Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Second leg - on to the Horseradish and Herb Festival

We left the HSA conference on Friday evening, and headed towards Somerset. The four of us (Susanna and Angelica Reppert-Brill from The Rosemary House and my sister and I) would be staying with the organizer and her husband - Barbara and Fred Will of Sugar Grove Herbs. Coming from near Gettysburg were Barbara and Roger Steele of Alloway Creek Herbs. It would be a full house!
The roadsides on the way to Somerset were covered with all kinds of wild medicines and edible herbs. St. John's wort, mullein, and chamomile were in full bloom. Entire drifts of chicory turned hillsides sky blue while daylilies and butter and eggs winked from the ditches. Sumac and teasel were not yet blooming, but were still beautiful. Yellow jewelweed, blackeyed Susans, and butterfly weed shone in different shades of yellows and gold. Lots of yellows. There were entire fields of elderflowers. I've never seen so much. It was everywhere! I thought that it looked like a good idea to harvest a good amount for the coming winter.
After we got through all the tunnels that terrorize my sister, we relaxed and rolled into town. We quickly noticed it was a biker weekend in town. I have a sprained ankle, so my cane with the flames coming up from the bottom fit right in.
Saturday morning we all got up and headed over to the festival to set up after a quick cup of coffee and some cereal. Lots of great herb booths and talks. I gave a talk on wild edibles that was well received and a lot of fun for me. We were outside, and it was cold for this time of year! It helped to sit close together. There was also a recipe contest for dishes using horseradish. The brownies won. Barb Will made some horseradish sweet pickles that were delicious, but she didn't enter them because she found the recipe on-line. Still great, though!

That evening we went out to dinner together and followed up with a few bottles of Bicentennial Blush from a winery up the road (sorry... it escapes me at the moment). We had so much fun talking about our businesses and our lives. There is something about getting together casually with other herbies and sharing ideas. My favorite thing.
And now, on to Farm at Coventry tonight to listen to Phyllis Light.

Monday, June 27, 2011

HSA conference in Pittsburgh

Vending at a conference is a little different than attending a conference. Okay... a lot. But I really enjoy it. There is usually a good bit of down time while the attendees are in workshops or lectures, and that's a relaxed time to get to know the people around you.
The Essential Herbal did very well with our books and magazine, and Torchsong Studio nearly sold out of her Wishing Vessels. Looks like Maryanne will be busy on the torch melting glass this week, and I have quite a few orders sitting here waiting to go out. It was now or never for the blog though, since more excitement awaits!

Josh Young and Jim Long from Long Creek Herbs were on one side of us. Jim was pretty busy with scheduled talks, etc., but I was happy to see Josh was our neighbor. We've vended in close proximity in the past, and he always makes it a humorous and enjoyable time. It was also great to meet his lovely mother Barbara, and it quickly became clear where Josh's sensibilities come from. Jim joined us for a good bit of Friday afternoon. Jim seems to have a thing for hats, so he wandered over to Carolee's area and tried one on. Personally, I think it really looked good, but he put it back.
On the other side of us was graphic designer and illustrator Karen Sandorf. She has a lovely selection of cards, calendars and hang-able art. She does the art, the printing, the scoring, folding, wrapping - and I can completely relate to that! On the back of the notecards (which are blank inside for writing), there are recipes that include the herbs on the front. I am hoping to carry them on the website soon.

One of my favorite acquisitions from the weekend is this mug, held here by the artist, Sandy Manteuffel. It is absolutely gorgeous! The outside of the mug is porcelain, and the mug is sort of bas relief so that you can feel the leaves and bugs and fairies carved into the clay. She does various kinds of pressed clay work, but I just fell in love with this piece. Her business is From the Earth to You, and there is no website, but the email is EarthPottery@aol.com.

On Friday morning I took advantage of the on-site massage therapist, Alison Matesa from Munhall Chiropractic (412-638-5807) in Homestead PA. She was offering chair massage, but I asked her to work on my poor swollen foot. It did help a lot for the day, although gravity wasn't on my side :-( If you're in the area, Alison did a great job!

There were a lot of great vendors in the marketplace. Lisa Head of Perry County gave a workshop on making beeskeps, and also had her handmade, amazing skeps on display for sale.
And of course we shared our travels with the Reppert-Brill girls, Susanna and Angelica of The Rosemary House. There is no picture that can express how much fun it was to hang out with the two of them. They are wonderful companions.
We also got to have dinner with a friend we got to know during the Somerset weed walk a couple of years ago - Deborah Stiffler - and enjoyed elderflower "martinis" while playing Bananagram at the table.
Oh, and then there was Ben from The Saturday Light Brigade which "has celebrated our neighborhood's people, places and ideas. These engaging features, heard live on the radio Saturday mornings, can now be easily streamed and downloaded at neighborhoodvoices.org" who interviewed Jim Long, Susanna Reppert, and me. He was an engaging young man with really good follow-up questions. An excellent interviewer, he was. I'm not sure what will happen to those interviews, but it was fun and interesting to do. Thanks to Jim for the shove, btw.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Essential Herbal July/August 2011

See what happens when I get a few days off? I completely forget that the new issue was supposed to go up on the blog and website on the 15th! Oops. Sorry about that.Like it or not, for the most part The Essential Herbal is me - much like the Wizard of Oz sometimes, so when I go out of town and don't have computer access, not much gets done. Luckily there's nothing critical about this business. The information will be there when I get back to the office.
A couple of points of interest that aren't covered in the table of content (below) are that we have 2 tickets to the Southeast Women's Herbal Conference that subscribers are encouraged to enter a drawing for by sending a postcard to our physical address during July/Aug. Great value, and great odds.
Additionally, there will be some overflow of magazine submissions that will make it onto the blog in the future. That means that we will put original, unpublished articles here from time to time. Not huge news... just wanted to let you know.

Table of Contents July/August 2011

Field Notes from the Editor
The excitement of wildcrafting in a new region.

Fairy Friends, Melissa Nicole “Honeybee” Sidelinger
Childhood memories of building a tiny village and the joy it brought.

SouthRidge Treasures, Rosemary, Mary Ellen Wilcox
Mmmm….. lore and growing information, as well as recipes for jelly, butter, and potatoes.

Labor & Delivery Room Kit, Betsy May
Betsy was prepared for everything except this….

Herbal Connections, Aromatics, Marita A Orr
Not all herbs have aromatic properties, but the ones that do start to heal us the second we inhale their fragrances.

Finding Fellow Herbies, Marnie Plunkett
One of the hardest things can be finding others to share the herbal passion with. Marnie shares some of the ways she’s found others.

Weeds in my Soup, Dianne Runge
Potherbs or Bouquet garni appear to be weeds to a young child, but add such a deliciousness to the soup or stew.

Summer Pampering for Pets, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
First beat the summer bugs on your pets, and then give them a treat because you love them! All the recipes you’ll need in this article.

Sour Cherry Scones, Marge Clark
Marge shared this recipe on the Yahoo! list and I immediately asked for permission to add it to this issue. We’d been talking about the anti-inflammatory aspects of sour cherries, and here’s just one more pleasant way to enjoy them.

Gems from Your Garden, Rita Richardson
Rita always has such great ideas for enjoying the offerings from the herb patch. Tomatoes, lemon balm, and blended culinary herbs star in this issue.

The Herbal Adventures of the Twisted Sisters, Part 3, Tina Sams & Maryanne Schwartz
Girls just want to have fun. So we did! Learning to make soap, how we learned about herbs, and some of our favorite culinary recipes. While we work on the next volume of our adventures, we're sharing the out of print first book in installments.

Pinch of Herbs & Sprinkle of Spice Quiz, Yvette Thomas
Test yourself with this fun quiz.

Summer Recipes from the Herb & Vegetable Garden, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
A bushel of recipes that you’ll just love!

The Soap Pot, Back to the Beginning, Alicia Grosso
Alicia presents her “if I knew then what I know now” soap recipe.

Natural Deodorant, Rachel Johnston
A natural, simple deodorant that doesn’t include anything you don’t want to put on your skin.

Herbs of the Zodiac: Virgo, Susanna Reppert Brill/Bertha Reppert
12 herbs important to Virgos, and a recipe just perfect for their time.

The Historic Herbal, Buttermilk Cheese, Kathleen Setzer
One page recipe and instructions to make your own cheese! Could it be simpler? I don’t think so!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Deer Creek Herb Farm

One would think that we would have been to Deer Creek Herb Farm near Reading, PA before. It is only 40 minutes up Route 222, and we pass the sign whenever we visit Molly at school (among other reasons for heading up that way), but we're so spoiled. Here at The Essential Herbal, we have such great spring herb festivals and our friendly herb farm around the corner, so we were just too darned lazy. This year, Kathy Lesher (who owns Deer Creek along with husband Jess) lured me up there with talk of a passionflower vine that is winter hardy in our area.
Before we ran up on Wednesday, Kathy sent me a message that I should take her phone number and call if she wasn't at the shop. She lives right across the road, and it was heading for 100 degrees - so I'm passing that info along. Check the website for hours and take the phone number.
Kathy raises lots of wonderful herbs and her stand has always drawn me over at the Landis Valley Herb and Garden Faire because she takes unusual plants that are hard to find. Her gardens are lush and lovely, and I think she has a penchant for the shaded medicinal plants. Her bed of goldenseal was very full. There were healthy stands of blue cohost and black cohosh (below you see black cohosh with blue cohosh on the left edge of the picture). There are several small buildings on the property (and quite a history to the place as well!) and in front of what was once a chicken house is a delightful hosta garden.
Elecampane is thinking about blooming.
Inside the shop is filled with herbal products. There are packets of dried herbs, herb blends, and simmering potpourris.
Teapots, tea blends and various accoutrement have their own place.
It's a beautiful little shop and garden with a very comfortable feel. Don't wait as long as we did to check it out!
Here's Kathy telling a little about it when I caught her at the herb festival this past spring:

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Summer in Galiliee - Juliette de Bairacli Levy

Spend a Week at the Sea of Galilee with the Grandmother of Herbal Medicine

I want to share with you a wonderful book by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, the Grandmother of Herbal Medicine - Summer in Galilee. You'll find Juliette and her two toddlers irresistible as they explore the Sea of Galilee (in the modern State of Israel) together. Summer in Galilee includes an herbal index by Susun Weed, photos from Juliette's archives, and stories that will stay with you forever. Timely, filled with historical tales and emotional adventures, Summer in Galilee is a classic that is passed from hand to hand, generation to generation.

And when you buy this wonderful and highly acclaimed book on Tuesday June 7th, you'll will receive dozens of wonderful downloadable bonuses that you'll love! Go to: www.grandmotherherbalmedicine.com learn about 70 partners who are celebrating the life and work of the amazing Juliette de Bairacli Levy, the grandmother of herbal medicine.

Join Juliette as she spends an eventful summer swimming in the waters, and the history, of the Sea of Galilee, in the modern state of Israel. Juliette trains her observant eyes, and lovely descriptive prose, on the people, places, plants and animals around her.

You will hold your breath as Juliette dares to traverse the forbidden militarized zone around the Jordan River in pursuit of a personal communion with this holiest of lands.

You'll thrill as she and her children discover ancient treasure, be fascinated as she visits the tombs of Jewish mystics, and, perhaps, scream in terror as she is visited in the dark of night by an enormous snake - only to breathe a sigh of relief when she is saved by her faithful Afghan hound.

Juliette vividly describes her visit to a Bedouin village, and the trouble this causes, both in the kibbutz where she lives and among the Bedouins. But with keen wit, steely nerve, and kind heart, she manages to please everyone, including her readers, as she saves the day and mends frayed tempers.

And when you buy this wonderful and highly acclaimed book, you'll be offered dozens of wonderful downloadable bonuses that you'll love! For over 70 gifts, go to: www.grandmotherherbalmedicine.com and help us spread the legacy of this amazing woman, the grandmother of herbal medicine, Juliette de Bariacli Levy.

Monday, June 06, 2011

cherry berry impossible pie

Oh... this was one of my favorite concoctions so far!Prep time 10 minutes.
At our house, as the fruits become available, everyone brings them home. I'll come home from market with melon and strawberries, Molly will show up with cherries and blueberries, and then my sister will see a great deal on cherries and pick some up for me. Before you know it, we're in a glut, and worrying about using them up or preserving them. If you've been reading over past summers, you'll know that I am not a typical baker. There is rarely everything we need. We don't bake much. I just bought sugar after not having a bit in the house for months because we started doing kombucha again.
So yesterday I had a bunch of sweet cherries and 2 pints of blueberries threatening to turn.
In this area, we often see custard pies with berries floating in the creamy ivory filling. That was the vision dancing in my head. I went the Bisquick Impossible Pie route, using the recipe for coconut pie (without the coconut) and adding from there.

Cherry Berry Impossible Pie

Set oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9" pie plate.

3/4 C sugar
1/2 C Bisquick
1/4 C softened butter
1 1/2 C milk
4 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla

And here is where I started getting creative.
I threw in 1 cup of halved sweet cherries, 1/2 cup dried tart cherries, and 1 cup blueberries.
1/4 cup sliver almonds
the zest of one orange
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t cinnamon
1 t grated crystallized ginger

The only thing I might have added would have been more almonds - maybe almond meal. My sister doesn't like the texture of custard (?!?) and suggested some oatmeal, but that would ruin it for me.

Bake 55 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
Delicious hot and/or cold.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Mini Rant of a Quiet Morning ...

If you publish a blog, you know that there are people who spend a good deal of time and energy posting comments that include links to their businesses - aka spam. In order that these are more often allowed, they try to come up with comments that will be agreeable, appear to cheer for your content, and also seem as if they might have actually read the content.
The other day I got a comment, and have been savoring it in its very perfection of spamminess.
It said simply:
"This is absolutely true that herbal products are affective (sic) for us. They are safe, no side effects and work effectively. "
Oh my my. Really, Mr. or Ms. anti-aging website that probably involves some magical (and affective !) weight loss and/or penile growth serums???? Really? Have you thought that one through all the way?
Back in our days as herb shop owners (and I'm certain that current brick and mortar owners will be nodding emphatically along with me here...), this was probably one of our most frequent conversations.
It seemed most common in the fresh-faced herb newbies. "Herbs are safe!" they say, "and they can't hurt you!" At the same time, they are thrilled with how effective they are for things that allopathic meds haven't fixed and they are miracles, and they can save the world AT LEAST!
The problem is that you really can't have it both ways. You just can't say that something is completely safe and harmless while it is effective and attacks disease. Is it safER? I think so. But not with that kind of attitude, it isn't. Are there times when it is flat-out stupid to use herbs instead of allopathic medicine? *I* believe so. Not everyone agrees, and that's entirely up to them. In my opinion, examples like compound fractures, abscessed teeth, acute kidney failure are just a few that should make it clear that there are good reasons for hospitals. Very few herbalists have nearly enough education to work on serious disease, and it frightens me to see people who read a book, take a distance course, and set up to practice.
One of the easiest examples of safe, harmless, natural and deadly refers to a radio contest that required the contestants to drink large quantities of water. A woman died from water intoxication in the contest.
There are lots of natural substances that we do not want to use in or on our bodies. As the editor and publisher of The Essential Herbal magazine, I advocate education, moderation and the blending of medical models - the best of all worlds.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Spiraled lavender wands

Back in 2007, I posted this illustrated tutorial on making lavender wands:
and since that time, there are many others on-line.
But a few years ago I posted this picture with the wands we were doing at the time....
My nephew was working with us on the wands then, and quickly grew bored. Being a math/computer guy, he came up with a few designs (one of which was 2-color with the spirals going in different directions!) that were fun and easy for us to follow.
Since then, I tried to get him to put together a little booklet of designs, but the silly boy keeps putting things like academic degrees first. Pfffftttt....
So today when I got another request for instructions, I decided to just go ahead and put them out there to share....
From my nephew, H. Rob Schwartz:
"Sure, the trick's pretty simple.
"Over 2, under 3" makes for a nice pattern, but any over/under-type combination is fine so long as the total number of stems in a step is equal to 5 (so 2 + 3 = 5). So "over 1, under 1, over 1, under 2" would also work (since 1+1+1+2 = 5), but it might look a little busy.
The number of stems must be plus or minus 1 from a multiple of 5. For example, 24 and 26 are OK, but 25 isn't. 29 and 31 are OK, but 30 isn't, etc. If the number of stems *were* a multiple of five, the rows wouldn't spiral around the columns, since there's no offset. Each column in every row would be the same. Using an offset of 2 instead of 1 (so 23 or 27 instead of 24 or 26) should also work, but might make for tighter spirals.

To sum up:
--> Pattern: Over 2, under 3.
--> # of stems: (multiple of 5) plus or minus 1.

Good luck!"