Monday, May 1, 2023

Ferns & Nature


A few ferny pix from my sister's backyard:


This is Oly, short for Olympia. She's a Greek turtle:

She likes long walks in the backyard. She likes to hide in the ferns. She's very sweet.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Natural Scientists / Dark Academia Gallery Wall


This is my office area.  When I moved in, I set up my computer on the peninsula between the kitchen and living room and then the decor evolved from there. To the left of the monitor is book wallpaper adhered to the back of a small shelf unit that I use as a divider "wall."  And it's extra shelf/storage in the kitchen. Above the monitor to the right were two cupboard doors that I removed and replaced with the bulletin board (which I've covered with lace). It houses kitchen stuff that's accessible from the kitchen.

Close-up of bookcase wallpaper & plants on top of shelf:

To the right of the monitor is more book wallpaper adhered to a piece of foamboard, to give a cohesive look and hide the back of the microwave:


Close-up of corner:
Photos are of Mum's mum as young woman and at age 5, looking very Victorian!

Copper book plate for a fern book & a painting by my artist friend Betsy:

Full gallery wall:

The fabric is a fern eco-print from Nik The Booksmith and it covers a printer. To the right of that is a framed collection of dried flowers that I got at a thrift store: 

On the back, it says:

Detail of homage to Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward: 
Free floating moths are from The Graphics Fairy.

Complete with a mini-Wardian case from Dollar Tree:

Underneath the little shelf thingie:
Left to right: Professor Anderson, director of Chelsea Gardens, Dr. Asa Gray, botanist at Harvard, and Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward.

I suspect these to be 3 of NB Ward's children. The photos are from the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club: photographs by Maull & Polyblank, circa 1855. They look like siblings, and I see a resemblance to NB Ward:

More 19th century botanical artists and authors: 
Top, Left to Right: Helena Scott, her sister Harriet Scott with Harriet's moth painting between them.
Bottom, Left to Right: Kate Chopin, author of The AwakeningAnna Atkins, & Louisa May Alcott
To the right of all of them is Jane Austen, of course!

This a print from author and botanical artist, Christine Andreae:
She's like a modern day Edith Holden!

Fern print that camouflages the heat register:

Beatrix Potter with her dog Kep, at Hilltop Farm and Elizabeth Gaskell:

Here are a coupla bonus pix of the "Parlour" area, not in the video:
Tabby Bobcat asleep on the recliner. Lady is curled up in the cat/beagle bed. The book graphic is actually a shower curtain that I adhered to the back of a cupboard unit, that I use as a "half wall." It was a lot easier to do that than my original idea of doing the book wallpaper.

And up above, is Yoda-Kitty in her "Hutch Lair":
Zzzzzzz . . . .   :-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

A Ferny Book Leads to Squirreling

 As I research original sources from the 19th century, I find myself curious about little tidbits I might find. If I see an advertisement or a letter with an address, I will hop over to Google Maps and look it up. Bonus if there's a street view! Here's a recent example:

Note the ferns on the cover!

And, this got my attention; a name and address!
Ethel Kershaw, Radcliff House, Pudsey

Who was she?  Lookit! I found her in a 1911 census!

Ethel May Kershaw, only daughter of Hugh, 50 & Eleanor Mary, 42. They've been married 17 years. Hugh is a "medical practitioner."  Who else is living in the house?

The Hyland family: 
Samuel, aged 70, retired cashier & Eleanor, aged 59; married 31 years  
Only son/ child, Frederick Hunter Hyland, aged 19 and in medical school. 

Annie Dales, 58, general domestic servant. Single.
Marie Roze Buxton, 19, the cook. Single. 

Charles Suffield Brown, 24, medical student. Single.

What can we surmise about this household?
They only had 2 servants, so they were not regarded as wealthy. They have two young men who are medical students, which leads me to believe that Dr. Kershaw was a teacher at the local school or a mentor of sorts. 
What about the relationships of the Hylands and Kershaws?
It's possible that Eleanor Hyland & Eleanor Mary Kershaw were sisters. It seems strange to us that they would have the same first name, but this was common practice to name daughters after their mothers. E.g. Marie Antoinette's sisters were all Maria Something. They were then called by their middle names or a nickname by their families. Just the name Elizabeth could become Lizzie, Eliza, Bess, Beth, etc. etc. allowing for all the daughters to be named after their mother Elizabeth.   

Back to Ethel, who started this whole thing! What can we gather about this young girl?  Either she was interested in drawing or this was a textbook. It was published in 1878.

There are questions in the back which suggests this was a class she took or a book someone lent her because she had an interest in drawing:

But what about Radcliffe House in Pudsey?  Was it a grand estate? Is it still there?  I searched for Radcliffe House, Pudsey, England on Google Maps.  YES!  It's still there. And . . . it's a mental healthcare facility now. You'll be able to see some disappointing photos of the exterior and interior of the house. The current decor has wiped out original architectural features and the character the house would have had originally. 
If you click on Street View (Upper left corner of the screen) you're facing a row of back yards. What pretty gardens everyone has!  Turn around clockwise, and you'll get a view of the side of Radcliffe House. Those trees (or shrubs?) must be very old. In front of the hedge are rocks all along the lane, which could have once been a garden wall. 

Keep going clock wise and follow the lane of Radcliffe Gardens and you'll see a sign for the house. There's no really good view of the whole house from Google Maps. Here's a view from Radcliffe Lane. It's a fun little jaunt around the block, tho.

Further research :
*History of Radcliffe House
*Old maps of Pudsey
*What exactly was a "retired cashier" in 1911?  Accountant?  
*What happened to the medical students? 
*What happened to Ethel?  Did she marry? Have a family? Stay at Radcliffe?  

But this is where I need to stop. Seriously. If I were researching family history, or working on a project specifically for this, or getting paid for my infernal curiosity, then I would continue. But I will end it there and leave you with a coupla ferny illustrations:

Friday, August 26, 2022

Finally! A Writing Book for The Rest of Us!

"There are as many different ways of writing a book as there are writers, but we all end up with a finished book regardless of how we get there. You have to find the process that works for you." ~Joanna Penn

What a breath of fresh air Joanna Penn is! The books I've read on writing have all stressed structure, plotting, and outlining--all of which stressed me out and made me wonder what was wrong with me and why wasn't I more disciplined. She doesn't dismiss non-outliners as "pantsers." Instead of appealing to those who naturally have an outline, she reframes this kind of writing as "discovery writing." When I'm writing fiction, I often think, "Oooooh, what's going to happen next?!" Because I don't know. "Creativity is not linear," she says. Exactly. She cites other writers (Stephen King, Lee Child, Nora Roberts, to name a few) who are Discovery Writers and she shares their processes.

Joanna gives permission NOT to know the ending, not to know all the characters or events. You don't have to write in order of beginning, middle, and end. "You need to know enough to finish this novel, but you don't need to know everything before you write it." You don't have to have everything perfect before you begin.

The book is divided into 5 parts:
1. Mindset and writing.
2. How to do research, create ideas, and find what kind of writer you are (Outliner or Discovery Writer).
3. The nuts and bolts of a novel: story structure, characters, etc.
4. First draft and writing tools.
5. Editing.

Throughout the book at the end of each chapter is a resource guide of books, websites, etc. for further exploration. In addition, she has a list of questions (GREAT for journaling!) that help you take a deeper dive into your writing and your process.

When I read "That's not how my creative brain works," it made me realize that I had been carrying some subconscious baggage from my old English teachers about the "right" way to write. It's refreshing to read from an actual author that Discovery Writing is a proper, legitimate method AND used by many authors. 

 At the time I was reading, all I had was a pencil for underlining, because I can't read without also writing! Here are a few pages:

I highly recommend this book to the "That's not how my brain works" writing crowd. This book will guide you through how to write with your natural writing style and not tell you that you're doing it wrong. For those of us who wrote out required outlines after we wrote papers in English class, this book's for the rest of us!

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Wardian Case: How a Simple Box Moved Plants and Changed the World

I sent a long letter about Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward to my cell biologist friend, who suggested I write an article for a magazine. At the very least, I thought, I should write something fern-related for this very-neglected blog!  So this is a book report of sorts, of this FANTASTIC book by Luke Keogh:


This is the first whole book that features N.B. Ward, inventor of Wardian Cases. Mr. Keogh has done a tremendous job of research. Prior to this book, the only mention I could find of Mr. Ward was in a smattering of gardening websites as the inventor of the terrarium—which is true, but he was SO much more. That was the indoor Wardian case, which had its own influence, but the outdoor Wardian case was used for over a century to transport plants on ships around the planet. 

Ad for indoor Wardian case (not as ornate as some):

Fancier versions:

Readers of The Fern World will already be familiar with Mr. Ward because he meets Fernie and ends up sending her a Wardian case in Chapters 6 & 7. At the time I wrote that, I hadn't quite made the distinction between the sturdy, seafaring Wardian cases and the decorative Wardian cases for indoor refinement

Here's an excerpt of from The Fern World, based on Mr. Ward's own account from his book, On The Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases.

Nellie had been right in her assessment of Mr. Ward. Fernie could perceive why he and Papa were friends and she was glad. He was jolly and she was delighted to have made his acquaintance. It would be just a bit of time before Mr. Ward was to reveal the invention of his famous case that did, indeed, grow ferns. However, it was inspired by his interest in a Sphinx moth “cocoon” and not ferns. Ferns, it would turn out, were a very happy accident that would go on to inspire the import of plants from around the world! Tea plants made their way from one region of India to Ceylon, bananas came all the way from China to the tropics, and rubber trees would make their journey to far-off places. Indeed, it is much thanks to Mr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward for his Wardian cases, that we have such a world that we can house tropical plants indoors; including many species of ferns.

 He was a doctor and amateur botanist. When he was 13, he expressed an interest to his doctor-father about wanting to study plants and his father put him on a boat to the West Indies to cure him of this ridiculous notion. As you did, back in those days. Ha! He never lost his love for botany, but he dutifully followed in his father’s footsteps as a doctor and inherited his practice, located in smoggy, coal-choked London near the docks. He treated all kinds of patients, and spent his days rising early and botanizing before seeing patients.

More than medicine or botany, he was interested in all things scientific and of the “natural” world. He founded the Microscopical Society in 1839 with Natural History publisher John van Voorst. He also was a member of the Apothecary Society at Chelsea Physic Garden. All doctors at the time had to understand botany and the medicinal properties of plants. (Imagine that!) So his work as a doctor was not too far removed from botany. He oversaw examinations for medical students for many years. He also was instrumental in getting the society/garden to admit women, which was outrageous and deliciously radical for the day!

The first experiment with the Wardian case was in 1829 with plants sent from London to Australia, which only took 6 months. Ha! And the plants survived, and Australia reciprocated with some native ferns and other exciting plants. And the people who took notice were . . . botanists, gardeners and nurseries. That started a lucrative, exotic plants trade.

As a physician, he testified and worked to repeal the British glass tax and said that lack of light had a negative health effect on the poor, who were stuck in dark, dank houses. He was successful, and that brought literal LIGHT to homes and buildings everywhere. It also ushered in the building of more greenhouses, window garden units, as well as indoor Wardian cases (terrariums for ferns). 

Mr. Keogh has filled in so many gaps about N.B. Ward, especially regarding the impact his invention had on the world. The Wardian case broke the monopoly China had on tea and Brazil had on rubber. Botanical espionage and Wardian cases snuck out of both those countries to make their way to India to create plantations that exist to this day. It changed our farming practices and encouraged botanical gardens, and changed our diets. Tea, coffee, bananas all became cheaper and more accessible. On the downside, it encouraged economic incentives for colonial plantations, and the spread of invasive species (pestilence, vermin, and plant). "Exotic" mimosa trees from China and Kudzu from Japan are a nuisance 100+ years later. Personally, I love mimosa trees! And Kudzu is actually where arrowroot powder comes from.

From all accounts I have read in primary sources from the time, Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward was a congenial, kind, generous and humble man who genuinely cared for his patients, friends, family and colleagues. He maintained friendships and connections with other scientists in his native Great Britain, as well as around the world (America, Australia, India, etc.)  He was a member of several societies, regularly holding weekly soirees with eminent scientists of the day, and was supportive and encouraging of other’s ideas and work. A letter to Darwin from A.R. Wallace said something like, “I spoke with a Mr. Ward and he suggested . . . .” So far I’ve not found any letters from Darwin to NBW, but I do know that he was one of the sciencey people that Darwin sent his Origin book to when the third edition was printed.

I'll have more on NBW in another post in which I share his letters and personal writings. I read on one website that "not much is known about Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward." Thanks to the hard work of Luke Keogh, this unknown scientist is better known!