Thursday, November 4, 2010

Do You Smell Smoke ....

Some times this MooseBoots path takes an amusing turn.  I often bumble my way along and stumble knee-deep into something ... often not something you want to be knee-deep in.  Regardless, Wendy and I laugh an we move on.  Sometimes, I'm not sure she isn't laughing at me, but ....

I have been searching for the fabled Chaga Mushroom.  I have heard from numerous sources that it was used by native people to carry a coal to start a fire.  Placing a coal in it will start it smoldering.  It will smolder that way for long periods of time ... hours even.  You can see the obvious benefit of knowing this plant, if you were in the woods and moving your camp long distances.  I have also been told that the place is packed with antioxidants and is a great tea.

I know that it typically grows on birch trees.  That sounds like a great place to start.  So, each time I go in the woods, I look.  Nothing .... Where are they?  I notice that on dead birch there are lots of Horse Hoof Mushrooms.  So, I started looking primarily at dead trees ... fungus grow on dead trees ... seems valid.  Frustrated, I returned home each time empty handed.  It seems that the Horse Hoof is used for the same things, so I did bring one home and  try to put a coal into it ... nothing, maybe it needs to dry.

Last weekend, I went to a workshop on Northern European Shamanism, which was great.  I had the opportunity to wander the grounds of the Gilsland Farm center during a lunch break.  As I wandered, I noticed on a LIVING birch a small growth of Chaga, which I quickly, and respectfully, gathered.  When I got home, I showed Wendy my prize.  I lit one chunk.  It didn't seem to take ... maybe it needed to dry, so I placed it on the wood stove.  This was at say 18:00.  Then, we continued our evening.  The girls had some friends over for the night and they giggled the night away and watched zombie movies.

Wendy and I were going to bed at about 23:00.  Then, she sat bolt upright.  "Do you smell smoke?", she queried.  No, I did not, until she went to investigate ... what are those girls doing?  Several moments later she returned.  "What was it?", I asked.  "YOUR mushroom!"  What?!  It worked?  "What did you do with it?", I asked excitedly.  "I threw it in the fire."  I guess that is where it belonged.

So, I laughed at, and to, myself and drifted off to sleep with a new nugget of wisdom.  I figured if I don't laugh at myself, someone is going to.  The sheer volume of knowledge, plant lore, and wisdom our native brethren had never ceases to amaze me.  It is humbling to know that I have so much more to learn on this MooseBoots journey.  Of course, it helps to know that there is joy and comfort along the way.


  1. Thanks for providing my morning chuckle! It took me back 24 years, to when my husband and I were house-sitting for his parents in the winter. He had put his felt boot insoles in front of the fireplace to dry out overnight. In the middle of the night, we were awakened by a disturbing, horrible smell...yup, the insoles were a bit TOO close to the fire, and were actually smoking! The stench kept us giggling for the rest of the night...;)

  2. Laugh at you? Never. With you ... always with you ;).

    Just FYI for anyone who reads your blog: this experience falls firmly in the do not try this at home, kids category. Smoldering chaga is not a very pleasant aroma ;).

  3. Julie, you are quite welcome. Wendy and I did quite a bit of giggling, too.

    Wendy, experience is the best teacher. There are worse smells, I think.

  4. I suspect ANY of the HARD fungi would hold a coal if dry enough.

  5. Gorges, you may be correct. I guess it is a matter of how long a particular species will smolder. I would guess that this is probably a function of the density of the fungus, too. I still have a lot to learn about fungus (mushrooms), rocks, trees, etc. I feel a bit consoled that native people lived their whole lives to develop these types of understanding ... I got a late start.


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