REVIEW: Red Sky at Night

If you have ever tried and failed to race a ferret then Red Sky at Night is probably just what you need to improve your training techniques.

This book is a little like a Schott’s Miscellany for the British countryside, containing a wealth of information compiled in an orderly manner that you can dip into and out of at will. Or just read the whole thing, which is what I did.

Written by Jane Struthers and subtitled The Book of Lost Countryside Wisdom, Red Sky at Night includes 16 chapters on subjects like creatures, gardening, traditions and superstitions, which was one of the reasons I bought it.

Recently I have been becoming increasingly interested in how humans have separated themselves from their environment and nature and, because of that, have lost a lot of traditional knowledge. I want to learn more about the old ways and whether there are truths and benefits in countryside and folk lore and the concept of getting back to nature.

I bought this because I thought it would act as an introduction to the subject.

It wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be but that’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. It turned out to be much more practical than I was expecting it to be.

By that I mean that, with the help of this book I could probably build a half decent compost heap, tell whether an egg is fresh, make a rosehip cordial and even make a half-hearted attempt to thatch a roof. But I still know nothing about the Green Man or Mother Earth.

Even though I was looking for something a little more spiritual, this book is a mine of interesting information.

There is a list of creatures with the names of the male, female and young are called. Who knew a baby spider was called a spiderling? There is also a descriptions of the types of honey made by bees feeding on the pollen of different flowers.

I enjoyed the chapter on the weather – this was more what I was hoping from from this book. There’s a section on using clouds to predict the weather and quite a lot of weather lore, none of which are given any explanations but there were a fair few I had never heard of like ‘frogs will call before the rain but in the sun are quiet again’.

There are lots of lists too: a list of native trees and native birds, Saint’s days, constellations, islands, Roman towns and I will certainly be using the sections on attracting bees and butterflies when it comes to changing the planting in my back garden.

As I said previously, the book is well organised into chapters that made sense to me and it packs a lot in to its 280 pages.

I’ll certainly keep it. It’s going into the reference section of my little library because you will never know the next time I need to know the collective noun for pigeons (it’s a dropping of pigeons – that seems appropriate!).

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