tree graffiti

Carved into the bark of a tall tree by the lake, now so overgrown that we cannot make it out, there is an aged message.

carved initial tree graffiti

Unmistakably, a heart; perhaps, some letters, that old declaration, one plus the other. Did a young lover cut initials into the tree? Was it the old botanist, great-grandfather of the lake, who built our cottage, and the great-grandmother who designed the place? Such a sweet old fashioned sculptural proclamation of love.

red huckleberries

Huckleberry season is finally upon us. On the pacific coast the wild berries are flourishing.

huckleberry © elisa rathje 2011

Like the salmonberry, the red huckleberry is an indigenous plant along the west coast of Canada, and it picks up as salmonberry season leaves off. I’ve happy childhood memories of gathering the little baubles.

huckleberry © elisa rathje 2011

Our little berrypickers found a few the size of blueberries!

huckleberry © elisa rathje 2011

Apparently the berries were quite fond of the extraordinary rain on the coast this year. There’s such a crop, instead of simply grazing through the forest we’ve been filling buckets and there’s talk of huckleberry jelly.

huckleberry © elisa rathje 2011

The bushes are partial to growing out of nurse stumps, delightful habit. One stump mothered not only a healthy huckleberry but a very tall tree!

huckleberry © elisa rathje 2011

Today we foraged at a red huckleberry that was so aged, I wonder if I picked its berries as a child?

Indigenous peoples found the plant and its fruit very useful. The bright red, acidic berries were used extensively for food throughout the year. Fresh berries were eaten in large quantities, or used for fish bait because of the slight resemblance to salmon eggs. Berries were also dried for later use. Dried berries were stewed and made into sauces, or mixed with salmon spawn and oil and eaten at winter feasts.
The bark of the plant was used as a cold remedy thanks to the therapeutic acid called quinic acid. The leaves were made into tea or smoked. The branches were used as brooms, and the twigs were used to fasten western skunk cabbage leaves into berry baskets.
Huckleberries make a good jelly, or can be eaten as dried fruit or tea.

Wonderful wild fruit. I am awfully fond of going to the woods for a snack. What are you gathering?

Oh! About exciting plans I mentioned… those of you who followed me about last week may have spotted me learning to bake apple turnovers at Fratelli Bakery in Vancouver – there’s quite a story around this! It’s such a sweet one for me, I’m saving it up for’s first birthday the beginning of September.