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Wildtending in Modern Times

I met Nikki Hill at Winter Count, an ancestral skills gathering in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Nikki was teaching about seeds -- not just seed-saving, but noticing the ways that different seeds want to be spread and propagated. Some seeds are light and feathery and want to be blown on the wind; some seeds have thick hulls and need to be cracked or broken before they will germinate. It was a class all about natural relationships, really. I was impressed by Nikki's gentle humility and quiet demeanor. She obviously knows a lot, but isn't showing off. Her love of the natural world spreads quietly like mycelium.

After leaving Winter Count, it was quiet and unassuming Nikki who left the greatest impression on me. I wanted to know more about her, and where I might run into her again for learning and sharing. I learned so much more in this podcast. It turns out she's lived nomadically, in her truck, since 2014, and travels to familiar places in order to wildtend the land. This really struck my soul.

Wildtending is what it's called when people garden the wilderness. This has been done by indigenous people around the world since the beginning of humans being who we are. Foragers and gatherers didn't just "happen upon" a stand of edible plants -- they would tend and garden them, even while traveling and living nomadically. This way they would always be ensured a more abundant crop, year after year, of the beneficial wild and native plants. Apparently, Nikki Hill does this even in these modern times. She gathers seeds of wild edible and medicinal plants, and spreads the seeds around as she travels, to ensure the population of these beloved plants maintain and grow.

One thing she said that will always stay with me is that she's spreading these seeds around so our future wild descendants will have food to eat. We can't let our wild lands be forgotten; we humans, as the custodial species, have a job to do, and that job is to tend the wild.

I hope to run into her again at one gathering or another, I'd like to tell her how much her simple presence impacted me to the core. Find Nikki's website here:

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