On The Hunt For The Elusive Morel Mushroom

I’m going to totally nerd out here and fully admit that I am a card carrying member of the Alberta Mycological Society. I love mushrooms and I’m proud to admit it. The funny thing is, you couldn’t pay me to eat a mushroom as a kid. Thankfully I outgrew that as an adult and now I’m spending my weekends hunting for them in the forest.

A little over a year ago, my husband and I decided to join the mycological society. We’ve been interested in mushrooms for awhile and had been thinking about joining the local mycological society for a few years but of course thinking and doing are two different things. It was after a long winter of being stuck indoors and we were itching to get out and connect with nature. Finally my husband went ahead and signed us up for a membership and about a week later, we were driving out to go on our first society foray.

Our first foray last year was a bit disappointing – we didn’t find any mushrooms and then almost ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road (thank goodness for farmers who are smart enough to always have a can of gas with them). Thankfully that first experience didn’t deter us and we were back out the next weekend in search of those delicious morels.

Now is the part where I tell you that you should not go out and try to hunt mushrooms on your own, especially if you are planning on eating them. First of all, there are lots of animals in the forest that could kill you, especially if you’re by yourself. Remember: safety in numbers, go with 4-5 people and stick close together. It doesn’t hurt to carry bear spray as well, especially in grizzly bear country. Second of all, there are a lot of mushrooms in the forest that could kill you, or at the very least, make you very sick. If you want to try hunting mushrooms, connect with your local mycological society, or with a mushroom expert in your area. Never, ever eat a mushroom that you cannot identify – and also know that there are some poisonous mushrooms that look almost identical to their non-poisonous siblings. Mushroom hunting is fun, but also a bit dangerous.

Porcupine Hills

Our first foray of the season out to Porcupine Hills – It was a beautiful day for hunting!

We were actually on the hunt for two mushrooms this time: the morel, and the verpa bohemica (otherwise known as early morel or false morel). The distinguishing feature between morels and verpas are the cap – verpas will have a cap that hangs free from the stem of the mushroom. Verpas will also start out with a cottony inside, but it will eventually become hollow as they age and morels will be completely hollow on the inside. The first time we came across verpas, we were told they were edible with caution. Meaning, some people have a reaction and some people do not – particularly gastrointestinal reaction and sometimes temporary paralysis. Living on the edge, we decided to try eating them. Luckily neither of us had any reaction at all. Most of the literature I read on verpas said to not eat them, but we were assured by seasoned hunters that they were most likely fine – and if we did have any reaction, it would only be temporary. Don’t take my word though, I can only speak to my own experience.

Morels Hiding

Can you see the morels? You need a pretty good eye to spot them – take your time to survey the forest floor and you’re bound to find some.

Morel hunting seems like it might be boring, but it is anything but. Morels are everywhere and nowhere. Meaning, they will pretty much grow anywhere in the right conditions, but are often really, really hard to find. One year you may find the mother load, and the next year there will be nothing in the exact same site. Hence why they are so expensive to buy in the store (if you can even find them). It seems that if you are lucky enough to spot one morel, you’ve already won. They like to camouflage themselves in with the landscape, often blending with the dead leaves. When you do see one, study the landscape and figure out what sort of conditions they like. The morels I found were under a poplar tree, which we’ve been told is something they like. They also prefer moist conditions, often near sloughs and wet areas.

Morel Mushrooms

Sometimes you may come across something that looks very similar to a morel or verpa, but it is not. And it is poisonous and may/may not kill you, so don’t even risk it. It’s called a gyromitra and it is a bit lighter in color than a morel, closer to a verpa (of course depending on where you are located in the world, the color can be varied), but it appears more “brainy” looking, if that makes sense. The main way that you can tell it is the poisonous kind is by carefully cutting it open and seeing what it looks like on the inside. True morels are hollow and verpas start off with a cottony inside which turns hollow as they age, whereas the poisonous gyromitra have a solid stipe. When you’re cutting them, ensure not to use the same knife as you’re using to cut the mushrooms you plan on eating and do not touch them with bare hands. We’ve also been told it is dangerous to breath in their spores, so basically, unless you know for sure it is a morel or a verpa, don’t go near it. In my experience, it was pretty obvious which mushrooms were morels and verpas and which ones were gyromitra, but mushrooms could look different in your area, so walk away if you are not 100% sure what the mushroom is.

Little Brown Mushrooms

We came across a few mushrooms we couldn’t identify, like these ones. We like to call them LBMs (little brown mushrooms). It’s best to leave them be.

I think it is every mushroom hunter’s dream to come across the morel mother load. I wish I could say that we hit the jackpot this time, but unfortunately we did not. I found two morels and my husband found one. We ended up going with the group that didn’t find many mushrooms at all. The other group did very well – we were envious of the people carrying back bags of morels and verpas. Our three mushrooms will get thrown in to a pot of soup this week. I’m happy with the small haul though – it is better than nothing!

Shooting Star Flower

I couldn’t resist sharing a photo of the shooting stars in bloom – they were everywhere!

We’ll most likely go out again a few more times this summer, looking for various types of mushrooms, depending on the time of the season. If you’re at all interested in mushroom foraging, I highly recommend connecting with your local mycological society. Going to the society’s organized forays has been great for us – they do all the work of finding potential sites and you just have to show up. Plus, there are always a few experienced pickers who are very knowledgeable and are more than happy to talk mushrooms with you.

Please note that I am not a mushroom expert by any means, all words are based on my limited experiences.

Garden Life Lately

This time of year is always the busiest for me in the garden. And all of the busyness seems to hit at once. I spend the winter sitting around crafting and sewing and watching copious amounts of Netflix, doing a bit of garden planning, spending lots of time in the kitchen, and then BAM! EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE DONE IN THE GARDEN NOW! Luckily winter ended a bit early this year and I got a wee jump start on the season, but still, I probably didn’t do as much as I should have, and now the weather is nice and I have a million plants to lug in and out of the house while they harden off, a hundred million pots to clean and fill with dirt, and so many seeds to plant. I’m not complaining – I actually love it. But it is somewhat stressful. Throw in to the mix that I am trying to open up a new Etsy shop, as well as maintain my current one, blog, go to my day job, and do the hundred other things I’ve committed myself to, and yeah, things are a bit crazy.

But things are happening! And that is exciting. In the last week I have visited a few garden centres, bought a few plants (mostly herbs and annual flowers), bought a metric tonne of new pots, bought two metric tonnes of garden soil and manure, ordered a new bistro set for my patio, and planted a few handfuls of seeds. There is really a lot to be done.

Garden Containers

I wish I could say this is all of the pots, but it isn’t. And it is also a mess, but gardens aren’t always pretty and are hard work, and I am not one to mask this with only beautiful photos – hence the abandoned gloves, random succulent tray (it’s going to go on my new bistro set!), trash bin, and mountain of soil bags in the back.

Luckily, since I gained a couple of weeks of spring garden season this year, I don’t feel like I’m being rushed. I’ve been spending a couple of hours every afternoon after work in the garden, moving things around and mostly figuring out how I want the garden to look this year. I’ve planted a few garden centre purchases, but most are still living in the greenhouse for a few more days until most of the danger of frost has passed. After all, our official average last day of frost is supposed to be May 23rd, but I usually wait until about a week after that to plant my delicates. It only takes one time of hauling giant pots of snow covered tomatoes in to your kitchen in June to err on the side of caution when it comes to precious plants and average frost dates. Am I being dramatic? Maybe.

So about all of these new pots. I realized a few weeks ago, when I decided late one sleepless night to take an inventory of all of my seedlings, that I was going to need to come up with somewhere new to put all of these seedlings. I already had lots of pots and always use all of them, but I would say that I probably doubled what I normally plant, kind of willy nilly, without a plan, so I needed to come up with a plan other than “oh I’ll just find places for them somewhere”. There were no more places. I don’t have any more room for raised beds in my back yard, so that was pretty much out of the question. So that left either giving away a bunch of seedlings, which I really didn’t want to do, or buying some new containers. I obviously went with the latter solution. And then spent a small fortune. At least a lot of the containers were on clearance, but still, when you’re buying as many as I did at once, it adds up fast. At least problem solved. Hopefully – we’ll see once I start actually planting things.


At the back of my garden I have a few wooden boxes living under my wild rose bush that I’ve seeded with lettuce (pardon the photo taken at a crappy time of day).

So I guess that’s my life in the garden lately. I’m going to continue moving containers around, filling them with dirt, prepping my raised beds for planting, planning the community garden plot (more on that in a later post), setting up my patio area when the new furniture arrives, and getting the greenhouse ready for planting. And of course, continuing to lug one million seedlings in and out of the house every day for another week or so.

Princess Kay Plum Tree

I have to leave you with at least one pretty close up! These are the blossoms on my plum tree right now.

Tell me all about your garden in the comments! I’d love to hear what you’re up to, what you’re growing, if you’ve planted anything yet… really, anything! Happy gardening!

Coming Soon…

It has been a bit quiet around the blog the last week because I’ve just been so busy. It’s a good busy though. I’ve been doing some gardening, some crafting, and most importantly, setting up a new Etsy shop for my wool creations.


I’m so excited to finally be making some of my wool wall weavings available for sale. I realized about a month ago that I really love making them and I was getting a lot of encouragement to try a side business of selling some of them.

The new Etsy shop, Secret Wool Society, will be up and running later in the week (don’t worry, I’ll post an announcement here on the blog when it goes live), but in the meantime, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to inquire about a custom weaving (the top of the blog has a “contact” link to easily contact me).

May 2015 Garden Update

Let’s ignore the fact that it has snowed twice in the last week in my garden (I guess it is still May and I’m in Calgary) and check out what has been going on in the garden lately.

Lots of adorable things are showing their faces this week (hence all the close up photos!). There are the pink muscari, a few tulips (I do not remember ever planting bright orange tulips, so where did they come from?! Maybe it was gnomes?), and the big beautiful bleeding heart (I’d love to take credit for this thing but it was one of the very few plants that came with the house. I’ll take credit anyway and show it off in the below photo).

Bleeding Heart

One of my sour cherry trees is also in bloom (photo below), as well as my double flowering plum shrub (which unfortunately does not produce fruit). And I can see my Princess Kay plum tree is about ready to burst with flowers.

Sour Cherry Blossoms

Also I seem to have a mystery tree. I originally thought it was a lilac but it is not. I don’t know how I could have a tree growing in my small yard and not know it exists. It was either the gnomes sneaking in and planting things at night, or it came from a sucker from my neighbor’s yard, or it has been there the whole time and I’ve been chopping it down with the perennials each year, except last year when I noticed it was actually a tree and stopped hacking at it. The reason I thought it was a lilac was because it really did look like it had lilac leaves when they were small. But now it has flowered (the first time) and I’m 99% sure it is not a lilac. It has these beautiful fragrant white blooms which are identical to a tree my neighbor has growing in her yard. My hops like to grow over the fence and up her tree in the summer time, and I’ve apologized for it and asked if she would like me to cut out the hops, but she always says no and refers to this tree as a cherry. I knew it wasn’t really a cherry tree, so I did a bit of reading and I think the tree growing in my yard is a Schubert Chokecherry (sort of a cherry, I guess?). Very lovely, but they do get a bit large (like not really large, but not small either), and are infamous for having lots and lots of suckers. Anyway, long story, but I’m still trying to decided whether it is going to stay or not. I hate to be a tree murderer, but I don’t really want it. I kind of wish it were a lilac because I could easily manage its size. What would you do?

Strawberries & Garlic

I just moved all of these strawberries to this bed, closest to the patio, so I can snack on them easily. Garlic is growing below the strawberry bed.

But one unexpected, and good, surprise was the spinach. Apparently (and I don’t remember this), my past self knew that my future self would be really excited about discovering forgotten spinach growing in the garden. Presumably, my past self planted this last fall. I should be eating this spinach in a couple of weeks.

Aside from all the pretty things and surprises, I’ve been doing a bit of work outside as well. I just planted some radish, arugula and more spinach seeds, and my peas will be going in later in the week. I’m also starting to do a lot of serious planning for the rest of the garden, specifically all of the seedlings I currently have growing in my dining room that will need to be moved outside soon. And I might be feeling a little anxious about it, but hopefully I’ll have a plan set in stone by the end of the weekend (my current plan is “stick them anywhere I can”, but maybe that isn’t the most solid plan). Spring is the most exciting, but the most stressful for gardeners. Well, at least for me anyway. Someone remind me next year, in about March, to chill out on starting so many darn seeds. Megan, you do not need 38 tomatoes, 30 peppers, and 20 squash plants for two people.

Volunteer Pansies
Lots of these volunteer pansies have popped up in my shade garden this year and I’m happy to just let them be.

Anyway, I’m really excited for the long weekend coming up – I’m taking an extra day off of work to dedicate to gardening (fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate!), so hopefully sometime next week I’ll be able to tell you that I solved all of my dilemmas and now I can sit back, relax, and watch the jungle grow.

Living With Cats

I decided to take a break from writing about gardening and crafty projects today to talk about cats.

I am a cat lady. And I’m the first person to admit it. I’m not a crazy bag lady type of cat lady, but I do love being surrounded by cats. My husband and I live with three cats and we often joke that I’d have more if I could (I’ve been banned from visiting animal shelters as everyone knows I would just bring more cats home given the chance).

Unfortunately, living with cats also means having to deal with cat litter and cat hair and scratched up furniture. One of our cats loves to scratch the couch and has destroyed a few sofa covers in her life with us. Another cat likes to scratch pretty much anything and has done some serious damage to a few softer wood pieces of furniture. The third cat is an angel and doesn’t scratch anything but his scratchers.

About once a year I go ahead and patch the furniture that the rotten cat has decided to use as a scratching pad. But of course, the cat immediately starts scratching it again and it’s a whole destructive cycle. We can’t have nice things.

I’d always said I was never going to get an ugly carpet covered cat condo. They are an eyesore and are expensive and I really hate them. And if you can find something that isn’t terrible, it is ultra modern and even more unreasonably expensive than the ugly ones. But I was tired of the furniture being destroyed and it was clear that the cat needed something to scratch – it is his instincts and I can’t get pissed at him for it. The thing that really threw me over the edge though was a couple of weeks ago when something fell behind the shelf (otherwise known as the cat scratcher) and I went to move it a bit to pull out fallen item, and heard a loud cracking noise. The shelf has been so badly scratched that the structural integrity is compromised. Not good. Stop moving shelf.

So we broke down and bought some cat furniture. I came across this Armarkat cat condo on Amazon and it wasn’t completely terrible. Pretty basic and the reviews were good. And it was fairly inexpensive, as far as cat condos go (just over $100, ouch). And I liked that it had a little private loft for a cat to sleep in – perfect for putting by the patio door so the cats can watch birds and sleep in the sun during the day.

Armarkat Cat Tree

Also note the oh-so-soft wall weaving that I wrote about in this post.

The verdict is still out on whether or not they actually like the thing, I haven’t seen much interaction with it. In fact, the boy cats seemed more interested in the box it came in (typical cats).

Cats in Box

In addition to the condo, we also bought a new vertical cardboard scratcher. All of the cats enjoy scratching cardboard so I knew they would use it. It seems silly to buy cardboard, but the thought of cutting and gluing pieces of cardboard together did not strike me as a good time. They’ve already used the cardboard scratcher quite a bit in the few days that it has been home so I know my money wasn’t wasted on it.

And of course, I repaired the furniture again. Hopefully for the last time, but I won’t get my hopes up.

I’m not compensated for or affiliated with any of the products or companies mentioned in this post.