Fowl Weather – Chicks & Hens

That’s right, Chicken of the Woods and Hen of the Woods. In my Oct 1 post, I was lamenting the fact that September was the driest September on record with 0.18 inches of rain, and October coming up is usually the driest month of the year, averaging 2.14 inches. On Fri the 3rd, we got 1/2 inch, and then the rain began steady on Monday all the way to today, Sunday, except for a break on Wednesday so we could see the “red moon” from the eclipse. So far, the tally at my house is a little over 3-inches of steady rain or drizzle. Forecast is another rain event before drying out this Wednesday. So, it has been a wet 10 days.

Thursday, after hunting with no luck for two hours around the house I had to go to a chick3county commission meeting, and decided to drive up a creekside road on the way. I almost twisted my head off when I saw a line of orange extending from the creek up the bank. Chicken of the Woods on a moss covered log – my favorite kind because moss holds moisture. After jumping out of the car and sliding down the wet bank three times to (1) get my camera, (2) unload my mesh bag, (3) bring another bag full up, I ended up with a little chick2over 30 pounds of the freshest and most tender chicken you could ask for.

SmallHenThe next day, Friday, I had to go to Knoxville, and on the way home (on a whim) I made a desert run near the house. I was going to check out an “oyster log”. I needed oysters for a recipe I was working on. I found a small Chicken beside the trail and decided to leave it until Saturday to see how much it would grow. I know this is against my philosophy of “leave no man behind”, but I did because it was so close to the house. Then I cut into the woods and found a small Hen at the base of a 6″ white oak snag. I left it to grow also, but first I marked the tree/snag with flagging tape.

Hen3Moving on toward the oyster log, I was looking around and spotted two white clumps at the base of a large oak. Moving closer, I was excited to see two more Hens. Although they appeared washed out by the rains, they were, in fact, in excellent condition – six pounds together. So, I now have four Hens for the year.

Went back Staurday and the Chicken had doubled in size and was still tendet. The Hen was the same diameter, but the “fronds” were fuller and more convoluted. I sautéed some for Ellen when I got home, and she pronounced them the best mushroom she had ever eaten. Now, this woman has eaten a lot of morels over the years. Must have been just in the moment.

Today, Sunday, I went out in my nearby woods and got another batch of fresh chicken, a couple of Hericeum, and a lobster. The odd thing is that since the rains began, I have not seen an oyster. Maybe later in the week after it clears.

soupSo, the weather has been great for fowl. Later today I will be putting some of all the mushrooms in a “wild mushroom pot pie”. I got the recipe out of Garden and Gun magazine. I’ll post the recipe in a few days. Yesterday, I made escargot, morel and ramp soup. It’s a rich creamy soup that fills you up. I’ll be posting this recipe also. I used the ramp powder I made up this year, along with ramps that I froze. Worked out great..

 

 

Caterpillars and Muscadines

cat1Several of us found this beautiful caterpillar strolling across “The Barn” parking area on Saturday, 9/13,at the Oconee Foray. I finally got around to trying to determine the species when I had lunch with my friend Joe Fink day before yesterday. I’ve known Joe since 1970 when we took an entomology class together at UT. We are both retired now, but along the way Joe had enough entomology credits to have a major in it if he cat2wanted, and I took four entomology classes along my journey. We both used extensive insect collections in our teaching. Surely, I thought, we’ll figure this one out – being that it is so distinctive. After going over images in several large web sites and trying to key it out, I realized I was stuck, so I sent the photographs in to www.butterfiesandmoths.org. Next day I had the answer: A moth Heterocampa umbrata, White-blotched heterocampa.    As it turns out, the normal caterpillar color is green, but right before pupation it changes color and markings significantly. I should have thought of this. Why else would it be traveling in Fall rather than feeding on the oaks, its favorite food?

jellyMuscadines. We went to South Alabama last weekend, and we picked abut 15 pounds of muscadines (actually scuppernongs). I was able to extract about a gallon of juice, and this morning Ellen and I made 16 jars of jelly. It is delicious too ! I had two muscadine jelly and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch Yummy. There is a lot of bounty in the fall.

We finally got rain – 1 1/2 inches on Tuesday. Should be some mushrooms finally.

Dry, But Still . . . ?

It’s official now (Oct 1, 2014); September 2014 was the driest month in recorded history at the Knoxville weather station (airport) with a total of only 0.19 inches of rain. Still, last week I posted on finding oysters. Yesterday I saw a few more that were probably last chicken093014week’s also, but surprisingly I found a chicken of the woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, that weighed 1 1/2 lbs. I thought about leaving it a day because it was so fresh, but underneath I could see insects just starting to find it. It was growing on a very punky stump remnant that had left a hole in the ground which may have served as a catchment, much like a cistern, and then the punky stump sequestered moisture like a sponge. Who knows, but I was certainly surprised.

About an hour after harvesting this one, I ran into a fellow who had just picked what looked like a 4-5 lbs chicken, Laetiporus cincinnatus, from someone’s yard. So, both species of chicken were found in the middle of a severe rain deficit, the same day. Nighttime temps have been holding in the 60′s and highs low 80′s. Go figure.

Rain is predicted for Friday, 1/2″ to 1.0″. Then lows will drop into high 40′s with highs around 70 for several days. There should be some mushroom fruiting simply because of the drastic change. Sexual reproduction, in natural sytems, is generally in response to change in external conditions, while asexual reproduction occurs in the presence of optimal conditions. So, be on the lookout here in the Valley. We’ll see happens next week.