Sunday, August 31, 2008

Book Reviews

Yes, I'm still here; no, writing is not going well at the moment. I'm stuck in chapter 14, and keep finding other things to do. Such as writing book reviews... so here are two short ones. I'm linking to LibraryThing now instead of direct to Amazon - check it out!
Early Irish Farming (Early Irish law series)by Fergus Kelly, 1997, 770 pages.

An outstanding source of information on early Ireland, this book (based on the irish laws) covers far more than farming. Chapter headings include: Livestock; offenses by/against domestic animals; accidents, diseases, etc; crops; hunting and gathering; diet and cooking; farm layout; land-tenure; farm labour; tools and technology; and a number of appendices and indexes. Highly recommended to anyone interested in early Ireland.
From Medieval to Modern Wales by R. R. Davies, 2004, University of Wales Press, 256 pages.

Medieval chapters include: the medieval Welsh world-view; the identity of 'Wales' in the 13th century; mobility and marriage in a border society; the interpretation of late medieval houses in Wales (=all post-1400). Also includes chapters on renaissance/modern topics. I got this book through interlibrary loan and found it interesting. I'm not sure I'm going to buy it, though, since a lot of it concerns post-medieval things and it's not cheap ($49.95 on amazon). The chapter on houses is pretty good, with some nice diagrams. What I found most interesting, however, is that although they have now found several hundred houses in Wales that are at least partially medieval, none of the wooden ones dated by tree rings are earlier than 1420 - all post Glyndwr's Rebellion!
As to what the problem is with chapter 14 ... that's another post.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Writing, Reading...

I'm writing again on The Ash Spear, and that means reading as well: more specifically, research, dipping into various books as I go. In response to a "What are you reading now?" thread on LibraryThing, I put up a short list of books I'd consulted in the last week, and thought readers of this blog might be interested, too.

In no particular order, then: The Picts and the Scots at War; Welsh Military Institutions, 633-1283; Blood Red Roses: The Archaeology of a mass grave from the Battle of Towton AD 1461 (an interlibrary loan, mostly interesting for discussion of battle injuries); Gwynedd: A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales; An Atlas of Roman Britain; The Roman Cavalry; Dictionary of the Place-Names of Wales (a new acquistion); Armour from the Battle of Wisby 1361 (another interlibrary loan, ditto); The Law of Hywel Dda; The Welsh King and His Court.

As you can guess, there is probably fighting involved!


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Summer's End

The end of July – Gorffennaf, or Summer’s End, in Welsh – was hot. A long, record-breaking string of days with highs in the low to middle 90's (low 30's C), with little rain, and not as much overnight cooling as one would wish, culminated in three days in the low 100’s on Lammas weekend. Nothing like the brutal string of 100+ F days we had two summers ago, but still above the seasonal average. This is the time in Denver when the peak of the summer heat has usually passed, and heavy afternoon thunderstorms begin to give us some welcome moisture – but not this year.

Last weekend my neighborhood finally got lucky in the thunderstorm department, with a heavy downpour on Friday night which had the streets here running full and negated the need to water for a while. The cooler weather persuaded the squash to start setting again – they had stopped for a while in the peak of the heat – and now we have squash and tomatoes in abundance. The late-summer Farmer’s Market has corn – mine won’t be ready for a couple of weeks yet – and the early peaches and plums from the Western Slope are in. Melons from the Rocky Ford district – locally famous for them – and all the other vegetables and fruit you could want, harvest time in abundance.

This weekend the weather is strange. It’s been raining on and off since Thursday night, and cold – not over 50 here yesterday! There are thunderstorms embedded in it, rumbling around from time to time with heavier downpours, but on the whole the pattern is more like a winter storm, the kind that dumps a foot or two of snow on us. This wouldn’t be so remarkable in early September, but it doesn’t belong in August. Summer’s end indeed!

New stuff on the sidebar: an update on the Ash Spear – I’ve finally got a little more written; a Middle Welsh translation site just starting up; and two or three new blog links, including two sites that blog in Welsh here and here.

I’m off to the Farmer’s Market now as soon as the cats come in, and then back to writing.

Later update: the Farmer's Market was wet - many of the usual vendors didn't come, and some were packing up early. And I now have over 3 inches of water in my improvised rain gauge - in 36 hours! But I bought Montana cherrries at the market, and am presently going to warm up the kitchen by making jam.