Published in The Bushcraft journal
The way my mind works, or doesn’t— depending on your point of view—means that once I start to think about a topic, my initial thoughts are almost immediately catalysed by a cascading awareness of radical connection, of the mutual dependence and inter-relation of all things. Perhaps this is a state of mind inherent not just to long-term foragers, but to all those directly and deeply engaged with the natural world, and one that is experience regularly or as a perpetual state?
So as I sit here reflecting on the current topic at hand; leaves and the multiplicity of ways they can be creatively used in the human diet, my thoughts turn to the whole plant-grown carcass of the very recently deceased deer I’m currently working with, because one such deep engagement with nature, with wild foods, with leaves, is to eat them and thereby transform them into living breathing tissue, into bone, blood, muscle, and brain, and, by extension, birth them anew into the very thoughts and dreams that animate the wild human life, my life.
As I type, the whole deer skin is boiling on an open fire on its way to becoming glue, the meat is in the freezer, the sinews are drying for cordage, a bone broth is brewing on the aga, the head has found a new body—a wood ants nest—as I experiment (feeding badgers permitting) to see how long the ants take to clean it down to bare bone, the intestines are washed and salted (for sausage making), a jar of pure deer oil to the left of my keyboard slowly sets as fat turning from a clear golden amber to a creamy off-white solid (for cooking and soap making), and finally, the cleaned out stomach is in a tanning solution—its partially digested leafy contents spread out to dry on newspaper in the conservatory (for paper making). Where does leaf end and deer begin or deer begin and leaf end?