Thursday, April 23, 2015

Magic Lakes and Mushrooms

Mushrooms ...

It's been a while since I updated the latest tales from Fox Wood - but never fear - it's not as if nothing has been going on there. In fact, one of the reasons for the lack of updates is that I've been too busy to attend to blogs (which are sadly quite low down on the priority list). So here is a preliminary update of what I have been up to. Alas, there are not too many pictures this time.

Firstly, as you may notice by looking to the right, I have been busy writing and publishing a book. Yes, The Path to Odin's Lake is about a journey I took last summer from Copenhagen to a forest in Sweden. It's not your average travel book - and in fact it wasn't intended to be a book at all until certain things happened to me on that journey that I felt I must record. I travelled for the most part on foot, had almost no money with me, and cut myself off completely from electronic media and gadgets. I ended up at a sacred lake in that Swedish forest and ... well, if you want to find out more you can buy the book :)

Secondly, partly as a result of that journey, I have been focusing my attention on growing mushrooms. Why? Well, Fox Wood is ideally suited to mushroom cultivation. It's damp, it's shady and I have an abundant supply of timber. So far I have begun experimenting with different types of wood (chestnut, oak, sycamore and willow) to ascertain what works best. I'm being quite scientific about it, making careful notes and observations and recording them. I hope to be able to grow a decent crop of edible mushrooms every year (that would be shiitake, oysters, lions mane and chicken of the woods) and sell them locally.

The second reason I am growing mushrooms is because they are awesome. The more I learn about them the more awesome they become. Not only are they a great source of nutrients but more and more research is pointing to the fact that they can be used as a means of bioremediation i.e. healing the Earth. Several species have been found to digest oil spills and chemicals, and there is even a suggestion out there that they could help 'clean up' radiation. They can heal sick bees, restore degraded soils and halt depression. What's not to like? Research in all of these areas is ongoing, but at the forefront of this fungus revolution is the US mycologist Paul Stamets. Check out his short film below.

But anyway, apart from the mushrooms I have been busy selectively coppicing certain areas in the woodland this winter. Alas, I didn't do as much as I had planned due to my chainsaw breaking down, nevertheless I have plenty of hazel, hawthorn and holly cut and drying ready for next winter.

Oh, and I also cut down a huge multi-stemmed sycamore with my friend and tree surgeon Nigel. It was blocking out the light to my neighbour's orchard and the wood will be used for fuel and mushroom cultivation.

The pond is finally finished, save for a few aesthetic details, and a number of newts have taken up residency there. It's looking particularly good for something dug by hand over a period of 18 months - I'm proud of it. I will take some pictures of it on my next visit.

Apart from that, I have planted up another 100 or so trees in what will be a mixed woodland area. These include seven walnut trees, plus a mixture of lime, oak, willow (including a large willow-only coppice area), beech, dogwood, silver birch and hazel.

The orchard has expanded significantly, with 12 new apple trees of different varieties, a couple of pears, a couple of plums and a medlar. The mixed edible forest/orchard is progressing nicely.

Three more rescue hedgehogs were released last week to add to the other two that were released just before winter. As hedgehogs are something of an endangered species it's great to be able to provide them with a safe haven.

Well, that's all the update for now. I will take my camera on the next visit and upload some more photos.


BTW if you are interested in reading my book you can get a free 10% sample sent by email by clicking here.