The Ides of March

by: EJ on 03/15/2016
Posted in: Food , Gardening , Guest Posts

Today's blog is written by David Sewak, co-author of Mycelial Mayhem: Growing Mushrooms for Fun, Profit and Companion Planting, just recently off press and selling like hot cakes!

 “Beware the Ides of March”-Brutus to Caesar From Shakespeare’s Caesar


What the heck is the “Ides of March” anyway?  Sure, Billy Shakespeare made it famous in his play, but the historian in me always has to search deeper.  In short, the old Roman calendar only had 10 months in it, and each had three phases of the moon.  The phases were: Kal-the new moon, Non-the first quarter, and Id-the full moon.  The Roman calendar started with March, so the first full moon of the New Year was termed the Ides of March.  Romans being Romans, there was a party for a happy and prosperous year! Somewhere along the line it became more of a foreboding then a rip-roaring party along Tiber River-if you’re interested and want the chills, read to the end!

 March as the start of the year sure makes sense to me.  Usually mid-March is when we really get back out and about! This is the time of the year when I always walk my garden, envisioning what and where I’ll plant.  This is also the time of the year when turkeys gobble, grouse drum, crocus pop up, little black-stone flies come off, and mycophiles start dreaming of bags full of morels!
“While we had some success wild gathering morels, they are more fickle than any cat ever put on this Earth, but that is part of their charm and mystique! Pg. 46 “Mycelial Mayhem”


Morel mushrooms (photo credit: Sharon)

Spring equals morels to any mushroom hunter.  Morel hunting is the first big event of the year and probably the most sought after mushroom, to boot.  Morels have a mystique to them like no other North American mushroom. I could write tales about the time I filled grocery bags (paper of course) in a small vale in southwestern Virginia.  The mushrooms were about 150 yards up, with a couple of apple trees at the top and a spring coming from the base of one of the trees.  The little area was spongy, and the apple trees stood guard.  The morels were as thick as any I have ever seen.  I could also talk about the time I hunted and hunted in an area I just “knew” had to have morels.  Hours later, while walking back to the truck, no more than 25 feet from the truck stood seven wrinkled sentries, big yellowish morels, some of the biggest, but just seven. There are also the fruitless forays, the one in the middle of the railroad tracks (didn’t eat that one) and the fruitful foray on a little hillside that held a couple of baskets full of small beautiful morels……right along a popular rail trail and trailhead!
Morels have such a mystique that I believe a whole book could be written just about their names in different areas of the country. My brother-in-law Jody and I have laughed for hours about names and stories we have heard.  It always started slow like “Land-cod” and, in a rapid fire call and response “Hickory Chickens” ,”Spring’s Wrinkles”, “Orchard nuggets”, as many as we could rattle off. This was always followed by the surefire ways to find them, which always broke down to the goofiest we could come up with based on what we have heard.  This no-fail surefire way  was : “When lilac leaves are the size of mouse ears, after the shad had run, a lightning storm the night before, and a turkey gobbles three times,  then on a northwest slope around Elm (other trees can suffice), with a lot of moss, and some bear-scarred bark, you will find morels.”
We would love to hear your stories from this spring, where you found them -- generic of course, not "lat and long" stuff, pictures, the funniest name you have heard them called, or the funniest sure-fire way to find them.  Wishing all of our mushroom sisters and brothers a great morel season! 
Now the creepy part! So why, aside from Billy Shakespeare’s famous line, has March 15th “The Ides of March” had such an ominous and foreboding meaning?  
Here are a couple of reasons:

  • Julius Caesar was killed on March 15th at age 55 on the senate floor by Brutus (not Popeye’s nemesis!)
  • Czar Nicholas II abdicated his throne in 1917, thus ending 304 years of Romanov rule and ushering in Bolshevik/Communist rule.  Poor Anastasia!
  • Nazi Germany occupies the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939.
  • In 1941, a blizzard struck the Northern Plains, killing sixty people in North Dakota and Minnesota, and our northern neighbors in Canada lost 6.
  • In 1952, on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, the world record rain fell: 73.62” in a 24 hour period!
  • In 1971, the 23 year run of the “Ed Sullivan Show” came to an end. This is the show that introduced the Beatles and had appearances by The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Muppets, Santana, Rodney Dangerfield, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Janis Joplin, George Carlin, Elvis, Creedance Clearwater Revival, BB King, and Jefferson Airplane (and those are just the artists that I like!)  Too bad they don’t make shows like that anymore, maybe I’d watch more TV!

Hope this list doesn’t creep you out and you stay in on March 15th, The Ides of March. I hope it finds you out and about!
We would love to hear your Ides of March stories and see your pictures from your morel forays!





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