April 1st
After cleaning and putting away the sap buckets, spiles and boiling pan, I headed down to the creek looking for signs of spring. Almost immediately, at the end of the driveway, I saw a robin, and then another. I always wonder if this is the same pair (or threesome, as is often the case) returning every year.

Large chunks of ice, remnants of the winter ice break up, loomed ominously along the far bank of the creek. But along the bank on this side, the sunny side, the ice blocks have melted and there are numerous unidentifiable green shoots of all shapes, shades and sizes; little promises of bigger things to come. In another week or so I hope to find the wild oats and windflowers blooming before the giant false hellebore, asters, briars, and poison ivy make the bank nearly impassable.

We spent the weekend in Rochester and I was excited to find that spring was fairly well underway there; daffodils, crocuses,and even some tulips were up and blooming. I was anxious to get home again and see what grew while we were away. Along the roadside, not far from home, I spotted a clump of coltsfoot in bloom.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is one of the earliest spring wildflowers to bloom. Its flower is somewhat like the familiar dandelion, but smaller. It grows on a short, stout, scaly stalk which gets thinner as it grows taller. It blooms and goes to seed (also in dandelion-like puffball fashion) before the leaves begin to grow. The leaves themselves become quite large, up to seven or eight inches across, and are vaguely octagonal in shape. It is said that they resemble a colt's hoof print, from which it takes its common name, but never having seen a colt's hoof print, I can't say. They are thick, rich green and densely fuzzy underneath.

Coltsfoot has been used as a medicine throughout the ages. A tea made from either the fresh flowers or leaves, once they have reached full size, is good for coughs and colds and even for bronchitis or pleurisy. It is used as an ingredient still today in cough drops.

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