Orwell Goes Hop-Picking

Hop picking in Kent Great Britain
Image from http://www.horsmonden.co.uk

Hop-picking is over! Thank God, it is done!
I’ve wished myself dead ever since it begun.
—Henry H. Johnson, “Hop-Picking Time” (1902)

September marks the beginning of the end of the summer and all the open-air activities that attend it. Yet a century or two ago the arrival of September signaled, to England’s downtrodden and overworked souls, the beginning of an exhilarating and exhausting variety of rustic vacation. Wire- and shoemakers, match girls and costermongers alike marshaled their families and tramped off to Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, or one of the other English hop-growing regions. They came in such numbers the railways ran special lines, and the roadways were thick with their rough-hewn carts.

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What Dreams May Come (Musings on Mugwort)

If they would drink nettles in March
And eat mugwort in May,
So many fine maidens
Wouldn’t go to the clay.

—Proverb

The days drag when unrelieved by summer festivals, backyard parties and weekend getaways. My Google Calendar, which in years past teemed with events during the warm months, sits as empty as beauty salons did late last March. On rainy days I fill the hours with the important-looking books I always intended to read but never found reason to — all eleven volumes of Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization, say, or John Cowper Powys’s A Glastonbury Romance. And when the sun shines I head outdoors to read the natural world.

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Horseradish: A Condiment Rooted in Tradition

Sit down, gentlemen, and fall to, with a good hearty appetite; the fat, the lean, the gravy, the horseradish as you like it – don’t spare it.  — William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1848)

Originating in the warmer climes of western Asia, horseradish has since become a favorite condiment of the decidedly cooler climes of Central and Northern Europe, where it is cherished for its peppy, pungent flavor. The 1901 edition of the South Australia Journal of Agriculture reports that the zesty root grows “on a considerable scale in various parts of Bohemia,” favoring  “a deep, loose, strong soil, with plenty of moisture,” which “is considered the most suitable.”

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