Pondering Honey Fungus


What is the largest organism on Earth? Simple enough question, take a shot at the answer – giant sequoia, blue whale – not even close. Ponder a 5.5 kilometer across honey fungus in Oregon, our largest terrestrial organism.

Image via Factorialist.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/10/humongous-fungus-genome/544265/

Fungus inhabit the kingdom of Fungi. Neither plant or animal, science suspects member species of the fungal realm number in millions. Of 120,000 identified species –  300 are detrimental to humans, 8,000 attack plants, many more target animals. Before dismissing fungus as mushroom soup or nasty toenails, ponder a parasitic community boasting the largest organism on Earth.

Science defines individual life forms as organisms comprised of genetically identical cells, able to communicate and share a common purpose. Weighing an estimated 600 tons, Oregon’s behemoth Honey Fungus passes the single organism test with flying colours. Don’t go looking for a giant mushroom, most of this fungal monstrosity lurks below ground. A parasitic giant, entwined underground in colonized tendrils intent on dissolving roots of conifer forests above.

http://factorialist.com/fungus-tree-eating-machine/

http://earthsky.org/earth/largest-land-organism-honey-fungus

Fungi don’t photosynthesize, sustenance comes from absorbing nutrients dissolved by secretion of digestive enzymes. Science can’t say if it took two or eight thousand years for the world’s largest organism to occupy 2,384 acres, roughly the area of 1,665 football fields. It can say the largest individual organism on Earth is a fungal parasite named Honey. A mysterious, organic matter dissolving monster capable of sucking life from all it touches. Fungi freak me out.

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Asperitas


For the first time in over 50 years, skies are officially cloudier. This year maestros of meteorologic whimsy, conduits of foreboding trepidation and petticoats of nature’s fancy were asked to make room for Asperitas at the head table. Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society inducted Asperitas into the International Cloud Atlas hall of fame. A monumental achievement in science clouded by genre, subsection, supplementary features and special circumstance.

https://cloudatlas.wmo.int/clouds-supplementary-features-asperitas.html

Gavin Pretor-Pinney defined Asperitas as –

… localized waves in the cloud base, either smooth or dappled with smaller features, sometimes descending into sharp points, as if viewing a roughened sea surface from below. Varying levels of illumination and thickness of cloud can lead to dramatic visual effects.

An asperitas formation over Ballstad, Vestvagoy, Lofoten islands, north of Norway.

If by chance you happen upon undulating clouds that resemble rough seas if viewed from below – shout a hearty welcome to Asperitas, the first cloud formation recognized in half a century.

What Have I Done


Chances of finding someone who shares relaxed indifference toward a Black Widow spider living 18 months in their basement window are slim to none. Likewise genuine remorse for basement widow’s unceremonious death, or wobbly knee outrage over vacuum hose eradication wielded by a concerned family member. I sulked for weeks, outraged by audacity of family capable of decisive spider intervention while I was away.

“I liked that spider, it wasn’t bothering you!” met “Are you nuts? Have you seen what a Black Widow bite can do?”. Yes I replied, but you don’t understand, this spider liked the basement window. Knowing they acted reasonably didn’t ease the loss of basement widow.

I haven’t told them basement widow’s polite demeanor might have been a peculiar anomaly. Nor have I divulged “what have I done” alarm over recent Black Widow sightings. Widows I might add, who by all appearances lack the courtesy of basement widow. Three Black Widow encounters in the past two days, all eluding attempts to catch and release, not one downstairs where they belong. Oh my, what have I done.

These widows are feisty, smaller and alarmingly craftier than the soothing persona of basement widow. One in windowsill cactus above my kitchen sink, another attempting to claim the bathroom window, a third exuding what you gonna do about it confidence between folds of the spare bedroom curtain. What have I done? Three allowed themselves to be seen, how many lurk unseen.

RIP House Widow


On a trip to the laundry room several years ago I discovered a black widow spider. As the only family member licensed to dispatch spiders, her demise was automatic and swift. My husband protected us from snakes, spiders were my responsibility. A practical, unspoken arrangement acted upon without hesitation, quelling arachnid hysteria never bothered me. If a snake ever hissed in the house my husband would do the same. I forgave the one and only house snake in our 35 years, the garter snake he and the kids brought home in a bucket, the one they named Mrs. Slithers when she gave birth to 11 babies the following day, but that’s another story.

Soon after finding laundry room widow, many more disturbed domestic harmony. Upstairs, downstairs, bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms – black widows were becoming a problem. Some had to be executed, but only as a last resort when catch and release failed. Along the way a peculiar affinity developed for well mannered widows. Rogue spiders couldn’t be allowed to roam at will, homesteaders were another matter.

For a while “No, of course I don’t want a black widow bite”, “Yes, I’ll do something about basement widow” sandbagged rising dismay. Relax! Spiders are my job, the situation is under control!

My son broke the news. “You were sleeping…” “We saw an egg sack…” “Sprayed it with Raid…” “Got the vacuum out…” I heard myself say, you killed my spider? Then wished I could take it back because it sounded so crazy. “We can get you a pet spider” he offered with genuine sympathy. “It’s ok, I don’t want a pet spider” was spoken, “I liked that spider” wasn’t.

I couldn’t explain without sounding unbalanced, wouldn’t expect them to understand mild obsession with observing the same spider for almost 2 years. Their spiders are my snakes, I get it. RIP basement widow.

 

Basement Widow Update


Basement widow hasn’t crossed my mind in a while. Paid a visit after work tonight, snapping a hasty cell phone image of her impressive domain.

Research indicates female black widows have a life span of up to three years. My spider is entering her second basement summer. Rest easy, I’ll update her status every few months.

Steveston Sea Lion Stupidity


Anyone who’s seen the program When Animals Attack understand it almost always starts with nincompoops too stupid to grasp imminent danger.Yesterday afternoon the dock at Steveston B.C. catapulted stupid to the stratosphere. Hey, lets feed this wild animal! No wait, lets put this child in its face. Hahaha, it tried to kiss her, lets put our child even closer. NO STUPID! It wants to eat her, she looks like food! Hit play and watch stupid in action –

 

Never Open My Freezer


My daughter wanted small animal skulls for an art project. Naturally she asked my brother, a perfectly reasonable request none of us considered remarkable. “No problem” he said. We promptly forgot about it for several months. Out of mind until he messaged to expect a parcel sent Greyhound express.

If I could bottle my brother the label would read “Essence of  decency, character, work ethic, empathy, moral fibre and principles”. A man of few words, words saved for storytelling delivered with mesmerizing cadence matched only by the twinkle in his eye. Stories of thwacking a bear on the nose while witching for water, sticking his hand down a drainpipe to extract a rattlesnake, plunging through alone in the wilderness pond ice under the weight of fur bearing animals, once and for all riddance of Saturday morning Jehovah Witness interruption courtesy a half skinned Marmot passed off as his cat. Trapper, water diviner, nuisance wildlife problem solver, woodsman and yes – provider of small animal skulls for an art project.

Not wanting to hurt his feelings I kept an open mind to caution our Greyhound parcel was perishable. “Do tell” seemed appropriate. “Wow, thank you” was all I could muster on hearing its contents. It would appear ungracious to point out she wanted “small” animal skulls, how could I argue with news of several Lynx skulls (skinned but not free of brain matter), raccoons, skunk, marmot and squirrel similarly stripped but not purged and one cougar head skin intact. Not wanting to be a ninny, I heard myself calmly remind him I lived in the city. What were we supposed to do?

No worries he said. Put everything in a large pot, boil until bits start floating to the top. It might take a while, if it smells disgusting throw in some bay leaves and pretend you’re making stew. OMG!! I’ll spare subsequent details, suffice to say it involved extraction of soft boiled tissue.

He would have been proud. Stoic, unflappable determination opened the package, assessed the situation, put all but the far too large cougar head in a pot set on boil. Congratulatory back slaps waned relative to ever growing gray pot scum.I couldn’t say how long it boiled, I can attest to the moment gag reflex stench recalled adding herbs to skull stew. Big mistake! Rubber gloves – check. Soft tissue extraction implements – check. Why aren’t these skulls coming clean? Where did we go wrong?

Suddenly my daughter shouts “abandon ship” – we rationalize postponement not failure. “it’s ok, we just ran out of time, we’ll try again tomorrow”. We carry the pot downstairs intent on flushing skull scum water down the toilet. Nothing prepared us for the last swirling toilet gurgle ejecting a rogue floating skunk skull – a spectacle so absurd both of us collapsed in hysterical stress release laughter. Composure returned with dutiful bagging of drained animal parts. Bag of drained bits back in  pot, punctuated with the satisfying clang of lid containment. Cougar head wrapped in another bag – both problems parked in a basement chest freezer.

That was five years ago, it goes without saying our one and only attempt would be the last.We don’t talk about that day, it’s far too awful. Guilt of wimping out is troublesome. Worse still, I can’t bring myself to deal with contents of the freezer for fear of disappointing my brother. We no longer use the freezer, it serves to preserve a pot of assorted par- boiled skulls and one glorious skin intact cougar head. I need help!! Anyone looking for a frozen cougar head?