Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Scorzonera hispanica
Scorzonera humilis

Scorzonera humilis/Lav Skorzoner

Scorzonera hispanica, black oyster plant or Viper's Grass or simply Scorzonera is a member of the sunflower family, cultivated as a root vegetable. It has heads of yellow flowers. It is native to Southern Europe and the Near East. It is generally thought to have spread to the rest of Europe from Spain. The name Scorzonera derives from the Old French word scorzon meaning snake. The Celtic and Germanic peoples are believed to have eaten the black salsify which was considered efficaceous against the bubonic plague and snake bites until the 16th century. The plant was being cultivated as a vegetable in Italy and France by 1660, and soon after, the Belgians were growing vast fields of it. The black salsify is considered very nutritious, and it is often eaten together with other vegetables and is popular in white sauce.

photo Torup, Mid Jutland 24. May 2009: grethe bachmann
Polygala vulgaris
Common Milkwort/Almindelig mælkeurt

Polygala vulgaris/ Common Milkwort is a species of the genus Polygala. It was called Freya's Hair in Scandinavia, but after Christianity came to it was renamed after Virgin Mary. All heathen names were obviously forbidden. Boring! Freya's Hair was a beautiful name.

Common milkwort is native to most of Europe, but to the south only in the mountains. It was used medicinally as an infusion to increase the flow of a nursing mother's milk. It is antibacterial and was used for many diseases fx bronchitis, good for the stomach, laxative, loss of appetite, tuberculosis and veterinary it promoted the flow of milk in cattle. Common milkwort grows on heaths, dunes and grasslands. It is rare, but frequent in patches on calcerous grassland.

photo Stigsholm Sø, Mid Jutland 24. May 2009: grethe bachmann

Friday, May 15, 2009

Volsted - a Fortelandsby
Mester Gothi in Volsted Church

North Jutland

Volsted is one of our oldest and best preserved fortelandsbyer (a forte is the common land of the village) with the characteristic village pond upon the forte, surrounded by houses and farms from where the fields stretch out starshaped like pieces of a layer cake. Many villages dared not in the renewal around 1790 give up the safety of the village and the social network and move the farms out into the landscape. Volsted is one of few villages still with the look of an old fortelandsby.


The small Volsted Church without tower is built in ab. 1150, and it has some spectacular carved stones by the famous Mester Gothi. A carved inscription says that "gothi fecit" = "gothi built" - and the name and figures are similar to the stones in Gjøl Church in Vendsyssel . This is a quite unique case to know the stone mason who probably also was the building master of two Danish village churches from the 1100s.

Volsted Church, the entrance (click to enlarge)

The entrance to the church consists of authentic Romanesque frame stones, which probably framed the original entrances of the church. Now they are placed around a later porch entrance.
Above the door is a stone with the favorite animal of the 1100s, the strong lion , possibly a symbol of the evil which can only be defeated by Christianity. To the left is the Fall of Man and above this an ashlar with a wild boar. To the right is a bishop, maybe the building master, and above him God's lamb. In the eastern wall of the porch are three ashlars with fertility symbols and animal motives.

photo 2 May 2009: grethe bachmann, Volsted, North Jutland

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Take Care of Our Insects Please!

Bumblebee filled with lots of pollen (click to enlarge)

The scientists in Denmark keep an eye on the insect-population like they do in many other countries. Many Danish insect species disappear, including butterflies and bumble bees. Six species of the bumblebee in Denmark have disappeared during the last 50 years, according to senior-scientist Per Kryger at Århus University. Those six species account for a fourth of the bumblebee-species in Denmark, and they will never come back. He estimates that there is a similar decline among the other 230 bee-species , and several butterflies and mosquitos are dying out. Although the bees and mosquitos are known for their smarting and itching bites, they are necessary in order to pollinate trees and plants so they can give apples, tomatoes and other good things.

The scientists are of the opinion that the importance of insects in general is strongly underestimated. Too few insects mean large increasing costs on common fruit and vegetables. Internationally is reckoned that the economic value of the insect pollination is about 1.125 billion kroner (= ab. 8 billion dollars). In Denmark the insects increase the production with two billion kroner, estimates Per Kryger.

The agriculture is the big culprit when it is about the extermination of insects. Pesticides and field-exploitation destroy the places where the insects live and breed. Large parts of Denmark are put under the plough and herbicides wipe out the important insect-plants.
Source: metroXpress 23. April 2009

Other things have showed to be a danger. The scent of flowers is threatened by pollution. The pollution mixes with the flowerscent and drown out the scent-trace which bees and other pollinating insects use in order to find their way to the flowers. This according to an investigation from University of Virginia in Usa (from Magasine "FoodCulture") The weaker the trace gets the harder it will be for the insects to find the plants meaning that the insects gather less nourishment - and then there will be fewer insects in the future. Last but not least it can prevent flowers from propagate, which means that they die out.
Source: metroXpress 12. May 2009.

When we then add to all this that the Danish farmers now are allowed to cultivate more fallow fields which are important living and breeding places for the insects then it looks bad for the future of the insects.

Furthermore the farmers are now allowed to put more pigs in their stables, the same size of stables with more pigs! There are places in the countryside where there are far too many pig-farms in an area - and from where you have to take flight if you're so unlucky to arrive on a day when they're spreading out slurry. This could at least be minimized, but instead it's growing worse.
Source: from the TV-press and my own experience on several occasions.

photo Store Økssø 2. May 2009: grethe bachmann