Backyard foraging: Dandelions are everywhere

What do you eat when you are stuck at home, and don’t want to chance going to the store for fresh vegetables? In these times when many people are afraid to leave their homes there is one plant you can find across North America and many places in the world.

Dandelion boardering the yard.
Dandelion bordering the yard.

Spring is a season of renewal and new beginnings(and new dangers this year).  All of the trees break out in bright green growth as the leaves unfurl from their winter sleep.  Ahh the joys of spring, I can go on and on about it.  It is by far my favorite time of the year.  One of the great things about spring is if you like to forage, or try some of the bounty of nature you can get many delicious greens.

The easiest one for anyone to find is what many people consider an annoying weed.  The common dandelion is the easiest of all edibles to find.  The plant is native to Eurasia, but was brought by settlers as a hardy green to grow and eat.  Dandelions are found on all of the worlds continents and have been gathered since prehistory, but the varieties cultivated for consumption are mainly native to Eurasia. Dandelions are a perennial plant, its leaves will grow back if any part of the tap root is left intact. To make leaves more palatable later in the later parts of the year they are often blanched to remove bitterness.  The bitterness is mostly in the leaves late in the growing season when water starts getting in short supply.  In the spring it is only mildly bitter and makes a great addition to salads.  I am actually thinking of growing them on purpose. Every part of the plant can be used for something.

The flower petals, along with other ingredients, are used to make dandelion wine. This is very very strong, but also very good. I have seen where the flowers can also be used to make a dye, but I have not had a chance to try that. The ground, roasted roots can be used as a caffeine-free dandelion coffee. I add mine to roasted chicory root for a tasty coffee alternative.   Dandelion was also traditionally used to make the traditional British soft drink dandelion and burdock, and is one of the ingredients of root beer. Also, Dandelions were once delicacies eaten by the Victorian gentry mostly in salads and sandwiches. Dandelions leaves contain abundant vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron and manganese.

They grow everywhere.  Even in the cracks in the walkway
They grow everywhere. Even in the cracks in the walkway

Roasted dandelion root is a simple thing to make if you are interested in trying to do it yourself.  First gather up a dozen or so plants with as much of the root attached as you can get.  The two-year old plant will have a nice large root on it.  Remember to save the leaves and any flowers for a nice salad or to add to a sandwich. Cut the individual roots into 1-inch sections and cover with water. White sap will leach from the roots causing the water to cloud. Agitate the roots with your hands to remove any remaining soil and to remove the sap. Pour off the water and repeat the process until the water is clear. If you skip this step you will have a much more bitter tea.  Process the roots in a food processor until they are coarsely chopped.  Spread a 1/2-inch layer of chopped dandelion roots on a cookie sheet, and set the oven at 250 degrees, leaving the oven door open a crack to allow moisture to evaporate. Roast the dandelion roots for 2 hours or until the roots are the color of coffee grounds. Stir the dandelion roots every 15 to 20 minutes to allow them to dry evenly. Remove from the oven when the roots are the color of ground coffee. Allow to cool and store in glass jars. You can further grind them with a coffee grinder, but if you don’t have one, that’s okay too, as they can be used as is.

Below are some great resource guides if you are interested in more on foraging for weeds and other edibles.

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Converting a watersnake trolling motor for a Hobie outback Kayak

Lately as I get older it has been a bit more difficult for me to always use the hobie mirage drive for all day. Finishing a day of trolling, and barely being able to walk due to back pain is a bit discouraging. So after some searching I found a build to convert a Watersnake 18 lb motor into a trolling motor that fits into a hobie mirage slot on the kayak. This build looks like it will work on any size of watersnake. But really I cant see the need for a bigger thrust then I currently have. Now for some long ocean trips maybe to deal with the current.

Things needed to do the conversion with link if you need them

Watersnake all ready to start the conversion. Total weight at start is just 8 lbs
First step as with most things is to remove screws. There are 4 screws that hold the top to the bottom part of the control panel
Before removing any wires make sure you take a picture of how it looks. This makes it a lot easier to reassemble after you shorten the shaft. There are only three wires that have to be removed. All three lead into the shaft so it is easy to tell which three they are
After removing the controller from the top you will need to insert a small PVC pipe into the shaft. These will keep you from accidentally cutting the wires as you shorten the shaft.
Before cutting the shaft you will need to get the the cassette plug set up to insert the shaft into it. The easiest way is to use a 1″ spade bit. A hole needs to be made on each side of the cassette so the motor shaft can fit into it.
Once the cassette is seated onto the shaft use a piece of tape to mark where you will cut it off. I put the cassette just above the blades of the motor and then added about 5 inches above to where I cut it off. This is right at 10″ cut off. Do not discard the top. You will need it as a template to cut out guides into the new shortened shaft.
Once the shaft is cut off you will need to cut out the gap and the hole through to reattach the controller. Once you have it cut out reassemble everything.
Once everything is assembled you are ready to go

Once you are done the set up is ready to go as is. There are several other adaptions that are useful in the long run while using this set up. At this stage you are limited to only the two speeds that are set up on the motor. high and just slightly less then high. Good for going from place to place but way to fast for trolling. At least for my trolling.

Some things to note from my first test run:

  • The cassette is made to be put in only one direction and not both. Some rubber pads would be helpful to prevent kick up every time the motor starts and stops.
  • I added a DC controller between the battery and motor to give it a variable speed while trolling. (worked perfect for this)
  • The clamps on the motor made it difficult to hook to the controller box. They should be removed and some circle ones installed so it can be screwed down. Same with my connectors from the battery to the controller
  • Add Volt meter to controller box.
  • 21AH battery lasted just over 4 hours of trolling. A 2nd battery will probably be needed at some point.

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Birthday Kayak trip to Hills Creek in late fall

Late fall lake fishing in Oregon can be a lot of hit or miss. When the storms roll through it can make for some high waves and a very difficult time controlling a kayak. We started out the day thinking we might be able to catch some walleye or something else in Lookout point reservoir. Even with our early start there was already some chop on the water, and as comfortable as I am in the kayak I am leary of trying to fish that lake with even a chance of wind. Lookout point is 12 miles long down a valley. I have kayaked it in the summer and it went from flat calm to white capped waves in 30 minutes.

Video fishing. I wish I had these when I was younger fishing in Alaska

Instead of taking a chance on the lake birthday boy Jeremy and I decided to hit our standby of Hills Creek. We do fish it a lot, but it is close and nearly always provides some fish for us to catch. It seems in recent years that the average fish size has increased in the lake. Or we are just getting much better at catching the bigger fish ( I like the 2nd answer myself)

Started out with drizzle but became a beautiful day

Today’s water was around 55 degrees for this late November trip. Not as cold as it will get but still cold enough I decided to wear my dry suit. Early in fall I was not paying attention and leaned over the edge to grab a floating cap and flipped my kayak. I can go out in two foot waves and heavy wind with no issues. But a glass calm lake and not even moving and I flipped. At least it had been warm still then.

For this trip I branched out and decided to try something other then my normal gear. 90% of the time I use a dodger with a Brad’s cut plug or troll a rainbow colored rapala. Both of those are highly effective in nearly every body of water I have fished. Except Odell lake, for some reason nothing hits a cut plug there. Well a mackinaw might but I haven’t trolled for them with a cut plug. That is part of next years fishing goal. Anyway back to the gear. instead of the cut plug I used a pink and silver wedding ring with a smile blade on it. It didn’t have quite enough weight to get down more then a foot until I added a quarter ounce weight to it. This was a highly effective setup! 10+ fish and nothing smaller then 12 inches. The only thing I caught on my rapala on the 2nd pole ended up being just a single landlocked Chinook. It was easily over 12 inches and a great fighter.

I realized I need to take more pictures for all of you to enjoy. But if you want to watch the video of the day please check out below.

Rustic passive phone speaker

In addition to doing a lot of outdoors adventures I also like to find and create things from dead falls I find when I am out and about adventuring. While visiting my Dad there was an Oregon bitter cherry at the corner of his driveway that had died during the summer and needed removed. This wood has supplied a lot of the crafting wood for my wood turning hobby.

Since my children are home for a school holiday we decided that it would be nice to leave the house a bit and make something that they could use with a phone or tablet when we go on camping trips. The biggest thing they would like is to be able to hear their music better. I am a big advocate for less electronics while we are camping and found a design for a simple passive speaker that I could make on the wood lathe.

Fist step was to bore out the hole and then taper it towards the edge so it in the shape of a cone.
After it is bored out you will need to cut out a slot for your phone to sit in.

Once the basic shape was made and the slot cut for the phone to sit in we gave it a quick test using my phone. The only thing I didn’t realize is that on my oldest daughters phone is that the speaker is in the back of the phone and to the side. This will require a different style and slightly wider base so her phone will not fall out.

Test with unfinished wood. Didn’t want to wait for the oil rub to dry before we tested it.
Still need to sand the bottom flat so it doesn’t roll. But it looks way better after a coat of oil

Fall fishing Lookout Point Reservoir

When I was a youngster, many years ago. Lookout point reservoir was known only as a place to fish for trash fish. It wasn’t stocked with anything and the northern pikeminnows had pretty much out competed every other fish. You would catch an occasional trout, but for the most part suckers and pikeminnows were all. And then came the illegal stocking of warm water species into this reservoir. It is now one of those lakes that if it lives anywhere in Oregon then you can probably catch it if you learn the lake and where to target them.

For our fall trip down to the lake, we are trying to catch for us the elusive Walleye. Several years ago ODFW did a study in the lake to the percentage of predator species, and how they are distributed in the lake. I was able to get ahold of one of the biologists that were a part of the study and when they did the trapping for them they found several Walleye over 24″ in length. This was nearly a decade ago study so she believed that some of them could be pushing up to 30″ now. Neither Jeremy or I have ever caught a walleye so this would be a great catch to add to our bucket list of fish. Walleye are limited in Oregon to the Columbia river, small stretches of the Willamette river and now Lookout point.

One thing I have noticed in the last five years is the reduction in pikeminnow in the lake. Years ago when we trolled we would catch 5 pikeminnow to 1 of any other species. Now I rarely catch any at all.

Finding a place to walk down to the water is always a challenge since the lake is so steep. But we were able to find a place we could walk down and fish along the edge. A storm was coming in so our fishing time was limited before the heavy rain and wind hit. Third cast once we made it to the water my shad rap was hammered by a very nice sized Small mouth bass. Before this fish I actually didn’t know there was small mouth in the lake and thought the bass were limited to the large mouth variety.

First nice smallmouth bass I have caught this year

As with most reservoirs in the area there is also tons of stumps everywhere. After a near loss of the crankbait I swapped over to a finesse jig to try nearer the stumps. I will say now that I am not a bass fisherman. Or really much of a fisherman for anything other then trout and salmon. But I am trying got change that. Last month I signed up to start getting a monthly bag of bass gear from 6th sense. Using the finesse jig this was my first attempt at using anything other then a worm and bobber for bass. Jigging is a skill I need to work on, but I was able to somehow catch another bass near a stump using the jig. If you watch my video you can tell I am a bit excited about catching my first bass on a finesse jig

My first bass ever caught on a finesse jig from 6th sense.

With the short amount of time we had before the weather turned and we had to pack it up we caught three nice smallmouth bass and lost a couple of others. And of course lost several lures to the stumps. No Walleye on this trip but that just means we will need to go back and try again at some point. As windy as this lake gets it is hard to fish from our preferred choice of a kayak. But we will someday catch one even if it is tiny.

For more fishing or hiking in the area please check out these books

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Compact DIY Emergency fishing kit

No one can predict when an emergency will happen. It can be anything from as simple as having your vehicle break down, to a natural disaster that effects the entire area you are living in. One thing that is good to keep in a vehicle just for an emergency is a small kit filled with basic fishing supplies. For this kit I use a small metal altoid can. But any container that is small enough to fit in a glove box will work. The nice thing about these little metal boxes is that they can be used for several purposes once you have removed the fishing supplies. This also makes a great 5 minute craft to put together with children

Simple kit with basics in it. I do recommend more hooks and weights then what is shown in the picture.

Possible list of what you can put into your box:

Still some room that more weight and hooks can be added and a small folding knife

This list is for a very basic kit and can easily be customized to whatever works for you. As you can see from the pictures there is still lots of space inside the tin to add some other things to the kit. One additional thing that would be good to have in this kit is a compact knife. I always carry a belt knife so it is not needed for my kit. this would be very useful for gutting any fish and cutting a pole to use as a fishing rod.

The best way to store the line is to wrap it around the box and then secure it with tape. For this kit I am using 100lb nylon braid. Very strong and can also be used as cordage for any needs.
Wrap multiple layers of tape around the kit to secure the line and also to use in an emergency.

If making your own mini kit is not something you would like to put together then there are several pre-built kits available on Amazon that can be purchased.

This is a good list of books that are fairly compact and can be carried in the glove box or in an emergency bag.

All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora (smaller pocket guide that is excellent to use)

The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants

Pacific Northwest Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Alaska Blueberries to Wild Hazelnuts (Regional Foraging Series)

SAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere This is the go to guide for most people looking into survival

And some good survival gear

There are also several E-books that can be found on Kindle unlimited

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Hills creek fishing in the slippery mud

Fall fishing in Oregon tends to be either weeks of dry or so wet everything is a slippery mud mess. Today’s fishing trip was one of the later. And I’m sure the slowly lowering water in Hills Creek reservoir was not any help. In the Willamette valley most of the reservoirs are used for winter flood control. I have seen pictures from my grandparents of the yearly flooding in the valley every year before the dam’s were built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. All the houses at the time were built up on higher ridges and that were just barely above the floods. Even with the dam’s in place there is still a chance of flooding year to year.

Lots of fish and mud shenanigans
Hills creek reservoir
Muddy and rocky everywhere this time of year. Luckily there are stumps available to stand on to keep from sliding in to the lake.

Today’s trip started out as mostly a mushroom hunting trip since the chanterelles are up. But since we stopped at the reservoir we decided that a few casts would be nice since the rain was holding off some. The forecast was for up to half an inch of rain so we both wore solid rain gear from head to toe. Before we even were able to cast out there were multiple fish jumping out of the water. Just from seeing that we had high hopes of catching something.

Our hopes were realized very quickly. In less then 30 minutes we had caught five fish between us. Blue fox and my generic jointed jerkbait were the ticket for catching them. One planted spring Chinook (only about 10″) and four nice hatchery rainbow trout. Most were a nice 12″ size but one was close to 16″. I am curious to see how well the holdover survival rate for them is going to be this year. Earlier I caught a very large 20″ hatchery rainbow in the same area. This is by far the largest trout I have ever caught in Hills creek. I keep hearing of larger landlocked Chinook or the rare Bull trout that are caught in the reservoir but I have not yet been able to catch one. Both tend to live down deep and the only way to get them is with a downrigger. I do have one that I adapted to use from my kayak but that is something that I really need to practice to be good at it.

Hills creek reservoir Hatchery rainbow trout
Nice hatchery rainbow on one of the first few casts

My last fish of the trip was the largest one of the day at close to 16″ and also one that nearly made me slide into the lake. Once I got the trout out of the water the line to the lure broke and I dropped the fish. The mud there is slippery enough I nearly slid into the water trying to get it. Luckily a stump stopped me before I hit the water. Otherwise I would have slid into water that was easily over my head in depth.

best lures of the day to catch fish:

  • Jerkbait close to what I was using sadly there is no marks on it on who it is made by
  • Jeremy’s favorite panther martin
  • and my normal Mepps aglia size zero. This works everywhere in Oregon for nearly everything. Both the silver and brass colors are equally effective.
  • For any other fishing areas near this please check out the fishing in Oregon book. I am slowly picking places and trying to fish them all.

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Kayak fishing Siltcoos lake

Siltcoos is one of those lakes where you either love it or hate it. My track record of catching fish in it before this year consisted of sculpin and yellow perch. According to the fishing in Oregon book this lake is packed with different species that I can’t catch. For the last several years when I think of heading to the coast to fish it is the last place I would pick out of our many coastal lakes. But a trip kayaking with family finally broke my streak of tiny tiny fish. Since I never usually fish for bass I only brought a lite trout rod to catch the normal tiny fish. On my second cast a (for me) monster bass hit and buried itself in the weeds and snapped my 4lb test line. After a changing up lures we continued our float and shortly after I caught a nice bass.

Bass fishing from a kayak in Siltcoos
Not the biggest largemouth bass, but by far the biggest I have caught in years

With the success of this trip I decided that once the fall salmon started coming in I would give the lake a chance for a salmon and possibly some bass. Siltcoos is a great lake to fish just for the large variety of fish that can be caught. Not that I am good at catching them. In addition to bass and salmon the lake contains Rainbow trout, Cutthroat trout, Crappie, Bluegill, Bullhead catfish, Yellow perch, and the some passing through steelhead.

Fall kayaking is a very different experience then summer kayaking on the lake. Since this is Oregon it involves being prepared for a lot more rain. With periods of sun that makes you feel like you are cooking if you have rain gear on. Luckily I have a dry suit that I wear just for these kinds of days. The great thing about a dry suit is you can layer underneath it depending on the temperature and it breaths unlike most rain gear. The only issue with mine is that I did not get one with a crotch zipper. If you have to go to the bathroom it is a full unzip and go.

Kayak fishing at Siltcoos lake
wet and gloomy, but with very little wind

On this adventure my Kayak buddy Jeremy joined me to see if we could catch a salmon or at least some trout. The morning started out slow as we trolled along the lake. Both of us were surface trolling with our normal trout gear (salmon will hit also). My normal set up for trout is normally a Luhr Jenson herring dodger followed by a brad’s cut plug or a Mack’s wedding ring behind it. Sadly for me neither were working. Jeremy lucked out and caught a nice 15″ rainbow on his setup. After many hours of a few small bites and nothing being caught for me I switched gear to a casting pole and a Rapala shad rap.

Jeremy’s catch. Almost looks like a small steelhead

Switching over to the shad rap was my ticket to fish. First cast to shore caught me a nice 13″ cutthroat. Moving from the inlet end where we were into main lake soon caught me a 15″ cutthroat trolling near the bottom and soon after that a small 10″ juvenile salmon. previous to that was nearly four hours of trolling with barely a bite and then three fishing 30 minutes changing up the gear. Another trip to Siltcoos will be part of the plans for later in the year if time allows or sometime in the next year. The Oregon state record for Coho was caught in this lake. It is very much a lake I need to learn. And there is a very good chance of me breaking my personal best records for multiple species of fish from this lake.

A tired and worn out Sasquatch Shane ending the day

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Are Salal berries edible? Why yes they are!

As summer hits it’s midpoint it is time to get ready for late summer berries. One of my favorites to forage for locally is salal berries.  This native plant to the Pacific Northwest is usually seen in flower arrangements as decorating leaves. The leaves are thick and waxy and make a great color addition to flower arrangements everywhere.  This plant is also a relative of the blueberry and produces a delicious berry.  I eat it fresh and have used it to make wine and jam. The high pectine content of the berries does require some extra help to make a wine.  Otherwise it will almost gel like a jam.

Its dark blue “berries” (actually swollen sepals like a blueberry) and young leaves are both edible, and are an effective appetite suppressant. Salal berries were a significant food resource for native people, who both ate them fresh and dried them into cakes. They were also used as a sweetener, and the Haida used them to thicken salmon eggs. The leaves of the plant were also sometimes used to flavor fish soup. More recently, Salal berries are used locally in jams, preserves and pies.  They are often combined with Oregon-grape because the tartness of the latter is partially masked by the mild sweetness of Salal.  There is so much naturally occurring pectin in the berry that when you make jam you do not need to add any to make it jell up.  The jam is so dark that it is almost black in color.  

The berries grow in rows along a main stem.
The berries grow in rows along a main stem.

Salal occurs in such high numbers that the chance of seeing plants on a hike anywhere west of the Cascades in Oregon is almost guarantied. This year I intend to pick enough that I can try to make at least a gallon of wine out of them.  But even if I don’t they are a good addition to yogurt throughout the year if you freeze them.  Or a dark jam to add to yogurt.  Have I ever mentioned I love yogurt?  

The plants can be found from Northern California up into southeast Alaska.  If it is in the that area there is some around.  The flavor of the berry changes depending on the soil conditions.  If you find a spot where they taste great remember to go back year after year for them.  

Flowers and unripe berries
Flowers and a mix of ripe and unripe berries

The plant itself also has been used for medicinal purposes. Salal leaf has a long history as a medicine for wounds, coughs, colds and digestive problems.  The Klallam, Bella Coola and Quileute People have chewed salal leaves, and spit them on burns and sores.  The Samish and Swinomish People have used the leaves for coughs and tuberculosis, while the Quinault People have used them for diarrhea and flu-like symptoms.  Herbalist, Michael Moore mirrors Northwest Native People’s uses of salal in Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West when he says that, “The tea is astringent and anti-inflammatory, both locally to the throat and upper intestinal mucosa, and through the bloodstream, to the urinary tract, sinuses and lungs.” 

If you are ever in the mood to try a unique flavored berry I highly recommend salal as a delicious one.  As my normal word of warning if you are not 100% sure of what you are eating do not eat it!  

Some useful books on foraging and using medicinal herbs in the area:

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Yellow Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius)

One of the first mushrooms of the fall is the delicious Yellow Chanterelle. A week or two after the first heavy fall rain small little yellow buttons will start appearing throughout the forest. Since this time of year coincides with hunting season in Oregon it is best for anyone out in the forest picking mushrooms to be wearing bright colors so they are not mistaken for a deer. This has always been one of my personal favorite mushrooms to look for, and is one of the easiest to find. But with every mushroom unless you are 100% certain of what you are picking DO NOT EAT IT! Now for a little about this treasure of the forest.

Since I love using Wikipedia for info here is a little bit of history and uses for this tasty treat:

“Though records of chanterelles being eaten date back to the 1500’s, they first gained widespread recognition as a culinary delicacy with the spreading influence of French cuisine in the 1700’s, where they began appearing in palace kitchens. For many years, they remained notable for being served at the tables of nobility. Nowadays, the usage of chanterelles in the kitchen is common throughout Europe and North America. In 1836, the Swedish mycologist Elias Fries considered the chanterelle “as one of the most important and best edible mushrooms.”

Chanterelles as a group are generally described as being rich in flavor, with a distinctive taste and aroma difficult to characterize. Some species have a fruity odor, others a more woody, earthy fragrance, and others still can even be considered spicy. The golden chanterelle is perhaps the most sought-after and flavorful chanterelle, and many chefs consider it on the same short list of gourmet fungi as truffles and morels. It therefore tends to command a high price in both restaurants and specialty store.”

Over the years I have dried, canned, pickled, and sautéed chanterelles in as many recipes as I can. Other mushrooms might be stronger flavored or different tasting, but this one is the easiest to find in large quantities. There are always several small stands of mushroom buyers around that will pay by the pound for these if you want to put in the time to find large amounts. The only thing about selling them that I never liked is that there is a subspecies of chanterelle that are white that the buyers will never take. I can’t tell any difference in taste between the two so that means more for me to enjoy. On a successful day I have found 20+ lbs of yellow chanterelles with only a few hours of searching.

When picking a patch of chanterelles it is best to cut them off at the base with a sharp knife. Pulling them out of the ground can damage the fungal matt that is under the ground. By cutting them you can get several crops out of the same location until the first hard frost hits under the forest canopy. Also alway remember to leave a few mushrooms in a patch so that they can continue to reproduce and produce even more in the years ahead.

For more detailed information please check out this link to the full Wikipedia article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chanterelle

Some of my favorite recipes:

Some great reference books:

All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora (smaller pocket guide that is excellent to use)

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (National Audubon Society Field Guides) (all inclusive but fairly large)

There are also several E-books that can be found on Kindle unlimited

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