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Farewell to Sparky!

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Farewell to Sparky!

 

 Tips by Sparky

Tips by Sparky

It is my sad duty to report that Sparky, my partner and mushroom hunting companion has passed away. It has taken me several months to be able to write about this. He was a joyful, happy companion. Sparky had a wonderful personality. He was engaging to everyone he met. He loved to play and always had a smile on his face. He attracted people. The stick was his way of communicating. He would drop it at your feet and begin talking to you with his eyes. You learned quickly what he wanted. Throw that stick.

As a puppy, he entertained himself by the hours chasing birds, treeing raccoon’s and running the fence line with the neighboring horses. Many times I saw the horses come up the the fence and initiate the chase with Sparky. He always obliged. It was with great joy he lived his life. He was renowned for his gentleness with everyone, particularly children.

As my mushroom partner, Sparky was an asset. He always kept track of me and anyone who was in our group while in the woods. He made people at ease going into the forest. His presence gave confidence and led to success.

Sparky died as he lived right to the very end. He began to have difficulty with breathing this summer once the weather became very hot weather. It did not like the 100 degree temperatures and became increasingly uncomfortable. Despite my best efforts at making Sparky comfortable, he succumb to a hidden heart problem. His last day was, however, a good one for both of us. It was Sunday, July 12, 2015. By early afternoon, he had drank some broth and water. I asked him did he want to go for a car ride. He immediately jumped up and smiled, You Betcha! I led him out to my truck and opened the door. I wasn’t sure he would be able to get in but he jumped right up into his seat. We drove out to my friend, Peggy’s, 30 acre farm  that Sparky had spent many days. We got out and walked around the gardens and fields. Sparky did his dog thing, smelling and greeting the other dogs there. After a couple of couple of hours we went into the house. Sparky laid down and Peggy and I chatted. After about 1/2 an hour or so, I said “Where is Sparky?”. I could see him but I wanted to let him know I was thinking about him. He looked up and spotted me. He slowly got up and walked into the adjoining room. He found one of his favorite “squeaky” toys. We followed him in the room. He was squeaking the toy and then gave it to Peggy who squeaked a couple of times and gave it back to Sparky.

What happened next, happened very quickly. Sparky had the toy in his mouth. Suddenly, he dropped and just keeled over toward his left side. As he did, his legs stretched out and he let out a low howl followed by a short yip. By this time both Peggy and I were holding him and talking to him. It was thus that Sparky died at home surrounded by those who loved him. It was over in 10-15 seconds. I would like to think the final yip was him saying goodbye. May I be so fortunate!

Today, Sparky can be seen as a shadow still playing with the birds, squirrels, other dogs and raccoon’s on Peggy’s farm. He has a beautiful view of Goat Mt and sleeps beneath the maple, chestnut and oak trees. May he rest in peace.

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Media features

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Tours with Steve have been featured in two recent media outlets:

June 2013 edition of Northwest Boomer & Senior News by Maggie White and photography by L. E. Baskow

June 21, 2013 Editions of KATU 2 Reel People, the mushroom hunter. http://www.katu.com/news/local/Reel-People-You-should-be-excited-to-see-mushrooms-212622581.html

Take a moment to view this interesting video about mushroom hunting in the Mount Hood National Forest. Thanks to Michael Warner!

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3 Things to look for when hunting wild edible morel mushrooms on Mt Hood

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1. Weather—what has the weather been like? Warm, cool, rainy or dry will encourage or discourage fungi mycelium growth. What I look for is a wet period followed by a warm, dry weather spell.  A good website for weather is: Weather Underground http://www.wunderground.com/ 

2.  Habitat—morel mushrooms they can grow virtually anywhere.  They can grow solitary, in groups, scattered along the edge of woods, in burns, in urban areas, in bare soil, intermixed with groundcovers, along railroad tracks, orchards, paths, under leaves, under logs, under brush piles, in grassy areas, in shade, in sun, in part shade. You get the idea! Pretty much wherever they darn well please.

Morel habitat

3.  Identification of true morel—true morels have hollow cap and stem with the cap intergrown with the stem.  If they have solid like or cottony pith centers in the stem, or the cap is not attached to the stem, or no stem they can be Verpa, Gyromitra or Hevella.  It is generally not recommended to eat these genera. If eaten it should be done with caution. They are, in any case, much less tasty than true morels (Morchella)

Helvella

Gyromitra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

True Morel with hollow center

 

If you want to learn how to identify wild morel mushrooms, call Steve at TourWithSteve.com and join one of our foraging tours into the wilds of Mt Hood.

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3 Things To Do With Your Morels

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After you have gone into the woods, worked and sweated all day locating your treasured morel mushrooms, what are you going to do with them? Here are three suggestions of what to do with your morels:

1.  You are probably not going to like morels, so I will volunteer to take these unwanted orphans off your hands. In my heart of hearts, I want to help you through this distressing time. Donations are willingly and gratefully accepted.

2. So, you did not fall for that one. Try drying them so you can rehydrate them next autumn when morel season is a dream and you want to relive your adventure tour with Steve on Mt. Hood. Use a dehydrator to dry your morels and store them in an airtight container until you are ready to use them.  Then simply take a handful of dried mushroom, put into a bowl of lukewarm water until re-hydrated and then cook.  On a serious note: Morels need to be thoroughly cooked before eating. Never eat wild mushrooms raw.

Morels on trays ready for dehydrator

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. My favorite way to use morels is in an omelet or scrambled eggs. As noted above, cook morel first before adding to dishes.

Egg & cheese omelet with morel mushrooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to learn about wild morel mushrooms, call Steve at TourWithSteve.com and join one of our foraging tours into the wilds of Mt Hood.

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Using Dogs to find Morels

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This highly controversial and seldom discussed subject is not often seen in print. Using dogs or any other animals to find fungi is frequently touted as a green, sustainable, environmentally acceptable way of hunting.

Sparky not really interested looking for Morels

Now my dog, Sparky is a border collie. Border collies are among the smartest breed of dogs. However, even with an IQ of about a 3-4 year old human, he is still looking for truffles. There must be something about the scent of morels Sparky does not find attractive. Frankly, I have almost given up hope he will find even one morel unless he sits on one. Perhaps, if I let him sleep with the morels, he will start dreaming of them as I do. And I do often dream of hunting morel mushrooms on Mt. Hood.

Sparky trying hard to please his master

Sparky trying hard to please his master

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion, using a dog is an excellent way to sustainably forage for morels (because you will never find them that way). If you want to collect morel mushrooms ethically and sustainably, call Steve at tourwithsteve.com and join one of our foraging tours into the wilds of Mt Hood.

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What are Morel Mushrooms?

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Morel mushrooms are a highly sought fungi by people, other animals and insects.  The esteem for these little fungi reaches back through history and beyond. They are fun to hunt and find. They do, however, take a trained eye to locate these most elusive of mushrooms.

10 morels

 

Technically, Morels or Morchellaceae is a small family incorporating three genera Morchella, Verpa and Disciotis.  Of the three, Morchella is highly desirable and most sought after. Verpa is often found but is less desirable as some people experience gastric distress after eating.  Disciotis is easily confused with Peziza and Discina, which may or may not be edible.

Do you want to learn more, contact Steve at tourwithsteve.com and join one of his foraging tours into the wilds of Mt Hood.

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Albertina’s Restaurant Chefs’ Dinner featuring Oregon Truffles

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On Thursday January 12, 2012, Albertina’s Restaurant in Portland hosted a Chefs’ Dinner featuring Oregon Truffles. Yours truly provided the Oregon Black Truffle (Leucangium carthusianum) for this event.

It was an outstanding five course dinner paired with some amazing wines from Lejon Wine Cellars.

This was a leisurely event interspace with delicious food, paired wines to each dish and great conversations. The food course were as follows:
Chilled Lobster Salad—with endive truffle marmalade with Lujon Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ‘09

with endive truffle marmalade

 

Ham Three Ways—Tuna prosciutto, Iberian ham and smoked duck ham with Lujon Cellars Columbia Valley Red Blend ‘09

Tuna prosciutto, Iberian ham and smoked duck ham

Pear Vanilla Granita—to clean the palette (yummy)

Truffle Crusted Halibut—with red and golden beets and purple carrots paired with Lujon Cellars Spofford Station Vineyard Syrah ‘08

with red and golden beets and purple carrots paired

Elk Osso Bucco—with mushroom duxelle ravioli, shaved truffle cheese and fresh shaved black truffle paired with Lujon Cellars Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon ‘08

with mushroom duxelle ravioli, shaved truffle cheese and fresh shaved black truffle

Salt and Straw Truffle Ice Cream—salted caramel powder and sesame crisp for dessert. (sorry no picture, it looked and smelled so good I neglected to take a picture)

Chefs included:
Alex Diomis—executive chef at Albertina’s Restaurant www.AlbertinaKerr.org
Brian Landry—executive chef at Bamboo Sushi, Portland
Kit Zhu—Prairie Creek Farm and executive chef
Kim and Tyler Malek—Salt and Straw ice cream show featuring cold creations
Wines provided by John Derthick of Lujon Wine Cellars, visit www.lujonwinecellars.com
At the conclusion of dinner, Steve gave a short talk about truffle hunting, ethical and sustainable collecting practice and answered questions.

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Hunting mushrooms in the Mt Hood National Forest is always an adventure. I am often asked how do you know where to find mushrooms?
How do I find mushrooms? Do I look for a particular soil type? Do I look for certain trees? Is it about ground covers? Do I follow animal trails? Is the calendar the key? Do I consult with a psychic or have clairvoyant abilities? Is a sunny day better than a rainy day?
Well, I am going to let you in on my secret. Do not tell anyone. It is none of the above. It’s my dog.

Sparky awaiting his job orders

Now Sparky, my dog, is no ordinary dog. He is a border collie. If you know anything about the breed, he is a working dog.

Sparky at full speed!

In fact, he will outwork any working dog around. Sparky is a black and white blur running around in the woods.

Sparky Hunting

Yep! He is my secret weapon in find those elusive fungi. He can cover more ground in five minutes than a herd of pickers in a week. He learned very quickly the technique of how to pick mushrooms. Sadly, he does leave some jagged edges on the mushroom stems from his teeth but I can usually fix those deficiencies in nothing flat.

Sparky retrieving


I know what you are thinking. How much will it cost you to buy my dog? Don’t even think about it. I’ve been offered over ten thousand dollars for him already. Read my lips: Sparky is not for sale even at ten times that price. Or!
If you want to see Sparky in action, then join us for a mushroom adventure tour .

Sparky, "The Wonder Dog!"

Seeing is believing!!

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Hunting for Wild Mushrooms on Mt. Hood

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I have been thinking about doing a MT. Hood mushroom adventure tour for some time now.  It finally rained the past weekend and that is good news. The weather has been so nice of late….for sun bathing, boating, hiking, camping, and picking blueberries—but not very good for mushroom hunting. The forest is prime for huckleberries picking right now, especially above 4,000 ft elevation. It has been one of the best seasons in recent years. I saw hillsides covered in huckleberries last weekend.
I always seem to get itchy this time of the year to go hunting, hunting for mushrooms. I actually found my first autumn fungi on August 31 this year.  I found two edibles, Chanterelle and Sulfur Shelf or Chicken of the Woods mushrooms. The Sulfur Shelf is only good when very young and tender. This was. I had never tried cooking and eating it before. It was good. I made up a new wild mushroom recipe to cook it, which I will post later. Of course, I found several other species of mushroom but none of them was edible. The autumn mushrooms are starting later this year because of the late starting spring and summer. It seems everything is 2-3 weeks late this year. I expect this to be a good mushroom season once it gets started.
Here are some ideas for you if you ever wanted to know more about those elusive funguses growing in the forest, come join our small group tours for a fun tour and fungus finds.

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