Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Essential Herbal Spring Swap (Spoiler :-)

Members of The Essential Herbal Magazine's Yahoo group were invited to participate in a spring swap. Below you will find pictures from that swap. I will add details (and most likely more pictures) after everyone has gotten their package. heh heh heh Good job, everyone! Great stuff!
Partial of Group 2

More of Group 2
All of Group 1

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The calm of the woods

I'm never quite sure how much I tell on the blog about my personal life. The Essential Herbal blog is a combination of magazine news (like... be sure and read the free issue posted >>>> and then order a subscription on the website :-) and what goes on around here are Frog Hollow, so I really try to keep it "clean", meaning that if there are unpleasant things, they get glossed over.

For the past 3 1/2 years, one of our brothers (his blog) has been struggling with end stage liver disease. He moved in here about a year and a half ago. It has its ups and downs, to put it mildly. So some days it has been hard to find my own center, and the overflow sometimes spills onto the people around me.

I can remember when I had my first apartment "downtown" that I really, really needed to get into the country at least every 2 weeks. If that didn't happen, I got edgy and tense. Even on the trip there, as soon as the streets opened up to roads, it felt as if layers of worry and concern would fly off, one by one.
Now I live close to the woods. This past month has taken me into them almost daily. Spring is always a major siren song, and I cannot resist finding out what might be blooming, bursting through, or multiplying on the forest floor. This year is a little different though, and I find it so enchanting and calming to walk towards the woods. Even stepping outside the door... looking out the window... setting my bare feet into the grass... all of these actions start a chain of events that make me feel better. Here are some of the pictures from yesterday:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Week 9 - Blog Contest

Week 9 Blog Contest
At Nature's Gift we have been pleased and excited about hosting this week's contest. The hard part has been trying to decide what to offer as the prize!
We chose Deluxe Personal Inhalers from our new shipment, filled with the winner's choice of several healing synergies.

We'll ship one of these pretty purse-sized inhalers filled with your choice of our SineEase Synergy, for easing sinus pain and congestion, Happy Morning Synergy, recommended for easing the nausea of morning sickness, but also helpful for motion sickness, etc., or our research based depression fighter "Citrus Smile."

To be entered in the contest, respond to this post, here, and at all the blogs listed below.And to make the contest even more exciting, ONE lucky entrant, drawn from one of the listed blogs, will receive a signed copy of Marge's Book "Essential Oils and Aromatics". You may check these links for some of the reviews. From the Journal of the Northeast Herbal Association, or from The Massage Therapy Journal.
Remember all of the blogs below are participating, so visit all of them and post to increase your chances of winning.
Nature's Gift - This week!
Torchsong Studio ??? (next week)
The Rosemary House - The Twelve Month Herbal by Bertha Reppert
Aquarian Bath - lip balm and soaps
Herbs from the Labyrinth - tea samplers
Patti's Potions - lipbalms
PrairieLand Herbs - healing wands
SunRose Aromatics - facial exfoliant and serums
Garden Chick - fairy cookie kits
The Essential Herbal - magazine subscriptions

We're getting down to the wire with some wonderful prizes! Be sure to keep playing to the end.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fun at the Herb Festival

This past weekend was the PA Herb Festival. It is a little too early for me to buy plants, but that didn't seem to be an issue for the hundreds and hundreds of people who streamed past our booth loaded down with armloads of plants. People are eager to get started, and maybe they have a place to keep the plants healthy for another few weeks.
I took the camera along because I wanted to add to my collection of people looking at the magazine that I keep at: Looking over the photos, it occurs to me that A) I have some pretty darned cute people in my life, and B) herb people are fun.
Case in point: Susanna Reppert is covered with dust and dirt after a hypertufa workshop she led. She came back inside looking like a young child who'd been making mud pies, grinning and laughing at the whole situation. We are often next to Susanna and The Rosemary House, and at least a little bit of our time is spent laughing really hard.
The "main event" for this function was a lecture by Susan Wittig Albert, the creator and author of the book series featuring China Bayles, the mystery solving herbalist. I've talked to Susan on-line several times, and it was really a pleasure to meet her in person. She's a lovely, warm woman who has a very large following! You can subscribe to her newsletter here.
Sharon Magee is one of those friends that you just never get enough of being around. She has an infectious excitement for living and is interested in just about everything. Plus, she's fun. Her business is Herbal Pottery, and there is no website. As she would say, she has enough trouble keeping up with orders without putting something up to make it worse! That is how beautiful her work is. Naturally, I didn't get a good picture of any of it...
Roxane is a lover of herbs. She worked for many years on the herb festival, and currently announces and introduces all of the speakers and workshops. I love watching her scurry around making sure she has all of her ducks in a row. Roxane is a vital part of the festival for me.
Here Maryanne talks to a customer as several people browse our wares. There was a fairly steady stream of people through the venue...EXCEPT we could have closed about 1-1/2 hours earlier on Friday, and there was NO reason to open at 8 am on Saturday. I mean really. 8 am on a Saturday???
Molly sold books while Susan Wittig Albert signed them. Here, everything is set up, awaiting the arrival of the author. It was one of the first times that Molly has participated in a festival, and my friends haven't seen her for several years. I enjoyed having her along and hearing her kidding around with people she hasn't talked to since being a tween.
Len and Gerry of Vileniki (which is no longer in operation due to retirement) stopped by to check out the festival. They are always a bright spot in any day.
Debbi of Blue Moon Herbals was there with her stunningly beautiful wares. We are never set up close together enough to really jaw, but we do talk a bit and catch up at every show.

I just loved this one: The huntress becomes the hunted. Behind the guy with the yellow shirt, Sarah of Herbs from the Labyrinth is set up.

There were many other friends there, and it was lots and lots of fun. I got to meet many of my subscribers, and it is always good to put names to faces - especially now, as the magazine is growing so fast. It seems like only yesterday I personally knew most of the people reading it... but that was long ago.

So... if you see us at a festival, please come up and say hello! I love meeting readers. Be forewarned, though... I might just take your picture :-).
THESE JUST IN from Sharon...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Herb Blog Contest - Week 8

Bertha Reppert (1919-1999) was the founder of The Rosemary House and our mum. She was a Renaissance woman ahead of her time when she opened a herb and spice shop in a conservative East coast town in 1968. Convinced that once everyone learned about herbs they would love these plants as much as she did, she became an avid educator about the secrets of herbs. Lecturing, writing and always promoting herbs, Bertha Reppert became a mentor to many. This weeks prize is a copy of her last herbal and one of our very favorites.
Bertha Reppert's TwelveMonth Herbal features 365 herbal essays one for each day of the year. Written like she is speaking to a friend this book is fun, informative and easy to read. Many folks have told us they reread the book every year and make their own daily notes in the margins. Be sure to leave a comment to this post and at the other participating herbal blogs (see the links below) for your chance to win this clever book (an $18.00 value) filled with herbal lore, recipes and crafts (priceless). Sisters Susanna, the herbalist, and Nancy, the culinary artist, continue to share their Mother's love of all things herbal at The Rosemary House, the herb and spice gift shop, and at Sweet Remembrances tea room.
The following blogs are also participating, so stop over, post a comment on these blogs for additional chances to win this weeks giveaway AND the chance to explore some cool blogs.

Nature's Gift to be announced (next week)
Torchsong Studio to be announced (two weeks)
The Essential Herbal - magazine subscriptions
Garden Chick - fairy cookie kit
SunRose Aromatics - facial exfoliant and liquid soap
Herbs from the Labyrinth - tea sampler
Patti’s Potions - lip balms
PrairieLand Herbs - healing wand
Aquarian Bath - lip balm and soap
The Rosemary House (where a list of winners will be posted on the 24th)
Check back we have a couple more weeks of give-aways!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Essential Herbal - May/June 2009

If you are a subscriber to The Essential Herbal magazine, this issue is in the mail and will be reaching your home by the first week of May. If you are NOT a subscriber to The Essential Herbal magazine, you are really missing out. This magazine is chock-full of wonderful herb information, from culinary to medicinal to folk lore to chemistry (for Pete's sake!) and back again. One of the highlights of this issue would have to be the pictures of apothecaries and workrooms sent in by several herb businesses and herbal enthusiasts. It's so much fun to see how other people work. 6 fabulous issues every year for $24. Subscribe today!TABLE OF CONTENTS

Field Notes from the Editor
Flower Essences Part 3, Kristena Haslam
Stinging Nettles, Susan Evans
Seborrhea on Dogs, Kathi Garrison
Louisiana Lagniappe - Butterfly Cake, Sarah Liberta
Our Workspaces - a compilation
Down on the Farm - Companion Planting, Michele Brown and Pat Stewart
The Global Herbal, Asia Part 1, Marita A. Orr
The Herbal Laboratory, Cory Trusty
Ginseng - An Herb for the Ages, Joe Smulevitz CH, MH
Herbal Fast Food, Maggie Howe
SouthRidge Treasures - Herbal Butters, Mary Ellen Wilcox
Start Mindfully Marketing your Herbal Business, Jenn Givler
Suburban Herbie - The Garden of Relativity, Geri Burgert
The Soap Pot - Slow Cooker Hot Process, Alicia Grosso
Herbalism Abroad - an Interview with a Mayan Herbalist, Betsy May
Lignans, Cindy Jones
Magick of Mint, Gale La Scala
Caraway 10 Ways - Sue-Ryn Burns

See what I mean? Even skipping the usual word puzzle, we still had to add 4 pages (again). The Essential Herbal is also available to herb shops and businesses wholesale, as are our books. The advertising rates are the best in the business. Come check us out! All of the back issue tables of contents and covers are on our website.

Here we go - Spring '09

When I woke up this morning and sat at the desk, the sun was coming over the horizon, cutting through the fog, and casting a shell-pink glow on the blossoming nut trees leading down to my sister's house. It is becoming the fairyland that always enchants me once again.
We are in the throes of getting ourselves together for the PA Herb Festival tomorrow, and Maryanne took John for a paracentesis today while I did some things here that needed to be done. But... somewhere in mid-afternoon I had to go see what was happening. This tulip is right outside the shop. Is it stunning, or what???
These trout lily (dog-tooth violet) buds were the first I spied. In a few days...Sunday for sure, the floor of the woods will be covered with flowers. At the same time, these beauties - Spring Beauties - are starting to open. In the spaces between the yellow trout lilies, the spring beauties will nestle.
Mr. Spider gets into the action here along with the speedwell and spring beauty. Everything is in full gear.

Here Mayapples are in varying states of unfurling. I wonder if I listened closely... do they pop when they open?
This picture has such diversity. At the top left are spent bloodroot petals, ad to the right are mayapples. In the center are sweet violet leaves and then we have a fully opened trout lily.
This jewelweed has a set of "real" leaves. In a couple of weeks it will be nearly as tall as me and the stalks will be succulent and juicy.
A slightly different type of spring beauty, with more elongated petals.The dutchman's breeches are fully in bloom. I can barely stand how beautiful they are.
Ok, that's it for today. Sometime soon I will once again post some recipes and medicinal herbal information. But for now.... it's walks in the woods!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Gads, I love weeds! It's getting worse, too. Anymore I shun the cultivated flowers that used to be so interesting. The stuff of florists have come to seem almost plasticized to me. It is through no fault of their own, it is just that weeds have such a natural charm and beauty that they put their hothouse cousins to shame. Look at this luscious chickweed!
Yesterday I was burning a little bit outside and wanted to stay nearby to make sure the fire was safe. That caused me to roll around in the weeds a little bit, so I went for the camera. That lying on the ground thing makes for a great angle! Chickweed is for some people, very difficult to identify. The flowers above are perhaps 4X larger than in real life. Those little buds are about the size of seed beads, and the leaves are maybe 1/2" long. It grows like a mat on the ground. Once it is identified, they never have that problem again. They say, "Ooooooohhh!"
Here we have some catnip and Lily, our resident feline has been having a great time with the new crop. It can be somewhat difficult to be sure it isn't a different mint - and early in my foraging days I could confuse it with stinging nettles - but it has a distinctive scent and doesn't sting. hah.

This robust mustard is (I think) black mustard. The seeds will be black in color. The leaves are delicious when mixed with other wild greens in salad.
Red Dead Nettle... called dead because it carries no sting. I am not aware of any pressing medicinal use for this plant, nor have I eaten it. But how can one not love the delicate flowers though,and the way this plant can turn spring fields into purple vistas? Ok... maybe farmers can not love that, now that I think about it. If you look closely, you'll see both varieties of chickweed. The thicker, darker, hairy leaves are mouse-ear chickweed, also edible and used interchangeably with the "regular" stuff.
This one needs a little research. The flowers have four petals which lead me to think mustard, however the leaves hug the stem where they are attached and have that bluish green color reminding me of wild lettuce.

Sweet violets are starting to make an appearance in the fields. This year perhaps we'll make some violet syrup for market.

The Shepherd's Purse is already forming the little purses. They are seed pods and they rattle in the wind after drying. The seeds can be used as pepper as can a close relative that also grows nearby - penny cress or pepper grass.
This is just the big picture while lying on the ground. Look at the variety that lay before me!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Friends, News, and the Woods

My friend Susan Hess at Farm at Coventry ordered the upcoming issue for her Homestead Herbalism class, and I scurried to get them there. They are seeing the first issues to get out. The others are in sacks waiting to go to the post office as soon as I get up from the desk.
Another friend, Sarah Campbell was featured in an article about labyrinths. Her business - Herbs from the Labyrinth originally used mostly herbs which were grown in the labyrinth to make salves, balms, and such, but has outgrown that possibility now. This picture was taken by Blaine Shahan for the Lancaster Sunday News. There is a link for the full article under the photo.

I'd also like to share this video from a friend's band - Hippie Cream: They have a very unique sound. Based in the LA area, they are starting to be pretty well known on the club scene. I love Hippie Cream! Have a listen, and visit for more MP3's.

Molly and I once again headed out for our Sunday jaunt. I am seriously overjoyed watching her as she looks closely at plants, asks questions, and even bent down to taste a ramp leaf. When she was small, she was always with me in the garden - usually chewing on onion grass or covered with mulberry juice. Her very favorite way to spend the day was picking violets for syrup. She loved the idea that nobody asked her to keep the stems longer - she could just pop the flowers off. That's MUCH more fun. As time went on, she wasn't terribly interested anymore. Boys. Nuff said. But now it is returning as an interest, and I am happy about that. It is something that gives me so much pleasure that I want her to find that too - it's free, it's always there, it is easy to find. We all need to have something we enjoy so readily available.
So even though I am in the woods nearly every day right now, she goes along at least once a week.

I do not know what the arrow shaped leaf is. It has popped into my consciousness before, but just as quickly passed out, while the Spring Beauty leaves and spotted Trout Lily leaves carpet the ground around them. Soon the flowers for the latter two will bloom and I will forget all about those leaves. Anyone know what they are?This little guy cracked me up. It has been YEARS since I've seen a salamander. Normally there is not a lot of picking up rocks or pieces of wood. We leave things alone as much as possible. This guy happens to live exactly where I *thought* I put in some trillium, so moving the piece of log was meant to enable the plant to come up. The wood went right back over him. When we were kids, our grandfather used to take us "sally" hunting in the woods around the house. Looking back, there wasn't any real purpose. It was probably even a pretty bad thing to encourage kids to do - but it instilled a real curiousity about the woods for me, and I am thankful. Maybe this spring I'll look under some rocks in the creekbed and find a newt just for old time's sake.
These bloodroot bloom their heads off while the mayapples at the very top of the picture push up through the ground. The succession of spring blooms has begun and for the next month or so, it will be a constant source of amazement and there will be much medicine making to be done.

This little cottage in the woods is really my nephew's old camp cabin from when he was a kid. It was built across the creek - and by that I mean that the building is over the water. There is a drawbridge to enter. A hammock still hangs across the far corner. What a great (if somewhat mosquito infested) place for a kid to spend his days!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pictures from a distillation

A while back we did a distillation at Radiance in downtown Lancaster. Lori Stahl of Stahl Gallery was there, and brought her camera. Lori has come to a few different classes, and her camera is always unobtrusive. I'd pretty much forgotten about it until Sarah gave me a dvd full of pictures last week. There are probably about 100 photos, and without going through each and every one yet, I thought it would be fun to share a few. They are so gorgeous.
For this distillation, we used hyssop. The hydrosol will be used in a syrup for respiratory problems. It was amazingly fragrant. A bit of a surprise, actually. Pleasantly so. Above, I am adjusting the clamp that will hold the condenser during the process.
The bottom flask has begun to boil and steam is just beginning to build in the bottom of the bioflask.

Sarah and I look intently at the separater from opposite sides of the table. The ball shaped collection flask is nearly full of distillate, cloudy with the particles of essential oil that will remain emulsified in the water.
We catch a drop to taste.
Below, a single drop falls into the collection flask.
In the bowl, a pump runs icy water through the condenser and returns it to the bowl warmed from the steam in the center of the tube. I've learned to fill the bowl mostly with ice. Usually the distillation is nearly done by the time the ice melts. I'm answering questions and explaining the process while it occurs.
The pale yellow layer on the top is essential oil. There isn't a lot, but considering that many times we get no oil, this is a good bit for this size still. My still is mostly good for the hydrosol.
The valve at the bottom lets me release the hydrosol while trapping the essential oil. It isn't perfect, and I usually get a drop or two of the water. Here you get an idea of the quantity of essential oil that was produced.
The hydrosol is poured into sterilized bottles for later use.
I'm not sure how instructional this is, but I just love the way Lori captures the light and colors.