I thought I would copy William Fox-Pitt’s lead here and describe what could be an ideal day off for me. I was just talking with Lillian about this subject last night, and I was happily telling her that I have resumed my days off on Mondays now that competition season is over. No matter how hard I try to organize my life, from June – October it seems I cant get away from the to-do list and days off become very sporadic. But I am now fully commited to leaving the farm once per week, for something other than diesel fill up, and trying to top off my own inner happiness tank.
Last Monday I decided I would head on up to the mountains to collect wild, edible mushrooms.(No we werent in the area in the photo, but its a lovely photo that Mark took!) This is one of my hobbies in the fall, and was once, in the far past, also my employment at the UW. The search and seizure of mushrooms is incredibly fun, granted it helps to know that you are collecting culinary rapture, not something that will soon put you in the hospital on dialysis! We are so lucky to live where we do, and the weather the last few weeks has been stupendous! So, I wanted to spend all day up in the mountains enjoying both mushrooms and the weather. Mark quickly decided he wanted to go too, which was great, more eyes to gather more goodies, plus I just like the guy and its nice to spend time together not talking about horses or tractors.
We drove up the Mountain Loop Hwy and then wound up a Forest Service road another 11 miles to get pretty high up in altitude. One of the things I love most about the northwest forests is the simplicity of them on the outside, but then once you enter, they are incredibly complex and interesting inside. We rumaged around, off trail, in what could have been Hollywood fairy tale sets. Small, clear ponds of water surrounded by ferns, moss carpets that extend as far as you can see, and thick young trees that make you feel like a flea on the back of a dog (called Doghair forest by an old cowboy friend of mine). I never feel tired when I am scrambling around in this way, even though we had been doing it for hours, its refreshing to be in such a cathedral type place. Collecting mushrooms is an addictive activity, once you find something good, you cant stop looking for more. Just watch any child at easter to see the emergence of this activity!
We found a mushroom that I remember from 15 years ago as being one of my all time favorites, but had not collected it since. Hydnum repandum is a nutty, fragrant mushroom and I felt like I had stumbled upon the holy grail. We came home and I made a cream sauce with white wine, fresh herbs and garlic over pasta. It was delicious!!!!! Mark has been hearing me rave about Hydnum for years and now he finally could agree with me that it was one of the best wild mushrooms to eat. We also found some great King Boletes that we have yet to turn into food, but its on the agenda for lunch today with my parents. After dinner I went down to kiss the horses in the barn and make sure they all survived without me (truthfully, they always do survive, I just love to see them). It was a fantastic day and I cant wait to take anybody back to that beautiful forest who wants to go.