At the Oak Park (Illinois) Public Library on a perfect autumn day, many members of the Greater Chicago Region chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America met to hear a presentation by Nancy Melvin entitled “From Agrimony to Yarrow: A Jane Austen Herbal.”
Nancy enchanted us with her warm personality and shared snippets of fragrant herbs and flowers. She guided us on an imaginary walk with Jane Austen over the countryside of Hampshire and through the seasons. During the winter, Nancy said, little seems to disturb the ground and plants as they rest. But deep underground the roots are growing and storing up nutrients to burst forth when their time arrives.
In the spring, the buds open and new shoots emerge, from the earliest to the later delights of flowers like snowdrops to full fledged rose bushes.
All summer long we enjoy the bounty of the garden from asparagus and early peas to apples and squash. Autumn brings us harvest time, and orange pumpkins grace the fields. These were the seasons that ruled the life cycles for centuries and which Jane Austen knew and loved.
A lifelong lover of gardens, Nancy is a teacher, knitter, and artist. She is part of a venture, now more than two years old, known as Union Made, Chicago, a store carrying handmade textiles and body-comforting products made by local craftswomen and artists.
The website for Union Handmade is here.
Union Handmade’s blog can be found here.
Nancy also talked about using herbs and flowers in tisanes, teas, and vinegars — all to fill our days with warmth and tease our tasebuds.