September Strategies

I had high hopes for this particular September, one of the very few Septembers that I didn’t have to go back to school as a student or teacher in my entire life as I am on sabbatical. I’ve always thought that September was one of the most beautiful months of the year, and looked forward to long golden walks after I put in several hours of reading and writing. We’re halfway through the month, and so far it hasn’t turned out that way: the weather was unbearably muggy and hot in the first week of September, and last week I had pneumonia! But I’m on the mend now, so those walks will happen, and in the meantime I have been extraordinarily productive, so I have adopted a pre-modern mentality and come to the conclusion that it was God’s will that I stay inside and write. With both my lungs and the weather clearing up, however, I’m planning on a more (physically) active second half of the month.

I’m working with early modern prescriptive literature: texts on how to better “order” your health and household and garden, and feeling deficient in my own “government” of all of the above. September was a busy month for my seventeenth-century authors, who prescribe many activities for their readers: harvesting, preserving, cleaning, potting-up, sowing and sewing, among other monthly tasks. In his Kalendarium Hortense, which was published in fourteen editions from 1664, the famous diarist John Evelyn is a taskmaster for two gardens, or really three: the orchard (he was a big forestry proponent, for both timber and fruit), the “olitory garden” (a word he apparently made up) which produced plants for culinary and medicinal uses, and the “parterre” or flower garden. As you can read below, much is in prime during September so there is much to do in all three gardens.

September Evelyn Cover

September Evelyn

September Evelyn 2

September Evelyn 3

September Evelyn 4

September Evelyn 5

I’m reading these texts for specific information about life and learning in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but it occurred to me that gardening and husbandry texts, in particular, are great sources for understanding climate change as the authors take careful note of the existing weather conditions. September was as much a transitional month for them as it is for us. Michaelmas is really the turning point: before that it can be either hot or cold. After our very humid early September, I was kind of relieved to read the observations of Thomas Tryon, a wealthy merchant, popular author, and energetic advocate of vegetarianism who seemed to exist on nothing but gruel in the month of September as the Air (which is the Life of the Spirit in all Cities and great Towns) is thick and sulpherous , full of gross Humidity (YES!) which has its source from many uncleanesses…..I guess they had to suffer through humidity as well, even in the midst of the “Little Ice Age”.

Tryon collage

The more elaborate horticultural texts are sources for garden design, machinery, experimental crops–even adjoining houses. One of my favorites is John Worlidge’s Systema Agriculturae, the Mystery of Husbandry Discovered (1669) , which also included a “Kalendarium Rusticum” of monthly tasks for the larger estate as well as other reference materials. This is a pretty substantive text describing the workings of a pretty substantive estate: thank goodness there is an epitome! For the steward of such an estate, as opposed to the mere gardener or farmer, September is all about getting ready for the plough, mending your fences, making cider (which Worlidge calls the “wine” of Britain) and perry, drying your hops, sowing a host of vegetables and planting your bulbs, gathering your saffron, “retiring” your tender plants into the conservatory, and tending to your bees. In these early days of an emerging agricultural revolution, it’s good to see some machines to help with all of this work: Worlidge’s work–and his calendar–are aimed at more of a collective or national audience than that of the individual householder as his reference to a “System” implies.

September Worlidge 1691

September WOrlidge title 1681

September Worlidge 1681 verse

September collage

September Worlidge BIG

September walter_d_ae_garten_idstein_fruehling_florilegium_nassau_idstein_1663 The 1681 edition of Worlidge’s Systema Agriculturae; a more ornamental continental garden from the Nassau-Idstein Florilegium by Johann Walter the Elder, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

12 responses to “September Strategies

  • Carol J. Perry

    Donna–Sometimes he MAKETH thee to lie down!


    If you have retired just spend a month in Maine next year….. It has been so spectacular here. As much as I miss Essex and Cape Ann it is beautiful here. Penelope Crane

  • Eilene Lyon

    What a drag to be sick in September! Glad you’re feeling better. These guys sure do prescribe a LOT of work. Perhaps it would be better to not work so hard, and then you wouldn’t need to grow quite so much food. 😉

  • fbradking

    Donna, I LOVED this post!!! But pneumonia …. Oh lordy. All of my sympathies …. (I get it roughly annually, so we’re in the same camp. I hope you are MUCH better and finally able to enjoy Salem in the finest month!


    From: streetsofsalem Reply-To: streetsofsalem Date: Sunday, September 16, 2018 at 11:53 AM To: Francie King Subject: [New post] September Strategies

    daseger posted: “I had high hopes for this particular September, one of the very few Septembers that I didn’t have to go back to school as a student or teacher in my entire life. I’ve always thought that September was one of the most beautiful months of the year, and look”

  • Jane Griswold Radocchia

    A request from a long time reader;
    If you come across references to geometry, as in laying out garden beds, fences, any construction, I would very much like to know . I am working on the use of geometry in construction; it was called Practical Geometry and was certainly used to frame early Salem houses. I am currently studying the Gedney House.
    Meanwhile, get well! Enjoy September! And thanks for the wonderful images. Thanks for all your postings.

    • daseger

      Hi Jane! Nice to hear from you. I do have several geometry texts among the sources I’m looking at for this project–but they are 16th-17th century: too early???

      • jane

        How exciting! Not too early:
        Practical Geometry was known to the Greeks, is in the Bible, governed the construction of the Gothic cathedrals, mentioned by Vitruvius and Palladio… all 16th c. and before.
        Passed down by the Guilds, hands-on, not written down before about 1530… not seriously written about before Peter Nicholson, Asher Benjamin, et al., c. 1800.
        What fun to find new sources!

      • daseger

        As you say, a major early modern interest, so definitely seriously written about before 1800! I’ll do a post in the next few weeks.

  • jane

    USED by Vitruvius, the Romanesque and Gothic world, Serlio, Palladio. Part of the common language before the Renaissance. I’m sure it was taken for granted in 17th c. Salem by carpenters, masons and joiners. And maybe others – which you might come across.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: