This Thing Called Courage

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Gaggle of Geese, a Husk of Hares

FIONN THE DOG and I have been at the vet's several times of late (he suffered a head trauma which turned into an infection at the hinge of his jaw, which has made me crazy lately) and while waiting in one of the surgical offices, I came across this wonderful poster, which lists the proper, albeit increasingly archaic, names for groups of specific animals. Just had to share! As someone very near and dear to me noted recently, 'the world has lost much of its elegance.' So has our language. Perhaps we can resurrect some of these words by using them more frequently. For example, when at work, at an office meeting, one could say to one's superiors, especially if one were sick of working at that particular establishment, "Good morning, sirs and madames. May I say that walking into the room just now, you reminded me of nothing more than a Pace of Asses."

Speaking of a Pace of Asses, I am reminded of the time I visited Ireland about thirty years ago and was hanging out with some of my younger cousins at my family's farm in Castlemartyr, County Cork. Brian, who was 15 at the time, and I, went into the village to get some grain, and we took one of the asses with us to carry the grain back home. The ass had to go onto the walk-on scale outside the feed store to see how much grain we had purchased-- all well and good. But after the ass had been weighed, he refused to move. Not an inch!!! Brian tried coaxing, cajoling, shoving-- even, God help us, lighting matches near his hindquarters. Still the ass refused to move. Brian finally approached me, red-faced and sweating. "Oh no!" I thought, "He's going to ask a city-slicker like me to solve this problem." But no...."Uncle Joe," he said. "Can you ever tell me, in the name of all that's good, how in the world did our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and his family ever escape into Egypt on an ass?" So here we go:

A Litter of Pups. (yes-- especially if you've ever had to clean up after a bunch of puppies...)

A Flock of Sheep.

A String of Ponies.

A Covey of Patridges.

A Pride of Lions.

A Herd of Elephants.

A Plague of Locusts.

A Colony of Ants.

A Leap of Leopards.

A Pod of Seals.

A Sloth of Bears. (Anyone who has ever been chased by a bear would, I think, protest this one)

A Rafter of Turkeys.

A Pace of Asses.

A Walk of Snipe.

A Gam of Whales.

A Nest of Rabbitts.

A Gang of Elk.

A Fall of Woodcocks. My favorite bird. And during the male's mating ritual, they do seem to fall to the ground)

A Dule of Doves.

A Skulk of Foxes.

A Dissimulation of Birds.

A Spring of Teal.

A Peep of Chickens.

A Bevy of Roebucks.

A Business of Ferrets. (love this one)

A Bale of Turtles.

A Pitying of Turtledoves. (how poetic)

A Drift of Hogs. (wonderfully oxymoronic-- I can assure you that hogs don't 'drift' into one's home

A Paddling of Ducks.

A Siege of Herons. (maybe the way they fish?)

A Trip of Goats.

A Charm of Finches.

A Cete of Badgers.

A Deceit of Lapwings.

A Shoal of Bass.

An Exhaltation of Larks. (Lovely!)

A Drove of Cattle.

A Singular of Boars.

A Tidings of Magpies. (Lovely too!)

A Gaggle of Geese.

A Congregation of Plovers.

A Husk of Hares.

An Unkindness of Ravens.

A Labor of Moles.

A Richness of Martens.

A Cast of Hawks.

A Knot of Toads.

A Descent of Woodpeckers.

A Sounder of Swine.

A Mustering of Storks.

A Clutch of Eggs.

A Bouquet of Pheasants. (Lovely)

An Army of Caterpillars.

A Hover of Trout.

A Flight of Swallows.

A Troop of Kangaroos.

A Clowder of Cats.

A Watch of Nightingales.

A Barren of Mules.

A Shrewdness of Apes. (Rank speciesism!)

A Rag of Colts.

A Murmuration of Starlings. (Very apt, though I would suggest 'a shrillness.')

A Building of Rooks.

A Parliament of Owls. (For WHOM did you vote?)

A Murder of Crows. (Shakesperean!)

There were others, but at this point the vet came back into the room and my scribbling came to a premature end.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Full Moon Beer

(If I wasn't a sober guy I would like to give this a try!)

Full moons are often associated with tides, insanity and creatures like werewolves, but it turns out they're also good for brewing beer.

In Peruwelz, a small, sleepy town in southern Belgium, a family-owned brewery has produced its first batch of specialist beer brewed by the light of a full autumnal moon.

It isn't so much a nod to mythology as a recognition of nature's impact on the science of brewing.

"We made several tests and noticed that the fermentation was more vigorous, more active," explained Roger Caulier, the owner of Brewery Caulier, which began in the 1930s when his grandfather started selling homemade beer from a handcart.

"The end product was completely different, stronger, with a taste lasting longer in the mouth," he said.

The full moon speeds up the fermentation process, shortening it to five days from seven, which adds extra punch to the beer without making it harsh, according to connoisseurs.

The finely balanced, gold-colored beer is 10 percent alcohol by volume, extremely strong by most European or U.S. standards but not uncommon in Belgium, where traditional monk-brewed beers frequently hit 10 or 12 percent.

"It goes down very well, no problem at all," said Joseph Francois, a journalist and beer expert who has tasted the brew.

Brewery Caulier, which uses methods dating from the 1840s and is well-known for its artisanal beers, plans to produce about 12,000 bottles of its full moon beer, called Paix-Dieu (Peace-God), which go on sale on October 31.

The idea came to Caulier after he visited a friend in Alsace, a winemaking region of eastern France, who told him about how he planned his entire production schedule according to the lunar calendar.

Caulier began experimenting and eventually came up with a nine-step process that includes using two types of hops and involves a two-week secondary fermentation process inside the bottle, not unlike the technique used to produce Champagne.

"It gives the product greater fame, a bit like for great vintage wines," he said.

"It could lead to collectors checking the differences between one vintage and another because there could very well be differences between every batch."

Being from a three-generation brewing family, Caulier is fascinated by the science behind the process. But he doesn't discount the mythical aspects of full moon beer either.

"Many farmers are convinced that the moon influences the quality of some of their products," he said."

You can feel agitated on full moons, you have births, you get many myths around the full moon and I think there is some truth behind them."

Either way, he's hoping that Paix-Dieu proves a hit and is even in talks to distribute it in the U.S. and Japan.