Fairy Clocks and Prairie Fire

Fairy Clocks and Prairie Fire

Dandelion seed head, also known as a Fairy Clock, photographed by Jeff
Our Prairie Fire crabapple photographed by Jeff this Earth Day morning!

It may be hard to see the details, but from where I sit right now, the back field is awash in dandelion blossoms and our crabapple is near its peak of flowering. Photographs come close, but in this case it’s hard to capture the life and light (and sounds!) of a simple backyard view, so you’ll have to take my word for it: simply full of wonder.

About the Dandelions…

You might curse it as a weed when it pops up in your lawn, but it’s really quite beautiful. I mean, look at those curly bilobed stigmas at the end of each anther! (Sorry, just had to write some nerdy botanical terms.)
This cheerful little flower can grow practically anywhere. It thrives in difficult conditions!
I’ve known about the benefits of dandelion, but it wasn’t until we moved here that I began to really enjoy them. Now I can’t wait to gather dandelions in the spring. They are irresistible to me. I am like those first hungry bees who emerge to find a giant field of food, the first flowers to open, en masse!

During our first spring in Sequim I was entranced by what Jeff called, “the dandelion super-bloom!” I gathered blossoms and arranged them into this Hecate labyrinth design. Later I read that it might have been the goddess Hecate who strengthened Theseus on a diet of dandelions in order to battle the Minotaur … in the labyrinth! How cool is that?

Those lucky labyrinthine flowers that I gathered were used to infuse oil for a healing salve. I’ve used calendula for a long time, so I was thrilled to find that dandelions have many of the same healing properties. I also dug up whole plants to prepare a tincture à la Susun Weed. Now, I have more tincture and salve than I’ll ever get through in a lifetime! Believe me, if the USPS allowed the mailing of such potions, many of you would have received a parcel by now!

Tinctures, oils and vinegar take at least 6 weeks to infuse. So if you gather the first plants in mid April, you’ll be able to imbibe the fruits of your patience by early June. This year I want instant gratification, especially after the long-winter-like-no-other. I don’t know why I haven’t tried this before, but I finally made dried blossom tea with lemon, and I’ve added a few young leaves to my salads. Perhaps it will infuse me with its fortitude!

For more details on dandelions, there is no shortage of information out there. Whispering Earth has an especially readable blog, completely ad-free. See her post on Dandelion Medicine.

Now about the Crabapple Tree…

This crabapple is a Prairie Fire crabapple. What a wonderful name. Yes, the “fire” is short -lived, but it flourishes all year. Even in the middle of winter juncos and sparrows remain to pick at the moss, lichen, and the last little fruits. Right now it’s near to full bloom, attracting a host of birds and insects. There are two especially elusive visitors: cedar waxwings arrive for the fall fruit, and I think I finally identified a spring visitor who only arrives for bugs and the juicy little caterpillars emerging at the base of the blossoms. I’ve photographed this bird for 2 years and just last week was able to match the song. The warbling vireo is hard to catch on camera, but in the bright spring sunlight you can see glints of pale chartreuse flitting from branch to branch.
For the birders out there, feel free to correct me if I’ve misidentified this little sweetie. There are so many subtle nuances!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. It was purely coincidental that I published on Earth Day. (“Or was it?” I can hear you ask, dear M.)
May the spring energy bring levity and good health to ALL of you dear friends and family!

Here is a little video of me preparing tea:

9 thoughts on “Fairy Clocks and Prairie Fire

  1. Jeff here.
    Thanks to those who said nice things about my photos. I must admit with some reluctance that only the first two are mine.
    I really enjoy Pam’s posts and am tickled when she chooses any of my photos. In fact, I’m thinking about doing sort of a follow-up to this post of my own called:
    “I Married A Hippy.” Stay tuned! 😛

  2. PJ, what a beautiful blog. Jeff’s flower photos just get more beautiful. Have you seen the magazine “Birds and Blooms”? You might enjoy the convergence. And apropos of nothing, I think of you when I gaze at my new periodical (ad free) “Uppercase”. Please take a look. Each journal goes deeply into one thing, ie stationery, surface design, feed sacks, ephemera… You and Camille would both love it though it’s a bit pricey.

    We are redoing our yard and I’m picking out pollinators and food for hummingbirds, bees, birds, whoever gets there first. Looking for CA natives and am in a state of excited panic about picking the right ones. Very lucky to have this problem. Saving many of my mature plants. We already have a group of regulars from the hummingbird community! Your crabapple is giving me ideas…

    Note to Camilla: sure hope that Harald Hoven lecture was a zoom. You’re in deep kimchi if you ever don’t stay with me when in FO!

    1. Hi Edna!
      So nice to hear from you!
      I’ll look for Birds and Blooms. And, yes, I’ve drooled over “Uppercase” and even bought an issue back when I regularly visited Powell’s in Portland. Total eye-candy!

      Gardening for our pollinators is the best! I love to imagine your excited panic!
      (BTW, Camille didn’t leave Michigan for Harald. And we have dibs on her visit when she finally ventures westward!)

  3. That was perfectly delightful and informative. I love how tenderly you live on the earth.
    Love, Paula

  4. HI Pamela,

    Your posts are always so much fun! They bring a smile to my face. I have no dandelions in my lawn or in my yard unfortunately. Not from my weeding. They just don’t grow here in Tuttletown / Sonora. There are other dandelion like species but not true dandelions with their big yellow flowers and puff ball seed heads like you show here.

    We have lots of other flowers blooming. The early wildflowers have already bloomed at this elevation but the later season blooms (brodeas) are still going strong. And the Bullocks Oriole arrived a week ago at the school to nest again. The campus is filled with its distinctive squeaky toy song. Springtime bursts with active joy!

    Love to you and Jeff.

    Love the photos and video!

    1. It’s great to hear from you Jennifer!

      Now that you mention it, I don’t remember dandelions growing in our yards when we lived in Sonora. Interesting.
      Brodeas are so sweet. I was just reading how a particular brodea thrives in serpentine soil specific to Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. Perhaps there is a connection with the dandelion’s absence.

      It makes me smile to hear that Sierra Waldorf School has a resident Bullock’s Oriole. That is where my love of birds began!

  5. Wonderful, as usual.
    I attended a webinar with Harald Hoven as the guest speaker the other night. Now, here’s a master BD gardener who could talk on any garden topic under the sun and what does he choose? The humble, the lowly, the beautiful dandelion! He didn’t go into all these wonderful qualities that you write about here, but he did speak of their importance in the lives of bees, especially today. He gently urged (as you might imagine Harald doing) that we all let the bees have their dandelions before we mow our lawns.
    We have a huge yard here, and although John is already on board with waiting to mow (we have tons of dandelions) I’m anxious to show him your blog and film.
    As to the vireo, have you heard him sing? You might try looking him up on Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. Their website is loaded with pictures, descriptions, recordings of songs and calls. We just happened to have done a Zoom conference on birding this morning with them. We get so jazzed every year now to go out and find our hermit thrushes, black-throated green warblers, and my favorite, the veery. They’ll be here any day.
    Gorgeous photos by Jeff, as always.
    Loved the labyrinth, and all the great concoctions you’ve been making. Nicely done, Pam–all of it.

    1. Thank you Camille!
      I love hearing about dear Harald and the importance of dandelions. Being the first food for emerging insects really inspires me. Since moving up to Oregon, and now to Washington, we’ve been allowing our yards to reveal themselves before we pull “weeds.” They are slightly untidy, and look more meadow-y, but are filled with life.

      I have heard a vireo song in our trees, which I identified through the Cornell site (what a great resource!). And I’ve seen what I think is a vireo. I just haven’t seen it singing yet. Bird activity is so much fun to track.

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