June 24 – a new season

My first summer day back at Twin Oaks– I had to spend the morning cooking lunch for the community, but in the afternoon I convinced the boys to come with me on a walk around the woods to see what was new over the past few days.

They were in fact quite easy to convince– while I had been gone over the weekend, it seemed like a whole bunch of new species of mushroom have been popping up all over the farm– mostly mushrooms like Amanitas that grow on the ground, as opposed to the ones that grow on dead wood.  In fact, it’s seeming like the last 10 days of June are, for mushrooms, like the second half of April is for plants.  It seems like every time I go outside these days, I’m coming across a new type that I haven’t yet seen this year.

One of the most interesting new finds was the two-color bolete, which is described as one of the choicest edible boletes.  I cut this one in half to see if there were any bugs on the inside, and found it delightfully bug-free.  And it was tasty!Image

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Further on in the walk, we came across this flush of oysters.  The one at the bottom was the single largest oyster I’ve seen at Twin Oaks, although the ones at top were bug-free enough for good eatin’Image

I also came across a bunch of poisonous white amanitas beginning to sprout, including this alien-looking pair.  Image

This mushroom, which goes by the name of “old man of the woods” mushroom is a scaly black bolete.  My guidebook points out that “this common eastern bolete becomes unappetizing as it ages.”  While this one was young enough to be mostly bug-free, it still was pretty unappetizing.Image

We walked around the graveyard, and found a number of mushrooms, but nothing terribly notable or edible looking.  As we headed out across the field, I came across this enormous soft squishy polypore.  Nothing in the mushroom book bears the slightest resemblance to it.  It was at least 10 inches across, and spongy with retained water. Weird….Image

Here are the boys resting before heading out across the field, with a mature platterful mushroom at their feet.Image

Later in the afternoon, I went down to the pond to try to help get the pump running.  On the way, I made a pit stop at our #1 mulberry tree, which is still pumping out mulberries, despite the near-continuous harvesting that has been occurring over the past few weeks.  They are still so sweet and tasty!Image

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Along with the common orange lillies, there are several other colors of bright lily blooming all around the edge of the pond, like these dramatic red ones.Image

These pink flowers, swarming with bees and other insects, are also at the height of their bloom.Image

Lovely pond in early summer.  Some years, it’s already warmed up to the point that it’s not too refreshing during the middle of the day.  This year, we’ve had enough rain and cool enough temperatures that it’s stayed quite pleasant all day long.Image

While I was down at the pond, the weather started taking a turn for the increasingly dramatic.  The sunny sky started filling with fast-moving puffy clouds ahead of the ominous steely thunderheads that portend a summer storm.Image

It’s hard to take good photos of a stormy sky.  Before the storm hit us, we could watch it raining hard to the north and west.  There was a lot of lightning, and for a while, I stood looking like a doofus with my camera in hand pointed at the sky, shutter half-pressed, hoping to get some pulitzer-type shot of a lightning strike.  Then I figured it wasn’t likely to happen, and I should get inside before getting soaked.Image

The storm toyed with us for a while, looking like it was going to pour, and then looking like it was going to blow by, then back and forth.  When it finally hit, there was a suitably impressive amount of rain, but it wasn’t quite as violent and intense as some of the storms have been this spring.  Image

After dinner, I spent some time plucking Japanese beetles off of our backyard plants with my son, then we walked up to Tupelo to feed them to the chickens.  Then it was so much fun that we did it again.  On the way up the second time, I noticed a lump under the leaves.  I pulled it aside, and found an indigo milkcap mushroom, and then another growing just a few feet away.  These mushrooms are edible, valued less for their flavor (which I’ve heard is not among the finest) and more for their beauty and the absolute impossibility of confusing them with any other type of mushroom. Image

Ain’t that just a purty mushroom.Image

We also found a red salamander on the trail, which my son Sami picked up without hesitation, creating a “salamander room” with his hands so we could show off our find to the rest of the family.  Between the blues of the mushrooms and the red of the salamander, it was quite a colorful 10-minute walk!IMG_0790IMG_0791

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2 responses to “June 24 – a new season

  1. Hello, I am a naturalist presently housebound recovering from surgery. I can’t thank you enough for your tremendous blog. It makes me feel like I’m outside.
    For mushrooms, try posting good photos on mushroomobserver.org. Experts will crowd source and you will get very helpful IDs. The “enormous soft squishy polypore” looks like one of my observations that was identified as Phaeolus schweinitzii. I am not an expert!
    The buds of daylilies are edible. Good in soups.
    The pink flowers are Wild Bergamot, a mint that can be used to flavor foods. A little goes a long way. Think oregano.
    We tried Lactarius indigo, the blue milk mushroom, first soaked in milk, then cooked. Not great,but pretty.
    Your son has captured a red Eft. It is the terrestrial form of the red spotted newt. Nice find!

    • this has totally made my day! While it is regrettable that you are housebound during such a lovely time of year, I very much appreciate your sharing your knowledge. As you can see, my credentials as a naturalist have far more to do with enthusiasm and curiosity than any sort book l’arnin.

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