Tag Archives: wildflowers

September 27 – suspended season

October second today, and once again it’s been a week or so since been able to sit down and write.  All of the photos I have now are from before September 27th, although not much has changed since then.

Late September is something of an odd ‘suspended season,’ still too warm and green to feel like fall, but certainly no longer feeling like summer.  The days quite a lot shorter than they have been, and getting noticeably shorter every day, losing light almost immediately after dinner.  And, more than anything, it’s been dry.  Aside from a day of light rain on the equinox, the month of September has been almost entirely rain-free, and you really are beginning to see and feel it everywhere, the grass beginning to parch and the leaves beginning to prematurely brown without even changing colors.  The past few days have almost felt like October in California, sunny dry and dusty.

This picture is from last Friday afternoon, the 27th.  On that day, I took a walk in the woods with my 4-year old son, who is just beginning to ride a bicycle and is very excited about it.   From this picture you can see that the leaves in the forest are still mostly green, although there is a definite yellow tint.Image

Late September isn’t much of a time for wildflowers in the woods, and I’m certainly not seeing many.  There is one notable exception, this bizzare red and pink specimen, which I’ve been watching for the past few weeks.  Just recently, they began to split open, and they sure are odd!Image

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Just another picture of Sami riding on one of our woods roads, through a grove of chestnut oaks.Image

As you might guess, the fungal life has been nearly non-existent this month, which I’ve found a bit sad, as I was definitely looking forward to this time of the year when so many species can be found.  On this particular walk, I spotted this lone specimen growing a little ways off the path.  At first, I thought it might be some sort of Bolete that I hadn’t seen before.Image

Then when I turned it over, I discovered that it the underside was covered with tiny fleshy fingers.  Image

It was a Sweet tooth, or hedgehog mushroom, a popular edible that I had been looking forward to finding this year, the first one I’ve found.  I cooked it up the next day, and it was really quite delicious.  Image

I also checked in on the beefsteak polypore that I had found a few days earlier near ZK, and found that it’s been growing as well.  Outside of these couple exceptions, there really hasn’t been much else out there. Image

I’ll sign off with one more photo of the very beginnings of fall color, as of September 27.  At the time I’m writing this (October 2), the foliage has already advanced notably, just in the past 4 days.  This past Tuesday, and again today, I drove into Charlottesville, and noticed that the fall colors have really begun to kick into gear in town, and to a lesser degree in Louisa County.  This seems very unusual to me, being that it’s just the first couple days of October, I wonder if it has to do with the lack of rain over the past 6 weeks.Image

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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.

September 16 – summer’s end

Just a moment ago, I was talking with my partner Mala, discussing how difficult it is to regain momentum on a project once it’s been lost.  It’s been over a week since I’ve sat down to update this journal; some days I feel like I could just call it quits, that maybe I’ve written as much as I have to write.  But I don’t think I’m quite there yet, life is still going on all around, and I think I have to re-commit to seeing this through until the end of the year.

This past week has definitely had an end of summer feel to it.  As recently as last Thursday the weather was as hot and muggy as anything we experienced in mid-summer.  It’s been over a month since we’ve had a good drenching rain, and it’s finally starting to show up in the vegetation, or maybe all the plants are just looking kind of beat because it’s the end of the season.  Here’s a shot that I took just a couple of days ago, you can see that the overall aspect of the trees is still quite green, although it’s more of the muted darker greens of late summer.Image

For the most part, I haven’t been in the woods much.  Partly I can blame it on work; yet another index, blah blah blah.  But I could make time if I really had to.  Mostly, it’s been the heat and dryness that’s dampened some of my enthusiasm for exploring.  I’ve been a bit disappointed that this drought has overlapped with what should be one of the best times of year for finding mushrooms.  For the most part, as I’ve walked around the community, I haven’t seen much new growth, although there certainly has been some here and there.  Like these Grisettes…Image

..or this impressive flush of oysters I found on one of my most reliable logs, in the woods just behind our dining hall.  So there have been a few ok finds, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting a proper soaking and seeing what comes up.Image

This past Thursday, September 12th, was the day the season broke.  It was the last of the really hot dry days, with thunderstorms threatening all afternoon.  Finally, right around dinnertime, we got about 5 minutes of wind and heavy rain, then another 15 minutes of drizzle.  Just enough to dampen the dry ground, but in a matter of minutes the temperature dropped about 20 degrees.  That day felt very much like summer.  Every day since has felt very much like autumn.  Since Thursday night, I’ve been sleeping every night with the window closed, I brought a comforter to the bed, and have been using it!

All summer, some of us had been planning a return visit to the quarry south of C’ville, for some swimming and zip-line adventures.  After a couple of false starts, we finally made it happen last Saturday, just a couple of days after the end of swimming season.  It was a clear sunny day, windy and cool, and wasn’t about to spend the day at that quarry without swimming, although I must admit we had to force things a bit.  The quarry was every bit as lovely as it was earlier in the summer:Image

When I was there earlier, there were dozens of people in and out of the water, and most of the quarry fish were well out of sight.  On this peaceful afternoon, with just a few of us there, the fish were numerous and curious.  Image

I tossed some bits of hamburger bun to the fish, and they went crazy for it!Image

There were several enormous koi carp deep in the pool.  They came close to the surface when I was feeding the fish, but never came all the way up.  It made me think that maybe there might be some even larger ones that just stay way down at the bottom!Image

took a short walk through the woods to the lower quarry, which is even more visually striking, but it was too cool a day to jump in.Image

I was hoping to find some mushrooms, but they were all dried up and shrivelled.  I did come across this very impressive purple wildflower growing right on the edge of the trail.Image

Here’s a closeup of the same flower.  Pretty!Image

And on the way back, I came across several of these mottled red leaves, a sure sign that autumn is right around the corner. Image

Despite the chilly air temperatures, we all took advantage of the zip line–wicked fun!  The water actually wasn’t all that cold, but it was pretty nippy when you stepped out, especially if the wind was blowing.Image

The owner of the quarry is an architect, who is designing a building for a nearby community (which is how we know him).  The wood and glass building at the top of the cliff is his office, or his “un-cubicle” as he calls it.  It’s really the most lovely office you could possibly imagine, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a view out over the quarry.  And if even that is too much indoors, he can take a few steps out of his door to this little sitting area.  Not bad…Image

September 8 – spore printin’

The few days since we got back from Louisville have been as hot and dry as any this year– we were actually having a bit of a late summer heat wave/drought!  We got a decent evening rainstorm last night which should help out, maybe push up a few more mushrooms, but up until then, things were starting to look a bit parched.

On Sunday morning, I went for a mushroom walk with my son Sami.  Our goal was to find as many different kinds as possible–whether they were edible or not– to find ones which were relatively young and in good shape and lay them out on black construction paper to make spore prints.  Since it had been so hot and dry, we weren’t able to find a whole lot of young fresh mushrooms, but here’s what we were able to come up with after 20 minutes of wandering in the woods.Image

Later in the morning, I drove to town to pick up some things for dinner.  All the way to Louisa, the road was lined with countless thousands of these bright yellow wildflowers.  There were so many that in places it looked like continuous stripes of yellow along both sides of the road.Image

Lots and lots of ’em!Image

Back at Twin Oaks, I pulled over to get a closeup of the flowers, to aid in identification.Image

After doing a bit of research, I’m thinking that what we’ve got here is Jerusalem Artichoke, which in addition to being incredibly abundant, apparently also has an edible root.  Maybe I’ll try digging some up this afternoon to try it out.Image

I had been planning on checking out the spore prints in the evening, but at the last second I was given a free pass to a local music festival, so that’s where I went instead.   While I was there, it rained pretty hard at Twin Oaks (although fortunately not at the festival), and I was pleased to come home to find the ground damp and the air filled with sweet fresh post-rainstorm smell.

This morning, I went to check out the prints, only to find that Sami didn’t want to wait, and had taken all the mushrooms off the night before, so they got a bit messed up (nonetheless, I appreciate his 4-year old enthusiasm).  Here’s what the page looked like this morning.Image

And here’s a close-up of one of the better-preserved prints:Image

The previous morning, we had encountered a flush of oysters and decided to leave them to grow overnight rather than pick them when we didn’t have time to cook them.  This morning, I went out to harvest them for breakfast.  Lovely oyster mushrooms!

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On my way, I passed the polypores growing out of the stump.  I had suspected that they might be beefsteak polypores, and as they have grown, it indeed appears that’s what they are. Image

I harvested the smaller one on the right, and peeled off the slimy skin on the underneath, revealing this cool shell-like pattern.  This specimen was young, fresh, and quite good even without being cooked.  Altogether it made a tasty addition to a lovely breakfast of toast, fried oyster mushrooms, and a big orange tomato plucked from a plant right outside our back door!Image

August 29 – on the road

This will probably be a long post, but it’s been a long day, so here goes…

Last night, I left Twin Oaks right around 6, with the idea that I’d cover some ground and wake up in the mountains, rather then spending the first morning driving out of central Virginia.  So I drove into the night, and wound up in the George Washington National Forest, near Covington VA.  I found some out of the way spot, in a pull-off off of an old logging road, where it was flat and dark and quiet.  It rained overnight, but as I was sleeping in the back of the car, it didn’t much matter.

In the morning, I finally got a look at my ‘inspiring’ campsite.  Oh well, it did the trick.

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I took a slightly meandering route through the National Forest back to the highway, which was a bit more scenic.Image

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Now this is a sight that I haven’t seen yet this year.  I mean, ever since early July, I’ve seen a red or yellow leaf here and there, on a tree or on the ground.  But this is the first time I’ve seen an entire tree (or part of a tree I guess) lit up with autumn colors.  I guess fall comes early to this part of the mountains!Image

As I was leaving the National Forest, I came across this sublime view of early morning sun, and distant clouds and rain.  I had to stop for a bit to appreciate it.Image

The landscape in this part of Virginia reminded me a bit of northern California, with green fields in the valleys, and thickly forested hills with mist rising off of them.  A really beautiful morning!Image

Kind of randomly, I came across the “Humpback Bridge wayside,” a little park with a covered bridge (in Virginia?!), a clear mountain stream, and this awesome ‘LOVE’ sculpture.Image

Standing in the creek– off to the right, it actually gets kind of deep, but it was still early in the morning, quite cool, and I didn’t want to be wet for the rest of the day, so I satisfied myself with a ‘splash bath,’ rather than a full dip.

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Just before passing into West VA, I came across a sign for the Allagheny Trail, a 300 mile western alternative to the AT through Virginia and West Virginia.  I’d heard of this trail, but never seen it; it has always been appealing to me (in my opinion, the AT is situated too far to the east), so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to walk a little ways up it.  As I was approaching the trailhead, I came across a family of wild turkey, which ran into the woods as I got near.

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pretty jewelweed flowers right at the trailhead sign.  These plants are so common that it’s easy to overlook just how gorgeous their flowers are.Image

This spectacular purple and white wildflower was growing just s few steps down the trail, many flowers growing on each spike.Image

I only managed to get a few hundred yards down the trail, with rumbling thunder and intermittent light rain keeping me close to the car.  The woods in this area are, unsurprisingly, full of a wide variety of mushrooms, some familiar and other species that I don’t see in Louisa County.  Like this cracked-cap bolete, which I’ve read about, but this was the first one I’ve ever seen myself.  It’s not a choice edible, but it sure is a pretty mushroom.

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here’s another one

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These tiny purple mushrooms were spread all across the forest floor like little amethysts scattered on the ground.Image

Eventually, I made my way into West Virginia, eschewing the monotony of I-64 in favor of local roads.  A little ways down, I stretched my legs at a little roadside park, which had the most spectacularly moss-covered picnic shelters I’ve ever seen

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The grassy lawn was covered with red leaves recently fallen from the tree.  How can this be happening in August?!?

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My next stop was the New River Gorge, where I somehow managed to entirely miss the visitor center, and instead found myself driving on this narrow one-way road all the way down down down into the gorge.  It was quite a pretty road, and a relief to know that I wouldn’t be running into any traffic driving back up the other way!Image

The road bottomed out at a one-lane bridge with a wooden surface that crossed close to the level of the river.  It was a good vantage point to look up at the modern highway bridge passing nearly 800 feet overhead.

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From there, it was a short distance to the public river access, with a boat launch and a gravel ‘beach.’  By this point, it was a little bit after noon, and a perfect time and place for a midday swim!

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I saw this old guy fishing from the rocks, and assumed that there was a path to where he was.  Then, as I watched, I realized that the only way to get out there was to climb on the rocks.  West Virginia geezers are hardcore!

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A short distance further, I pulled over at a trailhead forto get out of the car and do a spot of hiking.  The first bit of the trail took me through this awesome rhododendron jungleImage

and crossed over the creek just below this little waterfall, framed with enormous moss-covered boulders.Image

The next section of trail followed an old railroad grade up to an abandoned coal mine.  This clear, cold waterfall plunging into a concrete trough was a scenic high point of the trail (and another opportunity to cool off)

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The day had become pretty hot and humid by this point, and the dense green vegetation felt tropical to me.  The occasional views across the gorge of thick green forest helped maintain the feeling of hiking through the jungle…

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…as did coming across this leaf dropped across the trail, one of the largest leaves I’ve ever seen!  Photographed with my foot to show just how big it was.Image

The trail passed several old ventilation shafts leading into the abandoned coal mine.  They were all blocked off with thick metal grating to stop people from exploring inside.  This one had a crystal-clear stream flowing from the innards of the mountain.  It was hard to get a good picture, this was the best I could do.Image

Standing at the mouth of the mine shafts, you could feel the tunnels ‘breathing’ cool damp air, at least 20 degrees cooler than in the sun.  This shaft, amazingly, had ghostly wisps of water vapor gently floating from its mouth, an ideal place to stop for lunch.

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afterwards, I continued up the trail, steeply up to what I thought would be more abandoned ‘ruins,’ but was actually a trailhead at the edge of a modern, very much occupied, town.  Along the edge of the road, an overhanging apple tree had dropped dozens of apples, some of which were actually quite sweet and tasty.Image

Rather than retrace my steps, I was able to figure out a way to continue on and loop back to the car, although it meant several more miles of hiking.  Going forward, the trail wound through woods whose fungal abundance made up for its lack of views.  Once again, I was surrounded by an unbelievable bounty of mushrooms, both familiar and unfamiliar.  The oddest thing I saw along the trail was this weird orange mass– I’m not even sure if it’s animal, vegetable, or fungal in origin– I don’t know what the hell it was, and I certainly didn’t want to touch it!Image

Just a photo showing off some of the amazing colors of mushrooms in the woods these days.  To the right, an inedible “Peck’s milky,”  and to the right, some sort of bright yellow bolete.Image

don’t know what these are, probably something horribly toxic, but I just thought they were quite pretty.Image

The entire loop was probably six or seven miles, and by the time I got back to the car, I was all muddy and sweaty.  Fortunately, I was parked right next to a stream with this delightful swimming hole, perfect for one last dip before getting back into the car and actually trying to cover some mileage.

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The remainder of today’s drive started out pleasant enough, driving mile after mile along the northeastern bank of the New River.Image

Further along, I passed these enormous mountains of coal, ready to be loaded onto trains.  I haven’t seen any signs of coal mining on this trip– flattened mountains, strip mines or the like.  Although I know all that environmental devastation is out there, I managed on this trip to pass all the way through West Virginia without seeing much besides farms, forests, cute little towns, and general loveliness.

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Soon afterwards, I was back on the placeless highway, spinning my wheels while the world turned beneath me.  And now I’m in a McDonalds parking lot in eastern Kentucky, grateful that they let you use their wifi without actually having to eat their disgusting food.  Tonight, I’ll find a place to stealth camp in the Daniel Boone national forest, and then I’ll be on my way once more.

August 27 – just another summer day…

A hot and humid late summer day, the sort of afternoon I’m not overfond of,.   I did my normal Tuesday tofu delivery, and arrived home in the early afternoon, taking my accustomed “scenic route” through the community to see what’s changed in the past couple of weeks.

Roma tomatoes in the garden– I’ve been told that this summer, with its dearth of hot sunny days, hasn’t been the greatest year for tomatoes, and already the crop looks to be past its peak. Image

Even the ivy growing over the haybales seems to be on its way out, looking all brown and withered on a hot dry day.Image

As I walked up from the courtyard, I took a bit of a tour through some of our cowfields, thinking about the meadow mushrooms that I had seen in the neighbor’s field the day before.  Had an idea that I might encounter some of them on our own fields, but, alas, they were not to be found this afternoon. Image

I did find a lot of this pretty purple wildflower, which looked vaguely like an aster, but probably isn’t.Image

Here’s a close-up of the flower.  Quite pretty.Image

From the fields, I made my way through the woods near the cemetery, dry leaves crackling underfoot.  I wasn’t running, or even walking especially fast, but before long I found myself drenched with sweat; it was a humid, oppressive day with a steely gray sky, not quite overcast and not quite sunny.  It definitely felt like we could use a good thunderstorm.

Here’s an interesting mushroom I found, which I can’t seem to identify with any of my guidebooks.  The darkish gills rule out an Amanita variety, and it looks like it might be one of the various edible Argarics, but I’m not quite sure.  Here’s what it looks like on top…Image

…and here’s the bottom of the same mushroom.  I’ll just have to do a bit more research, as I’ve found a few of them, and they seem like they might be good edibles.Image

The view from the top of the field.  Although we’re reaching the end of August, and we’ve had a few cool days this month, this particular day definitely looked and felt like summertime.Image

As I made my way home through the woods, I encountered several of these cute, orange-capped boletes poking through the leaves.  I’m not sure if they are just small mushrooms, or if they are just young and going to grow larger, but all the ones I saw seemed to be this size.Image

Boletes and chanterelles, familiar forest friends.  I thought about picking more, but the idea of turning on the stove seemed unappealing, so I decided against picking mushrooms that I probably wouldn’t get around to eating.Image

Not far from my house, I came across this enormous bolete, which I at first mistook for a turtle, as it was quite turtle-like in size and shape.   This is a species of bolete that is quite common around here, and has been frustratingly hard to identify.  It is somewhat similar in color to the bicolor bolete, although the pores are large and angular, and the whole thing turns blue immediately when you crack it open.  I haven’t found in any of my guidebooks a description that exactly matches this one.Image

As I reached my house, I thought to check in on the jack-o-lantern mushrooms that I had seen before my trip to New York.  I smelled them before I saw them, and they smelled nasty!  Then I saw them, and they looked so nasty too. Image

Disgusting!  Just looking at these pictures makes me remember the smell and makes me a bit queasy.Image

After that, I had to get a better taste in my mouth, so I went to check on our fig trees.  And I am pleased to say that fig season has officially begun.  There were many figs beginning to ripen, and it wasn’t hard to find a handful of choice ones that had come along far enough to be good eating.  We’ve got two enormous fig trees laden with fruit this year, and about four more that, although a bit smaller than their neighbors, are also bearing well.  I believe that I will be eating a lot of these over the next month.Image

I had been up late on Monday night, and working early; once I got home, I found myself able to catch a quick afternoon nap.  I awoke an hour later to the sound of heavy rainfall–we appeared to be getting the storm that we needed.  I checked the weather map and saw that we were in the midst of a small cell of heavy rain that passed directly over Twin Oaks, most of the rest of the county was dry, but right outside of my back door it looked like this:Image

The rain was pretty much just what we needed, and the rest of the day was a good 15 degrees cooler.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do a little hike on Wednesday and see what the rain has pushed up…

 

August 6 – if you can’t go to Maine…

…bring Maine to you!

Seriously, it’s kind of freaky what’s happening with this summer here in Virginny.  Today was overcast and cool-humid, I don’t even think cracked 80 degrees all day.  On August 6th– typically the most brutal time of the year.  It hasn’t gone above 90 for at least a week, maybe more, and we haven’t hit 100 all year.  It’s the kind of summer weather that I’ve spent my life traveling to Maine to experience, and we’re getting it right here at home.  I guess if you’ve gotta spend a summer mostly in Virginia, then 2013 is the year to do it.

Today was another tofu delivery day– that is, I drove the truck and handled the invoices while a strong-backed friend of mine came along and did the actual loading and unloading.  It’ll be at least another week before I’m up for doing the job solo.  On the way into C’ville, we drove through a rare 8:00 AM thunderstorm, unusual to have one so early in the day.  After we got home and unloaded, I felt strong enough to take a meandering walk home along the ‘scenic route.’

In this picture, you can get something of the feel of the day, cool and overcast.  The air was moist and ground was wet from a morning of showers.Image

At some times of the year, our ornamentals garden (where we grow flowers for the farmers’ market) is awash in bright colors.  Now it’s all just shades of green.Image

Along the edge of the pond, there’s a lot of this flower growing.  The individual flowers look like Black Eyed Susans, but the plant part looks nothing alike.   I’m guessing it’s some sort of coneflower.Image

 

When I was a kid, I traveled a lot between Maine and Florida.  Neither one of those states had many of these compound-leaved trees, which might be some sort of locust tree, but I’m not sure.  I remember driving through the mid-Atlantic area, and noticing all these small compound-leaved trees, thinking it odd that I always lived in places too far north or south to have these trees, but I always associated them with road trips.Image

This time of year, they have lovely yellow and pink seed pods, as delicately colored as flowers.Image

As I followed the path through the woods towards the cemetary, I almost walked through this perfectly formed spider web woven across the trail.  Using my flash, I tried taking a photo of the web; this photo came out better than the others.  Then I walked around the web, hoping the spider could catch some of the cloud of gnats that were traveling along with me, trying to buzz into my ears and eyes.Image

Now this is odd– it’s early August, and although the weather’s been much dryer in the past month than it was before, we’ve had some rain, including a couple of decent storms in the last week.  But as I walked through the fields and woods, I saw an almost complete lack of mushrooms.  Surely there must be some species that fruit at this time of year.  Odd that I saw so few out there.  One exception was a cluster of chicken of the woods that I spotted near the cemetery.  Two of them were old, brown, and withered, far too far gone to eat…Image

…and the third was in much better shape, maybe a bit past its prime, but perfectly edible.  I didn’t pick it, however, as I’m already working my way through another one that I’ve got downstairs in a bowl of water. Image

When I was initially considering this project, I had thought for a while about limiting it to one single walk that I would do, several times each week, in one specific part of our land, becoming intimately familiar with the plants and life forms that I encountered along one path.  In the end, I decided against that idea, but over the course of the year, this particular walk, from the courtyard up through the graveyard and then along logging roads to the Kaweah backyard has become my ‘go to’ walk, and it’s been enjoyable to watch how this one particular bit of forest has changed over the course of the year.  Now that we’re well into summer, I can really appreciate all the clearing and cleanup work that was done around the cemetery during the colder months; the open, relatively sparse forest is a joy to walk through, a real change from the rest of our forested land, which this time of year, is mostly thick with underbrush.Image

While I’m on my walks around the land, it is very rare for me to encounter another person out for a walk; I think it’s only happened a handful of times this year.  And I can say for sure, this is the first time I’ve encountered someone driving a pickup truck on the forestry trails through the woods.  It was my friend Trout, who is basically the only person at Twin Oaks who can get away with doing this.Image

A final note for the day– I went back to the mystery polypore near Nashoba that I photographed yesterday to take a closer look.  In the past 24 hours, the edges of the ‘leaves’ have turned black, which makes me think it is indeed the black-staining polypore.  Apparently, it is edible, but when I’ve tried it, it’s way too tough to eat, maybe if it was simmered for a long time, or boiled in a stew.  For now, I think I’ll stick to all the chicken of the woods I’ve been finding.Image