Finally, the calendar has caught up with Old Mother Nature. We are now in the season of spring. The question is whether we will go directly into summer (maybe hot and dry) or will we have another cold spell (to freeze everything that thought spring was really here).
Don't know which would be better or worse. It does seem to be unseasonably warm for March. Husband Norm says he isn't going to plant anything until later in the season. As for me, I have already started with some things like onions and lettuce. The main thing we have to wonder about is if whatever we plant stays in the ground or gets blown away. Joys of living on a windy hilltop.
Did you read Joan Pritchard's article in last Sunday's paper? It really brought back memories of one of Marietta's glory moments - and personal ones for me. It concerned the premier in Marietta of "Battle Hymn," a movie about Marietta native Dean Hess. All the stars were here as well as ranking government and political figures. The parade was a treasure to remember. Rock Hudson was so handsome.
One of the important parts to our family that wasn't mentioned in the article was, on stage that night, the "Buddy Squadron" way of recruiting into the Air Force had it's first swearing in on stage. My brother, Carl Semon (Bill) and his friend and classmate Ward Minton were among the young men who entered the Air Force that night. They left after the ceremony for boot camp.
Tickets for the premiere and swearing-in ceremony were scarcer than hen's teeth that night and very limited. My brother's date told him she wouldn't go unless he got a ticket for me as well. I don't know how he did it, as I wasn't one of his parents, but he did. What a night and what a wonderful memory. Thanks, Joan, for reminding me of it. By the way, Bill went on to make a career of the Air Force, and after retiring, taught school for many years.
The book "Battle Hymn" was the true story on which the movie was based. It is a remarkable story of a man who made a difference in the lives of so many children. I had met his wonderful wife and children as they lived in the other half of the house in Marietta where I frequently stayed with a relative, Inez Biehl. Many of you older folks might remember her as she worked at the courthouse for many years.
The dandelions are already blooming in the fields. One needs to harvest them before they bloom as the leaves get somewhat bitter as they get older. Most folks hate them, but they are really very useful plants, unless they are spoiling your perfect lawn. If they bother you, just get even and eat them. The blossoms can be eaten fried and used for making wine and jelly.
The leaves can be cooked like most greens or eaten fresh in salad. If you go out to gather a "mess of greens," as Grandma Nichols used to say, be certain to gather them in a field, away from roadways. The reason for this? Well, in the country, there are a lot of pickup trucks on the road driven with those guys who chew tobacco, and one of their habits happens to be spitting tobacco juice out the window of the trucks. Even away from the road, gather the greens and blossoms in a clean area. If you have never enjoyed this country delicacy, try some of the recipes for a change of menu. Dandelion Jelly is a good seller at church bazaars and is easy to make.
It is hard to believe that Easter is in just two weeks. Kiki Angelo has started a great tradition for Parkersburg with the Easter Parade. That puts everyone in the mood for spring and for Easter. She does a great job at anything she does and puts in long hours for the enjoyment of our valley. Way to go, Kiki. Thanks from all of us.
Easter is the signal it is time to put winter behind us and get ready for spring and summer. In the past, it was the time for a new outfit, including a new hat, but that isn't the fashion now. It is the time, though, to get our wardrobes under control. Put away the sweaters and heavy coats and get out the shorts and summer clothes. Each year, I promise myself that I will use this time to clear out all the things I don't need or wear, and each year it gets put off to the next year. I do have hope for this year, but I won't lose any sleep over it if all isn't done. Winter clothing does need to be cleaned before it is put away unless you want to have "holey" wool sweaters next fall. The gentle cycle on the washer takes care of most things. It just takes the energy and determination to get it done that seems to be the stumbling block.
Embrace spring. Remember each day is a gift and is to be enjoyed. Keep all our troops in your prayers. God Bless.
Scallions (or green onions)
Boiled potatoes - 1 or 2
Hard boiled eggs - 1 or 2
Hot Vinegar Dressing
Gather the greens in a field away from roadside contamination, like road dust and tobacco juice from pickup truck drivers. The younger the plants, the more tender. Try to get plants before they start blooming if possible. Gather more than you think you will need, since they always look bigger in the field. Clean and wash greens, discarding any old leaves. Wash well in a couple rinses of cold water and drain completely.
Boil the potatoes with the jackets on and let cool. Remove the skins when they are cool enough to handle, and dice. Cut onions in slices - the amount depends on your taste for onions. Use part of the green stalks, too. Dice the eggs.
Put greens in the salad bowl; add the potatoes, onions and eggs. Pour warm dressing over all and toss gently.
HOT VINEGAR DRESSING
Six bacon strips, diced
One-half cup sugar
Two tablespoons flour
One teaspoon salt
Two-thirds cup vinegar
One-fourth cup plus 2 tablespoons water
Dash of fresh ground pepper
(These are approximate measures - I never really measured exactly for this dressing.) Fry the bacon until crisp and set aside to drain on paper towels. Keep 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat and discard the rest. Combine sugar, flour, salt and pepper. Add to the bacon fat and mix. I let this come to a boil, like making a roux, then slowly add the vinegar and water that have been combined, stirring constantly. Bring that to a boil and cook about 2 minutes to cook the flour and blend the flavors. If it is too stiff, add a little more water. It should be slightly thickened. Let cool until warm, then pour over the greens and toss gently. If you like the greens wilted, pour dressing over while hot instead of letting it cool slightly. Sprinkle the crisp bacon over the top.
Pick 1 quart of blossoms in the morning. Hold each flower by its calyx (the green base) and snip off the golden blossoms with scissors into a saucepan. Discard the calyx. Boil blossoms in 1 quart water for 3 minutes. Drain off 3 cups liquid. Strain through cheesecloth if you want clear jelly. Add one package (1 3/4 oz.) powdered pectin to the liquid and add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. When it comes to a rolling boil, add 4 1/2 cups sugar and a few drops yellow food coloring. Boil 3 minutes or to the jelly stage. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal.
Three quarts blossoms
Four pounds white sugar
One-fourth cake yeast (large cake or one-half small cake)
One gallon water
Wash blossoms. Scald with the boiling water and let set in the water overnight. The next day, add the remaining ingredients. Juice the lemons, but put the rinds in as well as the juice. Let set 48 hours. Strain, bottle and cover with cheesecloth until it quits working so much. Then set corks in LIGHTLY until it quits working. Then cork tightly. It is extremely important to set the corks lightly until it quits working and to set the bottles where the flying glass won't hurt anyone in case you set the corks too tightly too soon. You can use this basic recipe and method for about any blossom wine, such as elderblossom.
FRIED DANDELION BLOSSOMS
One-fourth cup milk
One-half cup flour
One egg, beaten
Two tablespoons powdered milk
One teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
16 large fresh dandelion blossoms (no stems)
Oil for frying
Mix all ingredients except blossoms and oil. Heat oil in skillet. Wash blossoms, drain and dip immediately into batter. Fry in hot oil until golden brown.
Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org