Join myself and co-host Arthur Dyer on a journey of food, fire and folktales: 4 seasonal weekends of foraging, fire by friction, cooking food and conjuring tales.
As a story is woven from key moments, the craft of foraging arises from the sustainable gathering of roots, fruits, seeds, and leaves.
In both these spheres, we need to cultivate an awareness of our place in the physical and imaginative landscape. Preparing for and marking the transitional moments that connect each story scene, or the seasonal shifts in a plants developmental journey, is essential.
In both storytelling and foraging, we learn that an appreciation of transitions or threshold moments bring exciting new possibilities.
Weekend by Weekend: what to expect
(Note, hosted at Emerson College which reopens in September. Follow this link for a detail of Covid 19 safeguards put in place.)
1st Weekend- Autumn
This is the season of fungi, the arch-communicators and storytellers: The world wood web mycelially whispering beneath our feet.
Fungi, roots, and seeds: These are the key botanicals of autumn.
Using some excellent fungi identification keys, we will learn how to distinguish the edible and medicinal from the inedible and poisonous species, all the while taking creative inspiration from the incredibly diverse, ephemeral, and beautiful forms of the fungi themselves, as well as their often hidden nature.
Key botanical characters of the season: Hairy Nuts Disco, Slippery Jack, Destroying Angel, Devil’s Fingers, King Alfred’s Cakes, The Flirt, Dead Moll’s Fingers, Plums and Custard.
An Introduction to the Art of Storytelling. During this weekend, you will become more aware of your
innate storytelling skills; you will develop a starter tool kit to help you learn and connect with a
seasonal folk story, and to craft and share it in your own authentic way. You will learn: how to recall
the story in time and space; how to bring your own colour and imagination to the tale; how to
launch and land with clarity.
2nd Weekend- Winter
This is the season of inwardness, reflection, stillness and the gathering of lessons hard won, and hard foraged throughout the year.
Roots, fungi, and bark: These are the key botanicals of Winter. Winter foraging is a time for
reading the natural world for both tales of what has been, but also what is to come. We will gather
and eat as well as craft tales accordingly in terms of times past, time present, and times future.
Key botanical characters of the season: Yellow Legs, Blushing Brackets, Hairy Curtain Crust, Ale
Hoof, Coltsfoot, Alexanders, Rosebay Willow herb, Ox-eye Daisy, Tiger’s Eye
Through reflective games in nature, and winter-time musings, we will draw out a fond old memory. It may at first seem of value to no-else, but dust it off and polish it a little, share it round the fire and it may just contain a nugget of soul protein for its listeners. During this weekend, we will learn some tips for biographical storytelling, creating a little distance between us and our story to allow its universal appeal to shine through.
3rd Weekend- Spring
This is the season of rising sap, growing light, and awakening senses.
Through sampling the wild delights of the Spring, we will feed our bodies and our imaginations.
Leaves, flower buds, and flowers: These are the key botanicals of spring.
When foraging, our visual sense is key for accurate identification but our senses of touch (e.g: appreciating the texture of fine hairs and veins), smell (e.g: the pungent aroma of garlic), taste (e.g: sharp apple-skin sour of sorrel) and even hearing (e.g: subtle sounds of plants), all play an important part. Using all our senses, we will continue to develop our learning of the 2 vital skills of identification and culinary usage, separating the delicious from the poisonous, and creating pickles, syrups, salads and vegetable side dishes: Some to take home and some for fireside sampling.
Key botanical characters of the season: Hogweed, Bristly Ox-tongue, Silverweed, Bear’s Garlic, Pineapple Weed, Goosegrass.
Drawing on the tastes, smells and sounds of Spring and through flexing our imaginative muscles, we will breathe life into a story. We will explore our senses through different playful games and exercises, refreshing our relationship to the emerging bounty of spring. We will then work on putting words to these experiences, striving to close the gap between the living moment and the re-telling. We will then apply this to a selection of creation myths, adding richness and texture to the stories by crafting sensory passages at key moments.
4th Weekend- Summer
This is the season of warmth, light, and flowers in their fullness , but it can be hot, dry and unpredictable. Will there be ripe fruit? Are the leaves and roots still good to eat? Perhaps this time calls for spontaneity and foraging flexibility.
Fruit, flowers, pollen, seeds, and bulbs: These are the key botanicals of summer.
When foraging, it is best to embrace and learn to love the elements of wind and rain. Nevertheless, the summertime is an opportunity to relax and play in the sun. This can often bring forth a more creative combining of ingredients too, as well as a more ambling and carefree wandering of forest, stream and hedgerow.
Key botanical characters of the season: Sticky Bob, Jack-by-the-hedge, Ladies Bedstraw, Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Mugwort, Elder, wild roses.
Through movement, play and exploration of nature, we will plunge into the world of the unknown, unveiling stories thus far untold. Fun, Fear and freedom come into play but with unexpected helpers on the way, you will explore the edges of things, seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary and vice versa, learning to embrace what emerges, whatever form it may take.
Although the focus of the course will be on exploring the arts of foraging and of storytelling, how they connect, cross pollinate and enrich one another, there will also be other rabbit holes to peer down. Each weekend will involve some fireside sharing and we will gather and bring necessary tinder, while exploring different fire lighting methods, including the bow drill method of fire by friction. The fire is a source of inspiration and warmth with transformative potential for both our wild food and our emerging stories. Songs and nature games will weave their way into the tapestry of our time together, so come along with an open heart and lets make this a delicious journey through the seasons and a story worth the telling.
This course is suitable for both beginner foragers and storytellers as well as those with considerable experience.