West Coast Wild Harvest Issue 1 Spring/Summer 2016 - Page 50

HARVESTER’S TALE S itting at my desk with my morning coffee, I look out the window at the mountains surrounding Squamish, where I live. I am trying to think of how I came to be so involved with foraging. The air is calm, and a fine mist hides the tops of the peaks. I can’t help feeling a sense of excitement and optimism for the soon approaching spring. New flowers are making their debuts out of barren garden beds and the trees are shaking off their winter slumber as their sap begins to flow. It’s easy to forget the beauty of the place I live and to take the abundance my own backyard offers up for granted. When I get bogged down with emails and meetings, it is difficult to remember and appreciate what is going on around me. Foraging gives that back to me: getting out and being immersed in nature, seeing my food growing in the forest, and tasting the nuances that each ingredient offers up. The Influence of Elders When I was a child, my family used to visit my grandfather in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. It is a tiny town nestled in the boreal forest on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. My mother’s family had been farmers: a difficult path to take in a remote place in the early 20th century, and not one everyone would choose. My grandfather was very much an outdoorsman; he was in love with the forest. Every visit we made would include walks through the forest just outside of town. Being under ten for most of these visits, I wasn’t too interested in learning the names of all the herbs growing along the forest floor. Instead, I just wanted to run around and splash in the little streams snaking their way through the muskeg. It wasn’t until this year, when I was being asked why foraging was such an important part of my life, that I realized how influential these forest walks with my grandfather really were. Now that he is gone, I finally appreciate what he was doing: he was trying to pass his knowledge on to my sister and me. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, his enthusiasm sparked an interest in me that would become a driving force in my life. Through this realization I also gained a new and stronger appreciation for the wisdom of Elders and for their importance in our communities. 50 WEST COAST WILD HARVEST Bryce M. Watts and his grandfather, Alfred Payne, on an early plant walk Looking back, I can see the source of my love of sharing my knowledge with people on plant walks of my own. I find it intoxicating when I find someone who shares my passion towards foraging. Building Skills After high school I took a summer job at the Salmon Habitat Restoration Program in my hometown, and began to build the more detailed knowledge and tools that would be necessary to start my foraging career. That summer was full of nature and it was wonderful. Every day we soaked in the sunshine and planted native trees along creeks and streams throughout the city. I took every opportunity to learn