September 5-6 – home again, again

We arrived back at Twin Oaks on Wednesday night.  Over the past few days, in between unpacking, getting back into the work scene, and spending time with some old friends who are visiting the community, I’ve had a bit of time here and there to get out and do some obervating.  Here’s some of what I’ve seen, in no particular order:

In the West Virginia Allegheny highlands, summer had already begun to turn into fall, with touches of yellow and orange in the trees.  Back here in central Virginia, it is still very much summer, and aside from the odd withered leaf here and there, the trees are still quite green.  On my first morning back, I took this shot of the thriving rows of corn and sweet potato in our garden, against a decidedly summer-y background. Image

That first Thursday, like all the days since, was sunny and dry, not at all humid, and pleasantly warm.  In a way, it’s ideal weather, just hot enough to splash around in the pond, and only uncomfortable if you’re in direct sun during the middle of the day.  At night, it’s been cool enough that I’ve slept with the windows closed and, just last night, I even broke out a comforter to drape over the bed!  But, back to Thursday afternoon….

For some reason, at Twin Oaks, you tend to see lots of snakes, mostly black snakes and copperheads, in the late spring/early summer– May and June– and not so many the rest of the year.  This year was no different, so it was a bit of a pleasant surprise to come across this little green guy slithering across the path right in the middle of the Twin Oaks courtyard. Image

Here’s a close-up.  Such a handsome fellow!Image

I called the boys over to check out the snake, and they were suitably impressed.  I like the idea of raising country kids who aren’t fearful of snakes/bugs/bats/etc., and aren’t filled with the desire to shoot them on sight, but basically appreciative and empathetic to the various critters who share our home.Image

Thursday wound up being a very pond-y afternoon, with most of the community kids– and many of the parents– enjoying a long afternoon jumping in in the water.  I didn’t take any photos while I was down there (too many nekkid folks), but got this shot as I was heading back up the hill, which captures well the pleasures of late summer.Image

Friday morning, and I was up very early in the morning to let out the chickens.  The early morning light was quite lovely, as this photo attests.  Every year, one of our older members grows a banana tree, which gets larger and more impressive all through the spring and summer.  Then, every year before it can actually set fruit, it gets killed by frost sometime in October.  At this time of year, it gives a cool tropical look to our Virginia farm.Image

The fig trees in our backyard started to produce copious amounts of ripe figs while I was off in Louisville.  I was hoping to come home to a crazy overload of figs, but it seems like voracious packs of kids and other communards have been keeping up with the ripening, watching the trees closely, and picking each fruit as it turns big and purple.  It seems like this year the fig season won’t come to a glorious climax, as it has in the past; rather we’ll just keep on eating them as they come ripe, and everyone will get some.Image

Next to our fig trees is the kiwi arbor, which is also laden with fruit.  I’ve been keeping an eye on the kiwi fruits, ready to pounce as soon as they ripen, which is just now beginning to happen.  Here are some beautiful little kiwis, right on the edge of edibility:

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…and here is one which was ripe enough to eat.  Just this morning, I found two of them, so it looks like kiwi season is going to officially begin any day now.

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On Friday afternoon, and again this morning, I was able to take a couple short walks through the woods to see how things have progressed in the ol’ fungal kingdom.  It seems like it hasn’t rained much if at all while I was gone, and the forest floor is dry and crunchy.  Although there seems to be a little bit of new mushroom growth, mostly I am seeing the same ‘shrooms that were around a week ago, but kind of dried out and looking the worse for wear:

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I didn’t see any fresh, new chanterelles, but did see many of these little red ones, looking as though they’ve seen better days.

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And, in several places in the woods, I saw (and smelled!) nasty black mushy piles of rot where large numbers of mushrooms had grown, died, and decomposed.  I’m guessing it all happened while I was gone, as it seems like I would have noticed the clumps of mushrooms when they were growing.  This is just one photo– I saw at least five clumps like this just in the woods immediately beyond my yard.Image

As far as fresh new fungal growth, I encountered many large boletes, which were for the most part foul-smelling and did not seem likely to be edible…

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Also, this beautiful red aminita growing out of its volva like a baby bird hatching from an egg– also inedible but quite pretty:

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..some sort of tongue-like fungal growth sprouting from one of the tree stumps that I innoculated with oyster spawn earlier this year.  I’m not sure what this is, but I’ll be keeping en eye on it as it grows…

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…and a choice clump of what I’m almost entirely sure is Amanita rubescens (the Blusher mushroom) .  This is one of the few edible Amanitas, and I’ve been seeing them all over the community this spring and summer.  I’ve been avoiding eating them, due to being extremely wary of eating any form of Amanita, but the more I read about this species, the more sure I am about my identification, and they are considered quite a choice edible.Image

So I went ahead and harvested a couple of the best-looking caps.  I’m going to make a spore print so as to help me be 100% certain of my identification, then when I’m satisfied I know exactly what I have, I’m going to try cooking ’em up.  Wish me luck!

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Outside of the many types of mushroom I encountered, I’m definitely noticing that the vegetation on the trees is starting to look pretty beat-up.  Most of the leaves, which came out in mid-late April, have done their photosynthetic job, and it’s increasingly looking like the the trees are ready to let them go.  From the looks of this tree (and many like it), it won’t be long before we start getting some fall colors here in central Virginia. Image

but for now, I’ll sign off with this purty photo of the pond, clear, cool and refreshing on a picture perfect early September day… Image

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