Thursday, November 6, 2008

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain

I just noticed I have two followers. How exciting.

Despite the weather in Ontario trying to pretend it is June, I know it's November, because the leaves are almost all on the ground. Did you celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, yesterday? I used to love those baked potatoes my mother made where she scooped the potato out, mixed it with butter and cheese, and then put it back inside the skin. The thought of standing outside by the bonfire, hot face, cold bum, with those handwarmers which also tasted delicious makes my mouth water. No fireworks here though. We have those in May and July. Which never makes any sense to me, because you have to wait hours and hours for sunset.

Now as you can see, none of that is really my topic for today and I suppose that is true evidence of writer's procrastination. Because not only should I be getting my blog done, I should be editing my next book, about which I will be telling you very soon.

Flora and Fauna or November

Our Naturist has this to say: the golden-rod must be particularly noticed, as it begins to flower when all the other flowers
have faded, and continues in bloom until the middle of November. This flower is always covered with bees during the last months of the summer, and the two first of autumn, provided the weather will permit the beesat that season of the year to leave the hive. This plant should be particularly cultivated in the vicinity of an apiary. It will grow in the worst of soils; and an acre of unarable land planted with the
golden-rod, would furnish at the close of the season a sufficiency for a hundred hives to complete their winter stock.


How about that. My research indicates that indeed golden rod is important for bees today. The native Goldenrod, Solidago virgaurea is of smaller size than the introduced species, with a less dense and not one-sided flowerhead. It is found in hedge banks, rocky places and open woodlands in the north and west of the UK, but is extremely scarce elsewhere. It had, and retains, many uses in herbal medicine, including the traditional one of healing wounds. Such was its importance in Tudor London, that the dried herb cost 12 1/2p per 25g! It might be deduced that this truly enormous price reflected truly enormous need at the time, (many knife wounds). It also says the another variety came from Canada in the sixteen hundreds. A more vigorous variety, no doubt to take advantage of that huge price, but it is larger and more invasive. I gather it was also used for kidney problems.

This is what our naturist says of the weather at this time of year.

This is, usually, a wet, cold and gloomy month; storms of wind and rain confine us to the house, and admonish us in the morning to seek amusement in the well-furnished library or museum, and to devote our evenings to music and the charms of intellectual society. With these powerful antidotes to melancholy thoughts, naturally inspired by the somber character of the season, we may listen to the ‘pitiless pelting of the storm,’ without, and be grateful for the security and accommodation we enjoy.

Clearly this dude never lived in Canada in the winter. Grumble grumble. Mind you, they didn't have central heating then, or cars, so all is forgiven.

He also says: Mushrooms are collected in abundance in this month.

This is a wood mushroom you find it in the mid afternoon, in oak and hazel woodland among the leaf litter. Oh and it has a strong aniseed smell. I can just see my wonderful heroine poking around among the leaves on a fine day between the storms and sniffing the mushroom. Very romantic.

Oh, please do not use this picture as a guide to picking mushrooms. I personally would not eat a mushroom that did not come from a store. However, in the Regency, people picked them all the time and indeed I believe my parents picked them as children. I browsed a website and saw several English varieties with a knife and fork beside them and picked this one, because it looks like November, with the brown curled leaves the tangled undergrowth.

That's it from me today. I hoped you enjoyed this little ramble through highways and byways and I look forward to chatting again on Monday. Now back to those edits.

Until next time. Happy rambles.