Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lessons in Blogging from a Dandelion: Potato Collard Soup

It's dandelion season in my corner of the world.  Year after year we try to rid our lawn of these invaders, without much success.  It's a losing battle, especially if you have kids in your neighborhood.

Because you remember what you do with dandelions, don't you?  You pick the biggest, seediest, plumpest ones, you make a wish, and you blow.  You watch with delight as the seeds scatter in the wind, some settling back into the grass in front of you, some winging their way to a neighbor's yard.  It's immensely satisfying.

I've been spending a lot of time with the dandelions this year because my daughter just discovered them.  And though she hasn't figured out how to consistently make the air come out of her mouth when she wants it to (one particularly puffy specimen got a little too close to her mouth, and she spent the next five minutes crying because the downy seeds really just don't taste very good, and they get stuck on your tongue and in your throat like a stubborn hair), she loves the idea of the scattering.  Sometimes she ruffles her fingers through the down, watching the seeds leap into the air.  Sometimes she toddles from one to the next, picks them gingerly, and hands them to me, gesturing: Blow, mama.  So I do, re-seeding our lawn, ensuring that we'll never catch up with the weeds.

Yesterday I found myself thinking about what dandelions can teach us about blogging and about life.  Because that's how I roll these days.  Here's what I came up with:

Put in a good tap root.  One of the reasons dandelions are so hard to take out is because they have a thick, stubborn tap root.  They integrate themselves deeply into the soil.  You, too, should put in deep roots in the soil of the blogging community.  Leave comments.  Form relationships.  It's from those relationships that your own blog will grow and become fruitful.

Be adaptable.  Dandelions start out as those bright yellow flowers that signal the decline of your lawn, then go into hiding and suddenly come back as the cottony balls of fluff we all love.  Be willing to acknowledge when change might be a good thing, and might even allow you to reach a wider audience, or be a more effective writer.  Metamorphosis doesn't mean you've lost yourself, if you have deep roots.

Prepare to produce lots of seeds.  If every dandelion seed my children and I blew into our yard took root, we would have no lawn.  Somehow, nature has a sense of balance, and some of them never reach the soil, or die untimely deaths by the lawnmower, or don't get what they need to survive.  You'll probably write a lot; sometimes a post will strike a chord with your readers, and sometimes not.  Know that if you write enough, eventually something will take root.  (This is one piece of advice I really ought to follow more often myself.)

Cover as much ground as you are willing.  If you stretch yourself, you may find that you've taken root in new communities entirely, ones that will further pollinate your ideas. Take a risk, and go long every once in a while.

Weeds are beautiful, too.  Maybe they're an invasive nuisance, but have you ever been given a small bouquet of dandelion flowers?  They're as lovely and cheerful as they are hardy.   So maybe your post isn't exactly the perfect thing you thought it would be.  Chances are it will still be meaningful to someone.  Don't discount your "weeds."

Some people actually eat dandelion greens.  I haven't harvested our bumper crop yet, myself, but I give you this soup today, in which you could probably use dandelion greens, if you were feeling particularly brave.  I think I'll just keep making wishes, and watching the seeds fly.

Potato Collard Soup

3 T. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 t. salt
6 potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
7 cups water
4 c. collard leaves, stems removed, chopped

Heat oil in a large pot.  Add onions, garlic, and salt; saute over medium-low heat until translucent.

Add potatoes and saute for another few minutes until just starting to turn golden.  Add water.

Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are half done, about 10 minutes.

Add collards and cook another 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  Puree soup with a stick blender (it's OK if the collards don't blend in all the way; that creates a nice variegated texture) and season with salt and pepper to taste.
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  1. This is so sweet! I adore dandelions. Truthfully, I like them much more than the grass that they usually invade (although both plants bring me pleasant memories of childhood).

    I am also one of those people who eats dandelion greens and LOVES them. Seriously, they are one of my favorites, if picked very young and tender.

    1. Slowmamma, on your recommendation, I will try dandelion greens! :) I suspect that we may find some in our CSA box this year anyway ...

  2. Very smart metaphor! I always love your meta-blogging posts. I think that I'd also add that sometimes your yard might become overrun by dandelions...but the only way to deal with them is one at a time. I have to remind myself sometimes that blogging is a hobby, not a job. It's something that I should enjoy, not something that I should feel overwhelmed with. (Confession: this posting-every-day thing that I'm doing right now is NOT the way that I want to blog.)

    I couldn't help but smile at the thought of your poor little one with dandelion seeds in her mouth. It isn't exactly funny, because she was so sad...but it's just such a rite of passage that you can't help but laugh.

    1. I am in awe of your every-day-posting, FWIW. But I completely agree that one at a time is the way to go. You can't pull out the dandelions all at once, and you can't kill them all with mass-weed-killing, either! :)

      And N's mouthful of seeds WAS sort of funny ... I was laughing even as I was hugging her, reassuring her that it would be all right. So it's OK for you to smile, too. :)

  3. You know we eat dandelion greens. :) I'm not sure I'd put them in your soup, though. They are a little on the bitter side, especially compared to collard greens. And you have to harvest before the flower opens or they are super bitter. That usually means they are a first warm month crop.

    1. Audrey, I had a feeling you'd know what to do with these. :) I didn't know about the flower part, though it makes sense!

  4. Hello! I'm here from ICLW. The pictures in your posts are beautiful. Also, I am inspired to eat some dandelion greens. Cheers!

    1. You are braver than I! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Yup they are in full swing! I love this post. Your metaphor is perfect. I love the weeds are beautiful too part. It amazes me when something I wrote touches someone. I was really shocked this week when I saw one of my posts on the Friday blog roundup.

    1. :) I was so glad to see that post in the roundup! It was beautiful ... I don't think I commented on it, but I thought it was so perfect, so symbolic of the journey. That was definitely NOT a weed. :)

  6. I agree with you--dandelions are the best teachers! Great post; it made me smile.

  7. So funny. Our lawn has bright yellow flowers all over and I was joking that I should at least harvest the greens.

    I love this new way of looking a the weed that, until 5 minutes ago, I detested. Excellent analogies, especially the tap root.

    Mmmmm on the soup. I was a latecomer to collard greens and I'm a big fan.

  8. Great analogy! it's dandelion season here too. :-) I wish I could pull up some of the greens, but some of our neighbors treat their yards!

    (ICLW #54)

  9. I was just blowing dandelions with my son the other day and didn't think about the ramifications...oh well, our yard is never going to be featured in a garden show any way. Love the analogy, though!


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