Monday, April 14, 2014

Birch Brewing

We ended up with about 2 gallons of maple syrup.  As quickly as the season came, it went.  As you know, I like to try new things.  So, rather than put the equipment away, I tapped a birch tree for the first time.

Birches flow differently than maples.  I am not sure what temperature range they like, but as soon as I tapped the tree, the sap poured out.  In fact, in 24 hours, we had collected 5 gallons of sap.  If we were to boil this down to syrup, it would take 100 gallons of sap to make a gallon of the sweet stuff.

So, true to my nature, willing to stumble along and make mistakes, I decided to try brewing it. 

Tonight, I made 3 gallons of birch beer using a traditional recipe from Stephen Buhner's book, Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers (well mostly).  After which point, I made 1 gallon of Mugwort-infused birch beer.  And, just for fun, I made 1/2 gallon of birch, freezer berry wine (11%) and 1/2 gallon of birch, freezer berry mead (10%). 

The last were made following (sort of) the recipe I posted here.  I boiled 1 quart of berries in birch sap and let it cool.  Then, I added sugar to half and honey to the other half.  Presto!

Here's hoping that some of this turns out good!  Regardless, I have learned something new ... and isn't that the point of these MooseBoots excursions?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The End Of Winter

As I wend along this MooseBoots path, I find a comforting rhythm.  The seasons ebb and flow into one another with slightly different nuances at each passing.  It has seemed like a very long Winter at the expense of the Spring.

We tapped the maples back in February, the sap flowed for a few days.  The weather turned cold, the sap stopped.  It has dripped in fits and starts.  We have finally achieved having both enough sap and time for a boil.  Thus far, we have only 3 pints of syrup put up for the year.  We still have ~60 gallons of sap left to boil, but the buds on the trees are getting bigger (my primary gauge) and the weatherman (my backup data) is forecasting increasingly warmer days.  I fear the season is all but over.  It is strange collecting sap and not boiling until April.  In spite of it all, we are so grateful for the abundant offering nature gives.  We gladly accept.

Last year was a year for the bees.  We spent a bit more effort with them.  We purchased a package again to put in one of the hives. We caught a swarm at a friend's home and installed them in a hive that I built.  And, we caught a swarm at our home and put them in a hastily purchased hive.  Each Spring, around this time, we check to see if the hive(s) survived.  We figured our odds were better this Winter because we started out with three hives instead of one. 

We watched with excitement in February as the bees from one hive took a purging flight (they hold their excrement all Winter until it is warm enough to leave the hive).  We continued to watch each hive for signs of life.  The Yellow hive, which contained bees purchased from Tennessee or Georgia, show no signs of life.  The Gray hive bubble with bees on that warm day and have continued to show signs of life each warm day since.  The Green hive, the swarm we caught here at home, shows signs of life, but we only ever saw one or two bees.  We weren't sure it survived.

Last week, we unwrapped the Yellow hive and removed most of the remaining honey.  We left some for the bees in the Gray hive to come and take.  Yesterday, I unwrapped the other two.  I did not open the Gray hive, which is obviously alive and well, but I was curious about the Green hive, which we were unsure of.  I slowly removed bar after bar finding only empty comb and dead bees, until ... I decided to take a look at the other end of the hive, where I had put the swarm into the hive.  I started lifting a bar and saw movement.  Of course, I took a better second look and decided to leave it ...  THEY ARE ALIVE, too!

We have noted over the past few days that the two, of three, hives that survived were started with bees (swarms) from Maine, while the one that died, was not.  Perhaps there is nothing to it, but the strongest hive last Fall was the Yellow hive, which had the longest time for preparation for Winter.  The Green hive had only from July until the cold to build comb, store honey, and seal the hive.  Yellow hive had a full 2 months longer.

I am not sure of the strength of the Gray hive, but the Green colony is very small.  Of course, they should be able to fill the rest of the hive given that we should see pollen soon.  The maples will flower and the pines will release their pollen.

There is so much to learn.  And, Nature seems to be so willing to teach, if only we take the time to slow down.  In the words of Dan Tyminski and  Avicii, " ... there are endless roads to re-discover ...".

May you feet find the path your hearts seeks!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Maple Sugaring - Legend

Those of you who have been following along this MooseBoots journal know that I like to tell stories.  Someday, I hope to be good at it.  A few years ago, at one of the nature classes we attended, we were told an Algonquin legend.  This is not my story, it is not from my heritage, yet I feel compelled to tell it.  For those whose ancestors have handed this down, thank you for sharing it with me through those you have taught.  In the hopes of honor the traditions who passed this story down through untold generations, I tell this story from my memory, in spite of the fact that I could probably Google it and copy it word for word.  Here goes ...

Long ago, when the animals could speak and we, the people, could understand, there lived a Great Chief, Glooscap.  Glooscap loved the people and cared for them greatly.  He protected them from the many Giants that roamed the earth.  He taught them the correct ways to live with the earth, to honor the gifts that she gave.

In this time, maple trees did not give maple sap.  Maple syrup flowed through the trees.  When the people were hungry, they simply tapped the trees and ate their fill of the delicious syrup that nature had provided.  It came to pass, however, that the people became complacent.  Instead of honor the gift, they simply tapped the trees and lay down under them guzzling the sweet liquid.  And so, they became fat and lazy.

One day, Glooscap returned from a hunting trip and saw the people lying about under the spouts on the trees.  With his great wisdom and understanding, he knew the danger to the people, even if they did not see it themselves.  He also knew that the land needed the people to help support it.

Glooscap called the people to him and taught them that they must not act in this manner.  He explained that the earth needed their labor to support its growth and well-being.  He also explained that they needed to work and move to keep their bodies healthy.  After which, he departed for another hunt.

A week later, Glooscap returned to find the people lying under the maple trees again.  This time, he could not contain his anger at the people for their laziness and carelessness.  He went to his wigwam, took his largest birch bark basket to the edge of the nearby stream, and filled it with water.  He carried the water back to the maples and poured the water into the trees, diluting the syrup into sap.

Knowing that the people still needed this food, he explained to them that the syrup still flowed in the trees, but that it was watered down.  In order to gather it, the people would need to collect the sap and boil it to remove the extra water.  He knew that to do so, they would need to collect fire wood, make baskets, and such.

And so, to this day, we still gather the sweet sap during the spring flow and boil it into the syrup.

May your days grow longer, may your homes be warmer, and may you find all that you need to be healthy and happy.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Kid Is Alright

Kids just seem to get it.  We are born with the inherent knowledge that we are divine and that we are all connected.  They are born with wisdom beyond their time in this sphere.  They share, they comfort, they laugh without restraint, they cry unabashedly.  Children are in touch with the world, their own spirit, and their feelings.

Somewhere along the way, however, it is taught out of them, beaten out, stripped away by a society that does not value these things.  It is a shame, because so many of us seek to find these things that should never have been lost.  I guess that that is what this MooseBoots journey is about ... rekindling that knowledge, the wisdom, the connection.

Last week, before the flu ravaged our home, Wendy and I took our weekly trip to the grocery store. Normally, the place is slow and quiet on Saturday mornings when we go, but we took a side trip to eat breakfast at a local restaurant first.  It was busy when we got there, which normally sets me in a less than glowing mood (I can't imagine acting as rude as some of the people we encounter at times).  This day was different ... perhaps, the moon and stars had aligned and set the proper atmosphere.

Regardless, we ventured onward.  We breezed right through the produce section and onto the organic offerings.  Wendy stopped to get organic cane sugar and soap.  I went on to get the girls' their weekly ration (4-pack) of locally brewed soda (no preservatives, real sugar).  In the short aisle, a Mom was shopping with her young girls.  If I had to, I'd guess 18 months and 3 years old.  The younger sat in the cart.  The older wandered around her mother.

I have a way with kids.  I like them.  They like me.  I love their honesty, their joy at little things, their glow.  Perhaps, they see the same in me.  Regardless, the young girls in the cart smiled a crooked smile at me.  Of course, I smiles back, looking deep into the abundant happiness filling her eyes.  I could not help myself ... I kept looking and smiling and waved a bit.

Her mother noticed the smile and remarked that she, the girl, really loved me.  I responded that she was a cutie.  It was about this time that her older sister noticed me.  Now, I don't know how many of you know this, but a three year old CAN talk.  She started with her name.  I told her mine.  To which, she responded that he favorite movie had a character that shared my name.  It didn't take long for Mom to let us know that this could go on forever.  We took this as a hint and said our goodbyes.

The tone had now been set.  I could not refrain from smiling at people throughout the grocery store.  I did note that men don't seem to like to make eye contact and so, did not get to share in the wonder.  Several women (of all ages) met my gaze and smiled back shy smiles.  What is wrong with our society?  The same society that fills us with so much fear that it is not OK to meet someone's gaze, that it is not OK to look at anyone else, that it is not OK to talk to strangers.

Turning the corner to one of the last aisles, I noticed a woman stocking a display with cleaning products.  Clearly, she did not work at the store, so I asked if she made all of her own products.  She stopped, turned, and talked to us.  It turns out that she does make the Gracefully Clean products in her basement.  She is working on expanding the operations and she is very careful about the things she put into them.  We chatted amicably for several minutes, exchanged contact information, and parted ways.

Rounding the final corner, Wendy and I started to chat up an old woman, whose husband was not at all happy with the distraction.  Of course, she smiled and laughed and encouraged us to keep laughing to stay young at heart and healthy.  She chatted with us for the rest of the aisle, while her husband waved her to come on.

It was obvious that there was no middle ground to speak of.  Young kids and older people, in general, understand.  They will meet your eyes, speak to you from their hearts, open themselves to touch your soul and allow you to touch theirs ... to connect.  People in the middle do not.

This brought to mind  the book "Of Spirit and The Water".  In the book, the author, who is an African shaman, describes his life.  During his early year, he was left with his grandfather, which was the tradition of his tribe.  The very young children of the tribe were left with the elders.  Not because of physical ability in the field, but because both the very young and the very old were close to the divine and could share wisdom that would benefit their community.  The young were fresh and had not forgotten divinity.  The old had lived life and seen much only to return to the wisdom they had forgotten in the middle years.

So next time, you see a kid smiling at you, be sure to smile back and wave.  You never know how that reflection will influence the rest of your day, or your life.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


For those who visit regularly, know this ... I am alive.  My creative juices are not really flowing much and I have not found much to discuss.

Wendy and I are still trying to promote "Browsing Nature's Aisles", but like all things here in Maine, we are in stasis.  I am, however, awake enough to be watching for signs that the Spring is here.  The Maples never lie.  Randy Link captured it best.

If you read this, please comment and let me know how you are. 

Oh yeah, please like "Browsing Natures Aisles" on Facebook, and please send your friends.  We are open to coming and doing talks, signing, etc., too.

Rest well, for the Spring comes with new awakenings.

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,

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.