Some plants have funny names. Take Lamb's Ear, for instance. Funny name, but a neat plant. It's grown mainly for it's broad, woolly-soft, silvery leaves, but it also has this great ability to tolerate dry growing conditions. It doesn't seem to mind a bit of shade, either. Then in late spring it sends up stalks with clusters of furry buds interspersed with mini leaves that, if you look closely, really do look like lamb's ears. Soon little pink flowers burst forth and eventually turn into seed pods. It multiplies quickly after that, which makes it a really nice ground cover for those dry, shady areas where nothing much will grow. Here's the funny part about this plant: it can be used as toilet paper if you're ever lost in the woods. Good to know, right?! I like this plant for all those reasons, but I started growing it for another. It all started with a little black sheep. Doesn't it always? Here's the back story: I learned to spin wool into yarn in college, and once I married and settled into a home of my own, I decided to revisit that old hobby. So, being the farm animal addict that I am, instead of simply buying a spinning wheel and some pre-washed wool, I started by collecting sheep. The first one was a little black Shetland ram. He was soon joined by a couple of Shetland ewes, who in no time produced several Shetland lambs. They were sheared that spring so I could spin the wool on my spinning wheel. I didn't stop there, however. I love to incorporate themes on the homestead, and one day I happened across the markdown rack at a local garden center, and it was filled with Lamb's Ear. Just like that, another theme was born. I scored the entire rack of Lamb's Ear for $1.00!! As I was loading my purchase in the car, I was overwhelmed with visions of flower beds brimming with Lamb's Ear, a pasture full of cute little leaping lambs with ears, and me spinning to my heart's content in the midst of it all. See how it all goes together? Good. Maybe you could explain it to my husband...he's still trying to figure that one out.
It's Mulberry season on the homestead, so I've been obsessively shaking the tree for the last couple of weeks. Let me explain...Mulberries grow on trees, not bushes or plants. My mulberry tree is a Red Mulberry (even though the ripe berries are black), and it grows on a slope in my backyard. It fruits once a year mid-spring, and because the berries don't all ripen at once, the harvest lasts two or three weeks. Since the backyard is home to my chickens and is segmented by fences and pens, it's difficult to drag a ladder back there. It's near impossible to find level footing for the ladder, even if I manage to navigate it through all the obstacles. Thank goodness there's another way to harvest all those lusciously sweet berries. And it's actually the traditional way to do it--shake the tree and let them fall. All I do is spread a clean tarp on the slope below the branches, grab a limb, and give it a few strong tugs. I am rewarded with a shower of ripe berries raining down on the tarp--and me. All that's left is to gather the tarp and scoop the berries into the basket. The unripe berries will stay attached to the branches, so I give them a day or two to ripen before doing this again. On the off days when I don't shake the tree, I hand pick what few ripe berries I find as I pass under the branches during my morning stroll. When I return to the kitchen, I add them to my morning smoothie because they're brimming with nutrients, and they have a reputation for helping to prevent gray hair. Yes! Now do you see why I'm so obsessed? It's all about aging gracefully. And what a yummy way to do it!