Sunday, April 26, 2015

True and False

After yesterday's rains we were up and running for what might be the last morels of the season, and after many fruitless hours in remote areas, a sweet spot delivered two morels at once: an edible yellow morel (Morchela esculenta), a big 'un, 10-plus centimeters; and a Gabled False Morel (Gyromita brunnea), interesting to look at, but containing the same chemical used in rocket fuel. Cooking the false ones will not make them safer. The yellow morel was photographed in place, before we cut it from the earth with scissors.
Gabled False Morel doesn't look much like a morel to me.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pizza Cheese

Nice wet woods today, growing thickly with greenery now, showed me for the first time in life this supposedly autumn-only fungus, Philiota limonella, or yellow philiota. They're gregarious and saprobic (meaning they feed on dead wood) and their toast-colored scales also look to me like the cheese broiled on top of a pizza or tuna casserole, or that drips from a grilled-cheese sandwich. That shows you where my mind is at. These are not edible. I picked one to look beneath its cap so I could do a better mushroom I.D. As usual, if I've misidentified, please let me know.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Devil's Urns

Friend and I spent Friday searching for morels full-time. We discovered:

1) if Spring Beauty wildflowers are still blooming in the area, the soil is too cold to produce morels.

2) that poisonous red-headed false morels are the first morels to appear; the black ones are next, then the black ones with long stems and short caps; then the gold ones.
At most, the cup is an inch in diameter.

3) my morel photographs record that morels are more likely to be found in the second half of April than in the first half.

4) if turtles are active in a likely area, morels are likely.

5) that other people are better morel hunters than we are. We found none, but met another morel hunter who had found three and showed us, and my friend was insanely jealous. However, this successful hunter had

6) instead of properly cutting them from the earth with a scissors or a knife, had torn them from the earth, "roots" and all, and because of that I could tell she had not been trained in morel conservation. If there are fewer morels every year, it's because more and more people who find them are heedlessly ripping them up by the roots. Please tell everyone you know to cut the stems at ground level.

7) Devil's Urns, Urnula craterium (pictured), are delightful because they indicate conditions nearby are right for morels, but search as we might we did not find any, yet it was a perfect spring day anyhow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Does Your Car Stink?

Cars mostly don't stink unless owners treat them like garbage scows, as did Demetrius, who also cut personal physical gases in his car, locked and left it so that the smell marinated all night, and to his surprise in the morning it had persisted and was enough to choke a moose, knock a buzzard off a shitwagon, et cetera, and enough so he accused me of sneaking out while he was sleeping and farting up his car just for spite. This past Sunday my car began stinking, especially when I used the blower or a/c. I checked myself first. It wasn't me, nor the hiking clothes in the trunk. Drove around with the windows open. Next day, worse. Checked beneath the seats; maybe a passenger had left food there?
The last time this happened I cringed at the smell for a few weeks figuring it was just mold in the a/c that'd dry up, but finally when the fan wouldn't turn and instead emitted a dreadful noise I went to my mechanic. He gave me the look that men give women when the woman says, "What stinks in here?" He returned to the waiting area with a huge wad of fuzz, shreds, and hay: a mouse nest, as disgusting to him as it was to me; the mouse had nested in the cabin air filter, which isn't accessible unless the glove box is removed by someone who knows how. That mechanic retired soon after. So I told my new mechanic what I suspected. Not only was it a mouse nest--Jeff put it in a box and showed me; it was a good 12 inches across--but it had a dead baby mouse in it, which he didn't show me. "Aww, poor mousie," said his wife, the clerk, as I paid her $47.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lazy Vegetable Planting

Collards, one of my favorite greens, thrive in extreme weather, especially the extreme Missouri summer heat, and I bought what I thought was four plugs of them but it was six and I let them sit in their tray for a week not knowing how I was going to get the muscle and vertebrae to weed and turn over a patch of soil big enough to plant them 18 to 24 inches apart. It seemed impossible. The little plants' leaves began turning yellow. I had to act or throw them away. I asked the powers that be to solve my problem.

It so happens there are two eight-foot boards left in the lawn from a coldframe that was built around 2001, which I dismantled in 2011 except for those two boards I couldn't move and let lie there. Where the coldframe's vegetables were is now a tangle of wildflowers and weeds (see top left of photo). Yet over the years the boards rotted and weakened a bit and I jostled  one around, pulling it backward; and behold, beneath it was an eight-foot strip of fresh, rich, worm-happy, almost-weed-free, sun-facing soil just right for planting my collards 18 to 24 inches apart. No weeding, no digging, simply planting. How lucky! How great! How lazy! Divinely inspired.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Please Don't Kill Me

Friend says there are snakes in her yard and she has her brother out killing them because they're worried about snakes biting their dogs. I asked, do you have woodpiles or stone bluffs nearby? She said yes. I said, snakes are just waking up after the winter's nap and simply passing through your yard. Please don't kill them. Now awake and slithering through is one of my blacksnakes -- the house snake here, just as a restaurant has a house wine. Harmless. It stood still and posed, head raised, while I took its ceremonial first-day-awake photo. Go eat those mice, bro' you're looking a little thin.

People hate snakes because they slither and they bite. But that's what snakes do. They have no alternative! Leave them alone, don't poke them or grab them, don't let your dogs play with 'em. "Don't let my dogs? But my dogs aren't under my control all the time." Excuse me, but they should be, in country as well as city. I'll bash your free-running dog that's running at me before I'll bash a snake.

Monday, April 6, 2015

My Peeps

Easter weekend had a theme. My sister Rose, brother-in-law, niece, and her boyfriend (they're 17) visited on Easter weekend and the niece had to see the baby chicks available for purchase at Dickey Bub's, so we went, and to our surprise some of the chicks had been dyed for Easter. A young employee held a chick so I could get a closeup. And my relatives love fossil-hunting and while out digging around my sister found a piece of Peep-shaped sandstone.

Not only this but today at Wal-Mart, chief among the leftover, 50-percent-off candy was rows and rows of multicolored marshmallow Peeps. One year I microwaved a Peep to see what would happen. It swells and grows bigger and bigger, about quadrupling in size, and then begins to burn.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why Is This So Important?

My neighbor Terri saw me coming out of the woods carrying a trowel and a thermometer and said, "Looking for mushrooms?" Darn, she has me pegged, but all I was doing was checking the soil temperature because it's April, morel mushroom month, and those highly desirable -- some say the most desirable edible 'shrooms -- morels will be coming up, but only when the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees. Morels on this property are few because the soil is thin and alkaline; still, there had been a couple, and I'd gone to their vicinity and let them know I'm biding my time. Sort of.

Because it's too much math to calculate soil temp otherwise, I bought a sturdy thermometer, troweled out a slot in the forest floor, buried it for five minutes and then read it. Soil has now reached about 54 degrees. That is borderline; what we need for morels is a deluge of rain and then a swift and persistent warmup into about 70 degrees air temps. And wait a week. My mushroom-fiend city-dweller friend is so frenzied that it is April he had already emailed asking is today the day? I found in the woods today no fresh fungi of any kind. I did, however, see ankle-high leafy plants called "wake robins" (often called trillium) coming up, and spring beauties, and Dutchman's breeches, but it's Goldenseal (mayapples) that are linked with the presence of morels, because  mayapples indicate the earth they're growing in is fertile enough for morels to grow. But the mushrooms are not there yet. 

P.S. As I approached the woods I saw a fox.