May 20– just another day in the merry month of May

This May, so far, has been unusually cool, and that most certainly is not a complaint.  Those who know me know that I’m much better at dealing with cold weather than hot, that “cool & gray” is usually more to my liking than “hot & sunny.”  And despite having had a nice long stretch of lovely cloudy damp days, it was inevitable that there would be a “regression to the mean,” and more typical late spring weather would prevail.

Today appeared to mark the beginning of that trend.  For the first day in a while, it didn’t rain at all, and the rising heat and humidity made it clear that summer is not too far off.  While I had to spend most of the morning finishing off the infernal index, I was on “childcare duty” for the afternoon, and I took that opportunity to do some outdoor-type chores that gave me a chance to get out and about.  Some of what I saw:

One of my afternoon chores was to mow the pathway to the pond along with the little grassy landing next to where people climb in and out of the water.  A great place to work up a sweat and then rinse it off, and a great place to observe the blooming of the pondside irises, which are at their absolute peak right now

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The path leading to the pond passes by Twin Oaks’ lone Illinois Everbearing mulberry tree, and for the first time today, I noticed a very few berries just starting to get ripe.  It won’t be long now until the mulberry feast begins!

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farther up the same path, there are some semi-wild strawberries.  That is, they were a domesticated strain of berries that was initially planted, but have since mostly been left alone to do their thing.  And they are doing it right now.  We’ve had fresh strawberries from our garden for about a week now, but these are the first ones I’ve seen from this semi-wild patch.Image

Right at the geographical center of Twin Oaks (more or less), there is a large flower garden, with many many species of flower that bloom, one after another, for the duration of the spring and early summer.  For the most part, I haven’t been including in this journal everything that is flowering in this garden, as it is so clearly “cultivated” (as opposed to wild or semi-wild).  But this rosebush, which just started blooming in the past few days, is so spectacular that I had to include a couple of photos:

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the pink blossoms are almost pornographic…

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Later in the afternoon, I decided to take a look around my backyard to see if any of the berries were ready to start picking yet (which, as it turns out, they weren’t).  I opened my door and took two steps out before doing a double take at the sight of this impressive fellow:

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He was about four feet long, and about the thickness of my arm, and all the kids in the house found him fascinating.  Quite a good looking black snake:Image

There weren’t any ripe berries in the yard– the goumi berries are starting to get close, as are the pitifully small numbers of cherries on the unhealthy-looking cherry trees.  The blueberries are looking good; hundreds (thousands?) of big berries, unfortunately they won’t be ripe for at least another month.  One of the more impressive sights in the back yard right now is this pokey-looking plant (no idea what it is), which is putting up these spikes of flowers.  I’m not sure if this is as much as it does, or if they’re going to open and be even more impressive over the next week.  I’ll keep you posted, of course. Image

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Later in the afternoon, I had to chain myself back to the computer for a couple of hours, but I was able to break free for half an hour just before dinner.  Given the copious amount of precipitation we’ve had over the past week, I figured conditions might be good to locate some of my fungal friends, so I took a quick stroll through the woods to see what I could find.  I started out walking past the shittake logs, which are looking rather impressive.  But I was searching for the wild variety, so I strolled right on by.

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Made my way down to the creek, which is chock full of runoff from all the recent rains, and looking extra-purty these days.

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Just past the creek, I came across my first Russula specimens of the year.  These are the most common mushrooms at Twin Oaks later in the season, and there are lots of closely related species which I am pretty much unable to tell apart.  I know that they are mostly not edible, so I haven’t bothered learning much about them, maybe later this year I will do some studyin’ up.  This was the first of the year, though.Image

I walked through a bit of woods with a lot of downed pine trees.  Some of them were covered with lots of soft fuzzy white mold.Image

As far as edibles, I didn’t find much other than about half a dozen Pluteus (fawn mushrooms), which seem to be the most common edible mushrooms in the woods these days.  Unfortunately, they are just kind of mediocre as far as their culinary virtues, so I didn’t even bother picking them.  Still, I guess it was nice to know I could pick them if I wanted to.Image

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