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Morel Madness

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I left West Virginia, reluctant to leave my friends in Fayetteville, but eager to get home to my gardens and kids and the birds I knew would be flooding into the woods at Indigo Hill.

A shy showy orchis waved goodbye as I left Opossum Creek Resort.

The ONE thing I did not have time to do the day I left for the New River Birding and Nature Festival was look for morels in the orchard. It had rained for a couple days straight and I KNEW they'd be popping up. I didn't even have a chance to ask Phoebe to do it. 

I needn't have worried. That evening this popped up on my cellphone. OMG!!!!

You can't buy a kid like that. You have to make them. She knew. She just knew.

Surely the finest picking we've ever had. They were JUST HUGE. There were about 30 of them!! Phoebe put them in the fridge, unwashed, in Ziploc bags, to await our return. They were fresh as daisies when we came home three days later.

Every time I cook morels, I absolutely hate cutting them up. I love them as they are. Maybe I should sautee and eat them whole. 

That first night, though I was absolutely spent from guiding and speaking and singing at the festival, then driving almost four hours home, I had to honor these mushrooms and the girl who picked them. So I picked the first (and likely, thanks to the horrible winter, the last) asparagus from our bed, sauteed chunks of chicken breast, made brown Basmati rice, sauteed the mushrooms separately in butter, reserved the liquid, took the morels off the heat and reduced the mushroom juice/butter with half and half and sour cream until it was a little thick. Then I threw the morels and chicken back in it and served it Zickhot, which is to say that everyone was puffing like locomotives as they tried to eat it. Just like I want it. I take after Ida in that way. If I don't burn somebody I haven't done my job.

The next night, Phoebe wanted morels again, and since Bill was taking off for yet another week, I wanted to make another special meal. This one was morels prepared the same way, but paired with pulled herbed pork shoulder, acorn squash, and stir-fried vegetables. The morels are at 6:00 on the plate, with delicious morel sauce for the pork.  I was a bit concerned the pork would overpower the morels. Nah. YUM. 

I'm counting my blessings these days. I get to look out at spring rolling over the meadow, where a whip-poor-will is singing as I write. (I wrote this after dark).

I get to sneak up on deer. This morning, this pair had NO IDEA I was peeking from behind the little bluestem, and they walked right past me. This, like all the others in this post, was taken with my iPhone. i.e. no telephoto. I could hear them stepping through the grass.

I get to look up at the spring clouds (these are mammatus, one of my favorite formations, which indicates high roily winds aloft).

I get to watch the sweet polled Hereford calves come into the world and learn all about it.


And I have this fine sweet little feller to waller on.That's three beds, stacked in a throne. Enough, perhaps. Maybe not.

It's been drizzling and sprinkling and showering for the last day, though total rainfall amounts are not much more than a trace. Still, it gives me hope that the morels, quiescent since Phoebe's find, will awaken for one last May blast. I'm headed out, with visions of success in my head. It doesn't hurt to think that we might luck into a picking like this again.

Oh yes. It's Mother's Day. Though I consider it a card holiday, because it was dreamed up and promoted by Hallmark, after all, I do embrace the little jog it gives me to think about these kids and what they mean to me. I have been thinking a great deal of late about Phoebe, about the end of August, when we will have to do without her.  I called my parents once a week when I was in college, on the rotary phone that sat in the dorm hallway. Usually on Sunday nights, when the longing to be nestled between them on the couch got too intense. You may be sure that texts, Snapchats and phone calls will fly all day long. Still...

I wound up having to replant our 21-year-old asparagus bed yesterday. Through some combination of the bitter winter and overharvesting (prime suspects), ours petered out. Only got three shoots we could eat this year, and they are pictured above. So I dug deep into the bed and put eight new sets of roots into compost-filled holes. Man, I'm digging a lot of holes this spring, and the compost pit and I have become intimate. Who knew we ate so many avocados? So much corn, so many grapefruit? Happy to say that the grapefruit rinds do eventually return to earth.

I looked up from this smelly and mucky job to see this. Phoebe had brought me a bouquet from Caroline Waller's Marietta, Ohio floral studio, Passiflora. Caroline sent it to me out of the clear blue, just for Mother's Day. White lilacs, white peonies, stock that is knocking me over with its spicy fragrance. Yellow roses. Peach iris from her own garden. I sat there on my piles of dirt and compost and bawled.

Liam and I will be spending a whole lot more time together soon, since Phoebe has taken him absolutely everywhere he's needed to go for the last two years. He's excellent company, literally a laugh a minute. When he goes to get his hair cut, his teeth cleaned or his eyes checked, he leaves a trail of charmed women, who come to me later to compliment me on my personable, hilarious son. Liam loves to engage people and make them laugh. He makes his mark. He's never been one to be reticent or too cool for school. No, he looks you in the eye and unleashes a unique and surprising vocabulary, laced with occasional Casey Stengelisms, that bring you up short with startled barks of laughter.

I believe in child slavery. What else are they for? When I've come in from a hard day's gardening, I will sometimes demand a neck rub. Liam, having no choice, reluctantly complies, whimpering softly, "Whyy? Whyy?" 

Happy Mother's Day. Use it as an excuse to enslave your children, if only for the day. You're worth it.


Chet Baker reminds me of The Princess and the Pea. "No, mether... I can still feel the crumb on the floor. I need another mattress..."

Happy Mother's Day!

Mother's Day was originally started after the Civil War, as a protest to the carnage of that war, by women who had lost their sons.

Original Mother's Day Proclamation ...

ARISE, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of PEACE.

Julia Ward Howe


my dog ALSO has 3 beds stacked up like that.... seems normal to me ....Rachel showed me a morel on one of our New River field trips. I just nodded and smiled and then about 2 days later thought: "hmmmm, was I supposed to drag that back to the kitchen and eat it?"

Those morels.! I am beyond jealous.

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