wild life

Welcome back, readers. This post comes to you from Nelson BC!

After a lovely month just around the corner in the Slocan Valley, I have moved onto a berry and nut “farm” (not really a commercial farm, but a small u-pick and homestead operation) on the side of a mountain just outside Nelson.

The new farm – view of the berry plants and the house

As with so many other wwoof places, it was tough to leave. But, it’s great meeting people you get along with. I’m coming back with a ton of excellent new vegan recipes and gluten-free recipes (and of course memories).

A few photos from my last days at Crooked Horn

Delicious shiitakes, grown on alder chips in a temperature and humidity-controlled room. The white rings around the mushroom caps are the mycelium, which the mushrooms grow through (you can see more of it on the clump of wood chips). Apparently in some places, shiitakes with the white ring around the cap are considered a delicacy.

Rainbow carrot bunches at the market – all kinds of heirloom varieties!

On my last work day I was gathering the weeds out of a patch of tomatillo plants. It was a hot afternoon. I was roasting because I’d just learned how to use a scythe and it was harder work than I thought (but pretty badass). In between the tomatillos I looked around and noticed there were many insects buzzing, pollinating the yellow flowers. I realized that years ago I might have been nervous or afraid of honeybees, wasps and bumble bees being within inches of my skin. In that moment it just seemed natural. I hadn’t even thought about their presence while I worked until that moment, or about the risk of getting stung. It would have felt empty without them.

I may have mentioned earlier in my trip posts that a hummingbird stopped and hovered over me at my first wwoof host’s. It happened again in the Slocan valley, a hummingbird flying over, hovering just above and in front of my head, taking a good look. It surprised me both times because in my experience hummingbirds are quite shy and won’t tolerate closeness of humans for long, let alone approach on their own.

Tonight, at the new farm, I took some of the dogs for a walk up the hill, in the wooded area at the back of the property where a creek runs. As we made our way out of the woods and into the field, a black bear casually sauntered across the path in front of us, maybe 20 feet away. I was trying to keep the dogs from running at it (amazingly, they didn’t bark much), looking around for the nearest stick I could wave around in case it approached.  The bear just went on its way without even giving us a glance. (My hosts’ chihuahua followed it part way into the woods and I doubt the bear even noticed.) Such an amazing experience, along with the hummingbirds and bees.

The first bear I saw, just a couple days ago. I took this picture from across the road while biking

Taco, the ferocious chihuahua mix, on the path by the creek

In other, more farmy news, I’ve helped out so far with haying, weeding and berry picking. There are blueberries, rasperries, currants, mulberries, hascaps, and numerous fruit and nut trees. I ate a peach off one of the trees today and have sampled different varieties of the blueberries and raspberries, which vary quite a bit in size and taste. John, one of my hosts, is very enthusiastic about the berries and it’s been interesting talking to him about them. (Of course, having all this fruit around means it’s very easy to eat well all the time! Smoothies, crumbles and fresh snacks abound).

Brigitta, one of the yummiest blueberry varieties

I’ve been exploring the area a bit and was lucky enough to come across some delectable lobster mushrooms in the woods. They’re mushrooms which have been colonized by a fungus, which gives them a distinct bright orange colour. Because of this, lobster mushrooms can’t be cultivated, so this find was very fortunate! The coating of fungus is almost like a thin crust, and it covers the entire mushroom – top, underside and stem, and is capable of changing the shape and taste of the original host mushroom (Lactarius or Russula). Before harvesting some, I did a little research into the possibility of these being look-alikes, or potentially poisonous. Luckily the orange fungus (called Hypomyces Lactifluorum) doesn’t seem to attack any poisonous mushrooms, and there have been no reported incidents of illness due to lobster mushroom consumption, so I took two from the group (rule of wild foraging – leave plenty so the population can grow back in future!). As a precaution I tasted a tiny slice, cooked well, and waited 24 hours before eating any more. The only result was deliciousness!

One of the mushrooms peeking out of the soil

All cleaned up, getting ready for dehydrating so I can take some home. Beautiful orange coating, nice white flesh

The underside of the mushroom, where the gills would have been, is also coated by the orange fungus

I’ve heard there are other wild mushrooms around that are good for eating, like chanterelles and chicken of the woods, but haven’t seen any yet. We just got a good rain today, so I have a feeling some will appear soon.

Well, the days are getting shorter (and are already fairly short because the sun falls behind the mountains around 7pm), the air is slowly changing and soon it will feel like fall. I’ve been looking ahead to October when I’ll return to Ontario, thinking of what I might do when I get back and where I might live. There are so many possibilities. But for the next month or so, there are more farm adventures to come.


About tino

I'm an aspiring organic farmer living in canada. I talk about farm life, things I'm learning, other relevant topics like feminism, social & environmental justice, nature, animals, vegan food, and fun.

Posted on September 5, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I have only recently begun following and reading your blog posts. Beautiful pictures and great stories. May I ask you to give a brief intro into your farm journey. Also, what are “wwoof” farms? Thanks.

    • Thanks for your comment! There is some info on my About page (you can find it on the top right sidebar) but to make a long story short, I did a BSc in industrial farming and was deeply disturbed by it, and this led me to think about how I could make some positive change in the world. A couple years after I finished school I did the farm internship that sparked the creation of this blog and decided I want to be an organic farmer.

      WWOOF farms are places that take more casual work-trades. There’s info about it on their website, http://www.wwoof.ca. Cheers

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