Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Saying goodbye to the garden of 2007

Every year, there is a week or so that makes me melancholy. It is the very crest of the garden, just before frost hits and it is over until next year. It finds me sitting on the lawn, gazing at a particularly beautiful grouping of plants, burning it into my brain to be savored in my memory when everything is covered with snow a few short months (or weeks) from now.
Last year was particularly difficult. It was the first year in quite a while that had allowed me to garden to my heart's content. It is no exaggeration to say that I was dreading the fall last year. I was in gardening Nirvana, and I railed against the shortening days.

This year is not quite as painful. I know that the spring will come, and my perennial pals will return, along with whatever annuals I pick up. Still, there have been late afternoons sitting in the shade, watching the butterflies flitting around the butterfly bushes. More than anything, I will miss the little corner garden that is directly outside of the office window. Many mornings I sit and gaze out upon it, thinking of words to type, getting lost in it. There is a pair of binoculars sitting on the filing cabinet to help pinpoint bugs and flowers that appeared overnight.

Looking out yesterday, it looked like there was a large toad, or maybe a bat pressed against the fencepost. After looking through the trusty binos, the gigantic moth required some more investigation. Close up (which my camera just won't do), he was wooley and grizzled. He didn't move while I looked at him. If at you look at the top picture, you can see him on the post. Pretty big, eh?

The front entrance turned out to be a welcoming sight this year too. It starts in the early spring with come violet Clematis that Mom planted, progresses to Stargazer Lilies and Marshmallow on either side, and then the Moonflowers and Pineapple Sage step up to bat. The Hibiscus has been blooming consistently all summer. Next year we'll get more of that. What a cheerful vision upon arriving home from some errand or trip!

Soon the binoculars will be pressed into service to see more closely the many-colored leaves in the tree line beyond the first field. They will show me the bunnies and groundhogs, the chukars and cardinals, and whatever else wanders across my field of vision out the office window.

Soon too, will be the planning for next year. What worked, what fizzled... what bloomed like fireworks?

Ah well. Farewell garden of 2007. You were a good one.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sweet Annie and the delights of early Autumn

Today brought another delicious day to Lancaster County. That, and a challenge from Michele of the "blog gang" sent me out into the fields in search of Sweet Annie (Artemisia annua). The funniest thing about Sweet Annie, is that any time we are vending anywhere at this time of year, we take along bunches of this fragrant weed, tied up in tissue and raffia. Every time, people buy it.
It reminds me of wild edible plants, in that at the very least, people drive past it everyday - but will pay for it if it is bundled for sale. Or maybe more like when we pass the Queen Anne's Lace bouquets for sale outside the Bodega's in NYC. It just seems odd. I suppose the value is in being able to identify these plants.

Sweet Annie is one of those plants that if you EVER have it on your property, you will ALWAYS have it on your property. It can be quite an irritating plant for people with allergies, but to me, it is one of the gifts of the dwindling sun.

At one time I had a bunch hanging in the dining room. My father came for dinner, and it bothered him. I tossed the bunch out into the side yard, and was rewarded with a crop the following year.

It is the scent that we love. An Artemesia, it has the familiar pungency of wormwood, or mugwort, but there is an addition that is somehow both fruity and floral.

This year, I'd like to try to figure out how to make a basket from the larger stems. The tiny end branches become brittle when dry, but I suspect the sturdier branches would stay strong, and remain fragrant.

Walking around outside today, I stopped *beneath* the Jerusalem Artichoke blossoms as they waved in the sun. Their brilliant yellow petals contrast so sharply with the Autumn sky, I can hardly get over how beautiful they look.

Then, there was the corn patch - long since abandoned to the groundhogs. I found a stalk that had made good friends with a blooming bindweed vine, along with a fully seeded Lamb's Quarter plant.

There were many other sights along the way. This is the start of another one of my favorite seasons... one of four :-).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rosehip Syrup (and herb syrups)

In our on-going experiment of taking wild foods to market and trying them out on our patrons, yesterday we took some rosehips from the huge Rosa rugosa on the hillside. The hips are dense and succulent right now, and I figured that if nobody wanted them at market, they could go into a jelly or syrup. In the afternoon, I made syrup :-). We had a professional chicken wrangler (sister-in-law Pam) help us with the harvest, by the way.

Herb syrups are fun and just slightly exotic. Our first attempt at herb syrup was violet syrup. Nanette, a friend from the Waldorf school where Molly was attending nursery school was making it, and showed us how. It has gone from there. Nanette made hers by setting a gallon jar filled with violets and spring water out overnight during a full moon. The color of her syrup was the gentlest of purples, kissed by the moon. We changed that, gently heating ours on the stove. We've gone on to try many different things with the basic recipe, including mints, ginger, anise hyssop, berries of all kinds, rose petals, lavender, well..... you get the idea. Star anise with a single star dropped into the bottle is excellent as a gift - as are all the others.

Page 8 of the Sept/Oct '07 Essential Herbal has many recipes for rosehips, (Hips, Hips, Hooray, by Maryanne Schwartz) but not the syrup, so I'll post it here.

For this syrup, I peeled a hefty pint of rosehips. The fleshy outer part of the hip is the part you want. Inside are many seeds and tiny prickly hairs, so we just use the outside.

The hips were placed in 2 - 1/2 cups of water, and simmered gently for an hour.

The resulting liquid was strained to remove any solids. I then added enough water to bring the total up to about 1 cup of liquid.

To that, about 2 cups of sugar were added, and stirred to dissolve (some people use honey instead of sugar. In that case I would use an equal amount of honey to the liquid).

The liquid is returned to heat to a boil, slowly over low heat.

I got a pint of delicious syrup. It will eventually go into 4 oz. bottles to share.

Herb syrups have many uses. Some (not the ones mentioned) are made with medicinal herbs for their health benefits, and can come in very handy with a persnickety child (or adult). The ones mentioned at the top of the page are mostly for flavoring. They can be used to sweeten herb tea, drizzle on fruit - especially melon, over ice cream, crepes, waffles, or in baking.
Oh! And look at the goodies that came home with me from market today! The plant lady has been raving about the home made sauerkraut that the Amish girls have, so I got a quart to try. They had some plump grapes, and they are a organic farm. Aren't they gorgeous? One of the other stands still had lovely lima beans, and our neighbor brought in brussel sprouts (still on the stalk) and black plums.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Adventures in the Life of a Magazine Editor

There have been many times in the last 6 years when I've chuckled to myself thinking, "if only the readers would see me now, wouldn't they be surprised." Oh, it's not as if I present myself as some kind of super-professional powerhouse, nor do we ever pretend that the magazine is anything other than what it is - a great group of people writing and sharing what they love - but its just that people tend to expect *something*.

Early on, when the magazine arrived at the printers in the form of tape, glue and paper, it was a struggle to view it as much more than a wonderful hobby. As years passed, it has grown and become slightly (OK, a lot) more polished. It now travels to the printer either via a disk or email. And yet I am the same, no more polished. Many lessons have crossed this desk, some hard, some delightful, but the desk is the same.

You may be wondering what has me rambling down this familiar mental path.
The cover shot for the next issue, that's what!

Covers have always been the bane of my existence. Not only do they need to capture the essence of the season, they have to do it 2 full months ahead! For the first couple of years, I didn't have a camera, and wouldn't have known what to do with the images anyway. Oh, how I toiled over those covers. Scissors, glue, and all manner of tiny things littered the carpet for days on end. When they were done, I'd marvel over them or despair over them - depending on the outcome.

But times have changed a little, and with a camera and Photoshop, it is more about coming up with an idea. That's always been the easy part.

Still, holiday issues are tough. It's September. How do you photograph a wintry scene? I know the answer, silly. You plan ahead, of course! And some day I hope to do just that. This is not that day.

And so today, dear reader, was the day. The idea: a swag full of berries and juniper (featured in a great article inside) hung on the barn door would be just the thing. I cut some of the berry sprigs, and headed down to my sister's, where scads of rosa rugosas are tossing out their lovely hips, and the juniper is bursting with berries.

Have I ever mentioned the dozens of day-old bantam chicks they got a couple of months ago? Did I tell you how they turned out to be almost all roosters, resulting in some very aggressive activity? No? Ah, well such is in fact the case. I think there are 3 or 4 bedraggled hens, and the rest are randy, boisterous boys - all full of the need to express themselves, vocally and territorially. I've taken to keeping a cardboard tube from wrapping paper in my car to ward off the thugs. One will start to square off against me, and be joined by the rest of the roving gang of maniac roosters. They are fearless - and free-range.

So the juniper is close to the driveway. We started there, and would get the rosehips (up behind the birds' home base). As we finished clipping the juniper, the crowing took on a different tone, and they started edging in near us. We both had cardboard tubes. We thought we could take them. We were wrong. As we started to head up for the rosehips, they puffed up and started lunging for us, ignoring the swats with the tubes. In the end, we fled, beating a hasty retreat through the studio door.

We left them to calm down a bit while we put the swag together. Who needs rosehips anyway? We wound up with a great shot for the cover.

But I'll bet nobody thinks that's how we do things around here. It even surprises me sometimes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

There's a Riot Goin' On

Is it a coincidence that my garden always reminds me of different songs? This evening it turned out to be Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, because there truly is a wild and crazy riot going on in the garden. The colors are vibrant, and the plants are pulling out all the stops, giving that one last effort to continue the species before frost sets in.

I've been working a few days with Sarah at her shop, and on the way home, I had to pull over ... well, there isn't a place to pull over - so I just stopped in the road - to take a picture of these tiny red morning glory type flowers covering the bank beside the road. I would think they were cardinal vine, but the leaves are all wrong. They've never been there in past years. If anyone knows what they are, can you leave it in the comments? Sorry they are so blurry, but I couldn't actually get OUT of my car.

Getting home, I saw that my Mexican Sage (I think that's what it is. It's been months since I planted it) is FINALLY blooming, and it looks like it was worth the wait. Gorgeous deep blue/purple spikes are striking against the Mexican sunflowers (I'm sensing a theme here), butterfly bush, and echinacea. Really looks like a fiesta!

The Vitex waves overhead of the blooming sage. Last year I saw a picture of a street lined with Jacaranda (?) trees, and the color had me swooning. This appears to be similar in color! Wouldn't a row of these be beautiful along the side of the house, or along the split rail fence? The fragrance is swoon-worthy too.

And then there is the field of mint Bob showed me the other day. Look how lush it is! It made a delicious hydrosol, and I may have to continue distilling it - maybe for soap. There is so much of it, and it is so healthy and plump.

Last is the Beauty Berry. This is a plant I've lusted after because of the pretty little berries that are so unusual in color. Here's the funny part - All summer long I've been pulling little plants out of my flower garden that I didn't recognize. 100's of them. In the front border, I left ONE to try and figure out what it is when it matured. Guess what! It is beauty berry!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

How to Avoid a Deadline

Let me count the ways.....
One would think that I, the editor of The Essential Herbal magazine, would be the first to have my writing finished, long before the deadline. One would be wrong. Oh, that is not to say that many times I haven't been way ahead of the clock! This time is just different. Maybe it is the changing weather. Maybe it is the many different projects I'm working on... but it IS something.

Take today for instance. A pathetic exercise in passive avoidance.
It started out innocently enough with the usual Saturday morning market. That often leads to a short nap, but no big deal, right? Well, the air was very cold, with early rain and continuing strong winds. The nap never really gelled.

At some point, while looking out the window, I realized it was a perfect Autumn day. The air had that certain clarity, the sky that special blue, and there was a fresh, alive feeling going on out there. Hmmmm... it needed to be experienced. So, camera in hand (and a rumbling in my tummy), off I went to find Fall.

First to the mailbox, where I noticed the deep gray clouds lazing across the brilliant blue sky on top of the dry corn husks across the street. There was some of that fall!

On the way back towards the house, the lemon verbena and rosemary were calling. The still isn't put away from the other night yet. Maybe I should just harvest them and distill them before frost hits. OH! And while I'm stripping the plants, maybe I should make a rosemary wand to keep and a lemon verbena for Sarah "I love lemon everything" Liberta. They needed to be stripped and readied for the still and for the wand-making... can't let them dry out before getting them all shaped up, can I?

I was getting pretty hungry, so I continued out towards the garden to see if there was anything to eat out there. On the way, looking through the trees, the silos from the next farm were gleaming in the sun. Those colorful gray clouds were gliding overhead.

There were a couple of nice eggplants, and some lima beans, so they came back into the kitchen with me.

I don't think I posted this recipe before, but if so, it bears repeating. If so, I apologize. It came from Zoe on the list.

Baked Eggplant

Cut eggplant into 1/2" to 3/4" slices. Lightly coat both sides with real mayonaisse (not low fat, sorry). Press both sides into a mixture of 1 part Italian bread crumbs, and 1 part grated Parmesan cheese. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes.

Remove cookie sheet from oven and turn slices over. Top with a little Mozzarella cheese and return to the oven for another 10-12 minutes. Serve hot.

Well, by then it was time to start thinking about what to have for the hungry kids when they got home, and to make space in the kitchen from all of the day's procrastination.

Then I had to blog it! I still have an hour and 15 minutes. It seems like there's something else, though....

Friday, September 14, 2007

What's Going on Around Here?

We're getting close to the deadline, so there's work being done there, but there are a couple of other things to talk about.

First - one more bead class for the year. On Sept. 25, 6:30 to 8pm we'll be teaching this class at Radiance, 9 W. Grant St in Lancaster, PA. The fee is $18 and you can register by calling Sarah at 717-290-1519. Participants will be making some beads to take home, and will leave knowing how to make them on their own. This is a fun project - especially with the holidays coming up.
The on-line class fired me up. I've been picking and drying all kinds of flowers and petals and leaves to try for myself, and Maryanne is working on combining some of the herb beads with her lampworked beads. It's a great combo.

Let's see... the other day, we took the still out to Leola for a demonstration for the Conestoga Herb Guild. What a pleasant group they are! We always love to reconnect with some of our shop friends, and many of the members remembered us from the soap demo we did about 10 years ago! They had a table full of tasty refreshments. y-u-u-u-m-m-m, cooookies.
We decided to cut the mountain mint (I've posted about the little slip that came home with me from LA this past spring) and toss that into the still. WOW! That is some potent stuff! In fact in the future it will only be distilled on the sun porch. I don't *think* it bothered anyone else, but hovering over the still answering questions, it got to me. The hydrosol is very strong, and we got quite a bit of essential oil - probably the most we've ever gotten from a distillation - even though we turned the still off after only about 20 minutes. The group was very interested, and also took home many of the books, magazines, and soaps we took along for sale. We were also able to steer them towards some of the newer shops in the area to purchase things they haven't been able to find since we sold the shop!

The market on Saturday mornings is starting to wind down, and we'll miss it. We have so much fun adding a couple new things each week. The funny part is, no matter what new things we take, they are always the first purchases of the day. Odd.... The best part is that slipping from the market right into the shop at Frog Hollow Evergreens will be a breeze. We have things made, some new things that will interest the tree shoppers, and we've made many new friends at market who want to visit us at the tree farm AND pick out their tree for the holiday. It's funny sometimes how things have a way of blooming without much attention.

Yesterday, Molly was off school and decided to spend the day with us to see what our days are like. I think she's decided that she wants to be an herb lady. We were all over the county, doing deliveries and picking up supplies. Because she was along, we stopped for lunch at the Smoketown Diner (usually we just grab something along the way). It was a lot of fun, and a good bit of work, but it was good for her to see. Next year, she will have her own garden. I think the bug might have bitten her.

We have a couple experimental/requested soaps to play with today after another delivery. Then back to the magazine. Even though we still have another day to the deadline, we can get a lot of the things that are here plugged in.

Life is good.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Making Potpourri

As our gardens are winding down, it's time to think about some of the crafts we can do to keep it with us over the winter. Some are for sustenance and health, and some are for pleasure. Potpourri is beautiful fragrant stuff. I happen to think that equals sustenance.
Making Potpourri
It is fun and easy to make potpourri, especially if you have kept dried petals fromthe garden. There are just a few "rules" to follow, and the rest is a matter of imagination.
The first decision is choosing a color scheme. What is the predominant color? Where will the potpourri go? And even more important, what scent will it have? Some options would be woodsy, floral, citrusy, spicy, or exotic. For the sake of instruction, we will talk about a woodsy blend.
Begin by fixing the scent. This should be done a week or more before adding it to the botanicals. Orris root granules are an excellent fixative - absorbing and holding the fragrant oils.
In a jar, put 1/2 ounce of orris root, perhaps 1/4 ounce of oak moss, and some hemlock cones, sandalwood chips, frankincense tears, or any mix of these ingredients to make about a cup (these ingredients are woodsy, and just orris root is fine too). Pour about 1/2 ounce of essential or fragrance oil into the jar and shake thoroughly. For a woodsy blend, one might try some balsam fir, pine, frankincense, and patchouli oils. If the intent is to get the benefits of aromatherapy, only essential oils may be used, as fragrance oils - while smelling lovely - have no such effect.
Now mix together the botanicals. Pine cones, cinnamon pieces, citrus peels are all a good start for this one, as well as rose hips, with evergreen needles, oak moss, and some colorful flowers thrown in to perk it up.
If the fixatives have been mixed for a week or so, they can be added to the blend, and the fragrance will last for a very long time - up to a year or more.
Florals would generally use more color, and the fragrances would be light and flowery. Lavender, rose geranium, ylang ylang, for example, with some vanilla or musk to round it out.
A spicy blend can be made up almost entirely of spices - cinnamon pieces, cardamom pods, allspice, coriander, ginger, cloves, etc. Orange or lemon peel look good in there Use corresponding oils, and this blend can also be simmered.
Exotic blends include lots of vanilla, sandalwood, patchouli, vetivert, musk. Colors can be whatever strikes you as exotic.
Finally, you can do whatever you like. Add seashells - interesting pods you find - pebbles... it's up to you!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Peach and Pear Cordials

Cordials seem to be getting a lot of searches lately, so with Christie's permission I'm posting some recipes she offered on the list the other day. Here is her post:

I usually make a gallon of cordial at a time (makes great gifts), but you can always make less -- or more! Whatever size glass jar you use, fill it about half full of fresh fruit.

Peach Cordial:
Cut unpeeled peaches in quarters, and add them to a wide-mouth glass jar. Pits optional. Fill the the jar with brandy, to cover the fruit. (I use E&J brandy, which has no preservatives,although as a child of the 60s it still galls me to buy Gallo...). Anyway, let it sit, shaking it up occasionally, until the peaches lose their color and start looking mushy. Then, depending on where you are in the season, you can either proceed to the sweetening stage or strain and pour the brandy over a new batch of fresh peaches (and pits) for a more intense peach flavor.
When you're ready to sweeten and bottle, strain out the fruit and add the ginger syrup -- a quart per gallon, or more to taste. Start with a basic simple syrup recipe -- 2 parts water to 1 part sugar (demerara is my preference). Add sliced, unpeeled ginger to taste. I like it HOT, so I use LOTS of fresh ginger -- at the very least a cup.
Simmer/boil for 15 minutes or so til it thickens up, let it cool with the ginger in it, then strain and add to the peach brandy. Decant to smaller bottles as needed.

Pear Cordial:
same basic recipe (minus the core and seeds), sweetened with +/- 2 bottles of Agave nectar. I'm trying this with peaches this year, but it's not ready yet -- I'd love to know how others have done with this lovely sweetener and other fruit cordials...? AND you can also use the basic fruit/brandy/maple syrup cordial recipe with either peaches or pears (or any other fruit), using 1/2 fruit and the rest equal portions of brandy and maple syrup -- or more or less of either one depending on how sweet you like it. I always look out at yard sales for pretty little bottles to fill up with summer cordials for winter solstice gifts -- a little bit of midsummer in midwinter!
Radical Weeds Books with Seeds
There's a garden in every one...Everyone into the Garden!

Vegans Beware - Cochineal

This post has been rattling around in my head for several days. I had to really think about why I care about this topic. I'm not even a vegetarian - or even a particularly healthy eater. There are few foods that don't eventually cross my lips.

However, I do have many friends that are extremely careful about what they eat. Some for health reasons (allergies, heart health, blood pressure, medication contraindications, etc.), some for religious reasons, and some because they have strong personal feelings. It seems to me that we each deserve to know about the contents of our foods.
So, the other day, when I reached for a bottle of a new beverage, marketed to the "healthy crowd", it came as a little shock to see cochineal as a colorant in the ingredients listing.
Why did this bother me? Because cochineal is a natural colorant made from bugs that live on cactus. The most prized of the bugs are the pregnant females, because their bodies hold the most dye. It does makes a lovely dye, and many of my friends who are into dying use it. Up until the late 1800's it was about the only means of getting a true red. On the other hand, MANY people don't know what the word means.
After doing a little research, it turns out that this colorant is also known as carmine and carminic acid. These terms show up on many food products, and even the term "natural colorings" can mean cochineal. Fruit juices, yogurts, popsicles, sauces, sodas, and candies (my beloved Good 'n Plenty!) all contain this coloring.
I posted the question to the Yahoo list: Would it bother you to find out you were eating bugs? There were many answers, including the idea that plants are also living things. Some wondered what the difference between this, and chocolate covered ants would be.
So I've spent a few days thinking about that.
The difference is this: When you eat chocolate covered bugs, it is clear that the product contains bugs. It is then a choice that you can make with full knowledge. With cochineal, carmine, or carminic acid - or worse - natural coloring, it is not clear. Reading up on this, there is quite a bit of evidence that this colorant can cause severe allergic reactions for some people, but the same can be said of the FD&C colorants (which I *believe* must be noted on ingredient labels). More than that, though, is that the terms are not used enough in common everyday language to be known.
For people who are living a choice not to eat (non-plant) living creatures, this seems almost like a dirty trick. My sister removed beeswax from the formulation of her soaps so that everyone could use them. Marketing to a group of people who are conscious of the ingredients in the products they use, it just makes a lot of sense not to use ingredients that would be objectionable when good substitutes are readily available.
So - that is my concern. This particular product I picked up the other day was being marketed towards the same group that would include vegans. Their insensitivity was probably the shocking part. I wrote to the company (Sobe - a division of Pepsi) on Wednesday, and have not gotten a response as yet.
I know for many reading this, it will seem trivial. Maybe it is. It just seems really, really wrong to me, and another nasty little part of the puzzle that is our food supply.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Lovely Morning in Mount Joy, PA

The day started out beautifully. How could it not? Wandering out into the garden to gather some blossoms and leaves for an experimental batch of beads (which came out better than I'd dare hope!), I snapped this shot of the little sulphur sipping on the sage flowers.
Also, one of the delphiniums managed to escape the teeth of the resident rabbit and/or groundhog. The flowers are so pretty, fluttery blue with a blush of pink in the center. They remind me of seashells from some faraway island beach. Ahhh...... The flower garden is really mature right now. Some of the echinacea flowers needed be-heading, as they were turning black. The butterfly bush (tree, more like!) got all of the spent spires trimmed the other day and looks like it did in the late days of June, and the Mexican sunflowers are making a spectacle of themselves. It is really lovely out there.
But there were more pressing activities for the day than lollygagging in the garden admiring the flowers. I had a morning appointment to have new tires put on the car, so I dragged my sister along so she could spend the hour wait with me.
We decided to visit a couple of the new business that have opened in the last 6 months or so in "downtown" Mount Joy.

A block down from the tire place is a new coffee shop that our kids love, called Higher Grounds Cafe. We decided to stop in for breakfast. I had the best mocha latte ever, with a bagel. Maryanne had a plain latte, but later decided to get some hazelnut added, along with a cherry turnover. We sat in the window and talked about how much activity there is on the streets of this small town. For 10:00 in the morning, there was more foot traffic than I'd expect to see in downtown Lancaster on a non-market day. It was impressive.
The lunch menu looked good. Along with fruit smoothies in great flavors, they offer soups, salads, quiche, and wraps. Light refreshing dishes. I'm sure we'll be back.
We wandered another block and a half down to the new gift shop "As The Crow Flies". It is filled with lots of primitive decor, candles, tableware, etc. Really beautiful stuff! The owner engaged us in conversation, and it turns out that he is another hot air balloon pilot who the pilots in my family (brother John, and brother-in-law Bob) know. He's taken off from the family property! We had a good time talking to him. He's had lots of adventures, and many of them were things we have either done ourselves, or have mutual acquaintances from. One of his past lives includes old time medicine shows. He gave each of us a bottle of his home made sarsapirilla to take home. Haven't tried it yet, but I sure like the looks of it.
During our walk, we talked about how many good restaurants and nice shops are finding their way into Mount Joy. This is the town that holds our farmer's market on Saturdays from May to Oct. The architecture is great too - reminding me of Andy of Mayberry - RFD. Covered porches that go out over the sidewalk, recessed courtyards, alleyways, etc. I hope this continues. It's going to be a cool little town.
What a great way to spend a morning. The tires are nice too.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Some of the Herb Beads from the Class

We've been working away in the "classroom". This class is so much fun. The participants keep coming up with new ideas I'd never thought of, and that is the best. I get to learn a lot too.

My sister is a very talented jewelry maker, so we've had a ball playing with the results, and her incredible collection of beads and findings.
Some of the things we've made are pictured here.
The first picture is a group of different necklaces. The longest is made from lavender beads, with a fringy pendant compiled of glass, lampwork, and herb beads. Slightly shorter is an herb bead that she put together with some copper doodads to make a pendant. And right above that is a bracelet that has little butterfly beads that are drilled twice, allowing for multiple strands.

Next up is a pendant that she put together. The herb bead is one I made with patchouli herb - and into the mix I shaved some amber resin. It smells wonderful! The lampwork winged heart is made with amber colored glass. The combo is really gorgeous.

She saw a piece made with wire squiggles, and decided to try wrapping a large lampwork bead with some copper wire, a couple of herb beads, and some random beads of other materials. Kinda kooky, kinda nice.
We're still in the middle of the class. I have an experimental batch drying now - using a method that someone suggested. I am LOVING this group.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Whole Lotta Tomatoes

I pass this field several times a month. All summer long the tomato vines grew, and were covered with luscious fruit.
So many backyard gardens proliferate in this part of the world, that there are fields of all kinds of foods growing right up near the roads, and it wouldn't occur to anyone to steal any.
The other day I passed this huge wagon load of tomatoes, which, according to the sign on the top of the field, will soon become tomato paste.
It was an awesome sight. Almost as astounding as the pumpkin fields that are becoming noticeable everywhere.
Seems like it's time to post something "herbie". Tomorrow - a recipe.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ren Faire - The Next Generation

We (my sister and I) got our real start in the herb business about 15 years ago when we set up an herb shop within the grounds of a nearby renaissance faire.

My first visit to the faire, many years prior, had left me with one thought - I wanted to be a mud beggar. Settling for merchant was "ok". We still got to play all day, dressed up in some form of adult role playing. The experiences we had at the faire were memorable and fun. On various occasions, we danced in the street, sang along with street musicians, hosted human fountain demos from the roof of our shop, made soap in front of our shop, were buried in the street, were threatened on a daily basis by the venomous governor (our dear friend Robbie), learned the Queen Cheer, and observed "wench breaks". Every day was full of adventure and merriment - plus we made some money.

Our children were part of this world, spending many hours on the shire along with us. Molly at 6 or 7 would often take off with her favorite gypsy for a couple of hours, and they would sing, dance, and tell stories. Rob met up with a juggler's son of a like age, and attempted to sell rocks to patrons. This year, they've taken up where we left off. Molly, Rob (not pictured - back to college early, not that he'd allow a pic anyway...), and their friend Sonny have all taken jobs at the faire. Molly and Sonny are street vendors, selling roses, and Rob is working in the forge, selling weaponry.

I snapped a picture as Molly and Sonny were getting in the carriage (hah) this morning to begin another day at work and play. It makes me very happy to see the kids doing something that is at the same time fun and profitable.
Suddenly, the things we do are more interesting. The soapmaking, herbal crafts, bead making, and distilling seem to have more value to the kids. We became "cool" by continuing to do the same things we've always done. It's just that now they have some relevance to our young'uns.
Dare I hope that the day will come when my daughter will want to spend time weaving lavender and rosemary? Might she find an interest in hand rolled incenses and herb beads? Could she ever want to toil in the garden harvesting the fragrant plants? Searching the woods and meadows for wild medicinal plants? Digging in the soil? One can dream.