Tag Archives: season

The Morel of the Story

April 5, 2017 by
Photography by Doug Meigs
Illustration by Mady Besch

Morel-mania usually begins around mid-to-late April. Inconsistent Midwestern weather prevents forecasting the exact start of morel mushroom season year-to-year.

Morel (aka morchella) mushrooms begin to flush en masse when spring rains alternate with patches of sunshine atop warming ground temperatures.

Morels are distinctive and easy to identify, with their porous and sponge-like brownish heads atop tan/white stems. Their caps might also be described as honeycombed and cone-shaped; they come in grey (smaller) and yellow (larger) varieties.

Foodies covet the delicious morsels of fungal delight. Morels are known for a unique nutty flavor. Popular recipes include: battered and deep-fried, scrambled with eggs, used as garnish, or dried for later consumption.

As a general rule, the morel season coincides with the blooming of lilacs. Morels also return to the same place every year—if their mycelium underground remains healthy. That means avid mushroom hunters often keep their favorite spots a secret.

If you see one morel, stop. Slow down and scan the ground. They grow in clusters. Morels hide in the deep woods, near the bases of old-growth trees, overturned trunks, and decomposing vegetation. They pop from grassy areas, near the banks of rivers, and on hillsides.

Along with monitoring lilac bushes, paying attention to the weather forecast helps foragers to prepare for morel season. Be ready for periods of sudden downpours of rain combined with warm daytime temperatures (70 degrees or more) and nights that linger above 40 degrees for at least four days in a row.

If you anticipate a sunny day following a torrential spring downpour, get ready. Put on your rain jacket, and rush to your favorite mushrooming spot as soon as the rains lift.

Grab some good mud boots (or old sneakers), and make sure you have a mesh bag that allows the mushrooms’ spores to escape and spread. Local outdoors shops sell mesh bags for morels. Onion or potato sacks from the grocery store also work well.

If you’ve never been mushroom hunting, it’s time to start begging friends to show you how. Or, do a little research and go explore any publicly accessible backwoods along local rivers.

There are several popular local destinations for morel hunters. But any densely vegetated public land (with plenty of overturned trees) along the Missouri River or Platte River could yield a plentiful haul of morels. That is, if the area hasn’t been picked over already.

The website morels.com hosts a useful and interesting Nebraska forum. Other useful resources can be found at thegreatmorel.com, morelhunters.com, and the “Nebraska Morels” Facebook group.

Beware of gun-toting hunters in the woods. Morel season corresponds with the spring turkey hunting season. Also, avoid trespassing. Common courtesy (and the law) necessitates seeking permission to hunt for mushrooms on private property.

Remember that wild mushrooms can be deadly. Only pick and cook mushrooms you can identify with complete confidence. Search online for “false morels” and make sure you can tell the difference. False morels are poisonous.

In 2016, the website of Nebraska Game and Parks maintained weekly morel reports from April 13 through May 11. The Game and Parks website also provides tips for locating morels, and even suggests a few popular mushroom hunting grounds.

Proactive scouting is a good strategy—if only to monitor the human traffic in the woods. The morel season around Omaha usually only lasts from two to four weeks, depending on weather conditions. Sometimes the peak of the season takes place in May.

Evidence of over-picked stems and decaying mushrooms indicate that the morel season is well progressed.

Remember: if you share a mushroom hunting spot with a “friend,” there is a very good chance they will tell someone else. Then, all those other folks might just go pick all the morels while you’re stuck at work, in school, or caught in some other less fulfilling endeavor.

Heed the moral of this morel story. When the lilacs bloom, somebody is probably picking over your favorite morel grounds. So, if you’ve got a good spot, consider keeping it a secret.

Visit outdoornebraska.gov/morel for more information.

Morel Mushroom Hunting Sites

Suggested by Nebraska Game and Parks:

Public areas near rivers:

  • Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
  • Indian Cave State Park
  • Louisville State Recreation Area
  • Platte River State Park
  • Schramm Park State Recreation Area
  • Two Rivers State Recreation Area

Old-growth forests and creeks at:

  • Branched Oak State Recreation Area
  • Burchard Wildlife Management Area
  • Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area
  • Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area
  • Twin Lakes Wildlife Management Area
  • Yellow Banks Wildlife Management Area

 

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Be Our Guest

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“They tell me, it’s up to you to change things out. We trust you.” Alex Ostblom, a landscape designer for Lanoha Nurseries, strolls across a newly transformed Westside lawn, naming flowers off the top of his head. Impatiens, begonias, mandevilla, and sweet alyssum are planted in great swaths of color, sweeping along sidewalk, driveway, and around to a brand-new back yard. Guests to the remodeled home might never suspect what the place looked like just a few months earlier.

Ostblom explains that the homeowners wanted a lawn that matched their refinished house’s new capabilities: to blend in with the rest of the stately neighborhood and to provide a perfect space to entertain family members and close friends. “Other than that,” he says, “they didn’t have too many particulars.” So Ostblom let his creativity loose, beginning the design process in March and construction in May. The entire project was completed by June 15.

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The first order of business was to redesign an unsightly retaining wall that led around the north of the house to the back yard. Originally made of concrete block, the five-foot wall created a tight alley between the house and a small mountain of unusable back yard. Its considerable height so close to the back of the house blocked off half of the dining and living room windows. A cramped patio made a stab at bringing hospitality to the space.

To simultaneously create a much less imposing wall while also making the yard itself usable, Ostblom removed tons of dirt to create tiers of lawn that allowed him to install a limestone wall less than two feet tall. The limestone complements colors in the house and can actually be found in the landscaping of nearby homes, bringing the property more into the neighborhood’s fold. Large blocks of the limestone accent the front and back yard, “giving the grandkids something to climb around on,” Ostblom points out.

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Thanks to the greatly shortened wall, guests in the dining and living rooms can enjoy a panorama of seasonal annuals (“One of the owners just loves lots of color,” Ostblom says), a rose cutting garden, and mature evergreens. “They wanted everything to look like it’d been there for years,” Ostblom says, so Lanoha Nurseries set field-grown spruce and conifers in place with machinery. “That’s a one-time deal,” he explains. “If the trees don’t take to this well, we can’t get the equipment back in here to put in more of that size.” So he’s monitoring their progress closely, already eyeing some barely noticeable brown needles on a spruce. “That one might be under stress from over watering.”

Frequent entertainment of friends and family meant the homeowners needed a large, welcoming space. In particular, they wanted a gas fire pit large enough where several people could comfortably gather. The idea of an L-shaped outdoor kitchen was tossed around, but the couple decided instead to place a simple grill out of sight around the home’s south corner to ensure that the fire pit remained their outdoor gathering place. A gas line leads from the house to the grill; no empty propane cans here.

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Ostblom notes that establishing such a mature landscape within six weeks calls for careful attention to how light will change over the seasons. Most of the yard is in at least partial shade, particularly in the front yard and to the north. To the northeast and east, the yard transitions into full sun. To cope with the variety of landscape elements (varying light, drainage, and plants with differing needs), Ostblom says he redesigned the home’s irrigation entirely. “They have turf, trees, annuals…it all requires different watering.” To facilitate easy maintenance by Lanoha Nurseries without disturbing the homeowners, Ostblom had the irrigation clock moved from inside the garage to just inside the gate in the backyard.

“I visit about once a month,” he says, though he admits he makes the rounds in the neighborhood frequently, checking in on this and other landscaping projects for any signs of trouble. “Communication. That’s the biggest part in making sure it all looks amazing.”

Follow a Craft Beer Calendar

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To many, reaching for a beer is a pretty simple affair—grabbing whatever is on sale or sits on top in the cooler. But I’m not here to advocate for simplicity when it comes to your choice of beverage. Putting some timely thought behind your selection can pay some great dividends!

As I write this, the sun is shining, the temperatures are finally rising, and the desire to get outdoors is overpowering. Just as certain craft beers pair beautifully with particular foods, so too do the myriad styles of craft beer find select pairings with the seasons, hence, the phrase “seasonal beers.”

Seasonal beers offer their peak appeal within a particular time of year. Certain styles have become the norm for the type of activities people find themselves involved in or the type of weather they’re experiencing. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Darker, maltier styles are well-suited to the colder months due to their more filling and higher alcoholic nature, for example; thus, they are popular in the fall and winter.

But we’re now several weeks into spring, so which craft beers marry well with springtime? Spring seasonals tend to have a straw or golden color, a lively effervescence, and a bitterness rate geared toward quenching a growing thirst.

Pale ales, “smaller” IPAs (just a bit bigger in stature than pale ales), and wheat beer styles are perfectly suited to the warming temperatures and activities of springtime. And like good wine, beers also have many intriguing variations and tilts on a style that will keep you entertained throughout the season. You need not chose just one seasonal option—you can find several you enjoy!

One of my personal favorites is wheat beer—American, German, Belgian—and with brews from so many little regions within these countries, the list is quite long. Wheat beers are generally made with 50 percent wheat/50 percent malted barley. Most are cloudy in nature due to the yeast and proteins left in suspension because of a deliberate lack of filtration. Differences emerge in the artistry of the brewer. American wheats are fairly straightforward, less challenging, or possibly a bit less entertaining, while the German wheats can be hugely effervescent and possess a nose bursting with banana, clove, and vanilla. There are many variations within the German ranks, but as I’m here to guide you, I’ll send you right to an immensely pleasing German Hefeweizen (pronounced “hefay veitzen”).

Most area grocery or bottle stores carry a nice selection of seasonal craft beers, and the local brewers either have one on tap year-round or are just gearing up for the seasonal change. This is one of the easiest times of the year to make your own personal-best seasonal choice.

Now, get out there and try a few!

Keep Your Lawn Sprinkler System Running Efficiently

Just because you have a sprinkler system doesn’t mean it is being utilized properly. Oftentimes, the controller is set incorrectly by the previous homeowner, the lawn guy, the genius father-in-law, or even worse, the know-it-all neighbor. Depending on the season, it needs to be reprogrammed on a regular basis.

We suggest watering 1-2 times per week in the spring and fall for 25 minutes per station on the smaller pop-up spray heads, and 45-50 minutes per station on the larger rotor heads. This will give your lawn approximately one-half inch of water every time you run it. In the summer, it may be necessary to water 3-5 days per week depending on the weather conditions. Avoid the method of watering every day for 10-15 minutes per station. Short, frequent watering will promote a shallow root system and damage your lawn’s ability to withstand heat, drought, insects, and fungus.

Another common problem we see on our service route is dry patches along the edges of the turf. We suggest watering beyond the edge of the grass and onto the concrete at least 12-24” to cool the concrete and allow for the wind. Many people get too concerned about “wasting” water and watching it run down the sidewalk or drive. However, in order to get the edges properly watered, this is a necessary evil. After all, the concrete gets wet when it rains, right? As your landscape matures and your lawn area changes, the sprinkler heads need to be adjusted or moved to prevent blockage from plants and trees. I can’t tell you how many dry spots we see that are caused by a shrub or tree that has grown over the top of a sprinkler head. Oftentimes, the system is running in the middle of the night, and the owner is unaware of the problem.

Finally, check your system visually a few times a year or have a licensed contractor check it for you. Most irrigation companies in the metro have good techs that can spot and repair potential problems. You can expect to pay $60-90 for an hour’s work, but the pro can do in an hour what the amateur lawn guy can do in three hours. Don’t waste your money on the lawn guy who says he can fix it. Most likely, he doesn’t have the parts inventory with him, or the know-how to resolve the problem. We don’t mow lawns, trim shrubs, and spray trees. We fix sprinklers! Have a professional do the job correctly the first time and enjoy your beautiful lawn.

For more information on Controlled Rain Irrigation or to schedule service, visit controlledrainirrigation.com.

Here Comes the Bride

March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Just as April marks the arrival of springtime, so, too, does it signal the beginning of wedding season—typically viewed as mid-April through mid-October—and the onset of “wedding fever” for many excited soon-to-be and wanna-be brides.

Regardless of whether your nuptials are a year away or far off in the distance, wedding season is a great time to attend Omaha bridal fairs and visit bridal boutiques, floral shops, and other wedding businesses in the metro and start making a list of all your must-haves for your special day. After all, creating your dream wedding takes time and planning—why not get started now?

To celebrate wedding season, we’re spotlighting three metro businesses that provide distinctive products and services for Omaha brides: gown boutique, Rhylan Lang; accessories vendor, Inez Gill; and floral service, Flowers for Special Occasions. All three are owned by local, young women who are not only on top of national trends, but in fact are leading the way in the Midwest with unique, high-end wedding fashions and accessories.

Rhylan Lang

The goal of upscale bridal boutique, Rhylan Lang, is simple—to make sure that each bride leaves with a dress that is as amazing as the memories created. “Every dress in the store is made from silk fabrics,” says owner Tracy Ponec, 29, of her unique collection. “If there is beading, it is Swarovski. If there is lace, it has intricate details. I want brides to be able to tell the difference in quality.”

Ponec, who has a joint degree in textiles and journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been working in the wedding gown industry for nine years. “In college, I [did] bridal alterations,” she says. “I never thought I was going to make a career out of it.”

After graduating, she moved to Kansas City. “I had done a few internships that were more in-line with fashion-related public relations, but there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for that in the Midwest.” But with years of bridal alterations experience on her résumé, she took a shot and applied to the highest-end bridal salon in Kansas City, even though they weren’t hiring. Of course, she got hired. She even had the opportunity to do some professional training in New York with bridal design teams for Vera Wang and Reem Acra. “The owner [of the salon] and I made a great team. I learned so much from him. A few months in, he told me he thought I was born to do this.”20130227_bs_7349 copy

When Ponec returned to Nebraska, she saw the bridal market with new eyes. “Knowing how many of my brides in Kansas City were from Omaha, it was pretty obvious there was something missing for these brides in the Nebraska market.” She worked a bridal position for a short time but then decided it was time to bring her vision to life. A few years later with a business plan in hand, Ponec opened Rhylan Lang.

The name “Rhylan Lang” is actually a play on Ponec’s maiden name, Rhylander. “There is part of me in the name, but [the brand] isn’t about me. It’s about the brides,” she says. Because she cares about her brides, Ponec wanted her gown collection—which starts at a range of $1,600 to $6,000—to be exclusive in the state. From there, it was important to that the dresses were the highest quality fabrics and finishes available at each price point.

“During an appointment, a professional stylist will help select gowns from our inventory based on what a bride is looking for and their budget. The experience here is more intimate and far less chaotic than brides are used to. It’s a pleasant change for those that have been shopping a lot.”

For more information, visit rhylanlang.com or call 402-933-3510.

Inez Gill

Courtney Zurcher, 24, got the itch to start her own accessories business after making scarves for her family and friends. Today, she is the owner and designer at her accessories business, Inez Gill. Since starting Inez Gill, Zurcher’s accessories have been featured in Omaha’s Wedding Essentials and on Daily Candy, an e-mail newsletter and website devoted to what’s new and hot. She’s even designing accessories for the Daily Candy editor’s wedding.

“Inez Gill actually came from a combination of family names,” she explains of her business’ name. “My grandfather’s mom, Inez, was the kind of woman who just painted everything. She even painted the fridge once. She was very eccentric. Gill was my grandmother’s last name. She was a traditional mom and did needlework to make clothing.” Zurcher likes the combination of Inez and Gill because “one was artsy and one was practical,” which is how she’d like to approach her business.

When it comes to weddings, more brides are willing to pay for high-end products that are unique. That’s where Inez Gill accessories come in. “Accessories have a lot of life because you can put it on and it will change an outfit completely,” says Zurcher, who recently displayed her work at Omaha Fashion Week. Most of Zurcher’s bridal accessories are for the brides who want really fun, colorful looks. “I want [my pieces] to feel like accessories from a 1920s hat shop down the street—things that tailors and seamstresses would custom-make.”20130227_bs_7349 copy

While most designers and bridal vendors ship in their accessories, Zurcher creates and designs each piece. “Some designers draw sketches, but I just think of what I have, and then I put it together. I do have to put a lot more thought into how I design an accessory though because I take so many different pieces and put them together. I have my own system, and I don’t buy anything pre-made, unless it’s like a vintage leaf or something.”

With suppliers coming from everywhere (even some out of England), Zurcher has a lot of unique pieces to work with in creating each accessory. Natural stemming, vintage leaves, rhinestones—she finds all kinds of items from her suppliers and antique shops. “I don’t really follow a particular style,” she says of her mix-and-match work.

But just because Zurcher makes her accessories by hand doesn’t mean they look handmade. In fact, she prefers to spend more time making each accessory have a high-end look, even if it takes her more than the usual three to five hours. “I just like making things that make people feel good.”

For more information, visit inezgill.com.

Flowers for Special Occasions

“We have a strong passion for floral design,” says Jessica Pitt, 29, owner and designer at Flowers for Special Occasions. “We are always reinventing our work to stay fresh and in touch with the ever-changing fashion of the [wedding] industry.”

Although Pitt studied Fine Arts at College of Saint Mary and Behavioral Sciences at Bellevue University, she says that the floral business is in her blood. With four generations of her family having been involved in florals, it was only natural for Pitt to take up the business. “I grew up in my mother’s flower shop, spending afternoons as a child playing in the shop and eventually working there from the time I was 15 through college.”

A customer actually gave the business its name. “We were trying to establish ourselves as a vendor who worked exclusively with weddings and other special events. The name just sort of stuck,” Pitt says. But the business is also known as the Flower Design Studio, which Pitt explains comes from their days as a co-op with two other businesses.20130227_bs_7197 copy

Pitt says Flowers for Special Occasions is unique because they custom-make floral arrangements. “None of our work is based on cookie-cutter bouquets,” she adds. “We work with the client to develop a special feel for the event, and we create our pieces based on our collaborations.” Budgets of all sizes are welcomed by the Flowers for Special Occasions team. It doesn’t matter if a couple is working on a small or large budget—Pitt says the floral arrangements will look beautiful.

“We have built a very loyal following through the years. We work primarily through word of mouth. I believe [that] our happy clients and their referrals are what has built and sustained our company, making it the success it is today.

“Since we are a family business, we all have a personal stake in wanting our business to succeed. We never cut corners,” she says. “We have one chance to get it right, so we always strive to give each wedding something very special.”

For more information, visit flowersforspecialoccasions.webs.com or call 402-891-1602.