Spring brings us many treasures. The earth wakes up after its long, cold slumber and, let me tell you, even if she sleeps in a bit here in Wyoming, she is definitely a busy morning person. She's straight out of bed and bursting with life. (Unlike me who rolls around moaning like a wounded Buffalo and hitting the snooze button a million times.) The snow melts slowly, unwilling to loose its hold on the earth but she doesn't care. When the snow finally pulls back the grass is already green, wildflowers are already inches tall with blooms on some of them, and the trees begin budding ASAP. After all, it's a short season here. On average we get 110 inches of snow per year ( the US average is 26 inches per year!) although this year I'm pretty sure we got double that. And I've been told that on average we only get about 15 frost free days per year. 15 days that there's no frost in the morning. 15! So, what I'm saying is, if they don't start coming up under the snow they might not get to grow at all.
Growing up in the south with a farming ancestry, I have a thing for dirt. I love the smell of it and the feel of it and as soon as that snow pulls out of here in the spring I find a way to get my hands in it. I've been know to be weeding my garden while sitting in a snow bank. I can't help it. The dirt here is rich and black and rocky. It's strong dirt. Bondurant is known for having some of the richest grasses anywhere for grazing animals. It takes less of our grass to get an animal the nutrients it needs producing sweet meat on the wild game and giving cattle a chance to catch up from the long winter.
Through our valley flows the Hoback River, known in the early early days as the Falls River, as it loses elevation very quickly over its 55 mile course on its way to join the Snake River. It's a twisty river with many mountain creeks joining it along the way. These creeks and the river swell to bursting in the spring. They turn varying shades of muddy. Granite Creek is a murky green, Cliff Creek spits out strawberry milk, Jack Creek runs a turbid brown. On a year like this one the river is a bit scary. It does whatever it wants and goes wherever it wants. And as it does it leaves bits and pieces of the mountains from which it and its creeks have come. The water this time of year is full of sediment and in this sediment are the nutrients and minerals that make our dirt so special. And every spring our dirt gets a new application of this natural fertilizer.
Another wonder of this strange land is the spring harvesting of mushrooms. The snow leaves behind a long season of wetness as it goes. The sun warms the earth and little treasures of yumminess begin to pop out. Old timers scour meadows for meadow mushrooms and puff balls and elephant ears, and searching amongst the willows and along the roots of forest fire ravaged trees find you the ever popular morels, while if you follow the snow line you'll find the strange orange brains, also known as snow morels.
I love mushrooms.
Everytime I find a patch of mushrooms I feel like a little kid who just found the X on the treasure map. Sometimes I'm hunting them and I look and strain my eyes and am just about to give up when, "Aha! Jack pot!" Other times I'm not even thinking about them and then suddenly there they are, right in front of me saying, "Hello. Here we are. Eat us!" Sam and I often go for walks in the woods with the sole purpose of finding mushrooms. It's a great way to get out and do something fun with someone you love.
My favorites are the brains even though they're hardest to clean. You always get a little grit with your gruel in those guys. Morels are right up there on the list too. Morels are great for stuffing but mostly I like them with butter and garlic.
Lucky for us morels really like places that are burned by fire. (Boy do we have a lot of that around.). Folks have been flocking to the area to seek them out. (Wish they would go away. Those are MY mushrooms haha). I personally had never searched for mushrooms in a fire area. I was astounded by what I saw when I did. Patches of black morels seemed to be bursting from the roots of the burned trees! They were everywhere! I saw some and then looked down to see that I was walking on them! So many I could not pick them all. Apparently the death of the trees and the removal of organic material from the forest floor spurs the growth of these little gems. From death comes life I guess, and in a tasty form too!
If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would get so much joy from fertile soil and abundant fungi I'm pretty sure I would've laughed at them. But maybe I would've been less worried about life and all it's challenges if I had known. Yeah, sometimes you're gonna have a hard go of things, a rough winter maybe, be low on cash, feel like the world is against you. But if you can find the joy in the little things then no matter what happens you'll always find happiness.
Here's to finding your little bit of joy today. Hope you don't have to look too hard..... Yee haw.
**** DO NOT EAT ANY WILD MUSHROOMS unless you are CERTAIN that they are edible. This blog post is not a guide to mushroom hunting. Some people have reactions to mushrooms even when they are known to be edible. Please ingest with care if you so choose.... And if you make a greenhorn move and get sick don't blame me. ****