Many of you know I am mad about mycelium. That is right I am thinking about mushrooms often, particularly when we are getting close to the Spring picking season.
So, the other afternoon I headed up into the hills near my home thinking I would check out the woods around Lost Lake, a tiny little body of water surrounded by cottonwoods and aspen – perfect foraging ground for some of my favourites like the red capped boletes or shaggy manes – maybe even a puff ball in the meadow… Now it is early in the season, and it has been incredibly dry, which meant chances were slim, but maybe I would find an oyster on an old poplar or some tasty morels – after all it IS actually morel season.
Temperatures rose close to thirty centigrade as I walked and Corra could not wait to jump in the lake as soon as we got close. It is not more than a big slough, but it’s a bit of an anomaly in the dry south facing hills with a protected water habitat. I watched red wing black birds soar and dive and ducks skimming the surface, as I climbed under the barbed wire fence that is protecting the lake.
Now the fact that the lake is surrounded by a finely crafted barb wire fence was curious to me. Last year when I first arrived in the area, I had asked locals about it. I was told it was to keep the cattle out, who used to roam in the hills, though there have been no cattle on it, for a few years now. There were also problems with quaders disturbing the habitat on the shoreline, including the nesting grounds and bullrushes. The desire to conserve this sacred space is understandable – the lake is obviously a refuge for many creatures great and small, an incredible oasis of life.
I wondered around the enclosure of about 5 acres, to further explore fungus potentials, like perhaps in the dead cottonwood near the water I would discover an oyster or two, or near the strawberry blossoms I’d find morels. This brought my attention to the many piles of dead wood, either near the water or piled up on the outside of the fence, as well as observing the lack of life on the forest floor near the fence. Investigating closer, I noticed there were quite a few piles of dead wood and that as I walked further I could see the area around the fence was cleared, about 8 feet on either side. The ground itself was stripped raw of any shrubs, trees, perennials or annuals. Likely this was to get a post pounder in – having fenced myself before when I had my hobby farm, I am familiar with the process.
The more I looked the more I began to ponder the cost of the forest carnage when the sole intention was keeping the lake safe.
It immediately made me think of this book I just started reading last week, Gaias Garden, a guide to homescale permaculture by Toby Hemenway. He speaks quite eloquently about a forest as an interdependent system, and that any breach or break in the system, opens the space up for invasion by outside forces, this could be invasive weeds, unwanted pests or disease. He emphasises how important it is for us to recognize that our impact on nature begins with every single place we cut a path, make a road or lay out a subdivision. We are severing the cycles of connection that create a balanced eco system.
As I look at the cleared dead area left in the wake of the fencing project, I cannot help but wonder what the cost of safe is?
Cleared forests disturb the lands’ natural ability to filter what goes into the lake, destroys the homes of many wildlife creatures, plants and mycelium – all to keep the lake “safe”. Also, to maintain the fence, the area is typically kept cleared. This means that as mother nature attempts to reweave the fibres of her healthy network with fungus, annuals, perennials and then trees they will continue to be cleared, to protect the fence, to protect the lake.
Now flip side could be a whole bunch of quaders ripping up the edges and going bogging through the lake. Having lived in rural location for years and even owned quads, I know this is a possibility – but I also know that most quaders go in to nature because they love it and are seeking connection, not destruction.
It seems to me that we humans choose Band-Aids as safety measures instead of taking care of the actual issues at hand. Of course, we want to tend to what we love, care for what feels sacred to us. But we need to question if the actions we are choosing to do so aren’t in fact causing more harm, and whether they are actually a viable long term solution.
This fence became a metaphor for me, speaking to so much more than this location. It became a teacher for our global pandemic situation and my own deep questioning. As humans we must ask ourselves what lengths we are going to go to in the name of safe, and what carnage do we unconsciously leave in its wake? Is our desire to build the biggest and the best fence, emblematic of a need to be invincible, or our fear that we are not? For me this represents our Global approach to the Corona Virus. It speaks to our divisiveness, polarity and sense of separation. The lake is our unique life force. No one is saying it is not worth protecting, tending to and loving. But is the fence the right choice? Is it a long term sustainable solution?
I just wonder what we could do differently.
No mushrooms were foraged on this adventure.