Julia Prinselaar

Julia Prinselaar holds a degree in journalism from Concordia University (Montreal), and works for an environmental stewardship organization in Thunder Bay. In her spare time she gardens, hunts and gathers wild foods, with the ultimate goal of living without a refrigerator.

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Recent Articles by Julia Prinselaar

Smelt: Small Fish, Big Meaning
posted on Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017
Author Julia Prinselaar smelt netting. | JUAN BAZTARRICA One of my earliest smelt fishing memories was as a kid, sipping hot chocolate on the banks of the Current River under a night sky. It was early spring: the snow was retreating, it was after midnight, and crowds of people wearing flashlights and hip waders dipped their nets into the ice-cold Current River, swirling them around like elongated magic wands. My family had set out for the night with friends of ours, including two girls, Jessica and Martina. The three of…

The Sauna: Winter’s Soothing, Saving Grace
posted on Friday, Feb 24, 2017
As I write this column, Grand Marais is wrapping up its first annual Hygge Festival (Feb. 9-15). Pronounced hoo-gah, hygge is the Danish ritual of “embracing life’s simple pleasures,” particularly those in the snow-covered North. Skiing through tree-lined trails, a moon-lit night hike, relaxing next to a fireplace to watch a Celtic music show at a local craft brewery—these were just some of the events offered during the festival to savour the splendor of winter in celebration of the North. Life in this region isn’t always comfortable for us Northerners.…

Tinctures: Making the Most out of Herbal Medicine
posted on Wednesday, Feb 01, 2017
In just a few months, another plant growth cycle will renew itself with the onset of spring. Horsetail, spruce tips and nettles are among the early arrivals as they send energy toward the sunlight, forming new shoots and buds of fresh leaves. Because of this, springtime and early summer can be ideal harvesting periods for certain wild edibles, as the new growth contains vital, potent medicine. In other circumstances, herbalists selectively harvest plants in the fall when they go dormant, returning energy to their roots. For herbalists, making tinctures is…

Animal Rendering: a Seldom-practiced Skill
posted on Friday, Dec 23, 2016
I was reorganizing my chest freezer last month to prepare for a delivery of beef from a local farmer. Chest freezers are one of those things that can be a useful household appliance if they’re kept tidy and well organized. Otherwise, they can easily morph into a vacuous black hole that swallows bags of odds and ends into its darkened corners. When storing food in smaller spaces, it’s helpful to keep an updated stock of your inventory. My freezer isn’t very big, with two or three bags being stacked on…

Soap: an Easily-made Survival Tool
posted on Monday, Nov 28, 2016
When we think survival, we often turn to the four basic needs we rely upon to sustain ourselves: food, water, fire and shelter. Enough food in a balanced diet; clean water to drink; fire for heat and warmth; shelter from the elements. Arguably the fifth basic need is one that’s at the forefront of fending off illness and disease: hygiene and sanitation. A home apothecary of natural remedies can help treat ailments and ward off infection. But before you go wandering into the woods to gather roots, flowers and leaves…

Nature’s Palette: Dyes from Plants and Materials
posted on Friday, Oct 21, 2016
Here’s a challenge: try going a day without using products that contain synthetic dyes. Or better yet, a few waking hours. I tried and didn’t get far. After waking up and entering the bathroom to wash and dry my face, I paused at my towel. A mosaic of fuscia, purple, turquoise and black, these colors were almost guaranteed to be synthetically produced. Our sensory world is saturated in dyes, coloring the everyday things we use: personal care products and cosmetics, clothing garments and textiles, food and packaging, the printing of…

Wild Rice—Delicate Crop, Meticulous Process
posted on Tuesday, Sep 27, 2016
On a sunny afternoon in early September, I was paddling down a winding river in northern Minnesota. Flanked with reeds and tall grasses and the odd beaver lodge, the edges of this marshy wetland were interspersed with stalks of wild rice. I was with a group of North House Folk School students, and most of us were in unfamiliar territory. But before we knew it, the river opened to denser patches of rice about a mile downriver. Parching wild rice over a small fire. | JULIA PRINSELAAR I hadn’t seen…

Preparing for the Compassionate Hunt
posted on Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016
Up here in Northwestern Ontario, bow hunting season for white-tailed deer officially opens in most areas on September 1. For many, open season is also the end of summer vacation, a return to school or work, and generally getting back into the fold of a daily routine. But long before the daylight hours wane and the leaves change colour under crisp, autumn nights, avid hunters are out on the land, taking weeks—sometimes months—to prepare for the long, quiet waiting game in the woods. In John Kaplanis’ case, hunting and harvesting…

Cultivating Wild Food Spaces
posted on Monday, Aug 01, 2016
One of my fondest memories of living on the Canadian west coast is hiking the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet. Cutting along the rugged, rocky shoreline of this small Vancouver Island fishing village, the scenic oceanside trail winds through forests of western red cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir. Beneath these towering giants is an abundance of berry bushes—mostly the thick-skinned and mildly sweet salal. Their taste and texture is akin to the Saskatoon berries common in the Great Lakes region. In Canada, there are more than 200 varieties of what…

Yellow-foots and Trumpets: Lesser-known Edibles
posted on Monday, Jun 27, 2016
When I think of chanterelle mushrooms, I’m often reminded of the golden-coloured, thick-stalked, chanterelle, a choice sought after by market buyers and culinary enthusiasts across North America. Known for its apricot fragrance and mild to peppery taste, cantharellus cibarius is one of the most popular and prized edibles in the wild world of mushrooms. Yellow-footed chanterelles look similar to trumpet chanterelles: both grow in moist, swampy areas. | PAUL DROMBOLIS But there are other mushrooms in the chanterelle family—at least 13 known species on our continent. The majority of them…

Cordage: an Ancient Skill with Modern-day Uses
posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2016
If you’ve ever had to bind, tie or weave materials together, chances are you’ve utilized the product of an ancient survival skill: making cordage. Cordage is commonly used in basket weaving. | JULIA PRINSELAAR Rope, twine, string—all of these are different types of cordage. Traditionally, the fibers from certain plants were (and still are) twisted and wrapped together to form long, sturdy strands that were then woven into garments, baskets, household items and tools. Today, many of these items are made from synthetic materials like nylon, but they’re still produced…

Foraging for Fiddleheads
posted on Wednesday, Apr 27, 2016
Before planting the garden, or even working the soil, there are certain foods growing abundantly in wild spaces. As the snow melts, the rivers swell and overnight temperatures remain consistently above freezing, crowns of emerald-green ferns begin to peek through the forest floor. Fiddleheads are among the first flush of wild foods to become available in the spring. Fiddleheads budding through the forest floor. | KENDAL DONAHUE For anyone who forages for wild food, this is a really exciting time. Hunting for fiddleheads is an easy and accessible activity that…

Harvesting, Preparing and Eating Dandelions
posted on Monday, Mar 28, 2016
Harvesting, preparing and eating dandelions
Dandelions can be prepared and served in many ways. The blossoms are relished by honeybees. | STOCK Eating dandelions is all the craze. Although the dandelion is considered a first class enemy by golfers, groundskeepers and homeowners who cringe at the sight of a bright yellow flower rearing its head on a lush, green lawn, European and Asian nations have benefitted from its wealth of nutritional properties and variety of uses for generations. Dandelions also offer a crucial food supply for pollinators in search of an energy source at the…

Raising Backyard Chickens
posted on Monday, Mar 28, 2016
Almost 60 years ago, my grandparents immigrated to Canada and settled in Thunder Bay. Over the years, they were followed by their parents, relatives and other Italians who joined the influx of newcomers to the city, collectively populating the historic Bay & Algoma neighbourhood. My mother can recall seasonal chicken culls in the basement of the house where she grew up as a child, but the details are not gruesome or gory—if anything, food-related gatherings, at any stage of the process, were family affairs that brought the grandparents, parents, cousins…

Who Domesticated Who: Humans or Dogs?
posted on Wednesday, Mar 02, 2016
  A dog’s version of glamping? Timber out on the lake during a day of ice fishing. | JULIA PRINSELAAR Earlier this month, my partner and I celebrated the one year anniversary of adopting our dog. We found Timber, a mixed breed, through a local dog rescue agency. As with any rescued animal, I had questions: What was his history? How did he end up without a home? What were his previous owners like? Are there any kind of behavioural or health issues I should be worried about? Most of…

Chaga: A Slow-growing Backyard Superfood
posted on Friday, Feb 05, 2016
It seems like every time I open a health magazine or visit a wellness-related website, I find the latest featured superfood: something particularly nutrient-dense, with more antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes or protein than most of the foods we are accustomed to eating. The early stages of chaga growth. | ONTARIO NATURE Superfoods are usually plants sourced from faraway places: goji berries from Tibet and China, turmeric root from India, spirulina algae from Japan, agave nectar from Mexico—all touted as crucially beneficial for improved health and vitality. These foods have, and…

The Heart of the Hunt: A New Experience
posted on Monday, Jan 04, 2016
One of my earliest memories dates back to when I was four years old. I watched my father lift a skillet full of beef tongue from the stovetop as I stood in the middle of the kitchen. I remember being perplexed and sufficiently turned off by this foreign, featureless mass of meat flanked by onion halves and potatoes. What I don’t remember is eating it for dinner that evening. But apparently, I did. “Oh yeah, you ate it. Sure, you ate it. You’ve had it two or three times. You…

The Art of Basket Weaving
posted on Wednesday, Dec 02, 2015
From the delicately woven fibers of a bird’s nest to the intricate spinning of a caterpillar’s cocoon, the natural world inspires human design. A typical example of a stitched coil basket, made in Grenada. | Julia Prinselaar Baskets were one of the first vessels used by cultures around the world. Depending on the region, available resources and needs, they take different shapes and forms, each unique to a culture or people’s artistic embellishment. No one human group can be credited for their invention, but baskets and containers were valuable items…

The Slow, Satisfying Tanning Process
posted on Thursday, Oct 29, 2015
Before plant fibers were spun and woven into the mass-produced textiles of today, tanning animal skins and pelts for clothing was a common practice among civilizations across the globe. Wearing leather and furs was a necessary element of survival. They kept our vulnerable human bodies shaded from the sun and shielded from the harshness of wind, rain and colder climates. They were also used for purposes of magic, spirituality, decoration and prestige that expressed social significance and culture. As hunters and gatherers before European contact, the Ojibwe people of this…