Turkey Season

My friend Charlotte, who is a Certified Maine Guide, and spends an enviable amount of time in the woods, grabbed this nice shot with her phone over the weekend.

A fine bunch of “Turkey Tail” fungus [trametes versicolor].

In Chinese traditional medicine it is referred to as yun zhi, and, predictably, it is reputed to do amazing things! Anti-inflammatory, fights viral infections and diseases, reduces the growth of tumors, [and of course] increases stamina and energy… all unproven unfortunately. Also unfortunately, since it is wickud common in the woods, it is inedible.

[That is unfortunate and unlike the other clustering polyphore, “Hen-of-the-Woods” , which is much harder to find in the wild, but is highly edible and delicious, even though it looks kind of like the dog’s roundtrip lunch….[also found cultivated as Maitaki in Japanese cuisine]

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“Gone In 60 Seconds”

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to doing a post on foraging. I regularly go out for fiddleheads in the spring, as well as young poke and watercress. I grew up on Euell  Gibbons classic books  “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” and “Stalking the Wild Scallop”, both of which taught me a lot about the things that you can eat from the wild… and what you can’t.

One of the most popular things to forage for are of course wild mushrooms. The taste of morels and chanterelles puts anything from the grocery store to shame.

Anyway, the other day I looked up my side window and saw a large white ball in the grass alongside my driveway. I don’t live where kids can knock a softball up into my yard. Puzzled, I went out to look. What it turned out to be was a giant puffball mushroom. This is one of the few mushrooms that you can find that falls under the category “hard to mistake”. I grabbed it up, and scurried inside in excitement.

 

IMPORTANT FAQ AND DISCLAIMER:

THERE IS RISK THOUGH! [Don’t try this at home, kiddies] Many edible mushrooms can be very, very hard to differentiate from those that are less than edible, and might be fatally poisonous! Don’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!

From the net: “Calvatia [species] are fairly easy to identify as long as you know these mushrooms are in a specific class which have no gills inside, they are just fluff all throughout which later turns itself into its own spores, which then are released with the help of an animal, or human who can’t resist smushing or kicking it, and are dispersed by the wind….. Most Calvatia species are edible as long as the inside is pure white; I am not aware of any that aren’t.”

OK. You’ve been warned. Do your own research and assume your own risk.

At this point I will reveal that I DID survive eating the previous slices the other night. This one was indeed a real “puffball”. [Don’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!]

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It is shown here already cut in half thru the top, but with several of the larger slices already removed [and consumed!] You can see the soft white flesh that resembles marshmallow both in color and feel. Very delicate and slightly spongy… much more delicate than store bought ones.  This is one of the characteristics that make these relatively easy to identify [againDon’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!]

    

For mine I just dredged the slices in a thin flour wash with a little cornmeal added, and pan-fried them for a couple of minutes on each side until they had browned lightly.

Done this way, I find the taste to be that of a fine, delicate mushroom-cheese omelet… just all-in-one. And, Yes… it was “Gone In 60 Seconds”.

If this interests you, get someone knowledgeable to take you out foraging. There are “mycological societies” [mushroom clubs] all over. They are surprisingly easy to find, and the people are happy to share their expertise. Here in southern Maine, we have people who are actually making a living foraging mushrooms, wild herbs, and exotic greens for the up-and-coming, frou-frou, locally-sourced restaurants. And we are just going into prime mushrooming season here from Aug-Oct. BUT…Don’t eat it unless you are hundred percent sure!

 

Pillow Talk

Stuff: new 9.7oz down jacket [faux GhostWhisperer… seen/reviewed in post below…scroll down] and an old [very soft/ single side-seam/ round bottom] OT250* compression sack … use scissors… 40 seconds.
Yield: 12″x 5″dia/ 10.3oz downy-soft pillow… basically free.
[I]I left one strap long pending inspiration/determination of attachment for hammock.[/I]
It will stuff down further into the jacket’s own stuff sack…. just bigger than a soda can, and I’d carry the jacket anyway.

 

* Ozark Trail 250 [fill weight] down sleeping bag. Retailed at $89 at WallyWorld a few years ago. Mine was on “red-tag” since someone had pulled the cardboard info sleeve off… $59, I think. An incredible value. Anyone who was able to pick one up at that point, got an amazing deal. Wally hit it outta the park on this one! Super soft, down-proof fabric/ 700+ duck down/ very light/ stuffed down small/ claimed temp range was 32°… more like 40°. Perfect 3-season bag, and very easy to turn into a TQ for hammock camping. You can find my original review under “sleeping bags” in the nav sidebar…

Drip-breaks for Hammocks

Sometimes when it rains, it pours. We have all been out in our hammocks when the rain’s come down right wickud. When it rains that hard, it’s very easy for the water to migrate down your hammock suspension and eventually start soaking the ends of your rig.

Our man Shug, Master of mirth and merriment, juggler extraordinaire, and the go-to-guy for tips and videos on everything regarding hammocking, just suggests tying an old sock around your suspension. That works… not very elegant, and your socks stay wet, but it works.

I wanted something a little bit better, and something that would remain on my suspension full-time. I have been reasonably satisfied with a simple loop of mason’s twine dangling down from my continuous loops. So I took off from there.

I had some old water skiing and tubing towline. I gutted out two, 8″ sections of some half-inch line, singed the ends on the gas burner, stuck a chopstick through one end to make a hole, and pushed my continuous loop right through.

        

You can see the partz-is-partz on the right…

What I really like about this solution is that the drip line is back under the end of my tarp, beyond the rain. Now, I haven’t tested these out and in a real toad floater yet… I just put them on this morning. But my other solutions where I’ve had my drip lines actually on the continuous loops have always served me in good stead. I’m not sure I see the point in having drip lines attached any where further out on the suspension. The edge of my tarp is where the rain is going to stop landing.

 

BONUS: Hint #2~~ The yellow stuff is a slightly larger diameter ski rope that I also gutted. The two yellow sections on the left of the photo have a section of the green line inserted inside end to end. All four segments are also flame sealed at the ends. This allows me to pass some thin Dyneema/ Zing-it type line through the entire length of the doubled sections.

Why? For the same reason we all use tree straps… To Be Responsible. If I am hanging off of trees with a thin bark like Birch or Beech, These cuffs give added protection from harm by the extremely thin line that might otherwise damage the cambium layer of the bark. If too many people use the same two trees and are careless about the way they hang, the trees can suffer.

 

Return of the Prodigal Spork

18 months ago I lost my sweet SnowPeak titanium Spork.

I broke camp in the middle of the night because of the appalling nature of the coked-up junkies in the next site. They had returned at 1 AM, started a screaming match, and were being abusive to a three-year-old child. I left to go to the police department and turn in a CHINS report.

When it came time to sort my gear out down cellar after I got home, I discovered I must’ve left my spork behind. I knew it had been sitting out on the picnic table, and I pretty much assumed that I had just overlooked it in my hurry to be gone. I wrote it off as “Oh,well…” and eventually got around to ordering another one off of Amazon when they went on sale.

I was really fond of that little sucker. So fond that I actually used it around the house on a daily basis. [I am on my own since my wife passed away, and using the spork for a lot of things made it easier to just stay caught up on my dishes]. That’s why I sprung for a second one.

For under $10, I highly recommend these. They are available from Snow Peak and several other folks in basically identical form factors. You can even get them heat-anodized into various colors. The prongs are just long enough and sharp enough actually hold food, and the”spoon” is decently sized for scooping up liquids. If your broth is really thin, you are probably better slurping it up over the edge of your cup bowl and using the spork to clean up the chunks. And it’s just long enough cannot leave your fingers completely grotty if you were dipping down into a freeze-dry bag. It’s a great choice if you want to hold your carry down to a single eating utensil. With a good knife to cut things up, It’s really all you need.

Anyway, for all those reasons, I was really delighted when I put on my hunting vest recently and found it tucked in a pocket. I hadn’t “lost” it after all.

eLiza’s Bling Bags

BlingBags

Those who camp are subject to buying “bling” to trick out their gear. Carabiners, clips, mitten hooks, whatever, there are a lot of small things that can make your gear more useful. In the hammocking circle, the really cool stuff for your suspension is made from titanium… Super strong, Super lightweight, Super pricey.

Super easy to drop into the leaf mold and lose forever. Enter the “Bling Bag”.

My old flame and high school sweetheart [who has reentered my life] made me up these drawstring bags with mesh interior pockets to keep my tiny goodies safe and secure. The greatest part about them is that, when opened only partway, they create an actual bowl so that your parts-is-parts won’t fall out.

We are going to be making these up in a limited quantity. If you might be interested leave a message in the comments. [and, No Worries, Mate… I will redact any email addresses before approving the comment to appear]

Army-Navy Finds

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My friend Norton from down in Virginia posted some photos online of he and his son tarping it and cooking some MRE chows out in the growing snowpocalypse that was Storm Jonas. I was very taken with the aluminum mug in one of the photos and pulled this clipping from it.

He told me it was a Russian Army issue that is much heavier gauge material than you would expect from the old-timey Boy Scout ones. I really do like the handle styling.

This is the kind of thing that you can sometimes pick up out at a yard sale or an Army Navy store that will turn out to be substantially better than a lot of things for sale in the camping catalogs. “Mil-Spec” items, regardless of nationality, are really made to take a beating. Finds like these are why am always happy to go cruise around a junk shop.

I have [metaphorically] kicked myself in the behind many times over the years for having passed up a knife/fork/spoon set at an Army Navy store down in New Bedford one time. I think it was all of $4 for a set. Made for the Swedish Army, stainless steel, and only two thirds the length of standard US mess flatware, but with the spoon bowl and fork tines full size. Even my new titanium camping set isn’t as sweet as the memory of that passed up opportunity.

Don’t be afraid to grab up stuff. You can always pass it on to others, or it might turn out to be your favorite gear.