Sparky’s Tip of the Week #1 – Compasses

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Sparky’s Tips

Sparky has decided to write his own outdoor column called “Sparky’s Tip of the Week”. He hopes you enjoy some of his insights

Sparky’s Tip of the Week #1 – Compasses

If you are heading off to the forest without a guide, you need a good compass—your life may depend on it. Walking through the forest is not the same as walking down the street in a city. There are no signposts and often no trails. If it is cloudy or raining, direction becomes difficult to impossible to figure out. Your only means of direction is using your compass. Wear your compass on a lanyard around your neck so it is easy to find and use. Lanyards are easy to find at an outdoor store.

Compass—What to look for:

  • Bezel degree intervals—compasses with needle use a magnetized needle that aligns with the earth’s magnetic field. The bezel outer ring is mark in degrees from 0 °-360 ° degrees.
  • Liquid filled—for a steady needle to allow precise compass readings.
  • There are other optional features to get with your compass depending upon your budget.
    • Declination adjustment
    • Ruler
    • Map scales
    • Luminous needle and bezel ring
    • Clinometers
    • Sighting mirror
    • Global needle—for use in the Southern Hemisphere

 

 

 

Compass—What you do not need:

  • Combination compasses with whistle and mirrors or any other accessory are useless – unless you want to explore your fenced backyard. These compasses are too small to be practicable and the whistles are not loud enough to hear unless you are standing next to the person who is blowing it. If you want a compass and whistle, purchase them separately and get good quality. Your life may depend upon them.

 

 

 

What do you really need?

Sparky says you need a big enough baseplate compass that has large readable Bezel degree intervals and a directional arrow. Liquid filled is a bonus. All the other option, bell & whistles are wonderful but not necessary. My Boy Scout compass that I have used for over 50 years is not liquid filled and works great.  Expect to pay $14 and up. Any good outdoor store                                                like REI, Cabella’s, L. L. Bean

Baseplate Compass

Take a basic navigation class, too. Having a compass on you will do you no good if you do not know how to use it. You are just as lost as if you did not have one. In addition, you can get your 15 minutes of fame on local TV News when the Search & Rescue people have to find you.

Sparky’s says Steve at ToursWithSteve.com teaches basic compass navigation before heading out into the forest. Click here to get a brochure e-mailed to you.

 

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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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Mushroom Report as of April 24, 2012

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This was to be a weekly report but it has become more periodic. The truth is until recently, fungi activity has been low BUT that has changed with the onset of warmer weather. Mushrooms are beginning to fruit. The most notable are morel mushrooms and oyster mushrooms.

Yellow Morel Mushroom

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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Weekly Mushroom Report as of February 16, 2012

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Weekly Mushroom Report as of February 16, 2012

This is a new, regular feature to this blog. It will be a periodic update of mushrooms available for harvest. Reporting will only cover areas in and around the Mt Hood National Forest and adjacent private lands unless otherwise noted.

No, we will not be giving directions to specific areas.

This report is based upon my own finding and in conversation with other foragers in the trade. It is not meant to be an exhaustive lists but rather to give you an idea what is available. We hope you enjoy this new feature and we welcome your comments and additions.
The bad news for this report is it appears that the Oregon Winter white truffles have completed their seasonal fruiting. What is found is in advanced stage of decay. The good news is while hunting Oregon Spring White Truffles, they are beginning to fruit in abundance in the foothills of the Cascades. What I have seen so far is not quite ripe but in another week or so should be prime. We are hoping for a long season as long as the rains continue.

Black truffles, sad to report, are having a terrible year. It is with great effort that any truffles are being harvested. It appears to be part of the natural cycle of on and off years. The dry weather in late autumn and early winter did not help either.

Two species of edible mushrooms are still being reported thought quality and quantity appears to be diminishing.

Here is a list of mushrooms and truffles. Species are listed with common name first and then botanical name:

1. Oregon Black Truffle –Leucangium carthusianum

Oregon Black Truffle

2. Oregon White Spring Truffle –Tuber gibbosum

Oregon White Truffle

3. Yellow foot—Cantharellus tubaeformis

4. Hedgehog Mushrooms –Hydnum repandum

Tours with Steve

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Weekly Mushroom Report as of Jan 30, 2012

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Weekly Mushroom Report as of Jan 30, 2012

This is a new feature to the blog. It will be a periodic update of mushrooms available to harvest. Reporting will only cover areas in and around the Mt Hood National Forest and adjacent private lands unless otherwise noted.

No, we will not be giving directions to specific areas.

This report is based upon my own finding and in conversation with other foragers in the trade. It is not meant to be an exhaustive lists but rather to give you an idea what is available. We hope you enjoy this new feature and we welcome your comments and additions.
Here is a list of mushrooms and truffles. Species are listed with common name first and then botanical name:
1. Oregon Brown Truffle –Leucangium brunneum
2. Oregon Black Truffle –Leucangium carthusianum
3. Oregon White Truffle –Tuber oregonense
4. Yellow foot—Cantharellus tubaeformis
5. Hedgehog Mushrooms –Hydnum repandum

Tours with Steve

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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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