How but in custom and ceremony

Are Innocence and Beauty born?

—William Butler Yeats



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Her name was Peromyscus leucopus, but she did not know it. I think it had been a long time since the mice around Port William spoke English, let alone Latin. Her language was a dialect of Mouse, a tongue for which we humans have never developed a vocabulary or grammar. Because I don’t know her name in Mouse, I will call her Whitefoot.

Wendell Berry is widely recognized as a great American writer and poet and a defender of agrarian values. Whitefoot is his first foray into children’s literature, but grown-ups will be glad to eavesdrop on this quiet, well-crafted tale. (Adult readers of Berry’s Port William series will recognize passing references to the fictional town, and the shared themes of work, order, and patience.)

She worked according to an ancient, honorable principle: Enough is enough. She worked and lived without extravagance and without waste. Her nest was a neat small cup the size of herself asleep.

Berry’s poetic but economical prose is well-suited to the story of this mouse. Whitefoot believes she lives at the center of the world, until a springtime flood carries her far away from the forest edge she knew as home. Berry does not anthropomorphize the little white-footed mouse, who doesn’t talk or even think in human terms. Still, her discovery of a wider and dangerous world, and her ability to survive within it, is a lesson that will resonate with us humans.

Readers are helped to enter Whitefoot’s tiny world by twenty illustrations. Te Selle’s densely detailed drawings are unsentimental and beautiful, and depict life an inch above ground. We emerge from the book with a restored sense of place and proportion.

To imagine the life and adventures of Whitefoot, you must compress your mind to her size. Think of going about with your eyes only an inch or two from the ground, among grass stems thicker than your wrist, maple and oak leaves that you can slip under and hide, trees that touch the sky.

Some children might be bored by the lack of talking animals or relative action. Though written for children, the language does not condescend; many young children will not understand all the language or subtext, but will enjoy the calm action and perhaps be emboldened by Whitefoot’s acceptance of life and ability to survive. This compact little book of sixty pages is ideal for nature study.

If you enjoy this book, you might also enjoy—The Art of the Commonplace (Wendell Berry), The Lay of the Land (Dallas Lore Sharp). ❖


January 1, 2013    Originally published as “Review of WHITEFOOT” on the blog Linnet on the Leaf.

© Copyright

Samantha Little holds the copyright for the article “Review of WHITEFOOT” and other content of this site. Readers are welcome to print this page for personal reference only, or to share the URL with others. Please do not reprint or modify this article without written permission from the author. Thank you for your integrity.

Brussels Sprouts with

Mustard Caper Butter

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

“One should never feel merely obligated to eat Brussels sprouts,” writes Deborah Madison in her cookbook Local Flavors: “They’re good.” Brussels sprouts are the poster-child for vegetables-that-make-children-cry, and they certainly are awful when boiled to a smelly mush. This is a disservice to a vegetable that becomes a delicious show-stopper when properly prepared—by roasting, steaming, or boiling al dente—before seasoning.

Baby brussels sprouts are especially darling: they look like flower buds or tiny green fists. A brief simmer brings out their lovely green, and their mild sweet-bitter taste carries a flavorful sauce well—the zing of garlic and mustard, the saltiness of capers, and the brightness of lemon and marjoram. This dish tastes excellent with fish.

Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Caper Butter

2 garlic cloves

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard, more or less

1/4 cup drained capers, rinsed

grated zest of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons chopped marjoram

2 pounds baby Brussels sprouts

Pound the garlic with 1/2 teaspoons salt in a mortar until smooth, then stir it into the butter with the mustard, capers, lemon zest, and marjoram. Season with pepper. (The  butter can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Bring back to room temperature before serving.) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Add the brussels sprouts and cook until tender, about eight minutes. Drain, shake off excess water, then toss with the mustard-caper butter. Taste for salt, season with pepper, and toss again. ❖


January 1, 2013     Recipe from Deborah Madison’s cookbook Local Flavors adapted for publication in the e-magazine Maidens of the Master, Vol. 3, Issue 1, Winter 2013.

January 1, 2013    Published as “Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Caper Butter” on the blog Linnet on the Leaf.

© Copyright

Samantha Little holds the copyright for the article “Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Caper Butter” and other content of this site. Readers are welcome to print this page for personal reference only, or to share the URL with others. Please do not reprint or modify this article without written permission from the author. Thank you for your integrity.


Samantha Little enjoys writing essays, reading poetry, researching health topics, and teaching children. If you want to share a word with this quiet “Listener,” follow the sound of Baroque music played too loudly, or send her an email. You can also visit her blog Wrestle with the Angel, or visit the archive of her previous blog Cabbages and Kings.

The blog Linnet on the Leaf is updated once or twice monthly with essays, reviews, recipes, and lesson plans. It takes its name and motto from the poem by William Butler Yeats entitled “A Prayer for My Daughter.” He prays that his daughter would be like a flourishing green laurel in which her thoughts are a singing bird.


My essays are attempts indeed.

Going in Circles

  1. Bound to Be Beautiful  coming soon...

  2. Circular Temperament

  3. Love’s Lovely Duty  coming soon...

  4. Room to Work  coming soon...


  1. Whole Health for the Whole Woman  coming soon...


  1. Parenting from Mount Olympus

Table Culture

  1. Table Culture  coming soon...

Bonus Libri

Book reviews are arranged according to author.

Berry, Wendell (American, 1934-)

  1. Whitefoot: A Story from the Center...

See under “Tender Green” for books about health, under “Larkrise” for books about education.

Musica Vita

Writing about music may be like dancing about architecture; one day I’ll choreograph a dance about Gothic cathedrals.


  1. Bedtime Beats  coming soon...

  2. Leave Your Sleep  coming soon...


  1. Transatlantic Sessions coming soon...

Single Numbers

  1. Florida Suite  coming soon...

Tender Green

My health research is shared for education only.


  1. Natural Treatment of Diaper Rash

  2. The Nocturnal Dyad  coming soon...

Botanical Beauty

  1. Dry Body Brushing  coming soon...

  2. Herbal Deodorant  coming soon...

  3. Herbal Hair Rinses  coming soon...

  4. Lavender Toner  coming soon...

Case Studies

  1. Teething with Earache and Fever

Green Clean

  1. Lavender Drawer Liner

Kitchen Apothecary

  1. Herbal Bath  coming soon...

  2. Herbal Syrup  coming soon...

  3. Herbal Tincture  coming soon...

Book Reviews

  1. Devil in the Milk


  1. Folate and Folic Acid

  2. A Grain of Salt  coming soon...

  3. What Counts  coming soon...


  1. Spring Menu

  2. Summer Menu

  3. Chocolate Mousse  coming soon...

  4. Autumn Menu

  5. Maple Meringue

  6. Stuffed Onion  coming soon...

  7. Winter Menu

  8. Brussels Sprouts, Mustard-Caper Butter 

  9. Gingerbread


Lesson plans are arranged according to subject.

Bible Study

  1. Creation Week coming soon...

Book Reviews

  1. Never Too Late  coming soon...

  2. The Sense of Wonder  coming soon...

  3. What Do I Do Monday?  coming soon...

Public Trust

These stories and essays are in the public domain.


  1. The Singing House

  2. When Queens Ride By  coming soon...


These are websites I have found most valuable.

Ambleside Online

Ambleside Schools International

Blue Letter Bible

Cyber Hymnal

Eclectic Heights

Ladder of Mercy

Lanier’s Books

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Online Etymological Dictionary

Poetry Foundation

Project Gutenberg

Simply Charlotte Mason

Simply Recipes

Sparrow Tree Square

The Thinking Housewife

Three years she grew in sun and shower

Then Nature said, “A lovelier flower

On earth was never sown;

This Child I to myself will take;

She shall be mine, and I will make

A Lady of my own.


She shall be sportive as a fawn

That wild with glee across the lawn

Or up the mountain springs;

And hers shall be the breathing balm,

And hers the silence and the calm

Of mute insensate things.


The stars of midnight shall be dear

To her; and she shall lean her ear

In many a secret place

Where rivulets dance their wayward round,

And beauty born of murmuring sound

Shall pass into her face.

from Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower, William Wordsworth

May she become a flourishing hidden tree

That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,

And have no business but dispensing round

Their magnanimities of sound,

Nor but in merriment begin a chase,

Nor but in merriment a quarrel.

O may she live like some green laurel

Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

My mind, because the minds that I have loved,

The sort of beauty that I have approved,

Prosper but little, has dried up of late,

Yet knows to be choked with hate

May well be of all evil chances chief.

If there’s no hatred in a mind

Assault and battery of the wind

Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.

from A Prayer for My Daughter, W. B. Yeats