Foraging Classes

HornFarmCenterLogoStacked-72-540x540WhiteBGA mushroom dropped in on my life, in an unexpected manner, and now I find myself wandering to unexpected places, such as rural Pennsylvania. I am sharing here mainly as a record of how I have come across the resources that inform how we approach bringing foraging to Chan Chich Lodge.

So, bravo and thanks to our friends at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, which is my latest find in these wanderings. I particularly like their clearly laid out information on the educational resources they offer, most notably this section on foraging classes: Continue reading

Biophilia Bathing

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
― John Muir

Muir has long been a muse for many on this site, as we ponder the concept of Biophilia and the power of nature in our lives. We are motivated to work on conservation initiatives for plenty of reasons, including our belief in the link between wellbeing and a fix of nature. From bonsai, bamboo fountains and the meditative sand raking in Zen gardens, the Japanese have a long cultivated the restorative forces of natural elements, so their embrace of forest bathing is no surprise…

The Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ is scientifically proven to be good for you

The tonic of the wilderness was Henry David Thoreau’s classic prescription for civilization and its discontents, offered in the 1854 essay Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. Now there’s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing. Continue reading

Please Support Sierra Club On This Initiative


Photo credit: B. Bartel/USFWS

We know that most of our readers on this platform, and most guests we serve at the various properties we have developed and managed over the years, care deeply about primary forests and the ecosystems they support. Here is a chance to vocalize together with one of the influential organizers of vocalization:

Help Protect Tongass National Forest: Stop the Clearcutting

They’re about to start their chainsaws. Timber companies are trying to clearcut one of the most primeval wild places — and this is our last chance to stop them.

Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is nothing short of magical: it contains centuries-old trees and one-of-a-kind wilderness, home to animals like Alexander Archipelago wolves and bald eagles. Your voice is needed to pressure Congress to bring an end to old growth logging and save the Tongass for our children and grandchildren.

Take action today to save the Tongass National Forest.

Forest Attrition Distance


A forest in Oregon along Highway 30, part of which has been clear-cut. Researchers say the average distance to the nearest forest from any point in the continental United States widened in the 1990s. Credit Leah Nash for The New York Times

Thanks to the Science section of the New York Times, for the description of the research as well as for the name of the measurement:

How Far to the Next Forest? A New Way to Measure Deforestation

Foraging Fellowship In New York City


Reishi mushrooms (left) and Trametes versicolor collected in a folded map. ZACK DEZON

Thanks to Wired author Charley Locke for his story MEET THE OBSESSIVE MUSHROOM HUNTERS OF NEW YORK CITY:

ON A PARTICULARLY gorgeous Sunday in October, 30 explorers with the New York Mycological Society met at a cemetery in Brooklyn to hunt for mushrooms.


Reishi mushrooms on a stump. ZACK DEZON

They rummaged through leaves, carefully inspected the headstones, and gingerly reached into tree trunks, hoping to find something amazing. A turkey tail, perhaps, or hen-of-the-wood. “It was like a scavenger hunt,” says Zack DeZon, a photographer who joined them on the search. “It struck me as the analog equivalent of Pokemon Go.”

DeZon is not particularly enamored with fungus, but a mushroom-obsessed friend’s Instagram feed piqued his interest. The fellow pointed him toward the Mycological Society which has since 1962 catered to those with an interest in mycology and mycophagy. The society, created by the composer John Cage, has 430 members and meets throughout the year to find mushrooms, eat mushrooms, and discuss mushrooms.

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Banks, Rainforests, We The People


Young orphaned orangutans on a climbing expedition with their keeper at International Animal Rescue’s orangutan school in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Credit Kemal Jufri for The New York Times

We first started paying close attention to the plight of the ecosystem in the image above when we saw the talk given by Willie Smits, who has taken action, to say the least, in the interest of protecting that rainforest and its inhabitants. It is not because of the orangutans (though see the photo below and try to resist reading on) that we find this article compelling; it is because there is a clear and compelling call to action on holding our institutions accountable:

How Big Banks Are Putting Rain Forests in Peril


In early 2015, scientists monitoring satellite images at Global Forest Watch raised the alarm about the destruction of rain forests in Indonesia.

Environmental groups raced to the scene in West Kalimantan province, on the island of Borneo, to find a charred wasteland: smoldering fires, orangutans driven from their nests, and signs of an extensive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Continue reading

Something’s Wrong With This Picture


Under current legislation, European bioenergy plants do not have to produce evidence that their wood products have been sustainably sourced. Photograph: Wolf Forest Protection Movement

Thanks to the Guardian for this coverage of disturbing news from Europe:

Protected forests in Europe felled to meet EU renewable targets – report

Europe’s bioenergy plants are burning trees felled from protected conservation areas rather than using forest waste, new report shows

Arthur Neslen

Protected forests are being indiscriminately felled across Europe to meet the EU’s renewable energy targets, according to an investigation by the conservation group Birdlife. Continue reading

From Guests At Chan Chich Lodge


A family from Spain shared with me some photos they took during their first four days in Belize, spent at Chan Chich Lodge. I asked what was their favorite “thing” about Chan Chich and I appreciated the simplicity of their reply: they most enjoyed the simple fact of being in nature. Waking up to the spectacular racket of monkeys claiming territory in the nearby trees Continue reading

Northeastern USA Will Remain Greener, Longer, Thanks To New Protection In Maine’s Backwoods


Thank you Maine and thank you federal government of the USA:

Touring Maine’s Newest — and Largest — Parcel of Federal Land


On an early fall day, with just a hint of red tinting the maples, the view from the summit of Deasey Mountain is spectacular.

To the west stand the rugged, treeless basins and knife-edge spine of Mount Katahdin. Off to the south, you see Wassataquoik Valley in the near distance, the peaks of the 100 Mile Wilderness beyond. To the east and north, more wild Maine woods and hills rolling for miles, to the Canadian border. Continue reading

Tree Elders & Drought


Giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada range can grow to be 250 feet tall — or more. John Buie/Flickr

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA):

How Is A 1,600-Year-Old Tree Weathering California’s Drought?

It’s been a brutal forest fire season in California. But there’s actually a greater threat to California’s trees — the state’s record-setting drought. The lack of water has killed at least 60 million trees in the past four years.

Scientists are struggling to understand which trees are most vulnerable to drought and how to keep the survivors alive. To that end, they’re sending human climbers and flying drones into the treetops, in a novel biological experiment. Continue reading

A River Runs Through Amboli Reserve

On my Saturday afternoon I followed up a morning of farm visits with a visit to the local agricultural research extension of the state university. More on that tomorrow. For now, I want to share some images from my Sunday exploration about an hour from the farms described, due inland and into the Western Ghats. Specifically, Amboli Reserve, which is in the view above.

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If You Happen To Be In New York City



October 1, 2016 – March 11, 2018


See the website of the exhibit at Public Art Fund for this description and more:

Lost Man Creek is a miniature forest. But rather than growing naturally and of its own accord, this undulating landscape populated by some 4,000 Dawn Redwoods is a recreation. Artist Spencer Finch partnered with the Save the Redwoods League to identify a 790-acre section of the protected Redwood National Park in California. Significantly scaling down the topography and tree canopy heights, he reimagined this corner of the California forest for MetroTech at a 1:100 scale. While the original trees range from 98 to 380 feet – taller than the buildings that surround the plaza – the trees in the installation are just one to four feet in height. Continue reading

Magnificent Ecological Services From Modest Parcels Of Trees


Eve Lonnquist examining trees on her property with Logan Sander, a consulting forester. Credit Leah Nash for The New York Times

An excellent article, whose title says it all, in the Science section of the New York Times this week:

How Small Forests Can Help Save the Planet


BIRKENFELD, Ore. — Eve Lonnquist’s family has owned a forest in the mountains of northwest Oregon since her grandmother bought the land in 1919. Her 95-year-old father still lives on the 157-acre property. And she and her wife often drive up from their home just outside Portland.

But lately, Ms. Lonnquist, 59 and recently retired, has been thinking about the future of her family’s land. Like many small-forest owners, they draw some income from logging and would like to keep doing so. But they would also like to see the forest, with its stands of Douglas fir, alder and cherry, protected from clear-cutting or being sold off to developers. Continue reading

Bring Back The Green!


The Allegheny National Forest is absent from Google Maps (right) but displayed on Apple Maps (left). Apple & Google/Screenshots by NPR

We lose more than enough green in the real world, so when the cartographical world starts compounding the problem, we must shout in protest:

Where Did National Forests Go? Green Spaces Disappear From Google Maps

Erin Ross

If you looked at Google Maps this week, you might have noticed something strange: less green. Continue reading

Forest Protection By Any Other Name, For Any Other Purpose, Through Any Other Means, Is Just As Sweet


Richard Fortey and Derek Niemann among the beeches in Grim’s Dyke Wood. Photograph: Sarah Niemann

We do not favor private sector conservation efforts over all other options; we favor them over the option of no conservation at all. Governments around the world have rightly done the heaviest lifting on preserving nature, considering their resources, eminent domain, and other factors including the most salient; public lands effectively belong to an entire nation’s citizens. Philanthropies have also done enormous good. We have written plenty on both public and philanthropic conservation schemes. Today, a more modest story, but no less lovely:

A walk in the woods with Richard Fortey

Henley, Oxfordshire The palaeontologist and author offers a tour of Grim’s Dyke Wood, which he bought in 2011

Derek Niemann

Five years after the palaeontologist Richard Fortey bought Grim’s Dyke Wood, a small Chiltern beech wood, he shows no diminution in enthusiasm for his “nature reserve”. He gives me a tour, though in truth we delight in each other’s discoveries. I find him a ring of bright feathers on a pile of rotting pine logs, a raptor’s kill, the buffs and browns speaking of a song thrush forever silenced. He finds bracket fungi that have insinuated themselves into the thin, horizontal lesions on a cherry tree’s trunk. Continue reading

Case for Human Settlement Enhancing Ecosystems



A recent scientific publication in Nature Communications enlightens us to the possibility that human settlement does not always equate to land degradation, and in some cases, improves the local ecology. Here’s the results of the study as shared in Conservation Magazine:

Researchers studied temperate rainforest on Calvert and Hecate islands, off the central coast of British Columbia, Canada. This forest is very wet, receiving an average of 4 meters of rainfall a year, and has acidic, nutrient-poor soils. The dominant tree species is western redcedar (Thuja plicata).

The coastline is also dotted with semi-permanent settlements where First Nations groups, as indigenous people are known in Canada, lived seasonally or year-round. Especially over the past 6,000 years, people intensively harvested shellfish from intertidal areas and built up large shell middens—some up to 5 meters deep—near their settlements.

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Restorative Justice, Environmental Case Study


Thanks to the Guardian for occasional environmental rags to riches stories:

How millions of trees brought a broken landscape back to life

After 25 years, the decision to site the National Forest amid derelict coal and quarry workings has borne spectacular fruit

by John Vidal

Twenty-five years ago, the Midlands villages of Moira, Donisthorpe and Overseal overlooked a gruesome landscape. The communities were surrounded by opencast mines, old clay quarries, spoil heaps, derelict coal workings, polluted waterways and all the other ecological wreckage of heavy industry.

The air smelt and tasted unpleasant and the land was poisoned. There were next to no trees, not many jobs and little wildlife. Following the closure of the pits, people were deserting the area for Midlands cities such as Birmingham, Derby and Leicester. The future looked bleak.

Today, a pastoral renaissance is taking place. Around dozens of former mining and industrial communities, in what was the broken heart of the old Midlands coalfield, a vast, splendid forest of native oak, ash and birch trees is emerging, attracting cyclists, walkers, birdwatchers, canoeists, campers and horse-riders.

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Wood Wide Web


Forests and fungi–words that make me think of Milo circa 2010-2012 in the south of India, especially in the Periyar Tiger Reserve (but also later, writing about fungi in relation to food waste). When I first heard this a week ago, it seemed typical of Radiolab’s attention to quirky outlier science stories:

From Tree to Shining Tree

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A forest can feel like a place of great stillness and quiet. But if you dig a little deeper, there’s a hidden world beneath your feet as busy and complicated as a city at rush hour.

In this story, a dog introduces us to a strange creature that burrows beneath forests, building an underground network where deals are made and lives are saved (and lost) in a complex web of friendships, rivalries, and business relations. It’s a network that scientists are only just beginning to untangle and map, and it’s not only turning our understanding of forests upside down, it’s leading some researchers to rethink what it means to be intelligent.

And it was typical, in that sense. But Milo’s attention to the underworld of fungi, which at the time seemed to me as quirky as this Radiolab story does today, got me to start paying attention to anything in our news network with certain keywords (mushroom, fungi, etc.) and just now I came across a short journalistic account that taps into the same science as the Radiolab piece above, and I am realizing it may not be merely quirky: Continue reading

Ginseng Memories

Ginseng with berries. Photo by US FWS via Wikimedia Commons

We first heard of ginseng in the New Yorker, where Burkhard Bilger wrote an article titled “Wild Sang” that explored the history of ginseng hunting and the very modern efforts to protect remaining plants from poaching in the Smoky Mountains. This week in Cool Green Science, the nature writer and conservationist Hal Herring reflects about his own personal experiences hunting ginseng in Alabama, and thinks about the future of the root:

I grew up in the flat-topped foothills of the Cumberland Mountains in north Alabama, and my mother was a student of wild herbs, wildflowers, and native medicinal plants. On my desk right now is a book called Tales of the Ginseng that my parents gave me for my twelfth birthday in 1976. It is a book of collected lore, of Manchurian folktales, of kings who become ginseng roots, of ginseng plants that withdraw, just ahead of the digger, to lure them into a deep-earth spirit-world from which they never return.

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