Today, Sunday 10th June 2012, I made a decision, a serious one to which I propose solemnly to stick. Oh, dear!Unexploded pun there. The decision is that I will never, ever go mushroom hunting again without a stick. Why? Well, because I found myself three-quarters of the way down a mossy bank, a charmingly muddy stream at my feet, with no elegant, painless or clean way of getting back up again. All this because I had desired a chanterelle lurking just out of my reach.
Yes, the great mushroom thieving season has started again. Cars can be seen parked half in roadside ditches whilst their owners, armed with plastic bags and a stick search someone else's woodland. Until today I scorned the stick, but no more. My haul this Sunday was about 100 gr of fine sized chanterelles and five dirty golf balls. Saturday it was nearer 200 gr of very small ones, no golf balls.
The chanterelle or girolle is not as proud as the cep, it tends to hide under moss, in very damp places, not push up through leaves. Stickless gatherers find themselves with dirty knees, finger nails and a moss covered harvest.
Of course I could just have left that one particular chanterelle, however large and beautiful. Then I would not have got temporarily stuck or come back with muddy jeans and a strained back. But I have lived so long in the Dordogne now that I think I have been infected with the gourmet greed for all things free that seems endemic here. Though, to be fair to myself, I only pick that which I like eating – the rest others are free to steal.
I do have a stick, a recent acquisition. It is, I think, of hazel wood, stained and varnished with a flower design scraped into it. It cost a very few euros at the local agricultural co-op. The handle is a simple curve, made by use of steam, no doubt. Only I need lessons in how to best use a stick. This is not self evident.
Almost all the land at La Chaise is on a slope, which means one foot is always lower/higher than the other. Hence an imbalance which puts a strain on the pelvis and lower back. The stick is supposed to compensate, I have to transfer my weight from foot to stick. Obviously I am going to have to study those people in the market who seem to use their sticks habbitually. Brief, unscientific observation shows that a large number of stick owners use them as a means of expression – along the lines of 'go away you horrible young person' - rather than as an aid to locomotion.
Yes, it is rather early for the fungi season to start. The weather has not been propitious, wet enough but not warm enough in between bouts of wet. The orchids are behind hand – or all eaten by the sheep. But at least the grass is green, the lakes and ponds are full and maybe this will last through the summer. I shall sit in my chair during the brief bouts of sunshine, hands on the stick between my knees, and think positive thoughts about the summer to come.