YIPPEE! HOORAH!! The weather was holding throughout the morning and so we ditched the planned indoor projects, and headed for the hills! This morning I tried to capture some photos of the berries that are natural to this part of Alberta. Some of them hold stories.
When I became interested in setting up programs for First Nations and Metis children, I learned so much about the fruits of our plains and the foothills. One of the interesting facts was the uses for the berries of the Silver Willow.
As well as removing the pulp from the Wild Willow berries and using the seeds as decorative beads, (having the appearance of tiny watermelons), I was told that in the past, these were sometimes boiled inside a tent structure as a consequence to the negative behaviours of people in the community. Apparently, and I haven’t tried this, this caused a very powerful and repulsive odour. In my reading, I haven’t found exact information to confirm this, but found, “The bark was used to make strong fibre baskets useful for collecting berries. Bark was also used to make cordage. Native people discovered the bush had a bad smell when burned. Those who used it for firewood were chided for being lazy.”
It’s been quite some time since I found a nice coverage of Juniper along the river’s edge, but today, up high on a hill, I found a spread measuring about twenty square feet. The smell was amazing! One of the times I had experienced so much Juniper in Alberta, I had traveled some distance up the Sheep River. Another memorable time was when I was long-hauling with a friend and saw it at the Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho.
Here you will see the juniper berries. Again, there are several traditional uses for these.
While attending the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, perched right in the coulees of southern Alberta, I harvested two different types of berries. One type, rose-hips on the Wild Rose bushes, provided me, once dried, with a beautiful-tasting tea. Apparently this is also very rich in Vitamins and so it was a lovely tea to have through the winter months. The other type of berries I harvested and ate as though they were raspberries or fresh grapes, were cactus berries. These types of cacti are not indigenous to this part of Alberta.
I’ve included photos here of the rose-hips.
The Redosier Dogwood wears clusters of wee berries like this and parts of the plant were used for the smoking of the sacred pipe.
And finally, on today’s walk, we saw these beautiful red berries of the Silver/Thorny Buffaloberry, Shepherdia argentea.