Monday, September 28, 2015

Sacrifice in Support of Scholarship

When you find a puffball mushroom the size of a person's head, word gets out. A friend of mine teaches early American history, specifically folkways and foodways. She's the sort of person for whom Peter Kalm's Travels in North America is essential reading material. When she found out that I had found a puffball, she mentioned that she had been reading a primary source that included a receipt for puffballs, she wanted to know where she could get one. She likes to have samples of medicinal herbs and other material for hands-on demonstrations. Her current curriculum involves a discussion of the use of soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) in colonial American folk medicine. Please note that she is very careful about stressing that the information she presents is strictly for scholarly purposes and not for actual medicinal use, she underscores this point with an 18th century document that extolled the medicinal properties of mercury.

As luck would have it, I knew of the location of a second puffball bigger than my fist, approximately the size of a softball. I grabbed this second puffball and gave it to her so she could use it in her lessons. I also tracked down an article in the Journal of Ethnobiology listing Native American medicinal uses for puffballs. She's a scholarly type, so she'll track down additional sources for puffball information.

I have to confess that I didn't give up this fungus without a slight pang, but as someone who believes in the sanctity of learning (I swore an oath in this regard), I had to do so. There's a third puffball in the vicinity, another large one, with a deeply cracked surface, but I'm going to leave that one alone so it can spread its billions of spores. While I didn't swear a sustainability oath, it's something that I sincerely believe in... I'm not so greedy I'd spite my future self.


Anonymous said...

Your posts are so varied and interesting. I'm glad I found you (through MPS). You're a daily read.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Thanks, Anonymous! Tengrain has always been unfailingly supportive.

The crucial thing is to hang out with interesting people and to do interesting things. I am fortunate to move in fascinating circles.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Funny thing about the puffballs. One year I routinely saw them around Lake Siri. The next, hardly any.