Wild Mushroom Foraging at Mt Crawford Forest

Hello,

One of my favourite activities in Autumn is taking a trip to Mt Crawford Forest and indulging in the sport of wild mushroom foraging. Mt. Crawford, located at the north-eastern side of the Adelaide Hills, is a pine plantation forest with several areas open to the public for camping, hiking, weekend bonfires and mushrooming. Autumn is an especially popular time to go there, particularly within the Polish community in Adelaide, I have been going here with friends and family since I was very young. As Poland is abundant with majestic pine forests, such an annual pilgrimage offers an opportunity to reconnect with the familiar natural landscape and revisit the nostalgia for the motherland many have etched within their hearts. In fact, I do not recall a time I have ever visited this forest without bumping into at least one Polish family, especially in the Rocky Paddock area. I often see someone I know, or easily identify other Poles by sighting a group cooking their Kransky’s pierced through a stick over a bonfire, or a little crowd wandering in the forest with cane baskets filled to the brim with pine mushrooms. The stereotype holds quite true!

For us Poles and many other Slavic communities, mushroom foraging is one of the most enjoyable cultural pastimes. I love the opportunity for the younger and older generations in a family to spend time together, where the elder’s can pass on their very valuable foraging wisdom to the next generation. In my family, my grandmother is the mushroom guru who had the respected role in carefully checking that our collected mushrooms are safe to consume.

Our most recent trip this Autumn was quite special as it was the first time I began passing down some of my mushroom knowledge to my young children. It was such a beautiful sunny Autumn’s day. Golden light filtered through the pine trees as I breathed in the calming fresh scent of pine needles scattered across the slightly damp forest floor. I will forever cherish the memories made with them by my side, running through the forest finding and collecting mushrooms. There was a sense of bitter-sweetness though. I spent many years foraging  in the same places with my late grandfather by my side,  and felt slightly overwhelmed with a sense of longing for him yet a comforting closeness to his memory.

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The common varieties of pine mushroom quite easily found and safe to pick at Mt. Crawford are Saffron Milk Cap and Slippery Jack/Weeping Bolete mushroom.

Saffron Milk Cap ~ Lactarius Deliciosus

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The Saffron Milk Cap mushroom has a distinguishable saffron-orange cap that can range approximately 4-15 cm in width depending on its maturity. They are also commonly referred to as pine forest mushrooms. The cap is sticky when wet but otherwise dry and some of the larger ones can concave into the centre. Underneath they have light reddish-orange crowded fanned gills and green stains can occur due to bruising when handled or naturally at maturation. The stem can range approximately between 3-8 cm and is hollow inside. Found beneath conifers in well drained moist soil, usually surrounded by pine needles. They often grow in clusters so if you find one it is likely you will find more nearby. When sliced, the milk is deep orange in colour. Saffron Milk Caps have a mild taste and strong woody scent when cooked. Discard the stem before cooking.

 Weeping Bolete (commonly known as Slippery Jack) ~ Suillus Granulatus

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The Slippery Jack is distinguishable by its brown cap and yellow porous sponge beneath and when young, its underside is covered by a thin veil. As it matures the veil thins out and forms a ring around the stem. Similar looking mushrooms that fit this description without a veil can be often confused as ‘Slippery Jacks’ are from the same Bolete family, but are in fact technically Weeping Bolete as pictured above. Both are safe to eat and will be referred to collectively as Slippery Jacks by many. In fact, I previously distinguished both as Slippery Jacks prior to undertaking more research!

When young, the Weeping Bolete/ Slippery Jack cap has a conical chestnut brown to darker brown cap that later flattens out and may even concave slightly at the centre upon maturity. The cap ranges approximately 4-10 cm in width. The cap is quite slimy to touch and can be easily peeled off before cooking to avoid gastric upsets, but some do keep it on. I prefer to peel it off. Like the Saffron Milk Cap, these too are found near the base of conifers and often in clusters, the stem should also be discarded before cooking.

When you have identified a mushroom confidentially as either the Saffron Milk Cap or Slippery Jack or Weeping Bolete, take your small knife and cut through the stem, leaving the roots and partial stem behind. This ensures the mushroom will regenerate and leave opportunity for others to forage for many years to come. It is considered very disrespectful and poor sustainable practice to pick mushrooms with their roots attached. It is also very important to note that always check with credible sources that a mushroom is safe to pick. I’m not a mushroom expert and my advice is based on my family knowledge and personal research, so please take your own precautions and remember “When in doubt go without” as some mushrooms can be very poisonous. It is also wise to become familiar with mushroom varieties that are commonly confused with the ones you want to pick and find out if the confusions are safe or poisonous.

Where to find useful resources:

  • Inquire at the Mt. Crawford Information centre for specific guides on local mushroom varieties.
  • There are several useful apps with detailed taxonomies of many varieties, use with caution.
  • Search for credible online sources, particularly from local governing and educational bodies.
  • It is very useful to find someone with experience and knowledge to accompany you on your initial mushroom foraging adventure. Extra points of confidence if you can take a Polish grandmother or grandfather with you! (That’s a potential business idea! Hire a Polish Babcia hehe).

While great caution needs to be taken, foraging for your own wild mushrooms is such a wonderful experience and a great way to get back in touch with nature and enjoy how food was once commonly acquired. I hope you have found some inspiration to give it a go and take a trip to Mt. Crawford* for a great weekend of adventure. Stay tuned for my next post which will include ideas and recipes on how to prepare your foraged wild mushrooms.

Stay warm and have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

* Or alternatively the more southern Kuipto Forest in South Australia.

Harvest Mylor Cafe

Hello,

recently I was on going for a country drive through Mylor and stumbled upon the Harvest Mylor Café. Tucked underneath some majestic oak trees, this charming cottage has been transformed into a vibrant modern café, whilst retaining it’s rustic charm. The outdoor dining area is a lovely cosy set up; with wooden tables and chairs accompanied by inviting colourful crocheted blankets, to keep toasty on those chilly mornings. Such a lovely location in a leafy and peaceful setting, certainly a way to experience the slower-paced lifestyle up here in the Adelaide Hills.

The menu is full of healthy wholefood options, ticking most dietary boxes. Harvest emphases their use of locally sourced seasonal produce, mostly made fresh in house. One of the things you will notice when exploring local cafes in the Adelaide Hills is the frequent warm personal service, Harvest is certainly true to this.

When we arrived late morning, my daughter already had a little breakfast at home earlier but was slightly peckish. We were served by Danielle who went out of her way to chat to my little one, suggesting to make her a custom mini egg and bacon slider to satisfy her little craving, at a smaller cost than the larger one on the menu. She kindly also made her a babyccino on the house which was not expected but a lovely gesture of her warm hospitality.

I ordered the buckwheat waffles topped with Harris smoked salmon, a softly poached egg, creamy hollandaise, dressed in a generous amount of sprouts and garnishes. It was delicious, nourishing and plated well, providing a lovely harmony of textures. My husband ordered the breakfast Brioche bun filled with fried eggs, crispy bacon, greens and served with a house made spiced relish …. and he certainly enjoyed every mouthful of this comforting breakfast, particularly the relish! We also enjoyed a coffee with our breakfast and I must say it is worth the trip up just for their amazing espresso, their crème was perfect. They also had an additional sweet waffle menu (not pictured) that will certainly satisfy those with a sweet tooth with several decadent options.

A trip to Harvest Mylor Café is a perfect way to start your weekend if you are keen on a little country exploring, and a great alternative stop on your annual pilgrimage to Hahndorf this Autumn (Mylor is only 10 min away). Visiting Mylor also offers the opportunity to check out the local Strawberry Farm ‘Walker Family Farms’ or go for a hike on part of the Heysen trail. Harvest Mylor Café is located on the main road of town, with plenty of parking next to the café and across the road at the main oval.

Harvest Mylor Café

240 Strathalbyn Road, Mylor

Opening hours: Thursday to Sunday 8:30am – 3:30pm

 

I hope you enjoy some lovely adventures in the hills this Autumn.

Have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

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Reflections of our Tree Change

Hello again,
Today I’m  reflecting on our tree change journey over the last 18 months. We dreamt of a more nature-centred lifestyle when moving to the Adelaide Hills, and living amongst the peace of nature has certainly been fulfilled. However, we did not anticipate this leading to such an intense journey in personal growth, and finding such meaning in living with more intention and simplicity.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu

We have enjoyed the change to slower-paced living up in the hills. I start my day with breathing in the fresh forest air outside, sometimes with a wander around the garden or town. Rain is an event. We determine what needs to be done to secure our property if it’s stormy, and enjoy the steady rain that can sometimes persist for hours, rarely experienced when I lived near the coast. Foggy mornings are my favourite. There is something so ethereal and comforting being surrounded by a blanket of fog,  encouraging a calm and creative mood! Despite the busyness of family life, I have tried to make a habit out of intentionally scheduling in some quiet time to pause in the garden everyday. Often this means rocking in the hammock, listening to the meditative sounds of birds singing and the wind sweeping through the tops of our pine trees. While I like ‘strive’ to live in a clutter-free interior to maintain inner calm, ironically, I also find peace in our wild and rustic garden. Scattered pine needles, fallen camelia blooms and ivy wrapping itself where it can is so soothingly homely. It’s funny how nature’s cycle of untidiness is actually quite beautiful. We celebrate fallen withered leaves in autumn, but I cannot say the same for my children’s LEGO scattered in their bedroom!

We have learnt to embrace life and it’s opportunities with the changing seasons. Learning the art of letting go has provided such inner peace that I could not have imagined a few years ago. Letting go of stubborn frustration with the weather has totally changed my daily attitude. Living in Australia, warm days can seem endless in summer, but less so up here (well at least for this current strange spring and summer we have had!). We now understand why many Europeans seize warmer weather to enjoy the outdoors, hike, explore and garden. The weather determines our schedule nowadays. This new perspective has also revealed the opportunities of cold rainy days; allowing us to slow down and relax, indulge in baking, getting creative with new hobbies and wonderful family time around the fireplace. I also have started to truly love all of the seasons. However, the heat of summer still remains a little difficult, a true mountain girl lies within my heart.

Living in the hills has certainly invited vulnerability to our lives. In these past 18 months, we have experienced; two significant storms, multiple power outages, flooding within the community, local fire threats and a tree falling narrowly missing our home! This has taught us wise lessons in developing greater situational awareness within our environment. The cold up here is harsher, the fire risk greater, but being prepared living with these risks has in some respects provided more comfort, confidence and resilience. One example was the blackout the entire state experienced late one afternoon last September. Certainly a rare event like this is difficult to anticipate and prepare for. Hundreds of thousands of people returned to dark, cold homes for many hours and up to a few days. Some even experienced flooding while the blackout continued. We were also impacted but fortunately with much less discomfort as we have a fireplace and a plentiful stock of wood.  We are also less likely to be blindsided by such events. Living with greater risk motivates you to keep constant awareness of risks and situations nearby through the CFS alerts and communication within our small community. We lost power 5 times over 4 days but we were always prepared for the next outage due to the likelihood of another tree falling nearby. Despite these risks we feel comfort in a close knit community where neighbours are checked on and help is offered during these events.

Inspired by the simple living movement, we are focused on moving away from unnecessary material consumption and waste. Mainly due to environmental considerations, and the associated time wasted in the buying/ disposing cycle. As a family, we are learning to be more mindful and intentional about the little and big decisions we make everyday. One example is our decision to make Christmas decorations from garden gatherings that you can read about in the previous post here. I stumbled upon Marie Kondo’s  book about a year ago, and found her decluttering principles very effective and maintainable until now. I no longer need to reorganise storage areas periodically as her system prevents a slow build up of disorder and clutter. Buying less, having less and better storage habits has resulted in a more peaceful home with less anxiety and stress.

We feel security in using less of our resources. There is great freedom in no longer keeping up with a life of accumulation and disposal, and defining success and love by buying unnecessary things. I don’t believe buying material possessions is inherently wrong. However, choosing to only keep what truly adds value or serves a purpose has freed up time otherwise used in keeping up with trends, and the storing and maintenance of so many possessions. This is a continued journey of refinement rather than a prescribed end goal to simplify our lives. Things that serve a purpose today may need to be reevaluated in the future. Our current focus is to use what we have at home or in the garden and make, build or grow ourselves, reuse or borrow before we decide to purchase something new.

Additionally I have also focused on reducing digital clutter by removing audible and visual push notifications on social media. I don’t need to be interrupted because I have received a new ‘Like’, sounds so funny when I write that! I have unfollowed pages/accounts that are a source of negativity or no longer add value to my life. This includes pages that post too frequently such as news sites. I found I was unknowingly reading so many news articles throughout the day, developing an impulsive ‘just one more’ mentality. My digital decluttering has also included unsubscribing from email spam, deleting unnecessary digital photos, documents and apps. It is surprising how much head space digital clutter and social media can take up. When I do go online, I want to be more intentional and balanced. I really recommend you try these things if you struggle with online habits. You will see how much more time and positivity you will have in your day!

“The opposite of intention is impulse, which accurately described my former relationship with my smartphone: I acted primarily on impulse, always reacting to what my phone instructed me to do. I wasn’t using the phone—it was using me.” ~ Joshua Fields Milburn

Social media and the accessibility of our smart phones and devices can bring so much value yet burden to our lives. I certainly feel this is an area I can further refine but it is empowering to have begun this process to create more time to pursue a more meaningful life.  This new mindset is not just about having less, but more importantly removing what doesn’t hold much value to make room for things that do. I was inspired by friends who have younger children than we do, yet find time for themselves through living more intentionally. Recently I have been able to find time for more creative hobbies such as painting, learning to sew clothes and knit, baking more, plus most importantly, more engaged family time.

There is a real sense of pleasure gained from creating something for ourselves, even if we do not need to. Despite us living in this technology generation, I truly believe we still have this instinctive primal urge to make things with our hands, learn survival skills and have a connection with our natural environment. Escaping to the comforting pleasure of creating something with my hands has become a coping mechanism to life’s stress. Part of my journey living up here has relied on frequent reflection to how my Polish ancestors would have lived and survived where we live. I’m interested in developing some ‘granny skills’ that are being lost in our current generation. My goal is to develop the basic skills in DIY such as growing food, making my own cheese, cutting wood and other handy skills. I often reflect on the simple living philosophy of my late Grandfather, Dziadzio Jelek. He is the original nature loving minimalist in our family and I think he did have a very peaceful and purposeful life. He used to ride his foldable bicycle to the Belair National Park, collect berries and return home to make lovely jam. My childhood was filled with hikes in the forest with my cousin, with little more than a few boiled eggs and some smoked sausage to keep us going. They were always great adventures and I now appreciate more than ever the lessons I was taught by him.

Our last 18 months have been such a wonderful time of discovery and adapting to our new lifestyle in the hills. This year I hope to focus more on creating and learning these ‘granny skills’ which I will be sharing with you.

My goals for 2017 are to:

  • bake more
  • developing my hobbies; painting, knitting and sewing
  • gardening more and setting up a vegetable patch
  • learning better woodcutting techniques from my husband
  • organising a chicken coop
  • spend more family time outdoors such as camping and hiking
  • continue simplifying our home and lifestyle
  • read at least 1 book per month
  • share more frequent posts on my blog

We also will continue our journey living more intentionally and consciously making choices to create a life where we are surrounded by only what adds value to our life. I’m hopeful the time we gain from consuming and having less, will pave the way for these goals to become achievable plans.

Have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

The tree that fell during the storm, narrowly missing our home

The tree that fell during the storm, narrowly missing our home

My favourite rose was remarkably unscathed

My favourite rose was remarkably unscathed

Our first crop of strawberries

Our first crop of strawberries

Exploring Roadside Farmer Stalls in the Adelaide Hills

Hello again,

Autumn is coming to an end here in the Adelaide Hills and the cold crisp air has arrived! Wanting to get out of the house last weekend, we decided to jump into the car and explore the towns surrounding us. My little boy has been sick at home for a few days, and I wasn’t prepared to risk extending his illness in this cold. Our solution was to go on a little family adventure searching for the best roadside farm stalls while he remained rugged up in the car.

We decided on our route by simply choosing the prettiest and most scenic roads at each intersection, enjoying the charm of discovering new places and views along the way. Our first find was in Uraidla, where we found such a cute roadside stall filled with seasonal autumn produce such as pumpkins, cabbages, oranges and rhubarb to name a few. We bought some cabbages, leeks and beautiful bunch of beetroot that will be perfect for making one of my favourite Polish soups called Barszcz (Borsch). As we were taking some photos of the stall, a farmer on a giant tractor drove right up to us from nowhere and with a cheeky grin said “Hello there, I see you are admiring my golden beets?” A little embarrassed, we were unsuspecting of anyone watching us, and felt like such city folk with our SLR camera taking photos of vegetables on the side of the road.

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Several windy roads took us through lush green meadows dotted with gum and pine trees, stopping briefly to say hello to some grazing cows. Our little adventure led us to Summertown, Piccadilly, Balhannah, Oakbank, Woodside and Bridgewater. Fields of apple orchards and endless bare grapevines stretched across these country towns. I loved seeing the old rustic farm equipment displayed near the roadside as an ode to the past, and the afternoon sun peering over the gentle rolling hills; quite iconic for the Adelaide Hills!
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The excitement of being the first the spot the next stall along the road made a great afternoon and we were spoilt for choice spotting several little stalls on the outskirts of towns. The Apple Orchard shop was a small store that sold some delightful Fuji apples, so fresh and crisp, it was not hard to imagine them being picked the previous day. Some great fruit preserves from seasonal local fruit can also be found throughout the Adelaide Hills.  We particularly enjoyed a delicious combination of rhubarb and raspberry jam by Naturally Nice Jams that we found in Lenswood, perfect on toast!

Springwood Farm in Summertown was also a great find, they grow raspberries, figs and other berries and produce Granny May’s Jams. Their raspberry jam has such a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness with such a juicy raspberry flavour, that is well worth the trip over!  Friendly farmer David spotted us leaving his stall and chatted to us about his farm and told us that during the peak season in summer, they sell their own ice cream made with their fresh raspberries and blackberries! Find more details about Springwood Farm here.
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DSC_4185On our way back we found some gorgeous flower stalls, and one cannot end a trip around the hills without stocking up on some horse manure for the garden! The kids found it quite amusing we were searching for bags of horse poo and the trip was such a nice family adventure with many laughs all afternoon.
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In our busy lives it is nice to take a step back sometimes and spend a day like this just wandering and exploring with no real expectations and schedule. It was lovely experiencing good old country values such as farmer’s trusting our honesty to pay at unmanned stalls, and knowing we are still able to make a difference in supporting local farms. Additionally it was a good educational lesson for our children in understanding seasonal farm production and essentially where our food comes from.
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So if you are looking for something different and fun to do this weekend with friends, family or even a cool date idea, head up to the hills and explore a little. You will create some fun memories, meet some inspiring country folk and collect a bounty of goodies along the way!

Stay warm and have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

 

A local treasure: The Stirling Hotel

Hello,

One of the great things about moving to the Adelaide Hills is discovering all the great food haunts; be it quaint little cafes, trendy hotels or classy vineyard restaurants. I will be sharing with you the worthy mentions, starting with the award-winning treasure of Stirling: The Stirling Hotel.

The Stirling Hotel is a beautiful and trendy venue, nestled at the end of the main strip in Stirling (Mt Barker Road). It’s charming ambience draws in crowds all year round. However since Spring has arrived visitors have been flocking here to enjoy their modern menu, whilst basking in the sunny weather we have had lately.

I have dined here several times; for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the service and food has been consistently exceptional. Their bistro menu caters to the traditionals, with some classy pub grub, to more modern experimental tastes with their tapas and signature burger menu. The multi-complex hotel caters to all moods, with a restaurant, a bistro, a pizza bar and a unique licensed patisserie that is located at the rear within the cellars (offering a wine or coffee with your fresh croissant!).

Breakfast has been my favourite time to venture here, to avoid the city crowds coming up during the day and evening. One of the highlights of breakfast is the pancake station that allows you to indulge in unlimited pancakes for $7.90, but get in early to avoid queuing up. My children love this and it is their usual breakfast choice when we come here. Recently I was here with them and we sat outside along the bench with the beautiful view of the main street all greened up on a sunny Saturday morning. I ordered the avocado and haloumi on sourdough dressed with dukkah and vincotto that gave it a lovely texture, it was delicious. For families, the deck area is ideal as it faces a lovely garden and lawn area where kids can run off their energy whilst waiting for their meals to arrive (yet remaining in full sight). I’m yet to experience the bar at night however I have taken note of their interesting cocktail menu, and inviting Sunday sessions on the deck (during my evening walks around town).

Visiting Stirling in Spring also offers the opportunity the wander around town which is right now in full bloom. The magnificent oak and druids provide lush green canopies and colourful bursts of floral hues are on display all throughout the town. A walk down the lovely leafy archway on Druid Avenue is definitely a must this time of year.

The Stirling Hotel is a great spot to mark on the “To Do List” this Spring and a great idea for those who wish to impress visitors or a new date. You can find it at: 52 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.

Hope you have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

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