Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beauty in Odd Places, or Fun on Labor Day Weekend

One thing I find about gardeners is their willingness to see beauty in odd places. How many normal people, for example, would look at a well-built compost heap and exclaim in awe and delight? Or look at the caterpillar merrily chewing on their tomatoes and admire the markings before pitching it in the woods?

We've had quite a bit of rain lately, what with Hurricane Irene passing by, and all the moisture has brought out a plethora of fungus. This past weekend, Brian noticed a lovely yellow mushroom on the edge of our spruces so out we tramped to check it out. Here's what we saw.

After consulting with the Audubon guide, we concluded this mushroom is a Yellow-Orange Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria var. formosa). Not deadly, but definitely poisonous. According to the guide, this mushroom may cause sweating, deep sleep and disorientation. Hubby looked at me, shrugged and said "Sounds like a normal Sunday around here."

We had also found a large puffball mushroom a few days before this and took a few shots. The puffball is one of the few wild mushrooms that is both easily identifiable and edible.

Puffball growing next to Paperbark Maple sapling.
After our adventure with the Amanita, we wandered over to see how the puffball was doing and found this:

Good grief! The thing looked like a burnt souffle! Presumably at some point in the near future, the top will split open and allow the spores to escape. I think this one is a Purple-spored Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis), based on the fact that, when Brian hit one with the lawn mower, he got a cloud of purple spores.

We try to take Gracie the House Monster for a good long walk on the weekends and fortunately there is a great park not too far from our place. Lots of nature trails and it borders the river for a beautiful view. We even found a few shrooms on our walk!

Not sure what any of them were, so we assumed they were all poisonous. Gracie took one sniff then backed away with a look of disgust. Personally, I think all mushrooms should be admired but not eaten, even the ones in the grocery store, so I completely sympathised with her.

In addition to mushrooms, we found some other local wildlife.

Painted Turtle
 I haven't seen a turtle in the wild around here since I was a child. He was a little shy but agreed to have his photo taken. Gracie could not understand the fuss over a moving rock. She was much more interested in reaching the river for a cool off!

River Monster
While she was splashing around, Brian took this shot which shows just how high the river flooded when Hurricane Irene came to town.

The flood waters coated everything with mud!
All in all, an interesting time was had by all. The last thing we found was the stump of a tree, about 5.5 feet tall by the side of the trail. It was a perfect perch for Gracie!
Gracie and me
OK, Mom, let me down now!

Hope everyone had a safe and fun Labor Day weekend!

(thanks, Indie, from Red House Garden, for inspiring this post!)

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