Friday, August 04, 2006

Afternoon Jaunt

After trimming the lawn, it took zero persuasion to get me to spend my afternoon snooping around our natural world, as I so often do. So, it was off to my grandparents with my father, where I began my photo taking spasm.

flower pots

Grandma's Garden

It must be said, first and formost that my grandma is perhaps the best gardener I know. The amount of flora in her August garden was only made more beautiful this afternoon by an array of butterfly species. Of the five different species found, the only three I could give a positive ID to were the Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail (mating!), and the beloved (but poisonous) Monarch Butterfly.

Tiger Swallowtail

The other two species were rather dainty in size, but no less beautiful against the beautiful flowers!



After awhile of milling around grandmas garden, I did what I traditionally do upon my visit and plucked a lush green piece of dill right from the stem of the plant. Yum! Dill is magic to the tastebuds when eaten raw from the plant. However, one will quickly find that dill is not for the greedy! After the third or fourth plucking, the taste quickly becomes more bitter than magical, and with that I continue on across the glorious field of grasses, milkweed, butterflyweed, thistle, and goldenrod. August hath arrived!

Because of the thick grass, only the heads of the thistle were obvious, with their purplish flowers, and white puffs of seed heads adding dots of purple and white intermediately across the high grass section of the field. The beautiful American Goldfinch is the quickest bird of all the take advantage of the thistles [evidently] tasty seeds. The goldfinch purposely breeds later in the year than many songbirds to time the growth of their young with this bountiful supply of food!

I was absolutely enamoured by the beauty of the flowers and plants. I scanned each milkweed stalk with blurred vision, swatting insects from my eyes, in an attempt to catch the beautiful monarch caterpillar feeding, or even a monarch crystalis within which a beautiful butterfly is developing. Just one of natures many wonders, and one that I hope to catch on floppy before summers end!

Immedately upon entering the forest at the far end of the field, I noticed that the ground was rather parched of moisture. Not a good sign for the mushroom enthusiast! Despite yesterdays powerful (but brief) thunderstorm, the August sun had reduced the sun-bleached leaf litter to crispy white potato chip equivelants! Knowing that my findings were going to be few and far between, I trailed onward, scanning at intervals to find mushrooms. I found them alright, but most were covered in insects, droppy, ripped, and decaying away back into the earth with their spore for another day. I did however, manage to come up with a few of the hardier species to photograph. Evidently these were the few that benefited from yesterdays rain.


The lovely chanterelle is one of the most popular of the edible mushrooms. I highly recommend NOT eating a chanterelle unless you have a postive ID, perhaps confirmed by a bonafide shroomer themselves!


I found a couple chanterelle patches today, and with my 'mental GPS' system, I have and will remember were to look for them when more rain comes! The individuals seen here were definitely too dry, and bugged up for consumption. Much of their color has faded, making positive ID difficult. That fact aside, I plan on getting a positive ID on the variety of chanterelles these are, although I'm feeling quit confident that they are "Golden Chanterelle".

The tasty chanterelle is viewed with almost as much respect as the morel as a tabletop mushroom. The United States ships chanterelles to France because of their palatable taste.

Boy, if nothing else Old Man of the Woods is a reliably found edible! Every time I go out I can expect to see him standing proud from the forest litter, or from the rotting log of some old oak tree.


Todays specimens were far from delicious looking, and even on his best day, I have a hard time imagining sticking such a shaggy looking character in my mouth! Due to the summer heat, and lack of sufficient rain, Old Man was looking rather shaggy today. Perhaps I was just finding older specimens, because I found a few younger that seemed to be "OK" in the looks department, but were already seemingly dry and depressed.


I still haven't worked up the gut to eat one!

A few more angelesque mushrooms were also found, not all that far from the chanterelle patch, but they were most certainly deadly. The Amanita family is a large group of gilled mushrooms with more poisonous species than edible. I find that it's best to leave Amanita eating to the distinguished mushroomers, for even if 5 experienced mushroomers told me a certain Amanita was edible, I'd eat it with resistance!



My distant admiration of amanitas is not without good reason. The chemicals in the Amanita are particularly destructive to your vital organs. With the Amanita, in many cases, death without immediate medical help will result in certain death. But damned if they aren't nice to look at! This specimen is just starting to break it's veil.


I'm not really sure what this next guy is. His brown, bumpy cap was cupped deeply downward, and his gills were set tight to the underside of the cap. He had a nice frilly skirt just under the cap, and was all alone along the trail. I think I've seen him before, in fact, I think I saw flatted remainence of his brethren on a nearby trail! It's hard to tell. Some mushrooms are so easy to identify, others are shady, and others you can only tell for sure by examining spores!


It wasn't long until I came across a den of some sort. My presumption is that it's the den of a fox, perhaps a red, or a gray. With art however, the possibilities are endless, and just as quick as I found the den, I envisioned an artistic creation featuring the den, and a family of foxes.



The den appeared to be abandoned, and it's quite possible. The fox breeding season started back in February, and usually by the end of summer the pups are long gone. I'll do some reading up, and perhaps watch the den over the course of the next year to see any activity going on. But just in case, I decided to leave the den instead of intruding upon a would-be-fox family.

I headed back through the woods, and across the field, when I heard grandma call me in for dinner like she had since I was a small boy. Now, instead of toting around a birdfeather, I had a bag of poisonous mushrooms!

Oh how we all grow.

Until next time....