Forage Ramps in the Woods of Western New York

Fishing, Foraging and Finding

The woods do something to your soul and it isn’t something tangible, although what you can get from the woods often times is. 

This is the best time of the year because it starts the season of the getting meals for free from the land. It’s not always easy and you have to do your fair share of studying before you head out and start picking and eating stuff. But it’s worth it. And not just for the meal, but for the part of you that fills up that you can’t say what it is.

April first marks the start of trout season. They are mostly stocked but that doesn’t bother me. It gets you outdoors doing something and while your there you can start looking at how the trees and landscaped changed over the winter. Usually I do a little fishing over the winter too, but this year I couldn’t so getting back to my favorite spots was exhilarating. Nabbed a few trout early in the season too.

Anthony Norman White - Freelance Writer - New York Trout Season
New York Trout Season Opens April 1st

The magnificent colors of this rainbow are the beginning of color returning to New York State. After a tough couple of hours of no bites I went back to one of my favorite spots and changed up my presentation. First cast this beauty hit like truck. My fishing buddy, my five year old son, was so happy he could barely talk. First trout of the season is always exciting, doesn’t matter the age.

Forage Ramps in the Woods of Western New York
Forage Ramps in the Woods of Western New York

Next to show up is ramps. Ramps are wild onions and there are some spots I know of around here that grow thousands. You could never dig them all even if you had to. The entire plant is edible, from it’s white bulb, through the red stem, and straight to the tip of it’s perfectly green leaves. They consequently go excellent with trout! I typically fry the whole trout in butter with the diced bulbs, then throw in the chopped leaves at the end for a perfect meal.

Foraged Spice Bush
Foraged Spice Bush

Next to start popping up is the tasty little flower buds of the spice bush. When these grow they end up with bright green leaves with a citrus flavor, eventually the plant producing red berries that can be dried and used as allspice. The bark tastes of allspice as well, and in the spring the little yellow flowers have a slight citrus flavor. It makes a fantastic tea or the base for a brine. I used it to make both, drinking a hot cup of tea while I made a brine for a duck that I’ll smoke. The duck came from Fisher Hill Farm.

What I have not seen yet are morel mushrooms. This morning there was a freeze alert so that certainly doesn’t help. Possibly the ground has not been warm enough and maybe I’m just getting antsy. These mushrooms can go for as much as $20 per pound. But they’re free if you know what your looking for and sauteed with ramps and butter they’re might not be a better meal.

I have also found fiddleheads this year, but none from the Bracken or Ostrich fern, only from the Christmas Tree Fern. They are edible, but don’t taste all that great. So I’ll keep my eye out for those as well.

Also edible are dandelion greens, which make for a great salad. It’s been a great year so far, even though it’s been a little chilly. I fully expect the warmer weather to bring out more.

 

Opening Day of Trout Season in New York

April 1st marks the beginning of my fishing season, although I fish year round.

This year fishing past Labor Day weekend was scarce, only making it out another dozen times during the fall and winter. But with all that’s happening right now I’m not sure I have been this excited for trout opening day in a long time.

There’s something ancient about fishing. It makes you feel like time stopped hundreds if not thousands of years ago and there you are, nestled into a bank of rocks that have been there forever, seen it all, in water that’s thousands of years old, doing something sacred. It’s a quiet mantra that gives you something to do with your hands, your mind focused on feeling a tug, always in the ready position to set the hook, listening to the babble of the body of water in front of you.

It’s exhilarating and relaxing at the same exact time and there are very few things in life that like that.

I’ve been fishing since I was a little kid. Both my grandfathers were into it, my father, my uncle, my cousins, my friends; we all fished growing up. I remember tying my rod to my bike to ride down to Lisk Bridge with Brian Erdner and the gang and hooking worms, corn, or blue gill eyes to our hooks and hoping to catch a trout. But we were happy snagging creek chubs.

April 1st isn’t just about trout, its about the start of another year of fishing. It’s about remembering all the fish you caught the year before and talking about it. It’s about remembering years past and the fish you caught with family members who might not be around anymore to talk about it.

It’s about memories. You probably won’t remember a lot of specifics about things in life but you will certainly remember fishing. The stories are deeper than just the fish. Time spent together, the gear, the weather, the beer, the meals, all of it ties into one day of fishing. I can think back and remember specific days so well, even if there isn’t a picture to prove the catch.

the biggest fish in the world!

Like that time my Uncle Scott caught this cat off the bank of the Chaumont River. Someone snapped this pic of me going in for the closer look. What a hog that thing was. And to this day I still set up the same way he did and try to get a bigger fish. Even though Uncle Scott passed away. This moment in time is frozen for me and I attempt to recreate it every year.

IMG_20181103_173137366

Same bank, same spot, same cat method. I’ve caught some, just not as big as the cow he brought in. But that to me is what it’s about. So when people tell me they couldn’t get in to fishing, it always surprises me at first, but then I sort of feel bad because maybe they just didn’t have someone to point out that it’s not about the fish but about the memory.

Plus, if you haven’t had the chance to search for, then locate a school of jack perch, then get them into a frenzy and pull about 100 out of the water, then filet them up and beer batter them, frying them in a skillet over the open fire; then dude, you haven’t lived.

For an updated guide on New York State Fresh Water Fishing Regulations click here.

Anthony N. White - writer

My Little Black Notebook

In 2005 I became obsessed with what Jack Kerouac called “New American Pops” or non-syllabled haiku. Just like haiku, the American version that Kerouac played with is just a tiny snapshot of words that can quickly evoke a powerful emotion.

I knew I wanted to be a novelist but the amount of work it was going to take seemed so overwhelming that I didn’t think it could even start. So this was my solution. If you can write a story in just a few words that evokes powerful emotion then it should be easier when you have seventy-five thousand to do it.

At the time I was living in Watertown, New York and taking classes at SUNY Empire. That summer I worked at a restaurant near the library so I would leave for work early and spend some time in the library researching different Japanese Haiku Poets. I figured in order to break the rules you have to know them so I went back to the originators of the art and studied as much as I possibly could.

There in the basement of the Watertown Library I came across my favorite haiku. It was instantly my favorite and without a doubt had an immediate impact on me. I read it over and over again, sitting on the floor in between rows of books. I had gotten used to writing down the ones I liked the most in this little black notebook I carried with me and this one was no different. I scribbled it down and for months went back and read it over and over again.

About a year later I moved to Rochester, New York and stashed all my old writing in a box. I thought that someday it would be fun to go through it, maybe take note of how far my writing has come, or rehash old ideas that never made it passed the scribble stage. Sometime later, after my third or fourth move in Rochester, I decided to look through that box. There were so many memories in it, but not the little black notebook filled with haiku. I was disappointed but I figured that I just didn’t look hard enough, that it was probably stuck in the binder of another notebook.

Years went by. I could remember parts of my favorite haiku and occasionally I would google lines related to it. I couldn’t remember the author, but just new when translated it had the word “lichened” in it. I knew it was something about rain, a grave, and sadness. That was all that would come back to me. Google didn’t have the answer and whenever given the opportunity to look through books of Japanese Haiku I would, but I never found it. That little black notebook contained the answer and it had somehow vanished.

Year later still, I thought of that poem. Only this time there was a death in the family and we would be going to the same cemetery that my grandmother is buried. I needed that haiku. I dug the box out of the basement and went through it very carefully, examining each book and paging through them all. I took other boxes apart and looked through them. Nothing. The book was missing. I stood there in amazement and disbelief. How did I have all of my term papers from college, labeled and stored in hanging folders, but missing a notebook I spent months writing haiku in? “What a wasted summer,” I thought to myself.

Yesterday, I found it. I’ve been thinking about this book for about twelve years and I wasn’t looking for it at all and I found it. It dropped out of a newspaper article I was saving. I must have jammed the New York Times over it and it got caught up in there somehow. What’s more interesting is that the section of the Times I was saving was an obituary that Paul Westerberg wrote for Alex Chilton. Not only do I love both of those song writers, the day Alex Chilton died was the same day I started my punk band in Rochester, Pat Buchanan’s Hearse, or PBH. I saved that article for so many dear reasons it’s actually comical to find that it had been housing that notebook all these years. Chilton died in 2010.

Today I’m going to carry that notebook around all day. I just want to hold it. I genuinely missed it. Maybe in a different post I’ll share some of the haiku that I had started writing because of my studies. But for now, here’s the one that haunted me for almost fifteen years:

Winter rain deepens                                                                           

Lichened letters

On the grave…

And my old sadness

-Roka

Anthony Norman White - Freelance Writer

The Insufferable Writer

I change my mind constantly. One second I’m writing the outline of a new novel, the next I’m querying about a completed one, the next I’m retying terminal tackle to chase after steelheads, and the next minute I find myself setting up a closet as a makeshift studio to record an album I haven’t even written yet.

I haven’t played much guitar the last two years. I had a failed attempt at writing a bunch of songs two years ago. I had a month or so where I really wanted my old band, Pat Buchanan’s Hearse, to get back together. But it just wasn’t going to be possible. I hadn’t written hardly anything since my son was born. So I sat down to write a new PBH song and what came out was Once Surround. I made a demo of it to show the band, hoping that they would like it so much that they’d want to take it up and at least give it a shot at recording for real. It never happened.

Here’s what I had started. (I put the video together quickly so no judgement on it.)

 

I’m not sure of most of the lyrics. I lost the sheet I wrote them on. But the chorus sticks in my mind “Convoluted and confounded I was once surrounded”. At the time I wasn’t sure why I felt this way, but it’s unmistakable. I felt trapped, held back, and like “a dog in a pound”. But what’s interesting about these lyrics is that they’re in the past. “I was once surrounded” as if I was no longer. The song has a hopeful underdog feeling to it and the lyrics corroborate. It took a few years to put it together but I suddenly recognize why. This song, out of the hundreds that I’ve written and forgotten, has become extremely meaningful to me.

Right before my son was born I took a corporate job that had me on the road. It was a good job with great benefits and a pension. I couldn’t have asked for anything better at the time. I mostly traveled in the north east from DC to New Hampshire. I was home every weekend but usually pretty beat and didn’t feel like doing much. My wife went to work on the weekends waiting tables in a restaurant. Our lives were separate. I barely knew her or my my own son.

I missed his first laugh, first steps, first words, and other firsts that’s really  hard to think about now. It was difficult but this was life. I was frustrated and wasn’t sure how to express that. I fought with my wife. I withdrew from friends. I argued with my parents. In general, I was unhappy. But I thought there was something more to it. I thought that I was just unhappy being a father and another cog in the wheel of capitalism. I wanted out.

I went to a therapist and told her what I was feeling. She asked me a dozen questions and listened intently to my answers. I was waiting for her to come back with the fact that she had no clue what was wrong with me, that I needed years of therapy, probably massive drugs, electroshock therapy, and most likely a complete lobotomy. Instead she giggled.

“You mean to tell me you’re stuck doing a job you don’t like, missing out on engaging family time, and not creating, writing, or playing music? No wonder you’re miserable!”

I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t written or created much during this time. She convinced me that I needed to. “You’re an artist at heart,” she said and I swear at that moment  something changed in me forever. I had never considered that before. I had never even thought about really. I just thought I was a little kid having a hard time becoming an adult, playing in rock bands and reading poetry in dumpy coffee houses. Turns out, in a way, I am. But it’s not that I haven’t grown up, that’s how I cope with the stresses of everyday life, including becoming an adult, a dad, and a working professional.

So I was determined to get the old band back together. I made some desperate phone calls. No one wanted to listen. I thought if I just wrote a classic PBH track they’d have to come back! We’re were a good little punk rock outfit. They’d need to try it back on. I never felt so liberated as to play some rock and sweat it all out and feel better and get drunk and laugh and yell and scream and…have fun.

So I wrote Once Surround after a conversation with my friend Mike Leon. I pieced it together with a few riffs I had floating around and then once the melody hit me I penned the lyrics in a few minutes. I never really stopped to think about what I was writing. It just fit the mood of the song and my spot in life. I recorded the demo a few days later and then it got stored on an external hard drive and that was that. Until a few days ago when I found it.

I was once surround.

 

Watching Instead: A Poem

Watching Instead

Every day on my way to work I drive by the same house near the corner of Culver and Main

There’s always a woman there with her three kids, loading them onto the bus.

Sometimes she’s drinking coffee or smoking

But she always looks like the weight of the world has been placed on her shoulders

And her sole job in life is to figure out a way to get it off.

I look at her every time and now she’s become familiar and I expect her.

She’s a birthday card from a long distant aunt.

Recently I drove by, and she was out there, in the same way

Except she had been beaten very badly about her face.

Her kids were there, getting on the bus, and her face was there too, swollen in different colors.

I was instantly incensed and I went to work that day and discussed Employee Assistance Programs.

The director of the program showed a statistic about how many people have been helped

It was broken down by category or the reason they called

Financial Trouble – 13

Employee Relationship – 29

Student Loan – 7

Professional Advice – 5

I stared at all the categories and their numbers until I saw

Domestic Violence – 0

Everyone needs to do more than help women and men who suffer from domestic violence and

Everyone in the room agreed, and later, because of my advocacy, I got a raise.

Imagine that: I got a raise for someone else taking the brunt of their loved one’s fists.

I’ll drive by with my extra $25 a week and stare at the black, blue, red, yellow, and purple

Bruises of this city

And just keep driving

With my eyes focused just in front of the hood of my truck

Intent on helping but

Joining the rest of the crowd

And watching instead.