More Mushrooms

Not only have the belated rains kept them coming; perhaps edible Mycology is meme that has finally come to Magdalena.

VLA near highway    

The day of our hunt, we worked our way down Bear Trap Canyon, which runs south from Monica saddle in the San Mateos to finally emerge in ranchland, on our friends’ the Welty’s ranch as a matter of fact, in high- about 7000 feet above sea level– desert grassland, We usually return north through the Plains of San Augustin,  a dry Pleistocene lake bed, along one arm of the VLA .

Sargeant Canyon runs to the west from the Bear Trap, also coming out on the plains. It is our second favorite harvesting place. Though not as deep as the Bear Trap, it runs east and west, gathering more rain than Bear Trap.

While we were picking, our neighbors Frank and Cenaida Key stopped and asked us what we were doing. We showed them a few specimens and explained that only the big boletes were edible.

About a half hour after we returned home, they came to our house and dumped out about five full paper bags full of mushrooms. It was hilarious — they had turned down Sargent Canyon and harvested about every mushroom they saw. They had two species of absolutely deadly Amamitas plus muscarias, a bunch of boletes, and about twenty things I needed to key out. I hastily separated the deadly ones and threw them in the trash. They observed carefully my techiniques for cutting and drying boletes, and told us we could keep them. The next day, however, Frank showed up with a big bucket of boletes just to make sure he had gotten the right thing. I think we have created a monster, or at least disciples



Late Mushrooms

We are going in search of late boletes tomorrow in the San Mateos, But so far this season all we have is this lonely clutch of lobsters from the White Mountains of Arizona from Simon Armijo.These delicious parasites are more consistent from year to year because they are only found above 10,000 feet, and our ten- thousand plus peaks, though we can see one from our south windows, do not have enough area..

This year’s Boletes

Not a great year– the southern San Mateos, our main source, were a bit drier than we’d like– but we got a gallon of dried, first adequate harvest in 8 years. The photos span the trip down and back up the Plains of St Augustin  by the VLA; flowers, like the white poppies, show we have had a monsoon. The album also includes processing, Ataika, out for the ride, and one mushroom you really don’t want to eat…

Don’t eat this one.

This week in the neighborhood

It’s been a great week for wildlife encounters. I was driving down the highway and watched a group of swallows wheeling and flying quickly, with a Swainson’s hawk in their midst. The group flew near the New Fork River bridge and I actually saw the hawk grab a swallow! The hawk flew with the small bird to the top of a tall pole nearby, where the hawk attempted to feast on his meal, only to be so severely harassed by the rest of the flock he had to leave. The hawk, with the small bird still in its clutches, flew off to the safety of confines of the old cottonwoods along the riverbottom and I lost sight of him.

I couldn’t believe what I had seen – how could this raptor
take one of those quick, small darters of the sky? Amazing!
A few days later, a friend came to the house and told me he
had just seen a hawk grab one swallow out of a large whirling mass of swallows,
at the same place. Perhaps we’ve got a swallow-snatching expert in the
We’ve had a nest of Swainson’s hawks that are hanging out
along the same patch of river and meadow, and it has been wonderful to watch
this brood as they hunt. The number of Swainson’s hawks present here is
dwindling now, as they begin migrations. Here’s a few more juveniles from our neighborhood:

The sheep are doing well in their new pasture near the
Midland Ranch, with no wolf or bear problems. The herd is close enough to the
ranch headquarters that there can be up to eight guardian dogs with my herd at
any one time, in addition to the burros, so I have one of the most well-guarded
herds in the country. The Midland is my business partner Pete’s ranch, and he
has dozens of guardian dogs working to protect the various herds, so old dogs,
young dogs, retirees, and nursing females sometimes come out to spend time with
my herd since it is nearby. Fine by me – I’ll feed any guardian dog that tends
to my flock.
Jim enjoys accompanying me to check the flock. Part
of the pasture is a natural slough where he’s been harvesting meadow
mushrooms (Agaricus campestris). Several times in the last few weeks we’ve split a steak for dinner, with a
side of sliced mushrooms cooked in butter. Yum. Jim’s also been trying to teach
Hud the herding dog to find mushrooms, but Roo the burro is far more
Today as we returned from checking the sheep, we saw a large
bull moose grazing along the New Fork River. We stopped in to watch and visit
the beast as he grazed the riparian area on the other side of the river. He’s
one of the bulls that wintered in the sheep pasture last year, so it feels like
he’s somewhat of an old friend. Jim and I spent an hour sitting on the ground
across the river from this Shiras moose, and he rewarded us by moving into the river
toward us to stand in the cool water on a warm afternoon. 
I had never seen nor heard a moose slowly lapping water before. It was pretty darned entertaining, and I laughed when I saw this image of his curled tongue:
 We left him to his
grazing, thanking him for accommodating our quiet visit. Jim snapped a new “glamour” shot for me before we left. Oh yeah, the boys on my block are badasses!


.. and going mushroom hunting. Yesterday at around 11 PM Libby finished the last book cover scan for the book of one hundred books; by midnight I had them back on the shelves. After almost two years of writing two books to deadline– what next?

Well, start to write a couple more I suspect. But also begin handling my hawk, clean out pigeons, pay attention to my bored hounds….

But first– as the drought has broken and the monsoons returned, off to the San Mateo Mountains to hunt Boletus edulis, the uncrowned king of mushrooms; the cepe; porcini. We had such a good harvest three years ago we are just running out now, but we need to fill at least three five- gallon jars with dried slices. Below, scenes from other years…

Photos 2– Weather Here & Elsewhere

It is NOT hot here and rarely is, something I despair of making those who equate New Mexico with Arizona understand (NM is one of the highest states in the Union). Greg, Our friend and Lib’s boss at the PO, had to visit his father in Texas and sent us this pic with the label “What was I THINKING??”

I bet he wishes he were here in the mountains cutting up mushrooms.

Just a few links

(I have a million but)

Neutrino Cannon links to an unusually clear video of what tumbling pigeons do.

He is also the only blogger of my acquaintance to note the passing at 83 of the man who invented hard rock– in 1958!– Link Wray, the man whose “Rumble” was the only instrumental ever banned on AM radio.

Here he is on Conan O’Brian. He is in his seventies here, and That Song over fifty:

Jimmy Page remembers the first time he heard Rumble; unlike NC he is of my generation. Q trivia; he roomed with Father Bakewell’s (see below) nephew in London in the Sixties (the Yardbird years). Said nephew later lived in NM and jammed with Belen undersheriff Bo Diddley, who was better known outside of NM for other things. Nephew and Tim Gallagher and the next guy (not Page)and I are all now fellows of the Explorers Club, which I devoutly hope has stepped back from a near train wreck, another story…

The next guy? Arctic explorer, mycophile, ethnographer- ethnobotanist- unsung writer Larry Millman has a blog at last! Enjoy…

Cepe Success!

The ‘shrooms have arrived or, as Peculiar wrote, channeling Chaucer (“…had he lived in the Southern Rockies and been more interested in fungi than relics”):

“Whan that August with his shoures soote
the droghte of June hath perced to the roote,
and bathed every veyne in swich parfoum
of which vertu engendred is the shroum….

“…thanne longen southwestryn folk to goon on pilgrimages.”

Mike and A. , Chas and Ms. M, and other southwestern foragers are searching and blogging (and eating!) too.

I had nearly given up– our rains have been intermittently heavy enough to threaten our roof and ceiling but we had seen no king boletes, nor the two “phenological” indicators that seem to predict good crops of the King: spadefoot toads (which need warmth, four days plus steady rain, and thunder), on this level; and in the mountains, the brilliant red- with- white- speckles, “entheogenic” (thanks to Chas for that term, which my computer does not like) but toxic Amanita muscaria.

But today, on the verge of giving up, we hit the jackpot. I emailed some of my fellow mycophiles:

“Our rather intermittent rains, though threatening to bring down the ceiling, hadn’t produced any boletes yet, but today we went to the San Mateos and found, not the biggest crop we have ever seen but a full season’s harvest, ie enough to fill a 5 gallon jar after drying and enough to throw handfuls into any stew or risotto through the winter (in the best years we get TWO winters’ worth!)

“The whole bunch is in the first photo. If that doesn’t look like enough to those of you who haven’t hunted them with us, look at the Maglite and Opinel knife for scale [Click to as they say “embiggen”]. Though relatively few, they were all of exceptional quality this year, too, well- shaped and dense.”

We may find more yet but at least the season is saved! Of course we will keep looking…

(BTW sorry for slow posting lately– many photos coming plus other posts & links, but read between the lines and you will see BUSY…)

Oh and– Mike, I agree re Satan’s bolete. And we now have most flat surfaces looking like yours, covered with slices…