Alicia Bayer

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since Oct 13, 2017
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I'm a writer and a homemaking, homeschooling mother of 5 kids (ages 6 to 19). Our family does a lot of foraging of wild foods, organic gardening, homesteading and preserving. I am also the author of several books about foraging and nature studies, and I run a number of blogs and Facebook pages about foraging, homeschooling, natural living and living well on less.
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Recent posts by Alicia Bayer

We love stinging nettle smoothies.  Mostly I just blend nettles, a banana, frozen pineapple and water.  My kids love them.

I also like to make nettle seasoning -- dried nettles, salt, pepper, dried ramps, whatever else seems fun.
2 months ago
I'm a writer and poet, and I have a grant this year to publish a book that uses flowers as analogies for women and women's experiences, with money in the grant to pay local artists to do art for each of the 40 poems.  Prints will be available of them all with the art and the poems on them, and the artists will keep all the profits.  Two of my grown kids are among the artists who are taking part.  

The book is called Flower Girls and will be out later this year (you can follow along at my poetry page on FB here.  I love the art that my artists have created for the poems so far!  Here are a few.

5 months ago
I love my pressure canner.  I use both a pressure canner and a hot water canner, but I tend to use the pressure canner more often.  I especially love it for roasted tomato sauce.  I personally really dislike the flavor of tomato sauce and salsa with lemon juice or vinegar added, and I love the flavor of roasted tomato sauce.  I take all my garden tomatoes and cut them in big chunks along with chunks of onion, peppers, lots of basil, salt, pepper, garlic cloves, and then drizzle olive oil all over it and roast it until the house smells divine and everything is soft and cooked.  Then I put it all through the food mill and can it.  It tastes divine, better than any store bought sauce (here's the recipe).  I use this pressure canner/cooker/steamer (aff link) and I love it.  I purposely bought this one because I love that I can also use it for things like steaming tamales and other dishes where I need a great big pot.  I've had it for ten years now and use it every summer and fall.

At this point I use the regular hot water canner for applesauce and pears since the pressure canner makes them too soft, but the pressure canner for just about everything else.  I just find it fairly quick and easy and it doesn't  heat up the kitchen to the extent the hot water canner does when it's going all afternoon either.  I can also use it for water bath canning by just not screwing the lid on.  I use it for all kinds of things like -- juices, sauces, salsa, etc.  I love the taste of pressure canned salsa so much more than acid-added salsa.  I'm hoping to try doing beans in it sometime soon, since we use a lot of beans and I've heard it's very simple to make canned beans from dried with the pressure cooker.  

9 months ago
I just thought I'd mention this here.  I put out a free, nonprofit kids nature magazine every month called Wild Kids Magazine.  It's usually about 20 pages and is in full color, designed to be read online or on a device like a kindle or printed out.  Every issue features ways for kids to learn and play with nature, seasonal poetry, nature journal pages, foraging information, etc.  There is usually an in depth topic for each year like herbs or flowers, and this year it's wild mushrooms, with kids learning about two new wild mushrooms each month.

The July 2023 issue just came out yesterday and you can access it on the main site here: Wild Kids Magazine.  All of the past issues are online too, going back to 2019.

10 months ago
I just thought I'd share this here.  I just published my latest book, A Is For Acorns:  A Foraging Alphabet Book (aff link).  My 25 year old and another local artist did the art for it, and I got a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to write it and to pay my artists.

Here's the description:

A is for acorns,
Free for the taking.
We leach out the tannins
Then grind them for baking.

From Acorns to Zapote fruit, here are all kinds of wonderful fruits, nuts, greens, mushrooms and more to teach children (and their grown ups) about foraging. Each page features a poem and charming illustration about a different wild edible or medicinal plant, with other plants that start with that letter decorating the margins for kids to try to identify.

The end pages feature reference photos of all of the additional drawings. Kids can also sign the forager's pledge, keep track of their foraged plants and wish lists, and will be reminded about foraging safety and ethics.

With illustrations and reference photos of over 130 wild edible and medicinal plants!

10 months ago
I read Eating Wild Japan as a reviewer before it was released.  Here's my review from back then:

I read this book as an American forager. Our family forages hundreds of pounds of wild foods a year and they make up a big part of our diet. We forage wild asparagus, mushrooms, elderberries, acorns (once processed they make a fantastic flour), ramps, lambs quarters, apples, pears, gooseberries, raspberries, wood sorrel, dandelions and their flowers, nettles and much more. I wouldn't want to live without foraged foods, not just because they're free and incredibly healthy but also because they just taste so much better than most grocery store produce. We also forage for a lot of medicinal plants like plantain, elderberries, mullein, etc.

I was hoping to find a sort of kinship in this book and learn how people on the other side of the world use wild plants in similar and different ways from the ways we do. This book didn't really hit that mark. There's more talk of a few people doing really complicated ways of foraging and processing foods in traditional ways than just modern Japanese people subsisting on the delicious and healthy wild plants that are all around.

At one of our local foraging spots, we frequently run into Hmong families that harvest completely different greens than we do. One morning, my teenage daughter and one such family tried to communicate with each other about what they were each harvesting. For our family, it was spring ramps and nettles (one of the healthiest wild plants in the world, and surprisingly tasty once you blanch them and remove the sting or blend them in smoothies). My husband and daughter didn't recognize the greens they were harvesting but they seemed very enthusiastic about them. I was hoping to learn more about the plants that might be loved in other places and go unappreciated here, or to even learn new ways of enjoying plants that are found in both regions.

This was definitely an interesting book. I was often saddened about how much is being lost in Japan in terms of both nature and traditions (Bird describes massive trees that are being purchased from rural families so companies can use them to make one-slab tables for very rich people from the giant trunks, for instance). It almost seems like a tribute to the past rather than a modern foraging guide for Japan. It is fascinating and well written, but probably not ultimately helpful for those interested in actually foraging either in Japan or elsewhere.

I do recommend the book as it is quite interesting, but it's not necessarily the best modern foraging book.  

If you want to take a look at it on Amazon, it is here: Eating Wild Japan (affiliate link).

1 year ago
Just wondering what people recommend as the best way to fix pokeberry dye on clothes.  I'm in love with the brilliant magenta stain it gives and my kids and I had fun making a tie-dye t-shirt with some of the berries last summer.  I know most natural dyes fade or go muddy so I still have it in the laundry room until I know if there's a best way to preserve the gorgeous color.  :)  

I was thinking that we could just take it as a fact of life that it will fade/change and just keep using new stuff to make a sort of ever-changing natural stain shirt, but I'd also love be able to use pokeberries to give new beauty to stained dishcloths and stuff like that, even if it's a paler version in the end.  Any experience?
1 year ago

Robert Ray wrote:Trying to stay away from Toxic Gick territory but I imagine most of us here have at least one plastic pot in the mix. I referred to this post about plastic use and was at least somewhat put at ease in the way I use plastic in the garden. Plastic is not a perfect solution but It does have a place in some instances for me.

Yes, I've read that one. That's the article I referenced when it said they looked and the plastic flower pot they bought was a type of plastic not considered food safe.  I know they basically have it come down to it's probably all fine because it's low doses but it didn't reassure me that much.
Wondering what your thoughts are on safe containers for growing veggies.  I'm super frugal but I'm always kind of reluctant to grow veggies in a lot of containers because of fear of toxins.  Every time I research it, I find so much information about the nasty stuff plants take up in their roots from containers, but it doesn't seem to be addressed in any container gardening books I've read.

I read a post the other day about what plastics were safe to grow in and they listed the numbers that are food safe.  They pointed out that they got a flower pot from a garden center and the number on the bottom was a type of plastic not considered safe for holding food.  Most people would assume a flower pot would be safe for growing veggies.  But even the food safe plastics don't strike me as very safe anyway, as plastic breaks down in heat.

And then I've read all these reports that grow bags and "cloth" grocery bags are made of a type of plastic and have tested positive for things like lead, not to mention a ton of nasty chemicals....

Plastic containers like kiddie pools have pthalates and such to make them bendable, not to mention all the stuff in plastic and in the coating and coloring.  Even things like reused metal containers can have lead and aluminum. And obviously tires are full of all kinds of toxic stuff, but I see people growing veggies in those.  And then some kinds of pallets have dangerous chemicals in them and you're supposed to look for numbers but I never know which numbers...  It turns out those concrete blocks can have awful stuff in them if you don't know which types are safe, which I never realized at all. I know from following Lead Safe Mama that almost all dishes and containers (even expensive ones) are full of stuff like lead (mostly older and cheaper stuff) and cadmium (especially stuff with colors).  And some wood is treated, and on and on.

I know I sound like a crackpot to most people when I say any of this.  LOL  But I figured this was a safer place to mention health concerns and ask questions.  

Obviously I know fresh grown organic stuff is still healthy but I really don't want to grow plants that are taking up all kinds of nasty stuff from the things they're grown in.  Our oldest child is a cancer survivor and I'm not one of those people who just says everything is bad for you so you might as well just give up.

What are your favorite frugal, safe containers?
I have some bully mint too, but what I do is just treat it as a wonderful free volunteer and I cut it to the ground whenever I see it and use it.  There are so many uses for mints that it's easy to make use of. Here are 30 great ways to use mint. It eventually gives up and just grows elsewhere for me.

PS  If you have chocolate mint I found that I could transplant mine to a shade area and it became the most fabulous groundcover.  It stays rather low and pretty, with dark leaves, and when you walk on it the entire yard smells heavenly.  It spreads well even in shade but not in the aggressive way that other mints do.  I have shared it with so many friends for problem shady areas of their yard.