Recently, I saw a page from the Washington Post weather report that described the past week as having had no weather at all, which seems an adequate description of September so far. It hasn’t been especially hot or cold, mostly cool at night and warm during the day, mostly pleasant without being anything remarkable or exceptional. Above all, it’s been dry. Aside from a single five-minute storm on one day, and an hour or so of half-hearted drizzle on another, there’s been almost no rain for a month. As you can see below, the fields and trees are still looking mostly green, but there’s definitely a dustiness over everything.
Over the past week, I still haven’t had time to do much focused exploration in the woods, but I’ve been able to keep my camera on me as I’ve gone to and fro about the community. This time of year feels like a period of suspended animation, nothing really seems to be growing or changing much. The annual plants are beginning to wither and brown as the shortening days and lack of rain take their toll, but the first frost is still a while off. The corn plants in the garden have begun to turn brown as well, although we are getting more corn this month then in any time this year. In general, that’s been the case, with our crops yielding up more and more food as the plants themselves begin to wither and die.
Some other things I’ve come across, in no particular order: on Thursday, as I was making my way along a path, I looked down and saw this green pine cone stripped of its…what do you call the parts of a pine cone anyways? Pine scales? Cone bits? It was probably done by hungry squirrels, to get at something tasty in the middle, I’m guessing.
While the leaves are mostly still green, here and there we’re starting to see the first signs of autumn colors. Mostly in the form of dead brown leaves, but occasionally I’ll come across flashes of red and yellow.
Turning the other way, I shot this view of the sun trying to break out of the early morning clouds. Most of our mornings have been cloudy, and most of our afternoons have been sunny. It’s been surprisingly repetitive and consistent, the same weather day after day ever since last Thursday when the heat broke.
As most of the other spring and summer wildflowers have faded, the goldenrod has taken over all along the sides of roads and fields. It is by far the most abundant wildflower, always a bittersweet flower for me. When I was a kid it signaled the end of summer fun and the return to school– even now as an adult who generally prefers fall to summer, the sight of goldenrod still gives me a feeling of faint subtle subconscious dread, even though I consciously know that I’ll most likely never have to go back to school.
As we haven’t had a proper rain in weeks, there aren’t many mushrooms out there–walking through the woods, I’ve seen close to zero new fungal growth, less than I was seeing in February– and this is mid-September, supposedly one of the best times of year to gather mushrooms! A couple of days ago, I was talking to a friend about making Reishi tincture; from the liquor store in town, I bought some 100-proof vodka (which is supposedly the best for making tinctures), and poured it through a charcoal filter several times. Then I went out to hunt Reishi, which take an entire year to grow, so are less affected by seasonal drought. I was able to find a number of ones quite close to my house. Their colors are much more muted than earlier this year when they were bright and shiny, but they are still attractive mushrooms.
Here’s another stump with a bright young one and an older one, dull and beginning to fall apart. I harvested the younger one and left the older to spread its spores and ensure the future spread of this fascinating species.
The mixture began to turn brown almost immediately. I’m planning on leaving it in a dark, cool place for a couple of months, adding additional mushrooms as I find them. Then I’ll strain it and decant it into small jars, where I will use a dropper to administer myself the bitter, potent essence this winter when folks around me all start getting sick. I’m curious to see what difference, if any, it makes.