Uh Oh

I walked past the little garden by the car… and right beside I found….

Dandelion... da dum da dum da dum da dum... I think we're going to need a bigger boot

Dandelion… da dum da dum da dum da dum… I think we’re going to need a bigger boot

I have a good idea what Ray Bradbury thinks of dandelions… in “Dandelion Wine” he wrote “Dandelion wine.  The words were summer on the tongue.  The wine was summer caught and stoppered.”  “Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.”  He also wrote the colour of a dandelion was so intense it’d burn a hole in your retina.  But when I saw these plants, all I could think of …. was the theme from “Jaws”.

Found Some!

Ramps, Wild Garlic, Allium Tricoccum, Wild Leek... by any other name would keep a vampire at bay.

Ramps, Wild Garlic, Allium Tricoccum, Wild Leek… by any other name would keep a vampire at bay.

We went out to explore the Caledon area Sunday afternoon, and there, by the side of the road, among the leaves in a stand of hardwood trees was second wild crop of the spring season.

Maple syrup is first.  Wild garlic or wild leek is second.

Wild garlic/leek is also called ramp, which, according to John Mariani, author of “The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink,” the word ramp comes from “rams,” or “ramson,” an Elizabethan dialect rendering of the wild garlic.

This wild plant is indigenous to North America (how did the Elizabethans find them?).  They grow in hardwood forests from the Carolinas north to Ontario and Quebec. In Tennessee and West Virginia they celebrate their arrival with many festivals and events.  This past weekend, in fact, Richwood West Virginia celebrated the Feast of the Ramson at the Richwood High School starting at 10:30 a.m.  That might be a little early in the morning for the very strong onion/garlic taste of ramson, but it is quite good as a flavour for scrambled eggs.

Richwood is home to the N.R.A. – the National Ramp Association – and one of the areas most celebrated proponent of wild leeks was a fellow named Bato Crites.  He has passed away now but was known as the Ramp King of Nicholas County West Virginia, and in the Appalachian Mountains.  He used to say there was nothing like ramp to flavour a dish… and people in the area celebrate his passion every year when those green leaves appear.  The flavour and aroma of ramps is a combination of onions and very strong garlic.  In fact, celebrations are often nicknamed “stinky weekends” as the scent may keep friends at a distance for a few days.

Cautions aside, ramps add wonderful flavour to soups, egg dishes, casseroles, rice dishes and potato dishes. They’re easy to clean. Just clean off the dirt, give them a rinse and cut off the roots. Use them raw or cooked in any recipe calling for scallions or leeks, or cook them in a more traditional way, scrambled with eggs or fried with potatoes. The leaves are much more tender than cultivated leeks, and their flavour is milder so you can cut them up and use them to add flavour.

It’s a very short season, and before you dig some up, find out about any local restrictions.  In Quebec, for instance, commercial gathering is illegal and there are limits to the amount individuals can possess.  And when you dig, please don’t take any more than a few from each bunch.

PS

OK, I just heard back from John Mariani who explained the Elizabethan connection to the name.  The term ramp in England referred to the wild garlic plant Arum Maculatum.  It was also called cockopintell and wake robin.  The English came up with some great names for things.  Anyway, when they English arrived on this continent, they found Allium tricoccum, and called it ramp as well.  In the same way, they called the American fowl turkey because it resembled the guinea fowl that came by way of the country of Turkey and they called the thrush “robin” because it looked somewhat similar to the English robin.

Farmers’ Markets in the Hills – Mark Your Calendar

The Farmers’ Markets will open again soon… said he, champing at the bit… and there are several of them.

The Amaranth Farmers’ Market will open May 28.  It runs Wednesday afternoons from 3 to 7 p.m. and is located at the Amaranth Township Offices, on the 6th line of Amaranth just north of the 10th Side Road, west of Laurel.

The Bolton (Caledon) Farmers’ Market opens June 14.  It has a new location this year: in the valley in downtown Bolton, on Mill Street at Highway 50.  The market runs Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Erin Farmers’ Market starts June 13.  It’s at 184 Main Street in Erin and it’s on every Friday afternoon from 3 to 7 p.m.

The Inglewood Farmers’ Market is up in the air right now.  I’ll let you know.

Orangeville Farmers’ Market I’ve already talked about.  It starts May 10 and runs every Saturday morning on Second Avenue right beside Town Hall.

Shelburne Farmers’ Market, like Inglewood is TBD.

Feeling Summer-y on Island Lake Trail

We went for a walk along the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail this afternoon… parking in the lot on the south side of Hockley Valley Road just east of Highway 10.  The trail is clear, for the most part, but there are muddy sections, and a few places along the path where the snow and ice are still melting.  In the woods, on either side, there is quite a bit of snow… and against the lee shore of the lake, there is an undulating mass of leftover slush and what look to be Christmas trees.  But the ducks are there, black ducks and mallards, and a little diving duck I didn’t identify (no binoculars).  It was actually quite warm… warmest day so far.  So nice to take your jacket off and wish you were wearing shorts.

A Busy Place

The parking lot was jammed with cars and lots of people, dogs and bicycles along the paths.  With the kids off school, there were families there, with kids getting tangled in dog leashes.  One fellow, riding his bicycle, had a beautiful chocolate labrador retriever with him that I’m sure I could hear saying “I’m so happy.  I’m so happy.  I’m so happy.” all the way.  In fact there was probably a chorus of happy dogs but I’m particularly tuned to the lab.

We walked for a short while along a new section – it’s not quite finished and we walked past the “Do Not Enter” sign to see where it led.  There was a long stretch of wooden walkway over a boggy bit.  The wooden planks in the deck almost ring with your footsteps.  I was also thinking the chorus of frogs and toads must be deafening in there… pretty soon now.  We turned around when the track got too muddy… but later on we did notice where the new section joins the original: just past the eastern end of the causeway.

Despite the Snow the Flowers are Blooming

I looked beside the trail at one point and noticed a single bright yellow colt’s foot flower blooming…

One lonely coltsfoot poking its head up to check the weather.

One lonely coltsfoot poking its head up to check the weather.

A whole bunch of coltsfoots (colts feet?).

A whole bunch of coltsfoots (colts feet?).

then look a little farther and saw a whole herd.  Sometime soon I’d like to go to higher and dryer paths to see whether the wild garlic (ramp) is up yet.  Yum.

Queen Milli of Galt

“Queen Milli of Galt” is a play, written by Gary Kirkham, that’s coming to Theatre Orangeville May 8.  In fact, this morning, Susan went to the first read through, at the rehearsal hall.  It is a delightfully heart warming story – we saw the play in Blythe a few years ago – and can hardly wait for it to open here.  Yes, it’s Good Friday, and the cast is rehearsing again on Easter Sunday, but as they said in the movie “Shakespeare in Love“:

William:  “The show must…”

Tilney – Master of the Revels: “Go on.”

The story of Queen Milli of Galt is true – partly, or wholly, we’re not sure.  But Millicent Millory was a real person – born in Galt, Ontario, in 1890.  She became a teacher who worked in Lambton Mills, Malton, Northern Ontario, and Rockwood – also, apparently, in Calgary.  Prince Edward, who became Edward VIII, was certainly a real person and a playboy, and he did visit Canada several times before becoming king… in 1919, 1923, 1924, 1927 and later up to 1950, but it’s the 1919 visit where the story began.  While here in 1919, the prince stayed at the Iroquois Hotel in Galt.  Millicent’s father, James Milroy, owned the hotel, so it’s quite reasonable to believe that Milli could have met Prince Edward there, as she claimed.  The prince also bought a ranch near Calgary that he visited often – even after he abdicated the throne and married Wallis Simpson.  But the rest of the story is not so easily confirmed.

Did Milli Milroy Marry Prince Edward?

For the rest of her life, Milli claimed that she did indeed marry the prince.  She said it was a morganatic marriage, which means that she and any children give up any claim to royal title or privilege.  There were children, she said, two boys – Andrew and Edward – who were either quickly adopted, taken back to England by the royal family, killed in a car crash, or – one of them at least – risen to power and influence in the Canadian government.  To save embarrassing the prince and royal family, Milli kept secret the names of her sons, but she did, occasionally, show friends the marriage certificate and photos that she kept in the family bible.  She said she would allow these to be made public after her death.

Milli died in 1985, and on her gravestone is incised: “Millicent A.M.M.M.St.P-Daughter of James and Helen Milroy, 1890-1985 Wife of Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, 1894-1972”.  Not long after Milli died, someone broke into her home.  The only thing taken was the family bible.   In a story in the Wellington Advertiser, August 29, 2003, writer Stephen Thorning quotes an interview with the late Eva Howlett, a friend of Millicent Milroy, who confirmed many of these facts.

What’s the Real Story?

What does it matter?  It may be true, in whole or in part, but it’s an intriguing tale, and the play written about it is delightful.  “Queen Milli of Galt” runs from May 8 to 25 at Theatre Orangeville, 87 Broadway, Orangeville.  It stars Heidi Lynch, Jefferson Mappin, Mag Ruffman, Adrian Shepherd and Lauren Toffan.  David Nairn directs.

There is another story told… one that connects the prince to Orangeville in a very distant way.  Apparently during one of his early visits to Canada, his car (minus the prince) pulled up to a gas station on Broadway and filled up.  Kind-a like the many American inns that claim “George Washington Slept Here” or those in Great Britain claiming “Dick Turpin slept here.”  But all these tales may be true!

Post Script

Susan got back from the read through – and lunch – just a few moments ago. She said, “The play is even better than I remember – and all the actors are superb”.  Gary Kirkham was at the reading, too, and he was thrilled with this production.  It’s going to be so much fun!

Post Post Script

If you’re into geocaching, here’s a challenge.

Grand River Living Up to its Name

The village of Waldemar is on the 10th Line of Amaranth two kilometres north of Highway 9.  Actually the 10th Line becomes Mill Street as it passes through the village, changing back to the 10th Line just north.  I used to live in Waldemar, in a house right opposite the Station Street bridge over the Grand River.  When the river would rise in the spring we’d hear it indoors… a heavy rush of water combined with a low vibration that would shiver the whole building.  At first the river would be full of ice and when a big chunk would smash into the bridge support, the sound would be a deep thrum that we’d feel as much as hear.

Pesshinneguning Just Doing its Thing

We went to see the river the other day.  As is often the case, Highway 25 was closed through Grand Valley because the river flooded the road.  At the bridge in Waldemar, just a couple of miles down stream from Grand Valley, the relentless rush was awesome.

Looking down river from the Station Street Bridge

Looking down river from the Station Street Bridge

Grand-Up-Stream

Looking up river from the Station Street Bridge. The old train bridge supports still standing.

The Grand River has been flooding from near Dundalk all the way to Port Maitland on Lake Erie since long before the Europeans arrived here.  The first people called the river Pesshinneguning, “the one that washes the timber down and drives away the grass weeds”.  When the river ebbed and the land beside it dried, the people would plant corn on the fertile flood plains.

The river’s personality changes completely in the summer.  That’s when I’d take my dog out for a swim.  I’d walk up the middle of the river, about waist deep, and Carter would swim along beside me.  When he got tired, he’d just swim to shore and give me a look that said “OK, that’s enough” and we’d walk home.

Things May Soon Change

I just read an article – and saw the picture – of an Asian grass carp caught near Dunnville, Ontario.  That’s down by Lake Erie.  While these are not the same fish that leap out of the water  when frightened, they can cause the same kind of damage to the underwater environment.  They gobble up plankton and weeds that hide and nourish the critters at the bottom of the food chain, potentially wiping out the population of game fish.  According to a CBC report from Kitchener-Waterloo…

“An angler near Dunnville, about a half hour south of Hamilton, didn’t just hook a big one — the fisherman also managed to land a fish story that has all of North America’s biologists and sport fishing enthusiasts talking.

Authorities with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ontario of Ministry of Natural Resources have confirmed that the fish is a live Asian carp and it was caught close to the mouth of the Grand River, near Lake Erie.  Whether the fish is the leading edge of an invasion or a single escaped fish remains to be seen, but authorities with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources urge all fishermen to become familiar with the species and report any new discoveries to Ontario’s Invading Species Hotline, at 1-800-563-7711.

Hugh MacIsaac, professor and director of the Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, said it’s not time to push the panic button.  He said this specific type of carp is used in states like a Michigan and New York to control of aquatic plants in places like ponds. They will not reproduce.  There have been about 10 records of them being in Ontario.  He said the much bigger threat is the big headed and silver carp.”

You can read the whole story here.

Tardy Spring 2014 – Continues

On Tuesday April 15, winter roared back, on the heels of a promisingly warm Monday.  Soft spring rain gave way to freezing rain, ice pellets and snow as the northwest wind brought the winter down again.  Later that day I shovelled the back steps – as I have too often this winter – and looked at the little garden there.  The daffodils had poked their heads up in the warmth but now they were nearly covered by snow.
And once again, all I could think of was:

Sh*t that's cold!

Sh*t that’s cold!

 

By the way… have you ever noticed that the dagger leaves of springtime flowers often impale the autumn leaves that were laid on top of them?  At first I wondered how that happened.  I’m sure that you could balance a dry maple leaf on the pointy end of a very sharp needle and it would not go through.  Even if there were a stack of leaves, there wouldn’t be enough weight to push the leaves down onto the pin – let alone onto the sharp end of a green leaf.  Then it hit me.  The bulbs grow under the snow.  The spring sun warms the soil right down to the bulbs, even before it has melted the snow.  The green leaves push up right into the snow, and right through the autumn leaves.

There are two lessons to be learned.  Spring bulbs are hardy enough to survive a late snow… and spring is inexorable.  It will come.  Soon.  Please.