500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

If the project had a name already, that would be the title of this post.


Since the idea came to me on Sunday night I have been working in a somewhat measured way (do you remember Learn10? Ha – yes – when we drove ourselves into the ground by working seven days a week, twelve hours a day, for EIGHTEEN MONTHS – that was fun.  Not going to do that again.  Super Funtimes – but then we burned out. Learned a lot though).

Let me introduce you to the concept.  We need to remove carbon from the atmosphere because it is destabilising our living environment.  (Of course, we know that overpopulation and pollution are also playing their predictable part – that is outside the scope).  I was talking to Rory and Martik over the weekend – a little about their own projects and other stuff as well – including complexity science – systems that are made up of smaller parts, where each smaller part doesn’t obviously relate to the larger effect it has in combination – and also about how necessary it is for the future to have independent systems for the production of energy etc.  And who hasn’t heard of those companies who will take the ashes of your dead beloved and crush it into a diamond, so you can have your husband set into a ring after he dies? I was also recently in the UK staying with my friend (uncle) Steve, who is working on trading systems.  So – if you input all of this data into your brain over a short time, then the output is obvious, isn’t it? Well at least obvious enough that I simply cannot be the only person in the World to have had the same idea…

Did you guess what it is yet? Okay – so probably the only reason you are reading this is because you know about the idea.

I need a name so that we can set up communications using that name.  I was going to say email, but I’m not so sure that’s what the kids are using these days – and by kids I mean adults, adults younger than me.   So – other forms – not email – not web pages.  Who reads blogs any more!  Thats the kind of technology you’d want if your internet connection was a telephone cable. So – this is a moot point – this text.  I think I could probably hide just about anything in the fourth paragraph – because who reads that far?  TLDR. So this blog is here to help me think and plan, and make sure all is technically in the public domain, because that is important.   That there is a record.  I know that I am drawing battle lines, and any measure of success will result in push back from many fronts.

There are the well-funded deniers, the gamer gate people – (it is unwise to be female on the Internet.  As this project is important and considered, I have to realistically consider if myself appearing to be  in the lead might actually cause damage because I’m not actually a man.  It’s unwise to even talk of such things – seeing as there is a whole army of thought-disenfranchised people making entertainment from an invented gender war. ) I do not write this paragraph easily.

Today my needs are:

  • A name
  • A mechanism for recording the work of others – a time sheet that I can use for payments later
  • Some video content from my team

Anyway, since Sunday night (NO sleep, btw), I have been talking to people I think may be interested in being involved.  Pitching the idea, somewhat.  Yesterday I started to work on communications – the first video is now up on YouTube.  I look like someone who is not used to posting myself on YouTube.  Not much I can do about that right now.  I looked at kickstarter and filled in a fun version of that.  Also JustGiving – but that will not just give to something which is not a registered charity (appears to give options, but loops around pages).

Today I need to think about a good name for the new project.  I have set up a campaign on a site called Generosity – which is part of Indiegogo, and titled that Lucy in the Sky.  Temporary names are a bad idea.

We discovered from Learn10 how difficult things could be if you didn’t start off with the right name. So many things are absolutely dependent on you being able to explain a concept in a short time, and names are information in themselves. So – an echo through time is my learnitwidget gmail address – which really makes me cringe now. And so many sites and services just will not let you make such a change.

I shall finish now, publish and be damned.  More laterz…




The British discuss the weather as the Czechs discuss the mushrooms


This summer, the heat seemed endless.  We had moved to a  country of pleasant summers and snowy winters, however the last couple of years the winters have been mercifully short, with very little in the way of snow and frost. Not enough to allow us to scrabble around on cross country skis, and there has been little to none in the way of ice skating on the pond.  In 2014 the garden was green right up to Christmas, but the lack of precipitation is beginning to have consequences.  For the last two years the Summer meadows of South Bohemia have grown in a thick tangle, with farmers harvesting 50% more than is expected, leaving barns overflowing with the stuff.  It was so hot that I had to adopt Mediterranean techniques – any hard manual labour – the scything – obviously, and anything which was more than a saunter about the garden, had to be conducted in the early morning or late evening.  When outside is body temperature, then working in shaded water is your only option…

After the dry winter, this summer has also been hot and dry.  What mushrooms need, certainly at first, is warmth and damp.  Those that are particularly prized – the Porcini – called Hrzib by the Czechs – will only grow when night time temperatures are above ten degrees. Now we know that they also need damp feet.  Not just a good downpour, though that would normally help, but a constants supply of relative dampness. This year, it was just too hot. The rain clouds passed us by.  They pretty much passed all the way over to Scotland.  And now, when usually we’d be inundated. Besides ourselves with so many, eating delicious Mushroom Lasagne with Porcini, Chanterelle and a little tarragon, porcini in our scrambled eggs in the morning, that mushroom risotto with a little grated carrot in at the end for crunch… this year – only chicken of the woods.

When you catch chicken of the woods young enough, it has the texture of chicken – so you can really confuse people with your veggie food and sentence structures. We found it to be great in strongly flavoured foods like bean chilli and curry.  It’s very meat-like texture has that density which, when combined with the same quantities of fat and salt as you’d find in meat is just plain confusing.  Unfortunately it doesn’t stay like that for long.  If you find it a little late, you’ll be eating something more akin to a bitter chipboard.  This is why chicken of the woods has such a mixed reputation.   What reputation it does have, like with the hedgehog mushroom, is not often discussed among the locals, hence our ability to find this mushroom growing on trees on roadsides in full and constant view of passing motorists.  Long may it be ignored by everyone else.

So – how can we predict what will survive the winter?  Will we have five months of snow, or hardly a frost?  As the weather patterns change, and we have longer periods of weather conditions that could easily mean that we have Siberian conditions for weeks and weeks on end. It’s just been a matter of luck that we had the clement weather last year and North America got hit hard with the cold.  The only thing I can do is plant all I can, and then protect.  We will see what comes out on the other side.


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Almost Miraculous Vegetarian Goat Milk


When we bought our Merino lambs, they came with a free goat.  The three amigos were penned together in a barn and were the orphans which were being bottle-fed.  We were visiting the farm in North Moravia to check out conditions to see if we would be able to responsibly purchase a couple of sheep from them in the future, but the farmer said we might as well take the orphans as they were motherless anyway… and we could take the kid and put it on the barbecue when it was big enough to be worth eating. Even if that wasn’t going to be the case, I couldn’t very well leave the kid alone.  Animals do not cope well with abandonment.  You’ll even struggle to rear a chicken without brethren, or without becoming that brethren.

So, long ago we’d accepted Dijon goat would simply be our naughtiest surrogate child. She was the one most likely to break the tiles on the barn, encourage the sheep into places that sheep are not designed to go – like the barn roof, break into the garden and eat our sapling fruit trees, lead escapades onto the road outside the house,  decimate our living willow fences, and on and on. The ringleader, the brains behind the operation. Because the sheep are nothing if not easily lead.  She even figured out the use of rudimentary tools. As it was hard enough to live alongside one goat, we decided that we were not going to breed her – that would inevitably lead to two goats. Double the fun. And games. And eaten Chestnut tree saplings.

Goats take a long time to mature – a full three years to reach their adult height and a further two before they are considered all grown up.  Dijon Goat was born in 2011, and was our dear pet until 2014 when I hit upon the idea of trying to milk her. I’d noticed that her udders seem to sometimes change a bit, and at the end of 2013 she started regularly coming into heat, and thus “escaping” because of her sudden fascination with our neighbour’s ram.  Escaping – a loose term seeing as she is perfectly capable of climbing out of her enclosure any time she should so wish.  Her presence here is a matter of personal choice.  Anyway – should a goat and a sheep liaise, progeny is an unlikely result – so unlikely that it makes the news – one in Ireland a couple of years ago, the previous one in Kenya some years before.  Whether or not she was actually pregnant at any point, but the spring she clearly wasn’t, but the next time her udders changed, I tried to milk  her.

Milking was a mysterious process, and a learning curve for us both, and all we had to go on were some videos on youtube.  The first time I tried, there was no more that a teaspoon of milk, but we persisted and within weeks she was producing a pint of milk morning and evening (a British pint is 568ml, whereas a US pint is only 473ml btw). The slow increase in production was important.  It felt as weird as if our dog, Bunbury, had started to lactate and we’d decided to start consuming that. We were reluctant goat milk drinkers… however, hiding it in our morning coffee was the first step, and as production slowly increased over the course of the month, so did our taste for goat milk.

There is no getting around the fact that cow and goat milk are different.  And different again from the processed milk you get in plastic containers at the supermarket.  We were used to fresh milk from a nearby farm… which we would fetch on a weekly basis then pasteurise ourselves, freeze or make into yoghurt.  Soon, cow milk started to taste kind-of cowy, in the same way that UHT milk tastes … not normal … we had acclimatised to goat milk.

The first year, all the milk was kept in the fridge, in labelled jars (the honey jars being exactly the rights size for one milking). This year, however, I don’t keep milk more than a day old. This goes into the freezer and as soon as I have a large enough batch, we can make a foray into the world of goat cheese.  Some favourite recipes have been cheese stuffed vine leaves with dried cranberries and walnut, New York baked cheesecake and a bruschetta with cheese, beetroot and red onion.  My next most-important product will be halloumi – as this is a type of cheese I really love and one of the things we still have to ask our British visitors to bring over for us.

As well as various cheeses, we’ve found that the whey – which makes up 90% of the volume of the milk – is the best product for making bread.  If you use whey instead of water in bread, it will be soft and fluffy. It’s almost worth making cheese for this reason alone.

While the house is full with volunteers and visitors during the warmer months, there is rarely a large amount of milk left over from one Ambien CR day to the next.  Dijon goat is playing her part in a productive little homestead, not only contributing to our food production, but also to the overall experience of visitors.  We take in city dwellers and turn out competent milkers.  Last year, towards the end of autumn Dijon’s milk production waned, and by December we had finished altogether, meaning that we all got a break over the colder winter months.  Goat milk was much missed.

This year we will fare even worse over the winter months as the local cow herd has now been sold – this herd was a rarity in South Bohemia as the animals were allowed outside when the weather was warm enough. I am tempted to turn to vegan alternatives rather than use milk produced by cows which are kept all year inside barns – as is the way here – unchanged since the darkest days of the USSR style collective farms.  Let alone the fact that in order to produce the milk, the cows have calves, which are in the main used for meat – an uncomfortable fact for most vegetarians.  The milk we have from Dijon goat is entirely vegetarian. We are very lucky indeed.


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Using the outside of a lined chimney as an air heat exchange system


After a drawn out autumn, which in fact lasted till the day after Christmas, winter has come. I sit in my kitchen watching the snow drift past the window. It is mounting outside, the sky is white, the trees are white. All of a sudden, it was minus fifteen when we woke up in the morning, burning much of what was left in the garden, then the snow came and buried the rest. I have teepees constructed with apple tree cuttings and plastic – just two sided, but enough so that I could harvest quite a lot before the serious snow.

Our heating this year is via a boiler in the cellar which we feed wood pellets. On every radiator around the house is a digital valve which controls the temperature specifically for the function of the room. The office isn’t heated at the weekend, the bedrooms aren’t heated during the day. We have wood-burning stoves in the kitchen and guest bedroom which we can light if we want things to be a bit warmer. If you have a fire, it needs to draw air from the room in order to burn. Where is this air coming from?  Every time the doors are opened cold air will rush in. It’ll seep in through any gaps around windows or under doors.

One idea I had was to put pipes underground to pre-warm air before it reaches the house. It would have been easy to put an extra pipe in the trench between the house and the well, for example, if I’d thought of it before we filled in the trench, that is, however, the metal-lined chimney gives me a much better opportunity.

When the boiler system was installed we had the chimney lined with a very expensive metal tube which was drilled into place.  As a round peg in a square hole, there is still quite a lot of volume in the old chimney which is outside of the lining. Our thermal flashlight had indicated xanax bars here that the chimney was warm through the house above the heating system and the metal pipe was hot to the touch even in the attic (where there is an inspection hatch). I now have an extractor fan between the chimney and the laundry room with a thermostatic plug (BY-LOX_15A) which will switch on when the sensor detects temperatures above 18 degrees c.  The extractor fan draws warm air from beside the metal chimney into the laundry room when the chimney is warmer than the laundry room. Eventually this air will be pulled into our unheated hallways  – currently hovering around 10 degrees c.  So – we’ll experiment and measure results.

One concern could be contamination of the air supply with carbon monoxide from fumes leaving the chimney. We have a carbon monoxide detector to test for that – experiment and measure…


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Give Halloween Lanterns a happy ending: Spiced Pumpkin Preserve


This recipe is inspired by the Ukranian method of making preserves where fruit is pretty much candied. The pumpkin in this preserve will retain a firm texture and beautiful colour.  It takes patience, but the results are well worth waiting for.


1.5k 3.3lb pumpkin

1.5k 3.3lb sugar

2tsp ground cinnamon

2tsp ground nutmeg

2tsp ground cloves

2tsp ground ginger

2tsp ground allspice

Zest of three lemons finely grated.


Take your Halloween lantern off the porch before it begins to decay. It’s quite cold here, and ours sat outside for a whole week with no problems.

This recipe calls for 1.5k or 3.3 lb of pumpkin flesh. I suggest you use the rest of the pumpkin in a delicous Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew).

Cut the cleaned and peeled pumpkin into cubes as small as you can bear to cut. The smaller the pieces the easier it will be to spread the preserve on toast.

In a large bowl, mix the cubed pumkin with the sugar, spices and lemon rind. After about an hour the sugar will turn to liquid as moisture is drawn out of the pumpkin flesh.  Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave it be until the next day.

The next day, transfer the mixture to a large pan, bring this to a boil, then take it off the heat. Once it has cooled, cover again with a clean cloth http://prescriptionpharmacy.net/ and leave till the following day.  You will repeat this process on subsequent days until the fruit is translucent – usually three days.

On the last day, boil the preserve for twenty minutes, before pouring into sterilised jars. These are usually stacked upside-down and wrapped in a woollen blanket for the day.  The preserve will last well in a cool, dark spot.


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The very best Courgette Zuccini glut recipe


Pickled courgette is absolutely the best way to deal with an overlooked courgette plant in the corner of your garden.  Sharp, sweet and juicy, it’s a welcome side dish to all sorts of meals. My other half hates courgette so it’s a pleasure to be able to add them to my own food as I wish. The mixture is quite acidic, and the oil provides a floating barrier between the pickles and the air. Though traditionally in Ukraine you keep your pickles in a cool, dark place and they last for years,  standard advice is these days to keep them in the fridge and consume within three months.

This method of pickling was shown to be by my freind from Odessa. She used it to pickle sweet peppers and a little cauliflower at the end of the summer when these veggies were in season. It’s a delicious treat – you can put the peppers into sandwiches, but I found that I simply ate mine out of the jar, they were so good.

 (metric left) Ingredients (US right)

3kg Courgette – 6.6lbs

1.5 l boiling water – 6 cups

200g vinegar – 1 cup

200g Vegetable Oil – 1 cup

200g Honey – 1 cup

20 black pepper corns

10 bay leaves

10 allspice berries

1 heaped tablespoon of salt

Clean your veggies and cut into julienne strips. If you have a wire egg cutter you can slice your courgette into finger length pieces and then push the egg cutter down over it. You should end up with pieces that are about the size of McDonalds French Fries. As there is a lot of water in courgette they will shrink somewhat as you boil them, so you’ll probably be able to fit twice as much in each jar as their fresh volume.

Combine the other ingredients in a large pan – it’s easiest the pan has twice the volume of your ingredients so there’s no danger of it boiling over. Use a high heat, but keep an eye on it as you sterilise your jars.

I usually steam sterilise jars in the microwave by washing each jar then putting it upside down on a clean tea towel in the microwave for thirty seconds. As the lids are metal, I sterilise these in boiling water.

Once you have all your ducks lined up, then the trick is to make sure the veggies are heated enough so that they are sterilised, without destroying their delicous crunchiness. You will need to time them for exactly two minutes from the time they reach a rolling boil, and then swiftly fish them out and pack them into the sterilised jar. I cook just one jar’s worth of veggies at a time to ensure texture. Once the jar is packed full to about 1 cm / 1/2 inch from the top,  fill up the rest of the jar with the boiling liquid phentermine 37.5 – so essentially no head space at all if you can manage it. This will mean that in a short time the oil will form a seal on the top of your preserved courgette. You will then swiftly screw on the lid and invert the jar to make sure that the lid is completely sterilised.  Once you have dried the jar you need to wrap it in a a wollen blanket. I have some old woolly jumpers which I put in an old insulated aluminium milk container for this job. They will stay warm for quite some time.

I number each jar as I make them, and then use them in reverse order because the courgettes will lose a significant volume of liquid which will dilute your pickling solution each time. Even though some of the water will evaporate as you boil, I feel that it’s safest to eat first the jars you made last.

My next recipe will be to use the Ukranian  method to pickle together all of the veggies my other half doesn’t like – Aubergine (eggplant), Courgette (zuccini), Olives and Capers. As he loves to cook, we eat really well, however I really miss these four essentials to a mediterrainian tomato sauce.

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What our mornings look like at the end of August.

  1. Let Bunbury outside to pee.
  2. Release the mother hen with her chicks.
  3. Change the water by the taps in the large tray.
  4. Release the teenager chickens from the ark.
  5. Make sure their food is at least half full (1 cup of meal & 2 cups of grain mixed with a little water. The door should be left open just enough so the growing birds can get in and eat the food.
  6. Open the hen house and let the ducks out of their cage.
  7. Duck food – 1 cup of grain under 10cm of water by the taps.
  8. Put a cup of oats from the green barrel into the yellow hanging feeder for the adult chickens.
  9. Milk Dijon goat
  10. Feed Bunbury one cup of dry food.
  11. Feed the cats a couple of spoons of canned food.
  12. Bunbury needs to go for a walk at some point during the day – mid afternoon is good.
  13. In the evening, just after the sun goes behind the trees, or if it is stormy anytime after 5pm – lock up the adult chickens in the hen house – currently 6 chickens sleep in there. After the chickens are roosting, the goose can go in, and finally you can go pick up the 2 ducks in the garden and put them in their cage for the night.
  14. The 5 teenager chickens should be herded into the ark quite easily if their food has run out during the day – just refill the food (as before 2 cups of grain, 1 cup of meal and a little water).
  15. Refill the grain feeder for the mother hen and 4 chicks and put them back into their hutch on the back porch.
  16. Dijon goat  – evening milking.
  17. Feed Bunbury and the cats as before. Let the dog out to pee before you go to bed.


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An Ode to Dust


Run your finger on the shelf and you may find

It’s time to clear out your cluttered mind

Like a clock – days, weeks, months – measured time.

Air filled with sparkles when sunlight shines.

Observe space in solid form – a universe, stars and planets.

Gone today, here tomorrow, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.

Take charge, stretch and clean

But from a sterile life what can be seen?



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Less Truthful Sayings


“it always looks worse through a window”
“no bad weather, just bad clothing”
Would sitting in be such a sin, though,
Instead of in this storm a roving.
The less than silent leaking jacket
The swooshing, pounding, tiresome racket,
And mist so pretty on a meadow
But on my foggy glasses less so
The promise of abundant green
Mother nature truly mocks
As mushrooms sprout within my socks
My muddy boots, her glowing sheen.
Release me from the soggy prison
Of a tidy aphorism.


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Fifteen things to eat in the Czech Republic


Last year I went on an exchange trip between my local village, Cernovice,  and their twin, Biglen, in Switzerland.  The pretty Emmental countryside was full of grass meadows and happy cows, and not a single fat northern bloke in a vest. Our town mayor had held a meeting where we discussed what presents we could take to give our Swiss friends a flavour of Bohemia. The decision was cheese and chocolate, and explaining the idiom “taking coals to Newcastle” was unfortunately beyond the grasp of my Czech conversation abilities. However, it did get me thinking about what foods are really unique to Bohemia.

  1. Local bread – light, fluffy Housky and Rohlik rolls as well as the more substantial rye bread loaf. You need to buy rolls  in the morning from the bakery as they become rock-hard in a matter of hours. To be properly Czech you must fight the urge to cut open the rolls and make sandwiches – instead butter and cheese must be applied to the outside of the crust, making eating them a fine balancing act.
  2. Bohemian Sekt – we cannot, of course, for legal reasons call this pink champagne.  There is also an alcohol free version of this drink, which is very nice of you’re not on the booze and want something a little more grown-up than Kofola.
  3. Kofola – a kind of cross between cola and root beer. This is available on tap in most establishments serving beer, and is the drink to turn to if you want to pass as a local or reminisce on your communist childhood.
  4. Blueberry yoghurt – In the Czech Republic, blueberry is your go-to fruit flavour. In the same way that the strawberry is ubiquitous where I come from, you will find blueberry everything  – including syrup for diluting into drinks (or squash as we call in the UK). In July, the extensive forests of Bohemia are full of bilberries – the small, wild blueberries – and you can also find cranberries, raspberries and tiny, flavoursome strawberries.
  5. Elderflower cordial. As common as orange squash in these parts. In the supermarket, look for Jupi with a picture of elderflowers.
  6. Bohemia Chips – once I left the Czech Republic to live in the UK, these crisps are what I would beg from anyone who was planning to visit. Now I live just five miles from the factory where they are made. Coincidence?  Current flavours of interest are mushroom or rosemary. The old-favourite is paprika.
  7. Dried apple. In a country where cider is a foreign drink, they turned their apples into spirits or dried them into circles “Krouzky”, which could then be snacked on through the winter or made into natural apple tea. The locally produced apple juice is also excellent, inexpensive and commonly available.
  8. Lime flower tea- the Linden Lime tree is a national symbol. The flowers are gathered and dried in early summer. In shops, look for tea with the word “Lipa”. I find it highly reminiscent of the scent of washing powder. You may not.
  9. Local cheeses are a blue cheese called Niva and a mini Camembert called Hermalin.  I’d say they’re nothing to write home about, however, you might as well try them while you’re here. Farming methods were standardized across the soviet union, leading to wierdnesses such as pigs and cows being kept inside barns all summer as well as winter in massive factory farms, and all local variation in food production being suppressed. It is taking some time for the idea of local to catch on here, as you’ll see if you visit Farmer’s markets outside of Prague.  Things are changing, but let’s just say people here eat a lot of Edam.
  10. Nealko beer. The Czechs have a proud heritage of beer production, and zero tolerance in law to drink driving. As keen beer consumers, the natural result of this equation is that their alcohol free beers are really pretty good. One local company which you’re unlikely to see anywhere outside of the Czech Republic and produces an excellent range of alcoholic and alcohol free beers is Bernard (produced Bear Nard with two rolled r’s). Czech beer bottles are robust because they are reused via a deposit system, so don’t throw them away!
  11. Tartar sauce – this is the local condiment of choice. You’ll find it a necessary accompaniment to the popular and common “American” potatoes, breaded pork & fried cheese, which would be hard to eat without it.
  12. Locally produced chocolate. Full disclosure: the Bon Bon company you’ll see all over the Czech Republic hales from my local village, where they have an excellent cafe with every form of chocolate available. As a gift to take home, their range of chocolate confectionery is hard to beat, if you can resist eating it all yourself.

Finally, if you are staying somewhere with access to a kitchen I recommend:

  1. Waldorf salad made with locally grown apple, walnuts and a little ground elder (the wild cousin of celery).
  2. Sekanice – a cut stuffing loaf. There are both veggie and pork versions of this recipe, but the main constituent ingredient is nettle. As in stinging nettle. After a long, hard winter under feet of snow, the hardy perennial nettle is the first edible green which pops up in Bohemia, and was traditionally an important source of nutrition. Nettles can also be used as a substitute ingredient for Kale Chips & once they are baked in salt and oil are surprisingly moreish.
  3. Wild mushroom pate – as mushroom collecting is part of the national psyche. Porchini and Chanterelle should be sampled and a pate made with equal parts butter, cream cheese and lightly cooked mushroom is the best way to experience their flavour. Please don’t pick the mushrooms yourself. Urban legend has it that ten people a year die of mushroom poisoning in the Czech Republic, and it’s not a pretty way to go.


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