Out, damned squirrel!

Or rather, out with it, damn Squirrel—where did you stash all my Boletopsis?

Only once in the last six years did I see a Boletopsis: a mushy blob another dyer had found and frozen in a glass jar. But I saw the beautiful colour resulting from its dyepot, so I resolved to find one of my own someday. That day took a long time to arrive.

Last fall, a record mushroom season in this area, a fellow SHROOMer found a couple of Boletopsis grisea on one of our club forays. He didn’t recognize it, and it didn’t take much convincing for him to decide he didn’t want to eat it (technically they’re edible, but apparently they’re very bitter). I took the mushrooms back to my studio and soaked them in a 50:50 water/ammonia solution, which resulted, after cooking, in some lovely sage-y green samples.

So imagine my delight when I came upon a mass of these mushrooms a few weeks later! Actually, it was my dearest who found them, and it took me several minutes to scramble through the mossy windfall to their location—I could tell by the excitement in his voice that it had to be something worth scrambling for.

And this is just a part of what he’d found:

Boletopsis grisea
Boletopsis grisea

Once again, I was beside myself with joy at the mushroom’s capability of producing in huge abundance . . . not every year, necessarily, and not every mushroom, but when conditions are right, fecundity is the word. I harvested carefully and with gratitude, then took them home to dry.

Ordinarily these fungi would have hit the dyepot the next day, but did I mention that 2013 was a particularly amazing year for mushrooms? We were out in the forest every day, coming home with piles and piles of fungal beauties, so I had no choice but to spread them out to dry on my studio floor while I was out gathering more . . . and more . . . and more.

I ran out of floor space, so I started laying mushrooms out in the space underneath my studio: a latticed enclosure on a fairly steep slope. I can stand at the lower end, but have to stoop to get to the upper end. The mushrooms found this space to their liking and began to dry quite nicely.

The season done, I was ready to fire up the dyepots, and of course I wanted to see what colour all of these Boletopsis would give me. I went down to get the cardboard tray they’d been drying on, only to find it mostly empty! What?!

In disbelief, I poked around among the crates and boxes occupying most of the under-studio space, and found some other dried mushrooms (Phaeolus schweinitzii and Hydnellum aurantiacum) had been scattered haphazardly around the space. But no Boletopsis . . . I can only assume that the squirrels sensed their edibility and squirreled them away, as is their wont, to nosh on over the winter.

And we have seen some very chubby squirrels around the property this spring.

Colour from Boletopsis grisea
Colour from Boletopsis grisea

They did leave me with a few, though, and these gave me a really wonderful green, enough for one of the plies in a three-ply chunky yarn, with what was left going into a smaller skein of two-ply.

Handspun, one ply Boletopsis green
Handspun with one ply Boletopsis green

I live in the forest. I am happy to share with the forest. Squirrels are creatures of the forest. Damn them.

13 thoughts on “Out, damned squirrel!”

  1. I do love the green the Boletopsis grisiea gives, but have only used them in Scandinavia. I think I have a bag left to dye with from the IFFF Symposium when it was held in Mendicino, CA. Now I will have to be on the lookout for them when we are traveling about. Our fungi findings here in Wyoming have been disappointing for the past several years.

  2. Awhile back, we found an abandoned walnut orchard during our ramblings, so we collected a couple of bags full of hulls. Took them home, laid them out to dry, and discovered the next morning that those bushy-tailed li’l burglars had stolen every one! Now when I dry something outdoors, I place the items between two framed screens and weigh them down. So far the squirrels have been foiled but I’m sure there is a big one somewhere, bench-pressing a couple of liter Coke bottles in preparation for my next drying session. — Bjo

  3. Thank you for your blog. It’s wonderful to read.

    Here, still in Vermont. Snow covered, not a mushroom in sight, but I remember where some are. We have so very few compared to you in that fertile environment.

    Wonderful work. Beautiful.


    1. Thanks for your kind remarks. I never cease to be grateful to be living in the middle of a temperate rainforest, especially given the winter you’ve endured on the other coast! So I really have no need to complain about squirrels, do I? I hope your spring arrives soon.

  4. I am not really a dyer. I’m more of a foody with regard to mushrooms. (Although I did play with some cortinarious cinnabarinus a couple years ago) But i really enjoy your blog! May the Goddess of Fungi, and the squirrels, be generous to you this year!

    1. Thanks, Laurie. I found a good flush of C. cinnabarinus this year, a first for me, and had fun with that dyepot. My husband’s the foody when it comes to mushrooms. To me they all taste the same, but I love the thrill of the hunt!

    1. Thanks for the tip, Roseanne. I just been given an old food dehydrator that I plan to put to good use this fall, so a lot of my mushrooms will be put through that, so I don’t anticipate any more squirrel problems!

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