Sunday, December 29, 2013

Important Summit - The Wolverine Way

I ran across this last week.  It is right up my alley and I thought it was important enough to share with you.  Twenty-four experts are holding a summit to discuss Nature Deficit Disorder and what we can do about it.  Several of them are people I admire, including Thomas Elpel, Mike Douglas, Susun Weed, and Tom Brown Jr.  The web address is, http://thewolverineway.com/.

The Wolverine Way

I look forward to listening in through the online link.  You must register to access the talks.  I'd love to hear what you think about the talks, too.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pondering The Trail of Tears

I mentioned in my last post that the land we had come to love so much had been sold.  I have mourned this.  I even held out hope that the land was purchased to preserve it, but alas the developer has wasted no time in getting the equipment to continue the construction (habitat destruction).  In fact, a cul-de-saq that had been overgrown with weeds (wild carrots, mugwort, dandelions, etc.) has been cleared again.

I have thought about the events leading here.  I have thought about my feelings.  In spite of the short term of our relationship with this place, I can commiserate with the Native Americans who were displaced.  Mind you ... there is no REAL comparison between my short time here and the generations of People who learned to read, love, and work with the land of their ancestors.  But, I can imagine the sense of devastating loss. 

How does one recover?  I have no choice in the matter, as the native tribes had no choice, because I do not have the capital to do anything about it.  It would have been an easy decision, if I had deep enough pockets, to purchase the land to preserve, and encourage, the wild nature of this fantastic place.  Now, I must pull together the shredded remains of the relationship and start again with a new place.

For me, the process is simply spiritual and emotional.  It does not pose significant difficulty on me physically.  I have a job and access to all of the modern conveniences to be able to simply purchase necessities from the grocery store.  I will eat.  The natives were not so lucky ... they did not have access to money, although they may have been given some food stuffs.

So, how does one adjust?  How do I adjust?  I do not intend to stop learning and growing.  This is  not the end of my quest to seek the sacred wisdom of the land, lovingly held by the Earth and her People, reserved for those who truly care to find it.  Certainly, the displaced indigenous souls could seek counsel of their tribe shaman and his network of spiritual support.  I am sure that there was a lot of soul-searching, but there must have been other hints and clues for those people so closely tied to the land.

We have had the experience of trying to forage in a new place only to find that the ecosystem was so completely foreign to us that we could find nothing.  Perhaps, that was not the case for the indigenous folk who lived semi-nomadically, moving from one ecosystem in the winter to another for the summer, seeking the things that they would need to thrive.  So, what other clues did they have?

The answer ... an answer ... hit me.  I already knew it, but knowing something is not the same as owning it, using it.  Thomas Elpel, author of "Botany In A Day", emphasizes the use of plant families as a means of plant identification.  Plants within a family are often used for similar purposes in diverse cultures.  In fact, I have read of this idea in a couple of books.  In one book, a botanist, seeking new medicines in the Amazon, relates that he recognized plants that belonged in a certain family and that the Amazonian people used these for uses similar to those in his region. 

I will concede defeat.  There is simply too much at stake for the planet and the people on it.  We have lost too much wisdom already.  I will continue to search and grow.  This is, after all, my path.  It is my place to serve the purpose I have agreed to for this life, even if I cannot remember what that purpose is.

I have been on the land and asked for signs and guidance on supporting it through this transformation.  On a single walk, after opening my heart for support in this lesson, I witnessed a beautiful red-tailed hawk glide into land on a tree branch.  I moved in for a closer look and the hawk vanished without making a sound.  I continued to stroll down the path musing over the sighting, the gift that was given.  As I neared the road, I felt a presence to my left.  I looked and found myself looking straight into the face of a white-tailed deer ... OK it was 30 yards away.  I told it that I was no threat and, after a moment, it darted off.  While I poured over the encounter, I noticed that the deer had been surrounded by a posse of turkeys ... at least a dozen.


It has been over a week since the incredible gifts I was given.  I still have not interpreted their meaning.  It could have been a simple thanks for communing with the land and explaining what was bound to happen.  It might have been  a signal that things would be OK, that the creatures where still there and would find a way to live even in the midst of the sprawl.

Even still, I know that I am blessed and I am grateful for all that has been given.  I am also honored to be able to share the little I have come to learn.  Perhaps, this is required for my further growth.  Regardless, I look enjoy the time I have on this MooseBoots trail.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Heart Wrenching News

My heart sank at hearing the news.  I was completely devastated.  I had worked so hard to develop of loving, nurturing relationship.  Outwardly, I simply smiled and offered that it must have been a huge weight off of her shoulders.

Wendy and I have spent a lot of time together, roaming the woods, visiting the fields, writing our book.  We have shared our lives, growing, learning, seeking wisdom.  We have seen incredible sights.  We watch in wonder witnessing natural beauty spring forth from the newly thawed soil, sprouts claw to the sky, leaves unfurl to gather the warm loving sunshine, buds burst forth into vibrantly colored flowers, flowers fade to desiccated pods holding the promise of life.  The truth is that we had come to love the land and her inhabitants, with whom we gratefully worked and played. 

Things change ... it is a fact of life.  Wendy told me a few days ago that she felt a change coming.  Quite unexpectedly, the tension broke loose ... serendipitous happenings.  And, I am left to piece it all together like a large jigsaw puzzle, with a photo of the night sky framing a sliver of a waning moon.

"I sold the development last Friday ... finally."  As I said, my heart hit the floor.  "I know it has been really hard for you.  It must be a huge weight off of your shoulders."  Selfishly, I thought of all of the things Wendy and I had done to support this amazing place, the things we had experienced and learned.  This is our favorite place to forage, to hunt, to re-connect with the Earth.  It is our school, our cafeteria, our church, and our home.  And now, or soon (within a few years), this blessed sanctuary will be reduced from 25 acres of wilderness surrounded by a sea of subdivision to piecemeal 1/2 acres parcels of tamed (tortured), suburban humanity (likely complete with McMansions for the pretentious "owners" to look dissatisfied at our efforts to homestead our little piece of heaven).

"We have to move", I told Wendy as soon as we were out of ear-shot.  This comes on the same day that I was contacted by a company wooing me to accept a position that I turned down in June, and by a former co-worker who recognizes my worth and wishes to coax me to relocated an hour northeast along the coast.  It also comes as difficult times have hit the dance school my daughters attend ... not that the school has been terribly financially sound for a few years now.  Change seems to be brewing.  It is all just a question of how long do we have to react before the choice is no longer ours.

Tonight, I mourn to the land.  I mourn for our society that places so little value in anything other than that which brings value in the form of money.  I mourn for the raccoons, the opossum, the fishers, the squirrels, the deer, the hawks, the great blue herons, the geese, the turkeys, the chipmunks, the fox, the stinging nettles, the Japanese knotweed, the oaks and maples, the hemlock and pines, the blueberries, the bunchberries, the wintergreen, the partridge berries, and all of the other Beings I have yet to meet ... that they will lose their homes to be displaced by people who wish only to live on the land and not with the land.

Of course, change happens.  And while I mourn, I rejoice the moments we have shared with Nature, the Universe, and this wonderful place.  I cherish the time we have been given and the remaining time we may have.  I hold to the knowledge that every journey holds turns and twists, unexpected events that push us to realize our full potential as healers, teachers, lovers, and friends.



Thank you to the spirits of this place, that we have come to love so dearly.  Thank you to the Elementals who have helped us along our journey to grow and reclaim a piece of the heritage that we have lost through the generations that have gone before.  Thank you for the divine spark within each of us that pauses to watch as the lone hawk darts to avoid the protective mother birds, striving to give each of their young a chance to experience life on this remarkably beautiful Earth.

May you find peace in this life, and all of those to follow.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Tattered Remains Of Who We Once Were

Recently, I have been pondering the ways that we, as civilized people, destroy our environment, ourselves, and all of the things around us that offer support, sustenance, nurturing, and life.  Perhaps this is a result of our recent whirlwind trip to Pennsylvania then through Kentucky, and North Carolina only to turn around and head back home.

Over the years, I have researched  the native people in my area.  I am often quite frustrated by the lack of concrete information about the true nature of their lives before white settlers disrupted their way of life, their villages, and the bloodlines.  Anecdotally, few of the natives who still claim their heritage have a real understanding of the meaning behind their culture and the relationship with the land that now supports us all.  Their wisdom is dying through the loss of elders and the lack of interest in the younger generations of people to continue to remember the teachings passed down through the millennia.  Thankfully, there are a few folks, like Kerry Hardy (author of "Notes On A Lost Flute:  A Field Guide To The Wabanaki") trying to preserve some of the information.  Unfortunately, each author has a specific focus and saves on the tiniest, shards of the whole story.


Mr. Kerry has done a admirable job in trying to fill in some of the holes, but his focus was on discovering the lay of the infrastructure we have now as compared with that in the 1600s (pre-contact).  He uncovers a lot of "trivia" about their diet, their migration patterns, and their interaction with the environment.  By the way, I term it trivia, because in a single book, it would be impossible to fill in all of the details about every aspect of native life in those times.  As I said, he does a fantastic job and what he covers would create the foundation for an interesting museum about the people who lives here before the arrival of European settlers.

In a similar vein, Tom Wessels (author of "Reading The Forested Landscape: A Natural History Of New England") speaks about the landscape in the New England both before and after the arrival of white settlers.  His particular bent is reading the landscape to understand what has been.  His book is an extremely interesting read, as is Mr. Kerry's, but again there are mere fragments of the knowledge I feel is critical for us.  The knowledge to change our way of interacting on the land to being in relationship with the land. 


We can not continue to exploit her forevermore without overstaying our welcome.  She simply does not have unlimited resources and neither can she provide when we destroy all of the natural landscape to build our homes and workplaces.  As you may have gathered from all of this, I feel strongly about this.

Lately, I have been thinking specifically about the seasons.  I have tried to imagine what it might be like for the inhabitants of our area to live here.  In particular, I wonder about their sources of food.  This should come as no surprise given that our new book, "Browsing Nature's Aisles" (which is available to purchase over on the sidebar), has hit the market and we have just returned from speaking at the Mother Earth News Fair. 

I have been thinking over the passing of the seasons that we have experienced through our learning and growing ... starting with the sugaring, the spring greens, the tender young shoots, the berries, the nuts, and the wild game that surrounds us.  It occurred to me that this same cycle has been repeating for countless generations of people.  Initially, I was saddened by our loss of connection to nature and her cycle of wonder.  That was until I realized that we, modern day, work-a-day people still live with this.  Of course, our reliance on oil and our massive distribution infrastructure do a good job hiding it. 

Many people still go out and spend time in the wood, even just to camp.  They feel the primal pull to connect with Mother Nature.  We are, regardless of what some may think, animals that have developed relying on her.  We have simply learned how to bend her to our will, even to her own detriment.  We pick berries, we gather nuts, we hunt!  Our bodies, in spite of our best efforts, still react to the nature world ... our disconnection makes us sick (nature deficit disorder), our reconnection heals us (forest bathing).

Perhaps all of this was why, a few years ago, I felt the pull to take up hunting (bow only still).  This year, I have added migratory waterfowl to the list of potential sources of meat.  But in all of this, I have been more careful to observe not only the habits of the prey I seek, but the way the environment changes around us, for the better or the worse.  I have tried to become more aware of not only the plant and animal species with which I share the planet, but the interacts they each have with the Earth and the other creatures who share it.

One day, someday, I hope to have the opportunity to learn first hand from those who remain that remember how to live with the earth.  I wish to share it with those who will listen and take note of the wisdom.  Maybe I already have begun, with all we have learned about foraging and the released of "Browsing Nature's Aisles" and I did not recognize it.  I still have much to learn.  I know that the Universe, as it has done each time I have asked, will provide a suitable teacher (two legged, four legged, or otherwise) at the optimal time and place.

Water make the river
River wash the mountain
Fire make the sunlight
Turn the world around
Heart is of the river
Body is the mountain
Spirit is the sunlight
Turn the world around
We are of the spirit
Truly of the spirit
Only can the spirit
Turn the world around
-Harry Belafonte, from an African Story



Be well, kind, and tread lightly wherever you are.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It Has Arrived

Woo Hoo!
 


Wendy and I received 100 copies of our new book today!  You can order copies right here (link on the left), through Amazon.com (link also on the left), or through a local book seller near you.

This is just ahead of our departure for the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA.  We hope to see you there!

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Long Weekend ... But Not Long Enough

Sometimes, my MooseBoots wanderings are well planned and directed.  Most times, they are not.  This weekend was filled with many planned mundane tasks, with a few unplanned, and unplanned trips into the woods.

Saturday was marked on the calendar with a big, red "X" and the text "NO".  Wendy keeps the calendar.  I simply consult it to find what is in store.  This particular entry had me a at a bit of a loss.  I looked at it for a couple of days before asking what it meant.  Wendy said that we have been crazy busy all summer with no down time ... Saturday was planned down time.  Huh?

Wendy and I woke early and took two of the dogs for walks in the woods.  They, the dogs, need more training and I need the forest bathing, so it worked out for all of us.  While we worked, and walked, we looked around at the things that were growing.  I noted the "Indian Pipes" were dead and that there were few mushrooms, because of the dry weather.  I use Indian Pipes as an indicator that the conditions are beneficial for mushroom fruiting.



Later, in advance of a friend coming for dinner, we decided that we needed to replace our grill, which had been repaired several times, but was getting scary to light again.  While at the home improvement store, we also picked up the wood that I needed to finish the floor project that I had started over a month ago. Originally, the project was planned to be a bit bigger, but tile is expensive and we are simply running out of time to finish projects before we head to Pennsylvania for the Mother Earth News Fair, which will require also quite a bit of preparation ... whoa, just over two weeks away!

Our friend called at the appointed time to let us know that he would not be able to make it because he had injured his back and could not move.  We had also decided to go to the local theater to see "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee", which, while not terribly well attended, was a great fun show.  The cast, and three hand picked audience members, did a great job.

Sunday turned out busy.  We harvested four rabbits, disassembled the woodstove, and I finished the floor. Of course, with all of the other stuff going on, the only time I got outside was harvesting the rabbits.  I was pleasantly surprised that I have become more proficient and found that I could remove the hides from the rabbits complete with the ears, tails, and noses intact.  The hides have all been frozen, so I will have to wait to see how much more difficult it will be to scrape and tan the hides with faces.  As busy as it was, it was nice to complete some projects.

Today began with more of the same, the floor completion triggered putting the house back into some semblance of order.  I cleaned the woodstove, moved it back into place with Wendy's help, and put the first coat of paint on it to freshen it up.  Then, I needed to tweak the bookshelves and secure them more firmly to the wall.

At 18:30 or so, I decided that it was time for a walk.  I headed out with no particular destination in mind, but given the rain overnight and all day, I thought I might find some mushrooms.  It was fairly gray and still overcast, but not raining.  I must have had mushrooms on the brain, because no sooner had I walked out, I thought that I saw some on my Shiitake logs.  After slogging my way through the waist high, dripping jewelweed, I found nothing, just some dead leaves on the waterlogged logs.

As I continued down the road, a turkey hen crossed the road in front of me.  She was in no hurry, but sought concealment in the underbrush.  She was still hunting and pecking though so she was not too difficult to watch for a few minutes.  I bid her farewell and entered the woods.  I hadn't taken two steps when I heard the rest of the rafter flying into the tree tops.

I walked toward the calls and singing wings.  I found four of them in the tall White Pines.  They called.  I did my best to respond.  This went on for a while and they would sometime flap from tree to tree to get a better look at me, or to get a little further away when they saw what I was.  It was incredible to play with them.

I wandered along the ridge along the brook that was swollen with the torrential rains we have overnight and through the day.  Then, I saw fresh Indian Pipes poking up through the leaf clutter.  I was heartened to see them again.  I did find a few mushrooms, but my repertoire is not terribly extensive and I did not recognize any of these.

As I wandered along off the path, I found a benchmark.  Yes, a granite block stuck in the ground for marking property boundaries.  I had never seen this here.  I stopped and looked around, taking in the feel of the forest, the life around me.  At this point, I expressed to the Universe that I was open to any lessons, or teachings, that it may have for me as I wandered in the growing dark.

I started back in the direction that I knew the path lay.  When I reached it, I turned to follow it deeper into the trees, away from home.  I had not taken more than a dozen steps when a gray fox, jumped from the underbrush and leaped across the path not more than 15 yards from me.  It stopped  behind some trees as if to say, "What Was That?"  I followed in the direction it had gone, but I was no match for its stealth.

I turned back to the path and followed it to our foraging field.  When I reached the field, the grass all matted from the rain, I went to the stinging nettles patch to find some young plants.  I learned a few weeks ago that there were some very young plants growing under the cover of the much larger japanese knotweed.  I sought them out to try out a new skill.  I had watched several video on how to eat stinging nettles raw.  Raw nettle are full of flavor and properly handled do not sting while being eaten.

I decided to go further through the field to try out another skill I had seen, making cordage from live stinging nettles.  I did manage to strip the leaves and branchy parts without being stung by that plant.  I did happen to brush into several others in my enthusiasm to try it.  Thankfully, I don't mind the sting, which is why I don't wear gloves when I harvest them.  I feel like it is a fair trade and really the only way to truly know the plant.

With all of my treasures in hand (turkey feather, fresh birch polypore mushroom, stinging nettle stem, and my knife), I turned toward the road to walk home.  As I started, I was given a aerobatic show by a bat.  He swooped close to my head as he hunted for his breakfast.  I watched as he darted around in circles above me.  Just as quickly, he was gone.  Fulfilled, I walked home.

I shared the walk with Wendy, who rightfully pointed out that there was probably a lesson in the fox and bat sightings, as I had asked.  I have yet to do the homework around this.  I had in fact seen the shift change in the woods ... the day time turkeys going to roost, while the night time fox and bat began their work.

I decided that the time was probably right for me to finish the Jewelweed and Plaintain salves I had started a couple of weeks ago.  As usual, I went a little overboard ... I have several large containers of salve and quite a bit of left over infused oil.  I tried some of the plaitain oil on the stings I had received and found that it was effective a neutralizing the swelling, although I am not convinced it was nettles stings and not mosquito bites.

It is little gifts, like my experiences on my walk, that prove to me that I am on the right path.  The Universe is clearly pleased with my progress, in spite of my frustration at the pace with which I walk along this MooseBoots journey.  I am humbled and grateful.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Plum Wine And Other Natural Goodies

The Universe has a funny way of setting our priorities for us.  In spite of the fact that we plan and scheme, sometimes it just doesn't work out the way we expect.  I guess that is just another lesson for me on this MooseBoots trail.

Last weekend, for instance, I had planned to skin a groundhog.  Now, I had found this gal dead on the side of the road.  She was fresh, but I did not have time to skin her when I found her.  So, I left her over overnight.  In the morning on Saturday, I got out of bed anxious to get to work.  I took the time to get some photos of her feet, her teeth, and such.  I had planned to scrape her hide and begin tanning it, too.  Oh yeah, I wanted to keep her skull, which was intact after her run in with the car.



The sad reality is that she was badly damaged from the encounter.  I cut into her belly to start removing the hide only to find that she was a mess.  In spite of all of the care I could muster, I found myself poking through into her pulverized internal organs.  It was a lost cause ....

But not a completely lost cause ... I removed her head, skinned it, and cut as much meat and fat off of it to allow the insects, and nature, take its course.  Thinking I was clever, I put her skull into a mesh sided box that our bees had come in.  I thought that this would allow insect in to do their work and yet keep the skull safe from anything that might like to sample it.  I placed the box in the gully behind our house, away from any houses to keep anyone from getting offended by any malodorous wafts.  And, I was done way ahead of my planned schedule.

I moved on with my other plans for the weekend.  I decided that I needed to make plum wine.  A friend had brought me a number of plums from his tree, which was bursting with fertility.  This is my first attempt at plum wine, but I made some strawberry wine last year the same way.  That wine met with some rave reviews at our son's wedding this summer.

I was asked how I made it and so, without further ado, here is my recipe.

Plum Wine (8-3-13)
  1. Place 3 quarts of well-ripened plums in a grain bag.
  2. Boil plums with 2 gallons of water, for 10 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat off and let it cool.
  4. Squeeze the plums to get as much juice from them as possible.
  5. Add cold water to make 3 gallons.
  6. Add sugar to get potential alcohol level to desired value (12 cups of sugar brought the level from 1% to 11%).
  7. Stir dry yeast (Red Star – Premier Cuvee) into a bowl with warm water and a teaspoon of sugar.
  8. Allow the yeast to proof.
  9. Pour yeast into a clean 3-gallon carboy.
  10. Add plum liquid.
  11. Seal with an airlock.
The wine is now bubbling happily, even a week later.  I will rack it off in a month and decide if I  will leave it for another to clear.  After that, it will go into bottles and sit for a few months.  We are not really good about that part ... typically we last about 2-3 months instead of the recommended minimum 6 months.


We also managed to get in a walk.  We found some staghorn sumac flower, for sumac lemonade, and some blackberries, which were just now coming ripe.  The blackberries will be starting to ripen with great abandon within the next week or so.

Oh yeah!  I went to check on the skull yesterday.  I was gone.  Apparently, I was not clever enough.  It is gone and the raccoon skull that I had placed in the box with it was damaged ... the lower jaw was broken in half.  Alas, Mother Nature did not mean to bless my MooseBoots travels with a woodchuck skull at this time.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Jewelweed Salve

A few years ago, my neighbors were relating to us a story.  They were telling us that our daughters had been over visiting.  They, the neighbors, had been complaining about the insect bites they had received.  Our girls, without hesitation, exclaimed that they should use jewelweed on the bites.  The neighbors, a couple in their early 60s, admitted they they did not know what it looked like.  Which, of course, send the girls scurrying away to hunt the not-so-elusive, in-fact-quite-prolific, gem.  The neighbors were, and still are, so impressed with the girls.

The fact is that jewelweed grows with great abandon in the little brook laden gully behind our lot.  It was one of the first medicinal herbs that we learned to find and identify in the wild.  We has tried to use it for everything.  Of course, we found that it is most effective for skin irritations - rashes, burns, etc.  You know surface stuff.  It is a fairly common sight for us to be picking, crushing, and rubbing it into our skin.  I should say that it was ....

Last year, I grabbed a bunch of jewelweed and turned it into a salve.  As usual, I did a bit of research, reading things about salves, ointments, balms, and liniment.  As can be expected, I was terribly confused by the terms and the differences between them, until I remembered the reason for the research.  Contrary to the philosophy of many people, I don't really care about labels or terms.  I care about understanding how something works or how it is made ... how does it function or how can I make it.

So, true to form, I decided how I would make it ... internet instructions be damned!  So, for all of those who would brave the treacherous straits of making and using herbal medicines, here is my recipe.

Jewelweed Salve

  1. Respectfully and gratefully, gather fresh jewelweed stems, crushing them and placing them in a one quart jar.
  2. When the jar is full with crushed stems, fill the remaining volume with olive oil, making sure to cover all of the plant material.
  3. Leave the jar one the counter, at room temperature, for several days.  The oil should absorb the medicines and some of the color from the plant.
  4. When ready to make the salve, strain the oil into a pan.  You might think about using a pan you don't care about, unless you would like to clean waxy, oily residue from its inner surface.
  5. Heat the oil in the pan, using a double boiler.  Don't ask me what it is, Wendy called it that ... to me it looked like a pan inside another pan filled with boiling water.
  6. When the oil is warm, mix in beeswax, allowing it to melt completely.  My wax came from my hive.  Yours can come from somewhere else, although I might be willing to share.
  7. Periodically, take a teaspoon of the warm liquid out and place it into the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool.
  8. If you like the consistency, you are done ... pour it into small containers.
  9. If not, add more beeswax, or oil, to make it to your liking.
Oh yeah, this probably should have come before ... this makes a lot of salve, especially if your containers are small.  I used small Scentsy containers that my daughter had given me.  Feel free to use what works for you. These look like they would be nice.


This is my last bit of ointment.  It looks like I'll need to make more.  Enjoy making your own.  Let me know how it turns out.  Of course, I could be convinced to share some of mine.  After all, that is also another part of my MooseBoots travels.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Story Of Bees

Years ago, when we were taking our nature classes with the girls, we spent a significant portion of the time playing awareness games.  The goal was to teach us to be aware of our surroundings, to pay attention to all of the things that were happening around us.  We focused on using our ears.  We looked at things with our peripheral vision.  We felt things with our hands and feet.  We smelled things.  We tasted them.

The idea is that we can "see" much more if we use all of our senses, including our intuition.  As a culture, at least in this country, we tend to use only our eyes.  Perhaps, this is a large part of our human condition.  It makes one wonder how the blind can manage in our largely visual world.  Each class we played a couple of games, although they varied from week to week.

I have noticed that one of my girls, Little Fire Faery, really learned the lessons.  She will, invariably, pick out animals and plants on the side of the road when we travel, or see things that the rest of us overlook.  I am awestruck with her ability to notice things.  It could be that being young gives her the advantage of fewer things to share her focus ... she does not need to worry about how to get somewhere or if the coffee pot was shut off or if the car has enough gas.  She is free to watch, listen, feel, and ponder.  Her sisters are free in the same ways, but she has a real gift in this regard.


Last night, as we pulled into the driveway, she exclaimed, "what is that", as she pointed to the top of the trees on the other side of the house.  There, about 20 feet from the ground, was a swarm of bees hanging on a branch.  We all excitedly began to discuss how cool the bees were and that we should try to catch them.


Unfortunately, I did not have another hive prepared.  One hive was filled with bees that we purchased.  The other, which I built last fall, is home to the swarm I caught this spring (I had intended to post about this, but never got to it).  So, the dilemma was whether to let them go or try to find a hive, in spite of the fact that we already have two healthy hives on our little 1/4 acre lot.

I am not one to let an opportunity pass.  So, I scoured the internet (unclehenrys, craigslist, and ebay) for hives.  I also place several phone calls, and sent messages, to friends who had hives in the past.  I frantically searched.  As luck would have it, there was an e-bay listing for 2 top bar hives within 50 miles of my house, but the auction would not end until 23:30 tonight which would keep me from getting the bees into it today.

I contacted the person listing the hives and asked if he would part with one before the auction ended. Thankfully, he agreed.  In fact, he offered to meet me half way between his place and mine.  We arrange to meet and complete the transaction.  So, this morning, Wendy and I drove to meet him.  While I only needed one hive, I picked up both ... one for me and one for a friend.



It was raining a bit, but we managed to get the hives in the truck, after removing the legs, and drove home.  As soon as we made it home, I re-attached the legs.  We then moved it into position, leveling it to make sure the bees built comb that did not cross from bar to bar.  That done, we began to ponder how to get the bees down and into the hive.

We talked, we schemed, we planned.  The first thought was to cut the branch, while balanced on the top of a ladder, and then "bonk" the bees into the hive.  Bonk ... by the way ... is the technical term for forcefully knocking something against another surface to physically dislodge the bees.  This causes a lot of buzzing, and quite often a cloud of confused bees, around the "bonked" site.


It turns out a 12 foot tall ladder is not tall enough to reach a 20 foot high limb.  Go figure.  In fact, getting a rope tied a branch at that height is pretty much impossible, too.  Then, we got creative ... lets try to tie a 5-gallon bucket onto the end of a 15 foot long pole.  The idea was to place the bucket under the swarm and then bump the branch, with the bucket, to knock the bees into it.

The first attempt succeeded in putting some bees in the bucket while other clumps fell toward the ground.  I am sure you can imagine the resulting chaos ... confused bees simply trying to protect the queen until a suitable new home could be found.  There were still a large number of bees in the tree, so we tried again and again.

I lowered the bucket to the ground and ventured a peek inside.  Wow!  That is a lot of bees.  At this point, a couple of the bees decided that I was to blame and flew violently around my head.  So, I casually, calmly walked back ... at a brisk pace ... ouch, STING.  I waited a second and then cut the ropes that tied the bucket to the roof rake.


A swarm , you see, consists of all of the bees needed to start a new colony.  The queen picks a place to hang out and the other bees surround her in a buzzing, clump of apiary goodness.  They will stay there for a few days while scouts search for a suitable location.  New site located, they convoy on over and get busy ... like bees do ... building comb, collecting pollen and nectar, etc.  This is why it is critical to get the queen when scooping up a swarm.

After a few minutes of watching, I was still not sure that we had gotten the queen into the bucket.  So, I, logically so, tied another bucket to the end of the roof rake.  This was raised in a similar manner to unceremoniously thump the limb again and again.  This bucket too was lowered to the ground and cut free.  In case you weren't counting ... I now have two open 5-gallon buckets on the ground with a very large number of confused bees in each.  I had no clue as to the location of the queen ... in one of the buckets or still on the branch.

It was at this point that calm reason took over.  I decided to let the bees sit for a few minutes.  As stated, the bees are trying to protect the queen and so will figure out where she is and gather around her again.  After 10 or 15 minutes, I looked into the tree.  She was definitely not there.  Sadly, both buckets were will thrumming with activity.  Being who I am, I sprang into action.  I would simply BONK (see the definition above) one of the buckets of  bees, to get them into a writhing mass on the bottom of the bucket, and then pour it into the other bucket.



It became obvious, when I looked into the second bucket, where the queen was.  So, I poured the queen-less bucket into the queen-ful one.  Then, I BONK'ed that one and poured all of the bees into the open hive, which patiently waited without any under heckling.  I decided to give them all a second to figure out what had happened.


Really, I went to get a small branch from the Arbor Vitae to use as a brush.  Brush in hand, I returned to the hive and brushed the bees off of the side of the hive, into it, and began closing the bars one at a time.  All the while, Wendy and the girls took photos, some of which you see here.


With a full heart, and a big grin, I am happy to report that we now have three active hives in the back yard.  Now, we need to wait and see if they stick around in their new digs.  I have set out the feeder, once again, to help get the colony established, so that they can start to gather pollen and nectar to store for winter.

We learned later that not only did the neighbor see the swarm leaving the hive for the tree, but they were entertained by our efforts to gather the swarm.  Thankfully, they offered a few of their roof rake poles to allow us to length our rake enough to reach the swarm.

I consider myself fortunate to have been given this second chance to catch a swarm, in spite of the fact that I am not an expert.  I am grateful for the chance to work with these amazing creatures.  I am hopeful, too, as I travel this MooseBoots trail, that I can one day achieve even a small degree of the awareness that my incredible daughter, Little Fire Faery, has been able to build.



Monday, June 24, 2013

Smashing My Way Out Of A Funk

Life gets busy.  For those of us craving a simple life, sometimes things get crazy and full of ... well ... life.  We are coming out of our busy time of year, but somehow things are not getting any slower.  Dance season is over and yet the momentum of all of the things we do throws us forward beyond the point where we would like to stop and take a breath.

I guess it takes a show of will to put the breaks on and force life into a more manageable pace.  I have started to put my feet down to the earth in hopes of bleeding off a little speed.  I have decided to try and do little things each night.  I am trying to accept the fact that they may be eensy-weensy things.

A year or so ago, I put aside a piece of oak that had a branch coming out of the side.  I was thinking that it might make a good dipper or ladle.  As the piece dried, however, it cracked in such a way that it would not hold water.  As a result, it sat ... and sat ... and sat.  Until one day, I decided that I could make a primitive hammer out of it.  I would cut off the smaller branch, drill a hole in the main branch, and attach the small branch as a handle.  Then ... it sat ... and sat ... and sat.  Sorry, I didn't think to take a picture of the piece until after I cut it.


This spring, I finally took the plunge and made the hammer.  I followed the plan, using only hand tools ... a bow saw, an old hand-crank drill, and lots of elbow grease.  To attach the handle, I carve the end of the small branch to fit the hole snugly, inserted it, and filled the gaps with wood glue mixed with the sawdust from the cutting and drilling.  I was satisfied with the result and let it sit for a week or so to dry completely.


Tonight, wanting to make a holder for a bee feeder, I decided to use the hammer.  First, I cut a piece of birch from a log.  Then, I used the hammer and a gouge to carve out a bowl.  I did not get to finish, but the idea is to carve a bottomless bowl that a quart sized wide mouth canning jar can sit in upside down.  The jar has a lid with tiny holes in it and is filled with sugar water.  I want the lid off of the ground (plastic lid, birch bark bowl, or some such) so that the bees can reach the liquid by crawling under the whole rig.  Of course, now I am not sure if I want to keep the bowl as a bowl (before I break through the bottom) or continue with the plan.  I will have to wait until tomorrow, or the next time I work on it to decide.  Of course, if the bowl cracks as it dries, the choice will be made.



It feels good to start moving again, in the direction I want to travel rather than that required by the trappings of modern life.  I simply wish to spend more time on my MooseBoots path and less of the distractions of modern society ... someday, perhaps.  In the meantime, I wish you all joy, beauty, and love on the path you wander.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Happy Anniversary

Eighteen years ago, Wendy and I made the conscious decision to share our lives together.  We were both in our late 20's and had a whole lot of life experience under our belts.  We were both enlisted in the US Army. We had both had previous relationships.  We both had graduated from college, each working our way through.

When we made the decision, we knew that it would require an ongoing commitment to work together.  Love is not a state into which, or out of which, you fall.  It is a state of commitment to working with the other person, and having them equally committed to working with you.  There is a lot of give and take.

We have had our ups and downs.  We fight from time to time.  Early on, we each considered giving up ... I was even told several times that Wendy wanted a divorce.  We agreed to a few rules of engagement ... for instance, no walking out on each other during a fight.  I have learned to try and watch what I say during a fight ... it has a way of coming back up even years later ... and try to keep in mind the commitment we have each made to the other.  And, we remain committed.

Being married, in our culture, seems as disposable as paper towels.  When the towel is used up, we throw it in the trash.  When the car breaks down, we buy a new one.  What we fail to realize is that any car (relationship) will need a tune up now and then, regardless of how new and shiny it is.  Giving up and moving on to another relationship may feel really good in the beginning, but eventually you will need to make the decision to work through the hard stuff, or move on.  Wendy and I have chosen to work together.

We have grown into the family that we are.  We started out like the average american couple ... we watched television, we ate fast food, we wanted all of the new toys and gadgets.  Over time we have grown, together,  to where we are now ... homesteading, working toward self sufficiency, foraging, watching our incredible children grow into wonderful people.  We won't be the same people in a few short years, because we are continuing to evolve.  More and more, we find that we relish the simple things in life, the simple gifts of a touch, the sharing of a story or song, the thrill of meeting a new plant or learning a new skill, or the tears of joy from witnessing something beautiful.

We have worked together from the beginning ... planning our visits with our older kids, detailing timelines for having another child before leaving the military, laying out garden bed plans, raising livestock, delivering our own baby together at home, learning survival skills, and writing a book together.  We have woven a beautiful life together.

Wendy, thank you for the past 18 years.  I am eager to see what the future holds.  I love you ... yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bees Installed In The Hive ... And The Queen Released

Last weekend, upon my arrival home from the last weekend of my shaman training, I found that the bees we ordered had not yet arrived, but a quick check of the tracking showed that they would be delivered on Monday.  So, we patiently waited for them to arrive.

At this point, this is the fourth package we have installed in the hive.  We have gotten progressively calmer and more adept at getting the bees from the package and into the hive.  In the beginning, we were nervous and excited.  Each year, installing the bees went smoother and smoother.  This year was no exception.  I am not sure if it is because I have started talking to the bees before doing anything, letting them know what I am doing and why before I even start, but the bees this year were completely docile.

That is not to say, however, that there was no hitch.  Every year, we seem to have a little bit of a new twist.  This year, it was the queen cage.  Each of the previous years, the queen was delivered in a cage with a couple of attendants and the box had a candy plug.  This plug allows the other bees to eat through and release the queen after a few days ... they get used to her scent and accept her as queen and, by then, the plug is gone and she can get to work laying new eggs.  This one had neither attendants nor a candy plug ... there was a cork  in the bottom and nothing else.

So, when we installed the bees, we left the cork in place for a few days to ensure that the bees accepted the queen instead of killing her immediately.  On Thursday, we had to release her.  The trick with this is that we needed to be able to get the cork out, and keep her in, until we closed the hive.  Armed with a spray bottle full of sugar water, we opened the hive, removed the cage, cleared the bees that were hanging out on the cage, doused the queen with sugary water, dropped the bar back in place making sure the queen stayed in until we close everything up, and closed the hive.

I peered through the window today to check the cage.  The queen was indeed out.  In fact, the bees were clustered together on the opposite end of the hive, unlike the random clumps that I had seen only a day or two before.  I quickly opened the hive and removed the cage.

Over the next few weeks, the bees will build all of the comb necessary to store honey and pollen, and lay more eggs.  The colony will build until some time in September.  Last year, the bees built 17 bars of comb.  I will be watching to see that they are healthy and well.  On a good note, I observed bees flying back into the hive with their pollen sacks completely full.

The timing could not be better.  Currently, the apple trees are in full bloom, the dandelions and common blue violets are flowering, and Spring is getting warmer as it moves toward Summer.  Life is springing up all around as the natural world races forward to propagate each respective species ahead of the return of the colder weather that signals the retreat back into Fall and Winter.

I feel very blessed to be allowed to watch, in wonder, this incredible continuous cycle of life.  I live and I learn ... and there is so much more to learn.  After all, that is what this MooseBoots journey is all about.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bees Spring 2013

Once again was saddened to note that the hive had not survived the winter, when I cleaned out the hive a few weeks ago.  I popped open the cover and peeked inside.  Unlike the least two years, my bees had thrived all summer and fall.  They had put up a lot of honey and I was sure they would make it.  Of course, later in the fall, I stopped watching what was happening in the hive.  Actually, I did note a sudden reduction in the number of bees in the window when I peeked, but I didn't really think much of it.  In hind sight, I should have known.

When I cracked the top and looked in, there were very few dead bees.  This was a little surprising, but given that I had already seen it through the window in the fall, not terribly.  I had noticed, and even recognized, the supersedure cell, but failed to act on the observation. 

Supersedure cells are queen cells.  Bees will form these cells, and raise new queens, in advance of swarming.  I had seen them in the hive and did nothing.  Some beekeepers, I have read, will destroy these in an effort to keep a new queen from spawning, which in turn keeps the hive from swarming.  I did not.  I also did not observe them leaving the hive in a swarm, and so could not catch the swarm and put it into the new hive that I built.

When I noticed the population drop, I figured they had swarmed and I had missed the event.  I still held out hope that the hive would survive, which it did until January or February.  Then, the weather took a nasty turn and we received a lot of snow in the last remaining months of winter.  There was little honey left for the bees ... I assume swarms take honey, too.

So, when I opened the hive to clean it out in preparation for the package that was due to arrive this weekend, I expected to see one or two queen cells.  What I found floored me!  The bees had been very successful over the summer and early fall.  I counted at least 13 supersedure cells in the hive.  And, each of them had hatched, as evidenced by the opening in the bottom of each.

I hope that this year is the year that my bees can survive into next spring.  At this point, I believe I have seen the bulk of the major issues that hives can have ... queenless, poor wind barrier, and now swarming.  The new bees are a week later than expected, but should be in the hive by this time next week.  And, if they swarm this year, I hope to catch the new swarm and hive them in the new hive. 

This MooseBoots journey continues to show me how much I have to learn.  Gratefully and with and open heart, I am willing to do so.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sugaring Update 2013, And Mental Wanderings

Each year for the last several, as the Winters melt away into Springs, I have tapped the trees in my yard and my neighbors.  I collect the sap and store it in a barrel until I am ready to boil.  Then, I boil the sap, concentrating down into thick, sweet syrup.


And, with each passing season, I grow more and more grateful for the initial harvest of the year.  Wendy and I strive to do better and better each year, or at least to collect enough to last us the whole year through until the next sugaring season.  And then, our minds turn to greens and beyond to those wonderful plants that help to feed us.

Each season is unique in character, some longer and other shorter.  Last year, for instance, I tapped on January 29th and by the very beginning of March the flow was petering out.  This year, by contrast, I tapped February 15th and the sap is still flowing, albeit slowly, today.

I worried this year because the weather has been off.  Sometimes, it has been too cold, others too warm.  In spite of this, and the multiple huge snowfalls (the largest being 2 feet or so), the sap is flowing and I am still boiling.  With what I have in the barrel today, we will end up with 2.5 gallons of syrup.

And as I sit, listening to the birds sing while the pans boil, I wonder what Mother Nature will provide an abundance of this year.  Will it be acorns, or apples, or deer, or something else?  I am eager for the seasons to wend their way through the cycle to see, because I have not been aware enough for long enough to hazard a guess.  Perhaps, this year will bring an plethora of foxes who fed well on the large numbers of turkeys last year bore.  Or, there may be an increase in the rabbit population, who benefited from the large number of available turkeys.

This MooseBoots journey is ever changing.  And, as a result, I continue to grow.  There always seems to be something new to learn, some new detail to study, a new angle to see, a new relationship to understand.  It could be that there is no end or learning to reach, but perpetual growth ... even beyond this life and into the next.  Regardless, I feel blessed.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

We've Made It To Amazon ... Now How Do I Market This Book

Wendy and I finished the manuscript for our book at the beginning of February.  It looks like the publishing wheels are turning.



To be completely honest, I have some learning to do about marketing myself, and this book.  It will be a learning process in itself.  If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Gratitude Reflected

I stood by the stream, facing west toward the sun hidden below the horizon, eyes closed, heart filled with gratitude for the 20 gallons of sweet sap we have collected from the red maples since we put the taps in last week (2-15-13).  Quiet, I listened to the drip, drip of the sap flowing into the empty bucket at my side.  The stream bubbled merrily, singing the praises of the arrival of spring.  As I sent my thanks out into the world, a turkey saw fit to call back its thanks.  Twice.  I guess you get back what you put out.


I am so fortunate to lead a wonder-filled, wonderful life.

Friday, February 15, 2013

8th Annual Knap In

I have just been informed (thank you, Mike H) that the 8th Annual Knap In, at the University of Southern Maine Gorham campus, is March 16th.  This is a great event with a lot of incredible displays and demos.  If you live close by, you should definitely try to stop in.  Here is a link, 8th Annual Knap In.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

And The 2013 TapMyTrees.com Give-Away Winner Is...

I am so grateful to TapMyTrees.com for once again offering a fantastic gift for my blog readers.  This year I added the bonus of offering an extra entry for those who follow my blog.  Luckily for our winner, she decided to follow.



The 4 Bushel Farmgal has won!  You have 24 hours to respond to this post.  Comments are moderated, so please send your mailing address so that I can have the starter kit sent to you.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Maple Season Is Upon Us Again

It is official!  Wendy and I have completed, and submitted, the manuscript for the book we have written together about our foraging adventures over the last year.  As such, there is only one thing to do ... give something away!

Joe, TapMyTrees.com, has graciously agreed to do another give-away here on MooseBoots.  This year, he is offering a starter kit with aluminum buckets.  Here are the specific rules:

  • Leave a comment here, on my blog.  Comments left on Facebook are appreciated, but will not entered into the running.
  • Anyone who follows my page and enters will get an additional entry.  If you follow but do not comment, you will not be entered because I don't know if you are interested.  If you don't follow yet, click the button for the extra shot.
  • The kit can only be shipped to a US address, because of shipping costs.
This is a chance for some of you to get started, or expand your operation.  Share this and get your friends to enter, too. This is a very generous offer from TapMyTrees.com

The winner will be selected at 17:00 (Eastern Time) on February 14th.

Good Luck!


Some Notes:
  • All maple trees can be tapped.  Birches and some nut trees can be too.
  • Approximately 40 gallons of sap makes 1 gallon of syrup.
  • As a courtesy to Joe at TapMyTrees.com, the winner will have 24 hours to respond after the announcement.  If he/she does not, another winner will be selected.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy New Year

Dear friends,

I have not packed up and decided that this MooseBoots journey has no further appeal for me.  Quite the contrary, Wendy and I are busily working away on the manuscript for a book that we are co-authoring.  There will be plenty more on this later, but rest assured that I will be back.  I have a few things that I'd like to share after we get through this.

Happy New Year!