Autumn Splendor in the Woods

The forest floor decorated for fall

Most of the woods in the area are carpeted with predominantly brown leaves.  But while I was out walking today I passed an area where the fallen leaves were just blazing.

Maybe people farther north are used to colors like this, but this is breathtaking for Georgia.

I had not felt very well the past couple of days.  I decided to go for a walk to see if it would help perk me up.  Seeing those incredible colors was just the medicine I needed.  My energy level soared!

Last evening I saw one of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen.  The sky looked like deep, molten flame, and the reflection on the lake was so intense that it looked like an extension of the sky.  I took over 30 photos trying to capture the colors — and not one of the pictures captured a fraction of the majesty.

Nature outdoing herself!

Seeing these gorgeous leaves today made up for last night’s disappointment.

The mushroom season is winding down.  All I’ve found lately are various amanitas, (poisonous) a few small ones I didn’t bother trying to identify, and an occasional suillus (edible, but mediocre).  And one more puffball the other day.

I haven’t found any hen of the woods (maitake), chicken of the woods (sulfur shelf), oyster mushrooms or the coveted bears head (hericium).  I guess it’s the drought… or I’ve just not been looking in the right woods.  This has been the most disappointing fall for mushrooms for me.  I read on the mushroom boards that people in other areas are finding them plentiful.  Maybe I’m just losing my touch!  🙂

The half-eaten mushroom is probably a russula.

I didn’t notice it today due to the constant wind, but the two previous days while Ron and I were out walking, we have gotten occasional whiffs of the most heavenly scent.  Something is flowering, and I have no idea what would be blooming in the woods in the fall with such a sweet, evocative fragrance.  Hope we are gifted with another whiff or two before we leave here Sunday morning.

Wild Edible Plants & Tulip Trees

Baby wild blueberries

I walked down our dirt (gravel) road today to deliver an Easter basket to my neighbor.  Just that short distance provided me with a treasure trove of interesting (to me) photos.

The wild blueberries have appeared!  It won’t be long until blueberry dessert time!

I also found a rare (in this area) Solomon’s Seal.  A few years back I dug one up to sample the tubers.  But since I hadn’t seen any for several years, there was no

Solomon's Seal

way I was going to disturb this one brave little spray of leaves that grew along the roadside.

I also found some wild strawberry plants that are a lot larger than the ones that grow on the edges of my yard.  I wonder if the strawberries will be larger also.  They are usually so small that I eat them as fast as I pick them and never have enough left over to

These wild strawberry plants are much larger than the ones that usually grow around here--more than double the size that I'm used to seeing.

make dessert with.

The Japanese honeysuckle blooms are getting ready to open.  It’s actually a noxious weed around here, but the blossoms are so beautiful and the scent so heavenly that I love them.  I haven’t yet made tea from the flowers, although I have intended to.  This year I will finally do it!

And I couldn’t resist more greenbrier photos. I think the shoots and tender new, almost translucent leaves are beautiful.

I used to pick and cook a lot of poke salad shoots.  But an odd thing  happened

Young greenbrier leaves

to the flavor.  The ones in our area used to have a wonderful taste that was a cross between asparagus and green beans.  Last year, when I was in Florida, I picked some  to cook for my sister to introduce her to them.  But when they were done, they were completely tasteless.  I threw them out.  Then when I got home I picked some and they had the same puzzling lack of flavor.

I believe that it may have been due to all the rain we had.  Steve Brill in New York has described poke shoots as having a pungent taste.  Ours never did–they were always mild tasting and good.  So climate must have a big bearing on flavor.  I’ll cook

Young poke salad plants

some tomorrow and see how they turn out this year.

If you want to try poke salad shoots, only use the shoots with small new leaves at the end.  The mature plant is poisonous.  When the leaves lose their new green color and translucence, they are no longer edible.  Also avoid shoots that have a lot of red on them.    To remove the small amount of water soluble toxins in the young shoot and leaves, bring a large and small pot of water to boil.  After the water in the small pot is boiling, add the shoots and cook for 5 minutes or so.  Drain and pour more boiling water over the shoots and cook for two or three minutes more.  Pour that water off and cover them with boiling water once again and cook a couple more minutes until done.

Wild lettuce bolting. This one had been run over by a lawn mower.

The water from the first two boils will be reddish and cloudy.  The water in the last boil will remain clear.  At this point, you have a safe, very healthy vegetable that was once a staple food in the Deep South, particularly in the war years.   Brush with butter and salt lightly when done.

My older neighbor remembers her mother cooking poke salad for dinner.

Up North, they call the cooked greens poke salat.  Down here, it’s still poke salad.  🙂

I also stumbled upon a wild lettuce bolting.  This is the sweetest, tenderest variety of wild lettuce.  Even though it

Baby black cherries

was bolting, the leaves only had a tiny, pleasant tinge of bitterness.

The blackberry flowers are beginning to lose their petals, which means small green blackberries will be appearing soon.  And the black cherries continue to grow in abundance.  I made syrup with them last year.  This year I’ll probably make jelly.

This post is getting WAY too long, so I’ll add the rest of the photos without comment.

Blackberry flowers are beginning to lose their petals.

Red clover. Their red blossoms are nutritious in teas and recipes.

Yellow clover. When wilted, it develops coumarins, so I avoid it.

Yellow poplars (tulip trees-not edible) grow all over our property, but I had never noticed flowers on them. Today I found several fallen blossoms where branches had been knocked down. Will have to go looking for flowers on the trees tomorrow.

I don't think birdsfoot violets are edible, but wanted to post this picture anyway!

And finally, another strange, bulls-eye looking leaf parasite. Will have to research what it is. On edit - this is a maple eyespot gall. It is caused by a midge and it does not hurt the tree.

Tatted Bouquet

A tatted bouquet

I liked the little tatted flower in my previous post well enough to make an expanded version — with more clover “leaves” and flowers.

The red and blue flowers are from Lyn Morton’s Tatting Patterns.  I didn’t use the part that surrounds the flowers because I really don’t like making the chain flowers and having to mess with those tiny joining picots.  Also, I have a hard time forming the chains properly, and they don’t want to lie flat.

I enjoy making rings for petals a lot more.

In fact, I did the little yellow flower while I was riding my exercise bicycle this evening.  It kept me from getting bored, which usually happens when I ride the bike.

It also tends to make it hard to form even picots!  🙂

Spring Gems in the Woods

Eastern redbud tree blossoms

Today was another chilly, windy day.  We walked through the woods and found the usual unbroken brown landscape.  But when we got back to camp, the sun was low in the sky and illuminated something I had missed before.  Behind the skeleton of a shrub still clinging to some of its brown leaves was this glorious young redbud tree!  I was stunned that I had missed it earlier!

Arrow leaf ginger flowers

Thrilled with that discovery, I turned to leave when I noticed green arrow leaf ginger leaves among the leaf litter below.  Curious, I followed the long stems with my fingers where they disappeared beneath the leaves, and dug around in the leaves.  And for the first time ever I saw their purple, urn-shaped blooms!

The blooms hide beneath the leaf litter from critters who would eat them, and are pollinated by ants and other ground-dwelling bugs.

This is what the ginger looks like on the forest floor -- giving no hint of the blossoms hidden beneath the leaf litter.

Here's a closeup of leaf and flower detail

I took photos of several other tiny flowers, but they didn’t turn out.  But one of the photos displayed unexpected magic when I downloaded it to my computer.

The sun shining through the leaves made them look like they contained fluorescent fire! You may have to click on the photo to enlarge it to see the fire.

The brown leaves on the ground glowed fluorescent scarlet from the sun shining through their backs!  It was a day for magic!

Oh… I almost forgot!  After I found the ginger, I found a trillium with a large bud almost ready to bloom!  If I had found it first instead of the ginger I would probably have written half a page about how gorgeous it was!  🙂

Beautiful trillium almost ready to bloom

The storm the other day left the lake water muddy and thick with leaf debris, so we didn’t attempt to go fishing today.   Maybe tomorrow.

This evening we had another wonderful campfire.   And I grilled chicken wings, sprinkled with mesquite seasoning.  They were the best wings we had ever had — crispy and spicy on the outside, and melt-in-your-mouth on the inside.

I’m including a few “brown” photos, taken before I discovered the flowers, just so you can get an idea of what we saw on our woods walk today.

It’s supposed to be in the low 30’s tonight, then warm up nicely tomorrow with wind 10-15 knots.  I am looking forward to warm weather and sunshine.  I hope the forecast is right!

Magnificent tree roots

A little stream that looks more like a ditch!

One of many fallen trees.

Another fallen tree.

I just thought this log looked cool!

Sweetgum balls

New Tatting Pattern Books

Awesome tatting pattern books!

These two AWESOME tatting pattern books arrived today.

I wasn’t too impressed with the cover of Mary Konior’s book, but when I opened it up, I couldn’t believe what a treasure it turned out to be.  The patterns are elegant, and as modern as tomorrow.

Tatting Artistry in Thread by Helma Siepmann has stunning flowers, blossoms, leaves, deciduous trees, evergreen trees….  the photos are gorgeous.  I have been dreaming of all the beautiful things I can create with them!

So they will definitely go with me on the trip to Florida.


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