A Taste for Adventure
My infatuation with mushrooms began when I was teenager ("Finding Morel Mushrooms," March/April 2018). A local farmer shared some of his mushrooms with us after a hunting excursion, and it was love at first taste. I didn't know it then, but that was when the elm blight was hitting hard in our state. Though the blight was deadly to the elms, the trees became beacons to the avid mushroom hunter. Most agree that when one is hunting morels, a great place to look is around dead elms.
When my buddies came home from Vietnam in 1973, we decided we needed to cut loose and hit the woods in search of those delicious morels. Since it was a little late for mushrooms in our area, we decided we would head to Michigan to a locale we now refer to as our "Private Patch." We headed out on our adventure in a camper truck, ready for the hunt.
At the end of our adventure, we had a whopping 58 pounds of morel mushrooms in our possession. This was after we fried up multiple batches to snack on during our extensive hunt. With both our stomachs and our coolers packed to the brim, we headed home.
My mom knew how to store morels long-term, so she cooked and froze my share. We ate them on and off that year, but the best meal was when we cooked up a huge batch for Christmas. That meal remains one of the best Christmas dinners I've ever had.
For the next few years, my wife and I, along with another couple, went back north to hunt the morels, and though we found plenty to eat, we were never blessed with such a find as what this picture shows.
The Gift of Grit
I was so happy when I received a subscription to Grit as a gift from my son. This was sure a wonderful surprise. My mom was a subscriber for many years, a long time ago, and I used to browse through each issue after she was finished reading them. My mom had held onto an issue from November 1985, and after her death, I saved it in her memory. I'm glad to know that this magazine is still around, and I can't wait to read it again after all these years.
I read aloud for the blind on a radio show in my community, and it was such a blessing to be able to read them your magazine. The Goodwill Reading Radio program lets me reach out to members of my community I would otherwise not know, and read them publications I feel can really make an impact on their lives. This was my first time reading Grit, and it was a wonderful magazine to read on the radio. Being able to share a personal favorite publication of mine with so many people made the experience that much more meaningful to me.
The "Your View" page in your July/ August 2018 issue featuring busy bees inspired me to send a photo I captured in Tel Aviv, Israel, of a bee drinking from an orange blossom on a tree. I visited Israel earlier this year, and it was such a pleasure to see the extent of these little creatures around the world.
Judy Welk Rader
Innovative Home Improvements
My parents' house has a few steps leading up to the front door and patio that have become harder and harder for them to tackle each day. They needed a railing to help them climb those few steps and help make them comfortable walking in and out of their own home again.
Buying the parts and building metal railings would have cost several hundred dollars, and after cutting them to fit the house, my father would have been left with many small, useless leftover pieces.
Instead of going with the metal railing, he designed, built, and installed his own sturdy, budget-friendly alternative from PVC pipe for about $75. He measured and joined the pipes to create the exact angles and slope of the sidewalk leading into the house, then added bent end-caps and a coat of white paint to give the railing a finished look. One of the biggest advantages of this project is that PVC pipe is lightweight and easy to work with, which is an important factor when you're 95 years old.
Fresh from the Vine
I used to have two Bradford pear trees growing in my front lawn. After a few years, I realized they were getting too big for my yard, so I had to cut them down. Over the years, the stumps rotted out and I would trip into the holes left behind. Rather than buying dirt, I filled the holes with shrubbery trimmings and grass clippings, and eventually began throwing old food scraps into the holes too. This past spring, I filled them with mostly watermelon scraps.
A few weeks later, I saw tiny watermelon vines beginning to grow and climb out of the holes. Instead of trying to rid my yard of the vines, I took the extra time to mow around them as they continued to spread further into the yard and up the fence. I didn't expect much to come from the vines, so I was surprised when I saw a small watermelon hanging from the vines tangled around the fence. As the weeks went on, more fruits appeared, and grew larger and larger. In the end, there were 14 huge water melons on the vine. I was set for the rest of the year. In fact, I had to give some away.
When my husband, Bob, and I decided to retire from our jobs in Maryland, we already knew where we were going to live the rest of our lives — years before, we had purchased property in Tennessee, where my mother-in-law grew up.
We decided raising chickens would be fun, since we couldn't keep chickens at our home in the city. While Bob was building our home, it was my job to build our chicken coop — at least that was the plan.
The chicken coop kit sat untouched in our barn for months. I didn't think about it again until a relative suddenly contacted us about some free chickens their elderly neighbor was giving away. Getting the chickens so quickly and unexpectedly kicked me into high gear. I finally built the coop, subscribed to some farming magazines, and researched extensively about raising chickens.
One of my first big challenges with chickens was getting them all to go in the big shed for the night. They never seemed to do what I wanted them to do, choosing instead to run amok. One night, I discovered that if I turned on the light in the barn at night, all the chickens would flock inside immediately all by themselves.
We built this coop almost three years ago. Since then, I've also added some fun garden art items, some painted tires, and a couple of swings to make the coop a sort of chicken playground. We've also gained some local customers that buy eggs from us, and I'm still amazed when I look at the perfectly shaped eggs. I've learned that chickens can be truly fun, and they've taught me that early to bed, early to rise is the best way to live.
Santa Fe, Tennessee