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The year of plenty- a wildcrafting fantasy

For Lisa

Allegorical depiction of the Roman goddess Abu...
Allegorical depiction of the Roman goddess Abundantia with a cornucopia, by Rubens (ca. 1630) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Well folks it is official, this is the year of the bountiful cornucopia, the horn of plenty in Southern Ontario. The year of abundance that every wildcrafter, harvester in the wild, dreams about. With all the rain and sun and rain and sun and rain and sun and warmth and rain (and thunderstorms), we are having a bumper year for all the wild fruits and flowers. I have never experienced such a bounty in decades as there is right now around us in southern Ontario. .

  • Wild Raspberries
  • Wild Blackberries
  • Mulberries
  • Wild Mushrooms, medicinal and gourmet
  • St. John’s Wort everywhere. To name only a few that come to mind.


If you have kids make sure to grab them and go out and harvest raspberries, BlackBerries and mulberries, Right NOW! This is THE year to do it, so don’t miss this very unique window of opportunity.

Reishi Mushrooms Ontario 2013. My favourite medicinal and flavourful mushroom. deserves its own post and page."Ganoderma Tsugae
Reishi Mushrooms Ontario 2013. My favourite medicinal and flavourful mushroom. deserves its own post and page.”Ganoderma Tsugae”

If you know your mushrooms, go out and hunt them because they are everywhere! If you don’t know your mushrooms make sure you get some good books because this is the perfect year to learn about them. Let them teach you. They are waiting for you. If they don’t enrich your diet, or boost your immune system, they will most definitely enrich and boost your spirit and mind. Nourish your soul.


In 30 years I haven’t seen the wild raspberries as luscious and laden with fruit as they are now. I really am blown away here! Every Little flower has flowered and turned into a berry, and every little raspberry has grown and grown to become plump and juicy and ready to be harvested. This window will only stay with us at the very most for three weeks. So please, grab kids, buckets and baskets, make room on your kitchen counter and in your fridge and freezer and make sure you get out there A.S.A.P.


Wild Raspberries
Wild Raspberries (Photo credit: Bien Stephenson)


  • Wild Raspberry Jam
  • Wild Raspberry ice cream syrup
  • Wild Raspberry wine
  • Wild Raspberries frozen
  • Wild Raspberry tarts, pies, sauces
  • Wild Raspberries with Icecream,,Whipped cream!

    If you have kids grab them and go. Don’t wait! Don’t procrastinate! If you don’t have kids then grab your neighbors or your in-laws kids, (with their permission), and take them out to harvest wild raspberries and wild mulberries. It will be an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. An initiation into Nature that is meant for them. One you are meant to facilitate for them. You are their high priest or priestess in these matters of the spirit. you are their initiator into the mysteries of Nature that must be experienced and cannot be taught with words. These are experiences that will touch them, move them, shape them and connect them with Nature, open their minds hearts and spirits.It will help correct some of the misconceptions and behaviours our culture has programmed into their young minds, replace video games and internet with experiences that truly nourish and nurture their minds and spirits.

    Summer is here and it’s the perfect time to do stuff with your kids, you don’t need to go far. It doesn’t cost anything and there’s nothing like going out and introducing them to nature, bringing the harvest home, and showing them what they can do with it. These are the things we need to teach our children.

    Because if you do this for them, they are going to do it for their kids and the world will be a better place. Don’t miss this opportunity. They need a relationship with nature to ground them amidst all our technology and busyness.

    The wild raspberries are usually small and dry but very flavorful every year. Sparse, but worth the effort. But this year they are huge, perfectly formed, succulent, juicy, sweet, flavorful and truly abundant. Every raspberry flower must have flowered, and each one must have been fertilized. Every cluster is now full with rarely a fruit missing from the perfect spiral of fruits, lined up to serve you a fresh berry every day. Perfectly paced for three weeks of incredible abundance and bounty. What a show of perfection and fertility.


    English: Photo of mulberries in various stages...
    English: Photo of mulberries in various stages of ripeness. Taken in Mingo Creek County Park, Washington County, Pennsylvania, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


    The Mulberry trees are laden, branches bowed, bent in offering. Grab a sheet or tarp, spread it underneath the tree and shake a bough. You will, in ten minutes, have enough Mulberries to feed the family, Make a few pies, a few liters of wine or a refreshing summer syrup. Have you noticed that each Mulberry tree offers slightly different fruit? It is very noticeable this year. Subtle differences in size and texture of each tree’s fruit. Different shades of tartness and flavour, and they are all cram packed with Mulberries, Right now. They will only offer us their bounty for another 2 weeks tops folks, that’s it! So now is the time to get out there.

    The price we may have paid for this bounty is the daily rain, so you will have to time your forays wisely and in between thunderstorms and downpours. But it is definitely doable and worth it.

    So get out your recipe books and your grandmothers recipe books. Burn up your internet bandwidth and hunt for recipes online. Prepare yourselves and get your kids hyped up. There is no missing the mark this year. We are shooting in a barrel of fish, surrounded by abundance. So if you screw up a recipe, just go get more. This is the year to make Mulberry wine, Mulberry jam, raspberry syrup, raspberry jam, raspberry wine, raspberry tarts, and well,, raspberry everything.

    Don’t wait or hesitate. Don’t put it off till tomorrow because it will all be gone soon.

    And it looks like in a few weeks in the fall we are going to have a huge harvest of wild grapes so start preparing now for that tart flavourful harvest to come. (Wild grape jelly, Vinegar, Syrup!! Yummm).

    St. John's Wort first Harvest 2013
    St. John’s Wort first Harvest 2013

    If you’re into St. John’s wort and you want to try harvesting your own herb, or making your own healing oil, this is the year to do it! I have never ever in all my years of foraging, wildcrafting and harvesting ever seen such a local abundance of St. John’s wort yellow flowering vibrance everywhere around. It is impossible to miss it. It’s just waiting patiently, For You! (You know who you are), So folks, If you are going to do it, this is the time to do it.
    Remember your wildcrafting Etiquette

    Always give something before you take, and show your children how to treat nature with respect. As they would like to be treated, as equals.

    Treat the plants with care and respect. Don’t slash, break or trommel plants to get their fruit.

    Only collect as much as you can use.

    Whatever you don’t use or have left over after cleaning and processing, goes back to the earth. Not a garbage bag.

    Stay away from old industrial sites and heavily travelled roadsides, railroad tracks that may have had spills or have been sprayed.

    Have a look at the post- “9 tips for making a kickass wildflower wine”, for wildcrafting guidelines.

    You can explain till you are blue in the face why they should stop playing mind crap, (Minecraft). and come harvest berries with you. You will just have a fight. But take them once and let them experience the satisfaction of picking fresh berries, popping them in their mouths and bringing home a treasure, you

    Wild Raspberries
    Wild Raspberries (Photo credit: Bien Stephenson)

    will never need to convince them to leave the computer screen and come explore nature again.

    OK, The sun is back out, the rain has stopped. Gotta go, You know where. Those black wild Raspberries are calling me. I bet I will stumble over some wild mushrooms on the way. I am going to leave the writing till it is dark and take advantage of the daylight. Listen to my own words of advice. I will catch you on the other side of a bucket of fresh wild berries.

    Bye for now.





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Wild Mushroom hunt, a father son moment

Amanita Muscaria Pine woods

 Wild Mushroom Hunt- a Father Son Moment

I have been a single father, for, well feels like, Forever.
In reality only for this last incarnation the past 2 decades. There was one incarnation where I was a sculptor, then I did an incarnation as a craftsman, then, when I was in my early 40’s, I became a father.

Amanita Muscaria Pine woods
Amanita Muscaria Pine woods


Nathan will be 18 in August. Then come September he leaves home,away from me where he and I have lived together most of his life. Whaaat!?! Leaves home??!! Yup. Still getting my mind and heart around that.

At the age of 17 almost 18 my not so little Leo is leaving home in a couple of months, going to school in another city, studying horticulture of all things! I feel like a proud father. Horticulture? There’s another oddity. He never showed an interest in working with me when asked over the years. I guess something rubbed off!! Not complaining!

Amanita Muscaria
Amanita Muscaria

After 10 hours of tenacity, trying to repair his air-soft rifle, he went out to play in the woods with a friend. A little game of hide and seek and using each other for target practice. Fun, apparently.
When he arrived back home he discovered he did not have his phone or his wallet. I took him to find his wallet in the woods. We revisited the spot where he had crouched in the tall grasses ambushing his friend.  Proceeded to look for his wallet which we could not find, but, we did find a mushroom, then another mushroom then found we had spent almost 2 hours hunting mushrooms, talking about mushrooms and pretty much everything else we could talk about including some things I hadn’t gotten around to discussing with him. Like my thoughts about what I might do when he left the nest. That I really would no longer have a reason to be where I had been for all these years since the only reason I chose to be here was because of him. It was a lovely and very timely experience life had lined up for us.

Wild mushrooms have been one of my passions for many years, yet I’ve never taken Nathan out to hunt mushrooms, (except when he was a baby and strapped to my front in a baby carrier).  It just seemed to come together in a very natural way, and sparked his own dormant mushroom passion. Questions and answers then more questions, hypothesis and theories on these so unusual representatives of Nature.

We spoke of rulerships, planets and plants, moon cycles, the Moon, the subconscious and emotions, (dark of and bright of our emotions and the moon), and the moons pull and influence on water, emotions the subconscious. The unique growing habits of mushrooms. The moon and Saturn as rulers of mushrooms, ebb and flow of their mysterious growth habits. Saturn’s position of the great teacher, setting limits and boundaries, endings.  And whether these specimens would continue their unfurling if moved from where they were. Or if they were dependent on the supply of nutrients, (or energy), from the barely perceptible strands of mycelium. So we conducted an experiment,  bringing some home to see if they would continue their unfolding. (Nope!).

We spoke of the terminology of mushroom parts, using “Keys”  to identify mushrooms, I introduced Nathan to Amanita’s, Agaricus, Boletes and some shelf mushrooms.  In Nature there is nothing like a personal face to face introduction. We shared the excitement of the hunt and discovery. It really was a lot of fun!!

Amanita Muscaria-Nathan Gabriel, how do you do.
Amanita Muscaria-Nathan Gabriel, how do you do.

A beautiful yellow Amanita Muscaria found Nathan. At his age, I too had heard of all the mind altering possibilities that nature in her abundant variety offered us. The symbolism of yellow orange or red Amanita Muscaria and how they have followed us through the evolution of our society and cultures in myth and the written word. We spoke of mushrooms as food, medicine and spiritual partners.

It was a perfect bonding time that just seemed to come together on it’s own.
And it was also the perfect time to have some overdue heart-to-heart conversations in a setting that was probably the most conducive to communication possible. Though we lived together, we never seemed to find time to talk in this way.


We spoke of what it could be like when he leaves and goes to school in another city, for him, for me. I admit I have been wondering and thinking and going through a lot of different things around Him leaving home in September.
At first I thought I was exempt from any such feelings, but the past couple of months I noticed myself mulling over different future scenarios. What would that mean for me, what was happening in my life, I would be free to go anywhere, do anything, I had no reason to stay where I was, I had rooted and built my life around Nathan and he was doing as he should do at his age. Spreading his wings and leaving the nest.
It would be a time of sadness and parting, but at same time, it would also be a time of new beginnings for us both.
That special combination of joy and fear,excitement and anxiety,.
The world is shrinking so much, distance is becoming more an illusion.

Even living in the same house we did not see each other daily or communicate that much. In fact, we text each other and talk on the phone often, though we are both home. We could have been in different countries!
This indeed is what I have been thinking about. With the Apothecary business going online and generating sales through the website, I may no longer need to be rooted in one physical place. I could travel If I wanted, find rare resins and essential oils all over the world. Make my oils, salves and tinctures anywhere and keep the income coming in over the internet with locally harvested plants not available here. ( Even transfer funds to him through internet banking!) Sounds exiting, doesn’t it?

Though, to be honest, I know clearly, that underneath these exiting ideas and possibilities, there is some fear and sadness. There is an end to a way of life at hand, a parting of ways, and a big change that feels like the ground disappearing from under my feet. (God knows I can use all the ground I can get!!). No doubt staying focused on the positive keeps me from dwelling on the feelings of loss, and attuned to the hopeful aspects of change.

This simply is part of parenthood, I am not exempt, circles within circles, a beginning and an end. As predictable as the phases of the moon and the slow plodding circuit of Saturn, Life revolves, evolves and moves forward.  With or without our consent.

Part of being a parent just as anything else I did with Nathan since he was born. Only easier said than done. All in all, I feel grateful for the gift of that father son moment, courtesy of wild mushrooms, the Moon and Saturn.

But I will accept, that I will always feel, a little bit of sadness too.


Wild Mushroom Collection
Wild Mushroom Collection
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