Tag Archives: oyster mushrooms

December 30– getting near the end

Aw heck, once again it’s been a week since I’ve  had the chance to sit down and update the ol ObserVA.  As  you might expect, the past week has been full of family and holiday cheer, and not a whole lot of obervating.  In fact, all of these photos are from last Tuesday, which in addition to being  a gorgeous, (relatively) warm winter day, was also the day in which my trusty Canon Elph camera crapped out on me 😦

But I digress– let’s go in the wayback machine to last Tuesday, December 24, Xmas eve.  The day started, as so many Tuesdays do, with a tofu delivery run to Charlottesville.  It was a pretty short delivery, as several places were closed, and once I was done, I did a quick hike in the Monticello woods to check out a couple of places where I had previously found oyster mushrooms.  As the photos below show, it was a nice walk on a pleasant early winter day, but as I didn’t find any mushrooms, I didn’t tarry for too long.Image

Nice view of C’ville from the mountains just south of town.Image

I got home with lots of afternoon to spare.  On the radio, I had been listening to a doctor talking about seasonal affective disorder, who claimed that the best way to combat the condition was to soak up as much natural daylight as possible, to take maximum advantage of every bit of every sunny day at this time of year.  Well I had nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon, so I decided to take his advice to heart, and spend the rest of the afternoon outdoors.

As I was turning into the driveway, I encountered Free Willy, the rebel rooster.  About a month ago, we decided to cull our entire flock of chickens, turn them into meat.  As it turned out, about 5 or 6 of them escaped the axe, including of course everyone’s favorite survivor rooster.  In the next couple of weeks (due to insufficient oversight on the part of the chicken team), the hens that avoided the slaughter became food for hungry wildlife.  That is, all but ol’ Reb, the ultimate survivor.  I hear that these days he’s moved into the dairy barn at night, and spends his lonely days at the compost pile.  Long may he live!Image

Although there weren’t any oyster mushrooms around C’ville, a quick walk through the Twin Oaks woods revealed that there were a whole bunch in our forest.  For the first time this fall/winter, I was able to pick a whole plastic bag full of ’em!  Image

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lots and lots of pretty oysters!Image

After unloading the tofu truck, I spent a couple of hours gathering up mycelium-infused logs from several spots in the woods (always being careful to leave more logs than I took from any one spot) and gathering them together in a pile in the woods right outside of my house.  I was going to document the process, but this was the exact moment when my trusty camera, my companion for the year, kicked the bucket.  Fortunately, I was able to borrow my son’s camera for the day (which is actually much nicer than mine), but I suppose I’ll have to buy a new one now.  Alas.

So now I’ve got a big ol’ pile of oyster logs just a few steps from my kitchen that I hope will provide me with a steady supply of wild mushrooms for years to come.Image

Here’s one of the logs that I filled with oyster plugs this spring, just bursting with baby mushrooms.  I don’t know if the stump project was successful, but I am optimistic about the logs that I seeded.Image

Once I was done with that, there was still an hour or so of daylight, so I took a bike and went for a ride.  What a gorgeous sky!  What a gorgeous day!Image

Beautiful sky and clouds on a pleasant winter afternoon.Image

I think I’ve probably posted several photos of this sycamore tree in the Twin Oaks courtyard, but I just can’t get over how beautiful it looks all lit up in the late afternoon winter sunshine.Image

reflection of sauna and trees in the pond, turned 180 degrees.  Wooo, artistic!Image

Took a bike for a ride around the half block right around sunset, determined to enjoy every bit of sunshine this afternoon.  Got a very nice series of photos along Old Mountain Road right as the sun was going down and everything was all turning red.Image

Xmas eve sunset.Image

Another leafless tree all lit up with sunset colors.Image

Trespassed on a neighbor’s field in order to find the spot where I could see clear to the southwest horizon, in order to enjoy every possible second of the sunset.Image

Dramatic cloud colors just after the sun went down, as I sped back home on my bike.Image

So those photos were all from last Tuesday, Xmas eve.  Since then, there hasn’t been much change.  A bit of sun, a bit of rain, a bit of frost.  No snow, nothing dramatic.  All around, nature seems to be settling down into winter dormancy, getting ready for a new year.  And I’m feeling a mixture of emotions– satisfaction and a bit of pride that I was able to keep up the journal for the year without getting overly distracted/discouraged/just plain lazy; relieved that I will no longer have the self-imposed pressure of keeping it up; and more than a bit sad that it’s coming to an end.  I suppose I’ll put up one more post to finish out the year, then it’s on to the next project, whatever it may be.  I’ll spare the emotional farewell for now, but just want to finish this post by thanking everyone who’s read along so far.  Look for one more post early in January, once I’ve recovered from tomorrow night’s NYE debauch.

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December 23 – merry solstice!

And just like that, the Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and official beginning of winter, has come and gone.  It’s been a wet, blustery, decidedly un-winterlike few days.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s go back a few days…

to Saturday afternoon, just after lunch.  With a free hour before ultimate frisbee, I was going to take a little walk to explore the woods over on the river side of the property.  At this point, we’d had over 48 hours without frost, for the first time in weeks, and I was curious to see if this spell of near-tropical weather had made any difference in the landscape.  At the time I took this photo, it was just past one in the afternoon, but as you can see, the shadows were already long on the shortest day of the year.  I was, if you can believe it, dressed in shorts and a thin cotton long-sleeve t-shirt; the temperature (on the first day of winter) was close to 70 degrees!

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Not much green in the forest, save for these rhododendrons.

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On a damp, north-facing slope, I came across the best-looking oyster mushrooms I’d seen in weeks.  I’ve been trying to complain too much about the scarcity of oysters this fall, but by comparison, I had filled grocery bags with oysters on multiple occasions last November and December.  These were the first oysters this fall I’ve found that were worth picking.Image

pretty, pretty oyster mushroom.

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Another nearby stump had a whole cluster of beautiful orange shelf mushrooms growing on it.  Very striking color of shelf fungus. Image

I walked for a while through the riparian forest, traveling fairly easily through forest that would have been very unpleasant and difficult to navigate a few months back.  Eventually, I came to a waterlogged part of the woods looked to be quite the muddy, quicksand-y quagmire, and I turned back towards higher ground.

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With a few days of warm weather, I’m starting to see a few mushrooms that haven’t come out for quite some time.  These orange ones are most likely deadly poisonous, but I thought they looked cool.Image

Sunny winter solstice landscape.

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At one point, I was examining some large crow feathers I found on the ground, and next to them was this stick that looked like it had some weird alien message carved into it.Image

Passing through the beefy field.  Already this season, we’ve turned a couple of the steers into meat, and these guys probably won’t last the winter.Image

It was such a delightful change of pace to really enjoy the warmth and sunshine; I didn’t even mind the incongruity of walking around in shorts on the first day of winter.Image

About a week ago, we slaughtered our first steer of the season here on the farm.  Although we do save some of the organs (liver, heart, tongue), there’s still a lot of cow innards that we don’t use.  Mostly, we dig a great big pit and spend the winter filling it with offal, then cover it up in the spring when we’re done slaughtering.  Quite a sight to come across!Image

By the time the afternoon frisbee game got underway, clouds had begun to roll in, darkening what had been a ridiculously lovely solstice day.  It was still the warmest frisbee game we’d had in the past six weeks.Image

The first oysters I’d harvested in weeks.  Not a huge quantity, but I was pretty pleased just to have these few.Image

I also came across several logs in the woods full of oyster mycelium, with tiny mushrooms just starting to grow.  I have been stacking these logs in a pile in the woods just a few steps from my back yard, hoping to create a little oyster patch that is easily accessible from my kitchen.  Here are a couple of baby wild oysters growing alongside some little ones growing from a log that I inoculated this spring. Image

Another shot of basically the same thing, taken from a different angle.

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Sunday was forecast to be even warmer, sunny with temps in the mid-70’s!  I was looking forward to an unbelievable day.  As it turned out, we got torrential rain in the morning– a weird line of thunderstorms that looked and felt just like a summer shower.  Definitely weird weather for the first day of winter.  Well over an inch of rain by noon, when I took this photo of the back yard.Image

The rain and over-freezing temperatures continued all day and overnight.  This morning, I figured the conditions were as good for oyster mushrooms as they were likely to be, so I put on my raincoat and stepped out into the wet.  Here’s the streambed just off of my back yard, which is often dry but was full of water this rainy morning.

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 As expected, I came across several logs sprouting abundant young oysters.  Many of them were too small to be worth harvesting, but I did take careful note of where they were growing, and I hope to come back and pick them before the next frost, forecast for Tuesday night (and just about every night after that for the rest of the season).

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I also carried more logs back to my mushroom pile, which has been growing by the hour.

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Here’s the current state of my wild oyster mushroom project.  I’ll probably sterilize a bunch of sawdust and dump it in-between all the gaps in the logs.Image

Afterward, I took a walk through an area of our forest that had recently been thinned by the forestry team, just to see if there were any oysters growing on the trunks or stumps that were being harvested (there weren’t).  Out in the woods, I came across this very cool sight, where a dead standing tree had been cut at from both sides, leaving an eight-foot high wooden spike pointing into the sky.Image

 

Here’s the same thing, photo taken from the side.  I hope they leave it in place, as it’s very cool looking.

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I also spent some time examining some logs that have been stacked for cutting and splitting, noticing all the brand new fungal growth that’s sprouted up just in the past week.  All sorts of cool colors and shapes in the warm wet conditions.  I haven’t seen any cut pieces with oysters growing on them this year, but I have noticed them in the past. I figure that such pieces are too valuable to simply burn for warmth, instead it would make more sense to put them in the mushroom pile I’m growing.  I’ll keep looking as the forestry season progresses.

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a close-up.  Lots of fungal growth just in the past 24 hours or so.

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December 15 – sun in a dark time

Been nearly a week since I last wrote down to write– how fast the time flies! In fact, the combination of ample work and cruddy weather has mostly kept me inside for the past six days.  Lots of rain, some sleet, and an ever so tiny bit of snow.  Central Virginia sits right on that line between North and South, so when big winter storms pass through the area, and Pennsylvania, MD, and even northern Virginia get plastered with snow and ice, we seem to get lots of what we’ve taken to calling “Oobleck,” a cold messy something that’s not quite rain, snow, or ice, but a bit of each.

This morning was sunny and warm, our first really pleasant day in what seems like weeks, so of course I took a little walk.  My path at first took me through the Morningstar orchard, where this year’s firewood is sitting in piles, waiting to be split. Image

Looking back up across the orchard, look at that blue sky!Image

Although the temps have been a bit warmer, we’re still getting frost most every night, so I didn’t expect to find many oysters.  I did encounter a few, most of which had been destroyed by frost, but one small fruiting looked nice.Image

I don’t know if the turkey tail mushrooms are more colorful this time of year, or whether I notice them more because there’s so much less color and distraction.  These certainly seemed to be thriving.  I think they don’t mind the frost so much, and like all the moisture we’ve been having.Image

You know how good that first sunny day after a week (or more) of grey skies feels?  That’s how this morning felt.Image

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Passing through the field and past the graveyard, dropping down to “STP creek,” which was running less vigorously than I would imagine, given all the recent wet.  I think that these little creeks go up pretty fast when it rains, then drop back down pretty fast afterwards.  I thought the reflections in the water were pretty. Image

Oak roots, holding it all together.Image

Shelf mushrooms on a downed branch, angled just right to catch the sun.  They really were glowing like this.Image

Passing through a relatively unfamiliar bit of woods, I came across the graveyard of old Maypoles, discarded in a pile when they could no longer support peoples’ weight.  As with everything that gets dumped into the woods, the polypro ropes are slowly being reclaimed by nature.Image

This close to the solstice, the shadows are long even close to noon, and on a sunny day like today, the light on anything south-facing is always dramatic.Image

I especially liked the way this lone arcing sycamore was all lit up.Image

Twin Oaks’ premier sledding hill.  I was hoping we’d get to do some sledding (we’ve had snow in the forecast three times already this month), but we haven’t even come close.Image

Heading back down across the pond outlet, still enjoying being out on a sunny day.Image

The bamboo is still bent over from the weight of all that ice, but a few days like today should perk it up.  Big pine tree looked especially majestic today.Image

And for what seems like the first time this month, we’re getting some power out of this guy.Image

(for comparison’s sake, this is what it looked like a week ago)

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December 7 – the calm before the storm

For the past few days, there have been lots of warnings about the “Icepocalypse” that was coming for us late Saturday night.  The handful of days immediately preceding the wintry disaster, however, couldn’t have been more different.  The past week, after all that unseasonably frosty weather at the end of November and early December, has been an 180 degree turn into a spell of unusually warm moist days, lasting all the way through until Saturday the 7th.

For most of this past week, I’ve been busy with work/family obligations; plus, quite frankly, I’ve been having a harder  time discovering new and novel images or manifestations of the season.  We’re in the home stretch of the year, and for the most part, the natural world has shut down for the winter.  There hasn’t been much new vegetative or fungal growth, but it hasn’t been cold enough for snow or ice, just a gradual shutting down and withering away of all of the growth that has accumulated throughout the year.  Like these withered figs, killed by frost before they had a chance to ripen and be eaten.Image

Although the past week has been a little damp, Friday morning was the big storm day.  Although it only rained for a couple of hours, it was quite the torrential storm, with thunder and lightning as though we were back in the summer.  The next day, many spots in the garden had standing water.Image

All in all, Saturday was pretty pleasant, cold but not oppressively so, a good day to get outside sandwiched between two days of wet and/or icy storm.  Took this photo on Saturday afternoon while I made my way down to the weekly ultimate frisbee game.Image

I had a few minutes to spare before the game started, so I took a quick walk through the woods near the river, to see what effect a few days of abundant rain and above-freezing temperatures had made.Image

I saw a few oysters, the first I’d seen in over a month.  These little guys probably won’t grow all that big before they get killed by the upcoming ice storm.Image

And a big downed tree covered with puffballs, riddled with stringy puffball mycelium.Image

Like the garden, the forest down by the river had a lot of standing water from Friday’s storm.Image

The South Anna River itself was running fairly high, but well below flood stage.  The forecast is for several days of rain/ice/snow/mix, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if we got some flooding between now and Wednesday.Image

Saturday’s frisbee game was the first we’ve played on the upper field, our “winter lot.”  Our normal frisbee field is a patch of flat down at the bottom of a hollow, with a creek along one side.  This makes it pretty good in hot, dry weather, as it stays moist and green even when we haven’t had much rain.  It’s also nice that when we’re playing in late afternoon and evening, there’s plenty of shade.  But during the winter months, the lower field never fully dries out, and if we play on the field when its cold and wet, it’s easy to strip away all the grass, leaving a horrible mud pit.  So from December through March, we play on the field up at the top of the hill, which is much better suited to winter activity.  It’s also much more open and (to me, at least) more scenic, with a row of large trees along the north side and a nice view of the community to the south.Image

On this afternoon, we played on into the afternoon until the sun started to go down.  At this time of year, so close to the winter solstice, the sun begins to set around 5 in the afternoon.  This photo, one of our largest oak trees holding onto just a last few dried up leaves, was taken about 15 minutes before the sun began to set.Image

I wound up skipping the post-frisbee sauna this afternoon, but took this “late afternoon in late fall” shot as I headed home.Image

Looking off to the southwest, where most of our storms come from.  The forecast is for an “icepocalypse,” which is predicted to shut down roads, cause power outages, and generally make life miserable for the next few days.  I’ll keep you posted (depending on the durability of our power and internet).Image

November 29 – chilly Thanksgiving

It’s Friday morning now, and I’ve got a bit of time to catch up on the past few days.  It’s been chilly and wet all right; it might be that we’re just getting a week-long cold snap, but right now it’s definitely feeling like winter’s come early this year.

Rained Tuesday during tofu delivery.  Tuesday afternoon and evening was more of the same, mostly rain mixed in with some slushy snow/sleety stuff.  By Wednesday morning, it had dropped back down to persistent drizzle, but the ground (and everything outside, really) was fully soaked.  By the afternoon, the temperatures were enough above freezing that I made a quick trip to town for some wine and pre-thanksgiving treats.  Along the way, I shot this picture of the South Anna River, where it goes over the dam.  The low-lying fields near the river were covered with a shallow layer of standing water, and the dam was no more than a ripple beneath the swollen river.

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When I was in town, we got a few minutes of real snow, big puffy white flakes blowing through the air, but the ground was too warm and wet for any accumulation.

Back at the Oax, I took these photos of our garden, where little is still growing except nearly indestructible kale and white ground cover cloth, which can give some of our cold-hardy crops just a few degrees of extra warmth.  Although it looked like the sun was about to set, it actually wasn’t any later than 2 in the afternoon– it was just that kind of a day.  Image

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late November in Virginia– bare branches against a colorless sky.

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Arriving home, I was pleased to see that someone had been stoking the fire.  It’s unusual this time of year to keep a fire going all through the day and night, but it’s been necessary this year.  Looking at this website for Charlottesville, it says that the average temperatures for this time of year are about 57 high and 37 low.  Since last Sunday, we’ve been averaging about 40 degrees high, getting down into the high teens every night.

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Thursday–Thanksgiving day–was no warmer, but at least the sun was shining.  Mostly I was too busy with the holiday to do much observatin’, but I took this one photo of the trees just out in front of my house in the late afternoon, just to have some sort of reminder of the kind of day it was.

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Last night was another cold one, and when went downstairs in the AM, the entire back yard was covered in frost.  The way the morning light caught the frozen ground made it twinkle in a lovely manner, but I was unable to capture that particular effect in a photo.

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With a bit of spare time, I went out for a quick morning walk, to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.  I actually really enjoy walking outside on mornings like this one, the sun bright in the sky and air cold enough to tromp around in a sweater and long undies and not get overheated.  Now that the leaves have all fallen, I am back to enjoying the smooth graceful trunk curves of the big de-foliated beech trees around the property.

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A few weeks back, I discovered a spot in the woods where an oak had fallen and splintered into many chunks.  Each of the pieces was alive with oyster mycelium, and it seemed like as soon as we got decent conditions, there would be a big flush of oyster mushrooms.  I was curious whether all the recent rain had brought any out, or whether it had been too cold.  As it turned out, there was a bit of both.  There were lots of shriveled frozen mushrooms, looking like they had tried to grow in the wet conditions, but the daily hard frosts have just been too much for them. Image

Despite the cold, the field up by the cemetery remains bright green.  In fact, if I remember right from the early days of this journal, it stays pretty much that color all winter long.Image

A couple of weeks ago, the oldest member of Twin Oaks community died during the night.  It was at once sad in that “someone we know and love has died” kind of way, and a relief in that “she had lived a long and full life and died swiftly without suffering” kind of way.  I had to work during her funeral, so this was the first time I had seen her grave up at the cemetery.  The ground all around the grave had been disturbed, and there was a lot of this effect, where slender pillars of ice push tiny clods of dirt an inch or so out of the ground.  I first noticed this phenomenon years ago while walking the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and it never fails to impress me.  I don’t really understand it (something about water expanding as it freezes), or understand why it happens in some places but not others, but it sure is cool looking.  Image

A close-up of the tiny ice pillars

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Walking on home, through the late November forest, long shadows pointing north despite the fact that it’s past 10:30 in the morning.  We’re only a few weeks away from Winter Solstice, and you can definitely see that the sun isn’t getting all that high in the sky, even at noon.

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And finally, returning to my back yard, where the ground remained frost-covered wherever it was still in the shade.  It would be cool to do a time-lapse photo of the frost retreating as the sun climbs higher in the sky throughout the morning.

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November 15 – a Maine event, pt. 2

My second full day in Maine, another sunny warm pleasant one.  In the afternoon, I went on a little drive to visit a friend who lives back in the woods between West Athens and Solon.  Compared to central Virginia, this part of Maine is far more sparsely populated, more dirt roads, more distance between homesteads.  The road coming out of West Athens has several old farmhouses, some of which are still working family farms.

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The friend I was visiting makes his living as a wood cutter.  His mile-long driveway passes through many acres of forest land that he has been actively managing for several decades. Image

Lots of places where the forest has been partially cleared, leaving behind the most healthy, straight, and valuable timber for future cuttings.  It’s cool to see how a forest that has been managed for long-term economic returns can also be attractive and look ecologically healthy.  All of the bare white birch in the sunlight is also quite pretty.Image

Lots of tall, straight white pine that he cuts one at a time and mills right on the spot to use as needed.

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When I was a kid, my father made a living as a central Maine landscape painter.  Many of his paintings were of the bare trees and gray skies of late fall and winter.  This shot reminds me of many of his paintings that I’ve seen over the years.

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This long, low, moss-covered boulder looked like some sort of enormous green grazing mammal in the woods.Image

One of my favorite trees that grows in Maine but not in Virginia is the larch, known around here as the Tamarack tree.  It’s a coniferous tree whose needles turn orange and drop off right around the time the deciduous trees lose their leaves.  On this bit of the driveway, the needles of the larch cover the ground like orange snow.

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It’s kind of strange to think that the last time I was in Maine, in the summer of 2012, it was before I had started learning to identify mushrooms.  I’ve often wondered how many times I walked right by oysters or other tasty edibles without recognizing them.  I spotted these oysters growing on a tree a couple hundred yards off of the road.  Unfortunately it was a bit too old and frost-damaged to be worth eating, but it’s interesting to see that they are growing in Maine at this season.

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I took a slightly roundabout route home, that took me through a few more miles of central Maine forest land.  Lots of acres of trees out in this part of the world, and lots of acres of clearcuts.  The clearcuts are pretty ecologically awful, but they do make for some nice views.

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Far off to the northwest, it’s possible to see the long high ridgeline of Bigelow Mountain, the third-tallest mountain in Maine, second second only to Katahdin in bulk.  Bigelow is more of a mini-range than a single mountain– the Appalachian trail traverses its two highest peaks, and there’s a very remote shelter in the saddle between the two where I once spent a chilly damp night many years ago.  Image

Looking north to what I believe is Moxie Bald Mountain, another peak crossed by the AT.

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Another view, from a different clearcut.  This is definitely Moxie Bald.

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South of West Athens, you see a mix of forest land and farms, lots of hayfields, corn fields, small dairy farms.  In this part of Maine, Athens seems to be the northern limit of farm country.  The homesteads in the ragged forest country north of West Athens definitely have a different character.  Many of the buildings are sporting camps, occupied just for a few weeks during the summer or during hunting season (which is actually going on right now).  The few year-round settlements along the road are fairly hardscrabble affairs, a level of material poverty that I rarely see outside of central Maine.Image

I imagine that this stretch of hardwoods must have been really spectacular a few weeks ago.  Even without their leaves, this line of bare trees is quite beautiful.Image

Although it hasn’t felt uncomfortably cold while I’ve been here, it has been chilly enough that this woods pond, shaded on its south side by a row of pines, remained frozen even on this mild day.Image

An active logging operation.  If you spend any length of time in the Maine woods, you will come across several of these.   When I was younger, it always really bothered me to see all of the ecological and aesthetic impact of the logging.  I guess I still don’t like to see such devastation in the forest, but I’ve got more of an appreciation of the needs of the folks here to make a living, and the needs of everyone for the wood and paper products that come out of these forests.  I still hate to see the big clearcuts, which stink of quick-buck greed and short-sighted mismanagement, but it’s a lot easier to accept selective cutting and smaller-scale operations like this one.

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There are lots of big power line cuts in this part of the state.  When I was a kid, I used to go for long walks along the power lines.  I probably absorbed a lot of herbicides and electromagnetic radiation in the process.

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The time for wildflowers is long past, but the meadows and clearings are full of old brown milkweed.  Their pods split open months ago, and as the plants dry out they release their cottony seeds into the wind.  The white seed clusters look almost like enormous dandelion heads.

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as the sun dropped out of the sky, around 4 in the afternoon, a nearly full moon rose in the east.  Moonrise is one of the trickiest things to photograph without a fancy camera, so this photo gives a poor impression of this dramatic woodland scene.

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Just north of my house, there are several low boggy spots in the forest like this.  They always seem like perfect locations to spot moose, and I have indeed seen several in this spot over the years; a few years back I narrowly avoided one that leapt out onto the road as I was driving past.  No moose this afternoon.

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Driving directly east as the road climbs a hill right up into the moon.

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As I approached my home, I saw tendrils of smoke curling through the trees.  For a moment, I had a wild thought that our old farmhouse had caught fire, but soon discovered it was just thick smoke from a neighbor’s chimney, a true sign of the season ’round here.

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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