Category Archives: Spring

Jan 9 2014– A new year! And photo montages: part one

And now dear readers, it’s 2014, and the ObserVA project is getting very near the end.  The wheel has come full-circle, from the dead of winter back to the dead of winter, which means that I too will be rolling along to new projects.  As 2013 was nearing its end, I was thinking about the best way to wrap up the journal, and I thought about re-shooting landscape photos that I’d shot throughout the year, and posting them side-by side in order to really accentuate the change of the seasons.  I had planned to accomplish this very early in the new year, maybe on the first or second day of January.

But, as always, you have your plans for life, and life has its plans for you.  After a delightful New Years eve party, I was playing some vigorous Ultimate Frisbee on a pleasantly warm New Years Day when I suffered a sports-type injury (I’ll spare you the details), which has left me laid up for most of the past week.  During that time, we had our first snowfall of the year (about an inch, and it lasted for a couple of days), and experienced a few days of the “arctic” cold that has hit so much of the country.  Today was my first day that I’ve felt fully recovere, and have had time for walking all around the community taking photos (then fussing with the photos on the computer).  So now without further ado I give you: photo mashups part one!

We’ll start with a triple shot– the Kaweah back yard during last March’s snowstorm, the same view a month later in April, and the same view this afternoon.Image

Here’s a tree at the end of the driveway, in March and this afternoon.Image

On that day in March, we had a frisbee game despite the blizzard. Image

Here’s Vigor Road during the peak of the snow, and again today.Image

Another triple photo– the view from my room in March, in June, and this afternoon.Image

Last April, the cover crops were a delighful green on the garden.  Today it’s just all brown!Image

Three views of the pond:  One from last March, a view during the springtime months, and the same view of the pond today, still frozen solid from all the cold weather we’ve been having.Image

Peach blossoms in the MT orchard in April, and the same branch today.  If you look at the angled cut where the tree was pruned, you can see how much it’s grown this year.Image

Our most dramatic cherry tree, in the full blossom of late April, and again in early JanuaryImage

This first photo was from that part of April when the blossoms had dropped off and the leaves had just begun to sprout.Image

Springtime and winter views of the High South pasture.Image

Sami’s fig tree from early May, just as it was beginning to grow leaves.  In the photo from this afternoon, you can see how much growth it put on over the course of the summer.Image

It’s amazing to think that these photos–the first from a May thunderstorm– are of the same location.Image

Big oak trees down by the pond, in May and in JanuaryImage

This view of the pond shows some of the extreme contrast between leafy spring and icy winter.Image

Our onion drying barn, top photo in mid-May, bottom photo from today.Image

It’s amazing to look at the bare sticks in the Morningstar orchard and think that 7 months ago (and 5 months from now), they were covered in delicious bush cherries.Image

In this photo from early June, the inside of the greenhouse is just one small aspect of the almost tropical profusion of vegetation.  In early January, the lettuces and kale inside is pretty much the only greenery you’re going to see.Image

Both of these photos are from the sewer line path between Tupelo and the warehouse.  Although they aren’t the exact same vantage point, they’re pretty close to the same spot.Image

Way back in June, my son Sami was able to walk these woods wearing practically nothing.  It wouldn’t be nearly so comfortable today!Image

Here’s a dramatic contrast– our kiwi arbor in June and this afternoon.Image

Again, I wasn’t able to get exactly the same vantage point of the pond, but it’s close enough to see the amazing contrast between June and January.Image

The top photo is from this past June.  The bottom one is actually from December of 2008.  In the years in-between, the shed at the end of the driveway burned down and was replaced with the smaller wellhouse in the above photo, plus several of the non-productive apple trees in the orchard have been removed.Image

That gets me to the end of June.  I’m hoping to post another whole mess of these photos in the next day or two, at which time I will consider ObserVA to be finished and wish everyone a tearful farewell.  Until then, enjoy these pics!

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June 15-19 – how time flies…

 

Gosh it’s been over 4 days since I last posted– it’s amazing how things get away from you when you’re not working to keep up.  As usual, my mind and heart are on this journal, but work/family/music commitments have a way of taking over my time, keeping me out of the woods and unable to sit and write.

I guess I’ll just take it day by day.  Saturday found me in Richmond all afternoon, performing with my band at the Richmond Vegetarian Festival.  I was in Bryan Park in Richmond, and the weather was as perfect as mid-June can be, sunny but not too hot, without any chance of rain (which was nice, as we were playing outside).   The park is famous for its azaleas, which needless to say weren’t in bloom this time of the year– azaleas are quite mousy looking bushes when they don’t have their flowers.  So, delightful outing, but not much nature observation.

Sunday morning was taken up with recording, and the afternoon with cooking dinner for the community.  Although I was able to spend the afternoon outside grilling bbq chicken, that’s about as good as it got.

I spent Monday in the garden, picking summer squash and cucumbers, turnips and potato onions (yes there really is such a thing).  This time of year is quite active in the garden, and if I were doing a garden blog, it would keep me quite busy chronicling the great variety of crops that we are harvesting these days.  It was a hot day, and I spent much of the afternoon at the pond with the boys– on the way up from the pond, we stopped for an extended foraging break at our primo “Illinois Everbearing” mulberry tree, which is absolutely loaded with delicious ripe mulberries.  This enormous bush has so many berries that, at this time of year, they are ripening faster than people can eat them.  So there are always more berries to find in spite of the near constant crowd of people slurping down mulberries as fast as their purple-stained fingers can pick ’em!

Tuesday was another Tofu delivery day; unfortunately, I had musical commitments that took me home and into the recording studio as soon as I was done–no wanderings in the woods around C’ville for me 😦  The previous day, there had been over three inches of rain in the city, and all of the rivers and creeks I saw were muddy brown torrents.  In the afternoon, as I was driving back to Louisa county, I was overtaken by a torrential storm on the highway, with traffic nearly coming to a stop in the poor visibility.  The rain followed me all the way back to Twin Oaks, where we amassed another couple of inches of rain to add to the total on this wet wet spring.

Once the rain stopped after dinner, I was determined to get out, even just for a short walk to see what all the recent rains had brought.  I promised the kids that if they went on a mushroom walk with me for an hour we could watch cartoons ’till bedtime, and they readily acquiesced.  It was nice getting back into the woods, and seeing what’s new, like these boletes, which are beginning to come into season:Image

My research on boletes tells me that all the poisonous varieties either have orange or red pores on the underside, or they stain blue.  The mushrooms above didn’t have either quality, so I risked eating one.  They weren’t entirely delicious, but (so far) haven’t caused any ill effects.  I didn’t worry too much about the mushroom below, the first chanterelle of the season!  I was a bit surprised to find one so early, but it’s kind of exciting to know they’re out there now.Image

I found several more species of mushroom, which I wasn’t able to identify, some large white and yellow ones, which may have been a species of Amanita, and others growing in the grass of the back yard, which had a crumbly texture like a Russula, but looked different than the familiar red ones that are coming up everywhere.  Along with a handful of the ubiquitous platterful, of course.  The boys certainly have a longer attention span for wandering around in the woods looking for mushrooms than they do for watching dad pore through a field guide, minutely examining gills and stems (and I can hardly blame them).  Just before we went inside for the evening, I took this photo of the late afternoon light in the back yard.  Sure was pretty once the sun came out!Image

This morning (Wednesday) was another cool pleasant day, a fitting end to springtime.  Early in the morning, I was checking out these wildflowers, which I can’t seem to identify even with the Newcomb’s guide.  I remember that their leaves were one of the first tender green annuals to come up in the brown of the forest floor this winter, so it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what they are.Image

In the afternoon, I went to Charlottesville with the boys, and wound up taking quite the walk, along city streets and nature trails, through the city.  Part of our route took us on a bridge over the Rivanna River, which was still flowing high and dark, even though it’s gone down with a full rain-free day.  As we got closer to the bank, you could see from the bent and muddy vegetation that it had been over a foot higher in the past 24 hours.Image

View from under the bridge.  This is an interesting area– you’re directly under busy highway 250, in an area surrounded by shopping malls and other buildings, but from down here next to the river, you can’t see anything but trees.Image

Growing along the banks of the river was this flowering tree, which I have just learned is a Albizia julibrissin, Mimosa, or Persian Silk Tree.  Although not a Virginia native, it was quite a pretty tree, the flowers smelled lovely, and it was full of bees and other insects. Apparently, it is also a favorite of hummingbirds, but I didn’t see any in the tree this afternoon.  IMG_0640

I took a close-up of one of the flowers, which came out well.IMG_0642

I saw a number of mushrooms while walking around town.  The most exciting by far was this lot of Blewits.  Although these particular specimens were too old and buggy to eat, just the fact of seeing them growing makes me excited that we’re reaching the time of year when I can start hunting for more.  Their smell and flavor are top-notch, truly one of my favorites!Image Walking through a city park, I encountered a whole bunch more mushrooms with crimped edges that made me think they were some sort of grisette (unfortunately inedible), plus a bunch more of the Russula-looking ones I found in my own back yard.  These latter ones were growing all around a farmers’ market that was going on in the park, dozens of them had been ground to fungal mush by folks going about their shopping.  I don’t know whether they are edible (and don’t think they are), but if it turns out you can eat them, then it would be quite an ironic sight– folks paying plenty money for organic farmers’ market offerings while inadvertently crushing underfoot free wild food.

Well, that should do it for now.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to get out for a longer walk tomorrow.

June 14 – assorted wandering and cicada eatin’

Lots of random little threads today– I’ll just jump in and see where it goes…

Yet another perfect day– sunny but not too hot, low humidity– we’ve been so lucky with the weather this month! I had a free hour in the morning, and given my recent success at locating chicken of the woods, I decided to stomp around Monoccan woods to see if I could find some more.

Monoccan is an 80-acre patch of mostly youngish forest that Twin Oaks owns, across Old Mountain Road from the main property.  There are no buildings on the land, and a confusing jumble of tractor paths weave through the property.

In this photo, Monoccan forest on the right, main TO property on the left.Image

I’ve walked through this area a few times before, and I inevitably get lost and turned around.  There aren’t really any landmarks, the forest for the most part looks the same wherever you are, and the paths squiggle every which way, so I wind up wandering randomly until I come to a fence or back out to the road.  It all pretty much looks like this:

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I didn’t find any chicken of the woods this morning, but noticed a few things.  For the most part, there aren’t any more spring wildflowers in the woods.  Although I’m still seeing roadside and field flowers, it seems like the closing of the canopy marks the end of forest wildflower season.  This cute purple flower (which I think may be some sort of Lobelia) was a common and attractive exception, and I found lots of it growing in the woods this morning.Image

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In the fungal family, I mostly encountered the same mushrooms that have been common in our woods over the past couple of weeks.  Lots of what I now believe to be wood clitocybes:Image

and the ever-common edible platterful mushroom.  It’s a shame that these are only so-so for eating, as I sure have found a lot of them this month! Image

I also found what I believe to be a red chanterelle, or some other form of chanterelle.  I was a bit suspicious, since it’s kind of early in the year for chanterelles, but it sure does look like one.Image

I also came across a lot of indian pipe.  I first spotted this about a week ago, and now I’m seeing it everywhere.  This is definitely the time of year for indian pipe!  I was especially impressed with the way it looked when bunches of them would burst out of the ground all together, pushing up leaves, dirt, and wood.  I just was online reading articles about indian pipe, and learning some fascinating things.  In the unlikely event that anyone reading this is interested in learning all about this fascinating plant, I would recommend clicking here or here.Imagelots of this in the woods today

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Eventually, as always happens in Monoccan woods, I got completely disoriented, and wandered randomly until I came across the fence dividing our property from the neighbors.  In this photo, it’s pretty easy to tell the neighbor’s clean, orderly land from the dense forest on the Twin Oaks side of the fence.Image

On the way back, I encountered even more of these guys, which go by the appetizing name of “hairy rubber cup.”  I first started seeing them a month or so ago, and have been noticing them ever since– they are quite common in the woods around here, and according to Wikipedia, they are consumed in Malaysia, although generally considered inedible in North America.  Curious…Image

When I was down in the chicken yard today, I noticed that the apples are starting to turn red.  There’s an old-timey song about june apples, which has been going through my head all day.Image

Still green, but the apples will be good eatin’ soon enough…Image

On the way up from the chicken yard, I came across a patch of milkweed in full flower.  Sure enough, the milkweed flowers had attracted a whole bunch of butterflies and other insects.  I tried taking a bunch of photos, this one came out the best.Image

Late in the afternoon, I went with the family over to Living Energy Farm, a community started by friends of ours nearby in Louisa County.  They were able to purchase a large tract of land, mostly because it had just been clearcut.  Now they’ve lived there a couple of years, and the forest is just starting to grow back.  It was interesting walking around their property, so close to Twin Oaks, but so different in feel. Image

There were many species of plant and flower that you just don’t really see much of at Twin Oaks– I guess recent clearcuts isn’t an ecological zone that we have a lot of.  I also haven’t seen any black-eye Susan flowers at Twin Oaks, but there were a bunch of them here.Image

This wildflower, which I associate very much with summer in Maine, is one of my favorite summer wildflowers, I guess mostly because of the positive associations, although it is also quite a pretty flower.Image

but enough about the flowers– let’s get to the real reason we were over at LEF:  to eat fried cicadas!  In the background, you can see the birthday “cake” of chocolate-covered cicadas, and the rest of them were served up as appetizers in this lovely colorful bowl.  They were actually pretty good, crispy and salty, although I think I would have liked them even better with some lime and chili, served with salsa in a warm corn tortilla…Image

Yours truly, chowing down on a crispy fried cicada…Image

Sunset over the garden at Living Energy Farm, marking the end of another lovely late spring day in ol’ Virginny…Image

June 13 – no derecho

All this morning, people were talking about the “derecho,” a storm system that started somewhere in the upper midwest and was making its way towards the mid-Atlantic.  I had never even heard the term “derecho” until about a year ago, in late June of 2012.  On one early evening that month, we experienced what at first seemed to be a standard early summer storm approaching, with distant thunder and lightning and wind blowing from the west.  Only (and without any advance warning), the wind picked up, and picked up more and more.  We had had a couple of dry weeks previously, and the air was filled with dust, insects, and tree leaves.  By the time we were slammed with a wall of rain, the wind was at  hurricane levels, and big trees were snapping in two or uprooting all through our forests.  The whole thing lasted no more than 20 minutes, but it did tons of damage all throughout Virginia.  So now, when a derecho is forecast, people are paying more attention.

As it turned out, the main brunt of the storm passed north of us, in Maryland and Pennsylvania.  We got some wind and fairly torrential rain for a few minutes (see below) followed by hours of off and on showers and rumbling thunder.  Nothing like last year, and in my rambles around the farm this afternoon, I didn’t see any storm-related damage.Image

I did spot another turtle, I think it’s the sixth one I’ve seen this week.  I don’t know if they’re “on the move” this time of year, or if I’m just randomly crossing paths with them (or maybe with the same one over and over).
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Another noteworthy encounter, this fine-looking chicken of the woods, just off of the sewer line path behind Nashoba (about a two minute walk from our kitchen, where it was soon turned into dinner).Image

A fine-looking specimen.  Fine-tasting, too!Image

I encountered a bunch of these at Monticello, and another bunch today just outside of our dining hall.  I did some research, and turns out that this species is called either scaly inky cap, or feltscale inky cap (Coprinopsis variegata).  Wikipedia has a surprisingly good article on it (most of them are pretty useless).   These are sorta edible, only they have a compound that becomes toxic when combined with alcohol.  So if you’re a teetotaler, you can get away with eating them, but I don’t think it would much agree with me.  Image

Some flat Crepidotis mushrooms.  Early in my mushroom-eating days, I came across a few of these and thought I had found oysters.  I checked in with a more experienced friend, who informed me that they were indeed oyster mushrooms.  I at some, and found them to be bland and tasteless.  Later, I realized to my horror that they weren’t oysters at all.  I was a little bit upset at my friend, and mostly upset at myself for eating a mushroom without doing lots of research first.  As it turned out, it was a good way to learn the lesson, as I had no ill effects whatsoever, other than a loss of confidence in the mushroom-identification abilities of anyone other than myself (which probably isn’t such a bad way to approach the eating of mushrooms).  Ennyhoo, they’re pretty, although I wouldn’t recommend eating them.Image

Every year, at this time of year (right around Anniversary) a while section of the property stinks of chestnut trees.  They have a strong, slightly sweet & sour odor which some folks say reminds them of semen.  Any journal of the change of seasons at Twin Oaks would be incomplete without a mention of these flowers, which are a strong signifier of a very specific time of the year (Twin Oaks anniversary) for many people here.Image

close up of chestnut flowers.Image

Right around dinnertime, I walked through the shittake patch, to see if anything was sprouting.  There were just a couple of sad looking shittakes (I think they’re more of a spring and fall mushroom), along with some big, healthy looking platterfuls.  I took a shot of the bottom of one of them, as it was in such good shape (compared to some of the beat-up ones I’ve been finding), then just for the hell of it, I messed with the image with the editing software until it looked like this.Image

June 12 – mountain chicken of the woods

It was going to be a hot day (not extreme hot, just regular mid-June hot), and due to a childcare breakdown, I had the boys for the entire day.  So I figured we’d get a picnic lunch and drive up to Shenandoah National Park (about an hour west of here) for a hike and a swim.   We went to the same trailhead as our last hike a few weeks back, but took a different trail.

Along the way, we stopped at one of my favorite swimming holes along the Moorman River in Sugar Hollow.  This spot loses a couple of points for being right off of the road, so you can’t skinny dip and there was some litter (which we cleaned up), but it’s a pretty sweet spot to have a picnic and cool off.  You can see from this photo that the water was running quite high after all the recent rains (which I guess were even more severe in the mountains than they were here).Image

At the base of this sycamore tree, the creek is about 8 or 9 feet deep.  There’s even a rope swing, but the end of it had been cut off so it wasn’t usable today.Image

The boys and I had fun sliding down the rock and into the current, which would carry us a little ways downstream, then swimming out of the current and climbing back up to the rock, then doing it again and again.Image

Eventually, we got in the car and drove the couple miles up to the trailhead, where we set out for the “blue hole,” another swimming hole 1 1/2 miles up the trail.  The older boys had no problem with the hike, but I wound up having to carry my younger son most of the way, which got a little grueling.

As I’ve written in an earlier post, the whole Sugar Hollow area is some sort of a butterfly mecca; I’ve seen more butterflies around here than anywhere outside of the Amazon basin, and today was no exception.  Just a few steps up the trail, we came across this little patch of ground that the butterflies just loved– there were clouds of them in the air, and they were all mashed together to get at this one spot.  I wonder why?Image

The trail crossed several creeks that I imagine normally are no big deal, but on this day it was a bit of a production getting four children (ages 9, 7, 5, and 4) across each one.  The water was only just a bit higher than my knees, but it’s a different matter when you only weigh 30 pounds and the water is chest deep!Image

There were lots of springs and seeps along the side of the trail, and for much of the hike, the trail itself was underwater.  This was after an entire day without rain, so I can only imagine what it looked like a day or two earlier.Image

The destination of our hike: the “Blue Hole.”  The water was a bit cloudy since the creek was running so high.  I tried touching the bottom in the middle, but couldn’t– it’s at least 20 feet deep.  There were all sorts of rocks you could jump off of into the pool; in my reckless youth, I’d always go straight for the highest, most dangerous one.  But now that I’ve grown a bit older and wiser (not to mention responsible for several children in a national park more than a mile from the road), I had to satisfy myself with the lower jumps.  Most of the kids decided not to swim, as it was already getting cloudy and cool, but Izzy, a 5-year old who I only met a couple days ago, was pretty amazing.  He plunged himself right into the current over and over, not freaking out even when he got briefly tumbled underwater a couple of times.  Image

When I was here before, about 6 years ago, the water was low enough that you could jump off of the rocks into this upper pool.  Today, it seemed like a bad idea, as you definitely wouldn’t want to get swept over the edge and tumbled down the falls.Image

To the kids’ delight, there were all sorts of dangerous rocks to climb on.  It’s always a challenge for me to allow the kids to develop confidence in their bodies and abilities and not instill fear in them while at the same time keeping themselves from breaking their little necks.  At the top of this rock climb, my younger son called out “poppa, come look, I think I see a mushroom up here!”Image

So I climbed up to join him and, whaddaya know?!?, he really had spotted something!Image

It was a gorgeous, tender, chicken of the woods!  It’s been quite rewarding teaching the boys how to find and identify mushrooms, as it means I have three sets of eyes looking out for ’em when we’re walking around in the woods.Image

Sami with his catch of the day.Image

As we were hiking back to the car, my older son called me back, as he too had found something interesting.  It turned out to be this little crayfish, scuttling through the woods next to the creek.  At first the boys were afraid of it, but after trying to get it to pinch me, I finally convinced them that it wasn’t actually all that fierce, just another fun creature to encounter in the forest.Image

Not five minutes after finding the crawfish, I stepped off of the trail to answer nature’s call, and-great googly moogly!- I encountered the single largest chicken-of-the-woods mushroom I’ve ever seen.  This thing was so big and old that I wound up only slicing off the outer edge of each “leaf,” as the inside was all tough and woody.  In this photo, it looks like an enormous pink rose, which I guess it did somewhat resemble. Image

Here’s another photo, with my hand and Swiss army knife, to give some perspective on just how big this ‘shroom was.  I think that if I had harvested the whole thing, it would have been over 50 pounds (although 2/3 probably would have been inedible).Image

June 11 – more Monticello rambles

Hotter today, but still not too bad, considering the time of year.  My tofu delivery ended early enough for me to take a mid-day hike in the Monticello woods.  Walked a few miles up and down the mountain, all the streams and spring swollen from the recent rains, although we actually went a whole day without more rain.  Maybe we’re getting into a drying trend?

Over the months I’ve been watching these berry plants as they progressed from leafless fuzzy stalks.  Now it looks like they’re on the verge of opening up into some sort of flower or fruit.  They were everywhere out there today, countless thousands and millions of them all along the trail– when they do fruit, it’s going to be some good eating!Image

Here’s a close-up of one of the berry’s flower heads– pretty nifty.Image

Surprisingly, despite all the moisture, there weren’t many mushrooms out on the trail.  This flush of inky caps was the most interesting fungal find of the day, and I saw these less than five minutes from the trailhead. Image

There were dozens of these attractive mushrooms.  They’re either poisonous or edible– I still need to figure that out.  Till then, I won’t be eating them, but they do look cool.Image

Amazing to think how different this forest looked in the winter.  It’s like a tropical rainforest now, so green and lush with vegetation.  The ground in this area, where you can see it, is red and very clay-ey.  I wonder if that’s part of why there aren’t as many mushrooms?Image

After the first minute of the hike, I didn’t see any other people out on the trail– miles up and down the mountain, all alone with the critters of the woods.  I saw plenty of squirrels, another turtle, an enormous bird which I think may have been an owl, and this “so ugly it’s cute” toady fellow.Image

While walking up the mountain, I saw and heard a little waterfall noise, and looking through the underbrush, saw just the slightest flash of cascading water.  I checked to see whether there was a trail down to it (there wasn’t), so I scrambled off trail down to check it out.Image

It was actually kind of exciting scrambling down into the gully at the bottom of the waterfall, steep and slippery with mud.  The gully was full of enormous-leaved pawpaw trees, and the whole thing felt like explorations in some tropical jungle.  Image

The water was splashing over a 15-foot mini-cliff, into a ravine filled with pawpaw trees.  Here’s a nicely-framed view.Image

And another one of this delightful little cascade, where I took a cold shower to cool me off for the rest of the hike.Image

I stepped into the fall, and there was a lovely rainbow where the sun hit it just right.  After a nice cool shower, I risked my camera to get a shot of the rainbow, and I think it came out all right!  (the picture and the camera)Image

In places, the undergrowth was so intense that you just had to bash through it to stay on the trail.  Such a jungle!Image

View of Charlottesville from high up on the trail.  I’m not sure if I’ve posted this view or not before– it is pretty much the only view you get from this trail, in a spot where a couple of large downed trees opens a hole in the canopy.Image

On the several visits I’ve made to this area, I’ve been monitoring the growth of these wild comfrey plants.  They’ve stopped flowering in the month since I last hiked here, and now have these long stalks, with multiple seedheads(I think?) on each one.Image

Here’s a close-up of one.Image

In the final half mile or so before getting back to the truck, I spotted a deer in the path ahead of me.  I stopped to take a picture, then noticed that it was a momma deer with a little faun just off of the path to it’s right.  So cute!  I stood very still and watched them for a few minutes.  I don’t think the baby ever noticed me, but the momma sure did.  We stood watching eachother for a while, then they very calmly wandered off the trail into the brush.  On this pleasant sunny day, these deer were the only other large mammals I encountered on the trail, which is just fine with me!Image

momma deer and baby deer.Image

June 10 – snake sex and suchlike

I was watching the boys this afternoon, and I spent the first hour trying to herd them outside, on another pleasant, not-too-hot day.  My younger son mentioned something about finding ripe blueberries.  I was surprised, as I hadn’t seen any ripe ones, but, whaddaya know he was right!  Here’s the first ripe blueberry I’ve seen in the back yard this year.Image

most of the blueberries in the yard still look like this:

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A little later, I convinced them to take a walk in the soaking wet woods with me, to see if all the recent rain has brought out more mushrooms.  The first one we encountered was this, which I think is some type of Grisette , an attractive mushroom, but not a good one to eat.

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We weren’t finding many edible ones, until I spotted this little cluster of oysters up in a standing dead tree.  I had to put one of the boys on my shoulders to pick them, and unfortunately they were too buggy to eat.

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We also found a few fawn mushrooms, but by far the most interesting scene of the afternoon began when we spotted this handsome black snake slithering through the forest.  Image

We followed it for a little while while it crawled through the underbrush, then buried its head in what looked like a nest of some sort, or maybe some rodent’s hole.  It sat there for a couple of minutes, engaging in odd vibrations and wiggles.  Then the ground beneath the snake started moving, and…Image

…suddenly a second snake popped its head out of what actually had been some sort of underground snaky nest.  The two snakes got all wrapped up in each other.  For a moment, it looked like maybe they were fighting, but soon enough it became obvious that their intentions were more of the amorous sort.Image

The first snake gently bit the second one on the head, then they got all intertwined.  As odd as it sounds, it was actually kind of erotic.Image

close-up of the snakes’ entwined tails.  This is as much as I can show of what happened next– this isn’t that kind of blog, you know!Image

After that educational moment, I had some time on my own for the remainder of the afternoon.  I headed back out for some more ambitious, child-free explorations.  This cute orange ‘shroom was one of the first things I encountered.

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A little farther up the trail, I came across what I think is the first blewit of the season.  It looked generally right, and had the distinctive blewit smell, but the gills in the bottom weren’t exactly the color I remember.  I’m going to pass up eating this one until I am totally sure that it’s right.  No sense in getting ahead of myself, there will be plenty of blewits later in the season!Image

Another super-common mushroom I was finding everywhere, in vast quantities was this, which I think is a common funnel cap (clitocybe gibba), but I’m not totally sure.  I will have to do some more research to figure out what these are, because there are loads of them right now!

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also saw some more indian pipe, a bit bigger than the last ones I saw.  They are starting to become a bit more common in the woods, at least I saw a few clumps of them today.Image

I mostly wandered through the mature hardwood forest on the far side of the creek, an area that I explored more extensively during the winter, but haven’t been back to in months.  It’s a pretty nice part of our land.

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cool triple-holed tree

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delicate coral mushroom, one of several I found on a single log (and nowhere else in the woods)Image

It was hard to imagine how this delicate tree remnant could hold up through the many storms we’ve been having.  It looks as though I could blow it over with my own breath (but of course I didn’t) Image

Eventually, I wandered my way into the ‘beech grove’ part of our forest.  With the sun shining down through the canopy, it’s quite a lovely bit of woods.Image

These little dark mushrooms were cool in that you could see the little sack of mycelium that they were growing out of.  I’m not sure what they are.Image

More cute little mushrooms.  I’ve unfortunately misplaced my field guide, so I’m not able to ID most of these until I can find it.Image

Another Russula– this one was particularly impressive for its color and girth.

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I got home just before dinner, with dark skies and ominous rumbling off to the west.  I checked the weather before stepping out, and saw that we were under a flash flood warning, extreme thunderstorm warning, and tornado watch.  Yikes!  About half an hour later, we were hit with yet another violent spring storm, with lightning, high wind, and yet another inch of rain in less than half an hour.  The rain continued late into the night (although less intensely), so it looks like our wet wet week in Virginia is going to continue.