August 6 – if you can’t go to Maine…

…bring Maine to you!

Seriously, it’s kind of freaky what’s happening with this summer here in Virginny.  Today was overcast and cool-humid, I don’t even think cracked 80 degrees all day.  On August 6th– typically the most brutal time of the year.  It hasn’t gone above 90 for at least a week, maybe more, and we haven’t hit 100 all year.  It’s the kind of summer weather that I’ve spent my life traveling to Maine to experience, and we’re getting it right here at home.  I guess if you’ve gotta spend a summer mostly in Virginia, then 2013 is the year to do it.

Today was another tofu delivery day– that is, I drove the truck and handled the invoices while a strong-backed friend of mine came along and did the actual loading and unloading.  It’ll be at least another week before I’m up for doing the job solo.  On the way into C’ville, we drove through a rare 8:00 AM thunderstorm, unusual to have one so early in the day.  After we got home and unloaded, I felt strong enough to take a meandering walk home along the ‘scenic route.’

In this picture, you can get something of the feel of the day, cool and overcast.  The air was moist and ground was wet from a morning of showers.Image

At some times of the year, our ornamentals garden (where we grow flowers for the farmers’ market) is awash in bright colors.  Now it’s all just shades of green.Image

Along the edge of the pond, there’s a lot of this flower growing.  The individual flowers look like Black Eyed Susans, but the plant part looks nothing alike.   I’m guessing it’s some sort of coneflower.Image


When I was a kid, I traveled a lot between Maine and Florida.  Neither one of those states had many of these compound-leaved trees, which might be some sort of locust tree, but I’m not sure.  I remember driving through the mid-Atlantic area, and noticing all these small compound-leaved trees, thinking it odd that I always lived in places too far north or south to have these trees, but I always associated them with road trips.Image

This time of year, they have lovely yellow and pink seed pods, as delicately colored as flowers.Image

As I followed the path through the woods towards the cemetary, I almost walked through this perfectly formed spider web woven across the trail.  Using my flash, I tried taking a photo of the web; this photo came out better than the others.  Then I walked around the web, hoping the spider could catch some of the cloud of gnats that were traveling along with me, trying to buzz into my ears and eyes.Image

Now this is odd– it’s early August, and although the weather’s been much dryer in the past month than it was before, we’ve had some rain, including a couple of decent storms in the last week.  But as I walked through the fields and woods, I saw an almost complete lack of mushrooms.  Surely there must be some species that fruit at this time of year.  Odd that I saw so few out there.  One exception was a cluster of chicken of the woods that I spotted near the cemetery.  Two of them were old, brown, and withered, far too far gone to eat…Image

…and the third was in much better shape, maybe a bit past its prime, but perfectly edible.  I didn’t pick it, however, as I’m already working my way through another one that I’ve got downstairs in a bowl of water. Image

When I was initially considering this project, I had thought for a while about limiting it to one single walk that I would do, several times each week, in one specific part of our land, becoming intimately familiar with the plants and life forms that I encountered along one path.  In the end, I decided against that idea, but over the course of the year, this particular walk, from the courtyard up through the graveyard and then along logging roads to the Kaweah backyard has become my ‘go to’ walk, and it’s been enjoyable to watch how this one particular bit of forest has changed over the course of the year.  Now that we’re well into summer, I can really appreciate all the clearing and cleanup work that was done around the cemetery during the colder months; the open, relatively sparse forest is a joy to walk through, a real change from the rest of our forested land, which this time of year, is mostly thick with underbrush.Image

While I’m on my walks around the land, it is very rare for me to encounter another person out for a walk; I think it’s only happened a handful of times this year.  And I can say for sure, this is the first time I’ve encountered someone driving a pickup truck on the forestry trails through the woods.  It was my friend Trout, who is basically the only person at Twin Oaks who can get away with doing this.Image

A final note for the day– I went back to the mystery polypore near Nashoba that I photographed yesterday to take a closer look.  In the past 24 hours, the edges of the ‘leaves’ have turned black, which makes me think it is indeed the black-staining polypore.  Apparently, it is edible, but when I’ve tried it, it’s way too tough to eat, maybe if it was simmered for a long time, or boiled in a stew.  For now, I think I’ll stick to all the chicken of the woods I’ve been finding.Image


One response to “August 6 – if you can’t go to Maine…

  1. The one that looks like Black-Eyed Susans but with smaller flowers is the Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba). I’ve let them take over some of the aisles of some of one of our growing areas. They’re pretty and need no pampering, though I probably shouldn’t let quite so much seed mature this year.

    I’m pretty sure the tree with compound leaves is Ailanthus, an invasive that I learned about in Shenandoah NP, where it is quite prolific. If you tear the leaves and they smell like rancid peanut butter, then that’s it.

    August in Missouri has also been pleasantly cool so far; definitely enjoying it!

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