Sunday 14 April 2013


The most important skill necessary for self-sufficiency is the ability
to make good use of what you already have.
We all live in unique circumstances, but we should all be resourceful.
It's easy to be envious of other regions for what coveted resources they may have, but if you look hard enough, everyone is provided the tools and materials they need to thrive wherever they may be.

Here at home, we are still working on discovering what our land provides without agricultural interference.
The forest is full of food and medicine; the challenge is simply our lack of knowledge.
Often, we will have been aware of a valuable resource but haven't brought it into our lives.
Such is the case with Chaga.
So we went for a walk to see if we could find some.

If you aren't familiar with chaga, it's worth looking into.
Considered a superfood, chaga boasts a staggering list of beneficial medicinal and nutritional qualities.
The best part is that it's local.
We only had to go into the woods a few feet before we found our first specimen.
Now that you can see what it looks like, I'll bet you recognize it.

Chaga is a polypore fungus like the typical bracket fungi that are found commonly in mature forests.
It grows from inside the tree and bursts through in the later stage of development.
Surprisingly, you will usually find chaga on healthy trees as the fungus has a symbiotic relationship with the tree rather than a parasitic one.
When the tree dies, so does the chaga.

We aren't looking to treat any specific illness with chaga.
This medicinal organism is food as much as it is medicine.
It will become part of our diet to enhance the diversity of our nutrition.
A little bit goes a long way and it should be easy to keep enough around to consume it daily.

The valuable components are both water soluble and alcohol soluble.
That means a properly prepared tea in addition to an alcohol extraction.
We're still working on details, but it won't be very much work.
It is important to have a good understanding of the facts regarding chaga in order to get the most out of it.
We'll share our experiences as the process goes along.

It's also important to mention that like most resources, chaga can be exploited.
The demand is growing and over-harvesting is a real threat.
Chaga does not grow quickly and if too much is taken, there will be no regeneration.
Do your research and don't get over zealous if you choose to harvest chaga.
It's tempting to gather as much as possible, but know how much you will need,
and don't harvest any more than that.

There is a great deal of excitement when finding something so valuable in your backyard.
But though chaga appears unique, remember that each plant and animal play an important role in the health of ecology; which, in turn, fosters our own health.
What I find even more exciting, is the knowledge that we will continue to discover how much a natural system has to offer.
The greatest treasure is the biodiversity that provides us with all the food and medicine that we need, right here at home.


Monday 8 April 2013

Friday 5 April 2013

Dyeing with Turmeric, by Kira

Turmeric is a substantive dye.
This means you do not need to use a mordant to hold the colour.
Other substantive dyes include lichen, safflower and indigo.
Now that I have done this using turmeric, I want to use lichen.
We have many types of lichen here that create some beautiful shades of green, yellow, brown and purple.

I used about a cup of turmeric and four litres of water.

A white shirt.

I boiled the turmeric for about 45 minutes, then put the shirt in and lightly boiled for another 45 minutes.
This is the brilliant orange that the shirt was when I pulled it out.
I rinsed the shirt until the water was running nearly clear.
Then I washed it in the washing machine and hung it on the line to dry in the sun.

It ended up with a beautiful goldenrod colour.

Now into the forest to collect lichen!