Minnesota-bound, in the buttermobile

When my grandpa was alive, he liked to tell funny jokes. What I mean is, his jokes were really funny to him, and the fact that they tickled him the way they did, combined with the fact that we all loved him very much, tickled us as well.

When Grandpa told a joke, his hands folded across his big belly, his eyes squinted, his face pinkened, and he laughed silently, with his shoulders bouncing. Or at least this is how I remember it.

Grandpa sold used cars, and my then-boyfriend/now-husband Matt had an old diesel Mercedes that he'd converted to run on vegetable oil. So that was something they had to talk about: vehicles. Grandpa had a joke for Matt, whenever they'd meet.

Are you still driving that buttermobile?


Does that car of yours still run on Ivory soap and peanut butter?

This cracked Grandpa up... I guess it was the idea of Matt scrambling through the kitchen cupboards like a cartoon character, filling up a mop bucket with assorted jars, jugs, and bottles, and heading out to the garage to tank up his car with miscellaneous household products.

Matt sold the Mercedes and bought a well-used diesel Dodge Ram when he started the bakery, so he could transport all his bread to the farmers market. It also runs on vegetable oil. In the past couple weeks, he's filtered 95 gallons so we can drive to Minnesota to visit his family, and have what I'd say is a well-deserved vacation.

Here's a picture of Matt's gas station in the garage. That's our garlic hanging from the ceiling.

One other thing about Grandpa... he respected smart frugality, and I think that pleased him about Matt's project as much as anything: Matt was doing something really weird but totally practical, for free, and by god, it was working.

Hell yeah

Matt found a big old maitake (hen of the woods mushroom)! We made fritters last night, and he added a maitake-red-onion-and-sage focaccia to his Friday night bake.


Argiope, where are you?

Last October I took these pictures of an Argiope trifasciata, or banded garden spider, in my irises. Every morning, now that it's late summer, I look for this year's argiope, but I haven't found it yet. There are many other spiders in my garden, and I love them all, even the Giant Clothesline Spider who each night builds a net for catching Zoes in, and who each morning catches a Zoe.

The first two pictures are the back, and the third picture is the belly.



It might seem small, but when Matt and I first got together, I relished the discovery that we travel through the forest at the same pace... I'd never had a boyfriend who wanted to spend hours poking around in the woods, just like me.

Over the past two summers Matt has gotten really into mushroom hunting. I held back at first, on account of I didn't want to eat a mushroom and die a horrible death. But Matt's enthusiasm, along with the entertainingly written ID tome he's been reading (David Arora's Mushrooms Demystified) drew me in. Mushrooms still make me nervous, but I understand these points: with a little effort, many of the choicest edibles can be keyed out and positively identified, and there's no reason to eat something you aren't absolutely certain about - you can always choose to simply admire it for its lovely wildness instead.

Looking for mushrooms takes time... It takes a readjustment of vision and mind. The ground is a whole other world, and while I've always been a scrambler, an inspector, a sifter... I've never quite known the ground like this before. I feel like I am as close to being a moss-dwelling beetle as I ever will be.

So this summer, Matt and I have not paddled on the river once, or gone on a long, strenuous hike. Every day off, we've just taken a slow walk into the woods. We've found a lot of mushrooms, and other things. It's not a recognized or respected skill, this thing we do - looking, smelling, occasionally finding a delicacy on the ground... But I think just being in the woods - in a whole-body-and-mind way - is probably the thing we are best at, of all the things we do, and that feels very gratifying.

Black trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides)
Craterellus ignicolor
A mixed bag of Craterellus cornucopioides and C. ignicolor
A type of milk cap, Lactarius hygrophoroides
Hedgehog, Hydnum repandum