By Phyllis Galowitz
The rain has been falling softly all day and I can almost see the leaves growing on the trees and bushes and the grass growing greener by the hour. Lawns are a lush shade of emerald, and from a distance you can’t tell that they are mostly so-called weeds. Every day brings something new to the garden. As the forsythia fades, the lilacs begin to open. As the daffodils finish blooming, the maple leaves get fuller and the shadbush trees are in full bloom all over Andes.
I always heard that “April showers bring May flowers”, but here in Andes, we seem to be a little behind. We have to say, “May showers bring June flowers”. It’s still quite cool on May 14th in Palmer Hollow, and much too wet to plant, but there were some warm days before the rain when I managed to plant the pansies. What good timing! The gentle rain is just what they need to help them settle into their new home. Of course, the warm sun brought with it those nasty “no-see-ums” that tortured me as I planted. It was my own fault. I didn’t use an insect repellent and evidently they are attracted to me. How lucky I am! The next day I was covered with bites causing swelling, itching and scabbing. I guess I’ve learned my lesson. A trip to CVS for some Cortisone Cream with Aloe did help.
This has been the most wonderful season for bird watching that I’ve ever seen in my backyard. Maybe it’s because I’ve been experimenting with different bird foods. I always bought Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, but Amy bought me Wildflower Seeds. I tried them and instead of the mostly black-capped chickadees and nuthatches, an occasional cardinal, blue jay and woodpecker, I now have a variety that included more red-winged blackbirds, common grackles and rose breasted grosbeaks. Woodpeckers love the suet cakes, filled with nuts and berries. Hummingbirds have arrived as well, and between the gorgeous array of birds, chipmunks, squirrels and the other creatures that inhabit my backyard, there is always something amusing to watch.
I picked up a book on herbs at the Andes library. It’s an old one, published in 1976, but herbs have been around for hundreds of years. Most of us don’t bother to make poultices from comfrey root to repair broken bones, but maybe it really works. At any rate, I did find many interesting facts about the use of common herbs that we all have growing naturally in our gardens. It’s so much easier to buy prepared mint jelly, but you may enjoy making your own. Try chopping a cup of mint leaves; combine them with just enough boiling water to moisten, and when that cools, stir in a cup of orange marmalade, or, combine the juice of half a lemon, a scant half-cup of water, 2 tablespoons of sugar and a packed cup of fresh spearmint. Blend until smooth. Chill for 1 hour, and serve. There’s a lot of mint in my garden and lemon balm too. Either one is delicious in iced tea. I also use mint mixed with salad greens for an unusual and wonderful salad. Try fresh peas with minced mint.
Mint should be grown in a separate bed to prevent it crowding out other herbs, but it is a good companion to cabbage plants since it protects them from the white cabbage butterfly. Grow different kinds of mint and use them in different ways.
I’m a little nervous about picking wild herbs that might not be what I think they are, but you might be more adventurous! Reading about how herbs were used for medicinal purposes for centuries was interesting. Pick up a book on herbs at the library. I’m sure you’ll find it fascinating as I did . ~