Monday, April 26, 2010

Unusual Events

This weekend, while we were busy planting the vegetable gardens and thinning peaches from the trees, a few unexpected things happened.

The first was that we found a snake curled up on the window sill in the basement.  As far as anyone could remember, no rattle snakes had ever been seen at the orchard, but we were still worried that maybe that's what it was.  When Tosh looked closely at the snake he could see by its markings that it was actually a young gopher snake.  He picked it up carefully and took it outside to a gopher hole in a garden.  Above is a photo of Mizuki looking at the snake. 

Also, the neighbors' turkey attracted a wild turkey and they both wandered around the orchard together.  The neighbors' turkey is a male and it spent hours showing off the for female wild turkey by trying to intimidate people at the orchard.  He would puff out his feathers, drag the tips of his wings on the ground to make a hissing sound, and go anywhere there were people and circle around them.  Eventually the neighbor came over to make the turkey walk home and the wild turkey followed. In the photo above, the turkeys are in the parking lot by the fruit stand, the male is in front. 

The third unusual thing that happened was that I found something strange rapidly growing and spreading in my garden.  Early Saturday morning during the 4-H organic gardening group, we noticed something that looked like gooey curdled milk spilled on the edge of a garden bed.  The kids poked it and it turned reddish brown within a few minutes.  Later in the afternoon I went back to the same garden bed and found that the gooey patch was gone from where it had been, but that another patch of something was a little ways away down the bed.  It was spreading along the lines of irrigation tape in the rows. This patch wasn't gooey-looking, but instead was bumpy and whitish yellow like tiny cauliflower.  You can see a photo of it above, growing near some bean seedlings. 

I showed the thing growing in the garden to Toshio and he thought maybe it was a type of slime mold At home we looked up information about slime molds and found that what was in my garden matched the description and photos of a type of slime mold actually called Fuligo septicam or "dog vomit slime mold".  Wikipedia had an article with photos of examples of  "dog vomit slime mold". 

The next morning when I went to the garden, the patch was smoothing out and turning darker, from whitish yellow to yellowish brown, like browning meringue.  By the end of that day it was marbled light brown. All of this fits the description of what dog vomit slime mold is supposed to be like, so it seems likely that that's what it is.  This type of slime mold feeds on bacteria, and doesn't usually grow on living plants, although it can do that.  Since the mold wasn't growing on any live plants and it was probably helping the compost break down, I left it as it was.  I did decide not to water that area for a few days though, because maybe this mold formed because conditions had been too wet in the garden bed.  Below is a photo of how it looked late Sunday afternoon. 

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