Tuesday, August 25, 2015

British Isles #15: Edinburgh Haunts

The cool, misty, windy days of Edinburgh in late March were the best sort of days to amble through grey, stoney cemeteries and forgotten underground vaults. Greyfriar's Kirkyard (kirk is Scots Gaelic for church) is an ancient graveyard surrounding Greyfriar's Kirk, named for a Franciscan order of monks established in the 16th century. The kirkyard is walled in and not terribly large but it is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh. I have seen many a ghost hunter show visit this shadowy place. I, however, enjoyed walking around the fascinating graveyard with so many little vaults and mausoleums, sculptures and macabre reliefs of skulls and such. I myself felt no tug on my coat tails, no ominous chill, no sense of dread. It was a quiet, and actually beautiful, little pocket of the town near Grassmarket.




Later that evening we met a guide from Mercat Tours to lead us into the once forgotten Blaire Street Underground Vaults of  Edinburgh. Below you can see one of our cloaked guides. Would you believe she was a native of ...... Arkansas! In 1785 work began on the South Bridge to connect old town with new town and to purposely create a street for shops. The vaults under South Bridge were intended to be storage and workshops for the stores above. Eventually they were abandoned due to frequent flooding. The abandoned vaults soon became housing for the city's poor - lives lived in damp, dark, dirty quarters without water or sanitation. Crimes of all sorts were soon rampant. At some point, the vaults were once again abandoned and rock and rubble prevented access. It was not until the 1990s that they were rediscovered. Many paranormal investigators visit the vaults and find myriad bits of evidence attesting to the grim lives once led below. Now, people can visit the vaults on guided tours, a subterranean tour lit by lanterns and candles. Our tour began above ground as the guides led us down little wynds and alleys telling tales of Edinburgh's dark past. Really half of the tour was above ground, which was a little disappointing. We then descended to the underground vaults, lit by dim orange glow of flickering flames. We had to stay pretty tight with our group of about 15 while the guides regaled us with haunting tales and bits of history. It would be fun and frightening to explore these alone (well with a trusty sidekick), which you can actually do! I don't think they are so extensive one would get lost. A fun tour but a bit of a let down. Not nearly as creepy or interesting as the Catacombs of Paris.





Monday, August 24, 2015

Welcome to the Forest For Strange Women

It came by post in a gold padded envelope. I opened it carefully with much anticipation. Within, little bits of magic were each wrapped in their own special attire. I had purchased the Lip Balm Gift Set, Evergreen Mountain Solid Perfume Locket, and the Locket Refill Fireside Story from For Strange Women (via Etsy). I slowly undressed each little treasure. 

                 

The lip balms (clove, pine cone, rosewood & poison ivy) came nestled in a bed of moss. Clove and Pine Cone are my favorites. These lip balms smell wonderful, feel great on, and are lightly sweetened with stevia. 


The Evergreen Locket also slept in a bed of mouse in its letterpress box. It is a beautiful locket and the scent is, well, strange. Oh the best sort of strange, woodsy, dark, damp, yet sweet, and changes subtly once on. Often I can smell the woods while wearing the locket, without applying the perfume, which is nice because the scent is really just for me. It is adorned with a cabochon of serpentine stone which is thought to have healing properties. I mistakenly thought the locket came with a chain. Luckily I had one in the right finish and a good length. I really adore this necklace now and have another scent, Fireside Story, for when I use up the Evergreen. The Fireside story scent is an equally lovely scent, equally strange. Even the tiny refill came tucked away in a little pocket. 



I love that these products are local (Kansas City) and produced in small handmade batches to retain quality and like Jill, the lady behind For Strange Women says "my products would not be the same without my own energy infused into each creation. A factory can not replicate the spirit of a craftswoman."

Each product comes with a card describing the item in olfactory details. All of these little details make receiving these products a joy, an experience to relish, to savor, to inhale. In the modern age, all of these things are strange and foreign to most consumers. So, here's to a renaissance of the strange and wonderful. Well done FSW!

www.forstrangewomen.etsy.com

P.S. London Fog is a intoxicatingly lovely scent. Must get more soon.

Mushroom Monday: Boletes

[PLEASE NOTE: Anything here I've attempted to identify is an educated guess but by no means fact. I'm no expert]

Bolete Mushrooms are the giants of the mycological realm, lurking in the damp woods but not at all hidden because they are, well, giant most of the time. It was Boletes that shocked me a few summers ago with their enormity - mushrooms bigger than dinner plates, some near a foot tall. I like to call the pale ones pancake mushrooms because they look and feel like pancakes to me. The great edible Porcini mushroom is a bolete but sadly doesn't grow in Missouri. 

This summer I have seen a great many boletes though not as giant as I have in the past. They are incredibly fun to spot - even a small bolete is a giant among the other modest mushrooms of the woods. Many are very dense and sturdy, too, which helps them last many days longer than other mushrooms. What makes a bolete unique, and a good way to identify a bolete, is it's underbelly: beneath that cap, where other mushrooms have gills, boletes have tiny tubes, or spores. These are so small that the underneath of boletes appears to be a sponge.


Pallid Bolete [?]


Pallid Bolete [?]
Pallid Bolete [?]
Bitter Bolete [?]

I believe this is a Frost's Bolete which bruises blue in mere seconds. This can be seen in the photo beneath.
Frost's Bolete (?) bruising blue
Pallid Bolete [?]
Pallid Bolete [?] Don't these look like pancakes?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Our Lady of the Apples

This is my great Aunt Alta (Altie) Maples harvesting apples in her youth. I love the composition of this old photo, the sun in the eyes squint, all those bushels of apples. (Is that a thermos of cider on the top rung of the ladder?) Photo is circa 1920.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ode to Orchards

              
There is a little road that goes by one of the last remaining orchards in my area. From here I parked my car and gingerly crept into the edge of the orchard not to steal any fruit, just to steal a photo or 20. Sadly all the others have faded and closed over the year, their trees in rows becoming twisted but still stubbornly creating fruit. I have long found orchards to be magical places. Perhaps it is because apples play such a part in wonder tales of our youth as disguises for poison and spells or vessels of magic and knowledge. Or perhaps they are magical spaces because many of my most favorite childhood memories are of driving down old forgotten roads to an old forgotten orchard ran by an old man and woman who sold the best apples and pressed cider. But, too, my family is from a tiny town that was once peppered with orchards, relatives once worked seasonally to harvest the ruby ripe apples, or else nicked one on the way home from school. Perhaps it is in my apple red blood. No matter the genesis of my love for apples, cider, orchards, and the fleeting season that bears such lovely fruit, they all continue to hold magical sway over me. This morning a mighty cold front has moved in after a mighty storm and it is a morning for hot mulled cider if ever there was. Autumn is on the breeze, she'll be here in no time. And I'll be ready for her, hot cuppa cider in hand.




Tuesday, August 18, 2015

August Apples

A Storefront window for these days which feel like summer one day and Autumn the other, while fruits are ripening and kids are returning to school. This one was for Aurora Pet Salon.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mushroom Monday: Chanterelles

These beautiful fragrant Chanterelles have been popping up most of the summer, in fact, they are in season from May to October! Right now they are taking a break because of the heat but each new rain, I go a-searching once again. These have become one of my favorite mushrooms because they are edible, very delicious, easy to identify, and most of all they are easy to find! While morels hide in the shadows like elusive mythical creatures, chanterelles can be seen across a leaf strewn woodland, a little pop of yellow or orange that shouts "Here I am!" They also seem to grow in groups so, where there is one, there are likely more very near. Most of the chanterelles in my forest are Smooth Chanterelles, meaning they lack the ridges underneath. But I've also seen the classic Chanterelle as well as the little red Cinnabar Chanterelle. I've cooked them in many different ways: sautéed, mushroom soup, fried, oven roasted. They were all great! Read more about them here.







Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Summer Catch

young Northern Fence Lizard



Friday, August 14, 2015

Summer Skies

I have seen many brilliant skies this summer: sunsets & sunrises, full moons & blue moons, mist & fog. These past few evenings I laid out to view the star show of the Perseid Meteor Shower which was nothing short of a marvel. I witnessed countless (but probably 20 to 30 a night) shooting stars (meteors from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle). Of those I saw there were a handful that elicited gasps of wonder and excitement, streaks of light that traveled the length of the sky, stars with tails of matter burning up and igniting wonderment within me. Of course, I got no photos of these magical moments but they'll be forever etched in my mind's eye. Hope you caught some of the magic, too.





Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mushroom Monday:
Scarlet Waxy Cap

[Mushroom Monday - better late than never] These little beauties are Scarlet Waxy Cap mushrooms. They are quite frequent in my forest and are positively fairytale-esque. They have a very shiny (waxy) look to them and begin as tiny red specks on the forest floor. I love seeing such vibrant colors in nature and these are gems in the sunlight.





This is a waxy cap nearing the end of its life. They really glow in the sunlight.





Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Telling Stories to the Trees

"Telling Stories to the Trees" by Rima Staines
Today, beneath rain and cloud, Autumn is reaching into my mind, into my spirit. Before long we'll have fires in the woods again, a kettle, and steaming tea. We'll have leaves of gold spilling down and there will be stories in the woods, stories to hear if you listen carefully, and stories to tell the trees. Perhaps the hot sun will return with the heavy cloud of humidity but already Autumn has planted a seed in my spirit. And once it is there, there is no budging.

This painting is by one of my favorites, Rima Staines, from Chagford England. Her art is so steeped in myth and story, in nature and magic. Stop by The Hermitage, her Etsy shop, and take a browse. A calendar, though half the year is passed, is a great way to get many small prints on a budget but her larger works are magic, indeed. Also if you have time to travel down the rabbit hole, visit her blog at Into the Hermitage. Also, catch up on her plans to create a traveling wonder wagon: Hedgespoken. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mushroom Monday

During the jubilant rains of July, such a motley group of mushrooms peppered our woodland in ceaseless shapes and colors. What little gifts to behold. I took countless photos throughout July so here, in my virtual alcove, on Mondays I will try to share some of my favorite fungi photos.

These lovely yellow ones popped up almost right before my eyes. Although I have yet to identify these, they were fun to watch. In a matter of hours the tiny yellow Easter egg rose from the ground and the others in the group opened up and out. A time lapse video would have been awesome.

The first sighting of the mushroom just pushing through the earth. 

Maybe two hours later.

Probably about 4 to 6 hours after the first photo. This little guy probably grew a half inch an hour.