidal river near my house. So my biggest challenge this coming opening day will be finding open water to drop a line in.

Foragers, too, have been dealt a difficult hand. In fact, I’ve got my first field trip of the year scheduled for April 23. It’s going to have to get awfully warm between now and then for us to find any plants at all.

By now, we in Maine should be feasting on the young leaves of wild evening primrose and cooking the parsnip-like primrose roots. I would ordinarily have pulled some of last year’s cattail clumps and harvested the young, white sprouts that would later become this years cattails. But I can’t because the ponds are frozen, the swamps are frozen and the cattails lie beneath a thick coating of ice and snow.

People have long-since tapped their maple trees in order to harvest the sweet sap used for making maple syrup. But the sap lines have frozen. It doesn’t get up above freezing during the day and the sap can’t flow. This will likely go down as the poorest maple syrup year of all time. Expect a price increase for maple syrup.

By now, I would ordinarily have planted lettuce and other early greens in my solar-heated greenhouse. But I can’t, because the greenhouse beds are frozen solid.

And now, another blizzard is forecast to smash into coastal Maine. Just what we need, another blizzard.

I cannot remember a year with a colder spring than this and as I said, I’ve been around quite a long time. When spring finally breaks and we get a steady diet of above-freezing days, we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. And here’s one thing more. Like everyone else, I often complain about the weather. I’m complaining now, for sure. But you will never again hear me complain about it being too warm. Let it get hot, I don’t mind. All I’ll need to do if the heat becomes a tad uncomfortable will be to remember the spring of 2014 and that will put an end to any dissatisfaction regarding heat. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

First Day Of Spring, Kind Of

Knowing that today, the official arrival of spring, would be snowy and otherwise nasty, I took a ride yesterday, looking for signs of spring. Normally, snow would be mostly gone and buds on willows and certain shrubs would be visibly swollen. Some years, pussy willow catkins are out by now. But not this year.

This year, deep snow covers the ground and it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. And trees and shrubs exhibit no signs of spring. As far as annual plants and herbaceous perennials, they may as well be on the far side of the moon, for all the good they do us, hidden as they are beneath snow and ice.

Even our streams and rivers remain locked in winter’s unrelenting grip. The Passagassawaukeag River, a tidal river near my house, is covered with ice. A large waterfall on the “Passy” is frozen solid. Imagine, a frozen waterfall. And small streams are totally frozen and covered with snow, offering little hope for anxious anglers waiting to get out and wet a line on April 1, opening day of fishing season.

I did find one, little ray of hope. A steep bank on the south-facing side of the Passy River was peppered with not-quite-open coltsfoot blossoms. These are by and far the earliest wildflower to appear and the sight of them cheered me greatly. On the other hand, the coltsfoot bloomed in February last year.

So happy spring…I guess.

In other news, I got an email yesterday from someone representing Conde Nast, wanting photos of my wild plant tours and some high-resolution photos of the wild plants. I had never heard of Conde Nast and so thought I was being scammed. I didn’t just fall off the hay wagon yesterday, you know. I wrote back asking for some kind of explanation, only to find out, much to my chagrin, that Conde Nast is the publisher of Gourmet, Bon App├ętit and Epicurious magazines and they are creating a special issue magazine with a directory of foragers from around the country. And they are going to include me. 

I sent them the plant photos. Luckily, my friend and publisher Nancy Randolph had some photos of me on field trips with groups, so we satisfied Conde Nast’s request. Nancy mentioned to me later that after the magazine comes out, I may get calls from some big-time New York papers and if that happens, I shouldn’t accuse the caller of not really being who they say they are.

But what can I say? I’m from Waldo Maine. I don’t get out much.

Keep the faith. Spring, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, must eventually arrive. The sun has made its trek north and casts its light on earth from a more direct, powerful angle.

Oh, one other thing. I’m including a photo here and it has three captions. They are: Tom’s place on the first day of fall, Tom’s place on the first day of winter and Tom’s place on the first day of spring. I may or may not include the one other season we have here in Waldo, Maine, the Fourth of July.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tom's Seminar Schedule For Spring - Summer 2014

My 2014 season schedule is shaping up nicely and I have a number of presentations planned around the State of Maine. Here is my schedule, effective as of March 14, 2014. I’ll update this list as more dates get firmed up. I’d love to see some readers of my blog at one of my sessions.

March 29. Digital presentation and question-and-answer session for University of Maine Extension’s Rural Living Days held at Mt. View High School in Thorndike. My class time is 10:45 to 12:15.

April 23. Next, I’m doing a digital presentation and plant walk for Jackson Memorial Library in Tenant’s Harbor, beginning with the indoor part at 12 noon, followed by a plant walk on local nature trails. For more info, contact Hanna Tannebring at (207) 594-9209.

May 3. Digital presentation of springtime plants at Merryspring, Camden, followed by a plant walk. Class from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

May 17. Plant presentation for Adult Education group at MSAD 40 in Union. Indoor presentation in Union School at 10 a.m. followed by plant walk at Rain Tree Farm in Union.

June 8, 9. Two-day session for hosted by Lynn Howe at Harpswell. For more information, call Lynn at (207) 725-7437.

June 12-13. Woodie Wheaton Land Trust, Forest City on East Grand Lake. Evening digital presentation followed by 9: a.m. plant walk the next morning. Contact Patty A. Michaud at (207) 448-3250 or email her at for more information.

July 8, 15, 22, 29. Every Tuesday classes at Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay Harbor. The public is welcome. Contact the Inn at (207) 633-4152 for more information or to sign up. There is no charge.

July 19. Plant walk at Holbrook Island State Park in Brooksville. This off-the-beaten-path state park is a true undiscovered gem in the state’s park system. Few visitors, lots of room both inland (even has their own little mountain, complete with trails to the peak), freshwater marsh and lots of shore land. No reservation needed. Just arrive on or before 1 p.m. and we’ll walk about this excellent spot and find wild plants.

July 20. Another session with Lynn Howe in Harpswell. Specifics not yet available, but call Lynn and she’ll be able to help.

August 5, 12, 19, 26. Tuesdays at Spruce Point Inn. See July schedule for more info.

August 22. Plant presentation and walk for Cobscook Community Learning Center in Lubec. For more information, contact Valerie Lawson, Program Manager, at (207) 733-2233. Sounds like a good time to me. I plan on doing some fishing from Lubec Breakwater after the session.

August 23. Evening presentation for Downeast Lakes Land Trust, followed by plant walk the next morning. For more information, contact Tanya at (207) 796-2100 for more information.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New Material In The Works Include Springtime Plant Seminar, Urban Foraging Walks

It’s snowing and I’m stuck inside. It being mid-March, my thoughts have turned to harvesting wild edible plants. I’m currently working on handouts for my upcoming plant classes and even have a brand-new wild plant presentation almost ready to show.

This consists of digital images of various wild edible plants available in springtime. Prior to this, my presentations have included plants from all seasons, but now I’m concentrating upon each season separately. I also am working on a special “garden weeds of summer” presentation. I feel that all these separate groups of plants, each in their own season, deserve special attention.

Also, and I've toyed with this idea for several years, but this year will definitely make it ready. This project will require lots of legwork on my part...literally. I'm speaking of an “urban foraging walk” and will take place in Belfast, Maine.

Often, while waiting for my car to be serviced, I’ll stroll through residential sections of Belfast and to my amazement, I find useful wild plants everywhere. Even such places as the ditches between commercial buildings hold their share of great plants.

My walk will be somewhat taxing, since it will incorporate several miles of Belfast’s geography. But I’m thinking that what we find in and around Belfast will be representative of plants found in other urban locations throughout Maine. Anyone who accompanies me on one of my Belfast walks will be well-situated to do some urban foraging in other towns and cities.

So maybe it’s a good thing that it’s snowing and that winter continues to hold us in its icy grip. It’s given me a severe case of cabin fever and my only relief comes from planning plant trips and seminars for this spring and summer.

There’s a lot to see, do and talk about in the wide world of foraging for edible wild plants, and I plan on doing all that I possibly can along those lines. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Unique Job Opportunity

Every once in awhile I come upon an interesting topic not directly related to foraging or wild plants. I believe this is something that may interest someone among my readers, and so I’ll post it here.

Linda Bean seeks a team to operate Camp Wapiti, a 100-plus-year-old camp in Patten, Maine, near Shin Pond. Linda needs a “talented superwoman and husband to continue the camp’s history as a place where licensed Maine guides take guests into successful experiences of lake fishing and game hunting: the L.L. Bean way.”

Camp Wapiti offers stunning views of Mt. Katahdin. The camp sits 20 minutes from the north entrance to Baxter State Park. Linda would like to hear from someone interested in running Camp Wapiti for her this summer, fall and next winter and spring. She says that if the new team and she “click,” this could be an ongoing opportunity.

If you are interested or know someone who is, send an email to Linda Bean, owner, Linda L. Bean Camps LLC, at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pine Needle Tea

This unusually cold and long-lasting winter has me down. And I suspect that it has taken its toll on you, too. I’m scouring my shelves for wild foods that I have preserved and though I still have plenty of dandelions and goosetongue on hand, they are only a substitute for fresh, wild green things.

With ankle-deep snow on the ground and nighttime temperatures well below zero (it was minus-6 last night), the possibility of some early-season foraging seems quite remote. But there is something we can harvest right now and in fact, it was available all winter. Tree tea.

Some conifers offer a delicious and healthful (vitamin C) tea. The needles (leaves) are picked fresh, chopped up, covered with boiling water and steeped. White pine is my favorite source of tree tea. It has a pleasant scent that relaxes me. Any pine is suitable for tea-making purposes, though.

So I will go out today and break my way through the snow crust to the nearest white pine, gather a handful of needles and bring them back inside for a nice, hot cup of white pine tea.

In other news, my schedule is filling up for summertime field trips and seminars. I might mention to anyone looking for a fun few hours this summer, that I’m at Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay Harbor every Tuesday, beginning on July 8 and continuing through August 26. I believe my sessions begin at 12:30 p.m. and last until 2:p.m., but the exact time is yet to be determined. Nonetheless, I mention this for the following reason.

Spruce Point Inn hires me for the benefit of their clients. We walk the grounds and I identify different wild plants and explain their uses. The inn owners kindly allow non-clients to participate as well. So if any readers of this blog would like to have a fun, relaxing time some Tuesday afternoon this summer, just come to Spruce Point Inn and join my plant walk.

I’ll post the exact date as the season nears, but with so many people “thinking spring” at this point, I wanted to reiterate the offer of coming to Boothbay Harbor and walking around the grounds of this scenic peninsula, searching for wild plants.

Readers may feel free to contact me about this any time. You have my contact information on the bio portion of this blog.

Meanwhile, take heart. The cold may try and convince us that winter will never leave, but the nighttime sky tells a different story. The springtime constellation Leo the Lion is coming up now and the sun grows stronger with each passing day. Spring will come. It’s just a matter of time. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tom's Wild Plant Course

In this blog post, I’m asking for input from readers. I seek your thoughts on my proposed wild plant course, whether or not you think it a good idea and if it would appeal to you or people you know. Here’s how it would work.

I’d offer five sessions. The first would take place indoors and would be an introduction to the topic of foraging for wild plants. The next three classes would be field trips. The first of these would take place in early spring, perhaps May. It would center upon the mostly-ephemeral plants of that season that grow along streamsides (the alluvial plain) such as ostrich fern fiddleheads, the various dock species, wintercress, wild oats, false Solomon’s seal, groundnuts, orpine and others. The trip would also take in some woodland plants of the mottled shade, such as large-leaved aster, Clintonia, Partridge berries, violets, trillium, trout lily and others.

The next session, probably occurring some time in late June, would concentrate upon plants of the seashore. My workshop here would be Sears Island, a place with a wild abundance of useful and interesting wild plants.

The third field trip would cover summertime plants that show up on cultivated ground, such as the various “weeds” that we find in our gardens. This would probably happen in late July or early August.

The last session would take place either inside or perhaps at a park in the Midcoast area, weather permitting. Here, we would go over everything we had learned and observed during our trips and I would give participants a quiz to make sure that everyone had all the facts down to my satisfaction. We would have plenty of time for questions and answers and after that, I would hand out certificates of completion.

This scenario is subject to change, of course. Also, my wild plant school may not begin this May. As I said, I want to mine people for feedback and make sure there is sufficient interest before committing to anything.

However, it all sounds like a good idea to me and if enough people agree, then I’ll spend this coming season searching out sites for my field trips and fine-tuning my prospectus.

So please, give me your thoughts, either positive or negative. Contact me at (207) 338-9746, write me at Tom Seymour, 194 East Waldo Road, Waldo, ME 04915 or send an email message to: