Week 44: Spontaneous Vegetation

Hi Everyone,

This Tuesday is another event in a year-long series of weekly conversations and exhibits in 2010 shedding light on examples of Plausible Artworlds.

This week we’ll be talking with urban forager, seed archivist and inner-city homesteader Nance Klehm, founder of a project called Spontaneous Vegetation.


Nance engages in what — in art-critical parlance — might be called “expanded farming”, the way some talk about “expanded cinema.” She is interested in things edible, how to grow them, and particularly how to find them when they conveniently and spontaneously just grow themselves; how to compost them, can them, preserve them — and how to mutualize her bio-instigation skills with others. Nance lives and farms in the middle of Little Village, a densely packed, diverse urban neighborhood in the heart of Chicago. Her house and land are daily practice in permaculture and urban living. But following some recent urban-foraging in Tucson, Arizona, she just happens to be in Philadelphia for this year’s edition of the World Toilet Summit, so she’ll be attending the potluck live at Basekamp, straight from the festival grounds.

Nance runs workshops in greywater conversion, water-harvesting earthworks design and installation, community greenwaste-to-fertility systems, horticultural systems design and green waste composting – including vermicomposting and humanmanure (hence the festival). Since 2006, she has been leading urban-foraging walks — Situationist-inspired deambulations through the spontaneous and cultivated vegetation of the urbanscape, where walkers learn to identify plants, hear their botanical histories and stories of their use by animals and humans, sharing anecdotes of specific experiences with plants. We have talked extensively about integrating artworlds into lifeworlds — but perhaps hastily assuming that those lifeworlds were human constructs or at least inattentive to the more extensive and diverse biodynamics of those worlds. Urbanforaging seems to apply the logic of the free and open software movement to the realm of vegetation and the edible in general.



Week 44: Spontaneous Vegetation
[Scott]:  Hey everybody! So, I'm here basically with about a dozen, a dozen-ish, people and Nance is here as well.  We're a half an hour later getting started with the audio, which is cool.  So welcome Nance!  It's great to have you here.  I'll be sort of like a Talk Show Host for a second. We're here for our weekly series of chats about each week focusing on Plausible Artworlds for the year.  Yeah, we normally don't give any info for each person.  We sort of just ask you to go ahead and give us a quick start.  But, did you want to mention, we sent out this Skype, or this post that had a few, it probably needs a few changes.  Do you think we ought to get into that or do you just kind of want to...?
We can chat about that as you go on.  Okay, great.  Okay, cool.  Maybe I'll just ask everybody, if you can type in the text chat if you're having trouble hearing at all and we'll just adjust our speakers and our laptop mic, okay?
I feel like Dora the Explorer..."Can you sing along with me?"  I think you can hear me.  Cool. Ready, go!

[Nance]: So, I'm guessing that you read what I do in general?  There are only a few things I would take issue with from there.  But, I don't necessarily call myself an artist.  I actually take coverage with being called an artist.  But I use it if it allows me to have a wider audience.  So I do use aesthetic strategies to open up the dialog around some things that I think are just ignored or maybe not brought up.  Earlier, like in the seventies, and then dropped and then the way things are being allowed to work, I do, it contextualizes very doom and gloom (inaudible 2:34.5) around it.  So I do use other strategies to view, kind of get people interested in what I'm interested in.  Um, I guess I will, because of that, I also never call what I do "farming", we can touch on that later, only if you want too.

And, um, what I do, do in Chicago and now I've just moved to Tucson last week for five or six months and so what I do, do is I do a lot of growing and gathering of my own (inaudible 3:15.3).  I'm equally an eater as much as I am somebody who wants to take care my own health with plants.  But most of all, this is not a gastronomic that I'm going out there for.  I'm really
interested in plants as another species that I live in cities with and usually people are adorned with plants in cities.  They're either pruning them or ripping them out after a season and putting other ones in or they're hacking away or mowing them down, not giving them enough water,
feeding them etc.  So I'm really interested with monitoring my plant world as I'm in the city.  The other thing I really enjoy about Plant World is plants are especially spontaneous vegetation, which is the name of my site.  These spontaneous things come up really are markers of what is happening below the soil and also kind of tracing what we are doing to the soil.  So I can look at a site and actually tell you about the soil composition by just looking at the collection of plants.  Also, a lot of the spontaneous plants are creating a habitat for collimators or animals or etc.  

So, I'm kind of working on a more, um, book I'm really interested in ecology.  I do think this is really important survival homework if you want to think of it that way. (Laughing)  You kind of want to know these things if you're in trouble.  Let's say (laughing) you're camping or the grid falls apart (laughing) and you just got to start taking care of yourself, these are my skills.  It's just kind of really interesting how plants and animals migrated in the city, which is so different from how humans use it.  Humans are always following a grid or their in their cars, where plants and animals are kind of moving and breaking that and coming at things in a much more, the way they navigate and the way they come into places is a lot more interesting.  So, I'm interested in that kind of transversing my city in a more, uh, fluent way and a natural way than this constructive grid.   So I, sometimes I go foraging, not because I need anything, but because I just want to like get out of techno consumerism of the grid mentality and I just go wandering through the city in a different way.  In a different pattern, usually in a different path that I would usually.  So foraging is part of my way of getting things.  It's the way I navigate.  It's part of a much larger kind of lived practices that some people frame as art.  But I don't necessarily do that unless it's useful for increasing my audience because I have other, I have larger things I'm pointing at besides myself.  

Um, this is kind of an interesting thing and I'm here because I actually came for the World Toilet Organization, which is the other WTO.   Um, their summit is today.  Toilet Summit.  World Toilet Summit at the Convention Center!  And one of the things I do, is I poop in a bucket.  Okay, in Chicago, and I use that poop as kind of the power source for the growing.  So I came, and I was at the World Toilet Summit like all day at the Convention Center.  Um, which is awesome because I walked around the Convention Center and I found (25) things which I'm going to pass around and I guess I'm going to get pictures taken with a phone and scanned so everybody who is not physically here can see them.  But, um, I found (25) things around the Convention Center within just like a block and a half radius.  And, uh, building materials, medicinals, edibles, okay?  And some of these medicinals actually are poisons too, so I found some poisons out there.  Um, and then just for a quick (inaudible 7:24.3) found (5) other things.  So I just want to talk about these things that we found and I also want to address your questions kind of a (inaudible 7:34.8).  So, just in general, (2) building materials.  You should all know this is pretty great because Chicago has already had their killing frost, where Philadelphia is slightly warmer and so there are a lot of things that are still green.  It's a great time to get out there and forage.  Anything you see, get out there and get this stuff.  Um, almost everything I've collected, except for a few things, are HATED plants.  Like weeds, that no one likes.  The real spontaneous vegetation that is kind of coming up through our disturbed landscapes 'cause we actually live in really highly disturbed, to put it (laughing), landscapes. And these are the plants that are just making it and are much hated.  

So the (2) building materials, you could actually make a roof with these (2) materials.  This is, uh, Phragmites, which is a plant that grows in a lot of wet areas and it's used to thatch roofs in a lot of places.  So, you can make a pretty durable roof material.  And this is Dogbane, being that it's bad for dogs to eat and I wouldn't eat it either.  But this is something that you can make rope
from.  Really, really fasten it.  So, you can actually, with your rope and many of these, you could actually construct yourself a little platform raft, a bed mat or a roof.  So I'm just going to pass these around, Phragmites and Dogbane.

Just so you all on the call know, we're taking photos of these and are gonna upload them, we'll be uploading them Flicker and posting the links here.  Or, I'm going to be sending them to Greg, who I think is going to upload them to Flicker.  And yeah, Daniel, we're trying to connect to you.  For some reason it's not going through but we'll keep trying, okay?

Q [Female Audience Member]:  The Dogbane, so you use vine or?

A [Nance]: What you do is you wait, you actually wait until the leaves drop off and it gets dry, okay.  And then what you do is you take the stem and you put in on a table or you mash between your fingers.  Usually, you put it on a surface, get really long fibers and you can start like you would with dread hair.  You start, just kind of, like spinning them together like this.  Just with your fingers and work your way up and you're going to have a very, very strong twine that can hold up to 50-75lbs, depending on what you can pull into it.  

Speaker: [Nance]:
Dogbane.  So it's something you recognize now because when the leaves drop, you don't see it.  You're like "where did it go?", so know where it is now.  It's all over the place here.  Recognize it now, mark your territory and then in about (2) weeks, go back, cut it and start making string (laughing).  And then of course, each strand that you weave together can make it stronger and stronger.  It's a great thing to do when it gets really calm at night and you just don't know what to do with yourself.  You're watching a movie, you might as well make some rope.  (Laughing) As you're watching your movie.

But, let me just point out a bunch of, I'm going to pass out a lot of edible greens.  Um, by the way, I just put this out.  I saw squash, melon, tomatoes just like coming out of people's lunches.  Um, just kind of growing all over the place too.  Kind of amazing.  Underneath those old ruddy train tracks.

Q [Female Audience Member]: Is part of your goal to, uh, influence the public to have less hatred towards these plants and actually embrace the plants?

A [Nance]:  Connecting.  Yeah, just connecting.  I mean, a lot of this is just about connecting to a place and connecting to our bodies in a different way.  And, uh, you know.  This is like the, you might consume these things.  This is kind of a walk through the city where you're not trying

A [Nance]:  (continued)
to consume something.  It's more about a relational thing.  Yeah, so, I'm really interested in people just getting really excited about what's around them.

Speaker: [Nance]:
So let me just see, I've got about a zillion things in here.  It's kind of, actually, I have (31) things.  So I'm just going to go through really quickly, some of this stuff.  Um, so I'm going to go
through some really easy edibles.  This is something, you're allowed to take a picture first, and then you can nibble on it if you want.  So there's a bunch of edibles that I've found.  In fact I've found (10) pure edibles and another (8) that go between medicinal and edible because a lot of food is actually medicinal at the same time.  Some of them are Yellow Wood Sorrel and Poor Man's Pepper.  Very, very nice kind of citrusy taste and a very peppery taste.  Um, a very great stand in for pepper.  Sorry everybody out there, I thought there was a video component so I was doing a visual also.

That's okay, we're taking pics and (inaudible 13:03.3).

Speaker: [Nance]:
Pics and stuff. Okay, so then I'm going to pass around, so we have.  See how much everything looks like Clover but each leaf is a green heart as opposed to a round piece?

[Female Audience Member]:  Omigod, I used to eat that when I was a kid, and it did taste like lemon.

[Nance]:  Yeah! It tastes like lemon!  It's called Lemon Grass too, but it's not Lemon Grass.

Speaker: [Nance]:
Okay, a Poor Man's Pepper.  And then this is Smartweed that's tangled up with a vine.  But this is a Smartweed, it's got flowers on it.  Um, and it's a really nice edible green.  

(Audio noise) I'm just going to bring the laptop closer because a few people are having trouble hearing.

Speaker: [Nance]:
Okay, you're going to be the photo stylist.  You're our photo stylist.  So, I'm going to pass these around, these (3).  Go around and look at those.  Um, 2 greens that are really closely related to edibles that we eat all the time.  One is Wild Amaranth, also known as Pigweed.  So Amaranth, if you've had it cooked as greens but also the seed, they pop it and mix it with honey and turn it into one of the, a granola bar that you can find in Mexican stores.  And the other thing is Lambs Quarters, also known as Wild Spinach, which is a very, very close relative to Quinoa, which
people are really excited about.  So, both of these (2) greens are delicious and they have tons of
protein and they're widely available right now.  And this is the last time to collect.  Um, on this Lambs, I got two pieces of Lambs Quarters or Goosefoot or Wild Spinach.  There are seeds and when those seeds come out, they taste an awful lot like poppy seeds.  They're full of protein so they're great to use into breads or cereals or anything you want.  So I'm passing those two around this way.  Here's some more, this a really great seed head if you want to kind of take these out, they're going to dry out.  You'll be able collect these later too. (Inaudible chatter in background 15:13.6 - 15:19.9).  Um, you guys can move around too if you want.  Edibles I'm thinking.

Okay, then there's this, um, a plant, this is something that, well, here's something else that's just popping up.  This is Eposote.  If you've ever had beans, this is like a great ingredient in beans.  It's really, really fragrant and it's probably naturalized here because you do have a Latin
population.  So if you even just smell it, it's really fragrant.  It makes beans perfect.  (Inaudible
audience comment 15.58.9).  Yeah, cause you already made some beans, yeah!

Um, so, I'm trying to, see all my little leaves here, but I'm trying to do, we'll probably go into the edible/medicinal.  Very delicious, so leave the leaves a little bit. (Audience chatter 16.20.4 - 166:29.4)  But these are Hawthorne Berries and Hawthorne Berries are from just along the ramp near the expressway or something.  These are full of vitamin C.  They are related to roses and apples.  The rose family has apples, crab apples, Hawthorne.  Really delicious soft fruit, like soft apple.  Very, very good for heart regulating and blood pressure whether you have too low blood pressure or too high blood pressure.  So these are known as heart medicine.  Fantastic stuff that you can make jams and jellies and just pop into your mouth.  There are seeds, but there really...

Q [Nance]: Should I just pass them to you?  

A [Male Audience Member]: Definitely.

[Nance]: And then you can nibble, if he take a picture, then you can nibble.

Q [Male Audience Member]:  Oh for real?

A [Nance]: Yeah, yeah.

[Male Audience Member]: Great.
Q [Female Audience Member]:  What did you call them?

A [Nance]:  Hawthorne.  Hawthorne Berries.  Delicious

[Female Audience Member]: Wow, awesome!

[Nance]: There are seeds.

Q [Female Audience Member]: Were these on Lemon Street?

A [Nance]: (laughing) I don't know what the name of the street is.  It's like going down to the
expressway.  There's a bunch of trees, there's enough to make jelly.  You want to make fruit leather, whatever.  You want to dry them and use them in teas, they'd be delicious.

Speaker: [Nance]:
Um, (singing) do do do.  So here's another thing.  Blood cleanser which is good to have anytime you're sick or just trying to support your health.  Let's say you binged once weekend and you just really need to clean yourself out. It's red clover.  Mammoth Red Clover, which is this flower right here.  It's a nitrogen fixer, so it's making the soil healthy all around.  It's a great forage plant for bees.  But this edible, but I kind of like it more as a tea.  I just pluck this whole thing out and make tea from it.  Really easily forage-able from April on.  Oh, is that a picture?  I'm trying to go through this fast you guys (laughing).

Q [Female Audience Member]: These are the Hawthorn Berries right?

A [Nance]:  It's the only berries we got, it's the Hawthorne Berry.  So if you just want to chew on the outside of it.  It's kind of got a nice tart taste to it, without a lot of seeds.  Some Hawthornes are going to be ovals this size, but I haven't seen any here.

Speaker: [Nance]:
Um, Gingko Flower, or Gingko Leaf, I'm sorry.  Brain tonic.  So anybody who's been in college who wanted to do like herbal brain stimulants cause you're staying up all night to study?

Q [Male Audience Member]:  Like smart drugs basically?

A [Nance]:  Smart drugs!  Right here!

Speaker: [Nance]:  
Gingko Biloba, they have it at CVS.  But you know what you guys?  It's right now.  You've got to pluck the leaves when they turn yellow.  It's the only time when the chemicals are available so you can totally take these, and you don't eat these, you shove these in alcohol or vinegar or something.  Let the medicine go into that then take it as a tincture.

Q [Male Audience Member]:  So you're like taking shots of brain juice at the bar?
A [Nance]:  That's what you could do!  You could make a brain juice martini.  Very good! Very good! (Laughing)
Speaker: [Nance]:  So anyways, I brought a lot of them in case anybody wanted to make some brain juice (laughing).  So, beautiful Gingko.  Very old plant.  Um...yeah.
Q [Male Audience Member]:  Just, even with saying, asking, where is all of this verbarium from?

A [Nance]:  Uh, directly around the Convention Center.  The Philadelphia Convention Center.

Q [Male Audience Member]:  I just find this all fantastic and magic and very old.  And we don't have this knowledge anymore because it's been engineered out of us.  And, can you maybe talked it out...

[Nance]: Nibble on a leaf you guys, you want to pull a little leaf there and just nibble it.  Sorry.

Q [Male Audience Member]:  It's not a conspiracy theory or anything, but how did it come to be that no one knows other than a few people?

A [Nance]:  Well, the birth of Capitalism and the death, and the birth of modern medicine are about the same time.  And it was...

Q [Male Audience Member]:  And it got engineered away from the public?

A [Nance]:  Yeah.

Q [Female Audience Member]:  I wonder if that was intentional though or if it was someone (inaudible 20:44.8) because when they found places for medicinal uses in faraway places that they (inaudible 20:52.5) some sort of form to bring.

A [Nance]:  Well, you know, it was as people moved from more wood, connection to woods and populations grew made villages they moved further away from the woods.  And further away from that plant source and they moved towards agriculture.  And it was that kind of move where they were becoming more horticulturalists or agriculturalists than they were gathering.  So, and there was this split from alchemy to modern medicine where alchemy was very much as above, so below microcosm and macrocosm, this idea that everything is relation to each other and everything is one but in different pattern sequences to understanding extractions of certain plants.  It just got specialized so it moved away.  Also, women moved into the physician.  So there, it's pretty interesting trace of that.

Q [Female Audience Member]:  (inaudible 22:02.9) education also, like I just saw this documentary about the English talking about global warming and this is how they see it happening and they're really kind of each one of the scientists would come in and who are all concerned about the polar bears not having a habitat and the seals.  And they're like, you know, polar bears, they're fine.  They're adapting, you know.  And the biologists tell us not to hunt seal but that's just part of their life.  Their like livelihood in their (inaudible 22:46.30) and I guess they needed sort of like more education, as education goes up the connection to the Earth goes down.  Like sort of an understanding?  It's sort of this weird indoors...you know, I don't know.  You're stupid, you're smart but I'm drinking....

A [Nance]:  Well, here I am at this conference where people are talking about basically, does poop really break down into soil?  Have they done visibility studies?  Have the engineers worked on this?  But doesn't it stink?  How long does it take?  Like everybody's all panicked about it.  I'm like "you guys, it's not the technology, it's the user".  The problem is not the technology called composting, called like the natural process of decay and decomposition.  It's the user and
what you understand of it.  So it's amazing when all these people who are working in developing
countries are just like "yeah, everybody, that's how everybody deals with stuff to compost their poop and then they grow food in that".  (Laughing)  And it's safe if you do it right, it's never, you don't question the natural processes, you question the mindset of the user.  The paradigm of the user.  And I think that's what is so interesting is that like the Royal Academy of Art in London is studying this and MIT and all these people are talking about it and I'm just sitting there going "Wow".  Like because it is this separation and how do we connect back in a way that we're comfortable and that seems to be the problem.  How do we connect back?  It's just, it was amazing.  It was super interesting in that kind of way. Um.....

Q [Nance]:  So does everyone like the Hawthorne Berries?

A [Female Audience Member]:  I love that texture!  Nice little....

[Nance]:  There's bigger ones, but this is a, it still has a nice kind of rose hip thing

Speaker: [Nance]:  
Um, alright! Getting through this!  Goldenrod.  Fantastic diet plant.  Really, really good for colds
and flu.  Mullen.  One of the most, oooh I love those pictures! Um, Mullen.  One of the most important asthma plants ever.  Asthma, for asthma.  Which is really big in Chicago.  There's two cold plants in Chicago and a lot of people have asthma, so this is a fantastic respiratory/bronchial clearer right here.  You can smoke it.  You can dry it, light it on fire and just inhale the smoke from this.  Or roll it.  It's great.  Cut your tobacco with this and help your lungs.  (Laughing)

Um, so, you know.  Here's another diet plant called Poke.  You want to smoosh it and smear it on paper for the, the fantastic.  When it's really popping up, it's edible.  At this point it's totally poisonous.  Birds love it.  It makes a beautiful magenta dye.

Q [Male Audience Member]:  So what would happen if we eat that?

A [Nance]:  Don't eat it.

Q [Male Audience Member]:  Okay.

A [Nance]:  Let's not find out.

Speaker: [Nance]:  
Okay, yeah.  But I would squish this and drag, drag your finger like little finger paint.  But it's all over the place and birds find it completely edible.  So great diet plant.  

Q [Female Audience Member]:  What was the name again?

A [Nance]:  Pokeweed.  Or if you're African American, it's just called Poke.  Like a Poke Salad.  It's super big in the south.  So, I learned that through some African American's who were like "what? You never had a Poke Salad?"  And I'm like "I thought it was poisonous" and they're like "not when it's young!"  And I'm like "well..."  You'd have to be able to identify it when it's just a little chute coming out of the ground, which is, you need to be a little bit more trained in differentiating the green stuff to be able to do that.

Q [Female Audience Member]:  It's like potatoes coming out of the ground?

[Female Audience Member]:  I used to squash that when I was a kid.

A [Nance]:  Yeah, but they're not in the same family.  They're not in the nitrate family.

Speaker: [Nance]:  
Um, Chicory and Dandelion are great to dig up now for roots.  They make a fantastic coffee substitute.  Also something you could cut your coffee with.  Um, Mugwort, one of my favorite plants ever.  A great, calming aid.  It opens up; it's what Chinese use in their Moxa sticks or in cupping.  It brings blood to the surface.  It makes your headaches go away.  It opens up your head.  It is used traditionally by alchemists. Alchemists were using it to open up plant communication.  So by smoking this, you actually are bringing more blood to the brain which is great also if you're looking for just clearing your head.  And it brings a heightened awareness that doesn't last but it does do it.  It's very gentle and amazing.

Q [Female Audience Member]:  What was that?

A [Nance]:  Mugwort.

Speaker: [Nance]:  
It was something that warped the mug, so this was originally used a bit here until the Catholic Church mandated Hops.  The thing about this, it's a bitter beer and people had lucid dreaming with their beer when their drinking as opposed to falling asleep when they drank beer.  Hops is related to Marijuana.  It puts you to sleep.  This wakes you up.  So people were drinking a lot of beer and were just kind of, you know, they just kept going.  The Catholic Church said "you know, people are getting to crazy in the streets, we're going to mandate Hops.  We're going to mandate a sedative to bitter the beers so they'll eventually stop the celebration".  This is Mugwort.  This is the mug.  Awesome.  I was like "yeah, can I have some of this?" (Laughing)

Q [Male Audience Member]:  So you found all of this around the Convention Center area?  Just earlier? Wow.

A [Nance]: Yeah.

[Female Audience Member]:  It's silvery on the underside.

[Nance]:  Yeah, silvery underside.  Look at the underside of the leaves.

Q [Male Audience Member]: (inaudible 29:21.0)

A [Nance]:  It's really bittering.  So if you take a little bit of that leaf and you put it in your mouth, you'll be like "ooh, bitter".

Q [Male Audience Member]: (inaudible 29:29.0-29.34.0)

A [Nance]: Yes.  You could use that instead of Hops.  You don't, right.

(Inaudible audience chatter 29:39.0 - 29:47)

Speaker: [Nance]:  
Okay, well here's some more Mugwort.  It's my favorite thing so you just keep passing it around.  Alright.

Q [Female Audience Member]:  You said we could nibble on this?

A [Nance]: What?

Q [Female Audience Member]:  You said we could nibble on this?

A [Nance]:  If you nibble on it, the Koreans make a like a bean cake, a green bean cake with Mugwort.  It's an unusual taste  

Q [Female Audience Member]:  That's what I needed to hear.

A [Nance]:  Just a little bit of it.  If you have any Korean places, you can probably get a green bean cake that's flavored with this.  It's very bitter.  It's not, it's not.  You might want to chase it down with a potato chip.


Speaker: [Nance]:  
Plants right now.  This is Major Skinner.  Ah! I gotta get through this man!  A Major Skinner Plantain.  Not related to plantain, the unripe banana.  This is raw leaf plantain and I have a narrow leaf plantain somewhere.  And, oh, that's the pile up.  Okay.  Anyway, plantain, in this state, the leaf is something that you chew up.  Beautiful! Nice.  Good job!

So, I have to tell you guys, Poke Berry, fermented, the ink, fermented is what the Declaration of Independence was written in.  I'm in Philadelphia!  And, it fades to that brown color.  It was written in Poke.  Written in fuchsia.  Can you imagine?  Fuchsia?  The Declaration of Independence?  Yeah!  (Laughing)  So, you can use it as a writing and drawing ink but knowing it will fade out to this beautiful brown color when it oxidizes.  Write your manifestos in Poke!  (Laughing)

Uh, plantain, great stuff.  Skinner, it pulls things out.  And it also, it pulls infection out.  It pulls bee stings out.  It's cooling, if you burn yourself like sunburn or you get burnt on the stove or something, this is the plant that you want to have around.  And you can either put it directly on your skin, or what I do is I usually chew up the leaf and let my saliva activate it and make it a nice cud and then use it right on there.  So if anybody wants to chew up a leaf and just see how cold it gets, it turns into a little ice cube.  Very, very cooling.  Um, and ah, I use it.  I had poison oak all over my legs and I took some of this, I took some water, I took some oatmeal and I ground it up like a smoothie and just took my clothes off and just slathered all over where I had it.  And it literally took it out of my body.  But it also was so cooling that I had to put on a sweatshirt in the summertime because I was so chilled.  Because it's so cooling.  Very, very amazing plant.  You know, all plants are either cooling or warming to various degrees like this.  And then, at this time of year, it makes this, if I can find it... It makes this!  The seed head!  The seed head, if you crush it, these seeds and you eat them you have smooth moves.  It's like a really great laxative!  But not like stomach gripping, but like really, really nice.  You would just use these seeds a little bit.  Sprinkle them on something.

Q [Female Audience Member]:  And what, what are they called?

A [Nance]:  The plantain seed.

Q [Female Audience Member]:  Oh, the plantain seed.

A [Nance]:  Yes.  The plantain leaf is good for skin and the plantain seed is good for smooth moves.  There ya go!

Q [Female Audience Member]:  I'm going to write exactly that! (Laughing)

A [Nance]:  Smooth moving!  Oh my gosh. (Laughing) Smooth moves.

Speaker: [Nance]:  
Um, this is called Fleece Flower and you should look at how spotted the stem is.  Fleece Flower tasted like Rhubarb.  Not at this time of year, you've got to take it a little earlier, it gets kind of pithy and woody at this.  But you don't even have to grow Rhubarb because it's growing all over the place and you can just pick things that would be indistinguishable from Rhubarb, except that the shape is round as opposed to like a stem that's more fluted.  So this is Fleece Flower and it grows about 6'. It's all over the place. There you go.  Are you guys bored yet?

[Female Audience Member]:  No!  I'm glad you brought these!

[Scott]: We definitely want to get a chance to talk about them at the end, but it's also to see the examples too.

Speaker: [Nance]:  
Okay.  And then I'm just going to probably lay down some other examples.  I do want split this pod and I do want to talk about this plant.  Wild Carrot.  You can did it up and use it as a Wild Carrot.  It's almost like carrot parsnip.   When this sets seeds, it's called Queen Anne's Lace, that's how most people know it.  When this sets seed, it has a very, very spicy texture, really delicious.  But it also is something that stops a fertilized egg taking hold.  So if you want to look into it, look at some feminist herbal sites, you can read up all about it.  But I would not use it as your only method of birth control.  But, it's been long founded that it stops that from happening so there's a lot of people that take about a teaspoon of the seed and put it in their bread or something or have a piece of toast or something and they basically have a really good preventative.  There's something about it that makes it really slippery and the egg can't adhere so it's shed.  Wild Carrot.  And that's really well documented you guys.

Um, I'm going to just talk about, I'll just talk about the one last thing on the table and then we'll open it up.  This is Witch Hazel, which I don't remember what this is.  And this is a plant, that unlike some of the other things that are so hated, this is something that is cultivated and when you cut it, since it's a shrub, you're actually taking from that plant.  So you cut it very gently, and you usually cut it during the wintertime because what you need is the bark.  And Witch Hazel is for the skin.  Like people use it for skin washes and stuff.  It's antiseptic and helps alleviate the oils in the skin.  So anyway, this is a pod that you would take after the (Inaudible 36:36.0) leaves and you take this and you strip the bark off it, just as  you would with Willow, which is aspirin.  It's what aspirin was derived from was Willow bark.  So this is something else you would need.  
When you, the ethics of foraging, or when you cut things gently so that you don't hurt the plant.  Um, I guess, I'll stop there because my mouth is getting dry and there's more on the table.  But we'll just stop with whatever I covered at this point.  And open up to whatever.

Q: [Female Audience Member]:  I'm a lot more interested in your philosophy and (inaudible 37:16.4) philosophy and (inaudible 37:21.3) with this knowledge?  Are you trying to spread a notion of urban foraging to everyone or?

A:  [Nance]:  Yeah, I have a really strong ethic to that.  A lot of people are out there because they see dollar signs and there are a lot of people who are foraging to create gastronomic
innovations or they're cutting things and they're selling them as foraged foods or something.  But there, you know, this is a wild craft and this is something that I take gently from.  Like I only take what I need and so when I...

Q:  [Female Audience Member]:  But would you recommend that I do that and that we all do that?

A:  [Nance]:  Ah, I think that we could

[Scott]:  Would you mind if I just rephrased, or not rephrase, but reiterate that just slightly for the people that couldn't hear?  Actually, not to rephrase but to kind of like, I, I was also attending to something else but I think you were asking just at least generally, about Nance's general philosophy? Okay, yeah.  Just for the people who couldn't hear your question.

A [Nance]:  So I think there's a lot, I mean, these are ethical issues and I believe in connecting to our plant world as opposed to just, in that consumptive way.  Consumptive in that I just want to eat this so I'm going to buy it at the store or buy it from the farmer's market.  I think there's another way to connect.  Because I think that the foraging aspect connects to us as being animals because we're all into like looking for things and discovering them is really cool when we find something and just like.  I feel like it's kind of misplaced in our shopping habits, you know?  We go look for something.  I'm going to find it.  I'm going to buy it.  Yay!  And I have this thing.  So I think, I think this is a simpler way to kind of hunt and search that is really old in us.  And I think you can do it in a way really does not damage our environment by taking only what we need for something.  We know what to do with it when we take it.  And then, also, I mean, this is the seed time so I literally, this isn't ready yet, but this is Evening Primrose.  If you've ever had Evening Primrose oil or (inaudible 0:39:43.6) have seen this, this is something that when it sets seed, I just, when I go for walks I just like crush things and I just plant it.  I just like throw the seeds around all the time (laughing).  You know, I'm like "More dandelions! More!" and it's just like this also really insane wonderful thing to do.  Just keep planting the sidewalk cracks and you know, in desperate little areas that are just rubble and garbage and you just get seeds in there because all these plants are the planarian plants and they're the ones that are dealing with all this super polluted, yucky soil and making it better.  And building those soils so that other plants that are a little more delicate can start taking hold.  So I'm all about that too.  So I naturally seed as much as I'm gathering.

Q [Scott]:  So Nance, we have a question about if you could speak about the toxicity of plants in cities. Now do you mean plants as kind of (inaudible 0:40:42.0) for the toxicity of cities or the reverse?  Because that's what it sort of sounded like.

A [Nance]:  Polluted soils.  She's talking about polluted soils or air.

[Scott]:  Alright, I see.

A [Nance]:  Yeah, that's always one of the first questions.  We have 9 feet of skin on our bodies that have a bazillion pours in them.   So, we're super porous to our environment.  We also have these things called lungs that are breathing in suspended particles, so all the air pollution is coming through us, anything.  We're breathing in soil, we're breathing in dust, we're breathing in
things that are suspended in the air.  And then we're breathing, you know, we're breathing, we're coming in contact all the time with stuff.  So, we're not that walled off from our environment.  We're in a constant relationship.  So it's really about what kind of relationship do you want to have with your city and where do you choose to forage?  So you wouldn't necessarily go someplace that's the dog park for example and start picking up your leaves that you're going to use in your salad.  In the dog park.  You're gonna, if you're going to go someplace that's a little bit more, cleaner?  And, you're not going to necessarily forage underneath the expressway unless you want to have a connection to that place.

Q [Male Audience Member]:  So eating maybe like homeopathy (inaudible 0:42:21.2)

A [Nance]:  Yeah.  Because we're taking it anyway.  So there, there is this kind of metaphorical, kind of homeopathy kind of like what's outside of you, you have to take in.  It's outside.  But yeah.  You do that with, if you're allergic to certain, let's say you're allergic to like Ragweed or something.  And, ah, you have allergies to Ragweed.  What you could do is take in Ragweed or honey where bees would be (inaudible 0:43:02.9) Ragweed and you're taking in part of that Ragweed and it'll help with your allergies kind of around that seasonal,  So there is this kind of homeopathic, direct homeopathic relationship also.

Q [Male Audience Member]:  There's 3 different types of fire alleviation or processes that.  One is the plant fixes the soil in the soil (inaudible 0:43:29.2) and then there's another one where it kind of pulls it up into the plant and then the third is can actually process toxins and get it out.  So it's a combination them all, this stuff, isn't it?  So what you're eating may not be poisonous, it might have already done it's thing, but it still might be in its roots.  But until we know more...

A [Nance]:  Yeah, and certain plants actually will have certain affinities for certain kinds of things and will hold them in different places and so you can know more about that, you can read up about that too.  But I mean, I would argue that, an apple that you buy at the liquor store?  Gosh, you know, how long has it sat there?  Where did it come from?  Um, and Lambs Quarters that you get in the crack of the sidewalk?  I'd probably want to do the Lambs Quarters because it's fresh.  It's in my neighborhood.  I had the connection with picking it. Then, to buy like an apple that traveled from wherever and used whatever kinds of pesticides.  So I think there's, you just find out where you are on that spectrum.

Q [Male Audience Member]:  Is it better to forage than to shop at whole foods?

A [Nance]:  Dumpster dive for whole foods?


Q [Female Audience Member]:  Is that really a question?

A/Q [Scott]:  Yes, actually it is but, I was just curious.  Some people have criticized the neoliberal sort of directive.  The sort of guilt relief.  This kind of like warm fuzzy feeling that we all get from buying organic products.  At the same time, it's not to say that we really do want to dump chemicals all over the place, but that somehow it makes not be as libratory as it appears on
the surface.  I was just curious because there's some kind of practice that you have that's about basically, I think it's a little bit more direct.  Still, but I was curious as to what you thought about this.  There's another question afterwards that we can get to.  But you were on this question about buying the apple from the liquor store and I was just thinking, well what about buying grapes from an organic market or whole foods or whatever.

A [Nance]:  Well, I was in the Reading market today and they have this little local market place.  A food farm stand.  And I got really excited because they actually account from where it comes from.  In that case, I'm like okay, all this stuff is in season and nothing, it's not January.  The apples haven't been here forever.  The celeriac root and all these things that they had there.  So that's not whole foods.  That's one step closer to a producer as it is to grow your own.  But the thing about wild foods is that they're really unusual tasting and they're actually higher in their nutritive values.  And, so many of them crossover into medicines so when you're eating you're also eating medicine.  Or, as you pointed out, making a cocktail from Ginkgo leaves.  Great idea!


So, I mean, our food has been our medicine for so long and then we kind of got away from it.  And seriously, I didn't find any, but there's wild iceberg lettuce and all lettuce comes from wild lettuce and wild lettuce is soporific and it's slightly psychoactive, which is suminous sedative.  Where iceberg lettuce is not, obviously.  So there's this kind of distancing between cultivated foods and wild foods that's pretty distinct.  So if you want a little bit of an unusual taste or if you want that more packed vitamins or that medicinal quality to what you're eating, you can always incorporate some of them in your foods.

Q [Scott]:  Stephen, would you prefer to ask this out loud or would you prefer me to ask this?

A [Stephen]:  No, I can ask it.  I can kind of rephrase it and maybe get a little bit more of a context.  I think the context has to come through the series of discussions, which we've had over the preceding weeks, one of the things that I think Plausible Artworlds has been most venomitly hostile to several different things.  One has been art that's pretty much on spectatorship.  Another one is the whole regime of ownership.  But, I think the third one is nonetheless been on an object of an awful lot of critical discussion.  I mean, in this series, and that is the whole problem of expert culture.  So, I was just wondering Nance, how you engage with expert culture because in a sense, when you talk about vegetation, you do it from a perspective but I was wondering, if for you, that's the perspective of expertise and of expert culture or if it's a different type of engagement.  And if so, how does it differ?  And that kind of links to my second question, which is really not a second question.  Sorry, I mean, I don't want to ask too much at once.  But it's the whole problem that you seem to have with being accused of being an artist or being misidentified with one and I can certainly sympathize with not wanting to fall into that can of worms.  Why not redefine what it means to engage with art and be comfortable and just sort of de-dramatize the thing?   Why push that off and why not be more concerned about taking a distance from expert culture?

A [Nance]:  Oh, I do take a great distance from that.  It's kind of infused in all my projects.  In terms of expert, I really believe that this popular culture.  All my projects are very much about, kind of, teaching.  Teaching and passing it on and sharing things informally and through discussion.  I wasn't trained as an artist, I mean, that's part of it.  I didn't go to school for that.  And I think that my big problem with art and artists is that they define themselves as artists and it doesn't reflect what they live and experience with their practice.  And so there's a lot of people now really interested in ecological issues but they don't invest the time, and I'm talking about years and years and years of relationship.  This is more experiential than it is being an expert.  It's about many trials and errors and many, I don't know.  It's not about a project.  It's not about an audience.  It's something I live that people started asking me to share and so talk about it.  Does that answer anything for you?

Q [Stephen]:  No, that's a great answer.  In fact, that's exactly, I mean, I think.  Anyways, what you say about artists is dismally true.  I mean, in the conventional definition about what artists are up to.  I just like to think that there are some which are doing things a bit differently.  But certainly, in terms of your answer, the thing is though that when you're talking about plants, you talk about it with an incredibly vast and rich amount of knowledge compared to the rest of us.  How do the rest of us engage in that conversation if not in a, I mean, how do you control the inherent hierarchy which is liable to emerge?  I hear what you're saying about critiquing expert culture.  How do you control for that?

A [Nance]:  Well, I mean, I'm just trying to encourage.  Just by, like, when I found out there was no video I really wanted people to be able to see the plants I was talking about and to kind of take them in the form that I have them as opposed to trying to look them up on Google images or something because you might not see exactly what I picked now in Philadelphia off the streets, in the form that's available now to use.  So, I try to level it by talking about it this way.  I don't, it's always about passing on the information.  Some people do ask me to do an herbal consultation with them and I do that pretty reluctantly because I'd rather have them start building the relationships with the plants that might help their kinds of conditions or concerns slowly and in a way that they would want to as opposed to looking at a straight I.D. intake kind of way.  I think just how I talk and educate people is about encouraging people to build their own relationship to these things and find out which of these plants that they want to use and how.  It's probably not enough for you but it's all I can say (Laughing).

[Male Audience Member]:  This seems to be, to the gentleman, to Stephen.  It seems to be, in this context, more about sharing the feeling. The spirit here seems to be more about sharing than (inaudible 0:54:13.08) down, like authority or unknowing.  It's really more about sharing.  That's how the spirit feels.  And two, just the aesthetic of what's happening here, Stephen, is just the photos and the concept of walking and being in a space as an art move or an art experience seems to really have happened here for Nance today in Philadelphia.

Q [Stephen]:  Yeah, I hear you.  You know what, that atmosphere is kind of infectious because I'm feeling it even here 15,000 miles away.  But, it was just kind of wondering about the ethics of that sharing, which is something of an artistic experience or an aesthetic experience.  But describing that to someone who is not trained as an artist doesn't necessarily feel uncomfortable as being described as one.  That on the one hand.  On the other hand, this type of knowledge that we've largely forgotten in western civilization is widely shared in places like (Inaudible 0:55:33.6) and Southern India and in Chinese herbal medicine.  It's an ancestral tradition, which is very much ongoing.  But it's also in those contexts, very much part of an expert culture.  So, I'm just trying to ask for a kind of a precision or a precise bearing about how to describe that atmosphere of sharing without it either lapsing into art or lapsing into expertise.

A [Nance]:  What are really interesting when I forage is the people who notice me.  Either think I'm weird like something is going on and I have some kind of affliction to what I'm doing or they'll start a conversation.  Most people who start a conversation with me are people who actually identify with what's going on.  A lot of them are in Chicago and a lot of them are Eastern European who might not even speak English but they come up to me and they nod their head and they point at the plant and they're like "oh yeah".  And so I have a lot, I've had Greek, Italian, Chinese, almost all the Eastern European countries.  The Poles, the Russians. This is still part of their culture is that you do connect to plants as your own, kind of more than just what's going on in your kitchen.  And I don't think these immigrants would actually come up to me for any other, would have access to me as a person unless I wasn't connecting with plants, and they know it too.  So that's pretty interesting.  I also connect with some homeless people from time to time who tend to know about who are really resourceful and do their own foraging.  They will usually get into a conversation with me and will actually want to know what's happening with it and they're really good students of it since they're so disenfranchised of standard culture.  So that sharing happens through brilliant form just like encounter.  It's really cool.

(Audio feedback and random noise 0:57:49.2 - 0:57:59.8)

[Scott]:  Yeah, we can hear a lot of typing.  And I'm definitely guilty of that because we're using this laptop as a mic for this side of the chat.  So everyone out there's apologies.   I don't think it's to be helped unless I just don't type anything.  

(Chatter and noise 0:58:11.7 - 0:58:25.3)

[Scott]:  Penelope, do you want to ask that out loud or do you want someone here to do that?

[Penelope]:  If I speak, can I be heard?

[Scott]:  Yeah, we can hear you really well.

Q [Penelope]:  I was just asking if you about, I came late, so the conversation about being aware of one's environment and of the usefulness in creating a fuller understanding of where an individual or society is in time and place, literally and metaphysically.

A [Nance]:  Yeah.  I don't always look at plants as usefulness but I'm aware of what they're doing because they're not necessarily there for us.  They're there because the conditions are right and the communities are there.  You can look at areas and not get close to them and from a distance determine "when was the last time that soil was disturbed?"  Like dug up or moved around.  You can literally tell that.  My friend Brooke here was talking about the plants that I was finding underneath the old Reading tracks and then the plants on the Reading Railroad tracks which haven't been used for a long time and I was like "oh, that stuff up there is going to be rocking." Like it's going to be really advanced, like pioneering plants and much more bio-diversed because it's a real open pathway for the wind to carry stuff.  It's not disturbed.  People aren't going there to cut it down and spray chemicals all over it.  It's, that would be a great place to go and forage exactly for that reason.  So usefulness but also just seeing our pathways and what our pathways have done to land and how they've carried plants around.  Eposote, the lemon balm that I found.  The squash.  The tomatoes that I found are all from us just like dropping sandwiches.  (Laughing)  Or half of a sandwich wrapper or something.  (Laughing)

Q [Penelope]:  I'm hearing an interest in the interaction.  Whether it's from near or far, between humanity and the world.  Whether its nature or you can expand that to other realms.  But you're limiting right now to plants.

A [Nance]:  They trace animal migrations too.  Like birds obviously are eating and depositing things.  Mice and other furry animals have things stuck to them and they drop them.  So a lot of migrations.  Sorry, does that throw you off?

Q [Penelope]:  So it's the interaction?

A [Nance]:  Yeah.

Q [Penelope]: Interesting.

A [Nance]:  For example, the Eposote that was found. The only culture I know that uses that, it is a vermifuse, which helps you get rid of worms.  Intestinal worms, which is not needed in this culture but sometimes maybe.  But it's used in Mexican culture uses it in beans.  So it's a mark of seeds blown, dropped, scattered from somebody who was cultivating it in the city and it got out.  And that's fascinating.  So it's only naturalized in cities that have a Mexican population.  It wouldn't be out there.  That's what's really interesting

Penelope:            Thanks.  I'm thinking.


Q [Female Audience Member]:  So what is this bean that you just broke open?

A [Nance]:  Honey Locust and it's a street tree.  Well, you can kind of taste it now.  Earlier in the season there's long pods that come off of trees and when their green you can open up these pods and there's meat inside that somewhat tastes like mango and papaya.  It's good.  So I was like "oh, yeah."  You can suck on a little bit; it's kind of like dusty date at this point.  Last night at a gathering over at Brooke's, we had Honey Locust Ginger soda that someone made and he just dropped the whole pod in there, I don't know what state, but it was quite sweet and delicious.  It was a really nice soda-pop that he had made from this

Q [Female Audience Member]:  So it's just like an edible I guess, not medicinal.

A [Nance]:  It's an edible that's fixing nitrogen in the soil, making it available for         plants around.  It's in the bean family.

Q [Scott]:  So, you were talking about the different kinds of pathways.  Well, I guess we'll just finish that slide and we'll get to Lisa's because I think it actually might segway into Lisa's question from earlier.  It seems like you're kind of also talking about ways to burn new neuropath ways as well?  You're talking about medicinal purposes.  You mentioned earlier, or at least you implied.  I don't think you really talked about psychotropic plants.  You did describe some state altering herbs or whatever or plants.  So, I had a question about that as well because they're definitely.  I'm not necessarily going to say.  Can you describe more specifically how this is political?  I mean, I think because you have been.  I was just curious, you know, beyond weighing if it's better to buy food at your local organic market or is it better to just pick it?  I think there are also other things about social transformation, other interests that you have, at least from what I've seen, of your other work that kind of carries through.  So I was curious about the sort of mind altering experience changing side of this and if there's a direct relationship between some of the plants' chemical properties and if that's been part of your interest or if you've just kind of avoided that altogether because of the obvious "are you guys growing pot on the railroad tracks?"


A [Nance]:  I don't, actually, I'm pretty sensitive to plants so I can just be around this plant, or just bring this plant up to my head and kind of get some of that from it.  I don't necessarily need to unhinge like some people do.  So I don't necessarily indulge that way.  Because this is all about that more direct experience, that creative direct experience, in our environment and I feel like I get multiple highs all day just being out there looking at things in a different way.  And I don't necessarily need to do that, but I do, there are some plants that I do use as kind of help through certain stuck places that I'll get into.  But I don't necessarily need to take them in as much as somebody who is super entrenched in dominate culture.

Q [Scott]:  You think maybe you're more sensitive to your environment because you're in it?

A [Nance]:  Yeah.  Well, I try to be. (Laughing)

Q [Scott]:  I think it's plenty undoubtable that you really are.

A [Nance]:  (laughing) Yeah, I don't necessarily go for the heavy hits.  I know people who do because they have to make the break in their head so they go for stuff.  I just need to think about doing that and that's enough (laughing). So I think it's really about where you're at and what works for you and what you're trying to get at.  But I don't necessarily need to go into really strong medicinal plants, which all the really strong medicinal plants are the poisons.  I mean, they're poisonous; you just take them in lesser extent so you can drop into the mind alteration before you get into the illness.


Severe stomach cramps and....

Q [Chris]:        What would be the difference between using plants as medicine and using it as food?

A [Nance]:  There are 4 groupings of plants, roughly, in this idea those certain plants you can use for food every day.  Everyday food.  Other plants, you will only use every once in awhile as food because they're a little bit more active.  So these would be tonics.  Things that you would take if you had a certain low grade condition.  For example, Gingko would be a tonic and not a food.  Dandelion, Lambs Quarters...all those things would be foods.  When you get into stimulate or sedative, I mean coffee and tobacco are really clear stimulants.  So they're at that level.  And the last level is poison.  Which is where you're psychotropic's, your strong psychotropic's rest with it as well as super poisonous plants.  So, food is every day.  Dandelion is a food, but dandelion is also a really good liver and kidney cleanse.  But it's safe enough to use every day.  It's just a matter of what you're looking for.

Q [Female Audience Member]:  I have a question about the Gingko (inaudible 1:09:37.8)

A [Nance]:  No.  By the way, if you have a female tree and you want to roast the seed inside of the stinky vomitty smelling fruit, it tastes like a boiled peanut.  It's really delicious.  (Laughing)  But you've got to get around the other stuff.  (Laughing)

Q [Female Audience Member]:  (inaudible 1:10:01.8) and once the, just because I'm in this field once a week and once the nuts are visible and white with all the stinky stuff         already gone you can collect them (inaudible 1:10:16.7).

A [Nance]:  Yeah and as long as they're not dry, they're really good just to boil and eat.  They're really nice.

Q [Female Audience Member]:  (inaudible 1:10:24.8 - 1:10:36.6)

A [Nance]:  I'm going to answer Alyssa's question because Scott's not here.  Yeah, totally.  Yeah.  Gathering knowledge through a relationship with your plants, animals, whatever you have around you.  Rocks.  I mean, you could study; other people study architecture and human behavior.  But, I tend to gravitate towards plants and animals so I studied that.  I study weather a little bit and interested in soil.  So, mostly because they're not, well, they might be, kind of related to human culture, they tend to be a little bit on their own.  I'm interested in those other dynamics, slower dynamics or quicker ways of telling time.  Or slower ways of telling time.  So yeah...being outside is how I gather my knowledge.  I just go around and again, I'm interested in plants.  I'm more interested in plants than I am in people.  Really frankly, it's true.  I couldn't handle living in Chicago so I just started going for walks and looking at plants and that's how I got started plant connecting.  That way.

Q [Alyssa]:  So would it be safe to say that going out and kind of foraging and trying to just kind of experiment for yourself.  Is that safe in an area like a city?  I guess I'm asking are there many poisonous plants in an area like this and is there even enough that if you were to eat them it would be damaging?

A [Nance]:  Yeah, you've gotta be careful.  There is a yoga instructor that killed herself in Chicago because she misidentified a plant and used it in her smoothie and drank it then had severe stomach cramps and died.

Q [Alyssa]:  What plant was that, just out of curiosity?

A [Nance]:  She thought she was getting Comfrey, which I didn't find.  It's a broad, little bit fuzzy leaf.  Instead she collected Fox Glove.  Comfrey grows in sun and Fox Glove grows in the woods.  Fox Glove is highly poisonous and she did a smoothie of Fox Glove and died.  So, there are some lookalikes we didn't talk so much about.  Lookalikes are certain families that are generally safe, and certain families that are not that you have to like pick and choose.  You go at it very slowly, everything I showed.          Everything that was taken a picture of is safe for consumption.  But you should look into it.  It's definably something you should watch out for.

[Female Audience Member]:  Get a field guide or something I guess.

A [Nance]:  Yeah, there's a lot of different plant guides.  I probably have 30 or 40 books that are different kinds of guides and orientations to medicinal and edible plants from different cultures and areas of the world.  Ecosystems.

Q [Female Audience Member]:  Are there any that are geared towards urban foraging (inaudible 1:14:01.1) that you know of?

A [Nance]:  No, I'm supposed to be writing that, so I don't know.  Not so much.  These are super common plants.  These are very common in Europe.  I heard there are some French folks here.  Most all these plants.  Stephen, you're over there man.  You get out in Paris, you're going to be finding a lot of these plants!  (Laughing)  In the sidewalk cracks in Paris!  Almost all of these plants that I showed you are either Asian or European plants anyway.  Very few of them are native American plants.

Q [Stephen]:  Nance, since you're talking about European and Chinese plants....

[Scott]:          Stephen, sorry, sorry!  You couldn't hear this but someone else was just asking a question.

[Stephen]:  Oh sorry! I'm shutting up!

Q [Scott]:  That's okay.  In fact, I wonder if this is a good time to try out this mic.  Would you guys indulge me for 15 second maximum?  Because we actually have a microphone, and if we have it, I could just pass it around and it would be much easier.  Okay, great.  This may not really... It may not really work, but it might.  I'll try one thing.

(Audio crashes)

[Scott]:  Uh-oh.  Where'd you go?  Lost the audio!

(Thumping and more thumping)

Q [Scott]:  Alright, can you hear us again now?  

[Penelope]:  You're back!

[Scott]:  Aright, well, never mind.  We'll sort this out later.  That was interruption of you.

Q [Stephen]:          I was just curious; you said you were spending some time in Tucson?  I was curious about the different cities and how foraging (inaudible 1:16:24.3) are and traveling.

A [Nance]:  Well, Tucson is extremely different.  


I love it.  I just have to amp up and go get to learn a bunch of new plants.          I've been eating a lot of different cactus fruit on my hikes.  I'm eating Juju Bees; the fruit is heightened right now.  Mesquite Pods.  To me it's just like a whole, you start connecting to your landscape.  You understand why people ate what they did and why they built their pharmacopeias around the         plants because it makes sense for the environment.  So, I think it's a really great way to get into placeness.  Particularly someplace like the Sonoran Desert.  It is what it is.  There's a lot of disturbance, but there's all these native plants in the Sonoran there.  So just by taking them in, you get to internalize the place and are like "oh, I understand why the (inaudible 1:17:30.0) eat what they eat because it makes sense.  Because it's available, but all the tastes aren't making any sense.  Or like when I was in         Australia.  Bush food totally makes sense.  Like, you get it, when you start eating off the landscape, you're like "oh, wow".  You start getting into the headspace of the people.   We always think about how we shape a place, but the place shapes us.  So I'm really interested in that. Our weeds are the most prevalent and they're the ones that we         need.  They're our best simple medicines and it's all because we keep (explicative 1:18:09.05) the soils with our bulldozers and sidewalk plans or the house wreckages.  Whatever construction.  Deconstruction.  Like all the plants that are here are exactly the ones that we need for kidney, liver.  They're all about the stress and pollutants in the body.  The respiratory         plants to help clear our lungs.  They all can help us with the ailments that         we have in our environments. (Chewing)  That was a project.  (Laughing) That's art!


I pushed, I planned a shopping cart full of pre-depression era corn for like 60 days around Chicago.  Until it made...corn.  (Chewing)  And then I had the big corn rows in the gallery.  That's art.  That's what I call art. (Laughing)

Q [Scott]:  Stephen, did you want to pick back up on what you were saying?

Q [Stephen]:        I don't know why, but when I was saying, I think I was just kind of on the rebound with what Nance had been saying.  I was going to say that I know that in China, and definitely in France, one of the major foraging targets is mushrooms.  The thing was, when you go mushroom hunting, even when we talked a few weeks ago with that group of artists/mushroomers, you realize there is incredible diversity (inaudible 1:20:09.0) people.  There is an incredible diversity of skills that come together among mushroom hunters.  There's really no sort of expert mushroom hunters, they're all kind of fascinated by this mystique of, not so much the use value of mushroom, and of course they are interested in that.  They're interested in the ones that taste good, the ones that can kill you, the ones that can do this or that or the other thing.  But really, it's the fact that mushrooms are kind of like in the shadows and they're almost a metaphorical kind of pursuit.  I don't think we even have to bring in the notion of art.  It's just that there's some kind of symbolic dimension to it.  I find that you're practice is more, and I may be wrong, but it seems to be more geared towards use value.  I don't mean that in a positive or a negative way.  That's just kind of the way I've been hearing what you're saying is that there's all this incredible potential with stuff that's growing in the cracks in our sidewalks and we should engage with it a lot more.  Because it's free.  And that's why in the last sentence of the little write up, which I did, and I took some liberties with your work just because I was fascinated by it and I wanted to spin it in a certain way.  But, that's the opportunity also to contradict what I said,


It seemed that you're applying the logic of the free and open software movement; see I know about that thing so I use that as an example, to the realm of urban vegetation.  Do you think that's a fair comparison?  Or do you think that I'm going out on an abusive limb there?

A [Nance]:  I never talk about these plants because there free, it's because they're here with us.  We're in the same place and so...

Q [Scott]:  Well, just to reiterate and to clarify.  I don't think she necessarily means that, and I don't want to speak for you, but just because we had this dialog before about the meaning for free.  Not necessarily free as in money, or free as in free beer but free as in free speech.  Or free as in society or maybe just to throw that in there.  That can sound sort of like

A [Nance]:  Yeah.  And I like "yeah, and I don't have to spend money on them" and I'm like "well, that's not necessarily the point" so yeah.  What Scott's talking about is in that sense.

[Scott]:  Okay, okay.

(Audience chatter)

Q [Scott]:  It is a good point though because when someone mentions free and opens our software, often times it's really confusing and confused.  Often times that is the discussion, it's about money.

A [Nance]:  So, I'll just reiterate.  It's because they are here with us at the same time because of us.  And they're interacting with us.  We're exchanging our breathing with them at all times.  So every time we're breathing out, we're giving it to them.  Every time they're breathing out, they're giving it to us.  There is already a relationship there and there is this metaphorical and kind of metaphysical thing that I'm interested in too.  It's just not what I lead with because I think that there is other ways.  It just doesn't have to just exist as a metaphor as it really does exist in this really practical way.  But there is obvious connections to the metaphor of spontaneous vegetation or spontaneous growth and kind our wild mind connecting to that.

Q [Penelope]:        In farming, they called them opportunistic.  That the plant takes the advantage of the opportunity of being dropped and grows wherever it falls.

A [Nance]:  Yeah, yeah.

Q [Penelope]:  So they are opportunistic beings and a great nussience in the industry.  And in cities because they destroy roads and like the railroad tracks that you brought up.

A [Nance]:  But again, they're cleaning our soils and making them porous.

Q [Penelope]: But some of them are depleting the soils.  It depends on the individual plant.  And of course, they interact in return when you bring up the Fox Glove.  It is poisonous as a method of defense.  To keep animals from consuming it, and it's highly effective.  It's digitalis.  She actually didn't die of stomach cramps, she died probably of cardiac arrest.  It's a self defense mechanism.  So they are interacting in return.

A [Nance]:  Yeah.  I think that in these areas where I'm foraging, and in a public park where you're trying to do some cultivation, they could be taking water and other nutrients from the soil but a lot of these places that I forage are not places where people are cultivating or even caring for.  

Q [Penelope]: Well, and some places would even be dangerous to cultivate and we know that.  For instance, back to the railroad tracks.  Nothing growing on a railroad track in Pennsylvania should be consumed by a human.  There are way too many toxic chemical that could be taken up by the plant.

A [Nance]:  Yeah.  Exactly.  You know, in the same time, it's a great place if you just want to study for.  They're fantastic.  Transportation lines are used as navigation by a lot of animals.  Birds, coyotes, there hugely bio-diverse.  So it's fascinating to just go there and do your studies because you can see a huge number of plants.

Q [Penelope]: Really interesting.

Q [Male in Audience]:  I heard a term recently where someone said they want to make the invisible visible.  It seems that what you're doing is taking something that's so invisible right in front of us back to that whole earlier discussion about how it's been bred out of us because of other interests and other mechanisms of society.  Maybe even the visible, or the engaging with this visually or physically, it's invisible to us now.  We walk right by it, it's all around us as you've shown us tonight.  And yet it's been bred out of us as new types of artists or urban dwellers or whatever.  And yet, your art at this point makes the invisible be visible again and shares it with everybody.  That to me is a heart strategy or a thinking strategy, not to exploit, but just to experience again.  There is so much that is so just right there and yet we don't even see it anymore.  We don't see a lot of things in life anymore.

A [Nance]:  Yeah.

Q [Scott]:  I was just going to ask what your sensation of time is like.  In a way, I'm sort of reminded about because there's often a cross cultural comparison, or of cultures that are prescriptively forward thinking or there's a sort of, not necessarily mandatory, but I guess its part of the culture's constantly being future oriented.  Some of that has to do with religion, like imagining if there is an afterlife, well, you're always going to be thinking about the future.  And some of it has to do with the land because you're potentially present.  So I'm just curious if that was an interest of yours.

A [Nance]:  I wear a watch because I really have to watch my time all the time because I'm always getting distracted.  Like entering another time since I work a lot with soil, which is really slow.


So I just always have a watch on.  I sleep with it on and I wake up frequently during the night to check what time it is.


So, I kind of... My birthday is tomorrow so I'm like "wow, man, I'm going to be like halfway on my way to 90 tomorrow!  I'm going to be 45 tomorrow" that's just wild.  Just kind of weird.  So, I think since I'm looking at building soils and I'm looking at plant life and I'm constantly planting trees and grafting fruit trees so I can have fruit later, knowing that it's going to be 7 or 12 years from now.  Thinking that I'll be like 55 when I can start picking fruit from this plant if it survives.  So there's something that I do more because I'm working with a different time scale.  I'm not a geologist, which would be really wild.  But working with soils is close enough to being slow.  So yeah, time is something I definitely have to, I always have my Timex on.  I actually have 2 identical watches just in case I have a problem with this one.


Q [Scott]:  Speaking of time, it's 8:00 and that's when we always wrap up, even if we never start on time we always end on time.  At least on the audio chat.  Everybody here is welcome to stay and hang out.  Nance, thanks for joining us.

A [Nance]:  Thanks you guys for the tough questions.


[Scott]:  We'd definitely love to do forage. That'd be really awesome.

A [Nance]:  Yeah.  It's super fun.  Stephen!  All you Europeans get out there and look for stuff.

(Child's voice saying "bye")

End of Transcription 01:31:05.1