Thursday, December 31, 2009

She keeps doing that...

New improved Miniwether, now with pierced ears.

She keeps growing up and this kind of makes me sad. Here's the first picture of her that appeared on this blog:
She was so cute back then, which as her dad I find much more acceptable than her being beautiful.

Adventure! Excitement! Daddy needs a shotgun!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Huge update to edible wild plant guide.

I've spent all day adding new plants, pictures, and nutritional data to my Edible Wild Plant Guide. Now I have to do the same thing to my Edible Plant Guide for Mobile Internet Devices. It's a lot of work.

Sidenote: I back-date my wild edible plant blog posts so the same four articles are always shown on the home link. This means if you are set up to automatically get notified when I make a new post you won't actually be notified. The blogspot servers aren't smart enough to realize I'm back-dating my posts.

Adventure! Excitement! Destroying My Eyes!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What was found under the tree

The tree: a close-up.

We of the Wether household try not to go nuts with gifts for birthdays and holidays such as Christmas. Both Misseswether and I grew up in homes where "more" was not equal to "better".

Let's see what Santa brought us. Yes, I'll take Santa's credit even though Misseswether did all the shopping.

She didn't mind.

Mambo with her big box!

Cool, a purse (with a mirror, which she shows to EVERYONE) and fuzzy blue slippers.

Miniwether got the crown she asked Santa for. She also got cool fuzzy blue slippers. Trust me, she's really happy.

They both also got big dolls. Their uncles/aunts sent them clothes for these dolls and also a bunch of clothing sewing patterns for the dolls as Misseswether has started teaching them to sew. Sidenote: Misseswether sewed the red dress Miniwether's doll is wearing. It only took her a few hours. Since them she's made several more outfits, accesories, and a cloak for each that matches the girl's RenFest cloaks.

Actually, I'm starting to think Misseswether wanted the dolls for herself...

She does play with them a lot.

Misseswether does seem to like my gift to her, which is a relief. Most wives do not respond well when they get exercise equipment from their husband.

She seems to really love it. Yes, she and Miniwether have reindeer antlers attached to their helmets while Mambowether is sporting a Santa hat. They've been attracting a lot of attention as they peddle around the neighborhood!

A manly man's Christmas gifts!

I finally broke down and got an iPod. I chose the Nano as it is easier to hook to a tv to display pictures. I've been getting requests to talk about foraging at garden clubs, book stores, and other non-natural settings. I can hook this iPod to any tv or monitor and show pictures of edible plants to the audience while I talk. The two books are there to help me identify and cook wild edibles.
Last but not least is the C.O. Bigelow Shave Cream. This is the BEST EVER shaving cream for those of you old school gents who apply the lather with a badger brush and shave with a real razor rather than some multi-bladed piece of plastic and hype.

So that's it. Much love, minor amounts of packaging!

And now for something completely different. The neighborhood playground recently installed swings! And not just those painful straps of rubber, these are the Lazyboy version of swings!

Swing, lazy child, swing!

Warning: Consult your physician before using this equipment to determine if it is suitable for your child! Yes, the swing's warning label really does tell you to check with your doctor before using this bit of playground equipment. I weep for America...

Adventure! Excitement! Keeping Izzy happy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Fear not for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy...for on to you is born this day in the city of David a savior, Christ the Lord!

Adventure! Excitement! Joy!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Call for Cannas

These. We need them.

My work with Houston food security continues. In the last two weekends I've taught eight wild edible plant classes both at the Last Organic Outpost and down at Armand Bayou.

Trust me, I'm a doctor! Sidenote: I'm holding toxic nightshade. Don't eat it!
(photo by Mona Metzger of Houston Green Scene at the recent LOO anniversary party)

Schooling homeschoolers down at Armand Bayou (check out the awesome shots of me teaching here). Yes, I'm vain and egotistical. I have a blog, how could you think I'd be anything else?! :-)

Afternoon session at Armand Bayou. Remember, you too can invite me to teach!

What's with the canna lilies? Well, currently Houston Garden Centers are having their big 70% off sale, dropping the price of 1-gallon pot sized canna lilies to just $1.00! Cannas are an excellent source of starch calories and so as part of the grassroots Houston Food Security program we are trying to buy them all up for planting out at the Last Organic Outpost. You can help by purchasing canna lilies at your local Houston Garden Center and donating them to the not-for-profit LOO on Saturdays or Sundays. Seriously, this could make a world of difference for Houston.

It makes sense to pick up a few cannas for yourself, too. They can handle sun or shade, wet or dry conditions, and produce a plethora of calorie-filled tubers. Growing to six feet tall, they make an excellent summertime screen topped with beautiful flowers. Their only pest are leaf-rollers but these are easily destroyed. Frost will kill the above-ground portion but new shoots will come up from the tubers a few weeks later.

Full-grown canna lilies. Oh, they are pretty!

While out at Houston Garden Center you might consider also spending $5 on a Elaeagnus. This shrub produces sweet edible berries whose peanut-tasting seed can also be eaten. They grow to about six feet tall but can be pruned shorter. Elaeagnus can grow in either sun or shade and the soil does not need to be very fertile, just well drained. Allong with the edible fruit, this plant is also a nitrogen fixer which helps plants around it grow! Currently most Houston Garden Centers have rows of these on clearance. Why plant ligustrums, pittosporums, or red-tipped photinias when you can have food-producers instead?!

One of my new Elaeagnus. The copper-colored leaves are not dead, that's the natural color of the leaf bottoms.

Adventure! Excitement! Seven Fat Cows!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

MerriFairy caught!

I've been work late a lot lately and have been coming hour exhausted. Friday I got home a little before 7pm and was met at the door by a smiling Miniwether. She just stood there blocking the door and grinned a gap-toothed grin at me... D'oh! She had lost her first tooth!!!

She has TINY teeth!

According to Misseswether, Miniwether had spent the afternoon practicing how she would greet me at the door to show me her lost tooth. Mini can be somewhat of a perfectionist drama queen...

The lost tooth was only slightly larger than a grain of rice and I'm a little amazed that she hadn't already lost it in the carpet, outside, or any of the number of other treasure-eating locations she normally loses stuff. The knowledge that that night the tooth fairy would come and exchange the tooth under her pillow for money was enough of an incentive for her to keep close watch on said money-making tooth.

After I had been allowed to see the tooth Misseswether smartly suggested that it be placed ina ziploc baggie for placement under the pillow. Misseswether is really smart.

Miniwether spent the evening quizzing me on the tooth fairy. What does she look like, what does she do with the teeth, how much money will she leave, etc... I claimed I didn't know the answers having never been able to catch TF in the act and the current inflationary economic situation would make the amount brought to TF much different than what I got. This lead to a talk about inflation, economics, current federal polices...which lead to us pretending to be butterflies for some reason.

Eventually it was bedtime and the baggie was placed under her pillow, the lights were turned of, and I shut their bedroom door. Then I waited for them to fall asleep.

Yeah, two little girls waiting for a visit from a magical fairy does not lead to a quick falling asleep.

Finally well after midnight they seemed to be deep in sleep, it was time for the fairy to make her/my move! I turned off all the lights and quietly opened their door...which failed miserably because it squeaks really loudly. Miniwether raised her head but didn't see me standing motionless in the black hallway. She settled back down to sleep and I sneaked over to her bed....where she lay with with her hand under the pillow holding onto the baggie.

I carefully tried to slide the baggie out of her hand...which caused her to leap up excitedly and shout, "Did she come?! Did the tooth fairy come?!"

"Yep!" I responded holding up the baggie, "The bag is empty!" I cheerfully lied, hoping she wouldn't somehow see the tiny tooth in the dark. "Let's see how much money she gave you." I said sticking my other hand under her pillow and carefully dropping the two quarters I had palmed as Miniwether yanked the pillow away. She squealed with delight when she saw the coins. I was positive she saw me drop them but either she didn't see it or she didn't want to call me on it.

We spent a few more minutes talking about the tooth fairy. Miniwether told me about another little girl she knows who claims their is no tooth fairy. "She didn't get any money for her teeth" she solemnly declared. "But I believe in fairies!" she continued in a very very determined voice. "I believe in magic."

I take that to mean I'm doing my job right as a parent.

Adventure! Excitement! Next time I leave the bedroom door open!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Houston Food Security

On Saturday December 12th, 2009 I'll be down at the Last Organic Outpost talking about Houston's food security program and giving free guided edible weed tours. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I've become involved with a grassroots (ha ha ha!) movement to feed Houston in case of some sort of economic or social disaster. I figured I'd use this post to explain a few things about why we are doing this.

Joe, Marcella, and I all have a strong belief that there are strong potential threats to America's current food distribution system. Most food travels hundreds and more often thousands of miles from where it is grown/raised to where it is eaten. Current estimates say Houston has less than three days of food on grocery store shelves, restaurant freezers, and assorted train and trucking distribution centers. Disruption of this unnatural food chain would lead to riots, destruction, and starvation.

What could cut this chain? One potential threat is from Iran shutting down the flow of oil in response to Western actions against it's nuclear bomb production facilities. No oil means all the trucks and trains stop, along with delivery of our food. It's estimated greater than 10% of the US's demand for petroleum goes towards growing and transporting food. That means we burn at least 755 MILLION barrels of oil each year to feed ourselves, most of that due to transporting the food from farm to market. Yowza!

Other threats include swine flu reaching pandemic levels, crippling food distribution or current economic policies plunging the USA into hyper-inflation and chaos.

And of course don't forget zombies!

Whereas food security is very important to me, I also have another reason for increasing the local production of food: doing so frees up farmland allowing it to return to a more wild state. Many cities have created parks and other "green zones" in attempts to keep wild areas available for native plants and animals. These green zones are nothing more than window dressing to make people think nature is alive and well around them. Separated by miles of urban environment, there is no dynamic transfer of species between these islands of undergrowth. Their diversity of life is nothing like that of real forests.

To truly invite wilderness back into the world requires huge swaths of land be allowed to go fallow. The only way to do this is to move food production into the towns and cities. Chinese cities are prime example of this. I was amazed while over there how food gardens were grown on every bit of available space in cities. Rows of cabbages line the roads, beans grow on balconies, squash hangs from roofs. The city of Shanghai has almost 20 million people yet manages to supply a majority of it's own food. Imagine Houston doing the same thing. Imagine all towns doing the same thing!

More to come...

Adventure! Excitement! I hate lawns!

Friday, December 04, 2009


Yes, this is my backyard.
Yes, it is in Houston.
Yes, it is SNOWING!!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

And so it begins.

The first wild edibles demonstration bed.

Saturday I returned to the Last Organic Outpost to start working on the Houston Food Security program. Joe tractored over some of his most excellent Magic Mix dirt into some beds that I filled with assorted edible weeds dug up from other areas of this farm.

The second bed.

The first bed contained sow thistle, wild onion, purslane, field pennycress, pony's foot, spiderwort, and curled dock. The second was planted with more spiderwort, curled dock, burdock, pokeweed, two different amaranths, nutsedge, and cleavers. A third bed was planted with lamb's quarter and burdock.

It's a small start but like every farmer, I have great hope for the future. Speaking of which, on Dec. 12th the Last Organic Outpost is have a big public shindig to help raise awareness for Houston Food Security. I'm one of the featured speakers and I'll also be doing two edible wild plant walks. The event will run 10am-4pm and is free but donations to the farm are encouraged.

View Larger Map
Location of the Last Organic Outpost. Look for the big onion.

The big onion.

Joe's Magic Mix, the finest dirt you'll find in Houston!




I'll be down at the Last Organic Outpost a lot in the future. They have some big plans to increase public awareness including farmer's markets, guided tours, and wild meals at local restaurants. It should be a lot of fun but also a lot of work. That's okay, I don't expect changing the world to be easy.

Adventure! Excitement! Destiny!

Stopped in Time

Four Princesses and Widowmaker.

Yep, Thanksgiving weekend found us back at RenFest for the third and last time this year. As an added bonus, Clark and family finally joined us! This was a good thing. Clark and his wife had last been to RenFest twelve or more years ago and were unprepared for how huge it had grown.

One tiny little spot, with toys free to play with (in the hopes that you'll buy some to take home).

Misseswether really liked the 11-shot mini-marshmallow launcher.

I preferred the trebuchet the flung full-sized marshmallows 50" or more. Imagine launching flaming marshmallows into cubicals three rows over. That would be so awesome.

Of course rides were rode. Sadly, Miniwether made a major infraction the day before so to discipline her she was limited to one ride while Mambowether got two. Surprisingly Mambo picked the big swing and the spinning box thing as her two rides. In the past she had been terrified of these. My little girl is growing up FAST!

This is my happy face.

Miniwether goes flying.

RenFest actors engage patrons in assorted skits and activities. Last time the Wethergirls were invited to join the French Court for a tea part, this time some German princesses played Tag the Pig with assorted kids. It was a surprisingly non-violent game.

No pigs or children were hurt, though some did get rather winded.

Of course, RenFest isn't just for kids. Mmmm, belly dancer.

As usual, we were there dawn to dusk. Nightfall in the Village is my favorite time as everything becomes even more magical in the soft glow of lanterns. Plus creatures of the night start showing up.

A dragon at twilight.

The Clarks left before full dark but we stayed later so Misseswether could buy a new bodice. Being the last weekend, many shops had their wares at clearance prices. It's better to sell for less than haul it home. This resulted on a great deal on a very lovely and very flattering bodice for m'lady. As for a picture, you'll just have to wait until next year.

The closing fireworks started up a few moments after we arrived back at my truck. We sat in the back eating cookies and listening to soundtrack from The Lord of the Rings while waiting for traffic to clear.

Fireworks and cookies! Oh, and there's Misseswether's new bodice. I guess you didn't have to wait a year...

Thirty minutes later not a single car had moved. One by one people began shutting off their vehicles and began mingling. Word quickly made it through the throngs...a bad wreck had shut down the one road leading out of RenFest. I have no proof, but I suspect that some @$$-O drank too much then tried to make an end-run around everyone else trying to get out of the Faire. This happens several times a year resulting in gridlock.


Luckily, I'm me, which is a very friendly person. I had run into my old Ren-Forums buddy, Sir Martin, earlier that day and as we sat watching the unmoving traffic my cell phone rang. It was another friend calling to see if we were trapped in traffic. She had encountered Sir Martin who told her we were here. When I told her we trapped she immediately invited us for gumbo and drumming at the Clan McLotofus campsite over in the Faire Campgrounds. Ten minutes later we were sitting by a fire eating fresh, hot gumbo and chatting with assorted friends, old and new. Then Wine and Alchemy showed up and the party really started!

Clan McLotofus's fire.

Catherine D'Artois and the Wethergirls.

Drummers, fiddlers, flutists, and dancers...

The sounds of camping with Clan McLotofus.

Mmmm, goood bodice!

Traffic hadn't moved for three hours and the food & music eventually lulled the Wethergirls to sleep. It was another hour before traffic began creeping forward. I went back and got the truck while the girls slept. It took me a while to make it back to the Clan McLotofus then several of the Clansmen helped me carry the girls to the truck and strap everyone in. The Faire had officially ended hours ago but when you are sitting by a fire with friends and drummers time slows, stops... But now it was starting up again. Goodbyes were shared via hugs and armclasps, then I eased the truck back into the slowly-moving train of vehicles. An hour later we were home. I carried the girls to bed, had a glass of mead to finish off the wonderful day, and joined Misseswether (still in her faire-garb!) under the covers.

And time stopped again for a little while.

Adventure! Excitement! Faire!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Mountain comes to Merriwether

About a year ago assorted powerful members of the Houston city council began talking to each other and discovered they are all very concerned about what is happening in the world. One fear in particular was shared by all of them, "What happens if fuel prices sky rocket making it impossible to ship food to Houston?". Based on this fear they quietly began building a Food Security Program for Houston. The goal of this program is to convert unused/empty urban wastelands into prolific food gardens to help feed Houstonians in the event of economic (or other) disaster. The council locates owners of these waste properties and works a deal with them to allow the creation of these gardens. Response from the initial property owners contacted has been very positive.

However, the city council realized even if every plot of unused land in Houston was turned into a garden it still wouldn't be enough to feed the city. They needed to utilize every source of food available to combat the famine they fear is fast approaching.

I learned all this as I stood in the rain Saturday morning talking to Joe, the founder of the LOO (Last Organic Outpost) down in Houston's 5th Ward. I've written of this place earlier, but at that time I didn't know the whole story of what was going on.

I had gone to the LOO this last Saturday to discuss building some demonstration beds of edible weeds and other wild plants available in Houston and to also create complete permaculture food forests along the borders of their farm. I had briefly talked to Joe about it a few weeks ago but this was his first real in-depth meeting about it with me.

But it wasn't his first meeting about it with other very important people and they agreed, they want me to build wild edibles demonstration beds out at the LOO.

And they want me to build similar beds throughout Houston.
And they want me to teach all of Houston about finding/utilizing edible wild plants.
And they want me to create permaculture food forests throughout Houston.

They want me to help prepare Houston for the future.

I'm still in shock. Both that the Powers That Be in Houston are actively trying to prepare the city for potential hard times and also that they want me involved is such an enormous project...

Of course this means my days of being a carefree adventurer are rapidly coming to an end...but in return I get to try and change the world. It's a fair trade.

Adventure! Excitement! To Be Continued!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Mmmm, free venison. Little did I know it was contaminated with the Rage Virus.

Sidenote: My friend Wildcat made the knife I'm holding. That thing is SWEET! It sliced up the whole deer like it a steel lightsaber.

Adventure! Excitement! Brains!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just get me back in time...

Party like it's 1499!

I'm a little late with this post. We were at the faire two weekends ago. I love the Texas Renaissance Festival. There's something about it that just fills me with joy. It has a special smell to it, like sandalwood, potpourri, and leather. That scent hits me as soon as I walk through the gate and I am transported to my idea of a perfect world...

A place where amazing street performers fill the air with beautiful music.

Flame-juggling, sword-swallowing tightrope walkers ride unicycles.

Beauty abounds (and occasionally is somewhat unbound!)

Magical beings flitter...

And royalty takes your hand...

And invites you to a tea party.

The beautiful Istanpitta.

Bet you didn't know you could do this with a didgeridoo!

This is a French battlehorse. It's HUGE!

Belly dancers!

Okay, here's close-up of them.

Mambowether loved the dancers but isn't wild of me constantly taking her picture.

I promised the girls they could each do three rides. Unlike the performances, rides are not free but range in cost from $3 to $6.

Miniwether loves the spinning box thing ($3).

Mambowether loves her frog. She rode it twice ($3).

The big swing ($3). Miniwether also loves this. Mambo decided she wanted to ride it, too. The first few minutes of the ride Mambo was screaming in terror but Miniwether and I were able to calm her down and eventually she decided that it was like being in my canoe. Then she liked it.
Sidenote: if you go to RenFest in garb on a slow, rainy day the ride operators will just let you keep going until someone else shows up for a ride. We were in the big swing for almost ten minutes before I finally called out to have it stopped.

Miniwether had been eying this thing since last year and I decided she was finally old enough to try it. ($6)

Fly angel! Fly!

Best. Ride. Ever. (unless you are a 200lb, 40-yr old guy)

My friend Tom.


Fairy sand painting.

Night falls.

Long day #1.

Long day #2. I love this picture of Misseswether, she looks so beautiful in it.

Miniwether was still going strong. Here she is showing of all the treasures she collected.

I want to spend a bit of time on how to have fun at the faire. A number of first-time goers have said that they didn't like RenFest. The most common complaint is that you have to pay a high admission fee and all there is inside are shops. This tells me they somehow completely missed all the free performances. There are eleven stages with on the grounds with acts showing on all of them continuously. Added to that are ten floating music acts wandering the grounds, assorted battles, free tea parties for kids, and just people watching (keep an eye out for Darth Vader and his kilted stormtroopers!). There's a lot more to do than just shopping. Sidenote: I love all the shops, too! The knives, the leather, the jewelry, the clothes, etc...

Some of my favorite acts:
Sound and Fury This is what happens when you mix Shakespeare with a short attention span. (warning, PG-13!)

The Ded Bob Sho The best stand-up comedy by the skeletal remains of a plague victim ever!(PG) If I had to describe their act in one word I would pick "beautifully dangerous!". (G)

The Other Brothers What happens when to jugglers don't get along. (PG)

Birds of Prey Shock and awe from Mother Nature! Sidenote: don't bring food to this show! (G) Sidenote #2: the girls loved this show in part because we just finished reading My Side of the Mountain at bedtime.

Shunyata Bellydance Drums, hips, and shiny things! (PG) Sidenote: I have a special fondness for this troupe after spending a night by their campfire at another faire several years ago.

Must-Hear Music:
Cast in Bronze One man playing a four-ton musical instrument.

Tartanic Pounding out Scottish rock on drums and bagpipes!

Gypsy Guerrilla Band They get Misseswether dancing the dance that first woo-ed me many years ago.

Istanpitta Love songs from way, way back. Watch out for the brunette, she's feisty!

Wine and Alchemy Greek, gypsy, Celtic, Sephardic and Led Zepplin taken for a ride on the Silk Road.

The Bard O'Neill Singings songs of adventure.

As You Like It if angels had hammers and dulcimers they'd make music like this.

Crannog This is what Celtics listen to before war...and after.

All these acts are free but they do pass a hat for tips after their acts. The get paid a pittance by the guy in charge of RenFest. Tossing a dollar per actor/musician into the hat is good karma. Tossing more in is GREAT karma. Many also sell CD's and DVD's of their acts. Over the years I've amassed a big collection of "Ren Music" by buying these CDs. It's pretty much the only sort of music I listen to anymore.

A few tips on food: Food is reasonably-priced with most things costing $3-$5 but drinks are high at $2.50 per bottle of soda. If you are cheap keep your soda bottle and refill it from the drinking fountains. Oh, and just give in and get the big bag of popcorn. If you get a little bag you'll finish it off after a few hours and want more. Get more to begin with.

We are heading back to RenFest one last time before the 2009 season ends Thanksgiving weekend. Look for the guy in the big hat with the beautiful family!

Adventure! Excitement! Time Travel!