Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Morel Season in Full Swing

 It is the highlight of my natural year, those two weeks or so when the morel mushrooms are coming up. Many years ago - in the late 1940's - my grandfather and his buddies hunted in northern Michigan and found great baskets of the mushrooms. In fact my grandmother would prepare them at their cottage and bring them home ready to fry. Between those delicious dinners and photos of their larder, I became interested in hunting them myself.

 But Ohio is not Michigan. And in the 70 years that have passed, I think the climate has not been kind to morels. But still, every year, hope springs eternal and with it at least a few of these wonderful mushrooms, among nature's greatest gifts.

April 26 - this one sprouted last night 

I'm holding the same morel in my hand for scale

 I found this mushroom this morning. We had a warm night (it dipped only to 62°) but recent days have been fairly dry. Even so, the forest floor is damp and that means conditions are perfect.

 The season began strangely enough on April 15 ...

April 15 

The same mushrooms in the shot above

 I found these when I was out in our lawn digging dandelions. I've never found one on our property before (though I have found them in grassy areas nearby). I think that's an odd spot because I treat the lawn in the spring with weeder/fertilizer and in the fall with an insecticide. I'd have thought both would not be to the liking of mushrooms. Of course they're known to grow in poor soil so maybe they care less that we suppose.

 Yesterday, I found these ...

April 25 

 Isn't this a strange one ... bulbous on the top and a beautiful shade of tan-yellow.

 Mushrooms often grow at odd angles due to coming up beneath forest debris. It seems to never stop them ... they just lean to the side and grow skyward just the same. Like all adversity challenged, they gain character.

 A morel's folds and pockets are particularly appealing to me and also serve as a sure-identity. There are "false morels", of course, but I find them rare and easy to spot. A true morel has this distinctive look and it also has an unmistakable scent.

 And now, time for lunch.

Sliced lengthwise after washing 

Dipped in an egg wash, breaded with corn meal, fried in butter and vegetable oil 

Perfectly browned, plated and ready to eat

 A wonderful year. Enough of the big sponge to make a memorable meal for Mom and I. Though there weren't that many, those that I found were delicious.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Visiting Spring Grove Cemetery

 Yesterday (04/23) Tom and I spent part of the afternoon walking through Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. It is huge - 733 acres - and it's the second largest cemetery in the United States (the largest is in California). It's also much more than a cemetery: it's also an impressive arboretum.

 We came for both. The cemetery is the site of some of the most impressive monuments I've ever seen. And the natural setting of trees, flowers, ponds and wildlife is unparalleled. We began the day on foot but we ended driving along some of the perimeter roads and still hardly making a dent in what there was to see.

 We picked a perfect day for our sojourn. The skies were sunny and calm and the temperature tickled 70°. We felt we were several weeks late to enjoy the peak of the spring flowers but many of the flowering trees were in full bloom and the timing for perfect for them.

 This display of tulips appeared as flames lapping the earth. We talked to a lady - an employee, perhaps - and she said we made it just in time. Tomorrow they were scheduled to be dug up. Maybe the display is changed each year?

 Throughout the cemetery dogwood was in full bloom. Though this is the traditional one of creamy white, I actually prefer the one that's a delicate color of salmon. Many flowering trees - crabs, cherries, magnolia, etc. - were already past the blooming stage and were beginning to push forth leaves.

 Some trees seemed to be smoldering in shades of red. I didn't get close enough to this one to see what it was. Perhaps these are flowers or perhaps the early leaves themselves.

 Spring Grove is known for the burial of area notables and also the graves of Civil War soldiers. This Civil War cannon was dated 1865. See the next photo for the end of the barrel.

 Bald cypress lined this pond (they require "saturated or seasonally inundated soils") and are surrounded by "cypress knees" as shown in the foreground.

 Another view of cypress knees which extend to a height of several feet.

 Mausoleums dot the cemetery, many incredibly ornate. Even so, the older stone structures - just like the bodies contained therein - are slowly dissolving. Many leave a powder on the hand when rubbed, proof of time's relentless struggle to erode.

 Canada geese flock to the many ponds and nibble grass nearby, or rest in the ample shade. This one eyed us suspiciously but did not rise. When Tom and I crossed a bridge to an island, one goose came towards us in a threatening manner and hissed. I yelled at it and it stopped in its tracks and then we backed off slowly. I did not see any nests nor young.

 This is the Fleischmann mausoleum Tom told me that this is the Cincinnati family of yeast fame. Above the doorway is the family name ...

 There is an interesting stained glass window on the opposite side of the mausoleum as seen through the openings in the iron door. Think of what the window alone cost.

 This swan - perhaps a Trumpeter - glided noiselessly along in one of the ponds.

 This is the bridge Tom and I took to the "island".

 This pine was in full bloom, both the male and female parts hanging red and swollen at eye level.

 Tom on the bridge.

 The dogwood are exquisite. The trees do not grow so large but spread unequally horizontally in an artistic reach. They are everywhere at Spring Grove.

 At the far end of the island many turtles were sunning themselves. By the time I took this shot (using a telephoto from some distance) many has already slid into the cool water and made their way to safety. We did not get close.

 Near the bridge this birch was in full bloom. I do not think of this tree as being ornamental but the hanging seeds were attractive nonetheless.

 I should have written down the name on this mausoleum. It looks more like a lofty Gothic ruin from across the pond.

 Up close, the stonework is intricate and expansive. Imagine the weight of those stones and the incredible work necessary to shape them and move them into place.

 Surely the structure is three stories in height? As with all mausoleums, the door was locked but affixed to it was a fresh bouquet of flowers.

 This is the grave of an Ohio bishop. His likeness stares out from his monument,

 When we drove some of the perimeter roads, we came across this structure. I'd call it a water tower. It seems to have some function for irrigation. Nearby is a large holding pond.

 Doesn't this utilitarian structure fit into the whole? It is massive and yet hides beneath the trees, camouflaged by its likeness to other monuments.

 Near its base if this perfectly-shaped dogwood.

If you're interesting in visiting, here are some links that will help:


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Seeing Red

 I always appreciate anything that is good at something. Our amaryllis is good at red.
 It always makes me consider this: where does this abundance of red come from? Think of that old, dry brown bulb. Cut it up and you'll find only white and green ... but no red. I know: it's the effect of light playing on the surface of the petal. But you'll find red nowhere but there.

 The texture of the petal is amazing. These macro shots were all taken today, April 19.

 There are certainly many shades of red, even hints of blue.

 The next two shots were taken yesterday, April 18 ...

 Now, back up a bit more and you'll see the amaryllis sitting on our indoor porch, on April 4.

 And travel back in time still further - to March 17 - and this is how the plant looked when I first saw the bud.

 This plant hasn't bloomed in years (perhaps three). I was ready to take it to the compost pile. Mom intervened and suggested there was still time for something to happen. And it did.
 Each summer I move it to the back porch and water it regularly. I also give it one application of fertilizer.

 The bulb itself is many years old. I suspect it was purchased one year for Christmas. I don't know if the blooming is endless but it's certainly produced many blooms over the years. It's about time to move it outside for the summer.

 Next fall, I'll chop off all the green growth and move the plant to the basement for a few months. I allow it to completely dry out (I do not remove it from the pot, nor the soil). Generally in November I'll bring it to our enclosed porch and begin watering it anew.

 It's the old story of renewal, written in red.