Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

While I do love hunting for edible mushrooms, nothing is nicer than finding a fairy ring of Fly Agaric deep in the forest. For many years I harvested them but for the last few (including this year) I’ve preferred just taking photos. With the right preparation they’re edible and medicinal. However, I recommend that no one experiments with wild fungi unless they’ve had some expert training or supervision – death from poisonous fungi is horrific.

Now I just leave them for the pixies….

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Angry Adder

Angry Adder

Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the wood pile…

Yesterday, shortly after my brother had picked up some wood from the pile he keeps outside my house and then left, I noticed a cat playing with a snake on the road. It was pawing it and as the snake lunged it would quickly withdraw its paw. I thought it was a smooth snake until getting closer. It turned out to be the most livid adder (Vipera berus) that I’ve ever encountered.

Despite being Europe’s only poisonous species they’re usually quite docile, but this one started hissing and arching its head at me from several metres away. The cat had enraged it so much that it had clearly become dangerous. As it was a mere few feet from my garden, where my Jack Russell and kids play, it could have had dire consequences. I was really tempted to kill it, something I don’t like doing as I usually don’t have a problem with snakes, but as I was dressed to go out on a motorbike ride and the engine was running, i couldn’t be bothered with skinning it and defleshing – without which the skin would go to waste.

So the snake’s still there, in the rocks someplace. Hopefully, this hot weather will change and it will hibernate and wake up in the spring in a better mood. Otherwise it’ll end up on my barbecue and around my wrist…

Champignon mushrooms!

Champignon mushrooms!

Finally, we’re starting to see some edible fungi, although still not in any quantities worth mentioning. Winter is fast approaching, which means mushroom season – if there even is one this year – will be short.

We found a couple of rings of champignons (Agaricus bisporus), or the common button mushroom favoured as part of the English breakfast, but most of them were too small to harvest yet. Both rings centered on a big daddy mushroom, as pictured, and then had little baby ones growing a foot or more away. We’ve had plenty of storms and rain over the last week, now we just need some sun to induce fungal growth.

Surprise boar

Surprise boar

At noon today, we went for a walk along the abandoned country road near the house. On the return journey I stopped for a pee. I’d just undone my flies when I realized that, not 50 feet away, was the largest boar I’d ever seen in my life. At first I thought it was a bear.

Not wanting to miss the opportunity, i left my flies undone and took out my camera. He was immense and the adrenaline was pumping through me. I had no idea what to do if he decided to charge as there was nowhere to run to and I didn’t have my valaska, my shepherd’s axe, with me. Eventually he noticed us and then ran off into the bush. I can’t begin to describe the sensation. We’d been talking about various problems and issues, extremely wide ranging topics, but upon spotting the boar, every ounce of focus sharpened, Zen like, into one object. The world condensed into the size of that boar and fight or flight reaction. It was an amazing feeling – scary but enlightening.

I’ve no idea why there are so many boar this year. I’ve lived here for 17 years and never seen as many in that entire time as i have within the last month.

And yes, I did do up my flies….

The woods are alive with the smell of garlic…

The woods are alive with the smell of garlic…

Ah, Spring! Thus far, the only thing growing is copious amounts of extremely aromatic wild garlic. That’s the green stuff on the ground. Lots of uses for it, though – so long as you like garlic. Not much worry about vampires at this time of year, luckily enough. Sometimes, the Carpathians are overrun by the little buggers.