I rose early excited with anticipation. Pulled on the longest socks I had, jeans, tall boots, and a long sleeve shirt. Grabbed my raincoat and threw on a hat. Two mesh bags and my walking stick would complete the ensemble. I was ready.
We drove to an undisclosed location in the woods and exited the vehicle. Made a quick plan as to who would go where and then disappeared into the thick green underbrush. Even as early as Mother's Day the underbrush is quite dense; getting a jump-start before the leaves of trees completely shade the forest floor. I crawled over fallen trees, ducked under branches, and plowed my way through the brambles, stopping occasionally to tip my hat and survey the horizon for the tell tale sign - the dead elm tree.
The first half hour was riddled with disappointment. All the signs were there. It had rained recently and the weather warmed, the forest was littered with elm trees beginning to lose their bark, there was a buzz in the community, and errant cars were parked randomly along side the road. They had to be here.
Along the way I stopped to identify a wildflower, listen to the call of bird, and answer the far off call of, "Anything yet?". I was beginning to lose hope. Maybe we are too early? Perhaps I should have went left instead of right? Maybe just around the corner? Eyes trained to the ground I pressed on, sweeping my walking stick in swaths ahead of me. "Anything?" "No." I called out. Then it happened. There at me feet, peeking out from under the brush, I nearly stepped on it. How did I not see that? I bent down to claim my prize and could not believe my eyes. They were everywhere. Some standing tall like soldiers, others hiding here or there like children playing peek-a-boo. I was surrounded.
Morels! "I found some!" I shouted into the wilderness. Dropping to all fours I gleefully began to gather a bounty of mushrooms. Everywhere I turned there were more and more. I could not even move for fear of crushing my elusive find. Clearing one section I moved onto another, carefully looking under leaves and fallen bark. I did not want to miss any of this special treat! I quickly filled one bag before getting half way around the tree. Wow!
I was beginning to wonder if two bags would be enough. They were both heavy and I still had more to pick. What a stroke of luck! Nothing for the first half hour and now it is taking me a half hour just to harvest one tree.
Nothing beats the satisfaction of securing your own food, especially when it is free. Call me crazy, but I swear food tastes better knowing that you provided it for your family. Not the working 40 plus hours at a job you hate to pay for anonymous food during the obligatory trip to the grocery store kind of provide, but the primal hunt and gather kind of provide. Grown with love and harvested from you backyard kind. Prepared with time and care to invest in your family's future kind. That is the good stuff.
(Two bags was not enough.)