Sunday, March 27, 2016

Foraging For Jerusalem Artichokes


Native to the United States, jerusalem artichokes are not from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes. They are actually the edible tubers of  Helianthus tuberosus, a 6 or more foot plant in the aster family. Deliciously nutty and full of starch, these large tubers have been eaten by Native Americans for thousands of years. In the summer time, they can grow up to 12 feet tall and have small yellow, sunflower-like flowers. This is part of the reason they are also called sunchokes. This time of year (early spring) they are large brown stalks with small, shriveled brown orbs at the top. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Foraging For Reishi Mushroom




Found all over the world, reishi mushroom has long been prized for its medicinal properties. Like chaga, another medicinal mushroom that we love here at Stone Axe Herbals, reishi (pronounced ray-she)  is an adaptogen. Although it is much more complicated than this, basically that means that it helps your body to cope (adapt-ogen) with whatever life throws at it. I personally like to use it for extra immune support, especially during times of stress. 

For more information on the medicinal benefits of reishi, visit the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website

There are many species of reishi in the genus Ganoderma that grow around the world and are very closely related. Here in the United States we have just a handful that grow wild:

Ganoderma lucidum- found mostly in Southern U.S. on hardwoods
Ganoderma tsugae- found in Northern U.S., mainly on hemlocks 
Ganoderma curtisii- found in Southeastern U.S. on hardwoods
Ganoderma oregonense- found in Pacific Northwest on conifers

Here are two great websites about the growth of wild Ganoderma in the United States:
http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/mar2005.html

http://tcpermaculture.com/site/2014/02/20/reishi-ling-chi-mushroom/

I am going to be focusing on Ganoderma tsugae, just because it is the most common reishi here in Vermont. While it can be found on most conifers in general, I have only seen it grow on dead hemlock logs and stumps. 


Last years reishi grown on a hemlock log. 

I go out while there is still snow on the ground to search for reishi in hemlock forests. This way, I can take note of where I find them in the winter before the growing season starts and then go back in the summer to harvest the new growth. Reishi grows new fruit every year, this is what you want to harvest as older reishi do not have nearly the medicinal content as new mushrooms. It is easy to tell this years reishi from the last because last years will often be dull colored and eaten by bugs. 




See how these reishi are dull in color and not shiny and how they have been eaten badly by insects?


New growth on reishi is white and soft and you can see it on the edges of the mushroom. While most people do not eat reishi because it is hard and bitter, this white edge material can be cut off and eaten while still soft. If you see any white flesh on the reishi, it is a good indication that it is currently growing or will grow more in the future. 



Although small and brightly colored this reishi is definitely still from last year. Not only because I found it well before the growing season had started but because it has no white flesh on the edges. 


These are some Ganoderma lucidum I am growing on hardwood sawdust inside. You can see that most of the young antlers are white. This is the new growth. 

Here is Vermont, reishi begins to grow in May-June and continues to grow throughout the summer. The best time to harvest it is when you notice that the reishi's brown spores are dusting the tops of them. At this point, they are fully mature and ready to be picked. To do so, cut it off at the stem using a sharp knife. Be sure to put them in a mesh bag so that the spores are spread as you walk through the woods with them, making more reishi! Reishi can grow on the same log for up to 10 years so remember your spots so you can come back next year. 

Once you've harvested your reishi you are probably going to want to cut it up into strips right away. Reishi hardens as it dries and it will be nearly impossible to cut at that time. You do need to dry it though! Like all medicinal mushrooms, reishi can go bad if the moisture content is too high. To dry, simply cut into strips and leave out to dry in the sun on a warm dry day. You can also put it in a food dehydrator for a couple of hours on the lowest temperature. I would not recommend drying them in the oven as the temperature is too high and could damage the medicinal components of the mushroom. 


Lucky for us, there are very few mushrooms that look even close to reishi and those are not harmful. As always when harvesting wild mushrooms, be sure to try just a small amount and wait 24 hours to see if you have any side effects before eating more. 

The best way to tell reishi from other species is by its stem. Reishi are kidney shaped and grow from the log or stump on a stem. 






See the stems on these two reishi mushrooms above?


While this mushroom has a white edge and reddish-brown top, upon closer inspection you can see that it is not growing from a stem but directly from the tree. 


Looking for more information on reishi mushroom? Check out these great resources:


Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them. I am not a medical practitioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies. I am not claiming to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any ailment.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Finding and Dissecting Owl Pellets




Almost everyone has dissected at least one owl pellet in their elementary school science class, now it may be time to share this fun activity with your own children. Dissecting owl pellets is a great way for kids to learn about how ecosystems work, the food chain, and wildlife anatomy. You can purchase owl pellets cheaply and easily, but it is actually pretty easy to find them yourself. Plus, going out and finding one (or multiple) makes it all that much more fun and educational! 

Where to Look:
While each owl species has its own preferences as far as food and location, all tree nesting owls are pretty much looking for the same thing. Barred owls may be looking for frogs and mice near vernal pools or ponds, while great horned owls may be looking for rodents and other small mammals, such as rabbits or even skunks where field and forests meet. Barn owls are probably looking for mice and rats in open farm fields. All of these owls are looking for a place to hunt where game is readily available and they can see a long distance without anything obstructing their view. 

To find a place like this, look for places that might be good habitat for the prey animals. Vernal pools, brush piles in fields, grasslands, and places where there is grain on the ground are all good places to start as these places provide food and shelter for rodents and small mammals and amphibians. Keep in mind what owls are in your local area and what they might be eating.Then, look for the highest place with the best view, a place where an owl might want to sit and watch. Most often, these are large, dead trees in the middle of or on edges of fields. These trees, sometimes called wolf trees, are ideal places for owls to hunt from. Owls may also hunt from barns or other buildings as well. Basically, they want the highest vantage point around, and in some places, as with snowy owls in the arctic, this might simply be a large rock. 



This pellet was found at the base of a large tree next to a vernal pool.

Once you find a place where you think an owl might be, look for signs of it. Pellets can be found on the ground along with feathers. Feathers can also be found caught on branches if it is a tree so don't forget to look up. Look for feces on plants beneath. Even if you don't find a pellet, but you find other signs of owls, keep coming back regularly to look. Owls produce pellets often as they cannot digest bones and hair and have to eat many small rodents to stay alive. Although owl pellets are just dry balls of bones and hair, it is suggested that if you do find one, you should wear gloves to pick them up. Put the pellet in a hard container so it doesn't get destroyed on your way home. 

Now that you have your pellet(s), it's time to start dissecting! If you can't find any, don't worry, you can still purchase them online. 

 

You will need:
-Gloves
-Tweezers or toothpicks

Optional:
- Mammal ID book that includes rodents 
- Owl ID book (I highly recommend The Complete Book of North American Owls
- Magnifying Glass or hand lens
- Owl pellet bone ID chart

First, with gloves on, break up your pellet into smaller chunks careful not to break any of the tiny bones in it.  You can start methodically picking the chunks apart, pulling out individual bones with the tweezers, toothpicks, or your fingers. Sort the bones into piles if you like. 

You can look at a bone ID chart to determine what animals this owl has been eating. You can find one here: http://www.biologycorner.com/resources/Owl_Pellet_Bone_Chart_grid.pdf
or simply google image search "owl pellet bone ID chart" and you will find many free ones. 

From here, you can use a Mammal ID book to determine the species (remember that there may be more than one). Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America: Fourth Edition (Peterson Field Guides) is my personal favorite. Consider size of the animal, habitat it was living in (where you found the pellet), and hair color. Remember that animals look like they are a different color when looking at them from above or below, then if you are just looking at their hair. For example, many rodents have grey hair with brown tips, so the animal would appear grey at first glance of the owl pellet but would appear brown if you were to see it run past you. 

Once you determine what the owl has been eating and where it has been hanging out, you can often determine which species of owl it was by looking at an owl ID book. 

That's all there is to it! Have fun and happy owl pellet hunting! 

Here are some books that I highly recommend for learning more about owls:



Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them. I am not a medical practitioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies. I am not claiming to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any ailment.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

10 Uses For Basswood Trees




The other day, I was walking in the woods in one of my all time favorite hiking spots and I looked down and found one of these (except there were seeds attached to the bottom):

It appeared to be some sort of samara from a tree but I had no clue which tree it was from. It seemed to have a similar purpose as a maple samara (aka helicopter), but it was very different and much larger. After a quick google search, I found that it was from a lime tree. Wait, what?! A lime tree in the middle of the woods in Northern Vermont, in the winter? That couldn't be right. And it wasn't, after just a bit more searching I realize that it was indeed from the lime family, but it was not a lime tree but a basswood, known as a linden in Europe, and as Tilia americana in the scientific world. 

Then, the next thought I had was, as with most things, hm, I wonder if I can eat it? And it turns out that you can! So I went back a few days ago to see if I could find more and if I could, in fact, eat them. Well, I found quite a lot more, not so many of the samaras, but the individual seeds themselves. 

                             

It took me awhile but I eventually gathered a couple of handfuls of these seeds. The ones pictured above look dark brown-ish black, but when they are dry they look light green and almost fuzzy. I popped a few in my mouth, they were pretty chewy, but tasted pretty darn good, like walnuts almost. 

                           

What you see in the picture above is actually the seed casing. It is semi-soft, like a walnut hull, and are easy to crack open with your teeth to get at the seed inside. I sometimes just pop them in my mouth and eat the whole thing, though. While basswood seeds may not be the most viable survival food (they're pretty small and can take a long time to collect), they are definitely a fun trail snack. You can pick them up and eat them as you go and they take a while to eat so it can give you something to do while hiking. I could see kids really liking to find and eat these, it is very amusing to crack open the hulls and dig out the seeds with your teeth. Just don't confuse them with something else I found that day:

                           
That's not a basswood seed, it's snowshoe hare poop! I still picked it up anyways, to find out why, check out my post on Making Pine Pitch Glue. 

Although basswood seeds are a great snack for us, they are also loved and relied upon by many different animals. Many small birds and mammals eat these seeds, which can be found all winter. Basswoods are also important cavity trees for animals including woodpeckers, wood ducks, flying squirrels, and even owls to nest in. When most people think of cavity trees, they think of old gnarled maples or oaks full of rot, broken branch, and holes to hide in, but because the wood of the basswood tree is so soft, it is very easy for woodpeckers to carve out holes even in young, living trees.  For this reason, basswood is also a highly valued tree among woodcarvers. When I went to his home and workshop several years back with Jordan at Rabbit Ridge Farm, Dave Brown, a local bowl turner told us that basswood is his all time favorite wood to work with. 

Local bowl turner, Dave Brown, showing us how he makes his beautiful wooden bowls. 

Then, I began to think about it, and I realized that I had used basswood before too! I didn't use it for carving, though, I had used fiber from the tree's inner bark to make cordage. The bark can be peeled from the tree and soaked for months, at which time the inner bark can be peeled off in strips and twisted into extremely strong and uniform cordage. 

                      
I know that I've already listed a lot of uses, but it keeps going! It seems like basswood is good for everything. In the springtime, you can eat the young leafs. Basswood leafs are large, heart-shaped, and have toothed edges. They are too chewy when old but the smaller ones make a great salad. The young buds are also edible in the springtime, as well. 

I've never tried this but I've heard that basswood cambium is also edible, and although it is fairly thin for most of the year, if you get it at the right time, around June, it is much thicker. If you find a basswood tree that has been cut down at this time of the year (it's not worth it to cut the whole tree just for the cambium, but it's great if the tree is already cut), you can scrape it off into strips and it is said to look like sauerkraut but taste like cucumbers. 

Now, I've never tried this either, but I cannot wait for the basswood flowers to start coming out, because I have heard that if you pick some basswood flowers and maybe some of the fruit before it hardens, you can mash them into a paste. This paste apparently tastes exactly like chocolate! Who knew? Chocolate substitute isn't the only use for basswood flowers, though. Bees love basswood flowers and basswood honey is highly sought after!


Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them. I am not a medical practitioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies. I am not claiming to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any ailment.  







Thursday, March 17, 2016

How To Do Laundry Without a Washing Machine






So I got up this morning full of energy and ready to face the day, looked around for something to wear and found that, surprise, surprise I didn't have any clean clothes after what seems like an entire winter of not washing any. So I thought to myself, I'm going to be a responsible adult and wash my clothing today, for once in my life. I got everything together and I get down to the laundry room and I find a little bitty sticky note on the door saying "Do not use. Broken". Darn. 

Still determined to get this done and over with, I decided to do it by hand, old school, off-grid style. 

You will need:
- a large washtub (or a bathtub)
- water 
- either hot water from the tap or a way to heat water 
- an agitator (or strong arms)
- soap, preferably biodegradable 
- and of course, dirty laundry 

optional: 
- a wash board 

The first step is to heat some water! If you don't have hot running water, or running water at all, you will need to heat some water just to take the edge off if you have ice cold water like I do and to help get the grime out of your clothing. You can make the water as hot or as warm as you like but it takes a long time to heat a lot of water.  A couple of teapots full for a large washtub should be enough. 





Meanwhile, fill your wash basin about half full with water, soap, and laundry. I find that you can really only manage to wash half a basket of laundry at a time with a tub this size. I do mine in two batches. You'll want to use biodegradable soap if you are going to be dumping your laundry water outside. I used some homemade soap this time but I usually use my all time favorite scent of Dr. Bronners: Peppermint! The peppermint is antibacterial and mice hate the smell of it, so it is really useful to have around, especially if you live in an older house or one with a lot of cracks for our rodent friends to squeeze through.  
                                                               

                                                                   



                           


Pour your hot water over it all to help dissolve some of the soap. 

                     

Next, you will need to agitate your clothing to get all of the dirt out.  You can use one of these handy dandy agitators or you can just use your hands, agitating the laundry vigorously for 5-10 minutes depending on how dirty your clothes are. I know this just looks like a metal plunger, but it's not. It's specially designed to move the water and laundry around.

                           

Mine's a little rusty because I use it a lot, but it doesn't really matter. They're not really necessary but very helpful, especially if you have a whole family's worth of clothing to wash. Doing this step by hand can be very tiring. Can't find one in your local stores? You can purchase one here:

                                                                   


The next step is to work on difficult stains. This is where a washboard would come in handy, but again it is not totally necessary. I actually find that it works better just to do this step by hand. Its really just a personal preference and I usually just do laundry for myself, not a whole family so I don't need to be as efficient. 
                                                                     





Put extra soap on any stains you might have and grab the piece of clothing on either side of the stain. Rub the stained cloth against itself, using your knuckles if you like to really scrub it out. This may take awhile depending on how bad the stain is. This is one of the perks of doing your wash by hand, though, because you get to work on each stain individually and actually get them out instead of just baking them in like washing machines sometimes tend to do. 

Once you've gotten your stains out you will have to dump your wash water and refill the tub to rinse out all of the soap. Once you have done so you have to get all of the water out of your clothing. If you have a lot of laundry to do you might want to invest in a wringer:
                                                                   

If not you can just wring it out by hand. I do highly recommend having a patio or a clean floor with a drain or a shower to get all of the water out of thick items like blue jeans or sweaters. I sometimes use an outdoor shower, but anything where the water can drain away works great. 



This is where things really get physical. You will need to throw your article of clothing down and press down on it with all of you weight, squeezing as much water out as you can. I like to use both hands to knead it like bread dough, turning and folding it as I go. 

And then you are at the final step!


Hang it out to dry. If you don't have a clothesline or the weather is nasty out you can get one of those indoor folding drying racks. Those work excellently, especially for apartments or dorm rooms. 

                                                                      

Update: I had a great question in the comments from Just Plain Marie. She asked: What do you do in the winter? The simple answer is, I don't, or at least not as much. I wear a lot of wool clothing, which does not absorb smell as readily, and simply wash my undergarments and t-shirts more often. Those items are much smaller and easier to wash than say, blue jeans, which I don't wear in the winter. To do this you can use a bathtub or simply bring your washtub inside. It is nice if you have a heated space that has a drain in the floor such as a garage or a vegetable wash house or even a sauna to do it in, but if not you can just dump the wash water in the shower or outside. This is when it is nice to have two wash tubs so that you can put your wet clothes in one while you are dumping and refilling the other and later when you need one for dryer clothing that you have already rung out and is waiting to go on the line. As far as drying, those collapsible drying racks are really nice to put next to a wood stove but clothes will dry just fine being in a normally heated room as well. I might consider getting a wringer to get every last drop of extra moisture out, though, as you don't want wet laundry dripping all over the floor. I have found that it is difficult to take a rack or line up and down every week so it is best to keep a spot designated for it.


Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them. I am not a medical practitioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies. I am not claiming to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any ailment.  






Maple Sugaring With Draft Horses







Welp, it's that time of year again!! Mud season? Well, yes, but also maple sugaring season! After joining the collection crew yesterday, I thought I would show you all a little bit of what it is like to make maple syrup the old-fashioned way, with buckets, horses, and a wood-fired evaporator. 

First step: Tap the trees. Maple sap "runs" when you have freezing nights and warm days. The simplified reason for this is that during the day the warm temperatures create pressure in the tree, drawing the sugary sap up the tree. In the evening when it begins to freeze again the tree sucks all of its sap back into its roots. In this process, it flows past your tap holes and out your tap into the bucket. It looks a little something like this:





You want to do this a couple of days before the sap starts to flow so you don't miss any of this precious sap. It takes more than 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup so you need A LOT of it and you don't want to miss a single drop. Recently, buckets have fallen out of favor because you have to go visit every tree every time the sap runs and it can be a lot of walking around, especially if you have a couple of thousand trees tapped. Instead, large syrup producers have begun to use rubber tubing connected to each tap and running downhill into a tank. While you have to set up the tubing and replace it often, when it comes time to sugar all you have to do is draw off of your tank and boil it down. Some producers are even using vacuum pumps to get the sap out of the tree. They claim that the vacuum merely equalizes the pressure in the tree and the tube so that the sap can flow unhindered, but I think this method is a little too on the greedy side. They say it doesn't hurt the tree at all but I'm still skeptical. Plus, rubber tubing just means more plastic in the environment. Not to mention that it makes it a nightmare to take a walk through the woods without being clotheslined. Traditionally, people carved wooden taps from hollow sticks and collected sap in waterproof birch bark containers. To waterproof them they often used pine pitch to seal the edges shut. I recently wrote a post about making pine pitch, to read more about it click HERE. They then boiled the sap by dropping hot rocks into either the birch bark containers or into huge wooden coal burned bowls. Either way, it took a very long time to boil the sap down all the way into dry sugar that could be stored for long periods of time.

Once the sap is running we go out with two horses and a big water buffalo tank, a bunch of people and 5 gallon buckets. You have one teamster, a pourer who grabs the buckets from the runners and pours the sap into the tank, and a handful of runners who have two 5 gallon buckets and go to each tap collecting the sap and bringing it back to the tank. We also use a header to stand in front of the horses when they are stopped and keep them from moving around too much while people are trying to pour the sap in the tank (our horses are not as patient as they should be, and Belle really hates standing in mud). Here's a video of me driving the tank wagon with Belle (black horse) and Valentine (brown horse):


video

Here's the collection crew:








Once we've collected all of the sap, we bring it back to the sugar house where it gets boiled down for hours and hours and hours until we have a couple gallons of pure Vermont maple syrup! Yum!



Testing to see if the syrup is "sheeting" yet. This means that it is dripping off in long sheets rather than individual drops and is how you know that the syrup is thick enough and ready to be siphoned off. 


Stoking the fire. 

Late nights in the sugar house often mean lots of great music. 


I forgot to mention though, the maple syrup is just one treat of the sugaring season. Drinking the sap straight is just as good! It's sweet and maple-y but not too sweet, plus it purportedly has all sorts of good trace minerals in it. I don't know about some of the health claims out there but it sure is delicious. A nice big jug of maple sap is just the thing to wake you up after a long, cold winter. 




The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth. 


Thanks to Leonard Evans for some of the pictures and videos in this post. : )


Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them. I am not a medical practitioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies. I am not claiming to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any ailment. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How to Make Pine Pitch






Shameless self-promotion! We are now selling pitch sticks on Etsy. Check it out here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/StoneAxeHerbals?ref=hdr_shop_menu

Although very, very sticky at times, pine pitch is fairly easy and super fun to make. Known by some as nature's plastic, this versatile substance has been used for thousand of years for almost any task you can imagine. It will stick to anything you want and is very pliable when warm, it is rock solid when hardened, waterproof, and extremely flammable. Traditionally, it was used to attach arrows to their shafts, attach knife blades to handles, patch canoes, make soles for shoes, to waterproof bark containers, and much, much more. 

Even the famous Otzi the Iceman, who died 5,300 years ago, was found carry tools glued together with pitch. 
To read more about it at PBS.org click HERE. 




Today, it can still be used for anything you like. It is the ultimate crazy glue, much better than anything you can buy in the store. I'm telling you, this stuff will stick to (and stay on) anything, and I mean anything, including your hands and clothing so be careful! In modern times, many people use it as an emergency fire starter as it does not matter if it gets wet. With a wick (a piece of cloth or lichen), you can even use pitch as a long lasting lamp. 

I even used pine pitch to patch a hole in my gourd water bottle. Check it out in my post, How to Make a Gourd Water Bottle by clicking HERE.

Below is an amazing video of a comparison between regular matches and pine pitch coated matches, by ReWildUniversity.






To make pine pitch you will need:
- pine resin (or fir or spruce)
- charcoal 

optional:
- snowshoe hare feces 
OR
- dry grass 



Pine, fir, or spruce resin can be harvested anywhere these trees are found. To do so, simply go for a walk in the woods and keep an eye out for the gooey stuff coming out of the trees. Once you have found some, scrape it off with a stick or spoon and put it in a tin, shell, or piece of birch bark. You can use your fingers but it is not advised as you will quickly get very frustrated with your hands sticking to everything for the rest of the day. It's seriously painful to pry your fingers apart after getting resin on your hands.


Spruce and fir resin on birch bark and my fancy moose maple scraping tool.

 


Resin is made by the tree to seal wounds and protect them from insect or pathogen infestation so look for trees that have been wounded in some way. A good place to look is in an area where logging has occurred recently, as you can sometimes find gobs of the stuff oozing from freshly cut pines, especially in the springtime during warm weather. 

Can't find any resin? Taking wayyy too long to collect just a little bit? You can buy pine resin here:

                                                                  


Now that you've collected your resin you will need to find some charcoal from any ordinary fire (not charcoal for grilling that you buy at the store but the black chunks left in the ashes after a fire). Crush it up finely until you have at least 1/2 as much charcoal powder as you do pine resin. The best way to do this is with a mortar and pestle but a couple of rocks will do too. 

Optional: Crush up your dry snowshoe hare turds into dust and mix with the charcoal powder. The only way to get these is just to go out in the woods and look. The best time is in the winter when you can see tracks and the turds on the white snow. Go somewhere that you know the hares hangout, very dense conifer stands are the best.   I guess you could also use domestic rabbit feces if it was very dry as well, but I've never tried it. 

Snowshoe hare feces 

The snowshoe hare turds act as a binding agent, but you can make pitch without it. Many people do not include it and their pitch works fine. 

If you don't have any snowshoe hare feces, you can use very dry grass but you will have to grind it into tiny fibers. To do this, put a handful of dry grass in a mortar and pestle and grind it for five minutes. Most of the grass will still be in long pieces, discard these and only keep the very small bits. 

Now it's time to mix it all together. This is the ratio:
1 part pine resin
1/2 to 1 part charcoal dust
ground snowshoe hare feces or grass as desired (1/8 part recommended)




In a tin can or a large shell, melt the pine resin until it is stirred easily. Add your dry ingredients. Mix well. Dip a stick in and let it harden to test hardness. Play around with ratios of ingredients until you get it how you like it. If you have very fresh, newly collected resin, you will have to add much more than if you have older resin because the water content of the resin changes over time. If it is very old and hard, you may not need to use much charcoal at all. I have some that is in large chunks that are several years old, and I only use about 10% charcoal when I use it. Althought it can be frustrating to get it just right, the art of pine pitch making can be very rewarding. 

The method that I like to use is to keep a bowl of cold water nearby so that I can dip the stick in the pitch, then in the water to harden. Take it out and let all the water dry (you dont want to get water in your pitch). Dip again and then back in the water. Repeat until you have the desired amount of pitch on your stick. 

Again, this is a difficult process to get just right. You can purchase pitch sticks from my Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/StoneAxeHerbals?ref=hdr_shop_menu



Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them. I am not a medical practitioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies. I am not claiming to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any ailment.