Friday, November 27, 2009

Climatic Changes in Scandinavia

Flowering rape field in November 2009

After October with night frost in several places November has been on the warm side of the freezing point in Denmark. Not one of DMI's meteorological stations has measured just one case of night frost in November and the frost will not appear in the first days to come. Statistically it is unlikely that November ends without frost, this has not happened in Danish weather-history which goes back to 1873. The mildest November until now was in 2000. But today is the 27th of November and still very mild - it seems that the record is about to be beaten.

There were many fields with yellow rape-flowers last Saturday, not as bright yellow as in May of course - and there are small cautious flowers in cherry and magnolia trees.

There is a large focus on the climatic changes and their negative influence on nature. The poles and archipelagos are in risc of being flooded, but the changes are also seen in several other places, i.e. in Scandinavia. The changes do not only strike single species or habitats in the North; the influence is broad on all levels, says a new report about climatic changes in the North, worked out by Nordisk Ministerråd. Their basis were 14 various species, which are indicators and meant to show the influence of the climatic change in various ecosystems. By following these indicators it is possible to follow more general tendencies instead of an indivual development progress. The earlier beginning of the pollen season, the changed distribution of the fish populations and changes in the behaviour pattern of the birds are just a few examples of that the climatic changes have already secured a foothold.

The report is in English and can be downloaded on:

Source: DMI, Danmark; Natur og Miljø, Danmarks Naturfredning, November 2009.

 photo Mols 21. November 2009: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Vaccinium myrtillus

A very branched 15-40 cm high dwarf-shrub with green, edgy branches, egg-shaped and serrated leaves, round red-green flowers and black blue-dewy berries. Common in thicket, high forests and on heather hills in Jutland, North Zealand and Bornholm.

The berries were from old times plucked in large numbers and eaten on the finding spot or brought home to the household or for sale. At Horsens market places were in ab. 1800 sold several hundred pots of dried bilberries each year. In the dune north of Agger (Northwest Jutland) a planter estimated in 1860 that about 50 barrels bilberry were gathered each year. Poor people from the dune districts plucked barrels full of bilberry and cranberry, old poor women got themselves a little extra earning, and the owners of the area turned usually a blind eye to the plucking. Or else it was mostly the children who were sent out to pluck, sometimes followed by the farm wife or the servant girls; they seldom asked for permission and gave no money to the owner, but it might happen that he or his foreman came up, told them off and took the berries from them. No one could get out of it by telling a lie, their coloured fingers, mouth and lips were betraying them - and when the children came home they were blue-black in the face.

Bilberry pluckers

A household with very diligent pluckers could earn 50 kroner daily, that was much at that time; a family in a parish in West Jutland sold in ab. 1900 in one summer bilberries for 1000 kroner, and that was a fortune. A young girl gathered bilberry from first August till late October 1929 and earned money for her bridalwear. In the year 1967 was in a Copenhagen market place sold 5.600 kilo bilberry.

Food and Wine
Berries were eaten fresh with milk and sugar like strawberries, berries were dried in the oven and kept in bags on the loft planks. They were used for a soup eaten with rusks or as currants in cakes. Bilberry jam for panncakes or steak. Bilberry/Blueberry-pie and -cake. Wine can be made of the berries and crushed berries on snaps give a good and healthy liqueur. The dried leaves give a fine tea.

Bilberry thicket in May

Folk medicine.

The medieval physician Henrik Smid (1546) said that wine-decoct from the branches or flowers could be used against diarrhoea. The berry-juice held in the mouth, or chewing ripe berries or leaves healed mouth sores; the crushed leaves could be used as a compress on a swollen head and as a pain-relieving compress on the stomach. Another physician (from the 1600s) Simon Paulli did not quite agree, he said that bilberries could give diarrhoea. But the juice or soup from the oven-dried berries "cool the hot temper of the stomac and the liver".
People who could not endure feather duvets, could instead use matresses and pillows filled with bilberry leaves, this was also recommended for rheumatic pain. The unsweetened juice or tea from the leaves were drunk against scurvy and diabetes. The juice was also drunk against cold and bronchitis, and the berries cooked into a thick puree put on facial eczema.

On the Faroe Islands were the leaves used as a blood-purifying tea. In Greenland were the fresh cut leaves mixed with food against constipation.

The berries cooked with alum mordant wool dye purple, with iron vitriol olive; painters mix the juice with copper chalk and ammonium chloride and gets a red colour, the branches dye brown. Easter Eggs were dyed with the bilberry juice. (ab. 1800). It was once a common thing to colour white wines red with the bilberry juice, it was also used for colouring ( and forgering) red wine. From the berries were made bilberry-snaps and wine. The shrub except the root can be used for tanning.

Many bilberries is the sign of a good barley harvest.

Source: Folk og Flora, Dansk Etnobotanik, V.J.Brøndegaard, 1979

photo Mols Bjerge August 2009: grethe bachmann

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Vaccinium vitis-idaea

An evergreen 5-20 cm high shrub with shining darkgreen leaves and pink or white flowers in clusters . The scarlet berries ripen in September. It is common in the heather-moors and woods of Jutland and East Zealand, but else rare in Denmark.

The berries were ab. 1800 a large commodity in Jutland, women and children from humble homes made a good profit. People gathered the berries in baskets, in linen-bags and boxes. The the beginners did not pluck clean; they run all over and were disliked by the skilled pluckers. The best berry-places were kept a secret. Cowberries were considered healthy, they were sold to the merchants of the district and sent in large portions to Copenhagen and other large cities, it was a welcome extra earning for the smallholder families. The owner of the heath got a certain quantity of berries or the family worked for him harvesting or lifting potatoes.

Plucking cowberries in Dollerup Bakker

The women usually respected each other's domains, but if unfamiliar women suddenly emerged, tempered discussions happened about ownership and sometimes rough and tumble, while the chilren laughed and yelled. Every Friday the berries were sent to the market, the smallholder's wives sent their own load, it was sometimes so high that they had to go beside the wagon.
Upon a 2200 hectare large heath in Kongenhus mindepark was the plucking organized since 1942, and the income was for the maintenance of the park. The best cowberry-year in 1947 gave ab. 30.000 kilo. In the old days a wife could gather 25 kilo daily, in 1947 a woman at Sønder Omme plucked a record of 49 kilo. The harvest was sold to private, hospitals, hotels and to the gardener-auction in Copenhagen. In Ulfborg Skovdistrikt in West Jutland between Ringkøbing and Holstebro people might pluck as many cowberries they wanted, but only for their own use, not for sale, and the Mid Jutland State-Forests and private forest owners announced that people might pluck cowberry for 2-3 days, but they had to fetch an allowance card.

Food and Tea
The juice of riped berries were cooked and kept in glass- or stone-jars, eaten for steak etc. The boiled juice was used like lemon juice for a punch, and giving taste on wine soups and alikes. The juice could preserve raw meat like vinegar. Boiled down juice gives a very fine jelly. Cowberry jam is popular for panncakes and apple cakes, it is a traditional accompaniment for a roast beef ( and venison). The berries need only half the sugar than what is neccessary for other berries when making jam. In some districts in Jutland, i.e. in Vendsyssel the cowberries were preserved togther with pears and apples. Poor people used fresh or dried cowberry in sweet soup, buttermilk-gruel or as raisins in cakes. From very riped berries were made wine and snaps. In the Egtvedgirl's coffin from Bronze Age were found rests of cowberry-wine. The leaves can give a good tea, and the spring leaves gives a tasty daily drink.

Cowberry was stated in the pharmacopoiea in 1772. The juice mixed with water and sugar gave a cooling and stimulating drink for fever-patients. A tea of fresh cowberry was used against soar throat, crushed berries were placed upon skin diseases, i.e. when children had German measles. The Jutland heath-farmers eat dried cowberries for stomach ulcer. In Greenland the berries were eaten against scurvy.

The leaves dye black , the berries give a red but not fast colour; silver cooked in cowberry-juice turns white.

When the rye is ripe the cowberry is ripe.

Source: Folk og Flora, Dansk Etnobotanik 3, V.J. Brøndegaard, 1979.

photo Dollerup Bakker, Hald August 2008: grethe bachmann

Monday, November 23, 2009

Soon Christmas Again!

The first Christmas sight is already in the first days of November, when you see the trees packed and ready....

...............for being transported - here on a small truck -to the market places where they sell lots of firs in November and December.
Now its time for creating a cosy Christmas home and time for baking Christmas cakes. The house has to be decorated with Christmas tree and candles and decorations and pixies and hearts and stars etc................. but from where origins Christmas - and who is Father Christmas?

Christmas was originally a midwinter-feast which was transferred to the Christian church and changed into a feast for the birth of Jesus Christ. The Old Norse Jul was celebrated in January and the southern feast for sol invictus (the invincible sun god) was on the 25. December; therefore the Christmas of Christianity was placed at the same time. According to German and Nordic customs the feast was the night before. Actually it was a vigilie (night of wake) from the Catholic period, where people together waited for midnight and the celebration of mess, which was held at the moment of the Nativity.
The earliest known evidence about Jule-feast in the north is from ab. 900. Here is mentioned the Norse king Harald Fairhair and his son Hakon the Good (the first Christian king i Norway) in connection to Christmas. Harald Fairhair was known as a king, who swore not to cut his hair and beard, until he was king of the whole country. Hakon the Good was known as the king, who ordered the Norwegians to celebrate Christmas "at the same time as Christian men", which indicates that the Jul before Christianity arrived was placed at another and earlier time. The character of the Old Norse Jule-feast appears from the expression "to drink jul". Through centuries the clerical understanding of Jul or Christmas fought against the secular or popular understanding. The development of Christmas was marked by modern ideas through the times and many old customs have become a part of Christmas.

Father Christmas or Santa Claus... who brings Christmas gifts to the children. Father Christmas origins from aCatholic idea that the patron saint of children Sankt Nicolaus( Santa Claus) upon his Saint's day 6. December brings gifts to well-behaved children, while the naughty children are being spanked by his companion (German: Knecht Ruprecht, French: Pére Fouettard). The custom and the date origins from the 1200s. But it was not Sankt Nicolaus, who gave the idea for his red-white dress. In frescoes Sankt Nicolaus is never seen in red and white. His red dress, his reindeer-sleigh, the winter-background and his house at the North Pole are modern additions from the environment of the middle-class´Christmas books and similar things for children. In the first American pictures from the representation Santa Claus wore a fur coat; later he got his present dress, but it is first in the 20th century his dress turned red and white.
Advent the time from and with the 4th Sunday before Christmas until 24 December . From the 5th century celebrated as a preparation for Christmas. On the first Sunday of Advent the first of four candles is lit in the Adventskrans (garland), often a garland made of spruce and hung with red silken bands.

1. december
The Christmas calendar is popular with children. The first of 24 lids is being opened . The Christmas calendar has developed into a gift-calendar - sometimes in large proportions! The calendar candle is lit for the first time.

In December:
Many hangs a Christmas Star in the window. In gardens and on balconies are outdoors Christmas trees with lights the whole Christmas month and longer. Christmas decorations are made, i.e. a large candle encircled by spruce twigs , glass globes and other small Christmas things. And now it is the time for baking, especially the little cakes , i.e. vanila-cakes, brown cakes, small pepper biscuits, crullers etc. And it's time for the julegløgg. (mulled wine with raisina and almonds and various spices)

13. december. Lucia-Day
Lucia-procession where a so-called Lucia-brud (bride) in a long, white dress and with a garland of lit candles upon her hair, followed by white-dressed girls with a candle in their hand. This is a tradition which really brings joy to schools, kindergartens, old people's homes and at hospitals.

23. december. Lillejuleaften (Little Christmas Evening)
The Christmas tree is being decorated. - Many eat apple-cakes and drink gløgg.

24. december. Juleaften (Christmas Evening)
Many goes to church in the daytime. In the evening Christmas dinner, i.e. goose, duck or turkey - or roast pork or neck of pork. Dessert: mostly ris-á lá mande with cherry sauce and with an almond (he/she who gets the almond gets a gift).Dancing and singing around the Christmas tree. The only light in the house at that point are all the lit candles upon the tree and in the decorations. Handing out the gifts. The children are told that Father Christmas brought them!

25. december. Juledag (1. Christmas Day)
Holy Day. Family get-together. Det store kolde bord med små lune retter. (Cold dishes and small warm dishes) Drink: often the strong special Christmas beer. The start of the lunch is various herring with snaps.

26. december. Anden juledag (2. Christmas Day).
Holy Day. Family get-together. Again cold and warm dishes, but now at someone else's house!

Source: Jul i Dannevang 2009, Juleretter 1977, Mad og Bolig Dec. 1996.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Small Chinese jars with lid, decorated with golden dragons, red dragons or blue dragons and filled with potpourri create a lovely atmosphere in the winter season. The base in a potpourri is always dried rose-leaves, a large handful in a jar with a little salt in the bottom, then rose-leaves, again a little salt a.s.o. Put lid on and stir in it five times a day for five days. When you take off the lid a faint scent of roses is floating out into the room.

A stronger scent: Put some already salted rose leaves in a jar and pour a few drops geranium oil, some whole cloves, a little crushed nutmeg, some coriander seeds, a cut cinnamon stick and a little crushed violrod (Iris florentina at pharmacy). Stir and let it stand for a week, and it is ready to fill the room with a delicate scent when removing the lid in the daytime.

Fill little home-sewed sachets with dried rose leaves, dried thyme flowers and dried sweet gale leaves. Bind the sachets with silken bands. For your own use hang them on the hangers in the wardrobe or put them in draws or under your pillow. Or use them as a fine little gift for the hostess when you're out on Christmas visits in December.

Turkish Meringues: Common meringue paste , mix it with finely crushed dried rose leaves and bake the meringues as you use to. It looks delicate and give a lovely scent.

Source: Annemarta Borgen, Krydderurtehaven på Knatten, 1992.

photo Boller slot 2008: grethe bachmann

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hollyhock/Almindelig Stokrose

Hollyhock/Garden Mallow/Almindelig Stokrose
Alcea rosea/Althaea rosea

Marsh Mallow/Læge-Stokrose
Althaea officinalis

Hollyhock comes from southern Europe and the East,where it grows wild in glades in the forests. The plant can be dated back to the English garden books from 1440 and seeds were brought to Europe from China. Remains of hollyhocks have been found in a Neanderthal burial site. Alcea is an old Greek plant name and rosea means rosy red. The Danish name Stokrose refers to the rose-like flowers which are placed upon a long stok. (stem)

Folk Medicine (Marsh Mallow/Læge-Stokrose/Althaea officinalis)
Both flowers, leaves and roots were used. The boiled roots were effective against coughing, but also an extract from flowers and leaves in alcohol or as a tea was good against coughing and inflammation of the oral cavity. The extract could also ease a tootache. The dark coloured flowers were said to be the best, and the red colour told that it was especially meant for diseases of the blood. Roots were chewed for digestive problems, and the green leaves were used in order to soothe the pain from burns. Extract from the leaves were used against scurvy.

The flowers can be cut and sprinkled in salads.

The red marsh-mallow was drunk in tea against blood-diseases. If you eat the seed you were protected against the bite from poisonous animals. In the old days people planted the marsh-mallow close to the house because they meant it prevented lightning.

Hollyhoc was used for plant dye, where the flowers can give a blue-black colour, the plant fibres were used for rope. Flowers were cooked in soups.

Source: Anemette Olesen,Danske klosterurter, 2001.

photo Stokrose 2007/2008: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nature in Trouble

Lapwing, Vilsted Sø

Skylark, Ertebølle

Many years ago, in 1986, a plan for pesticides was introduced in DK. The purpose was to lower the use of pesticides in order to keep the diversity of nature. Unfortunately it has developed in the wrong direction. I.e. has the population of lapwing, skylark, partridge and hare minimized severely, caused by the barren landscape. The waterworks state that more and more drillings contain rests of pesticides. The agriculture says that the use of pesticides is necessary caused by "hunger in the world", while *DN 's representative says "rubbish", cause 85% of the Danish corn-production is used for animal-fodder.

* Dansk Naturfredning

Partridge, Rugård

Hare, Oudrup Hede

Source: Natur og Miljø, Danmarks Naturfredningsforening, nr. 4, Nov. 2009.

photos 2007-2009: grethe bachmann

The Polar Bear is Growing Smaller

The polar bear grows grows smaller and smaller. Compared to its relatives from the beginning of the 1900s, the polar bear is 2-9 % smaller. The cause is connected to the increased pollution and the strong recduction of the ice cap caused by climatic changes. Cranes of the polar bear from various period have been compared. The discovery was made by scientists from Biologisk Institut and Danmark's Miljøundersøgelser (Environment Investigations).

Source: Natur og Miljø, Danmarks Naturfredningsforening, nr. 4, Nov. 2009.

photo Randers Kulturcenter 2009: grethe bachmann
The Polar Bear is Growing Smaller

The polar bear grows grows smaller and smaller. Compared to its relatives from the beginning of the 1900s, the polar bear is 2-9 % smaller. The cause is connected to the increased pollution and the strong recduction of the ice cap caused by climatic changes. Cranes of the polar bear from various period have been compared. The discovery was made by scientists from Biologisk Institut and Danmark's Miljøundersøgelser (Environment Investigations).

Source: Natur og Miljø, Danmarks Naturfredningsforening, nr. 4, Nov. 2009.

photo Randers Kulturcenter 2009: grethe bachmann

Friday, November 13, 2009

Viking Art

Lindholm Høje, here was the little Urnes-broche found.

The art in the Viking period is a name for the artistic styles in the North and the areas of northern Europe where the vikings settled. The preserved works of art include both carved wooden figures, jewelry , carved stones and in rare cases tapestry; it also includes literary works i.e. poems. The animal motives and the stylized figures are a direct continuation of the styles from earlier periods. In the Viking art is also found Celtic and Romanesque influence.

There are six main styles: Oseberg, Borre, Jelling, Mammen, Ringerike and Urnes Style. The Jelling style is named after the Danish royal grave in Jelling, East Jutland, and features prominent animal designs. The Ringerike style is characterized by elaborate foliage ornament and interlacing and is named after the district in Norway where it is represented in local sandstone. Detailed designs in carved doors of Urnes stave church in the Sognefjord, Norway gave its name to the final style. Urnes style is developed from Ringerikestilen and was used from ab. 1050 til ab. 1140. Large slender animals weaved with snakes and threads are characteristic.

Urnes Style. The fibula was found in Roskilde, a characteristic example of the large animal interlaced with threads and snakes. It is a combination of a dress-buckle or a pendant from the 1100s. The original jewelry is bronze and is exhibited at the National Museum. The copy is Sterling silver (55 mm) and is availbable at i.e. Moesgård Museumsbutikken (on-line).

Urnes Style. The little broche from Lindholm Høje is from ab. year 1000, a fine example of the late Viking period's animal style, the large animal fighting the snake, a symbol of the fight between good and evil. The original jewelry is exhibited at Aalborg Historiske Museum

photo : grethe bachmann

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management in which young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level. In subsequent growth years, many new shoots will emerge, and, after a number of years the coppiced tree, or stool, is ready to be harvested, and the cycle begins again.

Coppice management (Stævningsskov) was one of the earliest forms of woodland management in Denmark, traceable back to Stone Age. In the Middle Ages the lord of the manor had the right to the upper sections of the wood, while the peasant had to be content with the lower sections. The coppicing was a smart solution to the peasants, since this forest type never developed into tall trees; if it was cut regularly they could keep their right to use the wood. They used it for fences, fuel, posts, poles etc. To avoid the trees from growing up the wood has to be cut every 15-20 years.

Coppice management favours a range of wildlife, often of species adapted to open woodland. After cutting, the increased light allows existing woodland-floor vegetation such as bluebell, anemone and primrose to grow vigorously. Often brambles grow around the stools, encouraging insects, or various small mammals that can use the brambles as protection from larger predators. Woodpiles (if left in the coppice) encourage insects such as beetles to come into an area. The open area is then colonised by many animals such as nightingale, nightjar and fritillary butterflies. As the coup grows, the canopy closes and it becomes unsuitable for these animals again – but in an actively managed coppice there is always another recently cut coup nearby, and the populations therefore move around, following the coppice management.

Queen of Spain Fritillary/ Storplettet perlemorsommerfugl

photo 2. August 2008 and 31. October 2009: grethe bachmann

Monday, November 02, 2009

Autumn Forest

A day in the autumn forest just before a rough wind came blowing the next day sweeping the leaves like snowflakes to the ground. Although the sky was dark and grey the colours of autumn are shining through. A little rain deepens the shades of the foliage.

photo Fussingø forest 31. Oct. 2009: gb