Search Bluebird

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spring Porcini Hunt with Dan!

tI know I know, I promised a mushroom hunting post like two weeks ago, sorry.  Petunia and I made some weak attempts to hunt mushrooms while on a recent vacation to Southern Oregon, but came up empty.  Although she had "hunted" mushrooms for fun as a small girl with her father Phil, it was always purely for fun and they never harvested them for fear of accidental ingestion of something toxic. I have never even tried to pick a wild mushroom before so this was all new to me. We didn't look long enough, or in the right places.  I think we may have been way too high in elevation at 4000+ feet, at least at this time of year, and where we were looking.  Dan was sad to hear we had failed to find any choice mushrooms while on our trip, despite having given us some pointers ahead of time.  He decided to share some knowledge with us, and invited me to come hunting with him that weekend. Dan and I headed out last Saturday morning to redress our failure and learn how to hunt for them a bit more advisedly.  

Dan tells us a little about Lookalikes.

Scary scary "Puffbal" Fungus.  Not edible.

Spore cake inside  (Yikes!)

The porcini proved elusive, with Dan and I searching for quite some time (over an hour)  before finding our first real specimen.  Once we found it, there was no longer any doubt in my mind as to what I was looking for.  What a mushroom these are!  Large, stout, firm things, they look like just the sort of mushroom you'd like to make your home out of, if you were two inches tall and blue from head to toe..  We found one huge rotten mushroom, which was an encouraging sign, but had to bumble around for another half an hour or so before finding the specimen you see below:
These mushrooms can be well hidden.  Specimens like this that are just breaking through the crust of moss and dead pine needles are often fresh and worm free.  Often, but not always..
Boletus rex veris in the flesh

We used walkie talkies to keep in communication, (really helpful!) and spread out our search pattern a bit wider.  I decided to return to the area where we first discovered the porcini pictured above.  I figured that where there's one, there should be more nearby.  Eventually I met with success, finding two mushrooms all on my own, not far from the first site!  These mushrooms had "Primordia" on them, which are actually baby mushrooms getting ready to grow! Had we left them in place, perhaps there would have been more mushrooms in that spot in another few days or weeks.  

A fat specimen, these are few and far between in the spring.

Encouraged, we redoubled the search, taking the car a mile or two further into the area we were exploring, and continued to seek the prized edibles.

The haul.  These would prove to be an even more modest harvest than anticipated.

The growth on the bottom of the stem is called a Primordia, and it's a baby mushroom getting ready to grow.

Dan and I spent several hours in the forest that afternoon, but only came away with a handful of mushrooms for our efforts.  We were not disappointed though, as Porcini have be an elusive prize this the spring. According to Dan the season has been poor overall due to weird weather patterns and late snow in the mountains.  Worms are also a constant possibility when dealing with mature Porcini mushrooms, and sadly you may find you have to discard what you thought was a prime specimen upon discovering these little guys on board. We eventually came to find out that quite a few of the mushrooms had indeed been corrupted by worms already, and had to be discarded.  The remaining few mushrooms (All of which Dan was kind enough to leave with us!) provided just enough material to be the star attraction in a homemade pesto pasta dish I prepared with Petunia.  It was delicious, and I look forward to hunting for these wonderful mushrooms again in the fall, when I hear they are far more plentiful.

 This terrible pic, was supposed to illustrate the evil worms that had infested so many of our precious mushrooms.  Obviously, it didn't work very well.  I'd delete it but the blog editing interface is bugging so badly today, that I can't delete it without losing half my post.  Command-Z to the rescue.

 What was left of the mushrooms after the "wormectomies"

Petunia's homemade Pesto made a wonderful base for the Porcinis, no leftovers were to be had.

Heading out of the wilderness on our way home, Dan and I paused to admire the view:

 We were rewarded  with one of the best Mt. Rainier views I've ever seen on our way out of the forest.
One of the prettiest mountains in North America, in my opinion.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bluebirds at Large

Petunia and I are leaving the homestead in the capable hands of friends for a few days for a motorcycle road trip to Southern Oregon to join our family for a short vacation! We'll be in beautiful Sunriver, not far from Bend.

You'll remember my friend Dan Kelley, who kindly shared his morel mushrooms with us earlier this month. Well, upon hearing of our planned adventure, and where we would be traveling Dan was excited for us and slightly envious, as he confided to me that we would be traveling through and indeed, staying right in the middle of prime Boletus Rex-Veris (aka porcini mushroom!) territory! Together we looked at our planned route, over Snoqualmie Pass, east of the Cascades, then southward on scenic highways skirting the western slopes of the mountains all the way to Sunriver. Dan says we are to look at elevation ~4000ft plus or minus 500. There's a few more details to remember, among them that you need to look in a heavily wooded area, and that they grow only under "True Firs". some details about them:
(excerpt from Wikipedia article on Boletus Rex-Veris below)
Boletus rex-veris, commonly known as the spring king bolete, is a basidiomycete fungus of the genus Boletus found in western North America. The large, edible fruiting bodies known as mushrooms appear under pine trees, generally in May to June. It has a pinkish to brownish cap and its stem is often large and swollen, and the overall colour may have an orange-red tinge. As with other boletes, the size of the fruiting body is variable. Boletus rex-veris is edible, and may be preserved and cooked.

Anyway, our plan is to hunt these prized fungi during most of our trip, and we will try our best to document the mission as we go. If we meet with success, we can look forward to another mushroom dish related blog post soon too! Wish us luck.
With Flint and Lilly safely boarded with friends and family, and our friend Alex coming to care for the flock and bunnies, (not to mention Switchblade and the aquarium denizens), we are finally ready to head out on the open road for a few days, combining two passions. Those being a love for two wheeled adventure, and an opportunity to connect with the beautiful Pacific Northwest forests while seeking out a share of nature's bounty.

For a really cool look at these mushrooms being harvested, watch the YouTube video below.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dan's morels become dinner!

Well, as you know Dan brought us some really great morel mushrooms yesterday, and we decided to use them immediately. Petunia wasn't home when I got there so I decided to start things myself and got the mushrooms all washed up an started to figure out what to do with them. Looking at what I had on hand revealed I was going to have to keep it simple, so without consulting a single one of the millions of foodie resources out there for a recipe, we came up with (loosely described) a Pasta with garlic and morel butter, tossed with sauteed onions and fresh morels.  We seasoned this with only salt and pepper and it came out great!  For some reason, I decided to make a side dish out of some roasted fingerling potatoes and organic cherry tomatoes although we really didn't need it.  I did saute the onions and morels in a bit of a sake bath, and we drank the rest of the sake hot with our pasta, being the unconventional epicureans that we are.  Thanks again to Dan Kelley for his contribution not only to our blog, but our dinner table as well!  

The morels prior to cooking

They look a little like a brain!

 The brains analogy is even more apparent once the mushrooms are sliced! 
The flavor of the mushrooms is a mild one, not too earthy or musky at all.  They have a great spongy texture that reminds me of calamari or something, not exactly sure what.  Either way, it was delicious and we really enjoyed the novelty of knowing that our main event for dinner had been growing in the North Cascades just a couple days ago, and never passed through a grocer's hands to get to us. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Best egg barter yet!

My buddy Dan from work is a skilled woodsman and forager. He has serious mushroom finding skillz and managed to fond some (rare this season) locally grown morel mushroom.  We traded about 6oz of mushrooms and a stick of morel butter for a half dozen of our farm fresh eggs and a container full of our home made cold packed dill pickles. Bartering the fruits of our labor is really satisfying, and we look forward to trading more with Dan, as He is also a beer brewer I think we have a bright future together to look forward to!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A couple of pics of the babies, and some NEW Babies at Bluebird!

I'm going to try to continue to improve my terrible photography for you guys, so please bear with me.  I use the iphone a lot because it's usually in my pocket at all times, but it's no replacement for a real digital camera of any quality.  Anyway, disclaimer over, here's a couple of photos of the baby chickens from this weekend, exploring some new perches, as well as Switchblade lounging in the chicken coop.  The final pic is of a clutch of baby spiders hatching in our back patio area, on our Health-O-Meter scale!  Natural insect control FTW!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Meet Flint, Lilly and Switchblade- The Quadrupeds

Thank-you to all who shared our blog yesterday and especially to those of you who decided to follow us!  We are glad to have you here with us!

This is our new Collie pup, Flint Eastwood! We got him back in January from Liz Tilton's Symphony Kennels and he's been a perfect addition to our family, and is proving quite capable of making friends with just about anything alive!  We love this little guy! We love shelter pups too, but Flint was destined to be the BDOC (Big Dog On Campus) at Bluebird.  Liz is a top notch breeder, and if you have young children, other pets, or even older folks who appreciate a gentle and beautiful dog who still has enough backbone to take to a hike in the woods or play frisbee until your arm drops off, a Collie just might be for you!  Visit Symphony Kennels

Flint and Lilly, our 6 year old Maltese-Poodle.  She's a wonderful and tolerant big sister, even if it did take her a little while to warm up to our own not so little Dennis the Menace.

Switchblade is our Orange Tabby, rescued from the Renton Veterinary Hospital by way of Maple Valley through a funny coincidence of timing on our part that had Nicole scrambling to get her Kitty before he was snatched up by someone else!  Swtich-man, Switch-Ball, Switcher, whatever you want to call him, he's one loveable feller and lives side by side with the dogs (and Chickens!) in perfect harmony.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bluebird Farmscapes RELOADED

Hey all, we are re-launching the Bluebird Farmscapes Blog and going to make an effort to put a little new content on here weekly, at least.  Nothing long, or too fancy, and we will try to keep things light and easy, so you can stop by, check in on the Bluebird Menagerie, and get on with your busy and important lives.  We hope you'll follow our blog and the adventures of our beautiful Chickens, friendly Bunny Rabbits, Swtichblade the Tabby Cat, and Flint and Lilly, the supervisors of the Bluebird Flock.

We'll share pics, videos, and short stories about the above named stars of the show, the produce of our Organic Garden and recipes cooked with the same. Friends will also see some of Nicole's (hereafter known by her Farm Name, Petunia) amazing craft projects, and whatever else we find that we feel may educate or entertain other new Urban Homesteaders like us!  We welcome your emails, comments, smoke signals, telepathic messages, and astral projections with suggestions for recipes to try, projects to tackle, resources (articles, blogs, films, podcasts, forums, etc.) to know about- anything!  We'd love to get your help in keeping fresh content coming for the blog.  After all, Bluebird Farmscapes is not just Nicole and I and our little army of animal pals- it's all of you who share it with us!  That's the part that makes what is already pretty cool and fun, into something really special. 

(Click on image for full pic!)
 Above, Lilly sitting for the spring chickens on one of their first outings.  These loveable little guys have already adopted the adult flock and are happily finding their place in the group.  They are a happy little foursome, seemingly fearless, who interact with absolutely everyone with a friendly curiosity that you can't help but love to watch.  

 The chicks have no fear of the dogs or Switchblade (kitty), despite his "assistance" with the hatching. (Story to follow!)
 A rare sunnny spring afternoon here in Seattle, perfect for a first outing to the yard.

Are you lookin' at me?  (couldn't resist, sorry!)

Welcome back to Bluebird Farmscapes!