Mushrooms are popping up in yards and woods throughout the region, the product of days of furious rainfall. Among them are cinnabar or red chanterelles, a tiny and delicious treat.
The elfin, red mushrooms typically grow in deciduous woods, often on stream bank, and are characterized by ridges, not gills, on their underside, which extend down the stem.
Other kinds of chanterelles also are fruiting around Charlotte – school bus-yellow mushrooms with ruffled edges and underside ridges. (Please note! These descriptions cannot be safely used to identify mushrooms in the wild – and there are dangerous look-alikes for both species. Hunt with an experienced mushroom hunter and a guide book and even then, use caution.)
Filling a fork isn’t the highest goal in mushroom hunting, however. The best fun about the recent rain is seeing the fruit of vast networks of underground mycelium, the white webby stuff you find if you turn over a shovel of forest soil or flip over a buried log. The mycelium produces fruit – that’s the visible mushroom – when conditions are right, and with the Carolinas so suddenly sodden, the conditions indeed are perfect for fungi. - Amber Veverka
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By Amber Veverka
On a blustery March day last year, Syreeta Kitchen-Dukes and her neighbors in the Applegate Community of east Charlotte gathered in rainy front yards to meet the neighborhood’s newest residents: 177 young trees.
The would-be forest arrived with a crew from TreesCharlotte, a public/private collaborative whose goal is to plant trees in neighborhoods that need them. That definitely applied to Applegate, a fairly new development near Mint Hill, says Kitchen-Dukes, president of the Applegate Homeowners Association.
“Unless the homeowners themselves planted trees, no one really had trees in the yard,” she says. “It’s so bare around here.”
Syreeta Kitchen-Davis with one of her newly planted trees. Photo: S. Kitchen-Davis
The new maples, oaks, magnolias and other trees taking root there are among scores planted last year in Charlotte, part of a City Council-approved campaign to get 50 percent of the city covered by trees by 2050. Right now, about 46 percent of Charlotte land area is covered in tree canopy, and reaching 50 percent means adding a half-million more trees – and that doesn’t count trees needed to make up for unforeseen clearing.
When Dave Cable, head of TreesCharlotte, looks at his group’s private-property planting record, he feels good – until he considers that during the same time his group planted some 4,000 trees, billboard companies were cutting down more than 4,000.
Read the full story and learn how many trees have been cut statewide at PlanCharlotte.
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By Amber Veverka
Chicks are appearing in local feed supply stores and at Renfrow Hardware in downtown Matthews, and hatcheries such as Murray McMurray Hatchery and Meyer Hatchery are shipping now.
If you’re new to backyard chickens, here’s a cheat sheet to get you started.
1. Know the law.
A growing number of towns, including Charlotte and Raleigh, let you keep backyard chickens as long as you build your coop to certain specifications and keep it a certain distance from your property line (in Charlotte, that’s 25 feet). For details on Charlotte’s animal ordinance, click here. Note: If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners’ association, chances are it prohibits chickens.
2. Get the chicken housing set before you bring home the birds.
We can’t stress this enough: Chickens have enemies everywhere. If you bring them home and hope to get by with a dog kennel or some other less-than-secure arrangement (such as a coop with an open top or unsecured floor), you will lose birds to raccoons, opossums, hawks, and owls. Plans for coops and runs are available in books and online. Here’s just one example.
3. Keep the babies warm.
Baby chicks need a secure, indoor place to live until they feather out. A back porch or garage is fine, and they must be in a container (such as a washtub or bin) with an attached heat lamp. They’ll need clean water and a kind of feed called “chick starter.” Clean the straw in their bin as needed. Remember to sanitize your hands after touching chicks.
5. Watch for feathers.
Once the chickens are fully feathered, they can move to their permanent lodging. If you buy your chicks this spring, you will be eating their first eggs at the start of fall. For more backyard chicken tips, see previous articles on getting started and things to know.
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Children love to wander the yards and woods this time of year, seeking signs of spring. And how much more fun is it when you can find safe spring treats growing wild?
Blossoms of Eastern redbud.
Violets are blooming right now through the Charlotte region, and you can turn their shy purple petals into brilliant syrup and rosy jelly. In addition, the fuschia-colored flowers of the native understory Eastern redbud also are beginning to bloom. Scatter their blossoms across a salad for a subtle but beautiful burst of springtime.
You can make syrup and jelly from any type of violet – and here we mean real wild violets, not violas or pansies purchased for the garden – but only the blossoms of the sweet violet, Viola odorata, are going to have that elusive violet perfume. Be sure to pick from unsprayed areas. You can sugar the violets – an old-fashioned confection – by painting their blossoms with (pasteurized) egg white and then dipping in sugar. Laid to dry, they will become hard and can be used to decorate cakes. Violets frozen in ice cube trays of water are another fun idea.
To make your own violet syrup, take the stems off two cups of blossoms. Pour three cups boiling water over the flowers, cover and let steep for two hours. Strain out the violets, add to pan and boil with 1 3/4 cup sugar. Add the juice of one lemon – here the syrup will turn a deep pink. Reduce the heat and simmer on low until it reaches the thickness you want. This makes a nice drink base, and can be used over pancakes or ice cream.
There are many variations of the violet-jelly idea, and here’s just one recipe. -Amber Veverka
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