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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Season of mists and mellow unfruitfulness

Unless you are a mushroom hunter! Apples - slim pickings this year. Walnuts - well there were tons on the trees but the squirrels have been working overtime and if I've managed to collect 100 I'll be lucky. Usually it's more like 1,000 plus, even shared with the squirrels. Chestnuts - haven't even bothered going up the road where the trees are as I've been told by several people that they are small and pathetic this year, which is a huge shame.

Unfortunately I don't know much about fungi and don't see anything here in the garden that looks immediately obviously edible, so I just enjoy looking at them, and with all the early rain this autumn, there are no shortage of them. The weather has been damp and truly dismal this last few days, too wet to do much outside even though I still have autumn jobs to complete. So I took a few photos of the fungi instead and started the job of tidying up, pruning and fungicide spraying my soggy, rust ridden pelargoniums as it's time to bring them indoors now before they rot completely.

This fungi is my favourite, growing on an old tree stump.

This next one I showed in my last posting but this time I've stuck my welly next to them to show up their size!

Sometimes there are whole lines of them, or semi circles.

Some have been munched!

Some of them are cute.

Some of them are really tiny.

The only time we actually did find some edible mushrooms here was our first year when a load of oyster mushrooms appeared on a bank which used to be part of an old field margin. 99% sure that our ID was correct, off we trotted with a few specimens to the Pharmacie, which we have always been told is THE place to go to get your fungi identified. Well I'm not so sure about that. First we had two ladies umming and ahhing over a book for ages, then they called in a third lady, who ummed and ahhed over the book for a bit longer. She then finally pronounced them oyster mushrooms. So off we went to pick some more only to find them full of maggots. That's enough to put me off wild mushroom hunting for life so I haven't bothered looking out for them anymore!

Here's an ancient photo of them from 2005 (how digital cameras have changed!).

As well as fungi there are spiders' webs everywhere in the grass. Whether they were there before or not I don't know, but the heavy dew is really showing them up beautifully. It's hard to know where to put your feet! There are hundreds of delicate little ones like the one below...

... and a few like this, which are like thick blankets. I did see some large-ish spiders scuttling off into the grass when they saw me bend down to have a look!

On Sunday I came across a really beautiful hairy caterpillar. I'd seen one before back in September but it was only a tiny version of it. This one is much bigger and was sitting on one of my cultivated blackberry leaves. It's the caterpillar of the Knot Grass Moth (Acronicta rumicis), which eats, amongst other things, bramble leaves. It hadn't munched much and I left it be. In fact it is a caterpillar which you shouldn't touch as those hairy bits can give you a nasty rash. I never touch hairy caterpillars anyway just to be on the safe side. Believe it or not though, the moth this will become is not some fancy red, black and white beauty, but quite an ordinary looking greyish thing!

It's hard to know sometimes isn't it? This is its back end!

And this is the front, even though that 'face' isn't actually
its face. The head/face is hidden under the lower hairy beard!

Sideways view gives a better idea of what I mean - the front end is on the right.

Looking down on it from its back end.
Yes there are self seeded cosmos in this area, not competing
with the blackberries, so why not?!

I realise that I haven't updated about my Swallowtail chrysalises. That's because nothing happened, and even the three that remained in the warmth of my kitchen for weeks did nothing at all, which really pleased me. Somehow these chrysalises seem to know that it is not the right time of year to eclose (hatch out) so they have gone into their winter hibernation. So I've put them out in their box into the duck shed where I put Teeny Guy. I don't expect anything to happen now before the spring, but I shall be watching the weather and if we are due for mild weather I'll bring them inside in March, if not then in early April, and we shall see what happens!


  1. A really good read Mandy. I had heard about the "fungi identification service" at French Pharmacies so was surprised to hear the apparent uncertainty. I don't think I would risk eating anything with so shaky an ID. Do they ever get sued for incorrect ID and the possibility of serious illness?

    1. I think they are all supposed to have at least one trained mycologist so it's possible that person wasn't there that day. We reckon these days, if in doubt, ask the neighbours as so many French people are out mushroom hunting in the autumn and they do seem to know what they are doing!

      I've never heard of a pharmacie getting sued (not really such a common thing here) but I have the feeling that if you got sick due to an incorrect ID from a pharmacie you'd probably just get a gallic shrug! (and also as nothing in writing there is no proof anyway). Thanks again for looking in, Steve :-)