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 – I was born with history in my blood in the wee hours on Victory Day, May 9th to the cracking of the fireworks and the fragrance of the blossoming lilacs.
Before the semantics & politics of the new regime, May 9th was the national holiday in my homeland of Czech Republic.
Every year, on this day, my mother Ella lovingly says this sentence:
“I thought they were bombing, but the country was celebrating your birthday. The entire earth blossoms for you.”
Now, my mom Ella is not exactly the most humble person. She loves to show off. She takes that after Grandpa Joseph of Vizovice.
Annually, the country celebrates the anniversary of its freedom from the Nazi occupation in 1945. The holiday has been moved to May 8th based on the age-old dispute, “Who was first, the chicken or the egg?” That is the dispute over which army freed former Czechoslovakia first.
Was it the Soviet or the American army?
The Soviets freed the capital Prague on May 9th, while the Americans freed Plzen in West Bohemia on May 8th. Maybe, the switch was due to the fact that Plzen is home to the famous brewery, Pilsner.
The country boasts its love for beer, and often takes first place in consumption between the top beer consuming trio of Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
However, in our immigration hearts, the holiday will always be on May 9th, even though we love Czech Pilsner.
So, by default, the love for history has been circulating in my blood from the first day of birth.
Our immigration Konecny saga started with the infamous occupation of the country by the Soviets in the Prague Spring of 1968. The era of hardline communism ensued after the invasion for decades to come under President Gustav Husak.
I am also the child of the 1989 Velvet Revolution led by my hero, late president Vaclav Havel who was part of the Prague Spring 1968 reformation movement.
I can trace the origins of my writing to that tumultuous time in our lives.
My paternal grandpa Antonin was the keeper of the “Chronicles of the Stipa JZD” which was the Stipa Agricultural Cooperative, while my late Aunt Martha secretly worked on the Konecny family genealogy. My grandma Anezka was a first grade teacher at ZDS Stipa and a poet.
“You can’t deny genes,” said Martha’s colleague Mrs. Fickova at the funeral wake on Jan. 11th held at the Stipa Senk.
After Aunt Martha’s death on January 7th, 2017, I started the Facebook page Ancestry Konecny on:
Every morning before I start writing, I check social media for inspiration and to get a feeling for the day.
I made me a cup of French Roast coffee and smelled the bouquet of lilacs from our gardens on the ranch. It took 20 years for the fragrant shrubs to come to their full beauty. Not quite like the historical ones on my beloved Mackinac Island, but they’re getting there.
Yesterday, my husband Ludek and I feared for the budding wisteria because of the early morning frost. We had to put out the fan to keep the wisteria, sprawling on the octagon pergola, warm.
Then, as always I gather my thoughts based on analyzing the previous day, and what I have learned from it, that is worth bringing into the future. I always remember the socialist propaganda, “Tomorrow is already yesterday.”
I pinned to the top, “Spring into the Past” museum tour 2017 organized by the Tri-River Historical Museum Network on the new museum page.
I also made sure that the 23rd annual Covered Bridge Bike Tour in Fallasburg is correctly dated for Sunday July 9th.
I looked in the mirror, after finishing most of this post, and I realized I am very fortunate, and that any victory comes at a price. I’ve come to that conclusion not from the image that I see, but by the person I reflect in my writings.
I have a head full of graying hair, a happy smile on my face, a caring husband and family, hundreds of fans and well-wishers from all over the world, and the determination of a Taurus.
My short story collection “Shifting Sands” is ready for June 1st publication on kindle and Amazon.
And speaking about karma or karmic energy.
My friends from the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) Tina Siciliano Cadwallader and Tracy Worthington are planning a book signing event for the “Shifting Sands” fiction short story collection at the Fallasburg one-room schoolhouse museum on June 25th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
I’ve just found out that mom Ella is going to bake a cake for the book signing. And I have received tulips and irises from Doc Em, based in Fixin, France, and a video from Josephine & Dominik Pala of Hastings.
Life is good. As Doc Em says:
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
Everyone is invited to Fallasburg on June 25. Come and enjoy the beautiful Fallasburg Park, the pioneer village, the history and mom’s cake.
With this post, I would like to thank everyone for all the support over the years, especially my neighbor Catherine. Because only Catherine knows who I really am.
“You make me who I am.”
Lowell, May 9th 2017
Copyright (c) 2017 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
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.