The past few days have been rather autumnal here in central Portugal, we have had a few days of broken showers with spells of sunshine, bursting through the clouds. This sort of drizzly weather paired with a little wind and, of course, the shorter days now means the trees are beginning to create a mottled red and amber carpet throughout the orchards as they shed their leaves. All of these things together make the absolute perfect condition for mushrooms!
This time of year is a foragers dream, herbs are still a plenty, and the fungi's are out in full. One cannot take a short walk without stumbling across clusters of weird and wonderful mushrooms and that is precisely what myself and three of our neighbours did this week, they are our close friends and are all such lovely gentlemen who could not be more pleased than to spend an hour explaining the names of wild things growing, advising about traditional crafting techniques or perhaps just to share stories over a glass of their homemade wines. We walked some time and managed to collect a couple of baskets of 'frades' or parasol mushrooms. Our good friend, who is a goats herd in our village, gave me a few cooking techniques for these wonderful mushrooms (whilst also pointing out a few other varieties which are poisonous and not to be eaten).
One day this week I was out collecting some wood from the lumberyard with my father, whilst we were out my brother in law, Lloyd, continued his fall, foraging, fever and discovered for the first time in his life a favourite pastime of ours, chestnut picking. He came back to the farm mid morning with a beaming smile and a basket full of big, beautiful chestnuts. Of course I promised Lloyd we would all have to sit around the hearth one evening, watch a film and roast some chestnuts, to which he of course quickly obliged.
Later on in the week I had a phone call from another good friend of ours, João, a breeder of Ile de France sheep, a meat breed of fine quality that grows quickly. We had asked him a few months prior that if he happens to breed any more of his fantastic lambs we really would be interested, he called us and told us that he had a large batch of around thirty ewe lambs and wondered if we wanted to come and grab a few. We drove over to his farm, not too far away and picked ourselves out three beautiful, big ewe lambs.
João caught the three we were interested in and led them onto his trailer and drove them down our farm track and let them into the pasture with our other eleven. The new girls were very weary, being away from their mothers for the first time in their lives. The first morning of opening up the barn doors saw three sprucely young lambs leap straight past us and out of the double doors, nearly knocking us over in the process they have however calmed down somewhat now after having spent a couple of nights on the farm. They are slowly getting used to the change in scenery, and blending into their new flock. The only thing that remains now is to find some names for our three new ladies.
The night before last my parents, Lloyd, Lucy, Mariana and I all gathered around in our lounge. My father sat on his rocking chair, Lloyd sat on the floor and the girls all sat on the sofa around a roaring fire. I went to the kitchen, prepared all the chestnuts and brought a couple of plate fulls through whilst we all sat down, by the hearth and had a beautiful night, drinking homemade wine, laughing, smiling and roasting the chestnuts on the fire. I should imagine it will be the first of many nights spent like this throughout the winter.