Dandelion Days

Texas dandelion (Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus)

No matter which dandelion species comes to live in the neighborhood, everyone has an opinion.

Some consider them weeds, taking the emergence of even one perky, yellow flower as a personal affront. For them, the traditional harbinger of spring demands corn gluten, digging tools, or half-used bags of Weed-B-Gon® left from previous battles. Known to curse at the sight of dandelion fluff floating through the air, they need occasional reminders to stop yelling at children who set the seeds a-flying.

Others consider dandelions wildflowers: sturdy little delights meant to become the season’s first bouquets. Some call them dinner: happily boiling their young, tender greens to serve alongside a slice of ham and a slab of cornbread. Old-timers still bottle a sweet, light wine from the flowers, and lucky children still are taught how to weave garlands for their hair.

Loving dandelions as I do, I consider them more wildflower than weed. But above all else, those plump, yellow flowers bring to mind one very special experience:  the year the squirrel went crazy.
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The Great Acorn Storm of 2013

Flung across the  landscape by autumn’s rising winds, acorns bounce and tumble, the sound of their fall exploding into the air like the percussive chatter of  firecrackers.  

If you’re standing near a car when the first gust strikes and an acorn-laden oak lets fly her seed-crop, the racket is astounding.  If you’re sheltering beneath a tin roof, the amplified sound is deafening.  A storm of ripened acorns may be less destructive than hail, but it’s no less impressive.

I experienced my first “acorn storm” in the Texas hill country, an area of valleys and ridges threaded through with several varieties of oak.  The sudden swell of redbud in spring, the extravagant yellow blooms of prickly pear, the color-turn of Virginia creeper climbing toward true red may delight the eye, but the oak has its own capacity to surprise the inexperienced or unprepared. 

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A Taste of Dandelion Wine

When it comes to dandelions, definition is everything.

People who consider them “weeds” seem to experience even one perky, yellow flower blooming in their yard as a personal affront. They respond to the familiar harbinger of spring with corn gluten, digging tools or half-used bags of Weed-B-Gon left over from previous years’ battles, and have been known to curse when they stumble across an aging flower sending its puffs of seed off into the wind.

Others see them as wildflowers, sturdy little delights meant to serve as the season’s first bouquets. Some folks call them dinner and can’t wait to boil up the young, tender greens to serve alongside a slice of ham and a slab of cornbread. Old-fashioned sorts still bottle a sweet, light wine made from the flowers but for me, plump, yellow dandelion blossoms mean only one thing — reliving The Year The Squirrel Went Crazy. Continue reading