Straggly Garden

Especially after this month of exceptional moisture, the garden is looking exceptionally straggly. All summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, tomatillo, eggplant, along with the few fall strawberries and raspberries, have melted with all the rain that pelted them this whole month long.

The forest calls my name during this kind of weather and I tend to head out into the tall firs to hunt mushrooms when I get a break from fall to winter prep work. Besides, I would rather not have to slog through the garden with boots so thick with mud that it becomes impossible to even walk.

So I have been waiting for a dry spell to get out there for a garden cleanup, but that just doesn’t seem to be happening. The last time we had a dry day was spent getting all the lawn mowed and a few leaves picked up.Leaves down in driveway after storms. Still, the leaves in the driveway continue to be washed with rain and ran over with each coming and going of cars, pickups, tractors and Gators. The garden will just have to wait for a little while before getting cleaned up before winter.

You may see a frantic post in a few weeks belying the fact that I am frustrated that I didn’t get the garden cleaned up sooner. I will appreciate it if you don’t remind me about this post when you read that I am sorry I waited.

Littering Leaves

Leaves down in driveway after storms.After the weekend, the leaves had covered the driveway, the road and most surfaces. The big leaf maples had really sent a flurry of color falling  during the weekend storms.

The driveway had been cleared before the storm and now this task will wait until the rain slows and I can again get out there to pick up the mess.

Looking Up

I’ve been spending time looking up. The leaves on the Black Walnut trees are starting to turn colors and are beginning to fall. We have several of these big, old trees. They were planted about 100 yards from the river more about 100 years ago. Their branches provide a shady spot for the cows to lounge and eat grass on hot summer days, squirrels and chipmunks scamper through their branches. They are taller than the big leaf maple trees but do not have stumps that are as big around.

The foliage on the black walnuts turn a bright yellow as they prepare to fall, it is still too thick up there to see if there will be a crop of nuts, but a series of several storms are lining up in the Pacific Ocean and it looks like we are going to get slammed with wind and rain for a couple of days. This year, we may miss seeing the leaves in their glory gold, the group of storms will leave these trees nearly bare. The nuts tend to hang on even through bad weather but it won’t be too many weeks before they start dropping(if there are any up there).

Looking up into a black walnut tree that is starting to lose leaves.Until then, as I prepare for the upcoming weather, I’m going to enjoy the foliage while I can and hope you enjoy this tranquil pic also.

Looking For a Mushroom Bounty

A colorful shelf mushroom found in late summer.As you can see from the picture, this shelf mushroom dwarfs my work glove on the right.

This specimen is called Chicken of the Woods. The outer edges are rubbery and I have been told they are edible when very young and tender, and they do have a chicken-ish flavor. Since I have yet to speak to an actual person that has consumed this particular variety and will share an eating experience with me, this is one that I will stick to just photos for now.

This was the only mushroom I was able to find on my walk through the woods on this day even though we had some good rains roll through the area about 10 days ago. It appears that the woods were dry enough with the string of 100 degree days about a month ago that the showers were not enough to do any more than just dampen the surface. The woods feel dry and dusty as I walked along deer trails and through the understory of brush.

Now, I will have to wait for at least another week before edible wild mushrooms will pop up in the woods and I will begin to ‘hunt’ again.

Seeing Is Believing

My sister had said that she saw fresh Chanterelle Mushrooms on the menu in Portland recently.

I could not believe it. Wild Chanterelles grow in the fall after the first good, soaking rain of the hot summer. This is only July, and even though we did have some good rains so far this summer that helped keep the fire danger low, I seriously doubted that would have been enough moisture to make it through the canopy of dense trees to the dry earth and then below that to the mycelium mat ( the network structure that produces the mushrooms).

It is even strange to classify them as ‘wild’. Chanterelles have defied cultivation. They only grow in their own optimum spaces found in thick Douglas Fir, Cedar, White Fir and Hemlock tree stands. The conditions such as soil, moisture, nutrients from fallen tree needles and temperature are just a portion of the list of necessities required.¬† Before the mushrooms, the structure that grows the mushrooms has to be in place, it is called the mycelium mat. If you have ever dug into a pile of wood chips and had all the chips stuck together by a fibrous growth, you are familiar with what a mycelium mat actually is.

We search our forest every fall for the culinary delight, and many years find a nice bounty.Five gallons of fresh chanterelle mushrooms.

To grow a patch of Chanterelles, the mat may be as large as an acre, growing a few inches beneath the surface around the roots of the big trees. So to hear that someone not only found some of the elusive fungi this early in the year but had found enough to serve to customers in Portland is beyond unusual.

I was out in our forest, trimming limbs along the bulldozer logging paths for easier passage and was relieved when the battery on my pole saw ran dead ( I had run out of power long before the saw did). On my way down the hill and out of the forest, I took a detour to a deer and elk trail that has been known to be a hot spot for the elusive Chanterelles.

With a lot of looking and a lot more luck, I did find a handful of the delicious mushrooms. I could not have been more surprised!

A handful of Chanterelle mushrooms.The harvested mushrooms were cleaned, sauteed, and placed atop cheeseburgers for dinner.

The unexpected delicacy was a wonderful addition to the evening meal.