Heat, Precipitation Yields Calvatia Gigantea

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

“Don’t you kids be kicking those mushrooms. Dust gets in your eyes, you’ll be blind for life!” That admonition springing from the lips of a bachelor uncle still peals in the ears these many years later. As a ten-year-old, Uncle’s words were law, even though he was a known prevaricator, his fibs kept us ten-year-old explorers out of too much trouble. Today we know that the ‘dust’ he spoke of was thousands upon thousands of spores produced by giant puffballs, “fungi seeds” you might call them. When the fungi is ripe and splits open, the spores are at the mercy of the wind and weather, as they will develop into more giants only under specific conditions.

First photos of the giant fungi began arriving in early September, when Dean (Judy) Hathaway sent a beauty of a shot, the large white sphere nestled among decaying logs and forest greenery. Next, son number one spotted many in the heart of Minneapolis on shady lawns and hidden nooks and crannies, never in full sunlit spots. We became seriously interested after coming upon two on an otherwise barren hillside in the forest we steward…perfectly round, medium sized basketballs seen from afar, totally unblemished by soil or bug life. (That in itself indicates no heavy precipitation.)

Having been ‘fungi famished’ since the morel mushroom failure of May of 2021, the devil on the shoulder whispered, “Why don’t you consume one, it is said that they are edible.” Having attempted consumption of one once upon a time, we were leery of preparing the fruiting body, as our first experience was that of chewing on a piece of blackboard chalk. (When teachers have just two hands, they do that.) Temptation won out! First we made sure the skin was free of all debris. Then, with a sharp knife, we sliced the loaf of bread…whoops…the puffball into inch-thick slices. The inside indicated we had nothing to fear, as it was white as a slice of Wonder Bread. If there was any indication of brown or green inside the fruit, we would have scattered the contents on the forest floor, (as with any mushroom, precaution and positive identification are the keys to one’s longevity.)

Placing olive oil in a hot fry pan, we gently dropped the egg and garlic/herb coated bread crumb morsels into the skillet. Turn the slice over a couple of times. The result upon cooking was a pancake-appearing product, and MOST delectable! (Second half of the fungi is in the veggie department of the refrigerator, waiting for a ‘roon,’ bacon/eggs treat next meal.)

Mid-September is a time of “Goodbyes.” The masses of monarchs seem to have moved on, just a few singles are about, they appear to be ‘wobbly’ in flight, probably a lack of green milkweeds when in the larval stage. Their chances of reaching the Holy Land, the San Madre mountains in Mexico, are nil. A single tiger swallowtail entertained us an entire day September 11th, dressed in a fresh yellow and black tuxedo, darting from zinnia to petunias, sucking up nectar from the festoons of brightly colored flowers. Crickets continue to chirp on, while grasshoppers do just that in large numbers in short grasses…hop. While-tail buck deer have shed their summer velvet, leaving scrape marks on young trees, while muscle development in their upper chests is becoming obvious. Fawns are largely ‘spot-free’ although continuing to pester does for free meals.

The majority of the Ruby-throated hummingbirds will be well on their way toward the south by the time you read this missive, a few may still be about. Some folks leave their grape jell feeders hanging. When hummers attempt sipping on concealed grape jelly, their fine feathers become trapped in the jell. The bird dies…we learned the hard way…for the birds that is. Be warned

As anticipated, Chimney Swifts maintain a regular pattern of stopping by our ‘pet’ chimney, but we are disappointed at their numbers. Since a lightning bolt struck close to one of the chimneys two weeks ago, that stack has been abandoned, another overnight roost has been chosen. Total evening entries since September 7th have included 09/7th, 403; 8th,393; 9th, 311;
10th, 384; 11th, 410; 12th, 322. In data gathered since 2012, common counts amounted to between five and eight hundred chattering charcoal-colored birds per evening. Lots of water over the dam, or smoke in the air, since those sunsets!

Finally, WHERE are and have been the Great Blue Herons and Egrets all summer??? Theories WELCOME at this spot in coming weeks. Eyes on the skies!