Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sea Holly /Strand-Mandstro

Eryngium maritimum

Sea Holly is a native to most of Europe's coastline where it is seen in dunes and upon tidal meadows together with sea kale, Lady's Bedstraw, St. John's wort, Marram grass and Marsh daisy.It is a highly ornamental plant with spiny, leathery, intensely whitish-glaucous leaves and roundish heads of pale blue flowers.The protected dune plant is considered endangered although widespread. In Denmark it is protected and red-listed, and it must not be plucked. Insects seek to it for nectar.

The Danish name Mandstro has something to do with love and trust, i.e. trusting someone. Flowers of Mandstro were put into love bouquets together with other flowers symbolizing eternal love. Another Danish name is Strandtidsel (thistle). It resembles in some way the flowering thistle, except that Sea Holly's flowers are metallic blue.

Helgenæs, Sea Holly grows along this coast

The name Eryngium comes from Greek eryngion meaning goatsbeard. The young, tender flowering shoots can be eaten like Asparagus. In Tudor times the roots were candied and known as eringoes eaten as sweetmeats and regarded as an aphrodisiac, obviously appreciated by Falstaff:

Let the sky rain potatoes,
Let it thunder to the tune of Green-sleeve,
Hail kissing-comfits and snow eringos, (Sea-Holly)
Let there come a tempest of provocation.

From Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor".

A manufactory for making candied roots of the Sea Holly was established at Colchester, by Robert Burton, an apothecary, in the seventeenth century, as they were considered both antiscorbutic, and excellent for health.

These Eryngo roots, prepared with sugar, were then called "Kissing Comfits." Lord Bacon when recommending the yolks of eggs for giving strength if taken with Malmsey, or sweet wine, says: "You shall doe well to put in some few slices of Eringium roots, and a little Ambergrice: for by this means, besides the immediate facultie of nourishment, such drinke will strengthen the back."

Plutarch writes: "They report of the Sea Holly, if one goat taketh it into her mouth, it causeth her first to stand still, and afterwards the whole flock, until such time as the shepherd takes it from her."

photo Draget, Helgenæs 11. July 2009: grethe bachmann

Friday, January 29, 2010


Before they converted to Christianity and adopted the Roman calendar, the early English (‘Anglo-Saxons’) used a calendar based on the cycles of the sun and the moon. February was known as Solmonað. According to Bede, the name comes from the cakes which they offered to their gods in that month. However, the word sol is not used in any Anglo-Saxon source to mean 'cake'. It's most common meaning is, in fact, 'mud'. Two possibilities arise. Either the kind of cake offered was called 'mud' due to its colour or texture, or, more plausibly (to those familiar with the English climate), February was simply known as 'Mudmonth'.

Month of the Pearl
In Finnish the month is called helmikuu, meaning "month of the pearl"; a beautiful name describing when snow melts on tree branches, it forms droplets, and as these freeze again, they are like pearls of ice.

Fire and Ice.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Robert Frost

photo: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


When looking for amber at the beach you might be lucky to find a lump with insect fossiles.

Amber is fossilized tree resin from a died out pine-tree from the warm period before Ice Age. It is not known, where the forest grew from where the Nordic amber comes, but probably somewhere in the Baltic area. When the ice came, it ploughed up the land, and the amber is now only known from re-placed layers. It is found in many places in Denmark's ground, but the main finding place is the western coast at Jutland, where the sea breaks down the land, while the stream eats from the sea bed, washing out the amber. It is still possible to do some good findings at this beach, but earlier there was much more amber - and most of the Danish prehistoric amber comes probably from here.

The condition of the forming of amber is that the resin ends in the sea-bed and lies there for at least 230-250 million years. First after this long oxygen-free process with press influence, in which the plant juice changes and the oil contents is reduced, the genuine amber is formed. The transitional forms between resin and genuine amber is named kopal. This material is more porous, so that flakes can be removed by a nail. The oldest amber in the world is 235-231 million years old and is found in Austria and Bavaria. Denmark's oldest amber is found at Bornholm and is 170 years old. Amber found upwashed at a sea shore is considered finer than amber digged up from the soil. When looking for amber at the beach you might be lucky and find a lump with insect-fossiles.

Amber can burn and gives thereby a fine scent. When you rub amber static electricity is generated. When the amber is used for jewelry it is often heated up and later cut and polished. It is said that amber jewelry "likes" to be used. The contact with the skin keeps the amber bright, while it gets dull by being left in a drawer.

Amber from a Stone-Age sacrifice.

Since Antiquity humans have used amber and amber jewelry as a means of payment and since then amber also had a role as a panacea against all kinds of diseases. There are many proverbs and stories about amber - one of the stories tells how amber came into existence: when the fertility goddess Freya's husband disappeared, she cried bitter tears. The tears that landed upon the ground became gold, the tears that landed in the sea became amber.

photo Skagen/Randers kulturcenter 2007/2008: grethe bachmann

Red Kite /Rød Glente

Milvus milvus

Red kite
photo: stig bachmann nielsen 2009 naturplan foto

The red kite is a strikingly beautiful bird of prey with its long forked tail twisting as it changes direction, its long wings with contrasts and its rust-red colour. It is 60-66 cm long with a 175-195 cm wingspan; males have a weight of 800-1000 g, and females 1000-1300 g. It is a fantastic flyer and while looking for food it flies rather close to the ground to check up a possible prey. When it wants to mark its nest-territory it may hang for hours like a kite above the forest - hence its English name kite.

The red kite has contrary to its close relative, the black kite, a limited geographic spread. Almost the whole breeding area of this species is inside Europe. 80% of the European population of red kite is concentrated in 3 countries: Germany, France and Spain. The red kite is declining in all three countries. It breeds in few numbers in Denmark, but it has made progress during the latest years and is now found in all parts of the country. Most breeding couples are in the East Jutland.
Red kite
photo: stig bachmann nielsen 2009 naturplan foto

The red kite breeds in open landsccapes with spread forests, likely near water streams, lakes or moors. It often takes over the nests of other large birds in high trees, like raven- or buzzard-nests. The nest is often decorated with paper pieces, coloured plast, rope etc.

The red kite is also few in numbers as a migrating bird in Denmark, although the numbers of migrating kites in eastern Denmark has been rising, in line with the rise of the south Swedish kite-population. During one autumn season were counted up to 1.000 migrating Swedish kites at Stevns. (East Zealand). The Danish and south Swedish breeding birds overwinter primarily in Spain and France. Winter-feeding in Sweden has caused that still more south Swedish kites overwinter close to the breeding area, and the red kite is also observed in Denmark in winter in rising numbers.

The red kite has a broad choice of food, but it is especially known to be an expert in finding and eating carcasses.The bird has an important role as "nature's garbage man". But it is also able to hunt and kill its prey by itself. The young ones are especially fed with fresh-caught amphibians, reptiles, mice, rats, hare kittens, little birds, crow-birds and seagulls. The kite takes the prey, which is represented in large numbers at the breeding ground.
NB: As scavengers, red kites are particularly sensitive to poisoning. Illegal poison baits set for foxes or crows are indiscriminate and kill protected birds and other animals.

Crow pursuing a red kite
photo: grethe bachmann July 2008

In the United Kingdom red kites were once so common that William Shakespeare once described London as "a City of Red Kites and Crows". King James II of Scotland decreed that they should be killed "wherever possible", but they remained protected in England and Wales for the next 100 years as they kept the streets free of carrion and rotting food. Under Tudor "vermin laws" many creatures were seen as competitors for the produce of the countryside and bounties were paid by the parish for their carcasses.

Source: Natur og Fugle, Dansk Ornitoligisk Forening

photo: stig bachmann nielsen naturplan foto & grethe bachmann naturplan foto

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hot Winter Soup

It's cold and it's dark. You long for spring and sun. Forget all about calories and make a hot cabbage soup for you and your family. White cabbage soup or curly kale soup cooked on striped pork , neck or back bone and Cumberland sausage, and cooked with various vegetables, spice herbs and spices. The meat served beside the soup with mustard and whole grain bread. These were two of my favourite winter soups. We had hot soups each Friday during the winter season in my childhood home. A good hot cabbage soup is some of the best you can treat yourself and your family with during these dark and cold winter days. There's a lot of power in a soup like that.

Cabbage is one of the healthiest crops, furthermore is it cheap and easy to cultivate in the garden. In parts of Europe has cabbage been cultivated for more than 4.000 years. It was in Antiquity and during the Middle Ages considered both healthy food and a medicine-plant.
In Denmark curly kale is one of our oldest garden plants. The western world's modern cabbage types come from the wild garden cabbage, which is very strong, bitter and mustard-like. Garden cabbage are found growing wild along the coasts of most southern and western Europe. Cabbage belongs to the crucifers, and those we cultivate today are all closely related and easy to cross. The curly kale is the cabbage-plant, which reminds most about the original form. The oriental cabbages have become known together with the knowledge of the oriental kitchen, i.e. pak choi, tatsoi and mibuna.

Wild cabbage along the coast.

In short: White cabbage is a classic, which has been used in Denmark since the 1500s. Broccoli was known for centuries in Southern Europe and was especially cultivated in Italy. In USA they began eating broccoli in the 1920s, but in the last 25 years the consumption has increased with 940 %. Curly cabbage (grønkål) is a Nordic cabbage-sort, which was known and eaten since ancient times. It tastes best when it has got some frost. Brussel sprouts probably origins from Belgium and is one of the youngest cabbage sorts. It became well-known in the 1800s, especially in England, where it is still very popular. It also needs frost before use. Savoy-cabbage came probably as an independent cabbage-sort in the Middle Ages in Savoy in the southeastern France. It reminds about white cabbage. Decoration cabbage is an old cabbage-sort, which was brought to Japan about 200 years ago. The Japanese processed it, so there are many exciting and colourful types today. In the 1800s and 1900s it was popular in flower beds in autumn. Decoration-cabbage is used mostly for decoration in Denmark, but like other cabbage types it is eatable. Red cabbage was first known in the 1900s and is today a "must" on the Christmas table. It is a variant of the white cabbage, but with a milder taste.

When you make brussel sprouts you can add lemon juice when you cook it, it gives a milder taste which makes even the children like it.

Brussel sprouts are good together with some salty food, i.e. crispy fried bacon.

Savoy-cabbage is perfect as the green part of light creamy pasta sauces.

Red cabbage and walnuts taste well together. i.e. a red salat á la Waldorf.

Cut fresh green cabbage and fry it in the wok together with other vegetables i.e. leeks and red pepper and chili, ginger, garlic and soya.

Quick knowledge:
1) Cabbage contains plentiful mineral salts and sulphur and all important vitamins, especially C-vitamin.

2) 1/3 broccoli-stalk contains more C-vitamin than one and a quarter kilo oranges or 204 apples.

3) Cabbage contains several secondary plant substances which have medicinal qualities.

4) American scientists have found a substance in broccoli which supposedly can prevent cancer.

The typical cabbage-taste is caused by the contenct of sulphurous connections like mustard-oil and sulphide. The cultivation-conditions and the cabbage sorts decide the amount of the various substances in the cabbage - and therefore the differences in taste can differ much inside the same cabbage-types. Fertilizer and fresh animal-manure can give brussel sprouts and white cabbage a more stinking smell and bad after-taste when cooking.

bon appétit!

photo Djursland: grethe bachmann

Angelica /Kvan

Archangelica officinalis (Angelica)

Archangelica ssp. litoralis; Hals Færgehavn (Ferry harbour) North Jutland

See Liber Herbarum for the various species of Angelica and Kvan.

Angelica is a very large and tall umbellifer with a strong spicy scent and green flowers in a round umbel, exists in many forms.

In Denmark are only the species Vandkvan or Strandkvan,( Archangelica litoralis), found at water streams and brooks mostly close to the coast.

The two sub-species Strand-Kvan (Angelica archangelica ssp. litoralis)= (England: beach-Angelica) and Fjeld-Kvan (Angelica archangelica ssp. archangelica officinalis ) have various habitats. Strand-Kvan is found in moist beach meadows in the North and in Greenland, while Fjeld-Kvan is mostly known from cultivation. Strand-Kvan grows in sand at i.e. Ebeltoft Færgehavn (Ferry-harbour) where it is found together with chichory, parsnip, orpine, sea wormwood, reed and groundsel.

In Norway, Iceland, on the Faroe Islands and in Greenland the contents of C-vitamin were used to counteract scurvy. In the Middle Ages the plant was possibly the most used means against the plague. The root was considered especially active. Angelica breaks down the oxal -acid in rhubarbs. Diabetics should not eat the plant. Wild-growing angelica should only be collected by experienced herbalists since some similar looking umbellifers are poisonous. The stalks can be blanched and cooked as a vegetable, they can be crushed and cooked together with fruit for marmalades. Candied stalks are delicious. The seeds are used as a flavouring in vermouth, chartreuse and gin. Angelica leaves added to aquavite for a well-tasting snaps. Angelica is the characteristic flavour in Benedictine-liqueur.

In Denmark the Skov- og Naturstyrelsen recommends to replace Giant Hogweed with Angelica archangelica officinalis (Fjeld-Kvan) - which is an ancient Nordic cultural plant with a similar growth.
The real kvan with the eatable stalks is the sub-species , which is not found in the Danish flora, but is growing wild (also cultivated) in the northern Scandinavia, at the Faroe islands, Iceland and Greenland; it is mentioned the first time (as Angelica ) in the physician Henrik Harpestræng's transcripts from ab. 1300 and was cultivated in Denmark in the late Middle Ages.

The name Kvan is old Norse hvonn /hvannir and of uncertain origin.
In Denmark in 1546: Kvan was known overall in the country; everyone wants it in their garden. In 1750 is mentioned "The Angelik -plantation as a part of Vistoft vicarage-garden where the plant probably grew wild after earlier cultivation. In 1802 Angelica grows in some gardens in Thy.

At the Faroe Islands: The pale shots were eaten like celery and used as a spice in salads. At the Faroes was angelica cultivated in almost all kitchen gardens. In 1670 the plant was found in large numbers in the gardens and at church yards. One century later angelica was cultivated in small fenced places at the houses, somewhere the stalks were eaten with whipped cream, or in junket with sweet cream and sugar. In 1880: a household was no good if it hadn't got a "hvanngård", besides they found wild kvan/angelica if it was growing nearby.

Greenland: Angelica/Kvan was very sought after by the Greenlanders, who were eating the young stalks raw, they often went on long tours by land or by sea to gather the plant. The stalks gave a very important C-vitamin supplement to the Greenlanders' food. The stalks were preserved with seal-blubber and kept during winter in skin-bags. The dried leaves were smoked as tobacco.

Folk Medicine: 1400s: eaten in the morning the root helps against poisoning caused by food or drinks; water-decoct cleanse the breast,; upon a bite from a mad dog is put the crushed root boiled with honey.
Henrik Smid 1546: drives out poison, warm the blood, this goes for water destilled from the root and not from the leaves. Against the plague: crushed angelica mixed with teriak in angelica water - also helps against malaria,; in times of plague people were protected against infection, if they sniffed to the softened root in vinegar and mixed it in their drink. Angelica water and the powder from the root was good for all internal diseases - and against the same diseases wine or honey water-decoct from the root. The juice put in a hollow aching tooth, and in the ear for ear ache, in the eyes to make them clear - destilled water and the juice and powder from the plant to heal old deep wounds, make the flesh grow - the destillate was used as a painkilling means against podagra.
Simon Paulli 1648: Especially the root was used as an antidote, "there is no better advice or a better herb against the plague than angelica"; the pulverized root was strewn in the clothes against infection; in times of plague people rubbed the temples, wrists and the breast at the heart with angelica-balm. The root held in the mouth counteracts bad breath and breathlessness.

Officinalis 1772: Root and seeds were stated in the pharmacopoiea in 1772. The best quality roots and most of the roots were bought abroad by the pharmacists . The root was a part of a universal means for diseases of unknown nature and in a incense. It was a part of "Tycho Brahe's" prescriptions against the plague (1500s); and in a profylactic plague-aquavite (1700s). Wine-essence from angelica, alant and kalmus root as a drink against angst and giddiness; the root pulled on a red silken band and worn around the neck protected against both angst and giddiness. The root was in a tea against consumption and in a cake against jaundice, in snaps for internal pain. The root was considered good for the stomach, angelica was in a medicine " A Wise Man's Stomach Drops".

Magic: The root was worn against exorcism, (1400s) ; it was used in incense or wine essence as a protection in diseases caused by witchcraft; it was a part of a magic means against witchcraft in the cattle; it was given in the fodder to bewitched chickens and put in the churn to get butter from bewitched cream.

At the Faroe Islands: When an infectuous disease came to the village, people eat angelica or had some in the pocket; this was especially for those, who brought the bodies to the church yard; in 1915 a garland of angelica was bound around the neck of bad-smelling corpses; people also placed stalks and leaves in the door-opening or in the front-room as a protection against infection, they planted it by the outhouses and at the church yards. If people had warts, they should one evening grib around a dewy angelica upon a church yard. The root was placed under the pillow against insomnia, but the root had to be removed as soon as the sleep had come or else would the person never wake again.

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

Angelica floating in the inland water stream

photo Hals Færgehavn 2008: grethe bachmann

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Queen of Spain Fritillary/Storplettet perlemorsommerfugl

Issoria lathonia

A beautiful butterfly, like a piece of jewelry.

Queen of Spain Fritillary is easy to recognize with its mother of pearl spots on the backside of the wings and its shape of wings. The wing span is 35-48 mm, the male is often smaller, sometimes only 30 mm wing span. The spots on the upperside can be larger and flow together.

Its flight time is continuous from beginning of May till late September in three generations, which are not keenly segregated from one another. Its habitat is mostly flowering, unfertilized areas in light soil, but also in farm land with fallow fields and more clayey soil. It is wandering and often met outside its breeding grounds. It overwinters as a half-grown or grown larvae among withered plants. The fodder plant of the larvae is pansy, Viola tricolor and Viola arvenses and sometimes garden pansy. Other Viola-species are rarely used.

The flight is quick and unsettled and the butterfly is often floating above the vegetation. The species are often sunbathing upon the surface of the earth with outspread wings, or sitting upon leaves with V-placed wings in warm weather. It seeks eagerly, but shortly to many various flowers. The species can migrate above 100 km or more. The migrating is most distinct in 2. or 3 generation late summer, but the migrating has not been explained in every detail.

The frequency of this butterfly in Denmark is varied from year to year and from place to place. The species have during decades been few in numbers or disappeared completely in big parts of the southern Denmark, but it had a rise in these areas since 1990, maybe caused by the larger number of fallow fields in the agriculture.

Protection of the species: As mentioned above the living conditions of Queen of Spain Fritillary would be improved by a growing number of fallow fields in the agriculture.

NB 2008: Unfortunately the living conditions of Queen of Spain Fritillary have been reduced caused by the falling numbers of fallow fields in the agriculture.

photo July 2008 Hammer Bakker, Nordjylland: grethe bachmann

Friday, January 15, 2010

Borremose Fortification, Himmerland

Was it a Center of the Cimbrers?

In Borremose in Himmerland was in Celtic Iron Age a village surrounded by banks and moat. A 70 m long and 3 m broad paved road led from the moor through the village. The latest examinations have showed that the village and the bank were built in the same period ab. 300 BC. There were about 50 small houses, but only 10-12 were contemporary. This is the same size village, which is known from other places with ab. 100 residents. The village was used in 2-300 years, and during that time the city-plan was changed, the village street is the last phase.

Iron Age House, reconstruction, Moesgård Museum, Århus.

The swamp was first formed after the village was built. The question is, why they built a village out here, quite different from other villages. It has been suggested that the fortification was symbolic (the bank was no more than 1,5 m high) - that the bank might have fenced the central village of the Cimbrers, their administrative and religious center. The village was burnt down, and the moat was filled back. This indicates that this was not an ordinary village. In this connectiont is is interesting that from the same time only 3 km north of the village were found 3 bog mummies and 2 magnificent kettles, the Mosbæk-kettle and the famous Gundestrup-kettle.

Borremose, pretty Jersey cows and apple blossoms

In the moor are found numerous clay-vessel sacrifices and the leather for an oblong shield from Celtic Iron Age. Vesthimmerlands Museum, Års has a fine collection of textiles also from other moors and from a moor between Års and Ålestrup origin the famous Vesteris-leather bag, dated to Celtic Iron Age.


The earliest known of the bog mummies is a Bronze Age woman found in Borremose in Himmerland. She was 20-35 years of age and rather fat. She lay flat on her stomach in the moor, naked, but covered with a woolen skirt. Cause of death is not known, but her face had been crushed by a terrible blow from a wooden club. She had died in the 8th century BC.

Blanket from bog mummy in Borremose

Bog mummies (also photo of the Borremose woman)

Source: Ingrid Falktoft Andersen, Vejviser til Danmarks Oldtid, 1994.

photo Borremose: grethe bachmann

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tawny Owl/Natugle

Strix aluco

" - yesterday the bird of night did sit
Even at noonday , upon the marketplace
Hooting and shrieking."
Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar".

The Tawny Owl is commonly found in woodlands across much of Europe and Asia - and it is the most common owl in Europe. It is a night creature and remains well hidden during the day - and it is responsible for the classic sound of owls at night. The nest is typically in a tree hole where it can protect its eggs and young against potential predators. This owl is non-migratory and highly territorial. Many young birds starve if they cannot find a vacant territory once parental care ceases. As with most owls, its flight is silent because of its feathers' soft, furry upper surfaces and a fringe on the leading edge of the outer primaries.

This nocturnal bird of prey hunts mainly rodents, usually by dropping from a perch to seize its prey, which it swallows whole; in more urban areas its diet includes a higher proportion of birds. Vision and hearing adaptations and silent flight aid its night hunting. The Tawny is capable of catching smaller owls, but is itself vulnerable to the Eagle Owl or Northern Goshawk. Red Foxes are an important cause of mortality in newly fledged young.

Although many people believe this owl has exceptional night vision, its retina is no more sensitive than a human's. Rather, it is its asymmetrically placed ears that are key to its hunting because they give the Tawny Owl excellent directional hearing. Its nocturnal habits and eerie, easily imitated call, have led to a mythical association of the Tawny with bad luck and death.

Across the world owls have become birds of folklore and legend, and the tu-whit, to-whoo of a tawny owl is among the most obvious calls of any bird. Many superstitions are associated with owls. Witchcraft, medicine, weather, birth and even death. In the past the owl was thought to be both wise yet foolish, feared but venerated and despised while being admired.

In Aesop's fables and in Greek myths and beliefs the owl represents wisdom and helpfulness and has powers of prophecy. Owls were associated with Blodeuwed, the goddess of betrayal in the ancient Welsh story Maboginion and the Greek Athene was a goddess of wisdom and was represented by a Little Owl to which she gave her name.

In Celtic folklore the owl is a sign of the underworld, the Inuits on Greenland see the owl as a source of guidance and helpfulness, the Tartar shamen of Central Russia could assume owls' shapes and in Scotland it's bad luck to see an owl in daylight.

In medieval Europe the owl had become associated with witches and the inhabitant of dark and lonely places - the owl's appearance at night linked them with the unknown - but superstitions
died out in the 20th century, and the Owl has returned to its position as a symbol of wisdom. In fact the owl has become quite hot with the success of the Harry Potter books, which have reminded adults and kids alike of the mystic nature of these beautiful birds.

photo 100208: grethe bachmann, Forsthaven, Århus

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bird's Foot Trefoil/Kællingetand

Lotus corniculatus

Lotus corniculatus, Bird's-Foot Trefoil is native to Eurasia and North Africa, but it grows in most of Europe and also in Denmark, where its Danish name Kællingetand means "Old Woman's Tooth". It is a perennial herbaceous plant, similar in appearance to some clovers. The name Bird's Foot Trefoil refers to the appearance of the seed pods on their stalk. It can survive fairly close grazing, trampling and mowing and is most often found in sandy soils. It flowers from June until September.It is also known in cultivation in North America as Birdfoot Deervetch. It has become an invasive species in some regions of North America and Australia.

The plant has many common English names in Britain, but they are now mostly out of use. The names were often connected with the yellow and orange colour of the flowers, fx "eggs and bacon" or "butter and eggs". A double flowered variety is grown as an ornamental plant. It is used in agriculture as a forage plant. In the beginning of the 1800s it was cultivated at a farm in Mid Jutland, but was given up and first cultivated again from the 1880s. The plant was mentioned in 1910 as the only one, which could replace the red clover, and in perennial grass fields it was indispensable. But many farmers did not acknowledge this.

The plant is an important nectar source for many insects and is also used as a larval food plant by many species opf lepidoptera such as Six-spot Burnet.

Fresh Birds Foot Trefoil contains cyanogenic glycosides and is thus poisonous to humans.

The plant is one of the few flowers in the language of flowers that has a negative connotation, symbolizing revenge or retribution.

In folk medicine Birds Foot was dried and put on snaps or in tea, this was used as a stomach medicine. The roots were used as a blood cleansing remedy.

The plant gives a fine yellow in yarn dyeing.

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

photo Stigsholm Sø 24. May 2009: grethe bachmann
Hjerl Hede
Settlement Stone Age /Neolithic Age
School Classes

Reconstruction of Stone Age house and a field with fences.

The Stone Age settlement at Hjerl Hede is a reconstruction of a settlement from bondestenalderen= Neolithic Age ab. 2800 BC. Upon the settlement are made some experimental archaeology via practical tests of various techniques and tools based upon archaeological findings - which can bring a better understanding of the conditions of life in the Neolithic Age. During the last decade the experiments have primarily been reconstructions around production of flint tools, ceramics, skin tanning, making a dugout, copying Stone Age clothes, making bows and arrows, archery and hunting techniques and cooking methods.

Reconstruction of Stone Age house

The Stone Age settlement at Hjerl Hede has been occupied since 1955, and every summer is shown how daily life was ab. 5000 years ago. The present houses in the settlement haven been constructed in consultation with the National Museum in 1989 and 1994 from archaeological findings from Limensgaard and Grødbygaard at Bornholm.

Stone Age Oven

Ab. 4000 BC the knowledge of agriculture and cattle breeding came to Denmark. From being wandering hunters, people now settled down permanently. The settlements were placed in areas with a varied landscape, where there were good possibilities for farming, animal husbandry, hunting, fishing and gathering wild plants and berries.

The settlers first cleared and burnt some forest in order to create farm land for cultivation. Findings show that they used a primitve plough called an ard, and they cultivated rye and wheat.The Stone Age farmer had pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. From archaeological excavations are seen that the farming demanded new tools like sharp-edged flint axes, flint sickle and clay vessels. Later, ab. 1700 BC the Danish people were really farmers, the tamed animals were used more effectively, the cattle was milked and the fields were ploughed with wagons and draught animals. The wool of sheep was more than earlier used for clothes.

The Danes were farmers, and the main part of the population continued to be for the next ab. 6000 years. First at the breakthrough of the industrialism in the late 1800s the Danish farmer society began to march towards the industrial society, and up till the 1930s Denmark was still an agricultural country.

oak boats/dugouts

At the Stone Age Settlement at Hjerl Hede is each summer educations for school classes and other teams, who want to learn about life in Stone Age.

At the settlement are fire places , oven and flint-work, tanning and other working processes. The classes at the stone age settlement are meant to bring the students a feeling of technology and life conditions ab. 5000 years ago, where flint, bone and wood were among the most important raw materials, and where food and clothes had to be obtained from wild animals and plants in the nature, which surrounded the humans.

photo Hjerl Hede: grethe bachmann

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Omens about Winter

The crow is a wise bird - it takes care not to get too close to humans. According to the omen there will be hard frost and driving snow, if the crows seek to town.

If many eiders gather in the inlet, the winter will be severe.

The winter will become hard if the wren seeks to human homes.

If you see the herons standing along brooks and water streams inside the country at autumn and winter time the cold will be hard and the winter will draw out.

If the mice gather much corn the winter will be hard.

Finally a positive one:
If the swans migrate north in January , spring will arrive early.

Notice 22. January:
Much sun on that day is a sign of that winter will soon be over.

Blue Tit/Blåmejse

They are the most charming little birds
Do you think he's showing off this little fellow?

photo: gb

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Spring in Advance
"Now I shall go and buy hyacinths" says a sweet little spring song. The scent of hyacinths is wonderful. It is just like standing in the middle of spring a long time before the sun begins to give us some warmth, and one of the best ways to survive the long and dark winter. The hyacinths are for sale in December and in January they mark the transition from winter to spring.

In Greek mythology Hyakinthos was a young man admired byApollo andZephyr,but killed by a discus in a jealous fight between the two gods. The flower was allegedly named after him when it sprang from his blood.

It has a long history of cultivation as an ornamental plant, grown across the Mediterranean region and later France(where it is used in perfumery), the Netherlands(a major centre of cultivation) and elsewhere. The Garden Hyacinth flowers in the early spring. They grow best in full sun to part shade in well-drained, but not dry,soil. It requires a winter dormancy period, and will only persist in cold-weather regions. It is grown for the clusters of fragrant, brightly-coloured flowers. Over 2,000 cultivars have been selected and named, with flower colour varying from blue, white, pale yellow, pink, red or purple; most cultivars have also been selected for denser flower spikes than the wild type, bearing 40-100 or more flowers on each spike.

The plant is pollinated by different insects such as honey bees. The flowers are very fragrant and attract the insects as rewarding them with nectar.

H. orientalis contains alkaloids and is toxic if eaten in large quantities. The bulb, however, is the most poisonous part and should not be ingested under any circumstances.

And now it is high season for tulips - not in the garden but in the gardeners' hot houses. It's a luxury to buy a large bouquet of tulips and bring it back home.

The tulip origins from Turkey and Persia (Iran) where it was a popular and cultivated plant long before it came to Europe. Tulip bulbs and seed arrived to the European countries in the late 1500s. Those lovely flowers are in so many colours and shapes that it must have been wonderful to experience the first unknown bulbs in bloom. The history says that an Austrian envoy in Constantinople sent tulip seed and bulbs to Vienna in the middle of the 1500s. From here the tulip spread to Germany, France; Netherlands and England. The colourful bulb-plant became quickly popular by the European nobility, but it was rare and very expensive. Tulips became an investment object with no parallels and beyond reason.

In an old garden lexicon is an example of a trade with tulips: For one bulb of the sort Viceroy is paid two load of wheat, four loads of rye, four fat oxen, two fat pigs, 12 sheep, two hogshead wine, a bed with linen, a suit and a silver cup - all valued at 2500 guilden. This was crazy and called "tulipomania" - and this disease raged first of all in the Netherlands in the period 1630-37. Then the prizes rattled down - the tulip was willing to reproduce.

The tulips came to Denmark after 1900,but it has become one of the most popular cut flowers in this country.

Have a Nice Day!

Sainfoin /Esparsette

Onobrychis viciifolia

Høvblege, Møn , at calcareous soil.

Sainfoin is a very attractive wild flower with pinnate leaves and dense spikes of pretty pink flowers with darker veins. Onobrychis means "devoured by donkeys" from Ancient Greek ónos (donkey) and brýkein ("to eat greedily"), referring to sainfoin's good properties as a forage plant for large mammalian herbivores. Sainfoin is derived from Old French sain foin = healthy hay.

In northern European languages that have been less influenced by French the plants' name usually derives from esparceto, the Provencal term for the similar-looking and closely related sweetvetches (Hedysarum). Examples: Danish esparsette, Dutch esparcette, German sparsette, Russian espartset (Эспарцет) and Swedish esparsett.

Sainfoins are Eurasian perennial herbs of the legume family. About 150 species of sainfoins are presently known. The flora Europaea lists 23 species of Onobrychis; the main centre of diversity extends from Central Asia to Iran. Onobrychis viciifolia is naturalized throughout many countries in Europe and North american grasslands on calcareous soils. Sanfoins are mostly subtropical plants, but their range extends throughout Europe as far north as southern Sweden.These plants grow on grassland, agricultural land and wasteland.

These highly nutritious plants were an important forage for heavy working horses in agriculture, and are still an excellent source of nectar for honey production as well as pollen for bee food. Onobrychis species are used as food plants by the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera species.

Høvblege, Møn, a hillside with lots and lots of various flowers.

Sainfoin was probably from the middle of the 1700s cultivated in Denmark but it never had a large distribution. It was said that sainfoin when used as a fodder for the cattle increased the milk yield and made oxen fat, but horses must have it mixed with other fodder "or else they will grow too fat". It was tested as a fodder in several places with unsatisfying results - but then it was cultivated as an ornamental plant. Not until 1875 the sainfoin became popular and considered a good fodder for cattle in general, since it had a larger nutritional value than clover and lucerne. The milk gets bluish if the cows eat sainfoin.

The birth of Jesus in a humble stable has given ample opportunity for several legends. While the tired parents slept, Jesus was placed in a manger filled with sainfoin. When they awoke they were astonished to find that the dry hay had blossomed, and the baby was surrounded by its beautiful red flowers. Ever since sainfoin has been known as Holy Hay.

In George Orwell's "Coming Up for Air", travelling salesman George Bowling regularly reminisces about the smell of sainfoin in his father's seed shop in Lower Binfield.

Høvblege, Møn June 2007: grethe bachmannn.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Time for Tea.

I'm mostly a coffee-drinker, but I also like tea. Coffee in the morning and when I need some energy, sometimes tea in the afternoon and a mild tea in the evening hours when it's soon go-to-bed time.

Tea is as we all know something special in England, but it seems that some of the English customs are slowly being adapted in Denmark. We have now got some good tea-shops, but not places where you can go and have a good cup of tea, we've still only got coffee-places, lots of Baresso cafés etc. - and the terrible tea bags are what you usually get in cafés and restaurants here. So you can only have a good cup of tea at home, when you brew it yourself - but I'll leave the complicated tea-traditions to be told by an Englishman.

In Chinese the word tea is c'ha, which became te in Malaysian. The European languages all have their tea-word from this. German and Dutch tee; French thè and English tea. People drink it all over the world but have various customs. In Russia tea is still brewed in a samovar - in Australia and Ireland they brew the strongest tea. The Arabs are known for their mint-tea served in glasses. The Dutch usually do not put milk in their tea, in China the second cup is considered the best and in Japan they nearly always serve tea for food. Last but not least the English have their Afternoon Tea.

It is said that the tea-bush was discovered more than 5000 years ago by the Chinese emperor Shen Ning. The legend says that the emperor, who was at war, found shadow under a tree, while he was boiling some water for drinking. A leaf from the tree fell down into the boiling water and a wonderful scent spread. The emperor tasted the drink and was delighted.

The tea plant has been cultivated for thousands of years in the subtropic countries around the Equator, i.e. China, India, Ceylon, Indonesia and East Africa. The tea-drink came to Europe in the middle of 1600s via the Dutch traders and it is today drunk as a common soft drink. But originally tea was considered a medicine. A cup or two was taken on an empty stomach and was said to remove fever, headache, stomach ache and pain in the joints.

Black Tea
The top class of black tea is sorted i.e. in Flowery Orange Pekoe, Orange Pekoe and Pekoe. Flowery means that there are many leaf buds in the tea. Orange is the name of a grading and has nothing to do with oranges. The roughest leaves are sorted i Pekoe Souchong and Souchong. The crushed tea leaves are also being sorted. The finest are Broken Pekoe and Broken Tea. The names varie in the various tea-districts. What is left after the sorting is sold as Fannins or Dust. This is what often is found in the tea-bags! The idea of tea-bags is said to origin from 1904, where an American trader sent his tea-samples out in little silken bags. The customers were too lazy to take the tea out of the bags when they made tea in order to test the samples. They just put the silken bags in hot water.

Green and White Tea.
Green tea is sorted in grades where Gunpowder, small young leaves rolled into little pellets, is the finest and most costy. Green tea has in thousands of years been famous for its healing qualities, which is caused by its content of vitamines, minerals and the calming substance tannin. The tea is also said to prevent holes in the teeth. Green tea is a good tea for beginners, it is mild and very aromatic in a soft way. The last new hit is White tea with a soft and almost fat taste. White tea are young withered "tips", which are being dried in natural sunlight. Like the green tea it is unfermented and has a hight content of antioxidants and a low content of tein.

Earl Grey
The aroma-tea is black tea mixed with dried fruits or spices or tasted with evt. fruit oils. The legend says that when Earl Grey himself once was invited to tea in China, he bit in a bergamot-fruit ( kind of citrus) which his hosts told him to do, and in this way he got the idea to put this bergamot-oil in the tea. Earl Grey tea is extremely popular all over the world .

photos: "History of Tea" at Silkeborg Kunstcenter, Mid Jutland: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Red Squirrel/Almindeligt Egern

Sciurus vulgaris fuscoater (in DK)

Squirrel eating fungus............

The Latin name for squirrel is sciurus and means - 'he who sits in the shadow of his tail'. The Danish name egern is an ancient word with roots in Indo-European and Sanskrit language. In Old Norse its name is ikorni. It has been living in Denmark for a very long time, archaeologists have found squirrel-bones which are 8-9000 years old. Today the squirrel is totally protected in Denmark.

In Norse Mythology Ratatosk (Sharp Tooth) is a little squirrel that runs up and down with messages in the world tree Yggdrasil and spreads gossip between Vedrfolnir at the top of the world tree and Nidhoggr beneath its roots. Vedrfolnir (the one bleached by the weather) is the hawk sitting between an eagle's eyes, and Nidhoggr is the snake (dragon) eating of the world tree's roots. Ratatosk is the messenger between worlds -and he can move from ice to fire and everywhere in between. He speaks with everyone, both the As-Gods and the Norns. Today Ratatosk is in many modern appearances, in books, novels, poems and games.

The red squirrel is protected in most of Europe, as it is listed in Appendix III of theBern Convention; it is listed as Least Concern on theIUCN Red LIst.

The red squirrel used to be widely hunted for its pelt. In Finland squirrel pelts were used as currency in ancient times, before the introduction of coinage.The expression "squirrel pelt" is still widely understood there to be a reference to money.

The squirrel is a charming little fellow, with strong energy and eternal curiosity. Its menu is manyfold, cones, nuts, buds, beech nuts, acorns, fungi, fruits, berries, larva, insects. It's also a little egg-thief, stealing eggs from little birds and from wood pidgeons and pheasants.

The red squirrel is easy to recognize and is common in Denmark - especially in forest areas. It lives alone and defends its territory against other squirrels. It is active in the day hours and sleeps and rests at night in a nest. The squirrel usually builds several nests inside its territory. The nests are made by branches and twigs, inside lined with grass, moss and leaves. They are ball-shaped with a diameter of 25-40 cm and the squirrel can close the hole when it stays in the nest. The nests are often placed in a tall fir and not easy to catch sight of. The nest might also be built in a hollow tree or in a large nesting box. The female gives birth each year to two litters each with 3-6 cubs.

Danish squirrels (except at Bornholm) belong to the sub-species Sciurus vulgaris fuscoater.

photo 2008 Forstbotanish have, Århus: grethe bachmann

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Pretty Birthday Girl is 1300 Years Old

One of the greatest birthdays this year in Denmark happens when the city Ribe celebrates her 1300 years birthday. The earliest traces of Ribe are dated to 710, and it is the oldest town in Denmark. The official opening is Friday 8. January - and the birthday is celebrated with lots of arrangements all year.

Riberhus castle bank and the cathedral.

Ribe has got many fine museums. Especially two Viking museums are a great experience. The museum: Ribes Vikinger has many thousand findings from new archaological excavations. The museum has also a multimedium. At Ribe Vikingecenter 2 km south of the town is reconstructed special plans from the Viking period, among others a market place from ab. year 720. At Ribe Kunstmuseum is an exquisite collection of pictures from Ribe during the centuries, and Danish art from the middle of the 1700s and two centuries ahead, names like Eckersberg, Købke, Rørbye, Marstrand, Anna Ancher, Hammershøi, Krøyer, L.A.Ring, Zahrtmann, the Funen painters and classic modernists.

photo Ribe 2003: grethe bachmann