Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Hunting Season

I walked to the barn the other day and saw a hawk flying away from where the chickens were out pecking and clucking. I looked around for carcasses and then tried to count, hoping I would get the 52 we started with. I got 51 on the first count and 53 on the second. As I walked back, I noticed a white spot on the neighbour's lawn...it's a bird...it's a....gigantic mushroom on closer inspection.

There is a lot of non-news to report each day, and there are many things that could happen: trees falling in the wrong places and on the wrong things, equipment like axes slipping out from hands and landing on limbs, hunting accidents...

It is duck hunting season and will soon be deer hunting season. The rule is, if a hunter wants to hunt on another person's property, he or she requires written consent. Of course, ricocheting bullets don't respect property lines. There are a lot of not-so distant bangs all around at dusk and I have been advised to wear bright orange if I'm in the woods at that time of day.

A friend told us a story of a woman who lived in our county, who was a bit surly and not the most gregarious neighbour. She was out gardening one evening when a neighbour came by to kindly encourage her to wear a vest. “Well, there is no hunting on this property” she responded with a huff. The neighbour responded, with the best intention, “You might want to be careful though...” because she had lovely white hair put up in a pony tail, and her head might be mistaken for a doe's behind.

We are in hunting country, where some families get their year's protein supply from the deer they shoot. Some of them prepare the deer themselves, which involves real skill. The whole meat-eating population relies on there being people out there who can properly carve up and portion out an animal, yet there aren't many people around who can still butcher a cow down to steaks: abattoirs are few and far between and for farmers at least, the danger with many is that you don't know that you will get back what you brought in.

Apart from butchery, there are other skills that are slowly being lost or degraded. I tried to find a mycological society in this region, but it looks like there are not a lot of avid mushroom hunters. It used to be (at least in Europe, so I've heard) that you could bring a mushroom to a pharmacist and they could identify it. But in North America, mushrooms have always been fringy.

Today, as I searched the fields and woods for one of the layer hens, after seeing the dog terrorizing them and scattering them about, I looked closely through each bit of grass, expecting that I would find a carcass. In my focus, I came upon a big, fresh, gilled white mushroom, alone and surrounded by tall grasses (the chicken, by the way, eventually came back out of the woods and all are still alive). The mushroom smells edible, it looks edible, and I have to keep talking my way out of frying it up, the same way my dog has to talk herself out of killing the chickens. I am working on identifying the type and if I can find solid backing in the description and spore print that it is a safe one, I will be pleased.  This is the kind of hunting I would prefer to pursue.  

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