28 February 2013

28 February - Saint Romanus

Weather - St. Romanus bright and clear, indicates a goodly year

In the territory of Lyons, on Mount Jura, the demise of St. Romanus, abbot, who was the first to lead the eremitical life there.  His reputation for virtues and miracles brought under his guidance numerous monks.

The Martyrology also remembers St. Caerealis  of Alexandria, patron of breakfast from a box, of which nothing more is known, not even the year that he was martyred with Pupulus, Caius, and Sarpion.

[I made up the part about his patronage]


This being the eve of the first of March and St. David’s day, there are a few superstitions and traditions:

“If you wish to see a vision of your future spouse, walk silently three times around the leek bed tonight.” (No word yet on whether the vision shows up in the leek bed or in your bed (in your dreams, of course!))

“If you walk in the churchyard at midnight, you will see the corpse-candles floating above the graves of those families who will suffer a death in the coming year.” [The only person who might be interested is the sexton, who can plan his annual budget accordingly.  Oh, and heirs, of course.  Although the candles don’t exactly say who in the family is going to die…]

An Albanian tradition is to throw a clod of earth in which a few drops of wolf’s milk is kneaded, at the door of the barn so that the cows and goats will milk well that year…  [okay, who volunteers to milk the wolf?  It’s bad enough when Bossy doesn’t care to be milked – she merely plants a hoof amidships and calmly watches you stagger away in pain.  Madame Wolf has other ways of showing her displeasure to those who take unwarrantable liberties with her person, most of which involve her well-honed teeth.]

Another Albanian tradition is to wash with wine to prevent any vermin from touching them [take note, you who are terrified of bed-bugs] and then impale a flea on a new needle so that no other flea will dare to come near them [pour encourager les autres, no doubt]. 

The Albanians have the coolest traditions.

The Capitoline Wolf, Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy, swiped from Wikipedia

21 February 2013

21 February - Feralia; Pan de Muerto

Now ghostly spirits and the entombed dead wander,
Now the shadow feeds on the nourishment that’s offered
This day they call the Feralia because they bear
Offerings to the dead: the last day to propitiate the shades.
                                                                                                            Ovid, Fasti, Book II

Today is the ancient Roman festival of Feralia, when the spirits of the dead were believed to hover above their graves.  To propitiate them, food and drink and little gifts were left nearby. 

And if you don’t believe in spooks, I have full proof.  I once left a hip flask of whiskey on a grave and – yes!  It was empty the next day!  The pie-eyed sexton swore he knew nothing about it, so that just shows you, doesn’t it?

And the grave must be honored. Appease your fathers’
Spirits, and bring little gifts to the tombs you built.
Their shades ask little, piety they prefer to costly
Offerings: no greedy deities haunt the Stygian depths.
A tile wreathed round with garlands offered is enough,
A scattering of meal, and a few grains of salt,
And bread soaked in wine, and loose violets:
Set them on a brick left in the middle of the path.
Not that I veto larger gifts, but these please the shades:
Add prayers and proper words to the fixed fires.

A friend of my mother’s used to take a bottle of (Irish) whiskey and pour it on her (Irish) husband’s grave every year on the anniversary of his death.  This story smote my poor husband to the heart and he lamented, “Couldn’t we run it through our kidneys first and then baptize the grave?”

Since this is something akin to All Souls Day and Dios de los Muertos (and another cold day in winter), make a PAN DE MUERTO or “Bread of the Dead”.  You don’t have to leave it on a loved one’s grave; indeed, after smelling this sweet, cinnamony bread baking, you’ll be hard put to share it with the living!  But remember your own dear departed today, and send up prayers for the Holy Souls, that their stay in Purgatory may be lessened.  To pray for the dead is a spiritual work of mercy and one that should be done often.  Other ways to honor the deceased are to decorate their photos with flowers, or light a candle for each one on your family altar or at the church.

This is a yeast bread.

Cut up ¼ cup of butter into small pieces.

Separate 1 egg.

Bring ¼ cup of milk to scalding; remove from heat and stir in the pieces of butter, ¼ cup of sugar, and ½ teaspoon of salt.  Allow the mixture to cool.

In a large bowl, mix 1 envelope of dry yeast with ¼ cup of warm water.  Let it stand for about 5 minutes, then add the milk mixture, 1 egg, the separated egg yolk, and 2-1/3 cups of flour.  Blend well.

Turn out the dough on a well-floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until it is smooth and velvety.  Return the dough to a bowl, cover (a dish towel will do), put it in a warm place, and allow it to rise for about 1½ hours or until doubled.

When doubled, turn it out again onto a floured surface, and knead for a couple of minutes (this expels the air bubbles).

Grease a baking sheet.

Cut off a piece of dough about the size of 1/3 cup and reserve.  Divide the remaining dough into 3 equal parts; roll each part into a rope about 12 inches long.  Braid the ropes, pressing the ends together securely to make a wreath.  Place this on the greased baking sheet.

Divide the reserved dough in half and shape each piece into a ‘bone’, by rolling the middle and leaving the ends as knobs (I put an indentation into the ends of the knobs to make them look like a femur).  Cross the bones on top of the wreath.  Cover the whole again lightly and allow to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, until puffy looking.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Lightly beat the reserved egg white and brush it gently over the dough.  Mix together 2 teaspoons of sugar and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, and sprinkle this over the dough, avoiding the bones. (When baked, the bones will be shiny atop the dull sugary surface of the wreath.)

Bake for about 35 minutes or until brown.  Serve warm.

17 February 2013

17 February - Fornacalia; Raisin Scones

 “…Yet the ancients sowed corn, corn they reaped,
Offering the first fruits of the corn harvest to Ceres.
Taught by practice they parched it in the flames,
And incurred many losses through their own mistakes.

Sometimes they’d sweep up burnt ash and not corn,
Sometimes the flames took their huts themselves:
The oven was made a goddess, Fornax: the farmers
Pleased with her, prayed she’d regulate the grain’s heat.”
                                                                           Ovid, Fasti, Book II

According to Ovid, this was the last day to celebrate this festival of bread and ovens.

Baking bread on a cold day not only warms the kitchen, but the hearts of all within smelling distance. Bake some, and honor the staff of life.

I gave recipes for JOHNNYCAKE and HOE CAKE here.  This year, my offering is RAISIN SCONES, another Quick Bread, from a recipe I’ve used for 35+ years. 

Heat oven to 425° F.

Separate 1 egg.  Put the separated egg yolk together with 1 whole egg in a small bowl (reserve the separated egg white; it will be used later).

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, ¼ cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt; mix well with a fork.

Cut 1/3 cup of shortening into the flour with two knives or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in ¼ cup of raisins (or currants). (If you wish, you may also add the grated rind of 1 orange.)

Beat the egg and egg yolk.  Blend in 1/3 cup of milk.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture all at once and stir until flour is moistened (you want a soft dough, so if needed, blend in a little more milk (by teaspoonfuls) until the dough is workable.)

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently for about 30 seconds, then put the dough on an ungreased baking sheet and pat it out to form an 8 inch circle, about ½ inch thick.  Using a floured knife, cut the circle into 10 to 12 wedges.

Beat the reserved egg white with a fork until it is frothy.  Brush it over the top of the dough, then sprinkle the top with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Enjoy warm.

13 February 2013

Ash Wednesday; Jam Fritters

Weather – Wherever the wind lies on Ash Wednesday, it will continue in that quarter during the whole of Lent.

As the weather is on Ash Wednesday, so it will be through Lent.


This is also St. Valentine’s Eve, which has its own customs and traditions (read about them here).


Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris

The beginning of Lent had its own customs, like the burial of the sardine with solemn funeral processions, dirges, and the like.  People went to Mass early, received their ashes, and then went home for a last bit of frolic.

A straw effigy, sometimes called a Jack-o-Lent and representing 'good living', was paraded around the streets while those in the procession played foolish jokes and collected money from the amused bystanders.  Sometimes, the bystanders amused themselves and others by throwing sticks at the effigy, to the consternation of the person carrying it!  When the procession ended, “Good Living” was solemnly buried.

An interesting custom concerns the English court.  While the night hours were proclaimed throughout the year by an officer of the watch (“ten o’clock and all’s well…”), during the Lenten season an officer of the royal household, known by the high-and-mighty title of “the King’s Cock Crower”, fulfilled this duty by crowing the hour every night.  How long this had been a custom is unknown, but one can readily believe that the Stuarts, most particularly the Merry Monarch himself (Charles II) enjoyed it.  This was supposed to typify the cock-crow which called Peter to repentance; those hearing the hours were thus reminded to repent their own sins.

Then came Georg from Hanover, who didn’t speak English and didn’t know anything about English customs.  On his first Ash Wednesday as king, while his son was sitting down to supper, the King’s Cock Crower entered the dining room and emitted ten crows to indicate the hour.  The prince, thinking it was intended for an insult, was loudly and furiously (and almost physically) resentful, and only the quick explanations of those at the table saved the unfortunate time-keeper from his prince’s ire.  However, the custom was ended.  The officer probably was thankful that his throat would be spared (his head, as well).

Among the superstition of Ash Wednesday, it was believed that bathing today would assure the bather freedom from fevers and toothaches [a useful bait for getting the young’uns in the tub.  Contrariwise, NOT bathing today will secure freedom from having one’s personal space invaded.  Be kind to your fellow penitents and hit the showers! ]

An odd superstition is the one in which people believed that if they did not eat yellow jam today, they would turn into donkeys before Martinmas (either July or November).  While that sounds like something a parent would say, I find it hard to believe they would need such a threat to make the young’uns eat jam.  Vegetables, yes, but jam?

In many parts of England, this was known as Fritter Wednesday, when the last of the eggs and milk (forbidden by both church and civil law until Easter) was used up in making fritters for supper.

Most have heard of Apple Fritters, but in keeping with the day, I offer JAM FRITTERS.  If you can find yellow jam (peach would work, or pineapple), so much the better – you won’t turn into donkeys this year.  Otherwise, use whatever favorite jam you have, and just check the mirror every once in a while to see if your ears are growing…

  • Sift together 4 cups of flour with 4 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • Melt ½ cup of butter.
  • Separate 2 eggs.  Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Reserve.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored.  Stir in 1 cup of sugar.

Alternately add the flour mixture and 1 cup of milk to the eggs, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in the melted butter, then carefully fold in the beaten egg whites.

When thoroughly mixed, shape the dough into a ball in the mixing bowl, cover with wax paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured board to ¼-inch thickness.  Using a 2-inch cookie cutter (a shot glass might work), cut out rounds from the dough. 

On half of the rounds, place a small spoonful of jam (i.e., if you have 36 rounds, 18 will get jam).  Moisten the edges of the dough with water and top with the remaining rounds.  Press the edges together to seal (you don’t want the jam to ooze out while frying.)

Heat fat or oil to 375° F. (at least 3 inches of oil).  Fry dough for 2 minutes, or until browned on both sides.  Drain, dredge with powdered sugar, and enjoy warm.

Age pœnitentiam ut habeas vitam æternam 
(do penance that you may have eternal life) 

“Lenten Preparation, from a medieval German print”, William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898), p. 617.

“Pinocchio turns into a donkey” from the Walt Disney animated movie Pinocchio (1940)

12 February 2013

Shrove Tuesday

Weather – If the sun smiles on Saint Eulalie's Day, it is good for apples and cider, they say.

So much as the sun shines on Shrove Tuesday, the like will shine on every day in Lent.

Thunder on Shrove Tuesday foretells wind, a great store of fruit, and plenty.

If the 12th, 13th, and 14th of February are stormy, the rest of the year will be fine.

On Shrove Tuesday, whosoever doth plant or sow, it shall remain always green.

Naogeorgus, in his mid-16th century rant “Popish Kingdom”, spent a lot of ink on the infamous practices of Carnival, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.  How dare people have fun!  Dancing and feasting and masques, oh my!  The world is going to hell in a handbasket, saith our old curmudgeon, starting with Carnival, which began the Saturday before Shrove Tuesday:

Now when at length the pleasant time of Shrovetide comes in place,
And cruel fasting days at hand approach with solemn grace:
Then old and young are both as mad, as guests of Bacchus’ feast,
And four days long they tipple square, and feed and never rest.
Down goes the hogs in every place, and puddings everywhere
Do swarm: the Dice are shaked and tossed, and Cards apace they tear:
In every house are shouts and cries, and mirth, and revel rout,
And dainty tables spread, and all be set the guests about:
With sundry plays and Christmas games, and fear and shame away,
The tongue is set at liberty, and hath no kind of stay.
All things are lawful then and done, no pleasure passed by,
That in their minds they can devise, as if they then should die:

But wait!  There’s worse to come – people acting silly!  Oh horror!

The chiefest man is he, and one that most deserves praise,
Among the rest that can find out the fondest kind of plays.
On him they look and gaze upon, and laugh with lusty cheer,
Whom boys do follow, crying fool, and such like other gear.
He in the mean time thinks himself a wondrous worthy man,
Not moved with their words nor cries, do whatsoever they can.
Some sort there are that run with staves, or fight in armor fine,
Or show the people foolish toys, for some small piece of wine.
Each party hath his favorers and faithful friends enough
That ready are to turn themselves, as fortune list to bough.

And dressing up in costume!  Oh the humanity!

But some again the dreadful shape of devils on them take,
And chase such as they meet, and make poor boys for fear to quake.
Some naked run about the streets, their faces hid alone
With visors closed, that so disguised, they might be known of none [and you thought streaking was something new]
Both men and women change their weed, the men in maids’ array,
And wanton wenches dressed like men, do travel by the way,
And to their neighbors houses go, or where it likes them best,
Perhaps unto some ancient friend or old acquainted guest,
Unknown, and speaking but few words, the meat devour they up,
That is before them set, and clean they swinge of every cup.
Some run about the streets attired like Monks, and some like kings,
Accompanied with pomp and guard, and other stately things.

Even worse – dressing and acting like ANIMALS!

Some hatch young fools as hens do eggs with good and speedy luck,
Or as the Goose does use to do, or as the quacking duck.
Some like wild beasts do run abroad in skins that diverse be
Arrayed, and also with loathsome shapes, that dreadful are to see:
They counterfeit both Bears and Wolves, and Lions fierce in fight,
And raging Bulls.  Some play the cranes with wings and stilts upright.
Some like the filthy form of Apes, and some like fools are dressed,
Which best beseems these Papists all, that thus keep Bacchus’ feast.

And then there are other pastimes…

But others bear a turd, that on a Cushion soft they lay,
And one there is that with a slap does keep the flies away.
I would there might another be an officer of those,
Whose room might serve to take away the scent from every nose.
Some other make a man all stuffed with straw or rags within,
Appareled in doublet fair, and hosen passing trim:
Whom as a man that lately died of honest life and fame,
In blanket hid, they bear about, and straightways with the same
They hurl him up into the air, not suffering him to fall,
And this they do at diverse times the City over all.

And (shudder) DANCING!

I show not here their dances yet, with filthy gestures mad,
Nor other wanton sports that on these holidays are had.
There places are where such a hap to come within this door,
Though old acquainted friends they be, or never seen before
And say not first here by your leave, both in and out I go,
They bind their hands behind their backs, nor any difference though
Of man or woman is there made, but Basins ringing great,
Before them do they dance with joy, and sport in every street.

A slight digression into folk belief…

There are that certain prayers have that on the Tuesday fall,
Against the quartan Ague, and the other Fevers all.
But others then sow Onion seed, the greater to be seen,
And Parsley also, and Lettuce both, to have them always green.
Of truth I loathe for to declare the foolish toys and tricks,
That in these days are done by these same popish Catholics:

And back to pastimes with (Merciful Heavens!) SNOWBALL FIGHTS!

If snow lies deep upon the ground, and almost thawing be,
Then fools in number great you shall in every corner see:
For balls of snow they make, and them one at another cast,
Till that the conquered part does yield and run away at last.
No Matron old nor sober man can freely by them come,
At home he must abide that will these wanton fellows shun. [do you get the idea that Naogeorgus was a natural-born Snowball Target?]

And Jingle-Belling all the Way!

Besides the noble men, the rich, and men of high degree,
Lest they with common people should not seem so mad to be,
Their wagons finely framed before, and for this matter meet,
And lusty horse and swift of pace, well trapped from head to feet
They put therein, about whose neck and every place before,
A hundred jingling bells do hang, to make his courage more.
Their wives and children therein set, behind themselves do stand,
Well armed with whips, and holding fast the bridle in their hand,
With all their force throughout the streets and market place they run,
As if some whirlwind mad, or tempest great from skies should come.
As fast as may be from the streets the amazed people fly,
And gives them place while they about do run continually.
Yes, sometimes legs or arms they break, and horse and cart and all
They overthrow, with such a force, they in their course do fall.
Much less they man or child do spare, that meets them in the way,
Nor they content themselves to use this madness all the day:
But even till midnight hold they on, their pastimes for to make,
Whereby they hinder men of sleep, and cause their heads to ache.

Poor Naogeorgus.  Can you imagine what he would write if he was transported to New Orleans today?

Meanwhile, party on, have a masked ball, or a snowball fight, feast one last time.  I put up a recipe for the traditional Fastnachtkuchen here.

Artwork: “Roman Carnival in 1861” found in William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898), p. 180.

11 February 2013

11 February - Our Lady of Lourdes

Weather – If the wind blows on Shrove Tuesday night, it betokens a death amongst them that are learned and much fish shall die in the following summer. [Well, that’s not good]

If the three days of the 11th, 12th, and 13th are stormy, there will be good weather for the rest of the month; but if they are fair, there will be no more good weather that spring.

If the last eighteen days of February and the first ten days of March be for the most part rainy, then the spring and summer quarters will probably be so also.

Today is the optional memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, who first appeared on this date in 1858 to Marie-Bernarde Soubirous (aka Saint Bernadette) at a grotto near the Soubirous home in southern France.  You can read more about the Apparitions, the Grotto, and the History here at the Lourdes website.

“There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.” Blaise Pascal*

While researching the history of my parish, I found this in the local weekly paper from the September 19, 1873 edition.  The editors were generally atheists or agnostics or non-religious, which allowed them to sneer at those who, in their words, fell under the “contemptible spirit of superstition”.  Were it not for the big words (more than one syllable), one could almost believe that this formed the editorial in yesterday’s paper:

     “The Virgin Mary has lately made her appearance in France, and the whole Protestant world cries “Shame” upon such a Catholic miracle.  Why is this?  What right have we to pick and choose among miracles?  For of course did we believe that any miracle ever happened, we would not condemn other people for supposing that other miracles might happen also – why is our miracle better than anybody’s else?
     The Catholics are the most consistent people we know – for they seem to hold that if an impossibility could occur once it can occur again.  Upon a subject with which we are told that reason has nothing to do, we cannot see how judgment is to be rendered, or one thing proved more credible than another.  We respect Nature for the fact that whether she be old or new, she never tries to impose on us an absurdity.  Putting a truth before us, she seems to say, “There it is – make what you can of it”.  She is no worker of miracles or dealer in slight of hand, for she despises puerility.  How entirely the reverse of the contemptible spirit of superstition.
     The upshot of the French miracle appears to be that a statue of the Virgin, in a church at Lourdes, has given hearing and speech to a deaf and dumb girl.  It is a very good miracle; all it wants is age.”

[I don’t know who was healed in 1873 – none of the “Lourdes Miracles” mention it, so perhaps it was one not considered a true miracle.]

A month later they were bandying jokes about Our Lady of Lourdes, saying that a Methodist woman was reported healed by the direct intervention of Jesus Christ (the usual “you don’t need the saints” tripe), and suggesting that perhaps ‘Our Lady of Bristol’ (Rhode Island) could work a few miracles there, to make the Bristolians get over the recent annexation of a part of their town into the neighboring town of Warren: “We wonder that she has never seen fit to visit Bristol. There would be work enough for her in that town.  As Notre Dame de Bristol, her influence might be felt where ours would be unheeded.”   Warren Gazette, October 24, 1873.

And yet, a month after that, they were saying almost nice things about the Catholic Church, in an editorial about the difference between Catholics and Protestants:

     “…The plain fact seems to be that while Protestantism is every day becoming weakened by those processes of thought which its greater freedom permits, the Catholic Church loses nothing of its influence… Never did anything better exemplify the power of union.  The Protestants, wide adrift from that old and central institution which after all seems to represent the essence of their belief, are divided into a thousand conflicting sects, jealous of each other, and holding nothing in common except enmity to the mighty organization from which in one way and another, directly or indirectly, they have sprung.  The Catholics, on the other hand, present the very soul of order, and of discipline – a solid and veteran column.  Every Catholic is a Catholic and can be counted as such.”
     There seems to be something in the Catholic faith which appeals to the senses and awakens the sympathies, and it is certain that one cannot help recognizing the wiser zeal and the greater consistency of the Catholics, as compared with the Sectarians.
     We do not believe with our more radical friends, that the religion of Europe will or ought to become without political influence, at least for the present.  It has been and will long continue to be a friend to those who have no other friends.
     It has been remarked that the working classes of England were much happier within the Catholic order of things than they have ever been under the Protestants, for it afforded greater protection to the poor.
     Catholicism… may justly be regarded as a something which as yet cannot be spared from the world.
     The benefits conferred upon society by the Catholic Church are of immense magnitude… Its charities are enormous, and the offices of protection to the feeble are equal to its great opportunities.
     Much trouble is predicted for the successor to the papal chair, whoever he may be, of Pope Pius IX, yet somehow the papacy will continue and perhaps with an accession of spiritual strength, for in its destruction mankind would turn to the wall the most wonderful picture that the world has ever known…” Warren Gazette, November 21, 1873.

Of course, the operative words are “as yet cannot be spared” – for as soon as man decides that he and his government are powerful enough to take over and maintain the “benefits conferred upon society” [which benefits he will choose, along with which society will receive said benefits] and be “a friend to those who have no other friends” [again, choosing whom he deems worthy of befriending], the Church will be hounded into oblivion.

Oh, wait…


*Originally, the quote I wanted to use was
“in a miracle there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough darkness for those who do not want”
but that seems to be a bad translation.  Another mistranslation changes ‘miracle’ to ‘faith’, and is quoted all over the internet, usually starting with “As Blaise Pascal said…”.  Here is the section from Pascal’s Pensées (which you can read here at Project Gutenberg) with the original quote:

"God has willed to redeem men, and to open salvation to those who seek it. But men render themselves so unworthy of it, that it is right that God should refuse to some, because of their obduracy, what He grants to others from a compassion which is not due to them. If He had willed to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, He could have done so by revealing Himself so manifestly to them that they could not have doubted of the truth of His essence; as it will appear at the last day, with such thunders and such a convulsion of nature, that the dead will rise again, and the blindest will see Him.
"It is not in this manner that He has willed to appear in His advent of mercy, because, as so many make themselves unworthy of His mercy, He has willed to leave them in the loss of the good which they do not want. It was not then right that He should appear in a manner manifestly divine, and completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by those who should sincerely seek Him. He has willed to make Himself quite recognisable by those; and thus, willing to appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart, He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who seek Him not. There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition."  Blaise Pascal, Pensées, Section VII: Morality and Doctrine, 430.

[Remember, children, always go back to the source.]

08 February 2013

8 February - Jules Verne; Sarson Bhara Kekda


What a coincidence!  Today is the birthday of the science fiction writer, Jules Gabriel Verne, born in 1828 to Pierre and Sophie (Allote del la Fuÿe) Verne in Nantes (France) where his father was an attorney.  He was an imaginative child and enjoyed making up travel stories, something he continued doing when he was supposed to be studying law in Paris [Verne père cut off the tuition, leaving Jules to do what many fine artists do – work at a paying job in order to fund their art].   

Among other things, he wrote novels of travel and exploration that rivaled anything produced for the gullible by 16th century authors, making full use of authentic geographical details and the latest scientific discoveries to create believable tales of adventure.  You probably know these from film adaptations:

Five Weeks in a Balloon
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
From the Earth to the Moon
In Search of the Castaways
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Around the World in Eighty Days
The Mysterious Island

Several of his books are available on Google Books, at the Jules Verne Virtual Library, and of course, at your own local library. 

Read more about Jules Verne at Wikipedia, and on the North American Jules Verne Society website (including links to other societies, and warnings against the very bad early English translations of his works).

And the coincidence?  The winter storm named ‘Nemo’ is bearing down on us in the Smallest State like its namesake bore down on the USS Abraham Lincoln.  Captain Nemo, of course, is the mysterious lead character of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

"This, which you believe to be meat, Professor, is nothing else than fillet of turtle.  Here are also some dolphins' livers, which you take to be ragout of pork.  My cook is a clever fellow, who excels in dressing these various products of the ocean.  Taste all these dishes.  Here is a preserve of sea-cucumber, which a Malay would declare to be unrivalled in the world; here is a cream, of which the milk has been furnished by the cetacea, and the sugar by the great fucus of the North Sea; and lastly, permit me to offer you some preserve of anemones, which is equal to that of the most delicious fruits."  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Professor Aronnax’s first meal with Captain Nemo is not all that far-fetched.  Turtle has been a favorite dish for centuries; recipes for seaweed abound, as do those for sea-anemones.  I am not quite that adventuresome, and I much prefer that my milk come from Bossy at the local dairy, rather than the whale at the local aquarium.

Nemo, of course, ate nothing that was not wholly produced by his underwater kingdom.  Maybe his clever cook was able to make SARSON BHARA KEKDA (Shrimps with Mustard) taste just like Mom used to make, without the spices Mom used. (This is an Indian recipe; Captain Nemo was originally an Indian prince who rebelled against the British in 1857.)

Peel and de-vein 1½ pounds of shrimp.

Grate 1 onion.

Mince 1 hot green chili pepper to equal 1 teaspoon.

Mix together 2 tablespoons of ground mustard and 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric with a little water to make a paste.

In a saucepan, mix together ¼ cup of cooking oil (the recipe calls for mustard oil), 1 teaspoon of salt, the paste, onion, and chili pepper.  Add the shrimp, cover and cook on low heat at a simmer until the shrimps are pink, about 5 – 10 minutes. Stir to coat shrimp with sauce and serve with rice and… seaweed salad?

Guaranteed to warm your cockles.

06 February 2013

6 February - St. Dorothea; Rosewater Apple Pie

Weather: St. Dorothea gives the most snow  [and it looks like the Smallest State is about to get a goodly amount tomorrow.  Thanks, Dolley.]

"At Caesarea, in Cappadocia, the birthday of St. Dorothy, virgin and martyr, who was stretched on the rack, then a long time scourged with boughs of the palm-tree, and finally condemned to capital punishment, under Sapricius, governor of that province.  Her noble confession of Christ converted a lawyer named Theophilus, who was also tortured in a barbarous manner, and finally put to death by the sword."

Read more about Saint Dorothea here.

Saint Dorothea’s attribute is flowers and fruit, usually carried in a basket, but sometimes in her veil.  In her honor, decorate the table with artificial red and white roses, and serve the two things sent from Paradise, in the form of an APPLE PIE flavored with an ingredient known as rosewater.

Make or buy pastry for a two-crust pie.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Peel and core 5 cooking apples (‘sour’ apples like Granny Smith).  Slice apples.

In a bowl, mix together the apples, 2/3 of a cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of cream, and 1 tablespoon of rosewater (if you don’t have rosewater, you can use almond extract).  Coat the apple slices thoroughly.

Turn apple mixture into pastry-lined pie plate; top with second crust and seal edges.  Cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape.

Mix together ¼ cup of milk and ½ teaspoon of rosewater, and brush over top crust.

Bake for about 50 minutes.

You can make your own rosewater with a bit of time and patience, and a lot of aromatic rose petals.  Hot-house roses don’t have a good scent, and are generally full of pesticides, so don’t use them.  Instead, find some old-fashioned roses (maybe add them to your garden this year); they have a short bloom time, but while they bloom, the scent is glorious!  Look for recipes online that use the distillation method (although you can get a good enough product by letting the petals simmer in distilled water) and don’t – DON’T – put orris-root or alcohol in with the finished water – those are for cosmetic uses only.

Until your roses bloom, you can find rosewater at specialty and gourmet stores, or order it from the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village (Maine) or South Union Shaker Village(Kentucky) (I bought my little vial of rosewater while on a visit to a Shaker Museum.)  Use it in cookies, pastries, and Middle-Eastern recipes.

“Saint Dorothy”, The Hours of Catherine of Cleves (15th century).  The page includes two angels playing instruments in the Garden of Paradise.

02 February 2013

2 February - Great Race of Mercy, 1925

Today, in 1925, as people watched anxiously in the darkness of early morning, the dog-sled team of Gunnar Kasson raced into Nome, Alaska, carrying the 300,000 units of diphtheria serum which would stave off a threatened epidemic until a larger shipment gathered and sent from the West Coast could arrive.
This is also Candlemas, which you can read about here (with a recipe for groundhog, in case you and the groundhog don't agree).

But first, the Weather:

Update 2013: I don't know about you, but today we have what the weather guessers call "plentiful sunshine".  Senor Candyman (el Gato) has seen his shadow; in fact, he and Senor Nico are lazing around in a sun puddle as I write.  Maybe Pennsylvania will have an early spring, but here at Rudd's Little Acre+, we can expect at least six more weeks of winter.

If the ground hog (or badger or I believe someone says a snake) sees his shadow on February 2nd, there will be six more weeks of cold weather.  It is between eleven and one o'clock that the groundhog's (or badger’s or snake’s) shadow is significant.

If Candlemas is fair and clear                             [fair and clear, aye]
There’ll be two winters in the year.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,                  [fair and bright, aye]
Winter will have another flight.
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

As far as the sun shines in on Candlemas Day            [fair amount of snow coming, aye]
So far will the snow blow in before the month of May.

When on Purification the sun hath shined
The greater part of winter comes behind.               [greater part, aye]

If Candlemas Day be fine and clear,
Corn and fruits will then be dear.                           [boo!]
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half of winter was gone at Yule.

If Candlemas is dark, look for a wet summer. 
If Candlemas is bright and clear, look for a bright summer.
[So maybe it isn’t so bad if the groundhog sees his shadow.  Spring might be long a-comin’, but summer will be dry.]

If the goose finds it wet on Candlemas, the sheep will have grass on Lady Day (March 24) [not this year]

When the wind’s in the east on Candlemas Day,
There it will stick till the second of May.

On Candlemas Day if the thorns hang a-drop (with icicles)
Then you are sure of a good pea crop.

At Candlemas Day,
It is time to sow beans in the clay.

If the sun shines on Candlemas, the flax will prosper [Not quite so important to us in this day of unnatural fibers, but at one time a good flax crop determined if you would have new clothes, sheets, and towels this year, or would have to make do with last year’s linen.]

The snowdrop in purest white array,
First rears her head on Candlemas Day.

The entire 674-mile relay, which started from Nenana on January 27th, was accomplished in the worst possible conditions, with short daylight, gale-force winds, blizzards, and sub-zero temperatures.  Nearly all of the mushers experienced frostbite, and several dogs died.

You can read a concise history of the run at Wikipedia.

Headlines screamed the good news to the rest of the world, which had been following the news of the impending epidemic and the heroic efforts to stop it:

 “Nome Has Serum!”

“Panting Dogs Bring Alaska Plague Relief!”

“Serum Arrives in Time to Fight Epidemic!”

United Press issued this story on February 3rd:

“Alaska’s epic race with death is over.”

“Out of a whirling, blinding blizzard, weary dogs, whipped on by a stout-hearted toiling giant of America, Gunnar Kasson, plunged into Nome Monday with the precious serum needed to combat an epidemic of diphtheria.

“The serum was frozen, but Dr. Curtis Welch, Nome’s lone physician, after testing some of the anti-toxin, declared it had not been damaged by the cold, and that the soul-stirring race over the snows from Anchorage had not been in vain.

“Kasson was virtually sheathed in ice as he, with difficulty, unclenched his bleeding hands from the sled handles.  Ice masked the heaving flanks of his malmutes [sic] as they dropped in the snow after their record run against death.

“The anti-toxin, wrapped in a bundle weighing scarcely 20 pounds, was unlashed from the sled and rushed into the hospital.  It was necessary to cut the frozen ropes with axes.

“Men stared at the precious stuff as it was turned over to Dr. Welch.  To the inhabitants of Nome, the serum is more precious than all the gold taken from the Klondike in the gold rush days.

“The story of the 1,000 mile trip across the wastes of Alaska is a true epic of the northland.”

After several paragraphs of descriptions of the trail and the mushers, with graceful kudos to Kasson’s lead dog, Balto, the account adds: “The 300,00 units of serum is expected to serve merely temporarily.  Nome will not be safe until the shipment ordered rushed from Seattle by steamer is received, according to Dr. Welch.”  A subsequent story said that the second shipment was expected to arrive in Seward by Friday, February 6th, and Nenana on Saturday, after which it would be flown by bi-plane to Nome.

01 February 2013

1 February - St. Ignatius of Antioch; Dandelion Wine

Today we remember Saint Ignatius, Bishop and Martyr.

We also celebrate Saint Bridget of Kildare.

Also, this is Candlemas Eve.  This is the LAST DAY of Christmas.  The totally last day.  This is it.  Take down the tree and the lights.  Put the reindeer away.  “Down with the holly and the mistletoe…”

“The birthday of St. Ignatius, bishop and martyr, who governed the church of Antioch, the third after the apostle St. Peter.  Being condemned to the beasts in the persecution of Trajan, he was by that emperor sent to Rome in chains, where, in the presence of the Senate, he was subjected to the most frightful torments, and delivered to the lions, which lacerated him with their teeth, and made of him a sacrifice to Christ.”

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (died c107), is, like his friend Polycarp of Smyrna and Clement of Rome, one of the Apostolic Fathers, those men who had personal contact with the Apostles and received the deposit of faith directly from them.  He is said to have been chosen by Saint Peter to succeed Bishop Evodius (who died around the year 67), his own successor to the chair of Antioch, making him the third Bishop (after Peter) of that See.

For over thirty years, Ignatius continued to guide and strengthen his flock, first through the persecution of the emperor Domitian, who deified himself, and then, after a short period of peace, during further persecutions under the emperor Trajan.  In response to a complaint that the huge number of Christians had caused the market value of sacrificial animals to drop (and the sellers of same to go out of business), Trajan made one of those economic stimulus decisions so popular among those who can’t see past their own wallets, and outlawed Christianity.  Those people who admitted to being Christians and refused to sacrifice to the state gods were to be punished with death.

Ignatius was soon denounced under the edict, and with eloquence and zeal, defended his faith in Christ.  For this, he was sentenced to be taken to Rome and thrown to the lions for the enjoyment of the spectators.

On the long journey to Rome, Ignatius found time to pen several letters to various churches, exhorting the Christians to stand fast in the Faith and not fall victim to either apostasy or heresy.  While seven of these letters are considered genuine, others have either been falsely attributed to him or have had a few “editorial remarks” added by subsequent authors, and are considered spurious (the practice of pseudepigrapha is nothing new).

“It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the importance of the testimony which the Ignatian letters offer to the dogmatic character of Apostolic Christianity. The martyred Bishop of Antioch constitutes a most important link between the Apostles and the Fathers of the early Church. Receiving from the Apostles themselves, whose auditor he was, not only the substance of revelation, but also their own inspired interpretation of it; dwelling, as it were, at the very fountain-head of Gospel truth, his testimony must necessarily carry with it the greatest weight and demand the most serious consideration." The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910)


The name ‘dandelion’ comes from dent de lion  or “lion’s tooth”, so called from the shape of its leaves.  Most people today think of it as a weed and spend large amounts of money and chemicals to eradicate it from their lawns, but our ancestors were very happy to see dandelions blooming.  As one of the first plants of spring (and one that continues during the entire growing season), dandelion leaves and roots provided fresh food for the table, and its concentration of vitamins made it a sorely needed spring tonic.

(Remember that most people ate what they could grow – and while some vegetables, such as carrots and turnips, could be kept in ‘root cellars’ over winter, within a few months they became tough and desiccated.  Other vegetables were preserved by being pickled or dried, but fresh vegetables would not be available until May or June at the earliest.  In the meantime, people sought out the ‘weeds’: dandelions, sorrel, and poke, to name a few.)

In honor of Saint Ignatius, who happily embraced his crown of martyrdom at the teeth of the Roman Lions, make DANDELION WINE.

It is a tad early for dandelions – but once made, it needs to sit for at least 5 months, so if you make some this year, you will have it for Saint Ignatius’ day next year.

Boil 1 gallon of water.  Place 1 gallon of dandelion flowers in a 2-gallon crock and pour the boiling water over them.  Cover and let the dandelions stand for three days.

Juice 3 oranges and 1 lemon (some people like to chop up the fruit and add it – juice, skin, seeds, and all – to the liquid.  It will be strained out, in any case.)

Strain the dandelion liquid through cheesecloth and squeeze all of the liquid from the flowers.  Discard flowers.  In a deep kettle, combine the dandelion liquid, the orange and lemon juices (or the whole fruit), and 3 pounds of sugar.  Heat to simmer and simmer for 20 minutes.  Pour the liquid back into the crock and cool until barely lukewarm.

Meanwhile, toast a piece of rye bread, and sprinkle top of toast with ½ package of active dry yeast.  When the liquid is barely lukewarm, place the toast on top of the liquid, cover the crock with cheesecloth, and let it stand for six days at room temperature (70° – 75°).

Strain the liquid into a gallon jug, ‘cork’ it loosely with a wad of cotton, and place the jug in a dark place (like a closet) for three weeks.

At the end of that time, decant the wine into smaller bottles, cap or cork them tightly, and put them away to mellow for five months.  Come next February 1st, you can enjoy a taste of “summer sunshine”.

In case you can’t wait, there are some places which sell it – like the Maple River Winery in North Dakota.  They even make Elderberry Wine, my favorite tipple when watching “Arsenic and Old Lace”.  (Unfortunately, they can’t ship to New England (except renegade New Hampshire), but you are likely in or near one of the other states to which they ship.)

Meanwhile, go make Barm Brack for Saint Bridget's day.

“Saint Ignatius of Antioch” from Pictorial Lives of the Saints, John Gilmary Shea, (1889) p. 75


Then came cold February, sitting
In an old wagon, for he could not ride,
Drawn of two fishes, for the season fitting,
Which through the flood before did softly slide
And swim away; yet had he by his side
His plough and harness fit to till the ground,
And tools to prune the trees, before the pride

Of hasting prime did make them burgeon round. – Spenser

Most references believe that this month’s name comes from the Latin februare, to “purify”, because the Roman festival of purification was celebrated in this month.  “When Julius Caesar reformed the calendar, he ordered that each alternate month from January on should have thirty-one days, and the intermediate months thirty, with the exception of February, which was given thirty days in leap-year and twenty-nine in the other years.  But Augustus, unwilling that the month named after him should be shorter than its predecessor, took a day from February and added it to August, and, in order that three months of thirty-one days should not come together, he reversed the lengths of the four succeeding months.”  William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs, p. 424.

“It is scarcely necessary to add that the Latin Februarius, the origin of our February, was derived from februa, an expiatory, or purifying sacrifice offered to the Manes, because in that month the Luperci, or priests of Pan, perambulated the city, carrying thongs of goat-kin, with which they scourged the women, and this was received for an expiation.”  George Soane, New Curiosities of Literature, p. 49.

Astronomy for February: Full Snow Moon on the 25th.


February is dedicated to the Holy Family.

Liturgical Celebrations
Purification (Candlemas) or Presentation of Our Lord on 2 February
Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent on 12 February.

Ember Days – 20, 22, 23 February

Novenas for February

Purification                        continues from 24 January
Saint Blaise                        continues from 25 January
Our Lady of Lourdes         begins 2 February
Lenten Novena                  begins 3 February
Saint Walburga                  begins 16 February

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.

Weather for February:
According to the 12 Days of Christmas:  Mostly cloudy and chilly.
According to the first 12 days of January: Bright sunshine, cool.
According to the Ember Days: Rains and high winds
The weather on the last Sunday of the month indicates the weather of the next month: Brrrrr… Sunny with cold winds.

[Half and half here.  Which one will prevail?]

Weather Lore for February:

[The proverbs against a fair February are legion, such as "It is better to see a pack of wolves than a fair February", with the warnings that if February has nice weather, expect bad crops, a dearth of food, animals dying, and people as well.]

There is always one fine week in February. [And it will tempt you to put away your winter woolies.  Don’t do it.  Resist temptation!]
Stay warm!
February rain is as good as manure.

If it rains in February, it will be temperate all the year.
If it rains in February, all the year suffers.
[Take your pick - glass half empty or half full...]

Violent north winds in February herald a fertile year.

If the north wind does not blow in February, it will surely come in March. [We don’t need ol’ Boreas rampaging around us in March.  We need Zephyrus and warm but unlucky Eurus, and even Notus, if he does not leave a path of destruction as he did this week.]

Fogs in February mean frosts in May.

For every fog in February, there will be a frost in June.

If it thunders in February, goose eggs will not hatch.

February thunder indicates a poor maple-sugar year.

If it thunders in February, there will be snow in May.

For every thunder in February, there will be a cold spell in May.

If it thunders on a certain day in February, there will be frost on that same day in May.

If it thunders on the last day of February, there will be frost on the last day of May.

The number of times it thunders in February, so often will it frost in May.
[None of which we want.]

The days that are cold in February will be warm in March, and the days that are warm in February will be cold in March.

A snowy February means a fine Spring and Summer, while a fine and sunny February means just the opposite [a snowy Spring and Summer?]

February fill dyke, be it black or be it white, [rain or snow]
But if it be white, it’s the better to like.

If February gives much snow,
A fine summer it doth foreshow.

If the month of February is unusually cold, expect a hot summer.
Which finds its counterpart in:
When it is hottest in June, it will be coldest in the corresponding days of the next February.

As August, so next February.

If bees get out in February, the next day will be windy and rainy.  [Bees are intelligent creatures.  They don't go out in February.  Humans, on the other hand...]

When gnats dance in February, the husbandman becomes a beggar. [Another of the “If you have a choice between a warm February and Hell, choose Hell” sayings.]

2/2 – If the ground hog sees his shadow on February 2nd, there will be six more weeks of cold weather.  It is between eleven and one o'clock that the groundhog's shadow is significant.

If Candlemas is fair and clear
There’ll be two winters in the year.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

As far as the sun shines in on Candlemas Day
So far will the snow blow in before the month of May.

When on Purification the sun hath shined
The greater part of winter comes behind.

If Candlemas Day be fine and clear,
Corn and fruits will then be dear.
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half of winter was gone at Yule.

If Candlemas is dark, look for a wet summer. 
If Candlemas is bright and clear, look for a bright summer.
[So maybe it isn’t so bad if the groundhog sees his shadow.  Spring might be long a-comin’, but summer will be dry.]

If the goose finds it wet on Candlemas, the sheep will have grass on Lady Day (March 24)

When the wind’s in the east on Candlemas Day,
There it will stick till the second of May.

2/5 – St. Agatha is rich in snow.

Rainy clouds today foretell hailstorms in the summer.

2/6 – Saint Dorothea gives the most snow.

2/10 – Fine weather on St. Scholastica’s day foretells a fine spring.

2/11 – If the wind blows on Shrove Tuesday night, it betokens a death amongst them that are learned and much fish shall die in the following summer. [Well, that’s not good]

2/11, 12, 13 – If the three days of the 11th, 12th, and 13th are stormy, there will be good weather for the rest of the month; but if they are fair, there will be no more good weather that spring.

2/11 to 3/10– If the last eighteen days of February and the first ten days of March be for the most part rainy, then the spring and summer quarters will probably be so also.

2/12 – If the sun smiles on Saint Eulalie's Day, it is good for apples and cider, they say.

So much as the sun shines on Shrove Tuesday, the like will shine on every day in Lent.

Thunder on Shrove Tuesday foretells wind, a great store of fruit, and plenty.

2/12, 13, 14 – If these three days are stormy, the rest of the year will be fine.

2/13 – Wherever the wind lies on Ash Wednesday, it continues during the whole of Lent.

2/14 – St. Valentine’s day influences the following fifty days.

2/20 – Ember Day.  The weather for today indicates the weather of April.

2/21 – The night of Saint Peter shows what the weather will be for the next forty days.

2/22 – Ember Day – The weather for today indicates the weather of May.

If it is cold on Saint Peter's Day, cold weather will last for a while longer.

If it freezes on February 22nd, there will be forty more freezes.

2/23 – Ember Day.  The weather for today indicates the weather of June.

2/24 – If it freezes on Saint Mathias' Day, it will freeze for a month together.

Saint Matthias breaks the ice; if he finds none, he will make it.

2/28 – Saint Romanus bright and clear, indicates a goodly year.

February.  Pruning Trees.

The Snowdrop, in purest white array,
First rears her head on Candlemas Day,

While the Crocus hastens to the shrine
Of Primrose love on St. Valentine.

Gardening for February

2/2 – On Candlemas Day if the thorns hang a-drop (with icicles)
Then you are sure of a good pea crop.

At Candlemas Day,
It is time to sow beans in the clay.

If the sun shines on Candlemas, the flax will prosper [Not quite so important to us in this day of unnatural fibers, but at one time a good flax crop determined if you would have new clothes, sheets, and towels this year, or would have to make do with last year’s old, worn, and probably stained linen.]

The snowdrop in purest white array,
First rears her head on Candlemas Day.

2/3 – On St. Blaise’s day, the ground becomes fit to cultivate.

2/5 – Sow onions on Saint Agatha’s day

If water courses in the streams on St. Agatha’s day
There will be much milk in the chowder pot. [and I love chowder!  Come on, water!]

2/12 – On Shrove Tuesday, whosoever doth plant or sow, it shall remain always green.

2/14 – On St. Valentine’s day begin to pay attention to the garden.

On St. Valentine’s Day,
Beans should be in the clay.

While the Crocus hastens to the shrine
Of Primrose love on St. Valentine.

2/24 – Saint Matthie
Sends sap into the tree.

The 1817 Almanac advises: “In this Month remove Grafts of former Year’s Grafting.  Cut and lay Quicksets.  Vines may be planted the Beginning of this Month, and Fruit that grows in Bunches.  Set all sorts of Kernels and stone Seeds.

Sow on shady Borders the Seeds of Polyanthus.  Sow Beans, Pease, Corn Sallad, Marigold, Aniseed, Radishes, Parships, Carrots, Onions, Garlic, Beets, and Dutch Brown Lettuce.  Set Osiers, Willows, and other Aquatics.  Rub Moss off Trees after Rain.  Cut off Caterpillars from Quicks and Trees, and burn them.”

From Cassell’s Illustrated Almanack of 1871:
Flowers—Re-plant borders with box, etc., in mild weather, and prepare all vacant places in the garden for the sowing of annuals. This may be commenced towards the end of the month. By a sowing in February and another in March or April, you will be able to obtain a succession of flowers of the same kind in the summer and autumn. Carnations and other plants in frames should have free exposure to the air on every favorable opportunity.
Vegetables—The transplanting of autumn-sown cabbages should now be completed. Sow early radishes in sheltered spots. Beans and peas should not be sown too thickly. Cos-lettuces may be sown at the end of the month, and onions should be planted for seed.
Fruit—Fresh plantations of strawberries may now be made. Where the plants remain, turn over the ground between them, and let a little of the soil be shaken over the surface. Raspberry canes may be pruned, taking away the old growth, and leaving only the new canes that sprang up last year.

Health for February:

“Be sparing of Physic, and let not Blood without absolute Necessity, and be careful of catching Cold.”

February. Engraving by Samuel Williams. William Hone, The Everyday Book and Table Book. (1838) p. 194. [you may have noticed that with the exception of January, the figures representing the months are accompanied in some way by their zodiacal signs - in this case, the river-going wagon is drawn by the two fish of Pisces.]

“The Holy Family at Work”, The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, (c1440)

February. Limbourg frères. Belles Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry. (15th century)

February. Pruning Trees. Engraving based on an 11th century manuscript. William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898) p. 424.