Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “dandelions”

Wait for It….

I missed the lunar eclipse. Would not really have been able to see it from here anyway. So I slept.

And then I woke up, and during the course of my day, saw all these other wonderful things instead!

Overnight, all the violets in the world bloomed.

The woods behind my house full of Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica.

A miniature field of grape hyacinths, which smell absolutely divine–from a close distance.

Always happy to see these sunny little lions.

Chickweed, Stellaria media. Of course, not a weed at all, but a medicinal soother.





Maybe this year I’ll get to taste one…

A nibble-on Trillium.

Native American fishing net plummets. Who knew? I did not.

Thank you, local Conservation Center!

And, my friends, for the best part of the day.  I took a lovely afternoon drive–windows down, Bjork blasting her quirky Icelandic heart out on my speakers.  A drive which led to my knitting buddy’s alpaca farm. I feel that should be in all caps.


Aw, yeah. That’s right. All the fun enhappenated.

Oh, the squishy, springy, lustrous wonderfulness. I touched a lot of alpaca today.

 I got kissed by an alpaca. No joke. It’s how they say hi, things are cool. They have very soft noses. This is not the alpaca I bumped noses with. It’s hard to take a picture of an alpaca when her face is in your face, so Sweetums remains unseen.

They will be shorn next week. Ready for the heat of a Missouri summer. Their teeth will be filed (as the photo above shows, it’s time) and their toes trimmed. All in 8 minutes per animal, so I’m told. Professional shearers know their stuff, hunh?

Look at that coat! Practically begging to be spun. I’ve never wanted a wheel as much as I did today. I’ve got to start spinning.

The biggest surprise to me was how stout alpaca are. They are muscley little things under all that gorgeous, sproingy wool.

They are also very curious and personable. Really delightful souls.

Alpaca. Best field trip ever.

Easter Light & the Scent of Boxwoods

The light in Spring is different. Brighter, whiter. The kind of light that sparkles and snaps. Together with the kite-inviting winds, it is what brings the Spring, what wakes the world from the cold sleep of winter. As a child I disliked what I called “Easter light”, because it meant Easter was coming. And other truisms, as well. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Easter. Love for rabbits. Love for dyeing eggs. Love for baskets full of crinkly fake grass and sweet smelling sugar-coated marshmallow. Hate for scratchy, uncomfortable, hideously pastel Easter dresses, lacy Easter socks, and stiff, binding patent leather Easter shoes. And good lord, the flipping hats. How I hated Easter hats. Then there was the whole church thing, and that was the end of it for me. Easter was like a siren, promising sweetness, mystery, and fun, and then coming in for the kill with teeth and claws and dresses and resurrections. All of this together with those transitional Spring winds making me itchy and restless for change… well, I never liked Spring.

It’s interesting to examine these feelings as an adult, to pick them apart and reassemble them with more understanding. It is a type of rebirth. Fitting for the season. I am doing this now—examining my feelings for Spring outside the context of my childhood tribulations, lol. Examining these feelings in a place of autonomy  of thought, belief, and body. I am realizing that I like that sparkly hard white light and that restless snapping wind. I like watching the world wake up and realizing that it only ever sleeps with one eye closed.

The farm is greening hard this week. Blossoms and cotyledons abound. Here is to autonomy, rebirth, and the spirit of Spring!


This huge, old quince has been here for at least 30 years. It is home to all the rabbits.

Reminds me of Duncton Wood.

Grape hyacinths that I cannot bring my self to pick for dyeing.

Jonquils. Daffodils. Jonquidils.

Dandelions and violets and other assorted weeds growing happily in the crook of a tree root.

I think I could grow happily in the crook of a tree root, too.

Plum tree blossoms.


A tiny mystery flower.  It is very wee.

One evening after a light rain, I was walking in the front yard and smelled the most gorgeous fragrance. It was sweet and fruity—kind of reminded me of grape Kool-Aid. I couldn’t figure out what it was. The next several days, I continued to smell this amazing sweet-fruity fragrance, but couldn’t find any flowers that it could belong to. Then I realized the source was hidden right in front of me—a hedge of boxwoods blooming with their little inconspicuous flowers. I’ve never thought of boxwoods as anything other than a nice evergreen bush. Now I have learned what their secret gift is. They smell absoluteley divine. I feel like I should have known this ages ago, but I won’t complain about learning it now.

i am thankful for the gifts of Spring.


I don’t know a lot about plants.   I mean, I took botany in college as a requirement for my then bio major, but I don’t have that deep-seated intimate knowledge of plants that some people do.   I do ok growing them.  Houseplants and I get along so-so, usually better if I ignore them most of the time.   I garden better in the country than I do in the city.  The way I see it,  successful gardening has a lot more to do with the plants’ tenacity and will to live and propagate than it does with me having a green thumb.   My thumbs are just ordinary thumbs after all.

Japanese Knotweed

But plants fascinate me.  I love them.  Which is why I am trying to be a better gardener.    But it wasn’t the desire to grow more vegetables that sparked this love, nor was it a blossoming need to fill flower beds (see what I did there?), although both of those things are true.   It was weeds.  Well, truthfully, it was one particular weed that made me start looking around at the fascinating world volunteering their growth all around us:  Polygonum cuspidatum.  This plant was growing in our yard when we moved in to our house 7 years ago.  Didn’t know what it was. It looks like bamboo, and the bees are crazy about the flowers.  Swarms of bees.  So many bees, in fact, that the kids had a hard time playing in the back yard where this plant had absolutely taken over a 30ft section of fence.   So I took a sample of it to the Missouri Botanical Garden for an ID.   Japanese knotweed, they said.  Invasive.  Get rid of it!   So I did.

At least I thought I did.  Because the next year, it was back.  This time instead of pulling it, I dug it up.  All the roots I could find.   But the next year, it came back again.  Turns out that ANY little knob of root left in the ground will sprout.  And it didn’t help that two of my neighbors let it grow all along their fence-line.  So this time I dug, removed roots, and put down weed barrier.  Well, all I had was newspaper, but I laid down a ridiculously thick layer of it all along the back fence, and then recovered it will soil.  And this seemed to work.  For a while.   The polygonum is back, but in pull-able amounts.   And in the seven years that I’ve been battling the polygonum, I’ve had a change of heart.  I’ve decided that I just can’t hate a plant that is so damned determined to grow.   So, I give it a little space now—just a little—and keep it from choking out the rest of the garden.  We have a tentative truce.  Not enough for me to take pictures of it, though.

Lady’s Thumb

My relationship with other weeds is much friendlier.   After I learned about the polygonum, I started looking around at all the other plants growing in my yard.  Part of this, I think, was just the newness of owning my own patch of land for the first time, which meant that every plant was potentially precious just by virtue of it growing on my soil.   One of the first I noticed was this little sweetie:

I think this is Polygonum pensylvanicum

As best as I can tell, it is polygonum pensylvanicum (used to be classified as a persicaria), also known as smartweed and lady’s thumb among others.  Most consider this a very invasive weed.   It is really quite lovely, however.  It braves the intense heat of the summer without withering, and it blooms for a very long time.  It’s also pretty easy to control by mowing.  So we let it grow in mounds in places where it seems happy and where other things are more reluctant to grow—like things I intentionally plant.   This plant is native to North America, and I found information suggesting that it was used medicinally by various tribes for diarrhea and hemorrhages.   Some species are said to be edible, although they are reported to be very, very peppery.   I have no desire to eat them, but I find this kind of information interesting.

Creeping Charlie

Another beautiful plant that likes to grow in my yard is creeping charlie.  It’s probably my favorite volunteer because of the gorgeous ground cover that it provides year after year under the trees and bushes I planted at the back of the yard (formerly Japanese knotweed territory).   It is most beautiful in  spring when it is in full bloom, although the greenery stays pretty lush for most of the year, dying back only after a deep frost has occurred.  It tolerates the whole summer without ever being watered.   It is easily manicured into a border by mowing.   Creeping charlie has medicinal uses and has also historically been used for some culinary purposes, although the safety of this is disputed.   Again, I don’t want to eat it, I’m just happy that it volunteered itself as ground cover around my back tree garden.

creeping charlie

This is a picture of the area where it is now growing with abandon.   I linked because the tags are helpful.   In this picture,  all these trees and shrubs are only a year old in the ground, and the creeping charlie is just clustered around the base of each.  Now it has spread across the entirety of the back fenceline in a lush, deep ground cover.  I’ll have to get a good picture of it next spring.   It’s really pretty.  I’d take a picture of how it looks now, but my camera is borked, and the phone camera is just barely getting me by—by which I mean that every time I take a picture with it, I want to throw it against the wall.  I miss my camera.    Here is a patch of it, though.

creeping charlie = great ground cover


Pokeweed.  Pokeberry.  Poke.  Phytolacca americana.  It grows all over the farm where I grew up in the Ozarks, and I’ve always loved it’s magenta-stemmed and purple-berried gorgeousness.   I remember the first time I  really noticed this plant.  I was maybe 14 years old and was out riding fence with my dad.  We came out of the woods and into one of the upper pastures, and I saw this giant magenta plant full of long clusters of purple-black berries.  It had to have been 7 feet tall, and the stem was very thick.  It looked like something from an alien planet—far too exotic for some farm in Southeast Missouri.   But no, it was just poke.   I was taught that it’s poisonous, and it wasn’t until I got married and was blessed with the chance to meet my husband’s wise and wonderful Gran that I learned that in many parts of southern Missouri (and indeed the South), it is eaten as “poke salat”.   Gran says that she was sent out as a child to pick the young, tender leaves to cook.   Still, it is regarded as a highly toxic plant, regardless of how many people grew up eating it every spring.   Poke is apparently also being researched medicinal use for both AIDS and cancer.  Way to go, poke!

Poke has only chosen a few places in my yard to grow.  Here we’ve got a beautiful specimen of pokeweed growing up beside the compost pile.

Pokeweed, soon I will dye with you!

I am more comfortable with the greens from my garden or from the local farmer’s market to bother eating the poke growing in my yard.  No, I’ve got a far better purpose for it in mind:  dyeing yarn.    Using the berries to create the dyebath produces the same gorgeous magenta colour as found on the stems of the plant.   For a long time, it was not considered a fast dye (meaning that it either washes out or bleaches quickly in the sun).  But a local dyer named Carol Leigh developed a way to make the dye fast by mordanting the fiber in vinegar.  I discovered this in the very awesome book Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess, who studied with Leigh when researching recipes for the book.  Now I cannot wait to try it this fall!  It takes a lot of berries, so I’ll be harvesting at the Farm, too.


One of the most abundant and welcome volunteers in my yard is the noble dandelion.  You can make wine, tea, salad, medicine, and dye all with this one weed.   I say weed only because of the number of people who try to eradicate dandelions from their yards.  They know not what they do.   Dandelions make me smile.  I happily give them all the space they want to grow.

i love dandelions


Then there is the wonderful violet.  Often overlooked, but this is a mistake.  Violets will grow like nobody’s business if you just give them a chance.  They are edible and medicinal and generally a lovely plant to have around.  Right now I’ve got violets growing for me in pots, in all of my garden beds, around my roses, and in my yard.  All volunteers.  Anything that works so hard to grow so prettily deserves a spot in my garden.  I freely admit to talking to the violets.  We’re friends.

a big colony of violets in the west garden bed. gorgeous when they are blooming, and lovely ground cover the rest of the year.

That is all for now.  The rest of the volunteers will have to wait for Part 2.  I hope that this encourages you to take a closer look at all the cool weeds growing around you, and maybe think of ways of giving them space in your garden and in your life.   Taking the time to develop a more intimate awareness of  these plants has enriched my life.  It has helped me remember to be aware of what is right under my feet, and it keeps me from taking things for granted.

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