The fourth Thursday of November is still more than a month away, but now is the right time to go out and find that Thanksgiving staple: the cranberry. Didn’t know cranberries are growing wild in Minnesota? You’re definitely not alone. Yes, wild cranberries are fairly widespread in our great state, and with a little patience, a person can harvest enough to get a good taste. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Cranberries”
It all started on an October morning, almost a year ago: I was cruising up highway 65 with my dog Johann for an overnight grouse hunting outing in the McGregor/McGrath area. I’d had too much coffee and, well, had to go. How bad? Well, I knew I wouldn’t make it to my destination, only about 5 miles distant. So I stopped at the first opportunity, a small area to pull off the highway next to a drainage ditch. As I hurried down the berm next to the ditch, a pair of wood ducks made my heart stop when they flushed from under the bank next to me. This of course hastened the inevitable; luckily, I didn’t end up needing a change of clothes. But the combination of surprise, discovery, and frantic zipper work cemented that moment in my memory and sparked an idea. Continue reading “Do Something New: Spot & Stalk Duck Hunting”
Whether you call it Maitake, Hen of the Woods, Sheepshead, or just Bill, Grifola frondosa is a sought-after mushroom. It doesn’t seem to get the hype that morels and others do, but it is, in my opinion, one of the best-tasting, most versatile, all-around great mushrooms. I get downright giddy when the summer is coming to a close and I can start checking my favorite spots. Throughout the season, I see a lot of excitement on social media over some really mundane mushrooms like Pheasant Back and Chicken of the Woods; frankly, I don’t get it. Maybe taste and texture don’t matter as much to other people. Don’t get me wrong; I eat those too when I find them. But for me, there are few mushrooms I’d rather find than Maitake when I head out the door. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Maitake”
After a hot and sweaty couple of miles on the trail, it didn’t matter how cold the water might be or that there wasn’t really a beach. Once we’d found our campsite, taken off our packs, and changed, my kids and I took to the lake for our hard-earned reward. We spent about an hour playing in the water before going ashore for a break. I was made to promise we weren’t done swimming. After sitting in the shade and eating raspberries a while, my son said wistfully, “I wish we could stay here a week, just to swim and eat berries.” He was in paradise. We all were. Continue reading “Bring a Kid: Backpacking”
- Do Something New: Tapping Maple Trees and Making Syrup
- Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Chaga
- Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Cranberries
- Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Maitake
- Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Wild Hazelnuts
- Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Chokecherries
- Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Thimbleberries
- Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Chanterelles
- Foraging in Minnesota: The Early Season, Part 1
When nature isn’t giving you what you want, maybe you have to re-think what you want from nature. Such was the case for us a few years ago on Labor Day weekend. Raspberries and others were a disappointment that year, and I had wanted to try making some jellies or jams. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Chokecherries”
Are you looking for a way to get kids into the outdoors? Do you want to do something simple, accessible, universally appealing, and fun? Take them berry picking.
I took my kids yesterday to some public land in east central Minnesota with the hope of finding some mushrooms and, if lucky, some raspberries or blueberries. Well, blueberries ended up being the main attraction, with some bonus raspberries and mushrooms as well. This is why we call it “foraging,” and not simply “harvesting.” You just never know what you’re going to find. Continue reading “Bring a Kid: Berry Picking in MN”
A few years ago, my dad told me a story about a guy who had a cabin across the lake from our family’s place up north. Legend has it he picked some mushrooms and brought them home for his wife to cook up. When she expressed her doubts, he proclaimed, “I know my mushrooms!” and slammed his fist down on the table. She cooked, he ate, he died.
Now, I have no idea what those mushrooms were. What I do know is that people die or become very sick every year from mushroom poisoning, or mycetism. It is unfortunate but almost inevitable. Continue reading “Death By Mushroom”
The young jack pines were thick and visibility was limited where my dog and I searched for the elusive spruce grouse. Lush green moss covered the ground and made for easy walking. All at once, my eyes were drawn to a handful of bright yellow spots off to my left; they glowed on the dark moss, almost as if lit from within. I knew instantly they might very well be the other prize I was looking for: chanterelle mushrooms. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Focus on Chanterelles”
There is a pathetic time of year that comes after the ice melts and before spring really gets going. Fishing is slow, and turkey hunting hasn’t yet started. It seems every year during this time I find myself itching to get outside and just do something, if only because the weather can be so seductive. This year, I came across a couple mentions of spring sucker fishing that really piqued my interest, especially when I read that suckers are supposed to be tasty when smoked. I thought about when and where I might be able to try this, but didn’t come up with much; I spent a couple hours probing a creek by my house with no results. Then it dawned on me that I’d have the opportunity to try some cold northern rivers on my way to see the sharp-tailed grouse dance (another story, another time). Perfect. Once I’d identified my chance, I couldn’t not try my hand at sucker fishing. Continue reading “Do Something New: Sucker Fishing (And Smoking)”
Every year on social media, there are people looking for suggestions for good mushroom guidebooks. While browsing the internet or (especially) the bookstore, it becomes clear that some books are not put together well, some are not good for Eastern U.S. foragers, and some are just plain junk. While I’m not saying these are the three “best” books on the market (a pointless judgment call, really), I will describe what I like about each and why I would recommend each. Continue reading “Book Review: Three Mushroom Guides”
On an early spring morning this year, I was attending a dress rehearsal for a performance of Mozart’s Requiem mass, one of his most recognizable and beloved works, and a perennial favorite (Ironically, Mozart left it unfinished when he died at the young age of 35, and much of the music wasn’t actually written by him). There I was, sitting in a church pew and watching the fast-passing altostratus clouds through a window high overhead, when the orchestra and choir started the Lacrimosa movement. I was utterly blindsided. The sight of cottony clouds streaking across the blue set to the soundtrack of a true master was profoundly and inexplicably moving. It was the kind of moment that makes a person gasp, and its abrupt arrival magnified its effects on me at least threefold. It was an unexpected moment of beauty that would change the whole week to come. Continue reading “Beauty: Birch, Mozart, and Human Nature”
Last week at this time, my immediate environment was about as good as it gets. I was in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for the first time in winter, trying to catch some bonus fish for the 2017-18 season. The MN DNR’s website pointed me to a lake within a moderate hike from an entry point, which has historically supported a bountiful tullibee fishery. I had wanted to fish it so badly in February or March, but gave up when I had a lot of work on my plate that prevented me from getting away. However, an extended period of abnormal cold preserved the ice perfectly for a good three weeks or more, prolonging the ice fishing season. I saw it as my chance. Continue reading “Do Something New: Ice Fishing in the BWCA (Lessons Learned)”
Fanned and Feathered, Mille Lacs Lake, January 2018
There probably is not a more ordinary thing than the sky. It is like time, gravity, and the sun: ever-present, predictable, and seldom noticed or pondered. Continue reading “2017-18 Ice Fishing Retrospective: Winter Skies”
-a father and husband
-a classical musician of over 20 years
-an Eagle Scout
-a hunter, fisherman, forager
-a hiker and camper
-a fierce do-it-yourselfer
-a public-land user and advocate
-an amateur naturalist
-an adventurer at heart
I live on the north side of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, seemingly far from the wilds of Minnesota (it seems far, but I’ve found that, in truth, adventure is often very close). Over the course of the year, I turn to the woods to hunt, fish, forage, hike, camp, explore, and generally escape. My outdoor interests are diverse and tend to multiply as the years roll on. For instance, when I say I fish, that doesn’t begin to paint the whole picture. I fish in rivers and lakes, in water or on the ice, for almost anything that swims in Minnesota: walleye, panfish, pike, catfish, trout, rough fish. I simply cannot imagine doing the same thing time after time, year in and year out. I need variety and new challenges. I am always looking for something new to do and somewhere new to do it.
I grew up in southern Minnesota with two younger brothers, in the heart of farm country. Which is not to say I grew up on a farm, however; we lived in a moderate-size town, on the side of the hill, in the woods. That was where I was made to be a naturalist. Learning the names of the trees and other plants, observing birds and learning their names and habits, and watching what happened as seasons slowly traded places were my endless play. Not knowing it, I was setting the stage for a lifelong obsession with the outdoors that goes far beyond what can merely be taken home to eat.
In the last ten years or so my outdoor interests- already numerous- became increasingly diverse and called me ever stronger into the outdoors. Coincidentally or not, this is also roughly how long I’ve been a father, and the experiences of passing on what I know and discovering new things alongside my kids have been nothing short of inspiring. I have seen how a simple outing, like a short “nature walk,” can do a complete makeover on their attitudes. I have also seen how the more monumental undertakings, like an overnight backpacking trip, usually become landmarks in their lives and are already shaping the people they are becoming. Their fascination with the things we do and find in nature is intense and usually lasts as long as their youthful energy. Not only are they stimulated by quality time in the outdoors, but they are enriched by it. It really is that simple: it is good for them. It is good for us all. It is well known that today’s youth are generally afflicted by “nature deficit disorder” as they become more urbanized and more isolated from any form of nature, and I am determined that my own kids will not be among their ranks.
This website is dedicated to the idea that when we venture outdoors, it doesn’t matter if we return with a stringer full of fish, a basket full of mushrooms, a belly full of berries, or nothing at all. What does matter is that we do it, we make memories, and we make our lives richer. No matter what, it’s Never A Goose Chase.