The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf

⭐️⭐️⭐️ Finally finished this! Took me two months!! 🙄 Mostly because every time I picked it up I fell asleep. It didn’t help that I had Ennio Morricone film scores circling in my mind, as I’ve been listening to his arrangements with Yo-Yo Ma on repeat for two weeks. So that music perpetually in my head coupled with excessive imagery and a lack of stimuli completely relaxed me to dozing off in the middle of every chapter. I LOVE Virginia Woolf but this, being her first novel, just wasn’t as compelling as her other work though there were hints of her brilliant style throughout. .

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Pictured is the 1975 London Edition from Hogarth Press—her husband’s press that he owned until 1946. .

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Deadly Nightshade

This remedy she rejected, saying that she would rather die than do anything that she believed to be a crime or contrary to God’s will.

-Vita Sackville-West
Saint Joan of Arc: 1936

In one of my favorite books (I mean, if I was stranded on a deserted island (touch wood), this would be one of the books I would take) the protagonist tries to unsuccessfully kill herself with the deadly nightshade berry.

Memoirs of a Midget by Walter De la Mare caught my eye as I wandered about my favorite used bookshop Downtown Booksellers.  I intended to give it to my brother as a birthday gift, but as I read the first page I became so enamored with its story and prose that I ended up keeping it for myself.

It was like a secret.  Its title was practically unknown to all, and its author, equivalent to an indie rock group with just a small following.  Even so, it remains one of my favorites and I can’t understand why it doesn’t stand alongside the classics of Austen or Fitzgerald.

SONY DSC“Its bitter juices jetted out upon cheek, mouth, and tongue, for ever staining me with their dye.  Their very rancor shocked by body wide awake.  Struck suddenly through with frightful cold and terror, I flung the vile thing down, and scoured my mouth with the draggled hem of my skirt.” – Walter De la Mare; Memoirs of a Midget 

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I realize Vita would not have had much experience with nightshade, but I was riding along the Paint Creek Trail the other night and saw its scraggly vine creeping along the riverbank.  Its flowers were beginning to turn themselves into berries.  This is where the toxin alkaloid solanine dwells, and I was reminded of the passage above.

The toxin however exists only in the leaves and un-ripened berries, although I wouldn’t eat the ripe ones either.  The toxin can kill you if injested in large quantities, and it is known to cause problems in small children if eaten in any quantity.

Solanine contains properties which are anti-fungal and pesticidal.  This is the plant’s natural defense, making it entirely disease and pest resistant.  Can one of you rosarians please get some of this Solanine in a rose bush?   We’d never have problems again – Yippee!

An interesting fact; this toxin is also produced in potatoes right under the skin, so green un-ripe potatoes should always be peeled.  In fact, some of the toxin still exists in ripe potatoes!  You have to deep-fry them to eliminate most of it.  Boiling doesn’t do the job as well.

Thanks for reading!  Go out and get yourself a copy of that book!!

If you’ve read it, what did you think?

 

Short and Sweet Woodruff

There are things we grow in our gardens and forget about, and then remember suddenly, as I have just remembered the Sweet Woodruff, that meek, lowly, bright green native of Britain, so easy to grow, so rapid in propagation-every little bit of root will grow and extend itself-keeping weeds down and making a bright green strip or patch wherever you want it.
It is not showy.  Its little white flowers make no display, but it is a useful carpenter for blank spaces, and it certainly makes sweet bags for hanging in the linen cupboard to discourage the moth or to put under you pillow at night.

-Vita Sackville-West
May 14th, 1950
In Your Garden

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I read about these late one night and was intrigued by a certain useful quality the Sweet Woodruff possesses.   So intrigued and attracted, that I headed to the nursery strictly to get my hands on some.   I’ve since planted it all over my flower beds and under trees, so my supply is great and my harvest will be plentiful.

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Vita advises that if you cut the leaves in autumn, which, if they grow as rapidly as I’m told, I would just cut their long stalks of leaves and hang them upside down as you would a spice.  They will not have a scent until they are dried.
After which, you can make them into little sachets which smell of freshly mowed grass and lingers for years.  Imagine the lift you’ll receive when in the dead of winter you’ve forgotten what grass looks like let alone smells like!  Slip it under your pillow to remind yourself.  You’ll sleep peacefully knowing that spring is always right around the corner.
 

 

Ghosts…

The cool weather we endured throughout February and March this year suited its arrangements perfectly, for a warm spell during the early months tends to hurry it up, and then the flowers are liable to damage by their two enemies, frost and wind….Avoid planting in a frost pocket, or in a position where [flowers: in this case the blooms of a magnolia tree] will be exposed to the rays of a warm sun after a frosty night…

-Vita Sackville-West
The Joy of Gardening : 1958

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They instantly became like ghosts; covered in white sheets like children on Halloween.  Their protection of white waved and beckoned in the rain and wind which threatened and warned. I assumed this shroud of comfort would get them through the worst of it but when I awoke this morning, the frost, although anticipated and prepared for never came.
The lilacs I cut for the encore of winter was all in vain, and instead, I only ironically hastened their death.  To think, I tore off their leaves in the cold violent wind and smashed their stems while shaking my fist at the sky – it was all for not.
When I uncovered them this morning the lilacs bounced gleefully in the morning sun – and like prisoners finally given their freedom after proven innocence, the flowers laughed at me and smirked at my efforts of authority and wisdom.

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