The Mysterious Forest

Years ago, before I started paying attention to mushrooms, the forest was something I quickly walked through on my way to a trout stream. When you slow down and start to look carefully, though, you can find the strangest things growing in the woods. IMG_2014These mushrooms look like something you might see under the sea. Comparing to photos and descriptions in my field guides and online, I’d say these are very likely Clavulinopsis fusiformis, the Spindle-Shaped Coral.  If so, these are in fact edible, but very bitter, making them unpalatable.

Craterellus ignicolor?

Please excuse the quality of the photograph…I was rushing because it was drizzling some and I didn’t want to get my camera phone wet.IMG_2006 We found some of these on the Go Home Lake mushroom hunt. I checked some different references and have seen them referred to as trumpet chanterelles or as Craterellus ignicolor. I also saw reference to trumpet chanterelles associated with the name Cantharellus tubaeformis, and a reference that suggested these small chanterelles are all the same.  In any case they are a tasty edible mushroom, and this is the first time I’ve seen (and eaten) specimens of them.

Speaking of eating mushrooms, my friends Robin and Jamie cooked up an amazing mushroom soup featuring all the different kinds of mushrooms we picked on Saturday. This they served with fried catfish (good job fishing Bill!) and crusty bread. What a feast!

Go Home Lake Mushroom Hunt

Saturday morning I drove up to Go Home Lake, where I was invited to lead a mushroom hunt – the second annual. I’m no pro mycologist, but I can reliably identify a good number of tasty edibles as well as some of the nasty poisonous ones, and I was confident that I could again show a group some of the mushrooms that are good to eat from our forests.

Not long after I arrived, a downpour began which more or less stopped at the appointed start time. Still we had a group of enthusiastic cottagers, eager to learn a little about the mushrooms in their back yard.

Of course, if you’re a dog, the rain means mud-puddles and everybody knows dogs love mud puddles.

Memphis vs muck
Memphis vs muck

We did find a good variety of tasty edible mushrooms, including horn of plenty (trumpets), hedgehogs, chanterelles, puffballs and corals. We found enough that everyone on the hunt left with a good selection of tasty mushrooms.

Horn of Plenty
Horn of Plenty

There was even time for a little fishin’ after the hunt and again today.

Go Home Lake bass
Go Home Lake bass

This morning, Jamie cooked a fantastic bbq breakfast of bacon, omelets and pancakes, served with maple syrup Jamie made this year from local trees.

Of course this cottage life does take a lot out of a guy….

Tuckered Georgie crashes
Tuckered Georgie crashes


Off the mainstream and into the ditch?

A few months ago, a friend of mine said, “hey Eugene, you just like music that is outside the mainstream just because it’s outside the mainstream.” I protested. “No I don’t think so, I just like what I like.” After some consideration though, I wonder if there isn’t just a little bit of truth to what he suggested. After all, by the mid-70s, I found most of the music coming out of the star-maker machine pretty hard to take. I recall taking refuge by listening to Joe Louis hosting Folk Music and Folk Ways on “Ryerson Radio” every Saturday. That’s where I first heard Doc and Merle Watson. That was an eye-opener.  And U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest. That was a mind-bender.

Like many others looking for something else, I listened to my share of punk and so-called New Wave, and I enjoyed a lot of that, though I obviously didn’t fit into that scene. Sorry sir, no nice sweaters allowed in here. Even today – I listen to a lot of hardcore old time music – I can’t help but think it’s not a big jump from there to punk, kind of like The Pogues and Irish folk music. I recall seeing Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Mink DeVille on one bill back in 1978 at Massey Hall. I was beginning to think pop music had a future. To this day I still love Nick Lowe’s music and all his recordings get a lot of play around this joint.

By university, I was a confirmed blues freak. I loved all the older obscure stuff (and I was sure it wasn’t just because it was old and obscure) and I wasn’t so crazy about “blues rock” and all the guitar hero blues guys. Toronto was a hotbed of the blues in those days. I got to see live performances by Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Sunnyland Slim, Bo Diddley, Eddy Clearwater, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Honeyboy Edwards, Son Seals, Mighty Joe Young, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and more.

And there was Zydeco too, Fernest Arceneaux and the Thunders at the Horseshoe, Queen Ida, Terence Simien and the Mallet Playboys. And R&B. Hank Ballard and The Midnighters came to town, with horn section and matching outfits and choreography and The Twist. And then in the 80s there was Handsome Ned playing Lefty Frizzell tunes for Queen Streeters.

At some point in the early 2000s, i fell hard for accordion music, especially all things button accordion. I bought one, a vintage Hohner Corona II, which I still have today and vowed to learn to play. How hard could it be with only 31 buttons on the right side. Piece of cake. Then I discovered it was bi-sonoric, meaning each button had two notes, depending on the direction of the air. Still I persevered and learned to play pretty well. It opened up a whole world for me, from the driving polka of Scrubby and the Dynatones to Portuguese corridinhos to the music of Uruguayan gauchos to Basque Trikitixas.

It was a whirlwind world tour of free-reed ethnic folk music and I was loving it. Sun Ra was right. There are other worlds they have not told you of.

And speaking of Sun Ra, who I saw live in NYC in 1983, I found a little room in there for jazz.

I blame my brother the trout, Salvelinas Fontinalis for re-sparking in me a deep interest in hardcore oldtime music and particularly clawhammer banjo. Since I started playing banjo less than two years ago, I’ve immersed myself in old time music and I’ve been playing constantly. I’ve even fooled a few people into thinking I’m doing OK at it.

The fact is I came by my eclectic musical tastes honestly. The first record I owned was a copy of Ernest Tubb’s Walking the Floor over You. I knew all the lyrics to The Wreck of the Old 97 by age 8. I was the only kid on the block who, from exposure to Dad’s Dixieland, knew my Kid Ory from my Wingy Manone. I don’t think I set out to stray from the mainstream as a strategy. Still, I’m very conscous that culture or some version of culture is marketed to us extremely heavily. Just consider that there are now game shows for becoming a pop star, and strangely, they are very very successful.

I suppose anytime you ignore all the mass market stuff and choose your music or your art or your literature on your own, regardless of how it happened, it’s a little bit revolutionary, don’t you think? The thing about folk music is that we own it together, and I like that. How many pop stars sue one another about a riff or a melody? Considering most western music, at least in a popular vein, is pretty simple with 2 or 3 or 4 chords, it’s reasonable to expect similar themes to appear time and again. In folk music, adding to the the pool of music we own together by changing around an existing melody is perfectly reasonable. I’m glad Woody Guthrie borrowed the melody of Wabash Cannonball and wrote Grand Coolie Dam with it:

In the misty crystal glitter of the wild and windward spray
Men have fought the pounding waters and met a watery grave
she tore their boats to splinters but she gave men dreams to dream
of the day the Coulee Dam would cross the wild and wasted stream.

Wabash Cannonball was a hobo song, about the train that would take the hobo from the Traveling Nation to a better place, to the other side, to the Big Rock Candy Mountain. Grand Coolie Dam, of course is a whole different trip, yet they share a melody, and that’s OK by me. In Old Time music too, we see similar melodic ideas, and lyrical ideas as well, show up over and over again.

Quicksand in Mississauga?

The Toronto Star has published an article about quicksand warning signs in an area of Mississauga, although their investigation failed to turn up any actual quicksand. I don’t think I’ve seen real quicksand before. It seems like something out of the movies. I have experienced some serious and difficult mud before – in fact just this Monday when I was out trout fishing. It looked wet but safe. There was vegetation growing on the surface….but I sunk down past my knees and it took me some time to free myself. It happened once before while out fly fishing with my friend East Texas Red. That time he kindly helped me get out. I can only imagine that actual quicksand, stuff capable of gobbling a guy up, stuff that pulls you deeper the more you struggle, must be tremendously scary.

A City spokesperson suggested there are soft spots in the Fletcher’s Creek area that could be difficult to get out of. Perhaps the signs are a little over the top.

Grooming Day for Memphis and Georgie

IMG_1982This morning I took the Newfs up to see Lorraine, who operates Peticure, to get them groomed. Lorraine is a fabulous groomer who has been keeping our dogs looking great for years. When we first met her, she was running a grooming truck and she would visit our home and groom the dogs in the van out front. The van had a tub and a table-lift and its own water tanks. All Lorraine needed what electricity and she was ready to go. IMG_1965The grooming truck is wherever old grooming trucks go now, and Lorraine has opened a small storefront grooming space on Davenport, east of Oakwood, just behind The Sandalman. It’s a way for us to go from Long Branch, considering our neighbourhood has several groomers, but that speaks to how happy we are with Lorraine’s work.

The biggest thing with grooming the Newfs is stripping out the old uncoat before it sheds out. They also get a bath, blow-dry, nails clipped, mats removed, paw fur trimmed and so on.

Their doggy mission, of course, is to get messed up again as quickly as possible, but for now they’re looking tip-top.IMG_1976


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