It was a foggy morning walk on the gravel road to the Sisters as August made its grand entrance on the summer scene this week.
After days of drought, the rain was forecasted at 70 percent last night. Ella called the weatherman, a douche bag. That was very appropriate, since “douche” in French means shower.
On Tuesday, I went to the Paulson’s pumpkin patch farmer’s market north of our ranch. I bought our favorites, peaches and plums for the classical Czech summer fruit dumplings dish topped with cottage cheese.
I had to pass on the first harvest of cucumbers, since we will not have the time to can them this year. But we do have a good stock of last year’s sweet and sour pickles to get us through the winter.
Purple blue plums are also the main ingredient in plum brandy, known as “slivovice.” I call plum brandy, the Moravian gold.
It looks like an abundant harvest this year.
The Paulson’s farmer’s stand overlooks the vast fields of vegetables, fruits and orchards that were wilting in the heat, along with some marigolds by the fence.
“Did you do the rain dance?” asked me the owner sitting comfortably in an orange folding chair behind the counter loaded with fresh produce.
Among the novelties at the stand were sweet jalapenos. I have yet to try them. But, I did buy yellow cauliflower and red lettuce for different color varietals.
“No, should I?” I asked.
“You should do it every morning,” he said.
Then, I remembered while watering the patio garden, I did run a stream of water on my brand new mysterious “rain chain” and on the tin sunflower, causing it to whirl.
And it finally rained, this morning after I dropped off Ella at the summer school. I went to my favorite hideout, and it poured on the lake. I watched the rain swirl and twirl on the windshield.
But, before that, being totally stripped of any energy, I ate the entire Chocolove xoxox Almonds & Sea Salt dark chocolate bar. It tasted like heaven, after weeks of starving myself for the book signings.
To my great delight, I discovered inside the chocolate wrap a poem by Alexander Pushkin:
Thou and You
She substituted, by a chance,
For empty ‘you’- the gentle ‘thou.’
And all my happy dreams, at once,
In loving heart again resound.
In bliss and silence do I stay,
Unable to maintain my role:
‘Oh, how sweet you are!’ I say-
‘How I love thee!’ says my soul.
It’s going to be a great August.
I am looking forward to the Czech Harvest Festival this Sunday in Bannister. Watch for post.
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Lowell, MI- I walked into Bob Kietzmann’s farm on Grand River Drive yesterday, in the wake of the bad news of Monday’s frost damage to Michigan asparagus.
The barn was empty with all but a scale and a can with the label touting asparagus for $2.50. Empty yellow caddies were laying all around. There was also a black notebook, the Kietzmann’s Asparagus Ledger for people to sign off on their purchases. The sale of asparagus at the farm has been based on an honor system since it started 24 years ago.
Usually, there are yellow boxes loaded with firm green stalks of asparagus, people digging in and picking for the best ones, and a bunch of recipes on the table. The bustle lasts well into mid-June on a normal year..
And the week of Mother’s Day is always the busiest time for asparagus, according to owner Bob Kietzmann.
It didn’t take too long for Kietzmann to arrive on the vacated barn scene. Yes, there wasn’t even a sales sign off the busy road that parallels I-96, near the Lowell exit.
“Can we help you?” asked Kietzmann.
“Sure, I want some asparagus,” I said.
“Well, the good guy up there arranged that we won’t have any, until next week,” said Kietzmann tilting his hat as he squinted into the late afternoon sun. “Mine froze too.”
We walked into Kietzmann’s sunlit office to chat about the asparagus that has been damaged by the frost. Kietzmann estimated he lost approximately 20 percent of his crop.
“It’s really hard to say,” he nodded.
Three years ago, kids from the Saranac FFA (Future Farmers of America) planted 50,000 crows of asparagus over four nights on a six acre parcel.
“It takes six years for asparagus to be profitable,” Kietzmann said.
However, asparagus is a fast growing plant. It can grow anywhere from two to three inches overnight at 50 to 60 degrees.
“It grows best at night,” said Kietzmann.
We took a ride into the nearby asparagus field. Kietzmann pointed out the translucent asparagus stalks damaged by the frost wilting into the ground.
The good news is that the first and second pickings were early this year at the end of April due to warm weather.
“Anything that is in the ground didn’t freeze,” said Kietzmann. “We already had two rounds.”
On a good harvest day, one picking is in the morning around 7 a.m. and the other one is at 6 p.m.
The picking height of asparagus is from seven to 10 inches, and there is hardly any waste.
Kietzmann started picking wild asparagus in the ditches along the road as a kid dreaming of a day when he would have a ½ bushel for himself.
“I’ve been picking it since I could walk,” he said.
Well, that day came after years of milking cows and building farm equipment.
“We’ve picked asparagus in the snow in May,” he said. “We’ve only had three year like this with the frost damaging the asparagus.”
And Kietzmann loves meeting customers from all over Michigan.
“I have guys come in here buying asparagus for their mothers,” Kietzmann laughed. “They’ve never even tasted asparagus.”
Some customers ask for asparagus bunches like they find at the stores.
“Well we don’t have that here,” he said.
The rider for picking asparagus has two blades that cut the asparagus in two rows and throws it in the bin. Now, due to frost, asparagus will have to be sorted from the damaged stalks.
By July, the asparagus plants tire out or fern out.
“Then it’s done for the year,” he said. “I spray for weeds after we’re done picking.”
At Heidi’s farm market stand on M-50, there was some asparagus from Hart still left, that was cut last Sunday.
Luckily, the shortage is only temporary, until next Monday.
Lowell, MI – Are you ready? It’s almost that time of year again. Some of you are already excited just by the photos on this page. Your eyes widen, your pulse quickens and you begin to find yourself constantly thinking about that elusive little mushroom that has the potential to drive many of us mad. Mad with a passion that burns from within.
Ah yes. It’s the morel mushroom.
The dreary winter blues and long, dark nights are a thing of the past. Soon the deep, dense floor of our Michigan forests will start to spring forth with life! Daffodils, tulips, and day lilies will soon begin emerging from the complex, rich soil beneath. Cardinals and robins will begin their quest searching for mates and gathering materials for their nests and their soon-to-be hatchlings.
And that my friend, is a sign of good things to come. Every year around this time, I become consumed, or somewhat obsessed with the hunt for the morel. My family and I take time away from work, school and the constant stir of busyness and technology to hit the woods in search of that tasty little morsel.
We will walk for miles on end without hesitation or a second thought about our diligent pursuit. All the while, we enjoy each other’s company and great conversation. Our eyes glued to the ground and rolling hills around us. We gaze out ahead of us looking for that peculiar looking protrusion springing up from the ground.
Sometimes they are very evident, ready and willing to be seen and picked. But many camouflage themselves, just below the blanket of a fallen leaf or a leaning stick. More often than not, you only catch a glimpse of the glistening dampness off their cap. Or maybe just the faintest little section of the light tan color of their stems. You’re more likely to only see a portion of the hunted, and not the whole thing at any given time. This is what drives me.
This is just one of the many things that brought our family back to Michigan after a two-year move to the Carolinas. The first to appear is the Black Morel. This is my family’s favorite. It has an almost beefy, meaty like taste. The Black Morel have a tendency to grow near poplar or aspen trees in the early spring.
We like to gather enough to have a few meals while they’re fresh and then dehydrate some for storage. We also share with those who are unable to get into the woods due to disabilities, or just lack of confidence in foraging for a wild mushroom.
The next variety in line to come forth are the Gray Morels. They have a nutty, buttery flavor to them and they are not only delicious, but beautiful. The Gray Morel is associated with ash, apple, elm and wild cherry trees.
If you are lucky enough to find a good haul of these, you’ll be in Morel heaven for some time. I know a great place right around the corner from my house that produces a ton. Just ask me for specific locations … I’ll be sure to share. On the other hand, a true Morel hunter will never show his hunting grounds.
Finally, you have the Yellow/White Morel. When you discover these, you’ll know the season is winding down. That still doesn’t break my heart to pick them. This particular species still has me stumped. I’ve found them under conifer, ash, cherry, apple and aspen trees, in open fields, and in green lawns. I’ve even found this species growing out of gravel in our driveway. Now that’s weird, but convenient.
Morel Mushroom hunting is a great experience for families. Parents don’t have to worry about a kid sitting still and being quiet like when hunting big or small game. There are no lines to untangle or hooks to be baited. Just a good old-fashioned walk in the woods with loved ones. And if your lucky… a delicious reward.
“What I should like to do, Van Gogh writes to brother Theo in Paris in 1889, is to go there as an inmate patient at the end of the month or early in May…let’s try three months to start with, and we’ll see how it goes..it is very likely that I am yet to suffer much.
Vincent van Gogh self-portrait created in Saint-Remy de Provence.
Van Gogh painted the Starry Night in Saint Remy.
The landscape of St.Remy is very attractive and I shall gradually become acquainted with it.”
Vincent Van Gogh
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Saint- Remy de Provence, FR- Leaving our beloved bastide near Cheval-Blanc behind, we headed further south for Saint- Remy, a city that proudly carries Van Gogh’s heritage with its Saint-Paul asylum.
We drove through alleys of stately plane trees lined by olive and almond groves, cypresses and cornfields at the foothills of Alpilles that have all inspired the master of post- impressionism.
Saint- Remy, whipped by mistral from the Mediterranean Sea, bustled with tourists.
A large painting of Van Gogh’s self-portrait without the straw hat greets the visitors at the 18th century Hotel Estrine. Van Gogh’s museum is located inside. He created more than 150 paintings during his stay in Saint Remy.
My French granddaughter Ella, 6, immediately recognized the famous painting.
“Our teacher showed us that,” she said all excited.
The French nation has immortalized its artists and scientists with busts, sculptures, in schools, museums and gardens scattered all over the country.
However, the lively town of Saint-Remy did not partake in any of Van Gogh’s pathos, who also painted the gardens of the asylum. Hundreds of boutiques, souvenir shops, bistros and cafes vibrated with l’art de vivre, known as the art of living prevalent in France.
Throughout our stay in Provence, our ladies “international squad” sampled this l’art de vivre on every corner of the tiniest streets, in regional dishes, in gourmet cafes, and in the Provencal architecture of churches, bastides and mairies.
All French city halls carry the motto of the French revolution: liberty, equality, fraternity.
To this day, it remains a mystery to me, why the People’s House aka Lidovy Dum in downtown Vizovice, Czech Republic, has the French national motto engraved in its coat-of-arms.
After exploring local shops with Provencal herbs, yellow and blue linens, lavender soaps, perfumes and candles along with the l’Occitane line of body products, we found a reasonable restaurant on Boulevard Mirabeau.
Fashionable Bistrot des Alpilles sits on the Mirabeau loop around the medieval city with the massive Roman catholic church Collegiale Saint Martin as its anchor.
“You should try their local soup,” said daughter Emma.
Wherever my writing takes me, I always make it a point to sample the local fare and drinks. In Provence, the regional dishes feature different variations of fish soups depending on where you are. It is the royal bouillabaisse in Marseille and fish pistou in the rest of the region, ratatouille or vegetable stew accompanied by a glass of pink wine from the local caves. Desserts in France always include an assortment of cheeses or you may opt for gourmet café.
So, the entree cassoulet de poisson was a natural choice for me with a glass of the house wine, the “Lovely IGP Alpilles”, 2015.
Daughter Emma chose the lighter sweet aperitif Kir. The kids of course had the syrup –dissolved- in- water fruit concoction that I despise from my childhood years in Czechoslovakia.
As I write this, I realize that I haven’t tried the “Eau de Vie poire”, the water of life pear liquor or the pastis.
“It’s nasty,” Emma said about the pastis liquor made from licorice.
At the adjacent newsstand, I bought “Van Gogh in Provence” English Edition booklet with photos of major paintings created during the master’s stay in Arles and Saint-Remy.
As we embarked on the long road up north back to Fixin, we got stuck in the traffic jam, called “bouchon” in France due to the returning vacationers from the Mediterranean resorts.
“They all go for their vacation at the same time to the Med,” Emma said. “They use the only highway that goes from north to south, the A7.”
But being stuck in a “bouchon” in France is not necessarily a bad thing, because it’s another opportunity for more sight- seeing and treats for the palate. We stepped out at the Aire- de- Montelimar rest stop and I bought the real French white nougat with hazelnuts, the local specialty from Montelimar. At first Ella refused to taste the nougat.
“I don’t eat that.”
“Ella, you’re like an old person,” I laughed. “Don’t be afraid to try something new.”
“It’s delicious,” she said.
In the Lyon “bouchon” I admired the renaissance buildings on the banks of the river Rhone, reminiscent of the Prague riverside on Vltava. Emma pointed out the Museum of Confluence built on a peninsula in the river, where the Saone meets the Rhone.
“I love being stuck in traffic,” said sarcastically our driver Selene. “Give me some coke, please.”
Hundreds of cars stood still on the major Paris bound thoroughfare going through downtown Lyon, pop. 2.2 million. Only the colorful trams crossing the bridges and the boats navigating the Rhone were moving.
To the right, I noticed a girl waterboarding on the massive turquoise-colored river that originates from the Rhone glacier in the Swiss Alps.
The boat pulling the girl was full of young people having the time of their lives, while the nervous drivers drummed their fingers on the steering wheels. We were melting in the late afternoon heat in front of the tunnel.
Thanks to the obsolete infrastructure in Lyon dating back to the advancement of the automobile, I finished reading the Van Gogh booklet intended for the transatlantic flight home to Chicago. Two hours later, the youngsters were still waterboarding on the Rhone.
“Thank you Lyon, Mr. Van Gogh and Doc Emma for great entertainment, as always.”
Notable mention for Van Gogh lovers:
Van Gogh in Europe
The Estrine Museum in Saint-Remy de Provence is part of Van Gogh Europe, a vast European project associating places and museums concerned with the life and work of the painter.
The objectives of the Partners of Van Gogh Europe are to value the life and works of art by Vincent van Gogh by developing cultural, educational and touristic projects of the highest quality.
Hastings, MI- In the spirit of the original Octoberfest that honored the marriage of crown prince Ludwig and princess of Saxony on Oct. 12, 1810, we invite all along to celebrate our upcoming international union.
Jakub Pala, born in former Czechoslovakia, will be marrying Maranda Ruegsegger of Saranac on Oct. 25th in the pioneer Saint Patrick Church in Parnell.
The guests, like birds, started to fly in to Gerald Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids as of yesterday. The first batch came from Dijon, France.
The second batch is arriving tonight from Czech Republic. The house will be full to the rafters with kids tweeting like the birdies on the patio.
To honor the international bond between the countries as well as between the couple, we are putting on a “Welcome dinner” celebration this Sunday. This is preceded by the baptism of Samuel Chavent, also at the Saint Patrick Church.
The dinner, catered by AdelineLeigh, reflects our love for our new homeland. We also wanted to introduce our Czech guests to American cuisine. So, barbeque is the theme: bbq chicken, bbq pork, au gratin potatoes, seven layer salad and baked beans. And of course a keg of Samuel Adams Boston lager.
Much like in Germany, home to Octoberfest, and Austria, no Czech celebration would be complete without beer. Most beers in these countries are high-quality and long-aged lagers made from Western Bohemian hops in small to mid-size breweries.
Czech immigrants carried this tradition with them to other countries.
“Beer is the Czech liquid gold,” according to an old saying.
However, communication between the Czech, American and French guests may be a challenge. So, many of us will serve as interpreters between the three different languages.
Pala, fully bilingual, hopes that his daughter Josephine Marie Palova will speak Czech as well.
“He speaks and reads to her in Czech,” said Maranda.
Pala is very proud of his Czech heritage. He came to the USA when he was 2.5 years old. During our stint in Montreal, Canada in the 1990s all of us were trilingual.
“You’re as many persons as the languages you speak,” according to an old Czech saying.
Follow us on our journey to the international wedding.
I will soon be opening a brand new virtual storefront on all Emma Blogs. I will feature Czech-inspired products such as the Palinka (r) line of canned products.
The products such as the sweet and sour dill pickles are all home-made from an old family pickling recipe. The secret recipe has been handed down from generation to generation.
My mother Ella Konecny pictured in the featured photo started canning in the USA during her second immigration in the late 1970s. She didn’t like the sour taste of American pickles or the color.
She would stand up and imitate our grandpa Joseph making a grimace from the sour taste.
“See they twist your mouth,” she said. “We have to start making our own.”
Ella most likely learned how to can from her own mother Anna.
Mom and dad still grow their own cucumbers for pickling. But the weather hasn’t been great for pickles. Ella is also the woman behind the brand name “Palinka.”
My husband Ludek and I are the third generation canning these goodies in our outdoors kitchen.designed for this purpose. Because as the Czech saying goes, “Be prepared to answer when winter asks you what you did in the summer.”
We use only fresh pickling cucumbers sorted by size and cut to the favorite spears, slices or whole. We can other vegetables like red beets and gardiniera mix.
We also make salsa and marinara sauces with either Merlot and basil or Cabernet-Sauvignon with garlic, as well as barrel-aged sauerkraut.
We plan to add more products in the future.
I will also present my blog design and writing services in an app Emma Blogs format coming soon.
Let me know what you would like to see in this big marketplace by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or you can comment on any of the sites of Emma Blogs. These are: