The Phoenix Reporter and Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

FROM THE GROUND UP: That magical time of year


By Pamela Baxter

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Do you believe in fairies? Do you know someone who does? Just when Tchaikovsky’s Sugar Plum Fairy will be taking to stages everywhere comes a new book from the editors of Faerie Magazine: “The Faerie Handbook — An Enchanting Compendium of Literature, Lore, Art, Recipes, and Projects.”

Over the years, my relationship with the natural world has taken on a more practical, less fanciful tone. But stumbling across this book reminded me of a younger time when I could more easily imagine the out-of-doors inhabited by sprites. Some people have never lost that particular sense of wonder and imagination, of sensing something deeper. This book is for them.

The book itself is lovely, with a lavender cover that opens to dozens of full-color photos and images. The edges of the pages are gilded silver and there’s a place-marker of purple ribbon.

The contents are divided into four sections. The first is on Flora and Fauna — the different kinds of fairies, fairy trees, flowers, and herbs, fairy animals. A discussion of fairy habitats includes instructions on creating a fairy terrarium as well as creating mini terrariums in old pocket watch cases. The second section covers Fashion and Beauty — what fairies wear, fairy fragrances, bathing in fairy style, along with how to make fairy dust. You can even take a quiz, “How to Know If You’re a Fairy Girl.”

Part three dips into Arts and Culture, starting with Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and delving into other, less-familiar tales and stories going back all the way to the 1600s. Home, Food, and Entertaining contains ideas for outdoor entertaining fairy style, with recipes for lavender shortbread cookies, flower lollipops, a honey ricotta tart with a lavender-scented crust, and fairy tea cakes.

At the back of the book is a list of fairy festivals around the world, including the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm in Glen Rock, Pa., the Rosemary House Fairy Festival in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and the Maryland Faerie Festival in Darlington, Md. There’s also a list of fairy house festivals, as well as a link to a running events list: fairyhouses.com.

Can you really see fairies? In our super-fast, technology-oriented world, where there’s lot of light and noise, it can seem less likely than ever. But, says book contributor Signe Pike, “ . . . the most important thing [is] that we needn’t strike out on any grand adventures to find fairies, because the fairies have never needed to be found. We tell ourselves a story of abandonment, but it is we who have abandoned the fairies. We become so blinded by daily life that we forget how to see. Once we remember, we can encounter fairies everywhere we go.”

If there’s a fairy-lover on your holiday gift list, this would make a sweet gift.

Another lovely gift for anyone, whether they’re into fairies or not, is a membership in the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Or make a gift to PHS on someone’s behalf.

I recently received an end-of-year appeal from PHS requesting a gift in addition to my membership. The letter reminded me of the community-building work that PHS does year-round. It’s not all about the Flower Show! As PHS President, Matt Rader, put it, “Whether our efforts are creating community gardens in areas where residents are lacking access to fresh produce; converting overgrown, abandoned lots into cleaned and greened parklets that deter crime and provide much-needed outdoor space; or continuing to beautify Philadelphia’s public spaces, you are part of the movement to transform our region using horticulture as a tool for social change.”

At this time of year when many of us sing about “peace on earth, good will toward men,” a gift in support of PHS means even more.

Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to pamelacbaxter@gmail.com, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Join the conversation at “Chester County Roots,” a Facebook page for gardeners in the Delaware Valley. Go to Facebook, search for Chester County Roots, and “like” the page. To receive notice of updates, click or hover on “Liked” to set your preferences.