30 January 2008

Hob's Calendar

For many years now, Mrs. Meadows and I have respected our version of the calendar of Rivendell. Tolkien himself notes that the hobbits had a tendency to use the King's Calendar (which was based on the elves' calendar) in a way that suited their needs.

Well, I thought it might be proper to share our version of the calendar. It's not canonical, it's not meant to be, but it does a fair amount of good describing our local seasons.

April 5: (yestarë)
Mid-spring, start of the year.

April 6-May 29: (tuilë)
Late spring, time to plant!

May 30-Aug 9: (lairë)

Aug 10-Oct 2: (yávië)
Early fall, harvest-tide.

Oct 3-Oct 5: (enderi, "middle days")
Mid-autumn celebration.
The season truly changes.

Oct 6-Nov 29: (quellë)
Late autumn, cold weather comes.

Nov 30-Feb 9: (hrívë)

Feb 10-April 3: (coirë)
Early spring, nature wakes up!

April 4: (mettarë)
Year's end, mid-spring.
The season truly changes.

We don't use the fancy elvish terms for the seasons, we usually just say "elf-spring" or "hobbit summer" or something like. But as I said, for our little part in the world, it seems to work just fine.

(P.S. - I bring this up because the start of "elf spring" or "early spring" is less than two weeks away! Huzzah!)

Urban Hobbitry

In my part of the world, winter has clamped down with snow and ice. Now, there are many ways to enjoy a home-bound day when the weather gives you pause to travel. And one of the nicest is to sit down with a garden or seed catalog, and if you've got a garden, plan it; and if you haven't a garden, then plan a game of "urban hobbitry."

"Urban hobbitry" is the practice of tossing native wildflower seeds into marginal areas: vacant lots, alongside irrigation canals, on the banks of urban streams and creeks. These areas are usually teeming with some kind of plant life (grass, usually, and perhaps a dandelion or two), there are usually critters around - why not support and enhance the diversity of the area with some native wildflowers? The critters love them; some birds and bess really depend on them; and you can never have too much natural beauty in these marginal, disturbed plots.

Baby Blue Eyes

If you're interested in distributing a mixed variety of seeds, Victory Heirloom Seeds has a very nice selection of regional wildflower mixes.

Or, if you'd like to concentrate on just one type of wildflower, American Meadows let's you buy wildflower seed by the pound.

Happy hobbiting!

21 January 2008

Play It Now:
Brave Dwarves Back For Treasure

A video game for your PC that would put a smile on the face of Thorin himself - "Brave Dwarves Back For Treasure" is a light, entertaining game of, well, dwarves. Looking for treasure.

Join the brave dwarves, a Wizard and a Warrior, as they collect treasure and vanquish enemies in their quest to restore peace to their land! You'll travel through 100 fantastic levels as you explore the subterranean world that has been taken over by evil. Play as the Wizard or the Warrior, each with his own special skills and weapons.

Link to free download with one hour of free play.

I'm still on the "free hour" mode, and in the few minutes I've played it, I can say that it is light, enjoyable, late-80's-arcade-style fun (think "Gauntlet" or maybe "Kid Icarus"). Definitely hobbit-worthy!

20 January 2008

Crusty Bread

I haven't tried it yet, but this recipe from Mother Earth News sounds wonderful. Although I'm very, very partial to my honey bread recipe, this sounds like it would be right at home on a blustery winter's day. Butter and honey, anyone?

No Knead, Dutch Oven Bread

1⁄4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1⁄2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
1 1⁄2 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting

Click here to continue with the recipe.

Winter Checklist

Well, winter has truly come to my part of the world. It has been about 20 degrees F in the mornings, with plenty of frost and fog; fortunately, this last week has been very sunny, too. Somewhat unusual, as we're more accustomed to rain, sleet, overcast skies, and mist.

A nice winter checklist seems in order:
* Feed the birds. I like to put out black sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and shelled peanuts. The peanuts haven't been as popular this year, but the birds have gone mad for the thistle seeds. (Mixed birdseed, in case you didn't know, is pretty much rubbish; birds stick to one kind of seed, and most will rummage through millet and whatever else is there to get the sunflower seeds.)

* Break up ice where you find it. This is another bird-friendly tip; birds really need fresh water in winter.

* If you have a garden, let it sit a while. Raking the ground clean removes an insulation layer from roots that might not appreciate sudden exposure to cold. I know I don't like having my blankets taken off me in winter! Don't be in a hurry to prune back or trim dead branches and stems. Aside from the visual interest you might get, birds and other critters can use such litter for nests and hiding places. (Besides, it's really more natural looking...)

* Take a walk once in a while. It needn't be long or miserable. If you've got a spare hour in the afternoon, a brisk walk all bundled up really does the trick. Look around ~ there's a unique beauty to winter that I would necessarily call "stark". Frost creates lacy whorls on streets and sidewalks; trees stretch their naked arms up to a brilliant blue (or flannel grey) sky; and coffee, toast, and jam never taste quite as good as after a wintery walk...

12 January 2008

Modern Cottage Based on The Hobbit:
A Fine Homebuilding Article


An article from the May 2007 issue of Fine Homebuilding features a private archive of Tolkien manuscripts and artifacts. No word on who the collector is or where the archive is located, but the archive was designed to resemble Bag End (or some other upscale hobbit hole).

Link to article.


Music of Middle Earth

David Finnamore, the elven minstrel of elvenminstrel.com has a very enjoyable set of webpages called Music for Middle Earth.

Middle-earth is mostly modeled on medieval and Renaissance western Europe with a fantastical, mythical twist. Therefore, it makes sense to use European music from before the 17th century in a similar kind of way as a model for the music of Middle-earth. It should not be quite like real Gothic music, as Middle-earth is not quite like real Gothic Europe. But it should be reminiscent of it, and have the same sort of twist.

So how does one go about making music that has a fantastical, Middle-earthly "twist"? I can think of at least four good ways.

(Go to page seven, "The Twist", to find out how to make Middle-earthly music.)

06 January 2008

A Real Hobbit House

Among my life goals: to live in a hobbit house as beautiful and utterly magical as this one.

You are looking at pictures of our family home in Wales. It was built by myself and my father in law with help from passers by and visiting friends. 4 months after starting we were moved in and cosy. The house was built with maximum regard for the environment and by reciprocation gives us a unique opportunity to live close to nature. Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land [...].

Some key points of the design and construction:

* Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
* Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc
* Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland

Link to "A Low Impact Woodland Home"

The site has generous links to other underground building projects.


Ballad of Bilbo Baggins

In the late 1960's, Leonard Nimoy recorded a little song called, "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins." Considered an essential piece of "60's camp" weirdness, the song has even been featured on the Dr. Demento show.

And this mash-up brings it all together...



After reading my "best jams" review, Mrs. Meadows brought home a jar of cloudberry jam (from Hafi) for us to try. Cloudberries are sub-Arctic, mountain-loving plants, and the fruit are golden colored.

The jam itself is not smooth; the berries have pleasantly crunchy seeds, quite larger than you'd find in blackberry preserves (but much smaller than pomegranate). Now regarding the flavour: overwhelmingly honey-flavoured! If you've ever enjoy fresh, raw honeycomb, then you already know what to expect.

There are subtle aftertastes. I couldn't quite identify them; I called it "fruity" and let it go. Mrs. Meadows said there are notes of apricot and very, very mild raspberry; her estimation was "floral" instead of "fruity", and I'd have to agree with that.

It is an enjoyable jam, and I'd recommend it highly.

Happy picnicking!