Jeffrey gets up early to go looking for breakfast in the woods behind our house. In the afternoon, our neighbor, Mike, takes the girls on a mushroom-hunting adventure on the edge of the orchard. At dusk in the Gousty forest, Jeffrey and I search for the illusive morel.
I used to be easily discouraged while looking for morels. Accustomed to walking fast and covering a lot of ground with a dog, the pace of mushroom hunting didn’t come easily to me. But then our children came along, and I learned how to slow down. Now I love to meander through the woods and field edges, pausing as little fingers point out flowers, bird’s nests, berries, and — during the month of May — morels.
These days, the girls usually find more mushrooms than I do. But I don’t get discouraged any more. I like to watch them find morels perhaps even more than I like finding them myself.
I also like to hear Jeffrey’s stories when he comes back from the hunt. One night after an evening walk, he tiptoed upstairs to show me his treasure, including the biggest morel ever. He’d found a particularly large group of morels growing under a grove of poplar trees close to where we’d walked just the night before. Did those enormous mushrooms appear overnight or were they silently standing there as we ambled past?
And then sometimes they appear when we aren’t searching at all. Yesterday, Ellen found a lone morel (nearly 5-inches tall!) down by the hammok while the girls were swinging. After we documented it for uncle Chris, the girls ran over to the neighbor’s house to show Mike — because sharing the delight of discovery is half the fun of finding morels!
Tomorrow, my brother Chris arrives with his family for the summer — and I’m guessing the first thing he’ll do is head back into the woods with a mesh bag in his pocket. I asked my Mom and Dad if they’ve been out looking for morels recently, but my Mom said no, “We’re saving them all for Chris.”
Ellen woke up at 6:30 this morning — well before her usual waking hour — and crept downstairs to see the chicks. She stayed with them, and played with them, for over two hours (I am told, because I was sleeping in!). It was nearly 9:00 when I finally came down to the sound of two girls and six chicks happily chirping away.
Two years have passed since the first time we brought home baby chickens, and the girls want to be much more involved in their care this time. Amabel and Ellen are taking “the naming of the chicks” very seriously — thinking ahead into the future lives of their birds. Which baby names stuck last time? What will the birds look like and act like when they get older; how will their markings change and what personalities might they have? Who will be the biggest? Who will be the boss? Of course we talk about these things knowing how much we can’t predict . . . but I do think that the girls are considering the future of their chickens as they consider names, simply because they’ve watched a group of birds grow up once before and seen them through seasons of joy (the first egg!) and loss (unknown, and not so unknown, predators).
Mrs. P (short for Mrs. President) was a favorite bird from our first batch. She was the first to lay eggs and would proudly strut her way up to Harry and give him a good peck on the nose when he was getting too curious. Sadly, Mrs. P was mysteriously murdered at the tender age of six months. It was likely her fearlessness that brought her to her end — but we like to think that perhaps she protected the rest of the flock from harm in her last moments.
Who will be the “Mrs. P” of this group of ladies? (Or might one of them turn out to be a rooster? There is always the possibility that we’ll have a Mr. P!)
As of today, the chicks are called Fuzzy, Little Hawk and Big Hawk, Nickel, Little Jet, and Mashed Potato. The Australorp below is “Mashed Potato”. She currently resembles a tiny penguin, but the girls know from experience that she will grow up to be a very large solid, shiny black bird — and if she is anything like our full-grown Australorp, she will be shy but very sweet.
For now this bitty bird fits snugly in the palm of Ellen’s hand . . . reminding her (just a bit!) of a fluffy pile of Mashed Potato. A good name, don’t you think?
Four weeks ago we started our first batch of seedlings in a friend’s greenhouse. We escaped the chill of a 17-degree afternoon for a balmy 60 degrees and surrounded ourselves with trays of emerging shoots and the promise of spring. Four weeks ago it was quiet in the greenhouse.
Yesterday we went back to a completely different scene. Our baby plants were “huge” and the greenhouse was bustling. I’m surprised that our farmer friend still generously lets us start plants in his space because my how his operation has grown over the past few years. Inside tables were completely full of plants, and dozens of trays had already been moved outside under row cover to “harden off.” As many as seven people were inside the greenhouse at once: transplanting peppers, starting tomatoes, watering, moving flats of seedlings. I managed to snap just a few quick photos when we first arrived (at the end of the lunch hour), before the hustle and bustle resumed.
We have a mini chamomile forest again (I can’t blame the girls this time; I seeded the chamomile plants myself!) as well as some new flowers that we’ve never grown before (Sweet Alyssum, Statice, Chinese Forget-Me-Not, Bells of Ireland). We brought home two trays of brassicas all ready to plant in our garden under row cover (kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts), and so we’ve got our work cut out for us at home this weekend.
A month ago it was 60 degrees in the greenhouse but yesterday it was over 80! Ellen suggested that we take off our boots and go barefoot.
I have to pace myself in the bright light and heat (and I no longer care that my sunhat looks rediculous). Fortunately, the girls were a great help yesterday. They worked with me to make the soil blocks; write labels for the trays; and seed many varieties of tomatoes, basil, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, parsley, squash, watermelons, pumpkins, sunflowers, zinnia, and cosmos — among others. All together we started another 400 baby plants. This is our third year starting seedlings in the greenhouse, and it has become a tradition that I look forward to all winter. So much of our garden begins here. We are so grateful to be welcome on Reid’s farm and to be part of a new growing season coming to life.
Down in the woods behind our house, along the swampy forest edge, we go searching for our favorite harbinger of spring.
The world is still painted in shades of brown down here, and it is not difficult to spot the delicate beads of fuzz illuminated in afternoon light.
Each girl chooses a small branch, following the contours of buds with her finger tips . . . drinking in the silky softness. She compare branches with her sister: little kitty sizes, shapes, texture.
In moments like this, I do believe the tiny gifts of new life are the very best gifts of all. So simple. So generous. So complete.
This is our spring.
My mom continually inspires me with her creative projects. And so I’ve decided to start a series: Susie’s Knits.
This delightful little blue bird (pattern from Itty-Bitty Toys) folds neatly inside its underbelly — transforming into a pale white egg.
The egg fits perfectly its furry, brown nest . . . where it snuggles for a while . . .
Until it’s ready to hatch back out again!
For every Bird a Nest—
Wherefore in timid quest
Some little Wren goes seeking round—
Wherefore when boughs are free—
Households in every tree—
Pilgrim be found?
Perhaps a home too high—
The little Wren desires—
Perhaps of twig so fine—
Of twine e’en superfine,
Her pride aspires—
The Lark is not ashamed
To build upon the ground
Her modest house—
Yet who of all the throng
Dancing around the sun
Does so rejoice?
— Emily Dickinson