Dandy Dandelions!

Dandelions are flowers that are considered weeds because of how easily they spread.

Dandelions are one of the few plants that every part can be used. It arrived in America in the mid 1600’s when settlers brought the seeds because they knew the value of the plant. Dandelions had been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and the settlers knew this. The Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all knew they improved various conditions from fevers to constipation.

As a child, I remember eating dandelion greens. I was told it would taste like spinach which I liked. I remember it being very bitter. I know it is very nutritious, but I’m not inclined to pick any leaves. I read it’s best to harvest the leaves before the flowers bloom. The internet has recipes if anyone is interested.

If you want to dig up your dandelions, consider waiting until they are finished blooming. They are a food source for bees, butterflies, moths and some birds. They are also pretty.

I was surprised to learn that dandelion wine is made from the flowers. I read a recipe for it and it sounded pretty good. Lots of sugar, but it also had lemons, oranges, and raisins. Fermentation is one to two years. Tea is made from the roots and that is what is sipped to relieve ailments. It really is a wonderful plant, but I’m a gardener, so I dig them after they bloom. In case you’re wondering, the picture is not from my yard. I only have a couple.

Hope everyone is enjoying the spring. Blossoms are every where and those with allergies are suffering. My eyes itch, but I don’t care. I can’t resist being outside in spring’s beauty.

Anyone Have a Match?

Where have all the matches gone?

I still enjoy the thrill of striking a match. Yes, thrill. I like the sound, odor and of course the flash of bright light. I don’t remember what age I was when I was allowed to strike a match, but I know I felt very grown up. This past Christmas, two of my granddaughters were allowed to strike matches and throw them into the fireplace. They had never down this before at ages 11 and 12.

I read on the box that the Diamond Match Company has been making matches for over 100 years. Its founder was Columbus Barber and his company was in Akron, Ohio. He later moved it to Barberton, Ohio. The company produced 85 percent of matches used in the United States during the early 1900’s. Unfortunately working there created a serious health problem for the workers. Inhaling the phosphorous that was used in the matches caused the cartilage in the jaw to deteriorate and people were unable to eat and speak. By 1910, red phosphorous replaced white phosphorous. The side of the box (striking surface) contains red phosphorous, binder and powdered glass. The head of the match consists of sulfur, potassium chlorate, starch and glue. I am always in awe of how people think of these things.

The spark of a match is frequently used to represent an emotion. Writers say sparks fly when people argue or when people feel a spark of attraction for each other. When an idea comes to me, it feels like a match has been struck in my brain. Sometimes those matches take awhile to light, but I am thankful when they do.

As I look at my various flower beds today, I need those matches in my brain to start igniting. As always there are plants that need to moved, but to where?

Decorating Eggs is an Ancient Custom

Wooden Easter Eggs are a Polish tradition.

Pinsanki is the Polish word for Easter eggs. It comes from the verb pisac which means to write. Beautiful carvings on wood or melted wax drawn on an egg to withstand dye was used to decorate the eggs. I had students from the Ukraine who knew women who used the wax and dye method, and they said it was a tradition in some families but not theirs. I would have loved to have seen these eggs.

I don’t know where I got my two wooden eggs, but I display them every year. I read that wooden eggs have been used at the White House Easter Egg Roll since 1981 when President Reagan and his wife offered eggs that had the signatures of famous people. They became a valued treasure. Egg rolling represents the stone being rolled away from Christ’s tomb.

Decorated eggs have been associated with spring for thousands of years and in burials. Farmers would bury them in the field to ensure fertility of their crops. Eggs also represented rebirth and Ostrich size eggs made from silver and gold have been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians. Real ostrich eggs that had been decorated were also found in tombs that were painted, and engraved. These are believed to represent the soul would be resurrected.

Early Christians dyed eggs red to represent the blood of Christ being shed on the cross. In Greece, the red eggs are used to play an egg cracking game. The tips of the eggs are tapped together and the person with the unbroken egg then tries to crack the other end of his opponent’s egg. While cracking, one person says, Christ has risen. The other responds, Indeed he has risen. The person with the unbroken egg believes he will be rewarded with good luck.

Many of us will color Easter eggs soon and will fill baskets with chocolate eggs and bunnies. Cadbury made the first chocolate egg in 1875 and they are still being made. I am a fan of Hershey’s little chocolate eggs. They fit nicely inside a plastic egg. One of these years I want to try the wax and dye method. If I do, I’ll let you know.

Dr. Seuss, Oh No!

Dr. Seuss was a racist?

I love Dr. Seuss books and used them in teaching. Every year I taught a unit on discrimination, and I read The Sneetches to my students. It’s a story about the Star Belly Sneetches and the Plain Belly Sneetches. Each thought they were the best ones on the beaches. In the end, they learned a Sneetch is a Sneetch and stars on bellies don’t matter.

Ted Geisel was born in 1904 and died in 1991. He went to Dartmouth College and is said to have written racist books. A man who wrote the Sneetches could not have been a racist. Knowing the time period he lived in, racism was common and if he did write racists books while in college, he changed. Education and life experiences can correct one’s faulty thinking of his youth.

He also wrote The Lorax which is an environmental book. I loaned my copy to the science teacher who read it to her students. The Sneetches and The Lorax both added to our students’ education in a fun way that they remembered.

I was privileged to sit on my local school board years ago, and I remember parents wanting certain books banned. As a teacher, I had a parent that wanted not only his child not to read a book, but to prevent all the students from reading it. I am against banning books. People should be free to decide for themselves if a book is appropriate for themselves or their family. By the way, my student was allowed to read something else. No problem, that was standard policy.

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in his I Have A Dream speech that he dreamed of people being judged by the content of their character. I think The Sneetches clearly show Ted Geisel’s character.

Candlemas is Feb.2

Groundhog Day is February 2, but why?

Groundhog Day falls midway between the winter and spring solstice. People eager for spring to arrive wanted to know just how long they had to wait for warm temperatures. Like many of our American traditions, it was the German settlers who brought the idea of watching an animal on February 2 to determine if the animal saw its shadow. A sunny day was certain to mean there would be six more weeks of winter.

February 2 was known to ancient people as Candlemas. This was the day that the clergy blessed candles and gave them to the people to see them through the winter. The custom was to set the candles in the windows of one’s homes on this day.

For some reason Germans took to watching badgers on this day in an attempt to make a weather prediction. After all, animals should know, right? When the German settlers came to America, they decided on the native groundhog to watch.

Groundhog Day was first officially celebrated on February 2, 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Germans settled in this area during the 18th century. I can’t help but wonder how long it takes a child to learn how to spell the name of the town they live in. Thank goodness for spell check!

Canada’s famous groundhog is named Wiarton Willie and lives in Bruce County, Ontario. He doesn’t look like the groundhogs we see eating along the side of the road, he is all white. He does predict like the various groundhogs around the U.S.

It’s amazing how blessing candles led to watching a groundhog on February 2. I never knew about Candlemas until I did a little research. I like the idea of candle blessing. That would make a dark winter’s night brighter.

Thankful for Toilet Paper!

TP is used every day, and is appreciated!

Once again people seem to be gathering toilet paper rolls from the stores’ shelves. I guess it’s part of the fall harvest! I found very few rolls last week at my local Kroger.

When traveling in Europe, I saw the communal latrines the ancient Greeks and Romans used. The wealthy had toilets in their homes, but when in need they used the public latrines and were frequently treated to music as they relieved themselves. Good times, right? Sponges attached to sticks were used to clean one’s bottom and then the sponge was cleaned in salt water. These cleaning sticks were shared.

It is widely known that the Sears catalogue was used in outhouses throughout America as toilet tissue. I know my relatives did. Toilet paper was invented in 1857 by Joseph Gayetty but was expensive. It was made from hemp and treated with aloe. It cost 50 cents for 500 sheets. That would be $10 today. Gayetty was so proud of his invention he put his name on each sheet. The ancient Romans put their enemy’s name on pieces of pottery and then wiped themselves. People do interesting things, don’t they? I just love history!

Leaves, moss, and soft plants were also used to clean one’s bum and there is a list of the most desirable plants to use when in the woods. Lambs ear is a popular plant and the cowboy’s favorite was mullein. It has many other names such as flannel leaf, velvet dock and bunny’s ear. If you find yourself in the woods and need a tissue, just look for a soft plant! They have been used for centuries.

At Thanksgiving, I doubt if anyone mentions toilet paper as something he or she is thankful for, but I know people are. There are so many little things that we take for granted that have now been noticed. Toilet paper comes to the forefront. I’m glad I found some last week!

My Ladder to Success!

Ladders are used every day and have been for thousands of years!

A painting of men on a ladder was found in a Spanish cave that is believed to be 10,000 years old. The men were collecting honey from a bee’s nest. Ancient ladders were made from vines and later rope. As you can see, mine is an old wooden one, but it allows me to paint and decorate outside for Christmas. (It’s become a little wobbly and should be replaced.)

A smart young man named John Balsley decided to put hinges on a ladder so it would fold in 1862. He lived in Dayton, Ohio. (He was a Buckeye but not a nut!) Today people talk about climbing the corporate ladder which Balsley would not have understood, but he would have known the Bible story of Jacob’s Ladder.

I now know why walking under a ladder is believed to be bad luck. In medieval times, it was believed a person would upset the holy trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) if he/she entered the triangle that had been created by the ladder leaning against a wall. This was the same belief the Egyptians had about the sacred symbol of the godly triangle. Another belief was since ladders were used to hang a person on the gallows, the triangle formed by the leaning ladder would trap the ghost of the person who had been hanged. No one wanted to encounter a ghost or offend God!

When students would say, “I don’t know what to write about,” I would suggest researching an ordinary object. Not many took me up on the suggestion, but see how interesting an ordinary ladder is?

Beautiful Witches’ Balls!

Witches’ balls are objects of art and they are protectors.

I have five witches’ balls hanging in the corner of my family room. So, I guess it’s the safest place in the house, since they protect us from evil spirits. I think of them as beautiful pieces of art.

During the 1600’s and 1700’s they were very popular in England and in New England. Witches were well known to cast spells on people and this provided protection. But if witches were evil, why did people go to them for readings? The glass balls were used to tell fortunes too.

The more practical use of these balls was to hold fishing nets. Since the witches balls floated in the sea, it was decided that a woman who floated must be a witch. This was one of the tests given accused witches. She was then hanged or burned to death.

Fear of witches and evil spirits were common, so witches balls were needed. Remember that people wore masks on All Hallows Eve to protect them from evil spirits. We are wearing masks today to protect us from the coronavirus. Maybe witches balls would work on that too?

Batty About Bats!

These little mosquito eaters are welcome to my yard!

Every night at dusk two brown bats come to my back yard for dinner. Bats can eat 1200 insects an hour. My neighbor has a small pond, so I think that is why Bart and Bertha come to dine. Sometimes Sylvester joins them for dinner. Yes, I named the bats. Since they come every night, they deserved to be named.

I’ve learned a lot about bats. Their excrement is called guano and is a great fertilizer. Since it is high in potassium nitrate (salt peter) it was used for gun powder during the Civil War and was used up to WWI. One hundred pounds of guano was needed to make four pounds of salt peter.

Bats are important to over 500 plant species. They pollinate plants and bananas, mangoes, guava and agave depend on them. The tube-lipped bat that bananas rely on have extremely long tongues in order to reach the nectar. Their tongues are one and half times the length of the bat’s body. Amazing!

When Halloween arrives, I will hang my black bats with a lot more appreciation for them. I learned a lot about these furry, flying mammals. Perhaps Bertha and Bart should star in an educational story for children.

Tear Down Statues of Jesus and Mary?

People need to examine history carefully.

A black activist made news saying statues of white Jesus and Mary must come down because they represent white supremacy. It reminded me of the houses of worship being destroyed in Russia and priests being arrested when the Communists took over. Then there was Hitler who hung the Nazi flag in all the churches and arrested all pastors and priests who opposed him. I ask, is this the transformation of America? Do Christians have an evil history that requires our church to be destroyed?

No one can deny that members of the Christian faith used the Bible to support slavery. God has been used as an excuse to do terrible things throughout history. But why not examine the reason slavery ended in America? Christian abolitionists along with members of the Jewish faith ran the underground railroad and freed an estimated 100,000 slaves. They spoke out against slavery, wrote against slavery and campaigned against it. These people were beaten, arrested, and killed for their beliefs and using their first amendment right called freedom of speech.

Christians opposed the expansion of slave states and worked tirelessly to educate people on the evils of slavery. I believe without their relentless push to end slavery the practice of slavery would have continued. Maybe the Civil War would not have even been fought without these faithful people.

Instead of condemning white Christians and telling us we represent white supremacy, why not celebrate the Christians who fought for Civil Rights in America? I choose to look at the shining examples of my faith who worked to end slavery and also walked with Reverend King to change racists laws. As Doctor King said in his I Have a Dream Speech, he wanted his children to live in a nation where people were judged by the content of their character. When examining history, I hope people will not omit the contributions of Christians in the fight for equality.