KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — Valley Musicians Compete In A Summer Long Songwriter Challenge Competition

I’ll bet a $12,000 custom Taylor guitar you didn’t know local area musicians are competing in a northern Red River Valley songwriter challenge.

Eighteen musicians so far have submitted their YouTube video entries in the 2018 Half Brothers Songwriter Challenge. Half Brothers Brewing Co., in Grand Forks, is the main sponsor for the competition.

The contest runs throughout the summer. It ends in September in a live competition before a panel of judges.

Clearly, the “Challenge” part of the contest name is an understatement. That’s because the primary purpose of the contest is to write and record one original song a week for 12 weeks.

I’m not a contestant, but I know enough about the music business that when I saw the competition’s goal, I said to myself: “Holy shit. A song a week.”

So far, after week No. 1, more than a dozen songwriters have embraced the tough test and submitted their initial tunes.

Again, the main point here is the songs must be completely, 100 percent ORIGINAL. That means musicians can’t submit their own version of, say, Keith Urban’s “Drop Top Down,” or the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” or Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” or “Crash” by Dave Matthews or even Camila Cabello’s “Havana.”

Writing and recording a song a week realistically doesn’t allow time for perfection. The initial entries own titles such as “Take Me Back,” “Something Better Than This,” “Whiskey and the Pain” and “Ain’t Goin’ Fishing in the Morning.” Musical styles vary from the blues to folk and Americana to the more popular genre. Guitar player/singers rule so far, and for some reason, most of the submissions come from men.

Songs, you know, are pretty complicated and time-consuming to write. They need to be conceived, built, tweaked, edited, rewritten, deleted maybe and, ultimately, published and performed. 

Challenge prizes provide some incentive. The winner earns $500 from Half Brothers, 10 hours of free studio recording time with Whisky Sam Makarim in Grand Forks, video and recording time with HB Sound & Light and to cap off the contest, a live performance opportunity Sept. 13-16 at the Greenway Takeover Festival.  Second- and third-place winners will receive some cash and music gear from sponsors and can play at the Takeover Festival.

Anthony Diaz of Crookston is the person who envisioned the torturous challenge. Diaz, 35, already is an area music scene veteran. He’s no stranger to song competitions, either. Five years ago, Diaz won a radio contest to open for Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon and Styx at a Ralph Engelstad Arena concert.

Since his youth, while listening to musicans perform at church, Diaz has taken  his songwriting and guitar craft beyond seriously. He owns a golden voice and his guitar style emits a funky-jazzy-bluesy feel, depending what and where Anthony is playing. His gigs include solo acts, plus performances with two bands, The Dank and Del Norte.

Ali Rood is another member of the area music scene and the go-to person to enter the Songwriter Challenge. Her voice is even more golden than Anthony’s.

Rood, who works for the city of Grand Forks, began playing live when she was 13. She began strumming and singing to friends and at high school. Live performances at coffee shops followed. She graduated to playing at  “open mic” sessions, such as at the old Hub, and now in the area bar scene. Community events, such as Art on the Red (formerly Art Fest), offer more chances to perform live. She plays three to four times a month.

Rood says area musicians have become more collaborative the last couple of years. Most musicians know or are at least familiar with the names of area players.

The live music performance scene in the northern Red River Valley historically has been more desert than mecca. There’s less edgy competition among players now mainly because there are more places to play. Venues such as Up North in East Grand Forks and Half Brothers, Rhombus Guys and L’Bistro in Grand Forks offer more opportunities for musicians to share their songs.

Rood says people who check out the performances at Half Brothers will be surprised at what they hear and see. 

“The scene has developed the last two years,” Roods says. “I think people are going to be surprised when they see the talent the area offers.”

All musicians are storytellers. They’ve labored over melodies, notes, lyrics and arrangements. The goal is to evoke emotion, to make you pause, think and remember that story. Maybe even whistle it while you work. Or make the song an ear worm.

The northern Red River Valley can’t compete yet with the number of places to play found in such cities as Fargo, but Fargo is no Duluth just as Duluth is no Twin Cities, which isn’t Nashville, New York or LA, either.

But right now, the northern valley music scene is evolving and growing, one song at a time.

Here’s a list of current sponsors: Half Brothers, HB Sound & Light, Whiskey Sam, Wing Doctor Productions, Minnesota Institute of Contemplation and Healing.

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — A Walk Along The Red Lake River Corridor

Spring teased the Northland last weekend. The seasonal diversion seemed as though it knew the winds from hell would soon attack us from the north.

Rarely do March temperatures rise into the balmy, high 40s. But when they do, cabin fever-crazy Minnesotans head — where else? — outside.

Sunday was the ideal day to take a hike along the East Grand Forks Greenway.

A long walk on the bike trail would have provided enough free medicine to chase away the fever. A walk along the more rugged Red Lake River corridor provided the instant cure.

The flooded ice-covered river had occupied the deer trail I followed only a week prior when the Red Lake had crested.

The path allowed easy access to the surreal frozen wonderland the river had deposited along its banks as far as I could see.

The icy river flowed west underneath a tumult of covered ice. But, on shore, the Red Lake had transformed a 50-yard wide strip into an Arctic landscape.

The river’s retreat had deposited endless rugged hunks and lumps and chunks of ice in many shapes and forms: sculptures, pool table tops and sheets that could have hosted a pond hockey game.

Cottonwoods, willow trunks, limbs and vegetation had trapped many slabs as large as a garage floor and as small as a table top.

Across the river (of course), where the current is always lazy, I could see the phalanx of cottonwoods had arrested suspended slabs as long and wide as driveways.

Most of the shore’s ice I walked on was glued to the ground, but many sheets were left suspended a few inches or feet in the air. Still others were captured as high as my thighs.

I hadn’t crossed a hockey rink in boots in decades, but that’s what walking across the miniature glaciers sort of felt like.

Every once in awhile, the ice cracked beneath my boots. Another step, another crack. Another step and suddenly — woomph! — a swimming pool size slab would drop to the ground. I recalled a little nervously that’s exactly what I felt when I fell through a frozen beaver pond while deer hunting back in the day. Only then, I never touched bottom. On Sunday, the ice and I landed on ground with a thud. The experience was eerily similar, though. After the eighth or ninth time the ice dropped, I couldn’t help but giggle or laugh.

I couldn’t resist dropping to hands and knees to peer beneath the trapped sheets at the ground. One fat grey squirrel sprinted under one ice field. No fear there.

The river’s gift of an other worldly landscape offered the ideal diversion for two hours.

I hiked back realizing I’d just witnessed two seasons at war with winter still on top and spring down below.

Who knows what spring will bring tomorrow?

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — I Had Fun Reading A Bunn Coffee Maker Instruction Booklet

We’ve all been there. You’ve bought something — an appliance, tool, toy, DIY furniture, whatever — and the time arrives to use the thing.

But first, decision-making time arrives.

You see, humans divide themselves into those who read instructions before use, and those who don’t.

Many, many men (mostly) I know believe they are born with that special intuitive skill — you know, the one that allows them to assemble, build or connect the damn thing and watch it work.

I’m not one of them. That’s because I possess an instructions fetish and enjoy reading them. I think that’s because instructions provide a much-needed diversion or distraction from consuming way too much information from way too many websites that may or may not contain Fake News.

After reading volumes of instructions over the years, I know that most are written by technical writers who’ve never used the gadget they’re writing about. I also know the chances are pretty good that the poor person tasked with writing them lives in a country where English is the fifth language. Whatever the reason, reading instructions can be an adventure.

The guide that came with the Bunn coffee maker we bought was stunning in its simplicity and clarity. And get this — whoever wrote it had a heck of a sense of humor. I laughed at least a half-dozen times reading the step-by-step guide. (These days, laughs seem to be a precious and seemingly rare commodity. Again, I blame it on the news.) As I read the booklet, each page drove my anticipation of using the device a bit more. That, I swear, has only happened to me one other time, when I bought my first audio/video receiver.

For the record, the Mr. Coffee machine we bought four years ago and blew up a few weeks ago clearly was a victim of engineering incompetence. But when it worked, the machine looked cool, especially at night because its clock cast a cool blue glow throughout the kitchen. The Mr. Coffee maker (what a stupid name for an appliance brand) also made OK coffee. Imagine that. Problem is, it met my definition as a piece of crap precisely because it lasted only four years. For $50, I figured the thing would last at least a decade, like its predecessor did.

The new Bunn is made in Iowa, and Bunn promotes that in its package literature. I’ve got nothing against Iowa, but I still found it strange that Iowa was the machine’s birthplace. Who knew? (I always thought Iowa made only hogs and Republicans — including the biggest GOP freak in Congress right now. His name is Steve King. For more about this asshole, check out your own news source.)

About that instruction booklet
The “Welcome” booklet’s cover grabs your eyeballs and doesn’t let go. That’s because it’s printed on blaze orange paper. I like blaze orange a few weeks out of the year. I turned the page and soon found myself immersed in the directions like a container of crushed, aromatic beans in Bunn land.

Page 3 greets the reader/user with “Why Bunn?” in large, black type. The paragraph that follows explains: “Since 1957 restaurants have been using Bunns to make ‘the best coffee experience possible by building the best coffee makers possible.’” The graph goes on to explain that Bunn is a proud company that’s based on honesty and passion and other haughty claims. Maybe they’re even true. Time will tell.

The paragraph ends by saying, “Great coffee is just moments away.” I’m not sure how Iowegians define “moments,” but I needed 20 minutes to read the booklet.

Page 4 is an actual table of contents. Remember them? They were common back when people read books and didn’t tweet. The Bunn table tells the user that “Let’s Get Started” begins on Page 6, for example; “Meet the Brewer” is on 7; “Let’s Be Safe” can be found on Page 10. The one that raised my left eyebrow when I read it was the last line: “Legal Mumbo Jumbo.” Hmmmmm, I thought, so far these instructions definitely beat reading the news.

The Big Black Page 5 yells out in 3-inch letters, “Let’s Get Started.” And in type 90 percent smaller: “PLEASE FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS TO A TEE.” I liked that line because it suggested Bunn knows that far too many people — even the ones who buy their stuff — are dumb asses and need extra encouragement not to goof up. (For proof dumb asses rule the Earth, have you driven anywhere yet today? And then, of course, there’s tomorrow.)

The next few pages contain a parts diagram, which is even accurate. In fact, all of the illustrations in the book are accurate because they look like the actual machine. This is a first for instruction booklets and should qualify Bunn as a Pulitzer Prize contender for Community Service.

After turning the page, one can’t miss the warning on Page 8 in all caps: “Do not plug in until Step 4, or you risk permanently damaging the machine. AND WE DON’T WANT THAT ANY MORE THAN YOU DO.” (I love that line. Honesty. It’s another precious commodity these days. For proof, as of a month ago, Wells Fargo was our former bank.)

Page 9 marries illustrations with the step-by-step printed instructions that explain how to prep the machine. Step 5, the last one, reads: “TURN ON BREWER. Press Tank Switch on side to ON position. Wait 15 minutes for water to heat (you only do this once for life of brewer, so don’t fret). Keep Tank Switch on (unless you’re taking that much-needed vacation). Then be sensible and shut it off.” (I found that funny. Maybe because I’m a fan of using parentheses wisely. That the words within the Bunn parenthesis are funny to me is a bonus. I actually read them aloud to Sara when she asked what I was laughing at. She laughed, too.

“LET”S BE SAFE” launches the list of dos and dont’s most product instructions contain. Page 11 begins with, “IMPORTANT. NO, REALLY, THIS IS IMPORTANT.” I laughed again.

Finally, we get to the most important part of the instruction booklet: “Let’s brew 101.” Here Bunn explains the Bunn Difference, which contains more claims about how the machine makes great coffee. There’s a ditty for Time, Temperature and Turbulence. That’s right: turbulence. Bunn anticipated my consternation … “Created in the Brew Funnel as water uniformity showers over coffee, resulting in smooth flavor.” Hmmmm. I never thought of water as having uniformity. “Let’s Brew 101” ends with another sentence in parenthesis: “(We coffee geeks call this uniformity of extraction.)”

The last 10 pages tell how to clean the machine and how to troubleshoot if something’s amiss. I found more humor there, too.

The Basic Cleaning section ends: “If you’re a neat freak, do it more than occasionally.” The last page is reverse white type on a black background that simply says, “ENJOY.”

And I did. The machine performed exactly how, according to the instructions, it should. The thing made the best cup of coffee I’ve had in months.

So, here’s a tip of my coffee mug to Bunn for manufacturing what seems to be a bulletproof coffee maker. In four years, we shall see if what Bunn says in its instructions proves true.

I wish all gadgets, toys and tools were accompanied by instructions half as funny as Bunn’s. Reading them made my day and beat the hell out of reading the news, fake or not. Better yet, it made a perfect cup of coffee, when the temperature outside was 12 below.

Bravo (for now), Bunn!

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — Another Hike, Another Fantastic Mushroom Discovery

Fall has finally arrived, and we’re on a roll.

I said two blogs ago Nature is pregnant with surprises and looked forward to a return trip to the Brainerd (Minn.) Lakes Area to discover more of them.

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest daughter, Arin, and her mountain climbing son, Asher, stumbled on a delicious species of edible mushroom called the Bear’s Head Tooth. The soft, white ‘shroom resembled a chunk of coral that looked like it would be more at home on an ocean reef than a forest floor. 

Once we discovered the Bear’s Head was edible, of course I cooked it. I described the eating experience like this:  “The ‘shrooms were so tasty, so delectable, so mouthwatering delicious, so slyly and subtly flavorful, so creamy, just so damn good! we were astonished — speechless even. We couldn’t believe that something so odd looking could taste so heavenly.

Last weekend, we took a short hike around a small lake hoping to absorb Minnesota’s fall colors (and more mushrooms?). Our walk took us along the top of a ridge that contained a beautiful early autumn overlook of the far lakeshore.

North-central Minnesota’s fall color transition is happening in slow motion. The foliage remains 70 percent green, but the splashes provided by golden draped maples promised the fall color explosion is on its way. Although we couldn’t fully see autumn, we could feel and smell the cusp of its arrival. 

The hiking area contains an almost balanced mix of blowdowns and standing trees. That’s because powerful straight line winds ripped the Nisswa/Baxter/Brainerd area apart this past August and in July 2015. Besides tearing up the forest, storms raised havoc by damaging roofs, blocked roads and knocked out power for some people for a week. The area also has been a target for parades of tropical precipitation two years in a row. Besides producing too many wet basements, the wet earth makes trees susceptible to toppling during hurricane force winds.

We were witnessing the result of what happens after nature twice flexes her muscle. White pines, popples, basswood, oaks, maples — the indiscriminate wind didn’t care what it bullied. The Weather Service calculates the wind in 2015 blew more than 100 mph. Uprooted stumps, angled widow-makers — hung-bung severed trunks that haven’t completed their inevitable surrender to gravity — and fallen trees lay haphazardly on the ground.

In time, the wood will rot. As it does, the trees will return to dust, fertilizing the forest floor with nutritious decay that will allow new plants and trees to take root.

Already, mushrooms are finding the battle zone to their liking. I counted nine species of ‘shrooms on our mile-long hike. I couldn’t identify eight of them.

And then we struck gold again, or should I say orange?

Chicken of the Woods mushroom.
Chicken of the Woods mushroom.

Sara was the first to ask, “Aren’t those pretty?” as she pointed toward a clump of stuff that reminded me of Halloween. Three clumps of elongated pumpkin colored fungus, each about the size of a football, were growing just above the ground attached to a fallen oak. I sliced one clump and was surprised it weighed much heavier than a football. The “cap” contained about 30 individual fan-shaped and overlapping “shelves” that were 3 to 8 inches across. I’d soon discover that these are the parts one cleans and eats.

I had a pretty good hunch my hand held another type of mushroom that wore a wacky sounding name — maybe as goofy sounding as the Bear’s Head Tooth ‘shrooms we found a few weeks ago.

To confirm our discovery, like I did with the Bear’s Head find, I posted a photo on Facebook. Amazingly, the social media site proved it has some value once in awhile. My nephew, Blake, supplied the answer in minutes: chicken of the woods. Five more people confirmed what I already suspected. More research back at the lodge confirmed the confirmations.

We found what are called Chicken of the Woods. One more time: Chicken of the Woods. I like saying the name. Especially when it’s the answer to the question: “What are you cooking?”

“Chicken of the woods, of course.” 

COTW are sort of related to another mushroom that looks similar and grows in a clump but isn’t as colorful. The COTW’s relative is called Hen of the Woods. I’m not making this up. Both species are not only edible but deliciously so.

I learned a few things about COTW from the web:

  • COTW is sometimes called chicken fungus, chicken mushroom and sulphur shelf.
  • They grow on hardwoods.
  • COTW, as Sara demonstrated, is easily identified because of its orange color. As specimens age, their color fades as does their taste.
  • The ‘shrooms grow in northern states east of the Rockies.
  • I repeatedly read COTW are one of the easy and “safe” mushrooms to identify.

Back home, I cleaned the chickens with a paper towel. I removed the tough firm, white base and discarded it, then sliced the orange shelves into 1-inch pieces.

I grilled them for 15 minutes at 400 degrees with an occasional coating of parsley butter.

So, what did they taste like?

Some humans compare COTW to chicken of the sea or other seafood critters such as snow crab. I think they taste like chicken. The friend I invited over agrees. “Tastes like chicken,” he said. We’re not making this up. That the mushrooms accompanied grilled chicken breasts also may have had something to do with the taste comparison. A second meal of COTW the next day, this time in an omelette, confirmed the culinary chicken connection, however.

 I’ll be heading south to the Brainerd area again soon, which is getting pretty late in the mushroom hunting game. But who knows, striking gold — or orange or whatever color the edible surprise turns out to be — three consecutive times on the fungus front remains a possibility.

I know one thing that won’t be difficult to find because the fall’s color explosion will be peaking.

Fall carries with it treats that tease and saturate multiple human senses. Autumn, with its orange and crimson and bronze and tan and yellow and purple palette, is the sensual season.

And I’ll take its offerings in our neck of the woods over any other state, thank you very much. If I find some edibles in the meantime, that’s just more frosting on Minnesota’s ultimate season.

 

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — A Coupon Lesson In Toilet Paper Mathematics

Coupon grocery shopping is sort of like hunting for Easter eggs.

Since I have no say in our household, I do both the shopping and egg hunting.

The local family-owned grocery monopoly mails coupons to residents every once in awhile. Two weeks ago, we received some, so I decided I’d go spend and save some money.

The colorful coupon package is entitled, “CouponMania! Enjoy family Favorites For Less!”

There are 32 coupons in all. Coupons are divided so shoppers are offered four bargains a week. For you mathematically challenged shoppers like me, that computes into eight week’s worth of coupon shopping. What a deal!

Once I got permission to spend, and armed with the coupons plus a few other items on My List, I headed to one of the grocery chain’s stores on 32nd Avenue South in Grand Forks, which for people living in East Grand Forks may as well be in North Fargo. I could have chosen the EGF store, but I had a few other stores in North Fargo to hit.

Most of the time, assuming you are willing to travel every aisle, navigating the grocery store’s lanes for  coupon products isn’t difficult — except there always seems to be that one elusive item on the list. Always.

I’m not sure but I think the store owners are trying to pull a fast one on us. Could it be because they hope each shopper might throw three unnecessary packages of Oreos or whatever in our cart in addition to buying the coupon specials?

So I found the coupon specials — deli meat package, the bottle of juice and Lay’s Family Pack of potato chips — no problem.

I paused before retrieving the last list item to catch up on my label reading. For many reasons, I study product labels. I pay attention to the ingredients, the weight and how many slices of product are promised  in the package. Frequently, the company doesn’t tell you how much product the plastic or cardboard container contains. Drives me nuts when I’m trying to count those invisible slices of bacon.

If one has read labels over a period of years, you’ve probably noticed a trend. One has to wonder why we are paying much more for much less of whatever it is we choose to buy. Coupons allow consumers to forget — at least for a while — that we’re probably getting screwed again.

I discovered the salami in the plastic box weighed 7 ounces, which is 1 ounce shy of 8 ounces, which is a half-pound; the healthy potato chips in their red and yellow package wore a 15¾-ounce weight — not 1 pound, mind you — 15¾ ounces.

I wanted to know how many chips are in 15¾ ounces, but that information remains secret. I wondered out loud how much more of a profit margin Lay’s makes by eliminating that 1 ounce of chips.

The juice actually contained 64 ounces, which is a whole one-half gallon. I was momentarily stunned when I saw the 64 ounces. Following the logic used by the other manufacturers, I expected to read 63.2 ounces.

tppicSince I’d left the hunt for the 16-roll package of TP — aka toilet paper — until last, off to the “bathroom tissues” aisle I went.

And that’s where I found Jerry and enough TP packages to fill our deer shack outhouse 50 times over.

Turned out I wasn’t the only person using my Mania coupons.

Jerry had to be pushing 80 on the human anniversary scale. He was slowly moving along the TP display and mumbling to himself. I could relate.

After a few minutes he asked, “You seem as puzzled as I am. Are you doing what I’m doing?”

“You mean trying to find the 16-roll pack? Yes. I wonder where they’ve got them stashed because they don’t seem to be here. Maybe they’re in the organic aisle.”

We continued hunting for a 16-roll pack of Northern Puffs — or whatever they’re called.

We found packs of 4, 8, 12 but couldn’t find what we both imagined to be a package containing 16 rolls of TP.

I normally don’t buy TP at the grocery store — too expensive. My wife and I head to a double-jumbo box store to stock up on bulk paper products such as TP and PT — aka paper towel. We grab the usual brand and heft it into the cart and are on our way to paying $17 for a pack of 18 rolls. I’ve never read a TP package until the other day. Apparently, my new shopping partner hadn’t either.

We focused our attention on typography and labels hoping to discover the secret to TP packaging.

“Do you see this?” he asked, pointing to the bottom line of tiny blue type on a clear background.

The label clearly stated he was holding 16 rolls of TP — and the word “Double.” We deployed Google Analytics and examined the package even closer. You see, both of us wear glasses.

“I’ll be damned,” I said. “I only see eight rolls, how about you?”

“Yep, eight rolls. Must not be the one.”

To gain clarification, I read the entire package aloud. In green type, top left, it read: “Double 16 double rolls = 32 regular rolls.” And at the very bottom in blue type: “16 rolls. 312.8 SQ FT (28.7m2). 176 2-PLY SHEETS PER ROLL. 4.0 IN X 4.0 IN (10.1 cm X 10.1 cm).”

“That’s a pretty crappy thing for Northern Puff to do — lie about the number of rolls in a package in plain blue writing!” Jerry said. “And what the hell is a CM? And who the hell measures toilet paper in square feet or inches?”

Jerry was getting a bit ornery.

“You’ve got that right, but technically, they’re sort of being honest.”

“It’s still a crappy thing to do. With that logic, when we check out, we should get our stuff at half price. Or get twice as much of everything for the same price.”

Clearly, Jerry is a math genius, and he lost me.

We both tired of the toilet paper challenge.

“Hell with it, I’ll submit this to the checkout person and punt,” he said.

“Got any more coupon items to buy?” I asked.

“Three more.”

I told him where to find the juice, the meat and chips, said “good luck … nice talking TP with you,” and I headed to the checkout aisle where I was interrupted by another TP-related blockade.

The whole ordeal reminded me of constipation.

“Ummm,” the very pleasant checkout woman said, “this isn’t the right toilet paper package for the coupon. Would you like me to get it for you?”

And off she went but quickly returned.

I thought that fetching my TP was a very nice thing for her to do and told her so.

“Thanks. I’ve been doing this my whole shift,” she said.

“Coupon shopping is sort of like Easter egg hunting,” I said, while grabbing my bags, “except then the eggs are free.”

“Actually, they will be on sale in a couple of weeks,” she said. “See you then!”

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — A Hike, A Discovery And Then Food Fit For The Gods

The stuff on the log looked like something that belonged in an ocean.

Like pure, white clumps of coral growing on a reef, it stood out in stark relief to the jungle green of early September’s foliage.

How could we have missed it? That we had passed it by the first time on our short hike on the mountain bike trail was odd. Was Mother Nature up to her old tricks again?

Daughter Arin, carrying her 6-month-old and future Himalayan climber Asher in a frontpack, spied the stuff on the return trip. She stopped in her tracks and asked, “What’s that?”

She pointed to what clearly were clumps of fungus growing on a dark gray popple deadfall.

What is that? I wondered.

Of course, I couldn’t keep my hands off it and gently removed a fist-size ball with my trusty knife, which wasn’t really needed because the fungi easily surrendered from the log. I peeled four clumps in all and took a closer look.

The sample felt supersoft, like a ball of feathers, only it was rubbery. It smelled like the September forest floor, which is perfume to my nose.

“What is it?” ended up being the question that would occupy our time for the next several hours.

Nature contains a billion mysteries, and clearly the white fungus was one of them.

Mushrooms, you know, can be deadly when consumed. Or quite fun, depending on your mood, so I’m told. They also can be one of the tastiest things you’ve ever eaten. Probably because a grandkid was around, I entered a cautious state of discovery. So I posed the question on Facebook, “Anybody know what this stuff is? Found  it growing …”

Not even 20 minutes later, Lisa Foss, who lives in Ely, Minn., with her husband, Steve, offered the answer. The Foss couple knows a thing or two about woods, water, flora and fauna — they lead a wild life. So I trusted her. I always trust people who live in Ely.

I also know a thing or two about fungi —  just enough to be dangerous. I’m  hesitant to eat anything I find in the woods. I’ve probably passed up a half-ton of wild edibles over time, but hey, I’m still kicking. One of these days, I need to hire a guide, a mentor, to show me all of the safe edibles Nature has to offer. (Hey, bucket list, make that so.)

As we headed back to the ranch, I was still a bit wary about the mystery mushrooms and felt compelled to further verify our prize’s identity. Turned out to be quite easy. At least a half-dozen mushroom sites I found on the internet were in agreement about our find.

handOur discovery is commonly called the Bear’s Head Tooth mushroom and is one of the easiest species to identify and safest forms of fungi one can consume.

One description found oddly enough on specialtyproduce.com explained our specimens succinctly: “The Bear’s Head mushroom is white with soft spines drooping downward from a thick, branched fruiting body. Often growing from hardwood trees. …  Its texture is meaty and tender with a sweet and fragrant seafood-like taste, similar to lobster or crab.”

Yeah, right.

As the fungi sautéed in butter and garlic, we would soon see about that.

Some of the other info I sucked up on the Web about the ‘shroom includes:

  • Bear’s Head is a member of the Hericium fungi family. Hericiums are found in Minnesota in late summer and early fall. The log that produced the edibles could do so again a few years in succession. Map that log!
  •  Mushy mushroom specimens aren’t good; spongy and stiff is good and crumbly is OK, too. Store them in a paper bag. Don’t let them dry out.
  • Hericium species contain a healthy bunch of ingredients. One is a compound that is an anti-convulsant and neuron protector for epilepsy, brain or spinal cord injury. The edibles also bulge with vitamin D, are high in fiber and protein. Native Americans are said to have dried and powdered the mushrooms and used a paste to stop bleeding wounds and cuts. Asians soak the fungi in hot water to make a sports drink.
  • To prepare the mushrooms for cooking, all you do is wash and then squeeze them to remove excess moisture, like a sponge, which it kind of is since it’s 80 percent water.
  • Break the mushrooms into chunks and cook until the tips are crispy. Or bake them until they shrink to half their size. Dip them in flavored ginger or garlic butter. Or batter them in Panko and fry them. Or pickle them. Maybe dehydrate some and store in the freezer? Use them in pasta. Make a soup with leeks and spuds.

We decided to serve the mushrooms by themselves. Desert seemed the appropriate dish.

We tasted the fungi tentatively at first. After the second and third bites, the expressions on our faces revealed all. The ‘shrooms were so tasty, so delectable, so mouthwatering delicious, so slyly and subtly flavorful, so creamy, just so damn good! we were astonished — speechless even. We couldn’t believe that something so odd looking could taste so heavenly.

And yes, the mushrooms had an inexplicable seafood taste. I thought of snow crab or shrimp during the first mouthful. Arin and husband Adam said they tasted lobster. We’re not making this up.

The next day, Arin, Adam and Asher went to harvest more Bear’s Head Tooth near the towns of Crosby and Ironton, Minn., which are located somewhere between the Gulf Coast and Lake Winnipeg. They prepared and ate three more meals the next few days. Arin said that, after the last meal, the mushrooms still tasted like lobster, but she had reached a mushroom saturation point. Another batch rests in their fridge, and they’re curious how long the ‘shrooms’ shelf life will be.

Meantime, now that we’re armed with information, another return trip to the forest is planned. Maybe Nature will have another surprise waiting to be discovered.

I’m anxious to see how she tops the Bear’s Head shroomery find.

fry

To learn more about mushroom hunting and identification, check out these field guides. Owning a heavy dose of paranoia when exploring the world of mushrooms is a healthy thing. Don’t leave home without one.

  • “Mushrooms Demystified” by David Arora.
  • “National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms” by Gary A. Lincoff.
  • “Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest,” Teresa Marrone and Kathy Yerich.
  • Online, check out http://mushroomexpert.com

KEVIN GRINDE ― Rhythm Of The Trail: Critters Can’t Escape This Trail Cam

Since the 1930s, beginning with our great-grandfather’s clan, family members have heard wolves howl, grouse drum, deer blow, coyotes yip and bark, owls hoot, frogs croak.

Then, there are the frequent, mysterious and sometimes scary unidentified critters who scream or moan or bray worse than almost all of our impressive presidential candidates.

Most of the time we hear the sounds at night, and we always ask in a frightened tone: “What the hell was that?”

The question usually comes as we sit around the fire pit with eyes wide, goosebumps crawling and whatever hair we have left standing stiff on neck or arm. Sometimes, when our flashlights pierce the black woods, we might catch a glimpse of a shape. Typically, we just hear the beasts, go to bed and then look for evidence of their presence the next morning. You see, we just need to know what shares the woods.

Critters deposit proof they exist all over the woods, you know. We all enjoy attempting to decipher the size, sex, weight and other characteristics of animals while examining tracks and scat or other markings.

These days, however, the evidence we find on the ground takes a distant second place when compared with an animal’s image caught on camera. In fact, our trail camera images are the next best thing to actually witnessing the ultimate ― usually explosive ― close encounter.

Humans have tried to capture wildlife on camera for more than 100 years. I know a few people who’ve gotten really good at shooting critters with a camera, but photographers such as Steve Foss in Ely, Minn., are the rare specimens who are patient, lucky and woods wise ― qualities most humans in 2016 don’t possess, especially those who live in New York or California or any community with a population of more than 368 souls. That’s just the way it is, right?

These days, technology, for better or usually worse, allows humans to capture wildlife with a digital camera. And get this — some trail cameras (aka game cameras) contain Wi-Fi capability that can send photos directly to your cell phone. Wow. Isn’t high tech grand?

I can vouch that trail cam technology has advanced quite a bit the last dozen or so years. For example, my first two trail cams, if memory serves, required at least 62 D-cell batteries to operate; it captured photos on black-and-white film ― film ― remember film? The crappy cameras were a hassle to use, ate those 62 D-cell batteries daily for breakfast and generally were nothing but frustration, which is why I burned them both in the fire pit.

But things change, thank God.

A month or so ago, my brother and I were discussing where to place his new trail camera, a camouflaged box of digital wonder. Its 40 passive infra-red LEDS gives the thing an insect kind of quality. Its sensor won’t spook critters at night at a distance of 50 feet. And, amazingly, it detects movement so subtle even snowflakes can’t hide from the lens.

But wait, there’s more! The camera contains a time-lapse mode, will shoot video at 30 fps and a ton of other stuff we haven’t figured out because the contraption requires someone younger than 16 to program the thing.

We retrieved the SD card a week ago. As you can see by the images (some are fuzzy, others are crisp), man does the camera work. Brett paid $80 for it in a half-price deal. Nephew Cale has a similar trail cam. (His captured an image of a lynx last winter that will knock your socks off. Maybe he’ll let me publish it some day.)

I intend to get one soon. We’re already discussing where to place them, a pretty fun puzzle in itself.

Who knows what animals, birds and other creatures we will capture?

As everybody knows, there have been quite a few Sasquatch sightings in the area south of Effie. I’m not making this up. Perhaps … who knows … we can catch one on a trail cam. Don’t snicker. Anything is possible with high technology. The truth is out there.

 

 

 

 

KEVIN GRINDE — Rhythm Of The Trail: The Fish, One Year After

Unheralded.fish became a year old this week.

One-year-olds are a blast to watch as they grow. They’re fresh, fun, unpredictable, messy, emotional, creative, aware and always entertaining.

I’m describing my granddaughter, but many of those characteristics could describe the Fish, too.

In the second year of life, humans slowly but surely learn to become aware of their environment. They become more creative; their sense of taste, smell, touch develops through experimentation; they learn to speak and express themselves in a variety of ways (some get very good at it and rarely shut up); they become familiar with rules and how to break them; and they embrace fun because fun translates into many things, sometimes happiness.

In our second year, the Fish’s path won’t be any dissimilar with that of the kid’s.

We hope to attract more contributors, communicators who enjoy going along on our ride even though none of us know where our next destination will be. They’ve chosen to contribute because all of them — their names appear on the left side of this page — want to share their work.

None of them have been compensated one red cent. A few have said we should keep the Fish that way. Maybe we will. Maybe we won’t. We’re not going to lose any sleep about the entire business model thing: capital, profit and loss, cash flow, budgets, sales, return on investment, market, branding (that one word makes me fume more than any other on this list, and someday I may tell you why that’s so) …  Add “human” resources to the list and and fill in the blanks if you wish.

Don’t misunderstand. We are taught that business makes the world go ’round — and it does, for better or worse. And more power to those who choose to make that happen. An ethical, profitable business is worth its weight in gold, not just to the owners or people who buy its stuff but, most importantly, to those who make the widgets and the profit happen.

Responsible capitalism can be a very good thing — you know, the nonsubsidized ones that pay a fair wage beginning at $15 and hour and offer benefits solid enough to help cover basic needs … The ones whose owners and management treat people well and follow the law — you know — they don’t discriminate against age and disability, gender. Businesses without Human Resources departments. Businesses that don’t gouge on prices or subscribe to collusion (like the owners of gas stations in a city I’m familiar with). The ones who clean up after they make a mess.

We work to buy and pay for the basic essentials to survive: food, water, shelter, clothes, sanitation, education, health care and transportation. The rest of life’s stuff pretty much is all bullshit, except for owning at least one drum set.

Of course, jobs are great. Some of us like them so much, more and more people are working two or three $7 an hour ones each week.

All I’m saying is  money wasn’t the motivation that drove the four of us who formed and launched the Fish. Telling and sharing stories was — that’s it. Pretty pure. Pretty simple.

We also know people these days demand their information for free, which is why most business models for the majority of print and online publications are outdated by decades or even days. The so-called successful ones are really good at offering breathless stories about the Kardashians, the fake reality stuff, sports only, Hollywood, Disneyland — just about anything in SoCal — or they lie to you.

I’m also saying that, yes, a Fish business model does exist. We’ve been approached by businesses to become part of our pages. This week, we posted an invite to advertisers. Where all of this ends up, who knows? We doubt we’ll ever get rich on the Fish, but as long as people want to share their work, we will be here.

Right now, we’d like to thank the people who’ve shared their thoughts, their words, their images and wisdom. For those of you who don’t write, know this: writing well is one of the most difficult things you can do. Trust us. Fish contributors write well.

So on our one-year anniversary, the four of us -— Joe Greenwood, Mike Brue and Jeff Tiedeman (Jeff does the lion’s share of the lifting at the Fish) — would like to thank the people who’ve become a  part of this web site. Thank you! Russell Hons, Nancy Edmonds Hanson, Jim Fuglie, Dave Vorland, Natasha Thomas, Terry Dullum, Jeff Olson, Tim Madigan, Tom Coyne, Tom Davies, Eric Bergeson, Bev Benda, Lori Nitschke, Barbara LaValleur, Chuck Schumacher, Justin Welsh,  Darrel Koehler, Nick Hennen and Kim Yeager, John Stennes, Jerry Kram and Chris Allen.

These people have provided some excellent reading. We welcome future contributors, too. We want to add to our media mix -— think video. If you’d like to become a part of this gang, let us know. You won’t get rich, but the payoff is in the sharing and knowing what you write just might make a difference, even for a few minutes, to those who read you. That’s what we’re about.

Most of all, the biggest thanks goes out to you — our readers — who keep the Fish flopping. Have an excellent 2016. We sure will.

 

KEVIN GRINDE ― Rhythm Of The Trail: It’s so cold …

Yes, it’s 20 below. So what. In January, zero feels warm. Ten feels balmy. Twenty is sublime. And 32 is shirts and a vest temperature. 

We who live up North deal with stuff like cold with humor, which always makes the world a little warmer.

You’ve probably seen or heard the following It’s So cold jokes, but some of these might be new like today’s fresh arctic breeze.

So, read away. Before we know it, we’ll all look like the guy at the bottom of the page when the weather really gets uncomfortable.

It’s so cold…

Republicans are keeping their hands in their own pockets.

Today I’m looking forward to going outside and chewing my coffee.

It’s so cold I’m going to Caribou and have a latte on a stick.

It’s so cold, my wife spilled hot coffee on me and I thanked her.

At Target, people flock to the walk-in freezer to warm up.

It’s so cold, the cows outside threatened to strike unless they got bras to cover their udders.

I saw a dog frozen to a tree.

I saw two dogs trying to keep each other warm.

And this is a real hoot…

I saw this list about temperatures and human behavior published on a site called Sodahead.com. Funny stuff.

60 above zero: Floridians turn on the heat.  People in Minnesota plant gardens.

50 degrees: Californians shiver uncontrollably. People in Duluth sunbathe.

40 above zero: Italian and English cars won’t start. People in Minnesota drive with the windows down.

32 above zero: Distilled water freezes. The water in Bemidji gets thicker.

20 above zero: Floridians don coats, thermal underwear, gloves, wool hats. People in Minnesota throw on a flannel shirt.

15 above zero: New York landlords finally turn up the heat. People in Minnesota have the last cookout before it gets cold.

Zero: People in Miami all die. Minnesotans close the windows.

10 below zero: Californians fly away to Mexico. People in Minnesota get out their winter coats.

25 below zero: Hollywood disintegrates. The Girl Scouts in Minnesota are selling cookies door to door.

40 below zero: Washington D.C. runs out of hot air. People in Minnesota let the dogs sleep indoors.

100 below zero: Santa Claus abandons the North Pole. Minnesotans get upset because they can’t start the minivan.

60 below zero: ALL atomic motion stops (absolute zero on the Kelvin scale.) People in Minnesota start saying … “Cold ’nuff fer ya?”

500 below zero: Hell freezes over. Minnesota public schools will open two hours late

We who live up north would like to believe that, as Vikings Coach Bud Grant said, cold is just a state of mind.

Of course winter is cold. So what. When you go outside, dress for it.

Let’s have fun dealing with this latest arctic blast. It might be the last one of the season.

And if you’re one of the sourpusses who likes to complain, you can always turn up the heat or move.

Far too soon, we will get our heat ― and bugs and humidity. Remember? That’s when many of us smell like the rotting Florida Everglades and look like this.

sweating

KEVIN GRINDE: Rhythm Of The Trail — Red Lake Indian Reservation And Its Tasty Rainbow Trout

DSC03596
From left, Greg Clusiau, Blake Liend, Justin Bailey and Brad Dokken kneel down to worship their days catch of rainbows. Pay no attention to the man in the background.

At 5 a.m. last weekend, our phone weather apps revealed the news: 13 below, a predicted a high of zero, plus a 20 mph blow.

Perfect.

We didn’t care as we headed east to the Red Lake Indian Reservation and a rendezvous with rainbow trout.

Introductions

I was the back seat passenger in a pickup with two friends, both named Brad, as we headed east on a 2½-hour drive.

Brad No. 1’s main goal of the trip was to connect with my nephew, Blake, and his two friends at Seven Clans Casino on the edge of Red Lake, Minn. More about that in a minute. (I used to change Blake’s diapers.)

Brad had bought Blake’s Polaris snowmobile, and the joint trip was a perfect excuse to hook up, exchange the sled and catch some feisty, tasty trout.

Joining Blake were fishing buddies Greg Clusiau and Justin Bailey. All three live in Keewatin, Minn., a 10-minute ride from Hibbing on Minnesota’s Iron Range. Those three wingnuts, plus Brad No. 2, spend more time on hard and soft water than any people I know.

Brad No. 2, whose last name is Durick, guides anglers for catfish on the Red River when it’s not frozen. He fished into November last year.

Brad No. 1 ― who wears the last name Dokken ― and I go way back. Employment and other nasty reasons keep us from fishing as much as those guys, but we don’t complain too loudly. We get our fill.

Add to our party of six the two Indian guides, brothers Daris and Davis Rosebear, and the trout were a wee bit vulnerable.

Greg Clusiau displays a dandy Red Lake Reservation rainbow trout.

Red Lake’s lakes

When I told people we were going fishing on Red Lake, I meant the small lakes on the reservation, not Upper Red Lake, where people flock to catch walleyes or, if luckier, a lunker crappie. Northern pike the size of canoe paddles make the Reds home, too. Lower Red Lake’s fishing is open to tribal members only. (For dynamite reading, Google Brad Dokken’s stories about Red Lake’s walleye comeback.)

In addition to the giant upper and lower lakes, few people know the reservation holds more than 100 other lakes ― mainly south of the big lake. They range in size from potholes to what people would consider small bodies of water. Look at a map. Lakes dominate the landscape.

The smaller lakes are managed for recreation for both tribal and nontribal members. Trout, rainbows and brookies, can be fished year-round. Other lakes offer giant bass, lake trout and other species. To fish, you need a reservation license and a guide. (See contact details at the end of the blog.)

Saturday, we fished a bowl-like body of water tucked down in a forest of popple. The lake is small and deep, ideal for allowing rainbows and some brook trout to thrive, unless they’re caught on a Northland Tackle Buckshot Flutter Spoon.

The Keewatin guys promote Northland-brand fishing gear, mainly because the stuff excels at helping to hook fish. All three are associated with the fishing industry in some shape and form, but that’s another story.

Fact is, we could have used a paper clip impaled with a nightcrawler or wax worm and the fish would have smacked it.

And catch fish we did.

Limits of five fish per angler are the norm, says guide Davis.

The trout last weekend were the 14- to 17-inchers ― perfect eaters. (See Jeff Tiedeman’s blog on this site about how he enjoys preparing them for a crazy delicious meal.)

Summer like comfort

Today’s ice fishing gear is almost too good. All of us wore the latest “suits” with brand names such as Clam, Frabill, Vexilar, Striker, to name a few.  Bottom line is these bibs and coats are waterproof and produce oven-like temperatures when worn. Unless you use the zipper vents when drilling holes or setting up shelters, you sweat ― even in temps below zero. Frozen sweat is an evil enemy when ice fishing.  I’m not making this up.

The gear isn’t cheap, think $200 to $300 a suit, but compared with the one, 84-cent dinky Roma tomato I paid at a local grocery store the other day, it’s a bargain. What the hell is reasonably priced when compared with wages these days, anyway?

I can’t forget to mention boots, either. Most guys wore thick insulated rubber boots made by Muck. Others wore a heavy combination rubber and leather. All warm boots are big and blocky because that’s the only way manufacturers can provide enough insulation to keep feet warm. The boots are the antithesis of sandals. But I’ve seen people wear slippers in sleeper fish houses. The boots aren’t cheap either. But my first pair of Mucks are 8 years old. That’s called value. If you want to press one of Blake’s buttons, ask him about the quality of work boots these days. “I go through $160 boots twice a year. I’ve tried all brands and they all suck!” Did I tell you asparagus is up to $4 a pound these days at our local grocery store?

Two pop-up shelters kept us comfortable. The shelters, when splayed out, lifted, locked and placed over the holes, allow you to be fishing in minutes.  Light the propane heater and the fishing environment, I think, is as least or even more comfortable than the vagaries of summer’s weather ― without the bugs.

Trout on

After drilling some holes, Blake couldn’t wait for the shelter to be erected. Standing with his back against the wind, he dropped a naked jigging spoon through the fresh, slushy hole allowing it drop into the depths.  By naked I mean it contained no bait.

“Got one!” he yelled to the rest of us who saw the bent, animated rod. We get really frustrated when fish take more than a few seconds to smash a lure.

He lifted the silver and blue flip-flopping, twisting fish out of the hole and smiled.

I know we all said “wise ass” at once, under our breath. All anglers possess at least a sliver of competitive spirit.

“Great job, Blake!”

The rainbow looked too pretty to eat, but I could have bitten into it then, rawwww and wriiiiiigling. But then I love trout. With highlights of red and purple, the rainbows are beautiful and accurately named.

Inside the shelter, the fish locators flashed, ice rods rigged and pieces of nightcrawler skewered to lures. Someday, fly fishermen might figure out how to work their lines and artificial flies on frozen lakes. But for now, ice fishing remains in the providence of those who use such things as ¼-quarter ounce lures that contain hooks you can actually see, plus live bait.

Compared with summer equipment, the rods are short, generally no longer than 24 inches or so. The reels generally are small, no larger than the palm of your hand.

The locators, all of ours are made by Vexilar, reveals a picture of the column of water you’re working -― where your lure is, the lake bottom and anything in between, which of course are fish.

Reading a locator is part science and part art. You get good at it. The guys in our shelter are experts at interpreting what they see on the circular screen. But that doesn’t mean just because you see a fish that the thing will bite whatever you’re offering it. I could get into jigging techniques and other details these guys have learned over the years. It’s true though, practice, like anything, makes you a better angler. Luck is a creature nobody has seen, but, like that new Minnesota state record walleye, it’s out there.  

Add a scoop to clear ice from holes and your usual tools to unhook fish, your lunch, and that’s what one needs to complete the ice fishing gear package.

By 2 p.m., with 40 or 50 trout either caught, kept or released, the temp was still cold enough to kill one truck battery. Jumper cables cured that. The truck tires squeaked in the snow as we left the lake, a sound only below-zero temperatures can produce. When you hear it, you know it’s a bit nippy.

We were heading home though, with trout in the bucket.

The wind had picked up, too, we noticed.

Still, we didn’t care.

For info about fishing Red Lake Reservation lakes, contact Daris at drosebear@sevenclanscasino.com or call him at (218) 679-2500, extension 16091. Or try (218) 308-5378.