WITH A long hot summer over at last and the overhead fans silent, their gentle whisper has been replaced by a dehumidifier working 24-hours-a-day in my office among the trees. In no time the gallon container was filled with distilled water and my computer protected from the dangers of damp. Clocks have been put back and chocolate Father Christmas’s stand shoulder to shoulder with the Bolos dos Reis in our favourite supermarket, while all the razzmatazz of the festive season bears down upon us.
It came from a hill opposite where we were standing.
Fred and Bess being at my side, I thought it might be a mongrel from next door. Unwilling to leave the matter, the three of us went bushwhacking down the steep hillside and along a dry gulch separating us from a near vertical climb opposite. Fred quartered the dense undergrowth but found nothing, while Bess and I struggled along a streambed, pitted with holes and dammed by rock falls. Looking over the low wall of a small deep well, all I saw far below was my reflection. We made our way home up another stony climb into the sunlight, knowing that somewhere out there was a dog in trouble. It may have been caught in an illegal trap or have eaten poison laid locally, two criminal offences all too common within this lovely countryside still rooted in the 19th century.
The rapid regeneration from partial desert has produced a fungal outbreak. From pinhead sized puffballs to the magnificent white umbrellas of edible mushrooms, their delicate structures last only a couple of days before shedding spoors and turning to mush. The pedigree of these mushrooms is not really in doubt but I have reservations about eating them, knowing that there is a poisonous lookalike. As a teenager I roamed the countryside searching for such tasty additions to wartime rations and never doubted their goodness. Some years ago, while riding through woods in Somerset, I found three young men totally spaced-out after eating the Fly Agaric fungus, thought to induce similar hallucinogenic effects to LSD. Being deadly, and with permanent mind altering components, one wonders if or when they made their way home.