Tag Archives: United States

Lest We Forget–Beth Trissel


In these troubled times in America, it’s wise to remember where we came from  and what our founders envisioned for this great nation. Being an American is a sacred privilege, our hard-won freedoms, fast eroding, should never be taken for granted, and preserving these inalienable rights, a call to arms for all who cherish liberty. With that in mind, I highly recommend watching the excellent HBO production that came out several years ago featuring the indomitable John Adams–appropriately entitled John Adams. Not to be confused (as I’ve done) with an earlier production, The Adam’s Chronicles. 

What John Adams and his remarkable wife, Abigail, and their entire family suffered and sacrificed in the forging of America is unbelievable. Not only them, but countless others as well.  I wonder if I’d last a day in that turbulent era, and yet, my forebears did.  So did many of yours.  If your ancestors were not yet in this country at its birth, no doubt they played an important role in making America what it is, or is intended to be, at its finest. Let us not forget, or our children and grandchildren will pay the price. Theirs already is a vastly different America than the nation envisioned by its outstanding founders with their mind-boggling perseverance.

As an author with several stories set in early America, and currently at work on the sequel to my Revolutionary War romance novel Enemy of the King, I’m particularly mindful of our roots.  Join me in the quest to remember.

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.” ― John Adams

Sweet Saturday Sample From Historical Fantasy Romance The Bearwalker’s Daughter–Beth Trissel


Autumn, 1784, the Allegheny Mountains of Western Virginia

Instinctively, Karin reached out to trace the glowing stone, warmer now. A blue-green light radiated from it at her touch. She sucked in her breath. Tearing her eyes from the phenomenal gem, she looked at Jack. “Did you see that?”

Giving a nod, he slowly lowered his fingers to the iridescent surface—pulling back as if repelled. “It doesn’t want me to handle it.”

“What do you mean, it doesn’t want? ’Tis a necklace, for God’s sake,” she said, using stronger language than usual at the nameless fear that sprang up inside her.

She looked back down and cautiously extended her hand to the pool of light encompassing the gem. A shape flickered across it in the form of something—an animal. She jerked. “What was that?”

“A bear.” He spoke with the tenor of one trying to conceal his own disbelief. “We must’ve imagined it.”

Both of us? Jack, what’s going on?”

He shifted his eyes around the room then returned to the necklace. “I’m not sure yet.”

“Maybe not, but you’re keeping something from me. Is this some sort of bear stone?”

“No. Moonstone. Rare, and known for its magical powers, if you believe that nonsense.” He didn’t sound as skeptical as he might have only moments ago. “The stone is also a lover’s amulet and the eye of seers. Wearing it is said to strengthen intuition.”

“If by intuition, you mean the hair standing up on the nape of my neck, I can tell something mighty peculiar is going on and—”

She broke off at a persistent sound carrying above the wind. “Do you hear that scratching noise?”

“Probably just a tree branch.”

He’d lied to shield her from something, she just knew, and clutched his sleeve with one hand. The necklace hung from her other. “Jack—”

He swiveled his head at the room again. “Calm down,” he said, but didn’t seem any easier than she.

The scratching intensified and came nearer to them. She gripped him harder. “’Tis at the door!”

***To visit more authors taking part in Sweet Saturday Samples click HERE!

***The Bearwalker’s Daughter is available in Amazon Kindle for .99!

Why It Matters–The Battle of Kings Mountain–Beth Trissel


October 7th, my niece Cailin’s birthday, is the anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain, an epic conflict that took place in what is now North Carolina, then South Carolina, and one that many Virginians took part in.  Also a sadly much overlooked battle.  The ramifications were huge.  So why haven’t more people heard of it?

To quote The Sons of Liberty: “Many historians consider the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780 to be the turning point in America’s War for Independence. The victory of rebelling American Patriots over British Loyalist troops completely destroyed the left wing of Cornwallis’ army.

This decisive battle successfully ended the British invasion into North Carolina and forced Lord Cornwallis to retreat from Charlotte into South Carolina to wait for reinforcements. This triumphant victory of the Overmountain Men allowed General Nathanael Greene the opportunity to reorganize the American Army.”

“Thomas Jefferson called it “The turn of the tide of success.” The battle of Kings Mountain, fought October 7th, 1780, was an important American victory during the Revolutionary War. The battle was the first major patriot victory to occur after the British invasion of Charleston, SC in May 1780. The park preserves the site of this important battle.”

It seems to me that a battle of such enormous significance should not be forgotten, yet few today have heard of Kings Mountain, let alone are aware of the significance attached to that name.  I’m doing my best to keep its memory alive.

Back when I was doing research for my first colonial frontier novel (Red Bird’s Song) and pouring through old annals, I continually came across references to Kings Mountain.  The battle, unknown to me then, impressed itself upon me through the pride these early Scots-Irish forebears had in having taken part, so I made a mental note to go back at some point and discover more.

I learned about the gallant, ill-fated British Major Patrick Ferguson who lost his life and Loyalist army atop that Carolina Mountain called Kings back in the fall of 1780.  And the hardy, valiant, sometimes downright mean Overmountain men of Scots heritage didn’t take kindly to Ferguson’s warning that they desist from rebellion or he’d bring fire and sword upon them and hang all their leaders––all these enemies of the King! (*Monument at the Kings Mountain battle field)

So impressed was I by the accounts I read that I featured the battle in my Revolutionary War romance novel, Enemy of the King.  The battle is a fitting culmination of this adventure romance novel.

I’ve visited the site of the battle twice, walked the wooded knob, read the markers, admired the monument engraved with the names of the Patriots who fought there, paused by the stone cairn where British Major Patrick Ferguson is buried, and communed with the past.   Those who have gone before us and all they sacrificed in the founding of this country should not be forgotten–nor those who are sacrificing now– especially with all the challenges America faces.

If you agree with me in the vital importance of remembering those who fell in historic battles like King’s Mountain, then take a moment to reflect, and never ever forget.  Without those men, and women, we would not be the United States of America.  Without those serving our country now, we would cease to be.

I’ve included a pensive, prophetic quote below from the fallen Patrick Ferguson, whom I admire, despite his having been on the ‘other side.‘  He was one of the better British officers with much integrity.  He spared George Washington’s life on an earlier occasion because he would’ve had to shoot General Washington in the back as he was surveying the field before the Battle of Brandywine and that seemed dishonorable.  I agree.

I’ll bet ‘Bloody Ban‘ Banastre Tarleton, a much hated British officer very prominent in the Southern face of the American Revolution, would have taken the shot.  Ferguson invented the rifle that bears his name and was a crack shot.  He wouldn’t have missed Washington.  Life really isn’t fair, Ferguson was wounded at the battle of Brandywine and nearly lost his arm.  Tarleton survived the war and went home to a hero’s welcome.  So a tribute to Ferguson here and a boo to Tarleton.

“The length of our lives is not at our command however much the manner of them may be.  If  our creator enables us to act the part of honor and conduct  ourselves with spirit, probity, and humanity the change to another world whether now or fifty years hence will not be for the worse.” ~Patrick Ferguson

**The image above of the battle is on many sites. Here’s one.

Historical-Paranormal Romance, The Bearwalker’s Daughter–Beth Trissel


The_Bearwalkers_Daughter_Cover3Set among the Scots-Irish settled in the Alleghenies, with an intriguing Native American thread, The Bearwalker’s Daughter is a suspenseful historical romance. A mystical tone also colors the story.

What’s a bearwalker, you may ask? A shape shifting Shawnee warrior. Depending upon whom you consult among the Shawnee, they may not consider this to be fantasy but an actual ability some of their people possess, or used to in ages past.

The Bearwalker’s Daughter also has a magical moonstone necklace which I wish I could’ve kept, but the novel sucked in that prize and won’t let me have it back. Bummer.

Story Blurb: Timid by nature—or so she thinks—Karin McNeal hasn’t grasped who she really is or her fierce birthright.

A tragic secret from the past haunts the young Scots-Irish woman longing to learn more of her mother’s death and the mysterious father no one will name. The elusive voices she hears in the wind hint at the dramatic changes soon to unfold in the mist-shrouded Alleghenies in Autumn, 1784.

Jack McCray, the wounded stranger who staggers through the door on the eve of her twentieth birthday and anniversary of her mother’s death, holds the key to unlock the past.  Will Karin let this handsome frontiersman lead her to the truth and into his arms, or seek the shelter of her fiercely possessive kinsmen? Is it only her imagination or does someone, or something, wait beyond the brooding ridges—for her?~

Formerly entitled Daughter of the Wind, I reworked and further embellished the novel to make it into The Bearwalker’s Daughter. As Daughter of the Wind, it received stellar reviews and awards.  Of the story, a reviewer from Long and Short said, “Ms. Trissel’s alluring style of writing invites the reader into a world of fantasy and makes it so believable it is spellbinding.”

***The Bearwalker’s Daughter is currently .99 in Amazon Kindle.

*Striking cover by my talented daughter Elise Trissel.

*Royalty free images

Undiscovered Treasure in America–Beth Trissel


To quote Shakespeare, ‘All that glitters Is not gold,’ but SOME of it is.  The lure of buried treasure, an occasional flight of fancy for some and a soul-selling obsession for others, is an ageless fascination.  No soul bartering here, but I’ve done some research for would be treasure hunters and discovered  there are many yet undiscovered troves in America.  Apparently in every state according to the book Buried Treasures You Can Find by Robert F. Marx.  An interesting and informative read, however the font size decreases to minuscule proportions when Mr. Marx reaches the part of the book where he actually lists possible sites, so don’t expect me to recap without a magnifying glass.  Instead I’ll touch on some of his general  guidelines.  I, for one, would be happy to discover even a single gold doubloon , but it would have to wash ashore.  I’m not scuba diving.

Author Robert Marx has been treasure-seeking ever since he quit his newspaper route as a youth and has recovered an astonishing array of lost, hidden, or mislaid treasure both on land and plucked from the depths of the sea. First of all, he says you need a good metal detector and devotes pages to weighing the merits of various kinds.  Agreed, a premier detector would be fun to have, and considering I live in historic Virginia, I might actually find a Civil War button or something from the past which would thrill me.  Bear in mind that I’m easily delighted.  I once unearthed what I thought were shards of old pottery while planting a peach tree that turned out to be the remnants of an antiquated septic system.  Not very exciting.  However, my determination to dig the hole deeper in search of my imagined find got the tree planted in a hurry.  The most I’ve ever unearthed on our farm are old medicine bottles, but I’m fond of old bottles and have a kitchen windowsill filled with them.

The next step Mr. Marx advises after you’ve conducted a thorough study of metal detectors (I haven’t) and made your purchase is to learn how to use it properly and practice, practice.  Yada, yada,  we’re up to page 63 now–this book is for serious seekers–when he describes some of the most famous still to be discovered caches, also discussing WHY people bury treasure.  I assumed because they didn’t want thieves to find it, but there’s more.  In Colonial America banks were rare and often unavailable so most people buried money on their property.  Indians might suddenly attack  or the British were coming, so they prepared for calamities, possibly dying before recovering their money.

During the Civil War people in the South buried their treasures not only to keep them out of enemy hands but to avoid having to donate to the Confederate Treasury for the war effort.  As before, the ‘safest bank’ was a hole in the ground or some other secret location.  Some of the largest undiscovered treasures occurred during the Civil War: Excerpted from the book Civil War Gold & Other Lost Treasures by W. Craig Gaines. ”The really big lost treasure is that of the Confederate Treasury in custody of Jeff Davis upon leaving Richmond, fleeing the Yankee hordes. Portions of it are believed to be in Greene & Morgan Counties of Georgia. The combined hoard is believed to be between $500,000 and $600,000 in gold, the combined values of the Richmond Bank & Confederate Treasury. Most made it to Washington, Georgia, but an untold amount remains unaccounted for.”

On the Western frontier, there were many cutthroats who preyed on hapless pioneers, and Lord knows those gold prospectors were justifiably paranoid.  So they kept their big strikes secret, some taking that knowledge with them to the grave.  And there were the gamblers, soldiers, saloon keepers…who hid their earnings.  Not to mention the stage-coach robbers who hid their  loot while escaping from the posse,  thinking to return for it later. But they didn’t all.   Get the picture?  Untold treasure is still out there–somewhere.

If you’re seeking a specific cache, and there are some famous ones, Mr. Marx says to first be certain it truly exists and isn’t the stuff of legend.  Would you believe some disreputable people will  try to sell you treasure maps that aren’t actually genuine.  *Shakes head.

Mr. Marx suggests seeking documentation recorded as closely to the time of the original event as possible and that old newspapers and books are a valuable resource.  If you’re just searching out potential historic sites, then he suggests ports, river banks, anywhere construction is moving earth, old homes, ghost towns, abandoned trash dumps from bygone days… Mr. Marx has oodles of suggestions and lists them by state.

I’d love a really good metal detector…

***Royalty free images

Herbs of Early America and Colonial Williamsburg


“Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?” — Old English proverb
I love old-fashioned gardens, particularly those with herbs.  I grow many heirloom flowers and herbs, even  included a lovely garden in my award-winning  Colonial American romance novel set during the American Revolution entitled Enemy of the King.  Herbs and old-time flowers are in all my stories, more or less,  but back to the plants.
(Image from our garden.  Photo by daughter Elise, as are all others taken of our garden from last year.)
Not only were the colonists acquiring native plants and the knowledge of their uses from American Indians, but they brought cherished plants with them from The Old World (seeds, rootstock).  By the mid to latter 1700′s, the variety of herbs and vegetables grown encompassed all those known to the Western World–or potentially could have.
The colonial kitchen garden was planted outside the back door, so these vital herbs were at the ready.  In addition to using the herbs fresh, many plants were bound together in bunches and hung upside down to dry from the kitchen rafters.  Dried roots were stored for later use.  Tinctures and decoctions made from plant leaves and stems were administered in liquid form.
“Throughout colonial New England, on rural farms and in small villages, the dooryard was the focal point for many daily projects. Generally sited to receive the warm southern sun, and protected by the barn and other outbuildings from bitter northwest winds, this area was used for such activities as washing clothes, making soap and candles, chopping wood and processing meat.
The colonial woman’s dooryard garden, along with her larger vegetable gardens, was expected to provide many of the foods, flavorings, medicines and chemicals necessary for a largely self-sufficient household with little cash. Plants such as madder and woad were used to dye cloth, southernwood and pennyroyal served as insect repellents, basil and sage improved and sometimes masked the flavors of food.
Since most households were isolated from medical care, herbs such as yarrow, angelica, feverfew and valerian were used to treat common ailments or aided in childbirth.”~
*For more on planting your own dooryard garden refer to the highly informative link above.
I’ve read of tansy grown outside the back door to repel ants from coming into colonial homes.  Tansy is an attractive, robust herb with gold button flowers.  Be warned that it needs space, forming dense clumps.  The sap attracts ants so maybe the idea is the ants cluster around the tansy and stay out of the house.
Imagine the rich blend of fragrances in a colonial kitchen, the spicy scent of  dried herbs mingled with wood smoke from the hearth, the stew simmering in a big iron kettle and savory meat roasting over the flames. Delightful.  Also mentioned in my Colonial American romance novel Enemy of the King, as well as some herbal cures and treatments.
Colonists often mentioned what plants they were growing when they wrote to friends and relatives back home in Europe. Many of these letters survive and have served as a guide to planting the reconstructed gardens. Archaeologists have found seeds from some of the original plants in Williamsburg, and can do soil analysis to tell exactly what type of plant was grown in a particular spot. While most of the trees, shrubs and plants seen today in Williamsburg are authentic to the Colonial period, astute observers will notice an abundance of crepe myrtles, pruned as trees in the Southern tradition. That’s because John D. Rockefeller, who financed the restoration, loved crepe myrtles and wanted them in the restored city. And since he was paying the bills …”
“Many of Williamsburg’s gardens reflect the Dutch-English patterns, popular during the reign of William and Mary. This garden style, characterized by geometric symmetry within an enclosed space, was common in England in the late 17th and early 18th century. The emerging trend toward naturalistic gardens in contemporary England did not appeal to the settlers in Virginia, where a natural landscape did not need to be re-created. To them, a garden was nature tamed, trimmed and enclosed. Like many travelers, the colonists attempted to reproduce the homes they had left behind. Frequently they brought seeds of favorite plants and bulbs to rebuild a version of their old gardens. Garden paths were made of gravel, crushed oyster shells and bits of broken brick. Walkways paved with brick would have been too expensive.
Some favorite colonial kitchen and medicinal herbs:
Basil, also called St. Josephwort, was grown for commercial use in Virginia before the American Revolution.
Used as a flavoring,  particularly in salads and soups, pea soup, the clove fragrance of basil improved the taste of foods.  Also a strewing herb.  And the leaves were dried for use in snuff  to relieve headaches and colds.  I love the fragrance and flavor of basil.  A few plants linger here in my garden in the Shenandoah Valley but the first frost will take them anytime now that October is in full swing and a chill wind blowing.
BEE BALM: 
(Image by daughter Elise)
Used for bee stings. Bee Balm is a member of the mint family. It is native to North America but colonists soon sent seeds to Europe for their friends to plant and enjoy. Tea brewed from its leaves was called Oswego tea and used as a substitute for china tea after the 1773 Boston Tea Party.
I am a big fan of bee balm, growing it with more or less success depending on the season.  The flowers really do attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  I set out new plants every year and have done so again this spring with high hopes that they will spread as they have done in the past but not so much in recent years. Too much drought, I suspect, even though I try to water.
CARAWAY: 
The roots were cooked and eaten like carrots, and the seeds chewed or added to cheese, fruit and baked goods.  Caraway seed is an aid to digestion. I’m not a fan of caraway.  No, not even a little bit, but included it for those of you who are, plus it’s historical.
(Image of colonial kitchen)
CATNIP:  
A tea brewed from the leaves was used to treat stomach ache and head colds.  Catnip was also steeped in wine and imbibed that way.  I read if a woman wanted to increase her fertility she might soak in a catnip sitz bath.  Catnip will take over the garden if you let it, but I like the scent, and the plant, though kind of weedy, is appealing in full flower.
Of course, cats are big fans of catnip.  They get quite intoxicated by the scent.  Although this kitty seems rather relaxed.  I have cats who literally roll on the catnip in the garden and nibble it.  They also like the related herb catmint, pictured below.  I’ve grown catmint for years and the same plants are still there blooming faithfully each year, about late spring.     
   
Chamomile:
“Camomill is put to divers and sundry uses, both for pleasure and profit, both for the sick and the sound, in bathing to comfort and strengthen the sound and to ease the pain of the diseased.” ~John Parkinson
Another herb commonly grown in Colonial Williamsburg was Chamomile, a lovely herb.  I grow both the lower ground cover variety and the annual reseeding kinds, known as Roman and German chamomile. In early summer the Roman chamomile forms a mat covered with daisy like flowers and the scent is delightful.  I clip off the faded flowers for regrowth and fresh blooms, but the best show is early on.
In early America, the flowers brewed into a tea were used to treat stomach complaints and dispel cold and aches.  A sugary syrup made with the flowers was thought to treat jaundice and dropsy.  Chamomile flowers in the bath are an aid to skin irritations.  It’s known as the gentle soothing herb. Chamomile is a strewing herb and insect repellent.  It’s also just darn cheerful.  A very happy herb to grow.  Lifts the spirits just to look at it and the fragrance is appealing, soothingly nice.
Chives:  
Who doesn’t like chives?  As long as you don’t get too carried away adding the chopped stems to food.  Chives flavored dishes and the flowers added color to arrangements in early America.  Onions and garlic figured prominently in treating many colonial ailments and were thought to offer protection from evil spirits.  I grow and like chives.  The purple blossoms are pretty in late spring.  I also grow a variety called garlic chives that are white when they flower later in the season, quite pretty, and add good flavor in cooking.  They also reseed freely so bear that in mind.
DILL: 
A favorite in our garden, partly because the caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies feed on the leaves and make their chrysalis on the stems, fun to watch, but also because dill smells wonderful and tastes good.  Colonial Americans grew dill to flavor stews and pickles, also for its healthful properties.  Again, another soothing herb.
They also used it to treat hiccups.  But I don’t know if that works.  I don’t know that a lot of what they did worked.  It all depended on the herb and whether that plant actually possessed the properties colonists thought it did. (This image of dill in our garden is growing along with an old-fashioned poppy I got seed for from Monticello).
HYSSOP:
 A popular medicinal herb in early America.  I used to grow hyssop but it died out and needs replanting.  The fragrance is potent and not altogether pleasing, but the plant is pretty.  The blooms come in pink, white or blue.  I prefer the blue color.  The colonists used hyssop tea mixed with honey and the herb ‘rue’ as an expectorant.  That doesn’t appeal to me.  I’d rather use the bruised leaves, as they did, applied with sugar to a “greene wound.”  Hyssop was thought to fight infection and to kill head lice when soaked in oil.  An oil of leaves and flowers was applied to arthritic joints.  Also used as a strewing herb.
PENNYROYAL:

Strewing herb. Flea and mosquito repellent.  I love the pungent scent of pennyroyal. After several failed attempts,

pennyroyal has formed a low, fragrant mat in our garden and is spreading nicely. I’m very pleased.
(Not pennyroyal, but an image of a butterfly on flowering catmint as mentioned above)
MINTS: 
We have a variety of mints on a determined march to the sea in our yard and garden but we love the intoxicating scent and mint tea is a huge favorite, so we pull only a little of it out.  In colonial America, they drank spearmint to comfort the nerves.  I should also think as an aid to the stomach which the mint family is rightly known for.  In cooking, mint was boiled with fish or dried and added with pennyroyal to puddings and green peas. Also a strewing herb. And I can certainly see why! (Image of apple mint)
PARSLEY: 
I like the flat leaf variety and grow it.  Parsley was used in early America to dispel the gamey taste from wild meats, like venison. The boiled roots were thought to remove “obstructions of the liver” and to promote urine production. (This image of parsley in our garden shows it growing beside asparagus s and black-eyed Susan.)
ROSEMARY:
A pot of this herb grows in my window in winter, out in the garden now.  Rosemary was important in colonial times and popular in Williamsburg. An oil made from the flowers was applied to restore eyesight and remove spots and scars on the skin. Compresses of the leaves and oils were used for the head and heart to relieve painful joints and muscles, or “sinews.”
Rosemary was often potted up and kept inside for the winter. The farther north you live the less likely you are to see rosemary in flower.  I seldom get the plants to that size.  Rosemary isn’t happy inside in winter here, but clings to life.
HOREHOUND: 
Used to make a cough syrup. Often used with honey and other herbs. Mixed with plaintain for snakebites. Soaked in fresh milk to repel flies. The leaves are used for flavoring beer, cough drops, honey and for making tea.  I have grown horehound and the plants definitely need room to spread.  I love horehound drops.  It does sooth the throat.
LAVENDER
Strewing herb and insect repellent.  Essential in English lavender water.  Recipes found their way to colonial America, as did the plants.  Lavender blossoms have long been dried and used in sachets and potpourri to freshen clothes, linens, rooms,  and to repel insects.  An excellent site on English Lavender Water and more on the herb. *Used to rinse hair.
From Crabtree and Evelyn: “This light, refreshing potion is perhaps the oldest known and most frequently used lavender product. Recipes for it were exchanged by women of the Roman era, books throughout Europe and Colonial America. Ours is classic English lavender infused with fresh floral and citrus notes.”
I definitely want a bottle or two. I love lavender, am forever planting new varieties trying to get some to survive our winters.  We have heavy soil, so am amending that and someone suggested growing the lavender in among stones that hold heat to warm the plants.  *Images of lavender in our garden.  The wooden stakes we use not only help support sagging plants but also discourage large farm dogs from sitting on them.  So we use a lot of stakes and large sticks fallen from various trees.  Also called ‘marking sticks’ so we remember where we’ve planted a row of seeds or new seedling.
SAGE:
A favorite in our garden, sage has been grown for untold ages, as have all these herbs.  Sage was a culinary favorite in colonial America (soon gaining popularity with Native Americans) and an important  medicinal herb for a plethora of illnesses.  As a spring tonic to cleanse the body, colonists fasted on sage with butter and parsley.   Sage brewed into an ale was given to women to aid in delivery.  Sage has may other uses, as a tea sweetened with honey for sore throat or as a gargle.  Sage reduces perspiration and was used for fevers.  And so on. (Image of fuzzy sage and larkspur in our garden).
THYME:
I love thyme.  We grow many varieties.  The species of thyme grown by the colonists was an upright, wild variety that survived the cold winters.  I need to find this one.  The best I can do is the English thyme which seems to be hardier than the French.  Some of the creeping thymes do well here.  Colonists used thyme for melancholy, spleenic conditions, flatulence and toothache. (One of several kinds of creeping thyme we grow in our garden).
For more on colonial herbs & their uses:
A wonderful sounding book that I would like to get is Flowers and Herbs of Early America~It’s a beautiful big hardback book and rather pricey so we shall see.  Recommended by the Colonial Williamsburg Historical Society–available at the Amazon link above.
18th century methods for producing herbal remedies:
Tincture: herb is soaked in alcohol, strained and used.
Decoction: This method was used for tougher parts of the herb plants, the roots, stem and bark. The herb is boiled in water until water is reduced by 1/2 to 1/3.
Infusion: Immersing the herb in water as in tea.
Distilled: Infusing the herb with water, boiling same and catching the condensed steam. Makes a condensed form of an infusion.
We contemporaries must understand the basis on which decisions were made in early America. Colonists based portions of their world view on teachings of early Greek writers. Theories about alchemy and astrology and concepts such as the four cardinal humors influenced many of the colonists’ agricultural, dietary and medical practices. The four cardinal humors were the body fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. The conditions and proportions of these affected the physical and mental health of the individual.
There were thought to be four basic human temperaments:
  • Yellow bile or choler – hot and dry, characterized by a fiery nature and a bilious complexion.
  • Phlegmatic (phlegm) – cold and moist, characterized by apathy and a pale complexion.
  • Melancholic (black bile or choler) – cold and dry, characterized by depression and sullenness.
  • Sanguine (blood) – hot and moist, characterized by great appetites and capacities, and a ruddy complexion.
The educated colonist would study an herbal, a book containing the names and descriptions of herbs, or plants in general, with their properties and virtues. The earliest herbal written in the English language was published in London in 1525. Additionally, much knowledge was passed along from parent to child, since many colonists were illiterate.
Most herbals listed the qualities of temperature of each plant – hot, cold, dry and moist – paralleling the four elements – fire, air, earth and water. These characteristics were said to be reflected in the human temperament.
In almost all individuals one humor was thought to dominate the personality. There were certain potential health disorders or imbalances associated with each humor. For example, the sanguine person was believed to be amusing and good-natured, but prone to overindulgence. Diarrhea or gout could be a problem for such an individual, so cool, dry herbs like burdock or figwort were used to cleanse the system.
Overly cooling foods were given when a patient had a fever, but those same foods were considered unsafe if consumed by a well person. Foods had to be combined to produce the proper combination for a healthy person.
Melons were chilling, so they were served with ginger or pepper, warming spices. Lettuce was cold and moist, so hot and dry pepper, hot and moist olive oil and cold and dry vinegar dressed it. Vinegar, itself, was considered cooling, so it had to be enhanced with peppercorns, coriander seeds or other warmers. Otherwise, vinegar would “make leane” and cause melancholy.
Another old idea of the period was the “Doctrine of Signatures” or “Law of Similars”. This was the notion that a plant looked like the human organ or symptom of the disease it could benefit. Plants containing a milky juice, like lettuce, were thought to “propogate milk in nursing mothers”. The walnut, which looks somewhat like a brain, when properly prepared and laid upon the crown of the head, was said to comfort “the brain and head mightily”.
The use of herbs and plants in the colonial household was carefully decided based on the knowledge and observations of the time.
****
A very interesting article on  Apothecary Herbal Healing:
“Before pharmacists, there were apothecaries. During the Colonial period in America, apothecaries dispensed medicines, including herbal remedies. Apothecaries functioned as pharmacists and doctors. Their skills with herbs made apothecaries reliable resources for people seeking healing from any ailment. Apothecary gardens  (link to a site that tells how to plant one) provided herbs to aid healing. The art of apothecary continues in the modern era. Herbalists grow their own herbs and treat ailments just as their colonial foremothers-and fathers. The term, apothecary, came to be used for the store where the apothecary operated. Apothecaries are the ancestors of modern pharmacies or drug stores.”~
***In conclusion, herbal treatments may or may not have been administered based on an actual knowledge of how that plant’s properties affected a particular condition.  Some remedies were tried and true while superstition influenced other supposed treatments and cures.
*Pics are from our garden,  Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, and Mt. Vernon. All images are royalty free.

Get out the Egg Dye–It’s that Time of Year Boys & Girls


Saturday morning I’m going to an Easter egg hunt at my mom’s with ‘the Smalls’ in our family. We may freeze now that April has decided to behave as early March should have done. Crazy weather, but I’ve always loved Easter, a joyous season when the earth is reborn in a swell of new life washed with vibrant color, a time of spiritual and physical renewal.  I can’t imagine Christ‘s resurrection taking place at any other time of year.  This is most fitting. Although in some parts of the world, I suppose it’s fall isn’t it?  A strange thought, hiding eggs beneath autumn leaves.  Maybe those regions of the globe don’t have fall foliage. Let me know dear readers.

As a six-year-old recently returned from an early childhood spent in Taiwan–no autumn leaves there, but we had a kewl banana tree in our front yard–I delighted in my first egg hunt in a neighbor’s yard filled with blooming crocus and daffodils.  Tucked in the green grass and among those shining blossoms were the many-colored eggs, like hidden jewels.  Magical. And chocolate rabbits.  I was in awe of an American Easter.

(*Grandson Colin from an earlier Easter)

Of course, in those days little girls wore hats and gloves and crinolines under their Easter dresses.  Yes, I was born in the 1800′s.  I also received my first white Bible on Easter, which is still my favorite one.  It had this new book smell and books were quite special back then because my father was an underpaid English professor and we were poor.  I just liked smelling my new Bible, but did eventually read much of it.  The names of my favorite Sunday School teachers are inked in the front under the section entitled ‘Friends at Church.’  I must have been a complete nerd not to have any children listed.  I had plenty of imaginary friends… (*Beth as a wee tot.)

Another early Easter memory is our family returning home from church and me climbing from the car to bury my face in a golden clump of daffodils by the back doorstep, beaded with rain.  Their sweet scent said spring to me.  And new life.  I always imagined the tomb where Christ was buried and rose again surrounded by daffodils and crocus.  Which is not likely given the photographs I’ve seen of what it may actually have looked like.  Very dry and rocky terrain.  I like my mental image better.  It’s the spirit of the event that matters, so I’ll stick with it.

“For I remember it is Easter morn,
And life and love and peace are all new-born.”

~Alice Freeman Palmer

“Let the resurrection joy lift us from loneliness and weakness and despair to strength and beauty and happiness.”  ~Floyd W. Tomkins

“It is the hour to rend thy chains,
The blossom time of souls.”  ~Katherine Lee Bates