Friday, January 17, 2020

On the Road Again

30 degrees at 7 am. Cold and mostly clear. Snow on the way, the weatherman says, but I'm sure it will be rain and a few flurries.

I'm off again this weekend, to Elkins, WV to tell Appalachian stories and sing some ballads for high school students. Then tomorrow, I'll be telling and singing for the Celtic presentation at Blackwater Falls State Park with my friend Judi Tarowsky. Now in Elkins and at Blackwater, I'm pretty sure we'll run into snow as those places are a higher elevation than we are here.
The mountains when we passed through last month.

The van is loaded, and my tea is ready. See you all in a few days!

Blackwater Falls, a few years back. And in warmer weather!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Dente De Lion: The Lowly Dandelion

Partly sunny, 40 degrees at 8am. Rain showers coming later, the weatherman says.

We planted more spring bulbs yesterday. They were 75% off, so it's worth a gamble to see if they come up. These are naturalized, just planted in a space on top of the hill, and if they grow they'll be a pretty sight when we turn into our driveway. We put in quite a few more daffodils. They're one of my favorite flowers---who can really pick a favorite?---and we have many of them already. But the more the merrier, I think. I wrote a post about daffodil legends and superstitions a couple years ago. You can read it here.

One of the flowers we planted was the crocus. One of my favorite bloggers, Icy Sedgwick, wrote an extensive post about the crocus, as part of her series on the folklore of early spring flowers. Her blog, is well worth following if you love folklore like I do.

The other day I noticed a dandelion already in bloom--in January! This lowly little flower is certainly resilient. The French call it dente-de-lion, meaning lion's tooth, because the shape of the petals was thought to resemble the shape of  that cat's dentures.

photo from last year

Like so many other plants, there is much lore attached to the little golden face of early spring.

For example:

  • Woven into a wedding bouquet, dandelions are considered good luck for the new couple. 
  • Dandelions in dreams mean a happy marriage. 
  • They are also seen as symbols of hope, summer and childhood. 
  • In medieval times, dandelions were used to predict a child's financial future when the flower was held beneath the child's chin; a golden glow meant the child would be rich. 
  • In 18th century England children held the dandelion under their chin too, they thought that the more golden the glow the sweeter and kinder the child was.
  • The dandelion stalk was used to predict how much a child would grow in the coming year, so children worked hard to find the tallest stalk they could.
  • Dandelions have also been like the daisy--plucking petals and chanting “he loves me, he loves me not” 
  • The dandelion flower opens an hour after sunrise and closes at dusk, so in some cultures the flower is referred to as a "Shepherd’s clock".
  • Make a wish immediately before blowing on dandelion, and your wish might come true. 
  •   Some say that dandelions are symbols of grief and connected to the Passion of Christ in religious symbolism; they are also one of the bitter herbs of Passover.
  • Five dandelion flowers are the emblem of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The citizens celebrate spring with an annual Dandelion Festival. (from Wikipedia)

And then there's the seedhead: There are so many superstitions connected to blowing on the seedhead! Who would have thought it. We've probably all blown away the seeds from a dandelion's puffy seedhead. Many people believed that when the seeds are blown they carry good thoughts and affection to a loved one.  If you blow on a dandelion seedhead and all the seeds blow away, you are loved. If some seeds remain it might indicate that your true love is not all that sure about you. Another belief was that the number of seeds left on the dandelion's head showed how many children a girl would have. Some say that the number of seeds remaining are how many years you have left to live. A common belief is that the number of seeds left is the time--so if there are ten, it should be ten o'clock, I have never tested this, but this superstition led to the term "dandelion clock" for the seed head. 

Science tells us that the seeds' feathery "parachutes" (the pappus hairs) close when rain threatens. The dandelion is an excellent barometer, it seems. Its weather prediction skills are demonstrated best when the blooms have seeded and are in the fluffy, feathery state. In good weather the ball opens fully, but when rain is on the way, it shuts, very much like an umbrella. If the weather is  showery, the head stays shut, and only opens when all threat of rain is past.

Dandelion uses: 

The sticky white sap was used as a folklore cure for warts and corns. 
All parts of the plant may be eaten so dandelion is a valuable survival tool. The leaves were considered a spring tonic, helping to cleanse the blood after a long winter.
Dandelions are used to make wine, of course--only the flowerhead, though, and not the green parts as they will make the wine bitter. They are also used to make jelly, but I've never tried that--yet.
From Wikipedia:  "Its ground, roasted roots can be used as a caffeine-free coffee alternative.[46] Dandelion was also traditionally used to make the traditional British soft drink dandelion and burdock, and is one of the ingredients of root beer. Dandelions were once considered delicacies by the Victorian gentry, who used them mostly in salads and sandwiches."

The flowers of dandelions are typically eaten before they start to become seed heads, as although the fluffy "parachutes" are edible they are tasteless and their texture is considered unpleasant.

 Did you know that dandelions were intentionally transplanted from Europe to the New World in the early days of European settlement? Now they are at home all across America. 

There are many names for this little plant: bitterwort, blow-ball, lion’s tooth, cankerwort, clockflower, Irish daisy, priest's crown, puffball, swine's snout, telltime, yellow gowan, and probably many more. I find it very interesting that a French term for them, pissenlit (pee in bed) attests to the root’s diuretic qualities. England echoes this with their name, piss-a-bed.

A dandelion poem, from The Flower Fairies website:

Here’s the Dandelion’s rhyme:
See my leaves with tooth-like edges;
Blow my clocks to tell the time;
See me flaunting by the hedges,
In the meadow, in the lane,
Gay and naughty in the garden;
Pull me up—I grow again,
Asking neither leave nor pardon.
Sillies, what are you about
With your spades and hoes of iron?
You can never drive me out—
Me, the dauntless Dandelion!

Long, long ago, so the story goes, the flowers had a huge argument about which of them was the most beautiful, the most special, the most loved by the humans and by the fairies. The argument lasted for weeks, with each flower claiming to be the most beautiful and the most loved. Finally, all of the flowers agreed to let the Flower Fairies decide.

I believe this story, like the images above, are from one of Cicely Mary Barker's books about flower fairies. Ms. Barker (28 June 1895 – 16 February 1973) wrote many books about fairies and flowers, which remain popular today. I have found the story in many places online, with no attribution as to the author, so I am not sure of its source.

Dandelion and the Flower Fairies 

The Flower Fairies sent they're gentlest and kindest of spirit fairy to settle the problem and to give one plant her blessing and the title of the "most perfect" flower. The little Fairy decided to test each flower by asking them one question.

The first flower the Fairy talked to was the Rose.

"Where would you most like to live?" she asked it.

"I would like to climb the castle wall." said the Rose. "And then kings and queens and nobles would pass by everyday and exclaim over my beauty, my scent and my delicate nature."

The Flower Fairy walked sadly away from the Rose.

Next the Fairy came to a tulip, standing tall and proud. "Where would you most like to live?" she asked the Tulip.

"Oh, I want to live in a public garden" said the Tulip. "Where everyday people would come and admire my wonderful colors and see how straight and tall I stand." Once again, the Fairy walked a way feeling sad.

She walked until she came to a forest. There she found some Violets. She asked them "Where would you most like to live, little Violets?" "Oh" said the violets quietly "We like it here hidden in the woods where no one can see us and where the trees keep the sun from dulling our beautiful color." 

The fairy thanked the Violets and walked on looking for more flowers to talk to.

She talked to the Tiger Lily who was much too wild and fierce.

She talked to the Sunflower who barely answered her because all she wanted to do was be warmed by the sun.

The little Flower Fairy talked to the Orchids who only wanted to be taken out to dances and she tried to talk to the Narcissus but it was too busy looking at its reflection in the water to speak to her.
The little Fairy, with tears in her eyes, was ready to give up and go home when she came to a field with bright fluffy yellow flowers on long thin stalks. The leaves were long and jagged and very close to the ground. But the flowers....oh how happy and cheerful they looked in the field!

"Little one" said the Flower Fairy,z "What are you called and where would you like to live?"

"I am a dandelion" said the little flower."I'd like to live where ever there are children. I want to live beside the road, and in the meadows, and push up between the sidewalks in the cities, and make everyone feel happier when they see my bright colors." The Dandelion chattered on happily saying "I want to be the first flower that the children pick in the spring and take to their mothers. And I could tell if a child likes butter by being rubbed under their chins, and if a child makes a wish and blows my seeds, I could carry that wish on the wind."

The Flower Fairy smiled brightly and said "Little Dandelion, you are the most perfect and special flower of all and you shall have your wish! You will blossom everywhere from spring till fall, and be known as the children's flower."

And this is why the dandelion comes so early and pushes her head up everywhere with such strength and determination. And why she is so loved by children throughout her long life.

For a Romanian version of the story, check out this site.

For tons of dandelion fact, fiction, and crafts, this is a good source.

More folklore here.

Yet another story on this site.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Pruning Time, Inside and Out

It's a foggy morning out there today, almost a misty rain but not quite. 41 degrees, expected to reach 60 and be sunny later on.

Larry has gotten a tiny start on pruning. We aren't religious about it, as the condition of our trees testifies. We tend to trim suckers and clean out deadwood but he may do a little deeper cutting this year. There was a fair apple crop last year; wonder what this year will bring? We didn't wassail our tress--did you? So the trees are on his list for today. And continuing to try to find that pesky leak in the roof, which continues to elude him.

Yesterday we had town errands, and a cabinet and a tote of things to take to our booth in Ravenswood. We also had yet another load of things for the thrift store. I have been doing some serious clearing out of things that have been in our booths too long and weren't worth keeping, as well as the annual after-holidays clean-out in my house.

Funny story from yesterday: on our last trip to the thrift I told Larry that I wanted the empty totes back, which he did, with help from the thrift store workers. So yesterday we loaded up some lamps, a magazine rack and some framed art to take to the thrift. There was one tote of things for our booth, which had some nice Pyrex (very hot seller these days), some vintage toy trucks, and some other things. I told Larry that this tote was NOT for the thrift but for the booth.

So he dropped me off out front of the store, because you know, take stuff in, and then buy other stuff!

When we pulled up to the antique mall an hour or so later, I said, "Bring in the tote and I'll get started while you unload the cabinet."

He looked at me funny and walked around to the back of the van.

"Uh-oh," he said. "I kept the tote like you said, but I left the other stuff at the thrift!"

Whoa--you can imagine my reaction. I was on the phone in seconds, and the lady at the thrift store said no worries, just come back and get it. Larry was off like a shot. Now if this had been the Goodwill or probably any other thrift store, we'd never have seen that stuff again, but fortunately this place is a bit different, and he was soon back with pretty much everything that had been in the tote.

By then, I was able to see the funny side of it, and so was he. Poor man, he didn't understand that the instructions had changed since the last trip! So we've agreed, from now on I will stay with him when we unload at thrift stores. And that store has earned all my future donations. 

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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