Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fun for a snowy (icy) morning

Susan Hess, the farmgirl over at Farm at Coventry tagged me for this game, so here goes...
6th Picture Meme!
Here are the rules to the photo meme
1.Go to your Picture Folder on your computer or wherever you store your pictures
2.Go to the 6th Folder, then pick the 6th picture in that folder
3.Post that picture on your blog and tell the story that goes along with the picture.
4.Tag 6 other people that you know or don’t know to do the same thing and leave a comment on their blog or an e-mail letting them know you chose them.
This picture was taken February 6, 2008 towards evening.
There isn't a great story about this, except that where I live, I have nearly a 360 degree view of the horizon. Since moving here 4 years ago, I have seen more rainbows than in the previous 40 some years all put together.
We walk out in the evening to get into the car, and the stars are so bright they nearly slap you. When there is an eclipse or a meteor shower, we can sit on the deck for hours just watching in the still summer coolness, listening to the cicadas and the nightlife in the woods nearby.
My personal favorite thing about this location is that it is possible to lie on your back on the deck and not see anything except the sky. When a storm is coming in, it feels as if you are IN the sky, and lying there it is as if there is nobody else in the world, nothing else... just you and the swirling, whirling clouds and the vast power of the forces of nature. At a certain point, it seems that if you don't get up and get inside you'll be sucked up into the sky and never be heard from again.
On any given day, there will be some wonder outside; some reason to call to someone, "hey! check out this cloud formation!" or, "look at the colors over toward Mount Joy!"
On the Fourth of July, we can watch fireworks in three different towns at one time, just sitting on the deck.
One day my daughter and I were driving into town, and I'd pulled over the car to look at some cloud or something in the sky. It's a country road... no big deal. As I put the car back into gear, she looked at me and said, "thanks for being the kind of mom who shows me the sky."
It makes me giggle a little. My grandfather was the one who showed us, mostly. If I had thanked him, he would have grunted and groused and said, "oh garsh-a monkeys, it's right there".
So that's my story.
I'm tagging:
Little Big Voice

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wordle - Beautiful Word Clouds

One World - One Heart

The winners have been chosen! They are (I really hope to be doing this correctly, by the way):

Robin at
Connie at
Donna at

Emails have gone out, and I am just waiting to get the addresses so that the first issue can go out. Congrats everyone. This was really fun. Thanks for letting me join in!

We are participating in this third annual event, One World - One Heart, with bloggers from around the world. Leave a comment on this post before February 12th for your chance to win.

The drawing will award 3 lucky winners with subscriptions to The Essential Herbal PhotoMagazine for one year - a prize that lasts all year long!

To view a free copy now, click on the link on the sidebar>>> to download.

When you enter our give-away by leaving a comment on this post, please be sure to include an email address so we can contact you if you are the winner. Drawing is to be held on February 11th and the winner will be announced on Feb. 12th. Good Luck!

Just a few more hours to enter! Will shut down voting at 5pm est, and draw at 6pm est. Come back to see if you've won!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's almost February! Where has the long dark winter gone?

I know that the northern readers are wanting to come down here and give me a talking to about my thinking that winter is almost over. My tongue is planted firmly in my cheek, because I know the worst is yet to come. I like to think about spring though. It makes winter more bearable.

To be honest, I'm not much of a seed starter. Lancaster County is awash with greenhouses, herb farms, and the month of May (and parts of April and June) is crammed with herb festivals and herb farm open houses. It is a gardener's dream, and when I read of the people in other parts of the country who have nothing much except a hardware store or big-box store selection, I appreciate it even more.
So mostly, that is how my garden comes to life. Mostly I transplant what others have started and nurtured to a point that it might actually survive me.
What manages to survive my forgetfulness usually falls victim to the roving gangs of bunnies or the insatiably gnawing hunger of the unstoppable groundhog. Then there are the giant deer hoof prints I find in the garden, and the birds that sit waiting for the berries to ripen. But never mind that. If I think about that too much I might give up - and gardeners NEVER give up. So where was I?Oh. Right. We were talking about seed starting. There are parts of the country (and thriftier people than I) where seeds are the way to begin the garden. Many people wouldn't think of purchasing adolescent plants, and if they are vigilant, seeds will pay them back many times over.

We were talking on the Yahoo Group for The Essential Herbal Magazine, and some of the favorite seed sources can be found below:

They all have lots of great information, and I could spend several days just visiting seed websites. I DO grow most of my vegetables from seed. Things like eggplant, where I only need one or two plants, and melon, which takes forever to grow, I will buy the plants. Everything else in the veggie garden is from seed. Come to think of it, this should be a post about PLANTS! Maybe later.

While you're thinking about gardening, consider our book, The Essential Herbal ~ Under the Sun. There are several articles on different types of gardens, how to create good soil, how to care for seedlings, and get rid of pests.
We also have the CobraHead tool available on our website. This is one tool you don't want to be without when you are out there doing battle with the dandelion, the sour dock, and the bladderwort. This baby is ergonomically designed to help you get more bang for your buck. Less wasted energy, more effect. And it is one of the few tools that can take me through season after season without rusting, bending, or breaking.

And before the season gets started and you need something for those tired muscles, head over and get your supply of Gardener's Soap, Arnica Rub and Gardener's Tub Tea from our sister site: The Sibling Group!
Credit for the pansy picture goes to Deborah Stiffler. Deborah, of Scent-sational submitted this photo for the cover of the May/June '07 issue of The Essential Herbal.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Do you hear that? Me neither!

It would be hard to explain how much I do NOT want to be the kind of mom that holds my child back - through fear, guilt, or any of those motherly "gifts". As she's grown, she's done quite a bit of traveling without me, including 3 (now 4) foreign countries. It has never left me feeling anything except elation, knowing that she was having an experience... living her life as fully as a parent could hope. This time it feels a little bit different. This time it is a practice trip for college. This time she'll come back for a few months, and then fly from the nest. Oh sure, she'll be back, but it will never be quite the same again. From now on, she'll just be stopping by on her way to somewhere else.
That's what we want, isn't it? We want them to have been given the strength and fortitude to stand alone, to want to go ahead and leave us behind. Right?
The timing of this particular trip has driven this home for me. They left 2 days after her 18th birthday. A friend and I joked on the phone that I spent 18 years trying to keep her a safe distance from sex and drugs, and then 2 days later she goes to Amsterdam. Pretty funny.

She'll be back before I know it. And this will even be home for a while longer. It just felt like something that needed to be preserved.

So... otherwise, check out Radiance at Sarah and I have been working on putting together a schedule of lunch time classes, every Wednesday through (I think) May. I hope she'll put up a list of classes on her site soon! I will get something up here next Weds. after I get home from Radiance. This coming Weds we will be doing a distillation demonstration. No charge for this one, bring your lunch and come check it out!
The new Yahoo! list for herb businesses, Grow Your Herb Business, has been talking up a storm, trying to help each other through the maze of social networking. Today was Twitter day. Follow me at It is fun having other people who are as unsure as I am to bounce things off.

And with some sadness, I finally caved and started using Click 'n Ship for my parcel shipping. For 8 years I have enjoyed hand addressing the orders that come through here, but have realized that I can't keep up any more. That's good, but I'll miss that personal touch.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Here it is... NEW STUFF!

Our old Herb Bead kit and booklet have sold out. At this point, having them reprinted would cost almost as much as we charge for them, so it's been on my mind for a while. Hundreds of them sold, and we still have a bunch of the Incense Kits. I thought they were a really neat idea - one that came to me specifically because the short leftover coils were being tossed from another job when I worked at the printer - no kidding. Bye-bye little kit. You were awesome!
So what did we come up with, you might ask? Well! If you're familiar with our series of short book(lets) that cover specific topics for about the same price as a magazine - you know what we did! The booklet is crammed with the gleanings of scores of beadmaking sessions and classes. I've learned a lot from students over the years, and so the reader gets the benefit of all of those conversations and experiments. Find the book and bead powders HERE
Additionally, we are making the Botanical Bead Powders for separate purchase. Right now you can choose from 6 different varieties, and that number may grow depending on demand. With the powders, you just add liquid and string your beads on a wire to dry. Everything is blended into the powder so that you get strong, durable berbal beads.
And guess what? We're having a contest too! Any purchase between Jan 15 and 31 has/will be entered into a drawing, with the winner getting a book and three of the powders! Enter today! Subscriptions and renewals DO count.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Festivus (or something) at the ranch

If you've been reading along, there may have been some mention of our being unable to muster up any excitement for the holidays this year. I know how odd that may seem. After all, we live amidst a Christmas Tree Farm!!! We ladle out cocoa to happy revelers for a whole month. You'd think we'd be about the jolliest people around, wouldn't you?
Well.. every 5 or 10 years we hit one that just doesn't make it. Between all of the businesses between us and the sick brother, it turned out to be this year. We warned the kids and relaxed. It was a nice holiday season, but there were no piles of gifts, no decorations, no BILLS.
We'd agreed to celebrate sometime in the middle of January when we felt like it. Because Molly's 18th (NO!! it CAN'T be!) birthday is this week along with her departure to distant lands, we set our sites on yesterday.
You won't be able to tell by the pictures, because I was behind the camera, but let me just tell you, I looked fabulous in my Festivus regalia.
Oh - btw - before we start we are only borrowing this name until we come up with something better. We were looking for something that didn't come with a bunch of rules, but when you look Festivus up, it is just as fraught with rules as any other celebration. Our relatives a few generations back used to make up their own days. We had Cow Tail, Ashy Poodle, and a few other that have slipped my mind at the moment. Anyhow, my brother John got on-line before our gathering and picked up all the rules, reminding us that there should be no gifts, that we had the date wrong, and that we should be arm wrestling. Lucky for him he is ill, or I would have had to take him down.
We haven't settled on the "traditional" meal for our new holiday, but have agreed that it shouldn't be difficult and settled on chicken from the butcher down the road. He does it up either fried or barbecued, and the boys all like the wings. Nice cole slaw there, too. Of course Maryanne CAN'T just let that go, so there was also a lovely salad and stuffed shells. Oh - about those clips on her head... I made her go get dressed up. Geesh!
One of Rob's friends, Bryce, decided that he really needed to see what this was all about. He unwittingly teased Molly about being a lefty - not knowing that he was in a veritable vipers den of lefties. Does he look a little frightened? He brought candied yams with mini marshmallows. He's alright.
We'd traded names back in December sometime, and decided that the wrapping should be a gruesome as possible. John wrapped Mark's gift in a Victoria's Secret bag, for instance, and the most prevalent wrapping paper had grimacing monkeys all over it.
We all went to our little homes and passed out by late afternoon. Perfect holiday if you ask me.
Now all we have to do is wait for this little pigeon's birthday, and it'll be weeks before anything else happens!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Doin's Round Here and HERB BEAD CLASS

Has there even been a post that seems remotely herbal yet this year? Sheesh. I'll get something up this evening or tonight. There has been so much maintenance going on. End of year for the business, The Hague Int'l Model UN coming up in a few days for the daughter (I'm not sure either one of us could be more excited... imagine meeting and debating the future of the world with 4000 kids from around the globe, throw in a trip to Amsterdam and The Hague, and you have the general idea), another magazine deadline, and the scheduling of spring talks and classes have been occupying my mind.
So it's all good, it just isn't all herbal, all the time.

Herb Bead Class
I would like to take a moment to announce the quickly advancing Herb Bead Class. On Wednesday, January 21, 2009 from 12 to 1:30 (take a long lunch!), Radiance will be hosting this class. We'll have everything there to make up some beads of several varieties and everyone will be making some to take along home.
Learn how to make almost any botanical into beads. Some are used for fragrance, some for appearance, and some for their folkloric magical properties. In any case, it is great fun. Come join us. $18 per person.
Reserve your space now!

9 W. Grant Street (across from Central Market)
Lancaster, PA

I will be bringing along a new booklet on making beads and premiering several new pre-mixed botanical powders - just add liquid and you've got bead clay!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another Grand Adventure Begins

After much deliberation and consideration, Susanna Reppert Brill and I have decided to open a Yahoo! list for herb and herb related businesses.

Susanna was raised in an herb family, as her mother, Bertha Reppert, founded The Rosemary House over 40 years ago. She is one of the best networkers I know, although it is much like when you hear about rock 'n rollers from the 60's and how their kids just know everybody because they jammed around the kitchen table. Susanna now manages the business, and her sister Nancy has a tea room next door.

My background is similar in that I was raised in a family business, but our home biz wasn't herbs. Later my sister and I went on to open an herb shop at both a renaissance festival and in the real world. They ran simultaneously for a year or two before we gave up the faire shop, and then we added soap to our repertoire. We split up eventually, with my sister running her wholesale soap company and me running the magazine.

One of the biggest things we've learned is that we can accomplish 10 or even 100 times more if we put our heads together with others who are attempting to do the same thing.

In the early 90's we banded together with other herb businesses in our state and came up with the PA Herb Business Network. Although the Network is now defunct, as charter members of that group we were involved in the very beginning of the PA Herb Festival. Besides that, we joined together in some group advertising efforts, came up with ideas that helped each other, had mini conferences and best of all we knew each other.
What we found was that through knowing each other, we could rely on that friendship when it came time to list a source in an article or book, recommendations, and when opportunities that didn't quite fit came along. Knowing each other is a HUGE benefit to business, one that has fallen a bit by the wayside since the internet has come along. We are going to fight back, and we're using the internet to do it.

If you're an herb or herb related business, join us! Click here

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Over It. You Too?

I've been mulling something over in my head for a long time. It's been almost a year, really. Last year at this time, my very sick relative moved in here. Shortly thereafter, business which had been roaring along and gaining speed just grabbed a spot and stayed there. Didn't drop (thank goodness!), but the growth I projected didn't happen either.
Somewhere in the dark of winter, I noticed that I was not spending any time writing to my business or personal friends - something that had always been the most joyful part of my day. Instead of putting an hour or two a day into spirited, stimulating email volleys filled with ideas and challenges, I was reading what came in and clicking "save as new", hoping to get to it when I had the energy. Eventually, I would set aside a day to call and apologize to several of my friends, thinking that the whole problem was me, or the different energy in my home. Invariably, I would find that the person on the other end of the phone was in the same place... lethargic, listless, feeling dull and out of ideas. Sometimes even feeling like any effort was useless or futile. More than once, my old cheerleader hat would come out during a call, and I would remind them that they shouldn't give up because everything is temporary.

Gradually, I've come to realize that there something going on in America's psyche. Is it more pronounced in small business owners? Maybe. Maybe not. My friends are small business owners, and they have it bad. For the last year, we've been thinking that there is something wrong with US. Although the economy is in ruins, our country is in a never-ending war, we've just gone through a harrowing election campaign that pitted friends and lovers against each other, and long-standing businesses of every ilk are falling day by day, somehow we still ignore that and think that WE are alone in this feeling of depression. How did that happen?

For one, as business owners, we've been trained to put on a brave face right up until the ship goes under. We don't talk publicly of our woes. A sniff of a problem can sink a company, so we are alone. We are alone, and all the other businesses are crowing about how well they are doing (while we secretly suspect that they are crowing in the dark).
For another, most of the women I know accept full responsibility for anything that happens in their business. Succeed or fail, it is our own doing, right girls? Well... sometimes we just can't control everything or shoulder all the blame. Sometimes we just have to ride it out and see which way the wind blows.

So I posted about this insidious, low-level energy infection on The Essential Herbal's Yahoo! list yesterday, and was gratified to find that several list members were suffering in silence, and thrilled to find they were not alone. It has prompted me to share it here. Best of all, I feel the clouds shifting. I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that I don't have to carry it all by myself. And I also get that people aren't ready to lay down and give up.

I don't know how or why, but I am optimistic for 2009. I'm either crazy, a small business owner, or both :-).

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Introducing - The Short Stack!!!

I woke from a day and a half of feverish dreams and thoughts. It would seem that this might just be what I needed. All sorts of ideas came to me.

One of them is The Short Stack (wholesale). Until now, if you wanted to carry The Essential Herbal in your shop, you needed to order 6 of each issue for a year, or singly, 6/each.
As of this very moment, it is now possible to order THREE of each issue delivered to your shop.
The only difference is that with the regular 6/each, we pick up the full price of shipping. With The Short Stack, we split it with you.
So if you're a smaller shop and think that 6 might be too many to try, now is your chance to pick up just 3 at a time. I can't believe it took me this long to come up with!

Check it out and get The Essential Herbal in your shop today!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Quick Reminder - deadline for Mar/Apr issue

The deadline for articles, recipes, artwork, and advertising for the Mar/Apr issue of The Essential Herbal magazine is on Jan 15th. I'm trying to make sure that nobody who wants to know doesn't know :-).
There are pages on the website to help writers and the prices of advertising are listed too.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Under the Sun was under the tree!

I've lamented over the past week about how much I've missed having a comments section on the cart we just ditched, and in this week, the comments and feedback on orders have been great! It has become so clear that the positive reinforcement helps me continue doing some of the more social things on-line that sometimes seem like too much work or too time consuming - particularly after a new housemate started teasing me mercilessly about "playing" on the computer at precisely the same time we lost the comments option last year.

It cannot be stressed enough - it has been GREAT to hear from people again. It is so nice to know exactly which issue you want to start with, whether it is a gift subscription, how you've enjoyed it so far, etc!
In the meantime, on the Yahoo group, Teri wrote about getting the same gift as her daughter. If I'm not mistaken, they bought them for each other!!! How's that for an endorsement? I asked for her permission to post the picture she sent to the group, and she gave it.

Here are Teri and Sara with their copies of The Essential Herbal ~ Under the Sun:
How cool! I got to share part of their holiday.
Thanks, you two! And thank you so much for the picture. You're both wearing such adorable grins.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The oyster stew pearls - 2009

Since late December, there has been a rumbling around here about oyster stew. Somebody will bring up a dish, and the talk continues until someone breaks down and makes it. Then, either we'll have it a few times in the course of the next couple of months or that will be enough.
Such was the case of the oyster stew.

I've looked and looked, but cannot find the reason that oyster stew is traditionally eaten over the holidays. The pork and sauerkraut that is so important around here (so important, in fact, that our mom would freeze it for anyone not able to be home on the first of the year and you don't want to know the lengths that woman would go to on fastnacht day!) because of several things. For one, the sauerkraut cleans out your system so you are a fresh slate for the new year. Cabbage/kraut represents bounty and money, and the pig roots forward, so we eat pork.

But I couldn't find a thing about the oyster. Is it because it is in season now? Maybe. Is it because it hides away in the shell - much like humans in the winter? Could it have anything to do with the treasure that are sometimes found inside? There's probably something else, but it doesn't appear that anyone knows the answer, and the tradition looks to have come across the sea with our ancestors hundreds of years ago.

Yesterday was the day. Oyster stew is just the simplest thing in the world to make. I bought a couple dozen (they were very small, I thought) oysters in lots of juice, some whole milk, and some oyster crackers. Once home, I tossed a big chunk of butter (1/2 stick) into a pan and when it was melted, in went the oysters and juice. When the oysters started to curl, I added about a quart of milk.

That's it. When it is heated through, pile on the crackers and dig in.

To my surprise, Molly liked it. I was mortified to realize it was her first taste of the stuff. We probably ate oyster stew before we could walk.

As we sat and ate our stew, I found a bit of grit in my mouth. DARN! So, as delicately as possible, I extricated the grit. It took a moment, but out came 3 little pearls. Tiny, yes, but pearls nonetheless.
So what to make of this?!?
I'll tell you what I have decided! This means that 09 will be a wonderful year in triplicate :-).
That could be wrong. It could be meaningless. But when you pull three pearls from your mouth, it just seems like it should mean something.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Almost fresh herbs - Daregal Gourmet - Try them!

I got some herbs in the mail the other day. Not your typical bag of dried herbs. OOOOooooh no!
These are fresh frozen herbs. They are first sprayed with the lightest of coatings of vegetable oil to keep them from sticking together, and then quickly frozen. They are from Daregal Gourmet.

As is often the case when I'm trying something new, I didn't expect much.
Someday I will learn to have higher expectations.
We'll save that for another post - lol...

These herbs arrived in a styrofoam cooler, packed in dry ice. GREAT packing except I will interject here that because the label "dry ice" was UNDER the ice, and because around here we are well accustomed to unpacking drugs that are packed in NON dry ice, I found out how quickly dry ice can burn you. Again, we can save that for another time.

The containers of herbs are deceptively small. The herb flavors intensify due to the freezing, and yet taste just like they were picked moments ago. The colors are perfect and oh-so appetizing. They really are wonderful. Compared to the price of dried herbs, they are quite reasonable, particularly since they don't taste anything at all like dust!
They will last me quite a while, and I look forward to using every bit of them. With any luck, they'll last right into early spring, when I can wander out for parsley and chives from the garden.
The varieties are as follow:
Original Blend
Italian Blend
Grilling Blend

The Original Blend is called "Song of the Cicada", and upon first glance it didn't mean anything. However, upon opening and sampling the blend in some chicken stock, I got it. The flavor is so fresh that it reminds you of summer evenings when you can sit outside and hear the cicadas calling to each other in the warm humid air.
They can be ordered on line, or look on their website and find retail outlets near you.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Prizes and Winners:

You can scroll down to see what you've won!

4 ounces of TEH farm distilled lavender distillate...
Diane W.
A package of 10 teabags of hand blended herbal tea (by yours truly)...
Mary D. who was given a gift subscription by Michele B.
A lavender wand, happily woven on the back deck here on the farm...'
Susie M.
3 delightful soaps - also made here on the farm...
Julie T.
3 lip balms - another farm-made prize!
Deb F-M

Thanks everyone, for making the last half of December a little more exciting!

And the winners are.....

Today was the day to draw the winners of our contest. All purchases over $10 between Dec 15 and midnight Dec 31 were entered into our drawing.
The photo below shows who won what, but unfortunately it seems to have been resized by blogger. Curses! Foiled again!
Winners will be listed in the next post, as Blogger is funky.