I’m always really homesick in April, but it’s usually one of my busiest months so I can rarely go home. And why do I specifically want to go home in April? One word: ramps. It’s the food of my people. In WV in April, community ramp dinners happen throughout the central part of the state. If you know where ramps are growing wild, you keep your mouth shut and go dig them. Otherwise you buy them in paper grocery bags on the side of the road. They grow in VA and NC, but only in the highest elevations. I’ve got a tiny patch growing down by the creek. It takes about 5 years before they spread, so I keep planting but not harvesting in hopes that I’ll have enough for a meal sometime in my old age.
This April, for the first time, my mom came to visit me at the cabin. She retired in December and now has free time to travel. For my birthday she brought the thing I wanted most. Eating ramps in April is sort of like Thanksgiving; there are traditions. For me it’s important to have ramps fried with potatoes, pinto beans, and corn pone served with sassafras tea. Mom brought a big bag to cook and a smaller bag to plant. We sat on the porch swing and cleaned them before starting our feast. It was heaven. And then we had leftovers the next day.
Not everybody in WV likes them. Most people in NC don’t know what they are. When I was in grade school some of the boys would eat them raw before coming to school, knowing that the teacher would send them home. They make you smell that bad. But if you cook them you’re less offensive. Regardless, if I could eat them every day of the season, I would. I would say to my NC friends, “this is what a WV girl smells like in April.”
Recently my bee yard has been attacked twice by a bear; I’m assuming the same bear but I didn’t actually see said bear. I had five strong hives before it happened along. Now I have three weak ones.
This is the season of thankfulness. As I muscle through the work of getting the leaves to the curb, winterizing the car, dusting off the Christmas music, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks.
I’m thankful for a healthy family, meaningful employment, a roof over my head, a close circle of friends. These are not small things. This was the best garden I’ve had in years and my pantry is full of dried beans (several varieties), canned and dried tomatoes, lots of peppers. In fact I dried all my paprika peppers to crush and grind. I did the same with most of my jalapenos since I still have plenty of hot sauce from last year. I accidentally grew gourds, which are drying on the garden fence now. My elephant garlic hybridized with something (shallots? onions?) to create a mildly garlic flavored bulb with no cloves. I dried those and ground them into a really tasty garlic powder. I made a decent amount of cheese this year which is aging in my wine fridge. Remember those watermelon plants I bought at the auction and planted all over the front yard? I had dozens of mini melons…easy to eat two at a time. As an experiment, I grew sesame seeds. And of course I have lots of loofahs again. If anyone wants loofah or okra seeds, come to me. And from the auction loot: I made a bunch of peach butter, apple sauce, frozen sweet peppers. This was a good year.
It’s a little harder to be thankful that the bear didn’t totally destroy my hives, but I am thankful for that. Bears do what they do…Winnie the Poo was so cute stealing honey. I’m also thankful that I haven’t bumped into this bear, although I’d love to get a peak at him. I’m thankful that Roots Revival is going strong and that our choir is becoming more awesome with each performance. I’m thankful for a full calendar in December to keep me flush through January and February. And lastly, I’ve been in the presence of several young musicians in the past month who have inspired me with their love and enthusiasm for the art that is most dear to my heart (related blog forthcoming). I’m utterly and completely thankful for music.
Non-menacing Velvet Queen Sunflowers
Childhood memory: One day while playing on the farm, I pulled up a thick plastic mat that my grandpa had put over a muddy area so that the tractor wouldn’t get stuck in the mud. To my delight, I found a nest of baby snakes! I filled my pockets with them and ran home to show Mom. The spanking that resulted left a memorable impression.
I had an exciting day today. I was walking around in my garden, minding my own business, when I put my hand down into a patch of bush beans to see how the beans under the foliage were coming along. Instinctively, I jumped back and squealed when I saw a coiled up snake right by where my hand had been. I immediately ran to the house to get my phone to take a picture. Then I got a rake and pulled the snake out to the path so I could see it’s markings and get better pictures. It was only after I had done this that I did a google search to verify that I was playing with a copperhead and read that you shouldn’t poke at them with sticks because they can strike at long distances.
Then I did another silly thing. I posted a picture on facebook. Within seconds, several people commented with horror and fascination. After two hours I had a long string of comments under my post: oohs and ahhhs, eeeks and yikes, advice, warnings, informative website links, and best of all, humor. I admit, the snake posed handsomely and looked right at the camera, so this was a stellar picture. Look it up if you like, but I’m not posting it here. Instead you get my lovely Velvet Queen Sunflowers.
I began thinking about what I fear the most. Even a picture of a spider terrifies me, so I felt a twinge of guilt about posting the scary snake picture and how I might have ruined someone’s day. A big spider in close proximity will make me jumpy for hours. Bad dreams ensue. Logic plays no part in fear. I should’ve feared the snake but I didn’t. I shouldn’t fear the spider but I do. It’s easy to justify our fears and there is no end to the things to fear.
This post doesn’t have a moral, or even a point really. I just get so excited when I have a wildlife sighting that I want to share it. Encounters with creatures beyond our control make us feel alive!