You can’t help but look down when you walk in Portugal—it is like strolling on the walls of a museum. Sidewalks are not merely utilitarian; they are decorative works of art. As for the plazas and squares, we’re talking mosaic masterpieces.

Faro Fleur-de-Lys

Faro Fleur-de-Lys

Calcada Portuguesa is what they call it, Portuguese Pavement. The cultural art form enlivens block after block in the capital city of Lisbon and transforms movement in tiny villages from mundane trips to the banco or farmacia into scenic, hand-cobbled passages.

Calcada Portuguesa is a walk made with white/light gray stones only. Craftsmen use 5-inch cubes of limestone pavers, not tiles. The more decorative walkways add contrasting black basalt cubes and intricate patterns, and are called Calcada Portuguesa Artistica.


Evora Plaza

The story goes that Portugal’s first decorative stonework of came about as a result of an order given to prison inmates at Lisbon’s Castelo de Sao Jorge in 1842. The general wanted to keep the men busy, so he had them pave the courtyard in a zigzag pattern. Soon after that, Lisbon’s Rossio Square was paved in a wave pattern. Within 50 years, Lisbon’s town council made Calcada Portuguesa mandatory. From there, the cobblestone art spread throughout country and even to Portuguese colonies, from Rio de Janeiro to Macau.

The cobble design is practical—rainwater percolates into the ground rather than flooding city drains. It also allows for thermal expansion, and is easy to repair and excavate to access buried services. But Calcada Portuguesa has its downside.   As the surface of the stones are worn down by pedestrians, they get slippery. Walking around Lisbon, especially on hills, I’d hold Marina’s arm and say, “I’d hate to walk on this when it is icy” and catch my lack of logic…Lisbon doesn’t have icy winters. Wearing high heels would be treacherous; I’m thinking Yaktrax might be a good strategy for a long-term stay.

Shopping Promanade Faro

Shopping Promenade

Visually, the Calcada Portuguesa is captivating. As the daughter of a building contractor, I thought to myself, “I’d love to know how they make these sidewalks.”

In Odemira, I bumped into a wish come true.

We were looking for a Wi-Fi spot to make hotel arrangements and were pointed in the direction of the Biblioteca Municipal (town library) set high on a hill. At the base of the hill, there were men working on a walkway. They used pointed hammers to chip corners of the cobbles as they laid them by hand on a compacted bed of sand. Each stone was hammered into place. Another fellow would use a stiff push broom to spread damp sand over the top, filling in any spaces. I felt honored to photograph the calceteiros hard at work. Laurie Lynch


Hammering into place.

Adding Sand

Finishing touch.










The Portuguese Pavement that became a mural, Alfama, Lisbon.





Somewhere along our travels we met a fellow who told us the Portuguese were hoping to make Portugal “The Florida of Europe.”

I responded with a weak, nervous laugh.

From the tiny slice of the country I saw, who wouldn’t want to live in the sunshine and raw, natural beauty of Portugal? But it’s the old Catch 22 … “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Sure, the Portuguese economy could use a boost, but with Florida as a reference, all I can envision is concrete condo castles and lots and lots of traffic. No storks, no cork forests, no empty beaches. No dirt roads leading to seaside cliffs or ancient monoliths.

Luckily, that doomsday projection was not reality in March 2016.

A large “i” sign in any town was a gold mine for us. It is the universal symbol of the Posto de Turismo (tourism bureau), filled with brochures and maps in several languages, and helpful clerks who speak English. In Odemira we picked up a wonderful map of the southwestern coastal region, from Malhao in the north to Odeceixe in the south. The map shows locations of Moinhos de Vento (windmills—used for grinding flour used in wonderful Portuguese breads), Ninhos de Cegonhas (stork nests), Miradouros (good views), Postos de Combustivel (gas stations), Portos de Pesca (fishing ports). Also listed are popular Praias (beaches) and whether they are appropriate for surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing, or romping in the nude.

Portugal has almost 600 miles of shoreline. We focused on a small portion in the southwest, turned the corner at Sagres, headed east to Lagos, and simply ran out of time. Most of the beaches we encountered came with the drama of steep, rocky cliffs; southern beaches are wide and sandy and lined with golf courses and resorts. Here is a quick view of our beach exploration—from the black schist (sheets of black rock similar to slate) beaches of Almograve to the shifting sands where the River Seixe swirls into the Atlantic at Odeceixe, to the golden cliffs of Praia Dona Ana on Portugal’s southern coast. Laurie Lynch

Written on Slate: “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea.” e.e. Cummings

Praia do Almograve

Praia do Almograve




Praia de Zambjeira do Mar

Praia de Zambjeira do Mar


Praia de Odeceixe Mar

Praia de Odeceixe Mar


Praia da Arrifana

Praia da Arrifana

Praia da Bordeira

Praia da Bordeira

Praia Dona Ana Lagos

Praia Dona Ana, Lagos


Blue TrimThe villages of southern Portugal are mazes of narrow streets lined with white plaster homes topped with undulating clay tile roofs. Doorways and windows have borders of either lapis blue or sunshine yellow.

It is said that the blue is a superstitious holdover from the Moors who believe the color keeps the devil away. Others say the blue surrounds keep flies at bay. The yellow is said to be the “color of old royalty”. It is also painted around doors and windows to prevent evil spirits from entering.Yellow trim

I have my own theory: The blue color captures the sea and sky; the yellow reflects the landscape of yellow flowers.

As we traveled through the rural reaches of the Western Iberian Peninsula, fields of velvety spires of yellow blossoms swayed in the breeze, like land-locked seas of shimmering gold, clamoring for attention.

I’m not the only one who noticed the fields. An Odemira Tourist Route brochure features a photo of three young people, scarved in the European tradition, sitting in a dell of green with the yellow torch-like blossoms.Yellow field

Another day, on my way to the Agencia dos Correios in Almograve, I picked a golden blossom. This was my second visit to mail postcards to the U.S. Despite the fact that the first time I handed the clerk a 50 Euro note for postage, depleting her change, she was friendly when I arrived the second time. I used English, holding up the flower and saying “beautiful” while smiling. She, only speaking Portuguese, returned a smile, recognizing the plant immediately. She pulled out a scrap of paper and wrote—Tremoceiro. In her sparse English she explained the plant is grown for its beans, to feed animals. I left the Agencia dos Correios, postcards mailed, mystery solved.Lupine

Tremoceiro is the Portuguese word for what we in the U.S. call lupine. A favorite book from my children’s youth, Miss Rumphius, tells of the “Lupine Lady” who scatters seeds of blue, purple, and rose lupines throughout Maine to make the world more beautiful. Thanks to that book, I grew lupines in our garden at Fleur-de-Lys, but never with much success. As it turns out, the yellow lupin (in Europe they lose the “e”), Lupinus luteus, is native to Portugal.

When I wasn’t gazing at fields of gold I was inspecting (and photographing) the jewels of Portugal’s coastal dunes. I was unfamiliar with most of them and had to do a little research when I came home to identify the beauties. Some are native to Portugal; others speak to the country’s seafaring heritage, finding treasure in distant lands. Laurie Lynch



Cistus ladanifer   Native to Portugal, Esteva is also called crimson spot rockrose. This evergreen shrub is drought resistant and has sticky green leaves.






Agave americana Brought back from Mexico and South America by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the mid-16th century.







Acacia saligna   Shrubs with sprays of yellow, globe-like flowers rise out of the dunes along Portugal’s west coast. It is known as Golden Wreath Wattle in its native Australia.




Pig Face?

Carpobrotus edulis   I love the succulent foliage of this plant, native to South Africa. It goes by the name of pig face or ice plant, as well as Hottentot or sour fig, because of its edible fruit. The flowers, which start blooming in April, look like large, colorful daisies.

P.S. These last two beauties aren’t plants of the dunes, but they will always whisper “Portugal” to me. The first, Bougainvillea, was introduced to me by my father. He fell in love with the thorny vine when he and my mom went to Portugal and Madeira in 1992. The bracts look like paper flowers of magenta, red, purple, orange, yellow or white.










From Field to Market: One day while in Portugal, Marina and Koen decided to hike along the coast. I was given the keys to the rental car, with Marina admonishing me not to drive and take photos at the same time. I passed a field that looked like it was filled with colorful globe artichokes…but I didn’t get the shot. Several days later, while wandering through the Gent flower market, I found the blossoms. “Protea,” the vendor said, another mystery solved.Protea









Cabo Sardao

The storks of Cabo Sardao

We missed the flamingoes. Apparently their migratory stop in southern Portugal took place before we arrived. No bother. I met the European white stork, Ciconia ciconia.

As we drove around Portugal, I was like a little kid in a candy shop: “There’s a stork nest. There’s another. Oh look, there are storks all over that tree over there.”

For most of my life I’ve seen the cartoon stork character carrying an infant in a sling. I was never impressed. But in real life, these birds capture my attention and affection.

European white storks are long-necked wading birds standing on stilt-like red legs with straight pointed red bills. They have white feathers from head to tail, with the exception of their jet-black wing feathers. They stand a good 3-feet tall and their wingspan is easily triple that. Unlike many birds, males and females look alike, except that males are generally larger. Legs and beaks turn red as the birds mature. European white storks have no vocal chords, so they communicate by clacking their beaks.

Stork Condo

Stork Condo

As impressive as the storks are, the architecture of their nests is just as fascinating. You can’t miss them. They are bulky, made of branches and twigs, measuring six feet across and up to 9 feet deep. I’ve read that the nests are lined with grass, sod, rags, and paper. They are on rooftops and seaside cliffs, chimneys and light poles, trees and towers, even centuries-old church steeples.

Storks are such friendly birds, settling in cities and countryside alike, totally unperturbed by wingless humans aiming cameras at them. Some nests have been used continuously for hundreds of years—European storks have been building nests on manmade structures since the Middle Ages. The knights of that era decorated their shields, banners and coats of arms with figures of storks. Today, the stork continues to be revered. It is against Portuguese law to disturb or demolish a stork nest.

(In the last 50 years pollution, pesticides, and wetland drainage have led to a decline in the stork population in Western Europe. Storks no longer breed in Sweden, Switzerland, western France or Belgium. In The Netherlands, breeding pairs declined from 500 in 1910 to 5 in 1985; in Denmark there were 4,000 breeding pairs in 1890; 100 years later, only a dozen.)

Stork couples use the same nest each year, always adding to it. Interestingly enough, while a pair shares a nest during breeding season, the two don’t migrate or overwinter together. These long-legged wading birds thrive on small mammals, frogs, fish, lizards, snakes, mollusks, and insects. They prefer open habitats, such as wet pastures, flooded meadows and marshes, but coastal towns also provide good hunting grounds. Portuguese farmers see storks as a way to eliminate the need for expensive pesticides. Farmers entice storks to their property by placing old wagon wheels on sawed off willows, encouraging the birds to use the wheels as bases for their nests.

During migration storks soar on thermal air currents and are reluctant to fly across large bodies of water to reach their wintering spots in tropic Africa. Therefore, the Western birds cross over the Straits of Gibraltar while the Eastern birds cross the Bosporus and go through the Middle East. In October, when the storks of Portugal’s Algarve migrate to Africa for the winter months, I’ve read that the skies above Sagres and Cabo de Sao Vicente, the extreme southwest corner of continental Europe, are filled with thousands of storks, gliding on the thermals.

Stork Sculpturepg


Storks breed in various countries, from Tunisia and Morocco to southern Portugal, to Croatia and Slovenia, to Greece, Turkey, and Russia. They typically lay 3 to 5 eggs in March or April, and incubation is 33 to 34 days. Return migration from Africa to their breeding grounds occurs nine months after the previous summer solstice, June 21. The summer solstice was a pagan holiday of marriage and fertility, when many human babies were conceived. The increased birth rate in March coincided with the storks’ return from Africa, giving rise to the legend of storks delivering babies.

For the most part, the folktales and stories about storks I’ve read since returning home link storks and babies, or storks and good luck. Storks are included in Greek and Norse mythology as well as and Chinese and Israeli legends.

Then, there are the other stories. Hans Christian Andersen wrote the fable The Storks in 19th century Denmark, where storks take revenge on nasty children. A Polish folktale follows similar lines, saying that God gave the stork white feathers but the Devil gave it black wings, symbolizing that the bird is both good and evil. In England, the stork represents adultery. In Germany, legend has it that when a handicapped baby was born, it had been “dropped” by a stork to punish the parents for past sins.

Faro Cross

Faro Cross

I much prefer the Dutch proverb, where storks are admired for eating frogs. In Dutch, the stork is called “ooijevaar,” which means treasure-bringer. Storks nesting on the roof mean a baby will soon be born in the house, a treasure indeed. Laurie Lynch

Written on Slate: “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.” –Martin Buber

Cliff Perch

Cliff Perch



When I was a youngster, I had my reckless moments. Like the time I was driving a two-wheeled cart pulled by my Shetland pony Firecracker. My hands were on the reins, I thought I was in control, but somehow Firecracker and the cart with me in it plowed over a newly planted maple tree in my parents’ backyard.up close

I caught hell that day, but in the long run, the experience taught me a lesson in resilience. Firecracker is in pony heaven, but that darn tree stands broad and erect outside my bedroom window.

During a visit to Provence, sycamores lining country roads etched a peaceful landscape in my mind. Imagine, coming back and finding 440 Hottenstein Road, soon-to-become Fleur-de-Lys Farm, with a giant sycamore standing in the meadow across from the barn.

So planning a trip to Portugal in search of cork oak trees is strange, but hardly out of character, and not at all difficult. If you visit the interior of southern Portugal, in the Algarve and Alentejo regions, it would be hard NOT to see miles and miles of cork trees. Groves of cork trees line the roads. They call attention to themselves, with stripped trunks that look like bare arms sticking out of wooly, lichen sweaters covering the upper branches of the canopy. Each bears a white number painted on the trunk—0 through 9.Lichen on Bark

Portugal’s Montados de Sobro–cork oak forests—are a mix of agriculture, forestry, pasture, culture, and history. Besides the many uses of the cork itself, the cork oak provides acorns for feed, its canopy shades grazing cattle, sheep or goats in the searing summer heat, and its leaf litter creates humus and replenishes the soil, preserving groundwater. Montados are a haven for wildlife, including 42 bird species. In a single square meter of one cork forest more than 60 plant species were recorded. Remote areas of the protected forests are home to the rare Iberian lynx. The first environmental laws in the world were passed in Portugal in the early 13th century to protect the cork oak forests.

A cork forest we stopped at outside Evora surrounded Cromeleque dos Almendres, the largest megalithic monument on the Iberian Peninsula, pre-dating Stonehenge by 2,000 years. Tinta picked up a thick coating of dust as Koen navigated a rutty rural road, but it was well worth it. Where else can you picnic, hug cork trees, hug towering granite stones erected in twin circles between 5,000 and 4,000 B.C., take all the photos you want—and see no more than a half dozen other visitors?

The bark from Quercus suber, the cork oak, has been harvested commercially in Portugal for the past 300 years. The tiradors, cork strippers, are the highest paid agricultural field workers in the world, earning 80-120 Euros/day plus benefits. They work in pairs, one up in the tree; the other, on the ground. With sharp, short-handled axes and in unison they delicately chop into the thick, spongy bark and together carve out door-sized rectangular slabs, almost like peeling an orange. The cork bark is dried for a couple months and then boiled in water to kill insects and bacteria, and to improve its flexibility.Cork tree

When the cork is stripped correctly, the bark grows back and can be harvested in a decade. The cork oak is the only tree that can regenerate its bark. Cork peeling season starts in May with the new moon, and continues into summer. This year, each tree will be marked with white paint with a 6 for 2016 and most likely won’t be harvested again until 2026.

Newly planted cork oaks grow for at least 25 years before the first harvest. The first stripping is used for flooring and the second, a better grade, is used for other products—shoes, belts, wallets, cell phone holders—and the third and subsequent harvests are used for wine bottle stoppers. Each tree can be harvested for 200 years.

The structure of cork is similar to honeycomb—the cells work as sound and heat insulators, and absorb pressure and shock. Cork is light, impermeable to gas and liquid, elastic and compressible, fireproof, resistant to abrasion, and completely natural, renewable, and recyclable. What other material combines all of those characteristics?

In the 17th century, Dom Perignon decided the bark of the cork oak was perfect to seal his champagne and cork wine bottle stoppers took their place in history. Today, Portugal produces more than half of the cork in the world, and Portuguese cork is used in all the world’s greatest wines. However, the global financial crisis as well as the increased use of screw caps and plastic as wine stoppers, has hurt the cork industry. My environmental pledge for the future will be to drink more wine-and only buy bottles of wine topped with Portuguese corks. Laurie LynchEvora- Megaliths&Cork

“It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” Diane Ackerman





Some Bunny Loves You

Some Bunny Loves You

In search of sunshine, late last year I began planning a trip to Belgium (for the sunshine of my heart) and Portugal (for a dose of Mother Nature’s sunshine).

I spent the first part of my vacation babysitting granddaughter Lais with the help of Tante Marina. Introducing Lais to Raffi on YouTube was my transatlantic icebreaker. Lais loves music (like her great-grandmother) so we watched a video of Raffi singing “The Wheels on the Bus.” Lais clapped, whispering, “Encore” (again, more). “Baby Beluga” played. “Encore.”   And then “Down by the Bay” and another quiet command, “Encore.” What a joy!

Granddaughter time, ever so short, included the Marche de Charleroi, est. 1709, with Easter bunnies, baby radishes, foraged mushrooms, Belgian endive, Brussels sprouts, lettuce seedlings, and blooming Lenten roses.   Sabine and I took Lais for her first haircut. We visited her crèche (daycare) and enjoyed brunch and a stroll in Gent with Marina and Koen. I reveled in the sunshine of a glowing face whose favorite word at 18 months is “No.”

First Haircut

First Haircut

Then, off to Portugal with Marina and Koen. We selected Portugal for its sun, low cost, and because none of us had been there. I prepped by reading Jose Saramago’s Blindness and Journey to Portugal (the author is Portugal’s recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature) as well as Lonely Planet’s Portugal, which I unfortunately left in State College, complete with penciled-in notes and dog-eared pages, on my beside table.

Before Koen made our flight reservations he asked if I wanted to see the countryside or cities. I told him I wanted to see cork trees and flamingoes, but couldn’t imagine going to Portugal without visiting Lisbon. However, I am practical and realized 10 days wouldn’t be time enough to see the upper two-thirds of the country, including Porto. Portugal is the size of Maine, but, as Saramago himself pondered: “How can such a small country be so big?”

Slowly our travel route materialized. We would start in the south, drive northeast to visit the largest man-made lake in Europe (Koen’s request), then head west, through the cork forests (yes!), to Lisboa, and then travel down the Atlantic coast (Marina loves her beaches) and across the Algarve coast back to Faro. Marina and I tag-teamed on the overnight reservations, lining up Airbnb stays for the first week, leaving the remaining nights open as the trip progressed.

We flew into Faro and rented a Peugeot that would soon enough be christened “Tinto,” for the vinho tinto (red wine) we ordered with many meals. We put about 1,200 km (a mere 750 miles) on the odometer as we drove through villages and past vineyards, castles and cork trees, olive groves and megaliths, cliff-side fishing villages and crashing ocean waves.


Marina & Koen


With 18-22 C (60-70 F) sunshine all but one day, we sought out a “terras” (Dutch for terrace or outdoor café) at every stop were we could watch the old Portuguese men smoking and chatting on every corner (I’m assuming all the womenfolk were at home cooking and cleaning) and just soak in the colors, tiles, arches and vistas of each town.

Even the memory of the view from an outdoor terrace at Monsaraz—of the Grande Lago Alqueva–takes my breath away. Although a man-made lake, there is nothing artificial looking about it as the waters glisten and sparkle between green pastures of grazing cattle, their bells playing a calming melody. The lake is 250 sq-km, borders Spain, and was completed in 2002. It provides a reservoir for drinking water, farmland irrigation, recreation, and hydroelectric power. The area is also UNESCO’s first designated Starlight Reserve. Hello Big Dipper! I’d return in a heartbeat. “Encore.”

A Portuguese woman we met in Monsaraz asked us our next destination. Evora (Ee VOR ah, I said.) “Actually, it’s pronounced “Ev Rah,” she corrected. The song “Ave Cesaria” on the Stromae CD Richard gave me is about a Cape Verdean singer, Cesaria Evora (Ee VOR ah), who was known as the “barefoot diva.” Each time I play the lively song, although it’s about the woman and not the city, I’ll think of the Franciscan Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), the ruins of a Roman temple, and sipping cappuccino from Delta coffee cups in the morning sun. “Encore.”

Like Rome, Lisboa is said to be a city of Seven Hills, although some claim there are actually eight. All have cobbled, mosaic sidewalks that are hell on old feet but a visual delight. There are twisty, narrow passageways, canaries in cages singing to café goers, fado whining from open doorways, miradouros with buskers and balladeers, and too many Selfie-Stick hucksters and Facebookers. A bright yellow tram runs past our Alfama apartment and Tuk-Tuk three-wheeled auto rickshaws zip up and down the hills. So many neighborhoods to visit. So many treats to sample.

Lisboa Sidewalk

Mosaic Sidewalks

We borrowed a Lisboa guidebook, written in Dutch. It warned not to go to Sintra on a Sunday because it is a favorite outing for families and can get crowded. Laurie the Fado singer whined that we had to see the gardens of Sintra, where well-to-do Lisboetas of the past summered in their palaces. Koen, who steers clear of mob scenes ”bit the bullet” (I’m not sure what the expression is in Dutch) and relented. The palaces and gardens, stones and lichen, ferns and follies, and swans–black swans–are the stuff of fairy tales. We saw Sintra when the magnolias and camellias were breaking into bloom. I’d love to see it in late spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Next trip, I might even skip Lisboa and stay in Sintra. “Encore.”

That’s the first half of the trip, but I’ll end with one more Lais story. After she warmed up to me, I reached down and gave her a goodnight bisou, and I heard it. “Encore.” Another bisou. “Encore.” Another bisou. My heart swelled to the size of the Atlantic. “Encore.” But it was time to help Maman get Lais off to bed. I laughed and ended the game saying, “Bonsoir.” Laurie Lynch

Grande Lago Alqueva

Grande Lago Alqueva

Written on Slate: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” Cesare Pavese

About Brussels: I left 48 hours before the bombs went off at Brussels Airport. Everyone I know and love in Belgium is safe. In just three months, senseless bombings have killed scores of civilians in Istanbul, Bagdad, Brussels, and Lahore. I don’t have an answer, except to pray.

Coming Up: In the next days/weeks I’ll blog about the beaches and cuisine, flora and avifauna of Portugal. Stay tuned, if you like.


I have a recurring dream: I wake in a meadow surrounded by all of the weeds I’ve ever pulled. Purslane, dandelion, Canada thistle, yellow nutsedge, ground ivy, burdock, broadleaf plantain, bindweed, lambsquarters, tree of heaven, galinsoga.

My weed-pulling days started when others my age were riding bicycles with training wheels. We were country kids. My dad delegated and sent us off in different directions. Weeding the planters around the built-in barbecue grill was my favorite. A simple, defined geographic area—and not too many snakes. There were other chores: picking up black walnuts from the lawn, staining hands and nasal passages, or gathering shards of glass and nails from the pasture, so they wouldn’t lodge in our ponies’ hooves. It was the weeding that took.

“The strongest and most mysterious weeds often have things to teach us.” –F.T. McKinstry

As a new mother, I got a job with a landscape designer on the maintenance crew. Weeding was my calling. I’d come home, farmer-tanned arms, soil crammed my cuticles, and knees crusted with dirt, completely refreshed from a morning of weeding the poolsides and patios of Saucon Valley mansions.

I planned our young family’s first backyard as a high-maintenance garden. I wanted to spend most of my free time right there. Beds were laid out with mulch and precision. Each perennial, shrub, or tree had its spot—encircled with mulch. A friend stopped for a visit and said the garden reminded her of doilies her grandmother put under every knickknack on tables, dressers and sideboards. And when there were weeds sprouting on those doilies, my radar zeroed in and my fingers pulled them out.

Then, there was Fleur-de-Lys Farm. I became one with the weeds. I tossed purslane in our salads, deep-fried dandelion fritters, tried to co-exist. I fell in love with the weedy suckering of the pawpaw trees along the stream and the cut-leaf sumac on the hill. I planted goldenrod, wild ginger, and Jerusalem artichokes that spread like weeds.

“May all your weeds be wildflowers.” –Author Unknown

So, as I’ve spent much of the New Year nursing a sore throat and cough, craving ginger tea, and massaging my sinuses with Tiger Balm, why am I dreaming of weeds?

The first weekend of 2016 I barely left the couch. I played NPR to entertain my mom while I dozed in and out of sniffling slumber. I caught a snippet of The Dinner Party Download guys discussing the latest health craze—Tiger Nuts. Since the 13th century Tiger Nuts have been pressed into a milky drink in Valencia called horchata. That grabbed my attention. I’m planning a trip to the Atlantic side of the Iberian Peninsula—maybe they serve horchata in Portugal, I whispered to myself, head nuzzling a pillow.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue;

But they don’t get around

Like the dandelions do.

            — Slim Acres

On workdays, I’d answer the phone with “Gwawd Mawwning, Mawwcowwn Rawwfinnng.” I was totally stuffed up.

“You’ve got a cold,” said a fellow who calls in once or twice a week.

I moaned in the affirmative.

An hour later, Bud (who is even older than I am) shuffled into the office with a tin of Rawleigh’s medicated salve and a pouch of Q-tips. “It’s old-fashioned. It works.”

There was an audience in the office while I coated my inner nasal passages with Rawleigh’s…hardly one of my more glamorous moments. It works. I could breathe.

I don’t think it’s an accident that both Tiger Balm and Rawleigh’s salves contain camphor, which comes from the Cinnamomum camphora tree, designated as a Federal Noxious Weed. As soon as I got home from work, I fell asleep. Lost in la-la land, dreams encroached. Weedy dreams. Waves of weeds tickled my knees, lapped over my shoulders. Pungent, persistent weeds washed over my face, flowed through my brain.

A few days later, the brief segment on Tiger Nuts played a re-run in my mind. I stopped at a local health food store to see if they carried Tiger Nuts, which are also dried and packaged as a gluten-free healthy snack. “Never heard of them. “ How about horchata? “Nope.” As far as I can tell, Tiger Nuts haven’t made it to Central Pennsylvania.

“Maybe I could grow them,” the farmer in me thought. The search continued.

Lo and behold, Tiger Nuts are actually the tubers of Cyperus esculentus, yellow nutsedge. Yellow nutsedge—are you kidding? I know it all too well.

“Sedges have edges, and rushes are round, grasses are hollow from the top to the ground.”

At first glance, yellow nutsedge looks like grass, but a weed-trained eye quickly determines it is not. Indigenous to Africa and the Mediterranean, it has short straw-colored bursts of spikey flowers that remind me of fireworks. It is one of those deceiving weeds. The green, grassy foliage comes off in handfuls with hardly a tug—but the weediness of the plant is that the tubers don’t come up when you yank. Instead, they hide underground to send up new growth as soon as you turn your back. Tiger Nuts may sound enchanting, but yellow nutsedge is a nightmare. Laurie Lynch

“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”—Author Unknown

Addendum: This blog was written in fits and starts, between fevers and sneezes, thought about between FCS calls and year-end spreadsheets, and guess what…Amazon knows all. I got an email yesterday saying I might be interested in: Organic Raw Tigernuts, Organic Sliced TigerNuts, TigerNut Flour, TigerNuts Supreme Peeled, Organic Cold-Pressed Tiger Nut Oil and Tiger Nut Raw Granola…wish someone would decide whether it’s one word, two, or two, runtogether.

“But make no mistake: the weeds will win; nature bats last.” –Robert M. Pyle