Tag Archives: Reishi

October 10 – after the rain

Talk about dramatic change in just a short bit of time.  It’s a whole different season than it was just four days ago!  As recently as last Sunday, we were sweating our way through mid-summer temperatures, and the ground was parched from 6+ weeks without proper rain.  Then we had some rain on Monday, and the temperatures dropped.  Then we had more rain on Tuesday night and the temperatures dropped some more.  Then we had another storm on Wednesday night, and by this morning it was suddenly downright chilly!  Although there’s no frost in the forecast, it suddenly doesn’t seem totally out of the question that it could happen soon.

This pic is from Tuesday morning, as I was heading into C’ville for tofu delivery. It appears to be a flock of wild turkeys hanging out in one of our cow fields.Image

And this next group of photos is from Tuesday afternoon.  On this pleasant cool fall day, I walked up from the courtyard past the pond and graveyard, to see how things were looking after one day of rain.  There was a pink/purple aster-looking wildflower growing in great abundance all around the edge of the pond. Image

here’s a close-up of that particular wildflower.Image

There’s also a white aster that I’ve been seeing all over the place this month, growing in thick masses all along the sides of the road. Image

Another wildflower down by the edge of the pond, with a puffy seed head like a dandelion, but the structure of the plant itself looks nothing like a dandelion.Image

here’s a close-up.Image

I was wondering if Monday night’s rain would be enough to push up some mushrooms, but I think that the ground was just so incredibly dry that it just absorbed that first inch of rain like a sponge.  The only mushrooms I saw on. this walk were big old ones that had managed to somehow grow during the hot dry weather, like this massive amanitaImage

So, that was Tuesday.  As I mentioned before, last night (Wednesday night), we had a full night of steady, soaking rain.  This morning it finally felt like the drought was broken.  Oddly enough, the vegetation seemed somehow less colorful than it was a few days ago.  Here’s my theory– since it had been so dry, many of the trees and shrubs were just giving up and starting to lose their vegetation.  When we had all that rain and wind on Monday afternoon, it blew all of the dead leaves to the ground, leaving behind the live green ones.  So, interestingly, there seem to be less colorful leaves on the trees than there was five days ago.

Today, I had loads of indexing work to do, but I allowed myself an hour in the early afternoon to walk in the woods.  It was, for me, a pretty perfect day, cool and wet.  The forest smelled wonderful, and it was a delightful break from indexing to tromp around in the wet forest.

Early on, I checked at a stump where I frequently find oyster mushrooms and saw a tiny patch of baby oysters being consumed by a grey slug.Image

in general, I was able to find a decent number of mushrooms, although still not as many as I would have expected at this time of year.  I think that all of the mycelial growth had become so dried out that it’s taking a few days for it to absorb the newly abundant moisture and start to push out mushrooms.  I did see a fair amount, however, including this freshly-sprouted fawn mushroom, shiny from recent rain.Image

…and this large vase-shaped one, which I think is some sort of milk cap.Image

Here’s a general shot of the forest, all wet and green and lovely.Image

deep in the woods, some Reishi, which I harvested in order to start another batch of tincture.Image

In Gainesville, Florida, where I grew up, the oak trees were covered with “resurrection ferns,” which would go all brown and dry and dead looking between rains, then would perk up and turn bright green when it rained.  The ferns here aren’t nearly as dramatic, but they were looking pretty dead just a few days back; of all the plants, they seem to have perked up the most this week. Image

large dead trunk deep in the woods, absolutely covered with little puffy shelf fungi.  They are all so fresh and soft and new looking– I imagine they must have just started growing here in the past 3 days.  Image

another couple of photos of these cool-looking mushrooms.



I wasn’t finding many edible mushrooms on this walk, but just as I was starting to turn back, I came across this ‘bearded tooth’ specimen, which is quite tasty.  Image

and, my final fungal find of the afternoon, this extraordinary patch of jack-o-lantern mushrooms.  I’ve been encountering some truly spectacular flushes of these guys, which despite being terribly poisonous, are really amazing-looking.Image

It’s a shame you can’t eat them, because they look so good, and there are so many of them, and they’re in such good shape.  But woe be to the person who tries one.  One blog post about bio-luminescence (which is actually an interesting read) describes it thusly: ” The effects are of the typical bad shroom variety; vomiting, stomach cramps, and explosive diarrhea until you wish for death. However, since the toxin in this species (illudin) is non-lethal, you’ll have to suffer through it for a few days. Lucky you.”Image


September 20 – Friday dry day

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.Image

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.Image

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.Image

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.Image

Friday morning, as I was letting the chickens out into their pasture, I took this photo of our lower fields and pastures, retaining the look of summer despite the chill in the air.Image

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.Image

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.Image

Close-up of goldenrod, quite pretty when you look closer.Image

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.Image

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.Image

This one wasn’t too big from side to side, but it was nice and thick.  It went into the basket as well.Image

When I got home after about half an hour of looking, here’s what I had gathered.  Enough to start my tincture, I suppose.Image

With a sharp cleaver, I cut them into bits, and put them in a jar with the filtered vodka.  I liked the way the chopped-up bits of mushrooms looked, so I took a picture.Image

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.

August 28 – wet woods walk

More rain overnight, more rain in the morning, and when I went out to take a walk in the drizzly wet woods in the late morning, the forest looked like this:Image

Mushrooms, mushrooms, everywhere!  Every size, shape, and color.  It would be impossible to try to photograph or identify them all, here are a few of the noteworthy ones:

I saw these early on in the walk, three Reishi mushrooms sprouting from the same log.  I’ve been seeing a lot of them, and think I want to start making tinctures from ’em.Image

I’m not sure what these are, but they were by far the most numerous out there.  They were sprouting from beneath the fallen leaves by the dozens, all over the forest.  When I look through my various guidebooks, I’m overwhelmed by the number of Russulas, Milkcaps, and Clitocybes.  The all look kind of the same, and several of them look kind of like the ones growing here.  I definitely found myself longing for the company of a true mushroom ID expert, someone who could help me put a name to the incredible variety of mushrooms around me.Image

Another photo of a random bit of the forest floor, showing the density of mushrooms that have come up over the past 24 hours or so.Image

Here’s an interesting one, shiny, slimy, and deep purple.  Image

And here’s the bottom of the same one.  I’m guessing it’s a Viscid Violet Cort, which is technically edible, I guess, but I wasn’t too tempted.  It was a pretty awesome looking fungus, however.ImageLots of puffballs as well, in all sizes and shapes.  Here are a few that I found growing on a dead tree, just the smallest fraction of the hundreds that I saw this morning.Image

Now here’s an ugly mushroom, some sort of warty white amanita, just about as ugly as a mushroom can be.Image

And a pretty one, some sort of purple russula, I think.  Another possibly edible species that I most likely won’t be experimenting with.  Kind of crazy the way the profusion of species at this time of year completely overwhelms my ability to identify them.Image

And here are just a couple pictures of the forest, all green and damp and pretty on a cool drizzly late August morning.Image

By the time I crossed back over the creek to walk out of the woods, the drizzle had increased to a steady light rain, and the low areas (like the creekbed) were starting to fill with fog.Image

I just wanted to make a quick mention of these flowers, which I’ve just started noticing all around the farm in the past few days.  I’m not sure what they are, but I really like the way they look. Image

For the remainder of the month, I’ll be travelling.  Starting this evening, I’ll be spending a few days driving to Louisville, then staying with friends in Kentucky for the weekend, then driving home along with my family.   I intend to do some camping and hiking, and post updates from the road, which should be interesting.

June 30 – riverwalk? maybe not

We hadn’t had a rainstorm since Wednesday afternoon– four days without rain!  By the standards of this year, it’s been a regular drought!  I haven’t been down to the river in quite a while, and thought I might spend some time this morning exploring the woods alongside the South Anna.  I biked, then walked down to the river field under heavy leaden skies.  As you can see, despite the recent dry spell, the grass and trees are still pretty intensely green.Image

Along the edge of the field, there were loads and loads of these weird coral fungus.  I must have seen several dozen little flushes like these.Image

When I got to the river, I was a little surprised at how far down it had gone, after just a few days without rain.  In fact, it looked like a depressing muddy ditch, and I didn’t even take a photo (now that I’m sitting in my room hours later, I kind of wish I had).  I followed the path alongside the river for a while, but it soon petered out into a mass of poison ivy.  The forest near the river was dense and overgrown, the ground still moist and swampy.  It was humid and without breeze, and the mosquitoes were fierce.   This photo, blurry as it is, conveys a good sense of what it was like in that part of the forest this morning.Image

I didn’t find many edible mushrooms down there, but did find this one bolete, in reasonably good shape.  If you look close, you can see it hiding under the stump.Image

I saw loads of the usual ‘shrooms, wood clitocybes, russulas, and the like,including a vast number of the unappealing “hairy rubber cup.”  If this was a choice edible, I could find bags of ’em!Image

I encountered swampy areas that had been flowing streams during all the recent rains, but the water level had receded, leaving red-stained muddy pools here and there.Image

I spent twenty minutes or so wandering through the thicket, dodging poison ivy and swatting bugs, before deciding that I was actually not enjoying nature at the moment, and heading upslope in search of some more pleasant woods to walk around in.  Further from the river, the forest opened up a bit, making for more enjoyable walking, and the bugs were a bit less ravenous.  The spot in the photo below was particularly nice, a ferny pathway marking the route of a long-abandoned logging trail.Image

Thinking about Amanitas.  For the most part, I tend to see these common mushrooms (common family of mushrooms, in fact), and think meh, and just walk on.  For the most part, they’re poisonous, sometimes deadly so, and I think that sometimes I get a bit resentful that they’re so plentiful, and tend to last so long, while the tasty ones are harder to find, and get eaten by bugs so quickly.  Having said that, some of them, like this enormous yellow specimen, are quite impressive, and like the hairy rubber cup, are noteworthy for just how common they are these days.Image

In the hollow created when a large tree toppled over, there’s a whole mess of wet mud.  Looking closely at the mud (not sure if it really comes out in this photo), you can see flecks of what look like gold.  I’m pretty sure it’s some sort of “fools gold,” pyrite or maybe flecks of quartz.  There was a fair amount of gold mining in this area 100-200 years ago, and I know some people found some gold, but not much.   Sometimes, when I see all the gold flecks in the mud, I fantasize that it’s real gold, and about the irony of Twin Oaks is sitting on top of millions and millions of dollars of the stuff while we work ourselves ragged with low-return businesses.Image

Another Russula.  Normally, I’m not too excited about these exceedingly common, mostly inedible mushrooms, but I really liked the way this one was pushing through the leaves, as though it was in the process of being born (which I suppose in a way it is).Image

Heading back to the top of the hill, I stopped by several of the stumps where I harvested Reishi back in the winter, to check on the new growth of this year’s crop.  They are such beautiful and fascinating mushrooms, and now that I know what I’m looking for, they’re actually quite common around here.Image

Here are a couple of new ones growing next to an old one which I found earlier this year but didn’t pick because it was in such bad shape.Image

By the time I got back to my bike, it had begun to drizzle, and the drizzle had turned into a hard rain, which lasted the remainder of the afternoon, off and on.  So much for our drought!Image

At this point, I was standing under a tree thinking “how the hell am I going to get back home without getting soaked?” (Answer: I got soaked).Image

Finally, I want to make a quick mention of a very common wildflower that I’ve been seeing all over the place the past couple of weeks.  This one is blue, and doesn’t seem to have many leaves, and I’ve been seeing tons of it along roadsides around Twin Oaks and on the way in and out of Charlottesville.Image

I think it’s a chicory flower, and here’s a pretty picture of a rain-soaked blossom.Image

Mar 29- back in the woods

Got back out in the woods today, for the first time since returning from California.  Initially, it was something of a letdown being back in Virginia, after the vernal extravagance of the Bay Area– I guess I’m still feeling a bit underwhelmed with early spring in Virginia.   While I was away for a week basking in Pacific sunshine, the weather here remained persistently cool and gloomy, with a heavy weekend snowfall that still remained in isolated pockets when I got home.  Despite the fact that it was still technically winter when I left, and now it’s “officially” springtime, things ’round here don’t look a whole lot different than they did a week ago.

Spent an hour this afternoon walking in the woods, exploring more or less at random.  Noticed a few things– the leaves of the forest trees and shrubs remain steadfastly closed, with very little greenery in the form of opening leaf buds.  This small, relatively abundant plant was the one exception. Image

I came across several places where dead trees had been ripped apart, by some sort of mammal or bird.  I hear woodpeckers all the time in the forest; it’s less common to come across spots where they’ve been hard at work. Image


This tree bore some heavy-duty slash marks.  It doesn’t look like it was made by people, and it was in a part of the woods where the forestry crew doesn’t operate.  I’ve never seen bears around here, but others have, and this looks like the kind of marks they leave on trees.Image

In another part of the woods, I came across this scene, where an oak tree, in the process of being blown over in a storm, made a direct hit on the top of a beech tree, and snapped it in two.  It’s pretty awesome imagining the violence of that exact moment, the sound it must have made.Image

Further along, I came across another one of these bizzare spongy black fungi, all dried out.  My curiosity got the better of me, and I did some internet research.  It’s a sooty mold (Scorias spongiosa)  which grows on aphid droppings– fascinating stuff!  Check out http://uconnladybug.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/black-masses-on-beech-trees/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorias_spongiosa

Indeed I have learned something new today.Image

In another part of the woods, I came across this long, low, moss-covered mound, in an area relatively clear of trees– not quite a clearing, but a spot where the forest gets thin.  It looked like a weird grave or something, maybe like something had been done deliberately and intentionally by someone in the past.  An odd spot in the woods, and I was surprised that I had never come across it previously.Image

Before heading home, I walked over to check out a stump that was covered with interesting green-tinged turkey tail mushrooms.  At its base, I found a number of dried up old Reishis, one large one and a number of smaller individuals, one of which was home to an impressively large larva.Image



I harvested the largest of the Reishi, and examined it closely as I carried it home.  In so many places in nature, one can spot patterns that look like writing or drawing, some type of incomprehensible language or perfect abstract art.  The more one looks for this sort of thing, the more one sees it, sometimes in the broken-off stem of a Reishi, sometimes in the pattern of decay on its underside.Image


Feb 17- Reishi, all right

Sunny and cold today, midday temperatures not much above freezing, chilly wind making it feel even colder. Yesterday, I tried doing some research on Reishi life cycles. Some polypores grow for years, adding growth rings like trees, and I hadn’t wanted to harvest the ones I found until I learned more about them. Not surprisingly, it is easy to find a lot of information on the mushroom’s alleged health benefits (which include everything from laxative and sleep aid to cure for cancer and chronic bronchitis– http://www.naturalnews.com/021498_reishi_mushrooms.html is a particularly enthusiastic article), and difficult to find information about the life cycles of wild-growing individuals. From what I could figure out, the mushrooms are annuals, putting out new ones each year, and the individuals I found yesterday were at the end of their life cycles, having already performed their spory duties. So I rode back out to harvest a few.

Two nice red ones.  The nicer-looking one on the right turned out to be all rotted out and hollow, so I had to discard it. Image

This one was too old and broken-down to be worth harvesting, but it sure was pretty!Image

I found this one already broken off at the stem, and sitting upside-down on the ground.  When I brushed it off,  it retained some of the varnished look of younger mushrooms, and the ‘top’ was covered in white mycelium.  It turned out to be the best preserved of all the Reishi I found.Image

In the end, I harvested three of them.  Here they are at home, all washed off.  Lovely-looking mushrooms!Image

I cut some up for tea right away, then cut up the rest to freeze for later use.  This one (lower right in the photo above) was in markedly better shape than the others, as this cross-section shows.  Looks chock full of health benefit…Image

I gave these another rinse to get rid of dirt, crumbly bits, and worms.  Then I’ll leave them outside to dry for a little while, then freeze them for an ongoing supply of health tea!Image


And after 2 hours of boiling and some more steeping, I had four cups of Reishi tea, ready to drink (it’s frothy because I put some honey in it and shook it all up).  It’s pretty bitter, not all that pleasant to drink, but I’m sure it will put me on the path to infinite health and whatnot.