Sunday, December 18, 2011

Beautiful People

I am the first to admit that life is hectic.  Things are moving so fast that often we do not have time to think, or appreciate things for what they are.  The girls have been busy ... they dance a combined 22 hours a week normally and then, when they are involved in something special, they dance more.  For the last few weeks, at least one of them has had class or practice six of the seven nights of the week.  It culminated this weekend with their performances in "Christmas on Broadway" at the City Theater.

Friday was the dress rehearsal.  Wendy and I sat in the audience watching the performance.  It promised to be fantastic.  Of course, there were a few people missing ... sick or otherwise committed.  Regardless, it was beautiful ... the whole scene, the singers, the dancers, the theater itself.  The little girls appeared on stage with Julia Furtado, Miss Maine in the current Miss America pageant.  She is a very nice young woman and gave each girl and autographed picture.

Saturday, the day of the first show, Wendy and I got dressed up.  I don't really like dressing up.  I am more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy, but I couldn't get away with that with Wendy in a little black dress.  We got to the theater only to have to turn around to get a costume.  Still, we got back in time to take our seats and settle in for a few minutes before the show started.

Each of us, over the course of the show, took our turns getting teary eyed.  I am the first to admit to being a sap.  Those extremely beautiful moments filled each of us to overflowing.  Of course, we laughed at ourselves, which only enhanced the emotions.  Several number stood out ... a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria, our girls dancing so gracefully, and performances of the following songs, Like Mother Mary and Hard Candy Christmas.  The videos are just for you to hear the tunes.  Live and in person they were stunning ... the setting, the mood, the harmonies, the costumes.

One would think, after having seen the show a half dozen times, the novelty and emotion impact would lesson, but every performance is different.  The impact builds.  Sunday was a repeat performance on our parts.  Filled with the raw power and beauty of each song, we took our turns laughing at each others flowing tears.  Of course, we are biased.  The stars in our eyes were these three beautiful, intelligent, graceful girls.  For me, Wendy was a star of the show, too.  It was wonderful to have time together sharing such exquisite, poignant moments.  So, here are my fours star performers.

Sunday, we also attended an annual Solstice celebration at the Maine Audubon Society.  The shamans performed an Ayni Despacho ceremony.  The ceremony was rounded out with a storyteller telling a legend about the InnukSuk.  The night, again, was magical ... the lights, the mood, the humor.  Our good friends were there for the first time ... perhaps, receiving what I hope to be a good dose of love, perspective and support in the process.

This weekend showed me that I am surrounded by beauty.  There is so much that goes un-noticed most of the time in our hustle.  Yes, my weekend was busy.  And no, I did not get to spend enough time out in Nature.  But, even while cutting down a neighbor's tree for both firewood and a Christmas tree, I was reminded, by a sweet little mouse, that we are fortunate.  We have the support, abundance, and beauty we need to satisfy our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.  My MooseBoots path is certainly full of these things.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Small Steps Forward

This weekend, Wendy and I had a bunch of stuff to do around the house.  Of course, as you know, I've been busy and lamenting the slow down of travel on my MooseBoots path.  The biggest thing on the list was to burn all of the scrap wood in the backyard (insurance guys don't like that kind of stuff).  I thought about trying to light the fire with a bow drill, but we were on a tight schedule because the girls needed to be picked up within 2.5 hours.  In spite of the "need to get it done quickly", I chose to add in a bit of practice.

I have, much to Wendy's dismay, a lot of "bits of nature" laying around the house ... milkweed stalks, birch blanks for spoons and bowls, Jerusalem artichoke stalks, grass ropes, etc.  Among my "treasures" is a bunch of birch polypore that I had picked to make medicinal tea.  I have tried it, but still have a bunch laying around.  I broke a piece off of a large chunk and lit it with a match.  Of course, polypore does not really burn with a flame ... it smolders.  I ran around the house excitedly (it is almost Christmas, so I can) showing Wendy the smoldering  fungus.  She, not so enthusiastically, pointed out that it stinks.  I guess that is a matter of opinion.

I took the ember outside to light the fire.  It was glowing very slightly but a few breathes showed that it was very much alive.  Skill 1 - carry fire from one place to another - CHECK.  It would have easily burned for 30 minutes, but a larger portion would keep going for hours.  This is an important piece of wisdom, if one would be moving from site to site, rather than trying to light a fire from scratch.  It would be even more important in a situation where it had been raining and things were damp (like your bow drill hearth and spindle).

I looked around the back yard searching for something with which to make a tinder bundle.  I spied a few corn stalks that had no been pulled from the garden bed.  I stripped some leaves off of one an fashioned a tinder bundle.  I have never before used corn leaves for a tinder bundle, but figured it was worth a try.  They were a bit damp from the frost melting off of them, too.  I blew my breathe into the bundle ... slowly the smoke started to billow from the tiny package.  I had seen someone on YouTube, video linked below, whirl the bundle around in his outstretched arm rather than blowing it.  So, I tried it ... it worked amazingly well.  The bundle got very hot in my hand.  Then, I few quick breathes and ... voila ... flames.  Skill 2 - make a tinder bundle and create a fire from a coal - CHECK.

Of course, in my haste, I fell prey to one of the classic survival mishaps ... do not expend all of the effort to make a fire until you have all of the materials on hand.  If you do, you make create a coal, or fire, only to watch it go out because you were not quick enough gathering the rest of the material for the fire.  In survival situations, it is important to be as efficient as you can in everything.  So, I spent a few minuted running around picking up dead sticks, more corn stalks, and other material for the fire.  Luckily for me, the polypore was still smoldering.  I retrieved it, wrapped it in more corn leaves, and began the process anew.  The flaming tinder bundle was then placed in the somewhat damp tee pee.  Slowly, the little flame grew from a single match sized flame to engulf the whole tee pee.  Skill 3 - built a fire and light it with the flaming tinder bundle - CHECK.

Sadly, that seemed like the end of my play.  I spent the next 2 hours piling on scrap wood, raking, and generally cleaning up the yard.  I must admit that it was nice just to be outside for those few hours, even only ion the back yard.  I doused the flames, came into the house, and changed my clothes just in time to run out to get the girls.  I commented several times, with a stupid grin (no doubt), that I smelled like smoke.  I love the smell of wood smoke ... for me it is soothing and calming.

Later, I did the unthinkable ...gasp... I continued working on a project that had been on hold ... I poured off the Japanese knotweed tincture into dropper bottles.  I have been asked about Lyme disease several times over the past month.  Interestingly, I made think tincture, ahead of all of that, because I felt like I needed to start applying these skills.  I also wanted the experience of creating medicine ... tinctures ... before I needed to do so.  Since then, I have taken a group, including my Shamanic Teachers, my mother, my family, and some of our nature group friends, out to harvest more.  It turns out that there are several of cases of Lyme that have occurred.  I also purchased "Healing Lyme" because it occurred to me that I was recommending it based on a recommendation from a trusted friend, but no first hand knowledge of its contents.  I have not gotten very far into it ... I had to finish up a few other books that I have been reading.

It turns out, I guess, that even when things seem so frantic, there IS time to inject some of the desired growth and learning.  I am eager to continue making medicines, helping people heal, and learn more survival skills.  As a matter of fact, I recently purchased a copy of Brewing Sacred and Healing Beers.  It looks like an interesting study of indigenous recipes for healing tonics.  A quick skim showed that I had already made one of the recipes by instinct.  Of course, I will also be making non-alcoholic medicines, using home made apple cider vinegar, for those who can not, for one reason or another, use those that are alcohol based.

I am blessed to be on this path, following the MooseBoots trail.  I continue to be amazed at the little synchronicities that occur, things I learn that become relevant, things that I make that are needed shortly after, opportunities to continue to grow and learn, opportunities to make a real difference in a genuine way.  As always, I am grateful for this journey and the abundance that Nature offers.  I simply hope to use these gifts wisely, to make a positive difference in the world, to help people heal or continue their journey beyond this dream, and to help other learn about and respect this bountiful, generous Earth.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Simple Test

My MooseBoots journey has become stagnant.  I have been tired.  It seems like every time I turn around, I feel like I am running into a proverbial brick wall of exhaustion.  It has had me a bit concerned.  Lyme disease has become very common in my area.  And, while I have started reading Healing Lyme, I am not far enough into it to feel completely confident in my ability / knowledge to have to treat myself, or anyone else for that matter without substantial outside assistance from someone who has dealt with it.

Wendy has been investigating other possibilities.  She loves to research.  She came up with another possibility, Candida overgrowth.  I was not entirely convinced ... I had only ever heard of Candida in regards to "woman's issues".  I agreed, however, to perform the saliva test outlined on the previously linked page.  The test is simple enough and I figured I could, at least, try it.  What could it hurt?  So, this morning I performed the test and found, according to the page, that I likely had a Candida overgrowth.  It may not be a reliable diagnosis and does not necessarily rule out other possibilities. 

So, for the next month, I will be trying to stick to the documented Candida diet.  The funny part for me is that I was on the Atkins diet several years ago to lose a few pounds.  In fact, both diets recommend eating the things that my body seems to crave.  It is really the way I like to eat ... tons of fresh greens / salads, meat, cheese.  Because this diet worked so well for me, and it is the way I like to eat anyway, I see no reason not to give it a shot.  At worst, I will not feel any better and may consider getting tested.  At best, I will feel better and be healthier.  I do believe that there is a huge connection between feeling healthy and actually being healthy.

This all got me thinking, though.  What other simple tests are there out there, like this, to diagnose simple imbalances or conditions?  With my limited experience, I understand that Chinese medicine uses many simple observations to diagnose health issues and imbalances.  I do not know enough about Chinese medicine, but it all makes a lot of sense.  Stop.  Observe.  Assess.  Treat.  Of course, the Chinese do not limit the causes of medical problems to those we, in the Western World, do - problems are traditionally diagnosed by observing not only physical symptoms, but lifestyle and personal habits over a period of time.  It seems to me, in my limited knowledge and experience, to be a very complete, holistic approach to health care.  I firmly believe, for instance, that stress is a huge negative factor in our lives and level of health.  Modern, western medicine, for the most part, pays its impact mere lip service at best. 

I guess this all follows along with my philosophy of observe and learn.  It is certainly part of my journey along this MooseBoots path.  Perhaps, it is part of the wisdom that I must learn to complete my work in this life.  It definitely illustrates, yet again, how much more I have to learn.  I accept the learning with a grateful heart and a willing spirit.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Break In The Routine

Life is busy.  Wendy and I spend much of our time running around, much of which centers around the girls classes.  So, when we get a day to spend around the house, it seems like a blessing.  Perhaps, it is.  Today was one of those blessed days.  A day to work around the yard and prepare for the coming Winter.  It was really a freebie ... it should be cool, Fall-like, not 50-60F.

I decided that today was the day to get some of the chicken yard cleaned up.  The ducks and hens have left a 4-6" (10-15 cm) layer of waste on the ground.  So, I was mucking out the yard.  I took the opportunity to use this fertilizer to fill all of the garden bed ... some of which still needed to be cleaned out. 

As I worked around the yard, a friend arrived with a rooster for us to "put in the stock pot."  She and Wendy have been online friends for years, but had never met in person.  So, the rooster provided the impetus for the face-to-face visit.  We sat and talked for a while.  Then, I begged out and returned to work knowing that at some point we'd need to take care of the rooster.  Wendy and she had a nice visit.

He, immediately, went into his his dance ... dropping one wing and strutting in circles ... peddling his wares.  Having never seen this mating dance, I watched as he moved and swayed trying to attract the hens to his wiles.  The hens were not impressed in the least.  As a matter of fact, they began attacking him.  Eventually, he took the hint and wandered off to explore on his own.  I kept working.  He was beautiful.  He was also loud.

As I finished filling all of the garden beds, our visitor decided that it was time to go.  So, we all said goodbye.  No sooner had the dust cleared on the road, we started a pan of water to boiling.  We would need it for the rooster.  Neither Wendy Nor I had ever cleaned a chicken, but we were committed.  As the water neared boiling, it was time to begin.  As always, we held the chicken and talked to him, thanking him for the gift he was giving.

I decided ahead of time that I was going to try to break his neck by pulling his head and feet in opposite directions.  I think it worked, but we were not certain ... he did appear stunned at least.  We took the opportunity to use a knife to remove the head.  There was surprisingly little flapping and blood ...  we've all heard the horror stories.  We, then, plunged him into the hot water and began plucking.  Now, I have often heard how difficult this part is ... requiring a machine or hours to complete.  Really, it took 5-10 minutes at most.  Finally, we cut the feet off, and one wing to be used for shamanic purposes, and gut him.  It was not really much different than harvesting a rabbit.

Dinner was Wendy's famous chicken noodles, a family favorite.  It is a form of chicken noodle soup, using egg noodles which she makes from scratch with eggs, spices, and flour.  So, aside from the spices, the only ingredients we did not harvest was the flour.  That, we hope to remedy next year with acorns or cat-tail pollen or some such substitute.

While dinner cooked, I mowed the lawn.  After, I tried to start a basket using some of the grapevines I cut a few weeks ago.I have a long way to go in this endeavor.  I have decided that since the raspberry brambles have produced some lovely, tender young leaves, that I should harvest some of those for tea.  I'll need to do this sometime during the week.

Right now, I am sitting here, typing this, sipping some Birch Polypore / Japanese Knotweed tea.  If I am going to learn these things, I must use them.  And, I can't suggest anyone use something, if I haven't used it myself.  The tea is delicious ... we also harvested both of these.  The Earth is abundant and provides all we need, if we only look.  I am grateful to be given the opportunities to learn, and grow, in this knowledge and in these skills ... to travel this MooseBoots path.  It was a good day!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What Is Better Than Apple Cider?

Wow!  Three weeks, or more, sure fly by.  I'd like to say that I have been doing great things and learning amazing new skills.  But, alas, I have fallen prey to the "REAL" world.  During these times, I often lament my lack of connection, or time to connect.  I feel in a very real way the loss.  Wendy probably gets tired of the moaning and wailing about the stagnation of my MooseBoots wanderings.

My last few posts were about cider.  At that point, several other people were also talking about making cider - murphyfish and Julie specifically.  I was asked to post about my process to compare notes.  I am flattered that people are interested.  Of course, you might imagine, if you've been to this blog with any regularity, my process tends to be very simply and natural - at least as much as I can make it in the given time, with the resources, available.

The Gathering
This year, we foraged all of the apples we used for cider.  This is not always the case.  In past years, we have purchased unpasturized sweet cider and we have purchased apples for juicing.  This year, we were cognizant of the generosity of the Earth Mother.  Everywhere we went, we saw apple trees untended and unappreciated.  We are so grateful.  On the drive to the girls's dance classes each week, we counted no less than a dozen trees along the roadsides.  When we stopped at the local drop point for Goodwill, we noticed a few trees in a public park.  During our nature class, we noticed several apples trees in a local river sanctuary.  We noted them as we saw them. 

I mentioned, in another post, that Wendy and I foraged 33 lbs (16 kg) of apples.  After that, we were told of some other trees in a local adult community where the apples needed to be picked because they were simply falling on the ground and rotting.  Wendy, the girls, and I went and within 15 minutes had foraged another 45 lbs (22 kg) of lovely (not perfect, but lovely), sweet  red apples.  And, while we were helping the dance studio owner move some wood (which we were given - bonus), we noticed her apple trees were dropping apples like crazy.  The deer sign was incredible.  We picked her a large bag of apples as well as 14 lbs (7 kg) for ourselves.  If you are counting, that is roughly 92 lbs (46 kg) if apples foraged for FREE.  These were apples that were going to drop and rot.  We estimated afterwards that we could easily forage 250-400 lb (125-200 kg) of apples in a year, if we are careful to pick these as they ripen (we missed some of the earlier apples).

This year, we juiced the apples with a juicer.  We found one on e-bay from a local vendor for $35.
No, it did not come with the oranges - this is about apple cider.  I was sent a few cool links about juicing.  Google "washing machine apple cider" on youtube.  I did talk about making a press from a car jack, but never got to it.  So ... smash ... it is juice.  The juicer yielded about 2.5 gallons (10 liters) of juice per 45 lbs (22 kg) of apples.

So, you've come to the crux of my secret exilir.  I share this hesitantly ... it is my secret recipe. 

OK ... ready.

I add enough sugar to get to 7-10% alcohol as measured with a triple scale hydrometer.  The last batch of apples, the one with the lovely red ones, was 7% without any sugar ... just the apples.  I have made it as strong as 14% and as weak as 4%.  This, I pour into the fermentation bucket.  Then, I add the yeast ... I have typically just use Munton's ale yeast

Here's the secret bit ....

Then, I cover it and shove an air lock into the lid.  Really ... not so exciting is it?!  I then let the cider ferment for a week or so ... until it stops bubbling.

Racking It Up ... er, Off
When the cider stops bubbling, I will rack it off into a carboy.  This, I let sit for months ... until it is a clear as I want it.  When I am satisfied, I will bottle it adding 1 tsp of sugar to each 1 liter bottle.  The sugar will feed any remianing yeast and carbonate the cider.  It is optional.  Then, I let it sit ... for months.  Each of the bottles is typically 6 months old before I drink it.

I don't think I will be winning any contests with it, but it is good cider.  Wendy and I enjoy it.  Isn't that all that really matters.  As you can tell, most of the steps is subject to your own likings or whims.  Make it as strong as you like ... let it sit as long as you like ... make it fizzy, or not ... enjoy!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, this last batch of cider cost me, including yeast and electricity for the juicer, $1.30. After the initial investment for bottles and brewing equipment, this hobby can be very inexpensive, yet rewarding.

In this, as with everything else, I find that there is really no wrong answer ... only learning opportunities.  This MooseBoots journey is amazingly simple and flexible.  Thank you, Great Spirit / Creator, for your gifts. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Good Things Are Brewing

Wendy's interview with Lee Nelson, from local NBC affiliate WCSH6, has been posted here.  I'd love to hear your comments.

Oh yeah, we juiced a batch of cider apples, which will be a bubbling bucket of 2.5 gallons of liquid gold tomorrow.

Thank you, Universe, for all your generosity.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Adapability In The Key To Survival ... And Brewing

This MooseBoots journey is always full of twists and turns.  It seems, in everything we do, that we are always guided, perhaps because we are slightly misguided, to excellent results.  The achieved results, however, are not always what we set out to accomplish.

Wendy and I have been talking, for a few weeks, about foraging apples growing wild to brew our next batch of cider.  And, as luck would have it, it is apple season.  We figured that we will not be drinking any until next Spring.  Cider takes about 6 months of fermenting and settling to be really good.  But, alas, things get in the way. 

Finally, we got out picking.  We have been noting the location of trees brimming with apples on the side of the road, in unattended fields, and in local public parks.  To our dismay, many of the trees must be an early variety.  Still, we were able to gather, in a frenzied rush to get back to pick up the girls, 33 pounds.  These apples are the ugliest, gnarliest apples ever seen anywhere ...  perfect for cider!  Nobody would want to eat these.

Proudly, we hauled the apples home.  We decided that we will probably need to go out again, but would get this juiced and ready.  Then, we would assess how many more we would need.  We do not have a juicer.  I planned on using the grinder to juice the apples.  Alas, the grinder kept clogging with apple peels.  No problem, I thought ... I'll use the food processor.  Yes!  That will do the trick.

Nope.  It doesn't really break them up very well.  I threw the pulp into a cloth mesh bag and squeezed.  Juice.  But, it would take a billion years to juice them this way ... and, we'd lose a lot of the juice.  We need a juicer!

So, we ran out to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to see what they had.  Well, the display rack had several choices and we settling on one that looked like it would last several years ... not plastic devices to break , or die, after 2 uses.  Selection made ... we looked for the boxed units.  Nothing.  There was one box and I'll be dipped in wax (you ain't calling me cheese wheel) if I am going to spend $329 on a juicer to make cider.

One the way home, I called a few family member and asked if they had juicers ... nope.  Damn!  Today, we ran to the nearby indoor flea market ... nothing.  I found one on craigslist ... no reply.  I found one locally on e-Bay ... no reply yet.

Finally, I reached the conclusion that I was not meant to start brewing any cider today.  But, thanks to some friends, I had a beer kit (Export) just waiting patiently to be prepared.  As a matter of fact, I was also given another brewing kit (complete with buckets, hoses, bottling tubes, cappers, air lock, etc.) last week.  So, I acquiesced to the beer kit and starting it bubbling.  And with the new addition, when we get a juicer lined up this week (I hope), I'll be able to start the cider.

Conventional wisdom is that in order to survive one must be adaptable.  Thank you, Universe, for the reminder!  Either way, life is good.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Technical Aside

I keep reading about people not being able to comment.  I had a similar issue a couple of months back.  I am not sure if using an Open ID would eliminate the issue.  Regardless, here is what I have been able to figure out on my own.  When you wish to leave a comment:
  1. Log out of Blogger.
  2. Type you comment and submit.
  3. It will ask you to log in ... go ahead, but DO NOT CHECK the "Keep Me Logged In" check box.
Note:  Sometimes, you may have to hit enter a couple of extra times.

I hope this helps.  Please send share this with all of the bloggers, or blog readers, you know.  Please, leave a comment if you find it helpful.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Late Summer Gathering Stroll

Today, I spent some time harvesting some of the wild plants near our home.  I woke up a few days ago with my head filled with thoughts of gathering some Japanese Knotweed root and some Stinging Nettles.  Unlike our previous experiences with knotweed, I intended to make some tea with the root, and maybe a tincture.  The nettles are for cordage.

I have been reading a lot about knotweed for the last few days.  I already knew that it is used for treating Lyme disease.  The most common reservatrol supplement, the compound thought to be effective against Lyme, is actually derived from knotweed. It is my belief, however, that one is better served eating the whole plant rather than a derivative. While science has been able to isolate specific compounds, I can not help but wonder if the other supporting nutrients do not make the natural form more effective. It is certainly less processed.  The book Healing Lyme discusses the protocol, using the roots of the plant, in detail.  Of course, I also discovered that knotweed, and its derivatives, is useful for treating heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, high cholesterol, and constipation.  All of this is in addition to being a nutritional power house - it contains vitamins A and C and trace minerals.

I brought the Japanese Knotweed home and rinsed it off.  I have watched several videos about processing knotweed roots over the last few days.  I decided that our teacher's, Mike Dimauro's, method was the best choice for me, because it used the least technology ... a knife, water, and some elbow grease.  I simply cut it into little pieces with my Mora knife.  Some I dropped into a pan of water to make a tea.  The rest I put into a canning jar and covered with vodka to make a tincture.  The tea was delicious with no sweetener or anything else.  Wendy thought it tasted like potato tea.  Additionally, we now have 1 quart (~1 litre) of Japanese Knotweed tincture in the cabinet (right next to the pint of rendered raccoon fat).

I tend to go overboard sometimes.  Now, while harvesting the Stinging Nettles, I cut a bunch of stems.  When I stopped I realized that I had gathered way too many to carry.  Besides, my arms, bare because it was too hot for a sweatshirt, were already burning with the sting of the nettles.  I needed some cordage or a rope. 

Alas, I did not bring one.  So, I made one with materials on hand.  I looked around  and decided the most likely candidate was the tall grass.  I grabbed handfuls of the grass and started twisting.  I have never made a thick piece of cordage before.  Most were yarn sized or thinner.  Today, I wanted to make a rope.  So, much to Precious's dismay, I twisted and twisted, and twisted for a while.  I ended up with a rope about 7 feet (2.5 meters) long and about and 3/4 inch (20 millimeters) in diameter.  It was perfect for tying the bundle of nettles. 

Wendy and the neighbors were impressed.  The neighbors actually commented that their boys had all been in boy scouts, one even an eagle scout, and none of them could make a rope like I had.  Have I mentioned that I like making cordage?!

It felt like a productive day, in spite of the fact that it only took me a total of an hour or so.  I find on this, my MooseBoots, journey that I need to do things.  I feel the need to act, not just research and read.  I satisfied that need for today.  I have been watching the vines growing nearby though ... feels like a basket is in the future.

Thank you, Universe, for your abundance, your beauty, and your support in my growth and development!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rabbit Skill Share

A week or so ago, Wendy and I hosted a rabbit skill share for the local permaculture group.  The primary topics were Backyard Rabbit Husbandry and Hide Tanning.  We were fortunate enough to have made several new friends and share some of the things we've learned.  We are so grateful to have had this opportunity to connect and share.

I was amazed at the diversity of backgrounds of the attendees and delighted with the common desire to work with nature instead of against her.  There were people who were thinking about raising rabbits for meat and there were people who already had rabbits, but were just getting started.  We wandered around our little quarter acre homestead and talking about our experiences with raising rabbits, things like sexing the rabbits and separating the males and females before they reach maturity, housing and winterizing the hutches, foods, and slaughtering.  Neither Wendy nor I believe that we have all of the answers, but we have made a lot of mistakes ... er, had a lot of learning experiences ... along the way.  Raising Rabbits is a great book, and Wendy and I learned a lot from it, but there is something to be said for being able to ask someone, in person, who has done it.

Then, we shared an amazing meal.  People had brought their favorite potluck dishes to share.  Wendy and I had smoked, on the grill, two rabbits that we had butchered a week before when we showed some other friends how to butcher rabbits.  Everything was so delicious.

We were quickly running out of daylight by this point, so I hurried through a demonstration on hide tanning.  We had on hand 11 green hides, 5 tanned, but not yet dried or softened hides, and many hides that we have tanned, or had tanned, over the years.  Each participant was invited to take a hide home to tan, we even provided the alum for them to do so.  Again, while I learned to tan by reading Back to Basics and everything I could on the internet, I find it much easier to learn from a person who can answer my questions.

As we had run out of time for everyone to work on a hide, I promised to put together an eBook documenting the tanning procedure that I use.  I have added it as a link on the left side bar.  Feel free to download it.  I am offering it for donation only - you decide what it is worth.  I would love some feedback on ways to improve it or any questions you may have.  Wendy and I are also talking about putting together a few other eBooks on rabbit husbandry and butchering.  We are open to other suggestions.

It appears that, while I continue to grow on this MooseBoots path, I am also being called to share what I know with others.  I have heard it said that the best way to really learn something is to teach it to someone else.  I, in fact, did pick up a gem or two during this skill share - don't stretch the hides when they are too wet because they will tear very easily.  Of course, the ultimate purpose of learning, I suppose, is to share so that others can grow, too.  I wish you abundance and happiness on your journey.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Seredipity or Spiritual Guidance

Yesterday, I was wandering the house and grabbed Weed of The Northern US and Canada off of the shelf.  It sounds like a great read, right?  We have had this book on the shelf for years and not really used it much.  When we first got it, it did not seem like it was pertinent ... we were looking for books on edible plants, but it seemed helpful to be able to identify some of the "weeds" in our area.

The authors define weeds as "a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered".  As I leafed through, I could not help but chuckle at this.  The natives in my area, and I even with my limited skill and knowledge, knew of many practical uses for many of these plants.  Indeed, simply reading some of the common names for these plant suggested uses.  Arctinum minus Bernh., for instance, is known as both beggar's buttons and wild rhubarb, as well as the more common, Common Burdock.  So, if you knew this, how would you try to use this plant?

Enter serendipity.  I thumbed through until I found this ... Galeopsis Tetrahit L.  I have this plant growing wild in my yard ... as a matter of fact, I pulled a bunch of it last weekend and threw it in the compost pile.  The common name that caught my eye was wild hemp.  Al1 of you who know me well know that I like to make cordage.  And, I know that hemp is often used in textiles.

According to this site, the are several know virtues ... medicinal and utilitarian.  According to WikiPedia, it is a pioneer plant and helps to build poor soil for succession plants.  Wendy was particularly interested in its use a fodder for the rabbits.  Given the fact that this plant is native to Europe and Asia alone suggests that it must be useful enough for someone to introduce it here sometime in the early part of the European settling of North America.

So, next time you are wandering through your yard and see a "weed", you might want to try to see what it is.  It just might be the Universe providing something you didn't even know you needed.  As for me, my MooseBoots journey continues to surprise me in unexpected ways.  I am grateful for all of the guidance and abundance provided.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trail Camera Games

I'll admit ... as an engineer, I like technology.  It may seem very strange given my bent toward a simpler life using native skills.  In my defense, I started out very much a part of the dominant culture.  As I've said previously, I excel in this capacity, but feel drawn down my much more satisfying MooseBoots path.  Still, technology has its place ... and I am allowed to slip back every now and then.

A year or so, I had saved enough Cabela's points to purchase a game camera.  Of course, being sensitive to the environment (and not wanting to have to deal with batteries), I also purchased the solar panel charger.  I did not install batteries at all.  Life was busy and I really did not know how to use the camera, so I set it up in the yard to play with.  Needless to say, it never made it into the woods last year ... my job was too busy ... heck I only made it into the woods to hunt three times in Maine's three month long expanded archery season.  It sat in the house all Winter, Spring, and Summer, until ....

One of the house animals decided to start using the carpet to relieve itself.  The house tends to smell bad enough when we are brooding chicks and we really didn't need the added clean up or odor.  The camera, forgotten next to my desk, sat dormant.  Then, I remember and staggered out to position it in the offending NON-URINAL area.  Let's take a peak at the first three shots from that night.

 Well, it looks like we have a curious pup.  Yes, I see that the camera date and time have not been set.

He's thinking ... is there food here?!  Or, is this thing on?

Busted!  That sure looks like a beagle to me!  Where is that rotten dog?!

After retraining the beagle, I thought it would be fun to see what we could catch in the front yard.  We have caught, in addition to my amazingly beautiful wife and girls posing for the camera, squirrels, chipmunks, mourning doves, crows, dogs (not just ours), cats (again, not just ours), and (sniffing around and eating our offered pickled egg) ...

Of course, every good camera location needs some bait.  I, having a bent toward simplicity, stuck a sharpened stick into the ground and then smeared it with peanut butter.  This is one of my favorite pictures to date.

Ah ... Wendy ... there is more peanut butter in the cabinet.

Ah ... squirrel ... that is not a pogo stick.

During the course of my life, and my recent shamanic training, I have come to understand that a positive attitude is vital for health and happiness.  I seem to be moving toward some sort of healing work and I believe that laughter is the best medicine.  I hope I have helped you to heal in some small way.  If so, my MooseBoots journey has proven, again, to be beneficial for me and you, too.  I hope to be able to help you heal, through laughter, or otherwise, in the future.  I am also looking forward to learning new healing techniques in my upcoming graduate shamanic training or through storytelling (still working on it).

Thank you for sharing this path with me.  Feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Who Knew? We All Feel The Connection!

Something unexpected happened this week … something amazing.

I was in the front yard, wanting to be outside and carve a spoon, perhaps even boil a possum skull that I’ve had laying around for over a year now. I asked Little Fire Faery if she would like to start a fire, which she did. It was just the two of us … Wendy was working, Precious was watching a movie, and Big Little Sister had a friend over and they were contentedly emailing each other across the 1 foot span.

Just as the flames sprung to life from the fire pit, Big Little Sister and friend came outside quickly. They put the computers down and voluntarily walked outside to play be near the fire. Then, a short time later, Precious came out to be with us. Little Fire Faery sat, in half lotus position, near the fire to meditate. Unfortunately, Wendy had work that needed to get done although I am sure she would have preferred to join us.

What called these girls out into Nature? Was it the primal urge to gather near the fire? Did the spirit of the fire beckon them to come and embrace its comfort and warmth?

Regardless of the cause, I felt a stab of disappointment with myself. If I had been more actively working on my storytelling, I would have been able to tell a story near the fire. I could have extended the fleeting joy that we shared. We could have entertained, and educated, ourselves, and each other, the way it has been done for time immemorial. Perhaps, it was an opportunity lost. Or, perhaps it was simply a gentle reminder of the importance of pursuing personal growth. I say, it was a nice way to end another day on this MooseBoots path.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Life Bee Good

If you've been following my MooseBoots journey, you know that I have bees.  This is the second year.  Last year, I am guessing, that I inadvertantly let the queen go when I installed them.  It was sad to watch the hive start to build and then slowly die.  This year, as I said before, I was better prepared.

Unfortunately, I have not been keep good records here on my blog.  Today, I rectify this.   I have been watching them over the last three months.  The difference between this year and last is striking!  Let me begin by telling you that "busy as a bee" is not just an idiom.  Those guys and gals are constantly working.  I love to stand by the entrance and watch them leave and return, pollen sacs swollen to the point that it seems impossible they can still fly.

Of course, then I get curious.  What are they eating?  Where are they foraging?  Once or twice I was completely dumbfounded.  Nothing was blooming ... but, wait ... there is pine pollen everywhere!  I never seem to find them where I expect.  Of course, to see them one must be very patient and still.  I am still not very good at that.  Bee Balm is apparently a misnomer, or not applicable to honey bees.  Milkweed, the staple of the Monarch butterfly (which, incidentally, were not so prolific last year) seems to satisfy their cravings.  I'll admit that the flowers are sweet.  I hear that they can be rendered into sugar, but have not tried it ... they go right into my mouth, one at a time.

Tonight, I went to get some picture of them to share here.  I found lots of others as well.  The Japanese Beetles have established something of a spa on the grape leaves.  The Bumble Bees are content to share the Milkweed.

And so, life is good here.  All creatures seem to exist in harmony here.  I am blessed to be a part of it and extraordinarily grateful to be allowed to observe and learn from all Nature offers. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's a Berry Good Time Of Year

OK, so the title is a bit cheesy.  But, I am in awe of the abundance Nature provides, and for the lessons she is willing to share with me.  When I really start lamenting the lack of progress, I get a new teaching right between the eyes.  That's the way my MooseBoots path works ... I am given what I need when it is appropriate!

This past weekend, I was out mowing the lawn.  Not so interesting?  Perhaps.  While wandering around the yard ... er, mowing ... I saw that we had some ripe strawberries.  I have been paying closer attention because I found ripe blue berries a few days before.  Anyway, I picked them and brought them in for Wendy and the girls.  Then, a short time later, I noticed that the serviceberry bushes had some ripe for the picking.  These ended up as a handful of sweet bliss for Wendy and the girls ... after I sampled one.  Continuing on, I spied red raspberries.  You guessed it, Wendy and the girls got a few more berries.  I also took note that the Black Raspberries are not yet ready.

It occurred to me at some point between all of the whine of the electric blade and the shouts of "Girls!" that I may have identified another tree in the blueberry patch in the woods behind the house.  By this time, I was grinning maniacally and itching to get into the woods to confirm my suspicion - this as opposed to itching because I had been in the woods, which is a completely different situation.

I asked if anyone wanted to come with me, but was eager to go and could not wait while everyone got ready.  We did decide that we needed to go strawberry picking at the local PYO place anyway.  So, I snuck off down the road, stopping to check on the hazel nut bushes.  I also wandered around the neighbor's yard and found a few more hazelnuts.  According to the other neighbor, hazelnut grew with abandon right here not so many years ago.

As I neared the field, I checked on the bunchberries, which are not even close to ready.  I entered the field carefully checking the blueberry bushes for ripening.  Those plants in the full sun have a few berries ready, but most do not.  It will be another week I guess.  I approached the tree with anxious hope and I was rewarded for my efforts ... a 12' (4 m) tall serviceberry with ripening berries.  It has been growing here for years and I had never been aware enough to see it.  The difference is that this year I saw the flowers and remember not knowing what the tree was.  It is growing in a small clump with some aspen and so I had never really seen the tree itself.

I must have returned home with a grin to rival the Cheshire Cat, because Wendy just stopped and smiled, saying, "I love your face."  I can only guess she was seeing the glee and exuberance and not necessarily the pleasing physical features.  Of course, we then packed up the girls and went to the strawberry fields to pick.

One of the lessons that I take from all of this is a re-enforcement of something our Nature Teacher has mentioned - we pattern on what we know.  These simple words ring so true in so many more ways than just nature.   I have noticed that I tend to find the same plants everywhere after I have "met" them - hazelnut, mugwort, serviceberry, sarsasparilla.

So, in honor of this abundance, and of my continued growth and learning, I declare this to be the Berry Moon.  Enjoy all the sweetness the month has to give.  Oh, don't forget to spread the sweetness, and share some berries, too.

NOTE:  All of the photos, except the last, were taken in our little 1/4 acre farm.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Simply Incredible

Sometimes, I am frustrated by the pace of these MooseBoots travels ... the learning, the living, the knowing.  Other times can provide unanticipated visions and glimpses.  This morning, after taking care of the animals, I looked up to see a red-tailed hawk soaring over head.  It was a beautiful Father's Day gift.  The sun back lit the wings, showing a red-orange glow through the feathers on the wings, providing a striking view of the black bands near the wing tips.  It looked similar to this.

I tried to follow it as long as I could, but lost it behind some trees.  I was very grateful for the gift.  Then, it got better.  I turned and spotted another lower and closer.  I watched it for a few seconds and decided to share the gift.  I ran into the house and shouted, "Come outside quickly!"  The whole family got to see this beautiful sight.

Red-tailed hawk medicine includes seeing the bigger picture while staying grounded.  The message is that one needs to open his/her eyes and pay attention, be aware. It is something I have been trying to be mindful of.  I thought about the message, but really there was really nothing unusual other than the fact that we don't see them every day.  I chalked it up to a being given a precious gift of seeing these beautiful creatures.
Wendy and I have been trying to make our yard more environmentally friendly ... composting, chem-free gardening, reusing and recycling.  Wendy purchased this book and has started a forest garden.  One of the things she's been talking about for years is hazelnut.  They grow wild in our area, but we never seem to find them ... except once in a friends recently purchased yard.  Last fall, we planted two ... silly people thinking Mother Nature needs our help!

We have had a plant growing under our oil tank for years.  Initially, we mowed it down.  Of course, it was more resilient than we were persistent.  So, as we were admiring the billions of immature black raspberries, we noticed something on this particular plant.  Here are some photos.

Apparently, all of this time, even after we planted two more hazelnut bushes, we had wild hazelnut growing in our yard.  At this point, Wendy squealed with delight.  It seems that the Universe, Great Spirit, provides the things we ask for.  She quipped that we should ask fro something cool ... like avacado.

Little Fire Faery and I walked down the road looking at the things growing in the brook behind the house.  We noticed all of the Jewelweed, Goldenrod, Violet, and some raspberry canes, that we threw down there, thriving.  I continued to wander down the road and found this.

More hazelnut, growing wild just 50' from our yard, right on the edge of the road.  So, I turned around and saw this, on the other side of the road.

I guess the Earth does know what to do.  Nature is incredibly resilient and will, like our bodies, heal herself, when given a chance.  She is also generous with her abundance and love.  I am awestruck by the things I see and learn on this, my MooseBoots journey.  Thank you, Earth Mother and Great Spirit for helping me, and encouraging me, to grow to my fullest potential and for allowing me to share these blessings and teachings with those open to receive these gifts.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ravens Vs. Crows

I stumbled upon a web site,, a while ago, when I was looking for some plant identification stuff.  I also found they have a lot of good information about animals.  By entering you zip code, you can get specific listings about the plants and animals in your area.  Check out the site. Leave a comment here, at MooseBoots, and let me know what you think - maybe you know of similar sites specializing in certain topics.  I would appreciate the link.

Regardless, I signed up for their mailing list.  I just received the latest mailing and thought I would share this article, because I mentioned Ravens a few posts ago. 

Raven, if you did not know, is a trickster like Coyote in many traditions.  Here are a couple of stories I found to demonstrate this point. 

Have I mentioned that I want to learn to tell stories?  I am convinced that storytelling will be important for my growth and subsequent sharing of this wisdom, especially healing stories.  I would enjoy any stories you might have and wish to post here to share.  And so, my journey continues.