Fall is here - at least in the Pacific
Northwest. All the signs are out, new spider
webs sparkling with morning dew, the familiar
change from green leaves to mostly yellow and gold.
The hardwoods of the East are mostly missing here,
except for those transplanted ornamental trees like
the Full Moon and Palmate Maples we have in our
I've cut the miniature cattails which grow in our
small Koi pond, brought some into the house and
shared the rest with a neighbor. I have a ton
of work to do in the gardens, fall clean-up is
just part of gardening - and the bonus is I get
to decide what fall bulbs will be purchased and
planted. I've made a list over the summer of
'holes' where there isn't the color I want. That
will make the buying easier. It does not make
the planting easier, and it never fails the bulbs
need to be planted when it is wet, cold and crummy
We're waiting for the fall salmon runs to start.
The gear is just about ready too. It isn't
something which lasts a long time, about a month
of good fishing is the limit. After that it's
check around and see if there are any stragglers
still showing up. Salmon fishers resemble their
east-coast cousins who chase the stripers. The
word travels via the Internet or phone calls
between the faithful. Most of the folks who've
been chasing the salmon for a while do not keep
any fish at all. It's the chase and the rush of
connecting with one of these big fighters which
keeps folks looking at the fall calendar every year.
Since all of the Pacific salmon die after spawning,
there aren't any 'drop-back' fish on their way back
to sea. The sight (and smell) of so many dead or
dying salmon does discourage some from the fishery.
But it is just part of the ongoing life cycle of not
just the fish, but also the whole eco-system which
depends on these dying fish to renew itself.
Other things are getting ready for the cold season
too. My husband, JC or Castwell, is feeling well
enough to tend to his trap again. Our backyard is
a critter freeway at night. He came into the den
where I work the other evening and told me to look
out the window. There, not 20 feet from my window
was a very large racoon getting a drink from the
small pond. After the racoon left he checked
the trap - we didn't catch the racoon because there
already was a opossum in it.
There was also one in it this morning. We use a
very large Havaheart trap, and the various critters
are driven across the Hood Canal Bridge and released
there in a park on the other side. We've caught
and released about 20 each racoon and opossum in
the past several months. Both can be very destructive
to ponds and fish. Not to mention either can do
severe damage to small weiner dogs!
So while JC isn't collecting hair for the
Snuff It Yourself
Dubbing Company, the trap is being used to
help manage the wildlife in our backyard. This
week one large racoon and two 'possums'; so far.
In hauling the critters to the park, he did make
a rather nice discovery. Mushrooms! Within easy
view of the road, a few handfuls of Shaggy Mane
(Coprinus comatus) mushrooms. The
Shaggies are one of the most distinctive looking
mushrooms, and very easy to spot once you've seen
them. The buttons are the best, but the large ones
can be sliced up and cooked as well.
I had the pleasure of taking a mushroom identification
class many years ago at the University of Michigan
from a real expert and author, Dr. Alexander Smith.
This is one of the most recommended mushrooms.
There are mushrooms one should absolutely avoid
and another hard and fast rule is never mix varieties
of mushrooms you pick. Each kind should have it's
own paper bag (not plastic). When we pick mushrooms
we select ONE kind. It is just the safest way to go.
There is a problem with shaggies however, all quickly
decompose into black ink and so must be refrigerated
and cooked soon after finding, though they can be
stored for a while in soggy fashion if totally
submerged in cold water. Any part of the picked
mushroom which has or is turning black (or purple)
must be cut off or it will auto-digest the whole batch!
Castwell brought home enough shaggies the last two
trips to have on a steak - but they are also great
folded into a omelet or scrambled eggs.
Not everyone can eat mushrooms - and if you haven't
tried a particular kind it is best to cook up a
small batch and give it a 'taste' before you go
nuts picking mushrooms. Also, one other word of
warning, some mushrooms and alcohol do not mix.
The combination can make you very ill.
So until the end of the month, we'll have to be
content mucking in the garden and looking for
mushrooms to brighten our fishless days! ~ DLB
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