At first I thought it was a mushroom. So many have covered Rosslyn’s lawns in recent weeks. Small, delicate, off-white mushrooms that look as if they escaped from a fantasy story. Or droopy, brown capped mushrooms like you might’ve drawn as a child. And sometimes these round globe mushrooms emerge overnight. Some are small, lacrosse ball small, and others grow nearly as large as volleyballs. The day before there was nothing but soggy, green grass. And then, magically, a lily white ghost fungus appears. Or an armada of lily white ghosts…
This morning, while inspecting our young orchard with Griffin, I spied what I initially expected to be a newborn lacrosse ball mushroom.
My spirits (and vision) were inevitably soggy. It’s been raining for weeks. In fact, with a few rare exceptions it seems to have rained ever since we returned from the desert southwest in late May. I’ve shared with you the emotional roller coaster of the Lake Champlain lake level which after weeks of rising now [crossing fingers, arms, legs and eyes] appears to have crested.
I’ll save the water drama details for another post. The broken boat lift. The sunken dock. Our ski boat tethered to submerged docks at the marina. A vegetable garden better suited to rice farming. And I haven’t told you about the fact that Rosslyn’s basement flooded several weeks ago. And then again a week later. I may. In time. For now I’m cultivating amnesia. It’s been that bad, especially when the weekly weather forecasts promise more of the same. Rain, rain, rain.
So this morning, after feeding Griffin, I headed out to the meadow behind the carriage barn to check and see how the vegetable garden and orchard were surviving in the rain.
Short answer? Not well!
The garden is a swamp, eutrophying with thigh high weeds. It’s difficult to distingish eggplants and peppers and tomatoes from weeds. A swampy jungle. A miniature rain forest. For some reason the corn seems to be the least weed infested area, but the cucumbers and zucchini and melons and leeks are totally obscured in unwelcome and uninvited but thriving invasive foliage. The almost insurmountable task of weeding out the entire bed is trumped only by the fact that another 10 days of rain if forecasted before we’ll be able to get in and do much of anything. Enticing scenario.
And if that’s not discouraging enough, there are other surprises to be had in the orchard. I recently opted to remove all of the deer cages around the fruit trees. Several of the trees have literally outgrown their cages, but the main reason I removed them was to make ongoing weeding and pruning easier. I hadn’t detected any deer in the backyard since winter, and Griffin has been undertaking a twice daily (each morning and evening) urinary tour of the orchard and vegetable garden.
But it turns out I was overly optimistic.
The deer, too wise to fool, took advantage. A half-dozen young apple trees have been browsed. I’m optimistic that they will recover, but the damage is severe. They’ve eaten not only most of the foliage, but almost all of the new growth, and even most of the young scaffold branches.
So, with a heavy heart and frenzied fingers I begin to “stroll” through Amazon via my iPhone app, looking for organic deer deterrents. Distracted. Wandering. Then I discovered the mysterious speckled egg. That’s right, what at first eluded me as a mushroom born of too much rain, turned out to be a large eggshell. I say large, but in truth it’s only large for the sort of eggshells I usually see around the yard in the spring. Songbirds, robins, etc. I did see several beautiful sky blue robin eggs this spring, but this speckled eggshell was slightly larger then a chicken egg. The coloring is relatively accurate in the photograph: slightly off-white, maybe closer to café au lait than the white of a puffball, and speckled. Small brown markings dapple the surface. I assume the mystery bird had already hatched as the shell was empty, though only a small area of the underside of the egg was broken away. It was sitting in the middle of the grass, in the middle of the orchard.
What sort of bird hatched from it? Where had it gone. Was it safe and sound and dry? Or perhaps the shell was dropped here by a crow after a protein-rich brunch…
It occurs to me that it might be the egg of a duck, one of the many mallard families which congregate along our waterfront. Or a member of the family of mallard ducklings I photographed in our years earlier this spring. Or a merganser…
I don’t know, but something about this fragile symbol of beginning countered my damp spirits. And for that I am exceptionally grateful.
Wild Turkey Egg?
Many thanks to Katie Shepard for her sleuthing. She lead me to this comparison of eggs image which shows an egg that looks suspiciously similar to the shell I found. In the photograph, the brownish egg on the far left is from a guinea hen, and the egg on the far right if from a peafowl. But those two middle eggs are from turkeys. The larger turkey egg with well pronounced brown speckles is a ringer!
And given our high population of wild turkeys, even after the kamikaze turkey episode, it makes plenty of sense that this egg hatched a baby wild turkey. Just yesterday morning I startled four large turkey that were right next to our back deck, looking for breakfast among the zinnias.