Now is the Time to Soak Up the Wonders of Our Forests

Now is the Time to Soak Up the Wonders of Our Forests

The forests are calling for all of us to benefit from their wonders this fall season.

From afar, the beauty of our forests is stunning in all its autumn splendor, and from within, the smells and sounds are like elixirs for our well-being.

Your boots crunch under the fallen branches and brittle leaves of the forest floor. The wind whispers through the trees, while a birdsong lilts above a chorus of crickets, insects, and bullfrogs. Rays of sunlight peek through the tree boughs, and fragrant balsam pines mingle with the heady smell of wet peat and fertile soil.  You move deeper into the woods, noting the chipmunks and squirrels diligently burying their winter food supply, and the bees collecting whatever they can from the last of the wildflower blooms. Nearby, a fallen log comes alive with fungus, lush mosses, and ferns, a dead thing giving life to something new. What magic these wooded places hold!

Scientists, physicians, and individuals worldwide affirm that being in the forest or any green space —also known as forest bathing — has health benefits.

The woodlands’ mystery, magic, exploration, and experiences create positive life-changing mental, physical, and psychological differences by rejuvenating our spirits and increasing our energy and joy. The Japanese have known this and have practiced the art of forest bathing for centuries.

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In our busy world, it may seem like we are on an accelerating treadmill that continues to speed up as our responsibilities, worries, fear, stress, and anxiety grow.

It may be difficult to practice mindful listening because we are too distracted by other aspects of life. Venturing into the woods allows us to step off the treadmill and pause, to be still and listen to what our unconscious mind may be trying to tell us. 

Spending time in the woods draws attention away from ourselves and into the wild world of wonder, no matter the season. By practicing gratitude for the earth around us and marveling at how interconnected we are with our environment, we are able to decompress and emerge from the woods feeling rejuvenated. In The Sense of Wonder, Rachael Carson wrote, “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.”  Spending time in a forest can increase your overall wellness by reducing stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, and risk of obesity and diabetes, and can even lower your blood pressure.

So, what wonders will you behold?  Take an hour to disconnect from social media and daily life pressures, and open yourself up to seeing the world in a whole new way!

Easy to Make Seed Crackers

Easy to Make Seed Crackers

Crackers are so easy to make, there are so many variations and recipes.  This is a great recipe and with decorative cookie cutters, they make a beautiful presentation on your charcuterie boards and pair nicely with homemade soup.  

Servings: Makes about 30 crackers

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons celery seeds
  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted chilled butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup iced water
Seed Cracker Dough
  1. Place all-purpose whole wheat and Spelt flours, baking powder, salt, and black pepper in a medium-size bowl and stir till well combined. 
  2. With two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the small cubes of butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles small breadcrumbs. (You can do this in a food processor and remove the mixture to a bowl to continue the process below). Mix in the seeds.
  3. Add iced water to the dry ingredients and form the dough into a small ball (depending upon humidity, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of water to the mix). Cut the dough in half and wrap it in waxed paper or sustainable food wraps. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  
  5. Remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator, and knead till soft on a lightly floured Silpat, plastic, or wooden pastry mat. Roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into shapes using lightly floured cookie cutters. Place them on one of the prepared baking sheets. Complete this process with the other half of the refrigerated dough ball. With gathered-up dough scraps, roll out again, cutting out more crackers until all the dough is used up.
  6. Refrigerate both sheets of crackers for 30 minutes.
  7. Use a fork to press holes in the center of each cracker to allow steam to escape from the dough while baking.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Crackers should be golden brown and crispy. Let crackers cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire cooling rack to complete cooling before storing in an airtight container.  

Note: I repurpose our Holiday cookie tins throughout the year for crackers, cookies, and other baked goods that require airtightness to retain freshness.

Try these delicious crackers with our homemade Cream of Asparagus soup.

    Chef Yvonne Dwyer

    Recipe compliments of OPL Naturalist and Home Chef Yvonne Dwyer

    OPL Plant-rich Recipes

    Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you and the planet.  Find more delicious OPL-recommended plant-rich recipes here.

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