Bill Bakaitis

Leslie Land - Bill

Leslie often refers to me as her ‘mushroom expert’, perhaps because we first met at a mushroom conference some twenty years ago where I happened to be delivering one of the keynote addresses, one on ‘Mushroom Toxins and Toxic Mushrooms’. By constantly knowing one or two more Latinate names for fungi than she, I have been able to maintain that fiction ever since. This is pretty easy to do in mycology where names change about as quickly as the score in a basketball game.

But I did come about learning mushrooms at an early age, growing up on my grandparents’ farm in Western Pennsylvania. Both sets of immigrant grandparents collected and ate wild mushrooms, but my father’s Lithuanian family distrusted those collected by my mother’s Italian family, and vice versa. There were, of course, stern warnings and dark tales of mistakes made by the northerners, or southerners, all of which fueled my curiosity with high octane energy. So, as I roamed about, and got lost in, the hills and forests surrounding the farm, I began my own search for the truth of it all. From the perspective of a white haired grandparent, I think I see a pattern.

I am and have the temperament of a first born, have had the advantage of growing up in the protective cloak of a small town with a good public library, easy access to miles of adjacent wild areas, and the good luck to have majored in Agriculture in High School. In Jung’s Typology you might describe me as having an Intuitive, Introspective, Thinking Personality, a mind set which serves one well in an academic career. In my case that has involved Graduate and Post Graduate work in Mycology, including field identification and concepts of species identification.

This work has taken me to The New York State Museum in Albany, Hudsonia at Bard College, and at The Cary Arboretum of The New York Botanical Gardens where I have worked as a Research Associate in Mycology, and also to The Institute of Ecosystems Study, The Culinary Institute of America, most colleges in the Mid-Hudson region, and Mycological Groups throughout the Northeast where I am often called upon to deliver talks or courses. I also serve as a Mycological Consultant to the Poison Control Networks in the Northeast.

More a thinker and not as prolific a writer as Leslie, I have nevertheless been a contributor/editor for Mushroom, The Journal of Wild Mushrooming for over 25 years. Other mushroom articles have been published in the NY State Conservationist, Adirondack Life, Mid-Hudson Magazine, Poughkeepsie Journal and others.

Currently, thanks to Leslie’s lead, I seem to spend much more time publishing in digital format on various web sites.

Oh! And I love being wedded to her weeding, that mindless of states, almost as good as fishing, where ideas get levered and plucked from fertile soil to be cast aside into jumbled piles that generate anew, composting and composing in darkened piles, much like mushrooms do…

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