It's been two and a half decades since I started a serious (and fun) relationship with foraging. And it's been well over a decade since I've been teaching foraging (I'm writing this in 2019). Like any relationship, there's ups and downs, boredom, frustration, elation, new experiences, the same old ones and falling in love again.
We all know that long-term relationships thrive on a few basic principles and one of those is cultivating and sustaining intimacy. Not just skating over the surface with 'I know that plant', but having a sense of curiosity, interest, care and taking time. Now, I know I'm straddling between talking about people and plants here, though there are some similarities. The way I see it, all my interactions with the world are relationships; with people, food, the landscape, my work. And the deeper I go, the richer my rewards. Imagine if I'd stopped at making Nettle Soup - which I love. I'd of never been able to enjoy the sensations of Nettle and Honey Cake or discovered Nettle Pakoras. Or shared these with so many of you. I digress... Do check out the Stinging Nettles blog if you'd like to know more.
How to keep Foraging new and Fresh
A couple of years ago I started exploring song-writing as a way to express some of the qualities of plants in new ways. I was attending an outdoor learning conference at Mount Pleasant Eco Park at the time, and thought it might be a useful exercise for the attendees. In my workshops on 'Wild Foods with Children' we explored 5 common weeds as food and I created and sung a foraging song or two as an illustration of memorable and fun directions foraging can go in. The song wasn't great, though I was brave enough to sing it and we learnt and laughed together.
Since then the concept of a Foraging Course with Plant Songs has developed. I realised I wanted to offer songs, fire and tasters. I didn't want to dilute the foraging courses I already ran, but add an additional layer to them. Sometimes the arts express something that words alone cannot do, and I hoped this creative addition had this potential.
Through sharing my foraging songs, I'm giving you a little insight into my relationship with the wild foods that I teach. Offering a doorway into the world of plants and a platform to express something of the plants' character, essence, as well as their practical uses. I open my little black book of foraging songs and sing, I invite you to sing and we sing to the plants, to the hedgerows, to each other. It's fun.
At some point, on every course I lead, I open my bag and offer handmade, wild tasters from one or more of the plants we have sung about. The recipe remains a secret, except to the participants who attend. Does this deepen intimacy with the plants? I like to think so. Tasting, smell and eating the wild foods can deepen our understanding and appreciation of the wild foods surrounding us. And that is good for building positive relationships with the world we reside in.
Sssshhh! Come along to the Foraging Course with Songs to get the secret foraging recipe. A little more insight into the songs and experience is here on the wild singing blog. If you'd like to stay up to date with what I'm up to, consider following my instagram or facebook page.
Coo-ee, here's a little insight into one of the songs I'll be sharing in The Singing Forager Experience - where we'll be learning about the seasonal plants through songs, facts, stories, touch, sight and taste. Not that I recommend tasting sloes raw, though that could be the words for another song...
As autumn has begun to take hold, I found myself writing words about Sloes/Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and finding a basic tune to hum it to. Sharing this with the infamous, though highly talented Hazel Thompson (performer, singer-songwriter and choir leader) the song developed. As we sang and sang it, joined by friends and colleagues, the harmonies and rhythm both morphed and solidified. We're rather proud of the result.
The Singing Forager Experience is for anyone who enjoys listening to songs, tapping their feet or singing. Offered as an extra layer to a 'normal' foraging course, it seems to quicken the learning process about the plants, with a bit of fun thrown in. I'm neither a professional singer, nor a musician, though I do enjoy singing together and that is basically what this experience is about.
Feel uplifted by songs
As the light fades and the cold seeps in, we'll be singing to keep our spirits strong, to lift our hearts, to smile more, make mistakes, forget the words, maybe create new words and come together. Each singing forager experience will introduce 6-8 songs about the seasonal plants available in the area we'll be walking through. The autumn experience will also culminate around a warming fire; a perfect and traditional way of sharing songs.
How these songs came about
Sometimes when I'm in nature I sing. It just happens. Other times I concentrate on the plants and inquire into their qualities; picking them with care, questions and interest. Over the years I have got to know a wide (and wild) range of plants through their colour, shape, texture, smell and taste. I have read about them, picked them and watched them through the seasons and different landscapes. I have carried them to my kitchen and explored through freezing, chopping, cooking and infusing, - this hands on part of my research is my favourite.
Initially I started a collaboration with singer songwriter Kelsey Michael, and was inspired to write songs about the plants I knew. Creating songs about plants seemed to make sense; after all, songs were one of the ways we shared knowledge, anecdotes and cultural traditions in the past. Somehow the sloes song has an old, melodic feel to it, yet I've only just created it in 2019! Here's to bringing together old and new traditions and celebrating plants through songs.
Finally, having already credited Hazel for her input, it's worth mentioning that we were both attending a song writing course with Stephen Taberner where we met and created this tune. Inspired by Stephen, each other and the natural environment of Cae Mabon in North Wales where we all met - I offer you the Sloes Song.
Follow #singingforager to hear or find out more.
Song, verse, sound and rhyme have been used by humans for thousands of years to communicate, respond and express. Sound is an integral part of our daily landscape. It has been used functionally (to explain things) as well as for fun and as an essential part of celebrations across the world. Rachel Lambert is a foraging teacher who has sung all her life. She sings on her own on the moor, with friends, with family, to mourn and to celebrate life. Since childhood she has learnt songs and made up songs, feeling happy to hit the right or wrong note and just enjoy singing!
Why wild singing
There is much scientific evidence to suggest that singing is good for the brain, heart, gets creative juices running, sends feel good endorphins round the body and can help counter anxiety and loneliness. Coupled with the great outdoors, which can legitimately claim similar health and well-being benefits, wild singing is a pretty good boost for the body and soul.
The benefits of using song to learn about plants
Singing about plants and nature is also part of our historical tapestry. When Rachel Lambert (Wild Walks South West) has researched past uses of plants she’s often come across poems and songs. Songs tell of plant uses, claims of curing ills, bringing love and of old traditions. Rachel has taken this idea and created new songs to tell of plant qualities she often shares with participants on her foraging courses. Songs can be a great way to remember things, as well as just enjoying the moment.
If you'd like to see snippets of other songs, or read more about this experience, you may want to view my other Wild Singing blogs. I run The Singing Forager Experience for anyone who'd like to listen to, hum along or join in. Dates for these are here; The Singing Forager Experience and details of how to book is here.
Follow the #singingforager to find out or hear more.
Click on the link or image above to read the full article about singing in the landscape and combining foraging with songs about the plants.
Follow the #singingforager to find out or hear more
We've been having a lot of fun, Kelsey and I.
We've been working pretty hard too. Kelsey Michael has been teaching me songs, I've been creating quirky little ditties about plants I see and eat along the coast paths and hedgerows, and we've been walking.
Walking and hanging out in nature, as friends do, enjoying the landscape, birds, seals, the weather, sunsets and fires. And when happiness comes, or any moment that feels worthy of enjoying or celebrating, we sing. We've sung to the Cornish hills, we've sung an ode to the sour taste of sorrel, to the wonderful world of seaweeds. To gorse bushes, to the sailors and even the donkeys that we've walked past. As I said, we've had a lot of fun.
I was lucky enough to be brought up singing, singing round camp fires (my parents ran youth camps), from church pews and at home. I love to sing, it feels a natural and joyful thing to do and share.
Though Kelsey, a professional singer and singing leader makes singing feel natural and easy for everyone. Accessibility is practically her middle name.
It's been great to sit, stand and walk together, in song. Kelsey has been leading Wild Singing Walks for a couple of years now. Together, we offer the Singing Forager experience; being outside in nature, singing and foraging together. You can read more about what we are offering and even come and join us here; Wild Singing Walks.
Follow the #singingforager to find out or hear more.
Back in the warmth of the summer, I had a glorious few hours with singer Kelsey Michael. We'd been getting excited about words and tunes and at last had found a moment to share a walk and sing together outside.
This quick video is of us singing, what Kelsey now calls; The Foraging Song. The tune is from the Cornish Can Dilly song. Here we share the Rock Samphire verse which we created together to help you remember a little bit about it's qualities!
If you've joined one of my foraging courses before, you'll probably be familiar with this snippet of information;
'Samphire growing on the rocks
Always there where the sea is not'
The song is in its early stages, open to having information added over time, about the same plant or additional ones (we currently have a Sea Spinach verse as well). I also share a popular recipe for Rock Samphire here; Rock Samphire Salsa Verde.
This is one of the elements we will be offering on our Wild Singing Walks - sharing anecdotes about plants, and potentially creating songs together with participants.
(The Rock Samphire edible plant we sing about, and Kelsey Michael on a stormy, winter's day)
Kelsey and I share a love of the land, sea and being present to the elements. Over the years we've danced together (for work and play), sea swum as well as eaten and celebrated lots together. I've even been a singing student of hers, which gave me the confidence to work on and sing a song solo in front of a small group.
Kelsey is a fantastic singing facilitator and a professional singer songwriter in her own right, having performed Internationally as well as locally. Our new venture together, offering Wild Singing Walks (including wild tasters and a solo al fresco performance by Kelsey), is guaranteed to be a unique and inspired experience - watch this space!
Follow the #singingforager to find out or hear more.