I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout
Why, some of you may ask, am I so drawn to gardening? Granted, toiling in the earth has its downsides, like the aching back I will soon be complaining of, the chewing bugs, and inevitable weather affronts, but nothing is more uplifting to the spirit than a fair day in and among growing things. The joyous sights of new life returning to our beautiful valley after a long winter, the delectable scents and sounds…the trill of a meadowlark, the song sparrow singing overhead as I plant seeds in the crumbly brown ground…the swoop and soaring of the first butterfly…the pussy willow bursting with fuzzy catkins…the glowing crocus. Snow still obscures the landscape and cold wind nips my face, but the forecast promises better days and I shall soon be out sniffing the air with profound appreciation. The barnyard geese are fussy. Egg laying shall commence.
The delights of spring are almost upon us. There’s always a moment that catches and holds me transfixed, and in that moment, all is perfect. All is lovely. My piece of heaven on earth.~
***Images of crocus from last year and spring in the valley taken by my mom in past years.
The kindle version is out now; daughter Elise is formatting the print book. Lots of images to fit in. And now–apples. Bet you didn’t know they belonged in an herbal.
The history and lore behind apples is fascinating. And we all know what Johnny Appleseed thought vital to plant in America. The thing that most struck me in reading about apples, is how the history of the apple is closely linked with the history of man. From the earliest times, wherever people went, the apple went, and is associated with peace and a gentler life. If folk settled down, built a cottage and planted apple trees, that spoke to domesticity and disinterest in warfare. Maybe more people should plant them today. I do. And then all hold hands and sing the Johnny Appleseed Blessing to help bring about world peace.
Back to apples. These early cultivars weren’t the sweet fruit we know today, but much smaller and tarter. In the Middle Ages, most apples were made into cider. By Shakespeare’s day, the new varieties were referred to as ‘dessert apples’ and served accompanied by caraway. Apples were probably introduced into Britain by the Romans and have a long history of use there. In the Scottish Highlands, the crabapple tree is the badge of the Lamont clan.
(Image of Cox’s Orange Pippin, an old heirloom apple)
From A Modern Herbal: “The chief dietetic value of apples lies in the malic and tartaric acids. These acids are of benefit to persons of sedentary habits, who are liable to liver derangements, and they neutralize the acid products of gout and indigestion. (You don’t want a deranged liver).
Apple cookery is very early English: Piers Ploughman mentions ‘all the povere peple’ who ‘baken apples broghte in his lappes’ and the ever popular apple pie was no less esteemed in Tudor times than it is today, only our ancestors had some predilections in the matter of seasonings that might not now appeal to all of us, for they put cinnamon and ginger in their pies and gave them a lavish colouring of saffron. The original pomatum seems to date from the herbalist Gerard’s days (1545-1612), when an ointment for roughness of the skin was made from apple pulp, swine’s grease, and rosewater. The Apple will also act as an excellent dentifrice.”
(Image of a knight, his lady, and an apple)
From The Family Herbal: “The juice is cooling, and is good externally used in eruptions on the skin, and in diseases of the eyes, where a sharp humour is troublesome.”
"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” ~Martin Luther
I finally did it! After abundant research, writing, and seemingly endless revising, my first herbal is available in kindle at Amazon. I initially embarked on this undertaking last year for the workshop I gave focused on herbs and medicinal plants of the British Isles. Participants were so enthusiastic, as have been many of you who follow this blog, that I was inspired to go all out and turn this project into a much longer work. No small effort, but I enjoyed the process and learned a lot along the way. I’m always learning because this is such a vast trove of material to delve into. I’ve also had fun choosing images to illustrate this book. Some are photographs of our garden taken by Elise, many are royalty free images I purchased, and a few are in public domain. I hope you enjoy Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles. A lot of these plants were brought to America with the early colonists and are widespread here now. Others are well and truly British and Scottish.
Elise did the gorgeous cover and is working on getting this into print, but with over 100 images in the herbal, that will take some doing.
Book Description: An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.~
“Passion Governs and she never governs wisely.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Years ago, I was researching my early American Scots-Irishforebears and often came across references to a battle fought during the Revolution called the Battle of Kings Mountain. The name alone drew me. I vowed to go back later and research it more in-depth and uncovered fascinating fodder for the imagination.
I learned about the gallant, ill-fated British Major Patrick Ferguson who lost his life and Loyalist army atop that Carolina Mountain (large knob, really) called King’s back in the fall of 1780. Ferguson is buried there beneath a stone cairn, possibly along with his mistress who also fell that day. He had two, both called Virginia, but it’s believed one mistress made her escape on a horse by betraying his whereabouts to the advancing Patriots. I guess she figured better him than her and he was probably going down anyway…
Speaking of which, I discovered the hardy, sometimes downright mean, Overmountain men of Scots heritage didn’t take kindly to Ferguson’s warning that they desist from rebellion or he’d bring fire and sword upon them and hang all their leaders, all these ‘enemies of the King!’
‘Book title,’ I said to self. And Enemy of the King sounds much cooler than The Patriot. So I began what came to be my version of that famous book/film, though I’d started my novel before it even came out.
Years of research went into the high drama and romance of the Revolution. I don’t regret a moment and am seeking like-minded persons to share in this passion with me. That has an unfortunate e-Harmony ring to it.
But I digress, (often). Needless to say, the Battle of Kings Mountain, a mega conflict that altered the course of a nation, plays a prominent role in this fast-paced Historical Romance. And, being drawn to mysterious old homes and the notion that those who’ve gone before us aren’t always gone, I included a ghost. (British officer)
I also suspect my ancestors are speaking to me, as I have a colonial forebear named Jeremiah Jordan and discovered an early Meriwether in the family. Not to mention a British general whose grandson was fighting with George Washington. My journey back through time gathered intrigue, and I wondered how the people who lived through anything as all-consuming as the American Revolution ever got their lives back to normal. The ripples from that enormous upheaval are still flowing out in concentric circles. They’ve certainly encompassed me, and now I’m at work on the sequel.
So, step into the elegant parlor of Pleasant Grove, an eighteenthcentury Georgian plantation built high on the bluff above the Santee River. Admire the stately lines of this gracious brick home and its exquisite decor. Stroll out into the expansive garden between fragrant borders of lavender and rosemary. Bask beneath the moss-hung branches of an enormous live oak, then saunter back indoors to dress for a candlelight dinner in the sumptuous dining room. But don’t plan on a lengthy stay, you’re about to be snatched away for a wild ride into Carolina backcountry.
Jeremiah Jordan is a Patriot and Meriwether Steele a Loyalist. She risks a traitor’s death if she fights for the one she loves.
‘South Carolina, spies and intrigue, a vindictive ghost, the battle of King’s Mountain, Patriots and Tories, pounding adventure, pulsing romance…ENEMY OF THE KING.’
The year is 1780, one of the bloodiest of the American Revolution. The entire Southern garrison has been captured and Lord Cornwallis is marching his forces deep into South Carolina. ‘Bloody Ban’ Lieutenant Major Banestre Tarleton and his infamous Legion are sweeping through the countryside. Revenge is the order of the day on both sides and rugged bands of militia are all that stand between crown forces and utter defeat.
“I love historical romances. They are one of my favorites and anymore when I think of a historical I think of Beth Trissel. She is an author who has proved herself over time. She is a beautiful storyteller. Ms. Trissel can take a story line and make it a work of art. And she did just that with Enemy of the King.” ~Bella Wolfe, You Gotta Read
***Daughter Elise created the promo image. The rest are royalty free
18th century botanist Sir John Hill, also an apothecary, playwright, actor, novelist, and journalist, was quite an accomplished gentleman. Sir John is also among the most vilified men in Georgian England for his attacks on the Royal Society, with whom he was at odds. Disappointed by the society’s refusal to elect him a fellow, coupled with his disapproval of their scientific standards, Hill wrote many strongly worded reviews of the lauded society. And they weren’t the only ones to come under fire by Hill, outspoken to a fault. He was attacked in turn, but back to his charming and informative work, The Family Herbal.
Hill states his herbal is intended to inform those who live in the country and are desirous of being useful to their families and friends, or charitable to the poor in relief of their disorders, of the virtues of wild plants, and describes his book as, ‘An account of all those English plants which are remarkable for their virtues, and of the drugs which are produced by vegetables of other countries: with their descriptions and their uses, as proved by experience.’
He prefaces his herbal with detailed explanations as to which part of the plant is used and the steps in preparing the desired form for administering its healing properties. I’ve spent hours reading over these and writing them up. Fascinating stuff that now forms a new session in the herbal lore workshops I give, the next one for Celtic Hearts Romance Writers in May (also open to nonmembers).
I love Hill’s many references to the ‘charitable lady’ who is concocting herbal medicines for her family or community and he gives painstaking instructions and recipes for making juices, infusions, decoctions, distilled waters, cordials, tinctures, conserves, syrups, oxymels, vinegar of squills, ointments, plaisters (plasters), essential oils…
His recipe for honey of roses:
“Cut the white heels from some red rose buds, and lay them to dry in a place where there is a draught of air; when they are dried, put half a pound of them into a stone jar, and pour on them three pints of boiling water; stir them well, and let them stand twelve hours; then press off the liquor (liquid) and when it has settled, add to it five pounds of honey; boil it well, and when it is of the consistence of thick syrup, put it by for use. It is good against mouth sores, and on many other occasions.” (Which means it has many other uses.)
If you are desirous of acquiring a copy of The Family Herbal, I came across a copy, reprinted much in the manner of Hill’s original work, at Amazon.
*Image of red rose and larkspur from our garden by daughter Elise. All images royalty free.
‘The intense perfumes of the wild herbs as we trod them underfoot made us feel almost drunk.’ ~Jacqueline du Pre
‘I plant rosemary all over the garden, so pleasant is it to know that at every few steps one may draw the kindly branchlets through one’s hand, and have the enjoyment of their incomparable incense; and I grow it against walls, so that the sun may draw out its inexhaustible sweetness to greet me as I pass ….’ - Gertrude Jekyll
“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you: and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of graceo’ Sundays. O! you must wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy; I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.” ~Shakespeare, Hamlet
‘Thine eyes are springs in whose serene And silent waters heaven is seen. Their lashes are the herbs that look On their young figures in the brook.’ ~William C. Bryant
Waters are distilled out of Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, and Roots. ~Nicholas Culpeper
“We have finally started to notice that there is real curative value in local herbs and remedies. In fact, we are also becoming aware that there are little or no side effects to most natural remedies, and that they are often more effective thanWestern medicine.” ~Anne Wilson Schaef
‘The basil tuft, that waves Its fragrant blossom over graves.’ ~Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookhm, Light of the Harem
“The herb that can’t be got is the one that heals.” ~ Irish Saying
‘See how Aurora throws her fair Fresh-quilted colours through the air: Get up, sweet-slug-a-bed, and see The dew-bespangling herb and tree.’ ~ Herrick, Robert ~Corinna’s Going a Maying
‘As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language.’ - Sir Thomas Moore
‘Eat leeks in oile and ramsines in May, And all the year after physicians may play.’ (Ramsines were old-fashioned broad-leafed leeks.)
‘My gardens sweet, enclosed with walles strong, embarked with benches to sytt and take my rest. The Knotts so enknotted, it cannot be exprest. With arbours and alys so pleasant and so dulce, the pestylant ayers with flavours to repulse.’ ~Thomas Cavendish, 1532.
‘When daisies pied and violets blue, and lady-smocks all silver white. And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue, do paint the meadows with delight.’ ~ William Shakespeare, 1595.
‘Women with child that eat quinces will bear wise children.’ ~Dodoens, 1578.
‘Gardening with herbs, which is becoming increasingly popular, is indulged in by those who like subtlety in their plants in preference to brilliance.’ - Helen Morgenthau Fox
‘And because the Breath of Flowers is farre Sweeter in the Aire (where it comes and Gose, like the Warbling of Musick) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for delight, than to know what be the Flowers and the Plants that doe best perfume the Aire.’ ~ Francis Bacon, 1625
‘Caesar….saith, that all the Britons do colour themselves with Woad, which giveth a blew colour… ‘ ~John Gerard, 1597
‘You have got to own your days and live them, each one of them, every one of them, or else the years go right by and none of them belong to you.’~Herb Gardner
‘Once you get people laughing, they’re listening and you can tell them almost anything.’~ Herb Gardner
‘Would You Marry Me? “According to old wives’ tales, borage was sometimes smuggled into the drink of prospective husbands to give them the courage to propose marriage.’ - Mary Campbell, A Basket of Herbs
‘As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul.‘- Anonymous
‘As for the garden of mint, the very smell of it alone recovers and refreshes our spirits, as the taste stirs up our appetite for meat.’ ~ Pliny the Elder
‘How could such sweet and wholesome hours Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?’ - Andrew Marvel
‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.’ - Shakespeare, Hamlet
‘The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby – how could anything so beautiful be mine. And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year. There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.’ ~ Alice B. Toklas
‘How I would love to be transported into a scented Elizabethan garden with herbs and honeysuckles, a knot garden and roses clambering over a simple arbor ….’ ~Rosemary Verey
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” ~E.L. Doctorow
Although it worries my mother when I say I’m talking amongst myselves….
*Image of me writing surrounded by grandbabies.
“Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.” ~Franz Kafka
Well that’s cheery, Franz, and why writers surround themselves with cats, keep pouring those heartening cups of coffee or hot tea, dive into chocolate, light candles, play our favorite music… sneak back online. Again.
I especially like this quote: “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ~W. Somerset Maugham English dramatist & novelist (1874 – 1965)
“A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.” ~Charles Peguy
I compare capturing just the right word to netting butterflies before they soar away. Words flee my thoughts just as swiftly if I don’t snag them.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~Sylvia Plath
Amen to this Sylvia.
Although I must add there’s a difference between courage and writing about the worst life has to offer and calling it art.
“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~Toni Morrison
I actually do, do this in my writing.
“Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.” ~Sharon O’Brien
This is true as long as I am writing what I WANT. Not what I think may sell. And considering my sales of late, I must be in the minority about what’s popular.
“Publication – is the auction of the Mind of Man.” ~Emily Dickinson
And it’s going too cheap these days. Not all books can sell for .99 on kindle or be free. Assuming the author wants to eat.
“Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~Mark Twain
I love Mark Twain, who, BTW, is an ancestor on my father’s side.
“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” ~James Michener
Now, it’s the delete key on my laptop, but I remember the days of handwriting everything in ink and using whiteout until the pages were stiff with the stuff, then I’d crumple and throw until a pile accumulated around me and my faithful furry writing companions, both feline and canine. As I write this there’s a small dog snoozing on one side, a large tabby purring under my arm and a playful kitten trying to get a rise out of someone. To no avail.
Trust Wordsworth to come up with something this lovely and poetic. And to him I reply, I do!
“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” ~Vladimir Nabakov
What an optimist. Face it, to most writers blank pages are scary. Sit there leering at us and must be filled with something, anything, as fast as possible. One can always edit something, but not nothing.
And similarly a quote by James Thurber: “Don’t get it right, just get it written.”
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
He sure knew what he was talking about.
“The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.” ~Jules Renard, “Diary,” February 1895
Heck, I’ve got a number of those floating around. Not terribly marketable in that form though.
A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer. ~Karl Kraus
Yes, there’s a lot of Yoda in writers. We’re all striving to be Jedi’s.
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by size, do you?” ~Yoda
“Do, or do not. There is no try.” ~Yoda
And very apt for writing as well as training to be a Jedi.
“Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong.” ~Jeb Dickerson, www.howtomatter.com
“I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.” ~Peter De Vries
Or all the promo he probably didn’t have to deal with.
“A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote.” ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960
Ah yes, there are times I wonder if the reviewer read the same book I wrote. Other times, I delight that they totally got my story.
“I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.” ~English Professor (Name Unknown), Ohio University
This could have been said of me who got a D in a college class called The Novel.
“Most editors are failed writers – but so are most writers.” ~T.S. Eliot
“For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain [and] the noise of battle.” ~John Cheever
And all that other good stuff, seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling…the five senses. I also like to include the sixth.
“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” ~Elmore Leonard
Oh gosh, me too. Most people are probably skipping this post.
Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. ~Francis Bacon
And this, dear readers, is the essence of my writing. I am not a PLOTTER.
“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” ~Joseph Heller
“Writer’s block is a disease for which there is no cure, only respite.” ~Terri Guillemets
“A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident.” ~W. Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, 1938
With these quotes I am in utter agreement.
“When you are describing, A shape, or sound, or tint; Don’t state the matter plainly, But put it in a hint; And learn to look at all things, With a sort of mental squint.” ~Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)
I suppose it’s sour grapes to point out that Carroll was an opium addict. However, opium alone cannot make you brilliant so I still have to give him that.
“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” ~Lord Byron
Many writers are slightly mad. I have a theory about writers, those who are on medication and those who should be. I am.