Follows

As part of my Christmas work, I joined Twitter. I have been enjoying the twit experience. 🙂 If you would like to follow, it is @berkshirebowls. All are welcome!

Published in: on January 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Christmas Season Closes

Now that the dust has settled from a wonderful Christmas season, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported Berkshire Bowls (http://www.berkshirebowls.com) this holiday season! I appreciate it.

Published in: on January 16, 2013 at 9:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Countdown to Christmas: Week 5 Blog Posting

Blue Morning Expressions has posted a great list of Christmas Gift ideas, please stop by and check them out

http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=203493

Published in: on October 20, 2012 at 11:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Berkshire Bowls Treasury Featured on White Truffle Studio’s Blog

A great father’s day treasury that included an F15 fighter jet puzzle created by Berkshire Bowls was featured today on White Truffle Studio’s Blog.  You can check out the full treasury here:

http://whitetrufflestudio.blogspot.com/2012/05/daddy-i-fathers-day-2012.html

…and don’t forget to favorite that jet! 🙂

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Etsy Article on wsj.com

For those of you that have Etsy shops, frequent the site, or are just interested in what is going on on the internet, the Wall Street Journal ran an article a week or two ago about Etsy and how they are cracking down on the ‘handmade’ label in their shops.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304299304577349731690704306.html?KEYWORDS=etsy

Mushroom Hunting in the Northeast

Anyone who is following my blog is probably wondering at this point what exactly I am doing here.  First we started off with internet marketing, then we moved to finish on salad bowls and now we are talking about wild mushrooms?!?  Yes, I am all over the place.  Actually, I figure that internet marketing relates directly to selling any kind of merchandise on the web.  I happen to be selling handmade wood items such as wood bowls, puzzles and other cool items.  Since I spend time in the woods, searching for wood to make these items, naturally there are other things in the woods, like wild mushrooms, hence, the mushroom post.  I am trying desperately to stay remotely related to the general topic, woodworking, but, other interesting topics do come up…

First, I will relay my story.  I like doing things for myself.  I think I came to an epiphany sometime in my 20’s that everything I use or want has to be made by someone, that’s when I started to learn how to make things for myself, typically from scratch.  Welding, carpentry, sewing, knitting, etc. they all allow you to make things and are all handy skills to have.  As part of the woodworking, I started scouring the woods for pieces of downed trees that could be used to make things (like bowls and boxes).  That began my foraging.

In 2011 I was at a friends house for a picnic.  This person is an avid hunter, fisherman and all around outdoorsman.  I personally don’t like the idea of shooting animals, but, certainly don’t begrudge someone else their right to do so.  I do overlap in some areas, however, and like the idea of spending time in the woods and searching for vegetation that might be of use.

As we were talking, he mentioned that he ‘hunted’ mushrooms.  That is the practice of walking through the woods trying to find specific edible mushrooms to pick.

I know what you are thinking, “What??!?  That is dangerous!”.  I don’t disagree.  I was always brought up to believe that you never go out and pick mushrooms, you just can’t tell which are poison and which aren’t.  You always hear these horror stories about families who go out and pick some bad fungi and end up all dying.  I suppose that is like any media story.  The obscure and rare stories make it to the press and the hundreds of thousands of people who pick mushrooms, eat them, and don’t get sick are never covered.

In any event, as we continued talking, my friend and a few others at the party regaled me  with their tales of mushroom hunting.  The types of mushrooms they sought and some of their greatest conquests.  After a while, they took out several mushroom field guides and started teaching me about the various mushrooms, where to find them, and how to differentiate them from other poisonous mushrooms.

Now, mind you, we are not talking about $1.99 mushrooms you might find in the super market.  The mushrooms that a true hunter seeks are the rare, expensive and highly sought after ones, Morels, Chantrelles, Hen of the Woods, etc.  They are very specific mushrooms.  You don’t go out looking for mushrooms and try to decide if they are poison or not, you go out looking for a specific mushroom or two and when you find something that looks like it, you decide if you have what you are looking for.  I think that was the biggest difference between what I expected mushroom hunting to be and what it was.

I was hooked.  This was great.  I now had an excuse to spend time in the woods.

I purchased my first field guide and set out to scour the forests for mushrooms.  Of course, the guide specifically said that Morel mushrooms came out in late April and early May.  I couldn’t wait.  I was out in early April looking around.  Needless to say, my initial hunting was not very successful.  It was not until a chance encounter on a local bike path that I found my first mushrooms.  Picture of the black topped mushrooms below.

I was riding with another friend on the bike path when lo and behold, I saw a patch of black morel mushrooms speed by me on the side of the path.  I couldn’t believe it, here I am searching the woods high and low when all along they were right next to a path where dozens of people walk every day.  I quickly went back and picked the patch, stuffing them in a baseball cap until we got back to the car.  After confirmation with my mushroom mentor, I snacked on some black morel mushrooms.  It was like Christmas!

That was the only score of black morels (which come out a little earlier in the season).  I did find some yellow morels (photo of white topped mushroom above) in my back yard, and once I realized that they really loved dying elm and ash trees, I was able to ferret out a couple of more under such trees.

Unfortunately, I was not in the northeast during the summer months and therefore could not continue to hunt other species of mushroom.  I am getting my hiking boots ready this year, though, morel season is about to begin and I have a full summer of time.

Food Safe Wood Finish (Part 2 of 2)

The second ‘school’ of thought is that no finish is really food safe.  This seems kind of extreme.  I do realize, however, that often in life some study comes out 20 years after you used a product that supposedly proves that in 15% of lab rats it causes cancer.  I suppose that to a complete purest, having any finish on a natural wood piece could be toxic.  The only problem is that it isn’t going to last long without any protection.  Since manufacturer’s specifically produce and market finishes as food safe and there are several that you can use (like bees wax and oils such as Tung, Walnut and even olive) that are natural, it seems unrealistic that there is nothing you can use that is food safe.

I feel that there is a happy medium in there somewhere.  If you finish something with a ‘non-food safe’ polyurethane, I would limit the direct contact to food.  Some M & M’s or chips for a dinner party might be ok for one night, but, I probably would avoid serving salad every night or other partially wet foods.  If you finish your piece in a food safe finish, that can probably be used on a more consistent basis with food.  In all cases, you do want to make sure that your piece has had ample time to dry (seeing as the drying makes it food safe).  One product that I use, suggests drying for 30-90 days before exposure to food.  I would add to that (at least in the case of polyurethane finish) that you allow it to dry that long and then clean it with a soapy sponge.  I have found that polyurethane holds up well to water and soap, so, it shouldn’t be a problem as far as ruining the piece.  The point of cleaning it is just to remove any surface residual and smell that might have accumulated before first use.

As far as natural oils are concerned, the simple truth is that if you put them in your body on a regular basis (or could) I don’t see any problem with putting them on your precious wood food items.  The one word of caution I would have is if you are using any kind of nut oil (walnut, tung, etc).  Anyone with a allergy to nuts, may have a reaction to the oils in your piece.  I have not extensively researched nut allergies.  I certainly would not want to take a chance serving my friends out of a walnut oil bowl in case one of them was allergic.

Food Safe Wood Finish (Part 1 of 2)

I have been creating wood items for several years now.  A lot of those items are for use in the kitchen or are intended used with food.  Clearly, the finish on those products needs to be food safe.

While researching food safe finishes, I discovered some interesting facts and opinions.  I would have to say that the most interesting is that there are two schools of thought on the issue of food safe finishes.

The first ‘school’ of thought is that all finishes are food safe when they are dry.  That may seem counter intuitive until you realize that the toxic part of most (if not all) finishes is the delivery method.  Meaning, the actual finish isn’t toxic in most cases, the liquid in which the finish is dissolved is.  So, once the liquid delivery method has evaporated (which basically means the finish is dry) then the piece is food safe.  Case in point, your kitchen table.  Typically when someone refinishes a kitchen table with some sort of polyurethane, they don’t go out and find a food safe polyurethane.  They simply go to their local home improvement store and buy what is on the shelf.  None of those are specifically designed to be food safe.  Yet, over time, things are set, dropped and spilled on the finish and eaten.  I can say from experience, that any exposure to toxic materials is minimal at best.  So, while I don’t subscribe to this theory for my handmade products, I feel that it is likely true.

Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 4:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Part 9 of 9 Conclusion

This has been a multi-week look at marketing your shop or site on the internet.  I have been trying to drive traffic to my site(s) for over 10 years and have used all of these methods at one time or another with varying degrees of success.

What I can say about many of these methods is that at one point or another, I believe they worked.  Some worked for a while and as internet tastes and practices changed, no longer brought in the traffic they once did.  Others have always worked.  Some are hit or miss.  In other words, they may work when you use them with a particular site (such as paying a site for advertising space), then not work on others.

The smart marketing campaign includes elements of all of the above.  I am a firm believer in not putting all of your eggs in one basket.  This is certainly true here.  No matter what avenues you choose to market your site, you can count on one thing, you will have to invest both time and money.

Part 8 of 9 : Search Engine Pay Per Click Services

Search Engine Optimization often works for a keyword or group of keywords that are closely related.  There may be, however, a whole category of words and phrases that your site doesn’t appear under when searched.  Remember that it is tough to be all things to all people.  You will inevitably have to decide on the most important words and phrases for SEO purposes and abandon many in favor of creating a page that displays high on certain search words.  That’s where pay per click services offered by most search engines come in.

Site owners can setup an account that allows you to specify certain keywords to display a link to your site when searched.  If a person clicks on your link and goes to your page, you agree to pay the specified amount.  Clearly this can add up fast.  Often clicks cost between $0.10 and $1.00 depending on the popularity.  You are, however, allowed to specify a budget in most cases.  Monthly charges can be as little as $30 on major search engines like Google.

In addition to displaying your ad when someone searches, sites like Google also sponsor ads right on privately operated web sites.  You can display an ad for your site on a web site that has related content.  When someone clicks on your advertisement, a portion of the click cost goes to Google.  A portion also goes to the site where the ad was shown.

Google and other search sites have (like Facebook) done a good job of displaying relevant advertising to perspective clients.  They also provide methods by which to track the clicks that actually purchase or take some action on your site.  So, you can more accurately evaluate what methods and sites are providing useful leads for you and adjust your advertising campaign accordingly.