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

Give Weeds a Chance
posted on Thursday, Aug 02, 2018
The garden ritual of every growing season always seems to begin, and continue, with pulling the weeds. We turn over patches of dandelion and cat’s ear to cultivate rows of peas and corn, or tear up a groundcover of purslane that sprawls through a patch of pole beans. This year I planted my grandmother’s vegetable garden, which used to be meticulously tended by my grandfather before he passed away nearly two years ago. I hadn’t been to her garden in a few weeks, and the rains and hot July days…

Returning to her Ancestral Roots with Kulning
posted on Thursday, Mar 29, 2018
Most of us who straddle urban life and time spent in the outdoors can relate to that sense of yearning for wilderness when we’ve had enough of the noises, smells and crowds of the city. For a young woman growing up in Gothenberg, Sweden, that inner calling eventually became too loud to ignore, and led her to the birthplace of her mother and 11 generations of relatives who came before her. “Every single day from when I was about 16 years old I dreamed about moving to Grundtjärn,” writes Jonna…

Maple Syrup of the North
posted on Monday, Feb 26, 2018
Finding a Sweet Spot in a Changing Climate In a region dominated by mixed woods of spruce, balsam poplar, birch, jack pine and balsam fir, commercial maple syrup production is the type of business venture that raises a few eyebrows this side of Lake Superior. But take a hike or fly a plane just southwest of Thunder Bay, and you’ll encounter the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest Region, a transition zone where the boreal needle-leaved trees extend south and overlap with the southern broad-leaved deciduous trees as their range crests into…

Celestial Navigation: A Lost Art of Finding Our Way
posted on Monday, Jan 29, 2018
We are all navigators. To find our way from one place to another, we often look for landmarks or use maps when we are traveling through unfamiliar places. In today’s world of hand-held computers, navigating has never been easier. With a few effortless taps on our smart phones, mapping tools can give us the fastest route to our destination, all in a matter of seconds. Unlike the civilizations that came before us, and especially since Global Positioning System (GPS) development in recent decades, we no longer need to rely on…

From Rags to Rugs: An Enduring Form of Folk Art
posted on Thursday, Dec 21, 2017
On a wintery Monday morning, I walked through the doors of a local recreation centre at the end of Toivo Street in Thunder Bay. About two dozen ladies, who filled the room, looked up at me from their seats. Bundles of yarn, various weaving and knitting projects, and a couple of small looms sat on the tables in front of them. “You look lost,” called out one woman from across the room. I was quickly greeted by Sue-Ellen Blekkenhorst, treasurer of the Thunder Bay Weavers and Spinners Guild, and Sylvia…

Great Lakes Surfing, Northern Ontario-style
posted on Monday, Nov 27, 2017
While most of us embrace the onset of winter with conventional coping mechanisms (fleece-lined pants, cozy slippers, a good book, a hot mug of tea), there’s one guy in a small North Shore town who chases the last rays of sunlight by suiting up and plunging into the icy waters of Lake Superior. For Chris Dube, a 13-year resident of Terrace Bay, Ontario, the fall and winter winds mean high time for freshwater surfing. “I’ve never felt a deeper connection to the land and the lake than when I’m in…

Hunting with Hawks: The Heritage and Tradition
posted on Friday, Oct 27, 2017
Flight has always captivated the human imagination. We marvel at birds, masters of the sky, who defy gravity and soar into a layer of the troposphere almost entirely foreign to us land-borne humans. We harness flight in our dreams, manifest it through extreme sports, and mimic it with modern technology. To survey from high above represents omniscience and power. Our flightless human bodies can’t achieve that status alone. But while I was out with my friend Jenn Salo, an apprentice falconer, I realized that forming relationships with birds of prey…

Farming in the North: Stone-ground Flour and More
posted on Friday, Sep 22, 2017
If you’re passing through Thunder Bay, you may not expect to find fields of corn, soy, rye and barley along the highway southwest of the city. In a region with a reputation for ruggedness—its classic Canadian scenery of rocks, water and trees—farmland in northwestern Ontario might appear a little out of place. In fact, there are more than 49,000 acres of farmland in the Thunder Bay District, much of which is located in the fertile Slate River Valley that has rich deposits of silty clay-loam soil. According to Dr. Tarlok…

Shrubs, Bitters and WildCrafted Cocktails
posted on Monday, Aug 28, 2017
Last month, I tuned into a live webcast to learn how to make a sugar-reduced version of the Spanish summer classic, sangria. This drink is really about its presentation and has all kinds of variations—you can play around using red or white wine, and a combination of colourful berries and citrus fruits. Hosted by Santé WildCrafted Cocktails, its co-founder, Brent Ellerson, said their (sans) sugar sangria is a “healthy alteration to a classic recipe.” It uses no added sugar; only the natural sweetness from apples, oranges, lemons and berries infused…

Superior Fishing: Bringing the Fish Back Home
posted on Tuesday, Jul 25, 2017
Friend of the author Kirsti Harris displays her custom made fillet knife after fishing an unknown lake for walleye. | KIRSTI HARRIS Like most natural resource industries, Lake Superior’s commercial fishery has experienced dramatic changes over the decades. Shifting target species and their respective harvest limits have been influenced by factors like over-fishing, the introduction of invasive species, and environmental degradation since the 1800s. Still, the fishery for both subsistence and commerce continues to play a pivotal role in the history, culture and economy in our waterborne part of the world.…

10 Tips for Sustainable Foraging
posted on Thursday, Jun 29, 2017
Before the mid-1990s, many Quebecers remember growing up eating wild-harvested leeks. From the southern states to eastern Canada, there are entire festivals based around this bulbous, woodland ephemeral. Also known as ramps, these wild relatives of the onion gained a surge in popularity, filling tables at Quebec farmer’s markets and dinner plates at upscale restaurants—that is, until there were nearly none left. In 1995, the province of Quebec made it illegal to sell wild leeks in an effort to conserve dwindling populations, brought to the brink by commercial over-harvesting. Foraging…

Paddling the Turtle River
posted on Wednesday, Jun 28, 2017
At the turn of the 20th century, an eccentric hermit named James Alexander “Jimmy” McQuat built this log home on the shore of White Otter Lake, south of Ignace, Ontario. The story goes that he single-handedly constructed this enigmatic mansion from red pine logs that he felled, hauled and interlocked. Just a few years later, he drowned nearby. White Otter Castle has now been restored through local efforts and is without road access, but sees a number of visitors each year by motor boat, canoe and snow machine. |JULIA PRINSELAAR…

Celebrating Seed Diversity
posted on Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Growing up with the influences of an Italian heritage, gardening played a significant role during my childhood. As a young girl, I spent summers in the backyard of my nanna and nonno’s house, catching shade behind the rows of pole beans, and watching my nanna’s homemade scare crow blow in the wind. Each year she would dress it in one of her old cotton blouses, fashioned with an aluminum pie plate for a face. But it wasn’t until I read Michael Pollan’s keystone book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, that I felt…

Native Plants: A Wise Addition to Your Garden
posted on Monday, May 01, 2017
Native plants, like the blanket flower, attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other vital species. |ECOSUPERIOR I’ll be the first to admit that I used to think plants from around my region weren’t very exciting—maybe even a little boring or aptly commonplace. I asked myself, why would I plant spindly stalks of yarrow or clusters of goldenrod in my yard when they can be found so easily along ditches and roadsides? I wanted to adorn my garden with varieties that appeared to be special and unique. The truth is, the world…

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…