September 2005

Lone Cone access and celebrating 'shrooms

By Art Goodtimes

LONE CONE ACCESS ... The threat of 100 homes is real, from the folks who closed off traditional access to the west side of Lone Cone and all the national forest lands up in that region, as the Free Press reported in last month’s opinions. But the story is a bit more complicated. And there's more to learn than going slow on land swaps ... Turns out that access route had been used for close to 50 years by citizens of all stripes in accessing the Lone Cone area from Norwood -- hunters, snowmobilers, hikers, birders, peak-baggers, jeepers, mushroomers, etc. In fact, San Miguel County has been receiving state Highway Users Tax Funds for about 30 years for County Road 40-J, as we knew it ... However, the State Land Board sold its part of the road to some rich folks, who promptly closed the well-known access route (which shows up on most Forest Service maps as public right-of-way). So here we had one state agency failing to recognize the 30 years of public monies that another state agency had put into this public road (no wonder we're in such a financial mess at the state level, right?) ... But just because one state hand doesn’t know what the other is doing doesn’t help the locals. Or San Miguel County, which is spending thousands of dollars in trying to reclaim Norwood's traditional access to its totem peak — Lone Cone ... Oh, sure, there is an alternate Jeep road to the region, which takes an hour or more longer, and is impassable in wet weather. May as well just call the whole west side of the Cone a wilderness area with that kind of access. And, hey, maybe that wouldn't be all bad ... But San Miguel County is committed to trying to regain Norwood's lost forest access for its citizens, if Dolores County will help us do so (at our expense) ... Unfortunately, the Dolores County Planning Commission, siding with the property rights of rich landowners over the public interest of Norwood citizens, has recommended not to allow San Miguel County to invoke state statutes in regaining that access. Let's hope Dolores County Commissioners are more receptive to the common good, and of preserving traditional hunting and fishing access to our public lands.

SWADESHI … That’s the name for a wonderful little event recently over Durango way – billed as an annual fundraiser and festival of local self-sufficiency for Oakhaven Permaculture Center (4179 La Plata County road #124, near Hesperus in La Plata Canyon, ( … Low-key ($5 donation). Booths on alternative energy. Workshops on seed-saving and mushrooms, weaving and basketry. Bags of fresh organic cherries. Peach smoothies in recycled plastic. Cars parked all up and down a narrow county road in La Plata Canyon, outside Hesperus … … I loved the energy around local self-sufficiency, a term that Mahatma Gandhi called “swadeshi”. As he defined it, it meant to “buy local, be proud of local, support local, uphold and live local”. Pretty darn good advice, although hard to achieve in this era of corporate agriculture and fast-food marketing … Met some amazing people there, like Darsi Olson, the rainbow lady who gifted me with several wonderful songs; Jim Dyer, who is working to bring local produce and meat products into Durango area schools (imagine healthy organic fare instead of hamburgers and pizza in the cafeterias!) and his wife Pam, who shears wool from her flock of sheep, spins it, dyes it and then weaves it. Plus, I hooked up with several old friends down that way – Wally White, the llama-farmer-turned-pol elected to the La Plata County Board of Commissioners; the amazing storyteller Sara Ransom; Katrina Blair, our regional live food guru; and Jeff Berman, who’s trying to get a certified biodiesel processing facility built in the Four Corners region. I gave several workshops, one on seed-saving with Rachel Turiel, the real expert on so many of the plants grown locally. My piece of it was spuds, the one thing of use I love growing. I was dazzled by a demonstration of felt-making by Raylene McCallum. Organic producer Kris Holstrom from Hastings Mesa near Telluride led a well-attended workshop on “Fungi on the Farm” … A great event. And maybe something that we should do in every local community – putting on our own self-sufficiency fair.

MUSHROOMS … Dea Jacobson of Cedaredge writes a great cooking column for the Montrose-based Connections – newsletter for the Whole Life Network. She is one of my favorite regional folks. And she’s an expert on several things, such as politics as well as cooking. I still owe her a meal for correctly predicting that Grand Junction’s Daily Sentinel would support John Salazar over hometown boy Greg Walcher for the state’s Third Congressional seat. But as poet-in-residence for the annual Telluride Mushroom Festival for some 25 years now, I have to say her column last month had some old information about mushrooms. So let me update a few things … This may be and may not be “the year of the mushrooms,” as she predicts. While we’ve had great snows and good rains to date, the mushrooms depend on the afternoon storms of our summer monsoon season in early August. If it rains then, when the ground is warm enough and before it freezes (a very short window in the mountains), then we may have a bumper crop of ’shrooms. So, I hope Dea’s right about this year, because it comes on the heels of two of the worst mushroom years in my memory, thanks to poor monsoon rains … Her account of finding a giant puffball (Calvatia booniana) was heartening. That early-summer mushroom is out (I’ve heard several reports) and her tales of cooking it up were inspiring. I haven’t been as lucky as she and Roy to find one. But they’re out there. Carrying mushrooms in a paper bag is recommended, as she says, although most seasoned “pot-hunters”, as mushroom forayers are sometime known, use baskets and wax paper. Never use plastic. Mushrooms need to breathe, even after they’re picked … I don’t know Rebecca Wood, and I need to learn more about her work with mushrooms. But Paul Stamets, the Bioneer lecturer and mushroom researcher who comes to Telluride’s mushfest every year, lists many medicinal uses for specific mushrooms. Absorbing and eliminating toxins is one effect, as Dea quotes Wood as noting, but not for all ’shrooms. Paul has a great little book, “Mycomedicinals” (Mycomedia, Olympia, WA, 2002) that gives the best overview of various fungi’s medicinal effects … Dea is quite right. Mushrooms should never be eaten raw (the one exception is the dessert mushroom, Clavariadelphus truncatus, which is quite sweet and delicious raw). The reason though is because of the many alkaloids that occur in mushrooms, even common store-bought ones, not that they grow in the dark and live on doo-doo (which some do – the saprophytic ones). In fact, you probably won’t hear this in most places, but mycologists have repeatedly informed us at the Telluride event that the common button mushrooms you buy in the stores (Agaricus bisporis or A. campestris – including the Portobello, which is a bigger brown version of the mushroom) have an alkaloid, Agaritine, which everyone used to think broke down with the heat of cooking (or even digestion). But recent research suggests that is not the case. Unfortunately, agaritine bioaccumulates in the body and it is carcinogenic. So much so that it’s often used by lab researchers to induce tumors in mice. Like anything else, it doesn’t seem that occasional ingestion of Agaricus spp. is particularly harmful, from what we know today, but a steady diet might be dangerous. All the more reason to eat wild mushrooms, not store-bought ones … Some mushrooms, like shitake, prevent cancer. Others like agaricus promote it. So it’s hard to generalize about fungi. You have to know all the special characteristics of whatever you’re eating or collecting … David Arora’s book, that Dea talks about, “Mushroom Demystified”, is a good text, but it’s geared for West Coast mushrooms, which are very different in many respects than many found in Colorado. Most ’shroomers I know in Colorado use Gary Lincoff’s Audubon Field Guide as the best general text. Lincoff is another regular at the Telluride Mushroom Festival … And finally, as if a ski rivalry isn’t enough, Crested Butte has started up a mushroom festival on the same dates as the Telluride Mushroom Festival, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year on Aug. 18-21. Happy ’shrooming!

Defining Love
Can love be defined yes
like life it has a life of its own
growing flowers in a war zone.
-Larry Goodell Placitas, N.M.