Beautiful and warm weather arrived a few hours before a storm.
I was leading a small private walk in Prospect Park (a birthday gift from a London sister to her Brooklyn sister, who brought a couple of friends). We met at Grand Army Plaza and walked south.
Leaves are falling, but there is still a lot of green in our urban woods.
And then a telltale sign of good things to come. Honey mushrooms (Armillaria spp), well beyond their prime on a dead tree (they killed it, it's what they do).
Look beyond the tree's stump and you may find a newer, firmer, fresher generation, matching the leaf litter perfectly.
Honey mushrooms have white a spore print. And that does not imply that any mushroom with a white spore print is good to eat. No. But in the case of a possible "honey" ID you want a white spore print; one of its potential lookalikes - which is toxic - has a brown spore print. Please join a local mycological society if you would like to learn more about mushrooms, and especially about eating them.
And then on, happily, to larger things: giant puffballs - Calvatia gigantea. Like huge softballs on the dead leaves, they were a little nibbled, but in prime condition. Our party of four split the largest and firmest very happily, and we left the others (on the walk home I noticed a couple pouncing on one of the ones we'd left behind).
There is little need to be greedy with puffballs - one big 'un can feed you for days. The texture inside is like tofu, or melted haloumi cheese, or roasted bone marrow, but mostly like puffball. They grill beautifully.
We stopped for a picnic of pink quail eggs and mugwort dipping salt and a dessert of spicebush-poached pears. Hot hen of the woods soup, inbetween. Some people had dessert first. Which is what being an adult is all about.
And then it was home, again, through the trees.
It was summer-warm. Everyone was in the park.
I collected my bike at Grand Army Plaza and rode home, downhill almost all the way, the wind in my hair.
I stopped for a minute on one of the bridges over the Gowanus Canal. I think the Superfund cleanup may have begun. There are yellow floating devices along its length that seem to be measuring something (maybe they just melt when it's all too much?) and I saw people in head-to-bootie hazmat suits on a barge, recently. They looked tired. At the far end beyond the second bridge, white foamy gunge continued to gush into the waterway.
Ah, New York.
Puffballs and picnics and autumn and toxic waste, all in one day.
Monday Update: And, TICKS. I was bitten by a damn deer tick. In Brooklyn. Hopefully there will be no more to report. Yes, I am fully informed.