First blog post at this point in time

My current webhost is shutting down after a massively wonderful and long run. As small internet sites go, was long-in-the-wonderful-tooth and I will always be happy to have had UncleMikey host my services for all these years.

I needed to move to a fast home until I figure out what to do, so for now, here I am.



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April is poetry month

Times are grim around here. There is nothing more to say about that, though, because otherwise it just seems like staring at your tummy and thinking about the needed tuck.

I will mention that I have been so outwardly-focused that I forgot that it’s April.

Yah, right? I know!

So, in the tradition of remarking upon poetry, let me share a site with you. I did not select one particular poem, I just read through some and decided to offer the link as one where I found some poems I liked and thought that perhaps the poet might prefer a hit or two rather than me citing just one poem, here. Since I have about 2 readers, I can’t share more traffic than that. 🙂

Here is the link.

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Now Harvesting at Marihaus Gardens: Harvest Monday

Well, I fully intended to do a full blown Harvest Monday post last week. I got side tracked. And then I fully intended to do a full blown Harvest Monday today. But I got sidetracked, AND my bread machine died.

But I shall persevere, and at least display samples of what I am lightly harvesting this week.

First harvest 2016: Sorrel, chicory, dandelion, garlic, onions.

Second harvest: Sunchoke, salsify, sorrel, chicory, dandelion, garlic, onions, and kale.

I am exceptionally excited about the kale. I have not had much success in overwintering anything. Here in Zone 5, winters are harsh, and since I decided I wanted to start saving seeds, I have been trying to figure out what the minimal amount of coverage for overwintering actually is. Most years, I can’t get the greens through, because either I did not get enough coverage on them, or the rodents got through the cover and ate everything. This year, the cover was enough for the kale and the collards to make it through, and they are regenerating nicely. I suspect that I did not cover them enough to get them through a typical winter, but they made it through a mild winter, and that is a start. Turnips and beets do not appear to have made it through, and so I will have to try harder next year, or I may have to accept that I will need to lift them and keep them in the fridge for the winter.

Posted in Forest Gardening, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

In which the historical place of rhubarb is discussed.

Rhubarb is a lovely example of how foodways might change. It shows up in the historical record as a plant with medicinal value during the Middle Ages, but, like maize, is not appropriate on the re-creationists table. Rhubarb did not become a table vegetable until we are past the Scadian’s cutoff: 1600 CE.

It’s also a lovely example of the value of attention. Gerard’s Herbal, so easily accessible these days, pictured the plant in the 1597 version like so:

Gerard’s Herbal, 1597. Rhubarb.

The first time I saw this picture, I was bemused, to say the least. What kind of rhubarb is that?

Turns out, it isn’t any kind of rhubarb.* It appears to be a redrawing of an etching from Universal Cosmology by Andre Thevet (1504-1592), printed in 1575, that claims to show rhubarb cultivation. You can see the picture here, or here, or here.† It reminds me of the elephants drawn by medieval monks who’d never stepped foot more than 15 miles whence they were born: it looks like an animal, yes, and it has a long trunk, but that may be where the resemblance ends.

Rhubarb was apparently an expensive import from China; only the dried root was brought in. The person responsible for the engraving did a lovely job of portraying the root (in a separate engraving), but the plant? Not so much.

Gerard’s Herbal, 1636 edition. Rhubarb.

Thomas Johnson edited and expanded the Herbal in 1633; he frankly states that he removed the erroneous information and engraving from the 1597 version. This engraving is a decent representation of what rhubarb actually looks like.

I’m not digging up my rhubarb for its roots, and the spot it lands in when I move it… well, that’ll be a chip of China. I will save my strawberry rhubarb jam, and my apricot rhubarb jam, and my rhubarb chutney, and so forth, for gustatory pleasures outside the SCA. 🙂

*At least, as far as I have been able to ascertain. I don’t claim exhaustive research here.
†There might be earlier source material that is the inspiration for both these pictures, but the point stands. Somebody drew it as best they could from someone else’s description, and this is what we got.

Posted in SCA | Tagged , ,

In which planting and migraines are discussed.


I’m on day three of the most impairing migraine I have ever had. It’s not the most painful, but it is the most persistent, and it came with a wealth of symptoms I had not previously experienced. I did not recognize them as symptoms, and so I did nothing about preventing the migraine. It started Thursday, and it’s still holding on. It is not as bad as it was when it started (obviously, or I would not be writing this), but I am really ready for it to stop. New to me symptoms: vertigo, nausea, chills, fatigue, and moderate (rather than blinding) head pain. The only visual effect I am having is light sensitivity; you had better believe I am only glancing at the screen occasionally. The keyboard is a lovely, light-absorbing black.

The vertigo and the nausea are what is really impeding my ability to do much of anything.


Carlin Pea in bloom.*

    • Maybe I mentioned this next bit? The garden has grown in such a way, and there are so many things I want to grow, that I can’t quite keep the beds as defined as I might like to. The 16th C Bed does not have enough sun to grow all the things I want, and even if it had enough, it’s not enough room in one bed to Grow All The Things. Crop rotation as a plan has been failing as I keep inter-planting things for square foot gardening. So I am thinking about just having the whole thing be up for planting grabs and pretend that anything not known to 16th C. Europeans is just an awesome and exotic ornamental I am playing with.

      But of course, that thought pattern only matters if I want it to. It’s not like there are English Renaissance Garden Police who are going to look down their noses and sniff if the 16th C. bed spills over in a million ways. At some point, it was going to have to. And that point is now.


    • I’d like to put some Rosa Rugosa in this year, because I want more roses and because they have super big hips. The hips are edible and full of vitamin C. Making room for them along the rose area will require moving some plants. I may just take the Russian sage out all together, as it is merely ornamental. I can move herbs over into the 16th C. Bed, as that bed is slowing turning into a permanent planting bed, at least on the side that is part sun. Tarragon, sage, reseeding salad mixes, a Martha Washington asparagus plant that I grew from seed, some leeks that I treat like chives: it’s pretty well established on that end of the bed and so I may as well work with what I got. No matter what historical gardening ideas enchant me, my ultimate goal is an urban food forest.


    • The thing I have had the hardest time trying to decide about moving is the rhubarb. I’m thinking of moving it into the 16th C bed. Of course, it’s the 16th C. Bed. And they knew of rhubarb, so that is not the issue, as I am willing to grow any plant known in the English Renaissance. But it gets very big, and will take up a lot of space. I have it in a part-sun corner right now, but I am planning on installing central air, and that spot is where it will have to go. So I certainly need to move the rhubarb and the strawberries, and I should probably move the established perma-bed about three feet away from the wall of the house.


  • The thing I am most excited about is the carlin peas. This is a legume that was grown in the Elizabethan era, and I am overjoyed to have gotten hold of some (Go on! Search the internet! Not a single seed company in the States sells ’em commercially, and they are not easy to locate even in the UK). They came without growing instructions, sorry to say, but thankfully, a nice little site called Old Varieties has brief instructions. There are some discussions online that indicate it’s slower to ripen than either sweet peas or snap beans, so I won’t be worried by that. I am actually going to have to pay real attention to succession planting my legumes this year, as I would like to grow the carlin peas, fava beans, scarlet runners, hyacinth, lentil, and the Cherokee Trail of Tears and Turkey Craw.

That’s it for now. This has taken all day in pausing and returning because of the migraine, and I should stop now.

– – – –
*I pulled this picture from a photo found on twitter. I cropped it a bit to make it less nice than the original, and would love to credit the photographer if I knew who it was.


Posted in Forest Gardening, SCA, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Boars Head Handout in the rough.

I am putting together a class on historical gardening, and today will be the first version of it, a round table discussion that will allow me to present some information and learn about what things are most interesting to students. The topic is pretty huge and I am right now leaning towards a description of accessible internet resources to encourage people to go look the information up and a discussion of how the garden can be a metaphor for A&S participation in the SCA. The below is the rough list of links. I’m just going to direct folks to this list, so that I can refine it as the class develops, and so that it is easily accessible to the class participants.

University and Museum Gardens:
The Cloisters:
Santa Clara University:
UMass: and

Colonial Williamsburg is post SCA-period, but the gardener’s blog often has interesting historical and applied gardening information:

Primary Sources:
The Middle English Translation of Palladius De re Rustca:
The book of husbandry:
The Profitable Arte of Gardening:
A perfite platforme of a hoppe garden and necessarie instructions for the making and mayntenaunce thereof:
500 points of husbandry:

SCA Websites:

1. Medieval and Renaissance Gardens, Jadwiga Zajaczkowa (Jennifer Heise)
2. Incorporating Period Garden Ideas in your garden. (same auhor as #1)
3. Karen Larsdatter’s collection of links (look at the agriculture section):

Pinterest boards:

Elise Boucher:
Susan Malovrh:
Ginger Bats:
Prue Batten:
Lady Narf:
Jen Jaros:

Research on Various Aspects of Medieval and Renaissance gardens:

1. Horticulture and Art:
2. Miscelaneous bits I pulled together myself:!952&authkey=!AHlsajlsKytKTSY&ithint=file%2crtf
3. The Cucurbitaceae and Solanaceae illustrated in medieval manuscripts known as the Tacuinum Sanitatis
4. Kitchen Garden Report:
(This last suggestion is a very nice round-up of information. If you only construct a garden from information here and from Jadwiga Zajaczkowa (Jennifer Heise), you’ll be all right)

Simple start to a mixed use garden:

Varieties believed to be an heirloom from or near the SCA time frame:

Carlin Peas – In the United States, currently only available to Seed Savers Exchange Members. This is one of my projects for the AS L/AS LI garden, to grow enough to make samples available to other interested gardeners.

Martock—a variety of Broad Beans also currently available only to members of Seed Savers Exchange. Substitute Windsor fava bean Canadians can buy 2 varieties of Martock at Prarie Garden Seeds:

Crapaudine Beet: Currently available at Baker Creek,

Norfolk Purple Turnip:
Parsley, Hamburg Rooted

Vegetables, herbs, flowers known in period but with uncertain timelines:

These are chosen in accordance with the earliest known date for a plant with a known date for the variety, or, in a few cases, the only variety of seed you can currently get.

Salsify – a vegetable that will produce a beautifyul, tall purple flower in its second year.

Long Yellow Carrots
Possible varieties
Jaune du Doubs

(I did not have time to list ’em all before 5 Dec, so here is a board of varieties appropriate for the Tudor Kitchen Garden:

Plant Lists:

Seed Sellers:

Heritage Harvest Seed:

My Personal Favorites:

Seed Savers Exchange
Victory Seeds

Other Well-recommended vendors:
Baker Creek
High Mowing
Seeds of Change
Territorial Seeds
Hudson Valley Seed Library

And, for folks who want to shop local to Northshield:

St Clare Seeds (Wisconsin)
Vermont Bean Seed (also dba Totally Tomatoes) (Wisconsin)
Prairie Road Organic Seed (North Dakota)
Heritage Harvest Seed (Manitoba)
Mandy’s Greenhouse (Manitoba)
Soggy Creek Seeds (Ontario, but outside of Northshield.)

UDSA hardiness zones for Northshield range from Zone 5 (the warmest) to Zone 3 (the coldest). UDSA Hardiness zones applied to Europe place most of western Europe, including portions of Norway, Sweden, and Germany, at Zone 10 (the warmest) to Zone 6 (the coldest.) You don’t see typical Midwestern winter temperatures until you enter Eastern Europe or the interior areas of Norway and Sweden. What does this mean? The typical countries that Northshielders claim, even the most inhabited parts of Scandinavia, are warmer than Northshield. This can make growing many plants challenging. Summers are shorter and winters are colder.

Choose varieties that are appropriate for your area. Sometimes this means that, even if you can get a hold of a variety of melon that was grown pre-1601 (and if you find that melon, do let me know what it is), your summer may be too short to grow it; pick a variety that looks similar and, if possible, crossed back over the Atlantic from Germany or Russia or wherever.

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Ye Vertue of ye Flowery Mead

Let us begin at the end:

Dandelion Jelly

The beginning may have been my desire for violet jelly, but the whole subject goes back for years and years, starting with some distant crank telling me how I should be keeping my back yard.

I don’t do lawn. I do flowery mead. And it gets long-ish in the back so that I can harvest the dandelions, and the alehoof, and the clover, and the plantain, and the violets, and the creeping bellflower, and all the other useful plants that landed there and grow every year with exactly zero work on my part. The dandelion leaves are one of the most welcome sights in my yard–finally, produce! Finally, salads! Spring is peeking out and soon my gardens will be groaning!

This year, I really wanted to make violet jelly. I have made violet sugar in the past, and am well aware that the lovely purple violets ubiquitous in my lawn make a mighty fine, delicate sweet.

But one of the sad things about my flowery mead is that my violets come really early. For many people in this area, the violets are just now ending, but mine were gone before May arrived. I am glad to have the warmer micro-climate, but I am sad that it was simply too cold to get the violets when they arrived.

So I looked about for instructions on making some other sort of flower jelly.

And I found this: Dandelion Jelly

Thus, one fine May morning, when my mead looked like this:

I grabbed my basket and started harvesting. This is what I collected:

And then began the entirely tedious chore of separating the blooms into petals and whatever-the-rest-of-the-flower-head is called. I ended up with this:

A pile of discarded flower pieces for the compost, petals for the jelly pot, and unopened buds for the salad plate.

I had to make the dandelion petal infusion right away, but it took a couple of days to get to making the jelly. The infusion kept well in the fridge. Michael was home with me the day I finally made the jelly. He was intrigued by the idea, so I let him taste a bit of the infusion.

“Ugh, tastes like grass,” he said.

“Trust me, you’ll see,” I replied.

And so I followed the process as outlined in the link above.

Me, I liked it. It’s delicate and sweet and honey-like. Michael, however….

When I brought Michael a bit to taste, he gingerly put the spoon in his mouth, gave me a wary look, and tried the jelly. Suddenly, the sun shone out of his eyes and his skull split open and rainbows and ponies poured out of the top of his head and filled up the room while choirs of angels sang in joy.

Told you. 🙂

Think I will be making it again.

I did manage to get maybe a half cup of violets this year, not really enough to make jelly. I can’t decide if I should try to make violet syrup, make violet sugar again, or try grabbing the flowers from the love-in-idleness as they mature and make a mixed viola jelly.

We’ll see.

Incidentally, there are websites that instruct gardeners on how to create a flowery mead. I find that surprising, because the obvious answer should be stop trying to kill all the meadow flowers that your lawn will naturally attract, stop using ChemLawn or whatever, and if you are looking for a particular flower, go get a packet of seeds.

And another aside: the canning jar up there is made by Global Amici. I wish I could afford more of them.

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