Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Nature Reserve with Soft, Green Hills, Salty Beach Meadows and Poplars from Giverny.

A lovely nature area along the northern coast of Horsens fjord was preserved since the 1970s. Here is a varied landscape with a rich flora and fauna . The meadows, the heath and the pastures have all a high landscape-value, they create a comprehensive variation, and they are the home of a richness of plants and animals, who prefer the uncultivated open land. Earlier were the areas grazed, and it is necessary still to nourish them to keep the nature areas open.

The hilly area in Uldrup and Sondrup is one of the prettiest hillsides in Jutland. The coast along the fjord is low-watered , especially outside the island Vorsø. The flat meadows are raised sea bed from the Stone Age Sea. By the coast of Uldrup hills and Sondrup beach are high cliffs close to the coast.

The flora is varied, about 450 species were recently registered, which is 1/4 of all species in Denmark. In the forests are beech, oak, ash, conifer, and in the Brigsted area large orchards. Along the ditches by the manor Åkær are in springtime broad belts of red butterbur with their large rhubarb-like leaves. This dock is called Pestilensurt and was used to cure wounds in the Middle Ages. In the beach meadows along the coasts is a pink sheen from thousands of sea pink, and in high summer along the fields and roads is the yellow bedstraw, the white yarrow and the fine butter-yellow toadflax. On the hills at Uldrup is the pretty purple pasqueflower. near old houses are soap-wort and hops. The hop often climbs the trees. It was earlier used for brewing beer.

The bird life is rich; lapwing, redshank and yellow wagtail are breeding here, the kestrel is hovering above the beach meadow, where avocet and common snipe breed. In the alder-thicket along the water streams is the nightingale and the song thrush. On the preserved island Vorsø is a large colony of cormorants, and this special black bird is often seen by the fjord. In the hills are green woodpecker, Honey buzzard, common buzzard and oriole. In the migration period arrive the eider, the greylag goose and the brentgoose to the coasts of Horsens fjord.

In the hills near Søvind are old marl pits, they are now ponds and the habitat of rare amphibians.

The Highlanders, curious or astonished? Probably the last, seeing this strange person climbing the slope to point at them with some black thing and saying something. "Hello, how are you?"
But where are the geese? They were here last year.........

- oh, they are now grazing a large field by a small pond. The gander looks like the same gander from last year, so his life did not end last November, but it's soon Morten's evening....

The sheep kept the geese company without difficulties, it seemed. They were almost dressed in autumn colours, their wool looks fine, maybe useful for the costy knitting yarn.

The narrow country road continued. There were no possibilities of getting into the beautiful forest in the hills today, it was closed for the public; it's a hunting day all over the country. The hunters are all over the forest. I'm a hunter with camera, but this doesn't count, and I won't go into the wood and get shot by some other sort of hunter.............

And then this big venerable oak stood there on a hill by the road drawing attention.

A break at a beautiful place near Søvind. There were some ponies, one of them had a sweet fole. They were very sleepy, both mother and kid. Did not worry about intruders. The place was charming with little soft rises in the terrain, and with a row of pollarded willow trees. There was a sun haze in the background - we're on the edge of October and on our way into November - and we'll now change the clock to winter time.

Peacefully walking the road, unaware that someone is printing them on nature's canvas.

And now we're at the Brigsted area, close to the meadows by the coast, and here is some butterfat cattle grazing the salty grass - they look so healthy.

There was a bull and he looked a little cross. He'll have to take care of the whole field of course.

But he decided there was no danger....

- and continued the grazing with all his wives. What a sheik!

I don't know what kind of cattle this is. I guess it's some valuable meat cattle.
I'll try to google.

There are many fruit orchards in this nature reserve. Here's apples. lots of apples.

The hunters were also here at Brigsted. Maybe going for ducks or pheasants. Hurry away birds! Hurry!

The stone heaps mark the wading path to the island Vorsø. To the right traces of a car on the driving route.

The preserved island Vorsø is about 62 ha. It has an edge of low beach meadows and a low-watered coast. The island belongs to the Miljøministeriet. The preservation-history and the island's status as a living biological laboratory makes it interesting beyond the borders of the country.

There is a large cormorant-colony at the island. The cormorant was totally listed in Denmark since 1979. Flora and fauna live without human interference. There are rare plants and animals. The development is followed and registered by nature supervisor Jens Gregersen, who lives with his family on the island as the only inhabitants. In the middle of the island is a field station and a habitation.

Jens Gregersen is a fine artist (bird and nature)with several exhibitions and books about birds.


There's much water in the beach meadows.

One strandasters (Aster trifolium) was still blooming.

It's always exciting to see what's on the beach . The Stone Age people have probably eaten lots of mussels. There are many kitchen middens along the coast with rests of their food habits.

The sun stands low at this time of the year, giving a golden light, which is so magnificent. This day has been so beautiful that I shall not complain and quarrel about my longing for spring! Not today!

And then I saw them, the poplars. This is Monet! He would have loved them!

Poplars, Epte near Giverny
Claude Monet

Have a nice day, have a nice Halloween!

photo 30 October 2010: grethe bachmann

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wormwood/ Malurt

Artemisia maritima

Kalø, Sea wormwood

Along the coast of Kalø Vig and behind the castle ruin, among the stones at the beach, grows wormwood with its delicate silvery leaves. It is soft to touch, like silk - and it has a special, but fresh scent. I always bring a bundle with me home to place among the linen and other clothes - and for a wormwood snaps, which is as lightgreen as spring and is one of the most refined snaps you can get. There are many sorts of wormwood, this picture from Kalø is the Sea wormwood.

Wormwood was once a means against moths. The larvaes were almost extinct, if wormwood twigs were placed among woolen clothes. The Romans called the herb Diana or Dian.

According to a legend this plant was the favorite of Artemis, who chose it in sorrow at her husband's death. Absinthium means "to abstain from", referring to Artemis, who was the goddess of chastity.

Kalø, behind the castle ruin

Folk medicine
More than 3000 years ago wormwood was used in medicine in Egypt and Greece, where it was known for its healing qualities. Charlemagne prescribed in 810 his gardeners to cultivate the plant by his castles. Since the Middle Ages wormwood was used as a spice in beer, it was assumed that it might prevent intoxication - and drinking a decoct of the plant in the morning might remove the desire for sensual pleasures. The plant was also recommended against seasickness - and to bathe the body in a decoct supposedly prevented the much feared plauge. Intestinal worms were common these days, and wormwood was useful here too - lice and fleas were common and could be chased away from the body by smoke from the plant.

Wormwood is a wellknown herb for snaps. It is true that wormwood put off certain insects and is used in an extract with water to water the kitchen herbs to prevent insects from harrassing the herb garden. The wormwood twigs keep fleas away from the dog and cat basket. The dried twigs put among linen help to keep the moths away.

Kalø, Sea wormwood

Vermouth and Absinth
The bitter-substances absinthin and thujon characterize the taste of the plant and are used today as a taste-addition in vermouth and absinth. Both substances are poisonous in big doses - it is therefore forbidden to sell absinth in its original strenght of 68%. The name vermouth comes from the Latin word vermis, meaning worm. In the old days it was a common thing to drink a wormwood tea to drive away intestinal worms. Some substances in wormwood remind about several volatile substances in the medicinal herb chamomile (Chamomilla recutita syn. Matricaria recutita.) Those two plants were therefore used against the same disabilities of the body.

According to a legend wormwood came up in the traces from the snake, when it left the Garden of Eden. In the first beginning the plant was called Parthenis absinthium, but Artemis, the Greek goddess of chastity, was so fond of the plant that she named it after herself. Bouquets of wormwood were placed on doors and walls in the house to keep evil away.

In the garden
Wormwood is a so-called halfbush with grey, silvershining leaves. The small flowers are light yellow. A plant can be about 10 years old and reach a height of 1,5 meter. It is native to several places in Europe. Wormwood can be cultivated in all kinds of soil, and it likes a sunny place. Since the plant restricts the growth of the surrounding plants, it should have a place by itself, either in a special bed or in a pot on the terrace. In the kitchen -garden: wormwood twigs under full-grown cabbage plants can keep away unwanted insects.

The substance absinthin can in large doses give nerve-damage, which shows itself by giving cramps and dizzyness.

Recommended sorts:
Artemisia pontica, Roman wormwood
Artemisia maritima, Sea wormwood.

Source: Anemette Olesen, Danske Klosterurter, 2001

History: Absinthe

photo Kalø July 2008: grethe bachmann

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Vikings - they were also Farmers.........

Fyrkat, Viking longhouse

Around 1075 told Adam of Bremen (German medieval chronicler) about people in the North. He says about the Danes that they collect much gold in pirate expeditions, and their Vikings pay taxes to the Danish king in order to be allowed to rob the Barbarians in the Norwegian sea, but they often misuse this permission and rob their own countrymen. "And as soon one has caught his neighbour, he sells him without mercy as a slave to either a friend or a foreigner."

If a Viking was accussed of lese-majesty or something illegal, he would rather be decapitated than whipped. He knew no other punishment than axe or slavery, and when he had to accept his conviction with a happy face -tears, complaint or other signs of remorse were hated and despised. It was not allowed to cry for his sins or for his dear departed.

But the Viking was not just a brutal warrior, he was also a family man, a farmer, a craftsman, a jeweller - even a clergyman.

Thanks to archaeology it is known that the population of the Nordic countries in the 1000th century had lived in their countries for more than 10.000 years - a long space of time , and probably only in one occassion - just after 2000 B.C. - they had some innovation from a large immigration from south and southeast. The history of the North starts with sources ab. 800, while the archaeology goes thousands of years back - so it is possible to correct master Adam of Bremen, when he said that farming was unknown in Norway. This was not true. The Norwegian knew about farming, but it is true that the main occupation in the northernest sections was dominated by cattle-breeding, hunting and fishing.

corn shoots in spring

There were no borders between the countries, except the Dannevirke bank in Schleswig - the sea and the wilderness made the borders. In the late Viking period a border was marked, when Denmark got Skåne, Halland and Blekinge in Sweden.

In Denmark, Norway and Sweden lived in the Viking period a population with a more than thousands of years experience. The occupations were partly the ancient: hunting and fishing, partly the younger: farming and cattle breeding - and finally the trade. In the southern part of Scandinavia were all five often the base of the existence.

The most important tool in farming was the plough, and the Vikings knew several types, both the two old types of the "ard", and a more effective plough with iron-strengthening or completely made in iron. The fields were partly flat, broad fields, partly high-backed and narrow.

Hjerl Hede open air museum, village

Adam of Bremen continues to talk about the fertility of the three Nordic countries, Denmark, Norway, Sweden. Norway was quite impossible, as for Denmark the earth of Jutland was barren, but the southern islands were fertile, and Sjælland (Zealand) was famous for its vigour. Sweden was extremely fertile. He says about Jutland: " except from places with water streams everything looks like a wilderness, salty land and extensive desert. Jutland is worse than many other places, poor crops, pirates at sea, it is hardly cultivated in any place or suitable for human living. But where the fjords are they have big cities".

It is not known exactly, which parts of the Nordic countries were cultivated in the Viking period, but from some knowledge about farming in Iron Age in the North before the Vikings and in the Middle Ages shortly after, it is possible to point out the areas and tracts, which the Viking farmer chiefly was ploughing. This differs from Adam of Bremen's Latin documents.

Viking pit-house, Sebbersund

To the Scandinavians, like to many other people in the world, the farming was sacred and closely connected to fertility-belief and rites. One thousand years after the Viking period up till present there are still strange ceremonies among Swedish farmers, connected to the first spring-ploughing, ancient rites, coloured by magic wishes about fertility and growth. So the Viking period is framed by sanctification in centuries before and after - farming was probably also sacred among the Vikings.

Other farming tools were sickle for harvesting corn, scythe for harvesting hay, a leaf knife for cutting tree's leaves and twigs for cattle-fodder, spade and pickaxe for working and cleaning the field. These tools are known from grave finds in Norway and Sweden. From the examined settlements were found rests of preserved corn - or imprints of corn in the clay. Danish examinations brings - compared to finds in Dk from Roman period - impressions that the rye reached a greater importance in the Viking period, while the barley and the oats' share of the yield was almost unchanged. The barley was the usual barley from Nordic prehistoric time: the six-rowed nodding barley.

Sletterhage, cattle

Lille Vildmose Reserve, auerochsen

Strands, Mols, Icelandic Pony

The cattle-breeding was just as important as the farming in southern Scandinavia, and far more important in the northern Scandinavia. In the northernest sections were simply no farming.

The Viking farmer's livestock was horse, oxen, sheep , goat and pig, plus dog and cat.

Oxen were used as draught animals in front of plough and harrow, sledge and cart; the cows delivered milk, and both oxen and cows finally gave meat and skin. Like the horses the cattle was smaller than today. It is estimated that cows in Haithabu only weighed 200 kilo and gave 500 liter milk a year, while their present descendants weigh 600 kilo and give ten times as much milk. An excavation of the village Vorbasse shows that the number of livestock on the farms was amazingly big. If all 7 farms in the village had equal number cattle, there would be at least 150 heads of cattle in the village in the early Viking period and three times as much in the 1000s. Even in the early period it must have been more than needed, which means that there must have been an export trade with cattle, increasing perceptibly up till the end of the period.

Skyum Bjerge, Thy, sheep

Dollerup Brook, goats

Other domestic animals are not possible to number, but caused by bone-finds from similar settlements there must also have been pigs in Vorbasse village. In most places were sheep. They were small, the bones found in a village west of Ålborg had a shoulder height of 57-69 cm. In many places were the sheep full-grown, probably kept for wool, while others were slaughtered while young for meat.

Goats, chicken and geese are known, as well as cats and various dogs. While most of the domestic animals were smaller than those we know today, some dogs were very large, looking like the present Grand Danois. The Vikings probably used dogs for both guarding and hunting, but game was seemingly not an important culinary part of the household. The fishing in the sea and in the lakes was important, in some places it is obvious that they have eaten large amounts of mussels. Berry and fruit made a healthy supplement to the food, like apples, plums, blackcurrant, wild strawberry and hazelnuts and gathering of spice herbs.

The fifth occupation of the Vikings was the trade and the two most important trade lines were - when they were trading with southern Europe - furs and slaves. Both trade lines are mentioned in literary sources. There is much evidence of slavery. In archbishop Rimbert's biography is told, how the holy man during a visit to Haithabu gives away his horse in order to redeem a miserable slave woman. Adam of Bremen talked much about the slave trade - and Arabian tales about the rus-people (Sweden) leaves no doubt that slaves were an important, and maybe the most important commodity. The late Laxdølasaga talks directly and straightforward about the slave trade. The slaves were probably mostly women. And the question is from where they came? Possibly from the domestic slaves. And as for the rus-people the sources say that the slaves were recruited by making inroads and plundering the surrounding Slavic tribes.

Hjerl hede, The oldest farm in Denmark

There was a sign of wealth among people in the Viking period. Everywhere in the country were large well-built houses, and the farmers had in general a large livestock. These signs were underlined by the occurrence of foreign import articles in almost all the excavated villages. The articles were probably paid with silver achieved from abroad, but most of the articles must have been paid with the profit from the export of surplus products, most of all cattle.

Many Danes were probably healthier and stronger, better nourished and better materially off in this period than their descendants in the 1800s. The height of males varied from 163 up till 184 cm, with an average of 172,6 cm, which is more than 4 cm higher than was measured at the sessions in Schleswig-Holstein in 1876-80. Men in the Viking period lived as long as in Iron Age with an average age of ab. 39, while women's average age rose to above 41. (This drastic change was caused by early deaths of young women during Iron Age. )

Hjerl Hede, reconstruction of church from 1000-1100s

The forests were used with care, the inhabitants in the village Vorbasse and many other villages were dependent on, what they produced themselves, but they were also able to get imported articles to their craftsmen etc. from other parts of Scandinavia and from Germany. Although many people might have been narrow-minded, and although the majority never travelled long, the societies were not at all isolated. Contacts and influences came from abroad together with trade, diplomacy, Christian mission and even with Viking expeditions abroad. Both ideas and things were imported. New ways to fabricate clothes, new styles in decoration, a new religion and new words in the language. The society was moving on.......

Johannes Brøndsted, "Vikingerne", Gyldendal 1960;
Gyldendal og Politikens Danmarkshistorie, bd. 3,
"Da Danmark blev Danmark", 700-1050,Peter Sawyer, 1988.

Hjerl Hede, the church inside.

photo 2002/2006/2007/2008/2009: grethe bachmann

My Afternoon Coffee, Please - where's my Butler?

What I want
Is a proper cup of coffee
Brewed in a proper
Copper coffee pot
I may be off my dot
But I want a cup of coffee
From a proper coffee pot
Tin coffee pots
Or iron coffee pots
Are no use to me
If I can't have
A cup of coffe
From a proper coffee pot
I'll have a cup of tea.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Environment, Dead Fish and Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut

Horse chestnut and to the right Sweet chestnut


It has been a mystery for years in the town Kolding in East Jutland. The environment technicians of the municipality wondered, why dead fish were found each autumn in a brook near town, but a common citizen drew the attention to that the death of the fish always happens, when the chetnut-fruits fall down. This indicates that it is that simple as that: chestnut trees are the reason, why about 300 fish in Skanderup Brook died in the week-end.

Close to the brook is a chestnut-avenue - it is the horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum, which is related to soapwort. They both contain saponin, which is poisonous to fish.

The sweet chestnut or marron, Castanea sativa is from another family ( fagaceae).

Probably it is caused by that the chestnuts are crushed by cars driving by, and a heavy shower means that the poisonous stuff from the crushed fruits is flushed down into the brook with the rain water, says the environment technician. After having examined the subject, he found out that North American Native tribes have used the saponin to catch fish.

But the trees will probably not be cut down. They still work on how to solve the problem next year in the environment section in Kolding.

North America:
Fish poisoned by saponin become stupefied and float to the surface where they can easily be collected. Indigenous tribes across the Americas used saponin poisons from many plants.
Survival Skills of the North American Indians.

photo horse chestnut & soapwort: grethe bachmann /photo sweet chestnut: