Dragonflies and Spruce Tips

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Spruce tips on the tree

The mosquitoes clog my view of the evening sky as I wade through buzzing clouds to get to my back door. I keep my eyes shut and mouth closed to avoid swallowing or blinking them in. A few days later, just when the infestation seems unmanageable, we step into our backyard and hordes of dragonflies lift off. Again, I can barely walk the length of our yard without being pelted by bugs, but this time I don’t mind. In an apocalyptic surge, the dragonflies are consuming mosquitoes by the thousands.

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I  harvested these last week–they’re best in the bud stage when they’re still mostly covered with the brown papery things. If you live south of 60 degrees you’ll probably have to wait til next year.

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Fresh ground spruce tips in the food processor

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Spruce tip salt: Mix 1 (or 2) parts ground-up spruce tips with 1 part coarse salt. Let dry in a pan for a few days and bottle. The flavour is part citrus–part woodsy, and it adds great taste to pasta, and potatoes. I’m saving a jar to season the fish we hope to catch this summer!

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Spruce tip jelly… there are recipes for this all over the internet. If you make it, be sure not to over-boil the syrup after you add the pectin (no more than a couple minutes)–there’s nothing worse than tacky jelly. My girls love this stuff. It’s esp. good on toast with goat cheese.

Even though this cycle of carnage happens every year I’m always surprised by it. I also know it’ll continue throughout the summer: as the dragonflies get fat and clean up the mosquitoes we’ll see less and less of the dragonflies, until finally, the mosquito population rebounds and reaches a biological tipping point. Then, once again, the dragonflies will swoop in to maintain the balance. Usually two minutes before we go insane, clawing at our bitten bodies.

It’s amazing, and comforting, that things like this repeat themselves every year. It’s the same with the wild daisies that bloom on my birthday, the spruce trees blushing with their new green tips, or the ice-covered lakes melting into huge swimming pools.

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Some friends and I took our kids out of school last week to scamper up sand dunes.

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The ice had only been off the lake for about a month, but the kids spent most of their afternoon in the water.

No matter how much I anticipate these seasonal markers, they always knock me off my feet. I guess our winters are long enough that summer can trick us into thinking she’ll never come. But when she finally does, it’s fast and furious–and makes me want to throw my head back and whoop, like a one-year old playing peek-a-boo. Just as the baby cackles in delight when his parents reappear, I’m astonished and grateful when our hemisphere tilts towards the sun’s warmth once again.

…Which brings me to a quote I’d been searching for for years, until I saw it on Lisa’s blog last week:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

-GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy

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Have a wonderful summer solstice this weekend!

Wishing you all big appetites for beauty… and monotony,

Tricia

Ps. I feel I didn’t get enough in about the spruce tips…Did you know they’re one of the easiest things to forage? That they’re good for soothing sore throats and colds? That they’re analgesic, anti-fungal and anti-microbial? That the tips can be dried and saved for yummy winter teas. or made into skin cremes and salves?… Okay, now I feel better.

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4 thoughts on “Dragonflies and Spruce Tips

  1. I work night shift in ER tonight. I scurried around the house/yard all morning getting the necessities done so I could, guilt free, have a nap this afternoon. In my pjs all snuggled in with my book-I decided to check emails etc and your blog is top of my “etc” list:) But today… Your blog caused me great grief. Spruce tips… You mentioned picking them on the weekend and I meant to inquire. Your blog not only peaked my interest… I got out of bed, got dressed (half dressed- still had my pj shirt on) and went into my front yard to pick spruce tips! I promtly made spruce tip vinegar, spruce tip salt and spruce tip mayonnaise…. I would’ve had to completely sacrifice my nap to make the jelly… Maybe tomorrow:) Thanks for the inspiration Tric!
    Ps- we made a big mistake today…. It should have been beach day#2!

    • I can just picture it! And, by the way–I noticed your lovely tips when I came to pick up the girls on the weekend:) Spruce tip mayonnaise sounds yummy–I’m glad you didn’t make the jelly… you can taste some of ours.
      Also, thanks for the pics of yours that I used in this post. I would have added more close ups of the kids but I wasn’t sure if that would be alright with the others.

  2. Been meaning to try something with spruce tips after getting Beverly Grey’s Boreal Herbal this winter. Thanks for the inspiring reminder…I just ran out and picked a bowl!
    now to do something with them… 🙂

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