Monday, September 8, 2014

Mushroom Monday_Chanterelles

Our first find of Cantharellus cibarius!

Have we just missed these in the six years we've been looking for mushrooms? More than likely we just haven't been in the right place at the right time. Now we know where to look and about when.

Clean and uncleaned Chanterelles. Your tolerance for grit will change after you've cleaned a few pounds of these.

We've tried these highly regarded mushrooms in a cream of mushroom soup, sauteed with herbs and a little wine for a pizza, and sauteed in butter. I am just not as wowed as I thought I would be... it could be the terroir or type of Chanterelle (since the Splitters might not yet have a name for the ones that grow in the northern part of our state), or maybe I'm just spoiled by the Boletus barrowsii, B. edulis, and Sparassis crispa we find.    

Sparassis crispa or Cauliflower Mushroom. One of our favorites.

Chanterelles might be a second-tier mushroom for me, the jury is still out. We have some frozen as duxelles and I look forward to trying them in a few different recipes, maybe a risotto this winter, as a stuffing for flounder, who knows? Don't get me wrong, we'll definitely pick Chanterelles when we are lucky enough to find them, we'll just have to keep looking for that perfect application to show us why they are so highly touted in the world of mycophagy. Tough job, but we're up for it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

So much for 2012's resolutions...

I have a new appreciation for people who juggle blogging and the rest of life. Obviously, this is the ball I dropped for the last two years while working a part-time gig at USFWS and being back in school half-time. Spare time has been rare and better spent doing than chronicling, but now I have a little breathing room... some highlights from 2013.

We learned how to make pickles...

Cucumbers, dill and currant leaves (their tannins help keep the pickles crisp) from the garden .

and grew, then pickled some Chinese long beans.

recipe from Canning for a New Generation

We foraged mushrooms and had the pleasure of sharing our enthusiasm with good friends.

Next generation mycophile?


We made shortbread from spruce tips...

and healing potions from elderberries discovered in our local mountains.

Sambucus cerulea or S. mexicana.

While life in the Seemingly Stochastic world is ever-changing, a few things remain constant:
 I hope you are well and that I'll see you more frequently in the coming year.

Whooooo's wishing you a Happy 2014? (Burrowing Owl on the Refuge.)

Monday, December 31, 2012

May good things come your way in 2013!

Happy New Year!
What's that, Intrepid Reader? Yes, I did add 'post more often' to my list of resolutions for 2013. See you soon.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Whether you're hunting mushrooms, glassing for elk on a hillside or trying to look through water to see the fish, it's all about pattern recognition and what we call, "getting your eyes on." After that first or second sighting of something you're having to pick out of a challenging background, your brain seems to relax and you start seeing the shape you're looking for much more easily.

Same thing happens when we're looking for waterbirds to count. At our refuge we count waterfowl, shore & marsh birds, and raptors twice a month. Sometimes it's about trying to tell cranes from geese in the first light of dawn, or picking out different duck species in a flock of hundreds; sometimes it's just seeing them where they are. Last week provided some of the most interesting -- and rewarding -- exercises in pattern recognition we've had in a while.

Because I was recording sightings for four avid birders my POV was from the middle of the back seat. While everyone else was glassing the sky and nearby telephone poles and trees, my view was kind of like this.

Hey look! That's a...

Killdeer on a clutch of four eggs.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) are fairly common down here but I had never seen a nest before. Had the bird not been on them, I'm not sure we would have noticed the eggs.
Later on we saw this:

Oh look! What's that?!?! Oh yeah...

Green Heron on a nest.

The nest was typical for the Butorides virescens, a basket of small sticks on a branch over the water. Next week we'll be checking for little gray downy chicks; if there's an average clutch of 2-6 green eggs in that nest we are hoping for least a few hatchlings.

Alas, we don't have any nest cams on the refuge (yet) and after a brief look around the web the Green Heron doesn't seem to rate one. If you're interested, you can see young GBHEs at the  Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Great Blue Heron Cam, along with all sorts of other nest cams.

During that same bird survey we also saw a Black-necked Stilt on a nest. We have already seen Snowy Plover chicks and owlets so for the next survey we'll be on the lookout for all manner of fluffy balls o' bird on the ground and in nests. If they're mobile, the chicks should be a little easier to pick out, although as I recall, those SNPL chicks looked like dirty cottonballs drifting across the salt-encrusted grass and beige sands of the lake edge where they nest. Better be gettin' my eyes on...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Garden Life: the Garden is In!

Finally. Last minute travel plans and other events meant seeds didn't go into the ground until the 3rd week in May. And almost everything went in as seed, no indoor starts and only a few bought jalapeno and bell pepper plants this year. It's plenty warm in the daytime and still cooling down nicely at night so the seeds are happily following their genetic imperatives and everything looks promising. However, the weather and water have also jump-started a bumper crop of weeds.

Although may not be the case in a few weeks, my views on weeds thus far flow along these lines:
 Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be.  Some people find in it a kind of soothing monotony.  It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have encountered a relative's latest example of unreasonableness.  ~Christopher Lloyd, The Well-Tempered Garden, 1973
'Soothing monotony,' until you really start paying attention to the 'weeds.' Here's what's happening amongst the Tiger Thai Eggplants: 

eggplants in lower left corner; elm seeds, grass and volunteer basil

Okay, everything gets pulled but the basil, we'll get it when it's big enough to season some pasta or serve as a garnish. Of course, all this extra growth is occurring on top of the mound so a hoe is out of the question -- at least in my hands -- and even the Hori Hori has to be used sparingly. The work gets even closer in some areas. Wonder what's supposed to be growing in this row...

not tomatoes... not pole beans... it's a row of Dill, those tiny, 2 leaf seedlings next to the soaker hose

Why all the volunteers? Remember the frozen vegetable section photo from last year's freeze?* The mild winter and lack of moisture must have preserved all kinds of seeds, our own little heirloom seed saver project without the collecting... and the labeling. Some of the volunteers will get to stand their ground and others will go friends' gardens in a week or so when the thinning is done. I don't think they'll mind the addition of mystery tomatoes... unless some of them happen to be Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes. Those were some of the best cherry tomatoes we've ever had but they were teeny and the skin tore when you picked them so you had to eat them almost immediately, or snip off a bunch still on the stem.  This year, Matt's volunteers will be treated like weeds.

Alas, there has been no inspiration for a novel, although a downright seedy thought came to me while weeding tomatoes from tomatoes: our parsley has bolted and is just starting to flower; a planter or two under the heads for the seeds as they drop should result in another pot of parsley. Yep, that's easy* and... free!!

Flowering parsley; the pollinators are here, yay!

 From weedy & seedy to chic, check out the cool small space gardening ideas at No Ordinary Homestead. This is link-y fun so join us if you can!

*Yes, Intrepid Reader, you know I'm a bit of a lazy gardener. The garden litter did not get picked up with alacrity; I thought it would be good for the soil. Yeah, that's my story... 
 * See? That's a lazy gardener.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Since last we met...

Thousands of cranes, waterfowl, marsh birds, and raptors counted.

Great Horned Owlet looks like a fluffy cat on the limb.

Hundreds of ducks banded. Ducks hunted, with a few in the gumbo pot to share with friends.

B'Dawg fetches a male Northern Pintail.

Dove hunted...

 then prepped as appetizers for future visitors.

Dove breasts stuffed with cheese and jalapenos, wrapped in bacon
Packed for the freezer.

 Deer and turkey scouted and hunted. Alas, no tidy vacuum-sealed packages for the freezer.

 On private land; how did they know the season started?

Traveled to Seattle, WA and Washington, DC for work; to NorCal wine country to celebrate birthdays... 

A cure for palate fatigue: fresh oysters, cold beer, Goat Rock Beach.

and to southwestern Florida for fun while MDMNM was in class all day.*

These birds were regulars on the beach outside our hotel. We see the Snowy Egrets at our refuge fairly often; 
in a rare sighting a few weeks ago we saw a lone Little Blue Heron there, too.

Good friends were hosted. Spring sprung.

And we lost the eldest in our clowder...

You might remember him from this post.

so here we are. Next time we're together, let's go for a walk in the garden.

*Yes, Intrepid Reader, we did manage to get in a half-day of fishing without missing a single CLE credit.