• Log in
random image random image random image random image
Viewing the Spring Category |   Older »

By the Brook Today: A Foraging Adventure

May 10th, 2016

By the brook today, I had such a fruitful and thoroughly representative comedy of errors I decided it was worth more than the usual tweet.

I arrived at the brook with my foraging kit (bag, basket, camera, knife) not expecting much. It had rained a bit that morning, not enough to get my hopes up.

IMG_2819

So I started with a visit to the nettle patch. The brook is Paint Creek, so called because the textile mills used to dump industrial dyes in it. That was 150 years ago; it has been cleaned up–but not so much that its environs don’t remain very obviously a post-industrial landscape. The Grand Trunk Railroad used to run a stone’s throw away; now it’s a bike path. The nettles are native—they’re native practically everywhere—but here they’re fighting a pitched battle with invasive garlic mustard, acres of it, so much there’s no hope of getting rid of it. Still, the nettles hold their own. I help as I can, ripping up the garlic mustard by the roots before I harvest the leaves, harvesting only the top few leaf pairs of each nettle so they’ll grow back bushy. I get stung. I don’t mind.

IMG_2956

Then I climbed over the brook along this branch. I had figured out this was possible (and really very satisfying, though it’s touch and go there in the middle) back in the fall. I’d never done it with my foraging kit, but I wasn’t worried. There’s another way back, hopping across the graffitoed bridge ruins a quarter mile downstream; I always go back that way, it’s less acrobatic, and safer, as long as the water isn’t running too high. Much less risk of losing any found riches.

I forayed upstream a bit, then cut uphill to the top of the ravine and then back downstream again, not looking very hard for mushrooms because I didn’t expect to see any. I never expect to find morels. I’ve never even seen one in the flesh. And like I said, it was relatively dry. So I made it to the bridge ruin, I skipped across, dropped off my nettle and garlic mustard harvest at my bike, then lingered by the brook a bit more. And that’s where I came across the dryad’s saddles, growing in profusion out from under this old, burl-ridden willow log dragging its roots in the brook.

IMG_2963

Polyporous squamosa, lovely, tawny-textured on top, hexagonal-pored white underneath. Considered a poor consolation prize for the morel hunter, but I love them. They’re best when young, which these were, brand new, some no bigger than a quarter.

IMG_2966

Gleefully, I reached for my knife…but it was gone. Lost! The precious! It had fallen from my pocket somewhere. A sinking feeling. Then a stubborn resolve. You have no idea how often this happens to me. I drop things in the woods. Important things. Wedding rings, garage door openers, phones. I’ve had remarkable luck finding them. I retrace my steps. I search, keen-eyed.

Back around through the nettle patch I went. Had I left it when I went to pack up my basket? No. Two other possibilities: I’d climbed a black cherry tree up above the ravine on the far side. Or there was that branch across the brook. But if I’d dropped it there, wouldn’t I have heard the splash?

IMG_2957

In fact it appears I would not have. Yay! Finding of lost things streak sustained.

On my second trip up and over the ravine and down, I paid more attention. I was tireder, slower. I saw this:

IMG_2958

False morel, Gyromitra brunnea. Easily distinguishable from true morel by lack of a hollow central cavity in the stem.

IMG_2960

Never seen one of these before either. Wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t dropped my knife. I call that a win.

IMG_2961

Broken arrow. Took it home for propping up tomatoes.

IMG_2962

Sweet woodruff, Galium odoratum, naturalized European ground cover; flowers widely used in Germany for flavoring May wine.

IMG_2822

And then again across the graffiti bridge and back to harvest the dryad’s saddles.

IMG_2968

Quite a gratifying and productive day in the woods, I must say. And that’s not even counting the wild mint I picked up on the bike ride home.

   Fungi, Spring | No Comments »

Marchflowers

April 1st, 2012

They’re like March Hares, you know.


Rue Anemone, Thalictrum Thalictroides, moist oak ridge, Ortonville, MI


Some variety of flowering sedge I am unlikely to ever identify. Sandy trailside, mixed deciduous woods, Ortonville, MI


Donwy Serviceberry, Amelanchier arborea, mixed deciduous woods, Ortonville, MI


American Fly Honeysuckle, Lonicera canadensis, oak and pine ridge, Ortonville, MI

After all these years of photo blogging I finally caved and started using the convenient “web 2.0” image upload features of WordPress. So much easier! Why am I so stubborn.

   Flowers, Spring | No Comments »

Broken My Fairy Circle Ring

June 16th, 2011


Conifer mulch under hemlocks, Hemlock Hill, Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA. I’m not going to be able to positively identify the species… best guess is the deadly Galerina marginata.

O I am so neglectful of posting…these are from the end of May, nearly a month ago. I’d say I promise to get better, but it’s busy times. No dancing in fairy rings for me, not these days. Not that I’d do that. It would hurt the mushrooms.

Someone has drained the colour from my wings
Broken my fairy circle ring
And shamed the king in all his pride
Changed the winds and wronged the tides
Mother mercury
Look what they’ve done to me
I cannot run I cannot hide

—Freddie Mercury, “My Fairy King”

   Fungi, Spring | No Comments »

Ephemera

May 17th, 2010


Wild columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, West-facing cliffs, Mt. Toby Reservation, Sunderland.

My camera died. Rest well, Sony Cybershot DSC-F717. You came from the factory with all kinds of defects, your autofocus algorithm was dated and finicky, but you were good to me. You let me recollect beauty in millions of colors. One time you pretended to be a handcannon to protect me from poachers. Curse the loose screw that killed you. I wish I had treated you better.

My old Powerbook G4 12″ has gone the way of the dire wolf and the dodo. Funes, you kept me alive. You ate through rechargeable batteries like a radio-controlled Mechagodzilla. Your touchpad didn’t work for shit, forcing me to wield a retro-aesthetically superheroic rubber ball mouse from my original iMac 233 circa 1998. I was ridiculously, unhealthily attached to you. I am beside myself at the prospect of letting you go—but all things must pass. With any luck, you will only sleep awhile and return from the shadows, like the coelecanth or the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Now I got me a handed-down white dual 1.8 MacBook, christened Ilom, for which I shall remain eternally grateful to parties who know who they are. It stands out less from the coffeeshop crowd than poor old Funes; on the other hand, it can run Illustrator and iTunes at the same time without destroying itself and has carried me forward into the video age. Will I ever learn to love it as much? That’s a question best put to Time.

“They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is the way in ours.”

—Robert Frost, In Hardwood Groves

   Flowers, Spring, Technomancy, Visions | No Comments »

That Old New Green

April 26th, 2010

I fear this may get mushy. If you’re not in that treehugging mood, look away.


The Holyoke ridge, looking west from Mount Tom.

This is maybe my favorite prospect in the valley, at my favorite time of year for prospects: when I’ve had six months to forget how beautiful the leaves are, and they come forth again as though for the first time in that pale, infant color and texture soft as skin. I think it has to do with contrasts. Over my shoulder to the right is Easthampton, with its towering old brick smokestacks haunted by nesting swallows. Over the mountain’s shoulder to the left, subsided metropoli full of factories similarly moldering and grey populate a long gradient into haze: Holyoke, Springfield, Hartford, New Haven. Behind me, the summit of Mount Tom, with its ruined Victorian hotel now surmounted by buzzing icicle cellular towers, satellite dishes and wry suicidal graffiti. But right here in front of me is this rippling swath of pastel-green, unpopulated nothing. What’s it doing there, looking like it just erupted from the fingertips of god? What right has it to go unlogged, undeveloped, undecayed?

Unlike pretty much every other place in this valley, I’ve never really had the chance to explore this particular nothing. Maybe that contributes to the mystery. Maybe I never will explore it, just so I can get this same feeling again every spring.

On the way back down across the sandy cut where the hotel’s telephone wires used to run, I ran into a Northern Oriole female–nothing special for most of you people maybe, but for some reason around here I rarely see them. I didn’t take a picture; there’s times when it just isn’t called for. But I crept up to within a few feet and we chirped back and forth at each other for awhile, heads cocked and frozen still. Then I thanked her and went on my way.

   Environmentalism, Mountains, Religion, Spring, Visions | 5 Comments »

Spring Stopgap

April 5th, 2010


Roaring Brook Falls, on the Mt. Toby reservation in Montague, MA. These icicles taste of moss and mineral salt.


Porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum. This guy lives on Graves Farm Reservation, the northwest side, where there is a maybe 100 foot deep ravine that has tons of broken rock and moss all up its sides. I love that ravine–I swim in the stream at the bottom sometimes–and I have met this porcupine there often. He never seems to like me any better, but he’s slow.

He is my mascot of the moment. Prickly!

   Spring, Visions | 2 Comments »

Fiddleheads

May 18th, 2009

Fiddleheads are actually the immature young curled-up tops of Ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, so-called because the fronds look like ostrich feathers when full-grown.

I found these on the Long Trail ridge in central Vermont at about 2,500 feet elevation, in rocky soil among hemlock, beech and gray birch. They are 2 to 4 inches high, and the fiddle part is about 1 inch in diameter. They grow inside a fibrous brown casing, which you’re supposed to submerge in water and scrub off before eating. I tried some as they were, picked right from the trailside (which apparently you’re not supposed to do—carcinogens bah) and they were quite tasty, like a lemony spinach, though the brown stuff made them somewhat scratchy going down. I also had some for dinner the other night, steamed, then sauteed in butter and garlic. After cooking they lose some of the citrus flavor and become nuttier.

If you’re going to pick fiddleheads for eating, by the way, los eeenternets inform me that it’s best for the plants if you only pick 2 or 3 fiddles from each, so as not to damage the population for the future. You can see in my picture that there are five little fiddles in a bunch—apparently, underground they all come from one plant. I picked two, the tallest ones, and left the others alone.

   Spring, Visions | No Comments »

Some Curly Fern or Other

April 29th, 2009


Sandy upland forest, mixed hemlock and beech.

I hear there are forty different fern species native to Western Mass. I do not own a fern book as yet. But here’s a big old list of latin names and undecipherable plant anatomy vocab if you’re interested.

I would like to note that this is the most in-focus picture I’ve ever taken of a detailed tiny thing. Satisfying!

   Spring, Visions | 2 Comments »

A Miraculous Egg

June 13th, 2008

Found this in my garden this morning, cradled by the bare earth in a gentle indentation between the rosemary and basil: a robin’s egg, whole and unharmed, fallen out of a clear sky.

Certain spiritual philosophers I know would classify such an event as an omen, a portent. A message of wisdom, timely and explicit, left for me by the universe. But if such is the case, I have to admit I can’t decipher it, beyond the obvious: creativity, fecundity, the divine spark. Go forth, Mr. DeLuca, and multiply. Water the tomatoes. Pull weeds. Nurture love. Share knowledge. Write fiction.

What shall we say, and shall we call it by a name
As well to count the angels dancing on a pin
Water bright as the sky from which it came
And the name is on the earth that takes it in
We will not speak but stand inside the rain
And listen to the thunder shout
I am, I am, I am, I am

—John Perry Barlow, Weather Report Suite

Thanks, god. I’m on it.

   Birds, Religion, Spring, Visions | 3 Comments »

A May Miscellany

May 21st, 2008


A hoop-shaped vine, somewhere off-trail in Graves Farm Audubon Sanctuary, Haydenville, MA. These vines tend to get me in trouble. Whenever I run into one, I am compelled to try to leap and swing off it. Half the time they don’t hold my weight. I took this lying on the ground. Got a mosquito bite right in the ear for it too!


A little altar I found on an island in Dead Branch Pond, Chesterfield, MA. Found a kickass beaver-chewed staff there too, seven feet long, tooth marks all over it, weighed like ten pounds. I left it leaning against the trail post adjacent rte 143. If you know somebody looking for a staff.


The planters’ moon, reminding me to buy seedlings.


The apple tree in my backyard, on a 16 second exposure, same night as the full moon. This is going on my computer background.

   Altars, Spring, Trees, Visions | 3 Comments »

  Older Spring »