Friday, October 2, 2009
New Salem Sojourn
Visiting relations should always be as much fun as it is when we visit my husband's brother. In addition to his being a jolly and interesting guy, and having a wife just as nice, they're both of them great cooks, and they live in a charming village. New Salem, Massachusetts, is your quintessential New England village with 18th-century tall-steepled white-clapboard churches set around a central green, and with ancient maples shading old stone walls. And it's just enough off the beaten path that it's not teeming with leaf-peeping tourists this time of year.
New Salem is near the Quabbin Reservoir, a carefully protected water source serving cities as far away as Boston. Created in the late 1930s by inundating the Swift River Valley, the Quabbin is now the largest body of water in Massachusetts. No motorized vehicles may gain access to the shores of the reservoir, but a short wooded walk from the village center leads to a lovely overlook.
While there, we visited a nearby nature preserve called Doane's Falls, with paths that trace the course of a beautiful stream rushing over rocky falls.
There were many mushrooms fruiting in the damp woods along the stream, including this smallish Bear's Head (Hericium americanum). This frozen waterfall of a fungus can grow to be quite large and is delicious chopped up and fried in butter. This particular one was a little past its prime and too small (about apple-size) to bother bringing home for supper. (Besides, we were driving into Amherst tonight to dine at a little French bistro.)
Along a road in New Salem, I found these beautiful silver-flecked Autumn Olive berries (Elaeagnus umbellata), but I didn't learn how good to eat they are until I returned to Saratoga and browsed the internet. Apparently they are very nutritious, as well. I'm glad to know there's something good about this invasive species (aside from the beauty of its fruits and fragrant flowers). Maybe if folks got out there and harvested these fruits, the birds would not disperse their seeds to every field and roadside, as they do now. Spread the word.
Aside from asters and a few late goldenrods, few flowers are blooming along the roadsides now, so I was quite surprised to see this brave little Blue Toadflax (Linaria canadensis) still hanging in there. At first I thought it was Kalm's Lobelia, but then when I looked up close I saw the distinctive curved spur that marks this plant as toadflax. I also discovered that little bug clinging there.