Avoiding the poisonous ones

  • 2014-09-03
  • By Mike Parr

ALUKSNE - I have always lived by a simple rule when it comes to mushrooms: if I don’t buy it in a shop, then I don’t eat it. I’ve heard too many horror stories of people eating tasty-looking offerings and ending up in the hospital.
However, I realize that I have been missing out on one of the natural larder’s tasty morsels. Knowing that Latvians are avid mushroom hunters, a few days ago I set off with my neighbor into the forest to see what we could find.
Unfortunately, my guide turned out to be less than reliable. When asked, ‘What is this mushroom?’ or, ‘Is this edible?, his answers were ‘It’s a mushroom’ and ‘Maybe.’ To cap it off just nicely, he then called me stupid, as I wasn’t prepared to eat the selection that we had returned with.
It was only when some friends identified the mushrooms, after sending photographs, that I was prepared to cook and eat them.

Today, after two days of torrential rain I set off with a friend who is visiting to go mushroom hunting. We’ve returned after an hour in the forest with nearly ten kilos of Ceps, or Penny Bun as they are called in the UK.
I am pleased that I have been able to add to my wild larder, once I’ve learned to identify more edible fungi (or more importantly, identify the poisonous ones).Then I plan to harvest enough to prepare and store for the winter months.
The last two weeks has seen Lightning Tree Farm hosting a sex festival. A few fights broke out when there was interest in the one female, but overall things went well. I’m pleased that calm has returned, as it is going to be an annual event. Of course I am talking about the goats!

Lenny is still the boss; well, actually that’s incorrect, Big Momma is the boss, but Lenny is the lead buck. Being the lead buck, he gets the pick of the girls and will fight off any other would-be suitors. I’ve been warned that at this time, the bucks will be dangerous, but, the worst that Lenny, or any of the other guys, have done is to rub against me, giving me that distinctive goat smell. Which, most likely, is the reason people aren’t coming too close to me in the shops. (Bucks pee on their legs and beards to impress the girls – something I’ll try next time that I am visiting Riga).
Now that the gang have had their fun, I can expect new additions to the herd in a little over five months. I am hoping for more females this time around but, to be honest, I’m happy if I simply get the full quota of healthy young kids. As goats usually give birth to two kids, I will be tripling my herd early next year.

I’ve had a volunteer staying with me for the last two weeks. He came to me through a scheme called ‘WWOOF’ (Working Weekends on Organic Farms), where the volunteer works for free (my favorite price), and in return I feed them and teach them new skills. I’ve had mixed success with this scheme, the main bugbear is people arranging to come, then simply not turning up. However the guys (and girls) who have been to help over the last months have been more than useful in helping with jobs that I couldn’t do on my own and, so far all have left happy to have experienced a simpler lifestyle.
Jaoa, my latest visitor, has traveled from Portugal; he’s a hard worker and has brought some new skills and ideas with him. The only problem has been Lenny. Initially he took exception to the newcomer; however, once we dealt with the problem head on (Jaoa had to wrestle Lenny to the floor and hold him down for a few minutes – very entertaining), things went to the absolute opposite, with Lenny following him around everywhere and panicking if he was out of site.
More than once Jaoa has come into the house only to be followed by Lenny not wanting to be left behind by his new-found friend.

Now we are busy preparing a free lunch with a combination of mushrooms from the forest, and vegetables from the garden. So, I’m off to enjoy my other hobby, cooking!