Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lily and the Catnip

We now have a resident cat. She came along when my brother moved in. Not your typical cuddly kitty, Lily prefers to pretend she'd like to be patted, only to return the favor with a swipe or a bite. I've watched this charade enough to never fall for it myself.

Still, I like having her around. She sleeps a lot, being an older cat, and when she's awake she practices looking bored and above our silly human chatter.

The other day I found some catnip under a tree, that managed to survive the recent freezing temperatures. Catnip is a very hardy plant. It is often the last to disappear in winter, and the first to show leaves in summer. The old wive's tale is that cats aren't much affected by wild catnip, and only really like cultivated catnip. In fact, I once had a cat who jumped 5 feet to knock down 3 potted catnip plants, and ate them all down to the roots during the night. He did leave the wild catnip in the yard alone. We covered the cultivated plants (that were purchased to replace those he'd devoured) with 1/2 peck peach baskets to protect them until they reached a size that even he couldn't kill, and then he wasn't nearly as attracted to them.

So anyhow, I gave Lily the wild catnip I'd found by putting it in her favorite lounging area when she was elsewhere. As soon as she found it, she was transported to wherever cats go when they nibble on the plant. She savored the small sprigs for two days, at which point we decided she'd had enough. She's still looking for it.

While I was out looking around (i.e. walking off the feast) yesterday, I snapped a couple of pictures.

The first is the pond looking down from my sister's front porch. It is quiet and still, all of the fish, frogs, and turtles snuggled in for the winter. In a few months time, they'll need all of their energy to raise a ruckus of mating calls, and feeding. Then it will be a wild and crazy place. But for now, all is slumber.

Out on the trellis, the gourds we'll work on next spring and summer are drying. These are a different shape than what we've been using, and should make some interesting bowls and hinged caches. There are also 5 or 6 loofah gourds not in the picture. They are blackened and slightly shriveled. We'll need to peel them and clean them well to use them.

Lastly were my least favorite chickens. The black and white rooster is my arch nemesis. He follows closely, darting in for a good peck to the ankle if given the slightest chance. He runs along sideways, looking out of one eye, always watching, always nearby. He, more than any other, needs a little taste of hot water, parsley, and celery.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jan/Feb '08 issue of The Essential Herbal

The Jan/Feb '08 issue of The Essential Herbal magazine is out. It is exciting for several reasons. First, we're entering our lucky 7th year of publication. At the very same time, we've switched to soy-based inks to print it. This cover is from a very old giveaway to promote the products of CF Miller, a soap maker and perfumer from Lancaster, PA, our home town. It was a small book about interpreting dreams. The illustration worked very well with the theme that blossomed on it's own for this issue - winter dreams, and what we are already wishing for next spring.
Here's what you'll find inside:
Table of Contents
Crossword - What's That Herb For?
Field Notes from the Editor
Apprenticing with Rosemary Gladstar, Betsy May
Pungent Power Medicine of Garlic, Kristena Roder
Try a Little Tenderness, Laura Daniel
Suburban Herbie - Overstuffed, Geri Burgert
Goji Berries...Myth or Miracle Herb, Maureen Rogers
Never Enough Thyme, Nervines, Susanna Reppert
Garcinia indica.choisy (Kokum), Bruno Lopes
Echinacea! A History of Healing, Joe Smulevitz, C.H., M.H.
Down on the Farm, A Long Winter's Nap..Not!, Michele Brown and Pat Stewart
List Article - Winter Wishes
Super Sunday Recipes, Maryanne Schwartz
Louisiana Lagniappe, Shrimp and Okra Gumbo, Sarah Liberta
SouthRidge Treasures, Bathing with Herbs, Mary Ellen Wilcox
New Year's Resolutions, Susan Evans
The Soap Pot - Soap Basics, Alicia Grosso
Calendula officianalis, Herb of the Year 2008, Betty Pillsbury
Natural Recipes, Cathy Walker
Winter Skin Woes, Karen Creel
Sweet Dreams Diffuser Blend, Rosanne Tartaro

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Last Minute Herbal Gifts

It's getting down to the wire, and the weather has kept many people from accomplishing some of the things they'd hope to do this holiday season. Just maybe it's time to decide to make some of those gifts that you won't have time to shop for.
Of course, another terrific suggestion is a gift subscription for The Essential Herbal magazine - that one is never too late to order, and with Priority USPS, there are still a couple of days to check out the site I share with my sister, or her incredibly beautiful lampworked beads and jewelry at Torchsong Studio, but for home made ideas, read on...

Homemade cookies are always welcome, as are homemade fudge, jellies, vinegars, and treats of that nature. No matter how expensive they may be, store-bought treats don't taste the same. For some great recipes if you need some inspiration, try this site: Add some herbs like chopped mint, lavender (sparingly), or basil. Dried cranberries and blueberries will help make them slightly more healthy, along with chopped nuts. If there are kids in the house, letting them help will allow them to be part of the action and share in the joy of giving.

Lotion Bars are another treat that are good to make when there isn't much time. To make them, combine 1 part beeswax to 3 parts of a good skin-friendly vegetable oil, or a blend of oils. Heat with a double boiler until liquid. Cool slightly, and add a few drops of essential oil while still liquid. Pour into molds. When they are solid, they're done.

If you've been drying herbs this summer, try your hand at putting together a nice blend of herbal tea. Some of the herbs to consider would include mints, roses, chamomile, catnip, raspberry leaf and berry, basils, rosemary, thyme, purple coneflowers, elder berry and flower, hibiscus, stevia, nettles, blueberry leaf and berry, lemon balm, lemon grass, cinnamon, and lavender. There are many others. Blend a small amount, brew it up and see if you like it. If so, mix a larger quantity and package as a gift. A package of cocoa and some homemade cookies can go together to make a small basket.

Scented Sachets are another quickie. Many kitchen shops sell muslin bags for bouquet garni. These can be stenciled or stamped, and filled with blends - or simple lavender. This is a gift that we often helped children make for their mothers when we did kids programs while running the shop. They decorated the bags and filled them with lavender - all by themselves. Slip a piece of waxed paper into the empty muslin bag before the children start decorating them so the design doesn't go through to the other side.
One of my favorite gifts came when my friends and I were in our late teens/early twenties. My best friend at the time was a poor college student. She took some time and wrote me a letter, telling me what our friendship meant to her. It really was the thought that counted, and that letter meant a lot to me.

As I think of other ideas, I'll try to post them this week. Not promising, though... time is getting tight here too!

In the meantime, let me share this picture of the tree off the deck this morning. We've been very lucky with the weather here, compared to many other parts of the country. Everything was coated with a delicate icing. The trees in the fields all looked like they'd been lightly dusted with sugar.
Later this evening, a blustery front blew in. I saw it from the office window and stepped outside to take a picture. Within 5 minutes, the winds picked up and it sounded like we might lose the roof. Apparently that sound will be with us all night.
Yesterday was the last official day at the tree farm for the year, although we're sure folks will be stopping by all week to pick out trees. There are so many gorgeous trees in the fields. We never run out. Anyhow, this motley crew of tree wranglers (Mark, Scott, Sonny, Rudy, and Bob) greeted the families yesterday, helping them saw down their trees, wrapping them with netting, drilling the trunks, and helping tie them to the tops of the cars. Rudy the wonderdog was there every step of the way, making sure that everyone was in line. Hmmm.... Rudy needs a tree hat.
Lastly, just a few more gourds. Some of them will be gifts, for sure, while others will go to market this spring. They are a pleasant diversion on these cold evenings.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hosting an Herbal Swap

I get myself into a lot of trouble sometimes. Ideas pop up, and poof! they are acted upon. Michele Brown, from Possum Creek, the co-moderator of The Essential Herbal Yahoo! group suggested (at least a year ago) that we try a swap on the group. At the time, I was knee-deep in putting together class kits - or some other hare-brained idea, and didn't bite. For some reason, the idea of a winter swap came up, and it sounded good. We do so much for everyone but ourselves at this time of year, and getting a box full of gifts just for ourselves had a certain allure.
Additionally, we agreed to share our recipes/instructions for our items. They were put together in a booklet and printed, so that everyone would have them, and could perhaps use them to create some gifts for the holiday season. Because so many members make products for sale, this made everyone stretch a bit and come up with things that aren't on their websites or in their shops.

Hosting this one with my sister Maryanne, the timing turned out to be pretty horrific. Our brother spent the better part of two weeks in the hospital, and we moved his things (and his lovely Ninja kitty, Lily) into my home so we can watch over him more carefully. The magazine deadline loomed. There were some lagging swappers (who ALL came through!), and Maryanne's wholesale soap company and lampworked jewelry were keeping us both hopping. Oh, and the tree farm at Frog Hollow was/is just crawling with people, too.

All in all, in spite of a clump of hairy deadlines, everything went well. And the items!!! There were 30 swappers involved, divided into 2 groups, and everyone went above and beyond our expectations. I am on pins and needles now waiting for everyone to receive the return boxes. I can't wait to see their reactions to all the wonderful things they will find.
These pictures are intentionally "bad", so that the surprise isn't ruined for anyone not getting their box yet, who happens to stumble by here.

This is something we will definitely do again.

Monday, December 10, 2007

This Week at The Essential Herbal - in Pictures

There has been so much going on around here lately that I've just felt lucky to be able to snap a picture from time to time. The magazine is scattered in stacks around the living room, waiting to be sacked up, and the soap shelves down at the studio look pretty low. This week *might* kill us, but some good herbs to keep us calm and on task will help. Siberian Ginseng is on the top of my list now, as well as chamomile. It always amazes me how much chamomile helps to calm those jangled nerves.

Here is a little insight to my recent week:
One of the things I love most about this area is how picturesque everyday is. I wrote earlier about the horses in the alleys in town. This one was waiting for his rider outside Central Market the other day around lunch time. I spend a day a week down at Radiance, working with Sarah and Kara, and on a noon stroll love to come upon these guys.
Across the street from my house is a giant star that lights up every year at this time. It is over 6 feet high, and it can be seen for miles, yet the light is soothing and mellow.
We had the first snowfall of the year last week. It was pretty nasty, and as much as I try to avoid driving in that stuff, it fell while I was in the dentist's chair. It had me sliding sideways down one of the longer hills nearby, and I was so relieved to get home so my knees could stop shaking! It was gone by the next day. Pretty, huh?
I'm combining two pictures in one with this one... A package arrived the other day that blew me away. Inside was a gift - an aromatherapy set from SunRose Aromatics
and the scent is an essential oil blend called Joyful. It is an incredibly delicious blend, and just what the doctor ordered! We immediately placed it in the center of the living room and inhaled deeply. It strikes me that it is so easy to find joy, but there has to be that conscious break from the grind... even if just for a moment ... to fully enjoy something. A heartfelt thank you to my dear sweet friend. I love it! Beside that package, you can see my most recent gourd rattle in progress. Molly and I watched the a documentary about 1968 on the History Channel last night, both of us busily working on a gourd. Hers is beautiful, but it isn't ready to show yet (according to her).
Last but not least, in my never-ending struggle to fill every single solitary moment, no matter how insane it might be, the Essential Herbal Yahoo group has been working on a winter swap. It's our first, and I hosted it along with my sister. The boxes are all packed, the recipe booklet printed, and 30 people are about to recieve a box crammed with some of the most delightful herbal concoctions and confections I've ever laid eyes on. My timing wasn't great (for me, that is), but the results are well worth it!
So that's *part* of what I've been up to lately. There's a lot more, and I'll probably blather on about that at some point. Right now, my mantra is simply, "thank goodness we aren't doing the Farm Show this year!"

Monday, December 03, 2007

Gifts for the Soul

Gifts for the Soul
This article is reprinted from the Nov/Dec '03 issue of The Essential Herbal magazine.
Herbals gifts that are good for the heart.
Every year around this time we find ourselves searching for that special homemade herbal gift to give our friends & relatives. I’ve been told by all who receive my gifts that they love homemade gifts the best. Sometimes I wonder if it’s true, I believe it is. The love and care that goes into preparing these crafts is sure to be heartfelt by the recipient.
In this day and age it is hard to find the time for ourselves. Pampering and relaxing is becoming a lost art. I find it hard to take my own advice sometimes, however I make every attempt to find time for me. And so I’ve been inspired for delightful Herbal Facial and Bath relaxation kits for Christmas gifts.
Hopefully you’ve worked hard to dry those herbs that grew so lushly this year. They will come in handy when making your gift packages.
Let’s go over a few things that may be of interest first. The skin is the efficient body covering that protects our inner parts and guards their processes, gauges our temperature needs and reflect internal disorders. It is easy to care for and responsive to good treatment. Taking care of our face & skin can be relaxing and rewarding. It can be done with natural ingredients and no chemicals. Here are some wonderful recipes to get started with a beauty regimen and will be great packaged into a holiday basket or box for gift giving.
One of the main reasons for preparing your own beauty treatments is to have fresh, unpreserved ingredients. Remember to make a note with the directions that cosmetics made from these items are just as perishable as though they had been prepared for a meal. Make small quantities at a time and it is best to keep any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Cleansing Mask:
4 tablespoons rolled oats
2 teaspoons dried chamomile
2 teaspoons dried parsley
Blend the dried ingredients to a fine powder using a blender or coffee grinder. Package these in a pretty glass or plastic container and add the following directions*.
*Measure 1 tablespoon of the dried ingredients into a small glass bowl. Add 1 tablespoon honey and 1-2 tablespoons very hot water and mix well. Let stand 5 minutes. If mixture seems to thick add a small amount of hot water. Apply to face using gently circular motions and leave on for 2-5 minutes. Rinse face with warm water. Store unused cleanser in refrigerator and use within 5 days .(Chamomile and parsley are antibacterial and honey & oatmeal are softening.)
An extra touch would be adding a nice jar of honey to the basket.
Follow the cleansing mask with a nice steam facial:

Herbal Steam Facial:
2 tablespoons dried chamomile
2 tablespoons dried comfrey
2 tablespoons rose petals
2 tablespoons dried peppermint
2 tablespoons dried rose geranium
Mix above ingredients all together and package into a nice plastic bag or pretty container and add the following directions*.
*Measure 2 tablespoons of the herbs into a small saucepan and simmer in 2 cups of water for 5 minutes. Pour into a heatproof bowl. Bend over the bowl with a towel draped over your head and allow steam to touch your face and neck for up to 10 minutes. Pat dry.

Follow the steam facial with this toner:
Lavender Toner:
4 ounces of witch hazel
15 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops chamomile essential oil
Mix all together and pour into a nice container with a flip top spout and attach the following*.
*Apply to clean face with a cotton ball. This helps your skin to return to its normal pH level.

Finally end your facial with moisturizer:

Lavender Geranium moisturizer:
4 ounces of unscented lotion base
10 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops geranium essential oil
Mix all together and pour into a plastic container with a flip top spout or wide mouth small jar. Add a nice label and of course you can use other essential oils. Please make sure you are familiar with the special qualities of the EO before deciding to use them. Using purchased unscented lotion base just gives the lotion a longer shelf life.
*Apply to cleansed and toned face nightly.

Here are two recipes for bath items to add to your basket. If you want to make your gift a little more special add a votive candle and perhaps a soothing CD or cassette tape.

Soothing Bath Salts:
2 cups Epsom salts
20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil. Lavender or Grapefruit are good bath choices.
Place salts into a canning jar and drop in the essential oil. Put on lid and shake, shake, shake it up well. This can be packaged right in the jar itself with a pretty ribbon or piece of raffia tied around the lid. Add a nice label with these instructions*.
*After filling up the tub with comfortably warm water, add ½ to 1 cup of the bath salts. Stir around with your feet then sit in, relax and enjoy!

Herbal Bath Tea:
½ cup dried lavender flowers
½ cup dried lemon balm
½ cup dried chamomile flowers
½ cup dried rose petals
Mix all ingredients together and package into small muslin sacks (3” x 3”). Tie a ribbon around the stack of 4 and give with the following directions*.
*Bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the pouch of herb tea. Let steep for 30 minutes. Draw a nice warm bath. Just before stepping in, pour in bath “tea” along with the pouch of herbs. Relax as long as you want in this wonderful bath. Rub the pouch of herbs on your skin for added pleasure.

There you have it. The fun part is putting it all together in a basket. Add some pretty dried flowers, herbs or pinecone and spices. It will be sure to please. Don’t forget to make at least one extra basket of goodies for yourself. Take time to relax! Theresa Nolt

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Intentional Confusion - Glade Candles

Okay - I just can't stand it any more.
Last night I saw it again. Glade candles, "made with essential oils". This makes my blood boil. It is a blatant, intentionally misleading statement. Someone on a forum I frequent contacted the company about it, and was told something like - the term "essential oils" doesn't have a real definition, so it can be used anyway they like.

Well let's just talk about that for a minute, shall we? For all of the years that my sister and I had the shop, and all the years since, it has been a constant teaching of that definition that we've been struggling to share with the consumer. Essential oils are derived from plant sources. They are obtained through steam distillation, cold pressing, or solvent extraction. Essential oils are NOT a combination of chemicals blended to approximate the scent of RAIN!!!
It is important to define the difference between Essential oils and Fragrance oils because while fragrance oils may smell wonderful, they will not have the same (or any, for that matter) effects as essential oils in aromatherapy. Plant oils can heal the skin, change the way we feel, and do a myriad of wonderful things. Fragrance oils just smell good.
The makers of these candles are doing the consumer an enormous disservice by muddying the waters. I believe that would be Johnson & Johnson - a Family Company. So keep that in mind when you purchase their products for your baby. The lavender or chamomile "essential oils" in their products may or may NOT be anything more than a conglomeration of chemicals - and they really don't care if you're confused or not. In fact, since the fragrance oils are so much cheaper than the essentials, they most likely hope you are confused.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Herb Gifts for Herb Folk!

If you haven't had a chance to visit our website, we've got some unusual items that might make the hunt for holiday gifts for the "herbie" in your life a lot easier. You'll find pictures of each item at the website, so stop by and visit!

Gift subscriptions to The Essential Herbal (of course!) This is one gift that comes a-calling 6 times a year, right to their door. Filled with recipes, crafts, information, and inspiration to help bring herbs into everyday life.

Wild Foods for Every Table - Cookbook for using the plants all around you. We gathered recipes from people who have been cooking wild plants and loving them! Great ways to incorporate wild (and FREE!) foods into your family's diet.

Hand Made Incense booklet and kit - add water or hydrosols to make cones from resin and sandalwood. Instructions and recipes included so you can do it yourself!

Herbal Bead booklet and kit - add water or hydrosols to create scented beads from botanicals. Instructions and recipes included so you can do it yourself!

T-Shirts for your favorite reader of The Essential Herbal . Available in bayberry blue, dusty rose, and terra cotta.

Lavender Wands woven from 17 stems of exquisite Grosso Lavender. Delightful!

"Wish Candles" for Wisdom, Healing, Abundance, Love, Manifesting a Miracle, Harmony , all are beautifully scented. Light and visualize that which you are trying to bring into your life.

Spice Clay Mix - just add applesauce . Each package will make about 25 ornaments that hold their fragrance for years. Great for package tie-ons, tree ornaments, potpourri, and garlands!

CobraHead Tool - Spring weeding is just around the corner... This is our favorite gardening tool, and we think you need one too.

And some other books and incense making tools/ingredients. Burners, tragacanth, and other hard to find ingredients.

Drop on by!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Herbcrafting Time at Frog Hollow

The months of November and December hold a special kind of Paradise for me. My sister and I turn part of the soap and jewelry studio into a shop during those months, while folks are hunting for the perfect tree on the farm. We spend lots of time in craft heaven. We are both involved in (and hosting) an herbal craft swap, but we've finished those things. They'll be reported on after the boxes go out.
Each day seems to be perfect timing for a new project. We might play with some resins, or packaging. Maybe we'll pull out the paints or stencil some fabric. Ideas that have been brewing for months finally come to fruition. The magazine is away at the printers', soap is on the shelves ready to fill orders, and we get to play for a good long time.

Yesterday the amber resin and little carved rosewood boxes that have been here for months finally got packaged up. Figuring out exactly how to display them was a bit of a challenge, but the end result looks pretty good. The scent comes through the shrinkwrap band that protects the resin, and the choice of black corrugated cardboard and kraft label stock seems to work well.
With my brother coming to join our little art colony, it is exciting to think about what we might accomplish. As it is, we have the soap, the distillation, the lampwork and jewelry making, and the magazine and books. Bob is looking at putting in a pottery studio, and John is checking into working with lost wax silver work. All we need now is a spinning wheel and a few alpacas. Maybe a goat or two? Oh, and then we need to study chandling. Another brother used to do a good bit of leather working. Hmmmm....

We pulled out some of the gourd stash from last year and decided to do some rattles. There are several more not in the picture - either drying or waiting to be drilled for a hanging loop. The kids got into the act on the rattles. There is something so relaxing and mesmerizing about working with a natural medium. The gourds lead you if you just relax and go with it. Next thing you know, it is done!

For years, I've wanted to try a pine needle basket. On the way down to the shop this morning I picked up a branch that had been trimmed off and left in the field. When I got to the bottom of the hill, it turned out there was a large pile of such branches. Oh well. Anyway, once the beginning circle is sewn into place, it is simple to go from there. Sticky, but simple. There were a couple of shells from the most recent trip to the beach that had holes that fit over the needle, so I stuck them onto the basket. Now I'm thinking about how much fun it would be to weave things like lavender, thyme, and rosemary. It was more fun than I expected.

Now to think about projects for next weekend!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

4 days and 35 degrees

I know I've swayed a little from herbal stuff of late, but I'll get back to it soon. There is something funny going on outside, and it just HAS to be recorded.

4 days ago we had snow. It was a bit of a surprise, and it was quite early for the area, but nevertheless, we had snow. Molly ran out and scooped up enough to make a slushy. There was snow.

Today was nearly 70 degrees.

Now on top of that, our autumn is still in full force. We expected that the dry late summer would leave us with a brown autumn. That changed dramatically when some wet weather, combined with a slow cooling worked together to give us one of the longest-lasting and most incredible falls I've ever seen.

Below, you will find a series of pictures that were taken today. In one, you'll see the Dogwood that is blooming again, amid autumn foliage! It is simply stunning out there. I'll just shut up and show you.
Look closely - there are blooms on that Dogwood.

I have a hard time telling if it is spring or fall in some of the pictures, although they were all taken today. Check out those gigantic Magnolia leaves! We used a foot for scale.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pods, Sunbeams, and a Splash of Yellow

Before saying anything else, I need to whine for a moment. The other day was the worst day ever to leave the house without the camera. First, driving down a street canopied with firey red, crimson, pink, and yellow leaves, I would have leapt from the car and stood in the middle of the street to capture a picture of that beauty, but alas... No Camera!
Later that same day, in a cobblestoned alleyway surrounded with 100+ year old brick buildings, I turned a corner and came face to face with the most magnificently powerful horse. It was one of those experiences where you look around for someone, anyone, with whom to share the moment. This immense dappled gray horse (one of the mounted officer's steeds) stood tied to a post outside the old market building. The day was overcast. It felt as if I had been magically transported to another time, perhaps mid 19th century. We stood and looked at each other for a moment, I not wanting it to end, until it was time to leave. AGAIN! No Camera!

So my upcoming resolution for the new year is to never leave the house without the camera. Our area is just too rich and it's too easy to miss things.

I started posting pods the other day, and one of my favorites is the Common Rose Mallow - Hibiscus moscheutos L.. The pods turn a burnished brown, almost resembling leather, and then open to reveal the seeds. As it cracks open it looks like another blossom, only brown, matching the autumn. So far, I haven't noticed the plant spreading from the seeds. There are two - a white and a pink - and they are staying pretty much just that... two plants.

Today while I was sitting at the dining room table writing the Field Notes for the next issue, the sky outside caught my eye through the sliding glass doors. Sunbeams burst through the thick cloud and spilled onto the farm below. The brightly colored leaves will only be around for another day or so, and everything looks so pretty.

Then there is the maple growing off the corner of the deck. It is currently at such as size as to appear as a bush beside the second story deck. Looking out the door while getting coffee this morning, the blaze of yellow grabbed my attention against the morning mist.

It's another beautiful season here on the hill. There are still some herbs worth harvesting out there. The plantain shows up vibrantly against the grass that is turning a weathered gold. The rosemary waves to me through the office window, and the saffron continues to stay well beneath the soil, taunting me as I go look each day for signs of life.

Tomorrow the hillside will be full of families out choosing their trees. In another couple of weeks they'll be back to cut them, and take them home to decorate for the holidays. And then we will slide into another winter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Karen and the turkey

Herbed Turkey Recipe or How I Broke Out of my Left Brained Cooking Mode
Previously published in The Essential Herbal

OK, admit it. Every year, the same old turkey. I know it's a tradition, but if you're looking for something a little different and wonderful, read on!
After becoming "herbie", I decided that there was something sacrilegious about not cooking with herbs in everything I did. One Thanksgiving I decided to throw caution to the wind and experiment on my family. (Quite frankly, that was the beginning of experiments on my unsuspecting brood. They are all still my favorite guinea pigs!!)
Grabbing my helpless, unsuspecting Honeysuckle White from the water, I plopped it on the counter and opened up the herb cupboard. I was fairly new to herbs so I had a little sheet on the inside of the cupboard that showed all the things herbs go best with. I started scanning for anything that would work with poultry or anything feathered. There were several wonderful selections which all happened to be staring out at me begging for a culinary debut.
I started pulling out jars like a woman possessed. (If you've ever met me, I pretty much act that way all the time!) There was the traditional sage. Marjoram, rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, savory. As I stared at the collection of jars and bottles before me, that old overwhelmed feeling started in the pit of my stomach. Being seriously left brained, (I don't think I even have a right lobe at all) I am one of those cooks who follows a recipe down to the letter, so this was scary to say the least and on a level with jumping from a 100 foot building at most. But I was determined. I pushed on.
I thought perhaps the muscle test might work. You know, that thing where you hold out your arm and with the other hand hold something close like sugar and see how your body reacts when someone tries to push down on the outstretched arm? Well anyway, the turkey wasn't cooperating at all. I lifted a wing and held a spice close. No response. Hmmmm.
Finally I decided to get in touch with my creative side, whatever that was. I opened jars, sniffed, put two jars together and sniffed. This went on for 15 minutes. My husband walked in, took one look at me, shook his head and kept walking. (He's done that a lot lately, come to think of it.) Next the sons who, just because they are adults now and out of the house, think they know everything. ("HERBED Turkey? What the heck is THAT! Come on, MOM! Just make it the way you normally do!") But I was a woman on a mission. Can't be an herbie if you don't live it.
Finally, I decided on the sage, the rosemary, the marjoram and the oregano. Plus some chopped garlic I had handy. And of course salt and pepper. I poured some olive oil into a bowl. (Much healthier than butter, which Mom used to use to rub on the turkey).

Then I added the spices. About 1/2 cup of olive oil. I purposely didn't measure, cause real cooks don't measure. (Wonder who came up with THAT lie?!) Then about a tablespoon of each of my selected spices. I mixed it up well and proceeded to pour a small amount into my hand.
As it dribbled through my fingers, (that move needs work) I quickly got my hands over the turkey and let it run out. Next I grabbed the bowl and poured a small amount on "Tom". Then I began the first avian massage. I worked and massaged until my 20 pounder was covered from neck hole to the part that went over the fence last as well as inside with my special brew. I convinced myself that this would also make the meat much more tender, so I put my whole heart and soul into it. I kept pouring and massaging until I had used up all the contents. There I stood, over my victim with my hands greasy and in mid air. (another confused but sympathetic look from my husband). Even if it didn't taste good, this was the most fun I've ever had preparing food!
We always stuff our birds, so that went in next. My loving hubby grabbed the bowl of stuffing out of the refrigerator and placed it next to the bird on the counter. ("Why don't you just wipe your hands off?") SNORT! Be CAUSE, I want all that nice mixture to get into the stuffing as well. Men!
After stuffing every last bit into the cavity and the neck skin, Tom was ready for the oven. I put him in at 325 degrees with some foil over the top to seal in the steam. The house smelled heavenly and soon, men and dogs were wandering in to "Help with the basting"! (Where were these guys when I was wrestling this 20 lb slippery beast?) About 30 minutes before he was done, I took Tom's foil blankie off so he could get nice and brown. And then, the moment of truth. My husband proudly carved and everyone ooo'd and ahhhh'd at my masterpiece. I waited expectantly while everyone else dug in. tick tick tick tick. (Now I know how Alex Trebeck feels!) WELL?!!! Amidst grunts, slurps and nods, I got the message that the Herbed Turkey was a success.

t was wonderful and tender and the herbs gave it a wonderfully subtle but delightfully different taste. I smiled happily as I spooned out some more stuffing. Wait a minute, what's that thing? Looks like paper. I pulled it apart from the stuffing. THE GIBLETS! (I wondered what had happened to those!) So, lesson learned. Make sure you do a thorough body cavity search before embarking on this adventure!
Bon Appetite!!

Karen Mallinger

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Seeds and Pods - Part One

One of my favorite parts of this time of year is seeing all of the different forms nature creates to disperse seeds. As the weather chills, nuts, seeds, berries, and pods show themselves and split open to display some breathtakingly beautiful stuff.
For the next few posts (barring some unforeseen wonderfulness that will need discussion), I'll be out there snapping pictures of some of them in my area, and sharing them here.
Yesterday on my way to town, I rounded a bend and came upon a large amount of Bittersweet. I suspect this to be the more invasive Chinese variety, Celastrus orbiculatus, based on the profusion of berries all along the branches, rather than the native Celastrus scandens that is being rapidly replaced.
Still, it is stunning. I swerved the car off the road and jumped out to take a few pictures.
Bittersweet and I go way back. I'm not aware of any medicinal properties but as an Autumn wreath or swag material, it is a great addition. The first time I saw it, someone brought it to the shop in bunches for us to sell. She spoke of knowing "certain places" where it grew, as if it were a well-kept family secret. It became a sort of obsession at that point.
I searched through field guides and read about the growth habits. At that time, we lived on a different wooded acreage, and one day I just decided that it HAD to be down in the woods. It was cold, and I bundled up in search of the bright berried plant. Through the briars and bramble I went, climbing over fallen branches and pulling clingy wind rose thorns from my clothing.
At some point, almost ready to give up, I tumbled down the bank into the shallow stream. Disgusted with myself, I started climbing the bank. As I reached for a protruding root to use for leverage, I looked at the ground beside my hand. There were some fallen berries. Poised precariously on the bank, I craned my neck back and looked up the tree whose roots I was clinging to, only to see the bittersweet high (very) among the uppermost branches.
In the next couple of years, the obsession grew. I learned that bittersweet leaves have a uniquely clear yellow color in the fall. On car trips (as a passenger), I can find it almost any day, no matter where we are going.
If you know me, you know that there are always a couple of plants that are on my "sighting list" in any given year. For a while it was elderberry, then boneset, and St. John's wort. Black cohosh and jewelweed are in there, along with many others. They all have had me scanning the woodlands, learning to recognize them from a distance, getting to know them by their look, the way you can tell an old friend from a distance by the way they walk, their posture, the way they carry themselves.

Another seed pod that really caught my eye recently is the thornapple from the Moonflower. I wrote about the flowers earlier when they bloomed.
At the top right of the picture, in the corner of the basket you can make out some of the tan seeds that have spilled from one of the split pods.
The thornapples are indeed covered with spines. They are not soft thorns. They are stiff. So it strikes me as such a contrast with the satin-y ruffles that skirt the stem.
I cut almost all of them from the plant, leaving only one or two for next year. This plant is a strong one, and it is close to the foundation of the house. Some of the seeds will be shared. Part of it too, is curiousity. I want to see how they dry, what they'll look like when they're done. The outsides almost remind me of chestnuts - the way they feel to touch. Clipping them and catching them in the basket, I noticed that they smell a bit like peanut butter. As Molly walked by, I held them up and asked her to sniff. She thinks they smell bitter. Hmmm.... Interesting.

Monday, November 05, 2007

In Blows the Fall

I chose this picture today, even though it is about 2 weeks old, because it makes me feel good. This gazebo resides down by the pond. It is always beautiful in any season. In the spring, there are dogwoods, celandine and daylilies jostling for attention. In the summer, the trumpet vine is ablaze with blossoms, and the hummingbirds flock around it. In autumn, it is covered with berries and pods. In the winter, the vines hold the faintest wisps of snow, and the austere shell portends of spring to come.
At first I picked it because the last few days have been uncharacteristically filled with upheaval. The gazebo is a visual of how our lives typically feel here on the hill. Peaceful and fulfilling, with lots of creativity, growth and support.
Most years, it is surrounded by hostas, sedum, and ferns. This wasn't that kind of year though. This year wasn't easy on the family and things had to be let go a little bit. Just a little. The pokeweed took advantage of the situation, but I'm certain that by the time the sun comes back next spring, things will be back to something like normal.
Autumn has blown in. It has blown into this year, and it has blown into our lives. We're getting older.
When I look at this picture I remember when the gazebo was built. It was pale wood with cedar shingles on the roof. The vines that encircle it now were just small, struggling to reach the first railing.
The gazebo has seen a lot. It's watched as the pond was drained and rebuilt. It has seen the fish being restocked, and the cranes that came in to scoop them up. It has kept frogs and bugs cozy under the floorboards, and has listened while we sat within the shade it provides, laughing and planning. It watched while the kids took the boat out on the pond, and saw every time Molly fell into the water. It stood by while Rob spent hours skipping stones over the water and has watched the turtles float lazily on the surface. It listened while the various frogs set up their chorus in the spring and stood as a quiet refuge, waiting to offer peace and quiet after a jaunt down into the woods.
Over time the wood took on a weathered look, gaining character. It has a few loose rails and the roof has some bald spots. At times it is overgrown, and there is a slight tilt to the floor. Most of the time it sits unassuming as the wildlife scurries past or through it. It is just there, a sweet constant in the landscape.
It makes getting older look like it might be a good thing. I wonder if it ever forgets what it was just about to do?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Herb Businesses in My World

Lately I've been a cheerleader. Not in sports, but in business. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that there are several herb businesses close to me physically. Over the years, there are many that are not so physically close, but with the help of the internet they may as well be. Part of my goal in starting the magazine was to make it easier for small herb companies to make some noise. We do that, but lately it's been more hands-on (and fun!) than normal.

Radiance is at the top of the list. Sarah opened a year ago, and her shop has seen some amazing growth. I spend a day a week at the shop. The plan - give Sarah some uninterrupted time to make her products, and I get to play store. Right now it isn't working out that way. A year ago, there was so much space to fill. During the year, new items have come in, new products have been made, gorgeous natural fiber clothing has arrived, and the shop is FULL!
I remember this time from our own shop. Suddenly everything needs to be overhauled to display things properly. While once things were displayed in such a way as to spread out, now the real elements of display come into play. Does a table of low-ticket items make sense when the big-ticket stuff is out of sight? How does the eye flow? Is there enough color contrast? Do the areas flow into each other? This is my favorite part of merchandising (aside from the wholesale shopping, of course), but it is also physically demanding. It sometimes means moving one whole side of the shop, only to find that it won't work as planned. Back it goes until plan B shows up. The other day Sarah and I decided it was a lot like chess... trying to get everything to work together.
We have a lot of fun working together. We toss all kinds of ideas around until one sticks. The shop is changing. It's been beautiful since day one, and we are just increasing that and making it more shoppable.

Then there is the blog cheer. About a month ago a small group of bloggers, and some seriously thinking about blogging gathered and started swapping ideas and giving shoves. Within a few days, blogs for SunRose, Radiance (and Labyrinth Herbs), Green Spiral, Dreamseeds, Herbs by Sarah,and Whimsy Lane were on board. Some took a little pushing, some dove right in with no help at all. Then the Reppert sisters started their blog last week from The Rosemary House, and the herb farm down the road, Cloverleaf snagged one. Kathy at Cloverleaf isn't actually on-line herself, but will blog from the soap studio at my sister's. Some of the bloggers who'd been at it for a while (myself included) happily take energy from this group and come up with ideas for our own. It has been a very cool thing.

John Gallagher from has come up with a brilliant new concept for ... well, learning about herbs. He's put together a vast member site that will be announced soon. It has everything one could imagine - films, interviews, classes, a forum, articles, and TONS of information. He's gathered herbalists to offer insight and conversation. I am very excited to be a small part of it, and look forward to meeting many new-to-me and enthusiastic herbies.

Lastly is my sister's wholesale soap business. I've been giving gentle nudges and shoves for quite a while, and this has been a bang-up year so far.

I love being in the thick of things and watching these people who work so hard grow and stretch. This has been a very rewarding couple of months. YAY! Sis! Boom! Bah!

Monday, October 29, 2007

A couple of exciting things lately

It's been a whirlwind around here with all sorts of thing swirling in the mists. First frost last night, and it's about time!
More importantly, we have a new writer joining the ranks of regulars at The Essential Herbal, and that is Alicia Grosso, beginning with the Jan/Feb '08 issue. Alicia is probably best known for her book, "The Everything Soapmaking Book", but her knowledge of all things herbal and crafty is going to bring a wonderful new energy to the magazine. She will be bringing us news of interesting techniques, additives, and well... whatever strikes her fancy! You can read her profile (and those of all of our writers) by following this link. We have so many soapers amongst our readers, and many who'd like to try it. In her first article for the magazine, she'll be giving clear, simple instructions for that first batch, along with a couple of recipes. Welcome Aboard, Alicia!

Another great opportunity arose the other day, when we went to The Rosemary House to take a day long seminar with Rosemary Gladstar. I am SO glad we went! For many years, I've been hearing nothing but good stuff about this lady, and of course had read her books. Betsy May, another of our writers, is taking Rosemary's apprenticeship course, and has spoken very highly of her. What one says about her - besides her obvious knowledge - is that she is a kind and gentle soul, inspiring others by sharing information and experiences.
Indeed, that was the woman standing before the crowd. During the course of the day, we were treated to huge gobs of information, delivered in such a way that it seemed more like an intimate conversation. It's difficult to put into words, other than to say that it did not feel like a class. I did not feel like I was "learning". It was more like drinking it in. The handouts were treasure troves of inspiration. The very best part though, was her laugh. At certain times during her presentation, something she said would cause her to remember something that had to do with the subject, and she would allow a pure, clear bubble of laughter to emerge. It was joyous, and made me laugh too.
At the end of the day, she made "longevity balls", a luscious treat made with honey, sesame butter, almond butter, and a vast array of herbs and carob powder. I volunteered to help, although I see that I should probably NEVER wear that shirt again! Yikes.

OH! And I added a new page to the site that shows all display advertisers from the current issue. Check them out! And be sure to let them know you saw them on our site :-).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Halloween to Word Fiends

This game sucked me in for more time than I care to acknowledge:
I've got a bunch of things to post, but no time today. Catch you tomorrow!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Taking a Day to Catch My Breath

When an issue of the magazine goes out in the mail, and everything is settled, there is always a day or two where I am completely at loose ends. Yesterday was one. It's the strangest feeling. Instead of needing to finish this task and move on to that one, there is just the blissful nothingness.

Oh, that isn't to say that the slate is completely empty... there is always something. The hostas and shrubs that stunted my perennials this summer need to be moved to a more suitable place. The vacuum cleaner needs to be run, there are some orders to pack and ship, pack for the kid's upcoming trip and find her passport, a couple of herbal projects that need to be done and photographed for upcoming entries... but yesterday, nothing *needed* to be done. It was just me and the day and time. No sound except the birds and the occasional phone call.

At some point, I grabbed the camera and went for a walk. We are still having day-time temps in the upper 60's and low 70's here, warmest October on record for our region, so it's not easy to find Autumn. It is creeping in like a stealth season. Leaves are drying, seed pods forming, but there are few blazes of color marking the way. It reminded me of exactly the same sort of time period I am experiencing right now. The summer is over, so the mad dash to put out flowers is over, and all of the plants are quietly waiting for the onslaught of cold. I could almost feel them asking, "what are we supposed to do now?"

Outside the door, the wave of pineapple sage is vibrant next to the rust colored mums. Yet amidst the dried vines of the clematis, 3 lonely blossoms venture out, unsure if they belong. The grass is still growing and should probably be cut again. The lemon verbena is in bloom, and the all of the blue and purple sages continue to put on a show. The vitex bushes can't decide whether or not to go completely to seed, or to keep putting out flower spikes, and the passionflower vine that couldn't get its act together until September is still giving a weak showing.

The goldenrod is striking among the rows of trees. All of the yellows, golds, and tans of autumn have their own special beauty, and it is a little different when it has a green background. Of course with evergreens, there is always a green background, but usually it is more two-toned and less full-color.

One row of little sugar maples are knocking themselves out. They didn't get the memo. Alone in the march towards winter, they are the single splash of firey leaves on the trees here. Maybe the spiders whispered to them that fall was here.

There will be a bumper crop of puffballs in the fields next year, judging by the ones that are left from this spring, shooting out spores at the slightest touch. They are so easy to spot in the rows between the trees. Big old softballs and soccer balls made out of mushroom.

The poke plants are all pretty this time of year. The stems have gotten deep magenta, and the berries range in degrees of ripeness (not edible) from inky purple to barely green. This one had all forms, including some blossoms at the very top.

I know autumn will get here one way or another. Winter will follow with the biting winds and cold wet days. Just like I know tomorrow will send me back into the trenches, writing articles, pulling together ads, putting a new page up on the site that gives our advertisers another shot at our readers, and working on a new book. We'll start work on the shop for Frog Hollow Evergreens, and the orders will get shipped. But today is another day to just breathe.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Our Environment and Baby Steps

Living where I do, it would be easy to bury my head in the sand and pretend everything is alright. It is nearly pristine farmland, and the creeks and streams run clear. Wildlife abounds, flora and fauna alike.
But civilization encroaches. Street lights are going up just a few miles down the road, and construction blocks most of the main roads going anywhere. Even if I stay on the hill, eventually the radio or TV disturbs my euphoria with news of the world.

The last few years, I don't need outside information to tell me something is up. Right now, we have lilacs and azaleas blooming out of season. Mid-winter, we have been seeing plants trying to get started, only to be cut down by the late arrival of a short winter blitz. Fruit harvests have been affected as well as winter crops. Birds don't migrate at the proper time. Bugs don't die back.

It seems insurmountable - maybe it is.

We all read about the advantages of lowering our thermostats over the winter, keeping our tires properly inflated, and using the new lightbulbs. I thought I'd add another couple of ideas that aren't covered so well.

Single Use Products - Find ways to use them repeatedly. They are still disposable, but each repeated use adds less to the landfill.

-Gallon water jugs cut in half make great funnels, and the bottom half can be used in a lot of ways. Take them into the garden to gather peas, seeds or berries. Use them to mix messy, oily potions that are difficult to clean well.
-Plastic yogurt cups or sour cream containers can be used over and over for small portions of leftovers, packing lunches, and potting up baby plants to share.
-Glass jars from things like mayo and sauces are like gold around here. Well washed, they hold various batches of tinctures and infusions.
-Plastic carry-out containers are perfect for leftovers, mixing up herb blends, or sharing food with a neighbor. They freeze well, and are stronger than the Glad storage containers on the market.

Learn to compost
There are ways that everyone can compost - even apartment dwellers. Small amounts of well composted vegetable matter can be used in houseplants (they'll love you for it), or given to a grateful friend. Why pay a fortune to have it hauled away by gas guzzling trucks, when it can become sweet earth?

Plan your trips to get the most accomplished with the least driving
This one is easy for me. My sister is my neighbor, so we combine our trips to town whenever possible. We make a loop of errands - bank, post office, grocery store, etc., and both do everything necessary in one trip. Teaching my daughter to drive means that for the first time in over a year, I am filling up the tank more than once or twice a month. Is there someone near you that you can combine trips with? It may mean a phone call, saying, "I'm going, do you need anything?" rather than riding together. Each combined trip saves.

Upsize product packages
An oldie but a goodie. I'm not talking about buying a case at a time (although in some instances, that has merits), but simply a larger package. It saves packaging, saves the number of times you need to go back to the store, AND it saves you money.

Buy local produce and products whenever possible
Consider the energy used to ship things to your area, and the real cost. Food produced locally will be fresher, more wholesome, and more nutritious. There are many good books and theories that speak to the idea that we are not meant to eat out of season food, that our bodies aren't equipped to deal with it. When you consider the true cost of those "fresh" out-of-season cherries, are they really worth it? They'll taste better in the summer, anyway!
You'll notice that most of these ideas are pretty simple. It might stand out that besides their gentle approach to the environment, they have an even gentler effect on your wallet. When we re-use things, we save money. When we conserve things, we save money. Our lives are such at this point, that time has become more important than money. Nobody has enough time. So convenience has become a part of everyday life. It is so much easier to throw things away and "get a new one". The state of the economy may have a silver lining for the environment. As more and more people find that there is less "disposable" income, we'll all be looking for more ways to re-use. Start today.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Woolly Bear Prediction for the coming winter

Right now, country roads are being traveled by the Woolly Bear caterpiller, the larval stage of the Isabella tiger moth. Prognosticators from this part of the country have used this little guy for for decades to give a clue to the upcoming winter's weather.
The caterpillar is reddish-brown, with black bands on the head and tail ends. The width of the black bands are what foretell the weather. In fact, our local paper, The Lancaster New Era, ran a tongue-in-cheek story just yesterday, as they do each fall. Caterpillars are gathered from various parts of the state and a consensus is reached. Entomologists from Penn State were presented with a rarity earlier this week - a caterpillar with NO banding. So far, it is the only one.
I've been seeing them everywhere this past week. They cross the roads between fields, and at times it is like a tiny little march. There is a picture (with crude markings of my own lame doing) on the sidebar of a little fellow whom had nestled into the basement doorway.
So, the official prediction for this winter? Another mild winter. From the article in the paper,
"Think twice about buying the little ones sleds for Christmas, no matter how nostalgic you get. Take a picture and post the snowblower on Ebay. Ice fishers would do better to take up indoor shuffleboard.
Last winter we didn't get a decent snow until Feb. 18, and even that was an ugly mess with sleet and ice added in. The first plowable snow will arrive earlier this year - around mid-January - but there will only be three nuisance snows the remainder of the winter.
Expect many of those irritating days in the 40's - too warm to snow, too cold to shed the sweater."

Uh huh! I was just going to say that!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nov/Dec '07 issue of The Essential Herbal

It's in the mail, and it's good. Another delightful, delicious, and diverse holiday issue is on the way to subscribers, shops, and businesses. We always sweat this one (the Nov/Dec issue) out a little, wanting it to be special. It is hard to be thinking about the holidays and family when the garden is still producing, still needing our attention. Our writers and contributors never disappoint us.
And just in case you haven't seen The Essential Herbal magazine, this is a good time to subscribe!
So - here's what's inside. A little teaser until it arrives.

Table of Contents

~Crossword Puzzle - Winter Traditions, Tina Sams

~Field Notes from the Editor

~Deep Within the Core, Laura Daniel
Laura shares her aromatherapy Healing Home Remedy for living in NYC

~Preserving the Harvest, Karen Mallinger
Drying, Tinctures, and Infused Oils

~Enticing Holiday Appetizers, Susan Evans
Pine Cone Almond Dip, Baby Crab Cakes with Easy Remoulade, and Cowboy Caviar are some of the recipes in this article

~Can Wine Help or Harm You, Burno Silvester Lopes
Resveratrol and Procyanidins - the keys

~Suburban Herbie, Geri Burgert
Non Herbal Non Christmas Holiday Cookies - Rugelach!

~Never Enough Thyme, Susanna Reppert
Here We Go a Wassailing

~An Interview with Gail Edwards, Katherine Turcotte
And review of Travering the Wild Terrain of Menopause - Herbal Allies for Midlife Women & Men

~Down on the Farm, Michele Brown & Pat Stewart
Potpourri...a How-to

~List Article, Warm Winter Drinks
We gathered recipes for teas, cocoas, coffee, chai, cider - yummmm

~Planting Seeds of Summer Dreams, Betsy May
Where do you get your seeds? Here are some GREAT ideas!

~SouthRidge Treasures, Mary Ellen Wilcox
New Years with recipes for lentil soup, donuts, and rice pudding.

~Book Review, Sarah Liberta
The NEW Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs from The Herb Society of America is reviewed, and they even provided a recipe.

~Gifts From the Garden - Herb Bundles, Rita Richardson
Lots of creative ways to use all the herbs you grew

~Louisiana Lagniappe, Sarah Liberta
Eggplant and Mushroom Pie, plus a 1-2-3-4 Herb Blend

~Handmade Gel Air Fresheners, Meri Rees

~Bring Juniper into Your Life, Maureen Rogers
Sachet, decoction, foot bath, and juniper wine are just a few of the recipes for this useful plant, and you'll find them in the article.

~Mother & Child, Pam Ferry
Children and the Holidays, keeping it merry

~Hairy, Hairy Christmas, Theresa Kavi
Scalp Soak for great hair

~Classified Ads

~Potpourri (Scented) Cleaner, Marge Clark

~Snowball Candy, Holly O'Brien

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pumpkins and Hippie Cream

I thought I'd share a little something I listened to today from Cuddles the Vampire by Hippie Cream being as it is October. The drummer is one of my best friend's brother, and I really enjoy the way they use their voices and instruments to create a completely different sound. This one just cracked me up. Organized chaos has always been a concept near and dear to my heart, and now there is theme music! I've never posted music before. Hope this works.

I posted the following to The Essential Herbal Yahoo group. Thought I'd repeat it for my fellow pumpkin pie and bread lovers (there followed some great recipes, including this one for Pumpkin Chiffon Cake, from Betty Pillsbury:

Yesterday found me visiting an Amish roadside stand, where I picked up a pumpkin roll - moist, spicy cake rolled around a cream cheese filling. It got me thinking about medicinal uses for pumpkins. I love pumpkin pie, bread, and whoopie pies (gobs to some of you), so thought it would be nice to find a GOOD reason to dig in.
Their deep orange color denotes the presence of loads of beta carotene and they are full of lutein (good for the eyes). A little sniffing around turned up articles that say the oil made from the seeds is being studied for prostate health, particularly in conjunction with saw palmetto. The seeds (pepitas) are also a folk remedy for depression, and in larger quantities, parasites and kidney stones.
This article on the use of pumpkin extract in diabetes and pre-diabetes was interesting:

"A new study from China reveals pumpkin extract regenerates damaged pancreatic cells in diabetic rats, which boosts levels of insulin-producing beta cells and insulin in the blood. The diabetic rats had only 5 percent less plasma insulin and 8 percent fewer insulin-positive beta cells compared to normal healthy rats.
Researchers say pumpkin extract could benefit both pre-diabetics and patients who already have the disease. They note diabetics will probably always need insulin injections, but the extract could drastically reduce the amount of insulin they need."

So. Now we can feel good about these scrumptious fruits/vegetables.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Local herb classes

There are some great classes in the works for locals - Lancaster, PA. They'll be held at Radiance on Grant Street, and you can contact Sarah at 717-290-1517 to reserve a spot and get times and details.

Weds, Oct 17 from 2 - 3:30 pm: Essential oils and a distillation demonstration
Tues, Oct 23: Herb Cordials
Weds, Oct 24: Tinctures and Vinegars
Tues, Oct 30: The Witching Herbs
Sat, Nov 3: Herb Beadmaking
Tues, Nov 13: Infused Oils and Salves
Weds, Nov 21: Herb Butters and Dips
Sat, Dec 1: Bath Salts/Herbs/Oils

Also! October 27th at The Rosemary House there will be an all day workshop with Rosemary Gladstar. That's another "can't miss" herbal event!

Herbal Swap coming up

A few days ago I was sitting around, letting thoughts wander aimlessly through my head, when one of them got stuck. Wouldn't it be fun to have an herbal product swap on The Essential Herbal's Yahoo list? Michele Brown from Possum Creek Herbs had suggested it privately to me before, but that was back in the days of the full-time job.
So, 2 days later we have 2 groups of 15 people all set to get swapping. Maryanne is helping with the swap, and we are both included in the each of the two groups.
I'm really excited. This has gotten my imagination into overdrive. Pretty soon we'll be setting up the shop down at the Frog Hollow Evergreens farm (VERY soon!), and we also have the spring herb fairs and market off in the distance. If we look at it that way we can make batches of several things. We'll be the last stop for the swaps, so if we have a couple of different choices we can make sure the swap boxes have lots of variety.
Now my head is spinning with ideas!
Neck coolers, eye pillows, salves, herb beads, hand rolled incense, potpourri.... the possibilities are endless! Just what I needed to get into production mode!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Spiders are going to enclose my house

I walked outside into the fog this morning to be met with an eerie sight. Not only was the hill completely covered with thick, quiet fog, but the spiders have been busily working outside.
The whole front garden and all of the shrubs are covered with so many webs that it looks like that stuff you buy to decorate for Halloween. I noticed that the evergreens in the next field have been festooned as well.

Spiders are supposed to be good things to have around, keeping other insects in check. They also have powerful symbolism. Spiders are the weavers of the web - and internet associations aside, the web is what connects all things. I love that particular bit of symbolism. The idea that by tweaking one of the threads on a web, all parts are affected and feel the movement. It reflects how I envision the earth and the environment, and how every little thing makes a difference to all things. For instance, the use of chemicals in farming disturbs the fragile chemistry of the soil, destroying bacteria and micro-organisms that are necessary to the fertility of the soil. Introducing or removing a species in the wild can create a whole landslide of changes.

Spider webs have been used to staunch bleeding in folk medicine. The strong filaments were used to cover a wound, giving blood a network on which to coagulate.

Still... I have to admit that spiders give me the willies. There's a big one living in one of the bathtubs, and I've decided to ignore it completely. Seeing what they managed to do in one night makes me wonder if one morning I'll need a machete to get out through the door. I'll keep you posted.