July 4 – summer returns

July 4 is always an odd holiday for me.  For most of my life, my family and I celebrated, along with many members of our extended community, in West Athens Maine, with a wild anarchic “DIY” parade, and surrealist political theater in a gravel pit.  In recent years, the rowdy drunken spectator element kind of overwhelmed the parade, and the town of West A (which lacks any sort of “official” services whatsoever) got totally trashed, so the event has been officially cancelled.  So for the past two years, I’ve spent the 4th here in Virginia, which always seems OK up until I wake up and realize I’m not in Maine, and then I’m depressed for the rest of the day.  So I spent most of the day under a dark cloud.

And that was the only dark cloud around.  It looks like we’ve turned the corner with the weather ’round here.   On Thursday, and for the remainder of the forecast, we’re going to get some more typical summer temperatures for the area (90’s every day), and much less rain.  Which is a bit sad, as I had been enjoying the freakishly cool wet weather we’ve had all through the spring and early summer.

At lunch, everyone was distracted by a lizard popping its head in and out of a hole in an oak tree right next to where everyone was eating.  I had my camera on hand, so I turned on the flash and stuck it in the hole to get this photo of the cute little guy.Image

After lunch, I walked up to our warehouse to do some hammock shipping.  On the way back down, I detoured through the woods.  The day was hot and humid, and I was feeling relatively uninspired, even though I was managing to gather a fair number of chanterelles and boletes.  Then I came across this– a beefsteak polypore, the first one I’ve seen this year.Image

Now this is one freaky mushroom.  It’s soft, wet, and squishy– warm from the hot sun it felt like I was holding an animal’s organ, a liver or something.  It’s kind of fascinating, and kind of gross, like a slab of raw meat growing out of a tree.  Image

I’ve read that it is one of the few mushrooms that can be eaten raw, and is actually better that way.  A lot of this one looked overripe and kind of rotten, so I cut out the tastiest looking chunk and tried it out.  And it was actually really quite good– kind of tangy and citrusy.  I would definitely recommend this mushroom to anyone fortunate enough to find one in the woods– and there’s really nothing else you can confuse it with!Image

On the way down, I also passed some yellow/pinkish indian pipe, the first ones I’ve seen this year that aren’t totally white.  Over the course of the year, I notice some odd-colored varieties of this plant.  Image

For the most part, I’ve seen and photographed enough chanterelles that I won’t bother writing more about them in this journal– while I continue to collect and enjoy them, they aren’t exactly news anymore.  I do want to include this photograph, just to show the incredible texture at the bottom of this one.  They are remarkably pretty mushrooms, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with a vein/gill pattern that looks quite as convoluted as this.Image

I also learned more about the “nest of eggs” mushrooms I’ve been seeing, having seen a couple more flushes of them at different stages of development.  They grow into a large white milk cap (“peppery milk cap”) that I was hoping would be edible, since they are quite abundant now.  Unfortunately, they are only semi-edible, and can only be eaten if you repeatedly parboil them and get rid of the water, to remove the toxins.  Seems like a lot of trouble for a fairly poor culinary mushroom, I don’t think I will be bothering with it anytime soon.Image

In the afternoon, we went to town with the boys to see the parade (nowhere as good as the one in West Athens) and go on rides at the fair.  At the very top of the Ferris wheel, I snapped a few photos of the Louisa skyline at dusk; this was my favorite of what came out.Image

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One response to “July 4 – summer returns

  1. The yellowish, pinkish Indian Pipes are probably a closely related species, Pinesap. Both species are parasitic on fungi in the Russula family. Russulas are, in turn, mycorrhizal (root-associated friendly symbionts) with trees. Nice find! Pinesap is rare in my experience. Great photos too.

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