Monday, June 30, 2014

Backyard Music Festival

My neighbor down the road, an artist and a folk-music fan, heard a great singer-songwriter at a musicfest and they worked out a deal: Lodging at her place so he could tour the Midwest and in exchange, he'd do a private lawn concert. And so it was. Greg Klyma, native of Buffalo, NY, currently living in the Boston area, told me Boston has a great folk-music scene (after I expressed my doubts). He played guitar and mandolin during 50-minute sets including Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'" and his own compositions and novelty numbers ("Creepy Dead Bug" and my favorite, "The Kale Store") -- and can he wail, and pick, and entertain! Neighbor's family and friends and my entourage of music lovers totaled about 25 people under canopies, under the stars, in chairs, listening to live music-- surely a first for The Divine Green Acres Estates -- and hearing the chorusing frogs just below the cliff. All was perfect except that Greg, not a Missourian, had to go back home, but not before he was fed Super Smokers barbecue. The balloons tied to the mailbox were to flag the turn; we have no street sign and like it that way. To my puzzlement, GPS and Google Maps have recently renamed our beloved and ratty Highway F "South First Street." South of what? First of what? One night in June it was first in fun. Farewell, month of June 2014. I loved every moment. And hire a singer-songwriter to perform on your patio.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Black is the New Orange

I vow on a stack of hymnals this is the final time I will ever mention mu---ooms, but (look hard) here was such a miniscule living gem of a snail, exquisite as a diamond, tender as a rice noodle, discovered while I was wiping bits of dirt from a pound of fresh-picked chanterelles, and it too was the answer to my question: Who besides box turtles and pin-sized maggots chews up the Divine Property's mother lode of chanterelle mu---ooms before I find and get a hold of them?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How to Make a Marsha Lunch

Or shall I say a "Wild Marsha Lunch"? In honor of my friend Marsha, a special wild/homegrown lunch today: Self-Crusting Wild Mushroom Quiche and Homegrown Arugula Salad.

1. Find the red ramekin Marsha gave me that I treasure.
2. Fill the ramekin half full of wild chanterelle mushrooms, both yellow and cinnabar-colored types, torn into bite-size, and then sauteed with butter and chopped homegrown onion, and seasoned to taste.
3. Make a batter of self-rising flour (or homemade equivalent), eggs, milk, and Parmesan cheese and pour this over the sauteed mushrooms.
4. Bake for about 25 minutes at 375 degrees. Voila. While it bakes:

1. Clip fresh lovely arugula leaves planted and grown in the Earth Box in front of the cabin.
2. Wash and dry the leaves. Stem them and tear them into bite-size if necessary.
3. Toss with a little olive oil. Squeeze a little lemon juice over. Salt the salad just a tad.

Serves 1. Or 2 if you share it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Up an 80-Foot Tree: The Canopy Climb

The Canopy Climb event at the Shaw Nature Reserve consisted of myself and two other people (everyone else in the world was too scared) and John the instructor, who'd slingshotted pulley ropes up into a venerable 80-foot White Oak deep in the woods, gave us safety gear, and invited us to hoist ourselves up there.

Uh huh.

Coordinated movement is required. One's right foot is placed in a loop of rope. Push against that, straightening the leg, while hoisting yourself  on a rope with a "magic knot" whose magical element was not explained, but I had faith. Arborists ascend into the forest canopy all the time to study the environment or trim branches; John said that advanced canopy climbers can cozily sleep on branches or swing from tree to tree, provided the proper outfitting.

When the three of us were strung up, John ascended and took our photos; here I am 60 feet above the earth repeating to myself, "Faint heart never won fun." John swung me a bit to see how I'd like it. I said, "Tone it down or I'll probably throw up."

I beat my lifelong fear of heights to do this. After a while I rather enjoyed dangling in the air in a forest. John said this sport was invented in the 1980s and there was something very 1980s about it: aggressive outdoorsmanship. I'd do it again.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

First Sign of Summer

As hinted at in the previous post I cook and dine at home but for the first day of summer the ordinary will not do. Today at this annual event, never missed, I enjoyed scoops of peach ice cream and vanilla, and a barbecued-beef sandwich, in that order, and in exchange made a "free will offering" (there's no set charge; all may give a donation of their choice).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Night in the Kitchen

You know how you clip recipes and buy ingredients and time flies and those new recipes don't happen despite your best intentions--I always do that, especially when experimenting with the meatless, wheatless, or otherwise far-out, trying to advance my repertoire and learn. Last night I quit everything else and caught up.

Starting with the martini glass and going clockwise: That's Coffee Jello from, topped with tofu whipped cream from the cookbook How It All Vegan. It's as good as it looks and takes 15 minutes. Delicious for breakfast. Next is a plate with three Strawberry-Coconut cookies, wheat-free, gluten-free and Paleo. Replacing white flour is coconut flour and ground flaxseed; coconut oil replaces butter; add unsweetened shredded coconut and chopped strawberries. A single one of these dense rich cookies satisfies. The round pita-like thing is a "Wheatbelly" (faddish no-grains diet) flaxseed wrap. Make the batter with ground flaxseeds, oil, an egg, and a spoonful of water, pour batter into a greased glass pie plate, microwave for 2 minutes, and I call this a new way to eat my morning egg: about 250 calories.You can make several at once and fridge them. In the yellow bowl is part of the result of 45 minutes of quartering a stack of 30 corn tortillas (cost: $2 and some) and baking them as chips. I planned to make my own salsa but then found a can of readymade. To its right you see a spatula's worth of Chicken Enchiladas, my meaty "Chicken of the Woods" wild mushrooms replacing the chicken. Served to a gaunt, sallow, and very picky vegetarian who loved it but ate it at room temp rather than letting me nuke it. Original recipe from Farm Journal's Great Home Cooking in America (1976; buy the hardback), the first cookbook I ever owned. Thanks, Mom. In the fall I wow guests with its Concord Grape Pie (page 83). In the green cup, egg-drop soup with fresh ginger, shown before I stirred the egg in.

All are wheat-free. Except for the jello, all are white-sugar-free and vegetarian. I'm an omnivore but have friends with every sort of dietary need.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mushroom ID Technique: The Spore Print

Was it an edible "Green Cracking Russula" (Russula virscens) or a mere moldy-looking shroom? If the former, according to the books, it's three weeks early, so I wasn't certain. One credible form of evidence is a spore print. Cut the cap from a fairly fresh shroom and lay it gills down on a plain white or black surface for 2 to 24 hours; when you don't have a guide to tell you whether the spores of your suspect mushroom should be light or dark, tape together pieces of black and white paper and lay the cap in the middle. The spores here left a ghostly white print, as the book said; other ID indications are the cracked, "mosaic-like" greenishness on top, cream-colored gills, size (3"), situation (often found singly, as this one was), convex top, brittleness, and thick stalk. Edible, even said to be good, but not appetizing. And also on the plate were what I thought might be chanterelles, again about two weeks early, but there are many trumpet-shaped mushrooms, some not good eating. These must have been older; they did not leave a spore print.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Washington State Park

Can you see The Mighty Thunderbird?
Washington State Park in Missouri, south of DeSoto, has petroglyphs but I couldn't find them along the Thousand Steps Trail, a "moderately difficult" (aggh!) trail not a thousand steps in length but with a thousand steep stone steps, wet and slippery. The restrooms were locked. A syringe lay on the picnic table. The grills in the picnic areas are stenciled "Washington State Park" to discourage theft. I thought, This park is so bogus.

The petroglyphs near the Park entrance were carved by Mississippian Indians a thousand years ago, so you can look until you're cross-eyed but they aren't visible. The park maps are xeroxed and impossible to read. I drove farther and saw the second petroglyph area, protected by a walkway and roof. And began to change my mind. There carved in stone were The Mighty Thunderbird and his smaller birds who carry lightning bolts to earth, and shapes and symbols (no one knows what they mean). Cool. . .things were getting interesting.

All buildings in the park are historic, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. They're exceptional. The park's Thunderbird Lodge sells "hand-dipped ice cream." Tackled another trail, the Opossum Track trail, 2.5 miles and "moderately difficult" but more fun, maybe because I had Blue Bunny ice cream, and along the path I saw the day's most extraordinary sight: a huge lime-green Luna moth (Actius luna), about four and a half inches across. They don't have mouths and don't eat. They live to mate. They're common but rarely seen because they live for only seven days in June and are sensitive to urban light pollution.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Did You Ever Have a Day with a Theme?

Poland. . .never thought I'd miss it as I do. . .in a supermarket in Wielazija I bought Polish soup packets and have hoarded them since. When the day dawned dull and cloudy I opened the one for instant mushroom soup. Poles are great fans and pickers of forest mushrooms.  I cooked the soup and let it sit while I caught up on a few hours of outdoor chores put off because of heavy rains. Then, bored, unwilling to drive anywhere, I tried entertaining myself looking for fungi in the soaked lawn. All sorts and sizes, 13 varieties in all, but the most glorious and only edible was a fresh chicken mushroom at the base of a tree less than 20 feet from the door. If I hadn't made myself look I wouldn't have found it.

At once I trimmed and collected some, cleaned it, sliced it, sauteed the pieces in butter, added them to the mushroom soup, and now I had genuine Polish wild-mushroom soup. And figured I might as well boil some potatoes and turnips and bring out the sauerkraut and Krakowski sausage (rations kept for homesick-for-Poland days) and eat a Polish lunch, and for dessert had strawberries, and it is June, and I was the happiest person in the whole world.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

In the Broccoli Hills

Gratuitious butterflies. All we have to do is watch the Pearl Crescent in its favorite poison ivy or the Great Spangled Fritillary sharing nectar with a bee on a butterfly bush.  June to me is the peak of the year, the pinnacle of earthly beauty, and as I sit here ready to go to the farmer's market I see hundreds of acres of hills, bright green (called by gardener Demetrius "broccoli hills"; he'd say "Look: broccoli hills, Bun")  and every inch loaded with lives like these for the watching. Right now a bunny is eyeing the unmown grass and eyeing me to see if he or she can get away with eating it. Bunnies are many around here this year. Yesterday I saw a baby bunny too young to be scared of me. Gratuitous: Free! Revel in them; life is not forever!

Today is the seventh anniversary of the Divinebunbun's Rugged Rural Missouri blog. Thank you for following along and sharing my joys. In the city I lived with loud nightly drunken arguments and screaming, domestic battles, cop cars, boom cars that woke us all, drug houses with very irritable people just outside, and bullet holes in my car's windshield. And now. . .

Friday, June 6, 2014

River of Death

Someday when chips are implanted in all of our heads, officials will be able to keep folks from playing and swimming in said River of Death, the Meramec River, subject of this vivid new warning sign at Castlewood State Park, formerly a summer resort for the wealthy of St. Louis. Each year a family or a troop of kids comes to a Meramec River beach or bluffs, often at Castlewood, and tries swimming across, or swings over the water on a rope, having no idea that the Meramec (called by the Indians "river of ugly fish") runs more fiercely and deeply than its appearance would betray, and has powerful and temperamental currents. Somebody, usually a child, struggles horribly and drowns. A Fox-News-televised search (with weeping parents among their beer cans) commences, with the body being discovered downstream in a day or two. Common sense being scarcer now, and because people are no longer trained to read rivers, signs such as this must be erected. "Rio Mortal," people. The river is so lovely and summer so hot, but please, take the young ones to splash in a stream. The Meramec River, while ideal for canoeing and tubing many miles farther upstream, is not a swimming hole. If it will help deter anyone, the Meramec is home to eels--big ones-- and in addition to drowning the unfortunate person pictured will probably become eel food.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Indoor Wildlife

They're called Wolf Spiders because they don't spin webs -- they hunt their prey and eat 'em directly, as a wolf does. They live in the house--indoor wildlife--but they're usually much, much smaller. I glanced at the shower curtain and saw this:
And then I peeked around the curtain and it was perfectly composed and ready for its closeup, showing its rich leopard-like fur. Did you know spiders move by pumping their legs full of blood?  Anyway, when I went to bed (skipping my shower) it was still there. The next morning it was gone; even more unnerving, although they are harmless. I wouldn't try to vex one of this size, though, or scoop him up in a tupperware and escort him outside. Repeat: "Spiders are our friends."