Monday, April 20, 2015

A Dilly of a Weekend!

Several months ago, our friend Debbie Stiffler-Zugates asked if we'd be interested in coming to help the Indiana County Herb Study Group that she helped found celebrate 30 years.  Lately we've been doing less and less scooting around the countryside, but this was different.  We couldn't resist!  So after the PA Herb Fest the previous week, we didn't bother to unpack, and just headed out on Friday morning.

We stayed at the beautiful Dillweed Bed & Breakfast, hosted by Kyra and Corey Gilmore.

There is a Dillweed Herb Festival in June, and I will be posting information at the end of this entry.  The B&B is right next to a trail that was once a railway, and it passes through towns that were once bustling coal or steel towns that are now ghost towns and may now be not much more than a few foundations in the woods.

 That's why they call it the Ghost Town Trail (and we were relieved to hear the explanation).  We wandered a short way in both directions on the trail.  We wandered the gardens in back of the house.

Friday evening we had dinner with several of the Study Group members at a little restaurant in Blairsville.  Delicious and a very nice time.

Then we went back to the B&B to sit on the side porch and listen to the Spring peepers.
Saturday morning Kyra served us a scrumptious breakfast with just the right amount of herbs sprinkled in.

The whole stay at Dillweed was so comfortable and homey.  We really enjoyed it.  I do wish we'd taken the time to visit the gift and antique shop on the one side of the building, as I'm certain it holds treasures galore.
We drove over to The Rustic Lodge in Indiana PA to set up a table with our offerings, and get ourselves prepared to give a talk before lunch.  As the club members began to arrive, they shopped, and shopped, and shopped!  Eventually everyone arrived, and after we posed for a couple news photogs, we hit the lectern.  That hour flew, and they practically had to get the hook out (as I'd warned) to end the talk so that lunch could be served.
We ate, talked with the new friends at our table, and listened to a bit about the history of this vibrant and large herb study group.  This area is really pretty mountainous and rural, so to have 50 people show up was pretty amazing.  Not only did they show up, they were enthusiastic, engaged, and fun to be around.  After another round of shopping, the crowd thinned out and it was time to pack up to go home.
I'm skipping over the part where the GPS couldn't find Dilltown.  And the part where I realized that heights and cliffs and windy roads have gotten scarier than when I was young.  The beautiful vistas were thrilling last time I was there (nearly 40 years ago),  Apparently I need to get out more... I'm also excluding the part where we were lost in Indiana and Kyra had to talk Maryanne to the lodge.  Stupid GPS!
It was a beautiful weekend, and we enjoyed it.  Here's the info on the Herb Festival, just in case you're anywhere near western PA.  They draw a couple thousand people and have lots of great vendors and speakers, so it's worth a drive.

The Herb Festival:

Get ready for Dillweed’s annual Pick-A-Dilly Herb Faire!
 The Dillweed Bed & Breakfast in Dilltown is pleased to announce the 17th Annual Pick-A-Dilly Herb Faire, scheduled for Saturday, June 14th, from 9am to 4pm. Admission is free and open to the public.  The one day event is co-sponsored by The Herb Study Group of Indiana County.   

The herb festival has grown in popularity over the past years, attracting hundreds of visitors to the quiet village of Dilltown.  The event is a great way to spend the day visiting area growers that feature a large variety of flowering plants, HERBS and perennials - all in one location!  Food offerings will not be in short supply this year as Dillweed welcomes Gert’s Concession featuring stadium sandwiches, cheese steaks, fresh cut fries, cheese fries and cold beverages.  And once again the bed & breakfast will provide its’ fresh, sizzling hot Pesto Pizza by the slice!

Enjoy a unique selection of artisans selling country crafts,  handmade beeswax products, hand carved wood items for the home, all natural gourmet herb vinegars, spice blends & dipping oils, lavender sugar, and herb bean soups.  Returning artisans include original botanical artwork, herb teas, hand poured soap products, jewelry, and other garden inspired specialties. 

            Visitors to the event will gain valuable gardening information, growing tips and learn how to care for and cultivate their own herbal gardens.  Explore the history and many uses of this year’s featured herb, Savory ( will be available for sale during the show). Visit the “Ask the Gardening Expert” table with your herb and general gardening questions anytime throughout the duration of the Herb Faire. The Herb Study Group will be presenting three free seminars during the event - just look for the colorful balloons to indicate the location:
(Programs not yet finalized)

For additional information, directions and/or questions please contact:

Corey Gilmore at 814-446-6465.         Dillweed Bed & Breakfast           7453 Route 403 Hwy S
                                                Dilltown, PA  15929

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mid April Woods Ramble

One of the best parts of having a long-running blog (we're 10 years in on this one), is that it also works as a garden journal and a way to keep track of when to expect wild crops.  Molly and I went hiking in the woods and around the house the other day.  Here's what we found, in no particular order:

The hillside across the creek is covered with white bloodroot flowers, but on the near side they are just beginning to open.

We crossed over to visit the Dutchman's Breeches.  These were introduced several years ago.

In spite of frequent visits by herons, the pond is full of fish.

Bleeding Hearts are just starting to break out of the soil.

Baby Cleavers are everywhere. 

A shallow section of the creek with lots of shale and stepping stones.

Echinacea coming up.

Garlic mustard - if you aren't sure, crush a leaf and take a whiff.  Eat this stuff!

Glossy wild ginger.  The fuzzy stuff is further down the path.  Both were introduced.

Infant jewelweed.  Soon enough there will be a waist high (swampy) meadow, filled with it.

At first I thought this was a volunteer valerian.  Smelled it, and it is lovage that Molly planted last year.

Miss Molly out on a limb.

Ramps spreading well on both sides of the creek.  Also introduced.

Skunk cabbage.  This is really a lovely plant.  We don't have too much - just enough.

Trout lily foliage.  They cover the ground, especially on the other side of the creek.  Another week or so til bloom.

Monday, April 13, 2015

May/June 2015 Issue - Essential Herbal

Before sharing the cover and table of contents, I have a little story.  It may be my age has something to do with my amazement.  You be the judge.
The business end of the magazine is all family.  My sister Maryanne does the lay-out and her son Rob has very kindly taken the website management off my shoulders.  Both of these tasks used to be mine.  Both of them brought me to tears each issue.  Rob is a software engineer, so taking care of the website for me is a huge favor.  Sort of like asking a brain surgeon to check out your athlete's foot.
Yesterday I bundled up all the information for the update of this issue in an email, not realizing that he was at a conference in Montreal.  I did realize however that he's in the process of moving from NYC to Boston, and told him that any time he could get around to it in the next few days would be great.
His reply was something like:  The conference here is wrapping up, so if the wifi at the airport is decent I can probably do it from there.
It was done a few hours later.  I should note that the website is separate from the shopping cart, so there was no security issue.
Anyway, I thought that was pretty cool.  We aren't tethered to location much anymore, that's for sure!

Okay, on to this issue.  Thanks for indulging me.
The stunning cover by Carey Jung depicts the strawberry rose moon rising above a scene of early summer perfection.

The articles inside are just as delicious as the cover.  Putting this issue together made it very hard to wait for the plants that are just now starting to spring forth from the earth (since we started about a month ago).  I know you're going to love them.

Table of Contents
Field Notes by Tina Sams
Validation isn’t always needed, but it sure is nice.
Aromatherapy for Beginners, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Safety info and a quick overview on a dozen great oils.
The Humble Strawberry, Cathy Calf Child Strong Hearted Woman
Native medicine teaching will make you liok at the strawberry a little differently.
Self Heal, Sandy Michelsen
Unassuming, but oh-so-valuable, find out what this weed can do.
Butters and Creams, Jamie Jackson
Great information on working with lots of butters and creating luscious skin soothers.
Kids Corner, Dancing with Dandelions, Kristine Brown
Learn to love these sunny little helpers. Almost everywhere at this time of year, Kristine gives us tons of ways to utilize them.
Through the Looking Glass: Arthur Rackham, Susanna Reppert
Susanna’s series on fairy artists highlights a prolific illustrator.
It’s Time to Fall in Love with Hydrosols, Pt 1, Liz Pulcher
What are hydrosols and why you should know about them, use them, care for them, and love them.
Our Friend Nettles, Ben Cohen
Are nettles growing near you? Get to know them, fresh or dried!
Quiz—Questions for Herb Gardeners, Carol Ann Harlos
Test your knowledge with this fun quiz.
Spring Wildcrafting, Catherine Love
Some favorite wildlings to keep an eye out for in late spring and early summer.
Nigella—The Underused Beauty, Jackie Johnson
Love in a Mist, stunning in the garden and useful in the home.
Lemon Verbena Shampoo Soap, Marci Tsohonis
Mmmm! Lemon Verbena is the scent of summer for some, and it is spectacular in body care products. A bar shampoo to try.
Gatherings, Rita Richardson
“Snippets of this and a little bit of that for the herb lover and cook.”
My Aching Back, Barbara Steele
A look back at old-time liniments and some recipes to try. These are as useful today as they ever were.
Hydraulics & Herbs, Suzan Tobias Scholl
Part 3 “Your Cheatin’ Heart” takes up where the previous articles on the Lymph and Circulatory systems left off.
 If you'd like to subscribe please visit the website - 
There is a sample magazine available for download there (or you can find one or two along the sidebar of the blog).  TEH is a print magazine, but we also have pdf subscriptions available, as well as a combination of print and pdf at a nice discount.  Print is available only in the US and Canada.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter morning in the garden

It seemed fitting to see what has returned on this gorgeous morning.  Rebirth, renewal, and rejoicing all awaited my eyes that searched for a glimpse of what is to come.

Chickweed is everywhere and the tiny white blooms are bursting out to make sure that there will be more.

The chive patch is just getting started.  Walking close to it, I could smell - but not see - the peppermint.

The very first, very tiny leaves of comfrey rising out of the dried leaves of last year.  Hard to believe that this will soon be a huge plant with leaves over a foot long.

Mom's buttery yellow crocuses welcome those who come to the kitchen door.

Just last week, there was no sign of life on any of the gooseberries.  Looking good now!  I'm still waiting for the red currants to sprout leaves, but the black currants are budding up nicely.

Horehound - for the first time, this plant all but died back for the winter.  It usually stays pretty lively throughout and I worried that it was gone, but it is bouncing back to life.

The St John's wort had green leaves all winter long.  It is nestled under a big echinacea plant.  They'll probably fight it out for space this summer, but there is plenty of both, so that's okay.

I can never get a decent picture of the thyme.  It covers quite a large area and spreads further every year.

The valerian is waking up.  To the left, you can see some ground ivy and some chickweed. 

A sweet surprise!  Several scilla bulbs that I planted a few years ago sent up tiny flowers along the back of the garden.  It must have been a good year for bulbs, because the hyacinth beside the porch that has been a LONE hyacinth for 7 years divided itself into 7 this year.  I can see the spikes forming at the center of the leaves, too!

Soon our family will gather around the table.  There will be lots of laughter and story-telling before some will depart for the trip back to their far-away home.  The moments in the garden this morning, quiet except for the wind and the birds, brought the joy of spring to me.
May your day be filled with happiness.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Breaking Hibernation - Here Comes Spring!

It has been a long, cold winter with enough precipitation for a few years; the kind of year that makes even die-hard winter lovers long for spring.  In fact, it wouldn't surprise me too much to see another snowfall. 
Part of me feels like I've been in a state of suspended animation, but a bigger part is feeling like I've been running a marathon, so it's been something nagging at me - why? 
Well... we put out "Through the Seasons" in November.  That was a huge undertaking.  5 whole years of magazine issues organized, dolled up, and indexed.  Whew!  The pre-sale and aftermath coinciding with the final work and printing of the book were pretty challenging when realizing that we don't have a staff to handle the various parts of the process.  That book is amazing, though.  Possibly my favorite.
We got the Jan/Feb (of The Essential Herbal magazine) issue out, stocked up the soap shelves, and then headed off to a wholesale show for my sister's soap business.  We came home and started filling the show orders and putting together the Mar/Apr issue. 
Then the cold hit.
With a sledgehammer.
It came to stay.  It brought frozen pipes and ice slicked roads and long stretches of temperatures so low that we found ourselves pondering situations we hadn't thought too much about before.  Getting anything done was just hard.  While in town roads were clear and dry, out here they were snow-covered for most of the winter.
But we did it.  The magazine issues were released on time (we just sent the May/June issue off to the printer, right on schedule).  Soap was made and stacked on the shelves, only to be pulled and wrapped for orders, and then made and stacked again. 
Next, "Healing Herbs" came out last month.  I'm proud to say that it's been very well received, and when John Gallagher of and I did a webinar together, lots and lots of those watching ordered the book - which, if it ever gets here, will turn around and hit the mail within 24 hours.  John recorded the webinar, by the way.  You can watch it HERE.
It kind of looks like spring might be here.  Walking down to the workshop to wrap soap the other day, I took a few pictures.
Part of the path is lined on either side with hazelnut bushes (catkins above), bayberry bushes, mint, daylilies, and black raspberry canes.  There are fruit trees at the far end, too.  A good place to witness the seasons change.

Motherwort is springing up (heh heh) all along the upper path.  It makes me think that as it spreads, maybe we need to pay attention and add more of it to our "usual" herbs.  Motherwort has a lot to offer.

Seed heads from the Motherwort wave everywhere - which explains the spread of the plants.

The wild white Yarrow is very common on the farm.  In fact if we let my front yard grow, it would be mostly Yarrow (and plantain, dandelion, mustard, lambsquarters, and poke). 

Now we look forward to the spring shows.  The PA Herb Festival is in 2 weeks.  The next week we head out to Indiana Co. to speak to a group, and then in early May, Landis Valley Herb Faire.  May 15th we'll start on the Jul/Aug issue, and then THEN we get a little time off.  Well... there's soap, of course.  We want to get to the beach this year.  We say that every year, but I think we really must.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Florida Herbal Conference


Last month I was lucky enough to be a patron of the Florida Herbal Conference (FHC) and it was quite a ride.

It was a humbling and encouraging experience for me. I am surrounded by herbs every day with my family, at The Rosemary House, or at Wish but being encircled by different people from different parts of the country taught me a lot.

Possibly one of my favorite parts was that everyone was more than happy to meet everyone. At class, at the tea porch, marketplace, or in line for food you could ask anyone, “how was your day?” and they would be more than happy to tell you. I was taken aback by the genuine goodwill and compassion everyone had.

I also loved how everyone was so excited to educate one another. I could ask anyone a question about herbalism and if they didn’t know we would find out the answer together. The passion within everyone was inspiring to say the least.

I'll be working on a more in depth article for the May/June issue of The Essential Herbal.  You can subscribe to TEH and get lots of great articles and shared experience!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Power of the Seed - book review

This book crossed my desk, and while I found it interesting because I use lots of oils in things like salves and such, I passed it along to my sister, Maryanne Schwartz of Lancaster County Soaps, Etc. because oils are such a big part of what she does.

Here's what she had to say:

Power of the Seed, Your Guide to Oils for Health and Beauty
Susan M Parker

This is a great reference book for those who use oils in creating health and beauty products or even a great reference for those who just use those products. 

It came to me at a time when I am in the process of formulating some new products for my business and we were using fractionated coconut oil for one of the products.  Someone casually said, “What is fractionated coconut oil, anyway?”  I knew something about the properties of the oil and why we were using it in the product, but really wasn’t sure how it was made. The very next day, I started looking through “Power of the Seed” and there it was - the whole explanation of fractionated coconut oil! 

The book contains a lot of in depth information and it is easy to be drawn into various sections. As a soap maker, I am always striving to get a better understanding of my craft and the discussions of saturated and unsaturated oils, saponifiables in oils,  explanations of various properties that will definitely help in the design of products.  I will admit that for the first year or so of soap making, we were constantly changing and refining our basic recipe with the little information available and a lot of trial and error.  This book would have been very helpful.

For those who want a springboard of nice recipes to get started - the information is here, but better than just a recipes, the author supplies reasons why each ingredient is used as well as possible substitutes. So, it is a source of information as well as inspiration.

Although this is not the kind of book to read cover to cover in one sitting, as the author says, it is a great place to “go look it up”!

The book is published by 
Direct link to purchase:


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