Category Archives: Seasonal Nature Journal

Dried and Fresh Mushrooms in the Heart of Winter

It can be easy to assume that Winter is just a time where everything is in hibernation. The sap has sunk into the deep roots of the trees – nothing looks as if it is growing, and nothing seems to be alive out in the woods with the barren trees and the brown landscape.  This is somewhat true, and it affords us a beautiful opportunity to tuck in, to hibernate a bit ourselves.  It also gives us time to process our dried medicine we gathered from the year past, and contemplate our next year ahead.  However, don’t forget that Nature is still alive and thriving in the Winter.  One warm day, or a string of nice weather mixed with rains can bring out small and delicious surprises in a Winter nature walk.

mushroomsOne of my herbal teachers once said that the highest aspiration of a plant is to be medicine for another, and I think of this when I see my shelves lined with all the collections of harvested medicinals that have built up from the year past.  I used a cold Winter night recently to process much of my dried medicinal mushrooms, soon to be made into teas and tinctures so as not to deprive the herbs of their possible aspirations!  Pounds of beautiful Reishi, Ganoderma lucidum (and its close native relatives) and also Ancient Reishi, Ganoderma applanatum, have been sitting on my shelf, eagerly awaiting their chance to make a difference in the world as medicine.  Keeping them company were also, Amadou, the Tinder Conk, Fomes fomentarius, and Chaga, Inonotus obliquus – all of these are potent medicinals that help with a variety of ailments and support our overall health. If your curious about these medicinals, come take my next class on Medicinal Mushrooms (02/25/17) to learn more about how these mushrooms can help us with everything from immunity, cancer, high cholesterol and blood pressure, sexual vitality, and so much more.

mushroomProcessing these dried herbs and mushrooms is always something I look forward to.  When we know the herbs we are working with, when we know their attributes and where they came from, it deepens our relationship to the Natural world, and it helps us take more control of our health. Harvesting these herbs ourselves, and taking them all the way from raw herb to medicinal product is a deep and ancient process that our ancestors have been doing for millennia. We get to become part of this ancient process, and at best it can be a meditation, even a form prayer if you like.  I procured a very useful dried herb grinder recently, so my process on this Winter night was to break these dried mushrooms up in to chunks, either by hand, saw, or even a handy rachet-style pipe cutter I use for my hardest herbs.  Plopping these chunks into the grinder and turning it on renders these hardest of herbs into a soft and fluffy powder in a matter of 30 seconds or so.  This is useful because it increases the surface area of the herb, and the more surface area our herbs have the more efficiently our tea water or tincture alcohol can extract from them.

powdered mushroomSo I was left afterwards with pounds of high quality, wildcrafted mushroom powders harvested from practically my back yard.  Feeling accomplished and satisfied with my Winters work, I decided to go on a hike with a friend the next day. Taking in the visuals, the crisp Winter air and the dulled Winter sunlight, I let my thoughts ruminate on Winter, hibernation, the coming Spring.  Just as I was considering the fruits of the land to be, the harvest that was not yet even here, Nature reminded me that there is yet bounty in Winter too. A beautiful, fat little cluster of Oyster mushrooms graced the top of a log, highlighted from the landscape by a ray of sunlight filtering through the barren trees.  What a beautiful delicacy, and a potent medicinal in its own right for cholesterol, blood pressure, relaxing the tendons, and much more.  Perhaps my favorite thing about Winter Oyster mushrooms?  Its too cold for any bugs to already be feasting on them! They were in perfect condition, a rare thing for Oysters.  I took some home to eat, some to culture for growing projects, and made sure to leave some in tact on the log so it could continue to grow spread its spores, continuing its life cycle.

I hope that this Winter has afforded you a deep rest, hibernation, and revitalization. This, after all, is much the function of Winter. The point is to let our ‘sap’ sink deeply into our own roots, to remember what is most essential about our lives, and to begin to conceive and hatch the plan of our lives for the coming Spring.  I hope your coming year is filled with goodness, and many amazing herbs to harvest and share with others. Perhaps we can even be a little more like the plants, and have our highest aspiration to be medicine for others.

A joyful and supportive 2017 to all of you.

admin

November 5, 2014

While I was in school at ITEA (The Institute for Taoist Education and Acupuncture, in Louisville, CO), one of our main assignments throughout the whole program was to write a Nature journal every week.  The assignment was simple – go out into Nature, and write about what you see. Doing this assignment every week allowed me to pay attention to Nature in a much deeper way – the subtle shifts of energy and form that happen from week to week are amazing teachers, showing us how Nature moves, and how life transitions from one moment to another, from one stage of life to another.

Classical Five-Element Acupuncture (CFEA) always teaches from the very start of the learning that Nature is our greatest teacher.  If we have a question about how acupuncture works, how life works, we go into Nature and find the answer in her displays of color, sights, smells, textures and forms.  Even if we don’t have a question that needs answering, going out into Nature and finding stillness allows for the wisdom of Nature to permeate us – the more time we spend in Nature, the more deeply that wisdom penetrates.

Welcome to the Nature blog of Vital Traditions – I hope that this journal inspires you to go out into Nature more and more, and to learn from her ever present teachings.

(To go back to our website click Vital-Traditions.com, or hit the back button on your browser)

BLOG #1: AUTUMN AS TEACHER

While I was in school at ITEA (The Institute for Taoist Education and Acupuncture, in Louisville, CO), one of our main assignments throughout the whole program was a Nature journal.  The assignment was simple – go out into Nature, and write about what you see.

Classical Five-Element Acupuncture (CFEA) always teaches from the very start of the learning that Nature is our greatest teacher.  If we have a question about how acupuncture works, or how life works, go into Nature and find the answer in her display.  Even if we don’t have a question, going out into Nature and finding stillness allows for the wisdom of Nature to permeate us – the more time we spend in Nature, the more deeply that wisdom penetrates.

I spent some time yesterday exploring some of Sugarloaf Mountain park, outside of Frederick, Maryland. It was an amazingly beautiful day in late October! We walked through massive trees, and vast forest floors covered with the downed leaves of fall.  Many of the fall colored leaves were still on the trees yet, but enough were strewn about the ground to alert us to any activity from local squirrels and birds.  The sound of a distant deer running through the forest, out of eye-site, carried through the woods.

The smell in the air was amazing.  I spent the last eight ears in Colorado, where the fall is a very brief experience.  Here, back east, the Autumn has a fullness to it, a robust presence.  The sweet smell of newly decaying leaves was ever present.  Usually for me, smell seems to come in a wave, and when the olfactory nerves are loaded with the smell, I am not able to detect it any longer. But the sweet smell of these leaves stayed with me the whole time.  It is difficult not to be grateful for all of life when each full breath is filled with warm, crisp, and sweet fall air. The sweetness of the decay was a constant reminder of the decline around me with every breath I took – gratefulness tempered with respect for the vast movement from summer-time splendor towards winter bleakness.

Autumn is just that – a time of decline – a time of decay.  All the vegetation of summer is falling away, those things which are not essential are dying off.  It is a time of deep sadness, as all of the joyful playing, warmth, carefree qualities of summer are on their last leg.  If we were still hunter-gatherers, dependent on the local land to sustain and nourish us, this would be a time where we would be harvesting, perhaps frantically harvesting, to make sure we will have enough to get us through the winter.  Remember that most species, and most humans throughout history, do/did not have supermarkets.  Not harvesting and treasuring the bountiful produce of summer meant starvation. It meant death.  And Autumn is that peak time, that brief blink of an eye when we are on the cusp between abundance of Summer, and the bleakness of Winter.  What a powerful time…

There was a dryness to the landscape.  All of the water seemed to have been whisked away, astringed from the land.  The crunchy dry leaves betrayed the presence of anything which moved in the landscape. The air itself had less humidity to it, and felt somehow more cooling and crisp because of that. Couple that sensation with the warmth of the late afternoon sunshine, the freshness and potency of the sweet fall air, and I was in paradise. The full splendor of Fall was presenting itself to us – a swirling, crisp and gilded paradise; full, sweet and transitory.