Vampire’s Garden: Yarrow

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Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post is sixth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Botanical Name: Achillea millefolium

Common Names: Common yarrow, sanguinary, bloodwort, plumajillo (“little feather”). nosebleed plant, old man’s pepper, devil’s nettle, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, thousand-leaf, staunchweed, arrowroot, field hops, woundwort. An old name for Yarrow is herba militaris.

History: Native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, yarrow has now spread around the world, growing freely along roadsides and coastal areas and in fields and meadows. It’s been used medicinally since prehistoric times, including by Neanderthals. Ancient Hellenes (Greeks) used it to stop bleeding from wounds (the name Achillea comes from the hero Achilles, who supposedly took yarrow into battle to treat his soldiers). Indigenous tribes throughout North America used the herb medicinally for pain relief, fever reduction, and as a sleep aid, among other things. In the Middle Ages it was used along with other herbs to flavour beer before hops became prevalent (it’s still used in beer-making in Sweden). In the Hebrides it was believed that holding a leaf against the eyes would bestow second sight. In China the dried stalks have been used for centuries in divination.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Healing, protection

Cultivation: Perennial in Zones 2 to 8. Yarrow is ideal for native plant gardens, drought tolerant gardens, and wildlife gardens. Prefers full sun and well-drained soil, but is tolerant of many conditions. Can grow up to 1 metre (approx. 3 feet). Seeds require light, a moist environment, and cool temperatures to germinate, so sow outdoors, barely covered by soil, after the last frost date; or start indoors 6 to 8 weeks before last frost date and keep moist but not wet (it might be easier simply to buy plants or propagate by division). Spreads via rhizomes and can become invasive. Plant (or thin seedlings to) 30 to 46 cm (12 to 18″) apart. Once plants are established they need little watering and no fertilizing, although they can be prone to powdery mildew (giving plants adequate space around them for good air circulation will help prevent this). Flowers from May to July, and sometimes into autumn. Divide plants every other year in spring. Yarrow is considered an excellent companion plant, repelling pest insects while attracting beneficial insects, like predatory wasps, lacewings, and hoverflies.

Uses:

Medicinal: Astringent, anti-microbial, and anodyne. Drink tea made from the flowers to stop bleeding, for muscle aches and cramps, to reduce fever, for an upset stomach, or to help you sleep. Cooled tea makes an astringent facial wash (good for oily skin and skin infections/irritations). A salve or balm made from yarrow is useful on wounds, bruises, swelling, and various skin problems.

Fresh leaves can be crushed or bruised and applied directly to wounds. For nosebleeds, pick a few leaves, rub between your hands to bruise slightly, roll into a plug, and insert gently into the bleeding nostril. Leave in place until bleeding stops.

Culinary: Yarrow leaves and flowers have a flavour reminiscent of anise or licorice, and are somewhat bitter. Use fresh or dried as a herbal seasoning for food, or mix with other culinary herbs like tarragon and parsley. Can eat the greens fresh (use like sprouts or baby salad greens). Steam or blanch leaves and enjoy like other cooked greens. Don’t cook yarrow for long or at a high heat, as cooking destroys its delicate flavour and brings out the bitterness (especially when boiled). Yarrow is a nice addition to desserts, in sorbet and ice cream, or sprinkled over fresh fruit. Yarrow is also used to make some liquors and bitters.

Environmental: Can be planted to combat soil erosion.

Caution: Yarrow is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. Do not let them consume the plant in any form. In humans, yarrow can cause allergic skin reactions and photosensitivity (avoid sun exposure when using yarrow). Avoid if you’re pregnant or breast feeding.

Wildlife: Many insects feed on yarrow, including nearly 50 species of moths. Several species of cavity-nesting birds use yarrow to line their nests (possibly because it inhibits the growth of parasites).

Mara’s Uses: Mara mentions Yarrow as a potential ingredient for her theoretical blood substitute: “Bloodwort, Sanguinary–that’s Achillea…” (Love Lies Bleeding, p. 156). Yarrow would also be included in the remedies she sells via her apothecary business.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Further Reading:

Wikipedia

Growing Yarrow

Language of Flowers

Yarrow: 60,000 Years of Awesome

Everyday Yarrow Uses for Natural Healing

HGTV: Yarrow Uses

Cooking with Yarrow

Yarrow, a delicious and nutritious panacea

Medicinal Yarrow First-Aid Salve (how to make)

 

 

Can’t Get You Out of My Head

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Almost three months ago I started reading a book series that I’d been meaning to get to for a while. I’d read the first book in the series years ago, but decided to re-read before (finally) continuing with the rest of the books. Although I remembered liking it at the time, I noticed a lot of issues while reading it again. A lot. Still, the main character was a good one, the story was compelling and had promise, and I already had the rest of the books. I was going to read this series.

You may have noticed I’m not mentioning the author’s name, series name, or book titles. That’s because I do not recommend them. I don’t want anyone else thinking they couldn’t possibly be that bad and deciding to find out for themselves. Don’t waste your time on these, guys. I finished the series about a month ago and can’t stop thinking about it–and not in a good way.

I am bothered. I’m bothered on a personal level as a human, on a “customer” level as a reader, and on a professional level as both a writer and editor. That awesome character from the first book? Diminished into mediocrity. It’s six books of her being chipped away at until there’s nothing left. The compelling story? Bogged down in excessive fact spewing and repetition, unnecessary/superficial side characters, and ridiculous/pointless/nonexistent plot lines. The promise the story had? Disappeared without a trace. Besides that, the end of the series was so unbelievably infuriating I still can’t get over it. It actually left me feeling personally betrayed. I’ve never so wanted to contact an author and ask them wtf they were thinking.

What do you do when something you despise gets stuck in your head? As a reader it’s difficult not to get emotionally invested, especially over the course of six 500+ page books, one of which was actually decent. As a human who needs to get on with life, though, that kind of attachment is a problem. How do you let it go?

I’m still not really sure. I can tell myself it’s “just a story,” but that doesn’t help much. It’s a story that was also an emotional investment, time investment, and an actual financial investment too, since I bought the books. But it wasn’t an investment that paid off in any way. Maybe the best thing to do is to focus on the good parts: the character’s strong beginning, the one book in the series I enjoyed, and the intellectual curiosity inspired by the setting. Maybe I should take heart that even though the author gaslit the main character (and, by extension, tried to gaslight the reader), I didn’t fall for it. That might not have been the case had I read all the books when they first came out. Maybe appreciating the little wins in a giant fail is the best–and only–way to move on.

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How about you? Have you ever felt betrayed by an author’s choices? Have you ever disliked a book/series so much that you couldn’t let it go? How did you deal with that? Share in the comments.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Writers and Dogs

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Last year I posted about Writers and Cats, a combination that seems as natural as pen and paper. But just because cats and writers are inextricably linked in most people’s minds, doesn’t mean that dogs aren’t equally ideal writing partners. Judging from all the books about dogs out there, they’re just as inspiring as cats. Poems have also been written about dogs, including this one by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. And no one can dispute that dogs are excellent companions, keeping writers company in their lonely work and getting them out of the house once in a while.

“When an eighty-five pound mammal licks your tears away, then tries to sit on your lap, it’s hard to feel sad.”

Kristan Higgins

Here are a few dog-loving writers and their pups…

eb white
E.B. White
dorothy parker
Dorothy Parker
stephen king
Stephen King (who also made it into my Writers and Cats post)
virginia and vita
Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West
harlan coben
Harlan Coben
amy tan
Amy Tan
anton chekov
Anton Chekov
elizabeth barrett browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her muse, Flush (see link above for Browning’s poem about Flush). Art by James E. McConnell.

 

What do you think? Are you a cat person or a dog person? Or do you like both (or neither)? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Read More:

12 Famous Authors at Work With Their Dogs

Top 10 Author-Dog Relationships of All Time

Literary Pets

10 Famous Authors and the Pets that Inspired Their Work

9 Adorable Images of Authors and Their Dogs

Book Tag: Reading Habits

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Just something fun for today. Tag snagged from Dreamland Book Blog.

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

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I mostly like to read in bed, but any comfy spot with decent lighting will do.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

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I prefer to use bookmarks, but I hate losing my spot, so anything will do in a pinch, including other books. I wish publishers would go back to including ribbon bookmarks inside hardcovers.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?

When I need to take a break I like to stop at the end of a chapter, but if I can’t, then I try to stop at a spot I can remember to go back to.

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?

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If no one else is around, I’ll always read while I’m eating. I’ve messed up a few books doing that, though.

5. Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?

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Here’s the thing with multitasking–you might get more done, but you won’t get anything done well (feel free to stitch that on a pillow). If something is important enough that I want to appreciate or retain it, then I need to skip other distractions. People who say they can do ten things at once and concentrate on all of it are impressively self deluded.

6. One book at a time or several at once?

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I usually have two or three going: my main book, one I read a bit at a time between main books, and an ebook.

7. Reading at home or everywhere?

Everywhere I can. Reading at home is nicer, though–comfier chairs and fewer interruptions 🙂

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?

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Unless I’m reading to someone, I read silently.

9. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

Funny enough, I’d never skipped ahead–until two weeks ago. I was reading a novel that was getting upsetting and for the first time that I can remember, I peeked at the end to see how it turned out (it ended the way I was hoping, thankfully). Then I went back and read it all the way through. I don’t know what it was about this book that made me feel the need to check the end.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

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I hate the sound of a cracking spine (not to mention the end result), so I try to keep them like new, but I’m not always successful.

11. Do you write in your books?

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No, because I’m civilized. I did highlight/underline passages in my textbooks when I was in university, and I sign copies of my book for anyone who asks, but those are the only exceptions. If I want to take notes, I do it separately. For anyone who likes to annotate the books they read, consider ebooks–they’re ideal for that.

12. When do you find yourself reading? Morning, afternoon, evening, whenever you get the chance or all the time?

Whenever I can, which mostly seems to be before bed or first thing in the morning.

13. What is your best setting to read in?

black ceramic mug on round white and beige coaster on white textile beside book
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Somewhere quiet, comfortable, and with good lighting. I like reading at the beach too, but it’s rare I get the chance.

14. What do you do first – Read or Watch?

Almost always read. I did watch the first Harry Potter movie before I read any of the books, though, which is what got me interested in the books (and ultimately led to a slight obsession).

15. What form do you prefer? Audiobook, E-book or physical book?

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I like physical books (although the paper dries out my hands like mad). Ebooks are also good (and great for travelling), but as a writer I’m staring at screens all day long, so I try to limit my screen time when I can. (If I can find the charger, I’ll start using my Kindle again–those screens are very easy on the eyes.)

15. Do you have a unique habit when you read?

Not that I can think of, although I do have a tendency to (over)share what’s going on in my books with my SO, which probably drives him crazy (he’s very patient about listening to me talk about the trials and tribulations of fictional characters he’s never heard of, though).

17. Do book series have to match?

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I assume this is referring to the covers/formats matching. Yes, I’d rather all the books in a series match, but it’s not the end of the world if they don’t.

 

How about your reading habits? Tell me your answers in the comments (or let me know if you’ve posted this tag on your own blog).

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas