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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!