Today’s walk was definitely about fungus and lichen. We have had some good storms and rainy weather recently (an inch of rain in a storm just last night) and everything is fresh and new. The lichen and fungus are all taking this opportunity to grow and spawn to their heart’s content.
When I planted out the first coffee tree (read that post here), I didn’t count on rain (that being a rare occurance here these days) and the cement troughs got flooded. The poor little tree didn’t make it through the water logging (the black sugar cane beside it loved the experience). So the second little coffee tree was planted out into a big pot with a deceased guniea fowl in the bottom of it.
Today it was hard to get myself going to go for a walk, my legs are sore and I am tired, but I went anyway. Melvin was expecting his walk and I hate to disappoint him. I think I will rest tomorrow, my muscles need a break. I am glad I went though, I saw a White Headed pigeon and found some beautiful plants.
The top two photos are of the top and underside of a fungus I found on a piece of dead wood. I think this one is a polypore and may be true turkey tail, because the underside hasn’t got any gills.
The bottom two photos above are of what I think is an Amanita ochrophylla. I think the pattern of the gills is so satisfying.
I’m at it again… taking the familiar walk down the driveway to the road and along the road for a bit. I am struck by something new each day (today I was struck by how sore my legs feel after a couple of days walking) and I want to share it here.
I wonder what I will see tomorrow?
This morning my walk involved both dogs; I took Val for a short walk first (her arthritis doesn’t let her take long walks) then I took Melvin for a longer walk (in an attempt to wear him out, just a little). I am really loving having the time to go on long walks with the dogs, there is so much beauty and interest to be enjoyed in the bush.
The last post about what I saw on a walk with Melvin was so much fun to make I decided to make it a series. Maybe I can capture some of the beauty of our home and store it here for everyone to enjoy.
Today my daughter and both dogs started out with me, but Chloe and the dogs went back about half way down the driveway (due to lack of interest) so I carried on alone. I am really surprised that this walk, that I completed twice a day every day for ten years (down the driveway to the bus stop) can still throw up new and interesting things to see and hear. Here are todays offerings.
I noticed today that the purples of the tiny flowers in the Spring bush are giving way to the yellows of late Summer.
The last two photos above have a little story attached to them. I pass the Small leaf fig on my way to the bus and on walks all the time, it is on a neighbor’s property, but right beside the road. I have never noticed the small, but deep, pool at it’s base. Today I noticed because a frog was calling from the pond and I went in search of the sound in an effort to get a photo. I didn’t find the frog, but I did find this enchanted fairy lake, hiding behind a shield of fig leaves.
Because it is holiday time, and because I was avoiding some training I need to do for work, I took Melvin for a walk today. On that walk I saw so many small plants and fungi, that I wanted to share with everyone. Of course I stopped to take photos (much to Melvin’s disgust), because it gave me a chance to catch my breath (I am not as fit as I should be). Below are the resulting photos and the identification I have found for the plants. My identification may be off, so don’t take my word for it, and if you know better, let me know.
A new interest has floated into my mind over the usual holiday down time: lichen dye for wool. I have noticed that a lot of lichen grows on old fence posts beside the road. That started me thinking about what it is good for (as it turns out, quite a lot). I was driving home from a doctor appointment yesterday and began to notice the large amount of furry fence posts beside the road (much to the unease of the cars behind me, who must have been worried about my erratic steering and low speed), so I eventually pulled over and went to take some photos and collect samples to play with. I collected a couple of handfuls of lichen from a dead tree and took it home to play with.
After a fair amount of internet sleuthing, I found a likely candidate: Usnea. I also found some other lichens (that I left in place for now).
It seemed to be a natural progression to make this handful or two of squishy goodness into dye, so I found a YouTube video to show me how it is done and off I went…
I plonked the whole two handfuls in a pot with water and put it on to simmer for an hour or so. Some videos say it can be boiled, some say to not boil it, some say to boil it then cool and boil again, some say once is enough. I will just play it by ear and simmer until I get some colour, and if that doesn’t work, I will boil it.
Apparently this species of lichen is also really antibacterial and can be used to treat infections on the skin. I think I will also harvest some to dry and keep on hand in my herb collection.
Now I wait.
After about two hours of gentle simmering, I decided to try boiling as there wasn’t a lot of colour showing in the water.
After two boiling sessions the pot is showing an uninspiring yellow/brown. I can see some orange tones in it, but I don’t think I have enough lichen for the pot to make orange. I will see what my wool does.
Some sources say that wool needs to be mordanted and some say that mordant can actually interfere with the process. I am going with the no mordant camp for my first skein (mostly because I’m impatient to see what I get from the lichen). Usually the wool is soaked in water before being plonked into the dye bath, but I just put the skein in dry (due, again, to impatience).
I am heating up the dye bath again, to increase the dye uptake. I will leave the pot on the stove for an hour or so, then I will let it all cool down and see what we get.
The resulting beige colour is not that inspiring, but I can still see dye in the pot. I am going to dig out my iron mordant pot and see if adding iron to the pot will improve the colour a bit.
I have added 4 tablespoons full of the iron mordant. The colour has improved straight away. I will leave the yarn for another half hour then see what I get.
After rinsing the yarn and hanging it to dry, I have ended up with a really pretty orange/brown. I think that I will iron mordant a few more skeins and gather some more Usnea (a lot more). I can imagine a pair of socks knitted in this colour.
I learned today that Usnea species gives a brown/orange colour in dye, that iron mordant brings out the orange tones in this dye and that I have my father’s ability to drive while thinking about things (that is… no ability at all). I will continue to gather and experiment with lichens and fungus in the dye pot, but I had better spin some new yarn to play with before I get too carried away.
We have had a rough run with Bandit (our oldest dog now); he has had a series of operations over the last six months or so. First he was eating a lot of grass, so we took him to the vet. The vet found he had a blocked bowel and managed to clear it. They also took a biopsy from a lump on his tongue at the same time. The biopsy turned out to not be cancer, but he had to have a piece of his tongue removed as the tumour was growing fast. That (very expensive) surgery had to be done by a specialist. The surgery itself went well and he healed quickly, but he had accidently been burned by the cauterising plate (some piece of medical equipment used in these surgeries) on his side. The burn did not touch his hair, but burned deep into his side. We discovered it when the hair began to fall out in the area. So we took him back to the vet, who gave us creme for the wound. He healed from that fairly well.
Recently, he began to eat grass again and went off his food, so it was off to the vet again. We expected another blockage but instead they found he had thickening of the small intestine. Which required another operation to take biopsies. The biopsies revealed that he had some sort of food intolerance, but before we could bring him home, the biopsy sites began to break down. He had another operation to clear the sites of infection and he was on multiple pain medications and antibiotics. I was driving to see him as often as I could (not easy as I had to cross a border and the drive was two and a half hours each way). I could see he was looking more and more unhappy, even though the vet staff tried their best to get him eating and make him comfortable.
Last Sunday (the day we had our second Covid shot), the vet rang and said his temperature was up again and he was passing blood. His other organs were beginning to break down. We made the decision to end his suffering. We drove up to the vet one last time to see him and be there when he went. That was the hardest time I have faced of late; Bandit was a very special member of our family…
When we were first going out together, Kev’ bought me a puppy. Not just any puppy, a two week old puppy who had been rejected by her mother and needed to be fed two hourly with an eye dropper. I’m not sure whether he wanted to ignite my mothering instincts, test my resilience or just take advantage of sleep deprivation, but either way it worked. I raised that puppy and she had puppies in her turn, then her daughter had puppies (we kept one puppy from each litter), her son had a single puppy: Bandit. Read a little more about our pack here. I wish we had kept track of the puppies we gave away, so we could maybe get another member of the line.
Bandit (and all his line before him) has been a symbol of our marriage, a superstitious good luck charm in a way. I guess you could say he was a horcrux, he held a piece of our souls that personified our marriage. So it was fitting that my partner and I were both there to see him on his way to the next world. He sat outside enjoying the sun and the cool grass, under a beautiful wisteria dripping flower petals. I patted him and stroked him for an hour or so and we lay in the grass together like we had all his life. Then the vet came and injected him with the Green Dream and he went to sleep in my arms with a final relieved sigh.
I am glad he is at peace but I will miss his soft little head that I stroke whenever I wake in the night. I will miss his happy face when I come home from work. I will miss him walking importantly in front of me on walks as if I would be lost if he wasn’t there to show me the way. Most of all, I will miss the pressure of his body against me through every long night.
If someone reading this took one of the puppies from Gismo (we were in Urbenville then) or Pucky (we lived in Drayton then) and has a descendant of that line, please get in touch.
The Butterfly House website says this is Agriophara plagiosema, an inconspicuous moth species that doesn’t even rate a common name. To me, moths seem to be endlessly surprising and beautiful; they sit in plain sight with their intricate patterns and colours and go largely unnoticed by everybody. There are so many species and variations that each moth really does qualify as an individual based on appearance.
Moths are a useful part of our ecosystem. Moths pollinate many plants, especially night flowering types. They also provide food for birds, lizards and marsupials. I once raised a Muscovy duck on moths and other night insects by turning on an outside light and catching the swarms of insects in a plastic bag (I then popped the duckling inside the bag, providing food for the duck and entertainment for everyone else), that duck became a massive lump called Baby who looked about the size of an average cattle dog.
These days, we leave a small light on outside to attract interesting insects and the geckos and frogs are quick to come and enjoy the bounty. This little beauty is just one example of the diversity around us all the time.