After many weeks traipsing through the dunes, forest and beach, collecting spruce shoots, nettles, raspberry leaves and mosquito bites, talking to local biologists and foragers, concocting jellies and pancakes and fermented sodas, we finally hosted our annual field trip & picnic on 22 June 2086!
Thanks to everyone who came along – amateur lichenologists, artists, interpagans and everything in between. For those of you unfortunate enough to have missed out on this bumper edition, here’s a taste of what the Society got up to.
Meeting point at Nida carpark
follow the fish!
Toasting the locally extinct arctic raspberry, and the alive and well wild strawberry, with wild strawberry kvass (fermented soda).
UFO landing site. Space lichen, astrobiology and Cold War luxuries.
Blinis with un-caviar. One amateur lichenologist dollops a spoonful of un-caviar onto another’s blini, saying, ‘kosmičeskije sso-sstanivlenija‘ (‘in cosmic co-becomings’).
Flummery! Made with agar and blueberries from the old forest. The Permian mass extinction and microplastic futures.
The Great Tuning Fork
Also big thanks to Sepideh Ardalani for helping with food wizardry, Diana Pusko for foraging advice, the interpagan intentional community for their un-caviar, and Nida Art Colony for letting us crash their symposium! See you next year!
This year the Amateur Lichenologists Society was invited to have a presence in Vilnius, with the opportunity to show some work alongside Žilvinas Landzbergas in the Vilnius Academy of Arts Glass Pavilion, as part of the exhibition Teleport to Nida.
That’s our life-size baltic sturgeon on the glass (long ago extinct in the wild), the exact length of the last one caught in the Baltic Sea. Here also is the text that went along with the display:
“Did you know that the iconic Baltic Sturgeon is considered a ‘living fossil’ that was for a short time extinct here in Lithuania? The Sturgeon’s ancestors survived ‘the Great Dying’ (the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event) some 200 million years ago, in which 96% of marine life disappeared. In 1996 the last wild specimen of this prehistoric fish to be found in the Baltic Sea was hauled out at a remote island in Estonia, 2.9 metres long and weighing 136 kg. In 2057, after decades of a committed reintroduction program, healthy adults born in captivity and released into the Neman River were once again observed at the Curonian Spit, leaping from the water in what some believe is a kind of communion with their oddly kindred space lichen.”
We visited the aquarium at Smiltyne recently, and though they don’t have any baltic Sturgeons there, they do have some close family members, who we were extremely happy to meet. Take a look at these wonderful characters, swimming across the millenia!
More experimenting with kvass, a fermented soda popular in Russia that can be made with any number of things.
Our second attempt uses wild strawberries – Fragaria vesca, ‘fraisier des bois’ – collected around the beach at Nida. Evidence from archaeological excavations suggests that Fragaria vesca has been consumed by humans since the Stone Age http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue1/tomlinson/part2.html#S711
Recipe from Sandor Katz here
Seems you basically just cover the berries in sugar water, 1:1.5 ratio, and wait.
We would have like to have tried this with the arctic raspberry or arctic bramble, the ‘superior berry’ (rubus arcticus) of the sub-arctic region, but that’s now extinct in Lithuania. In other places it’s also on the decline – in Finland the decrease in forest fires have adversely affected it (it likes the nutrients from forest ash and post-fire gets a better run than competitors); while in Estonia and Scandinavia, agricultural and forestry developments which drain soil have had an impact, since it likes wet soil and in dry conditions is overgrown and replaced by other species.
[image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/79/Rubus_arcticus.jpg/440px-Rubus_arcticus.jpg ]
Stewart Brand on the early days of de-extinction