Molly Mooching!

Morels

Freshly picked morel mushrooms.

My roommate Mindy and I picked our way through the woods, carefully stepping over fallen tree limbs and budding brambles. The morning was warm and the sound of bird call echoed through the trees. Mindy knew these parts of the woods well, pointing out a slight rise as she explained to me what I was looking for. You see, Mindy has been roaming these woods since she was knee-high to a grasshopper and she was about to share with me one of her family treasures: the coveted morel patch.

The previous evening we had a warm Spring rain and this particular morning was clear and bright. Perfect conditions for the tasty morsels to make their appearance. Mindy explained to me that they were a rare find because they require such specific conditions including old growth hardwood forests; the deer enjoy dining on them, often before we can find them; plus, they are only harvestable for about three days.

Mindy showed me areas around the rotted wood and spongy lichen where they are usually known to grow. Dried brown leaves from last Autumn still littered the forest floor, so we gently pushed the leaves aside as we walked hunched over like a couple of elderly nuns.

Suddenly, Mindy let out an excited squeak as she reached down between some flowering wake-robin and pinched off a small, wrinkled, knobbily gnome shaped fungus. “Got one”, she said as she held it out for my perusal.

Within a few minutes, she had discovered four or five more of the mushrooms in the vicinity. I had yet to find one myself.

Molly mooching, as morels are often called in the Appalachians and West Virginia are actually Morchella esculenta. They are a highly prized delicacy by both professional chefs and home cooks. Currently, you can purchase 16 ounces of these dried mushrooms for $305.40. From Walmart.

I had read earlier that mushroom ethics mandate a mesh bag for gathering the gems, so the spores can scatter to the ground as you carry home your harvest. This time, we were not quite as technical as we carried our small bounty back to Mindy’s mom’s house in a grocery bag. Mindy’s mom, Joy, submerged them in a bowl filled with water and placed a plate on top of them so they would stay submerged for a period of several hours. This was to purge them of dirt and crawly things.

When it was time to cook the mushrooms, Joy placed a couple of eggs lightly beaten in a shallow bowl and whole wheat flour in another bowl. She melted half a pound of butter in a large skillet on medium low heat. The morels were sliced in half and Joy first dipped them in the eggs then dredged them in the flour before placing them in the skillet to fry. She seasoned them with a little salt and cracked black pepper and allowed them to cook just until golden on one side before turning them over. She then cooked them a few minutes more on the other side, until lightly browned, and then scooped them onto paper towel to drain.

Fried morels

Fresh batch of butter fried morels. YUM!

There is nothing I can compare these tasty butter fried mushrooms to in flavor. They are uniquely mild and earthy with a savory umami deliciousness. Crispy and crunchy, they are a delightful treat.

Our harvest this time provided Mindy, Joy, my daughter Kayla, and I a taste of an elusive prized delicacy. After we were done licking our fingers and exclaiming our pleasure to one another, Mindy informed us she would be going back out again tomorrow morning.

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Nessie’s pond located in the middle of the woods where we picked the morels.

We would love it if you took a gander at our handcrafted herbal soaps made right here on Whimsical Moon Farm.

A Bump in the Road!

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The bridge over Middle Fork Creek creating a slight bUMp in the road. This picture was taken late this Winter from our barn lot.

Many people consider a ‘bump in the road’ to indicate misfortune, a detour, or an obstacle to overcome. Here on the farm, we consider it to be a windfall or an opportunity.

You see, we live on a narrow rural road, straight and flat for miles, running East and West from one state road to another. Large grain trucks, a few commuters, and beat-up old farm trucks run up and down this road, often at indecently high speeds. The little bridge spanning our creek creates a slight bump in the road, and if you don’t slow down, may cause a jolt to the driver, and in some cases, loss of cargo in the back of the truck bed.

For instance, one day I was bemoaning the lack of straw that I needed to line the chicken run area. Lo and behold, there on the side of the road next to the newly planted soybean field, I saw a straw bale tilted at a funny angle. Huh! Where did that come from? I peered up and down the empty road looking for the owner and realized it must be up for grabs.

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My scavenged straw bale found on the side of the road.

So, I fairly sprinted down the road pulling my favorite garden wagon, hefted the bale onto the wagon, and made my way back to the chickens, my loot in tow.

It was probably a few months later when we were coming home from grocery shopping and found  three rustic wooden crates stamped with One Bushel Bean Crate  on the side. They were scattered across the road and the side ditch just past my now favorite bump in the road.

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Battered but useful green bean crate. 

One of the crates was damaged beyond repair, but we now use the remaining two as storage and porch tables for holding chilled ice tea. Perfect ‘farm chic’ decor.

Opportunity and fortune continued to fall on the farm (literally) when one morning, while savoring a hot cup of coffee on my front porch, I noticed a wood pallet sitting right square in the middle of the driveway. Seriously, I can’t even make this stuff up.

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The scrounged wood pallet.

As of this writing, we still haven’t figured out what we will use it for, but rest assured, it will find its purpose and destiny right here on the farm.

Another recent addition to the farm probably didn’t fall off the back of a wagon, but it did wander onto the front porch one evening meowing and purring, all cute and cuddly. Cats often show up out of the blue and soon move along, but this cat decided to adopt us as his own.

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Luna Kitty stretching in the early morning sunshine.

We made him a home on the front porch with our critter cage and moving blankets until we can get him ‘fixed’. Kayla named him Luna because he has a round, moonly face. It has taken a lot of hissing and meowering from our girl cats to finally warm up to him, but they seem to have worked out some sort of agreement and tentatively get along.

Last but not least, for the moment, the latest edition to the Whimsical Moon Farm menagerie is a fine young rooster named Ginger.

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Ginger Roo is an Easter-egger with beautiful shiny feathers and a robust singing voice.

Ginger came to us from my daughter, Chelsie one early morning via parcel post. Chelsie has a small flock of laying hens in her back yard in Seattle, WA. One of the two recent additions to her flock grew up to be a rooster. With a heavy heart, she called me one evening and asked if I would be able to take her rooster. The city, and her neighbors, frowned on his newly developed vocalizations.

Several days later, I received a call from the local post office at 7:08 am. “Hello, is this Terri May? Yes, well….we have your rooster here. When can you pick him up?”

A nice postal worker greeted me at the back door and allowed me into their ‘inner sanctum’. I could hear Ginger, plainly it was him, as the worker had me sign a form and quickly placed a large shipping box with a handle and air vents into my waiting hands.

 We got him set up in his temporary cage with fresh water, chicken crumble, and a few slices of his favorite apple. After a few days in a separate cage next to the hens, we slipped him in the roosting area late in the evening while the hens were sleeping. The next morning, the ‘girls’ woke up to a new dude in the chicken coop. What a pleasant surprise.

When Ginger-roo crows early in the morning, I always have to smile. It feels like we are really a ‘farm’ in the capital F sense of the word.

What is that saying? When life hands you lemons, make lemonade? Well, faced with a ‘bump in the road’, we find it quite easy to see it as an opportunity. The universe saying, “here, I bet you can use this straw bale”.

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Life on the farm!

We would love it if you found a few moments to check out our hand-crafted herbal soap cottage business at Whimsical Moon Farm.