Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mushrooms in the Grass

Several years ago we took out a struggling, weak-branched tree that was too closely surrounded by two other large trees. Doing so has certainly created healthier conditions for the trees on either side of it. We recently noticed that the removed tree has left a legacy in the soil: a crop of mushrooms thriving on the decaying root structure after the stump was ground up. As mushrooms frequently seem to do, they sprang up seemingly overnight, disappeared again to all appearances, and reappeared.

Unless these are two different kinds of mushroom, it appears that the tops are almost flat and white with an oyster-like wavy edge when newly emerged and then undergo a separation and furling-up so that the dark brown undersides are exposed in a pattern like flower petals or fat asterisks.

I know very little about identifying fungi, so I'm certainly not going to try to eat these. Here's a visual identification guide to mushrooms, but I understand it can take careful examination to be sure of an identification except in some more obvious cases. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I will have an opinion about what type these are.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Purple Basil in Late June Garden

This pretty purple basil begged to be photographed this morning when I went out to visit the dew-dampened garden.

As you can see, I finally got around to spreading out straw mulch on the garden. I bought it several weeks ago, but didn't want to put it down before the ground really started to warm up, and because of our cool weather earlier this month that took a while. The tomatoes are really starting to grow now that we have had some hot days and warmer nights. As a result of the warm-up, some of my self-seeded lettuces have started to bolt and have turned bitter. The only plants that have suffered from the bunnies are the four chard plants, but at least one of those still looks as if it might come to something. I have three squash plants and several cucumbers down at the far end of the bed, which are just starting to develop their real leaves. It'll be quite a while before we have anything to pick from them.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Bank Swallows

Rob Hardy posted yesterday about bank swallows that have excavated residences at a construction site just east of Target in Northfield, so we went to see them this evening.

I loved this juxtaposition of the swallows' colony of dwellings against the human colony of apartments going up behind it. You can see a swallow zipping by at the top right of this photo. It's even possible to see the white underquarters that make this small brown and white bird so striking (click on any of the photos for a closer view).

In the photo above, if you look closely, you should be able to see three or four swallows flying low in front of the colony. The swallows flick in and out of their holes quickly, making it a matter of pure luck to catch one at the door.

This one, seen through the spotting scope, actually paused briefly, perhaps checking on babies within. Bank swallows get their Latin name, riparia riparia, from the riverbanks in which they frequently nest, but they can adapt to a range of erodable banks and cliffs, including sand and gravel quarries. They breed over most of the northern two-thirds of the United States as well as Europe and Asia.

It was a treat to see such an organized community spring up in such a temporary situation as a construction site. I hope they are not disturbed before their young are fully fledged.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Irises and Peonies

This morning's visit to the farmer's market yielded, besides various edible goodies, these lovely irises and the paler of the peonies - a sight fit to be painted - from Thorn Crest Farm. The darker pink peony came from a bush at our house. Perfect!
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cottonwood Snow, Part II

After the cold spell over the weekend - three days where the thermometer didn't crack 60 degrees, the longest June cold snap in the Twin Cities area since 1951, according to news media - the cottonwoods went back into production with a vengeance the last few days. Above is a birdbath sitting on my deck; below is part of my backyard, all bespeckled with cottonwood seed tufts. One bunch of fluff collected in front of my garage, and when I walked past it it swirled up like a tornado. Quite remarkable!

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Goslings and Goslings and Ducks, Oh My

Click on this photo to see in much greater detail the Cannon River scene tonight: two Canada goose families of noticeably different stages of maturation, and a bunch of male mallards having a bachelor party while "the mrs." is back watching the ducklings in some suitable location. Note the differences in the coloration of the tail feathers of the various goslings. Even within a family some are more developed than others.
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cottonwood Snow

It's early June, so 'tis the season when the cottonwood trees release their seeds in cottony tufts that waft around in the air, befuzz your dog's water dish, and in some areas accumulate like an early snowfall on the green grass. This scene is on 9th Street, between Water and Division, earlier today.

The cottonwood (Populus deltoides var. occidentalis) is a large tree of the poplar family that likes sun but also likes moist soil. A cluster of them out in the countryside often signifies a water source nearby.

You can clearly see the individual seeds in the layer of fine white fluff above and, closer-up, below. (Click on the photos for much more detail.)

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