Tracking: Winter Spoor

The winter wood is a quiet place where the land sleeps and all is still under the ice.

Or is it?

All through the winter, the forest teams with activity. Bear, deer, porcupines and other creatures never cease their pursuits and the land has a thousand stories to tell. Learn the art and science of tracking and you will come to know how to read those stories, written in the Earth like the lines of a book.

Many more lessons on foraging, woodscraft and country living are to come. Please “like” my channel to be updated and take a look at my website to learn more about my classes and books.

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Tracking: Cougar Spoor, Game Trails & the Clean-Up Detail

I have been away from the online world for several months, and during that time I have been shooting footage for a new series on the art and science of tracking.  If you learn this nearly lost art, you will discover the natural world possesses a hidden language, and all around you will find stories etched into the land.  In this first episode, we examine cougar spoor, study large and small game trails, and see just how fast Nature recycles a raccoon carcass.

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Tracking: the Language of Animals (coming soon!)

The tales of wildlife are written in the Earth, in the spoor animals leave behind, and the tracker knows how to interpret them. With a keen autumn settling over the Canadian north woods, the land will grow soft with rain, and soon be dusted in snow. Now is the perfect time to spot, identify and interpret these subtle signs. Enter the wildwood and learn to understand this forgotten language of Nature.


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A New Episode on Wildwood Ways: Jerusalem Artichoke

Related to the sunflower, the Jerusalem artichoke is native to the northeastern USA and southeastern Canada. Its tall, hardy plants produce beautiful blossoms and delicious tubers that taste very much like artichoke hearts. A prolific plant, nothing produces more food per square foot than the j-choke. Unlike many wild edible plants and fungi, j-chokes are easily transferred to the garden . . . where they might do so well you may come to regret transplanting them.


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Why Create a Documentary On Canadian Forestry?

nova scotia forestryAround the world, people imagine Canada to be a vast land with a pristine environment, but there is an ugly truth hidden beneath the reality.  Canada is now the world’s major deforester, surpassing even Brazil for the rate at which it destroys its woodlands for profit.

In the image right is Nova Scotia forestry at its typical. People still have this romantic notion of stout loggers with saws going into the woods to ply their trade, but a scene of modern logging is more like a nightmare tableau from a Terminator movie. Giant machines go in and cut and rip the trees right from the ground. Here you see a mature stand of hardwood being cut and destroyed for a few dollars per acre. The true value of old forests, and the sustainable, long-term, higher profit jobs that can be created from them, has not yet even crossed the minds of Nova Scotia’s endless parade of incredibly myopic and dim policy makers.

hidden clear cutForests are cut in remote and accessible regions, but the forest industry has become adept at hiding the damage.  Taking advantage of elevation and using narrow cosmetic hedges to hide the devastation, they clear cut mature forests at rates far exceeding reason or even sanity.  In the image left, a mature forest being cut to the ground right beside a major highway. But from the highway (Pictou County, the 104 highway in Nova Scotia) you would never see it because the cut is hidden by elevation. Get off the road and go up a couple hundred feet, and the damage becomes obvious.

Now, if you think what you see in this image is bad, imagine the other side of that mountain where the clear cut mature forest is not in plain view and loggers are free to do as they will.

The Canadian forest is destroyed to feed so called “green energy” biofuel plants, which have nothing to do with green or sustainable energy, but are rather inventions of Big Industry.  These power plants burn the forest itself.  It is also done to feed Canada’s slough of pulp mills, which grind the forest to pulp to use for paper, toilet paper and fuel for pellet stoves.  These nineteenth century-minded unsustainable industries are barely profitable any longer, but they are heavily subsidized by government through gifts and grants and exemptions, meaning the taxpayer is on the hook for keeping these dead business models going.

So much of the Canadian forest has been cut that some provinces have been turned into little more than pulp farms with less than 1% of their mature, old forests remaining.  It is hard for wildlife to find room to exist any longer and yet the cutting goes on, unabated, worse than ever.  And this is why the truth must come out.  To learn more, please follow the link below:

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Late Season Harvesting

parsnips 2015 small

Huge parsnips as big around as my forearm at the base were the showy prizes of this cold harvest.

It was time to do some late season gardening. We harvested three crates of parsnips like these from a single forty foot long row.

We also started bringing in our Jerusalem artichokes. This particular, unusual plant does not get harvested til nearly winter when the plant has fully died back and the soil is cold.

Nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . gives you as much nutritious, delicious food per square foot as the Jerusalem artichoke. These five crates, about 150 lbs, were harvested from a single 50 foot row. The taste is much like an artichoke heart. Yield per square foot is about twice that of the vaunted potato and they require no maintenance whatsoever. Not so much as a single weeding.

jerusalem artichoke harvest 2015 small

Requiring almost no care except tilling and compost in spring, nothing I know of produces more food for less effort than the Jerusalem artichoke. As this is a wild plant, it can easily be transferred to feral meadows. If the soil is friable, it will provide a long-term, reliable emergency food source.

We have a lot more planted, and back in our woods, we have wild patches sown as an emergency food source.

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Elderberries: A New Episode In the Wildwood Ways Video Learning Channel

The elderberry is a plant of almost mythic standing. Said to be the source of wines of the faeries, essential in the making of many grape wines, and much prized in Europe as a cordial and pastry ingredient, the elderberry can be tough to find since it is selective about where it grows, but if you are fortunate enough to find it, it provides abundantly and a forager can harvest dozens of pounds in a short amount of time. Learn how to identify this delightful forageable and some of its many uses as both blossom, berry and even musical instrument.

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The Wildwood Way: It’s Here!

the wildwood way bookLook what arrived in the mail recently . . .

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How Could We Have Lost?

harper war on scienceI read in yesterday’s news that a “shocked and hurt Conservative party” was trying to understand what went so wrong in their recent campaign. I have to confess, I am disturbed and even offended that a major political party could be so stupid as to fail to understand what went wrong when it’s so blatantly obvious. To me, it indicates the pathological, amoral nature of Canada’s current crop of Conservative leaders. As in, if you gave these clowns an ethics test, they’d not only fail but be stumped.

***   ***   ***

Examiner: “Is it wrong to take candy from a baby?”

Conservative: “Hmmm, well . . . who’s baby is it? You know, that matters. And would the baby notice? I mean, if no one notices a crime, maybe it’s not a crime. Hmm . . . maybe we could make the baby sign a nondisclosure agreement. Hey! Don’t look at me like that. It’s all legal! And if it isn’t, we’ll change the law!”

***   ***   ***

So, what went wrong with the Conservative bid for power?

1. Politics of division: The Conservatives introduced Canada to American-style attack ads and tactics of inciting division between people and groups.

2. Politics of hate: A hotline to report “barbaric cultural practices.” Seriously? Sounds a little USSR-style KGB to me.

3. The niqab? I don’t like it either, but really, that red herring was pathetic.

4. Ordering Conservative candidates not to attend debates. Listen, Harper–you lying sack of fertilizer–Canadians aren’t stupid. We want to know what our candidates stand for. Ordering them not to talk told us all we needed to know.

5. Suppression of science: Yeah, Harper and Conservatives, Canadians noticed. The world noticed. We weren’t happy. Science isn’t a political tool. It’s a tool for humanity.

6. Secret agendas. I and many others take great pride in having leaked that the Harper administration was quietly ordering environmental investigators not to investigate Big Corporate environmental violations.

7. Legal manipulation. Conservatives, yeah, we noticed you were quietly trying to change the rules to give yourselves more power. And we noticed you were changing the rules to allow Big Corporations to do more harm.

8. Rob Ford. Well, that was a walking-talking disaster all unto itself. When the PM is siding with a crackhead, Canadians notice.

9. Threatening academics. Like the suppression of science fiasco, when you’re quietly threatening university professors not to relate the facts “or else”, Canadians notice.

10. Spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on ads to promote yourselves, run your campaigns and disinform the public. Conservative Party, can you say “narcissism”? Now, look up the definition and put “I” before each point.

11. Countless violations of human rights. I cite the arrests of hundreds of peaceful protesters around the country for the crime of peacefully protesting.

12. Remember the G-20 summit and the hundreds of millions you wasted prettying up the city to impress the world’s elite? Yeah, we Canadians noticed. We also noticed how you treated those protesting your actions and how you pampered the elite. You made it clear where your priorities were and we found you very greasy. And that’s putting it mildly.

13. Oligarchy. Yeah, Conservatives, we noticed what you are all about, and we Canadians said, No, money is not god. You’d think Harper, with his ostensible born again background, might have also figured out money is not god. But he didn’t. It really shows what you’re all about. We Canadians would rather a compassionate country than the very richest country. Just as a note, countless quantified studies indicate beyond doubt that a life spent in pursuit of money leads to a profound lack of happiness.

14. You spat on veterans. Yeah, we Canadians care about what happens to those who defend our country.

Conclusion: Hasta la bye-bye, and may we never see your ilk again.

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Wildwood Ways: Meet the Rowan

The rowan (mountain ash) is a ubiquitous bush to medium sized tree found throughout Europe and eastern North America. It even occurs west of the Mississippi. An important winter/spring food source for small wildlife, especially birds, it has some uses for human foragers, too. Among other things, its berries make a wonderful bitter-tart jelly or sauce that is excellent on red meat.

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