Spring is a time of agony and ecstasy. The garden is gloriously alive and the
blossoms appearing everywhere are a promise of delicious fruit to come. Ecstasy. Then suddenly the winds start and the blossoms are blown away. Agony. As I try and prepare for our family’s food security into the future, wind is one of our biggest threats. Dust borne diseases are also carried by wind and in the disaster planning taking place for our area, it is expected that wind will cause more damage to humans than fire (and, of course, wind is what drives fires and can make them so lethal). I’ve been learning about the absolute necessity of building dense windbreaks around every house to reduce disease (which is filtered out by small furry leaved plants), to protect property from wind damage and to create the microclimates necessary for successfully growing food. Sydney once had a Green Zone for these very reasons, but it’s now been cut down by developers.
Because of wind this poppy lasted barely a day:
Spring is also a time of “firsts”, but because of global warming these are arriving much earlier than even I was prepared for. Some firsts are great, some are more worrying ….
Today we had our first peas, our first broadbean pods, our first bushfire of the season (with nearby Penrith predicted to reach 35C this week), our first cicada ….
September is too early for cicadas but this brave little masked devil cicada crawled out of its rapidly warming soil. This usually happens in late Spring or early Summer when the soil temperature reaches 18C. Cicadas have also been emerging earlier in the US this year.
The helicopters and fire engine sirens were another surprise. I wasn’t mentally prepared for them this early either. I can still hear some helicopters overhead and I just checked the RFS site . There are currently 22 fires recorded in our state (NSW) tonight.
But getting back to blossoms and food. There’s one type of blossom that hugs the ground so closely it can survive and thrive on wind. It loves the wind because its seeds are spread so well by it – this little survivor is the dandelion. It’s roots go down so deep into the soil that it draws nutrients up even during drought and it’s broad leaves mulch the soil. Until recently I thought of the dandelion as a weed but, especially in the light of global warming, dandelions are now amongst my favourite plants. They manage to grow, without any attention, even in the cracks in our concrete driveway. I actually find them quite beautiful. In a quick stroll around my garden on Friday I was able to pick a huge bowl of blossoms which I made into dandelion fritters for lunch and dandelion syrup to pour over my next batch. Even if you don’t have a garden it’s time to wise up on where to find nutrition – opportunistic feeding, especially on something as nutritious as dandelions, may well be what will see us through some difficult times ahead.
According to Dorothy Hall, dandelions contain potassium and calcium salts, manganese, sodium, sulphur, vitamins A, B, C and D and that necessary liver-regulating substance, choline. Repeated applications of the milky juice from their stems and leaves apparently makes warts disappear, their leaves are an excellent bitter green to add to salads and “green” pies like spinach pie, and they help rid the body of poisons and toxins. Dandelion leaf tea can help inhibit the hepatitis virus, is a tonic for the liver, is used in treatment for rheumatism and helps break up liver and kidney stones. Even the ethylene they give off helps fruit to ripen more quickly. The roots can be dried in Autumn to make dandelion coffee and my next experiments are to make Dandelion beer and wine. If you can bear to pull them out after all this they’re excellent for the compost.
Where, however, are our governments on all this? Why aren’t they doing more? In The Melbourne Age last Sunday there was an article about the fact that Australia is predicted to run out of carrots and potatoes this summer because of the drought. Over the last twelve days I’ve been so busy planting food that I haven’t had time to blog. I’ve been doing my daily personal and political actions (which I’ll eventually list when I’m not so exhausted), I’ve been down to Melbourne to meet Al Gore and the next climate change trainees and to visit the Digger’s Club and buy heritage and organic seeds, I’ve been going to my permaculture course where we’re currently drawing up plans to permaculture Blackheath Golf Course and potentially start a community garden there and I’ve been sourcing second hand windows to close in a verandah as protection from the weather. When the long weekend is over I’m going to start ringing a politician every single day in my lunchbreak … what is happening now should never have been allowed to get this far and we need action to help us prepare for the future immediately.