July 23-24 – stayin’ hot and headin’ north

I’m sitting and writing right now at my siblings’ building in Brooklyn, where we’ve relocated for a few days, a “visit the family and get the hell out of Virginia for a week” vacation.  But before I get too far along, let’s get in the way back machine and travel all the way back to last Monday (the 23rd), with some random notes and observations…

On Monday, another hot dry day, I had the afternoon free, and feeling a bit negligent about dropping the ball on this journal, I took a little stroll through the yard and off into the woods.  My journey began with a delightful discovery– all of this hot sunny weather has had one positive outcome:  figs!  The fig trees in my back yard have been putting out fruit for a couple of months now, and just this weekend they started to get ripe.  On Sunday, I picked my first fig of the year, and on Monday, then again on Tuesday, there were several more.  So delicious– I think figs might be my absolute #1 favorite thing we grow at Twin Oaks.Image

The Japanese beetles have continued to breed like mad.  Most days, I’ve had a chance to gather up a bowl of beetles and feed them to the chickens at Tupelo, but I’ve skipped a few days, and it definitely makes a difference.Image

Butterflies in the back yard, one bush in particular was covered with them.Image

Most of them were the yellow and black variety pictured above, but there was one  bright orange individual of a different species.  As I tried to take a photo of it, it started to fly away, the resulting picture came out looking pretty nifty.Image

Image

As I walked into the woods, trying to figure out whether any mushrooms had survived the past 10 days of heat and rainlessness, I came across several specimens that may have been edible several days ago, but were presently in pretty bad shape, like this indigo milky.Image

or this green Russula, which would have made good eating several days ago.Image

I spotted this large shelf mushroom far off through the woods.  The sunlight came through the forest canopy so as to illuminate them, they were glowing brightly.  I think they may have been something edible at some point, but at this point they were all tough and woody and dried out.Image

A word on spiders.  For much of the season, as I walk through the woods, either on our trails or just bushwhacking, I’ve had to wave a “spider stick” in front of me, to keep me from blundering through one web after another.  As the summer has gone on, the webs have become more and more numerous; the walk I took today, which was the first time I’d been out in the woods for over a week, was downright spider-iffic.  Even constantly swinging a spider stick to break webs, I still kept walking into webs, and a couple of times I had to pull a spider out of my hair or off of my face.  Which is pretty unpleasant, even knowing that there are no poisonous web spiders in Virginia (there are black widows, but they don’t string webs between trees).  The spiders we have, though are pretty intimidating looking.  I had tried many times to photograph one of them, and just today figured out a way to trick my camera into focusing on one of them.  I believe they may be some species of Gasteracantha, but I’m certainly no expert on spider ID.  I just know they are one crazy looking bug, and it’s kind of unnerving to have one crawling around on your face, even if you know it isn’t poisonous.Image

one freaky looking spider.Image

I’m still finding lots of coral mushrooms in the woods, but you can see that the recent hot dry weather has taken a toll on them.  The ones below, like most of the mushrooms I encountered today, definitely was looking dried out and heat-stressed.Image

walking along a tractor path used by the forestry crew for cutting trees in the winter.  The green grassy looking plant looked almost like some sort of bamboo.  When I lived in California, I did some work with invasive plant removal, and it was interesting to see how logging paths were a vector for invasive plants that would grow along the paths and then spread out into the woods.  It doesn’t look like these plants are spreading beyond the path itself, but you can definitely see how non-native plants use logging roads and paths to push their way into otherwise impenetrable forest.Image

Deep into the woods, I started to come across some remnant chanterelle patches.  The first one I spotted was extremely heat stressed.Image

but then, I started to spot some others that were in surprisingly good shape.  I didn’t expect to find chanterelles under these conditions, but wound up filling my basket with them.Image

My prize find of the day was this enormous, bug free bolete.  I’m not sure what type it was, but I’m pretty sure it was one of the edible ones.Image

One mushroom I’ve continued to see lots of, even in the summer heat, is the Old Man of the Woods bolete.  What these particular mushrooms lack in gastronomic value, they make up for in sheer interestingness of appearance.Image

look at the weird texture on the cap of this one!Image

Along the way, I stopped in at my ‘dipping hole’ along the creek to splash some water on myself.  I wanted to do some more raking and dumping of rocks, but was running short of time by this point.  After nearly two weeks without rain, the creek was looking pretty low.  Image

Finally, just before I left the woods, I came across this flush of white oyster mushrooms, also in surprisingly good shape.  The brown specks on them were bits of sawdust, from ants (termites?) that were eating away at the stump above, and washed right off.  These oysters (along with the chanterelles I found) all wound up in omelets on Wednesday morning.Image

Tuesday AM.  I snapped this picture as I was heading out to C’ville to deliver tofu early in the morning.  The sky was actually much prettier than the photo shows, but I guess it kind of gets the idea across.Image

Tuesday after dinner, going for a walk with the boys.  I guess it’s a testament to such a wet spring and early summer that, even after so many hot dry rainless days, the countryside is still so green and shows no sign of drought.  Hopefully we’ll start getting rain again before things really start drying out.Image

On Wednesday morning, the whole family loaded up the station wagon and started driving north, to visit my brother and sister in New York.  We stopped for lunch just about an hour into the trip at spot where the road crossed over the Rappahannock River.  We parked along the side of the road, where a large convenient pullout vied in a battle of mixed messages with several prominent no parking signs.  I figured that if they had that many No Parking signs, there must have been something nice down there.  So we parked and followed a path down to a lovely sandy beach along the side of the river where we picnicked and splashed around before packing up and driving the rest of the way to the big city.  ImageAnd now I’m in New York, where I may try to do some more observaing, despite being in the midst of the greatest metropolitan area in the ol’ US of A.  We’ll see what the next few days have in store…

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