by Curt Kovener
With bridge repair, roadwork, chip & seal all going on simultaneously in different locations, you are probably like me, driving on country roads you haven’t been on for a while as you circumnavigate the asphalt progress du jour.
In my meanderings to get to point B from point A, I have noticed the fallow fields, forest edges and ditches that the Queen Anne’s Lace are in full bloom and quite abundant.
For the wild wood weed challenged, Queen Anne’s Lace is wild carrot (though I have never tried tasting the underground portion of the plant) that produces a large circular bunch of tiny white blooms. And each floweret produces a seed which explains why there is so much Queen Anne’s Lace around fencerows, unmowed pastures and the woodland’s edges.
Pollinators such as bees and wasps love Queen Anne’s Lace which is why they should not be sprayed and left for food for insects and critters.
Seeing the wild weed, my memory pulled me back to my youth and staying with my Grandma on the farm near Dudleytown. She was the cook and domestic engineer of that big farmhouse on the hill.
She was always glad to see her favorite grandson (my other family members needn’t bother commenting) but keeping a pre-teen boy from getting bored and out of mischief on a farm sometimes was challenging for grandma.
So it must have been this time of year she sent me out to gather Queen Anne’s Lace.
Walking along the fencerows of the farm and wanting to please Grandma, I clipped on the best looking flower heads. It all took quite a bit of time and occupied this young boy…but maybe that was part of Grandma’s plan.
When I returned to the house she had me get several glass soft drink bottles. (I will refrain from naming the particular brand but if you can think of a four letter word for an illegal drug made from the Coca plant, those of you over sixty will have a pretty good idea of the size of the glass containers. Those, bottles, by the way, were made in Terre Haute, Indiana.)
Grandma had me fill them nearly full with water and into each bottle she put several drops of food coloring from her kitchen cabinet. She then had me stick the flowers into the red, blue, green and yellow colored water.
“What now, Grandma?” I asked.
“Now we wait until tomorrow,” I was told.
Telling a pre-teen boy that we had to wait is not something pre-teen boys like to hear. But not wanting to displease my Grandma, I did.
The next morning I was amazed to see the formerly white Queen Anne’s Lace in a variety of tints of pink, pale blue, light green and soft yellow.
At first Grandma said it was fairy magic but then explained some of the science behind what occurred as she arranged the now colorful flowers in a vase. Capillary action—the flower’s need for moisture— and time allowed the flowers to absorb the color of the water in its bottle, change the hue of the white flowers, and make for a pretty wild weed bouquet.
But I was too busy to pay much attention to her. I told her I was heading out to get some more of those Queen Anne’s Lace.
“Take a bucket with you and pick some blackberries. Bring me back enough and I’ll make you a cobbler for supper,” Grandma advised.
And so she kept her favorite grandson occupied for another day on the farm.