Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Watercress/ Brøndkarse
Nasturtium officinale

- a brook almost overgrown in watercress.

Watercress is native from Europe to central Asia and one of the oldest known leaf vegetables. The plant is a member of the cabbage family, related to garden cress and mustard, known for their peppery flavour. It is not related to Tropaeolum, popularly known as "nasturtiums".
Watercress grows mainly in running water, with its long creeping, hollow stalks floating on the surface. The small flowers are white or green - and like many plants in this family the foliage of watercress becomes bitter when the plants begin producing flowers. If unharvested, watercress can grow to a height of 50-120 cm.

Watercress thrives in clean, running water, but can be cultivated in a garden or in a pot. The plant is immensely rich in minerals and vitamins and works fine in the kitchen. Watercress has more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk and three times as much vitamin E as lettuce. It's packed with vitamins A and C, and is low in calories. It is dealed fresh and the young shots are used before flowering. Its taste is spicy and piquante, it can be used raw or cooked in salads, soup, shellfish and as a green sprinkle; suits for Hamburg parsley, pork, champignons, chicken, grill, fish and dressing. The seeds kan germinate like common cress and the dry seeds can be crushed to a mustard. One of Britain's best known dishes, watercress soup, became very popular in the 17th century when it was claimed to cleanse the blood. Watercress was once popular as a tea, freshly made with lemon and sugar. It was drunk as a tonic to ease aches and pains.

NB: It is not advisable to gather watercress out in nature unless it is absolutely certain that no animals are upstreams, especially sheep. People can get a deadly serious infection from a liver parasite. (The parasite dies by cooking.)

The juice from watercress is used in bathing soaps, and the cooked plant in baths for soar muscles. It has a long-standing reputation as a hair-tonic, helping to promote the growth of thick hair when rubbed on the head. Watercress cooked in milk and added honey is used for a face lotion, which keeps the skin soft and brightens freckles. Victorians actually thought the plant could remove freckles, and they also used it as a cure for toothache and hiccups. Eating a bag of watercress is said to be a good cure for a hang-over.

Dollerup Bæk

When Hippocrates founded the first hospital on the island of Kos around 400 BC, he grew wild watercress in the natural springs and used it to treat blood disorders. As a medicinal plant watercress has been traditionally considered a diuretic, expectorant, purgative, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. It has also been used as a remedy against anemia, eczema, kidney and liver disorders, tuberculosis, boils, warts and tumors. It is commonly detoxicating and strengthening by long illness. According to Pliny the smoke of burning cress keeps away serpents.

According to the book "James Cook and the Conquest of Scurvy", Captain James Cook was able to circumnavigate the Globe three times, due in part, to his use of watercress in his sailors diets. Maybe he had read about the Persian king Xerxes who ordered his soldiers to eat watercress to keep them healthy during their long marches. It was also used by soldiers in general to both prevent and cure scurvy. Irish monks were said to survive for long periods eating only bread and watercress and referred to watercress as"pure food for sages". Lord Byron was quoted as saying that watercress "doth restore the bloom to the cheeks of a young maiden". He also called it the "Herb that while young is friendly to life."

Watercress belongs to the Moon. It is connected to the water's elementary creatures, the Undines. If it is worn in a red flannelbag it protects people who sail or flies over water. It gives insight in the nature of water. If watercress is eaten by day peoples' dreams will be more provident, mysterious and visionary. The plant increases empathy and understanding.

Anglo-Saxons swore by watercress potage to "spring clean" the blood. The British vegetarian writer Colin Spencer says that the Romans treated insanity with vinegar and watercress. Roman emperors ate it to help them make "bold decisions". Watercress is believed by many to be an aphrodisiac and in Crete, islanders swear by its powers and ancient recipes are handed down from one generation to the next. The Greeks had a saying that "Eating cress makes one witty". According to Cretan legend watercress grew in the springs of the Dikton Cave on Crete where the god Zeus is said to have eaten the plant to fortify himself against his murderous father Cronos.

"When I ask for a water cress sandwich, I do not mean a loaf with a field in the middle of it.”
Oscar Wilde

photo Dollerup Bæk, 25. July 2009: grethe bachmann

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dyer's Broom/ Farve-Visse
Genista tinctoria

Dyer's Broom is also named Dyer's Greenweed. It has pretty butter-yellow flowers and it grows all over Europe where it is found in heaths and fringes, along roads and the edges of woods and in light oak- and pine woods. All parts of the plant are poisonous.

The plant was always used for dyeing linen and wool, already the Romans knew these qualities. Dyer's broom provides a useful yellow dye which is fast, and it was grown commercially for this purpose in parts of Britain into the early 19th century. The woollen cloth mordanted with alum was dipped yellow with dyer's broom. In England linen and wool were dyed yellow with dyer's broom, then dipped into a vat of blue dye - woad or later indigo - to produce the once famous Kendal Green, which was superseded by the brighter Saxon Green in the 1770s. Kendal Green is a local common name for the plant. With an after care with iron-sulphate the dye becomes dark brown and with copper sulphate olivegreen.

In Welsh mythology Blodeuweed is the name of a woman made from the flowers of broom, meadowsweet and the oak by Math ab Mathonwy and Gwydion to be the wife of Llen Llaw Gyffes. Her story is part of the Mabinogi, the tale of Math, son of Mathonwy.

A traditional hymn from Sussex says:
Sweep the house with blossed broom in May
Sweep the head of the household away.
Despite this it was also common to include a decorated bundle of broom at weddings.

Ashes of broom were used to treat dropsy, while its strong smell was said to be able to tame wild horses and dogs.

In folk medicine dyer's broom was used for numerous diseases like many other herbs. Besides this it was used as a coffe-substitute and a culinary herb. The plant is poisonous so they might need a treatment after a cup of coffee or a spray of broom-spice on the dish!

photo Trehøje, Mols 11. July 2009: grethe bachmann

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cameroon/Cameroun Sheep at Strandkær
Naturhistorisk Museum/ Mols-Laboratory
Mols, East Jutland

Sheep have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years and used for both wool and meat. They are generally found wherever human populations have settled and are usually kept in breeding groups called flocks which consist of a few males and many females. They can, however, survive in the wild on grassland and rocky mountainsides.

The Cameroon/Cameroun Sheep is a dwarf species of domesticated sheep found in hot countries, most notably (and originally) Cameroon, but also south-west and central AfricaThey are similar to early breeds of sheep. Since this breed of sheep comes from Africa, its wool is suitable for the hot temperatures in Africa. Their colours are red/brown with patches of black or white. They do not have woolly coats, as they are adapted to hot weather, but in winter it develops an additional layer of wool. However, this can be compared with the coat of an Arabian horse and doesn’t really provide protection from the long, cold European winters. Even native animals with a winter fleece that has adapted to prevailing temperatures don’t always survive cold winters. They must have a dry shelter with no drafts in winter. Cameroon sheep graze all day on grass and any other vegetation they can find.

Information about the Mols-Laboratory: Strandkær

Cameroon/Cameroun is a Republique in central and western Africa. The name derives from the Portuguese sailors who rached the coast in 1472. They noted an abundance of prawns and rayfish in the Wouri River and named it Rio dos Camarões, Portuguese for "River of Prawns". Cameroon is home to over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups. The country is well known for its native styles of music and for its successful national football team. English and French are the official languages.

photo Strandkær 11.July 2009: grethe bachmann

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to Thatch a House

This was really an interesting sight to see how a thatched roof is made. And when it's done its a work of art. On the second picture where the guy brings materials on a tractor some of the pretty finished roof is seen.

The latest decades many thatched roofs have disappeared in Denmark, corresponding to that one thatched roof is removed every day every year. But now there is a growing interest for thatched roofs. Newbuilt thatched houses emerge in the Danish landscape. More and more house owners remove the old roof plates and bring the country house back to its old glory with the roof it was born with. This happens in the 11. hour, since there are only a little more than 42.000 thatched houses left in Denmark.

The Living Roof is a tribute to the cultural inheritance it represents. It has a history of 5.000 years with proud traditions and many good stories about fascination and beauty, custom and renewal and the skilled craft.

The materials used for thatched roofs is Danish and Polish straw, lyme grass, heather , seaweed etc. There two principal forms ,the sewed roof and the tied roof, and there are several local variants of those two forms.

The materials used today are mostly reed, which grows in fresh- or brackish water ; formerly rye straw (long straw) was mainly used, in West Jutland and at Bornholm mixed with heather. West of Lillebælt the straw was sewed upon the laths, east of Lillebælt they were fastened by binding hazel sticks upon the straw. Upon Øerne (Ærø, Langeland Lolland- Falster-Møn etc.) the ridge was covered in oat straw, which was sewed or fastened with connected pieces of oakwood, kragtræer; in West Jutland heather and turf were often used as a ridge. A turf ridge and a ridge of eelgrass is known from Funen.

At the island Læsø are still some houses with eelgrass roofs. They are now listed.

photo Thy , North Jutland, 1. June 2009: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Eurasian Hobby/Lærkefalk
Falco subbuteo

photo Portlandmose, Lille Vildmose 20. June 2009:
stig bachmann nielsen, Naturplan foto

The Eurasian hobby can without slowing down its speed catch a dragonfly in the air, bring the insect to its beak with the claw and eat it. Just look at a gallery with fantastic photos of the hobby. See especially nr. 7 on the first page by Mogens Hansen, where the falcon eats its "lunch" in the air. The hobby is able to catch both swallows and swifts on the wing, and barn swallows or house Martins have a characteristic "hobby" alarm call.

The hobby prefers open landscapes with small forests and wetlands. Its food are birds, insects and exceptionally bats. This pretty little flyer is the size of a kestrel, but has another plumage and flight. It is a well-proportioned falcon with long, pointed wings and a rather short tail. It has an elegant flight with fast strong strokes of the wings interrupted by a glide. The hobby does not hover like the kestrel. Adults are slate-grey above, and streaked lengthwise below, with a white throat. Close views enable the red "trousers" and vent to be seen. Sexes are similar, but juveniles are generally much browner.

The hobby is a true falcon. In falconry one of the characteristics of a true falcon is to prey on birds in the open air. They circle hundreds of feet into the air, waiting for the prey to be flushed out by beaters or dogs. In falconry in the Middle Ages only the larger female bird was properly called the falcon. The male, which is up to one third smaller than the female, was the tiercel. The long winged falcons were restricted to nobility.The hobby was considered the easiest falcon to train, it was mostly used for hunting larks.

The Eurasian Hobby is native to most of Europe and Asia and some localitites in Northwest Africa. In Europe it breeds mostly in lowlands, in general avoiding large areas without trees. In Denmark the species is especially connected to older, open forests with grazed meadows or wetlands or other open nearby biotops which are rich in insect-life.

In the 1800s the hobby was probably a common breeding bird in Denmark, but with the intensive agriculture the species declined. Environmental poisons contributed furthermore to this development. Around 1950 the breeding population were reduced to max. 20 pair. It seemed that the decline continued up to the Millenium with only 5 pair. 2005 was the best hobby-year since the start of *DOF's project Truede og Sjældne Ynglefugle (DATSY) in 1998 with at least 15 pair. In 2006 were at least 10 breeding pair in Denmark. Hobbies nest in old nests of crows and other birds, laying 2-4 eggs. Three hobby-pair have breeded in old crow-nests put up in pylons, all in Sønderjylland. The hobby overwinters in Africa.

Eurasian Hobby see :

A wonderful story about a young Eurasian hobby with a broken wing.
A hobby with a broken wing was saved. After 29 days on Aabenraa Veterinary Hospital the young hobby could be discharged. The rare falcon was found with a broken wing by a local ornitologist Jesper Tofft from Sønderjylland. The hobby was a young bird from one of the crow-nests in the pylons in Sønderjylland. Jesper Tofft keeps an open eye with the Eurasian Hobby in the above mentioned project *DATSY, and he brought the hobby to the veterinary hospital. Dyrenes Beskyttelse (Animal Protection) has a nursing station in connection to the hospital. Usually birds of prey and owls with a broken wing do not achieve a nursing place, since experience shows that hunting birds with broken wings seldom can be cured and become effective hunters in the wild again. But the veterinarian Torben Knage-Rasmussen made an exception. "The ornitologists argued for that we had to do everything in order to heal this young hobby, because the species are so rare in Denmark that each specimen is of importance to the population" And then the veterinarian said yes. There are probably only 15 hobby pair in Denmark at present.

Except the broken wing the hobby was in good condition and vigorous. It also had a good appetite. It had to be fed on the first day, but already on the next day it eat the food itself. (chickens). On the first days the falcon was in a box with straw, but it soon came to
a small volière, and three weeks later in a large volière where it trained the first flights. T
he falcon was calm and composed during the whole course, and the veterinarian describes it as an easy patient. He said that he had taken care of various birds of prey, but the hobby was very balanced with a calm temper. It wasn't confused although it was experiencing an unusual situation.

Fortunately it showed that the nursing was worth the try. After 29 days of nursing the young patient was ringed, before Jesper Tofft put the it out near the nest where it was born. The falcon was so fast and brisk that the ready photographer missed to sharpen the picture. It rushed out at high speed to live the life of a free bird again, and it was received by two hobbies from its own family only a few minutes later.

(Dansk Ornitoligisk Forening)
Danmarks Fugle og Natur

* DATSY is a project for endangered and rare breeding birds in Denmark.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Orange Hawkweed/ Pomerans Høgeurt
Pilosella aurantiaca

Orange Hawkweed/Pomerans Høgeurt is native to most of Europe, though not to the southernmost and northernmost sections. It is found in some localities in Denmark . The species is completely dependent on not getting any shadow from competing plants. It is mostly spread from gardens , but in the listed and Ramsar-protected Verup Mose in Odsherred Statsskovdistrikt (Zealand) the Orange Hawkweed is found together with i.e. Common Hair-Grass (Bølget Bunke); Sedge (Grå Star); Goose-Grass (Gåse-Potentil); Hairy Woodrush (Håret Frytle) ; Sheep's Sorrel(Rødknæ) ; Wild Strawberry (Skovjordbær) and Wild Chervil (Vild Kørvel).

Wild About Denmark

photo 14 June 2009 , Gammel Rye, Mid Jutland: grethe bachmann
Lapland Cornel/Hønsebær
Cornus suecica

Lapland cornel/Hønsebær (Cornus suecica) is a wintergreen herbaceous perennial covering the earth like a carpet. It's blooming in May-July with small purple flowers surrounded by white petal-like bracts. The fruit is a red berry. The plant spreads vigorously in underground suckers.
Lapland cornel is spread cirkumpolar which means that it is found in the northern part of Norway across Lapland, the northern part of Russia and North Sibiria to Alaska, North Canada and Greenland - the whole way around the North Pole.

It is also found in special habitats in Denmark, here in a moor in Rold skov. It grows in moist, acid soil in community with cranberry (tranebær), dward-birch (dværgbirk), bog-bilberry (mosebølle), cloudberry (multebær), rhinantus (skjaller) and Hare's Tail cottongrass (Tue-kæruld).

Observation Denmark Hønsebær

27. June 2009 Rold Skov, North Jutland: grethe bachmann

Saturday, July 04, 2009


In Mid Jutland close to Hærvejen and Øster Nykirke is Margrethediget, a low bank with a ditch to the south. It was originally longer and has once blocked Hærvejen between the moors to the east and the hillsides to the west. Rests of weapons have been found in the fields by the dike and a small massive canon ball in the bank itself. The folk legend says that it was Erik Klipping's mother Margrethe Springhest ( Sambiria) who built it, but similar banks in Denmark are archaeologically dated to Iron Age in the centuries just before Christ.

Hærvejen (the road system also in Google Earth)

photo June 2009: grethe bachmann