May 31– back to the berries and the bugs

Been home for a few days, but I’ve finally got a bit of time to write.

Flew into to Virginia on Tuesday night, and it took the better part of a day to get back to Twin Oaks.  My initial impression of coming home after a week away were– first– surprise that central Virginia felt hotter and drier than south Texas.  (dry being a relative term, of course– in this case it means it hasn’t rained for about a week.)  The other first impression was “damn those cicadas are LOUD!”  Their pulsating metallic drone can be heard pretty much everywhere outside these days, and while they haven’t started stripping the leaves off of the trees yet, they can be seen and heard every time you step outside.  At least they’re cute:

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I’ve been pretty busy both Thursday and Friday, but each day I had a few minutes here and there to explore, observe, and take a few photos.  And here’s what I’m seeing, after having been gone for a week:

The honeysuckle, which had just started blooming when I left, is flowering all over the place.  Its odor is pretty subtle from a distance, but when you put your face all up in it, it smells so good!

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Some of the berries in our backyard are finally starting to ripen.  I think that the relatively cold wet weather in May has pushed back their season a bit– it seems like in previous years we were eating cherries, etc. earlier in May.  The first berries to ripen each year are the Goumi berries, which are somewhat tart and astringent (not the tastiest berries), but make up for it by being ripe where there isn’t much else fresh to eat.Image

Plus, when they are ready to eat, there are thousands and thousands of them ripe at once, so they are a favorite of the kids, at least until there are tastier options.Image

The mulberries are also starting to ripen.  They are much more difficult to photograph than the goumis, as despite their great abundance this time of year, they are also delicious and highly prized by just about everyone.  Pretty much as soon as a mulberry ripens anywhere on the farm (especially on our prized Illinois Everbearing tree), there is someone there to eat it within hours.  This particular berry didn’t last more than a couple seconds after I took this photo.Image

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There are also a bunch of gooseberries, blueberries, and raspberries in the backyard, but none of them are quite ready to eat yet.  

I’ve been doing a fair amount of work down by the pond, which has become increasingly popular as spring turns to summer and the weather heats up.  The children, in particular, have practically set up residence there; it is where they prefer to spend as much of the day as possible, and I can hardly blame them!

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On Friday afternoon after the heat of midday passed, I took a short walk through the woods, just to see how things had progressed in the week that I’ve been gone.  Along the way, I noticed the profusion of foxglove (I think) flowers along the side of the road at the community’s entrance:

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Walking through the cow pastures as I approached the cicada-filled forest, it’s amazing to see the waist-high grass and think about how just a few months ago it was all just a dried up ankle-high brown crust.Image

In contrast to earlier this spring, there weren’t a lot of wildflowers blooming in the pastures.  Lots of white and purple clover, plus a profusion of this pretty purple 5-leaved flower. (Identification to come)Image

There were also great masses of purple vetch growing along the fencelines.Image

The cows, who always seem perfectly content during the coldest part of the winter, even when they are being snowed on, seem utterly miserable in the heat, when they are pestered by clouds of flies and roll around in the mud for relief.Image

The forest was loud with cicada buzzing and full of mosquitoes.  I noticed a couple of small flushes of oyster mushrooms, but they were all full of bugs.  Image

When I saw this one, I was sure that I had got to it in time…Image

…until I turned it over and saw that I was too late.  I think that it might be difficult this time of year to harvest oysters before the insects make them inedible.Image

I also came across this weird growth on a dead log, which looks vaguely fungal, although I have no idea what it is.  When I stroke it, it gave off clouds of dusty looking spores (or seeds).  Odd.Image

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