poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘edible wild’ Category

walk on the shore

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2015 024_crop



Sea-rocket (Cakile edentula Hook.)


clumps of Sea-rocket

are splashes of lime on sand

missiles from lavender flowers


pepper to tongue

pungent breath of Cakile

cardamom and caraway


flavour our laughter

giggles of gulls cross sober sand

intervention in sluggish lives


launches from Cape Canaveral

moon-walking on the beach

splash-downs in Sargasso Seas


most days are moth-eaten –

paper cuts, missives, e-mails to answer

problems, resolutions without teeth


the seawind smooths its sand

begs for someone to take a stick

scratch out a love song





Copyright 2015  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

June 17, 2015 at 7:35 am

writing a novel – e-reader editing

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So the poet is writing a novel…


Title: unknown

Working Title: Saving the Landing Church

Setting: a writers’ retreat, including an abandoned church

Characters: main character a writer; her husband Tom; people from the embedded community including next door neighbors Emma and Mark; people from the commuter community; the aberrant community

Plot: the story of how a woman tries to preserve an abandoned church with unexpected consequences for herself and for the community



I have finished my first draft!

This week, I am working on edits.

The writer’s discipline of producing something each day suits me most of the time.  I characteristically accomplish enough in three or four hours of work to push back from the computer with a feeling of satisfaction.

Some days, it’s harder to focus.  I find editing particularly hard.  Perhaps because of the recent holidays, perhaps because it is so cold outside, this week I have been having trouble concentrating.

Yesterday, I discovered a way to make the editing easier!

Lately, I’ve been using my e-reader more and more for general reading.  I thought, why not use it to read my own (draft) book?

I didn’t do any fancy work.  I merely took my Word draft and saved it as a .pdf file.  The first time I did this, the font was so tiny, I’d have to use a magnifier to read.  So I experimented a little, and finally settled on the font Times New Roman, size 22, double-spaced.  Once I made the font change in Word, I saved it as a .pdf file and copied it directly into my Kobo e-reader.  There were a couple of glitches which I didn’t bother to fix.  Some words transposed as bold (as you can see in the photo) and none of my italics made it through.  But the book was very readable.

edits with my Kobo e-book

Today and yesterday, I have been editing in luxury.  I have been sitting in my comfy chair, with a warm throw, a cup of tea and my Kobo.  By having my draft in book format, I can see it as a book, read it with more ‘distance’ and more easily find the places I need to re-write or edit.  I keep track of edits, page by page, in pen, on note paper.  Of course, I’ll have to do the final edits at the computer, but that pain is somewhere in the future, made easier by the ‘Find’ feature in Word.

One step closer to completion!!!


Copyright  Jane Tims  2013

blackberries as big as thimbles

blackberries as big as thimbles

Written by jane tims

January 4, 2013 at 7:09 am

apple tree shadow

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This time of year, I watch for the old apple trees along the road.  Most are neglected, and the fruit remains unpicked, even for cider.  When the apples fall, they lie beneath the tree in a circle of red or yellow, mimicking the shadow of the tree at noon.



apple shadow


days follow days

and the apples

fall to the ditch,

claim the gravel

edge the asphalt


ripe shadow space

at the base of

the leaning tree


passing cars play

polo and wasps

worry in the

rotting remains



Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

September 24, 2012 at 7:06 am

Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum Marsh.)

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Like miniature fireworks, bright bunches of the berries of Highbush Cranberry  (Viburnum trilobum Marsh.) burst along our roadsides in late summer.  Highbush Cranberry is also called Cranberry, Pimbina, and in Quebec,  quatres-saisons des bois.

The Highbush Cranberry is a large deciduous shrub, found in cool woods, thickets, shores and slopes.  It has grey bark and dense reddish-brown twigs.  The large lobed leaves are very similar to red maple.

In spring and summer, the white flowers bloom in a cyme or corymb (a flat-topped or convex open flower-cluster).  Most flowers in the cluster are small, but the outermost flowers are large and showy, making the plant attractive for insect pollinators.

The fruit is a drupe, ellipsoid and brightly colored red or orange.  The juicy, acidic fruit has a very similar flavour to cranberry (Vaccinium spp. L.) and is used for jams and jellies.  The preserves are rich in Vitamin C.



fireworks, quatres-saisons

            (Viburnum trilobum Marsh.)



against a drawing paper sky

some liberated hand

has sketched fireworks


remember precursors in spring?

blowsy cymes, white sputter

of a Catherine wheel


now these berries, ready to pick

bold, spherical outburst

of vermillion sparks


a pyrotechnic flash of red

strontium detonates

in receptive dark


a four-season celebration

spring confetti, berries,

fireworks in fall


cranberry preserves – acidic,

tart blaze of summer sky

winter ignition



© Jane Tims  2012

© Jane Tims  2012

growing and gathering – names of edible wild plants

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As I have worked on my poetry project about eating local foods, I have researched each wild plant, found it in its natural environment, and then written about it.  With all this, I am exposed to the words and characteristics of a particular plant and it is never certain which way the ‘muse’ will take me when I write the poem.  Sometimes, I end up creating a poem about eating local food, and sometimes, I get a poem about something else.  Usually these stray poems are, in some way, about the name of the plant.

I find the names of plants are very inspiring.  First is the Latin or scientific name, familiar to me after years of botanizing, but mysterious to most people.   I love to find out about the origins of the name and I usually discover the name is descriptive of the plant.  An example is the scientific name for Yellow Wood-sorrel (Oxalis stricta L.), a small yellow-flowered, three-leaved plant of waste areas.  The name stricta means ‘erect’, referring to the way the plant grows when young or the way its seed pods are held.  The word oxalis is from the Greek oxys meaning ‘sour’, a reference to the taste of the leaves.

The common names of plants are also intriguing.  Sometimes these are different for each area where the plant is found.  For example, the Cloudberry (Rubus Chamaemorus L.), a small relative of Blackberry with a peach-colored fruit, is known locally (and particularly in Newfoundland) as Bakeapple.  Plant names may also refer to a characteristic of the plant.  A good example is Heal-all (Prunella vulgaris L.), a small purple flower.  It inhabits waste areas and lawns, becoming small and compact if mowed.  One of its common names, ‘Carpenter Weed’, comes from this characteristic… Carpenter Weed mends holes in lawns!   The name Heal-all comes from the old belief that the plant has medicinal properties.

‘heal-all’ Copyright Jane Tims 2011

So, among my collection of poems about edible plants, I have a group of poems about the plants and their names, but not about their use as local foods.  I have to decide whether or not to include them in my collection, or to set them free!




(Prunella vulgaris L.)


snug Prunella, neat little weed

prim and proper, gone to seed


first called Brunella: gatherers found

Prunella purple fades to brown


a carpenter weed, busy, strong

mends bare patches on the lawn


heal-all, self-heal – your name suggests

an herbal secret you possess



©  Jane Tims  2012

trial and error with mustard seed

with 10 comments

On Saturday we took a side trip to see if the mustard is ripe for collecting seeds.  We had selected a roadside area in early summer where lots of wild mustard was growing  (for more information, see my earlier post about wild mustard –

Although there are still some plants in bloom, the seeds have mostly been set in their long-beaked pods.

I would have been able to show you more, but I nibbled on the green pods the whole way home.  They are delicious, crisp and tangy, with a hint of mustard.

There were a few dry seed pods but most need a couple of additional weeks to ripen.  Each pod has three to seven well-formed seeds.  The seeds take a little work to extract.

Mustard pods and seeds; green pods, dry brown pods, seed husks and three tiny seeds 

I retrieved about 20 ripe mustard seeds from the pods, using a firm tap of the pestle to break the husk.  Then I ground the seeds in a half teaspoon of olive oil.  To make mustard, all my sources suggest using cold water, but I wanted to see if the seeds would flavour oil.

The ingredients almost vanished during the grinding with the pestle, but I got enough ‘mustard’ for a taste.

The verdict:  a very mild mustard oil, easily overwhelmed by the salt on the crackers!   When the pods ripen, I will pick enough for a few hundred seeds and I will use cold water to extract the flavour, just as the wise ones suggest!!!



©  Jane Tims  2012



1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;

2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;

3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

Written by jane tims

September 3, 2012 at 2:01 pm

growing and gathering – years and seasons

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As I work on my collection of poems about growing and gathering, I am aware of the passage of time.  I am in the revision stage.  This means my manuscript will soon be ‘complete’.  I will worry over it and list the last things to be done.  I will prepare my final report to artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board), the source of my Creations Grant, and send it away to them for approval.

The project will be over, but there will still be work to do.   I will have to decide what poems should go in the final manuscript, re-order them a few times, do some more revisions and them send them away, to a publisher, hoping I will be able to get a book from all this work.

Then I will be at the end and facing a new beginning, a new project.  I have a few to choose from, so I won’t be relaxing for long.

In all this is the dimension of time, with its deadlines and unforgiving rush forward.  Even in a project about growing and gathering local foods, there are poems about time.

A number of my poems are about the ephemeral nature of local foods.  Another way to think of this is ‘eating local foods in season’.  In spring, everything is plentiful – new plants arrive in a rush, so fast, you can hardly keep up.  Then there is the patient waiting for berries to ripen and, again, a rush… blueberries are quickly followed by blackberries and raspberries and so on.  But everything has its season, so leaves become too old to harvest, and berries shrivel and fall to the ground.

This seasonal aspect of local foods can be thought of as as a metaphor for aging, and some of my poems work with this comparison.  I have poems about resisting aging, and about the ailments of age including arthritis, lethargy, forgetfulness, and aging memory.

Many of my poems on the theme of ‘time’ overlap with other themes, about ‘companionship’, or changes to ‘place’.  For this reason, I find myself shifting poems around in my manuscript.  I ask myself if the poems flow well, one to another.

I also find I don’t seem to have many poems about the differences between our historical use of local foods and our present day use.  I have lots of source material, particularly among my great-aunt’s diaries… she loved to pick berries.  So away I go, to write a few more poems about time!



Old Man’s Beard     


Usnea subfloridana Stirt.


you and I

years ago

forced our ways

bent through the thicket

of lichen and spruce



caught in your beard

and we laughed


us with stooped backs

and grey hair?


found a game trail

a strawberry marsh

wild berries

crushed into sedge

stained shirts


and fingers


dusted with sugar

washed down with cold tea

warmed by rum



an old woman


lost her way in the spruce

found beard

caught in the branches

and cried



Published as ‘Old Man’s Beard’, The Fiddlehead 180, Summer, 1994

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

August 29, 2012 at 7:18 am

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