Thursday, September 9, 2010

Summer’s Parting Gifts

Summer’s Parting Gifts

“The mind receives knowledge, not in order that it may know, but in order that it may grow, in breadth and depth, in sound judgment and magnanimity; but in order to grow, it must know.” Charlotte Mason, Phil. of Ed., pg 237.
I am adding to my knowledge by savoring summer’s parting gifts. Learning something new is refreshing.

    I can see these pokeberries from our bedroom window. Pokeberries (poisonous) aren’t new to me but I recently heard that ink from the pokeberry was used to write the Declaration of Independence. Dora, one of the characters in Lessons at Blackberry Inn, is a self-taught spinner of wool. The American colonists used pokeberries as a cloth dye and for ink, which must have sparked Dora’s interest. She exclaimed to Carol, “Ooh, look, pokeberries. They’re plump and ripe and will make just the pink I need.”  She began breaking off the stems . . .  “I’ve collected goldenrod for yellow and sassafras root bark for brown. Whenever I go for walks, I keep my eyes open for plant dyes.”

    Doesn’t this toadstool belong in a fairy tale? Dean found it in the grass and got out his camera.


    It opened the next day. Where have I seen a toadstool like this?  On the cover of a Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem - the autumn story - her only “season” story I care for. It isn’t her stories but her detailed illustrations that make her picture books.

    I opened the pages of my Country Diary of an Edwardian and found Edith Holden’s painting of a toadstool (poisonous). I paid closer attention to a detail that I once skimmed over. Her entry reads. “My sister sent me some lovely crimson toadstools with white spots, this morning, from Keston Common.” Were they sent through the mail? Edith says that they were damaged by the journey, the heads severed from their stems, but she still managed to make a sketch of them for her notebook.

    In the 1990s I recommended The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady as a beautiful example of a nature notebook created in 1906. The video, based on the book, is one I can’t part with. It is a calming portrayal of the seasonal wildlife of rural England. Mothers who observe nature to feed their souls, and mothers who lead their children in observation will find inspiration here. I propped up the video in the beehive oven of our fireplace then decorated it with a little pair of antique shoes. (Click photo to enlarge.) One hundred years later the buttons are still intact. I can’t imagine that they were comfortable shoes for a young child. But by the state of the soles they, indeed, were worn.

    I do not recommend the DVD series based on Edith Holden’s life. It is a disappointment. The added footage reveals family conflict and Edith’s country walks with her quiet fiancé. Few conversations take place. Apparently her family prefers talking to the dead round the dinning table. Creepy. The video excludes the unwelcome footage and depicts only Edith’s observations and entries in her notebook. You’ll find it for a few dollars online because videos are passé. 

    A new wildflower, one growing further down the road from the asters, is this spotted orange flower, the touch-me-not. 

    It took me quite a while to locate the name of this five-petal weed that sprang up beside our front walk. It is a cinqfoil but its color is unlike any in my field guides. Sophia was visiting on the Saturday I was searching my guides. She swiftly consulted her “contemporary resource” – her laptop - to goggle images.

    I wish you new knowledge this week, my friend, to add a little surprise and refreshment to your Mother Culture. Learning new things with children, too, makes for pleasant companionship.  


  1. I have the Country Diary books by Edith Holden. They are lovely to look at...

  2. I also have The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden. I did not know there is a video of this book. I went online after reading your post and found the one you have. I also saw others with the same title that are labeled "Summer", "Spring", and "Fall". Do you by chance know what the difference is in these? They are all VHS tapes and seem to have the same actors in them. I always look forward to each of your posts and save them carefully for just the right time to read them. (meaning while the children are busy, napping, doing schoolwork, or sleeping) Thank you so much for such a peaceful place of inspiration!

  3. Karen,

    Thank you for sharing the end-of-summer treasures you've found. It's funny how the bit about the pokeberries is so timely for me! My husband,our four young boys, and I were visiting family. They took us hiking through some beautiful woods. The children's fingers quickly became stained with the magenta berries. I was unable to answer my six-year-old's perennial question, "Mommy, what are THESE?" Upon returning home, the berries were forgotten (though usually I do pull out my field guides.) But thanks to you, I was able to point out to the children not only the name of the berries, but also the little gem you shared regarding their use as ink for writing the Declaration of Independence, which we are studying right now! It's wonderful how these associations are made without much effort as we go about our daily lives, isn't it?


  4. I read Edith's biography and was quite surprised to find out how weird she and her family were.

    I gave the biography to the library for their sale but will never part with "Country Diary". She may have been odd but she certainly wrote and illustrated a great book.

    My daughter found a copy at a library sale for $1.00 a few years ago. She said she could not help getting all excited and the volunteers taking money were curious as to which book made her so happy. :)

  5. I just discovered this morning that you have a blog, Karen--and I am thrilled to find it! What a lovely place for us homeschooling mothers to find inspiration and encouragement.

    I have taken the Edith Holden book out from the library, and I was amazed at her careful artwork and penmanship. It truly is an inspiration.

  6. I am in the process of reading Pocketful of pinecones, I love this idea of the gentle art of learning. I am a 50 year old Mother of 3 adult children, grandma to a 3 month old grandson, I did not home school, our children went to a private Christian School.I am now encouraging my daughter and future daughter-in-law in this gentle art of learning. I plan to purchase these books, one by one, and share them with them.They are both planning to home-school, so I feel that even though I missed out on this wonderful opportunity, they will not. Thank you for allowing God to use you to share with so many others, what every Mother should consider. God Bless You...

  7. Upon your recommendation I puchased the video. It is food for the soul and a feast for the eyes. Thankyou for telling about it. I am enjoying your blog so much.
    When do you think your next book will come out - the one based on the Parent Review magazine?

    Louise in Australia