I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle in the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay;
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
By William Wordsworth

When we are tired and somewhat depressed with cold, gloomy weather, look at the daffodils. In spite of inclement weather, they stand straight and tall, defying the cold rain and scattered snowflakes. Their cheery yellow blossoms shine on a cloudy day and gives us hope that brighter days are coming.
Winter weather has returned and made another underhanded swipe at our hills, leaving cold rain, snow flurries and freezing temperatures in his wake. We are longing for spring’s return, but she seems to be lingering in the wings, waiting perhaps for winter to truly depart.

Flowering trees are not discouraged, as the pure white Bradford pear trees are blooming bountifully, and flowering crab apple trees stand out in pink glory. Yellow daffodils march in orderly fashion up hill and down, and border walkways and lawns.

Dainty April makes her appearance with showers and the promise of May flowers. We who dwell in the hills are so blessed to be able to witness the miracle of spring. Our children also are close to nature, and that in turn makes us closer to God. How can we view the swelling buds on the lilac bush, hear the cardinal burst into his song of praise, feel the warming rays of the sun upon our faces, and not be aware of a great and loving Father who made all of this?

Spring really is on the verge of appearing, as the weeping willow tree has a greenish-yellow glow about its drooping limbs. At the first faint sign of spring, Patty gets morel mushroom fever and begins hunting for them. The day before the first official day of spring, she found six little ones. A few days later, she and Bob found 16 more. Then a couple of days ago, they went foraging and found 64 of these gourmet-fare mushrooms.

Bob did remark that there were still patches of snow here and there, but the mushrooms were a nice size and quite tasty. We have always called them “merkles” and some folks call them “Molly Moochers” or “muggles.” No matter what they are called, they are the most delicious wild mushroom in the woods.
I’ve been asked where we find these elusive mushrooms. They are found in rich, woodsy places, in old apple orchards, and around poplar and other trees. As for a specific place, most morel hunters have a secret patch that is as well-guarded as a moonshine still.

One time Criss offered to take me to his secret merkle patch. I’m not sure if he took a roundabout route so I could never find it on my own or not. It would take a compass and a detailed map to find it again. In any case, he has no worries—if I ever go there again wild hogs will have to drag me. On second thought, there probably were wild hogs lurking about.

I should have been warned right in the beginning when he had to hunt for ten minutes for a crack big enough for me to enter his wilderness. It must have been Br’er Rabbit’s brier patch, for it was practically impenetrable. I don’t think the foot of man had trod that patch of woods since the Indians flitted through the forest. Criss was foraging on ahead with his eyes on the ground, searching for the elusive merkle.

I was concentrating on clawing my way through the tangle of briers and vines that were determined to prevent my progress. Criss called back cheerily, “Are you coming along OK?” “Oh, fine,” I muttered, as I tried to detach a greenbrier from the top of my head. A multiflora rose vine grabbed me in the back, and a vicious blackberry vine wound around my legs.

“Are you looking for mushrooms?” he asked accusingly. Looking for mushrooms?—I was intent on survival. I couldn’t have picked one if a morel as big as a gallon jug suddenly sprouted at my feet.

He spotted a little clearing about two feet wide and four feet long. “You can look there where it is clear,” he offered. I just wondered if it was big enough to lie down and die in. My arms were bleeding, my legs were scratched and torn, and one pesky brier had punctured the end of my nose. I finally spotted a way out and gladly left his merkle patch for good.

We are waiting for our first mess of ramps—it’s just not springtime without them. Andy is planning a trip to Williams River in a few days with his sons Benji, Joseph, and Nicholas. In spite of their bad reputation, young, tender ramps are delicious. With wild greens, merkles, ramps and sassafras tea, who could wish for more?

We got a call from Ollie Price of Elkview, who says she has made the Black Magic Chocolate Cake for many years. In fact, she found it on the side of the cocoa box and kept the recipe. She gave us a recipe for the icing she uses on it. While the cake is hot and still in the pan, she punches holes in it and pours this mixture over it.

Mix two cups of sugar, one half cup of powdered cocoa, and one fourth cup of cream in a sauce pan. Cook over low heat for four to five minutes; add one teaspoon vanilla and one tablespoon of butter. Mix well, and pour over cake while hot.

Here is a cheerful thought—it’s country lore that it must snow on the sarvis bloom before spring can come. My niece’s husband, Tony Basham, reports that sarvis is blooming in Raleigh County—and it is bound to have snow on it now!

Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published.

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer