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Monday, August 12, 2013

Water Rituals - Chaga and Kambucha

Time to make drink for the studio.

Fill the Brita filter pitchers, two of them, wait till it goes through. Boil water.

Water for tea. Tea for kambucha.

Doing overtime that electric kettle. Just bought a 2 gallon glass flask yesterday with Steven, for serious kambucha production. How are my little SCOBY's doing?

Tea water. full boil. Four spoons of black tea and eight of white sugar into my wife's big teapot.

Fill up the kettle again. An uncomplaining machine of the twenty-first century. Somewhere in Bridgeport a giant GE turbine takes notice of the load.

Snowflake on a blazing stove . . . .


I read somewhere that there's a gal who makes dresses from big rectangular Kambucha SCOBYs. And purses!

   Her SCOBY dress was soft and fine,
   Alas rain fell - she turned to slime!

Old Adirondackers know Chaga as a tinder polypore, a dependable source of fire and flame in the coldest wettest weather. In days of yore, Siberian shamans prognosticated the future by lighting two lines of Chaga. The stuff burns like gunpowder, even when wet. The line that burns fastest, that's the prophecy.

In Sweden, Chaga is known as the 'Cancer Polypore' for no reason other than it cures cancer. I will relate some true tales of its powers at a later time. I give the stuff away to people with serious afflictions of the awful disease.

Descriptions of Chaga taste? "Nutty coffee", "Tastes like dirt!", "Tastes like really good water!" . . . "Tastes like tea!"

Chaga is a god in Siberia, so the name is capitalized.

     Who knows? The Chaga knows! 

The young princess birch is injured, Chaga saves her. He binds her wounds. He lives with her. Marries her. Together they prosper. But eventually he devours her young limber flesh.

I mix Chaga and kambucha and they seem to love each other, so I think I'll start capitalizing Kambucha too. Stephen swears by Kambucha. Mexican rural mothers use the old SCOBYs for curing rashes. It gives the skin a tonic.

Best darn thing for the male prostate!

I mix up my two Gods the night before a day at the studio. By the time I'm thirsty my cold thermos has a black beard at the bottom that looks like tea-leaves . . . I drink it up.

Stephen my firing partner, drinks Chaga and Kambucha also; we share lore on the two drinks. He found Chaga on a big white birch on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, and another on a grey birch in Lyme CT. He makes his Chaga by using a Sureform plane to grind a small expresso load of powder and does a Chaga extraction, like a custom coffee.

Never throw away Chaga powder. It keeps making. . . . Add it to 100 proof vodka and make an alcohol extraction. Serve with KahlĂșa and creme. Or drunk hot and strong at night with maple syrup and a touch of cream, or iced and downed in the heat of midday to quench a thirst.


The Chaga schlerotium feels woody, like cork. But there is no relation at all between the structure of cork, which is a wood, and a polypore fungus, which is a mushroom.

Around 1500 Million years ago funghi evolved from other life . . . A planetary emergency . . . there was a shortage of soil, and too many dead plants that weren't rotting. The funghi came to the rescue . . . dedicating a species of fungus, at least, to rot every single species of plant.

The mushroom returned the power of the sun to the soil. Funghi made their cells of scarab tough chitin. Beatle-back tough, strong as a dragonfly's gossamer wings . . .

They evolved neurotransmitters to signal through long cells in the ground, just what species is rotting where. The nervous system of all animals is something inherited from early funghi.

There's no thirst-quencher like Kambucha! Stephen speaks of a 100 year old woman who lives in the Mexican jungle. She looks sixty, and wrote a book on the stuff.

Water for plants, tea for the Kambucha, water for tea . . . it all flows, one container to the next. Pour pour. Stainless into glass, glass into ceramic. Try not to waste a drop. Either I drink it or the plants do. . . . Ahhhh . . .

"Ohm swaha . . . " I'm a priest, pouring Ganga water liberally about my temple. I slosh some into my matted locks. I wonder if my kids will remember to push a glass of Chaga to my lips just as I leave this world.

Today's studio fuel is half-Kambucha, half Chaga, with a splash of wild cherry juice from a Guilford wild cherry tree. Gratis Stephen, from one of his many friends. It's so sharp it'll make your teeth fall out. So purple, you become regal by looking at it.


Stephen's convinced that without Chaga we'd have both died of mesothelioma from inhaling ceramic fiber. Nasty stuff. Keep that Chaga flowing.

He's a paragon of health but working through a bad shoulder. The VA hospital did surgery on his left wing last week. He has to stay away from the wheel, from pretty much all pottery until the thing recovers.

"Use the time to read your poetry! Research new glazes. Quiet time for the first time in your life."

"It's a damn pain. This couch is heavy and hot." The 'couch' he speaks of is the brace the doctors affixed to his arm so he can't move it, at all. Stephen's bummed, as any man of action would be when stopped cold by fate.

So he's hitting the St. John's Wort and mixing with Chaga. At least he knows. "We're hunter gatherers." We gather and hunt and eat and drink what is right.

My last Chaga harvest came from a yellow birch on the Salmon Lake trail. She was a princess alright, who had taken too many Chaga lovers. A city of Chaga horns sprouted from her giant trunk. It took me all morning to cut down her royal excesses.

Surprisingly as a tree, she was still quite strong and limber. They would live together for many years, sprouting seed and spore . . .

I just cut off the growth, not too tight to the trunk. Unlike a burl Chaga grows back.

I rinsed the dishes.

What are we, but Chaga starships, . . . of water and tea.

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