Beau May 4th, 2009
How did we slowly transition from winter to spring, and then Bam!… all at once everything blooms, grows and needs planted, cut, started or fixed? And then it rains for what seems like forever! Well, the rain is finished, for at least a couple of days, and we’re drying out for now. A good thing too or the garden seedlings would rot.
So many happenings… The more interesting story the past week was that pair of wood ducks that were here. I thought they might nest, and apparently they were thinking about it. They seemed to have a particular affinity for this stump for a couple of days, swimming around and climbing up a few times a day.
Then the rains came, and they just disappeared. I don’t know if was because the larger canada geese showed up too, or the rain, or why else they decided to leave. But around that same time I noticed something white on the stump from quite a distance away . I didn’t think anything about it at first, and watched it for a couple of days. Finally the young boy and I walked down for a closer look- and wonder of wonders, Mrs. Wood Duck left an egg on that stump!
I was amazed but also disappointed because I knew the egg had been sitting there unattended for over two days and nights in cold rain. Just an egg on a stump, sitting by itself for several days… and the ducks have never returned to the pond. So we went down this weekend and decided to get the egg rather than let it be eaten by some other critter. That was a story in itself… the water is a few feet deep there, so we had to decide what to do. We ended up using a long cane pole and a plastic grocery bag to noodle the egg into the bag, and lift it off the stump. Of course the bag blew away in the wind, and we had to go get it… then back to try again.
Finally successful, we looked at the little egg, about the size of a medium grade A chicken egg.
It was semi-transluscent, and I wondered if it would have been healthy or not even if the wood ducks had remained. We could have left it there of course, but I know it would have been food for the turtles and such with the next warm day. It’s now sitting nestled in a towel in a box, why I don’t know. Maybe we should try to incubate it anyway… it would take all of 30 days or more to hatch if it was still viable.
On the subject of waterfowl, I spotted a migrant Pied-billed Grebe on the pond today. This little dude was frolicking on the water, and diving and fluffing its feathers all about. When it saw us trying to get a better look it dove under the water, finally reappearing some twenty or more yards away. It was amazing to see how far these birds can swim under water! It then poppped its head above water first like a periscope clearing the area, and then it popped up again, perched on top of the water. I didn’t know what it was until I could get the picture zoomed in for a closer look.
I also wanted to share the fun of last Friday. On a lark I stopped by a particular area to look for morels, even though they should be nearly finished popping out of the ground in our area by now. With so much rain I figured maybe we’d have some more. I looked for a half hour, and then did a double take walking along the edge of a field, looking under some brambles and vines. Lo and behold I saw a large morel! I had to fight my way through the vines, and I finally came upon it, amazed that it was as big as my hand. I was speechless, and once there I found another morel five or six feet further on, and another… fighting through the vines… it was almost like one of Ed’s mushroom machines!
I had visions of the day being filled with bags of morels… I was lulled into a false sense of fortune however, because after continuing to search for more than an hour I didn’t see a single other morel. It was simply a lucky find, yet one that I really appreciated. Altogether I found nearly a dozen, and cut them carefully just above the ground. These were good size chunky morels like I’ve never found before. I share the story because it was neat, and hopefully to serve as inspiration not to give up! The last two years I was skunked… but Ed motivated me to head out more diligently :) And no, I have no idea why they grew in that area… I didn’t see any elm or maple trees, no rotting logs, or anything else significant. The leaf litter was thick under the vines, and conditions were just right I suppose. That and someone else probably missed them.
On Saturday morning I split them into halves and thirds, and they cooked up beautifully with a little breading and parmesean cheese mix. Incredibly tasty (if you like mushrooms) but I couldn’t eat them all, and ended up freezing most of them to save for another day. If I ever find bushels like some folks, it would be nice to dry or dehydrate them and use for cooking throughout the year.
On the morel hunt that day I came upon one of the largest red oak trees I have ever seen. I could tell it was a red oak species of some kind by the pointed lobes on the leaves far above me. But this tree was massive! My hat provides a little perspective, and I became a literal tree hugger for a time wrapping my arms around it to measure its size.
The tree’s circumference came to over fifteen feet measured by my reach- and I wish I knew what the exact species was, but I couldn’t determine it. I love seeing big trees like that… the stories they could tell us. I’m always on the look-out for a new Missouri Champion Tree. The state has quite a list going, but I’m willing to bet there are other really old trees out there that no one has measured!