Dandelions, Garden Chores and May Apples

April 7th, 2009

Looks like we didn’t get that hard freeze last night in our area.  Thankfully the buds and flowers look pretty good this morning, with one more night of near-freezing temperatures to go.   With any luck, this is the last of the cold temps for spring.  I say “Hooray!” and it’s time to really get the garden going, as well as a host of other projects.

I even covered the bee hives a little for the next two days.  Just a little insurance to help them stay warm during these cold nights- brood production should be ramping up and the bees might not be able to keep the bee larvae warm enough.  When it’s really cold, thousands of bees gather in a cluster to share and produce enough body heat to keep themselves, and the brood on the combs, warm enough.  In late spring the queen produces a lot of brood in anticipation of all the worker bees they will need to gather nectar and pollen for the year, but a cold snap can force them to gather in a tight, central cluster within the hive and not keep some of that brood warm enough to survive.  Whether or not a little insulation does any good on a cold night is the question, but I figure it couldn’t hurt!  I’m sure they would be fine either way, but I like the idea of helping them out.

Dandelions provide a huge source of pollen and nectar in early spring for the bees.   I’m amazed at how much they can carry on those little legs.

honeybee with dandelion pollen

We were hiking around the woods a couple weeks ago (I’ve been looking for morels ever since!), and we came across an old piece of lumber in the creek bottom.   I don’t know where the wood came from, but it had a couple of really old nails in it- the square shape kind that almost look like they were hand forged.  I doubt they are that old, but it really makes you wonder about the history of it all.   


I’ve been pulling out a few of our own old nails while cleaning up the garden. The raised beds are falling apart and the wood is full of ants, so it’s time to replace or remove them.  They’re 15-20 years old, and I know the history- my folks put these in originally.  Strange to be taking out nails that their hands put in. But I’ll save the nails and use them again, maybe for a tree fort for the boy.  But the garden rows have a nice top layer of compost now and we’re almost ready to go.


I’m going to try harder to find some morels this year… they are just too delicious when you find some.  I was skunked last year, but really didn’t try that hard. I haven’t found any on our property over the past three years, so I plan to range out a little and cover some bottom ground in the area and see if that helps. 


Some of the old timers say to look for morels around fallen elm trees or around the may apples.  That hasn’t helped me yet, but I do like seeing the may apples come up.  When I find the first morel I’m going to do a little victory dance and remember the site.  I don’t have any secret spots yet like Ed does, but lately his victory dances have more to do with what goes out, rather than what goes in!

10 Responses to “Dandelions, Garden Chores and May Apples”

  1. I’m thinking about redoing my raised garden in stone to eliminate the rotting wood problem. I just don’t know if I will get it done this year or not.

    By the time an elm has fallen, it is too late. You need to find the elm after it has died and the bark in the uppermost reaches of the trunk has just began to peel off. Those are what I refer to as Mushroom Machines. I’ve heard about Mayapples but haven’t found any mushrooms around them specifically. I look for recently dead elm trees and groves of young boxelder trees. Occasionally I find a old silver maple tree that is a Mushroom Machine but not often. Those are early season hints. Late in the season, mushrooms tend to grow just about anywhere. Good luck. I expect we are still at least a couple weeks away from morels up here. I can’t wait!

  2. pamela

    So, you took care of the bees, but did you bring your new snake friend back inside? He was probably wishing for his cozy winter hideout.

  3. Libby found morels at Roundrock once many years ago, but we’ve visited the specific spot every year since then and not found them again. I’ve heard the mayapple trick as well, but I’ve not found any around my mayapples either.

  4. R. Sherman

    Finding morels is pure luck as far as I’m concerned. I’ve had a fantastic haul one year, only to be shut out the next, doing all the same stuff. I’ve never heard the May Apple bit.

    Good luck, and


  5. Ed- Neat stuff about the elms, I’ll have to look for them more- I’m in the camp of never knowing quite where they’re going to be.
    Pamela- Well, I haven’t seen the little guy after letting it go- but it warmed up again nicely today with lots of critters about!
    Pablo- That is very strange. I imagine you’ve got a lot of great places to look. By the way- there’s a neat site in the sidebar called “Mid-Missouri Morels” where the blog owner maps out submissions and talks about morel discoveries. It’s a very humbling site to see the hoards of morels that some folks find-
    R.- That’s how its been for me, so with sheer persistence I hope to come across a dinner plate full at some point!

  6. If you don’t find any morels (which I hope is not the case), you can always eat Mayapples. They come along on the little umbrella plants in June/July, after the pretty white blossoms are gone. They’re a little bland, but not bad. We used to eat them as kids, pretending we were pioneers living on the land.

  7. May apples are kind of like Skunk Cabbage, another marker of spring. I need to take up Morel hunting, Ed keeps making us all hungry for them, but I’ve only found them via accident. But we still have a while to go before they’ll be any up here.

  8. Edelweiss- Now that’s an idea- I’ve always wondered about the little fruit, but never tried it. Wonder if you could make a jelly from it, or if it would even be worth it?
    Sage- I haven’t seen skunk cabbage in our area, but I know it’s in the state. It was also back east growing up… quite, um, fragrant if stepped on if I remember?!

  9. R. Sherman

    A quick pop-in to wish you and yours a “Happy Easter.”


  10. When we tore down an old 100+ year-old chicken coop for a guy, it was all held together with square nails, pretty cool. I love your bees, that just might be an experiment for us this year or next.

    I’ve thought about lining our garden beds with wood, but with all the carpenter ants I don’t think they’d last very long here.

    Thanks for the photo of May apples… with all the tips here I’m going to hit the woods again soon, hoping for the elusive morels. :)


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