Friday, December 18, 2009

Final Harvest of the Year

We're usually far south by now but this year has been a rather stationary year for us dogs and I'm enjoying the harvests of the late fall.

Like persimmons. They were the only fruit I never cared for. Past tense, because after tasting these guys, I've had to change my mind. They're quite different from the crunchy persimmons we had in Japan. You have to wait 'til they get really soft and then they're like this exotic, almost tropical jelly. Very interesting flavor! The small ones are about 2-3 inches in diameter, but the big ones are HUGE.

It's going to be a good season for mushrooms, too, with all this rain. Too bad I know next to nothing about them because some of them are downright yummy looking. Apparently our valley is famous for the variety and volume of mushrooms -- it's considered one of the mushroom "hot spots" of California! Neighbors keep warning us about trespassing poachers during mushroom season, but we've got rabid mushroomers on our ranch so it's doubtful there will be much left for the poachers. Here's a small collection of the different kinds I caught (on camera) during a brief stroll.

There are a few I can't even imagine picking up...but others look like they would be great in a cream of mushroom these that are sprouting all around our house.

And finally, chanterelles.
Actually the mushrooms in the photo above were a gift from the caretaker of a neighboring ranch and look a little different from regular chanterelles. They smelled and tasted the same...and we're still alive. For your reference, here's a USDA picture of a more typical chanterelle.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Wild and Wet

J & R's black lab, Jade, has been sick and they called us last night to see if perhaps we'd been putting out poison for the gophers.

"No..... They're back big time with everything getting green again, but we don't want to go that route. Probably for this very reason."
"I don't know what it is, but she's drooling like crazy," said R. "I'm sure it's nothing, but we may take her to the vet and we thought that if there was poison out there, that would be something to go on."

"I wonder if it was a mushroom," I mentioned to J when we crossed paths at the turn-off to Los Osos Valley Road. I'd been thinking about it all night because there are so many kinds of mushrooms sprouting everywhere. As a fungi lover, I have to poke at each one, look it over, sniff it and wonder if I could take just the tiniest of bites. Some of them are puffy and purple, like a nasty bruise. Others are big and smooth, with lovely curves. Some look like psilocybin mushrooms. I take pictures and send them to horticulturist friends, hoping to find an answer, but to no avail. How can Nature tempt me like this?

"I don't know. She seems fine now, but if it was a mushroom, she must be having a helluva trip," he laughed. "She's still just drooling all over the place."

Maybe it was. I saw her in the afternoon and she wasn't drooling any more. In fact, she came up to me in an uncharacteristically friendly way. Hmmm. 'Shrooms?

After the rains, I'll go into the woods and see if I can find some chanterelles. At least I know what they look and smell like! (I can hear the mushroom experts gasping, "but xyz that's terribly deadly looks just like a chanterelle!") Until then, we're busy filling burlap bags with sand and hauling those puppies around the ranch. It's going to be a wild and wet winter, for sure.

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