Frequently Appearing

Eric Larson

Leslie Land - Eric Larson

My friend Eric Larson has been Manager of Yale’s Marsh Botanic Gardens since 2003. Before that he spent 15 years supervising the Arboretum crew at Havorford College and before that he was at Longwood Gardens. He started writing a plant centered newsletter (formal title: Liquid Sunshine), when he went to Havorford and went digital when he went to Yale.

Eric loves music, people, and making corny jokes almost as much as he loves plants. Reading his articles, you will see frequent invitations to parties at Marsh where you can hear him perform with The Peach Pie Band. Worth the journey, as the saying goes, and the gardens aren’t bad either.

Lois Dodd


To most of the world, Lois Dodd is an important realist painter, a founding member of the legendary Tanager Gallery whose work is in museums and major collections all over the country and if you want to know more about that there are bios at Alexandre, her New York Gallery, and Caldbeck,  which shows her work in Maine.

But to me she’s family, the dear friend on whose land I’ve lived and worked since 1973. Her house is right across the field and she is our nearest neighbor in all ways: co-proprietor of the garden, babysitter for the cats, indefatigable fruit tree pruner and major companion for walks, meals, gallery hopping and grousing about politics.

Fittingly, we met over wild mushrooms my very first summer in Maine. Knowing zip at that point, I collected something I thought was a chanterelle and asked sculptor friend Blackie Langlais (my then landlord) if he could identify it. No, he said, Lois is the one who knows mushrooms, “ go ask her.”

The rest, as they say, is history. The earlier parts are recounted in The 3000 Mile Garden. Later parts are and will be recounted here.

Kristi Niedermann

Leslie Land - Kristi

I suppose it’s rubbing it in to brag on having a helper who’s so endlessly willing and competent, but I am extremely fortunate. There’s no way the garden in Maine could exist without Kristi Niedermann.

From early cleanup and first spring planting through summer’s major maintenance to the last of the fall garden-to-bed she’s there with me (and in many cases for me), doing whatever needs to be done, including noticing what that is and reminding me about it.

Kristi took her degree in biology, and apprenticed for a year at the farm and garden at UC Santa Cruz, which means she has more formal training than I do; and she may be the only skilled garden helper in the Northeast who can also solve Apple computer problems.

Plus she loves the cats. And takes terrific flower photos. She’s even a bit on the mouthy side, to provide the necessary flaw in the carpet, and if she ever decides to resume world travel (ask her about Tierra del Fuego) I’ll have to close up shop.

Note: Kristi has read and approved this bio. She’s especially proud of the mouthy part.

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…