Monthly Archives

March 2012

Morchella Madness

One Saturday morning last May the Husband abruptly cut the engine on the riding lawn mower and declared he caught the scent of morel when the wind blew in from the south.
So, I thought, this is what the early onset of dementia looks like.
Morel People are a skittish, secretive breed. A foray onto a stranger’s morel bed is akin to interloping on a gold claim in central Alaska – you’re liable to find yourself on the receiving end of countrified justice. Predicting where morels will appear and in what quantity is a scientific process that combines voodoo with a gut feeling, the scent of the wind from the south and a consultation with a local old-timer for a tea leaf reading.
This morel may or may not have been
found in, near or around Upstate, NY

Once one has caught the fever there’s nothing to do but traipse after him through wood and field to make sure he doesn’t fall and twist his ankle. Bemused, I watched the Husband sniff the air with the precision of an old truffle dog; a quarter mile later he had his morel.
Straightaway I was directed to disable the location tracker on my digital camera and cell phone if I wished to continue schlepping in the vicinity.
Reports of morels are already pouring in due to the early onset of spring. More than once I’ve seen the Husband stare off to the south with a possessed look in his eye and felt the fever of the hunt roll off him in waves. It can mean only one thing: he’s on the scent.
To my mycophagist friends: I’m willing to rent him out for a few [hundred] dollars an hour if you’re interested.

The Counter Talk Project

Ah, Starbucks; we Americans sure loves us some overpriced char don’t we; some of us can’t face a day without it. So what would you say if I told you there was a guy giving away mugs of delicious, fresh-brewed java in exchange for diverting conversation and an inexpensive personal memento?

Enter Stephen Rhinehart. After Syracuse University’s electronic newsletter published an articleabout Stephen’s Counter Talk Project late February, the Husband, our friend and I took this coffee lover up on his invitation to a free cup of home-roasted goodness. Curious to see what this crazy Project idea of his would amount to, the three of us met up with The Enthusiast in the atrium of Huntington Hall for a caffeine infusion.
It turned out to be one of those rare nugget-of-awesome afternoons.

Yep, there was coffee. Good coffee in fact. And there was conversation. Great conversation. Stephen’s easy manner – be it a natural gift or something born out of doing this many times before – kept the topics flowing. We discussed dogs; death; families; chickens; bread making; ghosts; gardening; we pulled out cell phones to share photos of our pets; we learned that, given the chance, we would all try our hand at bee husbandry. Stephen jotted notes in a Moleskin like a footsure Hemingway blogger.
The Counter Talk Project is a free-flowing communal exchange with one simple rule: Stephen brings the coffee, guests leave him a small personal memento as a token of thanks. We left Stephen a bag of the Husband’s own Guatemalan roast. Next time I’ll bring him a half dozen eggs from our home-raised hens.
So how can you be like the cool kids and get your own turn with Counter Talk? As of this writing Stephen is still accepting reservations. But be prepared: you will feel a resistless urge to share things that matter. The tag line on Stephen’s Tumblr blog reads, “Bringing passionate minds together over coffee.”
And, mind you, Hemingway drank it black.

Stephen’s blog:
Read more about him:
Follow him on Twitter:  @CuseBarista

Into the Woods

Sunday Hike, Part 2

By nine o’clock Sunday morning the outdoor thermometer was cresting the seventy degree mark.  A most unusual mid-March morning for Upstate New York to be sure. 

The Husband and I set out for a hike with the dog. The orchard at the top of the hill smelled unmistakably onion-like and we discovered the patchy grass wasn’t grass at all but wild chive. Tasty.
On the return trip the dog went missing. When she finally reappeared she had a shifty look about her with ears pinned back and head low. “Why’s she carrying a log?” the Husband asked but we both knew that was wishful thinking – that dog has not once fetched a stick in the four years we’ve had her. After some firm coaxing she dropped her find and, of course, it was a deer spine she’d grubbed up from somewhere and thought she’d bring on home for later. It reminded us of the time a few years ago when she shot into the house carrying a severed fox head which she rolled all over in the living room before we could figure out what the heck it was and get it away from her. 
Not going to lie: for a brief time that day I had that dog listed as a free agent on I eventually came to my senses and pulled the ad. Giving away the kid’s pet without her permission is probably frowned upon behavior. 


Did you know rock stacking is a thing?

First Schutt rock stack, 2012
Sunday Hike, Part 1
The Husband and I set out this morning for a long explore through the Favorite Secret Spot (it must remain so because of the morels) whereupon we discovered a rock with a hole bore clear through and immediately resolved to stack it.
Rock stackers are kindred spirits with geocachers and graffiti artists (minus the satellites and vandalism) in that one leaves behind an offering for Unknown Others to discover. The goal is to provoke wonder, or at least primal curiosity, in the unwitting audience. Practitioners might describe rock stacking as a hobby, an art form, meditation, or a devotional — I agree with all of these philosophies. In my view properly-stacked rocks are a riveting encounter and a gratifying exercise in patience and concentration.

Provided you lift with the legs and not the back.

Photo by Dennis Bryan


It’s no secret: I’m seeking pathways out of the mess that is the typical American diet. In November I stumbled upon the documentary How to Cook Your Life and was immediately intrigued by the idea of bread making as a form of communion and meditation. A very kum ba yah notion for an agnostic like me to be sure. But when the Husband sent the two of us off to a bread making class at a nearby culinary center the meditative properties of this activity emerged. Like meditation, bread making is about concentration. Creating good bread – bread with the desired color, structure, elasticity, moistness and crumb – requires the maker to focus on the environment in which the bread is being constructed. Humidity, temperature, and the individual characteristics of each ingredient play a part in the quality of the finished piece; balanced bread is achieved when the maker has allowed him or herself to work in harmony with these variables.
Bread making as a communal act has proven itself in the months since our class. While the Husband is the primary bread maker, I am his ever-present audience. I love watching bread being made; I’m irresistibly drawn to the process. I love that he knows by feel when to incorporate more of an ingredient and that he decides only after the dough has developed what type of loaf it wants to be.  It is gratifying when the fifteen year old emerges from her bedroom like a cartoon character floating out on a visible aroma and asks, “Is that Daddy’s bread I smell?” And I love when we gather around and share the bounty together like mankind has been doing for 30,000 years.
Besides all that, bread smells amazing and tastes even better (I cringe over the stuff we used to buy at the grocery store). And we appreciate the benefits of creating our own food. Yesterday the Husband very sweetly let me record him making next week’s lunch loaves. Our video, Bread, shows this four and a half-hour process condensed down into a playful 5-minute fast motion clip.  Enjoy! 

O Northern Lights, Where Art Thou?

Aurora borealis, Jordan NY,
Veteran’s Memorial Pool, 2006

Oh, the bitter irony.

Rain drums against the roof as I write. Allegedly, fifty miles above my head the second wave of a massive solar flair supercharges particles, creating luminescence. I last observed the aurora borealis in 2006 in Jordan, NY. Clouds have obscured every aurora since. Can you believe? Uncanny. Cruel, even.
As we enter a solar maximum I am hopeful for a cycle so dramatic we are given opportunity after opportunity to view aurora throughout the spring (a tiny apology to power and telecom companies whose networks may be adversely impacted).
Veteran’s Memorial Pool
Jordan NY, 2006

When my daughter was too young to mind our crazy we snuggled her into a sleeping bag in the back of the Jeep and chased the aurora (and the moon and Saturn and whatever else there was to see) until far into the night. She’d sleep; we’d chase; photograph; drag out the telescope; watch. There were times I wanted to pound on people’s doors and shout “Wake up in there! It’s happening in the sky and you’re missing the whole thing!” 

Now that she’s taking a photography class in high school there’s a chance the kid could be persuaded to schlep along with us again on our quest for dramatic borealis flair.
Fingers firmly crossed. We are entering the magic of a solar maximun after all.