Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Rosemary House's Fairy Festival

By Molly Sams

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to work at The RosemaryHouse’s annual fairy festival. It was not the first time I had ever worked at a festival (I’ve done several seasons at the PA Renaissance Faire and a year at Pennsic) but I was amazed by how quickly and how thorough each part of the festival was organized and executed. For a weekend, the garden truly became something completely different.

Unlike the other festivals I have participated in, this one was just for children. While many faires and festivals discuss being family friendly they do have some deviations. This festival, however, is definitely just for kids and I found that refreshing. It was nice to see so much focus go into the children having fun and making memories. There were plenty of activities for them and it was nice to see the parents enjoy watching their children have a great time. Even the people working and the parents become enthralled with the spirit. Before you know it, everyone is a fairy or gnome, knight, or whatever they want to be.

Or a moss man!

The detail that The Rosemary House and Sweet Remembrances puts into the festival is what makes it so magical. Nancy makes sure her fairy lunches are absolutely perfect and delicious while Susanna and Lori work for days making each part of the garden a perfect home for a fairy. The whole block seems to be a buzz for a week before the festival. 

Just one of the many works of art at the fairy festival

Everyone who works there does their best to make the fest as much fun as possible from fairy songs to the yearly fairy promise at the end. The children draped over their father’s shoulder or sleepily rubbing their eyes after a long day were still excited and smiling as I gave them their fairy name. Susanna and Nancy have a wonderful time creating the festival and it shows through each craft, play and song. If you are able to take your little ones to The Rosemary House for next year’s festival, bring your camera; you won’t want to miss a beat.

I was able to snap a picture of this little fairy before she ran off to more adventures!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Herb of the Week: Echinacea

A welcoming and brilliant pink plant to bees, butterflies and gold finches, Echinacea is a fantastic herb for an immunity boost during those winter months and it can be a great addition to your garden.

Echinacea is commonly the first tincture new herbies make. Often used to stimulate the immune system, this herb can be fantastic during cold and flu seasons. Used as a tincture, tea, and mixed with elderberry it can help with a dry scratchy cough or an achy body. Echinacea should be taken to stimulate the immune system, not as a tonic taken everyday as my mother says, “When people learn about Echinacea's immune boosting properties, they often decide to take it every day in an effort to avoid every becoming ill.  This is much like continually sounding the alarm bell at the fire station, and eventually the fire fighters become exhausted and fail to respond to the call.  Some people "pulse" Echinacea by taking it 3 days on, and then, a day or two off.  I don't.  I just keep Echinacea at the ready and use it before the bug gets a good hold.  If you miss that window of opportunity and a virus or flu gets a grip, reach for elderberry.”

While many use Echinacea for it’s medicinal uses, it is also popular among those who landscape. The plant has tall, vibrant pink flowers and a unique cone shape, which catches the eye. Because of its height, many use it as a way to line gardens or property boundaries. It can look much more appealing than a fence. The plant needs to be divided into clumps about every four years according to Missouri Botanical Herb Garden to avoid over crowding.

To make a tincture Sue Hess suggests quartering the heads of the flower before putting them into a food processor. After that you can pour grain alcohol and water over the mashed herb and let it sit for several weeks. While Echinacea can be made into other forms, I enjoy the tincture so it can be mixed into tea or soup, that way you can take your medicine but in a more comforting way.

So as the school days drag on and the children begin to catch things here and there you will have something ready to keep them going until the holidays.


Sunday, September 07, 2014

Second 5-Year Volume - PreSale Special

5 full years of The Essential Herbal Magazine (30 issues included - $150 single issue value for only $48) covering the years 2008 through 2012.

If you liked our first 5 years (2 volumes, By the Hearth, and Under the Sun), you're going to love this great big herbalpalooza of a book!  We're still working on it, so we can't give you the exact page count, or show you the cover just yet.  But it's good.  Very good.  Some of the reasons you'll want to own it:

Organized into chapters
Completely indexed
Perfect bound paperback with color cover.
Over 400 pages (8 1/2 x 11) covering all of the ways we use and enjoy herbs.

Chapters include topics such as:  Medicinal information, Cooking with Herbs, Foraging, The Herb Life, Soaps & Body Care, Growing and Gardening, and Traditions.

Expected delivery date: Early November (just in time for gift-giving)
Order now, and save.
Presale - Print version $48, with  FREE SHIPPING (US ONLY)PDF version $40 available world wide (save $8 on presale)

AND... Molly is finishing up an Herbal Word Puzzle book that will include 45 puzzles - a mix of crosswords, word-finds, and scrambles.  All preorders will receive a pdf of it absolutely free - so be sure to send us the correct email address!  They won't be on sale until after the special closes, and then they will go for $7.95.  So take advantage of this offer today, and save big!

Please let your herbal friends know so that they too can get this great deal.  Thanks!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Herb of the Week: Lavender

As mentioned in previous posts, my love affair with lavender is somewhat recent. Before this year I had always associated the herb with pain of sunburn and trouble sleeping from an early age – not the best start to a relationship. Since then, however, my taste and knowledge about the herb has changed and I find new reasons to love it all the time.

I first enjoyed the smell during a lavender wand making session in Sue Hess’s Homestead Herbalism class. The Latin root word, lavare, means, “to wash,” and since ancient Rome, people have used lavender in their bathing rituals, cooking, and laundry because of its fragrance. Recipes are still being created today to use the fragrance and benefits of lavender.

Lavender Hair Mask (using Sue Hess’s Herb-Infused Therapeutic Oils: Simple Method #2)

You’ll need:

1 oz. Lavender flowers
8 oz. Olive oil
Rosemary essential oil

To make:

Place lavender flowers and olive oil into Mason jar with tight fitting lid. Put jar into crock pot, do not completely submerge jar. Set crockpot to warm setting, keep an eye on the jar to make sure it does not become too hot. After two to six hours turn off the crock pot and let sit over night. Then strain and place in a clean glass jar. Keep Rosemary essential oil in separate bottle.

To use:

Pour about a quarter sized amount into your palm and rub into your hair. Repeat until oil is equally dispersed into your hair. Massage one to two drops of rosemary essential oil into your hair after you have thoroughly covered your hair and scalp in lavender infused olive oil. Place hair in a hair clip or shower cap and leave on for ten to 15 minutes. Wash and style your hair.

Some believe that the scent of lavender washes more than your laundry and your hair, though. Many use lavender in dream pillows, essential oil drops, and bubble baths to help calm a restless mind. I rarely use lavender before bed but I do keep a lavender wand in my car to calm myself during traffic jams and enjoy using candles and spritz to give my room a fresh scent and help my mind relax and focus while studying or reading.
Many people love the herb for its culinary uses. While working at the PA Herb Festival in York, Susanna Reppert-Brill found chocolate and lavender popsicles. They had just enough of a balance that the lavender was sweet instead of perfumey, a task I still have yet to master in my own experiments.

Because lavender has been used for hundreds of years, there are numerous uses we have found for the herb. Don’t be afraid to experiment with this herb in your beauty, bathing, and culinary recipes. The herb can be beneficial and smells fantastic. Have fun!

Side note:

If you want to find a great place to get essential oils for your hair mask, visit Sunrose Aromatics. They offer a fantastic selection of essential and carrier oils as well as hundreds of other great products.

You can also find out how to make lavender wands by checking out our lavender wand blog post or you can buy them. We also have soap, spritz, and so much more!


Hess, Susan. Homestead Herbalism: Materia Medica and Other Herbal Gatherings. Chester County, Pa, 2013-2014. Herb-Infused Therapeutic Oils page. Print.

Hess, Susan. Homestead Herbalism: Materia Medica and Other Herbal Gatherings. Chester County, Pa, 2013-2014. Lavender page. Print.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Sky Juice (for bug bites)

We have a couple things going on here right now.  #1 is a little almost 1 year old named Sky living with us, and #2 is a flea invasion that seems to have come from nowhere.  They love Sky.  She's down there where they are and they see "feast!"  Her mama is beside herself every time she sees that perfect little body covered with bites.  So we're working on the invasion.
In the meantime, the little body is where I come in.  One of the things I love most about working with herbs is that there are very few times when I feel completely helpless in the face of things like this.  That's a real blessing.  I can set to work.
There were a few specifics when thinking about what to make:
*All ingredients should be non-toxic and preferably edible.
*No stinging alcohol or vinegar
*Too widespread for oily balm or salve (she's wiggly enough as it is)

The yard was full of great ideas.  The jewelweed is hanging through the porch railings.  The calendula is in the garden.  The plantain is throughout the lawn.  The peach leaves from the tree in the side yard I decided to add after hearing Jamie Jackson of Missouri Herbs sing their praises. 

I chopped everything finely and heated them gently for about 15 minutes.  We have a small 4 cup coffee maker that is great for one or two cups of brew, but additionally, when I want to really strain things well, I just use the front end - meaning that we don't use the water tank, just the strainer and pot.  It never gets plugged in or turned off for this.  No balancing mesh strainers, no extra measuring cups or utensils - easy.

When the tea had been strained, about 4 drops of lavender essential oil was added to the 2+ cups of liquid.  One ounce went into a small spray bottle.
The rest went into ice cube trays.
This way, after 2 days, we'll toss the remains in the spray bottle, wash it out, and put in new juice from a melted ice cube.  The ice cubes would be very soothing on a large rash too.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Herb of the Week: Yes, My Mother Does Smell of Elderberries

The other night Mom and I cut down about half our elderberry tree to deter most of the fruit flies from attacking our other tree. Now it’s a race to see who can get to the berries first, nature or us. And while I’ve participated in this sprint to fall, I have never been personally drawn to this herb. I’ve used it when I am sick, when I have a sore throat, even on my waffles but never with any knowledge of why it is good for me. So I decided to do some reading.

Luckily, last Sunday Susan Hess gave us a material medica on elder. I enjoy her material medica because there is always a little bit of everything on it. Something about the myths or history, black letter symptoms, uses, and a few recipes. For Elder Susan Hess says that it is, “called ‘The Medicine Chest of the Country People,’” and before reading the rest of the page, I had a good idea why. Mom has tried to use herbs in whatever she creates and elderflowers and elderberries are no exception. Elder has always been a constant in our house because the flowers and berries are antiviral.

The elderberries seem to ripen right as students return to school. It’s almost a reminder to prepare for cold and flu season. While I’ve always had it as a syrup or tincture, Susan Hess suggests using it in a tea with peppermint and catnip for kids and to add yarrow for adults.

Elderberry is not only for medicinal purposes, though. In An Elder Gathering (available in print or pdf format) there are fantastic recipes, instructionals, and lore for incorporating Elder into your daily routine. Betty Pillsbury has unique recipes such as elderberry fritters and dumplings while Susanna Reppert-Brill offers everything from elderberry liqueur to a shrub that made my mouth water just by reading the ingredients.

Using the elder flowers or berries offers a variety of ideas and recipes to prepare for the winter ahead. Since the plant is so adaptable, it can be made into anything from tincture to fruit leather, making it perfect for children and adults to take as needed. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the berries or flowers this summer. You’ll thank yourself this winter!


Brown, Michele; Reppert-Brill, Susanna; Hess, Susan; Pillsbury, Betty, Sams, Tina; Schwartz, Maryanne.  An Elder Gathering. Lancaster: The Essential Herbal, 2012. Print.

Hess, Susan. Homestead Herbalism: Materia Medica and Other Herbal Gatherings. Chester County, Pa, 2013-2014. Elder page. Print.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Herb of the Week: Motherwort

By Molly Sams

As I have had the opportunity to learn about herbs, I have decided to begin a weekly update of herbs I have taken an interest in and what I have learned. Of course it will be somewhat beginner-y but hopefully it will help those who are also just starting out and maybe even be a nice refresher for those herbal authorities out there.

Motherwort is often used for problems surrounding pregnancy such as pain, post partum depression, and stress before and after labor. It has also been used for other conditions such as heart problems and thyroid disorders.

Motherwort or “mother’s herb,” named by the Greeks, has been used to ease PMS and pain during childbirth. Motherwort is incredibly bitter and often taken as a tincture or flavored with tea. Susan Weed suggests using motherwort in, “early labor it will ease labor pains and calms the nerves after childbirth. Take motherwort only once soon after giving birth as consistent use before the uterus has clamped down may cause bleeding to continue. Use one to two times a day in the weeks following birth for easing tension and supporting a woman through the feelings that come with new mothering.” Weed also suggests not taking motherwort during your pregnancy or the heavier days of your period since it promotes blood flow.

Motherwort is also used to help with thyroid issues. Since it can calm heart palpitations, anxiety, and induce appetite (because of its bitter taste) it has been used to regulate symptoms of thyroid disorders and bring balance to the body.

Those with heart problems such as high blood pressure also use motherwort to alleviate symptoms. “Several species have sedative effects, decreasing muscle spasms and temporarily lowering blood pressure,” Susan Weed. By taking a tincture or tea throughout the day, motherwort may help.

One of the most important lessons I have learned while studying herbalism is that every plant has a purpose. Most of the time, it has several. Motherwort, much like its namesake, offers many different ways to treat the body.



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