A FEW FALL WONDERMENTS...........

Hello again after another extended absence (you guessed it, that computer again). Let's hope my troubles are over. I begin with this picture that is one of my favorite spring flowers. It even has parts that are edible. But its beauty in fall is singular. This one was found on a gray outing here in Maine, and it made my day. I'll let you ponder its identity until this message is concluded.

Maine has been wet, though Wilma did not create a problematic disturbance. Yes, we had rain and wind, but the surf was unspectacular. The lobstermen were relieved. Speaking of lobsters, I was disappointed to learn that the lobster pound will not be stocked this year. The price has remained high, and the numbers of these crustaceans is down.

I have another sad note to report. Our good friend, Ray Ryder, died in a few days ago. He brought so much fun and joy in his fifteen years at the campground, riding around on his cart, sharing stories with campers, and greeting all with genuine enthusiasm. There was a beautiful writeup of his life in the Times Record, our local newspaper. Some of you may wish to read that on line.

On a happier note, the loons are back in our waters - diving and occasionally giving forth their dramatic vocalization. These birds will remain in our cold, unfrozen waters through the winter before returning inland to raise their young. I've also spotted a large Bald Eagle flying overhead, something we rarely see during the summer months . They do nest up in our tidal rivers, and some of you may have seen them. It's in the off season that I find them.

We have had several hard frosts, so the abundant fungi are harder to find. These Shaggy Manes pushed up through my lawn, and remained long enough for a photo before dissolving into black goo. These are edible if you can catch them before they reach the stage you see in this picture. And yes, they are definitely shaggy - fibers from the cap are easily rubbed off. If you look carefully, you will see that our Maine lawn is anything but pure grass. Maybe that's what these fungi favor.

Halloween is on our doorstep - no doubt witches are roaming in our woods. I know there is one called Hazel that is making a fall statement. You see it here in a sketch when it was still in leaf. Here is a plant - you must have guessed it is Witch Hazel - that waits to bloom until the this time of year. Its flowers are strange little, wispy-petaled, blossoms that must attract the few flying insects. Those flowers will go on to develop into seed pods that may remain from the previous year's flowering. When the conditions are favorable and dry, those capsules explode and shoot its shiny black seeds at unsuspecting passersby. Maybe it is a somewhat witch-like activity. Why is it called Witch Hazel? I've often pondered about that. There is an aphid that chews a hole in this plant's leaves. In response, a gall forms shaped like a witch's peaked hat! Oil from Witch Hazel bark is combined with alcohol and marketed to cure a variety of bodily ills. Check it out at your local drugstore while shopping for Halloween goodies. But take time to check out Witch Hazel in all seasons. You will find it a "bewitching source of wonder in the woods".

OK. That plant at the top of the page is Indian Cucumber-Root. Note the two whorls of leaves. The berry-like fruit is inedible, but the taproot is the edible portion. The roots are sweetest in the spring and fall. I'm told they make a nice addition to potato salad or tuna fish sandwiches (when chopped up). I hope everyone is judicious in digging and eating these cucumber tasting tap roots. The plant will be eradicated if we get too hooked on this edible.

I will be out on a bird walk today dressed in high visibility orange. The purpose is not to celebrate Halloween, but to make hunters aware of my presence. Needless to say, the hunting season starts today. Nice to be back....Ronnie 10/29/05.