Thursday, November 28, 2013

Quincy Junction Road - attractions

 Studies in brown on Thanksgiving afternoon.  The Teasel is interesting year 'round.
 Twins.  Shooting toward the dark, shady willow grove.
 Cat-o-nine-tails, prepping for next spring.  These were across a ditch full of water, so I didn't get to smack a few to set the seeds free.  The next windy day will take care of that.
 When I approached this weedy shrub from the left, it looked like Tumbleweed. 
A view of Mt. Pleasant, around 15 miles to the West. 

Won't Drink Out of Bowls!

 I feed my friend's cat periodically when she's out of town.  Whenever I come by, there's always a little bit of food left in his bowl and plenty of water in each of two bowls.
However, as soon as I enter the house, he comes up for a brief head rub against my closed hand, then dashes excitedly for the bathroom sink and waits for me to turn on the water.  He drinks lots, then jumps down and checks out the new food.  Then runs back for another drink.  I wish it were as easy to make people happy.
This facial expression means "thank you for turning on the faucet."

I Can't Believe They're Still Here!

 The scene, a California Black Oak by my driveway that has been essentially leafless for a month.  I walked to this spot to take one last look at the mushrooms growing in the shade a few yards into the forest.  On a whim, I checked a few low-hanging branches, and was shocked to find some clusters of Oak Treehoppers still hanging on.  The temperature in mid-afternoon was barely above freezing, and it went several degrees below for several nights previously. 
 Here we have adults of both color patterns, the olive drab with yellow spots on the left and a couple with longitudinal red and white stripes on top of the branch.  The ones with horizontal black, red and white stripes are juveniles.
 A lone adult, pointing toward the ground.  I wonder if she'll jump.
A nice group of adults hanging beneath the branch.  They were too cold to try to hide behind the branch.  That made the photography easier.  This was an exciting interval before I took off for a tour of American Valley to see what might need to be photographed, and also to stop to feed my friend's cat.


My son Ryan's handiwork.  Time to break in.

Food for thought, or thoughts for food.

 I'm the cook today. but the aesthetics of real food, as opposed to pre-packaged crap, are so profound, that I continually get distracted and run for the camera.  Each time, I have to wash my hands before handling the camera, but it's worth it.  Above is some designer chard. 
 Next, a bowl full of concentrated Vitamin A, AKA Butternut Squash. 
 Stove-top dressing, a work in progress.  Some years, this is my favorite item on the menu. In deference to the squeamish, I omitted the giblets.
 Chicken thighs, red potatoes, carrots, onions, and...oh, darn.  Forgot the mushrooms.  All sprinkled with olive oil and rosemary.
 More chard.  I could stare at the veins for hours. 

Some Thanksgiving Thoughts

 I left the house before sunrise, accompanied by camera, and headed for a coffee shop.  The first photogenic scene I noticed was the insides of my car windows.  Beautiful frost patterns, shot from the inside, taking advantage of the fact it was still dark outside, so I got some nice contrast.  When I'm more thoroughly bundled up, it is fun to sit there are actually watch the frost form.
After taking these shots, I cruised Main Street from one end of town to the other.  No coffee shops or cafes were open, so I settled for the 76 station.  I got to write in my journal for a while, and read a discarded Reno daily which today cost twice the usual price and contained 3.5 pounds of advertising slicks.  No, I don't carry a pocket spring scale.  The front page article said there were 3.5 pounds of ads inside, as if it were something to brag about.  Oh, oh.  My thoughts started going negative.  Decided it was time to go home and start thinking about cooking.  I'll scout the neighborhood for interesting photos this afternoon.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The End of My Mushroom Season

 Note, I said my mushroom season.  It is definitely not the end of the mushroom season.  It's just that in my neighborhood, where all these photos were taken this past week, the variety and health of the forest fungi has reashed a peak, and I have decided to shift my blogging topics to other matters.
 I do love the varieties of brown, and I'll try to do some watercolor pencil drawings based on some of these photos in the coming weeks.  It is definitely too cold to sit in the woods and draw.  In a few of these photos there is still a hint of photosynthesis, for those of us who are still missing summer.
 The fungi in this series range from about 1/4" in diameter to over 6".  Some impressive structures.
 I'll try to identify them at my leisure, my mycology is definitely not my strong suit.  That would be wildflowers and herpetology, neither of which is fun at the location at this time of year, although an FRC student did point out to me today a few asters still blooming on campus.  She said, "Wow!  They're tougher than shit" and I had to agree. She's a horsewoman and agreed that horse poop deteriorates much faster than these asters.

I've fallen slightly behind my goal of "a post per day keeps the doctor away" but I'll try to make up for that during the four-day weekend ahead.  Happy Holiday everyone, and find things to enjoy besides shopping.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Rest of the Fungi

 This post begins and ends in my front lawn.  It's a series from an afternoon fungus walk I took a few days ago.  The photo above shows an interesting green growth on the trunk of the birch tree that was felled by heavy snow a couple of winters ago.  Not sure if the growth is a fungus, a lichen (which is part fungus) or a liverwort.  No mycologists in the neighborhood, as far as I know, so I'll hit the books.
 Along the driveway, the first attraction is the coral fungus which is now in the process of shriveling up for the winter.
 This bright red one is right in the path where kids walk to and from school, so I'm impressed that it's still there.  Very bright red.
 This tiny one is off the beaten path in the shade.  Maybe 3/4" in diameter.
 These big green ones make me think of the Andromeda Strain.
 A nice big cluster of brownish ones that look tasty, but I don't plan to try them.  The big guy below is one of many in an area just off the driveway.  I suspect they're all connected by a membrane, the mycelium, lurking beneath the pine and fir needles.
Back to my front lawn where this conical fungus cap has been stable for several weeks and is the only one remaining as far as I can tell.  It catches water every time it rains and shows no signs of wilting yet, despite the freezing mornings.  I have about 6 more waiting for my next post.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Need to Speak to My Editor!

My editor happens to be ME!  This morning, as I was sharing my recent posts with a friend at the coffee shop, I became acutely aware, again, of the difference between creative writing and editing, and of the different results one gets when going too fast vs. working at a reasonable pace.  Bottom line: too many typos.
From a natural history standpoint, an intersting comparison occurs to me.  In the process of cell reproduction that is going on in our bodies constantly, as it is in all living things, many, many mistakes are made.  Mistakes in the sense that the results would not be exact replications of the "mother" cells.  In fact, these mistakes, most of which are called mutations, would more often than not be lethal if not corrected.  Thus, there are multiple self-correcting mechanisms operating alongside the process of replication.  One might say that our cells have editors.
So, with a little bit of embarrassment, but no shame, I will now review my last week or so of blog posts while wearing my editor's hat.  Hopefully, the creative writer in me, such as it is, won't sneak into the picture and create new errors.  I'm not sure how many found errors would prompt me to go back further than a week.  I'll start by reviewing this one.

The Firewood Produces

 This fall has been uneventful when it comes to insect surprises in my firewood pile, until now.  My son Ryan was rearranging the stacks on our front deck when this handsome Stumpstabber appeared.  He got out his camera-smaller-than-a-pack-of-cigarettes and played with the bug for a while, getting it to assume some dramatic poses.  When I got home, I found that he had put the bug in a container for my enjoyment.  The first three photos are his.

 The above photo is my favorite.   I brought the bug inside for a "studio" portrait on my expensive, Dollar Tree background paper (below).  Ryan's au naturel shots are better.  After my studio session, I returned the bug to the woodpile so she could finish her business. 
The Stumpstabber is known locally by a less polite name.  For some fascinating reading, look it up under the Family Ichneumonidae or specifically, Megarhyssa nortoni.  This would have made a nice mascot for my high school in Norton, Mass.  We were the Lancers.  That might still work since the ovipositor of the Stumpstabber resembles a lance.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Rainy Stroll

Several days of intermittent rain have produced a lot of activity in the forest along my driveway.  It was hard to pick a few favorite photos from that 30-minute stroll, but here are three for openers.  I've been nursing a cold, so I took a break from the challenge of drawing treehoppers which I started the night before.  I'm looking forward to more drawing. 
The above photo is of a small branch of Douglas-fir that had fallen onto the branch of a Black Oak I was examining.  I was impressed how healthy the resident crop of lichens looked.  Actually, I wonder if the bright green ones might be liverworts.  Click on this photo for a detailed look.  It's easy for me to imagine being a small insect and seeing this cluster as my private forest.
Within 10 feet of the driveway pavement I found at least a dozen species of fungi.  The one in the above photo was one of the prettiest.  It vaguely resembles the Giant Sawtooth, but I'm not great at identifying Fungi.  Haven't checked the field guides yet, but will do. Photos like this one, as well as recent ones on my friend Spencer's blog at Spencer Dykstra Photography, give me a new appreciation of the color brown. 
Our cat, Radar, usually follows me on these walks.  It's amazing how he'll stand still at my side when I'm down on all fours to get close-up photos of various ground-dwellers.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Started

I've reduced the number of Treehoppers to around a dozen.  Actually, a baker's dozen if you count the mama on the left.  At this fork in the tree, there were probably around 30.  At least I started the drawing.  Maybe put in a little more time on it tomorrow.  I also took a mushroom walk.  The rain is bringing forth wonders.  Will probably post a few of those tonight.  And I sliced mushrooms into the Ramen soup I cooked tonight.  Didn't pick any in the woods.  Got them at the grocery store.  These little buggers are hard to draw.  Perhaps I should have started with a single mushroom.  The rain is releasing all sorts of wonderful fragrances.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Beating Around the Bush

 Here's the blank journal I've referred to in recent posts that is screaming out for attention.  So, still a bit stuck in a habit pattern, I photographed it. 
 Then, I took the second step and opening it and got out a pencil.
 I went still further and made a slightly colorful "date box" and showed off my holster of artist's weapons.
 Here's a close-up.  Pretty bold of me to commit to a date - namely, TODAY.  So, I must draw something before bed time.
Here's the journal and holster, packed for travel.  I've narrowed today's subject down to two prospects - a drawing from the season's last photo of Oak Treehoppers or a cluster of cute brown fungi that have popped up in the same spot where the Orange Peel Fungi have disappeared for the season.  But, meanwhile, until a drawing actually materializes, I am still "beating around the bush."