Magic Mushrooms, Strange Fruit & Other Curiosities

While Bruce was learning a bit of forestry during the Cider Pressing Weekend, I took off wandering around the farm to see what I could find.  It wasn’t a gorgeous day, but I had a gorgeous time exploring.  At least with the lack of sun my photos aren’t all washed out.  First, it has to be said that I am not an expert in identifying flowers, trees, insects, animals, or anything similar and I am a beginner in photography.  I do enjoy seeing what new things I can find in the garden and I enjoy photographing them and this blog is a record of what we discover on our farm.  I am a student and the farm is my classroom.  And maybe somewhere along the way, I’ll improve in my photography and identification skills.  They certainly can’t get any worse…I hope.

Magic Mushrooms1

The first odd thing I came across was purple mushrooms.  They are white on the outside with purple gills and purple inside.  I looked at hundreds of mushroom photos on-line and found some that were close, but none of them have the purple interior.  I’m thinking that perhaps it turned purple from exposure to the air.  At any rate, they are pretty, but look poisonous to me.  I did learn, in my mushroom study, that I need to do more than take a photo.  I need to take note of characteristics, such as the shape and color and if it has gills and a stem and that I should take a spore sample.  Okay.  Well, I didn’t think I would ever want to eat any mushrooms I found, so I never bought a book on identifying them.  After looking at those hundreds of mushroom photos, I found some that are pretty darn interesting and am rethinking that book purchase.  I’m still not going to eat them!


I found another mushroom on the opposite side of the pond from the purple one, and I think it’s some sort of truffle–which is totally a guess.  The website I looked at had several categories of mushrooms and the one I found only fit into the truffle category.  Hmmm…I thought truffles were underground and needed to be dug up by pigs.  Maybe only the expensive, French kind.


In our pine forest/farm the roses and blackberries grow wild.  This time of year the roses are full of rose hips.  The bright red contrasting with the bright green is beautiful.  I have a new, untested book called, Foraged Flavor by Tama Matsuoka Wong with a recipe for Wild Rose Petal Jam which I think would be interesting to make.  But, also, I think there is something that can be made with the rose hips.  I’ll have to look into that.

Strange Fruit1

One oddity on the rose bushes was a fuzzy, brown growth.  It appears to be Mossy Rose Gall and it’s caused by the cynipid wasp larva.  The wasp causes the plant to change the course of its normal growth.  The gall provides protection for the wasp and a source of food.  It doesn’t injure the plant and there isn’t any effective treatment or prevention.

        Pink Flower                                 Blue Flowers                                       White Flower

I didn’t expect to find any wildflowers, since it was almost November and the weather was cool and overcast, but I did find some hardy souls here and there.  I searched and searched my books and on-line but couldn’t identify any of them.  Once again, I learned that you have to do more than take a photo.  I found a handy checklist on-line that I need to take with me on wildflower walks so I’ll remember to check out more than the color and shape.  If I live long enough I may figure this out.

Correction:  Between writing this post and posting it I think I’ve discovered what the blue flower is.  It seems to be in the Lamiaceae or Mint Family.   I’ll have to pick some and smell it next time I’m on the farm for verification.  (Edit: 2/22/2015; The blue-flowered plant is Mentha pulegium or Pennyroyal.)

      Mulberry2          Persimmon         Apple

      Yellow tree         Crabapple         Crabapple1          Apple tree

What else?  We were there in time to see the changing colors of the leaves–apple, persimmon, mulberry and maple in particular.  Most of our farm is planted with pine trees so the splashes of oranges, yellows and reds against the green made for a spectacular  display.

SpiderWeb  A spider web with dew.

Ponderosa Pinecone         Douglas fir cone (note the “mouse going in a hole” pattern)

Asparagus  Glowing orange asparagus fronds.

Cedar  Cedar branches

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

— Albert Camus

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Lifting and Falling

One of the tasks Bruce accomplished on our last trip to the farm was to learn how to lift a tree and fell a tree.  Bruce explains:

Crown Lifting:

Crown lifting involves cutting off the lower branches of the pine trees to encourage them to grown into better trees that are more valuable.  It is referred to as crown lifting, maybe because after you are done the trees appear to have been lifted off the ground on tall poles.

The trees are more valuable as lumber if they have fewer knots and are shaped more like cylinders than teepees.  If the lower limbs are removed as the tree grows, the trunk will have smaller knots.  Secondly, left alone the trunk will reduce in diameter at each ring of branches, as energy and food is sent out to the branches.  If those branches are removed the reduction in size will be reduced as the energy and food is sent on up the trunk to the remaining branches.

The process starts when the tree is about 6 feet high; any branches that exist on the lower half of the tree are cut off.  This continues every few years until the branches you need to cut are higher than you are willing to go or you tire of the effort.  When cutting off the lower branches on pine trees you follow the same rules as cutting branches off most trees.  Remove as much of the branch as you can without damaging the collar.  The collar is a growth around where the branch exits the trunk of the tree.  It looks like a bit of swollen bark surrounding the limb.  This collar contains special cells that have the ability to isolate the cut and then grow to cover the spot where the limb exited the trunk.  Once the collar does its thing, the trunk of the tree will continue to expand as if the limb was never there which is one of the key goals.  If, in the process of cutting off the limb, you leave too long of a stub on the trunk the collar cells will not be able to isolate and cover the cut.  If, when cutting off the limb, the cut extends too far into the collar the collar cells will be damaged to the point where they cannot isolate and cover the cut.  Both cases will leave a blemish on the trunk that reduce the value of the tree and could provide a path for a pathogen to enter and destroy the tree.

An added benefit of this process is reduced forest fire risk, a home that is more easily defended in the case of forest fire and forest that is likely to sustain less damage in the event of a forest fire.

Then there is the exercise benefit.  This is good aerobic outdoor exercise, done in the winter when the sap is in the roots and other gardening activities are minimized by cold and rain.  This is a great reason to be in the woods, among the wildlife, and enjoying life.

Cutting firewood

We have a wood burning stove that will consume about 4 cords of firewood a year to warm the house during the winter.  The farm includes about a ¼-mile stretch of the Archambeau creek and two swales that grow trees suited for firewood.  The plan is to cut wood off this riparian portion of the farm to provide the firewood and to maintain the stand of trees so that this is a sustainable activity over the long term.  The trees growing in these sections of land are mostly Ash, with some White and Black Oak, and a few Madrone.   All of these are good sources of heat.  The Ash trees are well adapted to this wet environment and are plentiful.  Over time, I hope to learn how to manage the harvest of firewood in balance with erosion control, regeneration, biodiversity and a healthy riparian habitat.

Back to me:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I tagged along to take photos of the whole operation.  I now understand a bit more about how people get trapped under a felled tree.  That tree came down fast.  Even though I was waiting and waiting for it to fall, when it did I only had time to point my camera in the general direction and push the button.  Scary and cool.  While I can’t see myself ever using a chain saw I think it might not be too bad to do some lifting.  For this day, wandering around, investigating the land, and taking photos was the best choice.