Tuesday, March 28, 2017

By the Moon

"When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower."
                                    ~from The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

The Indians had come in the night and, as was their custom, had left two large woven baskets filled to the brim with herring they had caught for Goody Prymm.  After Samuel had died all those years ago, Imagination took care to develop a rapport with neighboring tribes and had often provided medicine for ill members of their communities.  Thereafter, every spring they would bring to Goody Prymm herring they had caught to be used to feed her gardens, just as they did their own crops.  Being gardeners themselves, they knew when the time was ripe.  And Goody Prymm and Remember were ready, as well.

To grow and maintain her gardens, Goody Prymm had planned  every last detail.  The gardens purposely faced south to protect them from bitter northwest winds.  Within the larger fenced-in area, multiple raised rectangular dooryard beds, built eight inches above ground so that the soil would heat quickly and promote an early crop, were now fully prepared to receive seeds.  The paths, now walkways three feet wide, were packed with earth and crushed shells, allowing easy access for tending.  The wattle fences built to discourage animals were repaired and complete, and it was nigh on April.  The next week would bring the New Moon, propitious for seeds of above-ground plants, Goody Prymm instructing Remember that the Moon at this time would pull moisture up into the planted seeds, expanding them until they burst and nudged their way up into the light.  Then, as the Moon waxed, she told her, the increasing light would aid leaf growth.  It was her way to plant with the phases of the Moon.  It was all One, in Goody Prymm's mind.  It had been her mother's way…and her mother's mother's way, and even further back than that.  During the Full Moon in April, which the Indians called the Fish Moon, though Goody Prymm referred to it as the Hare Moon, would be the best time to plant root crops, and that was in the next several weeks.

As they walked around the raised beds, the small fleeting black shadow skipping once again afore them and little Smoke darting between their skirts, Goody Prymm reviewed what would be planted where.  In one large bed there would be parsley, chives, thyme, sage, sorrel, chamomile, and caraway, herbs to enhance the palate and to ease digestion.  In another bed would be pleurisy root, rosemary, garlic chives, wormwood, bugleweed, and monkshood.  In yet another bed would be orrisroot, bee balm, tansy, basil, lavender, and hyssop, wonderful to make oil for arthritic joints.  Catmint, lambs ears, angelica, feverfew, echinacea, peppermint and lemon balm in yet another bed for various ailments and the trials of childbirth.  And finally, spiderwort, mugwort, mullein, foxglove, and yarrow there in the back.  Many of Goody Prymm's plants were native to the area, but she had also brought with her from the Old World seeds and dried rootstock, which she had taken great care to maintain and keep producing each year, so that her seed chest was now a veritable treasure chest of flavors, treatments, and cures-to-be!  The fruits of their labors now would eventually turn summer and early autumn into an earthy ritual of tending and harvesting, the flowers and leaves to be bound together in bunches and dried from the rafters, the roots to be dug and stored in the lean-to, until the time came when these gifts of nature would become tinctures, ointments, oils, poultices and teas.  How delightful the aromas, coming from those rafters!

Soon their dream gardens dissipated, and with them their imagined earth-essences, bringing Goody Prymm and Remember down from the rafters and back to the reality that one last chore remained before the planting.  Turning then, the women walked to the front gate and, each taking a handle from one of the large baskets containing the herring, carried their gifts from the river to the first garden and began to bury the fish deep into the soil.

***With a nod to "Planting by the Moon," from Organic Lesson:  Live the Natural Lifestyle (2015-17); and "Full Moon of April~the Hare Moon" from the blog Pagan by Design:  An Online Book of Shadows From a Green Witch (February 2, 2017).

***Images are my pictures, the bottom two from the Whipple House in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and the Jonathan Corwin House in Salem, Massachusetts.

© Nancy Duncan 2017


  1. So happy to see you back! Lovely gardening post -- makes me want to get outside! Thank you for sharing your gift with us.

    1. Hi, Vicki Jo! So happy to be back! I started figuring…there will only probably be 11 or so more Goody Prymm episodes left…and then I shall set about the business of cleaning it all up and seeking publication! By next autumn, I'd like to begin Remember's story...

  2. This has me itching to get into my new garden! But our spring rains need to let up... Eleven more episodes! Exciting and so eagerly anticipated! Goody Prymm's story would make a wonderful book!

  3. Hello, Mary A! We have had some rain, but truthfully could use much more. Mulching is next...and I'd like to plant more herbs. My next Goody Prymm episode will probably be about their making lye soap...Remember when they cleaned the chimney and got covered in ash and soot? Well, that ash will be put to good use!