Tuesday, May 13, 2014
I Almost Avoided Madness... Not By Choice
As long time readers know, every year about this time of the year I go crazy. I leave my life as everyone knows it and begin wandering aimlessly through the woods ranting about Mushroom Machines, pulling off ticks and occasionally chittering like a little school girl as I dance here and there pulling fungi up off the ground and stuffing it in a mesh bag while looking around me to make sure nobody is watching. I can't help it and neither can about half the population in this area. Drive around the roads on a weekend this time of year and you will see hundreds of cars abandoned along side of the road near woods, streams and brushy draws. It is the time of the morel... or more accurately, was the time of the morel.
The first morel mushrooms up here surfaced about two and a half weeks ago. There were just a handful of tiny gray mushrooms and then nothing. We had a very harsh winter, to put it mildly, and a very long winter, to also put it mildly, so many thought that the ground was too cold for them this year. Morels come up at about the same time every year if the conditions are right. If there is enough moisture in the ground and enough heat in the ground, we will have a bumper crop of them. If one of those things are lacking, we won't have many at all. If the conditions are right, we will have mushrooms growing for two, perhaps stretching into a third week and then they are gone for the rest of the year.
Because the first weekend available, there were only a handful to be found, I didn't go mushroom hunting. I instead working on a bathroom that my wife keeps saying she really needs. The following weekend family obligations completely blotted out the weekend free time. Then planting season got going strong and there was no time during the week. There is also the fact that the mother-in-law/daycare provider for our youngest is here until this weekend and then flying home for the summer so I have a deadline to get the bathroom finished. All this conspired against me until I sincerely believed that this would be the first year in nearly 35 years that I have never found or ate a single morel mushroom.
Sunday wasn't promising to be very good for mushrooming either. We went to church and then I grilled a feast for the mother in my family and helped her celebrate her day. I turned over the keys to the bathroom (figuratively) so that she could move back into it. It is done except for a faucet but I offered to fill a bucket of water next to the sink for her. Severe storms and tornadoes were forecasted to blow through our area in the afternoon and evening. But my wife gave me the look and said lets go mushroom hunting anyway. So the two of us with our oldest daughter hopped in the car and about an hour later we were roaming through the woods, mumbling about mushroom machines and giving hoots and hollers to let each other know that we had found a mess of mushrooms.
We only found some drying yellow morels that were probably three or four days old and a few grays that were well dried up. The season up here ended three or four days ago and we were just mopping up the last ones to arise from the earth. We found quite a few mushroom machines which for the uneducated are recently dead elm trees which produce a toxin in the soil that causes mushrooms to sprout at their base in abundance. All told we probably walked away with about five gallons of cleaned morels soaking in water, half of which you saw in the picture above. The rest I left with my parents who are still toiling away in the fields trying to get their crops planted for the season.
We did get sprinkled on and later got some quarter sized hail. Several tornadoes passed within a few miles of our house and as we pulled up to it upon our return, the tornado sirens kicked on and started howling. My wife shouted that we should get in the house. I did but not before popping the trunk and rescuing the mushrooms. If I was going to die in a tornado, I wanted the mushrooms with me. The madness is that strong.