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SW of Calgary
Anne Elliott
Rod Handfield's acreage
SW of Millarville
6 August 2016
stalk was maybe 10 inches tall
turned up cap

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Strange, tall-stalked fungus

Strange, tall-stalked fungus
This photo was taken six days ago, on 6 August 2016, when I went on a mushroom foray at Rod Handfield's acreage. Though this was a fungi day (well, morning), we also came across a few wildflower species, too. This particular mushroom caught our attention, as it was on such a tall, narrow stalk - maybe 10" high? - which I have never seen before.

I found the whole day physically and mentally exhausting (a mix of excitement and stress). It was a great day, too, thanks to friend, Sandy! She very kindly picked me up around 8:15 am and we drove SW of the city and SW of Millarville to Rod Handfield's acreage. For a number of years, this has been one of my favourite places to explore, as Rod's forest tends to be full of all sorts of beautiful treasures. It is one of the two best places that I know for mushrooms, the other being Brown-Lowery Provincial Park. This year has turned out after all to be great for fungi, thanks to all the endless, torrential rain we have been getting the last few weeks, and are still getting, apart from the scattering of sunny days. This year has so far had such weird weather - a very mild, dry winter, a spring that was as dry and hot as a summer, and now a wet, thundery summer. We were expecting this year to not be good for mushrooms.

We met up with a group of other interested people, most of whom we didn't know, and we searched the land for fungi. Right at the start, I was telling Sandy that on the last visit there (or one of the last), maybe four years ago (17 August 2010, so six years ago - how time flies!), we had seen a beautiful Amanita muscaria / Fly agaric mushroom growing just a few feet from the start of the hike. Sure enough, there were several growing in exactly the same spot on Saturday, which was so exciting. Later in the walk, we saw two other patches of absolute beauties of this hallucinogenic, poisonous species. The rain was spitting during our walk, and the forest was so dark, but amazingly, some of my photos came out well enough. Thanks so much, Karel, for organizing and leading this trip and for sharing your knowledge with us! Many thanks to Rod, who kindly allowed us to explore his forest!

I have to admit that I always find a walk like this rather frustrating. It doesn't work too well when you have people who are photographers and people who are interested in picking mushrooms to eat : ) The latter tend to always be ahead and by the time you catch up to them, you can't see what has already quickly been picked and of course it is usually difficult or impossible to get a photo. This was private land and some of us know the owner, Rod Handfield. In places like the national or provincial parks, one is not allowed to remove anything from the area - but some people still do. You see people with large baskets full of picked mushrooms for cooking! This is especially an east European 'thing'. They have grown up with this tradition and seem to know which fungi are edible or not. Some poisonous mushrooms can look very similar to edible ones, which is why the warning is to never, ever eat any kind of fungus unless you are an expert! As our local Naturalist always says: "All fungi are edible, some only once!"

Sandy and I left the group around lunchtime, to go looking at vehicles at one of the dealerships. In the last year and a half, I have had to put far too much money into repairs for my poor old 17+ year old car and finally, I knew that I had no choice but to replace it. The muffler and catalytic converter died about a week ago and instead of spending a fortune on repair (estimate was $4,999), I decided I would rather put that money towards a new vehicle. I had been thinking about replacing it the last few years, but now, enough is enough!

Update re: car. Yay, I finally did it! Four days ago, friend Sandy and I returned to the dealership just after lunchtime. I had to drive my old car there so that they could do an appraisal on it and tell me how much I would get for a trade-in. Before I went, I was feeling more confused and uncertain about which car I would decide on. The few that the dealership had were not a colour I would want to drive or else they didn't have the right things installed. I was so relieved when I was told that I could order one to my liking and that the waiting period would be 2-3 weeks. Longer than I would have liked, but bearable (though I know I will be climbing the walls by the time my new car arrives!). The very patient, non-pushy salesman said why not take my old car home and use it just very locally till then. So, thankfully, I still have a (very noisy!) vehicle with which to go and get groceries, which was my main concern. No birding or mushroom trips, though, which will not be easy to bear. Having said that, I need to add that I know I am very fortunate that I am in a position to be able to replace my vehicle - feel very grateful and lucky. Thank you, again, Sandy, for helping me through this highly stressful (to me) ordeal!! It made an enormous difference .... THE difference.


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