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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 2, Number 12
July 17, 2004
New Moon in Cancer, Athenian New Year


  • Welcome
  • My Season: Early Harvests
  • New Offering: Online Course: Slow Time
  • Living in Season: Lavender Recipes
  • In My Library: More Herb Books
  • On the Web: Herb Web Sites
  • In My Library: Elizabeth Goudge
  • Holiday Packet: Lammas
  • Signs of Summer
  • Autumn Correspondence Course
  • Copyright
  • Subscribe - Unsubscribe

Welcome to my periodical newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life. If you enjoy this newsletter, please forward it.

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My Season
Everything is still three weeks early here in Seattle, a trend that has been consistent throughout the year. Now I'm noticing ripe blackberries which I usually can't find until Lammas, August 1st. The dahlias (the flowers of August) are blooming. And the wild grasses that grow in the parkway and along the freeways are turning gold, another sign that the first harvest of Lammas has arrived.

I've had a great response to my offering of a twelve-week course on time which begins September 1st (see below) and there are only a few places left. You should sign up now if you're interested in participating in this new adventure.

May you enjoy the lazy days of summer.

Don't forget to celebrate July 23rd, Ice Cream Day and for those of you interested in Mary Magdalen, her day is coming up as well: July 22nd.

New Offering: 12 Week Online Course: Slow Time
"Time is a gentleman," said French writer Louis Servan-Shreiber
who learned to befriend time rather than fight it. That's the goal
of this twelve-week course which will you develop a more
satisfying relationship with time.

Click here for more information on the Slow Time course.

Living in Season: Lavender Methlegyn
Yesterday I was in my garden, harvesting my lavender which had reached the blossom stage, trying to work my way through the interwoven stalks while avoiding the short black bee with the yellow head who was buzzing around visiting the buds (his buddies were sleeping — or tranced out in the nearby rosemary). The combination of bees and lavender reminded me of the recipe for lavender methlegin that I received last year from a longtime student of the seasons, Karen A., and I realized that it's just an attempt to duplicate what the bees do naturally: making honey from the sweet scent of lavender.

I first learned about metheglyn in one of my favorite historical novels, The White Witch, first published in 1958 and written by one of my favorite novelists, Elizabeth Goudge. It's the story of Froniga, a half-Gypsy woman who heals with herbs during the time of Cromwell. "Her religion was entirely individual, an astonishing mixture of Christianity, white witchcraft, Romany and fairy lore and quite sublime faith in her own powers." (Not a bad definition for anyone's religion, I think) Goudge also stuffs the novel full of delicious snippets of herblore and folk customs.

One of Froniga's herbal remedies is metheglyn. The OED notes that the word metheglin comes from the Welsh meddyglyn which mean healing liquor and defines it as a medicinal variety of mead peculiar to Wales. Froniga flavored her metheglyn with sweetbriar roses. This recipe uses lavender flowers instead.

Lavender Metheglin
Batch size: 1 gallon

4 lb honey
1 pint lavender flowers
? t citric acid
? t tannin powder
? t champagne yeast
1 t yeast nutrient

Boil together honey and ? gal water for 5 min. Put flowers with citric acid and tannin in a gallon jug and pour the hot liquid over. Let cool in a sink of cold water to room temperature, then add yeast and nutrient and further water to make a gallon plus a pint. Add an airlock to your gallon jar. Let ferment 1 week, then strain out the flowers. Set the lock on again and ferment until it's clear, about 112 days. Bottle and age for at least 109 days.

This recipe comes from H.E. Bravery's recipe for rhodomel in his book Home Brewing Without Failures. As with all fermented beverages, be careful when storing the results. If improperly bottled, it may explode.

A much simpler way of making lavender medicine is to pour about 1/2 a cup of lavender buds into a pint bottle of cheap brandy. Let sit for at least 2 weeks (I just leave the flowers in the brandy and strain them out when I use it, but it depends on how strong a lavender flavor you like.) I keep this in my potion cupboard and put a shot into a cup of hot tea which I drink right before bedtime whenever I have a winter cold.

Froniga also combined the petals of red damask roses and purified honey with alcohol to make melrosette, another healing potion which is not fermented. Rhodomel is simply another name for this concoction, according to the OED. In her book, The Art of Cooking with Roses, Jean Gordon notes that rose honeys are popular in England where they are used for colds, coughs and infections. The following recipe for rose honey comes from Jeanne Rose's book, Herbs & Things:

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over 2 ounces of dried red rose petals (make sure they were not sprayed) and let stand for 10 hours. Then strain and press the liquor out of the rose petals and combine it with 1-1/2 pounds of organic honey. Boil to a thick syrup.

I imagine you could make a similar mixture with lavender buds and honey.

Lavender is also showing up more and more in food, where it adds a delightful and unusual flavor. One of my favorite recipes for cooking with lavender comes from an old issue of House and Garden. Make it for Ice Cream Day, July 23rd.

Glace a la Lavande

2 oz superfine sugar
1/2 oz lavender petals

Put the sugar and lavender in a saucepan and melt over medium heat until brown and caramelized. Pour into a greased tray, cool, then grind to a fine powder.

Ice Cream:
1 cup milk
1 sprig lavender
4 egg yolks
2 oz superfine sugar
1 cup heavy cream, lightly whipped

Bring the milk containing the lavender sprig to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let infuse for 30 minutes in a warm place. Meanwhile beat the yolks and sugar together until creamy. Removed the lavender sprig from the milk and whisk the milk into the sugar mixture. Heat slowly. Stir constantly until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool. Fold the whipped cream gently and thoroughly into the custard. Spoon into a deep freezer container. Cover and put in the freezer. When the ice cream is half frozen, stir in the praline mix and refreeze. Stir well once more before the ice cream sets hard. Makes 1-1/2 pints.

You can find these recipes and more including lavender cheesecake and lavender cooler as well as instructions for making a lavender wand as supplemental pages for the Lammas packet which can be downloaded here. If you've already purchased the Lammas packet, you should download these additional pages to add to your packet.

Bravery, H.E., Home Brewing Without Failures, out of print.
Gordon, Jean, Cooking with Roses, Walker & Company 1968
Rose, Jeanne, Herbs & Things, Grosset & Dunlap, 1972

In the Library: More Herb Books
It always seems like I find a good book right after I do a feature on my favorites and that's what happened after the last column in which I featured herb books:

Gordon, Lesley, The Country Herbal
My niece Shayla brought this book over to share with me and I loved it. Great illustrations. Good solid information.

Rose, Jeanne, Herbs & Things, Grosset & Dunlap, 1972
This was the first book I ever bought about herbs and one I still treasure. It's definitely got a hippie flavor with it's psychedelic line drawings and tips about psychotropic herbs. I keep this one with my "magic" books rather than with my "herb" books because it's strong on recipes and magical correspondences and short on gardening tips and preparation of medicines.

Silverman, Maida, A City Herbal, Ash Tree 1977
This is a great book, particularly for city dwellers, since it explains how to identify and use the weeds that grow in the cracks of the sidewalk.

On My Computer: Herb Web Sites
Contains the very detailed and comprehensive information from Mrs. M. Grieve's A Modern Herbal. This is the first place I go for plant information online.

Susun Weed's site
A messy and chaotic site, compared to the one above, just like Susun's work, it is wild and juicy. You won't find an organized breakdown of various herbs. You will find articles on women's health, forums for discussion of various topics and archived newsletters full of reviews, recipes and articles.

In My Library: Elizabeth Goudge Books
A month ago, I reviewed the book Enchanted Feminism, about the influence of Starhawk and the Reclaiming Community on the renaissance of witchcraft in America. The author, Jone Salomonsen, when describing the experiences that brought new members into Reclaiming distinguished between conversion experiences (for instance, being "called" by the Goddess) or simply a feeling of "coming home," recognizing that the beliefs of the community felt right. I realized that I first experienced that feeling-that someone had captured my beliefs on paper-while reading The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge around the age of 13. I'm not the only one. Lunaea Weatherstone and Shekinah Mountainwater, both founding mothers of the Goddess movement, and Caitlin Matthews, the famous Celtic scholar, are all Elizabeth Goudge fans.

It's unbelievable to me that a historical novel could have such a powerful effect on my spiritual life, but I suppose that the Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer Bradley had a similar influence on a later generation.

Goudge was a prolific writer in her lifetime (her first book was published in he 1980's) but not all of her books are good. For instance, the book for which she is most well known, Green Dolphin Street, is actually one of her worst. I also don't recommend The Middle Window (an early time travel romance). I've loaned her books to friends who didn't like them because they found them too sentimental and too Christian. She is interested in certain Christian values-all of the stories are about redemption, grace and love-but there's a delightfully pagan undercurrent underneath it all. Her writing is lyrical and descriptive. Not just the people but the animals, plants and houses are all alive in her books.

The White Witch is still my favorite, set during the English Civil War (1642) and featuring the independent and unconventional half-gypsy herbalist, Froniga, who lives in the cottage outside of Henley-on-Thames where Goudge lived centuries later. Features a magical well, a black witch (who's converted, so to speak), a well-educated and sympathetic parson, and glimpses of gypsy life.

City of Bells. Just won a copy of this in a raffle through the Elizabeth Goudge fan site and recognized with delight that it's one of my favorites. The story of Joceyln, a bitter and burned out young man who is sent home after being injured in the Boer War and goes to stay with his grandfather, a canon in a cathedral town. Searching for something meaningful to do, Joceyln opens a bookstore which puts him in contact with many of the characters of the town and helps him find meaning in his life again.

The Dean's Watch. Another favorite, which takes place in the same town as City of Bells. The aging and lonely Dean of the cathedral takes his watch to be fixed by the ancient watchmaker of the town, the start of a series of interactions that ends up being profoundly healing for all. A fine sense of the historical period.

Elizabeth Goudge group on Yahoo:
A fan website with a woefully incomplete bibliography but links
to interesting articles:

Holiday Packet: Lammas
It's not too soon to order your Lammas packet if you want ideas for celebrating this most obscure of the seasonal holidays. The illustrated, 31 page portfolio includes:

  • Ancient Celtic and Anglo-Saxon traditions of Lughnasad and Lammas
  • Transformation mysteries of beer and bread
  • Recipes for mead & methlegyn, medicinal & fermented honey beverages
  • Instructions for creating wheat weavings and lavender wands
  • Lyrics for Lammas songs, including Brigg Fair and John Barleycorn
  • And much more

To order go to our Store!

Signs of Summer
Kari in Alaska writes: "We know that summer has arrived when we will be out working in the garden one evening, look at the sun, and think it is 8:00... but then we go inside to check the time, and find that it is actually 10:00 or 11:00, and the sun is still shining bright!"

Cynsol from Arizona writes: "It's July and everything is dead as a doornail! No sign of life anywhere."

Taffy Hill in Nashville is harvesting lemon balm and using it to make herbal liqueur for Christmas gifts.

While Mrs. J Evans from the South of England mentions (among other things): "the sounds of the first lawn being mown, followed by the subsequent lush smell of new mown grass; the smoky smell of the first barbecues (usually conducted under an umbrella in anything from light drizzle to a heavy downpour!) wafting in open windows… and picking the first strawberries from a PYO Farm and taking them home to feast on."

I love getting a glimpse of the season in so many different places.
Send me the signs of summer where you live, and I will post them on my website.

Autumn Correspondence Course
IBy the old British and Celtic reckoning of the seasons, Lammas is the End of Summer which means that Autumn is about to begin. Although most people are happy to start Spring at February 1st and Summer at May Day, starting Autumn on August 1st, often the hottest part of the year in Seattle, just seems wrong. Until you shift your understanding of the season so that Autumn is the time of harvest (rather than the time the leaves fall-that's November 1st and the start of Winter). Then you can recognize the role the warmth & sunshine play in ripening the tomatoes and basil and beans, the wheat and the corn, the dahlias and chrysanthemums.

The Autumn correspondence course is now available. (Of course, you can also order any season out of season, if you like). For a list of topics and the subjects covered, click here.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2004.
All rights reserved. You may reprint material from Living in Season in other electronic or print publications as long as you credit me and provide a link to: http://www.schooloftheseasons.com. Please send me a copy of the publication.

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