• Last modified 368 days ago (May 18, 2023)


FRESH PERSPECTIVE: Animal, vegetable, and mineral all delight writer

Staff writer

My already outsized heart grew three sizes recently because of cool experiences in Marion and Douglas counties.

First, Barbara Tajchman wrote to me after my last column to let me know the names of the miniature donkey and horse I visit as often as I can at Marion County Park and Lake. They belong to her daughter’s family.

The donkey is Patrick, and the horse is Doc.

After making sure it was OK for me to continue to love on them, I set out Thursday for a quick lunch break at the lake. They were in their barn when I arrived, but they came running — well, jogging — toward me when I used their names to holler at them.

Doc especially seemed more comfortable with me now that I knew his name. Patrick, I’m happy to say, took to me right away.

Spending time with them brings me joy and peace. I keep joking with my husband that I’m going to “borrow” a calf on my drive home on Sunflower Rd. one of these days, but we both have decided that cattle rustling probably isn’t a great idea.

Mushroom mission

For my first five years of life, I lived with my parents in a trailer in a tiny Iowa town. Outdoor activities were our entertainment, and hunting morel mushrooms with them is a cherished childhood memory.

I hadn’t eaten morels for decades.

My friend and former Lawrence Journal-World colleague, photographer Richard Gwin, has a knack for finding them where he lives outside Lawrence. He’s also a great cook, and his posts of endless recipes using morels were killing me.

He agreed to sell me some, so I headed up to Lawrence to pick them up and say howdy to the city that made me who I am.

Unfortunately, because my busy schedule that week that kept me in Marion, I didn’t get to bring a share of the morels to my 85-year-old mom. My husband dropped them off to her along with ingredients she’d need to cook them. (She, like me, doesn’t cook, and I knew she wouldn’t have what she needed.)

That I missed out on surprising her with morels made me a little sad, but she called me early the next morning to say she’d devoured them. She was about as happy as she is when Josh makes her favorite pie, custard.

My guess is morels are plentiful in Marion County, so even though the season is over, please let me know if you know good places to go hunting for them. I promise to share — the morels, that is, not the ticks.

Storytelling with stones

One of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs is “Suzanne,” which features this line: “He sank beneath her wisdom like a stone.”

I don’t know whether that’s why I love limestone buildings as much as I do, but I suppose it could be.

OK, OK, OK: I know limestone is not a mineral, but come on, give me some artistic license.

The J.K. Williams homestead auction near Florence gave me an opportunity to ooh and aah over a limestone wall and several outbuildings. I imagined who quarried the stones, who built the wall, who put up the smokehouse.

Tammy Ensey, who bought the property with her husband, has promised to let me see the stone buildings up close, and I’m going to hold her to that.

On Saturday, I “discovered” two gorgeous limestone homes I hadn’t seen before on W. 8th St. in Florence.

One is quite ornate. The other, next door, is quite simple. I prefer the latter — apparently owned by a woman who lives in Texas, my detective work indicates — but I’d be delightfully happy to own either one. Neither fit my mid-century modern architectural preference, but there’s something about stone barns and homes that speaks to my soul.

I stop to take photos of them any time I’m out on an assignment. I especially photograph those that have tumbled to the ground on which they were built.

I wish I could find the tiniest stone home to buy for my overnight stays in Marion County and hole up in to work on the book I’m writing, but so far, no luck.

You can’t always get what you want, I hear.

Last modified May 18, 2023