Saturday, May 22, 2004


Out early this morning uncovering the firewood after days of rain, made an interesting and tasty discovery. One of the older stacks of wood had been extra well covered for some days because the rain-auguring winds had blown the folded tarp down over the front and back of the cord face, creating a dark, moist semitropical environment in there. So when I threw back one end of the tarp, the several slabs of oak at that end were covered in shimmering amber clouds of tiny red ants, scurrying to hide their even tinier white eggs from this sudden apocalypse. In just those few days they had built a complex, many-layered, fully functioning but impromptu nest! An hour later there was no sign of them. Nor were they or their eggs the tasty treat I mentioned at the beginning of this immediate tangent. Ten million ants cause tangents.

When I uncovered the other end of the cord, there on the top was a small cherry wood log with the bark off, cut maybe two years ago, damp with rain and festooned on both ends with beautiful amber garlands of wild kikurage (wood ear) (Western translations are often so unappetizing). Kikurage is a fungus that when sliced and cooked with just about anything (great in stir fries and soups) imparts a crunchy texture and mild flavor that goes well with all. They're also renowned for their health-giving properties.

They can be dried as well, becoming much less in volume, that is restored upon soaking. I used to get a lot of kikurage from an old apple tree root that was in our garden when we first moved in; kikurage likes dark damp in Spring to grow in, as pertained briefly for just one piece of all my firewood. But that's all it takes.

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