I have previously mentioned a fairly new attraction in our local town, the Union Tea Cafe. The cafe seems to be going from strength to strength and has become the lunchtime meeting place for le tout Olean. The place to see and be seen. They even sell T-shirts now saying, "Pinky Up!" (For my British friends, your pinkie is your little finger. They think cocking your little finger is the posh way to drink tea. It would be cruel to disabuse them.) They still have a portrait of the Queen
and other British-themed memorabilia, like a genuine Essex policeman's helmet. I'm surprised it hasn't been stolen yet. (For my American friends, a common fate of an Essex policeman's helmet).
Visiting for the first time in a while, I noticed a new addition
Instinctively my heart leapt and then sank again, remembering that all doesn't augur well for the coming season. I also learned from a young family member about to start college that all the girls in her school had crushes on European footballers, Ronaldo in particular. That's interesting. Maybe real football will finally take off in America. I should also report that hubby gallantly and quite on his own initiative flew the England flag along with the Stars and Stripes on our flagpole while the World Cup was on. It's still there. We haven't got the heart to take it down.
Herewith some mushrooms that sprang up in the jungle, aka our garden. I'm a dab hand at mushrooming in France and Britain, so long as the mushrooms I pick are only edible boletus, aka penny buns or ceps, which are wonderful fried with onions and scrambled eggs. I don't touch anything else. And I don't touch anything in America.
The other day, though, the Pfeiffer Nature Center nearby offered a "Mushroom Mania" experience. Here's the expert, Garrett Taylor, with regulation basket and in the backround,a quaint old wooden house with a hatstand with a genuine pith helmet on it and fabulous views where he gave us a preliminary briefing.
I'm not going to tell you what all these mushrooms are - I didn't manage to take notes but this was one that eats insects - a carnivorous mushroom.
And these are Indian pipes, which are really a kind of flower.
I just enjoyed the way they look. It's been a fabulous late summer for mushrooms with all the rain we've had. The forest literally smelt of mushrooms, a comforting woody smell.
They complement their surroundings beautifully.
This below was a coral mushroom - waxy when you rub it with your fingers.
And these looked like icing flowers on a cake.
The purple jobs were everywhere in all shapes and sizes.
I liked this one, popping out a tree. It looked as though it belonged as part of the decor of a house from Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles - one of my secret pleasures.
This was almost like a stone sculpture.
All the yellow blobs were chanterelles - definitely edible. A veritable goldmine. They like to hang out near oak trees.
Here are the contents of Garrett's basket.
And one he says is good to eat - though please don't take my word for it.
Here's some more of the haul spread on the ground.
As for these little ones on the tree bark. They allegedly do funny things to you. If you pick them up, it's a felony. If you leave them on the ground it's not. Be warned.
We didn't take any home but compensated with a sack of chanterelles which we were still enjoying several days later.
But I was right to be wary. Ceps in America aren't exactly the same as the European ones and many have the reputation of being bitter and not good to eat. In France they're mostly all good, unless they're bright orange or red. I think I'll stick to just looking.
Having neglected the jungle for so long, I was surprised to see how well the flowers were holding up.(See below) Sadly I can't say the same for some of the trees. Last winter's heavy snowfall had some momentous results. Here's one birch tree.
And here's another...
Meanwhile the apple tree down the hill looked as though a giant had sat on it.
The trunk was sliced neatly in half.
But it's still full of little apples. It may survive yet. Nature around here is amazingly resilient.
Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state
Mild excitement the other day as they put up a new telegraph pole at the end of our drive. In America they call it a "utility pole" but there's still something reassuringly old-fashioned about the concept, especially as the poles on our lane are made of wood. Here you can just about make out a very brave man, very high up.
Cradled by modern technology that contrasts sharply with what he's actually putting in place.
You learn something new every day. A number of my western New York neighbours are avid deer hunters. Deer season is a couple of months away yet and the deer know it. This morning I saw a couple of them sauntering across the lane heading towards someone's vegetable garden, smacking their lips. Then they saw me and bounced off into the woods, tails waving. They'll be back.
Meanwhile the hunters are on the look out for some fresh trick to get an advantage over the opposition. Like this one spotted at a friend's house.
It's a sort of belt with a set of antlers at each end. The idea is to put the belt around your waist and clack the antlers together. It sounds like two stags fighting. "I thought that would make them run away", I said. "Oh no", said my friend, "It attracts them". A rival stag will come trotting up to see who's causing trouble on his patch. And then, well you can guess the rest. It sounds a bit like wishful thinking to me but I'm not a hunter. Bambi doesn't seem too perturbed.
Speaking of deer, the other evening we drove past the local University campus, St Bonaventure. There, in the pleasant park in front were hordes of deer. Some grazing, some snoozing on the grass. It was a deer cocktail party. Or deer freshers' week perhaps.
The next morning I walked up the lane and saw no deer at all. Then I remembered. They were all having a lie-in, or still rolling home, slightly the worse for wear.
Despite many weeks of neglect and the predations of our four-footed friends, the jungle is putting on a surprisingly good show.
The untidy English cottage garden effect has come into its own.
And the hardy hybdrangeas are positively rampant.
Even the delphiniums, usually eaten by slugs before they even have a chance to bloom had clearly flowered in my absence and even spread. This is telling me something. Perhaps I've been wasting my time gardening all along and should just sit back and let things be. Mind you, there was nothing there before I started planting, of course.
Meanwhile, an unfamiliar visitor, ensconced in the daylily.
I never thought I would hear myself calling a spider beautiful. I am a class A arachnophobe, especially when they're scuttling all round the boat and falling out of the sails and down my neck. (The spraying in the marina clearly didn't have a lasting effect.) But this fellow - well that's different. Plus it's outside and not moving. I'm reliably informed it's an Argiope Aurantia, which sounds exotic, aka a black-and-yellow garden spider, which doesn't. At any rate, it has a healthy appetite for flies and mosquitoes. Perhaps we should get more of them. Or then again, perhaps not.
Last wednesday we returned in the evening to find this intruder neck deep in the garden phlox and brazenly munching. And what's more, the four-legged fiend had the audacity to leave some leftovers on the ground.
And this evening we looked out and saw another deer sauntering up to the flowerbed for another tasty snack. We are powerless. Totally powerless. I take back any kind things I might have said in the previous post.
I set out for my first summer morning hike up the lane, wondering if anything had changed. As always at the back of my mind I was hoping to spot white tail deer. Such a nuisance in the garden (this summer's casualties include the buds of a whole bed of garden phlox) but so pretty when you catch them unawares - or vice versa - in the early morning mist. But the first morning there was nothing. A rabbit dashing across the road - a white tail but not the one I was looking for. A neighbouring cat sunning himself in a drive. He used to come and greet me but not this time. A distant honking of geese on the pond - surely not time for them to fly south yet?
Here was my friend of old, looking a little awry..
But none of the real thing, save a tantalising deer cough echoing from somewhere deep in the forest. The next day was better. See - there on the verge to the left, just beyond the mailbox?
Of course I never have my camera when I see them, only the phone. And if I ever do get to see a bear, you can be sure I won't have anything at all. This deer was soon off, cantering across the road.
The next day I saw more of them - a swish of white tails in the undergrowth, those wonderful slow motion bounds, almost floating in mid-air. I saw a turkey family too, the first for a long time. And the candy floss mist was covering the valley.
Since I've been away the Five Mile Baptist church has turned from white to grey - someone's good idea no doubt. And our garden jungle is twice as overgrown as it ever was. But otherwise nothing much has changed.
The blog will be back to its home in rural western New York in a few days. Of course the heatwave is predicted to break just as I leave. Currently we are still dripping and sweltering and fanning ourselves with anything that comes to hand, sleeping with ice packs instead of hot water bottles and in one friend's case, in her back garden. "Put your bed socks in the fridge" a newspaper said helpfully. Bed socks? In this weather? Britain isn't geared up for high temperatures. A few trains are air-conditioned; most are a rolling steam bath. I never thought I would miss American air conditioning, usually the bane of my life.
This picture of a heron on Wimbledon Common was taken a couple of weeks ago. Now it's just a patch of mud, the heron still picking his way around looking for snacks in the goo.
Meanwhile the weather seems to have affected London life in more ways than one. The other day I walked down South Molton Street and Bond Street - at one time pleasant shopping areas, to be accosted every few yards by someone yelling aggressively from one or other of the shops, "Madam!", thrusting free samples at me and trying to entice me in to spend money. Just like those little boys in Turkish and North African soukhs and carpet bazaars used to rush after me shouting "Special price, for you, Madam,special price!" Must be the heat.
As the country swelters and grass turns white with drought and SW19 winds up the tennis championships and the crowds in straw hats depart for another year, here's a taste of an altogether gentler Wimbledon pastime. A couple of weeks ago, they advertised a "Nature Walk" on Wimbledon Common. It was part of a weekend of nature-related activities, including some unexpected exhibits.
I was relieved to hear that the pythons, one of whom was called Olivia and corn snakes don't live on the Common. They are rescued abandoned pets. Pets!! Who in their right mind...? Oh, OK, I never was in touch with the zeitgeist.
Then on to more bucolic ramblings among the giant hogweed. Everyone was instructed to look for insects. Well what a microcosmos is a patch of weeds - I had no idea.
There were bees and beetles and grasshoppers and caterpillars. That staple of the British countryside the stingy nettle (Britain's far gentler equivalent of poison ivy and the bane of small children who learn from an early age to look for dock leaves to rub on the sting. Or used to, anyway) is in fact home and nourishment to the caterpillars of the Peacock Blue butterfly. I'll never look at a nettle in the same way again. Kids were handed out butterfly nets.
And gambolled around like a scene from a Victorian children's book. They seemed to love it. It beats computer games any day. So nice they still encourage old-fashioned pursuits. Here's some willowherb.
And there was I thinking Wimbledon Common didn't have any flowers. And the best thing about Wimbledon Common - there are NO TICKS! You can stride through the long grass with impunity. Eat your heart out, western New York!
London is roasting in a heatwave. Just like the old (possibly spoof) newspaper headline that hubby likes to quote: 70 Degrees Again and No Relief in Sight. Except it's more like 80 degrees with a stiff breeze. Wimbledon tennis started yesterday and on my journey down Wimbledon Hill on the 93 bus, I've been watching incredulously hordes of red-faced perspiring people, all bedecked in sundresses and panama hats, struggling up the hill mopping their brows. Some bright spark (probably an 18-year-old fitness fanatic) put on a sign at Wimbledon station that it was 20 minutes' walk to the tennis. In your dreams. I hope they all got there with the minimum heart attack quotient. I have the best idea. I watch on television. Meanwhile, as an antidote to the heatwave, here's a flashback to an interesting corner of Wimbledon called Cannizaro Park, home to some magnificent rhododendrons.
The day I visited, some weeks ago, it was after a torrential rainstorm (remember rain). Most of the blooms were soggy and nearly spent, though this one had a way to go.
The vast rhododendron garden was a wilderness of dark, damp paths, old steps and memories. It belonged in a Gothic novel.
It took me a while to find it - I'd strayed into some bleak, bare, walled gardens that looked as though they'd seen better days - perhaps they've perked up now it's summer. I could see rhododendrons enticingly peeing over the top of the wall but there was no secret door under the ivy. I had to tramp all the way round. But it was worth it.
You could explore here forever.
And cheerfully get lost in the wilderness.
There was a Gothic-looking aviary, full of birds
And goodness knows what else you might find
in case you were wondering, the giant teapot is a work of modern art.
In the background is Cannizaro House, named after a Sicilian Duke who once lived here. It's now the Hotel du Vin, probably doing well out of the tennis.
Tennyson, Oscar Wilde and Henry James all stayed there. The whole lot was sold to the council in 1948 for 40,000 pounds. That wouldn't even buy a parking space these days.
Coming up: Close by, a different great outdoors experience. Watch this Space.