Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wild Crafting Season

It is the beginning of our wild crafting season. The roots of the spring tonic plants are ready. We have been digging nettle roots to tincture, wild sarsaparilla root to dig. Birds fill the forest with the music of courtship. I spend a lot of time in wild places gathering the many herbs we use in our products and I also gather some other quiet things. The experience of the forest is an opening to the many expressions of nature found in small discovery. Each new plant or animal stirs an emotional response in our inner selves. These emotions act like fuel for our spirit to keep on seeking new moments in the flow of life. I have had my most healing by being captured by simple creation happening all around me. Moments of this  quiet kind of witnessing  are the reason I have chosen the path of the naturalist.  It is now summer in the parklands and much is happening out in those woods. The elusive orchids of the park are now starting to bloom. I have found three new species in a fen we visit from time to time. Grass pink, large white fringed orchid and small white fringed orchid as pictured . The orchids have a quiet and profound presence in the forests and wetlands. Some like the pink butterfly orchid exude an  almost tropical fragrance. {pictured}. The search for orchids is always a challenge because most of the Adirondack orchids live in deep forest or remote bog and wetland settings. I have spent many hours in bogs moving slowly before seeing what was right in front of me. Today I will go searching my own local bogs to see who is around.

Take good care Don

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May Woodlands

I hope tonight will be our last frost. The endless job of covering our new garden plants will soon be over. The forest is still open with the beginning of leaves on the trees. Kate and I took our son Sean to hike into the Ferris wild forest [ about 200 square miles ] on the 10th. The wild flowers slowed us down as we made our way to Good Luck Mt. This small mountain has class-12 cliffs, good for climbing and great for witnessing the stone of the earth. The cliffs are over 100 feet tall with a boulder field at the base. Where a boulder field exists, the environment for unusual plants is very good. Goldthread [ Coptis groenlandica ], both Painted Trillium and Purple Trillium, Dutchman's Breeches and Dwarf Ginseng are plentiful and in full bloom. Giant glacial boulders have small gardens of prickly gooseberry and Polypody ferns. The landscape has a feeling that giants created a woodland rock garden. The Yellow Birch trees dominate the forest with Mountain Ash, Mountain Maple, Striped Maple and White Spruce. A pair of Ravens live on the cliff face and gave us warning to give their nesting site plenty of room. The walk in this rare space gave all of us a feeling of discovery and peace both inside our own being and as a group that has walked these woods together for many years. The more time we can spend in the wild forest quietly seeking the large and the small wonders of nature, the greater our appreciation of life. Go out and enjoy.
From the Adirondacks Don

Monday, April 20, 2009


April, a time for new partnership . Birds are finding nesting sites, bears are moving about, foxes with their kits are learning hunting skills. The snow is still over a foot deep on the north slopes. The forest is filled with clear spring light tinged pink and violet as the sunlight passes through the spring buds on the trees. The forest floor is warming and the spring ephemerals are starting to spring up, reaching towards light. The amount of energy gently waking the land as the earth slowly turns to the south creates a bloom wave, waking the buds on the trees . This is my favorite time of the year for wandering in our wilderness landscapes. The secrets of the landscape are revealed to the trained eye. Forest types, glacial features, water courses, and the general topography are open to see clearly. This is a great time to learn about the tree and forest floor flowers. Trout lily, spring beauty, wood violet, and dwarf ginseng are some of the first to bloom. Quaking aspen, red maple, and the alders are some of the trees and shrubs to flower first. To identify these early blossoms is to create a base for our relationship with all the seasons and the evolution of the coming greening. Spending time in the forest at the beginning of the seasons is a great start . Enjoy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Spring Time

Today, March 30th, it snowed and the wind blew hard with 32 degrees at best. Lucy the dog and I went out for a walk along the old back road we live on. The sky moved over us and dipped down sometimes to rush around and make us look up squinting into small snow and ice. The trees bending and talking to the creek in flood stage with the snow melt. Geese way up there somewhere but not to be seen, just heard. Small birds going with the wind hopefully to the destination they set out to. In all of the wild and unpredictable spring wind and snow there is a solid feeling I get of the earth under my feet and the sky breathing in the changing season. I cherish the time I have in the natural world and look forward to the spring flowers on the forest floor as well as the tree blossoms to come. More spring walks soon. Don

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Springtime Greetings

Today is the 21st of March, springtime. It was a warm 13 degrees this morning and made 39 degrees by afternoon. Early plants are coming up around the house even with single digit numbers due this week. Don’t put the warm clothes away yet. Snow geese were flying by today with a slightly different call than the Canada geese also traveling north. Our stream called Mill Creek is in it’s high spring flood moving large chunks of ice down toward the West Canada Creek. The water will empty into the Mohawk river and on to the Hudson to meet the ocean as it goes by New York city in a week or so.

This week I spent a day on snowshoes gathering Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus) a fungus that grows on Birch trees. In the Adirondacks, yellow birch is a common forest tree. I love the forest this time of the year. Clear, bright open forest lands with yellow or golden birch trees make gathering such a pleasure. I also made a gallon of Black birch oil from branches smaller than one inch! The oil is in a ceramic pot at 95 degrees for a week or so. It smells of wintergreen and is used in many of our creams. I will be collecting many other barks over the next two months. I will talk of them as I collect and process the many types. The other fun thing happening is Maple syrup . I have friends that make great syrup just a few miles from us and it is a wonderful tradition. Gathering the sap, and cooking it down is a lot of work but so rich an experience that we look forward to it as a spring marker. Kate thinks of the sap as a sweet spring tonic. Cold nights and warm sunny days are the forecast that makes the sap run. Time to go.

Take care Don

Friday, March 20, 2009

The point of winter camping for me is applying my deepest understanding of my physical being, my relationship to nature and the desire to reach for the quiet landscape to find my own inner peace. The deep cold, the winter light, the frozen landscape all are in a deep state of quiet. I find the same quiet in a meditative practice and enjoy being immersed in wild natural settings. The practical lessons I learn in winter camping are about how the body works in adverse conditions. I can fell my inner physical metabolism working in a clear way and can find a balance of stoking the inner flame of my body. Winter camping is challenging and rewarding on so many levels. I love it.

Winter in the Adirondacks brings some migrating visitors to our land. We have had Pine Grosbeaks, Red-wing Blackbirds, Purple Finches, Black and Whites, Red Poles, Evening Grosbeaks, and Red Crossbills moving thru. Ravens are in courtship and the birds that are year round neighbors are beginning to sing their spring songs. We have yearly visit from a Barred Owl that perches near the house during the day. The Canada geese are heading north and snow geese have arrived at a local grainfield. I love seeing these pure white geese, with their different call, flying north. We have a pair of Ravens that nest on the land every year and they are mating in the tall spruce and balsam firs around us. Spring is slowly coming to us in the northlands.

Take care, Don

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

As I move slowly through the winter forest I look up to see the huge form of Blue mountain dominating the north west sky. I am pulling a sled with equipment for a three day winter camping trip. Three friends also are harnessed to their sleds pulling along the trail with snowshoes on.
The temp is 15 degrees and the wind is about 20 mph out of the northwest.
Our destination is an open shelter at the south end of Terrell Pond in the Blue mountain wilderness. We are expecting three days of windy cold with lows to 10 below at night. Terrell Pond is a mile long, laying north and south its long and narrow shape. Our trail in is a four mile pull over gently rolling landscape with a number of stream crossings with some running water to add a challenge to our trip. The sleds are long and thin to fit into the snowshoe trail we make and weigh about 45 pounds. Our gear includes a large tarp of white cotton to cover the open side of the shelter and a small pack stove (wood burning) to heat the shelter to a comfortable 40 to 45 degrees. Good food and winter clothing fill out our packs of gear. For winter camping, high energy food and lots of liquids are necessary to stay warm. Keeping your clothing dry is also very important.
The trip in takes more time to complete and we arrive with daylight fading to a winter rose color sky, temps dropping and much work to be done. We work on setting camp, cutting a night's supply of firewood, obtaining water and preparing dinner. A small propane lamp provides a warm light as night falls and we settle in to warm dry clothes for the night. Good spirits all around prevail after a long day on the trail. The wood stove sings a song of warmth as the deep silence of the north woods settles around us. Good down bags, wool caps and one man to stoke the stove through the night help make our dreams warm.
The morning comes bright with sun and clear skies. Today is a day for skiing the pond and just being in this deep quiet world. We share this space with the wild, year-round snowshoe hares, coyotes, fishers, otters and many kinds of birds. So the trip goes on with a sad return to our world of busy details and of happy return to home and loved ones. More on the trip and winter thoughts and sightings soon. Best to you, Don. Late February 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Deep Winter

The sun has risen to a clear cold sky after many days of snowy weather. Cold enough last night to freeze the snowpack so the conditions are good for chaga gathering. My son and I will be going out today on a mountain side north of us to begin the winter harvest. The deep forest of the summer opens up in the winter with the lack of foliage. The sun can shine in and the open forest reveals it’s secrets. The tracks of the forest animals will be a wonderful gift as we wonder the hillsides. Coyotes, mink, snowshoe hare, white footed mice, bobcat and porcupine will be some of the tracks we may see. It is time to pack up our woven Adirondack packs with maps, water, food and most important - a good compass. January has arrived with deep snow and some 20 below zero temperatures. This is our time for winter meditations about last year and what will come in the new year.

The new arrivals of Rose Breasted nuthatches, gold and purple finches, morning doves and a Barred owl have given our solitude a small winter family to enjoy. Coyotes and Bobcats are hunting our woods for snowshoe hares leaving their tracks to read. As the snow is falling on this Sunday afternoon I thank all that makes this life so rich and meaningful.

Don January 18 2009