Spring Rain

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

a few seconds, we watched the creek burst through the canebrake where the otters live and spread over the floodplain on the opposite bank. Soon the wild brown water carried huge trees and odd items of farm equipment.

Inspired by the Missouri Department of Conservation Stream Team program, we've been working to protect and improve the stream corridor on our land. I've planted more than 100 saplings of native witch hazel, false indigo, spicebush, buttonbush, chokecherry and water tupelo along the creek bank. I wondered if they'd be able to hang on through the flood.

The water rose quickly that morning but stopped within feet of our door. By 7 p.m., the sun broke through and offered what seemed a magical light, though an ominous black cloud lingered in the sky.

We rescued a bluebird that had flown into the woodstove flue for protection. The water introduces us to all kinds of wildlife. We've spotted snapping turtles basking on old logs or rummaging along the bottom, nearly transparent minnows flocking in the shallows, flamboyant kingfishers, lumbering muskrats and shy river otters.

That glistening evening a grandiose lime-green luna moth decorated our door, along with a gray tree frog that was probably awaiting insects drawn to the outside light. The frog's camouflage did not work well against the cedar logs. We spotted a Baltimore oriole with its flaming-orange chest and a rose-breasted grosbeak at the feeders. They had just arrived to scout the land for the females that would be following.

During a lull in the rain, we walked our woodland trails and enjoyed the brilliance of newly washed wild plants. The pokeweed looked so fresh that we picked some for supper. You have to boil the leaves in three changes of water, but they make a delicious "spinach" on pasta with a little cheese.

Spring is best time for fresh wild greens. I'm learning to identify the edibles and am experimenting with including them in meals. A wild leaf salad of chickweed, young dandelion, plantain and violet leaves decorated with white, yellow and blue violet flowers and dark-pink redbud flowers looks and tastes astonishing.

When the warm rains come, everyone's attention turns to edible morel mushrooms. My husband is fascinated by all the fungi that grows here. Some mushrooms are toxic, so I advise him not to eat anything unless a local expert approves it.

When we first came to Missouri, the book "Searching for Booger County," by

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