Monthly Archives: January 2011

foraging

wild persimmons

wild persimmons

Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) acorns, shelled and unshelled

Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) acorns, shelled and unshelled

roasted acorns

roasted acorns

ginko nuts, shelled and unshelled with skins still on

ginkgo nuts, shelled and unshelled with skins still on

ginko nuts with eggs and potatoes

ginkgo nuts with eggs and potatoes-- yum!

Foraging has become a central concept in my work, from salvaged wood to yard trash.  But this fall I made a more literal effort to expand my diet of foraged foods.  Although the persimmon fruit pictured above were gathered on a camping trip in Illinois, there are plenty of options to be found right here in the City of St. Louis– some items no farther than the front yard.  My snack food and side dishes included hickory nuts, black walnuts, acorns, persimmons, wild greens, and ginkgo nuts.  The roasted acorns were a surprise, as they had a strong aroma and flavor of toffee.  Chinkapin oaks are known for having some of the sweetest acorns (the term is relative, believe me) and these were just over the threshold of “edible” without my having leached out any of the tannins.  Ginkgo nuts start out nasty, as the smelly flesh needs to be stripped away.  But the nut meat is generous and the shells are thin (a stark contrast to the black walnuts).  They are a lot like little potatoes, starchy with a slightly bitter finish.  I found them to be great with eggs, salted and peppered.  Foraging, like art-making, tends to lean away from immediacy/efficiency and towards process.  The “important” part precedes and exceeds the moment of consumption.  It requires good timing, a search, preparation, consumption, and comes with a sense of satisfaction that lends itself well to reflection.  It encourages first-hand knowledge, increases our appreciation of natural cycles, fosters independence, and rewards the observant.  One might even argue that foraging is an art unto itself.

table top

I’ve managed to make some progress on our new dining room table, so here are a few images of the table top.  It’s a big one– nine feet two inches long, fifty inches wide, designed to compliment the architecture and woodwork in our dining room.  I’m currently working on the table base and finish samples.   I hope to be able to make use of the black walnut stain that I made this fall.  The long boards were a bit tricky to deal with, especially since three of them are about eleven inches wide.  As a result, one board had a slight edge flaw that prevented a clean glue-up on the last four inches or so.  I used a repair technique that I learned from a book by Tage Frid.  Simple and effective, although it is important to get the filler strip into place quickly– before the glue causes the wood to expand.

final glue-up of the top, which is composed of seven quarter-sawn white oak boards.

Final glue-up of the top, which is composed of seven quarter-sawn white oak boards.

Curves cut on short ends, just one inch of deflection across the width.

Curves cut on short ends, just one inch of deflection across the width.

I used a Japanese saw to re-cut the imperfect part of this joint, and used a sliver of the same board to make the filler strip.

I used a Japanese saw to re-cut the imperfect part of this joint, and used a sliver of the same board to make the filler strip.

Filler strip glued in place.

Filler strip glued in place.

Finished repair, trimmed and sanded.

Finished repair, trimmed and sanded.