“I know the lands are lit, with all the Autumn blaze of Goldenrod.” Helen Hunt Jackson
The pungent smell of goldenrod honey wafts through the air as I pass by the busy bee hives. The bees are working at a frenetic pace, flying in and flying out, scrambling and stumbling over each other at the hive entrance in a desperate dance to gather as much nectar and pollen as possible as the number of daylight hours begin to fade a few minutes each day. It’s a subtle yet powerful message, this gradual shift in the number of daylight and darkness hours. It thrums through both plants and animals, driving, driving in anticipation of a long cold winter ahead.
As the plants and trees begin shutting down food production and the sap retreats beneath the soil, leaves drop and foliage fades to brown. Animals that must face the coming winter head on, stock up, fatten up, and shore up their overwintering lairs. Those with wings that can’t face the cold are heading south for warmer climes. Many have already caught a ride on the upper air thermals, reached cruising altitude and have sped their way south.
The goldenrod is flourishing this year, and unlike in years past, it seems to be rich with nectar and pollen. Each plant I pass, standing tall with its sunny yellow spires, is a hum with the sound of pollinators. The bees should have no excuse for not having enough stores this winter.
To capture the yellow gold of the goldenrod, to carry its sunny cheeriness over into winter when days are bleak and cold, I decided to try dying some white shirts using goldenrod dye. I harvested bright yellow clusters of goldenrod blossoms. With plenty of help of course, as you can see.
I simmered the blossoms in a pan of water for an hour and then removed the plant material. My research said to add alum to the liquid to make the dye set into the fabric. I added two tablespoons of alum and stirred it in. With each stir, the liquid blossomed into a bright yellow dye.
I started out with one long sleeve white shirt, but when it turned out so nicely, I went digging through my closet looking for more white shirts. I tried mastering the tie-dyed effect but was unsuccessful. I’ll have to do more research on that one. The dye penetrated under the rubber bands I had placed in strategic locations around the shirts.
Each time I wear one of these shirts I’ll be reminded of a beautiful fall day when the goldenrod glowed bright yellow against a brilliant blue sky, the air smelled of autumn and sweet honey, and the trees teased us with the first crimson shades of what was yet to come. Fall truly is a golden season.