Thursday, July 30, 2015

Inky Cap Mushrooms on Bales of Straw

 I didn't know what they were yesterday morning as I surveyed the garden. But in the early morning light, just as the sun was rising, I saw a few minuscule mushrooms sprouted from the top of a damp bale of straw.

 I find, after a little research, that they are part of the "Inky Cap" family, tiny mushrooms - Coprinoid Mushrooms -  which are feasting on the straw itself. These "saprobes" assist in the decomposition of "wood, dung, grassy debris and forest litter". In other words, the tiny mushrooms were having breakfast on the rotting straw.

 As the caps split, they take on the look of tiny "fungi flowers". These, in fact, are most likely a variety called "Non-inky Coprinus". I measured them at about 1/4" and that is their common size (though they may expand to as much as 5/8").
 I noted their gray color and even a hint of lavender (the sunshine washes this out in the pictures). I am most surprised to find that they are edible (I'll skip that, though). They're common from May to October and a favorite habitat is noted as "lawns and grassy areas". They are particularly widespread in the eastern United States..

 They're also known commonly as "Little Helmets".

 Every tiny form of life finds its niche and makes haste to grow while the conditions are right. Our recent rains (not to mention my hose) have left the bales of straw damp and rotting and the warm, foggy night was the final impetus to growth. They appear in masses; what's perfect for one individual is perfect for them all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Change of View

Before (07/27 9 pm) and After (07/28 9 pm)

 The Emerald Ash Borer is responsible for our losing two of our most prominent trees. Each was here at Pinehaven before we moved here over 28 years ago. One stood beside Clayton Road about half way to the north edge of our property; the other sets beside Sam's lane at the southern edge of our property.
 Both tried to put out leaves this spring. By July both had lost most of those leaves and were fast becoming hazards. At the least they were unsightly.
 I contracted with Joe's Tree Service in West Alexandria to have them removed, the brush ground, the logs removed, the stumps ground out, the chips hauled away and everything raked and cleaned up.

The "north" ash - June 24 ... street view 

The "north" ash - June 24 ... yard view 

The "south" ash - June 24 ... beside Sam's lane 

 Yesterday I got a call from David Clopper, owner/operator of Joe's Tree Service and he asked if his crew might take the trees down today (07/28). They said they'd be here at 9 am.
 By 9:30 am they were parked beside Clayton Road and began work on the north tree.

A view from the garden eastward

While they worked they placed orange cones beside the road and directed traffic

Several hours later, there was just a "gap" remaining

This morning the south tree still stood majestic, solid ... and dead

The chipper/shredder was moved to our driveway and pulled partly into the lawn

 After lunch, work began on the south tree

It was a hot (87°), humid (60%) July afternoon with cumulus building 

 By 1:30 pm, this crew left for a lunch break and there was sudden quiet

 But then they returned and work commenced on the south tree. They fired the chipper/shredder up and began hauling the dead limbs to it. Sawdust and chips ...

Nearly 4 pm - seven hours later - both trees are just about down.

It's well after 5 pm until they have the larger logs loaded and they're ready to pull out 

Even so, there's still some to go - and the stumps, too - but that will wait for tomorrow

And then tomorrow (7/29) arrives. The sun seems hot already as it rises. The sky is covered with a July haze. The humidity has risen overnight as the air cooled slightly. Time to get back to work ...

 The "south" stump sits among sawdust waiting for the workers who arrive about 9:45 am

"This must have been a fence-row," the one man tells me. "We're having some trouble with metal inside that tree," he explains. I looked at the stump and I failed to see anything but wood. Still, the worker says the tree must have grown around a fence post many years ago. I've only known this tree for the last twenty-eight. I should have counted tree rings to get an idea of its age but it's too late now.

 When Mom and I return from grocery shopping and having lunch, the workers are putting the final touches on the south stump. It's gone but there's still some cleaning up to do. This crew did a great job of clean-up. They even used a power leaf blower and cleaned sawdust off my driveway and Sam's lane.

 And so the last of the logs is loaded and the truck strains to back out of the yard. The engine quits a number of times, the load is so heavy. But soon (about 12:30 pm) the truck is heading up Clayton Road and the project comes to a close.

  The "north ash - July 29: It's just a bruise in the yard filled with sawdust

The "south" ash, the larger of the two, shows little evidence of ever having grown here

 Now I'll have to back off a bit, let the wood chips and sawdust decompose. They'll sap nitrogen from the soil, probably kill the nearby grass. By next spring I'll be able to carry some soil to the spot and plant grass seed.
 In other year or two, the ashes will be no more than a memory.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Zucchini Overdrive

 We have one zucchini plant this summer. It's one too many.

 I have a look at what it's producing every day. Mom tells me time and again to "pick them when they're small". Trouble is, when I look they're too small ... finger size. When I look again, they're too large ... say submarine size.
 I would have to check the garden at 3 am to grab a zucchini that's the perfect size.

 That said, the goal we've had for the past couple of weeks has been how to use all the zucchini that single plant is producing. Mom makes a delicious zucchini casserole. It was wonderful and probably my favorite zucchini dish. I love zucchini cooked simply. We've done that, many times. I even eat slices raw as a salad. Today we decided on a basic recipe for baked zucchini slices.

 Here's how the finished product looked. To see the recipe I used, click here

 The recipe calls for "2 medium zucchini". Before you go looking for one, I can save you some time. There's no such thing. Zucchini are either small (if just past the bloom stage) or too large (if you've delayed in harvesting them more than a few hours. But, never mind. We used what I picked and we followed the recipe as best we could.

 Our zucchini may have seeds but they are nearly transparent and hardly noticeable. The interior flesh is snow-white and of a very even texture.

 Two of our zucchini produced enough slices (even though we cut most of them thicker than the prescribed (1/8"-1/4") to fill a cookie sheet and another round pan to boot. The slices shown above are ready for the oven: they've each been dredged through melted butter (margarine, actually) and oregano, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper added.
 Mom added parchment paper to the cookie sheet (it's already non-stick) to save clean-up time. I added the slices directly to the metal pan. No problem in either case.

 Here they are ready to bake. Mom served as butter-melter, zucchini-slicer and pan-preparer. I did the rest.

 Bottom line: I'd prefer something breaded and browned. I turned the oven broiler on high for a few minutes at the end of the 40 minute bake time. This gave the zucchini a little gold on their tops. I may have pinched a bit too much pepper, too. The zucchini had quite a bite and there is no other ingredient that could have done that.

 Still, this is a way to use up extra zucchini and it beats throwing them out.
 At this point, Mom would not agree.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Duck Creek Antique Mall

 Tom and I visited the Duck Creek Antique Mall yesterday (07/25) on Madison Road in Cincinnati. Tom tells me it's closing. Various vendors are moving their wares to other area antique malls. As it was nearing the end of its run, Tom wanted to make a last visit while he still could.

 It's really in a wonderful location and the huge building houses many vendors. I don't think they could have chosen a better venue.

 This is how the interior looks ... two long aisles on both sides of the rectangular building with various cut-throughs between the aisles. There are two floors, pretty much identical in space and layout. Some vendors in the basement have already cleared out (or were they never there?) so the lower level has less to see.

 Tom's checking out one of the locked display cases. Antiques cover the nineteenth and twentieth century.

 I think these antique pedal cars are something Dad would have been interested in. We still had metal pedal cars when I was a young child - I remember having one - but the metal bodies soon gave way to plastic. I suppose the modern versions ("Big Wheels", etc.) hold up better but they don't have the mystique of metal. They also don't rust and I suppose they're far safer.

 Here's a typical booth. There were few workers there as we walked through the mall (about an hour and a half) but I saw a number of items (mostly furniture) being sold while we were there. Most vendors are offering deep discounts.

 The item in the foreground - a Goebel 'Frair Tuck' individual "creamer" - is identical to one Mom owns and which we knew nothing about. Ours is used to hold Q-Tips and we keep it on the second floor bathroom vanity. This one sold for $30 ("firm"). I was surprised to see accessory items (background) also food-related (and $120 for the set, designed to hold cream and sugar). They were made in West Germany according to the tags. Now, at least, I know what the items were designed for.
 "Where did you buy this, Mom?" I asked her. "Oh, I think that was from Throckmorton's in West Carrollton," she said.
 "I always thought Dad bought that for you," I said.
 "Well, I used his money so I suppose he did," she laughed.

 Total purchases: Tom bought a frame for $5. I (as usual) bought nothing.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Godfathers Pizza

 I've wanted to visit a Godfather's Pizza for many years. When I lived in Moraine (1980-1986) there was a Godfather's in town. Then they disappeared from the Dayton area. I heard a year or so ago that there was again one near the Dayton Mall. When Tom visited yesterday, I suggested we eat there.

 We visited the Godfather's on Springboro Pike. The people were wonderful, the place was clean and neat and the pizza was unique and as wonderful as I remember it. Mom and I both have always thought their pizza had a slight hint of anise. We might be wrong but that's what we taste.

 Tom and I ordered the Veggie Pizza peppers, onions, mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

 Yes, Tom, I am taking your picture again. Sit still, will you?

 Three TV's hang on the walls. They were showing a golf game.

 Godfather's is just south of Home Depot.

Family 'Reunion'

 We try to get our family together a couple of times each year in July and January. This has been a tradition now for many years. Our meeting place is always Rob's Restaurant in Brookville. We met this past week on Wednesday, July 15.

 We missed last January. Don was ill and the weather took a bad turn and never did moderate. We rescheduled a couple of times and then decided to give it up till summer. Wednesday was perfect. The weather couldn't have been prettier and those of us who are left - our numbers have diminished since we began these reunions - and everyone was well.

 Mom remembers taking Mae a piece of peanut butter pie (her favorite) last summer. Mae was in a nursing home and died the next month. The previous January (also 2015) her husband, Charlie, died. Before that it was Dad (June 2011). And earlier still, we lost Ray Cluxton. I do not remember Bob Masters ever attending these.

Doug Cluxton (l-r), Thomas Lowther, Lois Masters, Mary Schmidt
Shirley Cluxton, Joan Boyer and Don Boyer 

 Bill Schmidt (l-r), Thomas Lowther, Lois Masters, Mary Schmidt
Shirley Cluxton, Joan Boyer and Don Boyer 

'Chauffeur' Bill Schmidt and 'Miss Mary' Schmidt

 I always wear my chauffeur hat when I transport Mom. Tom Buhler bought this for me. I always act as though I'm living Driving Miss Daisy and he thought the hat would be appropriate. We all get a kick out of it. Mom mentioned it to the group when we were eating so I modeled the hat as we left.

 Rob's is a great place for our reunion ... all you can eat for one price and a pleasant, quiet place to spend a couple of hours on a weekday afternoon.

 Here's to January!

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Casual Death

I once saw a luna moth, soft and buoyant,
floating around me in a meadow,
with a white-green cast, some heavenly visage
only lightly tethered to Mother Earth,
flutter in circles around where I stood,
long tails flowing behind and looking as much like
a ghost as I could imagine,

and I thought
how lucky I should be here at the same instant as her.

Pinehaven p. 157 William G Schmidt 1999

 I have thought back to that day of so many years ago and wondered why I have never seen another luna moth (Actias luna) in the 28-1/2 years I've lived here. Today that long stretch has been broken but I'd have chosen another time, another circumstance.

 When I returned from the YMCA this morning, stepped out of the garage onto our concrete porch, I saw this broken moth before me. I took my cell phone and captured this picture. The moth was moving still. Had it just hatched and made its first flight, only to be attacked by a bird? Its right wing was nearly half missing.
 Still, it worked, fluttering its broken wing, trying to make sense of its short life.

 I waited a while and went back out with my camera and took a couple more pictures. Mom watched from the kitchen door. "Should we take it to a vet?" she asked. Of course there was no hope for this moth. Even its left wing showed damage. It was just a matter of waiting.

 And soon enough the fluttering stopped. I picked up the lifeless body and laid it on the bench in the garage, protecting it from further damage. Even today's wind, almost imperceptible, caused the moth to move. Perhaps it died before the movement stopped?

 So, I would rather not have seen this, watching something almost spiritual die. Life seems heavier because of it. We are all too tightly tethered to earth today.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Coffee Ring

 If there's one breakfast roll I remember as a kid, it's this one. It's called a "Coffee Ring" and Mom made it from a recipe in a 1949 Betty Crocker booklet called "New Recipes for Good Eating". The picture on the cover of two young children reaching for homemade donuts was enough to send me into delirious fits of ecstasy.

 We've been talking about this roll for the past week. This time I was in charge but I asked Miss Mary to look over my shoulder for the final stages of preparation. She even took the scissors and made a few cuts, then help nudge the roll into the desired shape.

 Here's the slightly modified recipe:

Coffee Ring
Makes 1 large ring

1 package yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup warm milk
3-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup margarine (one stick)
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Crisco
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Maraschino cherries

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm milk.
Add to 1 cup flour. Beat.
Add melted margarine, eggs and remaining flour and salt. Beat.
Let rise until double in bulk (about an hour) in a warm place.
Punch down. Roll out 1/2" thick on lightly floured cloth, to a rectangle of 9"x18"
Spread on Crisco with the back of a spoon.
Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon mixture.
Roll inward from wide edge (as with a jelly roll).
Shape into a circle on a cookie sheet (if not non-stick, rub with Crisco first).
Seal ends together (just press and pinch).
Cut almost through roll with scissors at 1-1/2" intervals (I slightly angle the cut).
Turn slices slightly (one in, next out, etc.).
Let rise til double in bulk
Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes.

To make icing combine sugar, milk and vanilla.
Spread on coffee ring (cool a little first).
Decorate with cherries and nuts

The basic dough before the first rise

A few notes ...
 I use our oven as a place to let the dough rise (both steps). I just turn it on for a few seconds, then turn it off. I suppose the temperature is closer to 100° and that works fine. No hotter, though! The first rise takes about an hour; the second rise usually takes less.
 We have home-grown black walnuts and used them instead of the pecans which the original recipe calls for.
 We used to use Crisco instead of margarine but I love Blue Bonnet sticks and they require no measuring.

The dough rolled out to a 9" x 18" rectangle and spread with Crisco 

Filled with cinnamon and brown sugar, the roll is made into a ring
and the ends joined

And here it is placed into the oven ...
The sides have been cut and a cinnamon sauce will ooze out there!

Just out of the oven ... golden brown
and ready for the icing, nuts and cherries.

 Now, time to make some coffee and have a little snack ...