Monday, 20 June 2011

Hunters and Gatherers

Sometimes, on a chilly Autumnal Sunday, I will resist the siren call of the Eastenders Omnibus and we'll head off down to the cabin.  We get a fire going and put the kettle on then potter about in the woods, looking for mushrooms or other things of interest.  Sometimes our wanderings are curtailed because the Hunt will be there.  There are no glamourous horses and scarlet clad toffs, just a group of men, and occasionally women, toting shotguns.  They have invested heavily in camouflage gear which they then incongruously top with high vis jackets.  I think the idea is to surround an area, send in their dogs, then shoot at anything that the dogs flush out.  This strategy sometimes leads to them shooting each other.  One day, I was just commenting to Bob that I'd never actually seen them kill anything when out of the woods came two hunters with a dead deer strung on a pole between them.  I should not tempt fate by saying such things. Poor deer.  But that's the way of things round here, usually, they don't stay long and as the sound of the dog's bells tinkles away in the distance it's safe to go back into the forest for a forage.  Ceps (or what the Italians call Porcini) are distinctive and if we're lucky we'll get enough for a mushroom supper.  Our neighbour is often seen emerging from the woods with carrier bags full of these beauties.  We don't seem to find that many,  (probably because the neighbour has already made a sweep of our woods before we've even got out of bed) which makes the ones we do find all the more precious.  Yum.

There are myriads of other, non edible, more sinister looking Fungi,  a fascinating range of shapes and colours.  One, with scarlet tendrils that we call 'devil's fingers' is native to Austrailia.  It's spores were apparently transported over in fleeces under the saddles of Austrailian mounted soldiers during the first world war! I also like to see the classic fairytale style toadstools, red with white spots and the 'purple sickener' not because it's an impressive looking thing but just because I like it's name. 
By this time, the cabin will be toasty warm and so I might scoop up a few chestnuts to roast on the woodburner and head back.  Perfect!

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