Archive for February, 2010

Mushrooms and Catbirds: Everything a Man Could Want for Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2010

I nailed it. Fancy chocolates for wife and mom. Went and saw Fantastic Mr. Fox at the cheapie last night. Classy brunch with wife today. Flowers. Cards. Simple but spot on. Everybody was very happy.

So happy that they hardly noticed when I slipped out with Bandit the Border Beagle and a bow saw to go cut a log from a pile of slash leftover from the recent clearing of the railroad ROW. I needed a 40” long 4” wide log for the oyster mushroom plugs I ordered from a business up in Northern Wisconsin (www.fieldforest.net). I’ll drill some little holes into the log and jam these little wooden dowel plugs into the holes. The plugs have been inoculated with mushroom spores so if all goes well I’ll have huge oyster mushrooms hanging off this piece of box elder by fall. Who knew box elder was good for anything!?

Not surprisingly, I went a little overboard (especially considering my wife hates mushrooms) and ordered two other products – one to grow morels which has an incredibly low chance of working and one to grow wine cap Stropharia, whatever that is. I’ll try and grow morels along the north side of my house. It’s shady, covered in woodchips, and is planted with a nice variety of plants native to the upper Midwest. If I had a dead elm, I think I’d be set. Maybe I can trick the morels and partially bury a bucked up elm branch. I don’t know if I can trick morels. I can definitely trick my Border Beagle. If I can’t trick the morels does it mean that the world’s greatest dog isn’t as smart as a mushroom? (No, leave him out of this). Or does it mean his owner is a complete jackass for even considering the notion of “tricking morels”? (Yes). (Jackass).

As for the Stropharia, I’ve never heard of them, never seen them, and will probably get confused and end up poisoning myself when something other than a Stropharia pops up in the garden. Apparently as I deepen my plunge into my 30’s I’m becoming a very different and dorkier type of thrill-seeker than I was 10 years ago. Goodbye epic mountains and vast tundra, hello odd mushrooms and heirloom vegetables. Sigh. At least the beer is better.

This weekend also happens to be the Great Backyard Bird Count so I was making mental notes of all the little brown birds Bandit the Border Beagle was flushing out of the shrubs just outside of the railroad ROW as we approached the slash pile. A handful of crows, house sparrows, juncos, cardinals, a red-tail hawk and what I thought was a catbird. I didn’t see the catbird which is fairly typical. I thought I heard a catbird. I didn’t even think twice about it. I just thought, ”oh, there’s a catbird in the Kenny’s bushes behind me.”

However, as I was entering the data into Cornell’s GBBC website, it called me out, reminding me that a catbird here in February is not likely. I checked the records and in 10 years, no one around here has seen one in February. I cancelled my entry and now I have until March 1st (when data entry closes) to try and confirm if I have the state’s earliest catbird hanging around my neighborhood. I wonder if my neighbor Kenny is going to get freaked out by me hanging around his bushes.

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