October 31 – autumn colors and honey mushrooms

It seems like, in Central Virginia, the last week of October is the peak of fall foliage season.  On Tuesday, I drove the tofu truck to Charlottesville for my weekly delivery, and the entire way there and back, the interstate was a corridor of spectacular reds and yellows and oranges.  I’ve had this experience in previous years, being surprised that for a couple of weeks in the year, a 40 minute drive along a usually fairly nondescript stretch of highway could be so spectacular.  On Wednesday, I was once again going to C’ville, to spend the afternoon in town with the boys, and I took a few photos of the fall colors, but they hardly match the experience of driving past mile after mile of brightly colored trees, glowing with bright warm autumn sunshine.  Here’s some of what I’ve been looking at over the past couple of days:

Here’s the forest edge, photographed from my back yard.  For some reason, the fall colors haven’t been quite as spectacular at Twin Oaks as they seem to be in town or along the roads and highways around here, but it’s still pretty scenic.  Image

and this is the view from my front door.Image

More fall colors, looking out across the Morningstar orchard.  These photos are all from Wednesday morning.Image

That morning, as I was eating breakfast, one of my housemates mentioned finding a honey mushroom in the Morningstar yard.  I asked if she had seen a whole bunch or just a few.  Although she said she had only seen one, I have learned from past experience that if you see one, then there are likely to be hundreds coming up.  I had some free time in the morning, so I headed over with a bowl and a knife, and discovered that the lower half of the orchard was absolutely covered in honey mushrooms!  The area had been mature woods, and was cleared about four years ago to make a solar clearing for the building (which was having mold issues, partly because it never received direct sunlight).  I’m thinking that down under the ground, there are lots of great big roots rotting, because a few times each year, the yard explodes with hundreds and hundreds of honey mushrooms.  Too often, I don’t discover them until they are getting old and unappealing, but this time I was able to get harvesting just as they were coming up.Image

In addition to many many honey mushrooms (I actually wound up filling three bowls), I came across a flush of oysters growing from a stump that had been cut flush with the ground.  When the woods were cleared four years ago, the stumps were all inoculated with oyster mushroom spawn, I wonder if these came from that inoculation, or whether they’re just growing there naturally.  Either way, I’ll pick ’em!Image

More honey mushrooms– they were truly coming up all over the place.Image

Here’s the morning’s harvest, with all the grass and debris rinsed off– not bad for an hour’s picking.Image

And here they are spread out on a big tray to dry off.  They all wound up being served for community dinner on Wednesday night, and they were a big hit.Image

These are all from Wednesday afternoon.  Here’s another shot of the trees out in front of my house.Image

As I was going to town on Wednesday, I tried to take a couple photos of the foliage along the interstate, but none of the shots really conveyed what a beautiful drive it is at this time of year.  This gives a bit of an idea, I guess.Image

Lots of bright fall colors in Charlottesville.Image

We met up with one of my son’s friends at his school.  This colorful maple was right out in front.Image

More brightly colored trees, just off of the downtown mall.Image

Later, as we were all walking through the city, I came across a fence covered with these bright purple beans.  I don’t think they are edible, but the colors are so striking that I had to take a picture.  I don’t know what they are, but they look pretty amazing.Image

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