Archive for May, 2014

A Huntin’ for Morels

May 25, 2014

Every spring in southeast Idaho, around Mother’s Day, if the conditions are favorable, and you know where to look, you can find morel mushrooms. My brother Eric knows about everything there is to know about morels – he’s been picking them for years. If he collects a bumper crop then he sells them on the internet and can make some pretty good money. However, there were hardly any to be found the past two years; it was too warm, or dry, or too cool, or too wet. The conditions have to be just right.

David and I have never hunted for morels, I’m not even sure I’ve tasted morels. All I knew is that in the wild they look like tiny brains that popped out of the earth. They are a prized delicacy, often used in sauces, with a rich complex flavor that compliments many foods.

One morning at the beginning of May, I was talking to Eric on the phone, and he was all fired up on the subject of morels. So far the weather conditions this year looked favorable – and we might find morels this year. So we set a date to go morel hunting – Eric, David and I, on Wednesday, May 14. Luckliy, the weekend before we went, Mother’s Day, it was cool, cloudy and slightly rainy. Prospects looked good!

Now, Eric wouldn’t be too pleased with me if I told you exactly where we went morel hunting, but I can say that the best place to look for them around here is on bottomland (low lying land along a watercourse) near cottonwood trees. We are there now. Hunting.

David hunting for morels

David hunting for morels

Eric gave us strict instructions: You must bring a sharp knife to cut the mushroom and leave the stump (never pull the mushrooms out), and clean the mushroom of any grass or dirt before dropping it in a mesh laundry bag (so they will drop spores as you hunt).

The pickins seemed a little thin, to be honest. Of course, a young lady was coming out of the area with her loot just as we were going in. Early bird gets the worm! I was so anxious to find a mushroom. I got pretty discouraged in my hunt when not finding a one after the first fifteen minutes … Ah! but then …

I did find one! Yes. One.

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Impressive, eh? They look like tiny brains all right.

Then I hear Eric holler from about 50 feet away. He had found some.

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A small colony! You can see they are already beginning to dry out.

Then I found a colony. I learned that when you see one mushroom, look closely at the area all around it – they tend to grow in clusters.

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What a thrill! – makes your heart pound right out of your chest!

We gathered them up.

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Okay. Walk with me in this video – we’ll go a huntin’ for morels!

Did your heart just jump out of your chest, or what? Later, when I played the video back I realized there were TWO morels there (a smaller one was nestled in the underbrush to the left).

Time to stop now, park your hiney on a stump, and dig the stick-tites out of your mesh bag.

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My bag had gotten all knarled up with about a hundred stick-tites, and as I viciously tore at every single one to get it off, I realized how velcro was invented.

We ended up in an open field of ancient sagebrush. Amidst a buzzing of bees. You can stand there with me in this video and listen (as David continues his hunt). Turn your sound way up –

A little later we passed the hives

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We also collected some fresh asparagus. We only found maybe 3/4 pound between the three of us, which David and I took home. Mmmmmm … Steamed fresh asparagus! Another prized delicacy! We graciously offered it to Megan and Glen (Megan’s boyfirend) for dinner. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Have some fresh asparagus!”

Glen: “Never heard of it.”

David: “Wha…? How could you not have heard of asparagus? It grows wild along the canal banks here in Idaho!”

Glen: “Nope. Never heard of it.”

I shared this conversation with our older son, Aaron. He replied, “I don’t blame him. I didn’t willingly eat asparagus for close to 20 years after you guys forced it on me when I was about 7.”

Sheezh! What’s so intimidating about fresh asparagus?

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This is the only live colony we happened upon. Anywhere it wasn’t sheltered, the delicate, tender stalks were killed off by the light freeze we experienced two nights before.

Well, the light is waning now and it’s time to head toward the car.

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Oh thrill! “POUND! Boom-boom…” Someone actually dropped a precious morel, adding to our spoils!

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Which look like this:

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Eric was going to dry the mushrooms.

8:45 PM. Driving into a beautiful sunset toward home now.

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With images of succulent morel colonies prancing in my head.

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Now we can hone our French cooking skills.

Oh, and try to convince Aaron that that bit about us forcing fresh asparagus on him at age 7 to where he wouldn’t willingly eat asparagus for the next 20 years, is a false memory.

The Grooviness of Spring

May 18, 2014

Southeast Idaho has a fifth season, called “Sprinter” – between winter and spring, which is basically … uh, winter, interspersed with a few hopeful signs of spring. Sprinter starts about when you think spring is supposed to – say, March 21, and it hangs on, and on …

This sprinter was made a little more spectacular by the extraordinary “Blood Moon” lunar eclipse that occurred on the crystal clear night of April 15. I snapped a photo of the moon over our back deck somewhere around 1 AM, at the beginning of the eclipse.

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Okay, so you can’t take clear photographs of eclipses using your smart phone. Dang-it! But it was fun to watch the moon disappear … uh, well, then hop into bed, because it was very late.

In early April we resumed our after-dinner walks. The light was coming back! – what a marvelous thing to greet each new day knowing daylight will last a few minutes longer today than yesterday, and each new day will grow longer for weeks to come.

The trees stand hopeful and strong against the evening sky

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Even in dormancy.

The face of an old ravaged man (winter?) is peering

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through these tree tops, as if to issue a warning: winter lurks!

Ah, but look! A robin. They’re coming back!

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This robin was perched on our honey locust tree in our back yard, albeit, looking as if he had second thoughts about his timing of migrating back.

Easter Sunday brings warmth, and blossoms!

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A flowering crab, maybe? These are the first trees to bloom.

Leaves unfolding on deciduous tree limbs drape the spruce trees in the background

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with Christmasy garlands.

Now, on every block spindly trees and gangly bushes are bursting open –

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even the tiniest branches are coated with blossoms.

Signs of spring abound!

Tulips (of course!)

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Daffodils and iris

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Dandelions! Oh sweet first appearance, oh harking of spring!

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Oh velvety perkiness and yellow brilliance!

Oh vast nectar for bees!

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Oh robust proliferation across lawns and green meadows!

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Uh, wait a minute. That’s right. Dandelion blooms curl over, then morph and pop back up as white fluffy-heads stuffed with countless downy-tethered seeds that parachute off and repopulate impeccably manicured lawns, rendering fruitless all good citizens’ previous efforts to eradicate the noxious weed.

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Which is not so great, when this yard belongs to you, or, as in this case, one of your neighbors. What’s spring without at least one yard in every neighborhood smothered in dandelions.

May trees line streets and driveways throughout the town. Right on the button, the first week of May, they bloomed. We have a gigantic ancient May tree right in our front yard

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I took a close-up of the tree through our upstairs bedroom window

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May trees are stunning, even on a cloudy day.

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Not to overlook another sure sign of spring – this one right in the comfort of your living room, let the winter weather rage! Sitting on your couch in front of the TV – you can enjoy the heightened excitement surrounding network series and shows as they build and climax to their season finales, whether you’ve actually been following them or not. David was cruising the channels and we happened onto ‘American Idol’ where they were down to the top four contestants and whittling it to three. But this night they had something really special in store for the viewer, something new and different, never before offered on the show. This week, each of the four remaining contestants would pose beside a cardboard shadow head or something (where YOU put YOUR head) so the viewer could snap a ‘selfie’ with them.

Groovy! I tried to do it, but couldn’t manage it – fiddled with my phone, fumbled around, which, of course, totally motivated David to rise to the occasion. He paused the screen with the first contestant, and proceeded to get himself into position. I snapped a photo of David setting himself up for his ‘selfie.”

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David successfully took the ‘selfie,’ possibly his first-ever. Here it is:

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(Don’t ask me who the contestant is. We both have no idea. This is the first episode of American Idol we have paid any attention to this whole season.)

Groovy, eh? David is such a radical dude, man. We are so hip!

Yesterday Megan piped up from the living room, “What’s it doing out there?” (the quintessential question of the day in Idaho). To which, of course, I flew out of the kitchen, raced to the dining room window, flew up the sash, just sure it was snowing. Which, it kinda was. Enough so to where you had to do a double take. I stepped out on the front porch and took this photo:

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It is snowing! Blossoms!

A high wind had kicked up. Basically stripped the May trees of their blossoms.

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Oh well, spring in Idaho. There. I said it! “Spring!”

The last clear signs of spring reside on our back deck – stacks of bags of ‘soil enhancers’ for the gardens. I bought them yesterday.

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Took a close-up of a corner of one of our gardens.

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So great to see the perennials back! Uh, well, those are tulips. Wind whipped.

Hey, wait a minute. That’s not all flowers. There’s a couple of imposters.

Dandelions!

Spring has sprung. Summer is just around the corner. Well, maybe not the next corner. I’ll surely recognize summer when it gets here. A sure sign of summer will be when David shaves that massive winter growth of hair off his face.

April Skies, Moonscapes and Albino Rock Stars

May 3, 2014

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“Uh, let me guess … you’re still blogging about your April 11-13 weekend get-away.”

Why, yes!! Could I really NOT share my photos of Idaho’s magnificent April skies?

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Behold divine inspiration and energy exploding before your eyes.

Sunday, April 13, 2014. We are headed on Highway 20 toward Idaho Falls now after our stop at Shoshone Falls. David is driving, Eric is navigating, and I’m in the back seat mesmerized by the sky.

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Good-bye Magic Valley! I snap this photo:

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“Uh, let me guess. You’ve maneuvered your way into a cattle feed lot and captured a close-up of a gargantuan pile of manure.”

No, actually! … we’re at the Craters of the Moon National Monument, which lies along highway 20 between Arco and Carey, Idaho, or, if, perchance, you haven’t heard of the tiny towns of Arco and Carey, halfway between Boise and Yellowstone Park.

Craters of the Moon is the spot along Idaho’s Snake River plain where the earth had one of it’s biggest bowel movements from 15,000 to just 2000 years ago. Well, or actually, one early traveler called it “Devil’s vomit.”

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The lava field spreads across 618 square miles, southeastward from the Pioneer Mountains. It is part of the Great Rift volcanic zone that extends across almost the entire Snake River Plain. The rugged landscape is still remote and undeveloped with only one paved road across the northern end, where visitors enter the park.

You can hike on paved trails and explore tunnels and caves.

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Deeming it best to heed the signs and stay on the trails, we head off on the trail to Indian tunnel.

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Not exactly a photographer’s paradise. I snap a photo toward the Big Southern Butte. Ah… how does that Easter verse go?.. (by Thomas Blackburn)

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“Awake, thou wintry earth
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers,
Laugh forth your ancient gladness!”

Yeah, well, these plants are trying. What a hardy, willful bunch! If the weather conditions are favorable (moist and cool) for the next several weeks, then there could be an abundance of flowers blooming toward the end of May and early June – prickly pear (cactus), red Indian paintbrush, and the sego lily.

We’re at the entrance to Indian tunnel now. It is actually a lava tube, which, the way I understand it is, the lava cooled on the top while it kept flowing out underneath, leaving a hollow space. “Let’s do it!” exclaims Eric. David decides not to – he is wearing sandals. But he will meet us at the other end.

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Eric and I entered the cave down this handy flight of stairs:

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and then tried to keep an eye on each other-

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Do you see Eric ahead? One of the rules is to never enter a cave or tube alone.

Half way through we greet David peering down at us from on top.

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The lighting isn’t exactly conducive to capturing photos, but I do have a flash on my i-Phone. Here, behind Eric, I think we are coming out, but it turns out we are just entering another chamber …

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But we have reached the far end now:

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“Born again, Ma!”

David is waiting for us.

We follow the cairns back to the cave entrance.

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And head back to the car on the neatly paved trail.

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To view about every photo imaginable of the Craters of the Moon, check out this site!

So, we’re driving east again on Highway 20 alongside the Big Southern Butte now:

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Then the highway curves past the twin Buttes

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We’re just outside Idaho Falls now; Taylor Mountain has come into view. I’m sitting in the back seat, looking at Taylor Mountain in the distance – and see this herd of free-range cattle ahead. I snap a photo as we’re sailing by:

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Eric pipes up, “That herd of cattle has its very own albino rock star!”

Huh?

“You know. We humans have our albino rock star; why can’t a herd of cattle have their albino rock star too?”

“You mean ….” well, if you were born before say, 1960, you know exactly who Eric is talking about. But I’ll give all you old fogies a hint, just in case: His initials are E.W. and his brother, J.W. is also an albino musician.

Okay, so here’s a link to E.W.’s Wikipedia page. He states, “In school I had a lot of friends. I wore a lot of white shirts to, like, blend in I guess. No one really gave me a hard time about being albino or taking special education classes. Then again, I wasn’t really popular.” He and his brother were both in Special Ed classes in High School (I guess because people couldn’t deal with their looks?) even though Edgar (has it come back to you yet?) was a musical prodigy.

All right, so here are you-tube links so you can listen to E.W.’s monster 1972 and ’73 hits, ‘Free Ride’ and ‘Frankenstein.’ (Has it come back to you now?)

And on that note, I guess I can officially declare it a ‘wrap’ on the blogs about our April 11-13 weekend-getaway.

Um, unless I’ve forgotten something … is that possible?