April 24th, 2008

Madder cultivation

Time/Location: Fantasy world with medieval technology

Searched: madder cultivation, growing madder, madder dye, madder root, etc

I have a character whose family cultivates madder to sell to the dye works in a city further south. While I’ve been able to find plenty of information about turning the fresh roots into dye, I’m having serious trouble finding information about actually growing the stuff. What sort of climate does madder grow best in? What would the daily tasks of someone who grows madder be? What are problems that one would run into while growing the plant?

Right now, the story is mostly an idea, and I can twist just about anything around to work with this. Any and all information would be wonderful.
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Drinks In 1880

I have a character in 1880 (Spike, pre-siring), and I want to know what he'd be drinking at a party.

(Already tried googling "victorian england" "victorian england beverages" "england drinks" "history of alcohol" "1880 drinks".)

In a social situation in 1880 (any social situation would be fine, really), what would a middle class Englishman being drinking?
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Picturesque desuetude and sexual ambiguity?

I'm honestly not sure how to Google this, so I'm throwing myself on the mercy of Little Details.

Time: late 1970s or early 1980s.
Place: Japan, somewhere rather rural and off the beaten track. (The person telling this story is deliberately cagey about where it happened.)

Question 1: For a very old-fashioned Japanese house, what would be some signs that might suggest to a viewer that it is being neglected?

Question 2: A traveler meets a person whose gender he's unsure of. This person is wearing traditional dress--what are the details that keep our traveler guessing whether he's talking to a man or a woman?

Question 3: How would our traveler address such a person? (Zhie is very pleasant and obliging--perhaps too much so.)

Question 4 (related to Japan, but in about the 12th century rather than modern times): A young courtier is given a position in the provincial administration, ostensibly one of responsibility and consequence, but in fact exile to the back of beyond. Where could that be?

The scenario: Character X is telling the story of an encounter with a person of ambiguous attributes. X has got lost on a country road, because the landmarks don't correspond to the map. He decides to put in a call to his destination to let the folks there know that he will be late, and maybe to get directions. It's a good ten years before mobile phones were available, so he goes in search of a phone. He finds a house set well back from the road, with someone, apparently the occupant, sitting on the veranda taking the air. There is no phone in the house, and the traveler is anxious about getting to a place where he can make a call, but instead finds himself continuing to converse with the person of the house who is very charming. X is served tea, in an antique, exquisite bowl; it tastes bad in some way, but he forces himself to drink it. Several times he's on the point of deciding, for sure, that his companion is a man (or woman) but he cannot be sure.

About Gargoyles

Story Setting/Time:  My story will take place in modern day USA.  

I'm looking for any information about Gargoyles (the mythological creatures).  I've googled "Gargoyle", "Gargoyles" and "Gargoyle Legends" and I've searched Wikipedia for "Gargoyles".  The only useful info I found was a couple of very short paragraphs about the legend of La Gargouille, a fierce dragon whose remnants were mounted on a town wall and became the model for gargoyles

Does anyone know anything about gargoyles or know of any websites or books that contain information on these creatures (even information on the creatures that is connected to info about the waterspouts and statues would be helpful)? 

Edit:  Much thanks to everyone who replied!  The answers were really helpful!