A 21st Century Wheel of the Year: Regeneration at Beltane — The Druids Garden

A druid walks upon a landscape, barren, cold, with trees cut and plants uprooted. Tears in her eyes, she surveys the damage that others have caused: the homes of so many animals disrupted after logging, the wild ramps and ginseng roots damaged, and the remains of the logged trees laying like skeletons on the earth.…

A 21st Century Wheel of the Year: Regeneration at Beltane — The Druids Garden

Old Growth Red Pine — An Uncommon Sight

Among the common, the uncommon exists.  Learning the uncommon among the common helps us see in new ways what has been in front of us all along.

Take red pine, for instance. 

Where I live in western Pennsylvania, red pine (Pinus resinosa) is a common sight.  Many county and state parks contain large tracts of land that host nothing but red pine plantations.  These plantations, believe it or not, are considered by fundamentalists to be “ecological deserts” — a category that also includes parking lots and golf courses.

Red pine, it seems, can’t catch a break.  Because of the bias against its ubiquity and against its purported ecological disservice, it’s no wonder that people rarely take any time to marvel underneath a red pine tree.

But there is something that we should know about red pine.  Among the common, the uncommon exists.

Red pine is not common in every context.  To provide two examples — “natural” stands of red pine are quite uncommon in my home state of Pennsylvania, and across the entire range of red pine, old growth red pine forests occupy less than 1% of their original range. 

What’s more, old growth red pine forests are far from ecological deserts.  Researchers consider these forests to be critical for maintaining biodiversity at stand and landscape levels.

To gain some insight on the matter, I decided to visit a “natural” stand of red pine.  Not too surprisingly, I did not discover an ecological desert.  Instead, I encountered a diverse ecosystem containing red pines that were approximately 250 years old and approaching old growth status.

If you are interested in learning the uncommon among the commoncheck out the brand new video!

Speaking of uncommon (or very common, depending on where you live), I recently encountered this melanistic eastern gray squirrel foraging for acorns.  The presence of melanism across the range of gray squirrels is really low (less than 1%).  In some areas, though, it can be higher than 50%.  To learn more about black squirrels, check out the latest Instagram post!Click to view post

Thanks for reading and watching, and thanks for your continued support!

-Adam Haritan

Cultivating Resilience as a Physical and Spiritual Practice

The Druid's Garden

A lovely stand of staghorn sumac in bloom! Staghorn Sumac: A tree that teaches us about resilience

Resilience is a term I first learned as a permaculture practitioner–resilient ecosystems are those that are able to withstand hardship, recover quickly when faced with difficulty, and had a capacity to endure. In other words, a resilient ecosystem can withstand drought, flooding, or other difficulties by being adaptable, flexible, and having redundancies. Which of course, is so critical in today’s ever-changing world fraught with climate change and instability.  Resilient plants are the often-maligned weeds: those weeds who take every opportunity to grow: who find a crack in the sidewalk and take root, who immediately start to grow after disruption, or who outcompete less resilient plants. They are able to be like weeds or opportunistic species, taking advantage of new opportunities, finding niches, and gracefully adapting to change. Think of the dandelion here, growing up through cracks in the sidewalk.  This same…

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These Male Trees Turn Female Even If It Kills Them

What goes on in a forest might be none of our business.  Curious minds, however, always want to know.

In the lower canopy layers of Appalachian forests, a particular tree known as striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) does something that very few trees do.

It changes sex.

Males become females.  Females become males.

In academic circles, this phenomenon is known as sequential hermaphroditism.  Some plants do it when stakes are high.  In the case of striped maple, males become females even if it kills them.

Why does this happen, and what else is known about sex changes in plants?  In a brand new video, I introduce some important questions and wonder about them aloud.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the brand new video!

This animal does not change sex but it does change the way people maneuver through the woods.  I recently spotted a few timber rattlesnakes in a Pennsylvania forest.  To see photographs and to read more about my encounters, check out the latest Instagram post!Click to view post

Thanks for reading and watching, and thanks for your continued support!

-Adam Haritan

Embracing the Wilds at Lughnasadh

The Druid's Garden

Wildlife Wildlife

When you think of the term “wild”, what comes to mind? Perhaps wild can be defined by that which is its opposite: civilized, tame, domesticated, and controlled.  Wild, on the other hand, is free, unrestricted, unbounded, and sovereign.  And while I resist binaries, there does seem to be some truth in the difference between that which is wild and that which is tame–a manicured city street vs. an old-growth forest has a world of difference: in the smell, in the biodiversity present, and in the energy of the space.  A wild place is hugely biodiverse and serves the needs of a wide variety of species. A wild space is in a place of ecological balance, where all resources are cycled and used. The human-tamed spaces are most frequently designed for human needs exclusively, and in the modern age, are also prime producers of pollution and waste. There’s, of course…

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Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year Through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices

The Druid's Garden

Sacred Actions book!

I’m really excited to announce that my new book through REDFeather / Shiffer Publishing is now availableo!  The Book is titled Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year Through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices. I wanted to give you an introduction to the book and the concepts behind the book.  If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, you’ll see a great deal of familiarity: my explorations and writing on this blog shaped this book, although the book goes well beyond the blog.  In a nutshell, Sacred Actions presents a hybridization of nature spirituality, sustainable living, and permaculture practices and ethics.   I can’t wait to introduce it to you in today’s post!

Order in the US or UK from the Publisher (available now). Pre-order from Amazon (US) or Amazon (UK).  Pre-Order in Australia from Booktopia. 

As I’ve written on this blog before

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Never Be Fooled By Poison Ivy Again

Before I share a brand new video with you, I want to provide a reminder that today — Monday, May 24th—  is the last day to register for Foraging Wild Mushrooms

After today, registration will be closed for the season.  If you want to learn the skills involved in safely and successfully harvesting wild mushrooms with confidence, Foraging Wild Mushrooms can help you achieve that goal. 

Click here to register before midnight.

And now on to this week’s brand new video.

There is no shortage of phrases that we can use to assist with the identification of poison ivy.

Most are lyrical and memorable, but few ever describe the less familiar parts of poison ivy (e.g., winter buds, twigs, flowers, autumn foliage).

Even then, the phrases that do describe the most familiar parts aren’t entirely foolproof:

“Leaflets of three, let it be.” (Many other plants have compound leaves with three leaflets, and I’ve seen poison ivy leaves with only two leaflets.)

“Side leaflets like mittens, will itch like the dickens.” (Side leaflets will oftentimes have no teeth or lobes.)

Needless to say, catchy phrases aren’t always accurate, and field guides that offer one photograph per plant only add to the confusion.

To address the situation, I created a very detailed video that covers key identifying features of poison ivy in every season.

If you’re looking to improve your poison ivy identification skills while reducing the chances of physically contacting the plant, check out the brand new video!

Thanks for reading and watching, and thanks for your continued support!

-Adam Haritan

Land Healing at the Druid’s Garden: Replanting, Forest Healing, and Refugia Update

The Druid's Garden

Ramps planted in my Grove of Renewal

Today I wanted to take some time to share some of the updates on the land healing and permaculture practices we are enacting at the Druid’s Garden Homestead.  As I’ve shared in earlier posts, when we purchased this land four years ago, the family who owned it just before us selectively logged about 3 acres, leaving the forest an absolute mess.  The land otherwise was perfect–we have our own spring, a nice sunny area for gardens….and three acres of land in desperate need of healing.  Since land healing is one of my primary forms of spiritual practice, I rolled up my sleeves and purchased the land! As this ongoing land healing project takes shape, I try to check in on the blog every once in a while to share new insights, techniques, and experiences.  Today I want to spend some time offering updates…

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The Magic of the Understory

The Druid's Garden

A path of evergreen mountain laurel at Laurel Hill State Park. Amazing to hike through in the winter, when the understory sings!

As you may have noticed, in the last month or so I’ve been working diligently on my “Sacred Trees in the Americas” series.  The truth is, I’ve worked through most of the trees that are well known and form the overstory of most of the forests in the US East Coast.  Trees like White Pine, Oak, Hickory, Sugar Maple, Ash, Beech, and Birch are dominant trees.  And when you do research on these trees, you find a rich tradition and lore from both the Americas and the Old World.  Recently, I’ve moved my attention to lesser-known trees like Ironwood and Devil’s Walking Stick, and have covered others like Witch Hazel (distinct and different from American Hazel) and Spicebush. There is a striking difference between the first group and…

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This Edible Mushroom Grows In Human Bodies

For better or for worse, untold numbers of fungi live on and within our bodies. 

Some of these fungi are faithful allies.  Others can harm our bodies only under certain circumstances.  Almost all of them, it turns out, are microscopic and mostly undetectable to the naked eye.

But what about the larger mushrooms that live in forests?  Do they ever engage in any sort of physical relationship with humans?

For a very long time, mushroom-forming fungi were never known to grow inside human bodies.  Instead, molds and yeasts — including species of Candida and Aspergillus — were almost always the main culprits implicated in human disease.

And then something strange happened.  In 1950, a doctor treated a 33-year-old man for fungal overgrowth of his toes.  Upon isolating the fungus, the doctor discovered that his patient’s foot infection was attributed not to any of the usual mold-producing suspects, but instead to a mushroom-forming species that commonly grows on trees.

Since that shocking discovery 70 years ago, researchers have documented this wild fungus growing on and within other human bodies.  To date, almost 100 cases of infection and a few unexpected deaths have been reported.

During a recent walk through a local floodplain, I encountered this fascinating mushroom and decided to film a video regarding its bizarre tendency to do such a thing — to colonize human bodies and cause infection.

Check out the brand new video to learn more!

In addition to the sights of tree-eating mushrooms, a January walk through my local woods is likely to yield splendid sightings of wintering songbirds.  Pictured here is one such bird who demonstrates something known as differential migration.  In short, males overwinter farther north than females.  Why is this?  Check out this recent Instagram post to learn more.Click to view post

Thanks for reading and watching, and thanks for your continued support!

-Adam Haritan