Tuesday, February 28, 2006

another day in Lancaster County PA

Somedays, I can forget how lucky I am to live here. Somedays, things might conspire to keep me in the house all day without even walking down to the mailbox. Then there are the days that are really no different that any other - they are just full of beauty and peace.
The other day I rode along on a "sales blitz", passing out literature to tourist shops in the area. We went to Gap, Intercourse, Strasburg, and Bird-in-Hand. Previously we'd been to Lititz and New Holland. There are a few other little villages that we need to stop in, but we've been fairly thorough about it.
Monday was an interesting day weather-wise. In the morning the snow was nearly white-out in its severity, but didn't stick around. It stayed very cold and the wind was wicked. We parked the car in the towns and walked a bit, choosing stores
that had the right tone. Some of the things that I didn't take pictures of were: recess at the Amish school, long colorful lines of laundry stretching from the second floor of the house out to a tall pole, meadows full of the gorgeous workhorses wearing their thick winter coats, the buggy parked at the convenience store, the tidy farms with the extensions built on to the houses to welcome additional generations.
There were so many things I saw, and they can either be noticed and noted or just become part of the unseen scenery that passes by.
So... we have the old mill, in great condition. The willow trees that are budded out in gold was striking. The horse hitched to the buggy, waiting
patiently to be driven home after the shopping trip.
This is what it's like to live around here. There was also the stop into a convenience store for a drink. In the corner were four men sitting at a chrome table, smoking like chimneys. The women working there flirted and joked around with them. The feel of the store was like stepping back about 30+ years.
It was an interesting day.

Friday, February 24, 2006


What is it about snowdrops? They peek out from the ground at a time when our spirit is so in need of that bit of magic. Is it any wonder that when doing an image search for the flower, I was happily surprised to find many images of snowdrop fairies? I also found that in older versions, Snow White (of the 7 dwarf fame) is known as Snow Drop.
Snow drops are made into many different kinds of jewelry. They are embroidered, quilted, and etchings. This tiny twinkler is obviously a delight for many of us, and bring out our creative sides.
They are out early here because of the very mild winter. Last year, I recall specifically that they weren't out until mid-March. They usually show up along with the crocus, but they are breaking out alone this year.

Last week I turned a corner and was greeted by a yard covered with them. Reaching my sister's house, we lifted some leaves and found that they had poked up through the ground there, too.
Tomorrow we are expecting some snow flurries, but spring is almost here....

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Essential Herbal March/April 2006

The Mar/Apr '06 issue of The Essential Herbal is in the mail and should start reaching subscribers in another week or so. It is so full of spring, and the dreams and hopefulness of the awakening earth that it was a BIG letdown for me when the temperatures took a nosedive this week. However, I did see my first snowdrop in bloom the other day!

So...we have so much good stuff in this issue. To begin with, there is the obligatory crossword puzzle :-). On the back cover, Barbara Poole writes about poke salad, and the lessons her grandmother taught her.

Geri Burgert agreed to become our "Suburban Herbie", and I'm very excited about that. Geri has such a refreshing take on plants, nature, and the world in general.

Susanna Reppert Brill's column - "Never Enough Thyme" talks about the dandelion and gives several tempting options for serving them. Then, regular writer Susan Evans really surprised me with an article on sea vegetables. It was a surprise because I'd been thinking of that very subject for a few days. Mary Ellen Wilcox sent us something on the bitter herbs of Passover, and also an article on Ginger - The Oldest Spice. We got some lovely recipes using Lemon Herbs from Barbara Steele, and some ideas for starting a garden journal from Karen Creel. After a brief discussion of Albizzia on the yahoo list, Maureen Rogers sent us a profile of "The Happiness Herb". Maryanne Schwartz wrote about Spring Cleaning, but without all the chemicals we're used to using. Karen Hegre sent an awesome dip.

Oh! But that's not all! Barbara Will sent information on the *real* patron saint of gardening. There is information on Soap Felting from Tracy Westbury, and a marketing minute from Rachel Johnston. The Yahoo list came up with a fabulous article on the uses of edible flowers, and Dr. Tamara Hartley-Hunt compiled a wonderful listing describing the flavors and colors of many, many flowers. Cindy Jones gives us information on why we need to have our products tested before selling them, and Betty Pillsbury writes of the wisdon of growing sage in the garden.

We also had lots of new (and also our regular) advertisers. This issue will be gracing the shelves of several new shops, along with the books and kits. It's been an interesting year so far!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Snow! Finally!

Over the weekend, the North East was covered with a thick blanket of snow. Storms that bring a foot or more of snow are never "convenient", but this one was as unobtrusive as possible. The timing was perfect for me, because the newest issue of The Essential Herbal needed to be prepared for mailing, so being trapped in the house was exactly what I needed.
It could have been so much worse. Arriving late Saturday and falling into Sunday, there was ample time to clear the roads and vehicles before Monday morning. The magazines were at the post office by noon on Monday! Additionally, the warm ground made removal much easier - although it was the perfectly packable type snow, so it was hard to resist making a fort while shoveling out the car.
As the first storm of the season finally approached, I made sure there was lots of fresh fruit and salad fixin's - along with the mandatory cocoa that Molly has associated with snow since she was old enough to drink it. I also pondered the low grade excitement I felt. Why, I wondered, did it feel so exciting? I work from home, so it wasn't the excitement of staying home from work. I gave up sledding a good decade or so ago, so that wasn't it... and my baby plants are probably going to suffer, so that certainly isn't it. My sweetie is cloistered away working for the next month or so, so it wasn't even the thought of time alone with him.
So I came up with a theory (as I often do, based solely on the wanderings of my mind on that particular day) that storms force us to admit that we are powerless for a little while. Having grown up and lived here most of my life, winters are supposed to include several short periods of time where nature imposes her will, and we submit.
For instance, there was one full week a few years back where nobody went anywhere. That week, I built my website. Couldn't do anything else, so.... Sometimes storms mean reading a book that's been waiting too long, watching sappy movies, or doing something Norman Rockwell with the kid. The storms force us to focus on home or allow us to take on a task we are normally too busy to do.
Either way, it is a part of the rhythm of the year for me. It was exhausting to enjoy the eternally spring-like weather that went on and on this winter! Somewhere in my gut, there was something wrong, and I think I know what it was. Apparently, I've become accustomed to getting these windows of time each winter, where nature lets me off the hook, lets me bail on the whole responsibility thing, allows me to just give up the race for a day or two.
Now I've been refreshed. All is right with the natural world again. It was a beautiful snow!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sleeping again

This may sound like bragging, but I've always been one to fall asleep before my head hit the pillow. A dear friend of mine is not so lucky, so back in August when I was visiting The Rosemary House I looked for some sort of tincture. Susanna Reppert recommended their "Rosemary's Relaxing Tea". The ingredients are pretty incredible - valerian, passion flower, scullcap, and lady slipper root, to begin with.
The next day, I took the entire ounce of dry herbal tea blend, dumped it into an 8 oz. mayo jar and covered it with vodka. It sat for months, because my friend isn't as comfy with herbs as I am.
So, as life often does, it changed. Working from home means a much (!!!) more flexible schedule. Nights were getting later, and so were mornings. Suddenly, I found myself staring at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep.
I'm embarrassed to admit that it never really dawned on me how miserable it is to go without sleep...and really, I only got a small taste of it. That was enough!
That tincture worked like a dream. After taking it for 3 days, everything is back on track. Whew! Other than the vodka, it was just a few dollars for over 4 ounces.
At the same time, I had quit smoking and am determined to at least maintain my weight. There were other changes I made that contributed to the tincture working so well.

They were:
I set the alarm for 7 a.m. and forced myself to get up and get to work.
Working out 1/2 hour each day really helps.
No more staying awake until there is nothing else on tv. 11:30 it's time for bed.
No night-time food.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

February Frolic -BAH Groundhogs!!!

Yesterday we had a good soaking rain in the early morning hours, but by the time the hard copy printer's sample of the next issue was shooting out of the computer, it was just perfect for a walk in the woods. In spite of all the groundhog prognostications, it was still spring here. I would like to mention that all the groundhog boys in this state gave us the thumbs down, however "Patty" - the sole girl, whose location eluded me said that spring is here. Anyhow, I had my boots on, and took along "Rudy the wonder dog" who tried to keep me on the trail - silly dog. The creek was running pretty fast. I stood on the mushy bank and watched the water rush over the fallen logs and rocks in the streambed. There are lots of baby plants poking up. The garlic mustard doesn't seem to have been phased by the cold weather to date. The moss on the bank was sending out tiny "feelers" - maybe it's in bloom? All along the way, that crazy dog was snuffling under the leaves, rushing ahead on the path, and then coming back at full steam to skid to a stop in front of me. He is great company on a woods walk. Much better than the goats we had in VA, who would go along but eat anything one stooped to observe. Much, much better. We also found a little gnome's home. Well, at least the entrance. There is a shelf mushroom over the porch. The mossy sides of the house, and the porch itself are almost hidden by oak leaves and debris from autumn, but it was as clear as a bell to me. Sorry for the run-on paragraph. For some reason, I am unable to get this program to work properly today. Some people might just wait and come back another time when it worked properly, but...Nooooooooo.