Daisy Chains – a Lost Art

Thin stems make daisy chains challenging, but they can still be done.

Seeing the field of daisies in Goulburn reminded me of making daisy chains as a kid. I taught myself out of a book, because everyone else in the family was working or too busy. The book was helpful, though, and taught me a few other plant games. I remarked how much I wished for something to relieve my boredom, in the days before iPads and the internet.

Perhaps that is why I became so involved with writing. I read books avidly, whatever was to hand. But also, playing outdoors, I learned about the world around me, at least in my immediate vicinity. I watched the ants, the birds, the plants and learned their changing ways through the year. And so I studied science. But writing is always stimulated by what we experience in the world around us.

While in Canberra visiting the family, the children were having an electronics-free day. We played a board game then went for a walk. The children rode their bikes. Canberra is ideally suited to this, with so many walking trails and bike paths keeping exercise away from the roads and in the green spaces. At least the spaces are green at the moment, after so much rain! But as we walked and talked, it became clear that children these days do not have the same skills in games with weeds as they do with electronic games.

A profusion of weeds made excellent material for some daisy chains. All the plants I will now describe are introduced weeds, but so common here that we’ll never get rid of them.

A blurry dandelion clock – hard to focus when I can’t see the screen for the sunshine!

Dandelion clocks are a game that children can play, although gardeners hate the distribution of seed that results. The game is, you can tell the time by how many puffs it takes to blow off all the seeds. I remember as a child being puzzled when a particularly stubborn seed clinging on for dear life resulted in a ‘time’ of 25 o’clock!

Plantain — fun to ‘shoot’

Plaintain flowers make fun pop guns to shoot at each other with. To make a plantain gun, you pick a long-stemmed flower, fold the stem over and around behind the flower head, and then rapidly pull the flower stem until it is pulled violently against the folded loop of stem. The flower head should break and fly off. This is a game that gardeners like.

Bend the stalk around in a circle to cross over itself behind the flower head.
Fold the end of the stem over the stem behind the flower head.
Hold the folded stem firmly, but make sure the stalk can still slip through freely. Then pull sharply!
Left hand, here, pulls. The plantain head should fly off. Biodegradable fun.

As a child I would deck myself and my friends in daisy chains. To make a daisy chain, you choose flowers that have stems thick enough and soft enough to take a thumbnail cutting a vertical slit in the stem. Choose a flower with a small head as your first flower (for reasons which shall become obvious later on). Thread through the stem of your next flower, and draw it gently through until the flower head has reached the slit in the previous stem. Now do this again until you either run out of daisies, or your chain is long enough. Then choose a flower with the strongest, thickest stalk you can find and thread it onto the chain. Make a vertical slit in the stem the same way, but this time make it longer. Go carefully! You don’t want the hole to tear away at the side!

The head of the chain. Thumbnail making a vertical slit in the stem.
Widening the hole.
Threading the next daisy through the hole. Then make a thumbnail slit in this next daisy stem. Repeat.
Poking the first daisy head through the last (larger) hole in the final stem — the flower head gets a bit squashed but you can fluff out the petals again,.

Now take the first flower in the chain (remember I said it should be small!) and thread the flower head through the larger hole of the last daisy.

Voila! Flower fashion!

The finished bracelet.

You can also use clover or any flower with a stem that will be strong enough yet soft enough. True dandelions don’t work well because their hollow, milky stems tear out too easily.

And remember, daisy chains are for now only. Once the sun goes down, the flowers close and day is done.

More daisy chains tomorrow!

Anzac Day With a Difference!

When you’re living in lockdown, one day merges into another. We only go out for grocery shopping, for work, for medical appointments and for exercise. Even medical appointments are increasingly being done by phone or video link. When we do go out, we combine trips and get as much done as possible. At home we’re renovating, gardening, cleaning, cooking, working from home. Even the burglar is having to kick in his own door as he also works from home…

We share jokes and, despite isolation, we are connecting as never before by phone, via social media and the new hero on the block, Zoom.

With the pandemic shutdowns and the need for us to remain apart from one another, so much has changed. Big events have been shut down. The Royal Easter Show in Sydney was cancelled, which is a huge thing. Various large open air festivals were cancelled. Vivid Sydney is cancelled. Our choir was to perform at Ironfest in Lithgow — yep, cancelled. Our Writers Unleashed writers festival in August — we pulled the plug on that, too. Monthly open air markets — yep, you guessed it. The child is bored and bound by our gates. She has tidied her room and helped with the gardening. What next? Time to get crafting.

Painting Flanders poppies made from cardboard egg cartons.

With Easter cancelled (and Orthodox Easter the following weekend) it all seems eerily quiet. Even ramadan, beginning today, will be quiet and celebrated apart. We drive (when we must) through empty streets, we wear home-made fabric face masks at the shops.

But Anzac Day — what will we do?

A blurry pic of a previous Anzac Day, people gathering for the pre-dawn memorial. Not this year…

Every year since 1916, there has been a celebration of sorts of Anzac Day. Other countries are also involved every year. At Gallipoli, the peninsula on the Dardanelles in Turkey where the Anzacs first landed on 25 April 1915, our former enemies the Turks are now allies in celebrating not just the Anzac spirit, but the hope that the ‘war to end all wars’ will never be forgotten, never to be repeated. In France they remember the Anzac spirit, often every day in some places. This year we will miss this, around the world people are staying home for their own safety, and that of their communities.

The last time the Anzac Day marches did not go ahead was during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919.

So far, 2020 is shaping up as the year of cancellations. But not Anzac Day.

True, the marches aren’t happening. We will not have the crowds lining the streets to watch the returned servicemen march past. When I first watched this on TV, there were still WWI veterans marching. Now there are so few WWII veterans left that for those remaining, 2020 could be their final year.

But there will still be the televised Dawn Service from the Australian War Memorial. And we are still celebrating in our own way.

Cardboard poppies for Anzac Day.

Tomorrow morning at sunrise, many Australians will go to the end of their driveway to observe the minutes’ silence. Those in the community who play the bugle or trumpet ‘tolerably well’ have been encouraged, by Australia’s most famous trumpeter James Morrison, to stand at the end of their driveway and play the Last Post.

We got the child making Flanders poppies from egg cartons. It was a family effort. This afternoon we put them on our front fence.

Our memorial fence.
‘Remember today… for it is the beginning of always.’ We will remember always.

Whether we get out to the end of the driveway for the minutes’ remembrance, or watch the War Memorial coverage on TV, we are sure we will hear our village bugler as the sun rises over our ocean.

Nobody will sleep in this Anzac Day!