This one with no pictures.
I’m feeling sorry for myself. At this time of year I look at the garden and see nothing but an overgrown, neglected, unkempt and, frankly, abandoned mess. And I wonder how this has happened? Given that I barely move away from this place. Ever? And this is all I do?
It’s not a huge amount of space. Why can’t I manage to keep it looking as I want it to?
The weather forecasts keep saying that there will be whole days when it won’t be drizzling, and there will be sun and just some white cloud. But everyday it seems the forecast gets amended to account for the fact that it is still drizzling, and that the sun and white cloud will be along later.
Watching everything in the garden collapsing into a mass of sodden, rotting vegetation is both frustrating and depressing.
However, the fungi are having fun. I collected these this morning and love all the different colours and shapes. And, yes, they’re all edible.
A Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi). These are spreading northwards in the UK, but came from Europe.
I first saw one a couple of years ago in the meadow near the house and watched it all summer. This one’s in the garden so I can see it whenever I go outside. The strange zig zag on the web is called a ‘stabilimentum’ and it’s unclear what it’s purpose is – but maybe it’s to ‘stabilise’ the web!
Anyway…I’ve found out more. The spider is a ‘she’. The male is tiny and boringly brown in comparison, and often doesn’t live long after mating. (Euphemism there, as the female kills him.)
The huge, basket/seed pod-like thing behind her is her egg sac. Carefully spun and then filled with eggs and then sealed. And guarded now in a new web.
When the proper cold weather arrives apparently she will die. The babies will overwinter in the sac and emerge in the Spring…
My favourite fungus is abundant at the moment. Even in places where I’ve not found it before. In fact masses of different fungi all seem to have decided that the conditions are just right for fruiting.
The Miller (Clitopilus prunulus)
I don’t generally share my Millers. As I’ve said, they could be a bit problematic for a novice to identify and I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to take a risk on eating something that they weren’t comfortable with – I certainly wouldn’t! More people are happy to take a Cep or two. And I’ve been distributing my finds these past few days. I can’t eat them all and still have loads dried from last year. I couldn’t risk leaving them in the field as the hunting season has just begun and the last thing I want is for some hungry hunter to stumble upon my secret places and help themselves and potentially keep coming back for more!
Cep/Penny Bun (Boletus edulis) and Horse mushroom (Agaricus arvensis)
This beautiful and very tasty mushroom had me a bit confused for a while. I am nothing near an expert – nor even a particularly knowledgeable amateur. But there are a fair few fungi that I confidently identify and eat.
This one I picked on the cliffs at the beach. “It’s an Agaric” I said. “Not a Yellow Stainer”. (No yellowing)
When I cut into it and it immediately turned quite a bright red I was a bit thrown. Oops. Maybe that’s not going to be eaten tonight. I turned straight to Roger Phillips and a vague memory of reading about such mushrooms….Agaricus bernardii. Coastal, salt air, reddening on cutting….and very good eating!
There are huge quantities of pristine, newly emerged Peacock butterflies everywhere. I can easily count at least 30 each time I wander out into the garden the moment the sun comes out after yet another downpour. But I was happy to see the Sedum flowers being shared with the Red Admiral and the Comma.
And here’s a toad. Looking like it’s made of plastic, but it really isn’t. It was clambering around under the gooseberries. I love the bright orange of its eye.
And a bit more mushroom. I don’t eat Parasols (Macrolepiota procera) anymore. For no reason other than I find others that I prefer in such abundance that I just tend to bypass them. I still always enjoy coming across them. And this one was so huge that I couldn’t not pick it. Look at the Cobnut next to it for scale!
….I hope not. For the last few years September has been synonymous with glorious weather, empty beaches and lazy days under the parasol. This year feels a bit different.
Torrential rain yesterday – which on one hand will be welcome for swelling the many shelling beans that I’ve sown. But which has battered and flattened the Dahlias, Gladiolus and Sunflowers. And now it’s very cloudy and muggy.
The pathetic crop of apples remaining after that disastrous Spring freeze have started to fall. So early that it didn’t occur to me that they might be ready. Not ripe, but ready. I checked today and will finish picking them tomorrow. It won’t take long as I’ve already got ten and there can’t be many more than thirty on the whole tree! The pears are hanging on though – undoubtedly the best crop of ‘Conference’ that I’ve had so far.
Blight finally got the tomatoes in the ‘polytunnel”. Luckily, with regular checking/removing of any affected leaves or fruits, I’m managing so far to stay ahead of it. The tomatoes are tasty and prolific. Too many yellow, cherry tomato plants (don’t even remember sowing those!) But the rest are very good. ‘Indigo Rose’, ‘Caro Rich’, ‘Evergreen’, ‘Join or Die’ (renamed Belle du College apparently?)
The late sowings of Pak Choi, ‘Red Russian’ kale, ‘Green Brigade’ rocket, ‘Red Streaks’ mizuna and ‘Leisure’ coriander have all germinated well. I’m still waiting to see what the ‘Medania’ spinach will do.
But the garden as a whole is looking a bit tired out to me. Lots of things that should be peaking now have almost finished already – due to the heat and dryness earlier I suppose. The Asters are about to start, but will be nearly on their own. The Buddleias are almost over, a few straggly flowers on a couple of them to keep the Peacocks and Red Admirals coming…
Indigo Rose, Gardener’s Delight, Join or Die, Caro Rich, Evergreen…and others, names forgotten until I go back into my seed notebook.
I had to take a close up of the original group of mushrooms just to emphasise the size of some of the chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius.) Some of the largest I’ve found.
I’d decided to walk to boules in the hope of finding a few more mushrooms to add to those I’d collected earlier. I’d been on the point of regretting my decision when my ‘mushroom eyes’ zoomed in on a splash of egg yolk yellow at the base of the talus. A bit of furtling amongst the cut grass uncovered a lovely harvest.
The horse mushrooms (Agaricus arvensis) were in a friend’s field where the grass is kept relatively short by grazing sheep.
After weeks of dry weather it’s flipped over into the kind of drizzly, grey, dampness that Brittany can specialise in which flattens your spirits and grinds you down if it lasts any length of time. Happily it is not forecast to last.
A positively silver lining to the clouds and damp has been the sudden fruiting of some of my favourite mushrooms. On the table are a couple of different Agaricus, a Charcoal Burner (Russula cyanoxantha), and a good crop of the Miller (Clitopilus prunulus). Finding the Miller in any quantity always makes me happy. It’s not the most straightforward fungus to collect – especially for beginners – as there are two superficially very similar, and sometimes deadly, confusables: Clitocybe rivulosa/Clitocybe dealbata.
If I collect it from somewhere new I always take a spore print – that means I don’t get to eat it the same day, but it’s worth it to see the pink print which means edible, rather than the white print of the ‘deadlies’.
And the mackerel have arrived! After several sorties to Douarnenez which – although pleasant – did not deliver a single fish. Finally they have turned up. They were biting constantly. They certainly ate well from the constant disappearance of the bait from my line. However, my incompetence meant I didn’t land as many as I should have, so most lived to fight another day and these ones were the unfortunates that copped it.
Lovely fish. Lovely taste!
I’ve made Gooseberry jam. I’ve made a couple of jars of sweet gooseberry pickle. I’ve made a few jars of a South Indian spiced gooseberry pickle. I’ve given gooseberries away. I’ve allowed the blackbirds to help themselves to gooseberries and I’ve not said a word against them…. There have been a lot of gooseberries. They’ve almost all gone now. Just two later ripening bushes left – and I have made a half-hearted effort to protect them from the blackbirds. (Although yesterday two of this year’s young ones crashed into the windows and died – probably overladen with gooseberries!)
In fact all of the soft fruit has done well – and didn’t seem to suffer from the killer frost earlier in the year despite my pessimism at the time.
The top fruits generally are poor. There will be fights over the few apples that escaped the frost and the very few greengages are not destined to make it back to the house. I will be watching for them to ripen and will eat them as they do. The pears might be ok but it’s a bit too early to be sure.
It looks like it’s going to be a phenomenal hazelnut crop. Although it doesn’t pay to be too complacent as sometimes the shells are empty and sometimes the weevil worm gets them…and for the very first year there will be walnuts (15 of them!)