Christmas tree thoughts

January 2020

Between Christmas and New Year I had a good rest and recharged my batteries. With this renewed energy I did a big clear out and took piles of stuff to the Recycling Centre.

While there I took a bag of garden refuse to the big garden waste skip. For the first time, I felt utterly shocked by all the Christmas trees tossed at all angles to a height. They looked forlorn and cast away.

As a new decade dawns, with global warming and species extinction made so acute and urgent by the Australian fires, the trees in the skip seemed utterly crackers. I felt compelled to visual representation.

© Ann Macdonald

Fungi forage

On Sunday, the 20th of October, Nicola (my daughter, business partner, talented painter and lover of biology), and I went for a fungi forage walk at Lambley. It was organised by the Northumberland Community Development Company. It was an enlightening outdoor treat. Aside from discovering which mushrooms won’t poison you, the thing that rang out for me was the concept of unimproved pasture.

Unimproved pasture, Lambley Viaduct, Northumberland
© Copyright Peter McDermott and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The fungi in the photo below are stunningly beautiful. They are called wax caps, and you can eat them, although I would feel sad to munch up their magnificence. But these gorgeous beauties are becoming harder to find. Such fine looking edible fungi grow in grassy unimproved pastures, and they are disappearing. Jooops. Just like that.

A variety of waxcaps found on rare unimproved pasture.

Unimproved pasture is a grassy area that has not been treated with fertilizer, lime or liquid manure, or been subjected to too much trampling. Such additives increase milk and meat outputs, by making grass lovelier and juicier.

Unfortunately, they also damage the mycelium that live in the soil, sending up fungi offerings each autumn.  Such soil improvement practices are common all over Britain. You may even have a lush manicured lawn, right beneath your feet, where mycelium will struggle to grow. 

In unimproved heritage pastures, which have not been encroached on by modern methods, the mycelium for these edible beauties thrive.