boulder country

I fired up the truck, my chores were done for the day and I wasn't about to waste the daylight. Sensing my anticipation, Henry jumped up to his spot on the bench seat, sitting upright ready to spot any rabbits we'd pass. The spring day couldn't have been more text book, it was mild, more sun than we've seen these past few months, it was weather suited for a drive to the mountain in search of morels. I've not had any luck with the morels so far this season, but at least I'm more connected with the season's happenings, all thanks to my morel soothsayer. He had a dream, and headed up the mountain and sure enough he found a bunch. With his swift message I followed a few days later, but not having much luck I began to doubt his forecasting abilities. But perseverance is strong, especially when it comes to the once a year feed of morels. IMG_9048

The sun was still high by the time I arrived. The truck motor purred up the dirt road, south of the mountain, not my normal route but I felt like a change. Finally pulling up to the spot, I hauled my gear, a basket, a camera and canteen. Who know how long I'd be walking, it's thirsty business, best to be prepared.

I followed where the natural formed drainage lines kept the green pick lush, I figured the mushrooms would like a mixture of moisture and warm spring sunlight. Walking with the earth's rolling form, I picked up every bit of natural beauty along the trail.

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The spring weather has been right on queue. With it followed the flowering of the carnivorous sundew, the bulbine lily and a blanketing layer of sour sop. Such beauty, all on the low down, there for us to admire. But I was here to search for food.

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Half an hour passed before I stumbled upon these dark delights. Sitting in the clover, just the tips peaking up, a handful of morels unknowingly giving away their location to a hungry picker. They'll often grow in groups, 2, 3, 4 to five. I've not seen more than a bunch of five, not to say it doesn't happen.

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Gently slicing the fungal beauties and laying them on the floor of my manly basket happened again, and again. It's nothing like picking the autumnal glut of pine or field mushrooms, no, this type of mushroom is a challenge. It's elusive, it likes to keep to itself, to remain lost in the grass and leaf littler. For the hunter its a matter of training ones eye to investigate anything that hints of morel, walking in circles and looking at patches of ground from different angles. My afternoon wondered away with time, through the granite boulders I traversed, admiring their form, shadows and potential as shelters. I wondered who walked these steps before me, who used these resources as tucker before me. The wildlife was spectacular, currawongs, gallahs, cockatoos, all the regulars flapped from one eucalyptus to another busying themselves with their avian chores. Honey eaters and spine-bill darted from branch to branch, dancing at times, almost showing off. Bull ant mounts where a hive of activity, their complex community structure at play, all working for the good of the many, an admirable approach. Suddenly I felt alone, on a mountain looking at bull ants, contemplating their unique social structure that I wasn't a part of. Distracting me was the sound of thunder, what sounded like thunder. I looked to the heavens, to the west dark clouds had gathered. I'd been too busy looking for morels that I'd failed to pay attention to the sky. I'd also been distracted a hungry echidna on an ant feeding frenzy.  Once again I heard that thumping thunderous sound, it grew intense like it was coming towards me. I turned to look up the slope and between the boulders, hurdling towards me was a full grown kangaroo with Henry close on it's heels. With a quick command Henry dropped to the ground, the roo fled off into the distance, away from the over excited dog. With the panting dog heeling be my side, I headed back for the truck.

As the sky grew dark the showers began. Nothing uncomfortable, in fact I welcome a walk in the rain. There's something wonderful about being out in the elements, allowing yourself to be in some level of discomfort, to be washed clean by nature. We spent so much of our lives working against being in any sort of discomfort, the more I thought about our modern lives the more I realised our distain for discomfort is what drives us. Food, clothes, houses, cars. They all make us comfortable. To be out on the mountain at the time was to separate myself from comfort, even for a short while. The flies had found me, the rain had found me and I was regretting carrying that canteen full to the brim, it was getting tiresome to carry. Discomfort. Was I was being weak? I meandered passed a patch of large primitive aloe plants, admiring their form as I walked over the small gullies, finally retuning to the truck.

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I'd not filled my basket, not even close. But I did have an early taste for springs finest wild food. Its one of very few wild foods that I'm prepared to use more energy in acquiring than I get in return. For these mushrooms it's about that once a year taste. I hope I'll get this treat fo many years to come, I hope to get my messages from the soothsayer for decades to come.

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By the time I returned to the old farmhouse it was dark, and waiting for me at the table was a bowl of hot nettle and potato soup that my darling made. I put cooking the morels on hold until the following day. After lighting a fire, I dug under the woollen Pendleton and spent the evening lost with a Louis L'Amour classic. In the morning I cooked the gems with sage, butter and olive juice. A crack of our island pepper berries and the job was done. Nothing fancy needed for something so gorgeous simply as they come.

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