August 10-11 – the F word

Well, it’s Monday night now, but I’m going to write about this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, and about the odd summer we’re having this year.

On Saturday morning, I went to Louisa to do my regular Saturday “shopping for the community” excursion.   Other than being another surprisingly pleasant day for early August, it was pretty unremarkable.  Then, once I got back and started unloading the car, we got hit by a crazy strong thunderstorm, I’m guessing we had well over an inch of rain in a half hour of solid downpour.   Here’s the Twin Oaks road in the midst of the storm.Image

and, just after parking the car, I stepped out into the rain and took this photo of the soggy garden. Image

With the rain came an immediate drop in temperature; not that it was ever that hot on Saturday, but the rest of the afternoon remained moist and cool.  I know that it’s still the beginning of August, and we’re only halfway through that period of time technically called summer, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t feeling a hint of fall in the air. I mean, during the winter, it seems like as soon as you get ahead of yourself and proclaim  that spring is just around the corner, that’s when the weather gods hit you with snow and ice.  Similarly, I don’t want to get too comfortable yet, I’m sure that we’ll get at least one more heat wave this year, but at this point it almost feels like the worst of summer (such as it was) is done with, and we have the glory of autumn (my very favorite time of year) to look forward to.  (I just checked, and for the next week, they’re forecasting high temperatures in the upper 70’s and low 80’s.)

After dropping off the last of my purchases, I walked home through the woods; now that I was good and soaked, there was no harm in getting even wetter.  In this photo, I really like the strange patterns the rain was making on the surface of the pond.Image

around the back edge of the pond, next to the sauna, there are all sorts of pretty pink and purple flowers, planted by a previous pond manager many years ago.  For years, these flowers struggled to survive under thick ivy and bramble, this year we cut away some of the vegetation that was covering the flowers, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what’s come up.Image

As I made my way from the pond back to my house, I came across this fellow, who didn’t seem to mind the rain one bit.Image

A couple of days ago I crossed this creeklet to look for boletes, and the stream bed was mostly dry, just some moist mud.  It looks quite different after an hour of torrential rain. Image

Just before I got home, I came across this branch covered in angel’s wings (a type of oyster mushrooms), which I swear was not there two days ago when I last walked past this very branch!  I wound up cooking them into some pasta as a mid-afternoon snack, and they were tasty!Image

So (familiar complaint, I know), just a few days back, I was given another long boring book to compile an index for, which once again is cutting into my precious time for walking in the woods and obervating.  On Sunday morning, after I had bashed my way through a couple of chapters of the book, I rewarded myself with a half-hour stroll in the woods, to see what the recent rains had brought out.   here are a few things I came across:

Here’s a spot where a large tree was blown over in last June’s derecho.  It was a big one, and the forestry crew harvested the trunk, then pushed it halfway back into the ground.  It’s interesting that the soil around the trunk, in the spot that was most disturbed when the tree toppled over, there is a flush of green vegetation that hasn’t taken root in other parts of the forest floor.  I guess that all that disturbance created opportunities for the seeds to ‘go to seed.’Image

further in the woods, I came across this dead cedar tree with two large puffballs growing out of the side.  While they aren’t quite ‘giant puffball’ sized, they are a lot bigger than the ones I normally see growing on dead logs.Image

I pulled one of them off to give a better idea of the size of the puffball.Image

and this is what the inside looked like.  Not going to be eating this one, I’m afraid.Image

I only had half an hour, so I made my way down to the creek to see how things looked down there.  The bugs in the woods were fierce this morning, mostly swarms of tiny gnats that hovered around my head in an annoying cloud, flying into my ears, eyes, and mouth.  They don’t seem to bite, but they really want to fly inside of me through any available orifice.  The woods were also incredibly thick with spiders and spider webs– I found that I had to keep a stick in my hands and wave it in front of me with just about every step; otherwise I’d be walking through a web every 15 seconds.  Not the most relaxing conditions for a walk in the woods.Image

After a few short minutes, I had to get back home to begin my cooking shift.  Close to home, I came across a couple growths of chanterelles, which have been absent from the woods for the past few weeks.  So all that rain on Saturday did have some effect.Image

more Chanterelles, on a cool, humid August day.Image

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