Inevitably during our day trips we get to this place where the paved roads end, gradually becoming gravel, occasionally concrete blocks for stream forging, only to dissolve into paths that might end at the last house before the dark wall of the woods. Or, you might find yourself picking up an asphalt road on the other side on mountain. The seasons are spectacular, if unpredictable, for those on the lookout for a quiet drama, for those with no expectations, those determined enough to venture out there in any weather, even when told there is ” no mushrooms this year” because it is too try, or too wet, or too many days past full moon.
I visit these woods and meadows most of Octobers, delighted to find my personal favorite bright orange “rydze” popping through layers of leaves and pine needles and putting on dramatic entire colony displays underneath graceful coils of healthy (read: thorny) brambles. They will make a perfect bon fire roasted treat back at our homestay.
This year was notable for a porcini find, in a perfectly sunny patch that would have been so easy to overlook. Sturdy and fragrant, they were air dried on a handmade mesh tray (my father has a collection of these made especially for mushrooms, nuts, plums, and apples), and saved for Christmas Eve soup. While waiting for a bon fire to roar until we can cook the sausages, goat cheese, and mushrooms, we pass the time cracking dried, foraged walnuts. They grew by the house from nuts dropped by birds; some from saplings saved from the fields. By now we know exactly which one has a thinner shell, or which one is milder and sweeter. This years harvest was ruined by rainy summer, but there was plenty to be savored from the attic, from past years.
Autumn brings the last of the apples, grapes, and raspberries that naturally make it into an impromptu cakes. To be enjoyed alfresco with tea, naturally, by the bonfire. We sit until the dusk falls, and the bats start circling overhead, a sign to head into cosy indoors.