Mushroom Foraging

Yellow Chanterelle

I have embraced hunting! Mushroom hunting, that is. My goal this fall has been to learn more about foraging and feel more confident identifying mushrooms in the woods. I can already i.d. trees, so I’m halfway there. It helps that I geek out on taxonomy and love mushrooms. Why haven’t I made this a priority earlier? I’ve dabbled here and there, it helps my brother knows a lot and morels grow on my in-law’s property. But I’ve never felt confident of my own identifying because I’ve always had someone there to confirm the edibility of the mushroom, I never felt the need to figure it out on my own.

Lobster Mushroom

Luckily, I have a friend here who’s dad is a mycologist so we’ve been out a few times looking for mushrooms. It’s a lot of fun, wandering in the woods, scanning the forest floor. Maybe it will make my eyes better and I won’t need glasses anymore. She’s really confident in chanterelles, which happen to be my favorite mushroom. Now I am confident in chanterelles and through some thorough research, I am now confident in lobster mushrooms and cauliflower mushrooms. 3 new ones this season is a lot! I bought an i.d. book with great photos specific to the NW. It’s called All that the Rain Promises and more. The same author has a very large and thick bible of mushrooms as well. I’ll need it one day, but I’m not that advanced yet. Maybe when I move on to boletes I’ll get it.

Cauliflower Mushroom

But for now, we’re eating mushrooms almost every day, soups, stir-frys, quiches. It’s a lot of fun to find them and eat them. It’s so satisfying eating something YOU harvested. And I love it. Add mycology to my list of interests. I can’t wait to learn more. There’s a club in Portland I might join when things calm down and I have more free time to join clubs. I’ve detailed my cooking adventures with the mushrooms on my food blog if you are interested.

Exit summer

I really enjoy summer out here in the Pacific NW.  Even if there was crazy weather this year including a hailstorm, record-breaking 100 degree days and various cold spells.  We had a pretty busy summer what with moving to a new city, finding jobs, apartment, bike commuting and exploring Portland.  We didn’t get to rock climb yet but it’s still warm out so there may be time (if I remember how to climb-it’s been a year!).

Summer bounty

I had a few u-pick adventures this summer that were really fun over on Sauvie Island.  It’s an island about 30 minutes outside of the city and it’s all agricultural.  The berry crop was fantastic and I got together with a group of friends and we jammed, canned, baked and cooked up a storm.  Now I’m looking forward to apple and pumpkin season.  Mmm, pie!

Matt conquers the falls

We did get a good hike in recently at Silver Falls State Park.  It’s a “must-do” according to all the books and even though it’s crowded at the trailhead, it’s worth it.  8.5 mile loop, 10 waterfalls.  Most of them were swimmable, but I only jumped in one because the water was quite icy.  The park was only about an hour and a half from Portland and we camped with friends at the park campground, which was a nice break after a day of hiking.  Once we were about a mile into the trail, the crowds petered out and we enjoyed the maintained trails and great views.  I miss the woods, I plan to get out and explore more this fall.

Vegan Potluck

Chocolate Mousse Marshmallow Pie

Whoever has a low opinion of vegan desserts is crazy. I think the majority of vegans have a serious sweet tooth and developing awesome desserts is part of the initiation. Luckily for me and my blood sugar, there was plenty of savory food to eat as well. Matt and I went to a PPK vegan potluck last week and stuffed ourselves to the point of passing out (Matt). While Matt was napping, I learned a new game called Jungle Speed. It’s sort of like a group Spit with more focus and you match shapes and colors. It involves reaching for this wooden totem that inevitably results in scratching someone or hitting them. It was fun.

Ready to eat

I wasn’t sure what to expect, having never been to a vegan potluck in a park before. We went to Laurelhurst Park, which reminds me of the treed duck pond part of Central Park. There were picnic tables and we set up an immense spread. The photo was taken by a friend, as I forgot my camera that day. Imagine the spread times 3, the picnic table was full by the time everyone arrived. There were about 20 people there and the food ranged from blackberry bbq gluten ribs to variations on potato salads, pasta salads and tempeh empanadas with a spicy sauce. I made a wheatberry salad with apples and mint and it came out good. I’ve been trying to use different grains lately, as I’ve just been eating a lot of bread (well, it’s free…and delicious). What else? A pasta bake with almond cheeze and sauce, tempeh kale concoction, plum torte, apple torte, the marshmallow madness pie, peach bbq tempeh, chocolate strawberry cookies, a tofu olive spread and I’m sure a bunch of other dishes I can’t remember but my belly enjoyed. I sucessfully tried a little bit of everything, which equalled 3 platefuls. Everyone was friendly and nice (oh, Portland) and we enjoyed the day. Someone even drove down from Seattle for the potluck and brought Mighty-O donuts (yum), proving just how good the food and company was. I can’t wait for the next one!

Flugtag & Meteor Shower

We’ve been doing well, settling into Portland, enjoying our jobs and the summer.  We haven’t been hiking yet, but hopefully soon it will happen.  There is just too much going on in this city on a daily basis that it’s hard to leave the city.

Flying dragon

A noteable event we went to recently was Flugtag, a crazy event hosted by Red Bull.  Basically, people build flying contraptions, push them off a 30 foot ramp into the river.  We joined 79,998 other people watching the inventive contraptions and enjoying seeing them crash and hit the water.  There were some fun dance routines and too many rip-off pants on guys who should have kept their pants on.  It was great.  We only took a few pictures but if you want to see the other participants, go here.

Earlier in the week, we went to Rooster Rock State Park with a friend to see the Perseid meteor shower.  There was a science presentation by OMSI and a telescope group was there, sharing their giant telescopes so everyone could see Jupiter, the Andromeda galaxy and more cool stuff.  The meteors were pretty cool.  I saw one giant meteor that burned green across the whole sky.

My new “car”

Room for a puppy!

Shortly after moving to Portland, we joined the ranks of bicycle commuters and very rarely are in the car. It is really liberating not having to worry about parking, gas, traffic stress and everything else. I spent a lot of time researching and looking around the city for a used or new bike. Craigslist was a mess, most people didn’t respond to my emails or phone calls and they don’t usually put the size of the frame in the ad. What a waste of time.

I went to a number of local bike shops in Portland, the friendliest by far being citybikes, a worker-owned co-op. (Other helpful places were: North Portland Bikeworks, Community Cycling Center and the Recyclery). The employees literally took hours (and it’s a busy place!) to talk to me about bikes, walk me through the used bike room, figure out what size frame I need and the like. You can test ride bikes, but most of the used ones aren’t ready for the road. A really nice guy there got a used bike ready for me to ride (it took an hour) and after riding it we discovered it was about 2 inches too small for me. Bikes are expensive and I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for something that doesn’t fit me. For not too much more money, they had a new bike (that fit me) which I ended up purchasing. It’s called the Urban Xpress, a hybrid commuter bike with skinny tires, a mountain-esque bike frame and swing back handlebars that are supposed to reduce strain and stress on your wrists. It was customized by the workers at citybikes to embody their ideal get around town and commute in Portland bike.

So far, so good. I love it. I got a cute basket off craigslist from a woman who says it’s from the Netherlands, so now I can be like the Dutch, riding my bicycle wherever I need to go. I don’t think I’ll be pushing a work cart full of children anytime soon. Being on my bike makes me smile and I enjoy riding in to work, a little exercise before I start my shift. And I haven’t run over any pedestrians like I did in Seattle. At least not yet. Life is good.