Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dandelions Sweet as Sugar

No matter where in the State of Maine you live, it’s likely that your area has suffered a killing frost. For those who cling to their perennial and annual flower beds, that is bad news. But for dandelion lovers, read on.

Springtime and dandelions, almost synonymous to many people, mark a fairly short-lived window of opportunity for dandelion addicts. Spring sees us digging fat, sprawling dandelions. But after true warm weather arrives and dandelions go to flower, the leaves and even the crowns become bitter. And so we wait for the following spring for more of our cherished greens.

But wait. That’s not the end of the story. Did you know that after a killing frost, dandelions lose all trace of bitterness? Yes, that is so. Who knew?

Well, until a few years ago I didn’t. But my good friend Marion Hunnicutt did and Marion enlightened me regarding other uses of dandelions than just spring-dug plants.

First, Marion mentioned that dandelion blossoms, in my mind only useful for making dandelion wine, were ambrosial when fried in a Tempura batter. I tried it this spring and sure enough, Marion had struck a home run. The blossoms were a true delicacy when prepared this way.

But back to fall-dug dandelions. Sure, the plants lack the bulk of spring-dug plants because in spring, dandelions are putting on mass preparatory to blooming. And until the blossoms open they are yummy. After blooming, though, dandelions become bitter to the point of having to pucker when tasting even a tiny portion.

Fall-dug dandelions don’t have the mass or bulk of the springtime variety. They more closely resemble those sparse dandelions we dig as soon as snow melts and we can find a few plants from last year. Well, those early spring dandelions are the same ones we find now in fall, after a few, good freezes.

So dandelion lovers unite! Go forth, digger in hand and harvest this late-season bounty. If I’m any kind of judge of horseflesh, you’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Maine Suffers Severe Drought – No Relief In Sight

We all remember dry summers and even a few dry falls. But the current drought has brought conditions far worse than most of us can recall.

In my case, things have gone from bad to worse. First, my trout pond began getting lower by the day. Than a 12-foot-deep pond on a hilltop behind the house has dropped down to about two feet of water.

My well, which sits about halfway between the two ponds has not escaped the drought and a visual check yesterday revealed about three feet of water in the 12 X 4-foot well. So now I only dare draw water for drinking. No more doing laundry, no more relaxing showers. From now on it’s the laundromat and sponge baths, the worst of which for me is the laundromat. I just hate those places.

Today, like many other Mainers, I’m headed out after church to buy some Jerry jugs for hauling water. It’s hard to conceive, but this may become a way of life for an indeterminate period of time.

The reason is the little piddling rains we have had are barely sufficient to wet the top layer of soil. We need days and days of driving, soaking rain. And according to the weather forecasters, we aren’t going to get it any time soon.

It was thought, for a little while, that Hurricane Matthew would swing close enough to Maine to give us the water we need. But now it looks as if the hurricane will not move any further north than the Carolinas.

So without much-needed rain, wells, streams, rivers, lakes and ponds will continue to lose water through evaporation. Low levels in streams have already led to a loss of many native brook trout. The fish need cool, well-oxygenated water to survive and the few pools of water that remain are neither well-oxygenated nor cool.

Here’s the worst part of this. People who are on city water or who have reliable, drilled wells, don’t believe they need to conserve water. But they do. The water table is low and any water drained from it only suffices to lower it further.

But out-of-sight, out-of-mind remains in control. If the governor declares a state of emergency, then water rationing, at least for those on public water supply, will ensue. But for those with wells that remain functional, no rationing can apply. No one can tell anyone else how to use or not use their own water.

Rationing may help to conserve remaining water supplies. But what we really need is lots of rain. And until that happens, we will remain locked in what I suggest is the worst drought of our lifetimes.