Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Fun fun and Slime Mold

What should a person do when they live wayyyy out in the country during a a time when you don't feel like co-mingling with other humans?

It is the end of September and the forest is full of creepy, ingenious, and strange growths. So, I spend an hour or so each day walking around the section of the woods that is deep and dark. Where the logs are moss covered. Where old bones from animals lay. It is a place that I didn't go through often because the canopy is so dark and there is little undergrowth.

It is a spooky part of our woods.

I never knew there could be so many things to see in such a small area!

The hard part is trying to figure out what on earth I am finding!

Some of it is easy. Old Chicken of the woods. When fresh, they are bright orange. These are old, but still very impressive in size. Apparently it can be eaten if you know your Fungi. I wouldn't eat this though. Looks a bit on the yucky side.

I found Blobs of white in spots all over the forest floor. I've seen them before but just ignored them while hiking. Not this week. I decided to go ahead and try to figure out what these strange things were.

So at first I poked it with a stick and then with my finger. They feel like a mushroom or fungi. I did some digging and came up with a possible ID. The Shrimp of the Woods. One site said it was a malformed aborted mushroom and another said it was a parasitic fungi that ate other fungi. I am not going to go ahead and give it the scientific name as I am not really quite sure. I have more investigating to do.

I've collected many photos in the past few days and am still trying to figure out what I'm seeing.

Slime Mold?
Here is a photo of my foot in the middle of the white stuff. Is is slime mold? What stage is it if it is?
I really have no idea of what I am seeing so I just photograph it out of curiosity .

Here is a close up of the white stuff. It is gorgeous! It looks like a snow-scape doesn't it? 

Here is the edge of the 'stuff' with a dime for size reference.

It isn't really slimly and icky. Just a bit odd. 
I hunted around the forest a bit more and noted something white on another log. 
Think of the size of flea eggs when you see this as it is a macro shot with my little Tough Camera in the microscopic mode:

I will go back once a day to see what this turns into. I've been trying to do some investigating and slime mold has a 'fruiting' stage.
Oh heck, I have NO idea what I am talking about here.

Just that this stuff is cool, interesting and worth photographing as it changes.
Perhaps I can figure out what it is one of these fine days.

Something tiny but pretty. Yellow Fairy Cup Fungi!
I found this on a piece of wood. Thank goodness for its bright color or I would have missed it. 

The forest always has some sort of surprise!
Here is a slug hugging a tiny puff ball!

And for the last shot of this day another group of fungi growing on a log.

I call these Fungi...a Happy Little Family.
I'm pretty sure I can imagine woodland creatures hiding nearby.

By the way. The color of the trees are magnificent. In the past few days, I've had to run a few errands and I've been able to stop and take some photos.
But this fungi stuff is fascinating also. 
More fall color photos tomorrow. I promise!

And more Strange Fungi or Slime Mold too!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Covid update for the end of September

On Friday our county jumped in Covid numbers. 35 people that were positive were recovering at home.
Our numbers jumped again.  70 people recovering at home. Good news is I guess is that we still only have one death.
Bad news?

The scuttle butt is that there are a few nursing homes showing up with the virus. Yes, after spending time with my MIL over the past year or so...old people and infirm people do really matter. So don't tell me they don't. I spent so much time with those in the home with my MIL, that I got to know them as fun wonderful people. Infirm in mind? Perhaps. Unable to care for themselves... yes. But wonderful and beautiful people.

Yet one neighbor down the ridge told me not to worry. You know...only 1% die from this virus. 

Let's do some math. 328.2 million people live in our country. If the virus will only kill ... 


only ONLY...



We are left with 3million, 282 thousand deaths.

But you know what? It's just numbers. The Covid-19 is no big deal. Unless, your loved one, your dad, mom, sister, cousin, grandchild, or child dies. And they could die alone. 


I want to ask my neighbor *What's 1% of your family?*  

I leave you to your own thoughts and conclusions. I need to go out and be like Charlie.
Enjoy the forest floor and enjoy with pure abandon.

After all, there is slime mold to look for!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Hunting colors

These are the colors in the valley as I was walking around during midday. The colors tend to be washed out in the midday sun so they aren't as striking as they would be early morning or late evening.

So, I decided to change things up and use the Infared Camera. What would the fall colors look like in the blasting sunlight?

Well. Hands down.
Simply amazing.

I think the Infrared shot of the pond vs the regular color shot is pretty telling.
One of the more interesting things is seeing light in different colors.
I used the IRChrome filter which actually produces a blue sky and generally will produce white clouds and red foliage.
I figured out how to tweak the orange/red/yellow hues to bring out the differences in the colors of the changing leaves.
Most IR filters will not reflect the subtle color differences in the changing leaves.

Nothing however beats the light at sunrise in color...

After our recent rain and warm days I have gone out to hunt cool tiny fungi and something called slime mold.
I'm a curious person, so I like to find the little things on the forest floor.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Of this and that

Well let's start out with a photo of Charlie who is so honest and so wise. He is the Zen Master of Calm unless he meets you for the first time. Then he is all wiggly and happy. He becomes calm again very quickly.

Here he is sitting and watching a vole hole next to the porch. He is listening and waiting. He doesn't kill the vole, he just observes and then sniffs at them to make them feel uncomfortable? 

He sure can be focused. He will spend the afternoon like this. I wonder if he can hear them under the dirt? I know he has done that in other parts of the yard.

Around the side of the yard under the honey locust tree that is dying I found these Inky Caps.

In a way they are kind of cool and interesting. Sort of ugly and beautiful at the same time.

Look at the one above. There is a fly on it! What a surprise it was for me to see it when I opened up the image larger.

And then they turn into inky slime. Certain strange varieties can be eaten and certain ones are poison. People have collected the goo and make an ink from them too. Thus I suppose the reason they are called Inky Caps.

I'm going to hit some trails today and look for Slime Mold and other cool Fungi. September, especially a day after a rainstorm is a great Fungi month!

The colors are also going to be amazing.
If you live where the leaves change, go out and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

I voted

Absentee Ballots. Done.

No, I will not tell you who got my vote. And I won't lecture anyone else at this point. Instead, I am going to stop reading the opinion pages and political pages of news. 

I'm not going to just post baby kittens, puppies, and unicorns with rainbow farts...


There you go. This should make you laugh.

Instead I am going to dive into some thoughtful things. Reading some poetry, searching for cool fungi, and looking at the world around me in detail. I'm going to look at sunrises and sunsets and enjoy the fact that I am still counted as a living person.

I've voted. I turned in my ballot to a secure box at our Town Hall. I have done my duty as an American. I used a ballot to speak my opinion.

And now I go

and immerse myself in Nature.

Please go vote.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Dog Songs

After my morning routine, I sat down with a new book that had arrived. It is called Dog Songs  written by Mary Oliver. She is a renowned poet and essayist that I admire greatly.

I couldn't resist the small book.

Charlie decided it was a good idea to lay across my lap while I read.

If you are a dog owner, or have ever been a dog owner. I recommend this book. The book will make you smile and it will make you cry, or at least get teared up.

Her poem The First Time Percy Came Back struck me in the heart like I never though possible.
She speaks of seeing Percy and the reader understands that Percy is no longer of this world.
Yet in her writing you know beyond any doubt that Percy has never left her heart.

I think Mary Oliver loved dogs as she loved nature. They were part of her heart and soul.

The First Time Percy Came Back

by Mary Oliver

The first time Percy came back

he was not sailing on a cloud.
He was loping along the sand as though
he had come a great way.
"Percy," I cried out, and reached to him—
those white curls—
but he was unreachable. As music
is present yet you can't touch it.
"Yes, it's all different," he said.
"You're going to be very surprised."
But I wasn't thinking of that. I only
wanted to hold him. "Listen," he said,
"I miss that too.
And now you'll be telling stories
of my coming back
and they won't be false, and they won't be true,
but they'll be real."
And then, as he used to, he said, "Let's go!"
And we walked down the beach together.

Sunday, September 20, 2020


I've always wanted to be a 'landscape' photographer and find beautiful mountains and wild open places to take magnificent photos.

Alas. I mostly find frustration. Oh sure, I get to places like Black Hawk Rock and can stand 195 feet or so above the valley. The stunning scenery just reminds me how lucky I am to live in the Driftless Region.

In truth, I live in a place with steep valleys and hillsides. The woods and forest is my place of comfort, not big wide open places. 

Face it. I like to study the little things around me. 

Take for instance the tiny mushrooms. I enjoyed slowly walking through our forest searching for tiny things that normally don't catch a person's eye.

I actually enjoy catching sight of tiny insects and other strange things.

Strange indeed to find a Samsung phone in my forest. I suspect I know where it came from but am confused as to why no one let me know they lost it in my forest.
I couldn't miss the opportunity to include the tiny soldiers in a 'call for help!'

And then there was Flying Ant Day! The red ants swarm and the ones with wings and do their thing. It isn't always one day, but it is pretty neat to come across them. Something else I wouldn't have found if I were always looking for the big scene.

The Crab Spider. So beautiful and hard to spot unless you are really looking for them on flowers. Another little 'thing'.

Orange Peel Fungi! So beautiful and bright in the moss. I was walking with Charlie just under the trees near a field. I stopped to check out the moss and under the brush was these wonderful spots of color. Little things that look like someone tossed down mini orange peels. 

This? I was looking at my mail and happened to look down. What a pretty little thing. I have no don't know what it is but it may be fungi from the ink cap family. There are dozens of different kinds. I happened to love the color in the morning light.

This Bumble must have stayed out too late? I like cold bees, I can get close to them.

Tiny Bee. There were dozens of them so busy on the fleabane. They were tricky to 'catch' on camera. I resorted to using the 'action' mode and it took several tries before I got a picture of one.
This one is a leaf cutter bee. Not the kind that builds big nests but is more solitary. 

Remember these pretty fungi?

Here they are now.

I imagine their work is done. They spread their spores and will wilt away and disappear.

I spent my 'free' time this week looking for more fungi while Rich was napping. See, it is always a good excuse to have to walk Charlie. He is little too. 

Little dog, little me, 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Wake up early

I wasn't going to go, but the Rooster alarm on my Smarty Phone woke me up. Fumbling to shut it off, I knocked my glasses off the stand and they landed somewhere in the dark with a clunk.

Oh great, I thought, now my glasses are trapped by the Dust Bison under the bed. Ah, well I'd rounded up those bad little Bison the other day so maybe not. I slid out of bed to try and find the glasses. 

Damn that Rooster. But it was pretty funny. I located the glasses and grabbed the phone finally silenced the Rooster. Well. 

Now I was awake. I hit the button on the coffee maker while I checked the weather in the valley. Cold with warmer air on the ridge. The little icon showed a car with foggy headlights.


That was exactly what I was hoping for a bit of valley fog and no winds to blow it away. The coffee burbled while I grabbed a pair of leggings to put on under my cargo pants. Charlie peered at me from under the blanket on the couch. I patted him on the head as I passed by to grab my to go cup and shut off the coffee maker.

And there I was. Off on a predawn adventure. I was glad I'd done a trial run in the daylight and knew about how long it would take me to drive there and park. 

I was feeling pretty optimistic I halfway there my dashboard computer dinged and gave me a message that I had a 'low' tire. Well, if that didn't beat all! I pulled over and checked the tire pressure dashboard gauge and the tire was down 3 pounds. I looked at the rear tire and decided I was safe to drive.

That icon on the dash board was irritating as all get out. I find the new sensors wonderful tools but almost too sensitive.

I parked, grabbed my over the shoulder bag and turned on the headlamp. I was glad I'd also brought a small but bright flash light. The start of the trail is wide but it was nice to see more of what I was getting into than less. 

It was an 8 minute cardio pounding hike to the final trail. I stopped there and caught my breath. The forest was still silent around me. No bird calls, just the sound of the trees and rocks. I know ... trees and rocks don't make noises. 
But they do.

And then I reached my goal and I was stunned. I sat down on the rock and pulled out my gear. I took a drink of water and waited and watched.

The lighting was tricky looking northeast but the shadows and light were amazing.
I turned southwest, the predawn light lit up the valley below...

I sat and watched the valley fog rise and move. It looked as if it were alive with a mind of its own. 

I had the whole place to myself and I felt as if Mother Nature was putting on a show just for me. Oh I know that is not true, but it felt like I was the only person in the universe to see this. 

And I felt very humbled.

Before the sun came over the horizon, I packed up and left. If I timed everything right, I'd be back home before Rich even woke up.
One more glance over my shoulder.

I didn't need a light to negotiate the trail back down and some birds started to rustle in the forest.

I hurried to the main trail but stopped by the huge oak tree.

The sun was making its appearance through the leaves. I thought perhaps that one time I would have enough time on my hands to stay and watch the light change in the forest below.

I felt I could have stayed for hours.
Perhaps some day I can.

Back to the car and that damned tire icon. 

I got home safely and finished making coffee. 
How calm yet excited and renewed I felt after seeing something so incredible.

And that is why I like to wake up early.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Feeling Free


Sometimes I just have an idea and I have to go. My farm work is done, my house work is feet want to wander and explore.

I wanted to see how long it took to get from the house to the top of Black Hawk Rock. 35 minutes ~~ not driving fast. More like the pace I'd set if it were dark and perhaps a bit foggy. I took Charlie and he was a super trooper. I parked and took the short route.

In less than 8 minutes I was ready to climb the steep trail up. 

That took another 8 minutes as there is some difficult footing to negotiate and I went slowly and carefully as though I'd be walking in the semi dark with a headlamp. The elevation climb is 195 feet.

And then there is the view....

Granted, the sky was rather blah, but that is the haze from the Western Fires. I've been here a few times, but the view never disappoints me. I'd gone early enough also to have the view to myself.

I did set up my little red camera on a small tripod and operated it with my cell phone for this shot. 

I sat there for quite a while.

I imagined climbing up to this spot predawn. That could be magical. Photographically speaking, it could be awesome or a dud. But that didn't matter. I want the 'feeling' of it. The awe it would bring. 

Somehow right here, I felt free, unencumbered by all those difficult day to day things I normally had to do. I felt terribly alive and at peace inside.

And the short hike isn't too hard to enjoy either.

Black Hawk at dawn.
I'm ready for it.