Making a cautious start, I had a scout about for fungi in the woods, noting their locations and taking photos. I understand why those Ravelry pictures are showing up now, early autumn is prime time to find 'fruiting bodies'. September here was exceptionally warm and fairly damp. Now I am paying attention, I reckon most of the ground the dog and I walk on
must be a mat of mycelium, just waiting for
these conditions to sprout up buttons. Growing out of the grass, bursting from the bark and miniscule in the moss, haven't worked out what the three above might be called.
The book is a field guide. While it doesn't pretend to be all inclusive, it does have a flow chart system for working out systematically what sort of mushroom you are looking at. There are photos and detailed descriptions of the anatomy, size and preferred habitat.
I wouldn't be sure enough to feed them to the family, but I'm pretty confident this one is Boletus illudens. Plenty of them dotted about in the grass under the trees. The red one below looks much like a 'donk' called Pycnoporellus fulgens, solitary and growing out of a hardwood, as specified.
My heart beat faster when I saw this horrible beast on a tree stump last weekend. Could it be Echinodontium tinctoria? Bearer of orange-red dye with an alum mordant and purple-gray with iron? Whichever way I looked at it, the habitat, size and description fitted - hard crusty blackish surface, lower portion fibrous-tough, took a good kick to confirm - yes, orange flesh showing when broken. Overcoming my fears of poison and teeth, I got out a dog poo bag and scooped up a load of damaged chunks.
Back home, I put on gardening gloves to break it up into a pot to simmer. Forgot to alkalinise the dye bath til nearly the end of the hour. Apparently, this is the best way to get dye out of all the Polypores, so in went a teaspoon of soda ash. I was half expecting a hallucinogenic experience from the fumes, probably a paranoid vision of fanged fungi. It just smelled of mushroom soup.
Looked darkly swampy, when I sieved out the bits next day. I had two rejected skeins left over from the Welsh Mountain fleece spinning, one three ply and one aran weight. I mordanted the three ply in Alum and Cream of Tartar and put both in to the dangerous depths for a long simmer. Looked beige. Simmered for another hour. Still beige.
Maybe I put in too much wool and this is dilute orange-red? I took out the three ply and added vinegar from the rusty nail jar to the unmordanted aran skein. The result is clearly not a dilute version of purple-gray. Was it the acidity of the vinegar? How sharper than a mushroom's tooth it is To dye a thankless beige!
On line, I found a mushroom identifier's site called Rogers Mushrooms. Although this has nothing to say about dye properties, it does note that Echinodontium tinctoria is found in western North America from Alaska to Mexico. Just a little bit off my dog walking route, then.
In retrospect, all that fretting about poison was pretty irrational. I know full well rhubarb leaves are poisonous, but I bring them into the kitchen. Although ricin is lethal, I sow castor oil plant seeds quite cheerfully, just wash my hands after. Fungi are rather lovely - in a sinister way.
Ripe and Ruin.
As it goes, my daughter just made this stop motion song animation. Do watch, much more fun than beige wool.