Monday, January 30, 2023

Time for Some Creativi-tea!

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I recently discovered that if you spend 3 or so years without having so much as a sniffle, when one catches you, it feels like a doozie, even if it's really not that terrible. I've been drinking quarts of lemon, ginger, and garlic honey (weirdly delicious if you're sick!) tea, along with lots of elderberry and holy basil.
It's been a bit since I sent out a newsletter, so it was wonderful to run across this article that Molly wrote several years ago. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did - again!


Molly Sams Jan/Feb 2015

Having the opportunitea to study with my mother and aunt (Maryanne Schwartz) as well as Susanna Reppert-Brill and Sue Hess has been the driving force behind my love in herbs. When I started learning from these women I never would have guessed how many opportunities would become available to me. Be it travel, educational, or just new experiences, herbs have given me more inspiration than I ever thought possible.
One aspect of my inspiration has been my own curiositea when it comes to herbal tea. While I have always enjoyed a good cup of tea, being able to blend and create new concoctions has helped me find out more about herbs firsthand.
When I know I’m going to have a busy week for instance, I know I’m going to want teas that help keep my immune system going and my nerves calm, so I turn to holy basil. If I feel like I could use a lift or need to wake up, I grab some black tea with hibiscus flowers and orange peel. It’s helped me work on becoming more knowledgeable about herbs and their purpose as well as how I can use them to best fit me.
A few months ago, I started making a couple blends a few times a week, just to get familiar with more of the different tea herbs, and also to learn about the tastes of some of the herbs that we might not always think of right way when it comes to blending a tea.
To do that, I started by choosing a purpose, a main herb, and some others that would bolster that purpose and provide flavor and sometimes color.  Besides learning about the herbs that taste good to me, I learned a lot about how forgiving the craft of tea blending can be. It is an experiment that I highly recommend.
I would suggest only brewing small batches to start. While I’m tempted to drag out the crock pot and create an incredibly potent concoction (especially when I get a new bag of tea) I remind myself it’s best to play with the flavors before deciding on a favorite to focus a lot of energy on.


To start I would suggest filling a small pot (like a sauce pan) with water and letting it come to a boil. Then turn off the burner and put the tea ball, spoon, or bag into the pan. Let it steep (covered) for the recommended time and go from there. The great thing about tea is that you can always heat it up to add more flavors or to make it stronger. Be sure to always clean your tea balls or tea spoons out with warm water before putting another blend in. While it doesn’t have to be washed with soap and water each time, cleaning it out can help maintain separation of flavors. Nothing tastes funkier than a lemon grass blend being mixed with the chai blend you just finished up.

 Here are a few of my favorite blends:

Ginger and Hibiscus
I like this because it settles my stomach and is full of flavor. It’s great for long car rides or just when you need something to wake you up in the middle of the day. For those of you who want to avoid drinking caffeine it is caffeine free and the hibiscus flowers contain plenty of vitamin C.
Once you allow the ginger tea to steep, mix the hibiscus in. You may only want a spoonful of hibiscus so it does not over power the drink. Once that’s done, mix the honey. (1 part ginger, 1/2 part hibiscus to start)
Optional - Let the tea chill in the fridge. While you may drink it hot, I personally prefer cold.

 Black Tea, Rose Petals, and Orange Peel
Black tea is fantastic to have in the morning and adding rose, orange peel, and a bit of lemon juice can help boost your energy.
Steep the black tea with about a spoonful of rose petals mixed with orange peels. Steep for five to ten minutes and then enjoy!
(1 part black tea with 1/4 rose petals and 1/4 orange peel would be a good start)

Yum! This is one of my favorite teas of all time. It took me a couple of tries to come up with this mix. I wanted to make a concentrate that could just be added to milk. 
To do this I use TEH’s chai mix and add ginger and honey. It gives it enough sweetness and zing so when you add the milk there is still plenty of flavor.
I like this for the afternoon when you’re just about to nod off. It helps keep you focused, not to mention the perfect addition to any afternoon snack.

Last but not least,
Holy Basil and Green Tea
During more stressful days I could definitely drink this by the gallons. Just mix holy basil leaves with your favorite green tea. 50/50 works. I only like it to steep for a few minutes since green tea is so light. From there you can drink hot or cold. It’s so tasty either way.

 I’ve also tried a few other ingredients such as white tea, stevia, raspberry and blueberry leaves, and whatever else I can find. White tea is always nice if you want a light and delicate flavor while raspberry and blueberry leaves add a tart fruity taste that is great with green tea or mint tea.
While I often like to leave my tea unsweetened, stevia can be a great addition to any cup. Be sure to use it sparingly however (like a leaf in the tea ball or spoon with the rest of the blend), otherwise you may find it too sweet and it quickly becomes bitter if you use too much.
As you can see, I’m not too much of a stickler when it comes to measurements. Many of my experiments involve a little of this and a little of that. I try to leave plenty of room for myself and others to play with. I like working like this because it helps me find out what is best for me. Find the perfect mix for you. It can be a delightful way to learn about herbs.

And then I went on to share some links to our teas and implements and a few tea related items. 
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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Is that cottage industry overcharging you? Doubtful.

I've been giving this a lot of thought lately because my sister is finally forced to raise her prices for the first time in at least 10 years.  Even so, she has agonized over it to the point that it  resembles a self-inflicted wound because she should have done it years ago.  We have enough friends with micro and nano businesses to know that this is not unusual.  Most of us aren't actually in this to get rich.  We love what we do, and as long as we can make a go of it, we continue.

Some handy definitions...

Cottage Industry:  a business or manufacturing activity carried on in a person's home. In most cases, there is a partner providing substantial support. 

Pin Money: a small sum of money for spending on inessentials. Historically,  an allowance to a woman from her husband for clothing and other personal expenses.  What many women are still thought to be working for.

Micro-business:  a business that operates on a very small scale.  Most are sole proprietorships with 1 to 10  employees.

Nano-business:  Earn under $75K/yr (hahaha yeah, right), usually conducted as part-time side gig in addition to full-time employment. Similar to Cottage business without the outside support.

Small Business:  The US Census defines small business by firm revenue (ranging from $1 million to over $40 million) and by employment (from 100 to over 1,500 employees). For example, according to the SBA definition, a roofing contractor is defined as a small business if it has annual revenues of $16.5 million or less

Of the above business types, guess which one was most likely to get any sort of relief from COVID PPE loans?  In the meantime, every single raw material, all packaging, and each cost, has doubled or tripled.  All of the big corporations have doubled their prices and shrunken their containers.  Tiny businesses have very rarely raised their prices at all, instead offering incentives and gifts to encourage business! 

2023 will unfortunately be the year this will need to change for many tiny businesses.  Let me preface this to say that the magazine is NOT going up.  We were able to pivot to digital and save ourselves in the nick of time.  

My main purpose in writing this is to try to explain how all the people who have been making the small luxuries and delights in our lives have been hanging on by the skin of their teeth for a few years.  If we want them to be there next year, we have to allow them to raise their prices so they can survive.

Let me give you the example of an eco-dyed silk scarf. 
We spend time setting up the dye pots, scouring the silk, pre-treating, and hanging to dry between stages. Then we set out to find the plants we want to use, wandering around the fields for an hour or two.  Bundling the scarves might take a full afternoon for 4 or 6 scarves.
Just for the actual labor, 2 of us at minimum wage comes to at least $120.  Add to that materials, education, electricity, rent, etc, scarves that need a second go-round, and we are (happily) working for well under minimum wage.  This is the absolute reality for nearly everyone I know who works in a cottage, nano, or micro business.  

Hand-made items that you love are worth every penny.  That's the bottom line.  It is art, created by people who love what they are doing.  If you question it's worth, give it a little thought because I guarantee you that you will realize it is a bargain every time.


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

January February 2023 Essential Herbal

Every year when the first issue comes out, I am once again amazed at the (now) decades that have passed since this little hobby that was just a means of sharing a love of herbs has managed to hang in there and stay relevant.  I miss the print version, but the digital version allows us to continue.

This year is just as marvelous as the past 20!  We're still enjoying this ride and people with interesting things to share are sharing through The Essential Herbal.  Without further ado...

Subscribe today!

 Single Issue


Crossword for a winter’s day

Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
Shifting seasons, shifting gears

About the Cover
How we made the print on the cover

Mocktails for Black Bottom Saints,
Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Fascinated by a book, Marcy recreated beverages that were described.

 Cotton - Excerpt from “The Vessel: Women, Plants and Contraception,” Abrah Arneson 

A Midwinter Cordial, Heidi Shayla 
This version will support the digestive system with a blend of bitter, spice, sweet, and warm!

Is Native Plant Gardening for You? Jackie Johnson  ND
There are lots of good reasons to grow and encourage native plants. 

Ask the Herb Farmer, Kathy Musser 
Kathy shares the answers to some of her most frequently asked questions.

Sweets to the Sweet, Marci Tsohonis 
Peanut brittle that tastes like Butterfingers™ and rum ball variations – yes please!

Love is Mint to Be, Alicia Allen
A delightful 8 course menu using floriography (the language of plants) to convey love and affection.

A Musical Playlist for You (and Your Plants,) Susanna Reppert Brill 
A look at how plants used in language have been incorporated into popular music.

Yarrow, Rosehip & Wild Carrot Lip Balm, Amanda Gootgarts 
Lip balm packed with healing.

Weeds - A Tale of Two Tails, Barbara Steele 
Comparison of some similar weeds, and one that can hurt animals.

Lemon Verbena, Tina Sams 
So pretty, so fragrant, so many benefits!

And a little about our contributors!

With that, we're already working on the Extra!   


Saturday, October 22, 2022

Essential Herbal - November December 2022

This issue came together out of moonbeams, spider webs, magic, and the scents of wood smoke and apple cider.  In other words, we're not quite sure how it happened. 
Since we (sadly) gave up print, we've cut our deadlines paper-thin, and added the Extra! for the in-between months, so that every month we have a deadline with just 20 days to put it together.  For this one, that included a week-long vacation across the country and a little elective medicine.  It was so tight that we finished up after supper on the last day!  In 22 years, we've never been that close to the edge, and if you've been around through the years, you know we worked through some pretty crazy stuff.  But we did it, thanks to our wonderful contributors and Maryanne's skills. 
Look at this cover!  The artist has created this delightful herbalist to whom we all relate, and shown her throughout the seasons.  This cover is her 6th, so "Willow" has now shown up in every season.  We'll have to come up with some way to lure her back for subsequent issues.
The contents are listed below...

Cover, Debra Sturdevant
Beautiful painting evokes the kitchen we all dream of on some level.

Excerpt from “Herbalism,” Adrian White
I always love reading how others were drawn into herbs and develop their viewpoints and favorite herbs.

Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
So many plants, people and things!

Side Dishes with Fall Flavor, Alicia Allen 
Delicious offerings for the upcoming holidays!  Several serve well as main dishes, too.

Astragalus Chia, Mountain Rose Herbs
Classic herbs and spices with added adaptogenic properties!

An Herbal Gift Basket, Debra Sturdevant 
Wonderful ideas including several tea blends, tub teas, and how-tos for herbed vinegars and honeys.  Oh – and cookies!

How to Make Items on the Cover, Tina Sams 
Debra covered the vinegar, but I give instructions and recipes for all the other gifties strewn across the cover.

Christmas Gift Ideas,
Jackie Johnson
Unique, thoughtful, and inexpensive gifts from the heart.  The Memory Jar struck a chord with us!

Seeds or Plants? Kathy Musser 
Are you a seed person or a plant person?  Sometimes it depends on the plant.  Kathy helps you decide.

Winter Warming Appetizers, Marcy Lautanen Raleigh
Cocktail parties, get-togethers and family gatherings are all opportunities to share delicious treats from the kitchen. Dips, puffs, cheese straws and pretzels are some of these tasty bites.

Herbal Holiday Gathering Recipes,
Marci Tsohonis 
Eggnog, spicy cider, herby stuffed mushrooms, finger sandwiches, dips – and just in case they spend the night, a delightful recipe for fresh ginger muffins!

Figs! Susanna Reppert Brill 
More and more people are growing figs.  If you aren’t, you might want to think about it!

Meet Our Contributors....
A little about the people you’ll find in the pages of this issue.

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