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The Hunt for Mushrooms is On!

A great introduction to wild mushrooms by Woodworking Gunny Bear.




Time to Stock Up On Natural Forage For Winter, or Earn Some Extra Babylonian Magic Squares At Your Local Farmer’s Market

Fall is here, and for many Beartarians, that means hunting season and time to finish canning all of those wonderful things that have been growing in our gardens all season long. In our little slice of Beartaria, Fall also means long walks in the woods “hunting” the wide variety of delicious (and bountiful) wild mushrooms. Last year, we bagged over 60 lbs. of Chanterelles alone, not to mention several huge finds of Chicken and Hen of the Woods, and a myriad of other tasty treats. The proven health benefits and sheer amount of freely growing sustenance means that wild mushrooms should be on the Fall menu of all Bears throughout Greater Beartaria.

Whenever entering a conversation on finding, identifying, and eating wild mushrooms, the obligatory disclaimer must be made. I am not a mycologist, just a bear who loves to hunt and eat wild mushrooms.

Some wild mushrooms are absolutely toxic and the utmost care should be taken in order to accurately identify each mushroom prior to eating.

Also, most wild mushrooms should be cooked thoroughly, and eaten in small amounts initially to ensure that allergies are not present. OK, now that I have performed the necessary CYA statements, I will tell you that hunting and eating wild mushrooms is not anywhere near as daunting as a Bear might think. People have been consuming mushrooms since nearly the beginning of (linear) time and with a few hard and fast “rules”, even your bear cubs will be fully capable of collecting wild fungi safely.

Let me gently ladle up some general safety gravy on the “rules”.

I use quotes around the word rules for good reason. As you gain experience, skill, and confidence in your fungi foraging capabilities, many of the rules will fall to the wayside. Sayings such as, “If it stains blue, it’s not for you…” and many others seem ridiculous, once you identify and eat a pan full of indigo milky mushrooms. They are completely blue, literally bleed a deep blue and are delicious and safe, with few/no real lookalikes.

The one mushroom hunting colloquium that I do still keep in my mental rolodex is, “There are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are NO old, bold mushroom hunters.” When I was first bitten by the wild mushroom bug, I simply consulted my local field guide from the Missouri Department of Conservation and started hunting. This is an excellent way to start, as it gets you out in the woods without weeks of hand wringing about possible poisoning. The rules that stick with me still are the following:

1) Identify the truly dangerous species, such as destroying angel, deadly gallerina, jack-o-lanterns, little brown mushrooms, etc. and avoid anything you find that even resembles these mushrooms. The ones I named account for over 90% of fatal mushroom poisoning in North America, so avoiding them and their lookalikes starts you off on pretty solid ground. The majority of other non-edible mushrooms will cause vomiting, stomach upset or bowel issues. While not deadly, it is still a solid plan to identify and steer clear of those mushrooms as well.

2) Start off with a handful of easily identifiable mushrooms with no toxic lookalikes. This is why morel hunting is so popular. They are very easy to identify, and their lookalikes are easily found when cut in half vertically.

3) Collect any unidentified specimens in a separate container, to more accurately identify at home.

4) Never throw caution to the wind and eat something that has not been verified. I refer you back to the quote above regarding the lack of old, bold mushroom hunters.

5) Consult field guides, identification websites, instructional videos, and books prior to heading out to the woods, and then again when looking your harvest over, once home.

If your biscuits are still dry and you want to cook up some of your own Fall Mushroom Gravy, read on!
Now, keep in mind that my piece of Beartaria is in central Missouri, so the mushrooms my family and I often find may be different from those popping up this time of year in your neck of the woods. However, unless your local environment is completely devoid of water, decaying wood, or shade, you should be able to rustle up some wild grub.

One of the first wild mushrooms that I properly identified and ate was a Hedgehog Mushroom. They are easily identified by the tiny, icicle-like spines on the underside of their cap (where most shrooms keep their gills) and they have no lookalikes in Missouri. I memorized the traits of several different species and was extremely excited to find these little gems among a handful of what I hoped (and was not disappointed) were Golden Chanterelles. Chanterelles are smooth or ridged under their cap, which these appeared to be. I wasn’t sure until later that day, with a few photo references (never use illustrations) and other identification methods, that they were truly Chanterelles. While looking up additional info, I discovered that they can also fetch up to 20 dollars a pound at local markets – insert hand rubbing here-. Now, my whole Bear Clan confidently pluck up pounds of both Hedgehogs, and Chanterelles throughout the Fall.

Another easily identifiable Fall mushroom is the sulphurous Chicken of the Woods. Chickens are great, and really do resemble chicken in texture. Their great taste is only exceeded by their size! I have found Chicken of the Woods fruitings of up to 20 lbs., and have heard stories of people finding over 80 lbs. in one spot. That is a lot of mushroom. They are blaze orange and yellow, growing in shelves on decaying wood, and have small pores on their underside. Nothing else in our woods resembles them. Their counterpart, the Pale Chicken of the Woods have a few lookalikes such as Berkeley’s and Black Staining Polypore, both of which are edible, so no harm no foul. These things are solid meat and can be fried, grilled, dried, pickled, or prepared just about any way you cook meat or vegetables. We love fried and grilled the best.

While Spring and Summer are key seasons for gardening, Fall is actually the season with the widest abundance of wild mushrooms. With Milk Caps, Chanterelles, Chicken and Hen of the Woods, Hedgehogs, and a wide array of other wild fungi popping up all over the country, it is the perfect time for Bears to hit the woods and grab a bunch of this free, delicious, and nutrition packed chow. Onward!!!

Written By: Woodworking Gunny Bear

-Woodworking Gunny Bear is a 43 year old, 21 Rogan tall, retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant. He and his family settled in Texas County, Missouri after his time in the Corps. They focus their time on homesteading, animal husbandry, and their woodworking business: OrigamiHandmadeGifts on Etsy. They maintain a homestead populated with horses, goats, meat rabbits, a bull (the heifer did not survive the winter), pigs, and a wide array of fowl.-


Bed Bath and Barnyard

Prepping Your Woman for Homesteading

Owen Benjamin



If you’re a man like me, over the years you’ve faced some uncomfortable realities about our current society’s social and economic fragility. Also, if you’re a man like me, you’ve probably fallen deeply in love with a woman you’ve started a family with who’s happiness is even more important to you than explaining to her how a debt-based economy works. So how do you bridge that gap? How do you transition your family into a much more stable and sustainable position given the potential catastrophic events that could be coming our way?

First, word choice is very important. Never be manipulative with her. Don’t bend or change reality to fit your agenda. Furthermore, don’t be unnecessarily fearful when choosing your words. For example, don’t call it “prepping,” call it “homesteading.” Prepping focuses attention on the coming collapses and rhetorically implies you’re in an unstable reactionary position to what others are doing. Women hate that. Homesteading has two words women love: home, and steady.

Women love steadiness and home-building and get really freaked out thinking about preparing for collapses. When first leaving your unsecurable city apartment for off-grid rural living away from the “kill zone,” don’t use the phrase “kill zone.” Remind her how much she hates traffic and alarm clocks. Her new commute will simply be from bed to the kitchen, and all those over priced organic veggies will now come free from the garden! Your wife likes Bed Bath and Beyond, right? Well, this is what “beyond” meant! No need to bring up food shortages from broken supply chains; excite her with the idea of “networking dinners” with like-minded neighbors and quality time gardening with her husband and children! Once you get chickens, it’s an Easter egg hunt every morning, and there’s no real reason why her dreamy picket fence can’t be 10 feet high and electrified. We all know every woman loves roses, so why not plant massive, thorny rosebush gardens below every access point of the house?!

Every woman wants to just get up, go on vacation, and never come back. Instead of Paris however it will be the Ozarks or northern Idaho. Don’t forget to never call it a “bug out bag,” but instead “glamping luggage.” Those 25 year food buckets are simply an alternative for when she can’t decide on what to cook for dinner. When you start setting up your motion activated cameras around the property this could freak her out. She will wonder why you think they’re necessary. Tell her they’re to capture family moments when you are too caught up by the joy of your son’s first bike ride to take a picture–might as well get recorded. The good news is, the cameras will not just capture potential home invaders, they will also capture those cherished family moments, any time of day (or night).
It’s not a bunker it’s a wine cellar. It’s not a compound, it’s a haven for rescued German Shepherds, and remind her that nothing is cozier than watching a sunset in body armor.

“…remind her that nothing is cozier than watching a sunset in body armor.”

big bear, circa 2020

Every woman has her eye on that silverware set but doesn’t want to overspend. Encourage her to get at least 1,000 oz of silverware! Instead of stacking silver in a safe, which could make her feel uneasy about our current monetary silver, let her know that you’ll sign off on that 100-piece silver set she’s had her eye on. Women can sometimes get a little freaked out when the militia guys come over to train. So just remind her that she has a book club and you have a ‘magazine club.’ Then show her how beautiful a sunset looks through a long-range scope. Now lets all dust off the ham radio and call the in-laws to see what they are up to!

Keeping your marriage strong is very important. We all know that preparing for the future is the best thing for her and the kids. There’s no reason why it can’t be fun and enjoyable for her. Just remember that women love stability, quality time, health, cozy aesthetics, novelty, and a happy husband. They don’t like constantly being reminded how terrifying the future could be. Hope this helps!

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The Settlers of Catan (Beartaria)

Gathering for a 1-2 hour game of Catan is a common scene during snowy nights.

Purely Living Papa Bear



If you can’t be in Idaho building Beartaria, you can always gather around with your loved ones and build Catan. The Settlers of Catan is a board game that doesn’t sacrifice fun and entertainment when it comes to strategy play.

Imagine controlling a group of settlers trying to survive and thrive on the remote but rich Isle of Catan. There are many harbors and six distinct ecosystems spread out over the island. You must settle the land wisely in order to develop and build a crushing settlement such as Beartaria. But, it won’t be easy! There are many resources to gather, work to be done, and difficult personalities to deal with.

Catan is the perfect game, training the mind to begin interacting with the essentials required in building a successful settlements. All Bears, young and old, will love playing this interactive game for 3-4 individual players or teams. Not only will you have fun, but you will benefit from the strategic lessons learned in this amazingly well designed game. Isn’t that what we’re doing? We’re having fun learning, doing, and crushing while building Beartaria.

How to play Catan?

Each player or team in the game act as settlers who are establishing settlements on the island of Catan. The game begins by selecting land to help build settlements, cities, and roads as you continue to develop the island. The game board, which represents the rich, unsettled island of Catan, is composed of hexagonal tiles representing land suited for different resources. There are Harbors, Plains, Meadows, Mountains, Hills, Forests, and Deserts. Each region will excel in either raising/producing sheep, wheat, wood, brick, or ore. These resources are used in a variety of combinations to build, trade, and develop.  The land cards are laid out randomly at the beginning of each game making every game unique and different.

As the game progresses, players roll the dice and earn the resources it takes to develop settlements. If you do not own land that produces the resource you need, you’ll have to trade with another player or team that does. This is where the game gets really interesting. You begin to learn how to barter with different personalities with different needs.

“Sometimes you want to be direct, other times you want to be a bit more cunning and discreet. One thing for sure is, unless you own land in all six regions, you will have to learn how to work with another settlement for trade.”

Now it’s not all strategy, trade, and hard work in finding success. Sometimes luck plays a role. Like real life, there is that certain type of person. Catan calls them the robber and it really forces drama into the game. Creating a settlement wouldn’t be realistic if you didn’t have at least one “must be nice” sentiment at play. This realistic twist to the game forces players to make tough decisions that will undoubtedly affects their relationships with the other settlers and their future goals.

Ultimately, the way to win at Catan is to develop enough settlements, cities, roads and special bonus cards to reach the required 10 Victory Points. The first player or team to reach 10 points wins the game.

Building roads to connect the settlements between the lands is key to winning the game.

If you’re weaning yourself from Babylon this is the board game for you. Give The Settlers of Catan or any of the Catan Series board games a try. We’ve played it many times, especially when the snow starts to fall. This game is a ton of fun for all ages. The really young ones are great partners to help collect resources from others and protect your cards. When you aren’t building Beartaria, our outside crushing, give Catan a go with your loved ones. Have fun focusing on the simple things that make life great. You won’t regret it. Long live Beartaria! 

Written By: PurelyLivingPapa Bear

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Dark Chocolate, Green Tomato & Yogurt Cupcakes

There’s green tomatoes in those? How dare you…




If you’re anything like us, you’ve got a boatload of green tomatoes to work through this harvest season. Frosts came a bit early this year for a lot of us, so tomatoes were picked before fully ripening, in order to save them from frost damage. A lot of them will ripen on their own indoors, eventually, but there is also PLENTY you can do with the green, unripe ones in the meantime.

You’ve probably heard of fried green tomatoes. Wonderful things. Salsa verde. Muy delicioso. And of course the many many relishes, dips, and pickled recipes like Chow Chow, Piccalilli, Chutney, etc. All fantastic. But have you heard that you can also bake with green tomatoes?

Why yes, yes you can.

Green tomatoes work the same way as zucchini does in baked goods. They provide moisture, and a bit of fibrous heft, while not affecting the taste in an overwhelming way. Even the most finicky, texture-sensitive palates are likely to not even notice the addition. As an added bonus, green tomatoes are packed with Vitamins A, C, and potassium. Look at that, your decadent dessert just became a health(ish) food. You’re welcome.

Ready to try? Grab your muffin tins and let’s go!

Dark Chocolate, Green Tomato & Yogurt Cupcakes

Makes 8 Medium-sized cupcakes

1 Cup All Purpose flour

1/2 Tsp Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp Baking Soda

1/4 Tsp Pink Himalayan Salt

1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder

1/4 Tsp Cinnamon

3/4 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips

2 Eggs

1/2 Cup Plain Yogurt

1/2 Cup Unrefined White Sugar

1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

1 1/2 Cups Grated or Pureed Green Tomato

Butter for greasing tins (optional)

Baking Directions

First step is grating or semi-pureeing your green tomatoes. I’ve done both, but prefer to pulse them in the blender a few times to get a chunky puree, as grating may leave some more visible tiny tomato skin pieces in the final product. Taste is not really affected, though. When you’ve reached 1 1/2 cups of grated/pureed tomato, leave them in a colander or mesh strainer for a few minutes, up to 30, to drain off excess water.

As the tomatoes are draining, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your muffin tins by either greasing them with butter, or lining with paper cups.

In a small bowl, mix your dry ingredients together, up to and including the chocolate chips.

In a larger bowl, mix the eggs, yogurt, sugars, and vanilla. Then fold in your tomato.

Add your dry ingredients to the wet, and gently mix together until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over-mix. Chunks are fine! You’re not going for a silky smooth batter, rather a semi-rough looking, but moist and airy blend.

Spoon mixture into muffin tins, filling about 3/4 full. Fill any empty tin spaces with water, to ensure even baking.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 mins before removing from the tins. Let cool completely before adding your favorite frosting, if doing so. These moist, delicious treats can be savored with or without.


Guest Submission by:
@ameliaameliorate on Instagram

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