The text and paintings on The Trowbridge Chronicles are taken from the illustrated journal of Violet Trowbridge, a shrew that once lived in a village deep in the Olympic Rain Forest. Each new post will represent a portion of Mrs. Trowbridge’s journal.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The night forest was still and silent, except for a muffled chorus of squeaky voices coming from deep under the first snowfall of the season. It was a gathering of shrews, celebrating their holiday season by making merry and singing holiday anthems.

I selected this painting by Mrs. Trowbridge because as I write this we are in the middle of our first big winter storm in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The first snow fall of the season has covered our world with a big soft white blanket. As Christmas draws near, we eagerly anticipate our upcoming holiday gatherings. Soon we will be making the trip through the snow to my hometown to celebrate the joy of family and the birth of the Christ Child.

May your family gatherings be filled with peace and joy, and your carols echo throughout the forest.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Mrs. Trowbridge painted this portion of a large bank of Maidenhair ferns which grew near the Trowbridge family cottage. She did many charcoal and color studies of the rain forest flora. This fern bank was a favorite play area for Mrs. T's children and their friends. They loved to play tag, and hide-and-seek among the fronds, and beneath the oxalis leaves. Sometimes their play would become rambunctious and one young shrew would stub their paw or bump their head on a root. They would then run squeaking and squealing to the Trowbridge family cottage for comfort and first aid. She was always there for the children and their friends.

I shot these Maidenhair ferns (Adiatum pedatum) near a boulder overhang in the Dosewallips region of the Olympic Wilderness. Maidenhair ferns are recognized by the fine black stems and fan-shaped leaflets. They are always a delight to see along the trail.

Herbalists have used Maidenhair fern syrup just as Mrs. T once did, for chronic pulmonary conditions such as bronchitis, as well as anemia, and persistent skin disorders. If you would like to brew up a batch for yourself, here's Mrs. T's recipe, which I adapted to human measurements.

2 cups (40 grams) fresh Maidenhair fern leaves (equal parts, dried and crumbled)
4 cups (1 liter) water
2 cups (500 ml) unpasteurized honey.

Boil plant in water for three minutes, cover and infuse for three hours. Strain the decoction, and then gently melt the honey, without bringing to a boil, for five minutes. Pour the mixture into a glass bottle. Store in the refrigerator and consume within two months at a rate of 1-2 tsp
(15-30 ml) diluted in water, three times daily. Let me know if you should decide to try this recipe. I would love to hear of your results.

Oxalis (oxalis oregana), or wood sorrel, is the "clover of the rain forest". The plant bears small white, five-petaled flowers, as seen in Mrs. T's painting. It grows in abundance on the forest floor in the Olympic montane zone. Oxalis is edible...I've eaten it many has a kind of tart lemony taste. The tartness comes from its oxalic acid content.

Indians ate the leaves fresh or cooked. They also used the plant juice for digestive problems. Oxalis blooms from April to August.