Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!!!

I made  this crazy silly hat and then I wore it during a nature program yesterday!  One of the kids said it looked like a princess witch.  I think it's just goofy.  I made the hat out of cardboard, and fabric, and put it together with hot glue and staples.

I love looking for tree faces and creatures on my walks. 

I found a fun Old Time Radio program to listen to while painting today, and writing this post.   The Halloween special included an Abbott and Costello show, some Suspense radio programs, and War of the Worlds.  Its fun to listen to the program that scared so many people when it was first broadcast.  You can listen to the old radio program by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Walk Don't Run

Pano-view on Bernard Church Joshua's Trust Property

My daily routine almost always includes a good walk with the dogs.  Our walks average about 2 miles and the dogs don't allow for too much dawdling.  I'm so glad to have the dogs make me get out. I enjoy getting out to see plants and animals, feeling my body warm up, and clearing my mind.  I'm sure if I didn't have the dogs, I wouldn't get out as often finding some work that needed to be done or being chicken of the weather.  As it is, the dogs leap when I reach for their harnesses, and I see their eyes light up to go on patrol for squirrels, smells, and other doggy interests.  As fall sets in, I am enjoying our time before winter comes and keeps us cabin bound.


Since the end of summer camp our walks have ventured farther for two reasons.  First, I met and got permission from two kind landowners, Mr. Russ and Mr. Church, to walk in their wooded land. Secondly, during summer camp the dogs' walks were cut short since I didn't have as much energy after being with kids all day.  We've been walking about 2 hrs per day, exploring every trail and hill we could find.  From our house, the dogs and I can walk in almost 500 acres of undeveloped properties.  This includes Connecticut State Forest, some property owned by a gas company, university owned property, and the two properties owned by the gentlemen mentioned above.  Our adventures have taken us to the top of Rattlesnake Hill, down to Mount Hope River, and everywhere in between.  

Walking the area gives me a chance to notice daily changes in the woods.  It has been such a pleasure to watch the progression of leaves and ground cover change color.  The birch were the first to show yellow, then red maple, now the hickory and ash with oaks following close behind.  Some of the trees are now bare of leaves, while a few are still showing  green.  The light under the trees changes too with the fall colors.  In summer the understory is green, but now there is a yellowish hue and in winter there is stronger contrast in the shadows since there are few leaves to filter the light. The groundcover, ferns and bushes, are also changing colors.  Most of the ferns are yellow or completely brown, and some bushes are dropping their leaves to reveal red berries.

Now, that deer season has started the dogs and I must stick close to the road and limit our big excursions.  We often head out mid-day since deer hunters are more apt to be out at dawn or dusk, and early morning school traffic isn't pleasant since we are on the road.  It is hard to restrict our wanderings but there are still lots of things to see along the way including waggy tails.

And just for fun there's a hobbit home that I found

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mushrooms to study

Me and my morel.
I didn't have to hike for this one since I found right in the driveway!

Jacob identified this beautiful
mushroom as Amanita caesarea.
Looking for and trying to identify mushrooms has been a regular activity over the last year.  (Check out last fall's post with spore prints and the large mushroom book that I use- Naturalist Niche.)  New England's wet climate is rich in mushroom diversity.  Unfortunately, I am still a novice when it comes to identifying many of them, but I'm working on it.  There are so many small details needed to successfully identify mushroom species, and many types are variable in color, where they grow, and size.   However, the challenge and novelty of exploring this group of organisms is definitely worth the effort especially when sometimes you are rewarded with edible species.  

The three wild mushrooms that I've found and eaten include several clusters of Chicken of the Woods mushrooms, one morel, and three large black velvet bolete.  I found the black velvet bolete, Tylopilus alboater, during a mushroom class.  Don't worry Jacob and I are very cautious with wild mushrooms.  

Chicken of the Woods growing in our yard!
It was tasty!
A chick Chicken of the Woods,
this one got away as I spotted it while at work.

 A whole flock of Chickens of the Woods 

Without realizing, I have been snapping lots of photos of mushrooms, and have quite a collection on my iphone.  The photos look good on my small iphone screen, but on the computer they aren't the best.  I hope you enjoy them none-the-less. 
The mushroom class teacher said this one is the Old Man of the Woods, a kind of bolete.
Boletes have little round holes or tubes instead of gills for spores to fall out.

Unidentified Bolete

A slimy purple mushroom, Cortinarius idoes

Unidentified mushroom

I love these plump mushrooms

They grow in clusters and look like little woodland gnomes! 

A soft white polypore (many of the species that grow on wood
 and don't have gills are in a type of polypore)

The beautiful Amanita with it's tiny friends.

Amanita's tiny friends up close

a bad photo of a cool coral fungus

I think this one is called a Fawn Mushroom.
It may have been edible (I wasn't positive and didn't try it),
plus I found it after its expiration date.

There are many colorful mushrooms in the Russula group.
They range from yellow, to red, orange, wine, and white.

Yellow Russula sp.  The slugs and squirrels like it!

And a photo taken yesterday!
Only in New England can you find mushrooms growing out of a
Pileated Woodpecker hole in a old rotting Birch Tree.

I identified a similar mushroom on dead birch earlier this summer as Pholiota squarrosa, Scaly Pholiota.
The bad knobs are known as conks, because they are hard woody things that go conk when you throw them on a rock :).  Before I learned that they are conks I liked to call them tree noses.  


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Concord Visit

On Saturday, Jacob and I took a trip up to Concord, Massachusetts.  Concord is rich in Revolutionary and literary history.  It was a central location during the Revolutionary War, and was the home to four famous authors in the mid-nineteenth century: Waldo Ralph Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  There are several museums, parks, and things to do within a small area in and around Concord, but we made three stops on our trip; Walden Pond, the Concord Museum, and the Orchard House.

Jacob and me in Thoreau's cabin replica
Walden Pond
Our first stop was Walden Pond.  We wanted to visit the place that inspired Thoreau to write his famous book about living simply in natural surroundings.  The idea of living simply resonates deeply with Jacob and me from a natural resources standpoint and as people who believe in the Quaker principle of simplicity.  There was a replica of Thoreau's cabin with furniture, and a nice park ranger to talk to visitors.  The pond, today, is far from Thoreau's simple, quiet place of reflection often with crowds of people.  It was amusement park in the early 1900's, and today is mostly a giant swimming hole.  We lucked out and there were relatively few other visitors since the weather was grey and cool.

Walden Pond 

Some of Thoreau's survey equipment

At the Concord museum, we saw more Thoreau items, Emerson's study, several revolutionary artifacts, and rooms displaying period pieces.  It was fun to compare Emerson's study which is luxuriant to Thoreau's simple desk, table, and bed.  I was very interested in seeing some of the revolutionary items since I grew up in Arizona I haven't had many chances to see artifacts from the founding of our country.  One unexpected exhibit, was a copper model of the Lincoln Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial was made by a sculptor who lived in Concord.

Original Desk from thoreau's cabin.  It was the only thing with a lock,
which he regularly used to protect his most important possession, his writing. 

Emerson's Study 
Oh! A wall of old books!

My favorite artifact is the thing with all the nails in it right of the shoe.
It's a cracker stamp.  Now you know how all those hols get in a cracker!

Orchard House, side-door to Mr. Alcott's Study.
They tour people didn't allow photography inside:

The Orchard House was the adult home of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women.  The house is one of the oldest houses in Concord, built in the 1600s.  The house was preserved with many Alcott family furnishings, even some of the original wall paper is still up.  This is because ever since the Little Women was published, the house has been a tourist destination.  May Alcott, Amy in the book, was an artist and the house was filled with her artwork.  Our tour was nice with stories, and information about the Alcott family including that Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts were all friends who were in the same circles.  To be a fly on the wall during a dinner party!  Unfortunately, the tour was crowded and some rooms were too small for the number of people in the group.  But I still enjoyed learning about the Alcott family.  My favorite fact that I learned about Louisa May Alcott is that she worked for voting rights of women, and was the first woman to vote in Concord.

It was a nice rainy grey October day with 
lots of beautiful fall colors to see during the drive.