May 31, 2012

Dandelion Clocks!

The Common and Abundant Dandelion!
Dandelions fill the days of May, first with sunny yellow! How pretty they are on the lawn when they first flower, yellow and short. As the flowers turn to seed, the dandelions are topped with a round ball of white fluff.

What fun it is to blow the dandelions when they go to seed and turn white and then to see the fluff flitter, flutter about!

It, however, doesn't take very long, as dandelions grow like weeds, before they are tall, the seeds are blown away, and the stems are tough. At Corgyncombe they can grow two feet tall!

The chosen music to accompany this post is Arabesque by Debussy:
Click Here for Specially Chosen Musical Entertainments.
Return Here to Read the Corgyncombe Courant.
The music is so delightful whilst reading!

In the story "Dandelion Clocks", written by Juliana Horatia Ewing, the children blow the dandelion seeds in a sort of amusement, a game to make a determination as to the time. As Juliana Horatia Ewing wrote "You blow till the seed is all blown away, and you count each of the puffs - an hour to a puff."

In the story, Little Peter Paul was perplexed as to why one child's time was so different from the other. He was quite the literal thinker and knew that each person had the same amount of hours each day. His sisters thought that dandelion clocks told "fairy time". When you blow on the dandelion seeds they do give a twinkly, fairy-like appearance. When Peter grew up he went out to sea, where he traveled a great deal and enjoyed the life of a sailor. When he came back to his sisters and the farm for a lengthy visit, time stood still and hours dragged and he could barely wait for the time to be over until he could return to the sea.

Hours sometimes seem to go faster or slower for different people, depending on how dull or interesting things are to them.

"Dandelion Clocks" illustrated by Gordon Browne.
In the 1981 version of Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses", illustrated by Tasha Tudor, on the next page after the title page, is an illu
stration of a little girl telling time by blowing dandelion clocks, which is very similar to the illustration of the little girl on the left, done by Gordon Browne.

Under Tasha Tudor's illustration is the quote:

"To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I ey'd,
Such seems your beauty still."
Shakespeare's Sonnet CIV

A drawing from the Corgyncombe Art Collection,
children telling time with dandelion clocks.

The goats at pasture, amongst the dandelions.

When I think of May and dandelions, I remember my neighbor Marika who made the best dandelion wine. She gave me the receipt for making it. Marika was a few years younger than my grandmum and was of European heritage. Oft' times we would go over to Marika's house for an evening and discuss knitting and crocheting, baking, and gardening. Usually the evening would be topped off with a glass of her homemade wine. Marika's husband, who was also of Old World ancestry, always walked us safely home to our door. Not that we were tipsy, mind you, he was just being a gentleman.

During the spring and summer Marika usually had something fermenting in a large crock.

Marika lived in the most wonderful old house with a marvelous wing on the back that had an old summer kitchen that held an old beauty of a black cast iron wood cookstove. Marika did the finishing off of her maple syrup on that cookstove.

Marika's kitchen cupboards, instead of having doors, had curtains of old fashioned material. She was a wonderful artist and her paintings covered her walls.

Marika loved to garden and she had vegetable gardens and flower gardens. I especially loved the outside area around and about the old ell (the part that housed the old summer kitchen) off the back of the house. It was so charming and pleasant there with flowers round.

Marika's husband was in charge of lawn mowing. Marika liked to transplant some of her flowers to unusual and unlikely places about the lawn and we could always tell, clear over at our house, when he, uhh, accidentally ran her plants down. You could frequently hear her bellowing his full name, all the way over to our house, and "You just ran down my ...."

A hand coloured plate with dandelions in the antique book
"New Cyclopaedia of Botany and Complete Book of Herbs".

Every Christmas Marika would make a delicious pastry called potica.
She would put a cloth down on her huge table and work the potica dough very, very thin to cover most of the table. A delicious mixture of milk, honey and sugar were heated to a boil and, with the addition of nuts, cinnamon, and other good things, the mixture was spread on top of the dough. The dough was then rolled up, like a jelly roll, so that it had many layers with the delicious goodness in between. This was cut into sections and baked.

When you visited Marika she always sent you home with something, such as seeds, plant cuttings, old issues of her Workbasket magazine, frames for making pompoms, a fork for making hairpin lace, a couple of kittens, and a purgative herbal mixture to eradicate hairballs from cats.

Does this not bring to mind, in Mrs. Gaskell's "Cranford", when the kitty swallowed the favoured lace which had to be brought up with a purgative?

It was always so interesting and fun to go visit clever Marika. Her house and grounds were so full of charm and beauty and had so much personality!

Alas, Marika is gone now, her house bears little resemblance to the quaint old place it used to be. The old wing has been taken off, the summer kitchen is no longer there, it has been replaced with another modern wing, just so dull inside and out, compared to the place where I pleasantly spent many the hour!

An old calendar from the Corgyncombe Ephemera Collection, featuring Dandelions for the month of May and the poem by James Russell Lowell:
"Dear common flower, that grow'st
beside the way -
First pledge of
blithesome May"
copyright © 2012 Diane Shepard Johnson and Sarah E. Johnson


May 15, 2012

Pink and Blue, and Violet Jelly, Too!

Izannah Walker Dolls Take A Ride About Corgyncombe!
This May we have had lovely, sunny spring weather and the apple trees were blossomed to absolute perfection, with their delightful scent filling the air!

The chosen music to accompany this post is from
"Anne of Green Gables":

Click Here for Specially Chosen Musical Entertainments.
Return Here to Read the Corgyncombe Courant.
The music is so delightful whilst reading!

The lawn is also just full of an abundance of sweet blue violets! Izzibeth and IzziAnnie decided to take the carriage and go out amongst the beauty of May! The Baltimore Orioles could be seen and heard as they flew from apple tree to apple tree! What a lovely clear song the Oriole has! The girls were sure that the Orioles had a nest in one of the tall trees.

The Dame's Rocket will be ready to blossom soon. It is Diane's favourite flower and it is so fragrant in the evening! We think it will be blooming in great numbers this year as it seems to after a flood the previous year.

Izzibeth and IzziAnnie are both Izannah Walker inspired dolls. Izzibeth, made by talented dollmaker Paula Walton, is dressed in a frock and sunbonnet, both made of antique double pink fabric. IzziAnnie, made by talented dollmaker Margie Herrera, is dressed in a lovely blue frock made of antique fabric. IzziAnnie found a blue bonnet to wear in a box of doll clothes and she loves it as she thinks it makes her look like a pretty flower!

Izzibeth and IzziAnnie stop to smell the apple blossoms.
Mmmmm, the sweet apple blossoms of May!

A favoured view of the goats at pasture, framed in apple blossoms!

In the book "1 is One" by Tasha Tudor, she illustrated apple blossoms as a border around the
"7 is seven apples on a little apple tree" pages. For the number 13, Tasha Tudor illustrated violets as decoration atop a gift and around a birthday cake.

The girls stopped to pick some violets.
Seeing the violets on the lawn reminds us 'tis time for the making of the violet jelly!

Gathering violets that grow wild about the lawn at Corgyncombe!

The violets are gathered and washed in a colander and put into jars, then boiling water is poured over them.

The infusion was placed in the ice box overnight and was strained in the morning.
The resulting liquid was a beautiful blue!

Fresh lemon juice was added and, oh my, what a delightful colour change as the liquid turned bright pink! This was so much fun! Diane could put lemon juice in violet water all day just to watch the marvelous change of colour!

The rest of the process involved adding sugar and pectin and boiling before ladling the jelly into sterilized jars and processing in a water bath canner.

Violet Jelly ready to put on cakes at tea!

We have made two batches of Violet Jelly this year.
We feel like Pooh Bear licking the kettle, ladle and spoons, as it truly tastes like Violet Honey!!!

Bridget and Eliza have also been out and about on the lawn at Corgyncombe and hope to have a post up soon but please be patient Dear Readers!

copyright © 2012 Diane Shepard Johnson and Sarah E. Johnson


May 1, 2012

Joyous May Day Celebrations!

Flowers, Dancing, and Refreshments!
May Day punch and cupcakes.
In this post are photographs from May Days of previous years
taken by Diane Shepard Johnson.

The chosen music to accompany this post is "Rakes of Kildare" Hammered Dulcimer:
Click Here for Specially Chosen Musical Entertainments.
Return Here to Read the Corgyncombe Courant.
The music is so delightful whilst reading!

A joyous May Day Celebration was held when Sarah's friend's came over to dance round the Maypole.
A tiny Maypole with bears, rabbits, and mouse can be seen in the corner of the stone and wattle fences.
The stone walls are made of field stones that were gathered many years ago and used in an old foundation then reclaimed by us to use in the garden wall.

"Song on May Morning"
Now the bright morning-star, day's harbinger,
Comes dancing from the east, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire;
Woods and groves are of thy dressing,
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.
- John Milton

Our May Day parties are always delightful! The day before May Day, a straight young maple tree is cut from our woods. 'Tis so festive to see the Maypole hoisted and set. Invited friends dance around the Maypole and play their musical instruments together. After May Day refreshments, scrolls are untied and unrolled and May Day poetry is read aloud, together. "May Song" and "Song on May Morning" are amongst some favorites. Tasha Tudor illustrated Sarah in a lithograph called "Afternoon Tea" from one of our May Day celebrations.

The table is decorated with three bouquets of daffodils. Their scent is delightful! The garden was explored whilst enjoying the refreshments.
In the background the field has been prepared for planting.

Diane made cupcakes using the receipt for Becky's Birthday Cake from
"The Tasha Tudor Cookbook".

Diane learned to make May baskets like the May basket above in kindergarten from her teacher. Diane's dear kindergarten teacher Mrs. Platt had also been her Mum's grade school teacher. We make our May baskets out of wallpaper from wallpaper sample books, lined with stiffer paper, in the shape of a cone with a handle. The wallpaper for our baskets is so much fun to pick out from all the samples! Sometimes we also make paper flowers to add to the May baskets, too! Making May baskets is a May Day family tradition at Corgyncombe!

Diane and her daughter Sarah's dolls and animal friends also make small May baskets of their own!

The May basket above is hung on "A Time to Keep" illustrated by Tasha Tudor! Tasha Tudor has done delightful illustrations of children leaving their May baskets at the door and children dancing around the Maypole with a joyful Corgi herding the children in a circle. In the borders round, there are beautiful spring flowers, robins, barns swallows, and a bluebird.

A basket full of handmade May baskets and handmade crepe paper flowers.
Diane made cone shaped May Day baskets filled with crepe paper flowers and cards for Sarah's teachers when she was in grade school. Diane fashioned the daffodil and rose flowers out of crepe paper. Diane's homemade May Day cards were also included with a photograph of Sarah and her cousins dancing round in a circle and inside the card Diane wrote in calligraphy Milton's "Song on May Morning". Sarah wore her crepe paper flower head wreath and handed out the May Day gifts to all her teachers, including those she had in past years.

Diane also made the head wreath flowers out of crepe paper. When Diane showed Tasha Tudor the head wreath, it was packed in a box with tissue paper covering it. When Diane opened the box with the head wreath and picked up the tissue paper, Tasha told Diane's husband that he had an exceptionally talented wife!

Sarah and Tasha Corgi in a rainbow of ribbons.
All the dolls dancing around the Maypole carried small May baskets filled with flowers.

Below are some violets that are in bloom about the lawn. They look like butterflies!
copyright © 2012 Diane Shepard Johnson and Sarah E. Johnson