Still Alive

This morning I couldn’t resist plucking the Shaggy Parasol from under a cedar in the woods.

It’s a treasure to have such a delicacy pop up on this property. Around it are a number of smaller ones, which should be ready in a few days.

One of the Best! Or Not

I’ve gone from cover to cover in my copy of David Arora’s “All That the Rain Promises and More – a hip pocket guide to western mushrooms” and this substantial mushroom I found in the woods is either a Parasol – one of the best tasting mushrooms, or it is a Green-Spored Parasol – poisonous to many people, causing severe gastrointestinal distress.

The guide says that in Western North America it is only known in southern Arizona, so it must be something else.

After more research I am leaning toward it being a Shaggy Parasol (Chlorophyllum olivieri), which is common in the conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest, and is good eating though some people are allergic to it

The anemones are nearing their end for this year. Their flower stems drag the ground, but they are still too beautiful to cut down.

What You Don’t Know May Kill You

This may never happen again, an apple tree with red ripe apples and blossoms at the same time.

This will happen again and again, red maple leaves at the start of fall.

The fall rains have set off the mushrooms. The forest floor is covered with them. I bought an extensive guide book on mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest, but even with all the pictures and descriptions, I don’t have the nerve to pick one and take a nibble.

Back in my grade school days in Japan, I brought back an interesting plant from the forest. The stalk looked succulent and tasty, so my mother and I took a few bites. I don’t remember clearly what it tasted like. I do remember the fear I felt when our tongues and lips went numb. We didn’t die, but that was a good lesson not to eat plants you don’t know.

Change Is Coming

There is just a hint of fall in the Japanese maple leaves along the bridge in the woods. The blue skies of summer are a fading memory. There are more rainy days than not. Today we slip into the dark half of the year with nights longer than days. And on the other half of the world, people are waking to the half of the year with days longer than nights. It’s all rather awesome and no matter how many times it happens, it’s worth celebrating.

Fall is the time to enjoy the cone spires left when the cones of the noble fir disintegrate and leave their center spires sticking up toward the sky. By next fall, I will have forgotten about them, only to smile when I see them again. That’s the good thing about forgetting. You can see the same thing over and over again, and each time it is as fresh as the first.

I like that dogs live their lives in another realm, a world so different from ours. They continually find things I miss in the woods. Takuma has found something in the soft earth under a decaying stump. Whatever it was, it escaped. A mouse, a mole, some creature with a labyrinth of tunnels in the ground. Try as he might, Takuma was unable to catch it this time.

When he shoves his snout into the earth and inhales, Takuma’s brain must light up with a million different scents, experiencing scents which trigger emotions I can’t begin to fathom.

My time in the woods is always enjoyable. There are always new things to see. There is sadness too. The western red cedars are dying, not just around our house, but all around Puget Sound. The number of Swainson and Veery Thrushes is noticeably less than fifteen years ago when their eery songs filled the evening air. Can we change fast enough to not let it all slip away? We keep tugging out the threads of life that hold everything together. How soon will it before we pull one too many threads and it all comes tumbling down? At times is feels like it is all crashing down already.


Learning to Share

I love the blue of the sky this time of year. The billowing clouds make you think you’re driving through a Dutch Masterpiece from the 17th century.

I went out to gather the last of the grapes only to discover that someone else had beaten me to them. Next year I’ll know to pick them when they are ready, though it wouldn’t be right not to leave a few for the other creatures, would it? You learn to share when you have a garden. What’s it like for a wasp to encounter a grape? Do they even entertain the idea of, “I can eat it all”? What would we do with grapes that are bigger than ourselves? Wouldn’t it be so much fun to peel such a monster of a grape?

One thing wasps don’t worry about is how to pay for a grape. They just eat it. It’s how most of creatures operate, in an economy where everything is free, everything is up for grabs, and they’ve managed to flourish for hundreds of millions of years without ever needing a dime. Amazing when you think about it.

This is probably my last brood of the season. Butter Ball is taking care of 14 chicks, a mix of Golden Wyandottes, Delawares, and Barred Rocks. She was broody for nearly three weeks, and on Friday I ordered the chicks. They were shipped on Monday. Wednesday morning I was at the Post Office before the mail truck arrived from Everett, and the chicks were under her by seven a.m.

Now you see it, now you don’t. Hens seem to have an infinite capacity to hide chicks in their feathers.

Barefoot Gardening

The clouds and rain come nearly every day now. The rain held off for yesterday’s farmers market. When I checked the forecast for next week’s Saturday market, it showed rain all week except Wednesday, and rain on into the following week. This morning the forecast has changed and the rain ends Tuesday with sun and clouds through Saturday. Which will it be, rain or sun? I’ll know for sure on Saturday when I set off for the market. Until then, there’s no point worrying about it.

The moist earth beckons me to work barefoot. Shoes have no place in the home. Maybe they have no place in a garden either. If the earth feels lovely on your toes, you know it’s a perfect bed for potatoes.

This year’s grapes are so delightful. With the skies gray and the sun off to its wintering grounds, the grapes are a reminder of summer’s blue skies.

I took the seal off the white miso I put up in February. It turned out better than I imagined. You make a whiter miso by adding barley or rice to the soybeans. It’s time to put up next year’s miso. How much red? How much white? Barley or rice? If I make a batch and try some corn, will that be the first time anyone in all of history has made miso with corn?

A quick check to see if there was such a thing as miso made from corn resulted in me stumbling on a blog that talked about the wondrous cooling power of corn silk. Evidently, it cools the body and is great for when you have a fever or hot flash. One site claims, “Corn silk is used for bladder infections, inflammation of the urinary system, inflammation of the prostate, kidney stones, and bedwetting. It is also used to treat congestive heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue, and high cholesterol levels.” It sounds like you could chuck your entire medicine cabinet and cure all your ills with corn silk. Odd that I’ve never heard of a doctor telling a patient to eat more corn silk.

Happy has become quite the stately rooster. He has his admirers, and some of the young white roosters I unintentionally acquired this spring when I ordered Welsummer hens, look up to him and follow him around.

Even with fall deepening, the maples keep unfolding new leaves. In the wet, soothing fall air, their new-leaf red will barely turn green before they turn red from the first frost.

No Remorse

Friday, September 6, was our last day of summer. In many places summer dawdles on with no clarity as to when its last day was. Not here. As the temperature soared on Friday, there was no doubt that once the cool Pacific air moved in on Saturday, that in this neck of the woods, summer was finished for this year. Saturday night’s thunder and lightning, accompanied by drenching rains, kicked summer to the curb. With this morning’s steady rain, fall has settled in for good.

With the grass wet, the slugs stay out long past sunrise. I have no remorse collecting them by the bushel, or so it seems, for Emma and her large ducklings to eat. Each time I pick one up, it’s a death sentence for that slug. Ducks have no remorse either about eating them. Is it wrong not to feel some sense of loss? No slug has ever apologized to me for mowing down seedlings I was tending. Perhaps being eaten by a duck is a slug’s highest calling. If you’re going to be eaten, you might as well be eaten by a creature that gets great joy out of eating you.

It is the season for 小松菜 Komatsuna. I’ll keep planting them until they cease sprouting. Picked fresh and dragged through simmering water for just three to five seconds, you can’t ask for a better green to eat.

With summer over, it’s time to open up the fermenting crocks of miso and pour off the 溜り tamari which has puddled on the surface. As the miso ferments, it weeps salty black tears which collect on the top of the crocks.

Tamari 溜り, the precursor to soy sauce 醤油, comes from the verb 溜まる tamaru, which means to collect little by little over time. When fermenting miso, the black salty tears collect drop by drop over many months until you have a little puddle of them. Three crocks of miso yielded maybe a cup of tamari. I will have no remorse savoring this precious miso-tamari.

September or May?

The cool mornings are more like fall than summer now. The ducks have settled into their new digs at the pond, swimming much of the day, and coming out of the water to forage on the grass. Emma, living in the garden with her ducklings, is back to laying eggs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Snow isn’t laying eggs too, but where? It’s going to be hard finding her nest in the dense cattails around the pond.

Today’s surprise was finding an apple tree in bloom. Is it September or is it May? The same tree is full of almost ripe apples.