Tuesday, July 21, 2015

With great rain . . .

comes great humidity.

And great expense. Mostly in the form of roadwork, as water jumps the tops of silted ditches and overruns leaf-blocked culverts, cutting deep runnels in the gravel of the steep switchback driveway. Deep, expensive runnels. But it’s not as bad as it used to be, when any major rain had a 50/50 chance of washing out some part of the road down to bedrock. Or bedmud, if there is such a thing.

I don’t worry about the rain the way I used to, before the county finally grew tired of pouring gravel on their section of the lane 4 or 5 times a year and rebuilt the road with bigger, better culverts underneath.  Now the main worries are erosion on our sections, and downed trees across the road on theirs.

I actually look forward to those years that bring long wet periods in the summer. True, the mosquitos are worse, and there are sections of the yards both in town and on the mountain that resemble swampland, but the rain is great for the berries. This year the berries are magnificent. Wineberries, blackberries, wild blueberries, all plumper and more abundant than usual.
this season's wineberries
And then there are the mushrooms. Those little fungal delicacies that are just about the only thing that can keep me away from the river in summer. Instead of cooling off in the icy mountain waters of the upper Maury I can be found crawling around on my hands and knees in the woods, or scrambling up and down almost vertical banks lining our little branch of Kerrs Creek.
cinnebar chantrelles with some wild blueberries scattered in cause I did not have another container

chantrelles and chicken mushrooms

boletes. my new love
You see, I am a hunter/gatherer. If they’d had those reality TV survival programs 30 years ago when I was young and healthy I’d like to think I’d be walking away with half a million bucks. Because I love this stuff. Not animal hunting, although I can do what I need to in order to get by. But the thrill of hunting through leaf litter, widening my gaze and blurring my focus to take in more of the world than what is just in front of me, or just under my feet. It works for mushrooms, for hidden patches of tiny dark berries, for discarded turkey and hawk feathers.  I’ve used that same long range/close in gaze at the beach for sea glass and baby sand dollars.
yes. I know that's a scallop and not a sand dollar. I don't have a picture of a sand dollar.

We are headed back to Cuttyhunk this week, away from mountains and rain, back to wind and salt spray.
Not a whole lot that’s not native grows on Cuttyhunk, not without trucked (actually ferried) in soil and sheltering from wind that can blow salt right through a delicate stalk. But there are wild blueberry bushes, and ancient apple trees that still produce. There are beach plums and edible beach peas, and mussels at low tide.  You can catch crabs off the dock, and in winter when the harbor has cleaned itself out there are clams and oysters. 
again, this is not winter, and the clams are from Nashweena pond cause it is summer. don't be so literal.
Jessie learns a lot about wild island foraging in Summer of the Ghost/Thief, my as-yet-unsold Summerhood Island second book. I’m feeling a bit more confident that someday readers around the country can learn these things as well.