The year of chicken of the woods and the mushrooms…..

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So this is the year of plentiful mushrooms here in the Blue Ridge Mountain wing of the Appalachians. So far this season I have hunted and foraged over 30 pounds of chicken of the wood mushrooms! Some of my biggest, grandest finds to date as a matter of fact. These are some of the tastiest, most hearty mushrooms in the woods in my opinion and the prettiest by far. So I’ve been looking at the benefits of eating these wonderful gifts from the forest and here’s some of what I found so far: Of coarse it’s loaded with Protein (a great way to substitute for meat)–Vitamins B, C, D and K— Fiber, Calcium and Magnesium. Also it is considered Anti-fungal, Anti-biotic, and has tumor inhabiting proprieties!! Further more I’ve read that eating them regularly helps maintain good health and will defend the body against illness. These are the exciting benefits of a days walk in the woods. For me when I stumble upon a nice flush of these bright orange treasures I become a kid again, sometimes screaming with joy, sometimes wanting to cry because they are so beautiful (: **An important thing to know when hunting is that if you cut chickens correctly, leaving a wedge attached then they will regrow in about a week, also they often come back to the same place every year!** Over the years I have found some great finds of chickens..here’s a few from my early days hunting:

 

 

 

What’s more is that I have been able to share these huge finds with many people. Now I have eaten my share of my finds…sometimes eating too many over weeks and nothing else, which can upset the belly a bit (wild mushrooms can be hard to digest until it becomes part of your diet), but I live in an unique place here in Asheville, North Carolina where it is rather accessible to sell your edible foraging finds to many vegetarian, vegan and wild foods restaurants. It’s amazing what great chefs can do with these mushrooms, making some of the best plates I’ve ever seen. It’s a nice little side income for people like myself trying to make it as an entrepreneur.  Myself I love to play around in the kitchen and have cooked chickens into all kinds of lovely and fun dishes such as tacos, lasagnas, alfredo pastas, stir fries and just straight up sauteed as a side.

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Here’s one recipe idea you might enjoy:

CHICKEN FRIED CHICKEN OF THE WOODS

Like your typical chicken fried steak, these would be fine with some red-eye gravy, or just a few lemon slices and a green salad for a lighter touch.

Serves 4 people as a main course

Ingredients

  • 8 2oz pieces of young, chicken of the woods, the size of a small fist- this should weigh about 1lb
  • All purpose flour as needed for breading
  • A nice pinch of cayenne pepper and paprika
  • 3 eggs, for breading
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Lemon wedges for serving, optional

Method

  1. Take your pieces of chicken mushrooms and trim off the tough part where the stem starts to attach to the tree. Wash and dry the mushrooms.
  2. Season the flour lightly with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne to taste. Toss the mushrooms first in flour, then in egg, then in flour again. If your chickens have been in the fridge for a day or two they might be a bit dry, and could have trouble allowing the coating to adhere. If this happens: don’t worry, just repeat the breading process until the are coated nicely, sometimes I have to coat mine twice: flour/egg/flour/egg/flour.
  3. Heat a pan with 1/4 cup cooking oil, as well as 2 tbsp unsalted butter. Add your breaded chicken mushrooms, the crushed clove of garlic, and the thyme. Cook the chicken of the woods until they are golden brown on each side, about 4-5 minutes, adding extra oil if the pan gets dry, then blot the mushrooms on a paper towel quickly to weep excess oil, sprinkle with a little salt and serve immediately.

And perhaps another:

Chickens and pasta

Ingredients:

• 4 tablespoons butter (or vegetable oil), divided
• 1-1/2 pounds young chicken of the woods mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped
• 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
• 1/4 cup dry white wine or sherry
• 1-1/2 cups milk (vegans can leave this out and double the amount of stock)
• 1-1/2 cups mushroom or vegetable stock
• 3 tablespoons flour
• Several sprigs fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• Salt
• Pepper

Instructions:

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a skillet over low heat. Add the mushrooms and shallot and cook, stirring often, until they have first released any liquid and then reabsorbed it, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Combine the milk and stock in a small pot and heat to a simmer.

3. In a separate medium-size pot, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring often, for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the hot milk/stock mixture a little at a time. (If you dump it all in at once, it will clump.)

4. Add the thyme, and return to the stove and simmer over medium-high heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring vigorously and often, until it starts to thicken. Add the mushrooms along with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Serve over any cooked pasta, but fettuccine is especially good here. Go lightly with the grated cheese, if any.

 

Simply sauteing in oil and butter along with some lemon pepper and fresh herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary..along with a little fresh garlic or ramps and some onions, peppers, tomatoes, snap peas, and asparagus usually does the trick real nice.

Here’s two videos you might dig:  stir fry sweet and sour    and omelette style

 

So for me it’s all about the hunt, wondering aimlessly around the forest, following small streams into magical places that I imagine running into small fairies or gnomes or other mythical creatures. Often I imagine being the first person to discover wild places, as if I’m the first to set foot on that particular piece of land. I relate to the native way of life, foraging for my food and medicine and bringing back what I find to my tribe. Getting off the trail and into the unknown. Picking mushrooms has a primal feel, a person of the land to it. It’s a bit of a treasure hunt, turning over leaves or mounds of pine needles, searching for the buried reward. When I first moved here I was fascinated by all the different types of mushrooms, the colors, smells, sizes and shapes, I had a deep, burning desire to know them all! The truest badge of a good hunter is that they are still alive after eating all kinds of mushrooms…just kidding.  After years at it I know at least 30-40 different types that I’m completely comfortable identifying, eating, admiring, staying away from and teaching about. It never loses its rich appeal to me and my thirst to learn more is always growing. It’s something I really enjoy sharing with others interested in this vast world of fungi. The more I research the more I realize that the fungi kingdom is the network of the woods, the woods wide web you might say, trees communicate with one another through long lines of mycelium, mushroom DNA is closely related to that of our own, and these decomposers keep the forest healthy and alive. This year, 2018, seems like it’s gonna be a great year for the mushrooms, follow the rains people and find the shrooms. I can’t wait till tomorrow I say each night to see where my adventures take me and what mushrooms I will find next. I close with images of some of this years finds of chickens so far…enjoy…

 

 

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Mindfulness-mediation-recovery in 2018

 

 

 

 

2018 is going to be transformative!! That is my intention anyway. The year that just passed away was a wild one for me. My story saw some chapters end, most notably the passing of my father and putting to rest my years of living out of tune, ending my drinking and drugs career. It also saw new, exciting chapters begin. It was a back to school vibe in my recovery, going to rehab, joining both AA and Refuge Recovery communities and going to an IOP (intensive out-patient program)  program, not to mention getting more deeply involved in the local community yoga and mediation sanghas. Each and every one of these groups is filled with ‘spiritual friendships’ as the Buddha himself may have said. Teachers, students, mentors, fellow seekers, peers, new comers, old timers, friends and people I warmly call family. After going ‘all in’ in my recovery I had to start from square one as far as my circle goes. So many friendships I had previously proved to be empty and unsupportive, in short party friends. For the first time in my life I have sought out and found myself surrounded by sober people and it seems these are ‘my people’, we are all very different but very similar as well, we understand and relate to one another and also possess a gratefulness like no other people I have encountered. The other component of these communities I have taken refuge within  that has created a learning environment for me has been the focus on mindfulness. I am about to turn 40 years young and I have just begun to use mindfulness in my life. I began learning this skill in my rehab and it it showed up time and time again in my recovery ever since, in my IOP and Refuge Recovery groups. Mindfulness has been described to me as paying attention on purpose, investigating thoughts and emotions in real time, sitting with feelings, being present, living in the moment. Every one of those descriptions resonate with me, all too often in my past I ran from painful emotions, tried to escape unpleasant thoughts or situations, and very much ruminated on past mistakes, punishing myself in cruel and unusual ways. The first move was to recognize that. Having to be in a controlled place was the perfect place to start, no phone, no one around I knew, and my schedule made for me. I began to reflect on what got me there, years, 24 to be exact of abusing drugs and alcohol and stuck in one way of thinking. I realized I often made up stories in my mind of what I thought reality was, stories of how people looked at me, stories of why I had an excuse to get drunk that day. I’ve since learned that repetitive craving is a major reason for addiction, add to that repetitive negative thoughts and low self esteem issues and I was deep in the grips. Enter mediation, I began trying it about a year ago, however being in active addiction made it not very effective, I often got high or drank before I’d mediate. So take the distraction of substances out of the equation and I was left with only my mind. There is an AA group on my street that mediates together every morning of the year and there I have made a home. Mediating with them as well as an insight mediation group and discovering Refuge Recovery I began the investigation. Mediation gave me the opportunity to quiet my surroundings, quiet my mind, and feel every sensation that came up. For me it didn’t come hard, it felt natural and I easily relaxed into the stillness. If thoughts of using came into me mediation quickly took them away, if irritation was rising in me mediation made it vanish. The more I learn about it and practice it, the more useful it becomes in combating the unpleasantness that life can throw at me. Mediation and mindfulness go hand in hand completely complimenting one another. As I slow my mind down through mediation I become more aware of the thoughts and actions I don’t like about myself, that don’t serve me or anyone else in a positive way. For instance I was a very judgmental person at times in my past, in sobriety and using mindfulness I now recognize it when it shows up and drop the judgment. I remind myself in the exact moment it happens not to be judgmental. Since I’ve been practicing I have noticed that I do it a lot less and it almost has become nonexistent, though we strive for perfection none of us ever reach it completely and that is ok. Another key component of mindfulness is having compassion for ourselves, just knowing that I’m not perfect and having a slip in thinking or acting happens and I don’t have to have a negative reaction to it, instead having compassion, being mindful, aware and then changing the thought or action. It is life changing it really is. So many destructive thoughts and actions I once found refuge in have been identified and changed and replaced with things like kindness, compassion and peace. I have rebuilt my self confidence, that literally was on the floor, squished under my foot and shattered in several pieces. I have focused on service and what I can do to help others and have been able to combat stressful situations and painful thoughts with mediation and mindfulness and move on with my day in a positive, productive way.

 

 

 

When I look at one of the biggest differences I have experienced through mediation and mindfulness, it can summed up in one word, reaction. I love that I can say back in the day, so back in the day I was a fast, instant reactor, when something came into my mind that made me uncomfortable, anxious or bothered I would usually react in a compulsive, negative way. I had a lot more anger, self hatred, judgment, lack of patience, and stubbornness. The longer I sit and mediate when situations arise the better my reaction becomes. It gives me the space to evaluate my options, to see clearly where my thoughts are coming from and time to let negative feelings fade, as they say every emotion lasts only ninety seconds! In AA they describe it as finding the space between your impulse and your action. This is so important in battling cravings for instance. They can come on strong but with just a small pause they can lessen and vanish in just a few minutes time. The more I am mindful of my behaviors and reactions the more I am willing to change. I want to be the best, highest version of myself and through these practices I am on my way!

Let me speak about Refuge Recovery for a moment. This recovery program was started by Noah Levine three and a half years ago. It is a Buddhist approach to recovery using mindfulness, mediation and the eight fold path as it’s core principals. Not only is it a new, alternative approach to recovery but it also offers a map to a more compassionate, loving lifestyle than that most of us knew in addiction. This program has certainly changed, saved and reshaped my life completely. Open to addictions of all kinds from drugs and alcohol to process addictions such as eating disorders, screen addictions and codependency. This brings many different viewpoints and insights, which for me hearing about how others cope with their addictions that are different from mine can be really helpful. Refuge is certainly moving with the modern times more than any other approach and the book itself brings newer language and experience with it. I’ve found the community to be warmer and safer than others with solution based formats, the people seem to share on what keeps them sober more than telling old war stories. The eight fold path lays out a new way to live, recovering from addiction I had to learn how to live over again in a lot of aspects, had to make new friends, try many new activities and learn new thinking patterns. On the path I’m learning how to use right speech, being mindful of how I talk and how it might effect others and not lying which was huge in my addiction. Learning right effort and energy which takes the form of doing service work in my community, volunteering, helping others. Using different meditations in different ways, for example I have used forgiveness mediation to help me heal with past resentments such as the deeply painful feelings I felt were never completely resolved between my father (who passed away) and I, but also using it to forgive myself for my mistakes instead of lingering on them and letting guilt grow into shame. Loving kindness mediation to send just that to those I love but to those I struggle with. Concentration mediation to focus my mind on a single object which for me is my mantra which I follow my mala beads in repeating 108 times and if my mind wonders, and it does, bringing it back to my mantra. So my mantra goes like this…right thought, right view, right speech, right heart, right intention, right action and right practice. I’m learning right livelihood which brought me to quit my job in a head shop warehouse where they sold glass pieces like bongs and pipes, vaporizers and glorified beer and party items. I didn’t want to be in that environment with people who got high all day while working but also didn’t want to be a part of spreading addiction which is the core of this part of the path, having a job that causes no harm. Living a life that includes service is so key to my recovery, volunteering in the community has been huge for me, it’s losing selfishness and giving of yourself to others. This brings me such true joy, the appreciation I receive for helping is so much more than I ever received at a job but that’s just the perk because helping others just feels great and it’s without exception of getting anything in return. I was a selfish person for some time and turning the tables on that has been amazing.              Besides the eight fold path learning Buddhism has been enlightening, no fun intended. It can a be such a simple way to live, with mindfulness and compassion and non attachment. I’m understanding impermanence and how emotions don’t last, hard situations pass, cravings come and go, death finds us all and is part of life, letting go can equal freedom and liberation, and the middle way is better than an extreme one way or the other. There’s so much to learn and dive deeper into and for the first time in my life I’m sure I’m on the right path and developing a way of living that fits, feels great and is opening doors I never knew existed in my mind, all while clear and sober! I’ve begun to work with others on a mentoring level and it’s added such depth to my recovery. It is the service I’ve looked forward to and it really does keep me motivated to stay sober, guiding others along the same path, working together and sharing the experience. I’ve found my home as I’m leaving the home I’ve had the last six years, funny how that works out, moving to a little house with my love Jill and starting fresh. I’m leaving behind a place that saw the ugliest parts of my life, the heights of my addiction, the people I used to know, all my shame, darkness and going towards the light. I found my home with a family built in in my recovery community, my sangha, my people. As I continue to deepen my mindfulness practice, lengthen and expand my meditations and keep on keepin on the recovery path, I stand on firm ground realizing realities and experiencing them instead of running from them. I’m going all in at last with my dream of working for myself with my chaga business. I’m finding freedom from addiction, samsara (the cycle of suffering),  and from letting emotions rule my life as I can now sit with anything in acceptance and understanding. Lovin life and livin right……….stay tuned spring is on it’s way and with it lots of mushroom hunting!!

 

Waterfallin

This is one of my favorite subject matters (: Waterfalls!!! I so happen to live in a part of the country where there is waterfalls galore. As far back as I can recall I loved hanging out at a waterfall. In the hometown I grew up in we had a little local falls called Talcott falls and in the summers that was my escape, many times I went there to sit under it. Fast forward many years to 2010 when I first moved to Asheville, North Carolina, it was here the hunting began. It became the thing for my sun, Brendan, and I to do. We went all over to find us a waterfall to peep out, swim in and enjoy. It became the thing to do any time anyone came to visit. To me there’s nothing more majestic than the magnificence and power of a beautiful waterfall. Besides being a fun hobby to seek them out, they also represent a near death experience for me. About two years ago I was having one of those days spending my morning drinking whiskey, first mistake, and needed to get out and see something beautiful. I drove to a local waterfall called catawba falls, one of true favorites in this area. With a troubled mind and alcohol in my veins I hiked the 3 miles to the base of the falls, from there it’s a challenging climb up a rocky terrain, using ropes to climb up some parts, to the top where down another trail is a hidden gem, a second falls. I hung there alittle while before climbing to the middle of the falls. There a young guy was sitting mediating and burning sage (which may have blessed my fall) on the ledge blocking the skinny walkway over to the falls. I had to sneak behind him to get past and as I did I stepped on a piece of wet moss, it’s been my experience moss can be soft and easy to step on. In this case it was slippery and I lost my traction, in a split second I found myself flying off the ledge falling backwards 25 feet or so off upper catawba falls! The young guy said he saw me grabbing for anything I could but there was nothing. I did a flip on the way down, hit my head, blacked out a moment, saw flowing water, and landed on my side surrounded by sharp rocks. I lived! Everything hurt, I had some scraps and pains but managed to not break, sprain or seriously mangle anything. What a miracle. I realized my life could of ended in a few seconds time, no time to have any flashbacks to good times, nothing, just gone. There was several people at the falls, including a family with little kids who may still be traumatized. Among them was an off duty ems worker and a nurse visiting from Boston, how lucky. They checked me out for major injuries and bandaged me up some. They were my saving grace and they all helped me hike, or hobble rather back down the trail to my car where a friend came to get me and take me to the er. At the hospital they told me waterfall and rock climbers were some of the most frequent visitors and one of the top causes of death around here. For many years I was comfortable and adventurous around falls, climbing them and messing around on them. After that event I learned my lesson, to respect the power of nature! I often get vertigo near them and in high places now. It’s no joke, many people die every year falling off waterfalls. At that very waterfall this past year a twenty year old fell to his death. I respect the signs and warnings and simply enjoy the beauty from the sidelines.

So there’s that story…..needless to say I gave up the bottle for good and play safe in the woods. Now if you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods let me let you in some great waterfalls out here. There’s a town here called Brevard, known as land of the waterfalls in Transylvania county. There’s a road, US-276 that will lead you to some highlights. Among them is looking glass falls, moore cove falls, courthouse falls and sliding rock falls (a natural waterslide). There’s also great primitive camping and official campgrounds off this road. There’s a trail that leads to looking glass rock with amazing views from the top where you can see mountains for miles and miles. It’s a neat town and wonderful hiking and exploring. Catawba falls, that I fell from is in a town called Old Fort, about 15 minutes from Asheville. Not far from Brevard is an experimental forest, waterfall playground known as Dupont forest  , where you’ll find at least 5 or six awesome, impressive waterfalls…triple falls, high falls, hooker falls, bridal veil falls and grassy ridge falls. This is an awesome place to take in multiple falls in one hike, but plan on spending the whole day here. In a place called Panthertown valley in a town called Cashiers you’ll find great hiking and some waterfalls, among them is schoolhouse falls and frolictown creek falls. Not too far from panthertown, in a hidden location is my favorite falls called paradise falls , definitely worth the journey! There’s a state park near the South Carolina/North Carolina border called Gorges state park that has nice waterfalls called turtle back falls and rainbow falls. Real close to that park is a huge waterfall called whitewater falls , which is one of the most impressive I’ve seen. Another beauty is linville falls in the town of Linville. That one is part of a great hiking area known as linville gorge that president Roosevelt set aside as an area to preserve and protect. These are all amazing spots and just breathtaking waterfalls. I feel so very fortunate and blessed to live in such a beautyful spot. I encourage you to click on those links and get your adventure on!!! Enjoy some of my pictures (: Thanks for stopping by y’all……

Late summer, early fall finds

As summer comes to an end and the fall trees begin to burst into beautyful colors of red, yellow, orange, and purple, the mushroom season continues to be in wonderful bloom. Recently I went out and found some beauties! In the picture above is a nice find of hen of the woods or Maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms, also known as the king of the fall mushrooms. This is one of my favorites to eat and forage for. They are a sort of ghost mushroom for me, they often blend in to the forest floor and can be challenging to spot. They grow often at the base of oak or maple trees. They grow in large clusters like the one I fetched. They have high medicinal value including being high in vitamin D, boosting the immune system, great for diabetes, antioxidants and they are studying it in the battle against cancer. It’s a special mushroom indeed.

20170922_140250   Next up is honey mushrooms (armillaria), also one of my favorites to cook and enjoy. They can found in large groups like this find. They taste really good, some of the best parts being the stringy stems. These need caution when foraging as they do have a close look alike that’s not good called galerina marginata or funeral bell mushrooms. There is some distinct differences and should be closely examined or run by an expert but once you get to know the honeys they are easy to decipher. It was a great honey season here in the western North Carolina mountains.

These two friends are pretty great in their own right. On the left are puffballs (calvatia gigantea). They are tasty but cook down really small, which is ok as they grow in numerous clusters. I find them often near the honeys and usually always on tree stumps. Crack them open, they should be white on the inside and not gray. I love their taste personally. There is a variety called giant puffballs, which are truly giants growing quite large and fun to find. I’ve two of those ever but I was pretty happy. The one on the right is a birch polypore (Pitptoporus betulinus). This is a good one used as a Immune tonic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-parasitic, anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and styptic. It is edible when young and fresh. It can be thrown in your bonfire to keep it burning longer (: It shot to fame after it was found on the body of Ötzi’, a 5300 year old mummy found preserved in the ice in the Italian Alps. It’s a special mushroom for sure, I encourage you to read about it if your into mushroom hunting, it’s a fascinating one….click that link above!

Here are some great medicinal plants they are out and about as well. First to the far left is one called jewel weed or spotted touch me not. It is hollow stemmed and juicy, the juice is super good for your skin in general. A special quality is that juice is key in treating poison ivy, many people use the stems and leaves raw and simply rub it all over any ivy spots. It is often added into soap making or ice cubes in treatment of ivy rashes. Besides that it’s leaves are proven to have anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties. The second to the left is stinging nettle. This plant is hard to handle as it has stingers that can be irritating, wearing gloves when handling helps. Those stingers are actually good and the leaves can be used topically to relieve joint pains. It can be made into a tasty tea or around these parts nettle soup is rather good and popular. It’s benefits include being used as a natural allergy reliever, benefits skin, bone and urinary health as well. You gotta make sure you cook it right to get rid of those stingers! Next in line is Indian pipe or ghost plant. It’s my absolute favorite to look at and enjoy, it is rare so not to over harvest. It’s known for being used to treat pain and neurological disruptions, such as seizures, convulsions, insomnia, extreme mental states, and regular muscular spasming. Best as a tincture, it turns purple and tastes of mocha. Lastly is smart weed or knot weed.  The leaves are beneficial for chronic ulcers and haemorrhoids, in tympanitis and flatulent colic, and as a wash in chronic inflammatory erysipelas. The tiny flowers are edible and nutty tasting, a nice little trail treat.

As you see there are many treasures out growing in the forest backyard right now. Lots of good eating and medicines for us to enjoy and use. I love this time of year, getting out to soak up the fall color and weather is refreshing and fills up my soul and senses! Hope you click on the links and learn some good information. Happy foraging and hiking y’all…..until next time with many more adventures to come, I’ll be out in the forest……

My Art

FullSizeR1_07My art is my release, it is a most special passion, and has been quite healing. Art started for me as a sort of peaceful meditation, using it as a means to wind down and clear my mind. To give you the truest beginnings and my history with drawing, the story goes like this….I had surgery on my right knee at the age of 31, where I tore my ACL playing volleyball with some middle school kids. This resulted in me being laid up for a few months while recovering. So, while having to sit that whole time, I needed something to occupy my mind. I then took up two activities; playing piano and drawing. I’m not exactly sure where my colorful style came from, but the format of adding several pictures into one bigger picture came from sitting in front of a huge, blank piece of white paper and wanting to fill the entire thing up. It is a trademark of mine to not leave any space unfilled. From there, as each picture progressed it became a timeline of my life put together as pieces to a puzzle. I can tell exactly what was happening at that point in my life and the places I had been. Every picture begins with a tree, which represents the wisdom of the forest, where I go to gather my inspiration and explore the natural universe. You will find many symbols, animals, plants, flowers, and many other things hidden in each picture. I only create originals (though I have been considering making prints) with the idea each piece is it’s own and the only one of it’s kind. It takes several weeks to months to finish one picture and the time from start to finish becomes it’s own journey. Besides drawing inspiration from nature, my own life, and places I’ve been, ideas come from study of religions, others art, and browsing the infinite world wide web. While in rehab, drawing became a place to escape and I believe that has carried over to everyday life. Taking your mind to a place of imagination and creativity can open new doors and passage ways in the brain, promoting healing, connecting and learning. Art is often used in therapy and studied in sciences.

Some of my favorite artists that I admire are: Van Gogh, Picasso, Jackson Pollack, Salvador Dali, Leo da Vinci, Bansky, Frida Kahlo, and Edvard Munch to name a few.  I love Native American, Asian, and Buddhist styles and it goes without saying that my style falls in the abstract realm. An interesting, fun tidbit is that my work can be viewed in 3-D. I discovered this by accident, doing an outdoor art/music show, there was a guy who excitedly was checking out my stuff and suggested we run to his place nearby where he had 3-D glasses, upon return, sure enough my pictures popped out perfectly! That has added a special element and interest; I even got commissioned by a local boutique store to do a piece that was gonna be made into a 3-D tapestry. Unfortunately, that never happened but they did buy the piece. (see above, the step by step pictures).  I discovered the secret to creating the 3-D effect is in the outlining, dark outlines and light colors inside really create that effect. Color, color, color, what to say about color?  Other than it’s freakin awesome (: I have much fun figuring out what colors to use and where. Bright colors especially are my jam and get the compliments. Throughout my time drawing I have done several custom pieces for people, I work with pictures they share of their memories and go off their interests. These are especially fun and challenging for me. Notably I did a piece for a good friend whose wife passed away; another for a friend and his girlfriend fusing their lives into one collective; one for a local hip hop artist which I finished drawing live at his show; one for a teacher that wanted to display it in her classroom; and one for my sister using mostly her art and transforming it into my abstract style. Doing these projects are so rewarding for me personally and when I get nice feedback it really makes me feel great. I have written two published books of poetry and have written since I was 16, which I like to add a piece of my poetry to the back of all my pictures. Mixing art and poetry brings together two of favorite passions. I’ve been lucky enough to display my art in a few restaurants, at a few outdoor music shows and art walks in my city of Asheville. It is a dream come true to make and share my art with many people whether it is in person or through social media. It’s an honor to know out in the world my art hangs on strangers, loved ones, and friends walls. Drawing will always be a part of my life, it’s added color, creativity and pleasure to all aspects of an already beautiful world….thanks for checking it out! A good deal of my art is on my instagram page …….keep in mind the colors and sharpness are much better than pictures can convey online (:

 

Hunting for chaga…the diamond of the forest….

 

 

 

So where to begin here… well chaga is my soul mushroom (: I’ve always enjoyed hiking to a ridiculous level however when I discovered chaga mushroom and hunting for it the fun and enjoyment was taken to new heights. I believe it is part of my lifes purpose to forage it, drink it everyday and bring it to the masses! What is chaga you may ask…well chaga or  Inonotus obliquus as it’s known in the scientific world is a highly medicinal mushroom most commonly found only on the birch tree. You might notice it’s name sounds like ‘I no notice’ which couldn’t be more true, it goes easily unnoticed on the tree often mistaken for burl or simply a knot on the tree, which makes the hunt that much more fun and rewarding. I myself have been foraging, using, teaching about it and selling chaga for seven years in total. Lets get into the facts….

Here are a few useful, informative links to check out….chaga info–click —chaga info–click —-chaga info click it! These sites will give you some real insight on how special this medicinal mushroom really is. Here’s what I can tell you…chaga is a big black mushroom that typically grows high up on the the birch tree and is unlike most typical mushrooms you see growing on the ground. They say the cure looks like the disease and in this case it rings true as chaga is being studied for cancer treatments and is known to reduce tumors which is just what it looks like. It is dark black and crumbly on the outside but golden colored and spongy on the inside, all parts are useful. Chaga actually kills the tree from the core out, it bursts out of a bruise or cut in the tree. In essence taking the chaga is actually saving the tree. For foraging purposes leaving some chaga on the tree is helpful as it will regrow out of the same spot many times over. It’s an extremely slow grower taking several years to reach maturity. Once you’ve gotten it off the tree you can use the whole chunk in a large batch however I use a big mallet to smash it up into small chunks or grind it down to a fine powder, seems to stretch much further this way. Chaga is primarily used as a tea or tincture but can be eaten in small sprinkles over salad and such. I myself drink it as a cold tea everyday blending it with things like ginger root, mint and cinnamon as a few ideas and found a nice hot chaga chai is delightful. There are many combinations you can discover, many use it as a coffee substitute mixing it with milk and honey, but it can be blended with coffee as well. It is an immune booster and great for the respiratory system as a whole. It’s super high in anti-oxidants, more so than blueberries and goji berries. It’s anti-flammatory and reduces swelling and aches related to such. It is highly valued as a detoxifier and purifier and contains zero toxins. The people in Siberia and Russia have used it in folk medicine for centuries and in some parts of eastern Europe the cancer rates are almost nonexistent. Chaga has a high level of melanin that protects DNA and fights radiation by activating the pineal gland. Chaga is a calmer of the nervous system. Chaga helps to reduce blood sugar and fight diabetes. So there are some top facts on it’s total value as a medicinal herb. The process of creating a tincture allows more of the nutrients from the chaga to soak into the liquid, this helps to synthesize the most powerful parts. Making both teas and tinctures is an easy process you can find it here—chaga prep.

Recently I found 16 pounds of chaga in the blueridge mountains. My largest find in one day was 24 pounds, hell of a day that was (: There has been much debate about harvesting wild chaga, it’s availability and how much is really out there. My experience is that it is very abundant and has the ability to regrow. It was put here for a reason like all herbs and natural medicine, to heal us and use. I’ve seen time and again chaga that went bad and fell off the tree, never to be used and gone to waste. It’s not about gaining money out of foraging for me. I enjoy teaching about it, taking others out so they can find their own and knowing that by selling it to small health food stores and individuals that I’m playing a sort of medicine man and healer. It’s been quite fulfilling for me to add this passion to one of my favorite activities, hiking. I can’t say enough the benefit I’ve gotten from chaga, drinking and hunting it. The health benefits speak for themselves and I hope the medical community begins to embrace it as a valuable and necessary resource in treating cancer and other ailments in the future. I have a link on this page to my facebook page called blueridge chaga connection…check it out and get you some (: Thanks for reading as always, makes me happy to share my passion for the wild and it’s many gifts….

My war with sobriety…..

 

 

The struggle is real! For me most recently I have slipped, relapsed to heightening, freighting levels, and in response I have waged an all out war to win my fight with sobriety. I look somewhere to find the root, am I victim of bad genetics? one of my grandfathers was an alcoholic, as well as my father, was it a not so fairytale upbringing, moving out young, feeling judged at home, learning and growing up quickly? Is it how, excuse me, how fucked up the world seems, war, racism, divide, poverty, or maybe everyday stress like not making a living wage, turmoil in relations with friends and family and loved ones? I’m the sort that just give me an excuse and I’ll run with it. Drinking began as a fun, party, social activity, and man I liked it right away, however somewhere along the way it has become a remedy to feeling pain and trying to make it go away, only it only has proven itself to be my enemy, my demon and make everything far worse.  Maybe its failed relationships that  sometimes left me feeling used and not good enough? Or feeling I’ve fallen short as a parent? or as a true love companion? To some extent I’m at a loss and often feel lost and uncertain in my own skin. The truest excuse is that fault lies within myself. I do have a disease, an illness, I’m drawn to drinking same as the old cliche a moth to a flame. I react, quickly, without thought, without patience, without care or worry or fear, without regard. In short, sometimes I’m pretty weak and controlled. You might catch a hint of my insecurities along the way now. A quick scorecard, I stopped drinking in January of this year, I learned my father had pancreatic cancer which had a big impact on how I looked at drinking and the damage it can do. I knew my dad drank quite a bit, he used to ask us to get him a beer whatever, but I learned from some of my family that he drank alot and I found many liquor bottles at his house and my grandparents that he had stayed at. I began meditation and looking into meetings, AA, as well as a healthier diet, quitting smoking cigarettes, doing regular meditation and yoga practices, thanks in a large part to my girlfriend JIll who supported me tirelessly and religiously, I really felt awesome and proud of myself.

Let me take you to the moment I knew I needed to stop everything and realign. ,Jill was abroad visiting Nepal, India and Bali for a month and I was not slowing anything down, at that point of my life I was doing LSD, drinking heavy for what I thought was good fun, driving my car`all the while, in short I was living a sort of reckless life. I had gone out to see nappy roots with some young 20-something friends and sure enough dropped the ball, I got very drunk and again was tripping on acid. Jill called me from abroad and I was getting ready to drive home under the influence, a terrible mistake I made with regard countless times, shortly after our talk I drove home. The next day I had to had to face my consequences and that meant her leaving me, I instantly gave it up and went right to a meeting, my first ever AA meeting and felt empowered. For the next five months I lived in sobriety, a state of bliss, I was eating better, not drinking, doing healthy activities and doing it right I thought. I found out my father was terminally ill and made a trip to visit him for his birthday, this was super healing, we made certain amends with one another and the visit was soo important. I rebonded with family I had not seen in years and again felt strong and determined. Jill returned and we living together now made us closer. The months flew by but then I got the call I needed to get to Buffalo quick my fathers health was slipping. Jill, my son Brendan and myself packed up and drove to NY to find my dad bed ridden and looking very bad. It wasn’t but a day or two that the ambulance was coming to the house and picking him up to go to hospice. His last act of being able to walk was to take us three and my brother in law Joey to my grandparents house to get golf clubs for Brendan and I to play at home in North Carolina, how he found the strength to do this is beyond me! The next week would be extremely hard, he declined quickly, as we all stayed there at hospice watching the slow slipping away of his life. During this time my sobriety was tested, having gone to his house and having full bottles of top shelf liquor in my hands, stuff I could never afford and always wanted to drink, it made me shake, desire it, but my half sister Jenna talked me out of it.  He eventually lost consciousnesses and layed breathing in a shell for about a day as we waited, slowly his feet and hands starting growing cold. In some of his last moments of having his eyes open and being able to talk we exchanged some powerful words and emotions. We all gathered around him as he took his last breathes, I placed my hand on his chest as his heart gave out and felt the warmth leave his heart completely. The funeral was close behind and before I knew it we were on our way home with a small container of ashes. I would have no idea how much this event had effected me till about a month later. We returned home and not long after Jill treated me to a trip to California and the redwoods! It was amazing, which I wrote about in a previous blog post, there I layed some of his ashes in a few special spots. Not long after returning came the most terrible time of my life, the relapse from hell!

I’m not even sure what it was that made me take that first drink, it was the anniversary of my five months sober, Jill had caught me in yet another lie, and when I say lie I mean I lied constantly to her and everyone with no second thought. The urge came in like a tidal wave, a flash of heat rushed through me, I had decided I was gonna drink, sitting in a downtown Asheville parking lot about to go see a monk speak about his story of survival, I pulled out and headed straight to the gas station and bought two tall beers. I drank them so fast and was ready for more. So it began, I had slipped, relapsed, and before I could realize I was in way over my head. The shame, guilt, sadness and disappointment raged inside. Those few beers lead to a month straight of drinking, increasing to a fifth a day, hard and fast, each time becoming more and more regretful, and the mode of self sabotage, self destruction was activated in full swing. I began punishing myself and those anywhere near me, I smashed my head repeatedly on a cast iron sink until I had a concussion, drove my car into a ditch so good it took two tow trucks to pull it out, and began to cut myself with razor blades and pieces of glass from a frame I smashed with my fist, breaking some of the golf clubs my dad had given me and then breaking down in a puddle of tears, all in complete blackouts, not remembering a single thing. It all came to a head when in another blackout I called Jill and asked her to take my to the er, call it a moment of clarity in the middle of a shit storm, I didn’t want to hurt myself again, I didn’t want to drink another drop, I needed help! On the way to the hospital I tried to jump out of car twice. I was lost and broken, I had reached my bottom. I woke up the next day in the hospital bed feeling fuzzy and uncertain of the previous nights events. I needed a major change and fast. I called a mobile crisis hotline and within hours they were at my house ready to help, it took a few hours of phone calls but by the time the angel in disguise had left I was set up to go to a detox unit the next day, life was about to change.

Enter detox, the padded room if you will. I spent three days there, the longest three days of my life. Everything was taken from us including our clothes, sporting new scrubs and hospital issued sandals, I was cut off from everything and everyone I knew, most importantly alcohol, it is just what I needed to be honest. Many of the people in there were there involuntarily, in trouble with the law and it showed. We were not allowed outside, which broke my spirit, I can’t stand staying inside for too long at a time. They fed us awful food and we were left with each other for company. Here I developed my seriousness to get myself better, I never wanted to see the inside of these walls ever again. Days passed slowly, we had a few groups to talk about our issues etc and I began to bond with my fellow fuck ups if you will. I heard stories of people just hours after getting out going out and dying after relapse. I began to read about AA, we even had a meeting in the unit, I began to write and put my full attention into the small meetings we had, I knew this was to be the start of my journey. I was slated to be here two weeks at minimum but on my third day I got word that my love Jill was busy on the outside working to help me set up a rehab, I got to speak with the transition lead and like a ray of sunlight bursting out of a huge gray cloud I was gonna be set free, enrolled in a rehab in Boca Raton Florida, they were gonna even pay for my flight down there. The wheels of recovery were spinning fast, I was excited and motivated. I was on a plane the next day, got to spend a night with Jill before I left which was awesome, I was leaving home for an unknown amount of time to dive head first into my recovery.

Enter Rehab. Before going there I spoke with the admissions guy Andrew who seemed pretty cool, he spoke of weekly visits to the beach, gym workouts, visits, therapy and on and on in sunny Florida. The picture of rehab seemed almost like a mini vacation with real help and therapy. However that picture faded quickly as I learned many of these promises were not so. I entered a glorified prison of sorts, one with changing rules, little freedom and almost absent therapy. I was roomed with three other guys, which luckily were great guys that were in the minority of serious fellas in the whole place. The rehab is called Wellness Resource Center and I would not recommend it to anyone in recovery, I would recommend rehab in general for those like me that need hard core change and simply cannot fight their illness on your own. I was a hopeless alcoholic, I cannot have a few drinks and call it a night, I’m compulsive and don’t have a shut off valve, one drink leads to a whole bottle, blackouts and dangerous behavior. I needed to be removed from my environment and the people I was around and my 28 days did just that. I was completely cut off from contact from all I know and was comfortable with, so I immersed myself in the process. I wanted to get every ounce of information, strategies and plans out of the program. I was in a group, a tribe if you will of about fifty to sixty others, some alcoholics, some drug addicts and some simply depressed, in a way we became like family. We had several groups a day and attended daily AA meetings in various settings, these groups were hit or miss. There was many groups that had little real content and saturated with distractions and immaturity as the majority of clients were between the ages of 19 through 25, some not wanting to be there, some forced there, some headed to prison, some this their 4th or fifth rehab and most of them not taking any of it seriously. There was some powerful groups, music therapy, trauma group, spirituality and cognitive therapy to name a few. Noticeably absent were things like mediation, yoga, exercise, nutrition and one on therapy. These things are essential to recovery in my opinion and experience. Small groups were better as they were intimate and we shared our stories and darkest moments and connected with one another. The AA meetings were always great, and developing the routine of going everyday was effective. I got a sponsor in the process and sober supports both who could take me out of the complex to meetings or to the park etc to do book studies or simply discuss recovery. This was my first experience with a sponsor and he was great! He walked me through the first part of the big book thoroughly, had me highlighting and underlining things, explaining how things related and shared his own experiences, all of which was priceless. Having had 20 plus years of sobriety he offered alot of wisdom and hope. I put in my work in groups and at meetings and became a respected member of our tribe. I learned to open up in groups and share whenever possible, this was invaluable to my progress as I had never opened up about my guilt, shame and addiction. The empty promises and limitations made it hard at times to stay focused as well as some old ghosts coming back to haunt me, Jill had found out about some serious lies I had told and the pain I caused her continued. My bottom was deeper than I thought. Now was the time to work, to change, to start a new life. I did get to the gym and began a routine of fitness, that felt awesome and became a bonding time with others. I realized I was not alone with my fuckups, many others had done alot of the same things and felt the same as I did, how healing that became. While in rehab I wrote my sun Brendan a letter airing out my regrets as a father and explaining myself for the first time, this was so healing for me. I had also brought some of my fathers ashes with me, he never sought help for his troubles and in a way I knew he was with me getting healing also. Towards the end of my stay there hurricane Irma came right at us. I bailed a few days early to seek refuge at my brother Kris’ house. In the end I got mostly what I needed, made a few great connections but most importantly had taken several steps on my new path of recovery and sobriety, I had tools to combat my disease and a solid plan to go forward with. My brother, his family and I bonded which was very healing, I helped him board up and we helped others, that felt awesome, a natural high, a first step of a life of service to others. Luckily not much damage came from the category 4 hurricane, but it sure was an experience to go through, I’ve never heard or seen such strong winds and rain, it also marked my first test as neighbors were drinking beer and such but I was not fazed, I was now motivated and resolute. My return home was delayed but I got out and on my plane ride home sat next to a lady that had been through rehab, was clean and sober and gave me some great advice and hopeful thoughts.

Lets come to the present. Today I am 42 days sober, I’ve got my first two chips from AA, I just got a super sponsor, beginning my step work, have a regular routine of meetings, mediation, yoga, exercise, I’m eating healthy again, started an intensive out patient program three days a week, have a great therapist I see, making new sober friends, speaking at almost every meeting and group, have my love Jill as my top support and have started a new relationship between us, a healthy, honest, beautyful one! Life is on track, feeling amazing and the future looks hopeful and full of light. I do a daily morning mediation with an AA group who I consider my mentors, I attend a weekly Buddhist mediation group, who have became my people, as well a community yoga group that is wonderful, I started refuge recovery which is a different take on the 12 steps and rather refreshing. All this is so fulfilling as I continue my work and so necessary. I never could imagine I would feel like this or leading this life, I’ve found a new tribe and I’m winning the war! I’ve come along way in a short time, but this path is to last the rest of my life, I have so many, many miles to go, it is a daily fight, a daily struggle, a daily practice, a daily routine, a life one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. I love something I heard along the way, while I’m in these rooms getting sober my addiction is out in the parking lot doing pushups, waiting on me to slip. I know this is literally a matter of life and death for me. It’s like fighting cancer, I have to do everything in my power to stay healthy. I’m living a life of clarity, I’m finding my highest, truest self, I’m finding and getting touch with my higher power, connecting, I’m getting stronger, I’m living the life I couldn’t imagine a few months ago. I’m the man I always wanted to be. Jill has come to meetings with me and gone to al-anon on her own and has been such a rock for me, our relationship has gotten so much deeper, it speaks volumes her dedication and support and understanding, I’ve definitely put her through the wringer and still here she is by my side, amazing! I’ve come to understand my allergy, illness to more in depth levels, diving in to the cognitive aspects, the physical effects and the spiritual pieces, all of which play major roles in getting sober and staying that way. My goal eventually is to be a sponsor and work in the field of recovery and help others who struggle with the sickness. I’ve had to rearrange my lifestyle, my circle of friends and mentors and my study and though it’s been hard and challenging it’s all worth it all….my higher power has always answered my cries for help and guidance, I am so grateful and humbled. I honor all those who have helped me, the many doctors, workers and everyday people in the programs, all that without I’d be still in state of arrested development, lost and slowly still killing myself. If you suffer from any kind of addiction you need to seek the help that’s readily available and the power of manifestation is real, think it, believe it and live it ya’ll (: That’s my short story of getting sober with many chapters yet to write, thanks for reading. Upon returning home I returned to the forest with my baby and hauled in 16 pounds of chaga mushroom! I’ll be writing about that in my next post stay tuned…….

Going to California…to see the redwoods..

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How to begin to tell of this adventure? So i’ll tell ya’ll the short version…I went to California with my sweetheart for a weeks getaway to a most magical place, she had visited 15 years earlier with her Love dog, this was to be her 40th birthday celebration. I have never been to the west coast and this was to be a grand adventure. We flew into San Fran, a charming, very hilly little bay city. We had a peek at haight street, famous of coarse for the grateful dead haight ashbury streets. We got straight to our adventure the first day after arriving starting traveling across the beauty golden gate bridge in a most foggy morning, yet still able to get a view of Alcatraz, and off with a first stop into the Muir forest. Here I got my first taste of redwood trees, when I say I was awestruck and amazed I’m not lying! These babies were just that compared to what I was in store for indeed, however it was a lovely stroll in the big forest, the cathedral grove was a certain highlight.FB_IMG_1500667000842 Next we broke out wide open onto US 101, pacific coast highway, now here in NC we have the blueridge parkway, which is top notch beautiful, this road was simply just as awesome to drive, the scenery hanged many times as we rolled through the hills into the mountains. After a pit stop in santa rosa to visit a friend, which is a cool little place as well, we made a very special stop at the chandelier tree, a drive thru redwood, it was here my love took her love dog back when and has a disposable camera picture to prove it! This return was extra special as we both spread ashes, Jill, her Love dog, me, my father, it really is a great stop if your heading into northern cali, for me it was my first taste of the big, big trees.

We traveled until night fell, looking at the shadows of the giants on both sides of the highway was remarkable. We got to our camp site at elk prairie campground and had time for a small fire before crashing. The next day was my babys birthday! What a graceful, beautyful 40 she really is and works so hard to keep herself spiritually balanced and physically together as well (; We wondered into the forest on one of the many trails in the park. It was a road Jill had been down when she visited, same camp spot too (:, here we found remembrance grove and I spread some more of my dads ashes to rest in such an amazing, peaceful place. Jill picked a spot to spread more ashes as well, it was a special day. We got on rhododendron trail and walking a few miles with our mouths wide open and eyes pointed upwards the whole time. We collected chantrelles (ate and yummy) and saw Indian pipe along the way. These were some of the giants, and the forest floor looked prehistoric, both of us waiting for ewoks and dinosaurs to jump out at any moment. We also hiked on another version of a cathedral grove where we mediated peacefully and soaked up the huge energy and crystal clear air. One of the best parts of camping is cooking on the fire, we always do some amazing things on camp fires now. Quick side story, we locked the keys in the rental car and a super nice ranger helped us by slim jimmin the door, was quite stressful for a moment but fun to laugh at afterwards, treat your local ranger kindly (: While here we saw lots of wild elk, these creatures are so special and as golden as the growing grasses all around their prairie, we saw ‘the big tree’, and corkscrew tree, both huge and well known trees. We departed that campsite and headed into the small town of Orick, one of Jills good friends was born there, where we got some supplies, me some ice cream. After that quick stop we headed to our next spot on the beach, the campground is called gold bluffs beach, as the story goes gold was found on the black sand beach there causing a mini gold rush in the area, the bluffs soaked up gold deposits and have a goldish tint to them as well. This place captured my mind and heart, the ridged coast line with pines and redwoods towering and stretching for miles and miles and then the pacific ocean on the other side, I felt as though I was in a movie, it was surreal for real. We dipped our feet in the cold ocean and walked the shoreline. We also visited a magical little  place called fern canyon, the ferns growing there have traces back millions of years, a part of the lost world was filmed here. Now I wore a sarong Jill got me in Bali and I absolutely love it, the way it feels and looks, but you’d be surprised the looks people give you in it. 2017 yall come on, I shall wear it and many more for the rest of my life (: Back to the fern canyon, its towers of ferns, stream beds, fallen trees, tall dripping walls of stones. I was awestruck, felt like I was exploring an ancient site, which I was, this was a true highlight of the trip indeed. We caught our first sunset, a glorious one for sure, and had a blast strolling the coast, mediating, doing yoga poses, collecting magic, smooth stones and how can u not kiss your lover at sunset on the coast of California! That night a thousand million stars appeared overhead, shooting stars and milkyways was fantastic. We found the miners ridge trail the next day taking us back into redwood territory and a lovely walk about 5 miles through simply amazing, breathtaking trees. Now I am an absolutely crazy insane lover and hugger of trees and these guys stole my heart, let me add I love me some birch trees and weeping willows too, but these are like no others truely, this is a bucket list trip for every person on the planet, some of the oldest, wisest, and without comparison tallest trees on the planet. These beauties grow upto 400 feet tall, 30 feet diameters with a corresponding circumference of 94 feet and live thousands of years! We held another ash ceremony on the beach before departing ):  Which was super hard. We took our time on our way back to San Fran, checking out a few famous trees, the immortal tree, the tree house, grandfather tree, and most specially the avenue of the giants! This 32 mile stretch is an awesome drive, in and out of the giants with countless trails and groves to stop and check out, we spread more ashes here and hiked on a few trails. Also the eel river runs along the road, this river caught my eye alot and we parked by it to spend some time. The water was clear as a bell and colored aqua blue-green. I had to jump in, the water was warm, I punked out at the ocean which was super cold let me tell you, so here I had to get in and it was fantastic. It was fun to see all the bigfoot history in the area and to drive through wine country and legal marijuana farms. We had a mission to make it to the pier in San Fran for a seafood dinner for my baby and made it by half an hour!! It was super tasty seafood, and walking the pier 39 at night with all the lights and shops and carousal and view of the golden gate was spectacular. We had a sad, hard to say goodbye parting, with a small adventure our plane was late arriving in Dallas, missing our connecting flight, we had to spend the night but to top it off I got sickly sick, throwing up in every bathroom along the way in the airport and all night in the hotel. After a long night we finally got home. This trip I cannot describe how wonderful, beautiful, healing, filling, full of love and adventures it was, yet it was. For me the healing came with a recent personal battle with sobriety and the loss of my father, which I’m sure will come up in future blogs. I love the redwoods and California and will be back!!! I shall try and put pictures in order of events as I told them, although don’t hold me to that (:…..enjoy and go visit!!! Happiest birthday my love, my partner, my light and strength Jill Love Phoenix…….check out her page on this site…Jill Phoenix Yoga (:

 

 

A tablerock adventure

This past weekend I made a trip to table rock in Morganton Nc. It was a parting hike for a good friend on her way to Florida to get married and start fresh in a quest to live off the grid with her man, also a dear friend of mine. The views on this hike are amazing, once at the top you can wonder around a rocky hobbit like landscape, pick all you eat blueberries, collect magic stones of rosey, smokey and clear quartz, mica, and other brillant rocks. The view looks across linville gorge, one of my favorite places. Stay tuned as my next adventure looks to be hiking and camping in the redwoods!!

Meanwhile on the Blueridge….

So another beautiful weekend here in the Appalachians full of beautyful scenery and lots of mushrooms! Found simply wonderful chantrelles  of which there are several kinds, notice the gills and how they are different from other gilled species, chantrelles gills are connected to the stalk, they have a odor something like drano, and have a flower shape. These little fellas are some of my favorites in taste and great to sautee. There can be look alikes to these so bee careful and do your research!!

One of my all time favorites and best mushrooms to sell and eat is called chicken of the wood, I found a nice chuck that had been turned into a bug motel as most large mushrooms do, but much was salvageable, not any look alikes to this great mushroom, it tastes like chicken, is bright orange on top and yellow underneath, no gills, so it’s a polypore, is in a fan shape and can sell  for a nice amount. I love hunting the chicken!20170702_134553

Also pulled in some amazing reishi mushrooms …these typically grow on pine or hemlock and are amazing for anti-aging, cancer research, liver health and neuroprotective  proprieties.  The taste is bitter and very earthy but can be cut with herbs or flavors like ginger root. I make tea from them but know some herbalists that do super tinctures with them with many health benefits.

Also enjoyed some wild oyster mushrooms which are easy to ID, I see them as a sea shell from the bottom, they are also very tasty and grow in large clumps, mostly always on old stumps. I grow these in different varieties in my basement.

On a not so good mushroom tip here are two kinds that are not so nice for your system, first is a pecks milky cap which is bad! It milks from the gills or stalk and the milk is hot or spicy to the taste (no harm in tasting a sample of the milk), there are a few good milky mushrooms, my favorite and most well known is the leatherback milky (which smell and the milk taste fishy, also dark brown caps). These peck milky caps are not good and can give you a bad day if eaten. They have rings on their caps.

Out of the edibles these little guys are great to me, called puffballs , they have a mushroomy taste but can take on many flavors. If white inside your safe, any other color is a no go.

Lastly is one of many amanita mushrooms most of which will kill you- given it’s name as death angel or death cap. They are very very bad! You can tell them from their appealing caps that have ‘crumbs’ on the cap, also bulbs at the base. Do not mess with any mushrooms looking like this in various shades and colors!!!!!20170702_141015

Was a beautiful weekend and lots of exploring and hunting ahead!! Summer and mushroom season are in full swing y’all!! Stay tuned for more…..