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 watershed icon white bg 74x74 editorial | Watershed’s award-winning editorial
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 watershed icon white bg 74x74 design | Watershed’s classic design appeals
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circulation | With a regional circulation of 25,000 magazines per issue, Watershed is the largest publication
in the region.




HMCS Skeena
the Spirit of a Ship


Chris Barker has spent the last twenty-five years ensuring that the sacrifices of the fifteen seamen who lost their lives when HMCS Skeena was wrecked…read more

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author: David Newland   

The McLuhan


Over 6,000 books from Marshall McLuhan’s library sat in boxes waiting to be catalogued. The task went to his grandson, Andrew McLuhan, who discovered…read more

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author: Conrad Beaubien  
illustrator: Carl Wiens


Kiss Me Under a Shining Sun – the Lovely Kait Shannon


Jeanette Arsenault looks beyond a parent’s grief to keep the memory of her beloved daughter, Kait Shannon, alive. Kait’s Comfort Kits – packets of small luxuries…read more

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author: Janet Davies  
photography: Jeanette Arsenault

The Hay-Man of
Hastings County


John Macoun, an Irish immigrant, arrived in Canada as a young man. Over his lifetime, he dug up grasses, scraped mosses from rocks and pressed plants…read more

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author: Orland French  



author: Denny Manchee / photography: Irka Dyczok

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Colourful, tasty, sometimes poisonous, fungi summon equal parts delight and fear. But when you know what you’re doing, they’re mmm-mmm good.

A WALK IN THE WOODS WITH IRKA DYCZOK IS A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL. The forest floor, the stumps and trees, the undersides of leaf litter are alive with organisms whose purpose is death and decomposition, yet whose delicate flavour is sublime. Behold the beauty and diversity of fungi, a source of endless fascination and passionate foraging.

“To me, this whole relationship with the forest is coming to a sense of place within your heart and soul,” says Irka, whose deep connection to the land began when she was a free-range child in the summers near Grafton. “I spent a lot of time in the woods, and I always had this interest in fungi – the colours, textures and forms. I’d come across a mound of yellow and sit there and go, ‘where did this come from?’”

That driving curiousity is still there, and the interior designer and her husband now have their own 50-acre forest to explore on the Oak Ridges Moraine. This particular stand of mixed forest, rising and falling over steep undulations and channelling dappled sunlight from the canopy to the understory, is a magical environment for mushrooms. Irka has found about 300 species so far.

It’s been an education in mycology, enhanced by workshops offered by Toronto naturalist Richard Aaron, as well as voracious reading. Unlike many people who are drawn to mushrooms, Irka is not worried about being poisoned. “But early on it became evident to me that you have to learn about the fungal kingdom before you actually consume,” she says. “You have to learn the ones that are truly poisonous – like Amanita virosa, the Destroying Angel. There’s a small number that can kill you, but there are many other species that can make you sick.” In other words, do not eat wild mushrooms unless you can identify them without a shred of doubt.

As we scroll through the photographs on Irka’s laptop, the names trip off her tongue: Dryad’s Saddle, Chanterelles, Chaga (which looks like charred wood), King Bolete (porcini), Shaggy Mane, Tippler’s Bane (toxic when consumed with alcohol), Turkey Tail, Lobster mushrooms (reddish-orange, meaty and weighty). “That’s a Bear’s Head. It’s SO beautiful,” she says, “And look at this Pigskin Poison Puffball – I love the shape and they look like raku pots once they break up.

“It’s not just about the individual fungi, either,” she adds. “There are some that have symbiotic relationships with plants. They’re the Internet of the forest,” she says, brilliantly capturing the connection between mycorrhizal fungi and the plants and trees that share their habitat. In basic terms, this is about the masses of branching threads (mycelium) under the visible part of fungi that supply water and minerals to plants and receive sugars in return. What we see are the fruiting bodies, whose purpose is to spread spores and reproduce.

Some fungi make other plants healthier through their underground web, but there are others that are important as the forest’s major recyclers, says Richard Aaron. “They break down wood, dung, keratin – the protein in feathers, claws, hoofs – pine cones and other substrates into matter that can be reused.”

Irka has enormous respect for Aaron’s knowledge and has twice taken his three-day, intensive workshops at the Queen’s University Biological Station. “We would gather about 140 species of fungi in a workshop and identify them by physical features, spore prints, smell, habitat. We also learn the Latin names because so many mushrooms have multiple common names.”

All of this inquiry and investigation has fed an insatiable appetite to learn more, forage more and explore mushrooms’ endless subtleties of flavour. Eating them is second nature to Irka, who has Ukrainian heritage. “My grandparents would gather mushrooms. That was part of their culture.” What interests her now is discovering new recipes.

“We have a dehydrator, and I also pickle them and freeze them. But the best thing is just to eat them cooked fresh – some you have to eat within hours of picking because they deliquesce and turn into a puddle of inky liquid.”

Starting in April right through to October, she has all eyes fixed on the forest floor. “I often think mushrooms aren’t for the faint of heart, because it’s laborious and there are tiny critters,” she admits. “You have to clean them with a brush, delicately. Most mushrooms won’t take any soaking. You want to sort them and clean off as much dirt as possible before you even put them in your basket. Sometimes I have baskets within baskets if I’m gathering different kinds because some are more resilient than others.

”But the pay-off of this labour can be enormous. Irka opens a freezer bag and offers a sniff of yellow-footed chanterelles. “We gathered nine pounds of them last Thanksgiving!"


Towards the end of our walk we come to a grizzled totem of a once-majestic maple tree. “This is our guardian here, what’s left of him,” says Irka. “He’s kind of got one eye and a nose, and he’s fallen this way and that way. When we were building our house we had to come and talk to him because we felt a deep connection to the forest. We said to him we’d be stewards and we’d try to look after it.” Irka and Paul have kept that promise, and are fiercely protective of their patch of land. “Even foraging, you always ask permission, you don’t take more than you should.”

“I’m just totally enamoured,” she concludes. I’ve really developed respect for fungi and feel so fortunate that we’re living here and I’m able to experience them in these magical moments.”


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FENCE POSTS: Keeping the Mind Free of Reptiles

author: Dan Needles   illustrator: Shelagh Armstrong

I’ve always felt like a bit of a rebel, living as I have for nearly 40 years as a back-to-the-lander and filling the freezer every fall with food I produce myself. But to the bearded hobbits in my son’s…

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MUST, MUST, MUST: What’s New and What’s To Do

Our Must, Must, Must section highlights a broad range of events, festivals, activities and galleries that contribute to the diverse character of the Watershed region…

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author Chris Cameron   photography: bekky O’Neil and Keith Del Principe

The rolling Northumberland countryside can be a place of delightful contrasts, where unlikely dreams take root and grow. Keith Del Principe and bekky O’Neil…

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GEORGE'S POND: All That Glitter

author: George Smith   illustrator: Lee Rapp

If you’re a regular reader of my contributions to these pages, you know very well that deep thinking is not my forte. You’ll have to look elsewhere for an in-depth analysis of the Mueller Report…

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author: Shelby Lisk  

A derelict truck in a field, large skies at the edge of day, or billowing clouds over prairies, mountains and lakes. Through his graphic, colourful, large scale oil paintings of the landscape…

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Watershed Teaser: True or False

author: Tom Cruickshank   illustrator: Marc Mireault

Test your knowledge of local geography and other trivia related to our favourite corner of the countryside.…

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A CURATED COLLECTION: Signals in Silences - Yves Gaucher

The Art Gallery Of Northumberland Presents: Yves Gaucher…

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INNOVATION: The Market & Smør

author: Meghan Sheffield   photography: Mat + Sara

On the face of it, a brick and mortar greengrocer opening up on the main street of a small town shouldn’t necessarily bring the word…

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HABITAT: Conservation Authorities Under Provincial Fire

author: Norm Wagenaar  

For more than 70 years Ontario's conservation authorities have taken a watershed-wide approach to flood control, conservation and land management, a model which bypasses political boundaries…

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FIELD NOTES: Following the Flight and the Plight of the Tree Swallow

author: Terry Sprague   photography: Nicole Watson

It happened 50 years ago on the shores of the bay of Quinte but if I close my eyes, I can still remember the scene. Daybreak was faintly illuminating the distant horizon…

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FOOD & DRINK SCENE: The Comeback Kid: Where There’s Life There’s Hope

author: Signe Langford   photography: Johnny C.Y. Lam

Welcome to the local Food & Drink Scene where Watershed shares its secrets and discoveries. Our region is blessed with creative chefs, restaurateurs…

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WATERSHED PRESENTS: Spirit of the Hills

author: Chris Cameron 

The life of the creative artist can be a solitary one. There are the hours spent alone in front of a blank canvas or computer screen, and those little insecurities that can accompany any artistic…

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LOVIN' THE LOCAL: A Showcase Of Locally Curated Products

author: Stephanie Campbell

We’re Lovin’ the Local: A showcase of locally made and locally inspired products that reflect the heart and soul of entrepreneurs rooted in Watershed Country

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MEANDERINGS: Murder Most Foul

photograph: Courtesy of The Toronto Star Archives

Harold Vermilyea was a victim of the great depression. He lost his job as a manager of a California fruit packing operation and needed money. Sadly, his request for financial help from the family estate…


First Words


The fall brings back memories of duck hunting with my brothers when i was a kid. I was a tag-along but as long as I didn’t complain and I could distinguish between a blue-winged teal whistling into our blind and the silhouette… read more


I’m writing on behalf of the entire Wellington Water Week team to thank Watershed magazine for the gorgeous piece in the current Summer issue, created by Micol Marotti and Tim Zeltner. We were literally…



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hairline wide 865x8CONTRIBUTORS
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shelagh armstrong

sheilagh armstrongA graduate of the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Art and Design…

david newland

david newland

A writer, speaker, and musician based in Cobourg, David travels widely…

janet davies

janet daviesAfter a move from England to Toronto in 1993, Jan stayed there only until she discovered…