Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Great time to be an Essential Herbal Magazine subscriber!

I've been plotting and planning for a while now. It isn't everyday that a little independent business celebrates 10 years, you know. I'm so grateful for each and every one of our subscribers, advertisers and writers, because without them, we would not exist.
One of the treats in store for our subscribers is about to start on January first. Over the past 6 months or so, I've been gathering gifts. At the moment, I'm waiting for a little something to be delivered from the printer, and there is a huge box in my office filled with herbal goodies. Being (as mentioned above) a little independent business, they aren't huge, but we'll be seeing to it that at least 1 in 10 of our subscribers (current as of Jan '12) will receive one of these prizes.
Additionally, some of our friends are chipping in to make this even more special.

Gifts are also being provided by:
Cory of Aquarian Bath
Gail from Blessed Maine Herbs
Marnie from Rewoolables'
Cindy of Sagescript
Marcy from The Backyard Patch
Brenda from BJ's Lavender
Mary Ellen from SouthRidge Treasures
Maryanne from Lancaster County Soapworks, Etc.

Somehow I forgot a couple very special gifts...
Diane Kidman is offering several copies of her newest e-book
"Herbs Gone Wild! Ancient Remedies Turned Loose" and
Tiffany from Wonderland Herbal
Roe from SunRose Aromatics, too!

(and if you are a subscriber, advertiser, or writer who would like to take part, drop me a line...).

Nothing is required. I'll start drawing names on the first, and sending out gifts on the second. I'll list winners and prizes as we go along (probably weekly). This is going to be fun!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Occupy the D. Landreth Heirloom Seed Company

12/28/11 - please see update at end of post!

The Landreth Seed Company
is in my home state of Pennsylvania, and has been in business since 1784. For all these years, this company has been purveying heirloom seeds, and now sells books, bulbs, cool gardening products, and seed sets to help home gardeners put good, wholesome food on their tables. Additionally, Landreth has one of the most beautiful seed catalogs, drawing on their history with gorgeous illustrations and lots of information.
Earlier this year, they let it be known that the economy was taking its toll on the company. They put out the call, asking people to purchase these beautiful color catalogs for $5 each and they were inundated with orders. They aren't just catalogs, by the way. They are magnificent publications filled with information and historical details about the seeds, plants, and gardening techniques. All was going swimmingly until their credit card processor decided there was money to be made. The story is here.
Please take a moment to read it.

This story hits home for me from many directions. To begin with, I love that they continue publishing this lush, delightful printed catalog. I know how hard it is to do that, knowing that it is what people love (to hold it in their hands, carry it with them, mark off what they'd like, smell the paper and ink...) while it would be so much easier to publish it on-line. They have it printed locally by a family owned printer - just like we do here at TEH.

Secondly, I have immense respect for the way they chose to raise money to keep the company going. If you've been a subscriber or been around for a while, you might know that although this is our 10th year of publication, there were several years in the beginning where there wasn't a thin dime of profit and I didn't draw pay at all. So now, I get a little "twitchy" when I see people asking for donations because they'd like to start a business, improve their business equipment, take a trip, or live their dream - as if we wouldn't all like those things, but theirs is more important. Business is hard and this is a business. If the business couldn't cut it, then it really isn't a business. Landreth did put up a fund-raising link, and I imagine that was a difficult thing for them to do. More than anything, they asked people to consider ordering their catalog. You have to respect that. They didn't mismanage funds or over-borrow. They just ran into the economy during their fourth century in business.

Thirdly, I also recently found that my own processor was grossly overcharging me. After the fact, they offered to do better to keep me, but there was absolutely no way I would do business with them any longer. I don't take advantage of my customers until they "figure it out", so why would I reward someone who did that to me as their customer?
Now, although Landreth has been robbed by their credit card company, who has arbitrarily decided to hold up to $50,000 for some undetermined amount of time, they are not asking for donations. They're asking people to share the catalogs with friends in the hopes that people will order seeds.

If you are someone who doesn't understand what the Occupy Movement is about, this story might help you.

I know where all of my garden seeds are coming from this year.
And I will send the order through the mail and pay with a check.

From the Landreth Seeds Facebook page today: "GREAT NEWS!! Your facebook posts, letters and emails and voicemails WORKED. We have just received a call from FDMC, literally moments ago, and they are releasing our funds which should be in our account by Friday. YOU DID THIS. They would never have listened to us, but they did listen to all of you. It is now being said that social media will mean the democratization of process and you have just proven this. You have proven that true justice can be accomplished, quickly and efficiently, even in America. Thank you Landreth friends. You truly are amazing. And Deborah, I promise you, this is the last of the drama. Now we at Landreth can focus on the business of providing you with great heirloom seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, sets, plants, etc. and continuing the business that the Landreth family started 228 years ago - teaching Americans how to live off the land by living with the land. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Congratulations, Landreth Seeds!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Essential Herbal Jan/Feb 2012

The Jan/Feb '12 issue of The Essential Herbal Magazine is in the mail, winging her way out to subscribers. We are thrilled to be starting a new year and a new decade (for the magazine) with this gorgeous issue, filled with all kinds of love. Recipes, crafts, ideas, information and herbal lore are stuffing every page. You're going to love it!

Field Notes from the Editor
Learning is a never-ending joy. We’ve been doing lots of it around here lately.

About the Cover
Artist Carolina Gonzalez contributed an original work depicting Flora, goddess of spring for this issue that focuses on love.

Therapeutic Baths, Tiffany M Psichopaidas
Blending herbs to fill your tub with tea is a delightful way to care for yourself in the winter and to chase away a chill. Instructions and recipes included.

Lousiana Lagniappe, Sally Lunn, Sarah Liberta
Mouth-watering recipe for this buttery bread, with several options to change it from savory to almost a desert.

Vanilla Sugar, Rita Richardson
What could be better than sugar infused with the flavor and fragrance of luscious vanilla? Make your own!

Valentine Specialties from the Herb Garden, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Sweets for the sweet – but this isn’t chocolate. How about a massage oil or a special bath to spice things up?

Sunchokes/Jerusalem Artichokes, Jackie Johnson
Learn about this plentiful, easy-to-grow root vegetable and how to prepare, cook, and preserve it. So good for you!

SouthRidge Treasures, Warming Masala Chai, Mary Ellen Wilcox
Exotic Masala Chai demystified with some history and several delicious recipes. You’ll be trading this for cocoa (well, maybe not all the time…) once you’ve gotten to know the scents and flavors in this decadent yet healthful beverage.

Aphrodisiacs, Marita A Orr
Learn about what herbs will and won’t do in the love department. Long considered to be almost magical in their effects, there are specific actions of some herbs that actually do work as aphrodisiacs. Find out which ones.

Herbal Topiaries, Kathy Musser
Full instructions for making standard (little trees) and wreath-shaped topiaries as well as a listing of plants that work well for them, and how to care for them once you’ve got them started.

Refilling Your Own Cup, Catherine Love
After the holiday season, most of us are running on fumes. How do you refill that cup so that you have something left for yourself and your loved ones?

Winter Soups, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
There is nothing like a pot of savory soup waiting at the end of a long, cold day. They warm us up, nourish us, and taste delicious. The Mushroom Ginger Soup is a new favorite here!

The Herbal Adventures of the Twisted Sisters, Part 6, Tina Sams & Maryanne Schwartz
Sharing your biggest mistakes publicly isn’t always the smartest move, but it’s always been our favorite method of teaching. We do it so you don’t have to! This is the final installment of the book.

The Soap Pot, Soaping with Stored Herbs, Alicia Grosso
Moving to a different climate can cause havoc in the garden. Luckily there were some herbs stashed away so that the creativity in the soap pot goes on.

Tea - Cold Weather Ally, Cindy Jones
Some great, quick ways to take a regular Camelia sinensis tea and make it herbal.

It’s All Good, Sandy Michelson
A favorite Gardeners Salve from rugged Montana!

Working Together, Tina Sams
As small businesses, there are so many ways we can work together to make things simpler and easier to afford.

Herbs of the Zodiac: Pisces,
Susanna Reppert Brill/Bertha Reppert
Pisces finishes up this 2 year series from Susanna (with much help from her mother, Bertha), and brings a little more ginger to the winter as well as several other Piscean herbs.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Local Herb Classes - Come have some fun!

We've been getting a lot of requests for classes lately, so we're going to give it a shot this winter after things calm down. If you're anywhere near Lancaster PA, we're local to you. We love doing classes and we enjoy meeting local herbies and digging in together. We are looking forward to having a great time in the following workshops!

Classes in 2012
All on Saturdays from 1pm til 3pm at the workshop at Frog Hollow. class size is limited to 10. Click on the link above to reserve your space!

Jan 7 Herbs for Colds and FluWe'll discuss various herbs that can be used to prevent and shorten the duration of the viruses of winter, as well as herbs that can comfort the symptoms. We'll make a syrup during the class, and everyone will take a bottle of it along home. $35

Jan 21 Herbs for Stress and The Dark Days of WinterThere are lots of herbal ways to deal with the stresses of winter and the blues and sleep disturbances that can result. Various herbs that are discussed will be available for each participant to blend some tea for their specific needs to take along with them. $35

Feb 4 Kitchen CosmeticsLearn to make simple skin care treatments with items that are often already in your kitchen. Masks, toners, lotions and creams are all easy and fun. We'll make several preparations and try them out during the class, so don't bother with make-up before the class. $35

Feb 11 Cold Process SoapmakingHave you ever wanted to learn how to make your own soap? We'll demonstrate and explain everything you need to be able to try it yourself - including the confidence! Sources and recipes as well as a couple of bars of soap to take along. $40

Feb 18 Balms and SalvesMake healing balms from oils and herbs for all the members of your family. We'll cover the process from top to bottom and make an all-purpose healing balm during the class. Recipes and a jar of the balm go along home. $35

Mar 3 Tinctures and TeasLearn how to preserve herbs in alcohol tinctures and blend teas for wellness. We'll talk about our favorite must-have herbs and then we'll each make a tincture and a tea blend $35

March 17 Introduction to AromatherapyDo you know the difference between an essential oil and a fragrance oil? Would you like to see a distillation take place? We'll run our glass distillation unit and discuss the properties of 10 essential oils. We'll blend a massage oil and share some of the hydrosol we distill during the session. $35

Mar 31 Backyard HerbalismWhat does it mean to gather the herbs that grow closest to you? Why is it so important to learn the wild things that keep trying to make themselves known? We'll talk about the most common wild herbs around us so that we'll be ready in the next couple of months when they start to show themselves, and we'll know what to do with them! We'll talk about spring tonics, and make a tonic tea and vinegar for spring. $35

April 14 Herbs for Spring and SummerGet ready for the sun, bugs, allergies and rashes that are just around the corner. There are so many very simple, herbs that can rescue us from the irritations of the seasons. We'll make a drawing salve with chickweed and plantain, and see what else we can find out there - either way, you'll be armed with lots of remedies. Recipes and salve to take home. $35

April 28 Weeds for Food and MedicineDepending on the weather, this class might run long. We'll go out into the woods and around the farm to locate and identify several useful herbs that can be eaten or used in remedies. Although it is early, we should be able to find at least 10 or 15 very important herbs to talk about and nibble. We'll gather in the field, and then decide from there what we'd like to make. We will make a tincture, certainly. We'll also discuss various ways of preserving/drying the herbs that are growing, since in another few weeks there will be so much abundance! $35

Hope we see you there!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Holiday Shopping Haven

Over the years we've gathered a group of terrific, ethical, and talented businesses that choose to advertise on our pages. Many stay with us for years, and on occasion we've turned down ads that didn't fit in with what we're doing here. So I am pleased and proud to present the following shopping guide. While you look through the links, be sure to note blogs or newsletters that might be a little gift for yourself if you sign up!

Alicia Grosso of Annabella and Company - Alicia has written books on soapmaking and often shares her expertise with our readers. Check out her amber soap or any of her other delightful offerings. A supremely creative woman, her soaps are a touch of the divine.


BJ's Lavender - culinary lavender (including a lavender/black pepper blend), wedding favors, teas and soaps celebrating the beauty, flavor, and fragrance of lavender organically grown right on Brenda's farm.
















Blessed Maine Herbs - Gail Faith Edwards' website is filled with her books and the herbs and gatherings of her family on their farm. The book "Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause" is a great resource that was discussed on our discussion list yesterday! Read some articles or browse the Baltic amber, pashmina shawls, and gorgeous organic herbal products. OR a fabulous dream herbal tour of Italy in the spring.












Farm at Coventry - Susan's classes are renowned in this part of the country, so if you know someone who'd be interested in her Homestead Herbalism course, don't hesitate! She also makes Faux Joe herbal morning beverage and other delightful products like Dragon's Delight or Four Thieves vinegar, soaps, creams and comforts.



Herbal Roots Zine - Parents or playful, inquisitive grown-ups wishing to share the joy of plants will love this zine, available in pdf format. Filled with a variety of fun learning opportunities that focus on one herb per month, Kristine writes and illustrates the magazine with obvious love for the plants. It will enrich your child's life and impart knowledge that will stay with them forever.







HerbMentor - John Gallagher has created a site filled with information, videos and a forum all about herbs and incorporating them into your life. Check out their Herbal Medicine Making Kit, or join the herbal community for a fair monthly fee.














Link
Herbs from the Labyrinth and Radiance -
Bell Pine Art Clay Statues, Bath and Body, Salves and Balms,incense, books and ceremonial/magical herbs and items. I live near this shop and get to see it first hand. Sarah has a fabulous selection of gifts.








Lancaster County Soapworks, Etc. - Maryanne (my sis) does the layout for The Essential Herbal and a wholesale soapmaker, but her soaps are available through The Essential Herbal. I make soap with her when I'm not working on the magazine.






Mountain Rose Herbs - the premier source of bulk herbs and accessories, as well as oils, books, and teas (etc., etc.) A gift certificate would be a welcome and perfect gift for any herbalist, aspiring or experienced.











Poppy Swap - if you haven't shopped the swap yet, get on over there today! Our hostess, the unstoppable Kiki, has come up with an amazing concept and Poppy Swap has over 100 herbal shops filled with the best creations of wonderful herbalists.







Soap Equipment - the problem solvers of the hand-crafted soapmaking industry. If there's a soapmaker on your list, soapequipment.com can make their life easier. In fact, Ron and his crew will create equipment especially to your specs so you can keep the bar size or shape that makes your heart sing!




SunRose Aromatics.com - Rosanne has a dizzying array of the most incredible oils (I'm sniffing some Cocoa Absolute as I type), carrier oils, chakra balancing sets as well as an information packed book to help you choose balancing oils, diffusers, incenses, teas, and ... and.. well, just get lost on her website for a little while and you'll be transported.

The Original Soap Dish - Great source of supplies for the soap or lotion maker with some very hard to find items. Becky works hard to find the best sources, the most effective ingredients, and stay reasonably priced. Want to make soap or lotion? Then you want to start here. Honey powder, coconut milk powder, beeswax pastilles... oh my!







And of course, Gift Subscriptions for The Essential Herbal Magazine are available right through the holiday season. Everyone needs one of those!

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Essential Herbal begins year 11

10 years of printing a magazine is an amazing thing. A niche magazine is even more amazing. At a time when most magazines are either folding or going to the much cheaper electronic format, to be an indie print publisher all this time, watching our subscription rate climb and our circle ever widening has been a true labor of love.
The first issue of the next decade is currently with the printer. Oddly enough, it is all about love. As usual, we never plan our theme, trusting our generous contributors to lead us as they follow along with the seasons. So it is a rich and wonderful coincidence that as the pages fell together, the general theme turned out to be love and care.
Along the way, it took a while to find out who we were. During the first few years, I'd look at the other herb magazines out there and wonder if maybe we should try this or that, to be more glitzy, less grassroots, or if we should attempt to be more ... well, anything.
In the end, I've always returned to the original vision and try very hard to avoid looking at what others are doing. In the past 5 years, I've probably glanced through other herb magazines 3 times because it sways me temporarily or makes me question what we are about for a moment of unnecessary anxiety.

That first vision, sitting on a porch talking over a glass of wine, the clear idea and mission, was that every day people get up in the morning and decide that they want to learn more about the plants around them and bring them into their lives. I know because I was one of them at one time. They need a publication that feels like they're sitting with friends who share their own ways of doing things. They want something that each time it comes to their door, there will be something that will open a window into the world they are attempting to enter.For some more seasoned herbalists, it might rekindle something hey had already forgottne or remind them of something they had always wanted to try. I learn new things in every issue.
The other side of that is that there are people who have the willingness to share what they know with others. All levels of herbalists have taken the time to hold out a hand to each other in this process, and it has been beautiful to watch. The inclusion and friendships that have formed through the magazine and the various group activities have left me shaking my head in awe at times.

And so, I wanted to take a moment and thank each and every person who has been a part of the first 10 years, and those who are coming along with us or joining the herb party now or in the future, as we move into this next decade. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You've made my life richer and more meaningful, and I couldn't have done a bit of it without you.
Here we go!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The hill is alive, with the sound of laughter

Beginning on the Friday after Thanksgiving, this farm goes from a sleepy little place to a hustling, bustling hub of activity. This weekend it has been warmer than we can ever remember, and with the doors and windows open, it's easy to hear the children playing and laughing. This period of time is something we look forward to all year, and we all work together in some way all weekend long. Even the kids help when they can be home from college. Today Molly was learning the chainsaw and Rob got wireless to the shop. During the week it is much more manageable, so that any one of us could handle it alone, but on the weekends... well, I was asleep by 8:45 last night.
The front room of the soapmaking workshop is where during the other 10 months of the year we stage shipments, stack things for upcoming shows, and store some finished products. Along the one wall, my sister has her lamp-working torch and kiln set up. In November, we drape it and set up a little shop where people can pick up small gifts for themselves or others. All of the things on the website for The Essential Herbal are in the shop too.
The guys handle the saws, the netting, and the drilling. Santa and his reindeer are atop the main workshop area, and when you can see it lit-up, it is time to come down from the fields because it's too dark to be safe from tripping on stumps or falling into a hole. There is space for about 35 cars, and on the weekends people are moving in and out of those spaces pretty quickly.
Since it was mellow during the morning hours, I set off into the woods on the other side of the farm. I was a little nervous because of all the hunters out shooting, and when I saw something that looked sorta, kinda like a dog flash across the trail up ahead, I just turned around and headed back. The woods were very muddy from the rain earlier this week, so it wasn't a great loss. I did stop and inspect the underside of this tree that fell during the hurricane earlier this fall. There's something so mysterious and fascinating about the roots of a tree.
Closer to the shop, I gathered some sweet Annie seeds for a friend. She'll be surprised because I told her earlier that they seemed to be all gone. They were still growing under this corkscrew willow tree. I was thinking of all the interesting things those branches could be used for...
Most exciting of all to me at the moment, is this little Meyer lemon tree, and the blossoms that have opened today. It isn't very big, so it couldn't bear the weight of any fruit yet, but the scent of these blossoms are simply amazing. A lot like gardenias with a little sprinkling of citrus. I'm in heaven!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Another side of the coin

When my sister and her family moved to this Christmas tree farm 20-some years ago, we were surprised on Thankgiving day to have a few people show up in the afternoon to cut a tree. At the time, it wasn't a particularly pleasant surprise, but not really a big deal. It isn't like we had to do much - Bob just hands them a saw or a ribbon to mark their choice.
Over the years, this has become a source of amusement. It has also become the official start to the season for us, and we've come to realize that it is a very special part of some families' holiday tradition.
I've been thinking a lot about it over the last couple of days because the Black Friday situation is so distasteful to me. I'm trying to figure out just how much of a hypocrite I am, I suppose.
To me, there is a big difference. The families come out after their dinners to walk off their full bellies on the beautiful hillside while they choose that perfect tree. It is a joyous occasion, and we get to be a part of it. Over time, we've watched the new generations arrive, and we've mourned along with some of them as they've lost loved ones that we've come to know. We don't have to leave our family, change our clothes, punch a clock, or engage in contentious discussions about prices and terms of sale.
The fact that everyone is happy and having fun is the critical difference to me. A little money changes hands sometimes. Sometimes they are only here to choose the tree and will come back in a couple of weeks to cut it and take it home. That they choose to spend part of their special day here, walking on these hills, kids running ahead and laughing, moms taking pictures, dads carrying the littlest ones... well, that's a blessing to us, and an honor to be where they want to be on this rare day of togetherness. Another difference is that we are home and this IS our life.
In the end, I'm okay with this situation. We don't go out of our way to encourage people to come today, nor do we tell them to go away. It just is. Some people watch football after they eat. We just do something a little different, and we love it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spending Money

This post has been rolling around in my head for a while now. It has nothing to do with herbs, but everything to do with how we (and I think a lot of other people) get through life, so indulge me for a moment.
Recently there have been three instances where a bit of calling around has turned up huge savings for the same product or service. It seems to me that we, as consumers, need to do a little more of that conscious spending.
When I was very young, things were different. Businesses and service providers were made up of people "like us" and because of that, there was an element of fairness. If it became known that a business in town was gouging or treating customers badly, they weren't around very long. We just didn't put up with it and we didn't give them our money. We railed at the bills from monopolies like the phone and electric because we could not demand better service or better prices. All we could do was choose options that were less expensive (party line anyone?) or use them conservatively. When cable became available for tv, that was the first service that I can think of that was a non-essential thing that people wanted A LOT. They treated their customers like they were doing them a favor, and people accepted that. We took a day off work to wait for the guy to come hook up the cable. All day. Soon we came to accept that sort of service from everyone.
In a lot of cases, we've just become too busy to notice things. People rush to work, maybe dropping the kids off at day-care, scooping up groceries after work before picking up the kids and rushing home to cook dinner (or pick up some take-out), getting everything done at home, and falling into bed exhausted at the end of the day. Convenience is no longer an extravagance for a lot of folks - it is a necessity. And we pay dearly for it.
The worst thing I've been seeing in this latest round of "investigative shopping" is that when I fire a current provider after finding someone better, the old one offers me something similar, price-wise! This is infuriating!
A good example is my trash collector. My mother had chosen this company when she lived in this house, so when I moved in it came with the place. The price has gone up every single quarter in the past 6 years. Every single quarter. And then there' the fuel surcharge... it only goes up, no matter what the price of fuel does. This company has been cannibalized by ever larger companies, so when a small family owned company put door hangers up last week (LOVE their cost effective advertising, by the way...) with a price that was fully half of what I'm paying for better service, I jumped. The old company offered to see if they could "do better". I suggested they should have done that while I was still a customer.
We are currently in the process of changing out fuel tanks here on the farm after finding that since the ones we have are owned by the company, we are hostage to whatever price they decide to charge. We will again save over half on the cost of fuel, paying for the tanks in less than 2 deliveries. The old company *would* adjust the charge if we called and complained every. single. time. But why? Why not just treat people right?
Are customers really so easy to come by?
The last one (for the time-being) is the credit card processor I use for my business. After finding a less expensive option, my processor offered to beat the new price and reimburse me for an overcharge over the last 6 months. The check should have been here yesterday. If it isn't here by Friday, they will lose their chance - again.
Many of my friends are small business owners and we have several businesses here on the farm. We can't treat customers like this, and we wouldn't want to. So why would we accept that treatment?
I'm not asking the businesses I deal with to go into the hole to keep me, I just don't want them to continually cheat me. Apparently we need to start protecting ourselves with vigilance.
And here's the best part... I just got a 10% raise with these changes. That will make a real difference. It will also make a big difference to the companies that I've chosen because they aren't big faceless companies - they are small businesses. Do yourself a favor and look around a little bit. You might be very surprised (and maybe a little horrified).

And to add just a bit of humor, I just got the following in an email.....

Dear Sir:

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month.

By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it..

I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years.

You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters, --- when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.

My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

Be aware that it is an OFFENSE under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact which I require your chosen employee to complete.

I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, at MY convenience, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me.

I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further.

When you call me, press buttons as follows:

IMMEDIATELY AFTER DIALING, PRESS THE STAR (*) BUTTON FOR ENGLISH

#1. To make an appointment to see me

#2. To query a missing payment.

#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

#4 To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

#6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required.

Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier.

#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through

#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry.

The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.

#10. This is a second reminder to press* for English.

While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?

Your Humble Client

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Earnestly Autumn

Mornings around here are usually pretty laid back. As I pushed back the curtains to let in the day, it was clear that this would be a beauty. Staggering out to the kitchen to start the coffee, the sun shining though the maple cast a decidedly autumnal glow in the room.
One cup down, and the sun pulled me outside to look around.
Fortunately for all of you, there is no picture of that. Various layers of seriously unmatched clothing, hair sticking out at odd angles, and that whole, "what? I just got up!" look combined for what I am certain would scare children and small animals. A lack of neighbors can do funny things to a woman.
There are still a lot of violets growing in the yard. Mostly violets work on seeds at this time of year, but there is always a very small fall bloom, making the beauty of those blossoms all the more sublime.
The leaves have left the fig tree, but there are a few figs hanging on. These are the sweetest of the season. The buds are already waiting for next spring, and I admire the strength of them.
Blueberry leaves have a clear jewel-toned red that looks almost like fire at the far end of the yard. They are more striking than almost any flower that blooms in the summer, made even more so because they show this color when the landscape becomes nearly stark.
An echinacea somehow found her way to the back border from the front garden. The extended sunshine out back has suited her well.
The vitex berries stand against the vibrant blue sky. I've harvested a couple of times so far this year, and will probably gather some more later today to start another jar of tincture.
Tiny leaves of cleavers clump close to the earth. I adore the way this plant grows. Stem, then a row of leaves like a green flower, stem through the center of that, and it repeats all the way to the end. Even these tiny plants have that tacky feel when you run your fingers through them, the tiny prickles are already there.
The shaggy cones of the Douglas firs are covering the trees. It is an odd year out there. Some of the conifers have lots of cones while others barely have any. Not sure what to make of that - particularly since we were so flooded during the woolie bear caterpillar time this year. Never did see one of them! Usually I combine what they look like with the cones to come up with my own personal forecast. It's going to be a surprise, I guess.
I am THRILLED that this little stinging nettle plant is here. It is my third try at this plant, and the other two didn't pan out. This one is tucked in between the anise hyssop (could be a problem later since the leaves are vaguely similar...) and the porch so I can keep an eye on it. Earlier in the fall my brother-in-law lent a hand at the end of year garden chores, and this poor plant was whacked to the ground (along with my witch hazel and experimental hardy passionflower), but hopefully everything will recover with good strong roots.
The Bradford pears out front will eventually be replaced by some useful trees. One of them was split during the hurricane this year, and they just aren't very strong. It would be better to have fruit or medicinal trees out there taking up space. In the meantime, I have to say that their foliage is a thing of beauty. So many colors and shades on a single tree.
Next to the door, a barberry is a riot of reds, oranges, and yellow. A rusty colored mum plant struggles to compete.
It won't be long before the yard turns a pale straw color and the sky tends to steely gray. Winter is coming. The tree fields here a filled with families choosing the trees that they will come back for in another few weeks to decorate in their homes. Each day is so very special right now, so filled with the last precious glimmers of plant life for the year before they snuggle down into their roots to regain strength for another growing season. As they do, in some ways we humans will do the same. We'll settle in for the winter, planning and regrouping, learning and studying, so that we'll be ready for them when they return.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Stocking the Herbal Cupboard for Winter

I haven't posted for a little while. We were so busy here getting out the last issue of The Essential Herbal magazine and keeping up with wholesale soap orders - and then setting up the little shop at the Christmas tree farm that there hasn't been much time.
So it should come as no surprise that *some* of us ignored the signs of impending illness in the rush of everything. As I watch folks cough and wretch around me, I've been busy making sure I don't join their ranks.
A couple of our favorites are syrups, and they are now bottled and ready. You can find the recipes HERE.
Syrups are really easy to make. The great part of it is that you can use any herbs that you would use for teas, tinctures, or any other preparation, and turn them into a syrup. It is very much like the herbal candy recipe I posted last year, but you can use only sugar or honey, and don't cook it nearly as long.
We also have tinctures on hand of the herbs we use most often. It is great to use foods as medicine, but when everyone around you is spewing germs, you may not have the time (or appetite!) to eat the amount of anti-virals necessary. Additionally, once you have become ill, it's good to have what you need already made up.
Blend up some teas so they are also ready (we have tinctures and teas available on our website, as well as the magazine and books that will help you learn to use and prepare herbs).
Lastly, be sure and listen closely to what you're telling your body. You'd be amazed how closely your body listens to you. Yesterday I was running some errands. The sky was heavy and gray. It was spritzing out, and everything felt heavy. I realized I was starting to feel a little achy (you know what I mean...). Immediately, in the brightest voice I could muster, I loudly, cheerfully said, "I feel GREAT!" Then I turned on the tunes, cranked them up, and sang along. Turned that vague feeling right upside down. And when I got home, I took a healthy slug of elderberry syrup.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gail Faith Edwards at The Rosemary House

We spent the day yesterday with Gail Faith Edwards, who gave a day-long class at The Rosemary House. The class was held in the tea room of Sweet Remembrances next door and selfishly, I was so happy the group fit into the tea room - intimate, comfy, and like a group of friends talking about their favorite subject. In fact, I did get to see some old friends and meet some subscribers I hadn't before. It was a wonderful day!
Gail gave an exceptional presentation. One of the things I have always loved about Gail is that when she speaks (especially) about herbs, her voice has a quality that reminds me of when I was young and my mother would tell me fascinating or exciting stories. There is that feeling of secrets being revealed. As the day went on, I noticed that she became more and more beautiful. Yes, I DO know how odd that sounds, except that on the way home I asked my sister if she noticed it too - and she exclaimed that she had been seeing the same thing. It is so clear how much she loves the plant realm.

Between the materia medica and the specifics for making medicine and treating conditions, she sprinkled the information with personal stories. It was when I realized that even though I've been acquainted with Gail for well over 10 years, I'd had no idea how humble she is. For instance, I'd never heard about her going to Bhopal to work with the people suffering from the massive chemical gas leak. The only reason we heard that story was because she was affected severely with some of the afflictions she'd treated after she got home, and she was describing her self-treatment. Some of the things she shared seemed to surprise even herself, and I think that came from the intimacy of the group. I am so glad to have been there. Even with 40 years working in herbs (which she says has only taught her that there is so much more to learn) she made everyone in the room feel more at ease with their own level of knowledge. It was a completely magical day and I enjoyed every morsel.
I was particularly fascinated with the segment on Baltic amber. Having read some of her writing on amber, I'd gotten some from her before and a small bottle of tincture. It was much more powerful to hear her talk about it. I don't think many people left there without some amber.My sister, Susanna, and Lorie after the class wrapped up.

My camera dropped last week, and it seems that the lens got jostled. That's disappointing, because I would have loved to have shared more with you here. Not that pictures of the scrumptious scones, spreads, soup, salad, and desserts would have expressed their flavors... not that the grins and smiles from the other attendees would have conveyed their delight in the class... but still.

I hope Gail had a splendid trip back to Maine. We certainly enjoyed her time here :-)
Many thanks to Susanna and Nancy for bringing herb experts to our area and for making it such a spectacular event.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Natural Bridge, VA

There was another stop for the Essential Herbal contingent coming back from the SEWHC a few days ago. Driving along Rt 81, there were signs tempting us to stop at Natural Bridge, a property that at one time belonged to Thomas Jefferson. We looked at the signs wistfully until we saw the one for the butterfly house. That did it for us.
It was fun for a while, even if it was in a cement block basement with no windows. Then I started noticing the dead butterflies under the plants and began to wonder about the lack of caterpillars.
So I asked one of the youthful attendants if the butterflies were able to complete their life cycles by reproducing. "No," she said, "we don't have the plants they need here, and besides, there would be caterpillars everywhere eating the plants... and we'd need a greenhouse."
They just continually order in the chrysalis stage of butterflies, hatch them, and that's that. I might be over-reacting, but that just ruined the whole thing for me. A cheesy roadside attraction with no regard or respect for the magnificent living creatures that draw the crowd - that's how it felt to me. We left the display saddened, and continued the walk.
Along the way, there was a series of perhaps 150 steps down to the rock-walled creek that led to the natural bridge. Going down the steps we saw some lovely scenery as water coursed down the hillside beside the steps.
There was still lots of lush growth in the underbrush.
And finally, the bridge itself.
It was stunning, no doubt about that. The bridge is probably at least 100 feet high and breathtaking.
We skipped the wax museum and the dinosaur museum. The whole thing (except the actual attraction) had the flavor of South of the Border - the crazy village of hotel rooms/cottages on the border of North and South Carolina.
It was fun to walk around and see the plants and the bridge. The rest... not so much.

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