Monday, 19 October 2015

Mushroom hunting

It’s that time of year again - wild mushroom time. The forest just outside our courtyard gate beckons.

Everyone we meet at this time of year talks about all the lovely mushrooms they collect from our forest, we have seen friends leaving the forest with baskets full, but we’ve never found any and to be honest as we don’t know an Agaricus bisporus from a Champignon de Paris we would be in danger of picking the wrong ones and poisoning ourselves - so we leave it to the natives.

The other day we saw our friend Francette collecting specimens at the entry to our forest so we stopped for a chat. She is a member of the Cluny mycological association and she was collecting things to be displayed in Cluny that weekend. On Friday we went to see the exhibition and asked specifically to see “our” mushrooms. So here is proof that our forest contains some very delicious specimens indeed.

"Our" Cèpes and "our" Girolles

So what edible mushrooms do we have?

Telling the difference between the right ones and
the wrong ones is not always obvious
Boletus edulis - Porcino – the French Cèpe; Cantharellus cibarius - chanterelle – the French Girolle; Hydnum repandum - Hedgehog mushroom – the French Pied-de-mouton and Craterellus cornucopioides - Horn of plenty – the French Trompette de la mort. Those are just the ones I saw at the exhibition - there may be others as well.

Having said that, telling the difference between the poisonous ones that look just like the edible ones is not something I  and willing to risk doing.

Safe Girolles
So when I went mushroom picking with Hélène yesterday, I let her have all the goodies we found. I actually found her a lovely cèpe which of course I didn’t think to take a photo of – my first wild mushroom find!

As she left in her car she gave a cheery wave and said that she hoped she would see me again, but you never know what might happen as she was going to eat the “cèpe” for her tea - I hope she’s OK, I haven't heard from her today.

I myself will be sticking to what the supermarket has on offer.

For holiday accommodation just to or three meters from a forest full of wild mushrooms click here.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Sunday afternoon amongst the vines

Mile after mile of vines
Autumn is certainly here now, the nights are chilly (but still not freezing) and the leaves are beginning to turn. We have to light the fire every evening to keep warm, but during the day it is mostly off. The last giters of the season have just gone home and so we are settling into a different season, a different rhythm, a different lifestyle.

Being an autumn baby, I like this season with its vibrant colours. I have often thought I would like to go back to Canada at this time of year and relive the colours I saw as a small child, but I have never got round to it and now I live here I don’t have to go that far to see autumn in all its glory.

Still on the vine, beautiful and sweet
Whilst driving home from a meeting in Buxy on Tuesday, I passed through the vineyards and saw that such a show of colour is not exclusive to the Canadian maple, we have our own version here. The extensive vineyards between us and Buxy do a pretty good attempt at a stunning autumn colour display. The vine leaves were starting to turn yellow and some were turning red, as far as the eye could see, neat rows of red, green and yellow.

This lonely chap was discarded on a pile of
uprooted vine stocks
So this afternoon I decided to get out and see what display of colour I could capture.

As we drove along the main road towards Buxy it seemed that the vines were not going to cooperate with me. There was lots of yellow, but the reds I had seen on Tuesday were hiding. I managed to capture a few images, but I will be trying again next week to see if I can find a more photogenic display.

It doesn’t really matter about the lack of photos though, it was a lovely, sunny afternoon to be out and about enjoying autumn.

For information of our holidays homes to rent near some beautiful vineyards click here.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Long cold night

The moon was hiding - I had to settle for stars
When I heard back in March that we were going to be able to see a total eclipse of the moon in September, I started to plan. Although this event is not so rare, I have only ever seen a quarter eclipse, looking through the front window of my house in Benthuizen. This time I was determined to see the full blood moon and as the months passed, the thought crossed my mind that I might be able to snap a photo of it as well.

As the day approached, I was practising more and more with night photography and started to understand what was required to photograph the moon and an eclipse. The moon moves very fast, but it is very bright so it is relatively easy to photograph and still get some detail, but an eclipse is different, the moon is dark and needs long exposures which will cause blur, so you have to find the right balance. I could only practise so much, in reality I only had one chance at this.

And we're off
While setting up my final practise run, I waited and waited for the moon to creep above the trees in the forest, but it never came.  I decided to do some star trails instead. My conclusion from this was that when the moon was being eclipsed, it most probably would be behind the trees in the forest or below the horizon created by hill where Taizé is, so I had to find another photo location. I found a spot on the hill at St Roch, not too far from home and tarmaced so the tripod would be steady and I wouldn’t get wet feet. Then I just had to keep my fingers crossed it would be a clear sky.

The alarm went off at 02.30 and I got up to see a beautiful clear sky, the photo shoot was on. I expected to find lots of people on the hill, but I was alone apart from a camper van which, if it had any people in it, never showed any sign of life.

The camera set up, I started focussing at about 3am. The focus kept altering which was either due to the temperature drop for the camera or my inexperience or nervousness. In the end I had one last try and decided that was it - it was either OK or it wasn’t. By this time the eclipse was underway and the light was fading. Every shot needed adjusted settings to get the details on the moon clear and by the time the blood moon appeared I was punch drunk from all the changes I was making.

Blood moon over Cormatin
The blood moon appeared at about a quarter to 5 by which time I was tired and wanted to go home. I had done what I had set out to do, but I had no way of knowing if it had been a success. So, tired and cold, I took the camera off the tripod and started packing up my gear. It was only when I went to walk back up the short slope to get the tripod itself that I realised I couldn’t feel my feet.

Finally home at 05.15 and disaster struck, I couldn’t find the house keys. Cees, being on the deaf side, would probably not hear me knocking or telephoning, but more to the point I didn’t want my keys lying around somewhere. I prepared to set back off to St Roch to find them, but did one last search of my (rather too copious) handbag and out they popped, that was 15 minutes in the cold I could have done without.

Before I went to bed I just had to look at the photos to confirm or not whether I had one good shot out of the roughly 200 I had taken and I was stunned to see it had worked!

In the morning after I sorted out a sequence of the moons, I had a little regret that I hadn’t stayed for another two hours to get the full show back to full moon, but as it took until lunch time for me to be able to feel my feet properly again, it was only a slight regret.

I’m glad I did it, I’m proud of the photos, but this is a one off.
The full show

For information about holiday accommodation where the next total eclipse of the moon is July 27/28 2018 click here
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