Since the beginning of time spring has renewed hope in new life. Gently the earth is touched by warm sunbeams to awaken the forests. I imagine it yawned and stretched like Homer the cat coming out of his warm bed near the stove. Millions of tender green shoots wiggle and push through rich soil breaking winter’s clasp. All nature opened her bright eyes and every creature seemed to rejoice and reach for the sky.Hints of minty green leaves peeked through weathered tree limbs and around old locust fence posts covered with layers of gray aging moss.
Glints of new grass appeared among tiny blue flowers near the springhouse and in the pasture. Old Heif, the family cow was beginning to shed her thick winter coat. She no longer needed to be jacked up above the snow at milking time. Spring time is here.
She was dry for about six weeks, and all swelled up. At the appointed time, Old Heif slipped off, and the constant ringing of her rusty bell ceased. Soon she reappeared from the thickets, nudging and licking a red and white, wobbling baby calf. Her bawl gained our attention as they moved towards the barn.
Granny Lou said, “Look yonder! Old Heif has freshened. She scratched out a calf from under a rock! Now, don’t you young’uns be foolin’ with that calf. Old Heif will be on th’ fight. Stay away from the barn. That cow will lunge you; she means business.”
Dad let the calf run with Old Heif for three days, before he separated them. The calf was housed in a barn stall because it would take all the milk. A mournful, lonesome bawl echoed all day and through the night as mama paced the field searching for her beloved. Her grieving heart deeply saddened me. It is finally Spring Time.
Twice a day, the calf was turned into the milking stable. White foam leaked from the corners of its mouth as it sucked two teats on the left side, while Dad milked the two on the right side. Often he squirted milk into lurking cat mouths, and then watched as they cleaned their faces.
The barn was a mainstay of our day-to-day existence and frames today’s memories.
Spring fever affected all creation with sweet smells and new births. Granny Lou was guided by her nose, headed up the hill looking for sassafras trees. They were easy to find because their bright yellow buds and red tips shined like gold on the hillsides.
After a hard winter, she thought our blood needed renewing and believed if we drank sassafras tea in March we would be healthy all year. We didn’t know it back then, but sassafras is a natural blood thinner.
Her apron pockets began to budge with green twigs, bark and roots cut small enough to fit into a boiling pot. Aromas from the kitchen smelled like root beer as the tea simmered to shades of brown. Granny Lou reached for the sugar poke to sweeten the brew, signaling our annual dose of spring tonic was on its way. It was Spring Time indeed!
Her knowledge was priceless, and matched the abundance of leaves, greens and herbs that filled spring woodlands.
Tender sweet birch twigs made dandy chewing gum. The trees could also be tapped for birch beer.
We got our vitamins from all sorts of wild greens growing in fields. One was pokeweed. When it reached about six inches high a community call went forth. “Put up your dogs, we don’t want any yellow leaves!” After Granny Lou gathered a mess of poke sallet, she washed it several times, and then parboiled the leaves twice. Finally, she fried it in an iron skillet with hog meat. Poke sallet was topped with hard boiled eggs for a tasty combination.
There is a surge of interest in wild plant foods. Just be sure you know what you are eating
Spring Time is a wonderful time and it always brings back hopes of new life on the horizon!
This article on Spring Time in the Mountains was written by Barbara Taylor Woodall, the author of “It’s Not My Mountain Anymore”.
You can also visit Barbara on her website to purchase her book at, It’s not My Mountain Anymore
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