2012 Foray Report
The Place
The Trails and Mushrooms.
The Workshops

The Place. This year’s event ‘happened’ at The Deanery, Lower Ship Harbour, on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia.  Thank you to Kim Thompson who was the contact person there.  It was a great place for us- Fun but not fancy with great food, music, campfires, swimming, interesting buildings, good weather, lots of ideas being exchanged, etc.   Many participants camped or stayed in the "bunk houses", keeping costs much lower than previous years.  Others stayed in B&B’s or other accommodations in the area.  Something for everyone.

First on the agenda was our annual meeting, led by Jeff Hoyle, NSMS’s secretary. Elle Boucher, who is a board member, was responsible for getting the word out about this years foray.   Perhaps due to her ebullient personality, in combination with the inspiring ambiance of the Deanery we had youthful, enthusiastic and energetic participants. (An alternative hypothesis is that mushrooms had this effect on the participants!).
Bruce Stewart (president) gave a summary of our activities for this and previous years and promised we would be having more than a single annual event in future years.   He has already ‘made good’ on this promise by organizing, with board member and mycologist Dr. Gavin Kernaghan, a second foray, which took place in Truro’s beautiful Victoria Park, on October 13th.

Everyone has agreed our website needed up-grading.  To that end, the board engaged Rene Wall who is building and modifying our website on an ongoing basis.  It is anticipated that this site will soon be the place to go to get information about upcoming events and activities in mycology. It will also link to many other sites of interest to NSMS members, including our facebook page, which had lots of chatter this fall.  Mushroom-related articles will be posted on the site, along with any other information NSMS members think is worthwhile. Please send suggestions.  Most importantly, the photographs and information about the mushrooms that are collected at each year’s forays are being posted.  These wonderful photographs were taken by Catherine Pross (thank you again and again). Browsing through them can be a great review, and plans are in place to develop a searchable database so that anyone in the world can obtain information about the mushrooms that are in Nova Scotia.

David Boyle (Treasurer) gave the financial report.  In typical treasurer fashion, he, with reservations, reported that we are ‘holding our own’ (i.e. We are not out of money).  He did emphasize that we need more fund raising so we can expand our efforts into new interesting areas. There are many great possibilities, including sponsoring research,  developing tourism opportunities, supporting students, etc.   To this end we will be approaching possible sponsors.  (Or even better, perhaps they will approach us!)  Meanwhile, we are most thankful to the people and organizations who have brought NSMS to its current successful state.  (See sponsor list on web site).

Jeff Hoyle and Bruce Stewart resigned from the board, since their terms were up.  Both were however re-instated by acclimation.  In addition, a new board member, Gary Gilbert from Moncton, was voted onto the board.   Gary may be able to expand NSMS membership and possibly foray activity into New Brunswick, since there are many mushroom enthusiasts in that province too.

After the board meeting was the “cook off”.  The plan had been for a smallish evening meal, but with input from Quincy Russell (the chef for the foray) and over a hundred pounds of beautiful mushrooms from Leonard North’s Valley Mushrooms (portobellos, criminis) Ben Waterman's BenBen’s Mushrooms (oysters) and various wild mushrooms (chanterelles, matsutake) provided by various pickers (thank you all)  it turned into a veritable extravaganza!  Portabella burgers (Bruce’s secret recipe, Jeff Hoyle and Bruce at the grill) and mushrooms that were stuffed, grilled, roasted on the fire, made into soup, etc. etc. , along with corn, breads and other wonderful dishes were all available in abundance! And all washed down with a keg of Propeller IPA.  Then it was off for talks around the campfire, swimming, or into the tents and bunkhouse for who-knows-what.   Everyone knew it was necessary to rest up for the next day’s main event.

The Trails and Mushrooms.  The main goal of our foray is, of course, to find, identify (and yes, eat) mushrooms.  This was easy since there were so many of them.   It was a long dry summer, and it seemed the mycelium had saved up its energy, responding enthusiastically to the fall rains with an explosion of mushrooms, just in time for our foray.  

For mushroom-collecting, we divided into four groups, each with about 12 people and one or two leaders.  One group, headed by John Crabtree visited the trails that led from Kim Thompson’s house (near the Deanery) down through mixed coniferous forest to Week’s Lake.  An added attraction for this group was that Kim gave a brief tour of her beautiful straw bale house!

Another group, led by Scott Cunningham, headed to a trail along the Tangier River, which, interestingly, is also near where his sea kayaking company, Coastal Adventures, is located.  Participants in this group had a doubly exciting time, not only collecting and learning about mushrooms, but also hearing adventures of the sea!

A third group, lead by Gavin Kernaghan, went to Taylor Head Provincial Park.  This venue was particularly interesting, in that it was located right on the ocean.   Also, since Dr. Kernaghan has done mycological research in this area, he is pretty familiar with its mushrooms.
The last group,  headed by our newest board member, Gary Gilbert, went to the Gibraltar Rock Trail near Musquodoboit Harbour. This trip required some physical prowess, since the trail ran over steep,  rough, rocky terrain.  Participants were however rewarded with a good view and an abundant crop of mushrooms.

After a few hours on the trails and a picnic lunch (portabello of course), participants brought their haul back to the Deanery for sorting and identification.    All groups found there were a lot of mushrooms!  Although we missed our normal contingent of ‘experts-from-away’, our local members and experts rose to the challenge.  This was facilitated by Gavin Kernaghan, who gave everyone an introductory talk about how to identify mushrooms.  By the end of the weekend, the group had identified over 100 species and these had been photographed by Catherine Pross. The results, along with those from previous years will be posted on the society website.  

Each year we have collected more or less one hundred species of mushrooms.  This is a lot, but what is perhaps even more impressive is that there is relatively little overlap between which species are collected each year.  In very round numbers we have identified about 100 species on each of our five forays, and our tally of unique species is now about 375.  The mathematically-inclined may use sampling theory to estimate how many species are actually out there (please tell us your answers!) but best estimates suggest thousands.  It is clear new ones will be found each year for many years to come. The Nova Scotia Mushroom Foray will never be boring!   Keep coming. We need your help to find and identify them all! 

After all that heavy duty foray work, a banquet was in order and chef Quincy Russell and his assistants rose to the occasion.  We had a great feast with entrees for vegetarians and carnivores, freely flowing wine, and then deserts.  After dinner, Scott Cunningham kept us entertained and educated, relating some of his mycology-related experiences. Included here were ventures into eating ‘non-edibles’.  (someone had to do it - why not Scott?).  We are all grateful that he survived to pass on some of his wisdom.  

After dinner music was provided by Morgan MacDonald & The Youngest Daughters, as well as other spontaneous entertainment ranging from campfire singing and storytelling, to fire eating and juggling.  Amazing things happen at the Deanery!  Many people had a late night.  People did however eventually go to sleep so they would be ready for Sunday’s workshop activities.

The Workshops. These happened after breakfast on Sunday morning.  They were a bit different than on previous years, the organization being more ‘flexible’.   There was a lot going on simultaneously, and everyone was free to move around and participate in the activities that were of interest to them.

Microscopes were available, and people were shown the basics of microscopy. This can be essential for correct mushroom identification. 

The identified mushrooms were available for inspection, and some of the key groupings (taxa) and characteristic of these were explained by the experts.

Dying MushroomsWe have had dyeing workshops before (with Basma and Keith) but this year we tried something more ‘experimental’.  David Boyle, Suzanne Gautier and other interested people tested some of the various mushrooms that had been collected for their ability to dye wool or cotton.  For this, small samples (ca 1 g) of mushrooms were put into test tubes with dilute (ca 0.01M) acetic acid, water, or dilute ammonia (NH4OH). Pieces of wool and white cotton yarn were added.  The tubes were heated in boiling water bath, and then the pieces of yarn were removed from the tubes and dried. 

The results (see photo) were impressive, especially considering this was a first try, with some species showing clear potential as sources of dye.  The yarns in the center of the bottom tray were particularly dramatic.  They had been dyed with Cortinarius semisanguineus.  The wool (yarn to the right of each group of two) were dyed a dramatic red color.  This was brighter if they were treated with acid, and darker if ammonia was used.  With the cotton yarn (to the right in each bundle of two) the color was more yellow.  Other mushrooms also made interesting colors, many being in the yellow-green spectrum.

Based on these encouraging “first try” results we intend to refine methods and continue with this project of discovery into the dye potential of mushrooms in future forays. If and NSMS members have experience or interest in this area please give us your thoughts and assistance!

In a similar way, we might look for other attributes of interest that the mushrooms might have.  For example, maybe some of them contain biologically active materials (Antibiotics? Antivirals? Drugs? Other?). Given that we have all these properly identified mushrooms, why not start collecting information about some of their properties?  This might be pursued as a student project.

In another workshop, David Boyle gave an overview of the basic methods for growing mushrooms on various waste substrates (sawdust, straw, etc) and described how people might try this at home.  Participants than launched into inoculating logs with shiitake spawn. (The logs were provided by Bruce Stewart and Kim Thompson). This involved cutting the logs (fun using a two person saw!) drilling, inoculating with shiitake spawn and then sealing the inoculation holes with hot wax. Mushrooms from these logs will be ready next year, when they will be used for events at the Deanery and future forays.  Until then, they are being stored in a damp, shady area.  Also as part of the mushroom workshop, Ben Waterman (BenBen’s Mushrooms) described some of the methods he uses to produce the wonderful oyster mushrooms that he provided for the foray.  Perhaps next year we will get more details!

The pick-for-the pot event was, as usual, very popular. This year, chanterelles (Cantherellus cibareus), winter chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis) and honey mushrooms (Armillaria ostoyea) were the main edibles collected, all being relatively safe and distinctive. (Never eat any mushroom unless you are SURE what species it is).

So, once again it was a successful foray.  Everyone went home knowing a little more about the world of mushrooms.
Sometime next fall, the Nova Scotia Mycological Society will have another major foray.  We are not sure where it will be held, but discussions about this have started.  Please give us your thoughts.   One possibility would be to use the Deanery a second time.  Another idea is to have it somewhere in the Annapolis Valley, but so far, we have not identified an appropriate venue.  If you have ideas, please bring them forward for discussion.  Nothing is ‘fixed’ , other than we want it to relate to mushrooms, be informative and fun, and not be so expensive that it excludes people. Please send us your ideas. 

In the interim, we may have other events. For example, if there were interest, we could have a winter or spring foray.  (Yes, there are some out there all year around).  We could also have smaller forays in different locations.  Maybe you have ideas.  Please bring them forward and we will try to make them happen.   Meanwhile, stay tuned for details about the next Nova Scotia Mycological Society Event!

David Boyle