Have you ever dreamed of living in the midst of nature, away from the chaotic noise and interruptions of modern society? If you have, we share a beautiful and tranquil desire to change our paradigm and begin living WITH Mother Earth, the way our ancestors did long ago.
When I was in my early 20’s and not yet married, my dream was to buy land in Canada, build a cabin and live the life of independence from power companies and the monotonous nine to five job. All of the plans looked good on paper, so my boyfriend and I jumped in our 1976 rusty old Ford and headed north to Ontario. Finding an old lumber road pitted with craters the size of a Yugo, we precariously followed the map to a lake near Chapleau. After losing our muffler on that treacherous road and running out of gas, fortunately near a ranger station, we finally made it to a campground along the lake. Oh, the innocence and naivety of youth! Unbeknownst to us, we set up our three-person tent directly on top of a game trail and the game that frequented that trail was the largest split hoofed mammal known to North America!
The weather was cool and rainy that late August evening, so along with our fearless watchdog, a 10 pound terrier mix named Cassie, we crawled into our sleeping bags for the night, snug as bugs in a rug. As we lay there listening to the mesmerizing sounds of chirping crickets and croaking bullfrogs, Cassie began barking ferociously and we heard the pounding of hoof beats drawing nearer and nearer to our tent. Some type of large animal jumped over the tie-downs of our tent and proceeded to gallop down the road. Moments later, we heard other campers yelling, “Look! There goes a MOOSE!!” Adrenaline was running high and I didn’t sleep much that night. It was around 3:00am when I heard a wolf pack howling in the surrounding hills…so began my love of true wilderness where moose, bear, wolves and many other wonderful animals roam wild and free.
Nearly 25 years later, the dream of having my own cabin in the woods is finally a reality. Though not the wilderness of Canada, northern Michigan has large tracks of unspoiled land where deer, elk, black bear, coyote, bobcat and some say packs of wolves and an occasional mountain lion roam. Streams, lakes and rivers are never far away offering life-sustaining water, food and a source of recreation. Property for sale is abundant and prices vary depending on the location. Waterfront property had seemed ideal until we discovered the asking price… definitely not within our budget! The desire for complete seclusion didn’t jive with lakefront or riverfront property either, so we opted for wooded acreage one mile from the nearest lake and a stone’s throw from a trout stream where Brook Trout swim lazily up the crystal clear current. We share a 40 acre plot of woodland with two of our closest friends. It’s peaceful, it’s nearly two miles from the nearest paved road, and I feel as though I’ve finally found the peace and tranquility that I’ve longed for.
Foraging for wild, edible and medicinal plants has been a passion of mine for years and I own many books on the subject. While walking the Double Deuce (the name we affectionately call the 40 acres) last spring with friend and co-owner, Kelly, I decided to research a gorgeous brushy plant that grows in abundance. The shape and texture of the leaf was somewhat fern-like and it had an invigoratingly sweet aroma…it had to be a very special plant. I learned that this plant of sandy soil was called Sweet Fern and rightly so! The Native Americans of this region made a tea from the leaf which they drank as a tonic. They also used a strong concoction of the tea to halt the itching of poison ivy and other skin irritations. Kelly and I both suffer every summer from poison ivy so this was a very exciting discovery! After being bit by mosquitoes that spring, I ground up a sweet fern leaf and pressed it onto the bites.. the itching stopped immediately! Since then, I have brewed sweet fern tea and drank it nearly every day. It has a wonderfully sweet, woodsy smell that calms my nerves and imparts a pleasant, lively flavor on the taste buds. The soft burr-like seed pod on the bush can be eaten as a trail snack.
Another edible delicacy of the northwoods is the Morel mushroom. We hunt these marvelous mushrooms every spring in southern Michigan and the harvest is good some years, not so good in others. Last spring, while taking a break from doing the groundwork for our cabins, Kelly and I (ok, Kelly mostly) found over 100 medium to large morels, some 8 inches in height! It was wonderful to be able to share the harvest with many of our friends and family, as well as have several meals with morels ourselves! We are most definitely looking forward to next spring’s hunt for the elusive morel!
Check back soon to learn how Jeff and I, with the help of family and friends, built our 20×24 cabin in the woods.