Above: My grandmother showing me one of her favorite greens. She calls it “nardock.”
Although she is 81 years old, you are not likely to find my grandma Doris sitting around being idle. If you drive by her humble home during the cooler months, you are more likely to see her bringing in firewood from her front porch.
Not too long ago, we came to visit and she was down in her spring (this is how she gets water to her house) with a hatchet trying to get brush and small trees out of the way so they will quit clogging her plumbing. There isn’t much this amazing woman can’t do!
All my life, she has demonstrated an enthusiasm for foraging. She loves to go outside on her beautiful property and find greens to make salad. When she can’t find enough greens, she simply goes down to the spring to collect watercress. There is always an abundance of watercress for her to enjoy!
She grew up in a large family, being one of nine children. She didn’t learn to forage for fun – it was mainly for sustenance. Hunger was no stranger to her growing up. Her resilient spirit no doubt comes from her childhood experiences.
Last spring, I went on a walk with her around her property. I feel like I have a decent amount of knowledge when it comes to wild edibles, but a few hours with her showed me that I still have a lot to learn. Some of the plants she pointed out to me were familiar, but she called them by much different names. I get the feeling that her names for these plants stem from some sort of Ozarkian slang. I love it nonetheless.
It is always great to visit with my grandma because she has experienced a lot in her lifetime and has so much love and wisdom to impart.
She also has great stories to tell. One gives me chills every time I hear it. I decided that part of the reason I am writing this blog today is to get this down so it can live forever in a sense. In 1949, when she was 12 years old, she was walking home from somewhere. They walked everywhere because they had no car. Her older brother (age 16 at the time) was with her and so were both her parents. They go to a certain spot near an old cemetery and immediately noticed something hovering above the trees not far away. As she tells it, they all knew what it was. It was an angel, glowing with a golden-like hue. She finds it hard to describe with common words, but she says it had a glowing area of gold around the head too, like a halo. Of course, she wasn’t the only witness, and her parents and brother all were in awe of this celestial visitor.
Upon seeing it, they all got the feeling that something unfortunate had happened. None of them could explain why they had this feeling, but they thought they need to go check on family members who were sick. It wasn’t long after that one of the nine, her little brother Gerald Lee, passed away. He was nine years old. He ended up being buried in that cemetery. Every time I drive past this place, I tell my sons about their experience and we look above the cedar trees, as if the angel may appear at any moment.
Another interesting fact about my grandma is that she is musically inclined. She taught herself to play the piano and guitar and plays them quite well. She bought her first guitar as a young girl by selling pincushions she made. When I was in college, I would visit her and bring my guitar. I had her show me some chords and teach me (someone who completely lacks rhythm of any kind) how to strum. I can now play a mean “C,” “D,” and “G” chord. Still haven’t figured out how to strum though. 🙂
Today, grandma is likely stoking her fire (her house is probably unbearably hot to most haha) and putting a puzzle together at her kitchen table. When the weather begins to warm up, I am looking forward to going out with her again and learning more about the wild edibles she has eaten throughout her life. If you are reading this and your grandparents are still around, consider this a loving nudge to go spend some time with them, let them tell you about their childhood, their life experiences, and all the wisdom that comes with age and experience. You won’t regret it.