All About Thyme
  A Monthly Calendar of Times & Seasonings

  Celebrating the Mysteries, Magic, and Myths of Herbs
Susan Wittig Albert  
May 7, 2018
read the web-formatted e-letter:  
This Month's Special Days:
A Potpourri of Celebrations

Herb of the Year for 2018: Hops
Flower of the Month for May: Lily of the Valley.
May is National Salad Month.
Week 1.
May 9: National Teacher Appreciation Day.
May 10: During this week in 1876, the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition was opened and sassafras-flavored Hires Root Beer was introduced to a thirsty nation.
May 13: Mother's Day. Give your mom a hug! (Flowers would be nice, too.)

Week 2.
May 14: About this time, England sometimes celebrates Be Nice to Nettles Week.
May 15: Emily Dickinson, poet and lover of flowers, died on this day in 1866.

Week 3.
May 21: National Strawberries and Cream Day.
May 23: The birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, born on in 1707. A Swedish botanist, Linnaeus developed the binomial naming system for plants.
May 27: Today is the birthday of Rachel Carson (1907), writer, ecologist, and marine biologist. Her courageous book Silent Spring, first published in 1962, alerted the world to the dangers of pesticide poisoning.

Week 4.
May 29: Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day) is observed on the last Monday in May. Remembrance is symbolized by the red poppy.

Sweet, Sweet Woodruff

From my youth I recall that elusive smell of woods in spring—a sweetness ascending from mold and decay but with the breath of young life rising from it. That is the odor that permeates the house when May wine is poured into the May bowl.
—Adelma Grenier Simmons, Herb Gardening in Five Seasons

May is the traditional month for May wine. This drink comes from Germany, where the sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) carpets the spring woodlands with starry white blossoms and whorled leaves. The odd-sounding name woodruff grew out of the earlier wuderove, or "wood-wheel" (rove comes from the French rouelle, wheel, referring to the circlet of leaves around the stem). The plant contains coumarin, and when it is dried smells like freshly-mown vanilla grass. It has long been valued for potpourris and perfumes and is a favorite in sachets. It was once used to stuff mattresses and pillows (hence the name bedstraw). During the Middle Ages, the herb gained a reputation as a wound healer and was used to treat digestive and liver problems. For gardeners with a shady, wooded area, sweet woodruff can be an ideal groundcover. READ MORE

Things to Do in May

* Root beer the old-fashioned way. When Hires Root Beer began, the recipe was very much like this one from 1869:
For each gallon of water take ½ oz each of hops, burdock, yellow dock, sarsaparilla [Smilax regelii], dandelion and spikenard roots [Aralia racemosa], bruised. Boil about 20 minutes, and strain while hot. Add 8-10 drops of oils of spruce and sassafras mixed in equal proportions. When cooled to a warm temp add 2-3 tbsp. yeast, molasses 2/3 pint, or white sugar ½ lb. Put the mix into a jar, with a cloth covering it, let it work for 2-3 hrs, then bottle and set in a cool place.
In 1960, the FDA banned the use of sassafras in root beer. For a modern recipe using an extract (you can purchase it online), check out this page.

* When Emily Dickinson was just 14, she wrote in a letter: "My plants look finely now. I am going to send you a little geranium leaf, which you must press for me. Have you made an herbarium yet? I hope you will if you have not, it would be such a treasure to you." If you've never made an herbarium, here's how. Great project for kids of all ages.

* Discover Carl Linnaeus, the scientist who created the system by which our planet's plants are named. A big job that required a giant intellect.

* Did you know that strawberries were once used medicinally? Read about it in Mrs. Grieve's Modern Herbal of 1929. She includes this charmingly fanciful 17th-century recipe for turkey trussed up with strawberry leaves and boiled together with every herb to be found in the kitchen garden!
Gather strawberry leaves on Lamas Eve, press them in the distillery until the aromatick perfume thereof becomes sensible. Take a fat turkey and pluck him, and baste him, then enfold him carefully in the strawberry leaves. Then boil him in water from the well, and add rosemary, velvet flower, lavender, thistles, stinging nettles, and other sweet-smelling herbs. Add also a pinte of canary wine, and half a pound of butter and one of ginger passed through the sieve. Sieve with plums and stewed raisins and a little salt. Cover him with a silver dish cover.

* Celebrate Be Nice to Nettles Week by listening to Susan's podcast on this much-maligned "weed" or reading about 101 surprising ways you can use nettles.

* Check out the Story Circle conference (July 20-22), where Susan will be leading a workshop on indie publishing and one or two panel discussions.

* Find out what Susan has been up to by visiting her blog, Lifescapes. Gardening, reading, writing—there's always something interesting going on. For fun, check out her Pinterest boards—see what she's up to, what delights her, what she reads and recommends. And if you're a bookaholic (Susan is!) follow her on BookBub (and get free ebooks and bargains!)

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Who's Susan Albert?

Susan Wittig Albert is the author of two recent memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. Her fiction, which has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, includes Loving Eleanor and A Wilder Rose (biographical/historical novels); the China Bayles mysteries; the Darling Dahlias mysteries; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige. She is founder and current president of the Story Circle Network, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, and Honorary President (2012-2014) of the Herb Society of America. More

To find out what's going on in Susan Albert's life in the Texas Hill Country, read Susan's blog.

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Who's China Bayles?

She's the beloved fictional herbalist in Susan Wittig Albert's popular mystery series, set in Pecan Springs TX. For more about her books, visit

For more about herbs and the passing seasons, read China Bayles' Book of Days.

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In Susan's bookstore, only a few copies of Queen Anne's Lace, plus others you may have missed. (Susan's books are sold by the Story Circle Network, an international nonprofit organization for women writers.)

Loving Eleanor

Don't miss Susan's prizewinning novel about the friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok.

"This warm, extensively researched novel will entrance readers and inspire them to look further into the lives of two extraordinary women." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Now available!

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The General's Women

A compelling novel about love, betrayal, and ambition by New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert, The General's Women tells the story of two women—Kay Summersby and Mamie Eisenhower—in love with the same man: General Dwight Eisenhower.

Available in ebook and print.

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A Wilder Rose

Named to Kirkus' best of Indie 2013 Books! Susan's historical / biographical novel tells the story of Rose Wilder Lane's collaboration with her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder in the writing of the famous Little House books.

"Pitch-perfect... A nuanced, moving, and resonant novel... an absolute pleasure." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days Together, Alone

If you enjoy Susan's fiction, her memoirs are a must-read — and a great gift.

Starting Points

If you're writing about your life, you'll want Susan's collection of weekly writing prompts—enough creative ideas to keep the words flowing all year.

Work of Her Own Writing From Life

Susan's books about writing your life story & finding meaningful work.

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