Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home Articles Seasonal Articles Spring Rituals
Spring Rituals Print E-mail

Spring has always been a time for celebration.  Surviving the harsh winter was cause enough to celebrate, and still is!  The opportunity for fresh food was reason to rejoice.  Since early times new green, new beginnings, new life, new loves have always been part of the spring tradition.

Spring was the time when children could be released from the confines of the house, to spread their exuberance out of doors.  Mothers breathed a sigh of relief, then began the ritual of spring cleaning.  I remember when spring house-cleaning meant starting at the top, and working through every inch of the house to the bottom.  Mattresses and rugs were moved outdoors to freshen in the sunshine.  Walls, woodwork, floors and windows were washed till they shined.  Tub after tub of laundry that included curtains, furniture throws, and bedding hung on the lines.  The heavy fabric and dark colors were stored away in cedar chests and closets, and freshly washed white sheers graced the windows.  Grandma’s hand-crocheted white doilies replaced the heavy throws on furniture backs and arms, and edged the shelves on the walls.

It was time to collect dandelion greens for salads.  I still do this every spring at least once, and more often if I have time.  The tastiest, mildest dandelion greens are the first ones of spring.  These are the ones that are lightly “wilted” for salad.  Later on, when the leaves become more bitter, it is time to cook them with potatoes, onions, hard-boiled eggs, bacon and a bit of vinegar.  It was usually a child’s task to collect the dandelion greens, with the warning not to get those growing near the barnlot.  This was hard to follow, as of course, the dandelions there were huge, with wide green leaves that would quickly fill the designated pan, and free the child for other pleasures.  But, mother could always tell, so even though we were tempted, we usually followed instructions.  Often, there were dandelions that had already bloomed and formed a “puff ball”.  This gave us an opportunity to gain an insight into our futures.  We would gather as much air as possible into our lungs, then puff on the flower with one breath.  The number of seeds left on the stalk were the number of children we would have!

Children were sent to gather branches of pussy willows for the parlor vases.  When they returned they always demanded to hear the story of the willow trees, who bent their branches to save a sackful of drowning kittens, and were rewarded thereafter with the soft, furry catkins.

Spring was time to hunt mushrooms & honey trees.  Of course, while in the woods, we had to search for Jack-in-the-pulpits, and try to be the first to make Jack preach.  This was done by squeezing the plant at the base of the spathe, which made a squeaky sound.

When the lilacs started to bloom, it was time to make tiny bracelets or necklaces by stringing the flowers on needle and thread.  Most lilac flowers have four divisions of the petal.  Sometimes, a “lucky lilac”, one with five divisions, would be found.  When this happened, the lucky girl would think of her would-be beau, and swallow the flower.  If it went down smoothly, it was “He loves me!”  But, if she choked or coughed, it was “He loves me not!”  Once decked in the bracelets and necklaces, we would look for maple seeds as they whirled down from the trees.  By splitting open the fat seed end slightly these became earrings!  Boys often stole rhubarb leaves from the garden to use as pirate hats.

When grandma wasn’t looking, we would pick the pretty flowers from the bleeding heart.  They made a pretty locket for our dolls.  And, if you gently pull the pink outer layer down on each side, look carefully to see a “lady in a boat”.  Some people call it “lady in a bath”.  Later on, I also heard it called “soldier’s wish”, as some people see a dancing girl and a bottle, but of course, we children were never told that one.

Ahh, those were innocent times.  When the worse four-letter we ever heard was “B-A-T-H”!  When childhood days were filled with nature, pets, chores, and laughter rather than violent TV shows, video games, and raucous “music”.   I must be getting old.  I already miss “The Good Olde Days”.