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Foraging New Jersey – Late Summer Mushrooms!

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Despite sporadic rains the late summer mushroom harvest has been tremendously strong. I’ve been finding Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) and Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) in great quantity. Others species have also been abundant including Oysters (Pleurotus ostreatus), Ringless Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria tabescens), Aborted Entoloma (Entoloma abortivum), Bears Tooth (Hericium) and Cauliflower (Sparassis) mushrooms.  Each of these when properly identified and if found fresh can be a primary ingredient in many a delicious meal.

 

 

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Early Summer Trout Fishing, Foraging & Campfire Cookery

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Met up with my friend Jared at the end of June to paddle on the Musconetcong River in New Jersey but low water levels changed our plans and so we decided to do some trout fishing, foraging and campfire cooking.

We lucked out with a Rainbow Trout, Milkweed Flowers, Monarda, Nodding Onion, Day Lilly, Wood Nettle, Elderberry Flowers, Bay Berry and a mix of wild fruits including raspberry, mulberry and strawberry.

It turned out to be a most delicious meal and a fun challenge to feed ourselves from the local landscape.

 

Venison Jerky with the Little Chief Smoker

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My Little Chief Smoker has been very busy since this past deer season. While I do like to package and prepare back-straps, tenderloin and roast for future meals, the majority of the meat from this years harvests went into the jerky pile.

My technique is to slice pieces clean to remove any sinew or cartilage and fill a gallon zip lock bag.

Venison Jerky and Backstraps with Old Hickory

I’ll add approximately 2 cups of soy sauce, 1 cup of honey or maple sugar and some heavy splashes of garlic powder, chili powder, salt and pepper and some chili flakes.  It’s best to let it all marinate 24 hours in the refrigerator with a flip or two to make sure all pieces get even coverage.

  

Next it goes into a strainer for a few minutes so that pieces can be lifted out without them dripping marinade and they are placed onto the racks of my Little Chief for smoking. If not complete dried I’ll place the pieces into the refrigerator or leave them in a dry environment and in a breathable paper bag so moisture can continue to escape.

  

Groomsman Gifts: Helle Viking Knife Blanks

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Last year with the help of a friend I had purchased Helle Viking Knife blanks from Ragweed Forge to make into groomsman gifts for a commission. We visited Dixon’s Muzzleloading Shop to pick-up gun stock scraps of tiger maple for the handles and scraps of leather to make into sheaths.

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We shaped the handles and hand sanded with 220 grit on the wood and 400 at grit on the bolster edge.

We then raised the grain on the wood 3x. The process was the apply water to the wood with fingers, use a propane torch to rapidly dry the wood to raise the grain and rub the wood smooth again with 0000 steel wool.

Next the Aquafortis acid stain was applied with a dauber to all handles. The torch was used to oxidize the stain and the heat turned the wood reddish brown. This was started at the bolster because the brass acts as a heat sink and a yellow ring will form at the wood below the bolster if not enough heat is applied.

The torch heat was then passed over the whole handle with just enough heat to make the stain oxidize. If the wood became scorched it could be rubbed out with steel wool. The heat was passed over gently trying to remove any sections with a yellow cast so all was oxidized.

This process was done again starting with a second coat of stain.

The acid was finally neutralized with a mix of 8oz water and couple teaspoons of baking soda, all applied with a dauber. A light bubbling action resulted.

With the wood still warm, it was rubbed with 0000 steel wool and boiled linseed oil. This allowed the oil to soak in and also remove any scorching while bringing up the grain and highlighting the beautiful striations within the wood.

More coats of boiled linseed oil were applied over the next few days allowing the wood to absorb as much as possible.

The knife handles were left to dry before finally packaging in brown grocery paper with a Ballistol wipe and care instructions and wrapped with jute string.

Simulated Native American Artifact Excavation Activity

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If you ask kids today how we know what we know about a subject they often will answer “google” or the “internet”. Try it.

To get students to think of themselves as seekers of knowledge, I’m always trying to create lessons that allow them to comprehend information through their own discoveries. This makes lessons more personal, meaningful and memorable.

To help elementary age students learn about the Lenape or Delaware Native Americans I create a simulated artifact excavation activity. I’ll bury animal bones (mostly deer and bear), pottery shards, arrowheads, shells and stones. The students become archaeologists making exciting discoveries as they excavate, clean, record and organize findings.

When ready we circle around the findings and one at a time discuss what we think an item is, what it was used for and what the modern equivalent might be.

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Can You Dig It!

Uncover and analyze artifacts in an

attempt to reconstruct aspects of 

New Jersey Indian Life and Culture.

 

Lesson:

Participants approach excavation site to uncover artifacts of the Lenape people in a simulated archaeological dig.

    • Job 1 Digging: This team works to take layer by layer the soil including artifacts from the site to provide to the sifters.
    • Job 2 Sifting: at this station material from the dig is sorted through to remove the artifacts.  The team works together to find everything they can.  Encourage the group to be meticulous in the sorting process, small objects may be harder to find.
    • Job 3 Sorting: This team is responsible for sorting the objects in similar piles.  This can be done in containers of different sizes.
    • Job 4 Recording: Using the grid view data sheet recorders document what quadrant and depth level items were discovered.

Extension:

  • Arrowhead Necklace: Allow participants to search in a simulated archeological dig to find arrowheads. The arrowheads can be tied up with cord to make a necklace.  Explain that in a real dig the archaeologists would never take anything because they would go to a museum for everyone to study and enjoy.
  • Ask participants to make a mystery box of artifacts from their life. Allow teams to try and reconstruct the persons life from the items brought in to share.

Wild Mushroom and Venison Meals

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Autumn has arrived and so has the excitement of finding delicious mushrooms on forest walks.

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Hen of the Woods & Chicken of the Woods

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Together my wife and I made Anthony Bourdain’s Mushroom Soup Recipe.

The same day I managed to harvest a doe from the forest and it being Saturday, we finally had the time to try butchering it ourselves. The process was very time consuming having not done it before but very much rewarding. We took our time scavenging all the meat including the smallest scraps that would be put into a grinder with a mix of bacon fat.

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Exhausted, I threw some in a pan with a few slices of mushrooms for a quick meal.

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But later after all was packaged, placed in the freezer and wiped clean multiple times… my wife made the most delicious venison meatballs with home grown tomato sauce.

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It was a rewarding day and felt like a culmination of skills recently learned put into the culture of our daily lives.

Foraging & Making PawPaw Crescent Rolls

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Took a drive out to a forest in Pennsylvania with a known spot for foraging wild PawPaw.
The broad leaves of the tree give a jungle like feel to the forest and produce a sweet sugary fruit full of large seeds.

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My companions as botanists had a secondary goal beyond enjoying the fruit in the shade of the forest.
They plan to grow trees from the seed for their own backyards and to share through a native wild plant nursery.

We tasted and collected many fruits to find the most choice potential seeds.

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I gathered them gently in a basket hoping to avoid bruising the highly delicate fruit.

Along the Way, I found some very large and abundant Spicebush berries.

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and some Jewelweed seeds that have a taste very similar to walnut.

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Afterwards, I wanted to make a pawpaw crescent roll.

To do so, I made a mini fire to have just enough coals to cook over. The goal is to gently bake the crescent but not the pawpaw in a tinfoil pouch. A flip after 3 minutes and about 2 more minutes provided a delicious fruit filled pastry treat..

 

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