C’mon. I’m a Fungi. Fun Guy. Whatever.

I’ve covered nearly all of our new 30 acres on foot and with a gun. In my travels, I’ve seen lots of mushrooms and fungi.  One of the major reasons we moved here is because we bleed money on food every month.  We’ve got four children and two of us.  I’ve got multiple food allergies and intolerances.  That’s why I’m skinny.  We spend about $750 – $1000 a month on food alone.  Along with what we intend to grow, I’m interested in getting to know about fungi.  And because I’m a dad, I have to make a ridiculous pun about fungi and being a fun guy.  It’s right there in the title.

The forested part of our land is overgrown, falling down and about twenty years overdue for a cutting.  We’ve got a lot of small birches that have been wind damaged or given way to the poor management practices of the previous owners.  One thing I’ve noticed a lot of are these little guys.


There’s a bazillion of them.  I decided to do some research.  They are called birch polypores.

From Wikipedia:

“Piptoporus betulinus, commonly known as the birch polypore, birch bracket, or razor strop, is one of the most common polyporous bracket fungi and, as the name suggests, grows almost exclusively on birch trees. The brackets burst out from the bark of the tree, and these fruiting bodies can last for more than a year. Technically, it is an edible mushroom, with a strong, pleasant “mushroomy” odor but a bitter taste. The velvety cut surface of the fruiting body was traditionally used as a strop for finishing the finest of edges on razors. It is also said to have medicinal properties.”


From medicalmushrooms.net:

“One of its most important health benefits is boosting the immune system. This is particularly important because a body with a strong immune system does not suffer ill health easily. The fungus also boasts antiseptic properties. It prevents infections when used as bandage. In fact, some testimonies by people who have used it are interesting and fascinating. Users have said that not only does the mushroom heal the wound, but that it also leaves no scar even when the wound was deep.

The Birch Bracket Mushroom is anti-inflammatory. This means that it is capable of reducing or entirely numbing pain without touching on the Central Nervous System. Such natural products are in great demand because many ailments cause inflammation at some stage, and often synthetic medications trigger unwanted side effects. In other instances, medications themselves cause inflammation and products from this mushroom can be taken alongside such medications to neutralize inflammation. 

Other reports (Keller et al, 2002) mentioned Piptamine as an antibiotic in Piptoporus Betulinus. In the studies, the extracts successfully wiped out the bacterium Escherichia coli. It also killed other harmful bacteria mainly Bacillussubtilis and Biomphalariaglabrata which was not spared either. This confirms that this mushroom is extremely important in the field of medicine.

Research done earlier on had confirmed the presence of nucleic acid in the mushroom that was able to attack and incapacitate the virus encephalitis (Kandefer-Szerszen et al, 1979). The mushroom therefore can claim to have anti-viral properties.

The mushroom, Piptoporus Betulinus, is hailed as being able to fight tumours. Research done based on white mice proved that the Polysaccharides in the mushroom are were to curb the advancement of Ehrlich solid cancers by 90%. They were also able to restrict the advancement of Sarcoma 180 by the same percentage. (Ohtsukaet al, 1973).”


Well, crap.  I guess I have to try some, right?

Another interesting fact, and pardon me for going geek, is the fact that Otzi the Iceman carried birch polypores on him.  If you don’t know who Otzi was, read up on him.  There are lots of articles and documentaries.  I’ve been studying that case for a long time and it is completely enthralling.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.


Multipurpose Hunting Tools

I went home a few weekends ago (home being northern Maine).  I brought my boys there to hang out with my family and to do some grouse hunting.  It was pretty windy that day, but my cousin managed to drop one bird in my lap.  I got to try out an old Remington 870 (full choke) I recently picked up and I was very pleased with its performance.


My cousin showed me his new ammunition belt.  I shot a glance at it and thought it might be a little overkill, as it was packed with 12 gauge shells, but then he explained it to me.  He had grouse loads, buck shot and slugs.  Different rounds for different tags.  It struck me that what he was doing made absolute sense for me.  Here on our new farm, I’m hunting grouse, turkeys, and deer, now that it’s November.  I nailed a couple of turkeys, too.  They aren’t trophy winners, but they certainly tasted good.



I dug through my storage when I got home and found a bandoleer I made about seven or eight years ago.  I made it just to make it.  Talked about the zombie apocalypse when I showed it to buddies, just for laughs.  It cost me about $3.00 in hobby leather and took me about 4 hours to make.  I’ve got it loaded it with 5 shot, 4 shot, buckshot and some slugs.  As you can see, I was wearing it on both occasions.  I figure if I get out into the wooded area of our property, making my tools work for me in different circumstances just makes sense.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel……out.

Ar15 vs. AK47 vs. Mosin Nagant 

I grabbed this off Tumblr. A few articles ago, I mounted a scope to my mosin. I haven’t used it too much- fired it out the window on my brother’s car the night I bought it. I assume I hit the highway sign, but it was still standing the next day, so it must have been a light load. 

My Mosin was a gift from Mike, and I swapped him an old Stevens 12 gauge break open with a broken ejector. When you went hunting, you cut a straight stick a little longer than the barrel, and pop the shell out by ramming the stick down the barrel. 

I’ve got an AR that I built, it’s nice. I’ve got an SKS, not an AK, but I enjoy it as well. The SKS is nice, it centers itself well, so you can pull up and nail your target without even thinking about it. I tore the throat out of a running groundhog from about 30 foot away. Serves him right for getting into Grandma Joe’s garden! 

By this comparison though, I need to use my mosin a little more! 

AR-15 vs AK-47 vs Mosin Nagant

AR15: You measure your misses by sub MOA measurements

AK47: You miss and, and aim a bit lower this time.

Mosin-Nagant: Even if you miss the shock wave of the bullet will kill the animal.

AR15: You are careful to keep in clean in the field.

AK47: You don’t worry so much about some dirt getting in it.

Mosin-Nagant: It still has gritty grease inside it from when the Finnish army put it into storage.

AR15: Your bayonet will do an alright job of butchering your kill if needed.

AK47: The bayonet doubles as a decent hunting knife.

Mosin-Nagant: Your bayonet can be used to spit roast an entire pig.

AR15: Nice and light for carrying over obstructions.

AK47: Handy package for carrying over obstructions.

Mosin-Nagant: You can pole vault over obstructions.

AR15: Melts IN the fire
AK47: Starts ON fire
Mosin-Nagant: Starts THE fire.

AR15: With a custom barrel, Varmint Scope, and gunsmith trigger job, you can vaporize prairie dogs at 600 yards.

AK47: With a good rain, you can wait hidden in the mud at the side of a watering hole and wait for the game to come to you for a shot within 10 yards.

Mosin-Nagant: With a solid shooting position, you can hit that deer on the other side of the valley… and recover the bullet in the tree it was standing in front of.

AR-15: Carried by elite special forces and highly-trained American soldiers

AK-47: Carried by illiterate peons and unwilling conscripts.

Mosin-Nagant-Nagant: Carried by Vassily Zaitsev.

AR15: Might just stop that charging terrorist with a three round burst

AK47: Would stop the terrorist in his tracks

Mosin-Nagant: Would stop the charging terrorist, his three buddies, and blow up the IED in the next block from the shockwave of the bullet…

AR15: Shoots a .22.

AK47: Shoots a carbine round.

Mosin-Nagant: Shoots a cannonball.

AR15: Shoot it in the air it goes a mile.

AK47: Shoot it in the air it goes ½ a mile.

Mosin-Nagant: Shoot it in the air and someone in Berlin gets hit by a bullet.

AR15: Sounds like a pop gun.

AK47: Sounds like a machine gun.

Mosin-Nagant: Sounds like the Trinity Atomic Blast.

AR15: Sometimes mistaken for a toy.

AK47: Sometimes mistaken for random parts.

Mosin-Nagant: Sometimes mistaken for an artillery piece, or an anti-aircraft gun.

AR15: Finicky when dirty.

AK47: Still works when dirty.

Mosin-Nagant: Arrives Dirty from the Distributor.

AR15: Makes a small hole in a tree

AK47: Makes a medium sized hole in a tree

Mosin-Nagant: Blows tree in half making firewood available.

AR15: Lots of fancy optics available

AK47: You can bolt some stuff to the side

Mosin-Nagant: Who cares about optics when the barrel is long enough to smack the enemy over the head without even leaving your foxhole.

AR15: Made by a stoned Eugene.

AK47: Made by an injured Kalashnikov.

Mosin-Nagant: Made by a drunken Belgian and a crazy Ivan.


The Wall of Axes

We bought a farm on 30 acres and moved in a two weeks ago.  Half of it is open fields and brush and the other half is well forested and has been mismanaged for a long period of time.  When unpacking, I decided to take inventory of what I have and don’t have to help me through the situation.


Lots of axes and a few handsaws.  Don’t worry; there’s a 59cc chainsaw as well, which isn’t pictured.  I do need to pick up a peavey.  Somewhere in the move, I lost mine.  Not sure how you misplace a peavey, but if anyone can do it, it’s me.

I took my first hike to the back of the property and into the woods.  I brought the boys along, just so we could take stock of what resources we have back there and so that they could get a sense of what is now theirs.  I figure we’ll clear brush and branches this fall and get in there to cut firewood this winter.  I’m going to try to twitch the wood out with a small snowmobile.  Our farm is currently being farmed organically by a neighbor.  Here’s what he’s doing with the cabbage.  You should see the tomatoes and peppers!


We hiked into the woods.  Lots of conifers and most of the hardwood is small and young.  We saw a lot of situations like the picture below.  I was actually really excited to see so much blown-over timber because we’re going to need dry firewood and I don’t want to buy any this year.


Below, you can see newer growth coming up under older trees.  Some of the older trees need to be thinned to allow the smaller ones to come up through.  I’d say some of the smaller ones need to be thinned as well.


I saw a lot of duff disturbances like the one pictured below.  I’m attributing them to skunks.  I think they’re nosing around, looking for grubs or other things to eat.  I suppose a bear might do it as well, but I didn’t see any sign or scat.


Most of the boundaries are defined by rock walls.  This area is still farmed heavily and was back when the house was built in 1900.  I love the rock walls.  There’s a lot of work and character in them.  Think about all of that sweat.


Many piles of deer scat.  I’d like to think they are from multiple deer, but my feeling is more that it’s one deer that’s heavily haunting the area.  I plan to get a game camera at some point to find out if we’re dealing with a buck or a doe.  Doe hunting in Maine is on a lottery system.  I missed the resident deadline by about a week.


No farm would be complete without it’s own swamp, right?


Not sure what the bone is from.  If I had to guess, I’d say it was from a fawn deer.


Not a bad hike.  Stay tuned.  We’ve got a lot to deal with, including wormy apples, a collapsing roof on a shed, bush hogging and more.


Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike Oscar Hotel

Wilderness walking with the Stowaways

My wife loves to plan out adventures. She’ll plan to leave the house for a trip to Eastern Market on Saturday. So, a week before, she’ll start to organize and plan logistics, figure out what the kids will wear, set aside diapers for Sunshine and a change of clothes for Danger, make sure that she sets aside a shirt that won’t have my gut hanging out from under it (which is harder and harder to do nowadays), and make sure we have a list, map, proper training, and a market-buddy.

I took off with the kids and a wagon, then realized we had no sunscreen, so I found a place that had lots of shade. Who says dad’s can’t plan?! I have a wagon!


And sunglasses. Couldn’t forget the sunglasses. This photo op was all them, by the way.

So I recalled a park not being far from my house, so I set out in that general direction.. And got lost. So I typed it into my phone, found it, and drove over – wrong park. But, we were here, and they were huge and interesting and had a shaded playground, so we stayed. While the kids threw a half-rotten apple at each other, that they had found under an apple tree, I consulted the map and found a nature trail on the property. It turns out that Heritage park (http://fhgov.com/Activities/Parks-Facilities/Heritage-Park.aspx) was a good pic after all! After I grabbed Danger as he was trying to recreate some Isaac Newton on Sunshine’s head, we loaded back into the car and drove over to go for a walk (irony intended). We unloaded and proceeded.


I know it has been a theme before, but I feel guilty about my children missing out on a lot of the opportunities that I had. We were booted out of the house early in the morning with a machete and a dusting of fly spray, and showed up again that night. We lived in the middle of the woods with swamps, animals, rusted cars, rivers, and other random litter-azi filling the landscape. My kids live in one of the top 10 largest cities in Michigan, have a backyard the size of a postage stamp, and think ‘foraging’ means raiding the cupboard if they get up before I do. So I am attempting to teach them about life in the woods. Forget that ‘Salt Life’ nonsense, Pine Life for the win.


What you can barely see in the picture is a Whitetail doe. We came up to a crabapple tree. I kept the lecture small, I didn’t discuss apple-whipping but I did bring up waiting until after the first frost to eat one. It went without saying that you REALLY don’t eat 20 of them in one sitting, or you will know every knot on the crapper door by the time you recover. Who says I didn’t learn anything as a child?! Peeking through the leaves was a deer!IMG_1308

Next, some snails. My kids had never seen one outside an aquarium before, and Danger was quite surprise to see that they were nowhere near water. Yes, son, the media lies to you.

I didn’t realize it, but I had started a mantra at this point. Sunshine wanted to hold it, and she wanted to touch and hold everything, which I applauded but always cushioned it with a warning. By the time we found the slugs, her question was always “dada, I hold? I no eat.” You laugh, but she needed to be reminded.

We did accomplish a little foraging. We found some raspberries. We saw some chokecherries as well – I was always told they weren’t good (the name alone suggests a certain amount of heck-no) but In Latvia, they leave it on the plate as an edible garnish. This didn’t seem like the time to start.


We then went off-grid. We hopped out of the wagon and walked over to a small stream meandering through the woods. We paused for a photo session, but Danger was being crazy and Sunshine wasn’t impressed by how much the tree was swaying.IMG_1312

IMG_1314We found another tree crossing the water, so another photo op. Danger decided that it was a bridge, and asked me to cross it. Since I know how quick I can turn a bridge into a submarine (it’s not magic, it’s that jerk called gravity), I told him to go ahead. We had to pose for pictures first, which was interrupted by Sunshine checking a knothole out to see if any turtles were emerging.IMG_1315IMG_1317

We decided to press and come back to the bridge, as I wanted to deal with wet clothes after the exploring, not before. We found a toad! Sunshine was glad it was just a toad. Up until now, everything that moved was “AH! ‘NAKE!” My shoelaces had been AH NAKE! about 10 times, as was random branches, the slug, a snapping turtle who had heard them crashing through teh woods and took off underwater, and her brother, about 15 times. So, the rustling in the grass wasn’t a snake, but was instead a slightly confused toad. “Oooh, toad! I hode, I no eat?”IMG_1319

On the way back from our off-road excursion, I authorized traversing the 10 foot stream via the fallen log. IMG_1320

Yup, made it about that far. Good on him for trying though!

A little further on, and we saw fawns! I’m sure most of you know, mother deer (probably the ones we saw) will leave their fawns alone for the day and go browse, which was probably what happened to these little guys that you can barely, if at all, see in my picture. They were tiny little dudes, they couldn’t have been more than a few months old. The kids got to see them, and we crept pretty close to check them out.

One thing that amazed me – this was a Saturday morning on a popular trail. It was a little over a mile in length, and shaded (Had we gone fishing, I always have spray in the creel. Oh well), so it was a pretty popular spot to hike, jog, or just walk. And so everyone but us passed stuff like this by! Baby fawns, and they didn’t even notice! Snapping turtle, bigger than a trash can lid, just swimming under a bridge while a power walker, fists pumping and much the same expression as the turtle, just pounded right by above his head. So many people were out on the trail, and so few saw the trail. It was pretty amazing.IMG_1322

Look up, right about heeeeeere |IMG_1324

That was enough fauna, lets get to the flora. When I was a kid, we knew exactly what we could and couldn’t eat in the woods. I’ve shared a raspberry patch with a bear before, no one argued as there were plenty of berries for the both of us. Alpine strawberries, blueberries, hazelnuts (learned real quick that you don’t touch the husks with bare hands), acorns; anything that you could eat without having to go back to the house for lunch, we did eat. I started showing them all the pretty flowers, their names, and what you could do with them (although to be honest, other than shining a buttercup under Danger’s face to see it turn yellow, I was pretty tapped out on woodland knowledge).IMG_1327

Pine cone!IMG_1328Birch bark! Funny side story – Mike Oscar and I used to work at a wilderness camp for kids. At the end of the week, he would tear off a few pieces of birchbark off a few trees, and write a little award on the piece and give it to each kid. Ranger award for someone who could do everything, MVP award, stuff like that. We had one troublesome camper who just made our lives miserable and wrapped the whole week around herself (as opposed to the one staunch camper who won hide and seek by hiding in the deep grass. “I knew you would never look for me there because you know I’m allergic to grass!” she wheezed out while we dabbed lotion on the welts on her exposed skin. Um, good job?), so it was difficult to find a meaningful award to give. Mike Oscar  suggested the Donner Party award.

“If we were snowed in on a mountain pass, we’d eat her first.”

True enuff.

After finishing the walk with stories of all you could do with a good piece of birchbark, we made our way back to the car. I’m sure the kids promptly forgot 100% of the knowledge I’d attempted to pass on to them. They liked the camp robber jay we saw, but they were uninterested in how easy it was to lure one to your hand.

What I hope they will remember, is that it’s a pretty big world out there, and that you’ll find some answers in the woods.

The woods are more than just trees, and there is a little pine sap in their blood.

Keep your head on straight, mom and dad will be back to take care of you.

Don’t eat the slugs.