Wednesday, June 10, 2015


The red white and blue…. and green, of ripening black raspberries  



 By this afternoon ripe black mulberries will be gone. The red ones will be ripe tomorrow morning, and I will have to get a ladder and fight the squirrels and birds to get a mouthful.

         One of my readers told me recently that he thought my newspaper column last year about how I love to eat the buds of those orange day-lilies, which are thicker in the summer than thorns on a locust, was all a tongue-in-cheek effort to try to get gullible folks to do something silly.  But people, I am as serious as three-day blizzard when I say that those buds, cut just before they bloom, are delicious. And they are growing large now all over the Ozarks.

         The reader remembered the column I wrote telling folks I had envelopes filled with nearly invisible morel mushroom seeds for sale for a five dollars each and the one where I said that raw gizzard shad soaked in catsup tasted just like sardines.  I regret those feeble attempts at humor at the expense of others and if I could retract what I said about boiled tadpoles and ‘turnip green-chicken hawk’ casserole, I would do it in a minute.
         But that’s the truth about day-lily buds.  Sautee them like asparagus or roll them in eggs and flour and fry them and you will be amazed how good they are. In fact they have been called ‘poor man’s asparagus’.  But I like them fried crispy rather than like soft asparagus.  They grow all over my place here on Lightnin’ Ridge and I like them so much that none hardly ever get to bloom!  Don’t take my word for it; ask someone who is honest and trustworthy!!!

         There is also a big mulberry tree a short distance from my porch, which has ripening berries.  We have a bunch of mulberry trees here, but most don’t produce fruit.  The female trees bear a fruit that starts green, turns red, and then black.  When they are black, they are delicious and sweet.  Uncle Roy use to make wine out of them, but heck, Uncle Roy made good wine out of about everything.  I can’t get to the mulberries without a ladder and the doggone birds and squirrels around here don’t leave many ripe ones.
         I was sitting on my porch this morning early and watched a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers light on the tree.  One flew up to grab a mulberry in flight.  I have never seen that before.  The gray squirrels hang upside down from their back feet to reach out and grab ripe mulberries, and blue-jays and cardinals get the rest.  Mulberries are beautiful trees with big leaves and trunks which are a seldom bigger than six or eight inches at the base.

         Cardinals also are working on the black raspberries which grow around us at the edge of the woodland just off what I jokingly refer to as a lawn.  These white, red and bluish-black berries against the green leaves make the most beautiful picture.  My daughter Christy joined me on Sunday afternoon to pick about a gallon of them but there are plenty left if someone wants to come up here and help themselves to them. The wooded ridge-top also has an abundance of gooseberries, and they are green.  They aren’t worth much, but my daughter makes gooseberry pies out of them that are tart and delicious.

         I intend to eat some of these young gray squirrels soon, but it is impossible to shoot any close to my porch, where they fight with the doves and make a mess of any bird feeders you fill.  You get to where you know each of them too well to shoot them.  They are lucky I am of a different mindset now than I was when I was 15 and our family couldn’t afford hamburger.

         During the winter the rascals chew out a big hole in the entrance to my bluebird house so I have to fix it every spring, tacking on a new board with a hole only an inch and a half round, ‘cause that’s what bluebirds like.

         A doe has a fawn up here between the office window and the pond somewhere, and that is a mixed blessing.  She’s pretty, but she also has eaten the top out of one of our tomato plants.  I like summer tomatoes grown from my garden more than anything else we grow, so she is treading on dangerous ground there.

         I worry about ground nesting birds up here on Lightnin’ Ridge because there are so many egg eaters.   Armadillos top the list and we need to kill those intruders from the southwest every time we see one.  There are more than just quail to worry about.  I am really not hearing very many whippoorwills or chuck-wills-widows up here like I did 20 years ago.  I am certain that is due to the increase in egg eaters, mostly the armadillo but also black snakes, raccoons, possums and skunks.  There are way too many of all of them.  I miss the whippoorwill calls we use to hear so many of.   You will never find a whippoorwill nest because they don’t make one, they just lay their eggs in leaves on the forest floor.  There isn’t any great concern about them yet but there should be.  They are declining, year after year.  So are meadowlarks.

         The heavy spring rains are tough on ground-nesters too, especially quail, turkey woodcock and killdeer.  I’ll bet the wild turkey poults have taken a real blow because of it. If young poults get drenched, they usually won’t survive.  The spring hatch has to be poor, but there will be some late nesting that will help, when the rains have ended.   BUT… the heavy rain and rising, holding water levels will help fish spawning.  Low water is the nemesis of spawning fish, especially dropping water levels, which fish can sense, a situation that keeps them from having a successful spawn.

         Not a whole lot was said about it, but a couple of weeks ago a man in his thirties was bitten by a cottonmouth while wading in the James River.  He went home without any medical attention and died during the night.

         Enough of this “snakes are our friends” nonsense when it causes people to think poisonous ones are not dangerous.  Peddling this over the last twenty years, those ‘experts’ who work for the Department of Conservation almost always live in city suburbs. Real outdoorsmen and country people know that poisonous snakes are very, very dangerous and their presence where people live, work and play is a threat.
         If you are bitten, treat it like a heart attack, and get to the hospital quick.  And eliminate any rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and copperheads you come across.  Believe me, we aren’t going to put any of those on an endangered species list!

         After writing about the MDC’s media specialist statement that just because more mountain lion are being seen it doesn’t mean there are more of them, a reader sent me the following, sent out in a news release from that state agency.  Surely it is just meant to make us smile…

         Jeff Briggler and other workers at the Missouri Department of Conservation have made informal observations over the years, counting the number of dead turtles – especially box turtles – on stretches of highway.  “We discovered that mortality rates are very high on high-traffic roads,” says Briggler, “whereas mortalities are much lower on less-traveled roads.”
         Those folks are paid well for that kind of scientific observation.  
You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at


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