"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Treasure Seekers

Many years ago, tempted by the promise of untold riches and after some serious due diligence on my part, we set out by canoe early one dreary October morning in search of a mysterious treasure that we had only heard whispered rumors of. A treasure that we hoped to find on the shores of a small unknown lake nestled in the midst of a large foreboding swamp.

So it was that after many hours of paddling through fields of wild rice followed by a swamp so dense you could almost walk on the surrounding quagmire of mud and becoming lost more than once we finally broke free of the mucky filth and arrived at the fabled lost lake. We were wet, muddy, and our canoe was full of spiders...thousands of little spiders everywhere. Some adventurers have snakes, others leaches, perhaps bats, we always get spiders.

Anyway, to our delight, on the far banks of this little hidden lake nestled in amongst a few beaver lodges a fabulous treasure awaited. A veritable carpeting of the finest ruby red jewels imaginable, millions of them everywhere. Amazingly, the murmurs of a lost treasure had been true after all.

The beaver lodges on the shores of the little lost lake.

My wife basking in the sun while gathering treasure.

Each year we return to refill our larder with these exquisite gems. This year our motley crew consisted of three. Rowdy's first outing in a canoe was a success, no one fell out. Normally we spend many hours trying to push and pull our canoe through the muddy mire until we find spots where the water is deep enough to actually paddle, much like that scene in the movie "African Queen" when they were hopelessly stuck in the marshlands...one of my favorite movies.:) Spiders are everywhere and the stagnate waters can be quite foul smelling on a warm fall day, how I ever talked my wife into searching out this fortune for the first time years ago is beyond me.

Because the water levels were so high this year the going was pretty easy, we did not get stuck once...Rowdy even fell asleep on the trip in.

Behold, the lost treasure of Cranberry Bog Lake!

Real food is our wealth.


All drama aside, freshly picked cranberries can be stored at around 40° for a month or so. We prefer to freeze ours and use them as needed, they will remain good for years in the freezer. When picking cranberries in a bog surrounded by beavers one has to be diligent in washing the berries to avoid "Beaver Fever" or Giardiasis, a nasty infection of the small intestine.

The swamps in this area are surounded by fields of wild rice, we have gathered it in the past but as it was still green this year we left it be for another time.

With the assistance of a third member our party was able to quickly gather enough berries for the entire year.

38 comments:

Oxray Farm said...

I didn't think we had the weather for cranberries! How cool.

Engineeredgarden said...

That is so awesome! Nice story, and those cranberries will be really good later....

randi said...

Score! My only wild cran picking was along the shore in Nova Scotia..they tell here too of wild patches but I've yet to suss them out,(apparently they are highly coveted and those who know where they are are pretty secretive)..have actually considered starting my own patch as I've seen plants for sale in recent years..godd job M&M!

Anne said...

Love cranberries! (toss in blender zest of 2 oranges + the juice and a bunch of cranberries.. then added sugar to tame the tang- although my friend uses stevia.) Couldn't get enough of it with turkey, which is why we make a massive batch.

Keep an eye on your dog too when it comes to Giardia. They can pick it up from the water. That's how we got our dog when he was a puppy (talked the owners into giving him to us as he was very sick). The vet thinks he got it from drinking out of a puddle in the neighborhood. It is a nasty parasite.. and the slightest touch of his bloated abdomen would make him cry.

kelli said...

that's awesome! and rowdy's adorable.

Accidental Huswife said...

Wow, you live in paradise, Mr H. Everything grows there!

Annie's Granny said...

How could I have lived in Idaho for most of my life, and never known about any of the places you go to?

Was Rowdy actually eating the cranberries, or was he hunting for things that creep and crawl through the swamp? Cute/funny video, thanks for sharing.

Robbyn said...

Oh how cool is that... your own cranberries!! And look how Rowdy has grown into such a fine fellow :)

meemsnyc said...

Oh my goodness. That is so so so so cool! How wonderful that you can go cranberry "hunting". I've never knew you could do that!

Yeswanth said...

nice guide! thank you!/I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

Kitchen Garden

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Thank you for sharing your adventures. I never saw a real cranberries in my life. I thought they were smaller. Definitely a treasure.

Annie's Granny said...

There's a little message for you and Mrs. H. at

http://tinyurl.com/2bdam8f

Mike said...

Im going to have to pick your brain someday about all of your secret locations!

Heiko said...

What a fantastic and beautiful adventure. I whish I could come with you on one of those outings. And like us you're finally getting some late sunshine :)It's weird, but we are so far apart, but seem to have very similat weather patterns...

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

Wow!!! I am constantly surprised at what you folks have up there in ID! I just love cranberries! But I'm afraid for now I'll have to settle for milk. No beautiful bog treasures here, just white gold (sounds like a new post!). It seems to me that with every region of this vast country you have your gives and takes. Texans love the Mid Atlantic because it's green and we have 4 seasons split evenly. Mid Atlantics love the North because it's greener! I love the mountains...well, just because I love the mountains!

Mr. H. said...

Oxray Farm - Apparently cranberries can be found in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and a few other states like Vermont. I would bet they grow in Minnesota too. I'm not sure how they ended up in Idaho though.

Engineeredgarden - It's a fun trip if you don't mind spiders and mud. We felt spoiled this year as the high water level made everything so much easier. I think we will make up a taste of cranberry sauce tonight.:)

Randi - You will have to hunt them down one day. I think we spent almost 8 hours paddling aimlessly in the muddy swamps that first trip years ago...you should have seen the looks on our faces when we actually found them.:) On this last trip I think we stumbled upon a patch of wapato potatoes. We will have to check it out next year as we did not want to push our luck with the dog in the canoe and all.

Anne - I like your recipe.:) Thanks for the tip on giardia, I was not aware that dogs could come down with it.

Kelli - Rowdy was such a good boy, he sat so patiently in that canoe. I must say we were a bit apprehensive about taking him along...but glad we did.

Accidental Huswife - Not everything but certainly enough to keep us very busy.:)

Annie's Granny - Idaho is a strange place. I have many books on wild edibles from other regions of the U.S. that we use to help guide us because so many things that are not supposed to grow here do. I often think that it is the migratory birds that re-seed some of these plants from other states. Heck, last week we had a fish head fall out of the sky and land in our driveway...must have been an osprey flying overhead.

Rowdy does eat cranberries but was hunting down voles or mice in the video...he had such a good time.:)

Robbyn - They are a lot harder to get than the ones from the grocery store, that's for sure.:) Yes, Rowdy has grown into quite the good companion. We take him everywhere with us.

Meemsnyc - It's a long story but until 5 years ago I never knew that we could find wild cranberries either. It really is pretty cool.

Yeswanth - My thoughts exactly.:)

Malay-Kadazan girl - Believe it or not the berries were rather small this year compared to the ones we have found on previous trips. They can be quite large in a good year.

Mike - We are stumbling across new edibles every year. It really is amazing what is out there, the hard part is trying to figure out what the possibilities are and where to find them.

Heiko - You would like it, the little lake that the bog is attached to is so very pretty.

Our sunshine has abandoned us and now we are getting rain again. But yes, it does seem as though we have very similar weather patterns...except I still can't grow olives and figs.:)

Diane - White gold is good, I think we might have finally found a decent supplier for fresh milk...we are very excited. I love the mountains too.:)

Ayak said...

What an adventure...and wonderful treasure indeed. I can't find cranberries here...I wish I could..I love them.

Rowdy is looking gorgeous as usual!

Silke said...

Oh, how wonderful. I have never seen a cranberry bog! And what a great way to get there and gather them! Loved the video of Rowdy! He was having as much fun as the two of you... :-) Silke

P.S. Thanks for your helpful comment on my blog! I often wondered how you get so much done - you two must be one of the most productive people I know...

Leigh said...

Wow, what a fantastic way to spend the day. I love canoeing, and to be able to gather cranberries! Truly a treasure.

Elizabeth said...

We love The African Queen too. Even our 13 and 15 yr olds enjoy it. They love watching Turner's Classics w/ my husband.
How cool to pick cranberries!! Never have done that. I use to pick wild blueberries alongside a creek up in north Michigan with my Dad years ago. We would fill up the back of our station wagon with boxes and boxes of wild blueberries.
Peace,
Elizabeth

Ms. Adventuress said...

Oh, this is just fantastic. What fun, this time, for you three! And showing us all of this, the way you do, teaches us, too.

(And I'm with you...how anyone could eat their d is beyond me, too. Truly beyond me.)

Mr. H. said...

Ayak - It is a bit of an adventure, leastwise as much of one as I need. Rowdy says Hi.:)

Silke - It was a good day and we all had a great time....especially Rowdy. Yesterday was good too, I somehow managed to accomplish everything on my list and then some. Good thing, because it is all rainy out this morning...I guess that means more canning and canning and canning.

Leigh - The best part was that the sun was shining on us all afternoon. The next day, the day we were originally going to go, it rained all day.

Elizabeth - I grew up watching that movie and loved the chemistry between Hepburn and Bogart. We don't find a lot of wild blueberries around here, just a the occasional small patch. It sure would be nice to find a treasure trove of those like you did with your Dad.:)

Ms. Adventuress - Thanks, it was fun. Right now Rowdy is stretched out on the bed next to the grandson sleeping. I'll have to remind him the next time he misbehaves how fortunate he is that we don't live in China.

Faith said...

Wow. Your cranberry haul is quite impressive. Cranberry sauce and grouse and turkey are super delicious.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Just popping in to say hi and WOW look at that haul! I always want to use cranberries.. but get distracted by other fall fruits. This year, tho, I'm gonna give it a go.

Mr. H. said...

Faith - We are looking forward to making a batch of the sauce, I have a damaged squash I need to use up so perhaps the cranberries will compliment tonights dinner. Hope you are doing well.

Ohiofarmgirl - So many things to do so little time. It's hard not to get distracted with so many wonderful things to partake in.

Sense of Home said...

I have always thought it would be fun to go cranberry picking, what a treasure indeed! (not so sure about all those spider though... (shutter))

-Brenda

Mr. H. said...

Brenda - The spiders are terrible. They are all over the wild rice and as you push or paddle through they fall in the canoe...and then you just have to live with them because you can't leave the boat. They are small spiders though, and don't seem to bite.

farmer said...

We have a great time picking cranberries as well, the dogs come with and lay in the bog,soaking wet eating as many cranberries as they can get away with.
We were fortunate enough to have discovered two bogs that were planted many years ago by some of the first settlers of the farm (1810).
We had also heard rumors from their great grandchildren of these bogs of beautiful cranberries, I searched the farm until I found them.
This is our best crop yet, I have to give credit to the bees we overwintered last year.They stayed until early July.
I have been searching for a recipe made by a Mennonite lady, cranberry rhubarb pie, have you ever heard of it?
Love reading your blog,you guys are awesome!!

Ms. Adventuress said...

Thank you so much for your kind comment about adjusting to taste and new habits. It is funny how our taste buds become so adaptable to even odder things than we once thought possible. Love it. It's great to hear how you two understand this, too!

Matron said...

What a brave dog Rowdy is! First time in a boat and he just took it all in his stride! Looks like he had a good time out there too, In London cranberries just come in a sweaty plastic bag in supermarkets! how wonderful to pick your own!

Mr. H. said...

Farmer - How wonderful to have cranberry bogs and the history to go with them, I'm glad that yours did so well this year. Cranberry and rhubarb pie sounds delicious, I have never heard of that before but can see how the two would go good together.

Ms. Adventuress - I still remember the first time we made Kimchi, it was terrible...now we both love it.:)

Matron - He was so good, I have never had a dog that caught on to everything we try and teach him so quickly...we are in awe of the little guy.:) Very proud parents.

Lorena said...

That is one well behaved dog enjoying the good life! I had no idea we had cranberries around here

kitsapFG said...

You continue to amaze and inspire me! Awesome find - and the "finding" was pretty sweet too. I love cranberries. Have a patch of them growing in my garden and have gotten a light harvest last year but nothing this year (like everything else they seemed to be pouting about the weather year we have had). Finding a wild bog is extra exciting though and who knew such things were to be found in our region?! I knew they were cultivated here but did not realize they grew wild too - makes sense just never put the two together.

Mr. H. said...

Lorena - He really is getting to be pretty well behaved and has never once stole anyones lunch...although I'm sure he would like to.:)

kitsapFG - I'm so glad that your cranberries are still doing well. I tried to grow some once and they did not survive the summer, perhaps I should give it another go someday.

Yes, it was pretty incredible to find a patch growing in Idaho...I would love to know more about how they got there. It is such an ideal location for them that I wonder if they were planted by someone years ago or if they are truly wild.

Kelly said...

What a beautiful dog, and interesting about the "beaver fever". Sounds like quite the daventure!!

Mr. H. said...

Kelly - With a young dog in the canoe how could it be anything but an adventure.:)

LynnS said...

That's my kind of 'adventure' but in a kayak, not a canoe!! LOL What a haul in cranberries!! Those at Dolly Sods, WV are smaller, but not surprised since I believe you guys really live in Berryville, Idaho! Glad you had a wonderful and productive day.

Mr. H. said...

Lynn - Can you imagine Rowdy trying to straddle a kayak...and Micki in a kayak? We would have all certainly drowned in the bog never to be seen again.:) This is one of our favorite annual treks and one of the few times we manage to get out and about on the water.

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