Monday, September 26, 2011


When it comes to mushrooms, the genus Amanita is a well-known one and worldwide. Trouble is, there are about 600 species, some of which are edible and many of which are poisonous. I'm not one who is going to take the time to decide which these are and I'm certainly not planning to eat them. Better to simply enjoy their exquisite form.

 I suspect these are Amanita rubescens ("Blusher") but I have some misgivings about the extent of their redness. One can "bruise" them and watch for a telltale red tint or confirm the species with their spores. But that's too much work and it isn't that important to me.

 Beside the pond at the Farmersville-Jackson Twp. Joint Park on 09/25/11, vast numbers of these beautiful mushrooms rose through the pine needles beneath the White Pines. It was a gorgeous sight!

Below is one just pushed through the mat of needles.

 A close-up (below) of one of the caps seems to confirm that they are Blushers. If so, they are, as my Audubon says, "good with caution". Nope, not taking any chances here even though I could sure enjoy a mess of fried mushrooms.

 Another view of the cap. The whitish stalk makes me think "Panther" (Amanita pantherina). In that case they are clearly poisonous.

 On 09/26/11 I returned to find many of the mushrooms knocked over. Was it children playing among them, kicking them down? Still, many stood in the late afternoon sun and were as pretty as ever.

 Perhaps these are the "Booted" Amanita (Amanita cothurnata), another poisonous variety. It's hard to believe something this beautiful could be dangerous.

 Overnight we had nearly 3-1/2" of rain. I suspect these mushrooms found the pour-down rain perfect weather.

 I'll stick with morels for my plate. I can identify them easily and I never have to fear having my stomach pumped. These will serve only for photographs, a good enough enterprise anyway.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Germantown Pretzel Festival - 2011

 We never miss the annual Germantown (Ohio) Pretzel Festival and we attended it again on 09/24/11. The day started foggy and damp but by early afternoon the sky began to break and the air began to warm (mid-60's). The crowds responded and Germantown's streets became clogged with festival-goers. Check out their website here.

 Above in Miss Molly's Bakery & Cafe booth (from Farmersville). It's one of our favorite places to eat. Check out their wonderful homemade blueberry muffins for a real treat.

 Many of the aisles at Veteran Memorial Park were standing room only. This is one of the rare ones where there was room to move.

 Mom always looks forward to buying bread from a group of church ladies. This is one of our first stops every year. Once the bread is in hand, she begins to relax.

 This is a better idea of how busy the festival was at about 1:15 p.m. The sun was shining and people arrived in droves.

 This band, When Rock Met Country, was excellent - and loud!

 We didn't stay long. Too crowded so bread-in-hand, we walked the mile back to the car. Maybe we'll go back tomorrow?

Marbled Orb Weaver

 Take a look at this thing and tell me what you'd think upon first seeing it.

 On Thursday (09/22/11) as I was preparing to mow, I saw this "thing" on the back of the house, near the base of the bricks. From a distance, it looked a little like a small yellow balloon. But getting down on my hands and knees, I saw that it was a spider. In fact I saw that its two black eyes were looking back up at me!
 I posted this picture on my Facebook account, then followed up with a post on WHIO-TV. I asked for suggestions as to what kind of spider it might be. No one knew. Some suggested it was a female carrying a large egg sack. But the "sack" was on its back.
 Thanks to a website that specializes in identifying arachnids, I got a quick answer. It's a Marbled Orb Weaver (Araneus marmoreus), a not uncommon spider best known for the glorious webs it weaves. It is not dangerous.
 Sadly, the next day I went out, it was still in the same spot. I took a leaf and touched it and found it quite dead. I understand these spiders are very shy and solitary and it is unusual to see them in the open, particularly during the day. So perhaps it was ill when I first saw it? As it jerked when I placed a camera near it, it was still living when this shot was taken.
 Nevertheless, it's a new creature for me and one that I find exceedingly odd. That bulbous structure seems almost the color of a very old cantaloupe. It seems very out of place and very large for so frail a looking creature. A natural miracle, of course, and even more of one that I should come upon it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wandering Wheels Fall Breakaway Trip

 My brother, Bob, is currently on the Wandering Wheels Fall Breakaway Trip. Last year, you'll remember, he threaded his way down the east coast of Florida on a bike. This years he's taking it a little easier and enjoying Michigan.

 It's running from 09/09 to 09/16. During the trip, he's again sending pictures from his cell phone and short text messages to tell us where he is. I'll post them here as they come in (so check back; this blog will update whenever new pictures come in).

 When Bob left Germantown (Friday evening, 0909) he met the group in Upland, Indiana. The next morning they traveled by van to their starting point: Holland, Michigan. The picture above is of that first campground.

Here's the Big Red Lighthouse.

 Bob took this picture "along Lake Michigan" on 09/11. Someone has a sense of humor. Is it a mailbox or some other decoration? Bob said they rode 38.5 miles today.

 This is a shot of Lake Michigan from the Muskegon State Park. The "overlook" has 128 steps. 09/12 was a 33 mile day. "Good day, great weather," Bob said.

 This shot (a little blurry) is of the grass-covered dunes on Lake Michigan at Muskegon.

 And  a sunset shot from 09/12.
 09/13: Bob traveled from Muskegon to Hart. Here's his exact text message sent to me a few minutes ago: "Day from HELL  head winds n hills  detour 2 nice lighthous  lost a coupl times n missd lunch wagon but found plac 4 lunch  got ur txt  lookd yummy  nto Hart MI  58 mile day  ugh  poopd"

 This is the White River Light Station at White Hall, Michigan. It's about 25 miles north of Muskegon. They're now even with the Manistee National Forest. Looks like really cool weather ahead ... down into the 30's both Thursday and Friday nights. Maybe frost.

 Here's another shot from today, apparently riding along Lake Michigan.
 On 09/14, Mom and I thought we'd send some encouragement to Bob. This was the photo we sent to his cell phone:

 We didn't hear any more until evening when his wife, Nancy, called. He got the photo but wasn't able to respond. His cell phone got wet while he was taking a shower and quit working! He called on 09/15 and said he used a hair dryer to get the phone as dry as possible and it's working again today.
 I didn't understand one aspect of the trip. I thought it was from Holland to Manistee (one way) but it is from Holland to Hart and back again. Therefore the map at the beginning of this blog has been corrected. Tonight Bob said he's staying in Grand Haven and tomorrow, the last day of the trip, they'll arrive back in Holland.

 Have a look at David Burt's pictures from this trip.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Fairy Rings

 I was walking at the Farmersville-Jackson Twp. Joint Park today when I spotted, in the distant grass, clusters of white. "Trash, probably," Mom says as I head over to take a look. Instead, as I near the spot, I see several "fairy rings".

 Also called elf rings or pixie rings, this is the stuff of pagan legends where it was thought that elves danced the night away. This is supposed to be the portal to the world of fairies and elves.
 Instead, though, they are a perfectly natural occurance caused by the underground fungus growth, expanding as it searches for new sources of food and then "blooming" on the periphery of this circle when the conditions are just right. The rain of recent days offered those perfect conditions..
 There was not one but several of the fairy rings, often interlocked, and often an incomplete circle (as the one shown above). They are merely arcs composed of fungi. The mushroom on the bottom of the photo is one I picked so I could examine it more carefully, especially the lovely gills.

 These free-hanging gills are of a beautiful shade of chocolate brown. The caps are white, off-white and often tinged near the edges with tan. They are, I believe, common Meadow Mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) though I have not taken much time in this identification and would never eat them until I did (if I am correct they are indeed edible, even choice).

 Here's a nice close-up of the exquisite gill structure. They look good enough to eat, don't they?
 Tradition says mere mortals may be trapped within the fairy rings. I found no such attraction besides the beauty these mushrooms hold.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Rainy Fall Morning

 It seems strange to talk of rain. The past month has been dry and hot. We begin to forget that things can be wet and sodden, as though every day was meant to be only hot and parched.
 Last night I slept with a woolen blanket on the bed. The house has begun to cool and when I went to bed last night, I folded the blanket at my feet and had it ready to pull up if I woke cold. I did. I don't know what time it was but I had been waking, time and again, and the sheet that covered me wasn't enough. I reached for the blanket and felt the instant warmth flood through my old bones.
 Already a light shower had passed overhead. I lay there long enough to hear a car thread its way north on Clayton Road and I heard the telltale splash in the roadway.
 Even so, though this day dawned wet, it was a light enough rain that I thought I might get my usual walk in. Not so. I had not completed three-quarters of a single lap than the rain began to fall more earnestly and I turned on my heel and beat a quick retreat for home.
 Nearing the end of the lane, a leaf was lying on the pavement and the reflection of raindrops held on its surface caught my attention. I made a note to return with my camera.

 This single leaf stands well for the entire season. It's dropped early and will soon enough be run over by Sam's truck when he comes out for the mail. And yet, face down, it collects moisture on its back and has its final moment of glory. Each drop of rain reflects the entire scene.
 On Saturday we were 101°. Today we were 57° as I walked and the dismal sky and falling rain made my pace quite uncomfortable. The season unwinds before my eyes; summer's at an end.
 At the edge of our garden, facing the back porch, are my pepper plants which have changed from creating beautiful green bell peppers, luscious and waxy, to those that are ripening, turning shades of red while still young. It is the mechanism of fall, I suppose. Every single plant tries to outdo the other with some last minute show.

 My guess is that throughout the summer, when we pick green peppers, we are picking an unripe vegetable. Now they are in a hurry to ripen before the first frost bites their flesh. And so they begin to turn the same colors as the maples will soon follow with, a last hurrah of summer.
 I'm back indoors with sodden jacket, hanging wilted about my shoulders. Now, by contrast, the house feels warm. But we will add no heat for another six weeks at least. Our goal is to await November.
 Already the signs of winter are here. The leaves fall. The garden matures. The lawn is sprinkled with autumn's weeds. There is not much time left for this season. It is on it's last damp legs.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


 It is not that often - though oftener this year than usual, I think - when a sunset tints the sky orange and pink and brings me off my sofa to see what is the matter. Last evening, as is usually the case at 8:20 p.m., I was sitting on the end of the sofa enjoying a program on TV. I look out the east window regularly and yesterday was no different.
 There, on the Shell farm to our east, was a soft, pink glow. I can sometimes watch the sun set in their windows, brilliant mirrors from this distance. I knew from the creeping shades of pastel reds that the sun was firing a pretty show just behind our house. I left the TV behind, climbed the stairs for my camera and was soon in the backyard with untied shoes, the strings stuffed uncomfortably beneath my bare feet.
 Oh, how wildly the western horizon was smeared with the vivid shades of sunset! The sun had already dipped and enough clouds were still in place to present a canvas for this painting. Spread from south to north, the sky glowed with fiery shades!

 The velvety blues and purples framed the molten oranges and made me sure that my time was not wasted. Who looks upon a single sunset without beholding eternity?

  A few steps to the side and the picture, while the same, is changed. How quickly it darkened from this point on. In mere minutes the fire was out and the sky was no longer spectacular but merely a warm gray, the dying embers farther down and cooling. The night air, too, was chilled and damp and I pulled my robe about me and headed back inside.
 Let me always find the time for nights such as these, though. Let nothing on TV be so important to keep me there. The sky is a more entertaining backdrop, the slowly turning world enough to change my view with every minute passed.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Day at the Fair

 I haven't been to the Montgomery County Fair since I was a kid ... probably about 1955. My memory of that last trip was when I went hand-in-hand with my grandmother to see Clayton Moore, "The Lone Ranger". He was currently starring in a TV show (it ran from 1949 to 1957). I can still remember finding a seat in the grandstand and Moore riding out on his horse to thunderous applause. He gave each of the children a silver "bullet" (plastic, of course) and it was a highlight of my young life.
 I went again on Wednesday (08/31) for the opening day of the fair, this time with a friend and found the fair not quite what it was 56 years ago. There are fewer families in agriculture and I'm sure that accounts for most of the loss.
 A highlight was the cost: $1. Normally it is $5 but they offered a first-day special.
 Jerry and I walked around the fairgrounds for a couple of hours, smiling at 4-H kids who had animals on display and talking with the men who manned the food booths. The amusement rides didn't open until 4 p.m., the hour we left.

 This chicken was one of many on display. Some had impressive pompadours and strutted about as though they knew they were special. This poor chicken wasn't, I suppose, as she made no display of superiority. That's why I was attracted to her, I suppose.
 There were plenty of sheep, goats, rabbits, horses, cows and other livestock.

 This mama pig impressed me with her dozen piglets. We arrived just at lunchtime and enjoyed this gustatory spectacle. The whole scene go me thinking: how many teats does a pig have? I know Ginger, our beloved schnauzer had seven and a half. How is that? One was cut partly off when she was spayed. Every time we rubbed her belly we reminded her that she had just "seven and a half teats" and she seemed to smile at us and say, "I know".
 A pig, by the way, can have anywhere from 10 to 14. So it appears this group of piglets each had an available spigot.

Here's a few more shots from the fair: