Follow the great musical migration from Scotland, through Ulster to Appalachia. Dougie MacLean, Tim O'Brien, Cara Dillon, Jean Ritchie, Sheila Kay Adams, Doc Watson and others share songs that tell the story of a remarkable musical diaspora.
The first heavy rains of the season fell two weeks ago at Salt Point State Park, on the northern California coast, and now ranger Todd Farcau is waiting anxiously for the forest floor to erupt with mushrooms.
That first bloom of fungi, which has been delayed by drought, will draw mushroom hunters —crowds of them — and that is what Farcau is nervous about. Mushroom hunting, which is legal in Salt Point State Park but prohibited in most other California parks, has grown in popularity in the past five years, thanks to foraging classes and tours, word-of-mouth publicity and hype from chefs who are featuring wild mushrooms in their restaurants.
As a result, known mushroom grounds are taking a beating. At Salt Point State Park, mushroom hunters sometimes carve new trails into the forest, trample small plants, and illegally use rakes and shovels to turn over the forest floor in search of young, budding mushrooms, according to Farcau. Some, he adds, leave trash piles by the road and toilet paper in the woods.
"It looks like a rock festival has passed through," Farcau says.
Mushroom hunting has grown more popular elsewhere, too. Todd Spanier, a San Francisco-based commercial mushroom collector and vendor, tells The Salt that "it's a global thing." The slow food movement, Spanier says, combined with the Internet age, is inspiring foodies everywhere to walk into the woods with their eyes on the ground.
Sure enough, concerns have grown in places as scattered as England and Washington, D.C.-area parks about the burgeoning numbers of fungi foragers, both commercial and recreational, and the impacts they may be having on the land.
Foragers are hungry for more than mushrooms, too. In the Eastern U.S., the numbers of people hunting for ramps, a fragrant onion-odored wild bulb, have increased dramatically — perhaps even unsustainably. In New York City's Central Park as well, how-to tours like those of so-called "Wildman" Steve Brill have reportedly caused a boom in the numbers of urban foragers seeking edible greens and roots, creating a nuisance for city gardeners and park rangers.
In Salt Point, Farcau believes mushroom-collecting tours are having a powerful multiplying effect. "These tour leaders will take out 10 or 15 people, and each of them will tell 10 or 15 people, and each of them will tell 10 or 15 people," he says.
Not that mushroom hunting is anything new. Across Europe and Asia, generations of families have returned to the same forested places to collect edible fungi. These mushrooms — including famed truffles, morels, porcini, chanterelles and matsutake — attract people with their unique flavors and aromas, which cultivated species tend to lack.
In California, the core of the mushroom hunting culture was traditionally European immigrants and a small community of eccentric hobbyists. But foraging classes, guide books, Internet buzz and even mushroom-identification smartphone apps have brought mushroom hunting into mainstream foodie culture.
David Campbell, who leads mushroom hunting outings with his company, Mycoventures, has made Salt Point State Park the location of monthly forays. He says he recognizes that he is "guilty" of helping fuel the foraging craze.
"It's a delicate balance between sharing, which I like to do, and protecting your [mushroom] patches from public knowledge," says Campbell, who charges $45 a head for one-day outings.
Another regular Salt Point mushroom hunting tour leader, Patrick Hamilton, concedes that his guided walks in the woods, which cost $90 a head, may be having an impact on a limited resource.
"I have been personally responsible for turning a lot of restaurant chefs on to wild mushrooms, and I've sometimes asked myself, 'Is this really what we want to be doing?' " Hamilton says.
In most areas open to mushroom hunting, collectors must abide by strict limits. At Salt Point State Park, for example, hunters cannot take more than five pounds of mushrooms per day — though many people break this rule, ranger Farcau says.
Mushroom collecting is prohibited in most county, state and national parks in California, and while there has been informal discussion of closing off remaining legal collecting areas, some mushroom hunting enthusiasts say the best thing to do would be the opposite — that is, legalize the activity in more places.
"Salt Point gets hit so hard because it's the only place left to go," says Ken Litchfield, a hobbyist collector and teacher at Merritt Community College in Oakland, Calif.
Hamilton envisions a similar solution to alleviating the pressure on Salt Point State Park:
"If they would just open up all the parks to [mushroom] hunting, you wouldn't even notice us."
President Obama tried Wednesday to turn the conversation back to the economy, calling the growing income gap the "defining challenge of our time."
"Some of you may have seen just last week the pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length," Obama said. "How can it be, he wrote, that it's not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points. But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country. And it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people."
"Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality," the pope wrote. "Such an economy kills."
Obama's comments Wednesday come as the president tries to shift the conversation away from the flawed rollout of the HealthCare.gov website back to the economy. The Associated Press reports:
"The speech comes amid growing national and international attention to economic disparities — from the writings of Pope Francis to the protests of fast-food workers in the U.S. ... He said Americans should be offended that a child born into poverty has such a hard time escaping it."
"It should compel us to action," Obama said. "We're a better country than this."
The president didn't propose any new measures in his speech.
After voting for him in large numbers in 2008 and 2012, young Americans are souring on President Obama.
According to a new Harvard University Institute on Politics poll, just 41 percent of "millennials" — adults ages 18-29 — approve of Obama's job performance, his lowest-ever standing among the group and an 11-point drop from April.
Obama's signature health care law is also unpopular among millennials. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they disapprove of Obamacare compared to 38 percent who said they approved.
A majority of respondents also said they disapproved of the way Obama is handling the economy, Syria, Iran and the budget deficit.
The results reflect a similar downward trend among the public at large. Recent polls ranging from Gallup to CNN show Obama's approval rating hovering around 40 percent while disapproval of the health care law is in the mid-to-high 50s.
"Millennials are starting to look a lot more like their older brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents," IOP polling director John Della Volpe said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
The online survey of 2,089 adults was conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 11, just weeks after the federal government shutdown ended and the problems surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act began to take center stage. The poll's margin of error was 2.1 percent.
Fifty-five percent of the survey's respondents said they voted for Obama in the last presidential election, while 33 percent said they voted for Republican Mitt Romney. If the election were held again, Obama would still come out on top, but by a tighter 46 to 35 percent margin. Thirteen percent said they would vote for someone else.
According to the Pew Research Center, 66 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds voted for Obama in 2008 and 60 percent voted for his re-election in 2012.
Harvard's poll found millennials, like the rest of the public, aren't happy with Congress either. Just 19 percent of respondents said they approved of congressional Republicans, while 35 percent approved of their Democratic counterparts. Both figures are single-digit drops from April. Forty-five percent also said they would "recall and replace" their member of Congress if they had the option.
Three Norman Rockwell paintings sold for a combined total of nearly $58 million at a Sotheby's auction Wednesday. The three paintings, which had long been displayed in a Massachusetts museum named for the artist, were among 10 Rockwell works sold at auction today.
By far, the star of the bunch was the 1951 masterpiece Saying Grace, which sold for $46 million — a record for Rockwell's art. The price includes a buyer's premium. The AP says the artist's previous record of $15 million had been set by "Breaking Home Ties" at a 2006 Sotheby's auction.
The famous "Saying Grace" depicts a woman and boy bowing their heads in prayer at a table in a bustling restaurant, as other patrons pause for a moment to look on.
Before the auction, "Saying Grace" had been expected to garner between $15 million and $20 million. The painting by the beloved Saturday Evening Post illustrator has been exhibited in more than a dozen museums around America.
The other two paintings that had been on long-term loan to the Norman Rockwell Museum were "The Gossips," which sold for nearly $8.5 million, and "Walking to Church," which topped $3.2 million.
Those three paintings were sold by descendants of Kenneth J. Stuart, the Evening Post art editor who worked with Rockwell for nearly 20 years and who had received the works as gifts from the artist.
In its background information about today's sale, Sotheby's includes this quote from a letter Rockwell wrote to Stuart:
"The encouragement and freedom you give me in my work shows what a great impresario you are. It is great to feel that your art editor is one hundred per cent for you, and is a real friend. This may sound a bit flowery, but it is completely sincere, and I do want to express my thanks to you."