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Nature’s Hidden Beauty

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This past Saturday (Feb. 11, 2023), I had the chance to do something that I have been wanting to do for quite some time. I went down to Largo and did a walking nature tour with a man who is very knowledgeable on many and most of the flora that is safe (and even beneficial) to consume that grows in this area of our country. The picture is of a man who calls himself “Green Deane,” and he runs a website called “Eat the weeds.”
Now you may be asking why I would be concerned with such a topic, as to spend fuel money and a half of a day looking at weeds in some county park. Well folks, when Lewis and Clark set off to discover the lands west of the Mississippi River, they didn’t plan to park a Winnebago next to a Walmart with a 24-hour pharmacy! Neither did the pilgrims when they landed in the northeast region of our country “back in the day.”

Being as we live on a property that is surrounded by a nicely wooded tract of land, I wanted to see if there were any greens that I could gather that could complement our store of foodstuffs if the emergency situation called for it. As we have chickens (and they seem to be nonstop little eating machines), I have found that I could cut our feed bill down substantially by not only allowing them free-range grazing (supervised for a few hours at a time) but by also finding out what the birds like to eat, and gathering handfuls of it as well.

First, the birds were observed heading for my wife’s stand of Mexican Petunias; then, when their short attention span led them away from that, they seemed to like the groupings of Trumpet Ferns located in several places on our compound. (Come to think of it, I am sure that there were no Rural King or Tractor Supply stores when settlements were developing back in the day.)

This may not sound significant to some of you, but consider this, how much of your budget is impacted by the skyrocketing increases in nearly everything we throw in our shopping carts? We were able to cut our feed bill in half as a result of changing some old habits and integrating some new procedures as well.

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Now, getting back to the nature walk. I arrived at Eagle Lake Park in Largo at about 8:45 AM, and according to Mr. Deane’s website itinerary, the walk would start at 9:00 (rain or shine – excluding hurricane situations) and would last for about two hours. We met, and I introduced myself, and he then addressed what I should be expecting to see, smell, and hear as we would hike much of the park.

Many of Mr. Deane’s “targets of opportunity” were within the area adjacent to the initial pavilion for the dog walker’s area. He not only explained which of the plants were edible but also would tell of which were good for daily consumption, which were known to have medicinal values (the native Americans contributed a lot to keeping us “city slickers” alive during the early days of the birth of this nation).

Mr. Deane would also go on to tell what regions of the country one could find the different plants, how to prepare them, and if any special procedures were needed in the food storage part of the equation. (Remember, those wagon trains venturing out west didn’t have refrigerators or self-contained restrooms either!) While on our walk, there was talk of invasive and noninvasive items, as well as why it was EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to know what and when to pick.

I mentioned that I had Loquat trees growing on our property and found their fruit to have a good flavor. He then told me that if a young child were to eat this fruit in the un-ripe stage of its growth, the toxicity of it could harm him (or her). It was also interesting to know that a gnarly-looking weed called “St. John’s Wort” was found by the native Americans to help curb depression!

Then he directed us over to a clump of greens called “Bacopa” and mentioned that if taken for a minimum of 12 weeks, it has a proven positive outcome against memory loss. He also mentioned that a powdered form of this item could be found at many health food stores. This walk was getting more interesting by the minute!

He also showed me the Laurel Cherry tree (genus Prunus Carolinum – A.K.A. Carolina Cherry). He crushed up some leaves and asked me to tell him the smell of them. He then said that many of the dangerous varieties of plants that have an almond-like odor signify there may be the toxin cyanide in them and that many cattle that eat of it have been found dead not far from it.

This essay that I share with you today can be not only mildly entertaining but may also save someone’s life in an emergency situation (like an EMP from either an enemy weapon or a solar flare bombardment, knocking out our power source for an extended length of time). And for those that may be thinking that this could never happen, I direct you to one of my sayings from the past (never say never)! A wise man (or woman) will always base their directions and decisions on the path that is the safest and most productive. Things don’t always work out, but if you are prepared, a better outcome will be achieved in the long run. I hope that this is of help to someone out there. Be safe, be blessed, and remember, God helps those that help themselves. Have a good week!

Steven Goodwin
Steven Goodwin
Steve Goodwin is a recently retired Christian conservative veteran (of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division), who still feels that "duty to country" did not end when the military uniform got hung up. He and his wife Cecelia live on the edge of a beautifully wooded tract of land just south of the bypass, and are involved in not only church activities, but also attend school board meetings and local community action events as well.
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