Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Nature in my backyard.

   I haven't posted for a while, a reflection of things being busy at the bee store and teaching beginning beekeeping classes two or three days a week.  We're getting closer to the package bee craziness, but at least all of the bee classes are through.

   I had a quiet morning at home on Monday and was surprised to see a humming bird.  I am amazed that such a small bird with such huge energy requirements can be active when the temperature is in the 40s.  The high on Monday was only about 55 and it wasn't much above 40 degrees Fahrenheit at 8:00 am. Sadly, the humming bird wouldn't stay in one place long enough for a photo.

The rough skinned newt when I first noticed him.

   On Thursday morning last week I was putting out the trash cans.  When I went to move our big blue recycle bin I saw a little salamander next to the can.  I needed to move the can but I didn't want to run over the salamander so I moved him out of the way with a stick.  As soon as I moved him the salamander went stiff and bent into an odd position that exposed it's bright orange belly.   I took some photos and then spent some time on the internet trying to identify the type of salamander.   It turned out to be a rough skinned newt.  That identification was later confirmed by a zoologist friend. The rough skinned newt is native to Western Washington and Oregon. They are poisonous to eat, their skin having the same poison found in puffer fish.  Apparently someone once ate one on a dare and died a half hour later.  That explained the odd behavior when I moved the salamander. His bright orange belly was advertising that he was poisonous.

The newt after I touched him with a stick
        I was amazed to learn we had a local creature that was so deadly poisonous.  If they were larger their poisonous nature might be more commonly known.  As it stands, they are so small that even the most adventurous survivalist probably wouldn't be tempted to eat one.  I'm guessing the death I mentioned above probably involved alcohol.

Morels growing in our yard

       On an edible note, I discovered these beauties growing in my back yard.  More specifically, my grand daughter, Hannah Kang, asked me about the weird mushroom she found in the back yard. I was amazed to find they were morels.  They were growing where we had briefly had an above ground pool for last summer's cousin camp.  We had to bring in some dirt to even the lawn before we replanted the grass.  I can only surmise the morel spawn was in the dirt we imported.  Morels are supposed to form a symbiotic relationship with certain tree species. Morels are somewhat mysterious compared to other mushrooms.  They don't appear in the same places from year to year.  In Washington State they tend to appear in old burns up in the mountains. This past summer having been a bad fire year, this spring is predicted to be a wonderful morel year.

      Morels also happen to be the first wild mushrooms I ever hunted.  When I was about eleven years old we lived in Centerville, Iowa.  My grandparents, Guy Dudley Tunnell and Sylvia Linnia Lee lived on an 80 acre farm, a few miles west of Mystic Iowa, about eight miles from Centerville.  One spring we hunted for morels in a small oak forest across the road from my grandfather's farm.  I knew next to nothing about mushrooms at that time.  Someone showed me what they looked like and I got busy hunting.  I think all kids enjoy a treasure hunt.  I don't remember exactly how much we found, but it was a significant amount. We ate them sautéed. I remember them tasting a bit odd to my eleven year old palate.  I learned to appreciate the taste more as I grew older.  I used some of my backyard morels last Saturday in a wonderful mushroom gravy over pork chops.

No comments:

Post a Comment