Time for rain, giant pumpkins, and fleece

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Tis the season when I stand in the rain every morning and evening urging Annie to leave the doorway and “go potty,” when I pile up damp towels and soggy shoes, when the sun is but a memory. The rainy season has begun, and the snowbirds are heading to Arizona.
It happened so quickly. Last week, I lived on the deck in the sun, reading, writing, playing music, doing yoga, snuggling with the dog or just lying flat out soaking up the warmth and light. Did you know that many of us who live on the Oregon coast are seriously short of vitamin D? It’s true.
We hadn’t had any measurable rain for two months. That’s normal in many places, but not here. The lawns were turning brown, and for the first time ever, fleas showed up at our house, finding Annie’s dense fur a fabulous playground. After a couple days of her hiding in her crate and literally dragging her tail, we made an emergency trip to the vet, thinking she was sick, only to find she was infested with fleas. An expensive triple-pronged pharmaceutical attack later, she’s feeling better.
The leaves have been falling for weeks, and now I understand why I should have raked them up. They have become a soggy brown mat on the lawn, now joined by the season’s first fallen branches. The bird bath, which had gone dry, is now a floating pool of pine needles. Although I did pack in a load of pellets last week, I never cleaned out the gutters, so waterfalls cascade right over my front door. I’m wondering how I’m going to keep my spa cover from flying off in today’s high winds; last year’s winds ripped all the straps off.
This is just the beginning. The weather forecasters say we will see the sun again on Wednesday and Thursday before the rain returns. Meanwhile, although I still have my tan lines, I’ll be putting on my rain suit to walk the dog. A neighbor stopped Saturday to tell me I was awfully dedicated to be walking Annie in the rain, but nine months out of the year, if we don’t walk in the rain, we don’t walk at all.
There are bonuses to the arrival of the rain. The mushrooms are popping up, just in time for the annual mushroom festival held in Yachats every October. People are hanging Halloween decorations—I’ve got my orange lights ready to string in the front windows. They had 100-pound pumpkins at Fred Meyer Saturday. And Christmas is coming.
I’ll miss going out without a jacket, but it is kind of nice to put on the layers of fleece and read by the flickering light of the pellet stove while the rain patters on the skylights.
When my brother visited in May, he wanted to know why everyone he met kept talking about the weather. Well, that’s because it grabs and keeps our attention around here. What are we going to do today? Well, let’s check the weather.
Wherever you are, try to stay dry and warm, but if you get wet, know it will feel fabulous when you change into dry clothes.

It’s mushroom time again

It’s mushroom season here on the Oregon coast. Last weekend, we had the giant Yachats Mushroom Festival, which offers speakers, mushroom hikes, mushroom tasting, slide shows and more, but I think the mushrooms are even more abundant now than they were last week. All it takes is a little rain and they pop up everywhere. Did you know mushrooms are just the fruit of plants that mostly grow underground? True.

Mushroom fanatics, called mycophiles, head to the woods this time of year to collect bucket-loads of mushrooms. The fungi come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. Some of them are fabulous to eat while others are toxic. It’s important to know the difference before you pick, cook and eat them. For example, King Boletes, which look like pancakes on a stick, are great to eat. Fly agaricas, those pretty red ones with white spots, can be deadly.

Even if you don’t like mushrooms, they’re fun to look at. On our walks, Annie and I are seeing boletes, russelas, chanterelles, amanitas, and other mushrooms. (Actually, I’m seeing them. I was looking at a new patch of mushrooms yesterday when Annie almost took my leash-holding hand off streaking after a cat.) Along the edge of one neighbor’s yard, a crop of mushrooms that look just like oyster crackers appeared overnight. I just want to dig in with a spoon, but I know better.  Never eat mushrooms raw and never eat them if you don’t know whether they’re safe. Plus my neighbor might think I’d lost my mind.

A good pocket guidebook is David Arora’s All That the Rainfall Promises and More. Arora was the keynote speaker at last week’s festival. His book is full of great color photos and descriptions of all kinds of mushrooms.

Around here, the Lincoln County Mycological Society meets the second Saturday of the month in Otter Rock. Call 541-765-3191 for information. You can also learn more about mushrooms through the North American Mycological Association, http://www.namyco.org/. You might also want to check out my article in last week’s Oregon Coast Today, http://www.oregoncoasttoday.com/yachats-mushroom-festival.html.