The Much Maligned Dandelion

A warm, sunny day spent creating a chain from dandelion stems is a happy childhood memory for many. Who hasn’t held the yellow bloom close under a young friends chin, pretending to determine if they like butter, only to rub the flower on their skin leaving a yellow stain?

The much maligned dandelion is the enemy of many gardeners. Money and time is spent eradicating the yellow marauder. There is another side to this herb. All the parts of the plant can be consumed either for food, drink or medicinal purposes.

A truly resilient plant, dandelion’s grow in pastures, lawns, waste ground, sand, rocks and even pop up in the cracks of concrete. They are the first shot of colour to appear in the spring. Yellow is such a happy colour even if we consider the plant a weed.

 

Harvested from lawns or meadows that have not been sprayed the leaves, flowers or roots can be used for making tea, wine a coffee substitute or salad.

By washing flowers and leaves and steeping in hot water for 15-20 minutes a cup of dandelion tea can be made. To make tea from roots; thoroughly wash roots then chop into fine pieces, heat on high for approximately 2 hours and finally steep 1-2 teaspoons in hot water for 10 minutes.

Local health food stores may offer prepared dandelion root as a coffee substitute. To make your own coffee substitute, roast young dandelion roots to a dark brown colour. Steep roasted roots in hot water, strain and enjoy.

Another use of the yellow plant is the making of wine. They are best harvested between the end of March and beginning of May, using the fermented flowers.

Dandelion’s have more vitamins and minerals than most vegetables. The next time you feel like digging out or spraying dandelions on your lawn think about the great ways they can be used beneficially.

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An Adventure in Birdland

The clouds were dark and threatening and my hip was screaming at me. Should I cancel the ‘Nordic Pole Walking’ group this morning? The sky opened and a short but serious rain poured down. Unable to reach anyone at the centre and with my hip easing I decided to go to the centre. I was not expecting anyone to be there but was surprised to find four people eager to walk. The rain had cleared and we set out, deciding on a route near the centre in the event the rain returned. A subdivision with lovely sidewalks provides a safe route for us. On the return trip someone asked “can you hear the birds”? We all stopped and listened. The sound of birds was not that of crows or sparrows on a hydro line but rather of a more tropical nature. It was determined that the sound was coming from a garden shed on a nearby lawn. I could see a blue coloured bird at the window and one of the doors was open. On this day one of the ladies had brought her eight year old grandson along and he was encouraged to walk over to the shed to check it out. I held my breath expecting an irate homeowner to come charging out the door yelling “get off my property” but was pleasantly surprised when an older gentlemen popped out the patio door and asked “would you like to see the birds”. In a unison of “yes” we crossed the grass and he opened the second door to allow us in. A wall was lined with homemade cages containing colourful budgie birds. We crowded in and admired the blue, green, blue grey and the amazing yellow birds. Eager to share his passion with us the gentleman told us that there was a total of fifteen birds and in the winter he moves them to his basement. During the winter months he breeds the birds; all of the ones in the cages had been bred and raised in his basement. In a few weeks he is planning to travel to Hamilton to enter the budgies in a show.

We returned to the centre and finished with our cool down exercises, then left the building to drive home. As we parted a gentle rain returned. The reprieve from the rain gave us the opportunity to meet an interesting gentleman and enjoy a great adventure.

My Own Monets Garden

It is a beautiful summer day and I am sitting on the deck soaking it all in. The three new houses down from us are being landscaped today. The orange Kubota is moving from front to back dropping scoop fulls of topsoil. Soon rolls of sod will be rolled out like lush green carpet connecting all the other lawns.

The houses on either side of us have been busy planting shrubs and flowers to adorn their yards. They have inspired us to follow and the three lawns are awash with colour. Cone flowers, butterfly bushes, hydrangea, black-eyed-Susan, lilies, hosta and many flowers that I do not know the name of take on the image of a Monet painting. At this time of the summer all the plants are sporting their best finery tempting butterflies and birds to enjoy the nectar feast.

Our supposedly squirrel proof bird feeder is hanging empty but I am leaving it there to taunt the squirrels who emptied it. They climb up and hang off it desperately trying to rob the birds of more feed. Once they give up they move to my neighbours neon green shepherds hook which does have a squirrel-proof feeder hanging off it. The squirrels provide lots of entertainment as they run back and forth to the feeders not willing to admit to being thwarted.

Small caramel coloured chipmunks race along the top of the black chain link fence hoping that a few seeds will drop to the ground and be available to them. They disappear into the woods on the outside of the fence. The trees allow us to believe that we are still living in the country and the landscape tractor is no different in noise than the local farmers working away harvesting their crops.

Colourful butterflies flit through the air, never staying in one place for long but providing another splash of colour in the landscape. Hummingbirds hover over their feeder sucking up sugary red liquid then move on to the flowers for more treats. Yellow finches, blue jays, doves and many more birds share the air space. This is a busy backyard.

I cannot think of a better way to convalesce than to watch mother natures tapestry unfold before me. Next winter when the snow is blowing past the window I will retrieve this memory and feel warm all over.