Friday, May 13, 2011

On A Frustrating But Misunderstood Weed

Guess what I made?

I made THESE. (go HERE for the recipe)

What ARE those, you ask?

Well, here is your answer:

Yup. Those are what you think they are.


By now, you might be thinking, "but WHAT did you DO to them?!?"

To answer your question, I will tell you a little story.

It begins, as you might guess, with me.

I was having a hard time finding all the speakers I needed to fill in the slots for our summer talk series. I had ONE slot to fill and it had to be done by the end of April. As I pondered who else I could as, an obvious answer dawned on me.

Why couldn't I give a talk? Hadn't I had a lot of experience doing this last year? Didn't I give a popular educational talk on "The Incredible Edible Forest" over and over and over again?

Why not here?

But it still seemed too simple for the tastes of this particular group. I needed a little more flare and something that would interest all these well seasoned gardeners.

So, I am calling my talk "Nature's Tea Party". What am I talking about? Mostly herbal teas that can be made from plants harvested in the woods and from your garden (and their health benefits) but also some FOODS that you can make from those plants. Nothing substantial, but something that you might be able to serve at a tea party. For example, chrysanthemum salads, ice cubes with violets frozen inside, dandelion greens, etc.

And so I have been looking for recipes. The other day I posted on Facebook that I was looking forward to pulling up some dandelions. And my friends reply was "make dandelion fritters!"

Fritters? Really? FLOWER fritters? Weird.

But then I looked up a recipe. It was simple and they actually looked GOOD.

The general idea was this. Make a batter with an egg, flour, and milk. Pick FRESH dandelion flower heads (if you let them sit for too long, they wilt and actually close up. I learned this the hard way). Dip them in the batter and give them a spin or two to be sure they are coated. Then drop them in a pan of hot oil.

As simple as that. Eat plain, with mustard, with honey, WHATEVER!

And so, I made the above little fritters.

And I was pleasantly surprised. Knowing from my childhood that dandelions are bitter, I was hesitant. But, as with many things, cooking minimizes certain flavors. These little treats have a mild flavor. Not much to them. But they are light and their texture is quite pleasing. And the bitterness is VERY muted-little more than a hint of an aftertaste. And with honey, they are perfect!

This is something I look forward to making with my kids in the future.

Why would I even CONSIDER eating these flowers? Well, as with all the plants I am researching, they have a multitude of health benefits! Dandelions contain vitamins A and C, they have been historically used to lower blood pressure. And when consumed regularly have been said to help with mild aches and pains.

I have grand plans for this little yellow menace of a flower. Along with the flower heads, I collected THESE:

Dandelion roots (cleaned and scraped) and dandelion greens.

The roots, I will roast and grind to make dandelion "coffee". It's not REALLY coffee, but apparently some people use it as a SUBSTITUTE for coffee.

The leaves, I will dry out and use in tea. For more immediate use, I am thinking of cooking them and adding them to a pasta salad with tomato, feta, vinegar, and oil. Or maybe in scrambled eggs. Or even in a soup! I could even eat them UN-cooked in a salad (though I imagine that their bitterness comes through stronger when they are uncooked.

And the rest of the flowers I collected will ALSO be made into tea. AND I added dandelion petals to the rest of the batter I didn't use when making the fritters. I am going to make pancakes tomorrow. Dandelion, oat pancakes.

So I am going on a kind of dandelion binge. They really are a pretty little flower. So sunny and bright! And it IS fun to blow the seeds away. I remember when Trissy(ie) was a puppy and I would take her on my paper route with me she would EAT dandelions gone to seed.

It was SO funny to see! She would snap one up and then her lick her tongue in and out in an attempt to get all the seeds out of her mouth. Then she would snap up the next one she saw. It was ADORABLE!

Anyway, I guess what I am saying is YES, on a green lawn I suppose these plants can be unsightly. But even though they are a weed, they are NATIVE. They are a heck of a lot better than other invasive weeds. And you can EAT them!

So instead of teaching my kids that dandelions are the bane of all gardeners, we will go out on a sunny day and harvest all that we can of them!

There are so many plants that have health benefits! So many TEAS to talk about! So many to MAKE! I just hope that Merryspring has all that I am looking for.

Speaking of Merryspring, here are a couple recent photos.

We are FINALLY getting FLOWERS!

"This is just the beginning!" Ray said to me as I was admiring the beauty. I can't wait until this place is in FULL SWING!

Here are some more.

Now lets take a walk on the wild side. And by that, I mean lets see what is growing WILD at Merryspring.

Fuzzy ferns of some kind...

"Names Spruce!" (Said in an Australian accent. Elise, this is you first freebie quote.)


Jack in the Pulpit. GAH! I LOVE this plant. I can't wait for another sunny day to take ANOTHER picture of it, more mature!

Am I a nerd for getting REALLY excited when I saw these growing on the side of the entrance road? Yes. But I am fine with that. I mean, this is the first time I have ever seen Horsetail! It's believed by many botanists that these little plants used to be as tall as TREES in the prehistoric ages before animals even came about!

Johnny Jump Ups! Wild Pansies. These were some of the FIRST flowers to arrive.

Oh. My. Gosh. LEAVES!!!! Where did THESE come from??
By the way, sugar maples are EVERYWHERE here! Every yard seems to have one! All over town there are patches of sidewalks that are CARPETED in little yellow flowers. I'll try to get a picture and post it in my next entry.

I call this picture, The Merryspring Conspiracy. This moss covered boulder kind of looks like an alien skull does it not?

The hills are ALIVE with the sound of music. I tell you what, after this absolutely perfect day we've had a lot of rain and a lot of clouds. I WISH every day were like this right now.

I'm pretty ROOTED to my desk lately, but I try to find EVERY excuse to get outside and on the trails! My current one is "I need to familiarize myself with the wildflowers and trees of Maine for when I take kids on tours."

And here are some from the walk I take to and from work every day. Spring is finally STARTING to arrive. Though it's still COLD more often than not.

This is Mt. Battie, which Camden is at the feet of. It's kind of neat, being in Camden. We have a small river, a small mountain, and the ocean! It's lovely.

Here is the Magunticook river. The small river I was talking about. This bridge is right down the street from where I am living. I can hear it rushing from the house.

This is just a nice spring view down one of the roads I tread.

And this is a view up the street I live on.

I call this the Magunticook falls. This is actually an old mill that is used as office and business space now.

This is the river ABOVE the falls. Calm and lovely.

Annnnd.....this is kind of random.

Well, I hope you all have a good week. Mine promises to be rainy. It will take ALL my energy to remain motivated (since I can't get outside) and up beat. But I will manage.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On Me

I often take quiet walks in the woods. There is nothing. No one but me and the towering pines and glowing birches. I extend my arms and gently greet every living thing I meet. I let my fingertips brush every surface and my senses are tickled by earthy smells and the green feeling of LIFE. I touch the feathery hemlock boughs, the papery bark of the birches, the gnarled trunks of ancient maple trees, the tiny saplings stretching in the sunlight, drinking in the spring. I see familiar fruits and stoop for a taste, thanking nature for what she has offered me. My heart soars with the birds as the they declare their spring joys and triumphs.

And I am at peace.

In the morning, I strap on my hiking pack (loaded with my life binder, my computer, my lunch, an umbrella, a head lamp, a water bottle, my wallet, and pens), and head out the door. As I walk, I pass a river, bathing seagulls, tulips and daffodils bred for beauty, and tiny delicate pale violets growing wild. Today, I saw a woman hosing her black lab down as he wagged his tail joyously and she laughed. In this time, I listen to music. I sing along in my head but a few notes always end up escaping my lips. But the roads are empty. There is no one there to hear it. I am filled with peace-knowing that I am saving money, helping my heart, and decreasing my mark.

Work is filled with possibility that I sometimes ignore. It's hard to not have any REAL work to do. But I find that there are times when I have a passion that thrills me. I feel it when I speak to others about my grand plans. Sometimes it sneaks in as I listen to someone else speak on insects, raised garden beds, or hawks and owls.

It's an elusive thing, this passion. I often wish I could capture it. Bottle it. And then access it in those times I feel discouraged. Or bored. I live for and CLING to those moments when I am filled with it. Alas, it eventually seeps away through the caulander-like holes that puncture my ambition here sometimes.

But all is not lost. There is hope. There is promise. It is THAT which I hold fast to. That and hope.

I leave earlier these days. There is no need to stick around and eat dinner at my desk anymore. No more thoughts of "should I just pull out my sleeping bag and spend the night here?" or "I wonder how long I can stay here before it becomes pathetic.". Instead, I leave when it's appropriate. I take the journey back home (for it IS a home.). The way back is easier (literally and figuratively).

And then I am home, the night is full of possibility. Over there is my guitar. Perhaps I will teach myself a new song or a new scale. Right there is a book. Well loved and practically memorized. Right beside it is a NEW book full of exciting possibility. And right here, there is a world of new things to stumble upon and then pearl (It pleases me how "spending time browsing the internet" can sound so charming). Underneath the window there is a box of colors and bits of paper-just waiting for me to create. There is even that binder. The one that holds my life and all it's thoughts. Within in it are the possibilities of worlds not explored.

Most importantly of all there is sometimes this:

"Sarah-Please help yourself to chicken, cheese, anything you can find. Also, on the counter, in cookie jar is my homemade granola-raisins, oats, nuts seeds, fruits, low sugar."

A simple, quiet note left on the fridge. Or maybe on the door. A mark of consideration and a willingness to share.

She and I spent 1/2 an hour on Monday having a miniature Family Home Evening. That she wants to do this and encourages it is more that I could have asked for. I could not be in a better place in this ancient house, with my purple rug and rocking chair.

There are pressures. There is still doubt. Sometimes it rains and sometimes it's cold. But I find that those things are bearable these days. I can only do what I can do. Being filled with worry and anxiety will get me no where and only make me unhappy.

I leave you with a quote-

“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again? Please. And oh, do, do, do make it soon.”
“Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
“Oh, Aslan!!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.
“You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”
“It isn't Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Chapter 16

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Family

It's mothers day. So why is my post not titled "on mothers"? Because today, the thought that occurred to me over and over was "I am endlessly blessed to be a part of my earthly family".

This still applies to mothers because without OUR mother, I would not be here and neither would any of my siblings. We would not be the wonderful, loving unit that we are without the constant nurturing and guidance of worthy parents.

And so, today, in honor of MY mother and all the blessed and inspired decisions she has made (starting with marrying a wonderful, worthy priesthood holder) I am going to express my love to my entire family.

We have our moments-moments not befitting grown adults. We have times where we can drive each other up the wall. We would not be family if we didn't. But, those moments are INSIGNIFICANT next to the love we have for each other.

We offer constant support to one another. We rejoice in each others victories and grieve for each others losses. We laugh together and cry together (and I love that A LOT of that laughing and crying can happen while watching The Lord of the Rings). When we are apart, we MISS each other. When we are together, we GLOW in each others company. Whenever one of us begins to slip and fall, 8 other hands reach out to catch us.

We have all grown as such wonderful and intelligent adults. We share with one another all that we have.

I could say that this speaks highly of each of us and it DOES. But more than that, it speaks highly of our mother.

Without her and our father's combined influence and guidance, we would surely be treading dangerous paths. I'm not saying that each of us hasn't strayed in one way or another. But we have never gone too far. And it was the love of our earthly parents that keeps us together.

We may all go our separate ways. Beckie might go to Hawaii. Elise to the the east for school. I have no idea where *I* am going to go after I am done here (SO far away from you all in Maine). But we will always be drawn home to those two wonderful people who brought us as perfect, untainted little souls into this world.

And for that, I have no words strong enough to express the gratitude I feel.

I am humbled. I am brimming.

I feel overcome with love.

So THANK YOU mom, for our wonderful family. And THANK YOU family for being my companions in this earthly experience.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On Becoming Reaquainted.

What IS this emotion? What am I feeling? It's so...unfamiliar, so FOREIGN. So....GOOD.

Oh, it's contentment.

Well hello, contentment. It's been a while, yes? How have you been? Oh. You've been content. Of course. Well, not me. Not until recently.

Maybe it's because I live in a HOME now where I feel welcome. Not a house where I feel like a barely tolerated burden.

Maybe it's because of all the walking I have been doing and the endorphins that has been releasing.

Maybe it's because instead of cars outside, I hear kids practicing baseball across the street.

It COULD be because I have a comfortable bed now that doesn't have squeaky springs so I get a good nights sleep and feel rested. It gets harder and harder to get out of bed each morning. I hit my snooze later and later every day. And I cannot WAIT for the weekend so I can sleep in!

It could be because I can shower whenever I want.

It could EVEN be because I feel like I am a part of this house rather than a random addition and Kathy COMMUNICATES with me and I HELP her with things and she is CONSIDERATE of me and I of her.

But if you are asking me, I think it's probably a combination of ALL these things.

That's just me.

I think it also has to do with E.O. Wilson, warm covers, space, flexibility, new music (lost of it), a new month, and....

wait for it....



I imagine you are confused, contentment. When have I EVER felt you while working (except when kids have been involved)? There are no kids programs, so why should you accompany me during my regular work hours?

I'll tell you why.

But that story starts with a familiar friend (and your long time rival) discouragement.

The program I have been working towards since February, "Kids Can Grow", flopped. After all that outreach, the publicity, the effort, the meetings, the anticipation, the WORK, we only had two kids sign up. Not enough to run the program. Not the way it was meant to be run.

So we collectively decided that it was not going to happen and notified the two families.

Discouragement managed to cling to me through most of the weekend. Then, I realized that I could either let discouragement be my desk buddy, or I could move on.

I decided on the latter. I began to let my mind roam and imagine things that I COULD do with my now free summer. I prepared to present these ideas to the education committee when we met.

They loved EVERY one of my ideas and gave me the go ahead to pursue all of them! Suddenly, I go from discouragement to ENCOURAGEMENT!

I have my work cut out for my, I tell you what. But they are all things I WANT to do!

1. Children's Garden: though we cannot do "Kids Can Grow" that doesn't mean we should abandon the children's garden. So we decided that we would still have a weekly children's garden day. I have been POURING through Sharon Lovejoy books looking for new and fresh ideas. Like a PIZZA garden, mini trough gardens, a "bucket o' spuds" garden, a bean tee-pee, and ALL KINDS of activities we can do with kids in these gardens. We can plant lemon verbena and sunflowers, and FUN plants! There is just SO MUCH I can DO! And, though I am in love with the idea of "Kids Can Grow" and all that it offers for kids, I think I will have a lot of fun this summer with this garden.

2. Movie night: I proposed that we have a nature movie night maybe twice a month. We could show episodes of Planet Earth. We could show some kids movies. All those Disney Earth films would be good. But we would try to show films for a diversity of groups. And we would ask for donations to help offset the cost of popcorn and a Netflix account. They loved it. So I am going forward with that.

3. A Monthly Music Series: This would but for the summer and fall. June-October. We would search for local musicians who might be willing to play here for free or for a minimal fee. They could play in the gazebo and we could have a suggested donation of $5 or something like that to offset cost. I know a COUPLE Merryspring Members who are musicians. And I can ask around the Down East Singers. MUSIC! WOO!

4. Having a morning birders club: Birding is "said" to be the fastest growing outdoor sport right now. I have no idea how true that really is, but I know A LOT of people here are interested in birding. There is some concern because we lost a lot of avid birders ever since introduced the off leash dog field. But I think we might still be able to get a group that meets weekly or Bi-monthly to go birding. Merryspring has a lot to offer!

5. A weather camp or "Experimental Scientist" camp held in the Fall: I think this would be a lot of fun. We could do it after school for a week or all day for a weekend. There is a lot of potential and my hope is that we can INCREASE our school outreach to get to the kids DIRECTLY in order to encourage more participation.

We already have two schools who want to bring groups to Merryspring for a tour in the summer and I hope that MORE will sign up as well!

I am still working on getting someone to help with the Interpretive trail but I think that is going to happen.

I am determined to ENJOY my work! I am going to leave my mark at Merryspring. They are going to remember Sarah Lambson as someone who tried her best to leave this place better than when she came to it.

I will not be defeated by discouragement!

In other news, I have started studying for the GRE. I am scared that I am not Grad School worthy. That being said, I am already considering Utah State University and the University of Rhode Island. Any other suggestions?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On Moving Out And Moving On

You all know the story. Girl needs a home. Girls seeks home on Craigslist. Girl FINDS home. Girl LOVES home. Girl realizes that home is run by a mildly insane dictator. Girl finds new home.

Okay, so this might not be a story for the books. Or one that could be made into a blockbuster film (hmm...MAYBE a quirky comedy!). But it is MY story. And one you all know well.

I mostly want these images to reflect the many *cough, cough* "fond" memories I have of the "home" I had in "Owls Head, Maine" (okay, enough with the quotation marks).

I will also give you a small taste of what my new room looks like!

And then at the end there will be some pictures of spring that I have taken at Merryspring (It's been BEAUTIFUL the past few days!)

Here-a I's-a GO-a!

So this is my dirty room in the process of being cleaned and packed up Saturday morning.


Aw, just how I remember entering it. There's that plant. I still can't decide if I liked or hated that thing. It was sometimes cumbersome. And I never knew if *I* was supposed to take care of it or not. So I watered it sometimes. But not regularly. And it DOES look like some horror movie cancerous growth coming our of the floor...
A last view of R/L's studio.

Here are the front steps and part of the porch. This is a part of the house I really never see since we enter from the side. It's such a NICE porch. I wish I would have used to front door more often.
More of that expansive porch. Actually, I don't think ANYONE in Maine uses their front doors.

This, for your information, is the house where I used to do laundry. Please note that you ALSO do not use the front door to enter this house.

My last view up Guptil Lane. Look how different it looks without snow!

A view of the field that is R/L's un-utilized property and her studio in the distance.

My last view DOWN Guptil Lane, looking towards the ocean.

Yes, I did in fact leave a note for the new tenant. No, I didn't tell her anything scathing about R/L or warn her (except to let her know that if she did not follow the showering schedule that R/L WOULD turn off the hot water). This was because I knew R/L would be doing a deep clean of the room and find the note and read it. I didn't want there to be anything bad.

The back of the house.

The view from the driveway.

The side door that we used to enter the house. The door that is not the front door.

Javier in the driveway, for the last time.

The sun room that always smelled of cigarette smoke so I could never enjoy it.

The random holey lamp.

R/L's vices. Wine, sometimes beer, and Coke.

I'm not really sure what these are, but they are on the cabinet as you enter the house (from a door that is NOT the front door).

This is the washing machine, not to be used.

This is the creepy cheetah that greeted my every day on top of the fridge. Looking like he was going to pounce on my head.

The tiny bathroom.

The living room. I hardly ever spent a pleasant evening here.

The top of the non-functional dryer. Gross.

The dining room that was only used for dinner parties. I ate in here a grand total of once because that was the number of her dinner parties I was officially invited to. And it was at the very beginning of my stay. For the most part they drank and a lot and smoked a lot and talked about the 70's. So I don't think my NOT attending their "dinner parties" was that great a loss.

This is the weird lamp that hung in the kitchen. She had an interesting and random sense of decor. The tying theme seemed to be "NYC modern art" combined with "things I collected from my South American Travels" with just a dash of "I have a house near the ocean so I think I should throw some sea shells and pictures of boats in there."

And last but not least, we have the ancient vacuum. I'm amazed that it still works.

This ends the photo journey down not so distant memory lane. Now lets start a new journey. On free of oppression, aggression, depression, and.....cigarette smoke.

This is what greeted me when I entered my new room. My mail (with my new Netflix), lovely flowers, and a King Sized Hershey's bar.

All signs that this can ONLY be 50 times better than what I had just come from.

Here is my new room without any of my stuff in it yet. Not the furnishings! The purple carpeting! The homey feel of everything! Very different to the sparse emptiness that greeted me when I first arrived to the house in Owls Head.

Another view. This bed comes complete with nice warm bedding that compliments the room. How nice to feel like the bedding isn't just a hodge podge of things that I brought with me (which is what my bedding is).

Kathy, the new roommate (I have decided to call her my roommate because it's more like we are living together rather than her dictating how I live in her house), is a sweet older woman (older than R/L). She keeps reminding me that I don't have to stress about things. She tells me "Sarah, stop it! I'm not whoever it was you were living with before." She also says that there are no rules. Which is the complete opposite of how things WERE. The house is generally neat, but she is trying to sell it soon so she is constantly finding new projects and things that need to be done. And often in the middle of a project, she will see something ELSE that needs to be done so she stops and starts her NEW project before the first one is done. So sometimes the downstairs has a slight cluttered look to it. She is also pretty hard of hearing so I have to go against my nature and speak slowly and clearly. It's kind of a good exercise in speech. I have to THINK about what I am going to say, so I don't waste words.

I admit that I can see the cluttered nature of the house (as she organizes things and packs them away), the "no rule" policy, and speaking slowly and clearly are all things to get used to. But they are all INFINITELY better than EVERYTHING I put up with in Owls Head.

I am going to miss that ocean view. I am going to miss having an address in Owls Head (such a cute name!).

But that's about it. I will really not miss anything else.

Now, a few pictures I took on the FIRST day it felt like SPRING in Maine since I got here. These were all taken at Merryspring.
We have a lovely Day Lily garden. I don't know what these were called but they are some of the first ones that have come up so far.

This one is my FAVORITE in the Day Lily garden so far.

And right next to the Day Lilies we have all these little violets popping up. So cute and PRETTY! I really do love wildflowers more than ornamentals.

The sun had finally set. And the sky was a lovely rose and azure color.

And lastly, Thursday and Friday I brought my computer to work so I could use the internet to download updates. So I had TWO computers on my desk. Twice the productivity, or twice the distraction?

I'll let you decide.

Blog Archive