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Back Forty

After loosening the dirt with his spade, Alvah shakes out the clod to be sure no onions are left behind.
The corncob pipe of Alvah’s making is a longtime favorite. Note: Regrettably the pipe was later lost while digging onions. As Christina recalls,
Alvah heads into the “Back Forty”, his well-traveled hunting and foraging grounds, carrying a pail of wild cabbage for the evening's meal.
After loosening the dirt with his spade, Alvah shakes out the clod to be sure no onions are left behind.
With wild onions in the bunch, the foraging trip is already successful. Always heed the rule: if it looks like an onion and smells like an onion, it’s an onion. Beware the odorless lilies with the same shape.
Ramps, one of the trendiest ingredients in modern cuisine, fall right in with the crowd come springtime. An astringent relative of the onion, they are identified by the broad, spear-shaped leaves. Also on the table are stinging nettles, trillium, garlic mustard, dandelion, and cabbage.
Wild mustard, hearty and abundant, is good for more than just its potent seeds. Regional varietals will vary in flavor and constitution; these leaves are slightly fragrant and tender.
The gloves know these hands; the tumblers know this whiskey.
Rugged long-life indeed. This tent has sheltered four generations of the Holmes family, and remains an outpost for turkey hunts and extended fishing trips.
No turkeys to be found today, but why let that ruin the fun. Jiffy looks on as Alvah proves he’s still got it.
Although off and away this afternoon, the wild turkeys left proof they frequent the 'Back Forty'.
Breaking out the
The daily journal, a farmer’s personal almanac. There is no greater resource for enriching the use of the land.
These logs know what they’ve got coming.
Alvah hauls some lumber to camp in preparation for a meal well cooked.
A piece of advice from Alvah,
Gutted and scaled, the freshly-caught white bass are thrown into cold, clean water, so they are still fresh when they hit the flames.
A wildflower vinaigrette: Violets, trillium, dandelion, wild mustard flower, garlic mustard flower, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
Smoke and the crackle of timber fill the camp as Alvah carefully places the grill back on the fire pit.
Some 'American Champagne' opens up the aromas of wilted nettles, garlic mustard leaves, and bean sprouts, sautéed in olive oil, salt and pepper.
The only utensil this cook needs. The bass will marinate in wildflower vinaigrette while wrapped up in the flame-roasted cabbage leaf.
Stuffed and served, a hearty meal from the fat of the land.
Alvah takes in the day while the last light falls over camp.
A cool reward after a long day on the grounds.
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A Spring Adventure with Alvah Holmes

The long winter having finally broken, Christina checks back in with her father Alvah, on the family farm in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. In what's commonly known in these parts as "the back forty", Christina takes us on an adventure through Alvah's springtime ritual of foraging for wild edibles, cooking them over the campfire, and ringing in the warm weather with a few cold beers. From harvesting wild ramps, stinging nettles, and garlic mustard, to grilling stuffed white bass on the open flame, Alvah enjoys, in the truest sense, the fruits of a good day's labor. Bon appétit!

As always, special thanks to Alvah Holmes. And thanks to Delores Holmes, and Craig Lieckfelt.

Photographs by Christina Holmes