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Chaga Harvest Batch #0319

I went out to gather batch # 0319 near Searchmont on March 29th and 30th, for four hours on both days. It was the time of year when walking in the bush takes a whole lot more energy than it usually does.  We tend to avoid wildcrafting during the spring melt because it’s just too hard to make good ground and there are potential opportunities for injury hidden everywhere beneath the soggy snow.  However last winter, Braidy and I were living totally different lives than usual and before we knew it, the melt had already begun.  We were living and working in Searchmont, a small ski community near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.  The ski hill is always a lot of fun but it is a far cry from the quiet solitude that I am used to and cherish greatly.  Participating in the 9-5 lifestyle along with constant socializing during and after work had left me fresh out of energy and yearning for some alone time.  aparty (1)

I headed out on a snowmachine trail that eventually makes its way to Wawa and along the way, provides some lovely views of the Goulais River valley.  With every other step, my snowshoe sank right through the melting snow and although it was raining, I began to sweat almost immediately with the effort of it.  I didn’t cover much distance in 4 hours but I did swear a lot while continuously pulling myself out of the waist deep snow. Although I was surrounded by yellow birches and wetlands, which is prime Chaga country, I called it quits with an empty backpack.

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The following day I went out again despite the heavier rain and warmer temperature. I was feeling much more balanced as I acknowledged my gratitude for the regenerative time alone with the forest. My first stop was at the ice falls that had provided me with solitude and had served as my “reboot chamber” throughout the winter.  After taking a few moments to honour the place that had given me peace and renewal, I moved onward. With a growing determination and a clear intention to follow the natural flow, I tuned out the chatter in my mind and instead, tuned in to all the living beauty surrounding me.  Focused fully on listening, observing and carefully placing each foot, I quickly discovered an abundance of Chaga within arm’s reach.  In the same amount of time as the previous day, covering the same amount of distance, I emerged from the trail with a fully loaded backpack and two big bags in hand totalling 30lbs of Chaga.  What a marvelous array of Chaga conks on this beautiful white birch!

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Time and time again, I learn this simple lesson in beautifully different ways.  When I am fully present and grounded in gratitude, I am able to connect with an ancient, infinite wisdom that flows freely in and around us all. It’s really amazing how quickly just ‘being’ in nature instantly recalibrates our energies and reconnects us to a web of consciousness; the common thread that weaves us together with every living thing.  In this space, the lines that seemingly separate our selves from our natural environment and from one another, fade away as we grow another step closer to realizing our full potential as powerful components of a whole network of living knowledge.

In retrospect, it’s always easier to see the greater value inherent in some experiences that at first glance, seem superficial.  Although it was hard for me to give up my solitude last winter, this particular journey outside of my comfort zone led me to a wealth of meaningful relationships and opportunities to join together with like-minded people.  A cluster of new and old ideas are woven together by a vision, inciting a deep-seated desire to become a part of a collaborative effort to facilitate natural connections. blog

Chaga batch #0319, dressed in our new 100% compostable packaging is now available on Manitoulin Marketplace and in store at the Island Jar in Little Current!57289467_2596387017056913_6487380274760908800_n

Chaga Harvest Batch #1018

We ventured out into the woods on Oct. 30th in search of the fungus that some people call the fountain of youth.  After 3 hours, we headed back home with 3.5 lbs of Chaga.  As the mushroom loses about 1/3 of it’s weight while drying, this is a very small haul.  Although unusual, we do occasionally come home with very light or even empty backpacks after a day of bushwacking.  This is simply a part of foraging.  In contrast, sometimes we find so much, we can’t fit it all into our bags.  November 4, 2018 was one of those very bountiful trips into the bush.  We headed out into crown land near the North Channel Islands Provincial Park with hopes of finding the motherlode, as we like to call it!

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It was only a few minutes before we had our hammers and chisels out and were gently removing Chaga conks from old Yellow Birches, which are more prevalent than White ones, in this particular area.  The environment was ideal for the fungus with lots of lowlands, Cedar and Hemlock groves with intermittent Birch-lined streams and swamps.

After 3.5 hours of walking and harvesting, our bags were heavy enough that we were ready to happily head home. That is when we saw it, from a distance…..the motherlode!

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This is truly one of the most spectacular sights for our Chaga hunting eyes.  Spending a few moments in admiration, we very carefully removed about 40% of the Chaga growth from this majestic giant, thanked the tree for its grand offering, took a compass reading and headed in the direction of the car.  The walk out seemed long and just a few minutes before we could see the road off in the distance, Braidy spied something out of place in the forest.  Dropping our heavy bags, we stopped to find a white plastic tube, hung up in a tree.  As Braidy touched it, it shattered into pieces and revealed a weather balloon device!

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Based on the fact that it’s plastic shattered upon a gentle touch, we figure this device had been there quite a long time.  Too bad the postage is not paid from Canada!

When we arrived home, we quickly unpacked the day’s harvest and weighed it. The total weight was 44 lbs, which is a big haul and more than we had anticipated!

After letting the Chaga dry at room temperature for a couple of days, we clean it with a hard bristled brush, crush and sift it, then spread it out on to our drying screens.  After a few more days, the Chaga is fully dried and now weighs 28 lbs.  Now it’s time to blend in the spices to make another giant batch of Chaga Chai, assemble some tea bags and then put it all into jars.  We package our goods in new mason jars and we always reuse the original packaging to ship our orders out.

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Chaga harvest batch #1018 is available now at The Island Jar in Little Current, The Harvest Pantry in London and in our very own Store.

 

Chaga Harvest Batch #0818

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It was a cool, breezy day on August 23rd when Braidy and I embarked upon the Chaga hunt that created Harvest batch #0818.  With the added charm of a colourful array of autumn leaves scattering the forest floor, we happily headed out into the bush close to home, in the Township of Day and Bright.

As we typically find most Chaga flourishing along the edges of various waterways, we followed what appeared to be an intermittent stream on the edge of a Hemlock and Cedar swamp.  In contrast to our last harvest, we found all of this Chaga growing within reach, so Braidy did not have to climb any trees.  This is always a nice bonus as we always aim to tread as lightly on the land, as possible!

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On our travels I spied a beautiful spread of Turkey tail mushrooms (trametes versicolor) and decided to leave it be.  We have some already and we prefer not to keep a large stock as it is easy to go out and harvest as the need arises.  We do this because we believe strongly in only taking what we need.  Another benefit of this practice is that we always have the freshest, most nutrient rich product as possible.  I marked the location of the Turkey tail on my gps, so that I can return to it when it’s time to replenish our supply.

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After gently removing the Chaga from their Birch hosts, we set the conks out to air dry for a day or two, before crushing them.  The moisture content in the Chaga makes a big difference in the ease of crushing as well as dictates what sizes of chunks it yields.  You may notice that one harvest batch consists of smaller chunks than another and this varies depending on how much moisture is in the conks at the time of harvest, as well as the humidity and temperature of the air during drying.

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The very last thing I do before filling jars with my Chaga tea, is quality control. After an enjoyable day at “the office,”  sipping a hot cup of Chaga harvest Batch #0818 is my last order of business.  Today I’m taste testing my Chaga Chai blend, complimented by a splash of Irish Mist honey liqueur!

Chaga Harvest Batch #0818 is available now in our Store as well as at the The Island Jar in Little Current, Manitoulin Island.

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~ Happy tea drinking, Folks! ~

 

Chaga Harvest Batch #0418

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Braidy and I harvested this batch of Chaga on April 6th, 7th & 10th, 2018 in the Municipality of Huron Shores.  We spied most of the conks high up in the trees so Braidy was busy setting up safety ropes and carefully climbing these very old Yellow Birches.  More often than not, we find Chaga growing on yellow, rather than white, Birch trees.  We were grateful to find this unusually abundant and stunning array of conks all on one tree (above, center).  We always take good care not to damage any trees or over harvest; so we took about 75% of one conk and left the rest intact to ensure that this beautiful old tree will continue to thrive and so that Chaga mushroom can regenerate. This harvest session yielded some of the most beautiful and brilliantly coloured Chaga we have ever seen!

Our harvest batch numbers are now displayed on our labels and indicate the month and year of the harvest.  Batch #0418 is currently available at the Island Jar on Manitoulin Island as well as in the Wild Teas section of our Store.

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Hugging trees is good for you:)

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I am often called a tree-hugger and have been for years. Although I don’t mind the term, it is most often used lightly as a ‘granola’-like stereotype.  What most people don’t realize that I actually love to hug trees; all sorts of trees but especially the really big ones I can’t even begin to reach my arms around!  The action of embracing a tree always generates a great sense of serenity and gratitude within me.  Now there is research to support the notion that hugging trees can benefit not only your mental/emotional/spiritual well-being, but that ‘forest bathing,’ as it is referred to in Japan, can stimulate your immune system and improve your general state of health!

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/12/02/science-proves-hugging-trees-is-good-for-health/

http://londonnaturopathic.com/cancer-prevention-consider-bath/