Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Maine lawmakers are considering passage of a new law which would effectively ban foraging. Commercial harvesting of wild mushrooms and ostrich fern fiddleheads has created an atmosphere of chaos. Commercial harvesters often violate their privilege of harvesting on private land. When this all began, I feared that the actions of a few bad apples might unjustly reflect upon all of us who do no harm. The sad truth is, most of us don’t cause any harm whatsoever. In addition, ostrich fern fiddleheads are only one in a long list of wild edibles. We who pick stinging nettles, dock, wintercress, fireweed shoots, common cattails and any number of items that few people are even acquainted with are doomed to suffer because of the harmful actions of a few. But when any wild product (the bill is aimed at mushrooms and fiddleheads, but because it is so poorly worded, it by necessity covers all edible wild plants) becomes the target of a commercial industry, problems are sure to follow. In years past I used to go to the sea and with a long-handled net, harvest sea urchins for my own personal use. Do that now and wind up in jail. Ditto for baby eels. And the list goes on. But we who are honest should not have to pay for the harm imposed by commercial interests. I have included, below, the text of the proposed new regulations. They are Draconian to a fault. Hopefully, we foragers can come together and convince lawmakers to refine the language of their new law so that it only deals with mushrooms and fiddleheads. Again, hardly anyone except for we few foragers care about or are even familiar with the great body of wildlings that we enjoy harvesting and eating. Here’s hoping that we can act in time to avert this needless disaster. An Act To Prohibit Foraging on Private Land without Permission Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows: Sec. 1. 12 MRSA §8842-A, sub-§1, as amended by PL 2015, c. 55, §1, is further amended to read: 1. Cutting prohibited. A person may not: A. Cut or harvest Christmas trees or, evergreen boughs or edible wild food on land of another without securing written permission or a bill of sale from the owner or the owner's authorized agents and having a copy of this written permission or bill of sale in immediate possession. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime; or B. Violate paragraph A when: (1) The value of the trees or, boughs or edible wild food is more than $10,000. Violation of this subparagraph is a Class B crime; (2) The person is armed with a dangerous weapon at the time of the offense. Violation of this subparagraph is a Class B crime; (3) The value of the trees or, boughs or edible wild food is more than $2,000 but not more than $10,000. Violation of this subparagraph is a Class C crime; (4) The value of the trees or, boughs or edible wild food is more than $1,000 but not more than $2,000. Violation of this subparagraph is a Class D crime; or (5) The person has 2 prior Maine convictions for any combination of the following: theft; any violation of Title 17-A, section 401 in which the crime intended to be committed inside the structure is theft; any violation of Title 17-A, section 651; any violation of Title 17-A, section 702, 703 or 708; or attempts thereat. Title 17-A, section 9-A governs the use of prior convictions when determining a sentence. Violation of this subparagraph is a Class C crime. Sec. 2. 12 MRSA §8842-A, sub-§§2 and 3, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 452, Pt. F, §40 and affected by Pt. X, §2, are amended to read: 2. Transport prohibited. A person may not: A. Transport Christmas trees or, evergreen boughs or edible wild food without written permission or a bill of sale from the owner of the land where the trees or, evergreen boughs or edible wild food were harvested or that owner's authorized agents. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime; or B. Violate paragraph A when: (1) The value of the trees or, boughs or edible wild food is more than $10,000. Violation of this subparagraph is a Class B crime; (2) The person is armed with a dangerous weapon at the time of the offense. Violation of this subparagraph is a Class B crime; (3) The value of the trees or, boughs or edible wild food is more than $2,000 but not more than $10,000. Violation of this subparagraph is a Class C crime; (4) The value of the trees or, boughs or edible wild food is more than $1,000 but not more than $2,000. Violation of this subparagraph is a Class D crime; or (5) The person has 2 prior Maine convictions for any combination of the following: theft; any violation of Title 17-A, section 401 in which the crime intended to be committed inside the structure is theft; any violation of Title 17-A, section 651; any violation of Title 17-A, section 702, 703 or 708; or attempts thereat. Title 17-A, section 9-A governs the use of prior convictions when determining a sentence. Violation of this subparagraph is a Class C crime. 3. Inspections and investigations. An officer authorized to make inspections and investigations under this article may require of any person, firm or corporation engaged in cutting, harvesting or transporting Christmas trees or,evergreen boughs or edible wild food to show: A. If engaged in cutting or harvesting trees or, boughs or edible wild food belonging to another, a current written permit or bill of sale issued pursuant to subsection 1, paragraph A; and B. If engaged in transportation, a current written permit, bill of sale, port of entry statement or other written proof of ownership when transporting for commercial purposes trees, loose or in bundles, or boughs, loose or baled, or edible wild food. A driver shall carry this permit on the driver's person or in the vehicle. Sec. 3. 12 MRSA §8844, as repealed and replaced by PL 1983, c. 507, §2, is amended to read: § 8844.Seizure or attachment Any officer authorized to make inspections, investigations or arrests under this Article may seize and hold Christmas trees or, evergreen boughs or edible wild food until proof of ownership has been established. If no proof of ownership has been established, the officer shall try to determine where those trees or, boughs or edible wild food were cut or harvested and notify the landowner. If the owner does not want the trees or, boughs,or edible wild food or ownership cannot be determined, the State may dispose of them and any money derived from the disposition of the trees and,boughs shallor edible wild food must be paid to the landowner, if histhe landowner's identity can be established and, otherwise, to the Treasurer of State to be credited to the General Fund. Sec. 4. 12 MRSA §8847, as repealed and replaced by PL 1983, c. 507, §4, is amended to read: § 8847.Enforcement agencies State police, county sheriffs, municipal law enforcement officers, state forest rangers and game wardens are authorized to make inspections, investigations, arrests and disposals of trees and, boughs or edible wild food under thisArticlearticle. Sec. 5. 22 MRSA §2175, sub-§3, as amended by PL 2013, c. 533, §21, is further amended to read: 3. Refusal to certify; revocation of certification. The Department of Health and Human Services may decline to certify any person adjudged to have violated Title 12, chapter 805, subchapter 3, article 2 with regard to harvesting or transporting wild mushrooms or determined to lack the appropriate training to safely harvest, broker or sell wild mushrooms, in accordance with rules adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to this section. The Department of Health and Human Services may revoke, in accordance with the Maine Administrative Procedure Act, the certification of any person in accordance with rules adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to this section or any person adjudged to have violated Title 12, chapter 805, subchapter 3, article 2 with regard to harvesting or transporting wild mushrooms. Sec. 6. Maine Revised Statutes headnote amended; revision clause. In the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 12, chapter 805, subchapter 3, article 2, in the article headnote, the words "transportation or cutting of christmas trees" are amended to read "transportation, cutting or harvesting of christmas trees, evergreen boughs and edible wild food" and the Revisor of Statutes shall implement this revision when updating, publishing or republishing the statutes. SUMMARY This bill requires anyone harvesting edible wild food to have written permission or a bill of sale from the landowner before harvesting or transporting. The permission requirements and enforcement provisions of this bill are the same as currently exist in Maine law for commercial harvesting of Christmas trees and boughs for wreaths. The bill also authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to decline to certify or to revoke the certification under the Maine Wild Mushroom Harvesting Certification Program of any person found in violation of the prohibition.
Monday, November 28, 2016
Back about 10 years ago or so I bought a grafted weeping pussy willow at the Bangor Flower show, when it was still primarily a flower show. The pussy willow was of the sprawling, “weeping” type, similar to those grafted cherry trees we plant for their form and foliage. My weeping willow came in a 4-inch pot, so you can easily see that it was just a little plant.
After planting in front of my house it didn’t take long for the pussy willow to grow. Each year it just got bigger and bigger, making a nice contrast against the white snow. But one of the reasons for planting any pussy willow is to admire the silvery-white catkins. My pussy willow, though, never had more than two or three catkins at most. This was maddening, especially when I would drive around and view other, similar plants and see that they were aglow with shiny catkins.
However, every so often in fall, my pussy willow sets on a few catkins. And it did that this year. Perhaps the plant thinks it’s spring, I’m not quite sure. One thing I do know is it isn’t terribly unusual for some flowering plants to host a limited, second bloom in fall.
Forsythia, for instance, often sets blossoms in fall. These are never a big, thick blush of blossoms, but all the same they come on in enough numbers to put on an attractive display.
Then we have witch hazel, with its wiry yellow petals. However, witch hazel is a fall bloomer rather than a springtime bloomer, so that sets it apart from pussy willows and forsythia.
At this moment, with temps outside in the mid-40s, it appears that my February daphne, an early-spring flowering plant may soon have a few open blossoms.
And though I’ve never seen this, I believe my neighbor when he told me that he found ostrich fern fiddleheads ready to pick in November.
Were we to have an old-fashioned fall such as the kind we endured in the 1960s through the early 1990s, I wouldn’t be talking about late-blooming plants. But things are different now and warmer falls and winters have become the norm. That’s not to say that any day now we won’t be plunged into the freezer, but it hardly seems likely.
At the very least, it’s fun to go out and look at flowering plants to see if any of them have put on a second bloom. Good luck with that.
As a postscript, I have a confession to make. While I make my living as a writer and use a computer for that, computers are not my friends…by that, they confuse me. I began my writing career on a typewriter, so that should give some history of my relationship with these new-fangled computers.
Anyway, within a few days of posting a new blog I’ll look and see if there were any comments. And usually there aren’t. But once in a great while I’ll go into the guts of the program, a dangerous practice for me, and see to my great amazement that people have responded. In fact I just read a whole string of helpful comments and questions.
So for my next blog I plan on answering those unanswered comments. And from now on, I shall get in the program and take a closer look.
I apologize for not answering some of reader’s excellent questions. From now on I’ll do my best to get with the program and be more attentive. I’m sorry and I promise to do better.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
No matter where in the State of
you live, it’s likely that your area has suffered a killing frost. For those
who cling to their perennial and annual flower beds, that is bad news. But for
dandelion lovers, read on. Maine
Springtime and dandelions, almost synonymous to many people, mark a fairly short-lived window of opportunity for dandelion addicts. Spring sees us digging fat, sprawling dandelions. But after true warm weather arrives and dandelions go to flower, the leaves and even the crowns become bitter. And so we wait for the following spring for more of our cherished greens.
But wait. That’s not the end of the story. Did you know that after a killing frost, dandelions lose all trace of bitterness? Yes, that is so. Who knew?
Well, until a few years ago I didn’t. But my good friend Marion Hunnicutt did and Marion enlightened me regarding other uses of dandelions than just spring-dug plants.
mentioned that dandelion blossoms, in my mind only useful for making dandelion
wine, were ambrosial when fried in a Tempura batter. I tried it this spring and
sure enough, Marion
had struck a home run. The blossoms were a true delicacy when prepared this
But back to fall-dug dandelions. Sure, the plants lack the bulk of spring-dug plants because in spring, dandelions are putting on mass preparatory to blooming. And until the blossoms open they are yummy. After blooming, though, dandelions become bitter to the point of having to pucker when tasting even a tiny portion.
Fall-dug dandelions don’t have the mass or bulk of the springtime variety. They more closely resemble those sparse dandelions we dig as soon as snow melts and we can find a few plants from last year. Well, those early spring dandelions are the same ones we find now in fall, after a few, good freezes.
So dandelion lovers unite! Go forth, digger in hand and harvest this late-season bounty. If I’m any kind of judge of horseflesh, you’ll be glad you did.
Sunday, October 9, 2016
We all remember dry summers and even a few dry falls. But the current drought has brought conditions far worse than most of us can recall.
In my case, things have gone from bad to worse. First, my trout pond began getting lower by the day. Than a 12-foot-deep pond on a hilltop behind the house has dropped down to about two feet of water.
My well, which sits about halfway between the two ponds has not escaped the drought and a visual check yesterday revealed about three feet of water in the 12 X 4-foot well. So now I only dare draw water for drinking. No more doing laundry, no more relaxing showers. From now on it’s the laundromat and sponge baths, the worst of which for me is the laundromat. I just hate those places.
Today, like many other Mainers, I’m headed out after church to buy some Jerry jugs for hauling water. It’s hard to conceive, but this may become a way of life for an indeterminate period of time.
The reason is the little piddling rains we have had are barely sufficient to wet the top layer of soil. We need days and days of driving, soaking rain. And according to the weather forecasters, we aren’t going to get it any time soon.
It was thought, for a little while, that Hurricane Matthew would swing close enough to
to give us the water we need. But now it looks as if the hurricane will not
move any further north than the Maine Carolinas.
So without much-needed rain, wells, streams, rivers, lakes and ponds will continue to lose water through evaporation. Low levels in streams have already led to a loss of many native brook trout. The fish need cool, well-oxygenated water to survive and the few pools of water that remain are neither well-oxygenated nor cool.
Here’s the worst part of this. People who are on city water or who have reliable, drilled wells, don’t believe they need to conserve water. But they do. The water table is low and any water drained from it only suffices to lower it further.
But out-of-sight, out-of-mind remains in control. If the governor declares a state of emergency, then water rationing, at least for those on public water supply, will ensue. But for those with wells that remain functional, no rationing can apply. No one can tell anyone else how to use or not use their own water.
Rationing may help to conserve remaining water supplies. But what we really need is lots of rain. And until that happens, we will remain locked in what I suggest is the worst drought of our lifetimes.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Wild Plants And Wooly Bears
Upcoming Seminar in Moosehead Lake Region
My trips to
were met with great success. Both times we experienced excellent turnout. And
even better, participants were each and every one very keen on learning more
about the useful wild plants that grow all around us. Holbrook
Park Supervisor Charles Cannon says that he might like for me to do another field trip in September. I'll keep readers posted as (and if) this unfolds.
I do have several upcoming field trips, but these are for a private business. However, I just firmed up a two-day event in
for . Friday, September
16th I’ll present a Digital presentation on edible wild plants and a
short presentation on some common mushrooms. Northern Resource Education
Then on Saturday, September 17, I’ll lead the group on a field trip around the
exact details are still in the making, but interested persons may contact
Mildred Kennedy-Stirling at email@example.com
for more information. Greenville
So if you live in that region or simply would like to experience the Moosehead Region, here’s a chance to see it up-close and personal.
I’ve had loads of fun lately with people sending me plant photos so that I can identify the plant for them. This is kind of a botanical version of Click ‘N Clack’s “Stump the Chump.” Thus far, I’ve been successful. Most of that, however, stems from the excellent photographs people sent.
If you have a mystery plant to identify, feel free to send me a digital image. Remember, though, these images need to be crisp and clear, with good detail. It also helps to send several images shot at different angles.
So try your hand at “stump the plant chump” and I’ll do my best to ID the plant.
Until next time…
Monday, June 20, 2016
Wild Plants And Wooly Bears
I’ll lead two wild plant walks at Holbrook Island Wildlife Sanctuary and State Park in Brooksville on Sunday, July 3. The first of two walks will begin at 1 p.m. and the second starts at 3 p.m.
Holbrook is a mostly undeveloped state park with inland sections, including a small mountain and a considerable amount of seashore. Hiking trails abound. Park roads, while unpaved, are immaculately maintained.
The walk will begin at the Backshore Trail trailhead on the sanctuary’s main road,
Indian Bar Road. From
there we walk down a gentle, wooded slope and end at an old hayfield. Then we’ll
walk back to the trailhead and drive the short distance to the parking lot at
From there, we’ll walk a short path down to a secluded beach where we’ll find all sorts of seaside goodies. Most every one of my favorite seaside plants live here.
Folks who have never visited Holbrook will find it a relaxed, scenic spot, an undiscovered jewel of wild land on
rocky coast. Even the drive to Holbrook has its charms, the winding roads
offering spectacular views of Maine , its mountains and
To see Holbrook Island Sanctuary on a map, look at Map 15, B-2 of the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer.
I hope to see a few readers there. There is no fee for the plant walk and no sign-up list either. Just come, learn some new plants and enjoy this special piece of
Sunday, April 10, 2016
The calendar said it was spring back in late March. Than came April and with it, renewed cold. But still, lots of things in nature tell us that despite cold and even late snow, spring is here.
Turkey vultures soar overhead, peering down at the ground to try to sight a meal of some dead carcass. And shoots of daylilies grow a slight amount with each passing day. And crocus brighten our days as they unfold their blooms in the warm, April sun. But one special event must occur before I can feel easy about spring having arrived in earnest. And that event is the arrival of the local phoebe.
Phoebes love it around my place and I love having them. These little olive-drab birds are flycatchers and as such, have great success in picking flying insects from out of the air. And for every insect that a phoebe catches, that’s just one more insect that won’t bite or annoy me.
I keep a journal of nature events and one thing I always make note of is the day the phoebe arrives. Phoebes typically arrive at my place any time between April 10 and April 18. Never has one arrived earlier or later, which I find very interesting.
While for me, the phoebe is the true harbinger of spring, there are two more events that help to welcome spring. First, a mourning cloak butterfly skipped and fluttered over my dirt driveway a few days ago. These are one of the earliest butterflies to emerge in spring. The other early one is angel wing butterflies.
The second true sign of spring happened yesterday, April 9. Wood frogs are loudly calling from a wetland along my driveway. These are the earliest frogs to begin their courting rituals. Spring peepers, a better-known and more popular spring frog needs a bit warmer weather and at least here in
we probably won’t hear any peepers for another week or more. Waldo, Maine
But again, the phoebe has returned. Spring is here. Glory be!