We’ve been spreading our Earth Day activities over an Earth-Day Week. On Monday, bare root hazelnut bushes arrived from The Arbor Foundation and demanded immediate planting. My neighbor and I divided them up to plant them.
Hazelnut bushes grow 8′ – 10′ high; they create excellent screens, and best of all give wild food that feeds the wild woodland animals roaming our Wisconsin backyards.
But to make room to plant the hazelnut bushes, we had to rip out European buckthorn. It’s an invasive species in Wisconsin that was introduced centuries ago because when young, the trees are good screens and spread rapidly. But the spreading is exactly the problem. This invasive species is so prolific that it soon dominates a landscape. Wisconsin’s native plants don’t have a chance. Buckthorn does give food, if you can call it that. Early Wisconsin residents used the berries as a diuretic.
Weeding European buckthorn is easy when the tress are tiny. Kids can help. So my neighbor and I hired our own children to pull buckthorn. When the younger children wearied, we set them upon Wisconsin’s other invasive species, garlic mustard. The pretty white flowers on top of a garlic mustard stalk look innocent, but within a few years, garlic mustard plants will be wherever the buckthorn isn’t. This invasive species combo can kill a small, Wisconsin forest in 10 years.
So we were taking action against them. Perhaps four hazelnut bushes are not many, but they’re a start. And The Arbor Foundation practically gives them away.
If you’re interested in planting Wisconsin wild foods and cooking with them, then a must-have cookbook is Wisconsin Wild Foods: 100 Recipes For Badger State Bounties, by John Motoviloff. Keep reading for John’s hickory nut pancake recipe.
I heard gunshots this morning. The sun wasn’t up and somebody was shooting firearms in the woods. Has hunting season already begun? And which animal was the intended prey, – human or non-human? Perhaps some heinous murder happened over that way. But likely not. For sanity’s sake, I’m assuming the gunshots were aimed at game, meaning turkeys, squirrels, rabbits, grouse, pheasant, fox, deer, mourning doves, you name it. If it flies or runs on four legs, some Wisconsinite has considered shooting and eating it. Fall is hunting season in Wisconsin, and the over-abundant turkeys and deer are free food for any who are skilled enough to get it.
Wisconsin has a deeply-grained hunting tradition. Hunting parties comprised of multiple generations within a family walk through the woods, sit in trees, and stand very still. Often they’re easy to spot; everybody’s wearing electric orange. Deer don’t see electric orange, they perceive it as brown. But those birds, now those birds are the crafty ones, many bird species perceive a broader spectrum of colors than do humans. Hard to fool the birds with orange. Better dress in camouflage and be extra quiet and still.
The only hunting I’ve ever done is fishing. Fishing counts as hunting. I took a live animal out of its element, killed it and ate it. And I only did that once, I felt so sorry for the flopping trout. And although I had been casting a fishing line for years, once some fish actually bit my hook I never did it again. But I’m not against hunting. I don’t deny the hunter his prey as long as he/she kills it humanely and eats it. I just prefer to hunt for my meat in the grocery aisle.
I’ve never cooked game, although once my family thought I did. Instead I prefer to cook food that accompanies the game meat. After all, people don’t live by meat alone, – let’s share the hunter’s meal with bread. Game meat and homemade bread enjoyed on a chilly evening after a day in the woods fit the rustic image of a Wisconsin hunting season. and no better place to look for a recipe for bread to be eaten with game than in John Motoviloff’s cookbook Wisconsin Wild Foods: 100 Recipes for Badger state bounties. As well as giving recipes for preparing numerous kinds of game, John also gives a wonderful recipe for peasant bread. Click on “continue reading…” for John’s recipe for peasant bread.