Saturday, June 29, 2019

Amanita Crocea

Let's talk about why it's not easy to identify mushrooms, even with a field manual, because the manual will show a photo of a mushroom at its prime, but they aren't all or always at their prime, just as people aren't. Here's a prime example from my mowed area of three different phases of the same species. Seeing the one on the right by itself, we'd say "It has a conical, bright-orange, wet-looking cap with a medium-thick stalk" and seek an I.D. for that; the center one we'd say has a "toadstool" shape and a dark orange-brown "nipple" in the center of its Creamsicle-orange cap. The one on the left, the most mature, we'd call flat-topped with a slender stalk and because most 'shroom guides begin identification with the mushroom's shape, we might I.D. or equally we might misidentify. But they're all the same species in different developmental phases. Only field experience will teach you the phases.

The "peely" or "shaggy" stems indicate the Amanita family, and many amanitas are poisonous and different species look alike so I never eat any; my guess is Amanita crocea, or the "orange grisette." Amanitas often have fleshy "rings" around the stems, but Amanita crocea does not. Another Amanita crocea identifier is the "teeth marks" around the cap's edge when mature. Seeing the underside and taking a cap and making a spore print would help prove whether my guess is right.

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Floor

In the spirit of "cleaning for the maid" (so she won't see such a messy house) I cleaned for the asbestos removers the living room and bedroom after all the furniture had been moved out. With vinegar spray, dish soap and a long brush I scrubbed walls and baseboards I hadn't seen since 2001, and also the windowsills, alone for the final time with the carpet that carried the DNA of every visitor since 1986. And in the carpet appeared a favorite earring, tiny-tiny and given up for lost months ago: a 4mm pink coral cabochon in 14k gold, undamaged by dolly wheels and big movers' boots -- in perfect condition! Conscientious crazy-cleanness has its ecstasies.

During carpet removal, asbestos removal and then during the required inspector's visit I stayed in a motel, returning home before the carpet installation to see my rooms as I'll never see them again. Took a picture for the record. An eye-watering smell of glue or glue remover. The hearth from which innumerable snakes were hatched and crawled out in front of me and my guests is now well-sealed. What you see is a clean floor stripped of old asbestos tiling.

Divine Cabin built in 1935.

Friday, June 21, 2019

My Favorite Carpet Stains

It was either 1986 or 1991 when the Divine Cabin's carpet was installed, and Demetrius, bless his heart, and I had it cleaned around 2003, when we'd just moved in and he still helped me move furniture. Since then I have despaired of its dinginess and invited fewer and fewer guests, such is my carpet shame. At first I cleaned any stains. Then the despair was such that I left them. Hot, humid days drew from the carpet the smell of pee from an elegant housecat who died of bladder cancer in 1999.

The stains tell a story. From bottom to top: a coffee stain. I never used to drink coffee. I never used to drink it in the living room until two years ago. Spilled it once and cleaned it but you could hardly tell. Next time I spilled it, left it. Next, another coffee stain, this one sneezed into being while I sat in my rockin' chair. Tried to mop it with a towel. The orange-pinkish stain is cough syrup taken on an empty stomach, so vile that I sold the ranch halfway to the bedroom and lay on the floor for an hour, unwell, as the pink soaked into the fibers. When the stain dried it did not bother me. No one else would ever see it. Cats ralph cold tuna and hairballs all the time and no one cares. The tobacco-colored stain at top left is not a stain but a shadow on a carpet so grimy even shadows are brown.

This year the landlord agreed I need new carpet. The measuring guy found asbestos tiles underneath the current carpet. No need for alarm; asbestos floor tiles were popular in the 1950s through 1970s, before people knew better, and if unbroken are perfectly safe. But he said if the carpet removal cracked or broke any tiles the installers would depart at once with the job unfinished. Hearing this, the landlord engaged an asbestos-removal firm to do the job the day before pad and carpet installation.

Thinking right now about a new-carpet party, but what if someone made a stain? Or is that just the way life goes? Happy Summer Solstice.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Big Sky Country

I drove downstate among thunderstorms and rain generated by enormous thunderhead clouds, storm cells, the most dramatic I've seen, yowza, and realized they were so impressive because I was on a plateau and could see horizon to horizon -- as I don't at my home in the hills. Pelted by rain that covered my car like a tarp I stopped in Phillipsburg, Mo., home of the World's Biggest Gift Shop and waited for someone to bring me my gift. With God all things are possible, right? No, really, next door was a huge candy store where I bought cheddar popcorn and coffee, in line with my standard on-the-road menu of junque. And greedily ate it, and watched the clouds.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Pearls in the Grass

We are fancy enough on the Divine Property to pay to have our grass mowed every two weeks, as it was today, but yesterday in the tall overgrown grass along with feasting bunnies I found amanita mushrooms -- amanitas have these "flake salt" skin tags -- and knew they weren't for eating -- never eat a mushroom with a "flake salt" or "skin tag" look: poisonous as heck, especially a white one, known as a "destroying angel." So I admired it for a time and appreciated its pearlescent skin, a feature unnoticed before. A shaggy or "pilly" stem is another warning sign. Cut down before it opened up, so it did not have a chance to assume its classic toadstool shape.