We like to take the pooch with us whenever we can. So, since my wife wanted to go to Wally World today and pick up a couple things that she forgot yesterday, we loaded her into the back seat. (The pooch, not my wife.) As a change, the missus decided to go to the store on the far side of town. I was sort of glad, because I wanted to see if the cattails were sprouting yet.
I’ve learned that if I don’t take the pooch for a short walk after I let my wife out at the door, she spends far too long whining about her missing mistress. So, I went over to the tiny swamp (250-300 square feet) by the edge of the lot, which is marked in my foraging journal, backed into a parking space facing the little swamp, and put the pooch on a spring-loaded leash that extends to about 20 feet. Then, I flipped up the tonneau and flipped down the tailgate. Since the ground outside the berm was higher than the concrete lot, my feet just barely touched the ground when I sat on the tailgate. I was comfortable and she was happily walking through the grass, sniffing up a storm.
She slowly meandered back and forth along the little swamp, going as far as the leash would allow, then turning to do the same thing in the opposite direction. She stopped and squatted a few times to mark the new territory as her own (I suppose). I was glad that she avoided the slightly taller strip of Crown Vetch which grew on the last four feet or so before the water’s edge. I had no way of knowing what dangers may have lurked there. Eventually, she decided to rest a spell, so sat down and watched the little swamp and the cars that went back and forth about 75 yards away. The whole time, I could see her nostrils working the wind.
I knew that the cattails in the country hadn’t sprouted yet, but I thought they might have in the slightly warmer city areas. They hadn’t. A lot of folks don’t know that you can eat the very center of the first 6-12 inches of inner stalk of a cattail, when the cattails are about 2-3 feet tall. They’re white and crunchy, fairly bland, and taste a little like asparagus. Also, when the heads first start to form, and they’re only 3/8 to ½ inch across, you can eat them like corn on the cob. Most folks only eat the top half, but I’ve eaten the lower half, too, if you catch them early enough. The problem is that you have to go looking for them, as if you wait until they’re noticeable, they’ll be too ripe to use. You literally have to separate the “sheath” of the center blade to find them. Of course, you can get a lot of starch from cattail roots, but that’s a lot more effort, requiring getting into the mud with both feet and hands.
The center of the tiny swamp was long-ago eaten out by muskrats, but they hadn’t yet annihilated about a six-inch ring of cattails around the edge. Those will be easy to reach when the time comes, if I catch them before they get over-ripe. Through the shallow water in the center (about two inches) of the swamp were several criss-crossing channels, perhaps only two inches deeper some places, but still deep enough for a muskrat to paddle through. I’d seen a ‘rat there the two previous times I’d stopped by, so I held still and watched the muddy spots by the far banks that showed the recent passing of a ‘rat through the water and the entrance to its dens.
Finally, one exited a den on the far right side. Swimming nearly through the middle of the big puddle, it seemed unaware of our presence until the dog happened to see it and stood up. It picked up its pace a bit. As the pooch began to walk parallel its path, it picked up the pace a little more. When she began a slow lope, it swam faster yet, but still not in a panic. It soon reached the other end of the swamp and dove into some muddy water near the bank. As soon as the pooch realized that it was gone, the she sat down and watched the spot for maybe five minutes, until she finally bored of the “hunt” and began wandering and sniffing again.
Eventually, she left the grassy area for the asphalt and walked around to “her” door of the truck and sat down. I knew that was her way of saying it was time for a nap, so I put her on the rear seat and took off her harness. She went into her box, turned around and laid down her head. I then drove over next to the door where I’d dropped off my wife, parked and read a bit in “Julius Caesar” until the missus returned. © 2016