Possumhaw: What you can, while you can


Shannon Bardwell



"Every day we learned something new-often without knowing it, and most often about ourselves. Man is a marvel of adaptability. Little comes along that he cannot either beat or change to suit himself."


-- David Conover, author of "Once Upon an Island"




It would be so easy to pull up a chair and sit by the window and do nothing all day long except watch bluebirds fly in and out of the bluebird box or watch swallowtail butterflies flit here and there on the wild cherry tree. Should you crack a window, you can hear the sonorous sound of bees buzzing. The swamp irises lining the lake are blooming. It's early for swamp irises. They usually bloom end of April, first of May. Swamp irises are long and leggy, and their yellow flower waves like a flag in the wind.


The beauty, the sunshine, the comfortable breezes beckon me outside to do chores I've put off all winter. I dipped leaves and jessamine blooms out of the fish pond, added a bit of fresh water and fed the goldfish. One goldfish is possibly blind. She's pale gold, unlike the brilliant gold of the others. She feeds in a vertical position and seems to open her mouth in hopes of drawing in food. Sometimes she does; sometimes she doesn't. I think she listens to the other fish feeding -- food arrival.


A friend spotted a hummingbird so I gathered up hummingbird feeders, washed and filled them with sugar water. I didn't have much sugar so I divided the sugar between the three feeders and filled each about half full. An expert hummingbird aficionado suggested I not add red dye. She said it was very amateurish and not good for the birds. I did not want to look amateurish. I'm still waiting for the birds.


In the greenhouse the plants are growing well. Bougainvillea are spilling over with white and pink blooms; the Christmas cactus is blooming, also a few leftover petunias and begonias. Oddly enough, the amaryllis sprouted. Well, "Mississippi Gardner's Guide" by Norman Winter says amaryllis bloom in spring, so I guess it's not odd after all. I don't do anything the guide says, and yet it blooms year after year. Beginner's luck.


All year long I have been dumping organic waste into the compost piles and doing nothing with them. They were starting to look like gigantic ant mounds with a scattering of egg shells. So, with time on my hands and the warming sunshine, I began to turn the soil with a rake. Henbit had planted itself in the piles. I removed the plants by hand. I should have worn gloves, but frankly touching soil felt good. It looked and smelled rich.


Once I asked an Extension horticulturist where I could get the beautiful blue ground cover growing in the fields. He looked puzzled: "That's henbit. Most people try to get rid of it."


There're a few good things about henbit. It helps in erosion control, and hummingbirds like it. It can be consumed fresh or cooked, and can be used in teas. The stem, the flowers and leaves are edible. It's in the mint family but said to taste slightly like kale. It nutritious, high in iron, vitamins and fiber. You can add it to salads, soups, wraps or green smoothies; it says so at ediblewildfood.com. I haven't tried it yet but I might.




Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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