About Me

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I started out as a small child. Eventually I grew, all the while experiencing things. Lucky for me I experienced some stuff that led me to seek more experiences, which ultimately resulted in a wider perspective than I had previously attained. The wider my perspective gets, the less I have to worry about falling off the edge of it. So far it's working out pretty well, so I think I'll keep it up for a while.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ghetto Screenprinting

Recently I decided to make some t-shirts for my boyfriends band to try to make them some extra money, but I ended up spending a little more than I needed to experimenting and figuring out how to do it myself. So here's everything I figured out about screenprinting for cheap compiled in a nice little tutorial so if you decide to do the same thing, you can save the money I spent figuring out what doesn't work.  If you're resourceful you can be screen printing using this method for less than 20 bucks.

Here's a basic materials list. Most of this stuff can be substituted with other stuff that you might already have, I'll go into more detail later, so if you don't have something that's listed don't get discouraged.

  • Embroidery hoop  OR staple gun and empty picture frame
  • Fabric for the screen 
  • Paintbrush
  • Latex paint
  • Fabric paint
  • Squeegee (Doesn't need to be an actual squeegee)
  • Substrate (That's whatever your printing on, like a t-shirt)
  • Pencil
  • Design
My materials
If you're lucky, you already have most of this stuff laying around, but if not it should be pretty inexpensive. I didn't have an embroidery hoop or a staple gun, but someone I know let me borrow theirs, and chances are you can do the same. I got picture frames at the thrift store, the ones without glass or other inserts only cost 25 cents, while the ones with glass were a dollar or more. Make sure the frames are big enough for the design you want to print.

You can use almost anything for the fabric, as long as it is shear, but I did some experiments and found that stretchy fabric is far superior, because it doesn't get saggy when you get it wet. I started out using nylons, and they totally work, but they're prone to tearing, so you have to be careful when you staple them to the frame. You also want to use the thickest ones, because the thin ones tend to wrinkle up when you run your squeegee across and that can ruin your print. Also, the holes on the thick ones are easier to fill, which saves a lot of time going back and refilling after your screen dries. If you don't have the nylons already it's not worth buying them, because the good ones cost about 5 bucks a pair, and for that price you could go get a yard or more of something better. So to recap, the main properties your looking for in the fabric are stretchiness, shear enough to see through, holes still fairly small when stretched tight and it doesn't tear too easily.

I got this stuff at the thrift store. It cost me 2 bucks for about 3 yards.
 So If you're using embroidery hoops, just stick your fabric in there and get it tight. Otherwise make sure to staple your fabric starting in the middle of one side, then stretching it to the middle of the other side, and work your way to the edges so it comes out fairly even, then do the other sides the same way. I start with a bigger piece of fabric than I need and trim it down afterward. Make it tight enough to bounce a penny on.
A finished frame

 Next your going to need to get your design ready. You can print something off your computer, or make a drawing and trace it, make sure it will fit on the frame you made. Also, we're only working with one color here, so keep that in mind when your getting your design together. Sometimes it helps to shade in the parts you want the ink to go to, especially if your design is complex.
The shaded parts are the positive space, where the ink will go.
 Set your screen on top of your design and trace it. Make sure your tracing on the inside of the frame, otherwise it will turn out backwards. I use a pencil because I discovered some inks will bleed into the fabric paint, also a pencil makes it pretty much impossible to accidentally write on the wrong side.
Done tracing
Alright, now it's time to break out the paintbrush and the latex paint. Make sure to get paint that has a good contrast to your screen material. This little can of latex pain is the glossy variety, and it cost me about 5 dollars for a can. I've made 8 screens of various sizes with it so far and I'll probably get at least 5 more out of it.
Ready to paint
 Fill in the negative space, that's where the ink on your finished product is'nt going to go.
Make sure to get past the edges of the frame. This will glue the screen to the frame and keep ink from seeping out around the corners.
The edges!
When you think you're done, hold the screen up to the light to check for stray holes, ragged edges and other spots that aren't filled. You can also lean the screen against something and stick a flashlight behind it as you work.
Still a few spots to be filled

No stray holes. 
When your done, let it sit and dry somewhere overnight.

The next day before you use it on a shirt you might want to test the screen on some newspaper with some cheap poster paint or something to make sure you like the way it prints and to get some experience with how much paint to add. 

When you're printing on a shirt, it's important to put a sheet of cardboard or something inside of it to keep the ink from bleeding through onto the back of the shirt. Also it gives you something flat to work on, and you can stretch the shirt out a little bit to smooth out the wrinkles.
Nice and smooth
Place the screen on the shirt where you want it.

Get your fabric paint and squeegee ready. The paint I'm using is Speedball screenprinting ink. I really like the consistency. I used tulip dimensional fabric pain before and it works too, if you happen to have some on hand, but it tends to be a lot more stiff and it cracks easier than fabric paint which is made for screen printing, and isn't much cheaper. I have heard about using regular acrylic paint with fabric medium, but haven't tried it. I have a feeling by the time you get the acrylic and the fabric medium, you're probably approaching the cost of one of these $5 tubs of screenprinting ink, but it could be worth it if you already have the acrylics, because then you'll have more than one color.

Regarding squeegees, you could use pretty much anything that's stiff with a straight edge. Mine is half the cover of a small notebook. It's made of cardboard with a plasticy coating. I have also used an old credit card when I was doing a really small one and that worked great. If you want to go fancy you can probably get a whole selection of those plastic spackling knives for drywall, for the price of one of the professional screenprinting squeegees.

Get some paint on the screen.
All the paint in this picture is what was stuck to the seal on my brand new tub. It goes pretty far.
 Go ahead and squeege the paint across the screen, get it from a few different angles to make sure you get into the corners of the design. This part takes a little familiarity with your paint, if it's too runny you have to be careful not to overdo it or the paint can bleed underneath the screen. make sure you keep the screen still on the shirt so it doesn't smudge. It's also more likely to bleed underneath if your design has big spaces that are getting inked with very thin lines of negative space in between.  


 When it's all filled in, gently lift your screen off the substrate, being careful not to smudge the design.

Your finished product can then be left to dry. Most fabric paints must be heat set before you can wash them, so make sure you read the label on whatever paint you're using. Usually a quick ironing is enough to do the trick.

 Don't forget to rinse the screen out when you're done. Do it immediately before the paint has time to dry in the screen. If you're doing a lot of prints in a row you might want to look into buying some retardant to keep the paint from drying out too fast.
If the paint dries out the screen is done for, so don't wait too long.

That's all there is to it! Enjoy.... 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mushrooms that change color

     Have you ever heard that you can tell if a mushroom is poisonous or not but rubbing it on a silver spoon and seeing if it discolors the silver? Maybe you've heard that if a mushroom stains blue it will make you hallucinate if you eat it, or if it stains yellow, it's no good.

There's a lot going on with color reactions and mushroom identification, and while some of these commonly repeated ID tips are based on the truth, it's generally a really bad idea to trust your life to them. However, a little research reveals that color changes can tell you a lot about what you're dealing with, and they tend to be a major identifying characteristic when present.

While the myth about the silver spoon is totally false, there are certain chemical reagents you can drop onto the flesh of a mushroom   that will react with chemicals in the mushroom and cause the spot to change colors, greatly aiding you in identification. for example certain poisonous species of the genus Agaricus (related to the common "grocery store" mushroom) stain yellow when they come into contact with a solution of KOH (potassium hydroxide). Some situations require you to find out if the spores are amyloid by testing them with Melzer's reagent and seeing if they turn a dark blue or black color . Even ammonia can be used to observe a color reaction in some Boletus species.

It's true that many psychedelic mushrooms stain blue when bruised, due to the oxidation of  psilocybin into the psychoactive compound psilocin, but not all hallucinogenic mushrooms stain blue, (Amanita muscaria for example) and not all blue staining mushrooms are psychoactive.

Panaeolus cyanescens, a blue staining psychoactive mushroom.

 Boletus satanas is a beautiful blue staining member of the same genus as the edible king bolete, that is dangerously poisonous. In fact a number of the blue staining boletes are inedible and beginners should generally stay away from blue staining (or red pored) boletes unless they have ID'd them to the species. Personally I don't eat anything that I am not 100% sure about, although sometimes I have been known to make exceptions for the odd unidentifiable subspecies of a known good edible.

Boletus zelleri is an edible blue staining bolete.

Some of the local Tahoe King Boletes have a tendancy to stain reddish-purple that seems to be unknown of outside of my own experience,  They key out almost perfectly to Boletus grandedulis, with two exceptions, the tedency to stain vinaceous, but only near the outermost parts of the cap and stalk, and a slightly sour taste.

Boletus grandedulis?

It could be an undiscovered subspecies, there are definitely plenty out there that haven't been described yet, or perhaps it's just some environmental factor. Hard to say, but I can tell you from personal experience, it's edible, although not as good as the not sour kings that grow elsewhere.

Many mushrooms of the genus Lactarius are known to stain when their damaged tissues or even the drops of latex that they exude are exposed to the air:

This edible species is Lactarius paradoxus, it's especially stunning with the combination of blue cap and stem, pink gills, and green stains.

This is Lactarius deliciosus, another green staining edible milk cap, and it's a great example of how you can't always depend on staining reactions. This one also wasn't putting out milk, as you can see by the broken part of the gills.

There are also purple staining Lactarius, and Lactarius that have yellow staining latex that are known to be poisonous, but as you can see in the above photograph, it is crucial to identify your mushrooms to the species level, because latex and staining reactions can both be absent, especially in dry weather.

Among the genus Agaricus, there are also varied staining reactions. I already mentioned that some stain yellow when exposed to KOH, there is another that stains green with KOH, and many stain yellow just on exposure to the air. The common grocery store button, Agaricus bisporus, tends to stain reddish, then brown after a couple minutes.

There is an edible species, Amanita rubescens that stains red also, although I don't recommend you try them, as Amanita is also known for being the family with many of the most deadly poisonous mushrooms in it. Amanitas are easy to avoid, and I've heard tales that they hybridize with each other, so as far as I'm concerned it's worth it to just stay away.
Amanita muscaria var. formosa, the yellow fly agaric, is a yellow version of the classic "red with white spots" hallucinogenic Amanita.

There are so many different kinds of color staining mushrooms, it's practically impossible to identify a mushroom on a staining reaction alone, in fact it's also practically impossible to ID a mushroom on color. There are a few exceptions to the rule, an orange cup fungus that stains blue is going to be the blue staining orange peel fungus, and Lactarius paradoxus is probably the only bright blue mushroom with pink gills and green stains, but the fact is, if you want to know your mushroom, you've got to get to know your mushroom, and the way you do that is by learning to observe every little detail.

Here's another picture of L. paradoxus for the road:
happy hunting!

Monday, August 1, 2011

on the road again: "the homeless problem", and why you should pick up hitchhikers*Be aware of RANT*

We're up in Bellingham Washington, about 20 miles south of the canadian border. We left California over a month ago to go to the rainbow gathering in southern washington. It took about 3 days to get up there. We stopped in Ashland Oregon and Grant's Pass where we spent the night with a cool rainbow mama who gave us a ride all the way up to the gathering the next day.

Rainbow really started as soon as we got into Oregon on the 5. There were tons of kids hitchhiking on the freeway, which is totally legal there.

After the gathering we headed to portland to get back on the five where we hooked up with our newest traveling companion, Ashleigh who convinced us to go north instead of south and brought us here to bellingham. She's also a great singer and I'm eventually going to get her music up on here.

We hung out in portland for about a week, the first three days of which we found it nearly impossible to get any sleep due to the bike cops who come and wake you up all the time. Bike cops are my least favorite type of cop, despite the fact that everyone assures me they all smoke weed. Seriously I've never met a bike cop who wasn't a total douchebag. Since they aren't allowed to carry guns, or drive a patrol car, I must conclude that they are the most imcompetent, hot headed and newbie cops that don't even have respect from the cop community and aren't trusted not to shoot or run over people. These are the guys who enforce all the stupid insulting bullshit laws that don't really matter and shouldn't even exist. Like no sleeping in the park. Let me elaborate on the no sleeping in the park rule. It's not technically illegal to fall asleep while relaxing in the park or sunbathing or whatever, but since they don't want bums to sleep there, you're not allowed to have a blanket. you can sleep, but no being warm. Now since people like to take blankets to the park to sit on the grass, your allowed to have a blanket as long as you don't fall asleep on it. So if you have a blanket and fall asleep, it's a ticket. This law is totally designed to keep bums from sleeping in the park during the day, so you probably don't have to worry about it if you have a job and look clean, (although I did hear of a family that got a ticket while they were having a picnic) but if your homeless you're going to get a ticket. How many bums do you know that pay sleeping in the park tickets? Zero, that's how many! What is the sense in this? So apparently you're supposed to sleep in doorways, where the cops wake you up early in the morning instead. Only problem with that is that the best time to busk is around 11-3am, so you have to choose between making money and getting to sleep.

There's a couple of other laws targeted specifically at fixing the "homeless problem" that I have encountered in major cities, like the one that prohibits selling single beers and 40s in downtown areas. So if bums want to get wasted they have to make enough cash for a 6 pack or a bottle of liquor. That totally makes sense right? Make the alcoholics buy larger amonts of alcohol at a time, that'll stop them from drinking! Laws about drinking in public are intrinsically flawed when dealing with people who don't have any private property to drink on. Give that guy with a beer in his jacket another ticket, that'll keep him from drinking in public next time he still doens't have anywhere else to go!

Why can't all these cops go do something that matters? I had a very rude bike cop in portland tell me and my friends when we were trying to warm up under a blanket on a bench on a cloudy windy day that we couldn't sleep there. When we asked her where we were allowed to sleep, she told us we couldn't sleep in downtown because normal people were going to work this time of day. I think that's the crux of the biscuit right there. These laws are total bullshit to try to force everyone to be a certain type of person, to have a certain type of government sanctioned consumer driven environmentally unsustainable lifestyle.

A lot of people all over the world lived as nomads for a long time, tending livestock and following seasonal abundance from one place to the next. What's the biggest difference between them and the "normal" people in america today? Well, they can't own a bunch of useless shit because they have to carry it around. Which makes them shitty consumers.

Everyone wants land so they can do what they want and be the boss of the little area they own. So the landlord the governement or whatever authority figure won't be able to tell them what to do on their land. So they put up fences and they don't let anyone in. Private property is everywhere. What are the people supposed to do who don't have land? Rent it. Doesn't it offend anyone else that you have to pay just to be somewhere? It's not just at home, you'll find it in public too. Don't hang out around a truck stop too long or they'll politely ask you to leave for loitering. I've been kicked out of starbucks before because I sat down inside to drink the coffee I just purchased.  They make up some bullshit reason like the "really strict no loitering policy" that every store claims to have on the books, but never gets enforced unless you look dirty. If you ask a normal person they'll say something like "that's just how life is, it's hard and you have to jump through hoops for the man in order to stay alive." If you contradict them, they'll get really offended and really self righteous, but you can tell it's just because you're threatening the worldview that they alreadly sacraficed their own right to happiness for.
Do you honestly believe that you should have to pay to be where you are, at all times?
You should have to pay to sleep?
You should have to pay to be able to grow your own food?

When I was a kid in elementary school, my teacher taught me that you need five things to live: air, food, water, shelter, and space. They only thing on that list that people generally agree that everyone has a right to get for free is air. So four out of five conditions for your life require dollars.

Do you really think people need money to stay alive? Since when is the government's job to be the "eveyone should be working at all times"police? When did the american dream become "I wanna get shitloads of money so I can have tons of cool stuff.

Do you really think you need all that crap? What do you think people did before most of the entertainment that people spend so much of their time consuming was invented? You think everyone who lived life a hundred years ago had boring depraved lives because they didn't get to spend a few hours a day watching tv? No, instead they spent time talking to each other. Humans are social creatures, like everyone always says, but no one has time for each other anymore. everyone's living on the clock, working 8 hours a day 5 or 6 days a week, getting home to tired to spend time doing anything but vegging out. And all for the money to either buy new shit or just pay the rent if your in the low paying job bracket.

Those of us in the know remember the american dream had something to do with freedom to make your own way in the world, to do meaningful work to provide yourself and your family with the things they need and to be able to practice your own beliefs in such a way as to live a life that makes sense to you. Now so many people subscribe to the view that life is hard and shitty and pointless. Too many of them think that someone seeking happiness or understanding of their life are just indulging in cloudy minded idealism, but is it really so idealistic to want to spend more time doing the things that actually fulfill your spirit rather than chasing your tail for rent month after month?

How long can you let the concept of normal being shoved down you throat everyday rule your life?

If you think that all bums are lazy alcoholics who don't want a job, dirty hippies who can't face reality or poor families that can't afford homes, you'd probably be suprised to find, after talking to a variety of homeless people, that the thing that unites the homeless isn't the inability to live a "normal" life, but actually the unwillingness to sacrafice the greater portion of their lives to a machine that doesn't work and  no one likes. These are the same people who realize that we only get one life, and if you don't live yours you lost the game. We are the non-conformists, the ones who were so repelled by the system, that we would rather shit and piss outside, sleep in the rain, get kicked out of places, yelled at from moving vehicles, ridiculed, hated by people who don't admit to themselves why. We know our time is not worth any amount of this imaginary dust personified by paper, the extra substance in between you and and what you need, that the government uses to control the populace. 

Oh yeah, and our carbon footprint is smaller than yours. You may view bums as parasites on society, but when you think about it, we eat your leftovers, we recycle your garbage, we live off the spare change you realize you don't really need. Most of us don't drive, and the ones that do tend to carpool. (You'd be surprised at how many people you can actually fit into a four-seater, let alone the big old vans that rubber-trampers tend to mob around in.

By the way, picking up hitchhikers is environmentally friendly and despite hollywood's popular portrayls, the vast majority of hitchhikers just really need a ride somwhere, and aren't actually interested in killing you. I mean, come the fuck on! How wrapped up are you in your awesome little self that you actually think the dirty sweaty guy out there in the 103 degree heat on the side of the freeway actually just wants to randomly kill you. News flash, the hitchhiker is actually a lot more likely to get picked up by a freak or a rapist than to actually be one. Also, there's a lot easier ways to get ahold of someone to murder or rape than by having them pick you up hitchhiking. You think a rapist is going to stand around on the side of a freeway all day in the heat or rain with his thumb out instead of just going to a bar and finding some naive drunk chick? No way. Gimme a break and be honest with yourself, you don't really think you're going to get murdered by a hitchhiker, so what's the real reason you don't pick us up? Is it the smell? Is it that you're afraid the conversation will be awkward, that we have nothing in common? Maybe your car will be crowded? All that gas you waste driving your giant SUV around by yourself would be much better spent taking me and my friends somewhere. You got to admit, the slight discomfort you may have to endure is nothing compared to the great favor you would be doing getting us out of that abandoned hell-hole of an on-ramp. Karma comes back around, as you may already have noticed and if you dare to perform a random act of kindness, you might be suprised to find out that we're really fucking cool. Probably cooler than most of your friends.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The varieties of FLAVOR

To begin with, the distinction between plant and fungus wasn't firmly established or recognized in the world of biology until some time in the 1960s. Botanists must have been relieved that they would no longer have to share space at botanical conventions with mushroom weirdos with the announcement of a 3rd kingdom of life (with two more being discovered/differentiated later). This is perfectly acceptable because I think botanists should not have to describe things that exhale CO2 and inhale O2. It must have been terribly confusing dealing with these enzymatically and ecologically inverse plants that don't look like any other type of plant and only share non-photosynthesis with a minority of other very not-mushroomy plants. And now, mushroom people have our very own science, MYCOLOGY, the study of fungi.

One of the things that continues to motivate me to seek out different types of mushrooms, besides the obvious things that cause anyone to seek out new experiences, is the extreme variety of flavor one may experience. Flavor is not really the most obvious motivator, even to the hungry, experimental, or the fond-of-mushrooms-you-buy-at-the-store. It actually never occurred to me until I first decided to step out of the cultural superstitions and fears surrounding mushrooms and the feeling of fearing for my life that so many people take advantage of in order to promote a cultural belief, that I tasted a morel I had found and which my companion had helped me identify. I realized that even though I could detect a slight analogousness between the morel flavor and the well-known Agaricus Bisporus flavor, the flavor of the morel was actually more similar to something like steak (yes, cow meat). And once the initial flavor assumption I had going into the kingdom of fungi was overturned by the evidence presented by the morel, infinity sprang up before me. There is an infinite spectrum of flavor possible with the kingdom of the fungus, just as there is with herbs/veggies/fruits/grains (plants) and with ruminants/omnivores/avians/mammals/reptiles (animals). There is equally a third set of possibilities and I love cooking.

If you have not hunted wild mushrooms then you have probably still experienced a diverse range of flavors from the fungi. Bread comes to mind - the yeast really doesn't get to ferment the flour for very long, but you can't deny the difference in flavor between a sourdough bread and an unleavened bread such as a tortilla. Yeast is a fungus, yeast is the only major difference between different types of bread, and they all taste pretty different from one another. So a fungus is what's causing your favorite bread to be your favorite bread, unless there's some other reason you love it such as its being full of cranberries or something. Soy sauce tastes wildly different from tofu, yet they are both made of the same thing: soy. Difference? The fermentation process using yeast yields soy sauce. Beer and wine are other obvious fermentation products. More obvious still are the flavors of Brie (I always eat the rind, that's where the flavor's concentrated at!) and various Bleu cheeses. These cheeses derive their simultaneously delicate and extremely powerful flavors from delicious species of mold. The penicillium species that dwells in a cave in Stilton, UK has a particularly awesome flavor, as does penicillium roquefortii.

Popular edible mushrooms all have fairly different flavors from one another, though there is an underlying flavor that seems unique to the fungus kingdom and appears in every different fungus I have tasted to some degree or other, with the notable exceptions being the moldy cheeses. This is probably the flavor of chitin, the fundamental material which all fungi are made of (in plants this is cellulose).

Some popular edibles with unique flavors include of course the morel (Morchella spp) with a distinctive savory (Umami) flavor which definitely makes me think of "little steaks growing from the ground", the chanterelle (Cantharellus and Craterellus spp with some others included sometimes due to superficial resemblance) whose flavors within the group are fairly different, with the yellow chanterelles being fruity (it takes quite a lot of them in your mouth at once before you taste any mushroominess), the red variety being more floral and spicy, the black trumpets being more similar to morels but tasting somewhat like a combination of morel and yellow chanterelle, and other varieties I've not found yet probably tasting different; curiously there exists a type of tooth fungus (with the spatially opposite design of the polypore or bolete, that being stalactites of spore-producing flesh in the place of gills) called a Hedgehog Mushroom which appears to have some very close evolutionary ties to the yellow chanterelle, as the color is identical (not hard to imagine the same chemical compound might be responsible for the yellow color of both), and the flavor is practically identical, though much more concentrated in the hedgehog than in the yellow chanterelle leading me to believe that the same chemical compound (or complex of compounds) is likely responsible for the flavor of both, especially considering the numerous substantial similarities.

Most varieties of the yellow chanterelle seem to me (personal opinion) to be improvements on the original design. The white chanterelle has a similar appearance only it seems to have diverted its energy from making yellow pigment into making stronger flavor. The yellow trumpet has the appearance of chanterelle in color and the structure of a black trumpet only sometimes it's filled in (making a solid vase) and sometimes it's not (making a hollow trumpet), and it pretty much tastes like a yellow chanterelle with bits of black trumpet in it. The bog chanterelles (yellow and tiny with more of a long-skinny stalk) are the only member of the chanterelle family I enjoy less than the yellow chanterelle that characterizes the family. Also, even though it's not really all the way a chanterelle per se, the yellow hedgehog mushroom (mentioned above) is probably the best of the mushrooms that have the exact same pigment and flavor as the yellow chanterelle, as it is much more concentrated and the texture is more firm, almost crunchy. There's my $0.02 on the matter.

Boletus Edulis, the King Bolete, has something similar going on with there being clearly a set of compounds responsible for the flavor that each fruiting body is only allowed so much of throughout its life, as the smaller/less mature ones seem to have much more concentrated flavor than the larger/more mature ones, and this flavor is definitely something to remember and to develop skills looking in shrumps and identifying mushrooms just to be able to continue to occasionally experience. It is another extremely savory mushroom. The extraneous but healthy pieces of King Bolete you inevitably generate in preparing one for a meal (or several, on a good day) can be used to create a broth that tastes somewhere between chicken and beef broth.

Oyster mushrooms (pleurotus spp) are a unique form, in that the very recognizable gill information matrix appears without stalk and growing from dead trees. This was the first type of mushroom I positively identified myself without anyone else telling me what it was or how to identify it, so really I could say it was the first mushroom I learned, although I fairly well understood the morel after my companion-for-life identified the ones I had found earlier the same year. The flavor is definitely somewhere between mushroom and white-fleshed fish of some sort. The flavors found in the Agaricus genus are actually a surprising trend. More frequently than you find flavors akin to the grocery store mushroom AKA the portabella button, you find almond flavored mushrooms. And it is indeed the same chemical that occurs in the highest concentration in almond oil, benzaldehyde, which is responsible for the flavor of the "almond mushrooms" such as Agaricus Subrufescens (almond mushroom), Agaricus Arvensis (horse mushroom), and Agaricus Augustus (the prince). There are probably other chemicals in these mushrooms responsible for their unique flavor, but that is one I specifically know about, and definitely is responsible at least for the almond aspect of their flavor.

Also something I am able to cross-reference between plants, chemistry, and fungi, are the Candy Cap, Lactarius Fragilis. Fenugreek, maple syrup, tobacco, and various candy caps (there are 3 species of lactarius with this compound in them) all contain Sotolon, a flavor molecule which has different aromas in different concentrations (that of maple syrup or caramel at low concentrations, and that of fenugreek/curry/spicy at high concentrations). There has been no specific scientific study that shows the presence of sotolon in L.fragilis, however these aroma characteristics are consistent - the fresh mushroom smells spicy while the dried mushroom smells like maple syrup. Also the characteristic of sotolon to pass through the body unchanged, leading to maple-syrup-scented sweat glands (armpits mostly) is a well known response to eating lots of fenugreek and it is also a well known response to eating lots of candy cap cookies. This is a mushroom which is treated as a spice, rather than a culinary side dish or main dish. Adding the dried and rehydrated mushrooms to a sugar cookie recipe produces maple-syrup-flavored cookies that are awesome and have mushrooms in them. I have collected (tediously, as the mushrooms are small and do not add up quickly to enough to make a batch of cookies) this mushroom...and yeah, those are some awesome cookies. Sometimes I want to make maple syrup cookies but it wouldn't be the same. They do make an awesome intro to your friends about why they should consider your mushroom hunting to be not something to fear for your life over, but something to consider as a wonderful culinarily relevant excuse to walk around in the woods, when undertaken with solid identification method and hopefully with a little guidance from experienced hunters.

What is a shrump?

To most people in the mushroom hunting community, a shrump is a bump in the duff or dirt with a mushroom under it, but the thing I find most intriguing about shrumps is that you just can't know what's in it until you look. It could be a stick, a pine cone, a turd, or even empty, perhaps occupied once by a mushroom that has melted away into the soil leaving only pushed up pine needles in its wake. Shrumps are easy to overlook if you don't know about them, but once you start searching you'll realize they're everywhere, sometimes filled with boletes and hidden treasure, but often disappointingly unoccupied. Like the event horizon of a black hole, a shrump is pure mystery. You know it's there, you can see its effect on the surrounding matter, but what's inside, you haven't the slightest. Luckily for us, unlike a black hole, the mystery of the shrump can be solved quite easily by opening it up and peering inside.

 Some may argue that if the bump in question is not above a mushroom, then it never was a shrump at all, but I think a shrump is a shrump until proven otherwise. In fact, sometimes I like to stand outside the supposed shrump and imagine what is most likely to be inside, delaying gratification until my curiosity overcomes me, at which point I stick in a finger and peel back the leaves, the wave function of shrump possibilities collapses and resolves into a single entity, the truth, which is more often than not a gopher hole.

 All metaphysical aspects aside, shrumps that do contain mushrooms are actually very common and easy to find. If you dare to penetrate them you may be rewarded with good visuals.

Here is a group of Zeller's Boletes (Boletus zelleri) that my mom had no idea were growing about five feet away from her driveway.

A common misconception that shouldn't deter you from poking shrumps is that mushroom toxins can soak through your skin and poison you. This is anti-fungal propaganda spread by uneducated people and worrisome mothers of small children. It's much more practical to worry about scorpions or gross rotten mushrooms being in the shrump, and that's why some people use a walking stick or similar probe to reveal what lies hidden. I like to use my hands personally, but if you want to remain unsoiled, it's up to you.

 Another reason you might be deterred from picking mushrooms is that you are afraid to damage the organism. You need not worry because the mushroom is actually just the reproductive part of a larger organism, the mycelium, which lives beneath the ground. As long as you slice off the mushroom or pinch it above the base, you can be reasonably sure not to damage the mycelium. For identification purposes it may be necessary to take the base of the stalk, but if your picking morels or some other well known species for the table it's best to leave the stumps in the ground. It's not well known how hard on the mycelium it is to pick a mushroom, but the ones that have evolved to be delicious must find that having their fruits plucked is made up for by the superior spore dispersal afforded by hungry animals.

Check out the fuzzy purple mycelium at the base of this blewit (Clitocybe nuda)
Mushrooms and other fungi are important environmentally for a number of reasons. Not only are they a major decomposer of organic matter, but they also form symbiotic relationships with many different plants and trees. Lichens are symbiotic organisms that are made up of a fungus and an algae, and are one of the first lifeforms to colonize inhospitable places. Mushrooms can also be beautiful, edible, consciousness expanding, deadly poisonous, medicinal or destructive and they provide a great place for bugs to hang out.

                                                                      Boletus zelleri

another Zeller's Bolete under a shrump

                                                    morchella sp.

                                      the blue staining orange peel fungus