Jilly D.

It’s May, mysterious, and the heat is on

In Time and seasons on May 3, 2011 at 1:12 am

I’m serious. Electric and gas bills usually begin to go down by the month of May. Tonight the fireplace is going as it dips into the 40s overnight. Ridiculous. Something is awry with the weather. I didn’t lose my home this week in a tornado, but the winds have gone wild here and elsewhere.

I worry about all the nuclear radiation released into Japan’s atmosphere recently and the air currents sweeping our globe. I also worry about the water I drink as the threats of hydrofracking for the oil and gas in my neck of the woods creeps closer and closer.

Perhaps it’s because I lived on the farm in tune with the seasons and weather for more than a decade. I know that the earth is still too wet to plow when most years nearby fields had been plowed, harrowed, harrowed again and already planted with oats and buckwheat and peas and alfalfa.

Today I saw another dozen trees tipped over. The earth is so waterlogged that the rootballs of living 20 foot tall white pines are ripped out of the ground because they can’t float.

No sense planting seeds yet here. They’ll just wash away. I tried a few pots of calendula seeds and heavy rains meant root rot.

As a wildcrafter I do see spring. The violets, trillium,  the trout lilies and mayapples thrill me with green life. I love how the mayapples’ little umbrella leaves pop open and its white flower hides in its shade.

This has been such a wet year I have witnessed the most prolific explosion of trout lilies. The simple leaf pops up out of the ground and its mottling on a green sheen looks much like the shape and color of spring trout. The flower is a most elegant yellow blossom with a bowed head. Like a royal crown of sunshine, the deep throated lily stands twice the height of the fishlike leaves. Some call it a dogtooth violet. Before the blossom opens, it sends up a bud that bears a resemblance to a dog’s tooth.

Which brings me to the profusion of colt’s foot, too, this wet spring. Colt’s foot has a yellow blossom, too. Many mistake it for a dandelion but it blooms much earlier. It’s leaves are larger than the flower but lie low to the ground. Each flower emerges from the center of the leaves’ cluster and looks very much like the foot of a colt born from a mare’s womb. The hoof and knee appear and suddenly the little foot bursts forth in yellow confetti like petals.

Colt’s foot is a wildflower but its herbal properties have been known for centuries. Harvesting the young spring leaves and drying them for bulk tea provides a year-long remedy for respiratory conditions.

Nettle is beginning to appear in certain drier spots. Now is the time for fresh nettle steamed like spinach. Dried, its’ healing properties for skin rashes and irritations is widely known.

Fresh fiddlehead ferns will be around in the coming weeks and with some sunshine and warmer temperatures fresh cattails for those who want a forager’s “hotdog” while engaged in primitive pursuits like living off the land.

For now, I’m thinking about the periwinkle. Sometimes it’s called crepe myrtle. For centuries this pretty groundcover has been used in cemetaries and fallow fields to prevent erosion. Its’ purple five-petaled blossom appears in May but its shiny green ivy leaves remain a vibrant way to keep topsoil in tact. Today, I’ve seen it blooming everywhere in the woods. It takes grip of the ground and holds it in place.

I like walking along the ridge trail and seeing the ravages of spring floods below. The solomon seal is up and fills in the floor of the creek flats.  The branches from the ravages of brisk spring breezes get brushed off the path and the last of last year’s dried leaves, needles, and dried grasses crumble in the mud. The dogs and I know where every squirrel, chipmunk, and vole reside.

Smell the earth. The mud has a tang of life to it. Soggy but sweet.

Lucy and Scooby find in the fields all the homes of mice, groundhogs and other ground varmints recently departed for higher grounds. They both enjoy digging up those sweet stones of special value. Either meteorites, stone age tools, or covered in the blue or red clay of Caroline NY, the dogs go crazy over some rocks. Why not others?

Some things remain forever mysterious.


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