The Democrats Dinner

Another new experience.

I should start off by saying that although technically I’m now a Democrat, I’m not really a Democrat. I vote for who I think would be the best candidate for the office. These days, it’s usually a Democrat, but there may be some time in the future that it’s a Republican or third party candidate. The only reason I’m technically a democrat is because I had to check a box on the primary form to vote for a Democrat candidate. At least that’s my understanding of what I did and what it means.

I honestly don’t care.

Anyway, a like-minded friend of mine invited me to join her for the annual Democrats dinner. The dinner, which was to be held at the Wenatchee Convention Center, was for Chelan County and Douglas County Democrats. It was $50/person and included a three-course dinner, no-host bar, speakers, and door prizes. I figured it might be a nice way to meet other like-minded people. After all, although Washington state is “blue,” I live on the red side. I can’t tell you how many Trump signs there are on lawns here, but I can tell you how many Hillary signs there are: 0.

At the Dinner

I met my friend at the Convention Center at 5:30 PM. She’d already gotten very good seats for us at a table near the front, facing front. Another friend of hers joined us. They were both retired teachers, both union members, both Democrats. The real kind — not like me.

Cocktail hour was a bit disappointing. There was a full bar with a bartender. Just one. By about 6 PM, he was overwhelmed and the wait for a drink had gone up to at least 20 minutes. I know this because my friend went back for a second drink and that’s how long it took her to get back. There were no snacks. I was famished.

The walls were decorated with election signs not only for the presidential election but for all the other races below it. People I’d never heard of but would likely get my vote anyway. (More on that in a moment.)

Trump's Small Hand Soap
Why couldn’t this be a door prize?

Trump Voodoo Doll
It comes with pins!

Trump Press Cartoon
It’s all about ratings.

A long table stretched down one side of room. On it were signs with photos of every single president, from Obama back to Washington, along with a brief summary of his presidency. The tabletop was decorated with some Democrat candidate memorabilia — for example, a still-sealed book from Obama’s inauguration and various campaign buttons — along with cartoons mostly lampooning Trump. My favorite was the Trump Small Hands bar of soap. I was hoping that would be a door prize. Someone at our table also had a Trump voodoo doll, still wrapped. Very cool.

I’m sad to report that our table companions were not necessarily the kind of people I was hoping to meet. My friend’s friend was very pleasant and I think the three of us had a lot in common. We had some nice conversations. But the two women on the other side of me were older women — late 60s? 70s? — from Grand Coulee in the farthest reaches of Douglas County. One of them showed me photos of her cat, and all I could think about was cleaning all that hair off my furniture. Another man at the table bragged, at one point, very loudly about a very large gun he’d bought. (Yeah, some Democrats do own guns.) My friend’s friend did a bunch of eye rolling and told us about the gun-toting Republican she’d dated for a short while. The one person who I thought might be interesting to talk to was a semi-retired merchant marine, but he was opposite me at the big table and conversation would have been difficult.

The presentation started with an introduction, pledge of allegiance, and prayer. The usual political thing. Even Democrats stick to the formula. Then dinner was served. Salad, steak and salmon (for those like me who didn’t want the vegetarian option), and a berry cobbler that was mostly apples (go figure). The food wasn’t bad but definitely not worth $50. I didn’t really expect it to be, though, so I wasn’t disappointed. At least it was edible.

The cat lady had brought along what seemed like used washed ziplock bags and bagged up half her meal. I like to think she was going to give it to her cat — do cats eat green beans? Later, when we realized that one of our table companions wasn’t going to show and his vegetarian meal was up for grabs, she produced a stack of used bags and offered them to us. (I wish I was kidding.) She then packed up most of the veggie meal, too.

Meanwhile, the parade of speakers began. I’m sorry to report that most of them were pretty dull. Even the ones that were young and exuberant — and there were more than a few — didn’t really interest me. You see, I had already made up my mind about who I was voting for and I had no intention of knocking on doors or making calls to convince others. The way I see it, if this country isn’t smart enough to vote for the best, most qualified candidates, we deserve whatever we get. And if someone hasn’t decided by now who they’re going to vote for, they’re likely brain dead and not worth wasting time over anyway. (More on that in a moment, too.)

I should point out here that most of the speakers were in support of state and local candidates. There was little said about Clinton, most likely because voting for her was such a no-brainer.

There were two videos, one of which was from the Governor, who, until that point, I would not have been able to recognize in a line up. The videos were obviously created especially for the Wenatchee gathering; both candidates referred to specific places and people and things in the area. The Governor apparently has some strong ties to Wenatchee. It was interesting to see these videos — sort of like personalized commercials. I wonder how much time these people spend recording videos like this for other community gatherings and events.

One thing I did notice throughout the event is that there was remarkably little Trump bashing. I think I see more Trump bashing in 30 minutes on Twitter than I got at that dinner. A few jokes, a few one liners, a few warnings that he would take our country and the world in the wrong direction. That’s it. Not even a single chant.

The door prizes went last and they were mostly donated items. No Trump soap or voodoo dolls.

Flowers
Despite the wild ride home on curvy roads in my Honda, the flowers look pretty good the next day.

Finally, the woman who organized the event mentioned that the money we’d paid basically covered the cost of the event — which, if true, is unfortunate because I’m sure they could have had it catered for less — and suggested donations. She also mentioned that the flowers on the table had been provided at a cost of $15 each by a local floral design shop and were for sale. I liked the flowers on my table so I stuck a $20 bill in the donation envelope, wrote “For Flowers” with my name on it, and handed it off to one of the organizers before grabbing the flowers.

Hillary Poster
My souvenir from the evening.

There were lawn signs at the back of the room, including quite a few for those lower level candidates I’d never heard of. We were invited to take as many as we liked. There were even stakes to put them in the yard. I got there just as a vertically challenged, overweight man was counting off a short stack of cardboard Hillary signs. I reached for the last one, but he grabbed it first.

“Are there any more?” I asked.

“No,” he replied smugly with a grin that made me want to kick his teeth out. “I got the last ones.”

Not to be deprived of my souvenir, I pulled one off the wall. And no, it won’t go on my lawn. Do you think I want Trump supporters throwing garbage at my home?

By reading all this, you might think I’m sorry I went. I’m not. It was an interesting evening out — a new experience. But will I go next year? Hell, no.

My Vote

It should be pretty obvious to anyone who knows me or reads my blog or has just read this that I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. It’s not because she’s a woman, either. It’s because she is, by far, the most experienced and qualified candidate for the job of President of the United States. Anyone who doesn’t see this needs to wake up and look at the facts.

And yes, I know we live in a “post fact society.” What a shame.

As for the down-ticket candidates, I’m voting for Democrats. Why? Because I’m sick and tired of Republican obstructionism in the House and Senate. I’m tired of them fighting Democrats just because they think it’ll score points with their supporters. I’m tired of them spitefully failing to do what’s right for this country because it’s the same thing our President or Democrats want. I’m outraged that they have failed to even discuss the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice, leaving a very important seat unoccupied.

I’m also sick and tired of Republicans trying to regulate women’s bodies and health care. I’m tired of them fighting Planned Parenthood, which provides affordable health care services to both women and men. I’m tired of them inserting God and Christianity into government and education. I’m tired of them passing laws that help the rich at the detriment of the poor. I’m tired of them keeping their supporters in line through the use of fear and hate.

At this point, I wouldn’t vote for a Republican if he or she was the only candidate on the ballot.

As for Trump — well, I still can’t believe he’s the candidate that Republicans chose to run for president. Pardon me, but are they fucking kidding us? Has the GOP completely lost its collective mind? The man is a clown. Even the top Republican weasel, Ted Cruz, summed it up correctly:

Of course, Ted eventually caved in to support Trump. After all, you have to toe the Republican party line to get any support from the GOP and Ted doesn’t want to be unemployed. I won’t even go into the moral implications of his support for a man who insulted him and his wife and tried to implicate his father in the JFK assassination just a few months ago. What an unprincipled weasel.

How can anyone in his right mind support trump? Oh yeah. Trump supporters are not in their right mind.

And I’m not talking about “the deplorables.” I’m talking about are the poor, misguided souls who believe everything their other right wing friends and Fox News tell them — whether it’s true or not — and disregard all the negative facts about Trump. The deplorables are driven by hate, and Trump feeds them the doses they need. Like addicts always strung out on crack or meth, they are too far gone to save.

It would be nice to hear a Trump supporter intelligently discussing why he’s voting for Trump without resorting to bashing Clinton — because that’s all I’ve heard. No one seems able to support Trump without turning to the same old tired lies about Clinton — lies that have been disproven again and again. And no, I don’t give a flying fuck about Clinton’s email, especially when so many of her predecessors also had their own private email servers. And I don’t want to talk about Benghazi, either. In fact, I’m sick of Clinton conspiracy theories, all of which have been disproven multiple times by multiple investigations. And I’m sick and tired of seeing my tax money spent on witch hunts led by the GOP.

In his own words.

Any logical argument a Trump supporter could come up with would serve only to convince me that he actually believes the documented lies of a narcissistic conman who regularly stiffs contractors, sues people at the drop of a hat, and uses other people’s money to buy off politicians, settle his legal obligations, and contribute to charitable causes under his name. So even if a Trump supporter isn’t stupid, he’s definitely gullible.

So anyway, I’m voting Democrat right down the ticket this year and I urge people who care about the future of America and the world to do the same. The President is only one part of the picture. Her hands will be tied if we can’t clear out the obstructionists preventing the country from moving forward.

And if you’re an ardent Trump supporter who is deeply offended by what I’ve written here today, I’m sorry for you. But I think this article pretty much sums up what I’d like to say to you beyond what I’ve said here.

And yes, I’ve closed comments on this post. I know it’ll be impossible for Trump supporters — who will likely show up here with something to say — to follow the comment policy and keep things civil. I have better things to do than play moderator for people idiotic enough to support Trump.

Wintering in an RV

Some answers for a reader.

It’s that time of year again: the time of year when my blog post titled “Prepping My RV for Winter Living” get a bunch of hits every day.

One of the readers — I’ll call her C — went the next step and emailed me. Here’s her message:

Hello! Write me back or don’t. Its ok. I understand being busy. It won’t ruin my day if you don’t.

I stumbled upon your blog when I was looking for advice RE: living in an RV in winter. I am thinking about purchasing one to live in while I try to save my family’s 3rd generation ranch house. It could take a while!

I found all your info quite helpful and was tickled to see that you had a small dog (me too) and a parrot (me too).

I did wonder about gas appliances in an RV and the risk to my cockatoo. Since I got her in 1992 I have avoided rentals with a gas stove, etc.

I don’t know if you have any gas/propane appliances in the RV or if you felt this was a legitimate worry.

Also, I wondered where you placed your parrot in the RV. Have you ever thought about hanging the cage?

Do you feel it stays warm enough in the winter for your parrot? That was another worry. Molly is not the hot house flower some birds are, but I would hate for her to be uncomfortable.

Great Blog! We must encourage other women to be do it yourselfers. As you wrote it is fulfilling and empowering in so many ways!

That first paragraph is likely in response to me saying, on my contact form, that I don’t always respond to email from readers. Why don’t I? Well, I really do prefer blog comments so we can get a conversation going. I will send C a link to this blog post as my response. I hope she uses the comment form for any follow-up questions. (Hint, hint.)

Living in an RV while working on a home is a great solution to a problem. You can be there every day to work or supervise and you can really get a feel for the property. I did it when I worked on a cabin I once owned in Northern Arizona and, of course, I lived in my big fifth wheel while building my home here in Washington State.

RVs, in general, have really poor insulation. The walls are thin and it’s sometimes impossible to keep the heat in. I found that with my Montana Mountaineer — a high mid-range model by Keystone — once the temperature got below 20°F, I could run heaters full blast all night and not get the temperature above 50°F. For that reason, I don’t recommend living in a typical RV outdoors in an area where temperatures get much lower than freezing.

I was fortunate. The first winter I was on the property, before my home was built, I got a housesitting gig about 2 miles away. That lasted until I headed down to California with the RV for my late winter work. The second winter, although my building was built, my living space was barely started. I was able to bring the RV into the building’s garage and live in there. Not ideal, but the “outside” temperature in the building never got lower than about 35 so I had no trouble keeping the RV warm.

Of course, not all RVs are like this. Some are set up with great insulation because they’re designed for winter use. If C’s RV is like one of these, she’s in good shape to stay warm.

I no longer have a parrot. Alex the Bird went a new home in early 2013. I do still have a dog. I never did worry about propane appliances. My RV — which I sold just last week — had carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure yours has one and that it’s working! In addition to that, I always left one or two windows cracked open when using the propane heater. I actually preferred electric heaters in my RV because they’re quieter and electricity is cheap here. I used the ones that look like radiators and had one in the living room and one in the bedroom.

Alex the Bird had a large corner cage. My RV was spacious and I removed one of the La-Z-Boy recliners to accommodate the cage. It was on the far end of the RV, away from the kitchen. I’d be careful about hanging anything from an RV’s ceiling. You’d likely be better off putting the cage on a small table or stool. Or cage stand. Alex was never in the RV over the winter, which is a good thing. I don’t think I could have kept it warm enough for her.

In summary, I should say this: Some RVs are better than others for winter living. If the temperature gets below freezing, you need to take steps to keep your water source and interior pipes ice-free. That can be a challenge in itself; my prepping blog post explained how I did it. Think about the possibilities and prepare for them. Good luck!

As for encouraging women to do it themselves, I’m all for that. Actually, I’m all for encouraging everyone to do it themselves. There’s no better feeling of satisfaction than tackling a task you weren’t sure you could do and getting the job done.

The Mobile Mansion is Gone

Another chapter of my old life ends.

On Monday, I delivered my 36-foot fifth wheel Montana Mountaineer RV, affectionately nicknamed “the Mobile Mansion” to its new owners. Yesterday, I met them at the bank to have the paperwork notarized and get my check.

Early Life of the Mobile Mansion

I bought the Mobile Mansion brand new back in 2010 in Quartzite, AZ. I got a great deal on it. The Great Recession was killing RV manufacturers and dealers; by January 2010, Quartzite dealers were desperate to unload brand new RVs.

Mobile Mansion in Quincy
Here’s the Mobile Mansion parked at the golf course I stayed at in Quincy, WA, for about two months each summer. (I now hire pilots to work my Quincy contracts.)

It was the second — well, fourth if you count the popup camper and horse trailer with living quarters — in a line of RVs I’d owned since the early 2000s. Like its predecessor, a Starcraft hard-sided camper with pop-out beds, It was a business asset for Flying M Air: I bought it as a place to live when I traveled for my flying work. I’d begun working in Washington every summer in 2008 and wanted an affordable and comfortable place to live while I was there. The Starcraft was affordable but not comfortable. The Montana was very comfortable mostly because it was very large. I got a big one because I expected that I’d be living in it for four to six months a year with the man I was married to and our mid-sized dog. I wanted us to have plenty of space. I wanted it to be a true home away from home. When I bought it, I blogged that it was the “perfect” RV.

A Temporary Home for the Homeless

When my marriage fell apart in June 2012, I was living in the Mobile Mansion in Washington State, where I was working for the fifth summer in a row. I didn’t bother bringing the Mobile Mansion back home to Arizona at the end of the summer. Instead, I stored it in a friend’s garage, along with my boat. I’d need it in Washington the following year no matter what happened, so it made no sense to bring it home.

I did move it down to California in February 2013 for the frost control work I started there that year. It was a lot of fun to live part time at an airport with my helicopter parked a few hundred feet away.

At Watts-Woodland
The Mobile Mansion parked alongside a hangar in the Sacramento area. You can see my helicopter parked on the ramp at the left side of the photo.

In May 2013 when the court stuff was finally done and my wasband finally agreed to a division of personal assets in our Wickenburg house and Phoenix condo, I moved out of Wickenburg permanently. By that time, the Mobile Mansion was back in Washington, settled in for my summer work, and I moved right back into it.

I lived in it for most of the next two years. I traveled a bunch in the winter, as I usually do, and had a three-month housesitting job during the coldest months of the winter of 2013/14 when living in the Mobile Mansion parked outdoors would have been tough. The following winter, the shell of my new home was finished and, when I wasn’t in Arizona or California, I lived in the Mobile Mansion inside the RV garage. I had a full hookup in there: 30 amp power, water, and sewer. It was comfortable, but cave-like — sort of like that Phoenix condo I’d hated so much — and it really motivated me to finish up my living space upstairs.

Mobile Mansion in Construction Zone
The Mobile Mansion was my home and base of operations while my new home was being built. I even set up a time-lapse camera on one of the slides to record the whole building process.

In early April 2015, I moved upstairs, sleeping on an air mattress on the bedroom floor. The shower wasn’t done yet, so I still showered down in the Mobile Mansion in the garage. But by the end of the month I was mostly moved in, with my furniture in place. Although my home wasn’t 100% complete, I was done living in the Mobile Mansion.

Or so I thought.

The Mobile Mansion stayed in the RV garage until July. I’d been playing around with AirBnB, using the full hookup campsite at the edge of my driveway as a rental and getting some activity. But in July, I moved the Mobile Mansion back outside and parked it near where it used to be. I pulled all of my personal items out of it, leaving only what was needed for guests. And then I put it on AirBnB. Amazingly, I was able to rent it almost every weekend right into October, getting $80/night with a two night minimum.

Mobile Mansion
People paid $160/weekend to live in the Mobile Mansion with it parked right where it is in this photo. (And no, the helicopter usually wasn’t parked in the side yard.)

(I could probably write a whole blog post about squeezing money out of assets without a lot of headaches. I’ve gotten pretty good at it.)

Mobile Mansion for Sale

By September, I had decided I definitely wanted to sell the Mobile Mansion. I wanted to travel for the winter but I wanted a smaller rig. I’d already started shopping for one. At the time, I was thinking of a much smaller bumper pull. I listed the Mobile Mansion in various places, hoping to sell the truck with it.

After that last AirBnB rental, I took everything out of the Mobile Mansion, gave it a good cleaning, and dropped it off at an RV sale lot in East Wenatchee. The folks there were pretty confident they could get my price.

They came in with two offers, both of them very low. Bargain hunters looking for “motivated” (read that desperate sellers.) I didn’t have to sell the Mobile Mansion. It was fully paid for and not costing me a thing to keep. I’d even made nearly $2K using it as a rental for part of the summer.

By December, I’d decided to go south for the winter. My friends were camping out in the Colorado River backwaters and I wanted to join them. I figured I’d sell the Mobile Mansion while I was away and come home with a different rig. So after my Christmas skiing trip, I went to the sale lot with all the gear I’d need for the winter, packed up the Mobile Mansion, hooked it up to my truck, and headed south on what was supposed to be a three-month trip.

Old Ford
The last of the snow melted off the roof when I reached Blythe, CA.

Despite the in-transit trials, I had a great time. It was good living off the grid with my friends, soaking up the sun, fishing, paddling, horseback riding, and shopping for deals in Quartzsite. I almost sold the Mobile Mansion once — I had a decent deal to trade it for a truck camper and still get cash in hand. But I wasn’t mentally ready for such a huge downsizing. I made some improvements to the Mobile Mansion, thinking I might keep it after all.

Mobile Mansion Parking
Living in Arizona along the Colorado River in the Mobile Mansion last winter was tough. Not.

I regretted not taking that offer when I left Arizona in February and started my trip to California for my frost control work there. Truck trouble stranded my truck and the Mobile Mansion in southern California, really screwing up my plans. I went home, fetched the helicopter for my contract, and spent some time in the Sacramento area with it. But without the Mobile Mansion to live in, I didn’t want to be there. I went home, leaving the helicopter, my new used truck, and the Mobile Mansion scattered around California. It wasn’t until April that I was able to fetch everything and bring it home.

After cleaning the Mobile Mansion out yet again, I brought it right to a sale lot in North Wenatchee. Once again, the sales guy told me how sure he was that he’d sell it — possibly even within a few weeks.

But I didn’t wait for the Mobile Mansion to sell before getting on with my plans. (I am so done waiting for someone else to do something to move forward with my life.) I bought a truck camper to replace it and almost immediately put it to use. After an overnight “shakedown tour,” I put it to work housing one of the pilots who worked for me in Quincy. (I suspect he would have been more comfortable in the Mobile Mansion. Oh, well.)

The sales lot guy was unable to sell it. I think it’s because he was asking so much more than it was worth, hoping to turn a tidy profit on my rig. And the fact that when he didn’t feel like coming to work, he didn’t — so the lot was closed more often than it was open. (Needless to say, he won’t be seeing me again.)

It Pays to Wait

Fortunately, I hadn’t stopped telling the people I know about it. And two of them were interested — but not for the price the guy on the lot was asking.

We agreed on a price. Ironically, it was more than the price my wasband had accepted on our jointly owned 40-acres of vacation property in Northern Arizona the month before. (Desperate sellers will take anything. Yes, I accepted the low offer, too, but the only thing I was desperate about was finally ending any ties I had to the sad sack old man I’d married 10 years before. The money was nothing. Almost literally.)

And I didn’t have to split the proceeds with anyone.

I delivered the RV to the new owners on Monday. I let one of them use my truck to back it into their hangar, which was just deep enough for him to back it in. I showed them how to unhook it. I gave them the full tour, including the “secrets” I’d learned about it in the five years I’d spent so much time in it. That took nearly an hour. I had mixed feelings as I was doing it, but I think the overwhelming feeling was that of relief.

Yesterday, I met them at the bank where we signed and notarized the title and other papers and I got my check. After handshakes and even a hug, I left them and went right to the bank to drop off the check.

Although I’m a tiny bit sad about closing the Mobile Mansion’s chapter in my life, I’m also very happy to do it. To me, the Mobile Mansion was a constant reminder of broken promises, miscommunication, and lies. Although I’ll miss its spacious comfort when I travel, I’m very glad it’s gone.

The First Mushroom Hunt of Autumn 2016

Limited success and a bunch of new mushrooming resources.

Cooler weather is upon us and that means the chanterelle mushrooms are coming into season.

Last Friday morning I went out for a hike/mushroom hunt with my hiking friend, Sue. Sue knows all kinds of things about plants and animals and even rocks, so going on a hike with her is a great learning experience. And although she doesn’t eat mushrooms, her husband does and she’s always game to go hunting with me.

The Hike

We chose a trail we both like up Icicle Creek beyond Leavenworth, WA. It’s a bit of a drive — about 50 miles from my home, including more than 10 on gravel. Another mushrooming friend of mine claimed she’d found chanterelles right on the trail. I was doubtful and I think Sue was, too. So as we hiked, we took occasional forays into the forest on one side of the trail or the other, right where we thought chanterelles might grow. I did find a very nice coral-type fungus that we believe is edible; I took it with me to examine more closely later.

Then it happened: Sue found a golden chanterelle mushroom growing right alongside the trail. While she harvested it, I combed the area looking for more. She joined me. We came up empty.

I should mention here that chanterelles are pretty easy to identify. They normally have sort of misshapen caps and the gills on the underside are more like ridges or wrinkles than regular mushroom gills. They normally extend down the mushroom’s stem. You can find photos on WikiMedia. There are some “false” chanterelles and a similar looking poisonous variety called Jack O’Lantern, but it’s pretty easy to distinguish these from real chanterelles, which are prized as tasty mushrooms. If you’re interested in hunting for chanterelles, study up first and make sure you know what you’re looking for and where you might find them.

We got to a point in the trail where we were within a quarter mile of a place I’d found chanterelles the previous year and took a little detour to check it out. I walked us over to where I found them and we searched the ground. It seemed too dry. I gave up quickly and moved off to another nearby spot, but Sue stuck with it. Soon she called out “I found one!”

I hurried back. She pointed it out and I took a photo. Then we saw one nearby that was just poking out of the forest duff.

And that’s when I started seeing little mounds all over the place. Lots of young chanterelles just popping out of the ground.

Young Chanterelle
A young chanterelle mushroom, just poking out of the ground.

I used my new pocketknife — I bought one with a bright orange handle so I wouldn’t lose it while mushroom hunting — to dig a few out and put them in my bag. They were all a yellowish white color with a relatively regular looking cap. I showed one to Sue and she confirmed that they were chanterelles.

We continued to hunt in that area before getting back on the trail. Sue found some other mushrooms in various stages of decay — russulas. None of them were worth keeping, even if they were of edible varieties.

We finished our hike and headed home, stopping in Leavenworth for lunch and to buy smoked meats (Cured), wine (Ryan Patrick), and cheese (Cheesemonger).

Uncertainty

If there’s a golden rule to hunting for edible mushrooms, it’s this: never eat a mushroom you find unless you are certain that it’s edible.

side of mushroom

top of mushroom

mushroom gills

inside mushroom
Several views of one of the mushrooms I harvested on Friday. When trying to get help with identification, it’s important to show as much detail as possible.

When I got home, I took a closer look at the five chanterelles I’d found. They were all smaller and much more “perfect” looking than any chanterelle I’d ever seen. What if Sue was wrong? What if they weren’t chanterelles and I ate them?

I combed through my mushroom books. None of the pictures matched what I had. I started to write Sue a warning email.

I posted some photos on Facebook, trying to see if any of my friends could advise me. Then I looked for and found three different mushroom identification groups on Facebook and signed up for each of them. I couldn’t post photos until I was approved for membership, though.

Then, as usual, I got sidetracked by something else and didn’t give it another thought until morning.

On Saturday morning, I was thinking about a chanterelle mushroom omelet. So I took my morning coffee to the computer and began searching the internet. I knew there was something called a false chanterelle, and I looked it up. That’s where I learned that false chanterelles have normal fin-like gills while real chanterelles have the wrinkle- or ridge-like gills. There was another chanterelle look-alike called a jack o’lantern that was definitely poisonous, but what I’d picked had very little in common with that. (Keep in mind that although I’m linking primarily to Wikipedia articles here, I consulted many sources.)

I finished the email to Sue and sent it. Then I kept researching. I wanted so badly to eat my mushrooms but I didn’t want to get sick. I’d been approved for all three mushroom identification groups on Facebook so I took and sent photos, including the ones you see here. I kept researching while I waited to hear back.

Around that time, I found a trio of photos on the Mushroom Forager website’s page about Hedgehog Mushrooms. It illustrated three similar mushrooms. The middle photo was almost identical to what I had.

Mushroom Gills
This image, which can be found at The Mushroom Forager website, helped convince me I had chanterelles.

I started cutting up my chanterelles for an omelet.

Then I checked back with Facebook. The mushroom identification group members were starting to chime in. The first few were pretty sure that it wasn’t chanterelles. I put the mushrooms away in a container in the fridge and had an omelet without mushrooms.

Throughout the day, more responses trickled in. And this is where the group dynamics really come into play. Some were sure that they weren’t chanterelles. Some were sure that they were. So I really wasn’t any better off than I’d been before consulting the groups.

Finally, late in the day, some folks who obviously knew a lot about mushrooms started responding. They identified the type of chanterelle with its genius and species: cantharellus subalbidus. While some group members argued with them, they were firm. They provided additional information about the area in which they grow: old growth forests like the one I’d been in. One even provided a link to a page that illustrated it.

I should mention here that of the three groups I joined, the Mushroom Identification Page group seemed to have the most knowledgeable participants, although none of them were free of people who offered incorrect information based on limited facts. (I really need to do a blog post about Facebook group dynamics.)

I should mention that by this time, Sue had also responded to my email. She was certain it was a cantharellus subalbidus, too. She has some resources where she looked them up. I guess she didn’t want to poison her husband!

Feasting on My Find

That evening, I sautéed some thinly sliced veal and prepared a chanterelle cream sauce for it. I had it with a side of fresh steamed green beans from my garden and glass of sauvignon blanc. Delicious.

I finished up the mushrooms the next day by cooking them into an omelet with some scallions and buckboard bacon. Very tasty.

This was my fourth mushroom hunting trip and the second for chanterelles. (I hunted twice for morels this spring.) I marked the GPS coordinates for my find and plan to return this week. Although it hasn’t rained, I’m hoping that cool, shady area of the forest is damp enough for the chanterelles to grow.

I really enjoy collecting my own food, whether it’s foraging in the forest for seasonal mushrooms, gleaning from an orchard after harvest, tending my own garden, or collecting eggs from my chickens. There’s something very special about having that kind of connection with your food.

But best of all, you can’t beat it for freshness.

The Bighorn Sheep in My Yard

Wild Kingdom* out my window.

There are bighorn sheep in the cliffs across the road from my home. I often hear them clattering around in the rocks, creating mini landslides. I’ve also seen them quite often.

Last year, they’d show up pretty regularly across the street in my neighbor’s yard. By regularly, I mean around midday every day. For weeks. I even had the misfortune of seeing my neighbor outside, buck naked, taking photos of them when I was watching them through binoculars and movement caught my eye.

They were gone for quite a while. Sure, I’d hear them up in the cliffs and the sound would often get Penny all worked up. Despite numerous helicopter rides with me, her hearing remains excellent and she often hears them before I do.

A few weeks ago, they started showing up again. A pretty big herd of mostly females. One time, they even put on quite a show for some weekend guests who’d come with their RV. We sat up on the deck having a late breakfast while they grazed on weeds in my neighbor’s yard.

Bighorn Sheep
It wasn’t easy to take photos of the sheep at the road; the sun was right behind them.

The other day, they were on my side of the road. I watched them, fearing that they might start grazing on the willow trees I’d planted alongside the road last year. But they seemed more interested in the weeds than the trees. Good.

Penny and Sheep
A cropped cell phone picture of Penny facing off with one of the sheep.

On Thursday, I was working on some shelves in my garage when Penny started barking at something. Turned out that she was near the end of the driveway, facing off with one of the bighorn sheep. I managed to get a photo with my phone before the sheep bounded off. I mean that quite literally — it ran off with a hopping motion that was actually quite funny to see. But what really surprised both Penny and me was that the sheep wasn’t alone — are they ever? There were at least a dozen more in my front yard, hidden from view by the tall weeds and my shed. They took off after their friend, running across the road.

I took a break and went upstairs for some lunch. I ate out on the deck. The sheep had moved into the road about halfway down my property line. Some of them were actually lying down in the road. I live on a dead end road and there are only three occupied homes beyond mine, so there isn’t much traffic.

Cathedral Rock Traffic Jam
Seriously? Lying down in the road?

Eventually, however, one of my neighbors went out. Even though they obviously saw the sheep — how could you possibly miss a herd right in the road? — and they drove slowly, the sheep moved.

Into my yard.

As I watched, they came closer and closer to my home. I know they saw me up on the deck watching, but they didn’t seem too interested. They came to the north side of my place, the side that faces the Columbia River and Wenatchee Valley. They were nibbling on the tops of the native grass and weeds that grow wild there. (I have 10 acres and the vast majority of it has “nature’s landscaping.”) They came closer and closer. At one point, one of them was right at the edge of the gravel drive, not 100 feet from where I watched from the deck.

Herd of Bighorn Sheep
My Nikon was handy and I’d popped the 70-300mm lens on it when they first came into the yard. They were so close that I had to zoom all the way out to capture this group of the herd. This is 70mm from my deck, uncropped. A handful of others didn’t fit in the frame.

They were beautiful. And healthy. Adult females mostly, with a few youngsters.

momandkid.jpg
Another shot from my deck. This was shot at 300mm and is not cropped. They were close!

This is the video I Periscoped. It’s a shame it saves a downsampled version of the video.

I took pictures, of course. Lots of pictures. And video. I did a live broadcast on Periscope and another on Facebook. I wanted to share my experience with my friends. (I guess that’s what this blog post is about.)

I’d left the door open and when I saw them looking down at something, I followed their glance. Penny was out there, sizing them up. I didn’t want her scaring them off so I called her, softly. She seemed to debate whether she should come. But then she trotted back into the house and up the stairs. She joined me on the deck to watch them and stayed quiet.

And then they just left. After about 20 minutes grazing in my side yard, one of them headed off purposefully and the others followed. I watched them go. They crossed my driveway and then the road and headed back up toward the cliffs.

Did they come back yesterday when I was out hiking and hunting for mushrooms with a friend? I don’t know, but I bet they did. And I bet they came back today when I was out doing helicopter rides in Quincy. Tomorrow, I plan to get some work done at home. Maybe I’ll see them again.

I hope so.


* Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom was a television show about animals that originally aired from 1963 until 1988. I grew up watching this show. A new version began airing on Animal Planet in 2002. Learn more here and here.

The “Million Dollar View”

A friend reminds me about what I now take for granted.

Not sure if anyone is noticing, but I’m doing my best to blog every morning these days. That means keeping them short when I have other stuff to do. And believe me, I have a lot of other stuff to do.

Inbox
I’m ready to declare email bankruptcy and just clear all of this out.

After spending about an hour with my coffee and nightmarish email inbox, I looked up and realized that the sun had come up. I looked out my side windows — the ones facing the Wenatchee Valley and Columbia River — and was instantly rewarded with the amazing view I’ve come to take for granted.

My Amazing Morning View
Here’s what I see most mornings, right from my windows. Not too shabby, eh? Click the photo to view a much larger version where you can see the detail — including my “Lookout Point” bench in the bottom right.

I had a friend over for dinner last night. As the sun was setting, she remarked that I had a “million dollar view.” I looked out and agreed that it was beautiful. (I didn’t mention that it so often looked better.) I told her that it looked best in the morning in the golden hour light, when the low-lying sun cast deep shadows that bought out the texture of the mountains and hillsides. Like in the photo above. Same in the afternoon, when the cliffs across the river were illuminated just right. (Note to self: add photo of that.)

I’m a view person, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog. Looking out and seeing the world around me energizes me and puts me at peace — at the same time. Yes, I like tall pine trees and forests and canyons, but being surrounded by those things in tight quarters would stifle me, making me feel closed in and possibly smothered. Being able to look out and see for miles and miles makes me feel good about myself and my world.

The seasons are changing now; autumn is coming. The view changes with the seasons. Right now, the cherry orchard on the right has irrigation turned off and is being allowed to die; I suspect that when apple harvest is done, they’ll tear out those trees. Will they get new ones in before winter? Probably not; it’ll be a project I can watch in the spring. There’s still a tiny bit of snow up in the Enchantments, which are hidden in this photo by the low clouds on the left. The river bends as it makes its way into Wenatchee; in the evening, it reflects the changing color of the sky.

So much to see, right from my windows. Like an ever-changing series of paintings, a triptych with more than just three panels, separated by a few inches of wall between each view.

I cannot express how glad I am that my life took the turn it did back in 2012 when I became free to make all of my life decisions. That freedom made it possible to buy 10 acres of undeveloped land high on a cliffside shelf overlooking an amazingly beautiful valley. It made it possible for me to plan and build the home I wanted, a home that would meet my needs and bring this view into every room.

A “million dollar view”? That’s a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s priceless to me.

May Morel Mushrooms

I find and bag my first morel mushrooms.

Science Friday, an NPR radio show (also available as a podcast), did a show last Friday about mushroom hunting. It got me interested in mushrooms all over again.

Last October, I attended a weekend-long seminar at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center about mushrooms. We learned about mushrooms, hunted for mushrooms, identified mushrooms, and ate mushrooms. It was a fun weekend.

About a week later, I went mushroom hunting in the Leavenworth area with one of the other seminar attendees. We didn’t do too well, but didn’t come back empty handed, either: two chanterelles, some oyster mushrooms, and something else I can’t remember. I took home the chanterelles; my companion took the rest. I returned to the area several times since then but haven’t had any success.

I’d pretty much given up on doing any serious mushroom hunting.

And then Science Friday did their story, “Mushrooms: On the Hunt for Edibles.” And I started thinking about foraging for mushrooms all over again. After all, it was the right season for them and I knew places where the conditions might be right. So I emailed my hiking buddy Susan, who also has some mushroom foraging experience, and asked her if she was interested. Of course she was! We went out around 9 AM Monday morning.

We took the Jeep up into the mountains. That’s about as specific as I’ll get for the location. As any serious mushroom hunter will tell you, locations are never divulged. Morel mushroom hunting is serious business in Washington state; hordes of hunters cross the Cascades every weekend this time of year. Some are commercial hunters; Susan says morels are worth about $30/pound. Others are hobbyists like us who use a mushroom hunt as an excuse to get outdoors and walk around in the woods.

Although we were unable to take the Jeep as far as I’d hoped, we parked at a familiar parking area, grabbed our bags, and headed into the woods. Penny ran ahead. For the next three hours, we wandered around the underbrush on either side of trails or roads, looking for just the right environmental conditions.

Trouble was, I didn’t know the right environmental conditions. I’d never hunted for morels. The only thing I’d every heard was that they grew in areas damaged by forest fires. The Science Friday story said they grew under oak and apple trees, but we don’t have oak trees here and there aren’t any apple trees other than in orchards.

After wandering around the woods off to one side of the road, Susan climbed back down to the road. “I think there’s an easier way down over here,” she called back from up ahead.

Morel Mushrooms
From my first find. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Morel Mushrooms
Can you see all five mushrooms here? Hint: two of them are together.

Morel Mushroom
Here’s a closeup of one of the last morels I found. As you might imagine, from a distance, pinecones look similar.

I made my way through the underbrush. I was about halfway down the steep slope when I looked down and saw it: a very large morel mushroom. Within seconds, I’d seen three more.

They were beautiful — I mean, really beautiful. Perfectly shaped, popping up through the dirt looking clean and brown and exactly the way a morel should. I took photos. I marked GPS coordinates on my phone. And then I cut them and put them into my canvas bag.

Susan found the next batch not far away and packed them away in a paper bag she’d brought for the purpose.

We talked about the conditions they were growing in. Plants growing nearby. Moistness. Amount of sunlight. We found things in common between the two patches. We began getting a real idea of what to look for.

We continued wandering around, on and off the road, for the next two hours. We took turns finding mushrooms. At one point, Susan found a huge one about three inches from my foot and I spotted a smaller one nearby. At another point, I found five of them within a square foot of space. Much later, the two of us, working within 15 feet of each other, found several patches of them.

Now I don’t want you to think that the mushrooms were all over the place. Well, mushrooms were all over the place — mostly shiny brown round ones — but the morels were elusive. One of us would find a patch and then twenty minutes might go by before the other found a patch. We were out there for three hours and we each brought back maybe enough for a meal. I weighed mine when I got home: 9 ounces.

It was fun and, because we weren’t getting skunked, it never got frustrating.

It was nearly 1 PM when we called it quits. We’d only walked a little more than a mile according to my GPS tracker.

I drove us back to Susan’s place and took a quick tour of her backyard rose bushes and gardens. We talked about the mushrooms we’d found and how we each planned to double-check that we’d found morels and not false morels, which were not recommended for consumption. Then I headed home.

Later, I laid out the mushrooms I’d brought home to take a photo. I also weighted them on my postal scale: 9 ounces even. Good thing we weren’t hunting mushrooms for a living.

Morel Mushrooms
Not bad for a first time out, eh?

Dinner tonight or tomorrow: Pizza with Ramps, Morels, and Eggs. I might also try one of the recipes I found for fried morels.

And since mushrooms grow so quickly, there’s a pretty good chance there will be more to pick later this week in the same places we found them today. I’m game for another outing on Friday. I hope Susan is, too.