Sunday, August 28, 2011


     First, the week started with a 5.8 earthquake that struck about 40 miles outside of Richmond on Thursday. In my mind, it provided some mental preparation for what would hit the area about four days later. As Irene rolled in late Friday night, we spent our evening celebrating my dad's 62nd birthday. Hard to believe he is 62- such an inspiration to me in many ways. Recently, he helped me as I studied for the math section of the GRE, which I also took last week. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a dad as giving and caring as the one I do. I hope one day that I am able to be half of what he has been to me to my son or daughter. 
     Saturday morning brought some last-minute grocery shopping, along with grabbing some gas and batteries-gotta love our preparedness plan. The power went out around 10 Saturday morning, but we were fortunate enough to only lose it for about seven or eight hours. After watching part of a documentary on AIDS for my Epi class that just started, Peyton and I ventured out to see what the creeks were doing around Richmond. We found Staples Mill Falls- as it is now called-to be running brown (claw) level. The drop looked to be between 12-15 feet with a nice fluffy foam pile below. I called up Ben and sure enough, he was ready to fire it up. Ben, Burke, and Emily met me at my place and we headed over to Staples Mill for a few laps. All in all, an awesome drop. Definitely wish we had run it ten times, instead of just three, but I can't complain. Can't wait for it to come up again.

   Saturday night brought some music playing, chicken-of-the-woods eating, and more importantly, hanging out with some great friends.
  With church cancelled Sunday morning, Peyton and I stuck around the house and did some school work.. Around noon, Ben, Mert, Burke, Peyton, and I headed out to Tuckahoe for some mushroom hunting. We had some great success and found a nice chicken-of-the woods mushroom, along with what looked like some Western Chanterelles-which smelled like apricots, Eastern chanterelles, and a variety of other unedible-but still cool-varieties of shelf mushrooms. Since Ben is leaving for Blacksburg tomorrow, we decided tonight would be a good night to cook up the chicken and chow down. Below are a few pictures of the mushrooms, and the risotto dish we made.

  All in all, an enjoyable hurricane weekend. Glad we stuck around for sure. My prayers go out to those still without electricity and with homes damaged or destroyed. Also, I was glad to see the community come together, although later than what may have been preferred, to ensure shelter for the homeless.
Until next time..

Monday, August 15, 2011

More mushrooms

     My friend Jon and I went out mushroom hunting Saturday morning. After a walk down the dry Tuckahoe creek bed without too much luck, we came upon a huge Chicken of the Woods mushroom that was growing off an underground log. This was definitely the highlight of the hunt. Afterwards, we checked out the pine woods-a section of Tuckahoe I have been wanting to check for a while. Here, we found a nice Reishi that had just sprouted along with a cow's skull. As promised, here are some pictures from the weekend mushroom hunt:

I also found some mushrooms growing out of one of my flower pots this morning. Still haven't identified it. Doubt it's edible, but still cool none the less.

Friday, August 12, 2011


         Yesterday afternoon, I had an experience that made me feel alive-it awakened my emotions. It was a moment that I hope to look back upon and be grateful to God for putting me in the place he had me. I had just gotten off the north bank of the Buttermilk trail, and was headed home on my bike via the Randolph community which is located just to the south of VCU's Monroe campus. I was on the final stretch of a short climb which leads from the buttermilk into Randolph when I looked up and saw a bearded man playing guitar under a large Magnolia tree overlooking the river. As I got closer I realized that I had met him on Wednesday at the Daily Planet. He called me over even before he recognized me, wanting me to listen to a Fleetwood Mac song he had just learned. When I took off my glasses, he then stuck out his fist for a pump and said that he remembered me from the day before. He asked me sit and listen to his new song which I had honestly never heard before, but it didn't really matter- I think he just wanted someone who would listen. When he finished playing his first song-he asked me if I liked country. I told him, of course, and that I also like bluegrass. He said, "Alright then, Michael, I'll play you a little grass. I've got a Bill Monroe song, I bet you've never heard". Sure enough, he then tore it up on his cracked Yamaha guitar which had dried glue spewing from its weather-worn face. For about the next twenty minutes, I sat back on the bench next to this beautiful Magnolia and took it in. With a cool breeze blowing off the James River, we exchanged glances- I could see his passion and pride coming through. As he played and sung songs by various country artists such as Travis Tritt, Rascal Flatts, and Willie Nelson, I watched a man who many would pass and label as "homeless" or "drunk", but to me, he was a man with a passion for music. A passion to show people that he mattered- that he had the ability to move people-to make them smile. And he did just that. At one point, I noticed a hospital band on his arm and asked him between songs if he had recently been admitted. He told me, "Oh yeah-I went in yesterday-thought I had a heart attack, but they let me go". Here he was, singing his heart out in ninety degree Richmond heat, having thought he had possibly had a heart attack the day before. Music is what brings him joy in life. He later on went to tell me that his guitar had been cracked when he knocked a guy upside the head for "wanting to take a piss on him". He thought he was going to get locked up for it, but the cops told him that they would have done the same thing. After he played about 5 songs, he asked me if I ever played. I told him I played a little and he asked me to play one for him, so I played him one I wrote-'Sunday morning blues'. I told him I needed to work on it some, especially if I was going to ever play with him- he said "No need to work on it-it sounds good the way it is".
     I could have stayed another hour listening to him sing, and at the rate he was playing songs for me, I think he could have stayed the whole night. Once again, it reminded me just how talented the homeless in Richmond are. I think at times, as providers, or community members, we forget (myself included) how much they have to offer back to us, and that is a shame. In this very situation, he was providing for me. He was giving me therapy I needed after a day in the office. He may not have realized what he was giving me, but it was an experience that I will remember and appreciate. One that made me smile and realize just how grateful I should be to be alive. I have been giving some thought to putting together a talent show that would serve as an opportunity for the homeless to give us-providers, community members, and friends-the therapy, the treatment we need.

Saturday's hunt

Last Saturday, I had the chance to go mushroom hunting on my own. I found some more chanterelles, a cauliflower mushroom, and a stand of reishi. I was reeally excited to find a reishi stand, as it is an amazing medicinal mushroom, used in teas, for immune support. Some Chinese medicine doctors consider it as valuable as ginseng. Looking forward to heading out again tomorrow morning with Jon for a hunt. Will post pictures from the harvest.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mushroom hunting

    Woke up bright and early this morning to go hunting at Tuckahoe. No, not turkey hunting..this time I was hunting for mushrooms. One of Daniel's friends, Steve, has been hunting mushrooms for over 30 years. I called him up a few days ago to see if he would take me-so he did. We found several stands of chanterelles, and a few old chicken of the woods, as well as some cauliflower mushrooms. On our way our of the woods, I happened upon part of a deer skull under some leaves. I think I'll clean it up and give it to one of my friends who loves collecting old skulls of deer and cows. Definitely was a fun time stomping around in the woods bright and early with an expert woodsmen to show me the mushroom hunting ropes. Looking forward to doing it again soon!
Below are some pictures of the harvest.