The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

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Homesteading Observations: Scavenging and Gleaning

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2013 October Issue Newsletter

By Sharon Gensler Homesteader and NOFA/Mass Outreach Coordinator

It sure is beginning to feel like autumn and my
homesteader brain (which I sometimes think is the
amygdala-basic survival brain) kicks into squirrel mode.
Gather and store, gather and store, is my mantra. Last
month I was flat out doing the preservation-shuffle,
which is a much “tamer” version of the squirrel,
putting up things I’ve grown and nurtured all summer.
The squirrel is the scavenger; why work all summer
when you can just gather and glean.
This year for the first time we have enough of our own
delicious apples and pears, but in years past scavenging
was the way to go. We would visit “old tree friends” in
abandoned fields and pastures. A knock on the door
usually elicits the reply, “Sure take what you want, but
those old trees haven’t been sprayed in 20 years.” YES!
My type exactly. They may not be pretty, but they
are great in cider and sauce. Keep your eyes open for
bounty going unused. In fact it’s best to watch for those
potential opportunities throughout the year so you
can know where to go harvest when the time is right.
Remember to gather for any of your animals too. Our
chickens love apples, pears and other fruit.
We stock up on cranberries from local wild bogs;
don’t ask me to reveal my hidden spots. A beautiful
tradition: schlepping through knee-deep water to get
into the bog. Then sinking ten inches or more into
sphagnum moss and mud with each step while picking
the delicious berries. (It’s incredible how much better
they taste than the sprayed grocery store version). The
swamp maples and other bog bushes are brilliantly
hued, and it makes me glad to be alive. My brother
now comes to visit from Louisiana so he can enjoy this
adventure too.
Another “free” food out there is the wild mushrooms.
I’m not a mushroom fan; I only like the Sulfur Shelf.
There are many other safe ones to gather, but do get a
good identification book as we can’t afford to loose any
NOFA members.
The wild grapes can be located by following your nose.
They smell so enticing and will lead you right to their
hiding place, but you’ll have to beat the foxes and other
wild animals to their bounty.
If you want to gather more tamed fruits and veggies, contact your local organic/sustainable grower and see if they allow gleaning. In the past we’ve gathered potatoes, winter squash, tomatoes and other “imperfect”, non-saleable items.
So, yes, life is busy, but being my own boss allows me
to take an afternoon to pick cranberries (gather my
vitamin c) and still make it a holiday. Or, like today, to
take a walk through the beauty and enjoy the falling
leaves before the coming rain. Nourishing my spirit.
To be sure, I was also on the lookout for mushrooms or
nuts. Work combined with play, play with work!
Don’t forget in all of this squirreling to give thanks.
We don’t wait for Thanksgiving but give thanks by
making a special meal for the first harvest or gather of
any fruit or veggie, like the first green beans, or corn or
strawberry, or wild cranberries. Think of all the extra
holidays you can create and enjoy with your family and
On a different note, November 3rd is the NOFA
fundraising RUN/WALK. I really need your help here.
I need sponsors. Let’s have a good showing of all of
us homesteaders. Let’s meet up and walk together!
A good way to meet each other and to catch up on what our fellow urban, rural, and suburban homesteaders are doing. Join me walking, or be my sponsor. Sponsor me by emailing me:

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