Well we spent a lot of time last winter shoveling snow. At least we didn’t get the ice storms like we’ve had in the past. But the snow. A foot one day. A foot the next. Three days later another storm is coming. For those of you that live without snow, let me tell you it is exhilarating (fun to play in!), a lot of work (where’s my car?), and dangerous (we are all still driving in this shit!). Last year we had more snowstorms than I can ever remember; and I’ve spent 45 winters here. Luckily that snowy winter sent us bountiful rewards, the first thing that comes to my mind is the long growing season we saw for our cultivated gardens and the wild plants. Foraging in Maine has been a real treat for us avid outdoorsy types.
Apparently keeping amply hydrated during the winter encourages rampant growth and good health (a good reminder for us humans as we head into the dark days – drink up!!).
This summer I was lucky enough to find forests of mullein in places I’d never seen the herbs before. As I walked out of a “Restore” shop yesterday, I notice 9 or 10 baby mulleins growing right up out of a cement staircase. Yellowdock, which sprouts up all over my yard, and most roadsides in Maine, was a richer brown this year, gorgeous color. Which brings me to the foliage – I’ve never seen anything like it. Here it is November 5th and there is STILL vibrant color. At first I had a vague theory about the snowy winter somehow having an effect on the super bright colors. But nature is simple when you get right down to it. The color is amazing because there are MORE leaves this year. There was more growth than usual.
And less of the things we don’t like! The illustrious Maine Black Fly (trust me, if you haven’t experienced this, it gets bad) barely made an entrance; not sure what happened to their minions. Not so much with the monstrous bugs we have in Maine: wasps and hornets. I had a few run ins (got bitten 4 times on one day!) and my first ever introduction to the Ground Hornet, which lives in nests on the forest floor that you never see coming.
There was no real heat wave, in my opinion this summer, and that is another added benefit. 70’s all summer? Fine with me. But the warmth stayed way longer than usual giving us a lovely September and an unexpectedly balmy and giving October. Around here, winters that start in early October are certainly the most difficult to take. And during this warmth, we received several dousings of 2-3 inches of rain. Too bad a lot of the roads got washed out – twice. The good news is that the rains gave a good long drink to the root vegetables and herbs. Carrots are still going strong and sweet after some hard frosts. Wild Jerusalem Artichokes are plentiful and fat. And believe it or not, there was a dandelion flower in my yard yesterday (for November, this is insanity!)
Even wild greens and young herbs are still growing strong this late in the fall. Right now in my herbs beds and wild yard gardens, underneath the fall leaves, there are young, fresher than ever, dandelion greens growing. A tonic if ever the body needed one. New plantain leaves are everywhere, mulleins of course are coming up, and I’ve been picking a few red clovers every day which I dry for teas.
So if lots of water and warmth are what it takes for the plants of Maine to be vivacious, maybe I should take that lesson to heart. Drink drink copious amounts of water and herbal tea (ginger so warming and soothing on a body!) and wear layers and MOVE to keep warm. A mantra to take from Mother Nature.