The Intervention

Ann . . .

I prefer to be called Mushroom Annie.

Alright, then—Mushroom Annie, we’re here today to discuss a matter of serious concern that has come to our attention.

Go ahead. But please make it quick. A cold front is coming in next week, signalling the approaching end of mushroom season.

Uh, yes . . . I see that you understand already.

Understand what?

Your family and friends are worried about you. Your studio floor is covered with drying fungi, your dehydrator is churning out dried fungi, your front steps are littered with all manner of disgusting fungi, yet you persist in going out every day for more mushrooms. Does this not seem a touch worrisome?

Not at all. Why should it?

Well, for one thing, what about your friends? Are you not concerned that you might be neglecting them?

I have friends in my mushroom club, the Sunshine Coast Society for the Hunting, Recognition and Observation of Mushrooms (that’s SHROOM for short). Silas, my dog who accompanies me on all my forays, is my good friend. Even the forest fungi are my friends.

Listen, Ann . . . I mean Mushroom . . . oh, dammit, you know who I mean! You’re obsessed! You’re living a one-track life! You’ve allowed mushrooms to assume an importance beyond their worth! I’ve learned that you’re not even spinning in the evenings anymore! That time in front of your spinning wheel used to be sacrosanct—can’t you see what’s happening to you?

I miss spinning, I really do. But I keep finding Lobster mushrooms, and people keep giving me more, and they have to be pared before they go rotten. And speaking of Lobsters, I’ve already made concessions. My husband banned me from cooking the parings inside, because it made the house smell like, well, rotten lobsters. That was a major factor in my decision to turn our guest cottage into a mushroom studio.

You gave up B&B-ing in favour of mushrooms? This is more dire than I thought. How have you let it come to this?

All I can say is . . . well, consider my latest foray into what I call my backyard: acres and acres of forest where Silas and I can hike for hours without any human contact.

Do tell.

At the start of the trail was this intriguing photo op—how could I pass it up? And it’s a dyer—a bonus!

Sulfur tuft flowers
Sulfur tuft flowers

Once we reached the day’s foraging spot, as I clambered over logs and squeezed under deadfall in search of Dermocybes, I saw this Lobster peeking through the duff, tantalizing me to inspect a bit closer. I picked it, of course, and looked around carefully, only to find five more of these beauties, all ready to offer up their pigment. Do you know how hard it is to obtain red from natural dye sources?

Hint of lobster
Hint of lobster

And all this before I reached my goal: Dermocybes! The satiny finish! The scarlet gills! The siren song! Irresistible.

Red-gilled Dermocybe
Red-gilled Dermocybe

I’ll admit to a surfeit of Dyer’s Polypore, but this little one was exhibiting such generosity! I’d already cut it back to the ground a couple of weeks earlier, and here it was, creating yet more opportunity, just asking for another chance to give of itself. I couldn’t bear to disappoint it now, could I?

Phaeolus schweinitzii, second growth
Phaeolus schweinitzii, second growth

That’s all very well, but if you must look for mushrooms, have you never thought about turning your attention to something useful? I’m talking about the ones chefs covet, the ones foodies rhapsodize about.

I have nothing further to say.

Matsutake
Matsutake
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8 thoughts on “The Intervention”

  1. Love it! Some years back I was in that same position. However I was visiting in Norway, and the farm was huge, the woods were glorious, and the ground was covered with fungi. I had the kids of our Exchange Student out gathering, i was gathering and she was gathering. They turned the hired hands house over to me, and every available flat surface was covered with drying fungi. When I was ready to come home, I packed them all up and shipped them out to my school labeled as “dye research” and when I got home I had fungi to add to the classes I taught for the next couple of years. You have to hunt them when they are available…to the detriment of friends, family and whatever else needs tending.

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