Today was a great day to run down and play in the river. We have lots of land on the river, so we chose a spot with a sandbank. There were minnows swimming in the water, old mussel shells under the water, and fishing lines hanging from the bridge. I walked both directions down the river. Walking in the river, I could see the bottom everywhere I walked. There was some trash, but also lots of really cool rocks and shells. For those that haven’t gotten in the river water, it can be a little cold. The water in little shallow pools that are cut off warms up in the sun. Out in the river where the water is flowing, the water is just the right temperature to cool down in the hot sun in my opinion .
While down at the river we ran into a few groups that were treating the our field area like public property. I remember years ago my father meeting people that were playing in our lake and asking who gave them permission. They all would claim to have permission from the owners, not even realizing it was the owner they were talking to.
My father and his first cousin, Don, made a really nice family get together area around the pond we all still have. There was a drive around a field, and originally a house that was rented out. The house quickly was destroyed, but the pond was somewhere we all got together at for a lot of my childhood. It included a sandy beach, picnic tables, and a bridge across the pond. I remember celebrating my brother’s birthday there with my grandparents and lots of other family and friends. The part that stuck in my mind was playing string tricks with the cord on the new camera my grandma had given me and losing it off the bridge. A family friend, Butch, dived several times to the bottom trying to get the camera, finally giving up. The camera is still somewhere in the bottom of that pond.
My father after too many instances of running into trespassers at the pond, decided to destroy the drive back to the pond, tear out the bridge, and let the pond get taken by trees. Now no one uses the pond – not even our family… My parents explained to us many times that it was a question of liability, and what happens if someone gets hurt on our property. Then there was the mass destruction that large groups of people using an area will cause. Trash and more!
Growing up we also used to go canoeing and play in the river. Playing on the sandbank was fun. So taking the kids to the river was high on my list of things to do. The path we took down to the river wasn’t one we had made, it was one someone using our property to put canoes in to the river had cut through the weeds and trees. While walking down it, we saw everything from discarded aluminum cans to the sprayer for a garden hose. The kids built sand pyramids at the bottom of the path and want to go back to check on them…. I couldn’t tell them that they wouldn’t even last one day with the traffic that cuts through our property.
While there a car was parked at the top of the trail, pulled over on our property. It didn’t move, the people weren’t around. I assume they were canoeing down the river. It had a hangtag from the local high school in the front window. They obviously felt comfortable enough to leave their car parked on our property for hours with no one around it. What’s funny is my family has always been welcoming I think. So people asking if it’s ok, not leaving trash, would be all it would take to not be trespassing.
Our other area Bailey’s Bottom has so much trash being dumped at the entry, we have given up keeping up the road. When we want to go back to the field we walk back, which means we rarely go, since it’s a good distance back. It was another place growing up the family would have parties, swinging out into the river on tire swings, having bon fires, paying on the sand banks! It was where I learned to drive a truck on the road beside the field.
I LOVE morels! With the odd weather this year, I expect morels to pop up early this year. We have a pear tree flowering in our backyard so I wouldn’t be surprised if the morels are up very soon. I think they actually pop up after the group reaches a certain temperature for a certain amount of time in the spring…. but as a kid I thought they came up under may apples. I would look under all the may apple plants searching every time we went out.
Searching for morels was a spring activity for everyone in our family every year! All of my aunts for sure had their secret spots (they still do), and we all would track where the mushrooms were found last year to know where to search next year. Every possible story was followed, including making sure to pinch the mushrooms off so that the stems were left in case that would cause more to grow. We would find them growing in our large yard also and my mother would insist no one mow during the whole mushroom season. My parents would push sticks into the ground near each mushroom to see if they would grow larger. As the season went on, sticks would mark spots in our yard and we would have daily trips out walking through the wood to find morels. Dinner every night included mushrooms, and there was always a bowl of salt water in the fridge with mushrooms to get the bugs out before washing and cutting up the mushrooms.
My aunts, uncles, and cousins that lived in the non rural areas would all come visit and we would visit the not so secret spots. The mushrooms marked in the yard were saved for little kids to have some mushrooms that were easy to find – Almost like mushroom hunting training! Some of the spots were easier to walk through and access, some tougher, and some led to discussions with trespassers who were found sneaking onto our property.
One year while taking my middle son who was probably about five, my mother had told him that the land would one day be his. Shortly after they ran into people that had trespassed to come hunt on our land…. My middle son proceeded to confront them….. luckily it turned out OK, but that usually doesn’t go well. My father has confronted people in the past that have told him they had the owners permission to be there. I always have to wonder if they are that bold or just that confused about whose property they are on.
People go through extreme measures to keep their spots hidden. Long before I got my drivers license, my aunt would give me her car to drive and have me drop her at her mushroom spot with instructions when to come back and get her. She would hike in to her mushroom spot, but didn’t want anyone to know where the entry spot was. Luckily living on a farm I learned to drive really early!
To cook the mushrooms, we usually just roll them in flower and fry them in butter a little salt and pepper. My mother would first dip them in egg if she wanted to stretch the amount of mushrooms. I’ve tried to reproduce them, but mine never come out the same as my mothers. – Of course I’m sure I’m using a little healthier oil and probably less salt for sure….. My family still eats them. Every year we start with just a few for the first meal, and then eat more the next meal….. According to family stories anyone can be fine one year and allergic the next, so start small. There are also some people that are allergic their first try, so anyone having them the first time, we just let have a few…. Also from the same family stories. My mother tells about being pregnant with me, and my grandfather Richter refusing to let her eat morels, just in case.
Personally I love them though! My husband doesn’t seem to like them, which for me just means MORE for me! Two years ago during a mushroom hunt our family got our first pet tree frog. We now have our toad, but mushrooms are completely to blame for the fire bellied toad in our house.