Gosh it’s been over 4 days since I last posted– it’s amazing how things get away from you when you’re not working to keep up. As usual, my mind and heart are on this journal, but work/family/music commitments have a way of taking over my time, keeping me out of the woods and unable to sit and write.
I guess I’ll just take it day by day. Saturday found me in Richmond all afternoon, performing with my band at the Richmond Vegetarian Festival. I was in Bryan Park in Richmond, and the weather was as perfect as mid-June can be, sunny but not too hot, without any chance of rain (which was nice, as we were playing outside). The park is famous for its azaleas, which needless to say weren’t in bloom this time of the year– azaleas are quite mousy looking bushes when they don’t have their flowers. So, delightful outing, but not much nature observation.
Sunday morning was taken up with recording, and the afternoon with cooking dinner for the community. Although I was able to spend the afternoon outside grilling bbq chicken, that’s about as good as it got.
I spent Monday in the garden, picking summer squash and cucumbers, turnips and potato onions (yes there really is such a thing). This time of year is quite active in the garden, and if I were doing a garden blog, it would keep me quite busy chronicling the great variety of crops that we are harvesting these days. It was a hot day, and I spent much of the afternoon at the pond with the boys– on the way up from the pond, we stopped for an extended foraging break at our primo “Illinois Everbearing” mulberry tree, which is absolutely loaded with delicious ripe mulberries. This enormous bush has so many berries that, at this time of year, they are ripening faster than people can eat them. So there are always more berries to find in spite of the near constant crowd of people slurping down mulberries as fast as their purple-stained fingers can pick ’em!
Tuesday was another Tofu delivery day; unfortunately, I had musical commitments that took me home and into the recording studio as soon as I was done–no wanderings in the woods around C’ville for me 😦 The previous day, there had been over three inches of rain in the city, and all of the rivers and creeks I saw were muddy brown torrents. In the afternoon, as I was driving back to Louisa county, I was overtaken by a torrential storm on the highway, with traffic nearly coming to a stop in the poor visibility. The rain followed me all the way back to Twin Oaks, where we amassed another couple of inches of rain to add to the total on this wet wet spring.
Once the rain stopped after dinner, I was determined to get out, even just for a short walk to see what all the recent rains had brought. I promised the kids that if they went on a mushroom walk with me for an hour we could watch cartoons ’till bedtime, and they readily acquiesced. It was nice getting back into the woods, and seeing what’s new, like these boletes, which are beginning to come into season:
My research on boletes tells me that all the poisonous varieties either have orange or red pores on the underside, or they stain blue. The mushrooms above didn’t have either quality, so I risked eating one. They weren’t entirely delicious, but (so far) haven’t caused any ill effects. I didn’t worry too much about the mushroom below, the first chanterelle of the season! I was a bit surprised to find one so early, but it’s kind of exciting to know they’re out there now.
I found several more species of mushroom, which I wasn’t able to identify, some large white and yellow ones, which may have been a species of Amanita, and others growing in the grass of the back yard, which had a crumbly texture like a Russula, but looked different than the familiar red ones that are coming up everywhere. Along with a handful of the ubiquitous platterful, of course. The boys certainly have a longer attention span for wandering around in the woods looking for mushrooms than they do for watching dad pore through a field guide, minutely examining gills and stems (and I can hardly blame them). Just before we went inside for the evening, I took this photo of the late afternoon light in the back yard. Sure was pretty once the sun came out!
This morning (Wednesday) was another cool pleasant day, a fitting end to springtime. Early in the morning, I was checking out these wildflowers, which I can’t seem to identify even with the Newcomb’s guide. I remember that their leaves were one of the first tender green annuals to come up in the brown of the forest floor this winter, so it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what they are.
In the afternoon, I went to Charlottesville with the boys, and wound up taking quite the walk, along city streets and nature trails, through the city. Part of our route took us on a bridge over the Rivanna River, which was still flowing high and dark, even though it’s gone down with a full rain-free day. As we got closer to the bank, you could see from the bent and muddy vegetation that it had been over a foot higher in the past 24 hours.
View from under the bridge. This is an interesting area– you’re directly under busy highway 250, in an area surrounded by shopping malls and other buildings, but from down here next to the river, you can’t see anything but trees.
Growing along the banks of the river was this flowering tree, which I have just learned is a Albizia julibrissin, Mimosa, or Persian Silk Tree. Although not a Virginia native, it was quite a pretty tree, the flowers smelled lovely, and it was full of bees and other insects. Apparently, it is also a favorite of hummingbirds, but I didn’t see any in the tree this afternoon.
I saw a number of mushrooms while walking around town. The most exciting by far was this lot of Blewits. Although these particular specimens were too old and buggy to eat, just the fact of seeing them growing makes me excited that we’re reaching the time of year when I can start hunting for more. Their smell and flavor are top-notch, truly one of my favorites! Walking through a city park, I encountered a whole bunch more mushrooms with crimped edges that made me think they were some sort of grisette (unfortunately inedible), plus a bunch more of the Russula-looking ones I found in my own back yard. These latter ones were growing all around a farmers’ market that was going on in the park, dozens of them had been ground to fungal mush by folks going about their shopping. I don’t know whether they are edible (and don’t think they are), but if it turns out you can eat them, then it would be quite an ironic sight– folks paying plenty money for organic farmers’ market offerings while inadvertently crushing underfoot free wild food.
Well, that should do it for now. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to get out for a longer walk tomorrow.