Thursday, July 25 2013
Today the weather was unseasonably cold for what should be the annual period of peak heat. Temperatures stayed in the low 60s for much of the day, only rising into the 70s late in the day as nearby masses of warm air percolated in. The cold had dramatic effects in our household as dogs and cats suddenly started snuggling like they do in winter time. And I was forced to change up my wardrobe, adopting full-length pajama trousers, a long-sleeve shirt, and even socks. The change in the weather seemed to be telling my brain that autumn had already descended, and my brain didn't like the news. It was depressing, but not completely so. It turns out that there is a sexiness and feeling of opportunity to the arrival of autumn that I don't normally pick up on when it arrives organically. This is because, I think, for me autumn has historically been a time of dramatic change from the carefree barefoot days of summer to the regimented hum-drum of various kinds of education (school & college), geographic relocation (California & Hurley), or employment (San Diego). But I was far from done with this particular summer, and overall I don't much like autumn as a season, so the weather tended to put an asterisk next to my feelings about everything today.
At some point Gretchen started harvesting the Provider "bush beans" from our garden. They're an amazingly prolific variety and they've done well this year, so the harvest was big enough to form the basis of several meals. Gretchen also harvested a good amount of kale, another vegetable that is doing well (despite, in their case, rather heavy predation by cabbage moths).
Later this evening, despite the continued chill, Gretchen and I walked down the Farm Road to go swimming in our neighbor's salt water pool. The water there still retained some of the heat from the recent heat wave, though there was concern about how we'd feel once we came out. Gretchen decided to swim in a way that kept her hair from getting wet (insert statistically-valid racial stereotype here), while all I did was wade in up to my waist. The bluestone pavers around the pool were pleasantly warm after baking in the bright sun for most of the afternoon, so the solution to our drying quandry was to simply lie on them like lounging lizards.
On the walk back home, I found two things that I had to gather and take with me. The first of these was a small piece of bluestone lying in the Farm Road that had the sinusoidal imprint of either a fossil worm or its tunnel. Usually the only fossils I encounter in the local Devonian-age bluestone are brachiopods, though there is a slab in front of our house with similar wormy remains.
The other thing I saw and gathered was a pair of freshly-fruiting Chicken of the Woods masses from the roots of an evidently-unhealthy oak. I often encounter Chicken of the Woods after it has started to turn woody, but not so in this case; nearly the whole thing was tender enough to eat.
Back at the house, I immediately sliced up half of the Chicken of the Woods with an onion and then used it to provide the bulk for yet another pair of burritos (starting with some leftover bean glurp I'd made last night). It says something about how delicious these mushrooms were that the beans (which had been so delicious last night) actually seemed to be subtracting from the even greater deliciousness of the Chicken of the Woods.
After running mental designs through my head all day, this evening I started working on the copper swing lamp that I will be giving to our friend Michelle on her wedding this Sunday. Originally I didn't know if I'd be making a swing lamp or a chandelier, but in the end I decided on the former because it is less technically challenging to hang.
All but one of my swing lamps have had a single articulation, but the one whose pieces I assembled tonight would have two. To make it easy to wire, I decided to make the lamp in four (or, technically, five) separate soldered-together units. Two of those units would form the upper arm (or humerus, though, unlike a human humerus, it would contain two "bones" while the lower "arm" would contain only one). I'd string the wire through one "bone" of the humerus and then, to form the articulations, I'd glue the two humorous units together on two immobile pins adjacent to two unglued pins that would serve as rotation axles. I couldn't solder the two units together because at that point they would contain wire, which cannot tolerate soldering temperatures.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Tonight all I did was solder together the four units. As I always do, I did the cutting and basic assembling on the laboratory floor and then took the parts out onto the laboratory deck for soldering. It was cool out there but temperatures had begun to warm so it was not unpleasant. As I worked, I heard the fist katydids this year in this area (I'd already heard them down in the Mystery Woods south of Charlottesville). Normally it's warm when the first katydids start cha-cha-cha-chaing, and so their call starts the season fast. But tonight it was cool enough for their calls to sound the way it does in October: slow and somewhat ominous. As with the cool weather today, the arrival of the katydids was somewhat unwelcome. It is, after all, a harbinger of Fall. That's what my father used to say, and he's a man who died on his own birthday in the autumn.
Chicken of the Woods mushrooms found along the Farm Road on the walk back today from the pool.
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Frying up about half those mushrooms.
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The resulting burritos.
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A worm or worm tube found in a piece of Devonian bluestone found in the Farm Road today. I made it wet so it would be more visible.
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