Every romantic partnership gets to find out what romance means to them; for some it’s wine and roses, for others it’s gaming, still others prefer their romance to come with a healthy helping of sadomasochism but for us it’s getting down and dirty outdoors. At first, Ned and I were your standard perverted couple. We had dates centered primarily around sex. Sure, we might eat something or have a movie playing in the background but when we got together we fucked like the world was ending as many couples do. Then, only a few months after we had been together, the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti. I remember looking at Ned and telling him that I knew I had to go down and take part in the immediate disaster relief efforts. For some reason, he was crazy enough to join me and together we realized that romance in Mayhemese means getting out under the stars, sleeping in a tent, and getting covered in dirt and sweat while feeling a warm burn in our muscles from work.
I’ve always liked being near nature but I wasn’t ever much of a genuine nature enthusiast until recently. My partner and I have discovered that our relationship thrives when we spend quality time together shaking some trail dust and putting another 10-15 miles onto our hiking boots out in the wilderness. We get our giant mutt of a dog and haul off together as a pack. When you have an animal that can wear the same size T-shirt as you, it’s vital to get them out of the house to use their boundless energy every single day with some good exercise but our “pack” outings for long days of hiking or overnight backpacking trips has taken on particular importance to all of us Mayhems.
Out on the trail, I started to pay more attention to the plants around us. At first it was a sea of green. Then I began to distinguish between the types of green. Not long after that, I started recognizing some of the plants and began wondering what all the rest were. I decided that learning a thing or two about ethnobotany would be to my advantage with the many hours my pack and I were spending outdoors. Being able to forage fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens to eat would make those campfire meals even better and there are all kinds of neat tricks that plants can do that can come in handy in the event of an emergency if you know how to spot them and use them correctly. Learning about ethnobotany is a long process and full immersion learning means spending time over books, with learned teachers, out in the wild, and at home cultivating.
I wasn’t a nature enthusiast until I started going on longer and longer backpacking trips. I wasn’t much of a green thumb until I started to grow things. I picked up herbalism books not because I am hoping to cure cancer with foraged plants (although I’m not averse if something works, has peer reviewed evidence, and a credible rate of efficacy) but because I want to be able to identify greens out in nature and start to figure out what their chemical makeup is and how that relates to my own. Knowing that some ferns have spores underneath their leaves that take the burn out of stinging nettles is a kind of herbalism that helps out a lot when you’re on the trail and have a run in with that prickly plant, especially because it will continue stinging for days. Learning about the stinging reaction from a nettle reveals that it can alter histamine levels and may be helpful in treating other allergies like hay fever.
From hiking, to books, to growing green stuff at home: it’s been a fantastic way to get to learn about plants better. Currently I have a rosemary bush, two kinds of sage (so far), mint, romaine lettuce, purple spinach, chard, cauliflower, catnip, echninacea, corn, horny goat weed, salvia divinorum, yarrow, and some sprouting fava beans. Inside my house I have 3 different kinds of carnivorous plants which fiercely guard my indoor compost bin and my juicer. Having recently lost a very loved cat her surviving friend is being lavished with fresh catnip which he seems to enjoy more than the dried variety I got at the pet store. It’s nice to go outside and gather my own salad.
I’m excited to keep growing more greens. The more I hike, the more I learn, and the more I eat and use my own plants the better I feel. I think there is some form of symbiosis between plants if they’re treated and listened to well. I’ve always been very “meta” and abstract in my thinking and learning process. My aversion to dogma and recipes means that I try to learn as much about every element of something that interests me as I can. I want to get to know the chemistry, physics, and biology behind something. Why do some plants grow near each other? What does a plant indicate about the environment it grows in? What can an ancient poem about a plant reveal about its composition?
I’ve been reading voraciously and without taking any piece of data for granted or as the sum of itself. It’s always linked to something more. The amount of knowledge available in the world is endless. I grow things I find a little questionable (like echninacea) for better study and understanding and I grow things that have immediately identifiable magic properties that I also seek to better understand (like salvia divinorum.) Best of all, I cook more often and things taste better when they are the freshest of the fresh. It’s nice to be able to make a mint tea by drying leaves I’ve been tending to myself. It’s nice to invite someone over for dinner and offer them a gorgeous and fresh salad that I can brag about as well.
I’ve been a staunchly urban based girl with a love for big cities and now urban homesteading is taking on a new fascination for me. I’m also developing dreams of being able to get out to the middle of nowhere and live there. I know that the suburbs will never be the right place for someone with my interests and proclivities but for now I am enjoying the gorgeous weather and Mediterranean climate of Oakland, CA where I can keep growing my greens and learning as much as I can about them. I think my big goal is to be the best and greenest slut I can be. You have to be in good shape to fuck like a Mayhem, after all!
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